My take on Iraq
Since January 30th and the historic election in Iraq, the insurgency seems to have split into three groups all with different ideas of how to achieve success at the tactical and strategic level.
The first group is made up former Baathists and officers from Saddam's Republican guard forces. I'm not sure what to make of these people, it seems that since the election they have taken a wait and see attitude with regards to continuing their fight with Coalition forces. Their main operating bases seem to be north of Baghdad, mainly in the Taji, Baqubah, Tikrit triangle. Their main weapon was the IED and they rarely attacked Iraqi civilians or Iraqi security forces, it seems that American military forces were their main target. However, the election seems to have taken the wind out of their sails as attacks in the before mentioned area are down noticeably since the elections. If I ventured a guess, I would say these guys are waiting to see how the new Government decides to treat former Baathists and Middle Ranking Republican guard officers. If the Jafaari Government is lenient towards these individuals, I expect they will lay down their arms and side with the new govt. In fact I would say they would be very effective at countering Zarqawi's forces.
The second group is made up of common criminals, gangsters, and other nihilistic types in Iraqi society. These are the people doing most of the kidnappings that don't result in loss of head from body. They are in it for the money, or the violence, or the power, take your pick, they truly are not much better than gang bangers here in the states. They see an opportunity and they take it, they'll attack us, Iraqi forces or Iraqi civilians, to them it doesn't matter what anyone is fighting for or against, as long as they are getting paid or they get street cred, they could care less. Unfortunately they are also the most irritating to fight against as one day they are giving you tips on some real dirtbags Al Qaeda types and the next day they are shooting 82mm into your FOB because the said Al Qaeda dirtbags gave them 50 bucks and some smokes. Truly these guys piss me off, but they will exist long after we leave, the trick is to learn when to pay attention to them and when to ignore them.
Finally we come to the real scum of humanity in Iraq, the Zarqawi network, foreign jihadis, and other assorted trash that kills "supposedly" in the name of God. These are who we are most commonly engaging, especially in Al anbar province, Baghdad, and Mosul. These are the foot soldiers of Zarqawi, they attack who he tells them to, when he tells them to. These are the ones massacring Iraqi soldiers on leave, the ones blowing up women and children when they come out to visit American soldiers on patrol, and the ones that videotaped the beheading of Nick Berg and others. These men are evil, there are no two ways about it, they commit murder because they delusionally think God tells them it is ok. Originally it was ok to kill infidels, and then it changed to collaborators, and recently apparently anyone that believes in a free Iraq is a target to these dirtbags. When these clowns are chased out of Iraq, Al Qaeda will be finished, let me explain why.
It appears that recent Coalition operations are aimed at strangling the Euphrates river valley supply network that has been keeping the insurgency alive and kicking. The Marines actions in western Iraq are aimed at denying supply, rest and refitting bases to the insurgents. In the past, after a battle like Fallujah the insurgents could retreat to Al Qaim or Husaybah or even cross over into Syria and rest reorganize and even recruit new members. Operation Matador seems intent on denying them this while at the same time inflicting as many casualties as possible on the insurgent forces. The joint Army/Marine operation appears to be rolling up the Euphrates valley that the insurgents have been using as a highway, it also appears to be convincing the insurgents to meet us force on force where they are sure to lose and lose big. So far it appears that at the loss of less than 10 Marines, over 150 insurgents have been killed and dozens more captured. The two questions that I will look forward to answering a few weeks from now are: Did this operation put a serious stranglehold on Zarqawi's forces and their ability to operate in Western Iraq? and Does the Iraqi public in Al Anbar province take this as further proof that we are there as protectors and rebuilders and Zarqawi's people are there only to destroy and cause misery?
I for one hope that the answers are yes, time will tell the tale.