Iraq: March 13, 2005


Al Qaeda is trying to deal with a public relations disaster. First, al Qaeda publicly announced, before the January 30th elections, that democracy was un-Islamic. When most Iraqis energetically turned out to vote, the damage to al Qaeda's prestige was considerable. Then there are the suicide bombs that miss their targets. Most of them kill Iraqi civilians, instead of Americans (the preferred target) or Iraqi police, troops or government officials (an acceptable substitute). This has gotten so bad that al Qaeda has tried to deny responsibility for some of the suicide bomb attacks that go spectacularly wrong. The most spectacular recent example was the February 28 attack that killed over 130 people, including children. It had all the signs of a typical al Qaeda bombing, but the explosion, as was often the case, caught a lot of civilians, in addition to police recruits that were the primary target. Al Qaeda attempts to deny responsibility, usually via web sites, are openly mocked by Iraqis. This is making al Qaeda public enemy number one in Iraq, and making it harder to recruit Iraqis to help out, or foreigners to carry out most of the suicide attacks. Part of the al Qaeda problem is a decline in the quality of their personnel. Key technical and supervisory personnel have been killed or captured, and not replaced. Thus the quality of the bombs, and the preparations for the attacks, has declined, causing more deaths to civilians, and fewer to Iraqi police and foreign troops. Better training of Iraqi police and soldiers has improved the quality of defenses around police stations and army bases, which has made it harder for the attackers to reach their targets. These are all trends that have been building for over a year, and now are pretty obvious. 

The Arab tendency to believe outrageous rumors, which worked against the coalition initially, is now being turned on al Qaeda and the Baath Party terrorists. The killing goes on, but the killers get less and less respect. Even al Jazeera, long a major booster of the terrorists, has noticed their problems. In similar situations in other Arab countries, particularly Egypt in the early 1990s, this led to terrorist groups having to flee the country. Without public support, or at least public indifference, terrorists cannot survive long. 


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