Perhaps these might just come from the terrorists’ versions of Harry Reid, but Strategy Page reports that al-Qaeda websites have begun postmortems on their mission in Iraq. Given their belief that Allah has handed AQ a mandate to re-establish the Caliphate in a greater ummah, the network has to explain how they managed to lose the country set square in the middle of southwest Asia. Their explanations don’t differ much from ours, actually:

Al Qaeda web sites are making a lot of noise about “why we lost in Iraq.” Western intelligence agencies are fascinated by the statistics being posted in several of these Arab language sites. Not the kind of stuff you read about in the Western media. According to al Qaeda, their collapse in Iraq was steep and catastrophic. According to their stats, in late 2006, al Qaeda was responsible for 60 percent of the terrorist attacks, and nearly all the ones that involved killing a lot of civilians. The rest of the violence was carried out by Iraqi Sunni Arab groups, who were trying in vain to scare the Americans out of the country.

Today, al Qaeda has been shattered, with most of its leadership and foot soldiers dead, captured or moved from Iraq. As a result, al Qaeda attacks have declined more than 90 percent. Worse, most of their Iraqi Sunni Arab allies have turned on them, or simply quit. This “betrayal” is handled carefully on the terrorist web sites, for it is seen as both shameful, and perhaps recoverable.

Recovery looks increasingly unlikely. With the Iraqi Army now conducting operations throughout Iraq and the Americans able to focus on logistical support, the terrorists have fewer infidels to target. The Iraqis see the Americans as less of a threat than the lunatic jihadists who created tens of thousands of “involuntary martyrs”.

In this case, the arrogance of proclaiming the Caliphate under Osama’s leadership played a key role in the “betrayal” by Iraqi Sunni insurgents. Most of them fought to regain control over Iraq from the Shi’ites liberated from Sunni oppression with the fall of Saddam Hussein. The proclamation of the Caliphate under a foreign leader angered them, and as AQI proved itself inept against the counterinsurgency operations of General David Petraeus, it became a joke. It exposed AQ and AQI as pretenders, lunatic-fringe radicals who had no concept of governance other than through rape and murder.

Now AQ has a major public-relations and recruiting problem on its hands. As long as the network scored victories against the West, more radical Muslims could entertain the fantasy that Osama had that mandate from Allah to establish the supremacy of Islam. Now that Osama has lost Iraq, that fantasy has been dashed — and Osama exposed as just another pretender, with AQ as his butcher squad, one that kills many more Muslims than infidels. Their defeat shows that the violent jihad strategy fails when superior force gets brought to bear against it, which hardly points to a mandate from heaven.

That defeat will resonate throughout the Islamic world. The victory of rationality and democracy in Iraq cannot be denied, even by AQ itself.