March 2010
Canadian Journal of Sociology;Spring2010, Vol. 35 Issue 2, p271
Academic Journal
This article analyzes the suicide campaign conducted by the Iraqi insurgency since the 2003 US-led invasion. It offers a theoretical framework to identify the factors that explain why only certain armed organizations - in particular Al-Qaeda and its allies — have mounted (even if not exclusively) a specific terrorist campaign against Iraqi civilians (instead of attacking occupying forces), in which they have targeted the Shiite population by perpetrating suicide attacks instead of using other tactics. This issue requires identifying a complex set of preconditions for organizing an armed struggle such as that of the Iraqi insurgency, the two most important being, on one hand, the Sunni insurgents' common capacity for exploiting contingent political and social opportunities after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and, on the other, a regular flow of militants, including volunteers to recruit as suicide bombers. At the same time, in accounting for the specificities of Al-Qaeda's armed struggle within the Iraqi insurgency this paper explores three crucial factors underlying its elite members' decision-making: the radical opposition of Al-Qaeda and its allies to the new political regime determined by the Anglo-American occupation, combined with the highly asymmetric nature of the fighting between Al-Qaeda and the occupying forces; Al-Qaeda's vigilantism against the Shiites; and, finally, the presumed efficacy of suicide attacks in terms of their military, emotional, and symbolic impacts.


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