There are three kinds of fighting going on in Iraq, and it’s clear from your recent statements that you might not understand the scope of the fighting there. As a guy who has been on the ground there and who remains part of this nation’s armed forces while we are at war, let me see if I can offer some additional clarification for you. I would hate for you to assume your new duties as Speaker of the House while not understanding something as important as Iraq.
1. There is Sunni / Shi’a violence. Yes, you can think of this as being similar to fighting between the Bloods and the Crypts, or the Hatfields and the McCoys, or even Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. There are groups — and don’t ask me to identify them, or even quantify them — that are fighting each other in Iraq. This is what most of the world calls sectarian violence.
2. There are Sunni and Shi’a groups taking up arms against the Iraqi government, in an effort to affect some change in the Iraqi government. Now, I understand that this might seem like a confusing concept, given that some of them want to implement specific changes (like Kurdish autonomy) while others just want to bring chaos and lawlessness to the country (taking security away from the government). Nonetheless, that is what makes these groups insurgents — they have taken to arms in an effort to change something about the government, something that could not be done by peaceful means (as they see it). Does Al Qaeda fall into this group? Yep — sometimes.
3. There are groups in Iraq taking up arms against what they consider to be the Crusaders. Yes, that means the US and the coalition forces, as well as the Iraqi police, security forces, and military (because these Iraqis, they think, are very very bad and are tools of the Crusaders, while abandoning their faith and working against the greatness that is Islam). And yes, this includes Al Qaeda. This fight has nothing to do with the short term problems with Iraq; it has to do with the long term struggle of Islam, against the outside influences of the West. It has to do with the Salafist efforts to return Islam to its place of glory in this world, and to bring about the return of a unified Islamic world and the caliphate.
Now, I know what you’re going to ask — can Al Qaeda be viewed as being part of the problem causing the insurgency in Iraq?
Damn skippy, you sure can.
Is it the sole reason? Nope. See #2 above — there are others.
But understanding these three concepts is key to understanding just how complicated it is in finding a solution for Iraq — whether it’s the US finding a solution, or the Iraqis, or even the Syrians or Iranians. If you impact one of the three aspects of the fighting in Iraq, you will also be impacting the other two — there are no surgical strikes here, things that, say, only impact Sunni / Shi’a fighting without impacting the insurgency or the fight against the Crusaders.
Still have questions? Give me a shout — I’m here to help.