Using Water As A Weapon Of War

Herschel Smith · 03 Aug 2014 · 9 Comments

Next City: In a war, anything can be a weapon. In a particularly ruthless war, such as the conflict that has been raging in Syria for more than three years, those weapons are often turned against civilians, making any semblance of normal life impossible. Such is the case, experts say, with the way the nation’s water supply is being manipulated to inflict suffering on the population. According to an article posted by Chatham House, a London-based independent policy institute, water…… [read more]

Insurgent Lies and Propaganda

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

In Enemy Operations in Baghdad and Fallujah, we pointed out that Fallujah was a current hot spot of enemy combat action, citing among other action recent chlorine attacks.  On Wednesday morning there was further action in Fallujah.

Iraqi Army soldiers and police repelled a complex attack at the Fallujah Government Center, including two suicide truck bombs containing chlorine, on the morning of March 28.

The attack began at 6:33 a.m. with mortar fire, followed by two truck bombs and small arms fire. Iraqi Police identified the first suicide attacker and fired on the truck, causing it to detonate before reaching the compound. Iraqi Army soldiers spotted the second suicide truck approaching the gate and engaged it with small arms fire, causing it to also detonate near the entrance of the compound.

Approximately 15 Iraqi Security and Coalition Force members sustained injuries from the bomb blast and were evacuated to the 2nd Iraqi Army Brigade’s aid station and a Coalition medical facility.

Numerous Iraqi Soldiers and Policemen are being treated for symptoms such as labored breathing, nausea, skin irritation and vomiting that are synonymous with chlorine inhalation.

We maintain the position we staked out in Intelligence Bulletin #4 concerning chlorine attacks.  As to the military value of gas versus conventional explosives, the insurgents have chosen the far less effective of the two tactics.  Furthermore, according to the Multi-National Force press release, while personnel from the Coalition force sustained injuries, there were no reported fatalities.

The usually biased but sometimes informative Azzaman has an article entitled Fallujah may slip out of U.S. control that, using primarily this incident, comes to unsubstantiated conclusions concerning the current state and future of Fallujah.

Iraqi insurgents have intensified their attacks on U.S. targets inside the restive city of Falluja and the outlying villages and towns.

Daring attacks have taken U.S. troops aback in a city where the majority of its nearly 300,000 people are not happy with the presence of U.S. invaders.

Falluja has become a symbol of anti-U.S. resistance not only in Iraq but across most of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

It took the mighty U.S. military more than a month to flush the rebels out in 2004. The battle to regain the city caused massive destruction and had turned most of it into heaps of ruins.

But the rebels, most of whom had retreated to the countryside to escape devastating U.S. firepower, have reorganized their ranks and are now using more sophisticated means to drive the Americans away.

Two trucks one loaded with explosives and the other with toxic gas penetrated the fortified U.S. military camp in the city. The first suicide bomber drove through the gate with his explosives-laden truck only to be followed by the second truck full of chlorine bombs.

The rebels see the massive 2004 falluja attack as a defeat for the U.S. and a turning point in the battled to force its troops out of the country.

In the attack on the U.S. base, the second truck with poisonous gas entered the camp. The U.S. has not yet released reports of casualties but Iraqi police sources say tens of people, mostly Iraqi police officers as well as U.S. servicemen, were killed or injured.

This hyperventilating account of what can only be seen as a failure by the insurgents shows Azzaman for what they are: a mouthpiece for the insurgency.  In this instance, the editors at Azzaman have allowed themselves to look similar to the jihadist propaganda web sites such as Jihad Unspun that had another hyperventilating account of this incident where they attempted to make it look like something other than a tactical failure.

The Strategy Page has an outstanding assessment of the history of suicide bombers and the track record of failure that marks their path.  It is most certainly the case that suicide jihadists can cause much damage and wreak much havoc, as well as be a catalyst for sectarian violence.  However, turning to this tactic is demonstration that they have lost the support of the population, at least to a large extent.

Turning east towards Sadr City, Moqtada al Sadr issued a statement that whipped up his supporters by blaming the violence in Iraq on the presence of the U.S.  By all sensible accounts, the absence of the U.S. would allow the Shi’a to engage in the final stages of genocide of the Sunni population, which is now only about ten percent of the population after the exodus of the Sunnis over the last year.  What Sadr wants is unrestricted freedom to implement his policies rather than equity and peace for Iraq.  He and his hard line followers in the Mahdi army are as much terrorists as al Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al Sunna.

IRAQSlogger is reporting that there was recently an attempt on Sadr’s life.

Amid reports of heavy fighting in a raid on a Sadrist official in the Kufa district, a member of the Iraqi Parliament has said that the Sadrist current foiled an attempt on Muqtada al-Sadr’s life, also in Kufa, and fingered US involvement in the plot.

Baha al-’Araji, a member of the Iraqi parliament with the Sadrist current told the London-based daily al-Quds al-Arabi that aides to Muqtada al-Sadr had discovered a plan to assassinate the cleric during Friday prayers in Kufa, the newspaper reports in Arabic.

