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Iraqi Sunnis are turning against al-Qaeda in Iraq

This is exactly the kind of thing that generational theory predicts. (1-Apr-2007)
Summary

If you read, as I do, hundreds of news stories and perspectives from multiple sources, it's pretty clear what's going on, and it's also pretty clear that the mainstream media presentation is wrong.

Here's what's going on: The foreign jihadist group, "Al-Qaeda in Iraq," has been trying to foment a civil war between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq, and have completely failed at that objective. But they have the resources to schedule a car bombing or two every day, in order to make the lead of the mainstream media news broadcasts every day. Al-Qaeda in Iraq's greatest "success" was the February 2006 bombing of the Shia al-Askariya mosque in Samarra, since it lead to revenge killings and an increased level of sectarian violence. But now Sunni "insurgents" -- Iraqi citizens -- are increasingly turning against al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Contents - This page
Media fallacies
Growing split between Sunni Iraqis and al-Qaeda
Iraqis' reluctance to fight
Iraqis' reluctance to be suicide bombers
Fighting styles in Iraq and Lebanon
Suicide Bombers and Death Squads
Case Study: Last week in Tal Afar
Bombing of the al-Askariya mosque in Samarra
Iraqi culture -- nationalism vs religion
Iran's role in Iraqi War
Israel/Palestine vs Iraq
The future of Iraq

I've written about these subjects frequently in the past. In this article, I want to pull a lot of these materials together in one place. This is long, somewhat tedious article to read, mainly because of lengthy quotes from multiple sources, but I felt those were necessary to provide a definitive article.

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It has been a great shock to me to learn how abysmally ignorant the Washington politicians, journalists, analysts and "experts" are about even the simplest facts about the Mideast.

Recent articles in articles in Congressional Quarterly and other publications have shown that politicians and journalists are totally ignorant about Iraq, not knowing even the simple fact that al-Qaeda is a Sunni organization. Last fall, Nancy Pelosi indicated she was completely unaware that al-Qaeda was even in Iraq. And this isn't a one-sided appraisal; Republicans and Democrats are equally ignorant.

I've written about dozens of countries on this web site, and each time I write about a new country, I have to go and study the history of that country, in order to understand how it got to where it is today. You can't understand today's world until you understand yesterday's world. And journalists are even more abysmally ignorant about yesterday's world than they are about today's world.

When I began this project, shortly after 9/11, it was simply to try to figure out what's going on in the world. I've had many shocks and surprises in the almost 6 years since then, but probably no more shocking than the realization that I now know more about the history and current events about the world than do 99.9% of the politicians, analysts, journalists, pundits and others in Washington. This is a reflection on how much work I've done, but it's even more a reflection of the sheer arrogance and stupidity that pervades Washington, especially as regards the Mideast.

There's no doubt that there's continuing appalling carnage from roadside bombs, death squads and suicide bombers in Iraq. But the characterization of "civil war" by both Republicans and Democrats lead to conclusions and policy recommendations that are completely wrong.

Media fallacies

In this article I'm going to present a lengthy description of what's going on in Iraq, but first I'll begin with a list of things you hear and read from mainstream media that are simply false, as we'll show in the sections that follow:

It's actually very well documented what has been going on in Iraq, provided that you're willing to go into a wide range of foreign sources. The original Administration post-war plan in Iraq, which pundits now see as completely inadequate, might have worked except for the infiltration of foreign Sunni jihadists, led by the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Operating under the name "al-Qaeda in Iraq," and later the "Islamic State of Iraq (ISI)," al-Zarqawi did everything in his power to foment a civil war in Iraq, to bring down the current Iraqi government and replace it with an Islamist Sunni government. He and his successors have totally failed at this objective.

Instead, Iraqis have increasingly shown themselves to be following the exact Generational Dynamics template that I laid out in August, 2003. At that time, right after the terrorist bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Iraq, I wrote,

"That's not to say there aren't dangers, and here we'll point out two major ones:

First, the terrorist attacks may continue and get worse. Terrorism is more a political technique rather than a military technique. Al Qaeda may succeed in increasing the level of terrorist attacks in order to influence American public opinion.

And second, the terrorist acts may presage a larger regional war involving the Palestinian Arabs and the al Qaeda against Americans in Iraq. Iraq is in an awakening period, but the Palestine region is just about to enter a crisis period. Some analysts claim that the terrorist acts are being perpetrated by Palestinian Arabs and "Mujahadeen" being paid thousands of dollars each, funded by Saddam and Osama bin Laden, arriving from Syria and Saudi Arabia.

The really dangerous scenario is that large numbers of Palestinian and "mujahadeen" terrorists will be motivated by identity group relationships to move into Iraq as a theatre of war against the Americans. That isn't happening now, but it's one of several possible scenarios that may unfold in the Mideast region during the next few months and years."

This is almost exactly what's happened. Jordanian al-Zarqawi has led largely Arab and Palestinian forces from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Palestine into Iraq, where they're mainly based in al-Anbar province, and linked up with local disaffected Sunni Iraqis. In fact, CNN has reported that al-Qaeda in Iraq has almost total control of al-Anbar province.

The failure of al-Qaeda in Iraq to meet its objectives of civil war and overthrow of the current government does not change the fact that a great deal of carnage is going on. But the fact that it's not a civil war should profoundly affect American policy.

In this article we want to do the following:

I apologize for the length and tediousness of this article, but I really wanted to get all of this information down in one place, once and for all.

Growing split between Sunni Iraqis and al-Qaeda

The "civil war" concept that's been widely promoted in Washington has never had much validity, and was based on a false premise: That ordinary Iraqi citizens, separated by the Sunni and Shia religions, were waging civil war on each other.

Contents - This page
Media fallacies
Growing split between Sunni Iraqis and al-Qaeda
Iraqis' reluctance to fight
Iraqis' reluctance to be suicide bombers
Fighting styles in Iraq and Lebanon
Suicide Bombers and Death Squads
Case Study: Last week in Tal Afar
Bombing of the al-Askariya mosque in Samarra
Iraqi culture -- nationalism vs religion
Iran's role in Iraqi War
Israel/Palestine vs Iraq
The future of Iraq

I listen to news reports all the time on all the networks, and the politicians, journalists and analysts all refer to the "insurgency," as if it's all one monolithic group separated only by religion. Since these people don't even know that al-Qaeda is a Sunni group, it's not surprising that they lump everything together, but that's the state of today's news reporting.

In fact, there are distinct and important sub-groups within the Sunni and Shia, and there always have been. In this article, we're focusing mainly on the Sunni.

The "civil war" and "insurgency" nonsense is repeated by journalists, analysts and politicians who simply don't know what they're talking about. But recent stories are making it increasingly clear that there is a major split growing between the two major categories of Sunni fighters:

Journalists, analysts and politicians in Washington have treated these two groups as identical, because they were all Sunnis, and call them all "the insurgency." In fact, these two groups have always had an uncomfortable relationship, but they were united by their opposition to the American occupation.

However, the level of disagreement has been growing in recent months. Later we'll talk about some of the history, but first we want to describe what's happening right now:

A major Los Angeles Times article, appearing on Wednesday, describes how the two groups are turning against each other. Here are some excerpts:

"Insurgent leaders and Sunni Arab politicians say divisions between insurgent groups and Al Qaeda in Iraq have widened and have led to combat in some areas of the country, a schism that U.S. officials hope to exploit.

