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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Analysis: Iraq's Sophisticated Insurgency

Council on Foreign Relations

February 21, 2007
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner

Two developments mark the latest round of violence in Iraq. First, Iraq’s Shiite death squads appear to have been neutered, partly as a result of President Bush’s security plan for Baghdad. Many of the militias’ leaders have fled to the south or gone underground. Moqtada al-Sadr, a prominent anti-U.S. cleric, is rumored to be in Iran, something Tehran denies (Arab News) and some scholars dispute. A second development is the growing sophistication of the insurgency’s attacks. Recent examples include an attack (NYT) by foreign jihadis and Sunni militants against a U.S. combat outpost north of Baghdad, and what appears to be a more coordinated campaign to gun down U.S. helicopters.

Large-scale assaults like the one on the U.S. outpost are nothing new but they have grown rarer, suggesting the decentralized nature of the various insurgent factions. Still, car bombs against soft targets like civilians remain the norm. The latest round of bloodshed followed a brief calm, prompting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to call President Bush’s new security plan a “dazzling success” (NYT). But by Monday, hope gave way to despair after a pair of suicide bombings (AP) in Baghdad left at least sixty dead.

Back on the U.S. front, debate continues to rage in Congress over whether to support President Bush’s latest troop commitment. On February 17, Republicans nixed (ThePolitico.com) a nonbinding resolution that would signal the Senate’s disapproval of the president’s plan. Instead they sought an alternative resolution that guarantees no funding for the war will be cut by Congress. Democrats say the vote, despite falling short, shows that a majority of Congress does not approve of the president’s strategy. Many legislators want to place conditions on appropriations before agreeing to give the White House $100 billion next month to execute the war.

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