The attack was foiled when al-Sadr failed to appear in Kufa on the specified Friday. The al-Quds al-Arabi account does not refer to the date of the alleged foiled attack.

This account appears rather soft and unsubstantiated.  However, if true, this directly comports with the counsel we have given to effect the “strategic disapperance” of Moqtada al Sadr as a cornerstone of the security plan.  In Intelligence Bulletin #3, we argued:

… if Sadr returns to Iraq, his arrest or disappearance might incite such a firestorm of problems that the Baghdad security plan is brought to a halt.  The Mahdi army doesn’t like even the presence of combat operation posts or bases in Sadr City.  Sadr will never be convicted in a court in Iraq, and a show trial that exhonerates him would be the worst of all possible outcomes.  The U.S. is tracking the whereabouts of Sadr.  Major General William Caldwell said that Sadr was still inside Iran as of 24 hours ago.  This seems like a confident report, and assuming its accuracy, it gives lattitude for the appropriate action to remove Sadr from the political and spiritual scene, thus enabling the security plan to succeed.  We highly commend the notion of a strategic disappearance of Sadr as one key to the overall success of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

One casualty of war is truth.  The truth in these cases is that the chlorine attacks have been tactical failures, and cooperation with Sadr is the devil’s game.  We have no business believing the lies of the jihadists, any more than we have of promulgating their lies by seeking reconciliation between Sadr and the Sunnis.  Sadr is a criminal and a killer and wants nothing of reconciliation.

British and U.S. Rules of Engagement Versus Iran

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

In Iran, Sadr and Iranian Forces Deployed Throughout the Middle East I discussed the British rules of engagement (ROE) and how they were a contributing cause to the abduction of the British sailors and marines.  The British rules of engagement virtually ensured their abductions without resistance.  Former First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Alan West, said British rules of engagement were “very much de-escalatory, because we don’t want wars starting … Rather than roaring into action and sinking everything in sight we try to step back and that, of course, is why our chaps were, in effect, able to be captured and taken away.?  Since this post things have gotten a bit more complicated.  At the EU Referendum blog there is an interesting discussion concerning ROE that sheds a bit of light on the subject of the abductions:

Our sailors and marines – why did they not defend themselves? They were not allowed to … their rules of engagement did not permit it.

This was raised in Defence Questions today by Ann Winterton MP. She put to the defence minister that “the current rules of engagement that allow no conflict in Iraqi waters with Iranian forces” and thus suggested that “this led directly to 15 of our service personnel being abducted by the Iranians”.

Defence minister Adam Ingram was evasive, telling MPs not to speculate. “Let us stand back and understand the sensitivity of the situation,” he pleaded. “There is too much speculation about what happened and what did not happen.”

Then, in classic fashion, he went on not to answer the question, offering only obscurity: “Those carrying out that mission clearly have to respond to the level of threat that is posed to them … We will have to investigate that when they are safely returned to these shores and we get their version of events rather than the speculation that is being paraded around in the media and elsewhere.”

But Winterton was not speculating. Directly from extremely angry servicemen recently back from Iraq, she had received information that boarding parties were under rigid instructions that left no room for discretion. Even though faced with Iranian Revolutionary Guards, every one of the Party knew that to fire a weapon (even a warning shot) would have ensured their personal Court Martial.

This still does not explain, however, why the boarding party was caught by surprise by six Iranian vessels (and no one has disputed that figure). The team was equipped with fast, highly manoeuvrable boats and, given an alert overwatch, the members should have got enough warning to enable them to break for the shore or call up reinforcements.

Interestingly, no further light has been shone on this murky episode in the unofficial Army forum, where such matters are often discussed at length. A moderator moved in quickly to delete threads and shut down further comment, on the grounds that, “there now exists a real danger that speculation and reported remarks influenced by genuine anger will be to the detriment of the safety of our people and OPSEC (operational security)”.

So the discussion of ROE was robust enough that it convinced a moderator to delete discussion threads, claiming potential compromise of OPSEC.  Turning to another robust discussion of this incident by friend of The Captain’s Journal, Oak Leaf who writes as Polipundit, there is a convincing argument that the term ROE essentially doesn’t apply in this case.

Yesterday, a web blog at the BBC had some comments from a senior military officer on the “Gulf Incident:?

Our forces were carrying out a routine inspection. They were approached at high speed by two heavily-armed Iranian boats, although they initially adopted a ‘friendly posture’. It was only at the last minute that the Iranians, armed with RPGs and heavy machine guns, became aggressive. By then, we were told, there was a distance of only a few feet between the British and Iranian boats – a distance too short, we were told, for an ‘arc of fire’.

That is in line with my original guess of the situation considering that the United Kingdoms position with Iran (economic and diplomatic) is much different than the United States.