The Sunni Arab insurgent leaders said they disagreed with the leadership of Al Qaeda in Iraq over tactics, including attacks on civilians, as well as over command of the movement. ...

Insurgent leaders from two of the prominent groups fighting U.S. troops said the divisions between their forces and Al Qaeda were serious. They have led to skirmishes in Al Anbar province, in western Iraq, and have stopped short of combat in Diyala, east of Baghdad, they said in interviews with the Los Angeles Times.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has taken responsibility for many of the most brutal attacks on civilians here, is made up primarily of foreign fighters. Although it shares a name with Osama bin Laden's group, it is unclear how much the two coordinate their activities.

The General Command of the Iraqi Armed Forces, a small Baath Party insurgent faction, told the Los Angeles Times it had split with Al Qaeda in Iraq in September, after the assassination of two of its members in Al Anbar.

"Al Qaeda killed two of our best members, the Gen. Mohammed and Gen. Saab, in Ramadi, so we took revenge and now we fight Al Qaeda," said the group's spokesman, who called himself Abu Marwan.

In Diyala, the 1920 Revolution Brigade, a coalition of Islamists and former Baath Party military officers, is on the verge of cutting ties with Al Qaeda.

"In the past, we agreed in terms of the goal of resisting the occupation and expelling the occupation. We have some disagreements with Qaeda, especially about targeting civilians, places of worship, state civilian institutions and services," said a fighter with the brigade who identified himself with a nom de guerre, Haj Mahmoud abu Bakr.

"Now we reached a dead end and we disavow what Qaeda is doing. But until now, we haven't thought about fighting with them," he added. "We are counseling them, and in case they continue, we will cut off the aid and the logistical and intelligence support." ...

Three Sunni politicians, most of them with contacts in the Sunni insurgency, said insurgent groups were struggling over domestic issues, even as Al Qaeda in Iraq pursued an international agenda.

"All Iraqi resistance groups are in real dissension with Al Qaeda network in Iraq," said Khalaf Ayan, a member of the Sunni Tawafiq bloc in parliament.

"Al Qaeda is pursuing a different agenda — an international one and not an Iraqi" agenda, he said. "Al Qaeda should join Iraqis and not the opposite. What happened is that Al Qaeda had targeted leaders of many Iraqi groups. That is why the resistance is in big conflict with Al Qaeda and is fighting against it."

The article makes clear that not all Iraqi insurgent groups are united against al-Qaeda, and also points out that the insurgent groups themselves are sometimes in conflict with one another over power and stature. But the trend has become increasingly clear: The influence and power for al-Qaeda in Iraq has been diminishing, and is being increasingly opposed by Iraqi citizens.

This is important because it's exactly what's to be expected from the fact that Iraq is in a generational Awakening era. We'll discuss this more later.

And it's very obvious why the Iraqi Sunnis would oppose the actions of the foreign fighters: The "insurgency" is not killing the hated Americans; it's killing other Iraqis.

Anyone who's studied Iraqi history, at least since the 1920 Great Iraqi Revolution, knows that Iraqis have a very strong sense of nationalism that exceeds their Sunni/Shia differences. (Washington politicians, analysts and journalists know nothing of this.)

Sunni Iraqis might be willing to tolerate some killing of other Iraqis, but within the last year it's become perfectly obvious that al-Qaeda is more willing to kill Iraqis than Americans. In time, this has become increasingly intolerable to the Sunni Iraqis.

MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) provides translations of Arabic media. MEMRI recently published a lengthy article translating many jihadist statements from the last year. Readers interested in a complete picture of what's happening in Iraq should read the entire article. Here are just a few excerpts; my comments are in [[double brackets]]:

"In late February and early March 2007, the London dailies Al-Hayat and Al-Quds Al-'Arabi reported on an escalation of the conflict in western Iraq between the local population and the Al-Qaeda in Iraq organization. Fierce battles were reported in Al-Amariyah and Al-Falluja between Al-Qaeda and the local Al-Anbar tribes, resulting in the death of dozens of Al-Qaeda fighters and in the weakening of Al-Qaeda in these areas.


Iraq's al-Anbar province     <font size=-2>(Source: PBS)</font>
Iraq's al-Anbar province (Source: PBS)

Thus, for example, Al-Quds Al-'Arabi reported: "For the past five months or so, fierce battles have been raging in the cities of Al-Anbar province between tribal [forces] and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, with dozens of fatalities on both sides... [According to the tribes,] Al-Qaeda accuses anyone who tries to help the police force to maintain security and stability of being an agent of the occupation…"

[[The above is an oft-repeated theme: that al-Qaeda treats anyone who doesn't want Iraqi citizens to be killed as himself an enemy to be killed.]]

"On February 25, 2007, a truck-bomb exploded near a mosque in Al-Habbaniyah... killing over 50 people - most of them civilians - and wounding over 100... The local inhabitants said that the imam of the mosque... had criticized Al-Qaeda in his Friday sermon the day before the bombing... About two weeks earlier, a car bomb exploded in a market in the village of Al-Bu Alwan, killing 10 people and injuring 12... A leader of the Al-Bu 'Isa tribe said that his tribe has formed armed militias [in the region] between Al-Ramadi and Al-Falluja that keep strangers from entering the area out of fear that they may be suicide bombers." [1]

[[Another common theme: Why is al-Qaeda killing Iraqis and bombing mosques?]]

Al-Hayat reported: "A leader of the Zuba' tribe, a lecturer at Al-Anbar University, said: 'Al-Qaeda's popularity began to wane as it increased its attacks on civilians, soldiers, and policemen, on Shi'ites and also on Sunnis who oppose Al-Qaeda's methods. In the second half of 2006, [people] began to take action against Al-Qaeda... The nationalist factions, like... Kata'ib Thawrat Al-'Ishrin and Al-Jaysh Al-Islami in Iraq, refused to join the so-called [Al-Qaeda-based] 'Islamic State in Iraq'... As a consequence, their men and commanders became targets for abduction and killing [by Al-Qaeda], which led to a wide-scale conflict in the region."

[[Al-Qaeda's objective is to form an "Islamic State of Iraq" (ISI); Iraqi citizens, generally speaking, have no such desire.]]

The papers also reported that a body called the Al-Anbar Rescue Council, headed by Sheikh Rishawi, has been established to fight Al-Qaeda in Iraq. According to Rishawi, the council was formed by "25 tribes which have helped to recruit 6,000 men for the Al-Anbar police force, and have [also] formed an emergency force of 2,500 men under Rishawi's command... Rishawi added that, in the course of their activities, his men apprehended 80 armed fighters, some of them from Saudi Arabia and Syria, and placed them under arrest in Al-Ramadi prison." [2] ...

[[Al-Anbar province is a large province in western Iraq, adjacent to Syria, and has been almost totally under the control of al-Qaeda. The formation of the "Al-Anbar Rescue Council" is significant because it's organized Sunni opposition to al-Qaeda control.]]

Al-Zarqawi did not remain indifferent to the dissatisfaction of the local jihad groups. In order to mitigate the mounting resentment caused by the dominance of Al-Qaeda and appease the local jihad groups, Al-Zarqawi created the Shura Council of the Jihad Fighters in Iraq, which comprised several Sunni groups and was presented as an umbrella organization that included Al-Qaeda but was not headed by it. An Iraqi mujahid, Abdallah Rashud Al-Baghdadi, was appointed to head the council, while Al-Qaeda, and Al-Zarqawi himself, were given no special status, in the hope that this would enable additional Sunni Iraqi jihad groups to join the organization.

