Sunday, January 21, 2007

Iraq Strategy and Bitter Realities

Bush Iraq Strategy

In his Address to the Nation on January 10, 2007 American President George Bush ignored again the reality that imagined enemies became real and unjust(ified) war became a disaster. Mr. Bush admits that the US needs to change its strategy in Iraq. But he astonishingly believes that his new strategy (moving from “stay the course” to “change the course”) will bring the US closer to success!

US Senator Ike Skelton describes best the President’s speech: “Despite the President’s statement, “It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq,” he did not present a new strategy. It is only a change in tactics. A new strategy would have redefined the endstate to something different, and then laid out the ways and means to accomplish it. Instead, the President has offered some adjustments to our current course, but these adjustments do not represent a radical departure from what we are doing today.”[i]

President’s statement of “nearly 12 million Iraqis had cast their ballots for a unified and democratic nation” ignores the fact that 30 January 2005 elections brought the Shiite-led government and helped further divide the country along the sectarian and ethnical lines. Then, how is it possible to call a nation democratic if the only thing government can provide is zero security.

According to Bush “past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops…….there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have.” Therefore he announced a 20,000-troop surge into Baghdad and Anbar province as well as asked for “more active role of Iraqi Army and National Police.”

“Only Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people,” says Bush but adds “…the Iraqis will need our help,” by which he meant bringing visible improvements in Iraqi neighborhoods and communities.

In addition, the US should “allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws, and establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution.”

Moreover, he said the US “will increase the embedding of American advisers in Iraqi Army units, and partner a coalition brigade with every Iraqi Army division. We will help the Iraqis build a larger and better-equipped army, and we will accelerate the training of Iraqi forces…We will give our commanders and civilians greater flexibility to spend funds for economic assistance.“

“Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. … We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria,” but “We're also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East.”

Bitter Realities

1. Saddam’s (predominantly Sunni) secular Baath Party, for better or worse, was the unifying sociopolitical force that held Iraq together by brutally oppressing[ii] sectarian religious parties [to prevent them from blocking the creation of a single Iraqi national identity], and by traumatizing Iraqi public with psychological scars that remain as barriers to trust and faith in any central government today.[iii]

2. Saddam’s Baath party created have’s and have not’s in Iraq. Have’s were the ones loyal to the party. They are still well, wealthy, have privileges, connections and play a major role in directing the insurgency. After the US involvement in 2003 this gap has deepened. Hence, the Baathists possibly would resume power if the US were to leave Iraq today.

3. The US has always pronounced ethnicity and religious affiliation in every event, which exacerbated the current conflict. Americans handed over power to Shiites. The Shiite-led Iraqi government does not really want the Americans. Shi’s militias accept help from Iran but most of them have little love with Iran (not that they are Arab, not Persian), as well as Iranian Shi’a extremism. Large majority of Sunnis doesn’t want Al-Qaeda taking over. They both don’t want the US in Iraq. Al Qaeda is targeting Shiites. Moreover, the acts of Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents (such as bombing of Golden Shrine in Samara in February 2006, supposedly by Sunnis) provoked Shia population to retaliate. Meanwhile Kurds want the US.

4. Before the invasion, the US didn’t foresee insurgency.[iv] And currently, the coalition forces still cannot define who the insurgents are. The insurgents as well as Shiite militias (mostly Moktada al-Sadr lead Mahdi Army), both having considerable indigenous support, are more interested in personal gain than in aiding their fellow Iraqis. When they applied counterinsurgency measures it was already late.

5. Counterinsurgency should have focused more on policing activities. Now, it is not clear how shifting greater responsibility to the Iraqis for their security can be made possible. Iraqi soldiers and police reportedly cannot go home with uniform and hence must hide their identity. This clearly proves that Iraqi government is indeed not in charge, it is struggling to impose authority. Therefore, if Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, fails, and if US sticks to him, the US will fail too.

Here is what Senator Ike Skelton had to say on this issue: “it is not at all clear to me that Prime Minister Maliki has the ability or the will to control the violence or broker compromise among the competing sectarian and religious groups….I remain convinced that we must send a signal to the Iraqis that they must take a much greater responsibility for their own security.”[v] I guess that signal has already been given by Bush. “I said to Maliki this has to work or you’re out,” the president told the Congressional leaders, according to a New York Times article. Incompetence prevails.

6. Training of Iraqi forces (promoted by President Bush) is not a solution.

In the next post I will explain why. Also, I will add six more points.

see part 2
also Bush Administration Iraq Corruption


Notes:
[1] Opening Remarks of Senator Ike Skelton, US Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on “The Way Forward in Iraq”, January 11, 2007.
[2] The Ba’ath Party was habituated to using domestic terror as a “legitimate” tool of governance.
[3] Captain Travis Patriquin, U.S. Army, “Using Occam’s Razor to Connect the Dots: The Ba’ath Party and the Insurgency in Tal Afar“, Military Review, January-February 2007.
[4] With such claims as Paul Wolfowitz’s “there won’t be any hostility” (Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz Interview with National Public Radio, February 19, 2003) and Cheney’s “We’ll be greeted as liberators” (Dana Milbank, Upbeat Tone Ended With War, The Washington Post, March 29, 2003).
[5] Opening Remarks of Senator Ike Skelton, US Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on “The Way Forward in Iraq”, January 11, 2007.[1] Captain Gary Felicetti, “The Limits of Training in Iraqi Force Development”, Parameters, Winter 2006-07.


Tags: Iraq Strategy, US Military, Iraq

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