Oak Leaf goes on in a subsequent but related post to argue that Iran, like Mexico or Canada with the U.S., has full diplomatic relations with the U.K.  Under such conditions it would make no more sense for the British to fire on an Iranian vessel than it would for the U.S. to fire on a Canadian military vessel that had wandered into waters patrolled by the U.S. Coast Guard.  Oak Leaf further argues that it might have been the Iranian intent to cause the sinking of her vessels in order to shore up nationalistic pride at home in order to bolster the sagging approval for the regime.

This last argument, while compelling, differs from that by Victor Davis Hanson, who after the Iranian hostage taking observed that:

… the West is engaged in moral anguish over GPS data, possible provocations, a prior lapse in “engaging” the Iranians, conspiracy theorizing over the Bush role in all this, etc. rather than just a simple: “The Brits appeared vulnerable and would not act, and so for the Iranian thugocracy it was too good a chance to pass up—given its prior success with the serial kidnapping of Westerners.

Whether the Iranians intended to sink her own vessels or merely bully the Brits notwithstanding, Oak Leaf’s prior point is fascinating and important, and since his reasoning is tight and compelling we will assume the verity of his position.  However, armed with this knowledge we are faced with a conundrum.  Either Iran and the U.K. have full diplomatic relations and any discussion or ROE is no more relevant than a discussion of ROE between the U.S. and Canada, or the discussion of the incident had become so robust over the discussion forums that it compromised OPSEC.  Logically, both simply cannot be true.

The Brits appear to be caught in a paradox, where they are discussing ROE with respect to a country with which they have full diplomatic relations.  This all forces us ponder our axioms and presuppositions.  The Brits will not be able fully to understand this whole incident unless and until they answer the question, “just why do we have full diplomatic relations with Iran, when an incident with them causes us to have robust discussions about our ROE, a subject usually reserved for engagements with your enemies?”

More recent developments should convince the Brits that this can no longer be considered to be a dispute between gentlemen.

The Iranian hostage crisis took a sinister turn last night when Tehran withdrew an earlier offer to release one of the 15 captive sailors and marines and issued a second, strangely-worded letter in her name calling for Britain to withdraw from Iraq.

The letter, signed by Leading Seaman Faye Turney, the only woman in the naval crew seized last Friday, was addressed to “representatives of the House of Commons”. Although the letter was handwritten, it was stilted and lacked the personal tone of the first letter, sent to her family the day before. The second letter appeared to have been dictated to her.

 ”Unfortunately during the course of our mission we entered Iranian waters. Even through our wrongdoing, they have still treated us well and humanely, which I am and always will be eternally grateful,” the letter said.

“I ask representatives of the House of Commons after the government had promised this type of incident would not happen again why have they let this occur and why has the government not been questioned over this? Isn’t it time for us to start withdrawing forces from Iraq and let them determine their own future?”

Concerning the U.S., there is no question what ROE applies when engagements with Iran occur.  Nonetheless, while General David Petraeus announced that the officer corps would support the enlisted ranks when questions concerning ROE arose, such a promise seems vacuous without any concrete changes to the ROE or their application.  For the Marines in Haditha, this promise is less than comforting.

As for the Marines on Haditha’s streets, some have taken the extreme measure of wearing helmet video cameras in case they need indisputable proof if their actions are questioned. “I’ve seen squad leaders and Marines with that,? Donnellan said. “It’s disheartening because you feel like they’ve lost their confidence that we’re going to take care of them. When the whole story comes out, they will realize that what’s happening to them and the firefights they’re engaged in are nowhere near any of these kind of accusations.?

Another perspective on the difficulty of the application of ROE in a counterinsurgency is brought to us by Free Republic.