On April 21, 2006, Al-Zarqawi announced: "I hereby declare to the nation the establishment of the Shura Council of the Jihad Fighters in Iraq, which, with Allah's help, will constitute a core for the establishment of an Islamic state, in which the religion of Islam will be supreme. Allah be praised, coordinated activity [in this direction] has already begun, and hands are extended and shaken [in commitment to] obey Allah and His Messenger and [to carry out] jihad for His sake. This council will serve as an umbrella [framework] for every faithful jihad fighter. I am honored to be one of the members of this blessed council, with its blessed leadership, along with [my role as] commander of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, [and as] a servant of the jihad and the jihad fighters" [4]

Despite these attempts to appease the Iraqi Sunnis, clashes and counter-clashes between the two sides continued. Support for Al-Zarqawi began to wane among the Sunni population in the areas of the fighting, and soon enough, on June 8, 2006, his hideout was exposed and he was killed in a U.S. attack on his base.

[[This is interesting because I wrote about the Shura council last year, but didn't realize at the time that it had just been a publicity stunt by al-Zarqawi. It's also interesting that the article relates the creation of the Shura council to al-Zarqawi's death.]]

Bin Laden Sanctions Killing of Muslims (Sunni or Shi'ite) Who Collaborate with the Crusaders

Bin Laden's response came in late June and early July, 2006, in two speeches given a few days apart. In the first speech, from June 29, 2006, he defended Al-Zarqawi's position regarding attacks on Sunni or Shi'ite Muslims "who collaborate with the Crusaders," saying: "To those who accuse the hero of our [Islamic] nation of killing Iraqis from certain sectors [i.e. Shi'ites], I say:... Abu Mus'ab had clear instructions to focus his [attacks] on the invaders and occupiers, headed by the Americans, and to leave alone anyone who wished to be neutral. But anyone who insists on fighting with the Crusaders against the Muslims must be killed, no matter who he is, regardless of his affiliation [i.e. whether he is a Sunni or Shi'ite] and his tribe - since aiding the infidels against the Muslims is one of the ten [gravest] sins, for which a Muslim loses his identity as a Muslim." [7] ...

[[I'm skipping quite a bit from the article here. We're now at November, 2006, and the formation of an Iraqi counter-alliance to challenge al-Qaeda and bin Laden.]]

Al-Iraqi then announced the founding of a secret counter-alliance called "The Alliance of the Sword Drawn against the Khawarij," as well as a military branch of this alliance called "The Abdallah bin Al-Khabab bin Al-Arth Brigades." [15] This alliance, he said, includes six factions and 16 tribes, and has 3,000 members. Finally, Al-Iraqi threatened that if bin Laden did not respond within a week to Al-Iraqi's first video, Al-Iraqi and his allies would declare an all-out war on Al-Qaeda in Iraq, to be conducted in three stages. In the first stage, they would employ snipers against the Al-Qaeda; in the second, they would use explosive charges; and the third stage they would engage Al-Qaeda in direct armed confrontation. [16] ...

[[After that, the al-Qaeda forces reorganized.]]

After discussing the war against the Coalition forces, Abu Hamza Al-Muhajir pledged allegiance to ISI leader Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi, and undertook to place under Al-Baghdadi's authority all bodies and military units established by Al-Qaeda in Iraq, including the Shura Council of the Jihad Fighters (ostensibly not led by Al-Qaeda), as well as 12,000 soldiers, plus another 10,000 "who have not yet been fully equipped." This citing of figures was a response to Al-Iraqi's announcement regarding his rival alliance of 3,000 men and his threat to declare war on Al-Qaeda in Iraq."

As you can see, this material explains why there's fighting going on among Sunni groups, as other press reports have indicated.

Furthermore, the Americans are trying exploit these differences. the American ambassador to Iran, Zalmay Khalilzad, has been negotiating with some of these groups, according to a New York Times story.

None of this means that there's a light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq. There are still plenty of suicide bombings and death squads killing people every day.

Iraqis' reluctance to fight

Generational Dynamics predicts that people in a generational Awakening era are very reluctant to fight. We've seen that in Lebanon, since the summer war, and many news sources have made it clear that Iraqis are very reluctant to fight one another, as they would do in a civil war.

Contents - This page
Media fallacies
Growing split between Sunni Iraqis and al-Qaeda
Iraqis' reluctance to fight
Iraqis' reluctance to be suicide bombers
Fighting styles in Iraq and Lebanon
Suicide Bombers and Death Squads
Case Study: Last week in Tal Afar
Bombing of the al-Askariya mosque in Samarra
Iraqi culture -- nationalism vs religion
Iran's role in Iraqi War
Israel/Palestine vs Iraq
The future of Iraq

One of the most obvious ways of seeing this is that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist who ran the al-Qaeda in Iraq organization until he was killed in June 2006, tried for three years to trigger a civil war in Iraq and failed.

In February, 2004, the military intercepted a letter written by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, evidently to Osama bin Laden. The letter is quite lengthy, and lays out al-Zarqawi's plan for al-Qaeda victory in Iraq, as well as the problems he was encountering.

Among the problems were the Iraqi jihadists -- he couldn't get them to fight the way he wanted them to! They refused to form an army to defeat the government, and even refused to risk getting killed! Here's his description of the Iraqi jihadists:

"1. Most of them have little expertise or experience, especially in organized collective work. Doubtlessly, they are the result of a repressive regime that militarized the country, spread dismay, propagated fear and dread, and destroyed confidence among the people. For this reason, most of the groups are working in isolation, with no political horizon, farsightedness, or preparation to inherit the land. Yes, the idea has begun to ripen, and a light whisper has arisen to become noisy talk about the need to band together and unite under one banner. But matters are still in their initial stages. With God’s praise, we are trying to ripen them quickly.

2. Jihad here unfortunately [takes the form of] mines planted, rockets launched, and mortars shelling from afar. The Iraqi brothers still prefer safety and returning to the arms of their wives, where nothing frightens them. Sometimes the groups have boasted among themselves that not one of them has been killed or captured. We have told them in our many sessions with them that safety and victory are incompatible, that the tree of triumph and empowerment cannot grow tall and lofty without blood and defiance of death, that the [Islamic] nation cannot live without the aroma of martyrdom and the perfume of fragrant blood spilled on behalf of God, and that people cannot awaken from their stupor unless talk of martyrdom and martyrs fills their days and nights. The matter needs more patience and conviction. [Our] hope in God is great."

Al-Zarqawi says that "most of the groups are working in isolation, with no political horizon, farsightedness, or preparation to inherit the land. Yes, the idea has begun to ripen, and a light whisper has arisen to become noisy talk about the need to band together and unite under one banner. But matters are still in their initial stages. With God's praise, we are trying to ripen them quickly."

This is significant, because an effective civil war in Iraq would require the formation of an army willing to take over the government -- to "unite under one banner," and to prepare "to inherit the land." The Iraqis refuse to do this.

Next, al-Zarqawi says that the jihad takes the form of "mines planted, rockets launched, and mortars shelling from afar."

