There is an apparent lull in the number of attacks carried out by insurgents in Iraq and the number of raids and attacks carried out by U.S. forces. The decrease in the tempo of operations follows a period of heightened action that coincided with the just-ended holy month of Ramadan. As previously noted, the pace of operations by the militants was unsustainable in the long run, but the next few days will demonstrate whether this Eid pause is a temporary time of rest and recuperation or a more permanent state of affairs following the recent U.S. counterinsurgency offensive.
There has been an apparent lull in operations by both coalition and guerrilla forces in Iraq in recent days, coinciding with the Eid festivities that mark the end of Ramadan. Militants are still attacking coalition troops, including mortar-fire and small-arms clashes, and U.S. forces continue to patrol and respond to these actions, but the overall pace of operations has slowed from a peak during Ramadan, when guerrillas launched an offensive and U.S. forces launched several high-profile counterinsurgency operations. The timing of the lull appears to indicate a conscious move by both sides to scale down operations during Eid — though looks can be deceiving. Whether this is simply a pause or a true sign of progress on the part of the U.S.-led coalition forces will be seen in the next few days as the Eid celebrations trail off. As STRATFOR previously noted, the high pace of guerrilla operations over the past month was unsustainable in the long run. The slackening pace — though by no means cessation — of attacks could signal either a decision by guerrilla forces to rest and recuperate following the month-long surge in operations or indicate that the surge was a last desperate attempt by a failing force. U.S. forces also have slowed the pace of their recent counterinsurgency campaigns, including Iron Hammer and Ivy Cyclone II, due both to the need to pause between high-pace short-term operations and in deference to political and social considerations during Eid. This is not to say that U.S. forces have ceased their present patrols or stopped chasing down attackers and following up on intelligence leads, but the high-profile use of armored columns, short-range ballistic missiles, F-16 air strikes and AC-130 gunship attacks has lapsed, even if only briefly. The next few days will be telling. There already are reports that al Qaeda has called for a second offensive that would stretch between the Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, which falls in February and coincides with the Hajj. Coincidentally, February is the time U.S. forces are likely to be rotating through Iraq. If the Ramadan offensive marked the last dying gasps of the defeated Baathist regime, then the next week or two should see a continued lower scale of guerrilla operations in Iraq. If, however, this is simply a tactical pause — be it for religious or military considerations — then next week will mark a resumption in the earlier pace of attacks as the inter-Eid offensive kicks off.