We call it “the war in Iraq.” But to many of the Marines here, it’s not really a war – at least not on their side. “They are fighting a war,” a Marine from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment tells me – “they” meaning the insurgents lurking “outside the wire” of a Marine forward operating base in the Euphrates River town of Barwanah, in western Al Anbar province. “But us?” the Marine goes on. “We aren’t fighting a war. We’re just doing a police action.” The young Marine is right. While the insurgents here and throughout Iraq battle American Marines and soldiers with deadly weapons of warfare – IEDs (“improvised explosive devices,” or roadside bombs), sniper attacks, mortars, two of which exploded near this forward operating base just the day before – the Marines have to respond under “rules of engagement,” or “ROEs,” that would be familiar to any cop in America. Are the Marines catching sniper rounds from a cluster of buildings in the city? In a conventional war, that would be reason enough to light up the buildings with suppressive fire. But under the Iraq ROEs, unless the Marines get “P.I.D.” or “positive identification” – eyes on a guy with a rifle, or a muzzle flash, something very localized and specific – they can’t fire back. Do the Marines see four young males fleeing the scene of an IED attack? The Marines can try to chase them down in vehicles or on foot – this while the Marines are carrying 60 or 70 pounds of equipment on their backs – but they can’t even fire warning shots from their M-16s, much less lethal ones, to try to make them stop. Under the rules, if the suspects are running away, if they pose no direct and immediate threat to the Marines, the most the Marines can do is shoot “pyro,” small flares, as a warning – a warning that Marines believe simply leaves the fleeing enemy laughing. And so on. By tradition and temperament, a Marine infantry company is a blunt instrument, designed to storm a beach or take a building with force and violence that overwhelms the enemy; it’s a hammer, not a scalpel. But in the confusing world of urban counterinsurgency warfare, Marine infantrymen here find themselves bound by rules that often seem more appropriate to the streets of an American city than to an actual combat zone. True, in the rare event of an all-out firefight, a direct confrontation with the enemy, the rules change. When faced with a conventional attack by insurgents, Marines can respond conventionally, with overwhelming firepower. But in routine, day-to-day operations, every single shot fired by Marines here must be documented and reviewed by higher command. Let me repeat that: Every single shot fired by Marines is reported to and reviewed by higher command – regimental level or above – to make sure that it conformed to the ROEs. The rules are unquestionably well-intentioned, and in the long and bloody annals of warfare, almost uniquely American. They are designed to minimize Iraqi civilian casualties – and in a conflict that is as much or more political as it is military, at the upper levels of command perhaps the rules make sense. But to the grunts on the ground, where the wounding and dying is, they are a source of endless frustration. “Seems like you can’t even spit around here without getting investigated,” says one young Marine – although of course he didn’t actually say “spit.” “It’s absurd,” says a Navy corpsman assigned to the Marines. “It makes the bad guys think we’re weak.” Even senior Marine officers, whose job it is to see the big picture, and to enforce the rules of engagement established by higher command, understand only too well how hard it is for a 19- or 20-year-old lance corporal to be shot at or IED’d day after day and not be able to shoot back at enemies who hide behind and among civilians. “It’s a tough, tough thing for them,” says 3/3 battalion commander Lt. Col. Norm Cooling. “I always tell them (the junior Marines) that fighting a counterinsurgency is a lot harder, mentally, intellectually and spiritually, than fighting a conventional war. … The (insurgents) know that they can play by a different set of rules than we can, and they take advantage of it.” It wasn’t always that way. Young Marines on their first tour in Iraq are often astonished – and even a little envious – when I tell them about being with a Marine infantry company in OIF I (Operation Iraqi Freedom I), the initial march up to Baghdad in the spring of 2003. There were rules of engagement then, too, but it was also an actual war – and the basic, unwritten rule of engagement was that for every enemy round that came in, the Marines would send a thousand rounds back. Did that sometimes cause Iraqi civilian casualties? Yes, unavoidably. But it also saved American lives – and you could argue that in the long run it saved Iraqi lives as well, because it left the enemy either intimidated or dead, and shortened the initial conflict. But no longer. The Marines here know they are under close scrutiny – by the press, by the politicians and by the often fickle American public. And that knowledge permeates almost everything they do. For example, I sat in with Marine officers and NCOs planning a night raid to capture a sniper who had been taking potshots at Marines in Barwanah. Aware that a reporter was present, and not sure how their comments might be interpreted, some of the Marines were careful to describe the sniper not as simply “the sniper,” but as “the alleged sniper.” These are tough, brave men, American warriors. But sitting in that briefing room, it was almost as if the Marines saw the ghost of Johnnie Cochran hovering in the corner, just waiting to sue them for violating the sniper’s – that is, the alleged sniper’s – civil rights. Still, while the Marines may gripe about the ROEs, they are Marines – which means they also obey them. Anyone who thinks American troops are running wild in Iraq, recklessly shooting at anything that moves, has probably never been to Iraq. For every charge of excessive force by American troops, such as the allegations about the killings of civilians in Haditha, there are hundreds of unreported and unheralded examples of American Marines and soldiers showing astonishing restraint in their use of force. Again, in counterinsurgency warfare, where battle is waged not only in the streets but in hearts and minds and TV news broadcasts, perhaps that is sound policy. If the goal is to win over the people, and not just to kill the enemy, perhaps there is no alternative. But no one should doubt that American Marines and soldiers are paying for their restraint, and for the American concern about civilian casualties.. They are paying for it in blood – their own blood. The day after I spoke with those Marines in Barwanah, an IED hit a Marine 7-ton truck that was on patrol in the town, fortunately causing only minor injuries, and insurgent mortar rounds again landed near the Marines’ forward operating base. The enemy was continuing to wage war. And the Marines were continuing their police action.

Prior:

 

Iran, Sadr and Iranian Forces Deployed Throughout the Middle East

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 5 months ago

US News & World Report recently reported on a skirmish between Iranian and U.S. forces in September of 2006, within Iraq but near the Iranian border.  This skirmish was merely a prelude to further action, and more recently fifteen British sailors and marines were abducted by Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces while patroling inside Iraqi territorial waters near the Shatt al-Arab waterway.  Of course, Iran immediately claimed that the Brits were in Iranian territory, but this is irrelevant since the abductions had nothing to do with territorial disputes.  The abductions were the next step in the escalating covert war with coalition forces.