Worst of all, they "prefer safety and returning to the arms of their wives, where nothing frightens them. Sometimes the groups have boasted among themselves that not one of them has been killed or captured." Al-Zarqawi has tried to convince them that "safety and victory are incompatible," but those darned Iraqi jihadists just don't get it.

Al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian, a country in a generational Crisis era, and you can see just from the quote above how big the differences in attitude are. He's willing to risk being killed, but his Iraqi jihadist brothers are not.

Al-Zarqawi also expresses bitterness that he can't even count on help from the Iraqis with housing Jihadists who come from other countries to help. As we'll see, these foreign Jihadists are very important to the effort of al-Qaeda in Iraq, especially since local Iraqis are unwilling to die.

Iraqis' reluctance to be suicide bombers

Another very clear indication of the Iraqi's reluctance to cooperate with al-Qaeda is that Iraqis refuse to become suicide bombers. This has been reported many times.

The letter from al-Zarqawi, quoted above, indicates that Iraqi jihadists prefer to return "to the arms of their wives," rather than risk death.

Colonel Sean B. MacFarland in a DOD Press briefing on 14-July-2006, laid this out explicitly, when talking about the types of people who make up the insurgency:

A deeper insight into this situation can be found in an article that describes a man who trains suicide bombers.

In a article in the 17-Oct-2005 issue of Time Magazine, entitled "Professor of Death," reporter Aparisim Ghosh extensively interviewed an Iraqi named "Abu Qaqa al-Tamimi" who trains suicide bombers.

Recall from the al-Zarqawi letter quoted above, most Iraqis refuse even to provide protection and housing for foreign fighters. Thus, it falls to the trainer to provide housing and protection, as described by al-Tamini in the Time Magazine article:

Note that al-Tamimi does not allow his own brother or sister to become suicide bombers. Elsewhere in the article it makes clear that he won't allow his own son to do so either. That's because he's Iraqi; if he were a Palestinian, he would have no hesitation.

Contents - This page
Media fallacies
Growing split between Sunni Iraqis and al-Qaeda
Iraqis' reluctance to fight
Iraqis' reluctance to be suicide bombers
Fighting styles in Iraq and Lebanon
Suicide Bombers and Death Squads
Case Study: Last week in Tal Afar
Bombing of the al-Askariya mosque in Samarra
Iraqi culture -- nationalism vs religion
Iran's role in Iraqi War
Israel/Palestine vs Iraq
The future of Iraq

Al-Tamimi works for multiple al-Qaeda terrorist groups as kind of a consultant. Any of these groups that plan a suicide mission can come to him either with a specific target in mind, or for suggestions, hints and tips about how to proceed. The article doesn't mention it, but al-Tamimi must be very well paid.

He says that although Iraqis volunteer for suicide missions, most of his bombers are foreigners. The article quotes him talking about his current candidate, a 20-year-old Saudi: "You can't imagine how excited and happy he is," al-Tamimi says. "He can't stop smiling and laughing, even singing. He is sure he is going to paradise, and he just can't wait."

(This sounds like hysteria to me. I mention this because it might be relevant to understanding the psychology of why kids from generational Awakening era countries, like Iraq, are unwilling to become suicide bombers, but kids from Crisis era countries, like Saudi Arabia, are willing. We've discussed this question frequently on this web site, most recently here, based on research done in connection with the July 7, 2005, London subway bombings. This research was based on Robert Pape's study of suicide bombers, published in the book Dying to Win.)

A story carried by CNN in January indicates that this situation is becoming a desperate situation for al-Qaeda in Iraq. According to the story, al-Qaeda forced an Iraqi family man to become suicide bomber. However, the man is considered a hero because he screamed out a warning that he was about to blow up, and the people in the crowd scattered.

The unwillingness of Iraqi Sunni jihadists to become suicide bombers, or to die in battle, is extremely embarrassing to al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Fighting styles in Iraq and Lebanon

The concept of "fighting styles in war" is beginning to develop as a potentially important contribution of Generational Dynamics to the theory of war.

Contents - This page
Media fallacies
Growing split between Sunni Iraqis and al-Qaeda
Iraqis' reluctance to fight
Iraqis' reluctance to be suicide bombers
Fighting styles in Iraq and Lebanon
Suicide Bombers and Death Squads
Case Study: Last week in Tal Afar
Bombing of the al-Askariya mosque in Samarra
Iraqi culture -- nationalism vs religion
Iran's role in Iraqi War
Israel/Palestine vs Iraq
The future of Iraq

I've previously written on "fighting styles" in conjunction with the summer 2006 Lebanon war between Israel and Hizbollah. What's remarkable is how closely all of these countries are matching their war fighting styles to their countries' generational styles.

It's worthwhile emphasizing the difference in war styles pursued by the two sides in the Lebanon war, because this is something that mainstream historians, with no recognition of generational effects, simply don't understand at all.

The two belligerents fought the Lebanese war using two completely different styles.

Israel fought in a typical crisis era "hot" war style. Unprepared for the war, Israel panicked and attacked with no plan and no clear objections, changing tactics every day, furiously bombing infrastructure, calling up new reserves frequently.

If Hizbollah had fought in a "hot" style, they would have crossed the border into Israel and killed Israelis in their own homes.

Instead, Hizbollah fought the war in a "cool," methodical non-crisis war style. They launched missiles from their home soil, retreating to their homes or to bunkers as needed. They methodically goaded Israel into supplanting their air-only war with a ground war, requiring thousands of Israeli soldiers to fight on Lebanese soil. The goaded the Israelis into destroying Lebanese infrastructure, and killing Lebanese civilians, including women and children.

Remarkably, we're seeing exactly the same split within the Iraqi terrorist community itself. Iraqi Jihadists, according to al-Zarqawi, are willing to plant mines and launch rockets and mortars "from afar," provided that they can return to the "arms of their wives." This is the same thing that happened with the Hizbollah.

What Lebanon and Iraq (and Iran, incidentally) share is that they're all in generational Awakening eras, having survived a crisis war only one generation earlier.

But al-Zarqawi is a Jordanian, and he's forced to import suicide bombers from the Palestinian territories and Saudi Arabia. Those countries are all in generational Crisis eras, since their previous crisis wars were six or more decades earlier.

The article in Africa on this web site describes a similar situation with the creation of the Zulu empire. Prior to the Mfecane (the crisis war), warriors would carry long spears; they would throw them at the enemy fighters and then run away. Once the crisis war began, warriors carried short spears that forced close body fighting.

In their foundational studies of generational theory, Bill Strauss and Neil Howe found that wars occurring during Awakening and Unraveling eras are highly politicized, the implication being that the most genocidal war activities are suppressed by political controls.

However, this new analysis of fighting styles indicates that there's a lot more going on: The army itself, and even the individual soldiers within the army, constrain themselves from the most genocidal behavior, in a generational Awakening era.

The personal conflict becomes clear in the case of al-Tamimi, the trainer of suicide bombers that we saw in the Time Magazine article. Al-Tamini is willing to take part in activities that kill civilian Iraqis because he's paid for it, and probably has some of the mental characteristics of an organized crime gunman in America. But al-Tamini is completely unwilling to allow anyone in his family play a part -- he draws the line there.

However, there are apparently a number of Iraqis who are willing to kill other Iraqis for money. I understand from a CNN report that someone who plants a roadside bomb can earn $500 to $1500. There are undoubtedly many desperate Americans would do the same for that kind of pay, if they had the opportunity.

