Baghdad has been remarkably quiet since my return. In fact, it has been far quieter than when I was here last around 7 weeks ago. Then, it was common to hear explosions, however with the exception of a distant blast last evening, it thus far has been quiet. Conventional wisdom is that this is the quiet before the storm. The Zarqawi memo intercepted earlier this year called for his fellow terrorists to use the occupation as a pretext for their violence, and to step up the attacks as the transition approaches. Given the recent round of activity in Baqubah, Mosul, and Ramadi, few doubt his candor on this point. Some have begun to talk about a possible "Baghdad Offensive"--a coordinated strike on the capital in the days leading up to the transition. My sense is that they will try something "spectacular," but that they know that even this will not work. They tried a coordinated attack two days ago, which ended with 60 of their own men dead in Baqubah, and no real military progress. For this reason, it is my sense that they will make a concerted effort to make good on the threat to assassinate Prime Minister Allawi. Given Allawi’s popularity, this would likely be the most disruptive possible attack on the transition.
But they are not unchallenged in these efforts. Zarqawi complained in the same memo that the noose was tightening, and indeed it is. It now appears that Zarqawi may have been just outside the safe house bombed yesterday. If so, then he survived, but suffered a very close call. This is the third safe house that the Coalition has bombed this week. When coordinated attacks were launched in multiple cities, they were handily put down. The terrorists are making death throes. I have little doubt that they will launch more attacks in the next week which will be carried with splashy headlines by a hyperventilating press. But their objective will not be accomplished. The transition will proceed, and their attempt to relegate Iraq to despotisms of the past will fail.