Night Watch

Iraq: Late reporting indicates that al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters have begun withdrawing from Fallujah to the suburbs. This report has not been confirmed.

The government announced that it would not attack Fallujah for now in order to minimize civilian casualties. At least one source in Iraq, however, reported that government forces have low morale because they lack the supplies and equipment to mount an operation that has any prospect of success.

Meanwhile in Ramadi, also west of Baghdad, a government and tribal night operation on 6 January failed to oust Islamists from southern Ramadi, according to an army spokesman. The government force was repulsed.

Comment: The fighting in Anbar Province does not threaten the government in Baghdad. Rather it threatens to fragment Iraq, provided the Sunni tribes join the uprising in more strength than they have to date.

If confirmed, the withdrawal of the Islamists indicates they realize they cannot hold territory against more modern and better equipped forces. It also suggests they lack good intelligence on Iraqi government forces.

The ISIS-led seizure of Fallujah does not appear sustainable, but there will be more and worse troubles in Anbar. That is because the Shiite-dominated al Maliki government has disenfranchised the Sunni Arab population. Inclusiveness is not part of the Iraqi understanding of winning elections and majority rule. Thus, there will be more violence and killing.

The Sunni Arabs in Anbar are in revolt, but the second round of Iraq's civil war is just beginning.

Syria: For the record. The first batch of chemical weapons precursors was loaded aboard a ship on Tuesday. The ship sailed from the port of Latakia, Syria, with Russian and Chinese naval escorts. Neither the Syrian government nor the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons identified the chemical storage sites from which the precursors were withdrawn.

The chemical precursors will be taken to Italy, where they will be loaded onto a US Navy ship and moved to international waters for destruction in a specially created titanium tank on board.

This is the start of a process that should have been completed by 31 December. The Sunni uprising prevented Syria from meeting the 31 December target, not the Syrian government.

The start of the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons makes this a good day for Israel.

Night Watch

NightWatch is an internationally acclaimed nightly newsletter that tracks and assesses threats to US national security. It has an edgy, executive style unlike any other summary of its kind.

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