- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 4, 2004

The completion of the “transfer paperwork,” two days ahead of schedule, was a pre-emptive strike against al Qaeda, the former Ba’athists, Iran and al Jazeera.

The interim government and the coalition reportedly received information about a concerted effort by the above-mentioned forces to make June 30 a symbol of bloody defeat for the United States and a pre-emptive strike against the new government in Iraq.

In our early analysis, it is a fact that the “jihadist alliance” aimed at using June 30 to its advantage. The initiative is now in the hands of the new Iraqi government. The jihadist alliance lost an important symbolic opportunity to strike at will and on its own timing.

Per our estimate, the jihadists will strike. They will use what they have prepared for June 30 during the coming weeks. But their scenario for the 30th is gone for now.

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s government now has an opportunity to strike first, at least politically. Here is how:

• Make a declaration of independence.

• Deploy Iraqi forces and engage the insurgents wherever and whenever necessary to demonstrate strength.

• Move diplomatically.

Early signs, captured on al Jazeera, a few chat rooms and per analysis, signal the areas to be targeted by the jihadists: the new government and most symbolic sites or interests.

More than ever, the members of the Allawi government should have taken all the necessary precautions. To be sure, attacks against coalition forces will continue, and perhaps increase, including beheadings and similar horrors. The terror cells will now do all they can to hit the U.S. forces as a way to corner the new government into showing its true colors.

The speech that is expected to hit jihadi airwaves and Web sites will focus on “the inability of this government to ask the occupation forces to leave the country.” Mr. Allawi will be made into an “agent” of the occupation. Hence, Baghdad’s opening statements and moves are going to be very delicate. It must act independently but remain allies with the United States and the coalition.

The jihadi forces will step up their verbal and other attacks on NATO symbols, as the alliance decides to provide training to the new Iraqi forces. Al Qaeda will have to study its new maps to adapt to this new situation.

In summary, the pre-emptive transfer of power in Iraq has granted the new Baghdad leadership a golden opportunity. It is really up to this new multi-ethnic team to speed up the return of the country to regional and international realms.

The violence is certainly expected to resume at the hands of the same forces that targeted both Americans and Iraqis in the past few months. But the new factors are more psychological in the sense that a new player is now on the world stage.

Iraq is now without Saddam Hussein, but also without Ambassador L. Paul Bremer. The new players are Iyad Allawi, Abu Musab Zarqawi and Muqtada al-Sadr. The Iraqi people can make their choice on who they wish to lead their embattled country toward a better future.

Walid Phares is a professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Florida Atlantic University and a contributing analyst for Fox News and MSNBC.

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