After my recent article and accompanying discussion with “the auroran sunset” on the “magnet theory” in Iraq, I’ve been mulling the issue over a bit more. As indicated earlier I believe it would be a mistake for troops to be withdrawn whilst the insurgents are strong and the fledlging regime isn’t strong enough to deal with them. Given that, ISTM the Bush/Blair plan of shoring up the regime and holding elections is the only game in town that offers the Iraqis hope.
It is likely things will get worse in the short to medium term for various reasons. The insurgents seem to be well aware of the political timetable in the West. I don’t believe it is an accident that the Kenneth Bigley crisis is running in the run up to and during the start of the Labour party conference.
The fact that the US presidential elections are in full swing is not lost on the insurgents either. Causing trouble in Iraq and giving Kerry bad news with which to try and capitalise is likely to be a prime motivation for the insurgents. Likewise with the election on the go, the US is likely to hold off any major attempts to crush the insurgents at least until after polling day, and to stick to “holding the line” as it were. There is some advantage to the coalition in delaying a major push in that in the meantime the Iraqi army continues to be built up, and can thus play a stronger role should such a push come. Nevertheless the insurgents will exploit the opportunities they have to rock the boat in the meantime.
Then of course there’s the planned elections in the new year. The insurgents are likely to do everything they can to derail these elections. Success in doing so would be a major setback for the coalition and is essential if the insurgents are to achieve their goals. However if the elections go ahead, it would be a major setback for the insurgents who will have been waging a costly battle against coalition forces and the fledgling Iraqi state only to see the coalition’s plans for the country moving ahead regardless.
Thus it seems to me that as the January elections in Iraq approach the level of violence is likely to increase and that after the November US elections we’ll likely see a major push against the insurgents (assuming Bush wins, I’m not certain how a Kerry victory will change things). The success or failure of that push may well determine whether the elections go ahead as planned. I think there is everything play for however here — a successful set of elections would give the resulting Iraqi authorities more legitimacy and more confidence to fight against the insurgents thereafter. Derailing the elections would give the insurgents more confidence and will make the task of reconstruction much more difficult as a result.
The next few months in Iraq are going to be crucial — and for that reason they are likely to be bloody.