Iran is interrogating the British, and at the present it appears that Iran intends to charge the British.  Khedmat, a website close to President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, said the government had “firm determination? not to hand over the 15 Britons before a trial.  Iran claims that the abducted British are not bargaining chips, but it has been reported that the Iranians are stunned by recent defections by senior Iranian officials and officers, and the abductions of the British are in retaliation for the U.S. involvement in these captures or defections.

In fact, there are more Iranian losses than the high level officials.  It is also reported that the U.S. now holds approximately three hundred prisoners tied to Iranian intelligence.   If retaliation was the intent – and it seems clear that it was – the British were the perfect targets.  The British rules of engagement virtually ensured their abductions without resistance (h/t Larwyn).  Former First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Alan West, said British rules of engagement were “very much de-escalatory, because we don’t want wars starting … Rather than roaring into action and sinking everything in sight we try to step back and that, of course, is why our chaps were, in effect, able to be captured and taken away.”  Here we see in real life the exemplification of the points we have discussed regarding the role of our presuppositions in setting rules of engagement, in Rules of Engagement and Pre-Theoretical Commitments.

In addition to demanding the return of their sailors and marines, the British have said that this is a time for patient diplomacy.  But not all Brits are happy with the de-escalatory approach, as a commentary at the Telegraph entitled “Britain must leave Iran in no doubt of its anger” hints.  Showing his disagreement with the presuppositions behind the British rules of engagement, one particularly upset commenter remarked concerning this piece:

The issue really is quite simple. All military force – not just nuclear weapons – are supposed to be a deterrent. Vegetius and all that. If they no longer deter, they are hardly worth the 40 billion quid which we spend on them each year, and if things like this keep happening and provoke no military response we might as well save the money and spend it on National Tie Your Shoelaces Properly To Prevent Needless Accidents Awareness Week and the other priorities of our totally enfeebled political culture. Now I think of it, I seem to recall that the government’s defence plan involves scrapping most of the Royal Navy and replacing it with a rowing boat called HMS Harry Potter with a large white flag on the back, so presumably they are already following this policy.

It is more likely, however, given this government’s track-record of derangement, that they are waiting until after Iran has nuclear weapons before trying to get the sailors out. After all, Blair insisted that Bush have another go at the UN before invading Iraq, cunningly giving ample time to prepare for an insurgency and ensuring that we would go in during the most unfavourable weather conditions. Frankly we should consider it a mercy that the Revolutionary Guards aren’t marching up Whitehall. Afghanistan, Iraq and now Iran are going to be the issues which break the English-speaking nations’ global dominance, which has long over-stayed its welcome in any case, because for all our boats, guns and money we don’t have sufficient credibility for these things to deter Nauru, let alone China. Better to cut our losses and go back to squabbling about Cod Quotas with the Europeans.

There are indications that Iran is finding its war inside Iraq costly and a losing proposition (more at the Strategy Page).  But it is likely that these reports don’t account for the reality of the Iranian influence in the region.  It is reported that Iran is directly supporting 3000 former Sadrists who have defected from Islamic cleric Moqtada al Sadr.  Note that this is in addition to the already large Iranian influence of thousands of intelligence personnel, Badr Brigade and Quds.  The DEBKAfile is likely accurate when it reports that Iranian reprisals are planned to U.N. sanctions, and that the abduction of the sailors is but a pretext.

But while there may be various political machinations inside and outside of the Sadrists, it seems unlikely that Sadr is out of power and influence.  Sadr city is a dangerous place, with 470 anti-tank mines recently captured in coalition raids (i.e., 470 potential IEDs).  We predict that Sadr will rise above the political skirmishes to achieve even more power than he presently has.

Showing incredible naivety, the coalition intends to win hearts and minds in Sadr city with medical facilities and other things to show good intentions.  Similar mistakes are being made by the coalition forces, who recently released Sadr aid Sheik Ahmed Abady al-Shaibani, who was detained 2 ½ years ago in Najaf.  This plays into Sadr’s hands.

At the standdown of the surge and security plan, Sadr will return to Baghdad, heavily guarded, to women crying and waving their scarves in the air, and men shooting their AK-47s and and swearing to kill on command.  Sadr will be received back as not just a hero, but as someone almost divine, who stood down the U.S.  Any capture of Sadr and turnover to the courts of Iraq would have the opposite outcome of that intended, because no Iraqi court will convict Sadr of crimes, thus exhonerating and codifying him in his rule of his followers.

Iran will then have their forces deployed in Lebanon, headed by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, and in Iraq, headed by Moqtada al Sadr.  Only confident actions by the administration – rather than acquiescence by the State Department – will avert such an outcome.  The Brits would rather “de-escalate,” and the U.N. is impotent.

Intelligence Bulletin #4

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 6 months ago

The Intelligence Bulletin is an aggregation and commentary series, and this is the fourth entry in that series.

