Since the beginning of the year, jihadi internet forums have carried many postings concerning the future of U.S. forces in Iraq and American plans to change the current military/political status quo in Iraq. These postings come despite a declaration from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that al-Qaeda has been completely eliminated in Diyala, Salah al-Din and Tamim provinces, with preparations underway to drive al-Qaeda militants from their last safe haven in Iraq’s Ninawa province (al-Ghad [Jordan], January 26).
A posting entitled “Will 2008 be the year of American escape from Iraq?” focuses on the direction U.S. plans will take (hanein.info, January 18). An active member of this forum—nicknamed “the Muslim”—suggested that Washington’s withdrawal plan from Iraq was devised in 2006 and only began to materialize in 2007. The plan aims to destroy Iraqi resistance movements—particularly al-Qaeda and its Islamic State of Iraq—before commencing any evacuation effort. “The Awakening Councils were therefore set up by Sunni tribesmen to aid al-Maliki’s government in dissolving the insurgency,” the poster wrote. In addition, U.S. diplomacy intensified to isolate Iran on the international front, while plans were made locally to set up a federation that would include Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish regions with extended autonomy. These plans are designed to make sure no external force can interfere and influence Iraqis to act against U.S. interests in the country after the withdrawal.
In the case of a national civil war, “Plan B” would involve turning Iraq into a confederation of regions to prevent Iraqi unrest from spilling over to the neighboring Gulf States. Since the plan has not worked as well as hoped, U.S. forces have attacked targets like Arab Jabour, south of Baghdad, with strategic bombers; the intent of these attacks was total destruction, similar to certain tactics employed during the Vietnam War. Other forum participants commented on “the Muslim’s” analysis by highlighting American daily losses and the Bush administration’s dilemma in dealing with a Democrat-dominated Congress. Another participant in the same forum even suggested possible Israeli involvement in Iraq after the U.S. withdrawal: “America is trying to plant a Zionist force in Iraq to protect Iraqi oil wealth. We pray for God to drown them in the Tigris and Euphrates” (hanein.info, January 18).
Further speculation about U.S. plans for Iraq in 2008 also came from the so-called spokesman of the “Department of field moral guidance of the Iraqi national armed resistance” in a posting entitled: “The next page in the American-Zionist plan… Iraq” (www.muslm.net January 12). The posting calls upon the Iraqi resistance not to fall for the plan to continuously occupy Iraq through a puppet government. The United States has spent billions of dollars to set up the “Awakening Councils” to protect the pro-U.S. government and Washington’s oil interests for when they pull out of Iraq and leave only minimal forces behind. These councils failed in fulfilling their objectives, leading the United States to try to seduce ex-Iraqi military leaders and politicians into joining the Iraqi government under U.S.-set conditions. The “spokesman of the resistance” warns that the United States will use those leaders and politicians as policy instruments in Iraq. Another participant warns: “Iraqi sons… this new American-Zionist plan, no doubt, is aimed at saving their own occupation forces and their collaborators from the painful strikes perpetrated by heroes of the Iraqi resistance. On this occasion, the Iraqi resistance calls upon the gallant sons of the Iraqi army to unite against these projects and plans. Not much time is left for victory.”
The amir of the Islamic Army of Iraq, Ali al-Nuaimi, also released a statement analyzing the U.S. situation and objectives for Iraq and the region (iaisite.org, January 16). On the eve of U.S. and French presidential visits to the Middle East, the amir released a statement entitled “Bush and Sarkozy: A political alliance or money and power partners?” Al-Nuaimi said that the state visits—particularly that of President Bush—came amid the failure of U.S. forces to destroy the Iraqi resistance and finish off the jihadi project. Bush came to the region to further political, religious, strategic and economic efforts aimed at guaranteeing Israel’s security while ravishing the rights of Muslims in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan. Bush further wanted to bolster al-Maliki’s already perishing government in an attempt to stabilize the security situation in Iraq. The amir added: “It’s obvious to any observer that America and its teenage president are going through a deteriorating situation on all levels. It’s common practice for U.S. presidents to review the Palestinian problem, in the last minutes of their tenure, to add new touches to the problem that would serve the Jews. Little Bush is making his last visit to offer the [same] support his predecessor extended to Israel. On the other hand, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan and Sudan are playgrounds for America to settle its accounts with its foes” (iaisite.org, January 16).
Despite al-Maliki’s announcement that al-Qaeda will be eliminated after striking at its last stronghold in Ninawa, the organization—and terrorism more generally—can be expected to plague Iraq for years to come, especially given the effectiveness of insurgency propaganda in boosting the morale of Iraq’s insurgents. Furthermore, in intelligence matters, it is unwise to assume that a terror group as fierce and innovative as al-Qaeda can be completely eradicated without a risk of revival in the future.