Three years ago al-Qaeda was a potent force in Iraq. Today it is in full retreat – the US military believes it has dealt devastating, and perhaps irreversible blows to the organisation in recent months, with many of its leaders eliminated or behind bars.
While US airstrikes that killed top commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan mean further losses for al-Qaeda, the current political conditions in Iraq may favour its resurgence.
Those conditions include a deadlock in the outcome of the electoral process, and a Shiite-dominated alliance that many Sunni Arabs perceive as exclusionary.
The increasing marginalisation of the Sunni Arab Sahwa (awakening) Councils could also lead to reversal of their anti-Qaeda policy.
Nouri al-Maliki, Iyad Allawi, and other leading politicians have warned against a return to political violence if they are denied power.
For their part, the Sahwa commanders have warned that security conditions could easily slip back to those of the notorious 2006-2007 period, if they are not fully reintegrated into the Iraqi system.
To discuss the presence and the future of al-Qaeda in Iraq, we are joined by Raanan Gissin in Tel Aviv, a former senior advisor to Ariel Sharon, and Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor-in-chief of al-Quds al-Arabi in London.
This episode of Inside Iraq can be seen from Friday, July 16, at the following times GMT: Friday: 1730, 2230; Saturday: 0300, 0830; Sunday: 0600, 1230; Monday: 0130.