Intelligence Bulletin #4 covers the following subjects: [1] Petraeus addresses rules of engagement, [2] Iranian nuclear program, [3] Chlorine gas attacks in Iraq, [4] Continued insurgent activity inside Mosques, [5] Iranian and Syrian threats in the covert war, [6] Ongoing coverage of the covert war against the CIA, [7] Continuing coverage of Anbar tribesmen in their battles against AQI, [8] Insurgents use women and children as shields, [9] Sadr’s Long Game, and [10] Thoughts on Walter Reed scandal.

Petraeus Addresses Rules of Engagement

Glenn Reynolds informs us of a communication by General Petraeus to his reports concerning rules of engagement.

Rules of engagement (ROE), highly criticized as being too restrictive and sometimes endangering our troops, have been “clarified.” “There were unintended consequences with ROE for too long,” Petraeus acknowledged. Because of what junior leaders perceived as too harsh punishment meted out to troops acting in the heat of battle, the ROE issued from the top commanders were second-guessed and made more restrictive by some on the ground. The end result was unnecessary – even harmful – restrictions placed on the troops in contact with the enemy.

“I’ve made two things clear,” Petraeus emphasized: “My ROE may not be modified with supplemental guidance lower down. And I’ve written a letter to all Coalition forces saying ‘your chain-of-command will stay with you.’ I think that solved the issue.”

In our rules of engagement coverage, we have argued for seeing the problems with ROE under four rubrics: The written ROE, the communication of the ROE, the application of the ROE in a counterinsurgency where fighters hide behind the population, and the main stream media feeding frenzy every time another story hits the wires, true or not.

The communication by General Petraeus addresses only one of the four categories above.  In our coverage we have cited:

[a] instances where NCOs have given us stories of lack of engagement that ultimately led to U.S. casualties:

… the ROE is vague and limiting.  And every time “violations? of the ROE came up it caused our soldiers and marines to question their actions and sometimes cause casualties.

[b] intelligence gathering by insurgents whose car(s) happens to break down at strategically located points to observe FOB layout (and soldiers who knew what was happening and were prevented from taking action):

Just recently press coverage was given to a nonlethal weapon (ray gun that increases the temperature of the skin), and while the technology was interesting to most readers, there is a nugget of gold in the report that is far more important than the ray gun.  It was reported that Airman Blaine Pernell, 22, said he could have used the system during his four tours in Iraq, where he manned watchtowers around a base near Kirkuk. He said Iraqis often pulled up and faked car problems so they could scout U.S. forces.  “All we could do is watch them,? he said. But if they had the ray gun, troops “could have dispersed them.?

[c] and from David Danelo of insurgents who fired pre-staged weapons where U.S. forces could not act:

The vehicle commander, Corporal Ronnie Davis, is in front of me holding a pair of binos.  Three other Marines peer down a street where Mujahideen have been firing at us from multi-story buildings scarred by gunfire and explosions.  While we exchange fire with the Muj, other observation assets available to 1 st Battalion, 6th Marines are mapping enemy positions for future operations.

“That’s the same two guys.  They’ve crossed back and forth four times,? Corporal Davis announces, referring to a pair of unarmed Iraqis who have run for cover.  Because these men are unarmed, the Americans under the Rules of Engagement are not allowed to shoot at them—even though gunfire is coming at us from that direction.

While there are many more, this last example is perhaps the most interesting.  The sophistication of the tactics should not escape our notice.  The insurgents know that U.S. forces cannot fire upon unarmed persons, so weapons are apparently pre-staged, then fired, and then the insurgents relocate to another pre-staged weapon, and so on.  The instance above had the Marines observing long enough to see the same two insurgents running for cover across the street four times; the Marines were fired upon, yet never engaged the enemy.

To see the reflexive reaction to charges that arise against U.S. troops, we need to look no further than recent combat action involving a Mosque.

The U.S. military, Iraqi government officials and witnesses here offered conflicting accounts Tuesday of whether several people killed during a Baghdad raid Monday night were armed insurgents or civilians gathered at a mosque.

According to a U.S. military statement, Iraqi soldiers assisting in a search for insurgents entered the Imam al-Abass mosque in Hurriyah, a formerly mixed Baghdad neighborhood that is now a stronghold of the Shiite Mahdi Army, before 9 p.m. Monday. About 50 people were detained as a search of the area continued. They were later released, the military said.

After the search, the statement said, a separate group of about 20 armed men attacked Iraqi and U.S. soldiers with rocket-propelled grenades and guns. The soldiers returned fire, killing three insurgents; three other armed men were detained, the military said. Military aircraft participated in the raid but did not fire, the statement said.

But Col. Mahmoud Abdul Hussein of Iraq’s Interior Ministry said six civilians were killed and seven wounded when U.S. helicopters fired on homes after coming under attack from armed men. Another ministry spokesman, Sami Jabarah, said late Tuesday that the casualties had risen to eight killed and 11 wounded.

Two witnesses described indiscriminate shooting, but no helicopter fire, by U.S. forces that resulted in the deaths of at least six civilians, including some armed guards.

Lt. Col. Christopher C. Garver, a military spokesman, said in response to an e-mail query that the military would “research” the incident.

