Iraqis can beat the terrorists

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The return of the suicide bombers to Baghdad will be greeted with sadness and anger by the long-suffering Iraqis. Two fanatics slaughtered at least 35 and injured more than 90 in attacks in Tayaran Square in the center of the Iraqi capital.

With the ouster of the last terrorists of Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) from that area of Iraq that they claimed as their so-called caliphate, the pace of suicide bombings elsewhere in the country has dropped off. There were even those who hoped that with the defeat of Daesh, the attacks might come to an end.

But, of course, this was never likely. Once their deployment on the conventional battlefield had been shown up as vainglorious posturing, it was inevitable that these vicious bigots would shrink back into the shadows. The main achievement of their seizure of territory in Iraq has actually been damaging to their blasphemous cause. Leaving aside the gross videos showing how they murdered their victims, their treatment of the people who fell under their control was appalling. Anyone who might initially have been taken in by their propaganda very quickly saw the true face of evil that it concealed.

It was indicative of the fantasy world in which Daesh leaders and their followers existed that they ever imagined they could seize and hold large areas of territory in the face of a well-equipped and well-trained military response, including the devastating airpower of the international coalition, of which the Kingdom is a key member.

But perhaps Daesh supremos fondly imagined that they could fashion some heroic propaganda out of their defeat, which would burnish their brand as they returned to the traditional, secret ways of terrorism with carefully staged attacks and bombings.

If that has been their plan in Iraq, they are on the way to disappointment and defeat. Their barbarous treatment of those Iraqis under their rule, including the humiliation and murder of highly respected tribal chiefs who had the temerity to question them, has alienated virtually everyone in the country. Traditional terrorists can be defeated. The Kingdom’s experience in destroying Al-Qaeda cells, an experience that has since been widely shared with leading intelligence forces around the world, is proof of this.

But the fight is never easy. The men of violence enjoy the advantage of choosing their own moment to strike before they slink back to their lairs. Security forces will, of course, use checkpoints and closed-circuit camera networks to monitor the movements of suspects. But tragically, the bombers, especially the suicide bombers, often manage to get through. However, counter-intuitive though it may seem, the terrorists are at their most vulnerable when they are hidden. The very act of concealing themselves within the communities they have come to destroy means that they can arouse suspicion. Ordinary residents in the Kingdom, who were alert to the possibility that killers were hiding out among them, played an important part in tipping off the authorities and helping roll up a number of Al-Qaeda cells.

On top of this, the terrorists have to talk to each other and their calls and human messengers leave threads leading back to their places of concealment. Iraqis must take comfort in the knowledge that, as Saudi Arabia has shown, terrorism can be defeated.


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