If there were a real crisis civil war going on in Iraq, then Sunnis and Shiites would be killing each other without the need to get paid, just as Hizbollah terrorists would have crossed the border into Israel and killed families in their homes if Lebanon had been in a crisis era.

These differences in fighting styles are predictable and a potentially important advance in the theory of war. An understanding of Generational Dynamics could therefore be of great value in the strategic planning of a war, but unfortunately I've been unable to get anyone in the Dept. of Defense or the State Dept. to pay any attention. All we can do is hope that our enemies don't pay more attention than our own government does.

The same dynamic is true on the Shiite side. After a major terrorist attack in November 2006 that killed some 200 of the supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, al-Sadr himself did not blame the Sunnis; instead, he gave a press conference in which he blamed terrorist groups related to al-Qaeda.

Suicide Bombers and Death Squads

What's going on today in Iraq is very different from what you normally hear from mainstream media reports.

There are two kinds of violence going on in Iraq today: There are suicide car bombers, killing dozens of people every day, but the drivers of the cars are almost never Iraqis; they are brought in from Palestine, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. I discussed suicide bombers in an earlier section.

The second kind of violence is death squads and roadside bombs. These were described recently (on December 31, 2006) in a CNN interview of Ambassador Feisal Al-Istrabadi, Iraqi deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, when asked about an Iraqi civil war:

Understanding that this is not a civil war is very important, because otherwise you say stupid things.

Contents - This page
Media fallacies
Growing split between Sunni Iraqis and al-Qaeda
Iraqis' reluctance to fight
Iraqis' reluctance to be suicide bombers
Fighting styles in Iraq and Lebanon
Suicide Bombers and Death Squads
Case Study: Last week in Tal Afar
Bombing of the al-Askariya mosque in Samarra
Iraqi culture -- nationalism vs religion
Iran's role in Iraqi War
Israel/Palestine vs Iraq
The future of Iraq

For example, on CNN International recently, I heard one pundit, Ken Pollack of the Brookings Institute, say this: "Iraq is in a dangerous state, and it's headed for a Bosnia or Lebanon state of all-out civil war."

Now this is exactly what Generational Dynamics tells is impossible. Iraq is in a generational Awakening era, just one generation past the genocidal Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s. Now, you can call anything a civil war if you want, and if you want to call terrorist acts by non-Iraqis a civil war, then you can do it. But it is ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE for Iraq to spiral into a state of all-out civil war like Bosnia in the 1990s or Lebanon in the 1980s. It has never happened in history, during a generational Awakening era, and cannot happen now.

This is why journalists, pundits and politicians keep getting their predictions and everything else wrong. You'd think that Ken Pollack was some sort of expert, but he has NO IDEA what's going on. He simply made that "fact" up, because he and all these other journalists and pundits make ideological predictions, and they have as much chance of getting them right as if they flipped a coin. As I've written before, Thomas Friedman and other pundits have gotten one prediction wrong after another. Generational Dynamics is the only methodology which has produced correct predictions, and this is the only web site in the world that tells you what's going on in the world, and what's going to happen.

Case Study: Last week in Tal Afar

This past week, there was a major spurt of violence in Tal Afar, a city northwest of Baghdad. There were two truck bombings, followed by reprisal killings. This story has been an exciting delight for the mainstream media, because a year ago, President Bush said in a speech that Tal Afar was a model for a city where violence had all but disappeared.

This example provides a simple case study about what's really going on in cities in Iraq, and how committed the mainstream media is to portraying American policy as a total failure.

We want to describe what happened, how the press interpreted the incident, what the press didn't report, and how (we believe) it should be correctly interpreted.

First, what happened:

On Tuesday, two truck bombs in different parts of Tal Afar killed at least 30 people and wounded around 50 more. Most of the dead were Shia.

On Wednesday, a gang of Shia gunmen killed scores of Sunni residents in revenge.

Second, how the press interpreted these events:

Both the Tuesday bombings and the Wednesday revenge killings were heavily covered by the BBC. In every newscast, either they were the lead story or else they were second to the Iran hostage crisis. The BBC "journalist" reporting the events emphasized how President Bush's "surge" plan was a complete failure.

In American newscasts, the Tal Afar incidents were covered less often, since there was more important news about Anna Nicole Smith and moronic activities in Congress, but when Iraq was covered, the Tal Afar incidents were pushed hard, along with interpretation that the "surge" plan was a complete failure.

Here's how a Time Magazine article interpreted these events:

"Eye for an Eye in Tal Afar, By Brian Bennett/Baghdad

Critics and proponents of the surge can argue about how much the heightened U.S. military presence has reduced violence in Baghdad, but the brutal tit-for-tat killings in Tal Afar have made one thing clear. With some 90,000 U.S. and Iraqi forces converged on Baghdad, sectarian tensions have been uncorked far from the capital — and they're just not going back in the bottle.

The implication, as always, is that the reports of a reduction of violence in Baghdad are misleading because the violence has just caused the violence to move elsewhere; therefore, the "surge" is a complete failure.

Here's how the Times Online's so-called "expert," Baghdad correspondent James Hider, described the situation in an article:

"Tal Afar a symbol of US failure in Iraq, James Hider, in Baghdad ...

The implications of what happened yesterday in Tal Afar are massive as the American troop 'surge' was meant to have stopped precisely this type of thing. Instead, the indications are that it has just led to a renewed push by the insurgency to launch bigger and bigger attacks to wreck any progress US troops are making.

What the insurgents are trying to do is to create so much heartache and instability that people whose nerves were already frayed to breaking point will snap and vow to take revenge. In doing so, they calculate that the instability will become so great that the US policy in the country would be bound to fail. Tal Afar is an example of how this escalation policy is working.

What we have also seen, in response to the American surge, is a shift in the methods of the violence in and around Baghdad, but not a drop in the violence overall.

Before moving on to what the press isn't reporting, let me point out two important errors in this last press report by Hider. First, he refers to the "insurgency," as if it's a monolithic force. As we've shown, this is untrue. There are foreign Sunni terrorists - al-Qaeda in Iraq -- and there are Iraqi Sunni insurgents, many of whom are opposed to exactly what happened in Tal Afar. Hider's hysterical "reporting" completely misses this point.

Second, Hider talks about "nerves ... frayed to breaking point [that] will snap and vow to take revenge," and "instability will become so great that" U.S. policy will fail.

What he's describing is the attitudes of al-Qaeda in Iraq, but NOT those of the Iraqi citizen insurgents. The latter are turning AGAINST the former which, once again, is something that Hider is evidently completely unaware of, even though he's called "an expert."

Third, what the press didn't report:

Contents - This page
Media fallacies
Growing split between Sunni Iraqis and al-Qaeda
Iraqis' reluctance to fight
Iraqis' reluctance to be suicide bombers
Fighting styles in Iraq and Lebanon
Suicide Bombers and Death Squads
Case Study: Last week in Tal Afar
Bombing of the al-Askariya mosque in Samarra
Iraqi culture -- nationalism vs religion
Iran's role in Iraqi War
Israel/Palestine vs Iraq
The future of Iraq

The Tuesday bombings and the Wednesday revenge attacks, once ended, have not led to increased violence. They've been condemned by almost everyone, and have led to action being taken in Tal Afar to prevent this kind of thing from happening again.