The U.S. has always claimed that the differentiation between our military and those of the balance of the world is the philosophy of the non-commissioned officer.  Indeed, the claim is made that this one approach is why the U.S. is militarily so powerful.  Yet we deny the truthfulness of these words every time another investigation or incident research is started, implying that only a report by an officer can bring authoritative closure to issues of engagement.  In the comments to our article Rules of Engagement and Pre-Theoretical Commitments (which was a catalyst for thoughtful and robust remarks concerning ROE), Theo Farrell, professor of war in the modern world at King’s College, London, commented:

I guess, given the Brit Army’s minimum force tradition, commands can feel confident that their soldiers will employ appropriate levels of restraint/force. And so, the real difference betw the Brit Army and USA/USMC may be down to differing org cultures rather than different ROEs.

But in this same article we detailed how Captain Robert Secher refused to fire indiscriminately.  The U.S. troops have been cautioned about so-called ‘overdefense’ of themselves, and the real difference it seems is not that there is a difference in culture of training, behavior or expectations, but rather, a difference in trust.  It also might be appropriate to point out that the British pullback from Basra has been confidently called a defeat, and the security situation in Basra has degenerated over the last couple of years.

It would appear that Petraeus has taken a good first step in the correction of the problems associated with ROE.  More is needed.

Prior:

Iranian Nuclear Program

The powers in Iran apparently don’t care much anymore about having a commercial light water nuclear reactor.

Iran no longer seems to be interested in the construction of its first nuclear power plant which Russia is helping it build in Bushehr, the chief of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) Sergei Kiriyenko told reporters in Italy’s southern port city of Bari, where Russian president Vladimir Putin held talks with Italy’s premier romano Prodi on Wednesday. “I’m taken aback,” Kiriyenko was quoted as saying by Russia’s Interfax news agency. “My impression is that the Iranian side has lost all interest in this project.”

“Not a single Kopeck has been transferred since the middle of January,” to end the 760-million-euro plant, said the head of Rosatom.

The Bushehr plant was scheduled to become operative at the end of this year but the project was repeatedly delayed over Iran’s failure to meet payment obligations.

See further coverage at World Nuclear News.  Yet Iran says it is is still determined to pursue the nuclear program, saying that this is merely a politically motivated business dispute.  But turning from the ruse to the real prize of enrichment, Iran adds that political pressure and meetings will end in failure.  “We have achieved the nuclear fuel cycle. We won’t give it up under pressure. You can’t stop the Iranian nation from this path through meetings,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by state media.”  This assertion is a reiteration of previous claims.

It is instructive to note that a poll conducted for Russian nuclear workers indicates what they feel will be the likely outcome of the current showdown with Iran.  When asked for the most likely of four possible outcomes, they voted that ”Iran would quit the IAEA safeguards regime.”  True to form, Iran stopped UN inspectors from visiting an underground bunker where it is building an industrial-scale plant to make enriched uranium.

Just to ensure that the message is not lost by any possible mis-speak from their puppet Ahmadinejad (although misinterpretation is hard to fathom), the Mullah’s have spoken and insist that they will strike out at their enemies who try to stop their enrichment program.  The message could not be clearer.  Commercial nuclear power is a sideline activity that holds no real interest for the Iranians.  The real prize is the “nuclear fuel cycle,” or in this case, enrichment.  But since commercial nuclear power holds no interest for the Iranians, the purpose of enrichment has no other purpose than to create weapons grade fissile material.  Rather than enriching to 3.5 – 5.0 percent U-235 (appropriate for commercial pressurized water reactors), they are certainly targeting 90+ percent, something that is only necessary for making weapons or naval reactors.  Iran has no naval reactors.  Weapons-grade fissile material is the only remaining use.

Chlorine Gas Attacks in Iraq

In Enemy Operations in Baghdad and Fallujah, of the recent chlorine attacks we said:

The effects of acute exposure to chlorine inhalation can range from mild irritation to death, but given that explosive ordnance is far more effective in destruction and loss of life than chemical weapons, along with the fact that airborne contaminants disperse per Guass’s law with the square of the radius from the point of origin (with no wind), it is obvious that chlorine attacks are being used as an instrument of terror rather than for their usefulness as a weapon (and with wind, the contaminants still disperse according to meteorological theory, possibly in the unintended direction).  While the force due to conventional explosive ordnance also decreases with the square of the radius, conventional ordnance can be delivered directly to the desired point (given the weapons currently available to the insurgents), whereas the trucks used to deliver the chlorine can be interdicted.  If the insurgents continue to use these means, we predict that it will instill terror but yield meager tactical results.

Michael Fumento added his own observations on the gas attacks.

Insurgents launched three more chlorine truck attacks in Al Anbar province on March 17, killing two and sickening an additional 350. Is this a disturbing new trend? No. Had those trucks been filled with high explosives, each could have killed around 100 people. Instead, combined, they killed two. Probably all those sickened will recover with little or no lasting damage, as opposed to losing limbs and eyes. Chemicals have never lived up to their reputation as weapons.

