Osama bin Laden’s recent audio tape calling on Sunni factions in Iraq to unite with his al Qaeda in Iraq organization seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Earlier today, an insurgent group called the Islamic Army fought it out with al Qaeda forces, driving them from an area near Samarra that al Qaeda has controlled for some time. At least sixteen terrorists, including an Iranian, were reported killed. American and Iraqi troops refrained from interfering.
Iraq is increasingly shaping up as al Qaeda’s Waterloo. The Iraq war was begun mostly to implement the administration’s long-term strategy of combating Islamic terrorism by bringing reform to the Arab world. While al Qaeda was present in Iraq at that time, no one saw the war there–unlike the war in Afghanistan–primarily as a direct attack on that organization.
But al Qaeda upped the ante in Iraq by calling for international jihad and publicly proclaiming Iraq the central front in its war against civilization. Bin Laden thereby created an opportunity that would not otherwise have existed, to turn the war in Iraq into a more immediate turning point in our conflict with al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Whether our long-term objectives in Iraq can be achieved will not be known for some time. But it looks increasingly likely that Iraq will be seen in the Islamic world not only as a defeat, but as a humiliation for al Qaeda. As we noted yesterday, even al Jazeera has started to notice. If that turns out to be right, the consequences could be incalculable.
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