Is Iraq like “Groundhog Day” or “whack a mole”?

On of the great questions about the Iraq War concerns finding the right metaphor.  Is it the movie “Groundhog Day”, in which Bill Murray repeats the same day endlessly — until he achieves enlightenment?  Or is it the Long Game, round after round of whack-a-mole?  Compare and contrast these news stories, highlighted today by Juan Cole at Informed Comment.   Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city.  Which story is dated January and which May?  How do they differ?  Post your verdict in the comments.

I.  Iraq moves troops and tanks to Mosul“, Reuters — Excerpt:

Iraqi troop reinforcements will arrive in the northern city of Mosul on Sunday while tanks and helicopters are being sent for a big operation against al Qaeda militants, security officials said.  Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced on Friday that Iraqi security forces were preparing for a final offensive against al Qaeda in Iraq to push the Sunni Islamist militants out of their last major urban stronghold.

U.S. military commanders say al Qaeda, blamed for most serious bombings in Iraq, has regrouped in northern provinces after being squeezed out of the western province of Anbar and from around Baghdad during security crackdowns last year.

Major-General Riyadh Jalal Tawfiq, commander of military operations in Nineveh province, said additional Iraqi troops would arrive within hours from Baghdad, with more expected in the days after that. He gave no details of numbers.

… The U.S. military calls the group, which commanders say is largely foreign-led, the biggest threat to Iraq’s security. The military said last week that al Qaeda militants killed 3,870 civilians and wounded almost 18,000 in 4,500 attacks last year.  Despite frequent violence in northern Iraq, overall attacks have fallen sharply across the country, with the number of attacks down 60 percent since last June.

II.  Iraqi and US troops move against al Qaeda in north“, Reuters — Excerpt:

Iraqi and U.S. troops launched an operation in northern Iraq on Saturday to try to drive out al Qaeda militants regrouped there, the Iraqi military said.  Lieutenant-General Riyadh Jalal Tawfiq, the commander of Iraqi armed forces in Nineveh province, said the operation would particularly target al Qaeda fighters in the city of Mosul, regarded as the group’s last urban stronghold in Iraq.  Tawfiq said a vehicle curfew had been imposed throughout the province, whose capital is Mosul.

“I declare the beginning of the military operation today to clean the province of al Qaeda remnants,” Tawfiq told reporters. “I call on all the clerics and the heads of tribes to support the security forces in our effort to kick al Qaeda out.”

… A U.S. military spokeswoman for Iraq’s northern region, Major Peggy Kageleiry, confirmed an operation was under way.  “The GOI (government of Iraq) … is undertaking a new phase of operations in Mosul to counter the terrorist threat,” Kageleiry said. “This … Iraqi-led series of operations continues to be closely supported by (U.S.) … forces.”

Tawfiq said large numbers of Iraqi forces had been sent to Nineveh, although he declined to give details. Residents said they saw U.S. fighter planes flying over Mosul.

… A build-up of U.S. troops last year and support from Sunni Arab tribes that turned against al Qaeda allowed the military to conduct a series of offensives that largely pushed the militants out of Baghdad and the western province of Anbar.  Many regrouped in northern provinces, such as Nineveh.  However, U.S. commanders say al Qaeda in Iraq, although weakened, can still carry out large-scale attacks.

Al Qaeda in Iraq shares the name and ideology of Osama bin Laden’s network, which was blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.   Structural and operational ties between the two are unclear but the U.S. military says al Qaeda in Iraq is largely foreign-led. Its foot soldiers are mainly Iraqis.

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For more information about the Iraq War

  1. The Iraq War – articles by Fabius Maximus
  2. The Iraq War — other valuable articles and reports
  3. Our Goals and Benchmarks for the Expedition to Iraq 

One thought on “Is Iraq like “Groundhog Day” or “whack a mole”?

  1. Well, obviously the second article is from May and the first from January, because Riyadh Jalal Tawfiq has been promoted from a two-star to a three-star in the interim.

    Based on his successful campaign in January, no doubt! :-)

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