The best summary I've found online of what happened in the aftermath of the killings was an NPR (National Public Radio) interview with the general in charge of American forces in Tal Afar, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Frank Wiercinski. You can hear the interview by clicking on the "Listen" button.

Since this interview presents a view that the press doesn't like, you won't find the text of this interview anywhere on the Internet that I can find, unless you're willing to pay $4 to purchase a transcript. However, I saved four bucks by preparing my own transcript, which you can read here (Chadwich's questions are partially paraphrased):

"Chadwick: President Bush, a year ago, had singled out Tal Afar a year ago as a model for the rest of Iraq.

Bush: See, if you're a resident of Tal Afar today, this is what you're going to see. You see that the terrorists who once exercised brutal control over every aspect of your city have been killed or captured or driven out or put on the run. You see your children going to school, and playing safely in the streets.

Chadwick: That's President Bush a year ago. (Introduces Wiercinski)

Tell me, how has the situation in Tal Afar changed in the last year, since President Bush made those remarks.

Wiercinski: It's exactly as the President has stated. The terrorists have been driven out of Tal Afar. That's not to say they don't want to come back, and that they don't want to continue death and destruction to these people who are working towards freedom and democracy.

They have the same mayor, the same leadership that they had since President Bush made that statement. And they are continuing on in the city. They had a tragic incident that occurred on Tuesday by anti-Iraqi forces.

Chadwick: [Describes the mob action - reprisal killings]

Wiercinski: In the immediate aftermath, after the bombing, it was reported to us that the people who had done this were in Iraqi police uniforms. The major general wapik?, the chief of police, showed up that following morning, and is conducting a full investigation with his police.

The police are in total control of the city.

When I arrived that morning, there were protests right outside the government building with hundreds of people from Tal Afar - and you can imagine because they had not seen anything like this in quite some time, and emotions were very high.

Together, the Mayor, the leadership, the Shia Sheiks, the coalition forces, the Iraqi police, the Iraqi army, went out together in front of the people and addressed the people, and told them this is what the anti-Iraq forces want - they us to fight each other, and we are not going to let them win. And since they addressed that, there has been no violence back in Tal Afar.

Chadwick: [Describes reports that Iraqi units are unreliable.]

Wiercinski: I can't comment on the reports you've heard because I haven't heard them and I haven't seen them. I can tell you what I've seen.

I know that two years ago, say, the city of Mosul, in Ninawa province, and in Tal Afar, there were no police out on the streets. Today, where we are now, after the training that we've conducted, there's 18,000 police plus, on the streets of Mosul and in the streets of Tal Afar, working day in and day out. They are fighting the anti-Iraqi forces. They are out there every single day. They are getting killed doing their job, and they are getting killed policing their own cities. That's what I see.

This description by General Wiercinski is completely consistent with all the other sources that I've quoted in this article, and with Generational Dynamics theory with respect to a region in a generational Awakening era being invaded by foreign fighters from a country in a Crisis era:

This is a completely different picture than the ones portrayed by idiots like Time Magazine's Brian Bennett or Online Times' James Hider. Through either stupidity or ignorance or bias, they reported the Tal Afar situation as the complete collapse of Administration policy.

By coincidence, as I'm writing this article, the following is the lead front-page article in Saturday's Boston Globe:

"Shooting on crowded bus, slaying stun Dorchester

Police look into possibility of link

By Brian R. Ballou and Raja Mishra, Globe Staff | March 31, 2007

An 18-year-old Hyde Park man was shot in the head and suffered massive injuries yesterday as he rode on a packed MBTA bus, in a chaotic scene that stunned afternoon commuters. ...

The shooting sent passengers and pedestrians frantically diving for cover and left witnesses confused about whether the gunman fired from the street or was among the small group of young men who jumped into the bus to confront the victim after arguing with him from the sidewalk. ...

The shooting -- and a second, possibly connected fatal shooting a few hours later and nine blocks away -- underscored the recent bloody rise in gunplay on Boston's streets that has unnerved residents in neighborhoods throughout the city. ...

The brazen attack, the latest in a string of unsolved shootings in Dorchester, brought the busy Grove Hall area to a halt. The single shot echoed through a nearby church, fast-food restaurant, a government office, and apartment buildings. ...

"You wouldn't think of this happening on an MBTA bus in broad daylight with all these people around," said Nathan Jones, a painter working inside an apartment building nearby. "It seems like nothing will be surprising anymore. The violence will keep happening, but nothing will be surprising." ...

"People are shocked, outraged, and there is some sense of fear and nervousness," said the Rev. William Dickerson of Greater Love Tabernacle, which is near the shooting scene. "We've reached a point where people are so cold-hearted they will shoot people in broad daylight.

"Their behavior is becoming more overt and audacious; they are so defiant of authority," he said of the young men involved in violent crime. ...

[Dickerson] said he believes that yesterday's shooting may be the last straw for a community fed up with street violence.

"It's been violent in that area before, but it's unfortunate we've gotten to the point where the minority, the people shooting guns, has made it so difficult for the majority," Dickerson said. "It has to stop."

This kind of killing looks very similar to what we read about in Iraq, but the mainstream media doesn't say that it indicates a civil war in Boston. And now suppose there were an "al-Qaeda in America" that was setting off car bombings every day in Boston and other cities. We can assume that this kind of revenge shooting would increase.

It's been clear for some time that al-Qaeda in Iraq has been scheduling one or two bombings every day, preferably in the morning, to give American and BBC reporters time to come to the scene and take pictures and video for the evening newscasts. These are public relations stunts that the mainstream media always cooperates with.

And let's face it, there's nothing to stop al-Qaeda in Iraq from bombing Tal Afar again, which will provide American and BBC media another week of gloating. They know that and I know that. The only people who are too stupid to see it are the American and BBC reporters.

The carnage in Iraq is enormous, but it's not being caused by a civil war; it's being caused by a well-funded invading force, in the form of "al-Qaeda in Iraq."

Bombing of the al-Askariya mosque in Samarra

A major turning point in the Iraq war occurred when al-Qaeda in Iraq bombed the Shiite al-Askariya shrine in Samarra in February, 2006. This inflamed the Shiites, who had previously been restrained, to the extent that they began launching death squads against the Sunni jihadists.

Up until that point, the violence in Baghdad had been decreasing. However, sectarian violence really spiked up after that bombing. If Iraq had been in a generational Crisis era, then this violence would probably have increased, leading to full-scale civil war.

Here's how an article in Time Magazine described the situation at the time:

"Civil wars, as a general rule, don't announce themselves when they arrive. But how else to label what Iraqis witnessed in their streets last week? What other term could describe the sight of armed and angry Shi'ite mobs rampaging through Baghdad and other cities, dragging Sunnis into the streets and executing them, looting their homes and burning down their mosques? The proximate cause of the violence was the bombing of al-Askari, the sacred Shi'ite shrine in Samarra, but that attack could only partially account for the hatreds unleashed. A government-imposed curfew briefly interrupted the slaughter; after dark the fighting resumed. Ordinary citizens guided assassins to the homes of their neighbors. Iraqis like Isam al-Rawi, a Baghdad University geology professor and Sunni politician, kept their guns close and loaded. "I have to be ready for anything," he says. For him, the decapitation of the mosque in Samarra was an omen of doom. "I said to myself, 'This is it. The Shi'ites are going to go mad. This is the start of the civil war.'"

