When it comes to insurgent attacks in Iraq, the only pattern is
that there may be no pattern.
The recent upsurge in Iraqi violence, after a relative lull
following national elections, has left US officials and outside
experts alike groping for answers about the nature of the enemy.
It's possible that the attacks are meant to take advantage of the
new Iraqi government's struggles to organize itself, for instance.
But it is at least as likely that the increase has been powered by
reasons known only to the insurgents themselves, such as flagging
morale or an increase in the availability of fighters or weapons.
Even to speak of "an insurgency" is something of a misnomer, as
there are probably a number of insurgencies, split between foreign
jihadis, die-hard Saddam Hussein followers, and anti-American
opportunists. One expert compares them to a flock of birds or a
school of fish who suddenly group, travel in formation, and then
disperse - all without any central command.
"And with birds and fish, who knows where they are going to go?"
says Itamara Lochard, a specialist in insurgencies at Tufts
University's Fletcher School in Medford, Mass.
On Tuesday the US military continued to engage insurgent fighters
in the fiercest fighting of the occupation since US forces retook
the city of Fallujah.
For a third day, Marines, backed by extensive air power, swept
through western Iraq near the Syrian border - an area in which
insurgents, particularly foreign insurgents motivated by a desire
for anti-American jihad, had operated with some impunity for months.
The offensive, named Operation Matador, had killed as many as 100
insurgents since Sunday, claimed US officials. US casualties were
said to be light.
The fighting comes amidst a surge in suicide bombings and other
insurgent attacks that began to take shape in late March. Those
attacks continued Tuesday, as well, with the explosion of at least
two car bombs in central Baghdad.
The last 10 days to two weeks has seen an increase in car bombs,
detonated both remotely and by drivers, said Lt. Gen. James T.
Conway, director, Joint Operations, Joint Staff, at a Pentagon
briefing on May 5.
It is possible that this increase reflects an increase in
activity on the part of the foreign jihadis, as suicide attacks have
long been part of their operational pattern. It is also possible
that the bombers are native Iraqis who have been forced into a
desperate move by the kidnapping of loved ones, said General Conway.
"We're asking ourselves, what's all this mean? And we don't have
the answers yet," he added. …