For the past couple of weeks, we have seen increasing signs that a major operation in Falluja is imminent. More airstrikes suggest better intelligence about where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his key supporters could be located. There have been several articles suggesting that other groups involved in the insurgency have little patience for Zarqawi’s broader Al Qaeda cause and think that his videotaped beheadings humiliate Iraqis and take attention away from those with a more nationalistic cause. Bad guys tend to turn in other bad guys they don’t like. Also, Zarqawi’s public pledge of allegiance to Osama struck some analysts as a sign of desperation.
There are other signals as well. Most of these come from U.S. military commanders who are set to move and say they await only the go-ahead from the Iraqi interim government. They’ve gone to great lengths to make sure everyone knows that only the Iraqis can greenlight the operation (a message that is perhaps important both in Iraq and the U.S.).
Now, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi himself appears poised to give the order:
“We have now entered the final phase of attempts to solve Falluja without a major military confrontation. I hope we can achieve this, but if we cannot, I have no choice but to secure a military solution … the window of such peaceful settlement is closing.”
That window has been slowly closing for weeks. Here’s a question:
Will it shut completely between now and the time polls close on Tuesday?