Saturday, July 16, 2005

Foreign jihadists ... Anyone who has even remotely followed the Iraqi insurgency is aware that it contains a small but significant foreign constituency.

Perhaps I've been out of touch, but I never realized just how significant it was until I came across this report today:

The suicide bombings brought out another point about the evolving insurgency: that foreign infiltrators are thought to be inflicting a high proportion of the casualties.

American military intelligence estimates of the number of insurgents have varied widely in the course of the war, but most put the total at no more than 20,000, of which foreign Arabs - including Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis, Sudanese and Syrians - are a tiny minority. But American commanders say they know of no instance in the past year in which a suicide bomber has been an Iraqi, although they acknowledge that the evidence they have for this, given the fact that most of the bombers are obliterated by the blasts, is sketchy.

To my mind that is astonishing. We do not know of a single Iraqi suicide bomber. And while the evidence is indeed difficult to come by, we need only look at Hamas or Hezbollah to realize that physical evidence wouldn't be needed. The appeal of suicide bombing rests in large part on the honor you receive for it from within your community, so if Iraqis themselves were committing these bombings then presumably we would be hearing about it from the communities themselves.

So the main difference between Iraqi and foreign insurgents is that the Iraqis apparently want to survive long enough to view their triumph. They want to fight but also to live. And that is encouraging: they're fighting with a political agenda in mind, and as such are an enemy that can be engaged.

Not so, however, for the foreign jihadists. They are fighting -- and in many cases, deliberately dying -- not for a political ideal but against what they perceive as an assault on Sunni Islam. A large part of that perception, clearly, derives from the American invasion and occupation. However -- and this is a key point -- an American withdrawal is not their primary goal. If every American troop left tomorrow, they'd still keep coming, because they would still view Iraqi Sunnis as a persecuted constituency.

So the main focus on our part should be getting the Sunnis better representation and political influence in the Iraqi congress. If that happens -- and if Sunnis are no longer seen as the shameful losers of this whole affair -- then and only then will the wind start to be taken out of the foreign insurgents' sails.

A few will still keep coming, on the idea that any compromise constitutes a loss of honor. But in general it will be viewed as far less acceptable to sacrifice other Muslims to the cause.


Post a Comment

<< Home