I was asked yesterday what I thought was the greatest factor reducing the violence in Iraq over the last several months. The question caught me off guard a bit because I have never really given it any thought.
After a pause I reverted back to Counter-Insurgency 101 and gave my answer. The U.S surge made it clear to the radical Islamists that victory would not be forthcoming anytime soon. The Coalition applied a full-court press with great adeptness utilizing it's advantages and minimizing those of its enemy. It became clear that an insurgent victory was a long way off and it's ranks began to fraction under the steady pressure of the Coalition's war fighting and intelligence operations.
The Coalition sent a tacit or otherwise message to the insurgency that it was not going to be allowed to win, no matter what; it had hit its high-water mark and will be continually pushed back and marginalized if the insurgents continued to violently struggle. The best course of action, like in countless insurgencies before it, would be to sue for peace and consolidate what gains it had made before those too were whittled away. This, in my opinion, is what has lead to the marked drop in violence over the past several months.
Certainly the violence continues, but for the most part, they are outliers; uncoordinated attacks against targets of opportunity by small groups of fighters that didn't get the memo. It will soon be the Iraqi's sole job to mop up these factions and hold onto the gains. The Coalition will remain in the background to ensure that the homeostasis remains. Should the Coalition draw down too quickly, however, then the insurgency may see an opportunity for victory after all and press the fight anew.