It hasn't gotten any attention that I've noticed amidst the furor over the provincial election law and Kirkuk, but a few days ago the Emir of the Islamic Army of Iraq announced a new offensive against American bases and troops. This campaign was authorized, according to the very brief statement, because Iraq's fate must not be determined by occupiers or their agents. This follows on the heels of the announcement a few weeks ago by Jaysh al-Mujahideen that it was leaving those two coalitions, of which it was a founding member along with the Islamic Army, due to their failure to produce any political results.
Why does this matter? Because the Islamic Army is the core of the coalition of 'nationalist-jihadist' insurgency factions which have expressed interest in joining the political process (the Reform and Jihad Front, the Political Council of the Iraqi Resistance) and is one of the key factions believed to have joined up with the Awakenings Councils / Sons of Iraq in force. Its public break with the Islamic State of Iraq (AQI) in April 2007 was probably the most important turning point in the transformation of the Sunni insurgency.
This could very well just be a propaganda move, an attempt to rebuild some credibility and draw attention to their military capability. It may amount to nothing more than an upswing in videos of exploding hummers. But that could backfire upon them, since if attacks do not in fact begin to pick up, it could prove seriously damaging to the Islamic Army's remaining credibility and devalue them as interlocutors. I've already seen some mocking posts on other forums asking, essentially, "where's the beef?"
Or, it could be the beginning of something else. The announcement follows months of grumbling from various Awakenings leaders about being targeted by al-Qaeda in Iraq, about disappearing American cash, about their not being integrated into the Iraqi Security Forces. It follows the as the fall from grace of Abu Abed, the prominent Awakening leader widely believed to be from the Islamic Army who has fled to Jordan. If the Awakenings are going to switch sides again, the Islamic Army would presumably be the center of gravity.
The timing seems odd, given that the US and Iraq seem to converging on just the kind of timeline for withdrawal of American forces which the IAI has always demanded as a condition for its joining the political process. Still, we may be about to find out whether the insurgency factions which turned against al-Qaeda and joined the Sons of Iraq can and will go back to the battle. Are they just a "bunch of hoodlums" (in the immortal words of Gen Jack Keane), an exhausted force which can safely be ignored, or are they the core of a still-formidable fighting force which voluntarily laid down its arms but could easily pick them back up (as, say, Steve Biddle would suggest)? I really hope that we aren't about to find out.