Such dire predictions have been made before and proved wrong. But this time Iraq got a very real, very frightening glimpse of what war with itself might look like. After three days of violence, more than 200 people were killed, and Sunni groups claimed at least 100 mosques were damaged. The extent of the carnage left many with the uneasy sense that the long-simmering hostility between the country's two main sects has at last boiled over--and that the fragile, feckless institutions of authority in Iraq have no means of holding the anger back. "This was the worst-case scenario we all hoped would never happen," said a Western adviser to the Iraqi government. "We've always known that when the Shi'ites ran out of patience, Iraq would run out of political options."

The outbreak of communal conflict has raised the nightmarish prospect of an even wider and more destabilizing war that would tempt the country's neighbors to intervene on behalf of the partisans. And the violence threatens to spoil the overriding U.S. objective in Iraq: brokering the formation of a broadly representative government, which the Bush Administration has hoped would defuse the Sunni-led insurgency and facilitate a substantial withdrawal of U.S. troops. To protest the other side's excesses, Sunni and Shi'ite leaders have both walked away from U.S.-led negotiations on the new government."

Contents - This page
Media fallacies
Growing split between Sunni Iraqis and al-Qaeda
Iraqis' reluctance to fight
Iraqis' reluctance to be suicide bombers
Fighting styles in Iraq and Lebanon
Suicide Bombers and Death Squads
Case Study: Last week in Tal Afar
Bombing of the al-Askariya mosque in Samarra
Iraqi culture -- nationalism vs religion
Iran's role in Iraqi War
Israel/Palestine vs Iraq
The future of Iraq

There are a couple of sentences in the first paragraph that would describe what is normally the kind of violence that you see in a civil war: "What other term could describe the sight of armed and angry Shi'ite mobs rampaging through Baghdad and other cities, dragging Sunnis into the streets and executing them, looting their homes and burning down their mosques? ... Ordinary citizens guided assassins to the homes of their neighbors."

This is the kind of activity that goes on in a civil war -- ordinary people full of hatred working to slaughter the other side. And if this kind of activity had continued, we'd have to call the Iraq war a "real" civil war.

But it didn't. This activity died off within a few days, and the Iraq war returned to its previous state of insurgency.

And the one or two other times that this kind of activity occurred, it fizzled out equally quickly.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, this quick fizzling of activity signals a non-crisis war.

The second and third paragraphs from the Time Magazine article provide the clues as to why this isn't a civil war: "But this time Iraq got a very real, very frightening glimpse of what war with itself might look like. After three days of violence, more than 200 people were killed, and Sunni groups claimed at least 100 mosques were damaged. The extent of the carnage left many with the uneasy sense that the long-simmering hostility between the country's two main sects has at last boiled over--and that the fragile, feckless institutions of authority in Iraq have no means of holding the anger back. ... The outbreak of communal conflict has raised the nightmarish prospect of an even wider and more destabilizing war that would tempt the country's neighbors to intervene on behalf of the partisans."

But none of that happened. The people got a "very real, very frightening glimpse of what war with itself might look like," and decided not to do it. They pulled back. The "long-simmering hostility" did not "at last [boil] over." There was no "even wide and more destabilizing war," and no neighbors intervened.

Instead, the violence began to decrease, according to a January analysis by Hudson Institute fellow Nibras Kazimi:

"Sadly, it took many thousands of young Sunnis getting abducted by death squads for the Sunnis to understand that in a full-fledged civil war, they would likely lose badly and be evicted from Baghdad. I believe that the Sunnis and insurgents are now war weary, and that this is a turnaround point in the campaign to stabilize Iraq."

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said something similar in a TV interview two weeks ago

Gates: This Washington game of is it a civil war or isn't it -- this characterization is a problem because it oversimplifies.

The reality is that stoking sectarian violence is a very specific strategy on the part of al-Qaeda and the insurgents. That was behind the bombing of the [al-Askariya mosque in Samarra]. It's behind their efforts today. And they make no bones about the fact that it's their strategy.

You don't have thousands of Shia and Sunnis falling in on each other or attacking each other. You have hit squads going around the city. So this is a purposeful strategy.

It seems to me there is the opportunity to create a political environment in which these issues can be sorted out among the Iraqis themselves, and that's what we're trying to do.

So we have Iraqi officials and journalists and American officials all talking about the same thing -- the people of Iraq are trying to become a peaceful country, but are being thwarted, for the time being, by invading foreign fighters from al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Iraqi culture -- nationalism vs religion

The Washington view that war is a way of life for Muslims, and that Sunnis and Shia fight each other at any occasion, is not only bigoted, but it's wrong, as shown by the history of Iraq itself.

Historically, Iraqi nationalism is very strong, and it transcends the differences between Sunnis and Shia.

In fact, during Iraq's last two crisis wars (the 1920 Great Iraqi Revolution and the 1980s Iran/Iraq war), the Iraqi Sunnis and Shia united against the country's common enemy.

However, the political relationships between Sunni and Shia have always been extremely chaotic and confrontational. This has been as true in the past as it is today. But when war comes, Iraqi Sunnis and Shia unite against the common enemy.

In Iraq's generational timeline, Iraq is now approximately one generation past the end of the Iran/Iraq war. A good way to understand what's going on in Iraq today is to look back in Iraq's history to the point one generation past Iraq's previous Crisis war, the 1920 Great Iraqi Revolution.

This information can be supplied by the Library of Congress (LOC) history of Iraq that was written in the 1980s. The chapters World War I and the British Mandate and Iraq as an Independent Monarchy describe in detail what "normal life" was in Iraq during the generations following the 1920 revolution.

Let's review that history.

Britain took control of (what was to become) Iraq during WW I, and tried to administer it (much like what America tried to do in 2003).

I've extracted some paragraphs from the LOC history below. As you'll see, the description of life in Iraq in the 1930s is almost identical to life in Iraq today.

According to the LOC history:

"Three important anticolonial secret societies had been formed in Iraq during 1918 and 1919. At An Najaf, Jamiyat an Nahda al Islamiya (The League of the Islamic Awakening) was organized; its numerous and varied members included ulama (religious leaders), journalists, landlords, and tribal leaders. Members of the Jamiyat assassinated a British officer in the hope that the killing would act as a catalyst for a general rebellion at Iraq's other holy city, Karbala. Al Jamiya al Wataniya al Islamiya (The Muslim National League) was formed with the object of organizing and mobilizing the population for major resistance. In February 1919, in Baghdad, a coalition of Shia merchants, Sunni teachers and civil servants, Sunni and Shia ulama, and Iraqi officers formed the Haras al Istiqlal (The Guardians of Independence). The Istiqlal had member groups in Karbala, An Najaf, Al Kut, and Al Hillah."

The British tried to thwart these efforts, leading to the revolution:

"Ath Thawra al Iraqiyya al Kubra, or The Great Iraqi Revolution (as the 1920 rebellion is called), was a watershed event in contemporary Iraqi history. For the first time, Sunnis and Shias, tribes and cities, were brought together in a common effort. In the opinion of Hanna Batatu, author of a seminal work on Iraq, the building of a nation-state in Iraq depended upon two major factors: the integration of Shias and Sunnis into the new body politic and the successful resolution of the age-old conflicts between the tribes and the riverine cities and among the tribes themselves over the food-producing flatlands of the Tigris and the Euphrates. The 1920 rebellion brought these groups together, if only briefly; this constituted an important first step in the long and arduous process of forging a nation-state out of Iraq's conflict-ridden social structure.

