Q. How did the fighting start in Iraq?
Right after the American invasion, it seemed that attacks on U.S. troops were mostly a symptom of general chaos. But by late summer 2003, an organized, nationalist resistance, led by Baathist officers fired by the U.S. authorities, had emerged. (The term "insurgents" is generally reserved for the Sunni-dominated guerrillas; Shiite militias such as the Mahdi Army have also grown in the wake of the invasion, and have fought U.S. troops at times.) Until recently Washington insisted that the Sunni insurgents were a few "dead-enders" who could be contained and defeated within the "Sunni triangle"; in fact, the resistance has gained strength year after year, and its fighters have been responsible for nearly all of the 3,000-plus American troop deaths in Iraq. Both Sunni and Shiite groups now increasingly target ordinary Iraqis.Q. Was Al Qaeda involved?
Yes and no. Thousands of foreign fighters came to the country after the invasion to support a movement calling itself Al Qaeda in Iraq, and some Iraqis signed up, too. They have had an impact far beyond their numbers through spectacular acts of terrorism but are in no position to, as the Bush administration has implied, take over in the event of a U.S. withdrawal. AQ has a poor relationship with the Baathists and the Sunni tribal leaders in the resistance, who would turn on the foreigners in a heartbeat if they ceased to be useful.( Read more...Collapse )