The 1920 revolt had been very costly to the British in both manpower and money."

The situation didn't get much better throughout the 1920s. Iraq became a sovereign state in 1932, and here's what happened next:

"On October 13, 1932, Iraq became a sovereign state, and it was admitted to the League of Nations. Iraq still was beset by a complex web of social, economic, ethnic, religious, and ideological conflicts, all of which retarded the process of state formation. The declaration of statehood and the imposition of fixed boundaries triggered an intense competition for power in the new entity. Sunnis and Shias, cities and tribes, shaykhs and tribesmen, Assyrians and Kurds, pan-Arabists and Iraqi nationalists--all fought vigorously for places in the emerging state structure. Ultimately, lacking legitimacy and unable to establish deep roots, the British-imposed political system was overwhelmed by these conflicting demands. ...

The arbitrary borders that divided Iraq and the other Arab lands of the old Ottoman Empire caused severe economic dislocations, frequent border disputes, and a debilitating ideological conflict. The cities of Mosul in the north and Basra in the south, separated from their traditional trading partners in Syria and in Iran, suffered severe commercial dislocations that led to economic depression. In the south, the British- created border (drawn through the desert on the understanding that the region was largely uninhabited) impeded migration patterns and led to great tribal unrest. Also in the south, uncertainty surrounding Iraq's new borders with Kuwait, with Saudi Arabia, and especially with Iran led to frequent border skirmishes. The new boundaries also contributed to the growth of competing nationalisms; Iraqi versus pan-Arab loyalties would severely strain Iraqi politics during the 1950s and the 1960s, when Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser held emotional sway over the Iraqi masses.

Ethnic groups such as the Kurds and the Assyrians, who had hoped for their own autonomous states, rebelled against inclusion within the Iraqi state. The Kurds, the majority of whom lived in the area around Mosul, had long been noted for their fierce spirit of independence and separatism. During the 1922 to 1924 period, the Kurds had engaged in a series of revolts in response to British encroachment in areas of traditional Kurdish autonomy; moreover, the Kurds preferred Turkish to Arab rule. When the League of Nations awarded Mosul to Iraq in 1925, Kurdish hostility thus increased. The Iraqi government maintained an uneasy peace with the Kurds in the first year of independence, but Kurdish hostility would remain an intractable problem for future governments."

If you're seriously interested in what's going on in Iraq today, then should go and read this entire history. Here's the important point: If you change "British" to "American," and change a few of the names, then there's no difference between then and now. If you then throw in the recent invasion by al-Qaeda in Iraq, then you'll have a much more complete understanding of what's happening today in Iraq, and why Sunni Iraqis are now turning against al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Iran's role in Iraqi War

I had originally planned to incorporate the role of Iran in the Iraq war, but frankly, Iran's foreign policy is so confused that it's impossible to figure out what Iran's goals are in Iraq.

Contents - This page
Media fallacies
Growing split between Sunni Iraqis and al-Qaeda
Iraqis' reluctance to fight
Iraqis' reluctance to be suicide bombers
Fighting styles in Iraq and Lebanon
Suicide Bombers and Death Squads
Case Study: Last week in Tal Afar
Bombing of the al-Askariya mosque in Samarra
Iraqi culture -- nationalism vs religion
Iran's role in Iraqi War
Israel/Palestine vs Iraq
The future of Iraq

It's been widely reported that Iran's Revolutionary Guard has been supplying material for roadside bombs and other weapons to Shia militia, but it's not known whether this is an official Iran policy or a rogue operation.

One thing is certain: Iran is opposed to any power given to al-Qaeda in Iraq. If al-Qaeda in Iraq could be expelled, it's unknown whether Iran would be happy with a friendly government in Iraq.

Israel/Palestine vs Iraq

Earlier this month, Jordan's King Abdullah told a joint session of Congress that the Palestinian issue is the core issue in the Mideast. Abdullah gets nothing but abuse from Americans when he says this.


Jordan's King Abdullah II, addressing a joint session of Congress on March 7 <font size=-2>(Source: CNN)</font>
Jordan's King Abdullah II, addressing a joint session of Congress on March 7 (Source: CNN)

The ignorance of Americans appears on both the left and the right.

I've pointed out many times how ABC's liberal George Stephanopoulos looked like an idiot in November because Jordan's King Abdullah had to tell him five times of the importance of the Israeli/Palestine situation, but he was still clueless.

And on the right, the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page used the slur "Hashemite Hokum," referring to Abdullah's Hashemite ethnicity, to make some really stupid remarks about his speech.


Mideast, showing Israel/Palestine, Muslim countries, and Orthodox Christian countries. Somalia and Eritrea are in east Africa.
Mideast, showing Israel/Palestine, Muslim countries, and Orthodox Christian countries. Somalia and Eritrea are in east Africa.

Anyone who just looks at the adjoining map of the Mideast can see what the problem is. Except for the orange of the Orthodox Christians in the north, the entire region is massively green -- representing Muslims -- except for that tiny red dot in the middle, representing Israel. A map like this infuriates the Arabs when they see it.

Furthermore, unlike Iraq, the Palestinians and Israelis are in a generational Crisis period.

Here's a thought question: Suppose that the Palestinians were setting off car bombs in Israel every day, as al-Qaeda is doing in Iraq. Does anyone doubt that there would be full scale war? That's the difference between an Awakening and Crisis era. In Iraq, there's no sign of anything like full-scale war.

Jordan's King Abdullah understands this, but few people in Washington have a clue.

The future of Iraq

A country in a generational Awakening era cannot have a "real" civil war, like the one going on in Darfur today, for example.

Contents - This page
Media fallacies
Growing split between Sunni Iraqis and al-Qaeda
Iraqis' reluctance to fight
Iraqis' reluctance to be suicide bombers
Fighting styles in Iraq and Lebanon
Suicide Bombers and Death Squads
Case Study: Last week in Tal Afar
Bombing of the al-Askariya mosque in Samarra
Iraqi culture -- nationalism vs religion
Iran's role in Iraqi War
Israel/Palestine vs Iraq
The future of Iraq

However, it is possible for a country to have a brief civil war that fizzles out quickly. The most famous example of this is Julius Caesar's famous "crossing the Rubicon" civil war in Rome, that ended almost before it began, as Caesar's army chased Pompey's army to Greece and beyond.

Iraq has faithfully followed the Awakening era paradigm defined by Generational Dynamics. The people do not want war, and when there is a war, the people oppose it politically and it fizzles.

As for my prediction as to where Iraq is going, my 2003 prediction, that I quoted near the beginning of this article, still stands.

Today, almost four years later, I would focus it as follows:

Whether the Administration's "surge" plan will succeed or fail actually depends more on events outside of Iraq -- namely the struggle between Jews and Palestinians.

When historians look back at this period, the Iraq war will be a minor sideshow. The main show, the center ring of the circus, is still in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The situation in those two regions continues to deteriorate every day almost without fail, and a major war cannot be far off. And that war will engulf the entire region, with Iraq becoming far less important than it seems today.


Copyright © 2002-2013 by John J. Xenakis.