That’s why even though the Germans invented Sarin gas, which is vastly more deadly than chlorine, they decided not to use it. Hitler didn’t forego its use because he was a nice guy. Rather, his generals convinced him that high explosives are far more effective in causing deaths, not to mention that all the poison gas in the world can’t destroy material objects. That said, gas is a good terror weapon because most people have a more innate terror of being gassed than of being blown up or shot. But that’s primarily or exclusively because gas is such a rare threat. The more the terrorists use chlorine, the less the terror effect will be.

We continue to believe that as long as the insurgents are wasting their time and energy on trying to make chemical weapons effective, they give coalition troops a deserved reprieve in the hunt and kill.

Continued Insurgent Activity Inside Mosques

The insurgent activity inside Mosques discussed above is not the only recent example of such tactics by the enemy.  Maliki has directed robust action against Mosques and schools and the typical hiding places of the insurgents, and on January 12 there was combat action by U.S. forces against a Mosque, followed on by a statement from the Multi-National Force that the U.S. does not “enter mosques for the sole purposes of disrupting insurgent activities or conducting a show of force.”  This statement was issued immediately after U.S. forces conducted a raid on a Mosque for the sole purpose of disrupting insurgent activities.

The instance of kinetic operations involving a Mosque cited above shows a pattern, and statements from the Multi-National Force that we do not enter Mosques but we do enter Mosques will be seen for the duplicity that they are as the security plan moves forward.  The story needs to be straightened out and clarified.  Maliki apparently has no problem threatening robust action against all hiding places of the insurgency.  We should follow suit.  In the end, a clear and robust policy concerning Mosques will save lives.  If the insurgents know that a Mosque offers no protection and there are no apologies for kinetic operations to remove hostiles from Mosques, then the appeal of the Mosque as a safe haven will disappear.

Iranian and Syrian Threats in the Covert War

In The Covert War with Iran and Regional Wars in the Middle East we discussed the heatup of the intelligence wars in the Middle East, and it appears that Iran understands that the U.S. is not absent in the war.  Iran has engaged in some saber-rattling of their own, saying that they are prepared to engage in international kidnapping to meet the threat.

Iran is threatening to retaliate in Europe for what it claims is a daring undercover operation by western intelligence services to kidnap senior officers in its Revolutionary Guard.

According to Iranian sources, several officers have been abducted in the past three months and the United States has drawn up a list of other targets to be seized with the aim of destabilising Tehran’s military command.

In an article in Subhi Sadek, the Revolutionary Guard’s weekly paper, Reza Faker, a writer believed to have close links to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, warned that Iran would strike back.

“We’ve got the ability to capture a nice bunch of blue-eyed blond-haired officers and feed them to our fighting cocks,? he said. “Iran has enough people who can reach the heart of Europe and kidnap Americans and Israelis.?

The threat to match kidnapping with kidnapping is showmanship at its finest.  Even if the recent disappearances of senior Iranian intelligence and Quds officials was not voluntary, to imply that it was “kidnapping” to apprehend Jalal Sharafi on Iraqi soil while he was stirring up sedition along with Quds and the Badr Brigade is analogous to saying that a thief has a right to steal from your home.  True to form, Iran continues its involvement in the fomenting of terror inside Iraq.  On March 20 we learned that the Iranians have housed and trained Iraqi insurgents for several months.

Iran has been operating training programs for Iraqi Shi’ite militants at secret bases for several months as part of its efforts to destabilize Iraq, an opponent of the Iranian government said on Tuesday.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, who accurately disclosed important details about Iran’s nuclear program in 2002, said the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been running the camps with the full knowledge and approval of the Iranian government.

“Over the past few months the Iranian regime has stepped up its efforts to destabilize Iraq and further escalate the violence there,” Jafarzadeh said at a press conference.

Jafarzadeh provided names, dates and details of alleged training activities he said had been provided to him by Iranian opposition groups.

While at the camps, militants are instructed by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force and Lebanese members of Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Islamic militant group, in unconventional warfare, explosives and shoulder-launched anti-aircraft weapons.

Syria is not innocent in the regional war, as they are prepared to strike back if the U.S. hits Iranian enrichment facilities.

An American biodefense analyst living in Europe says if the U.S. invades Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions, Syria is ready to respond with weapons of mass destruction – specifically biological weapons.

“Syria is positioned to launch a biological attack on Israel or Europe should the U.S. attack Iran,” Jill Bellamy-Dekker told WND. “The Syrians are embedding their biological weapons program into their commercial pharmaceuticals business and their veterinary vaccine-research facilities. The intelligence service oversees Syria’s ‘bio-farm’ program and the Ministry of Defense is well interfaced into the effort.”

Unless we are prepared to treat Operation Iraqi Freedom as the regional war that it is, it cannot be won.

Ongoing Coverage of the Covert War Against the CIA

In previous issues of the Intelligence Bulletin we have discussed the ongoing judicial and intelligence war against CIA agents in Italy and Germany.  In a Reuters article strangely titled Italy Hopes to Mend U.S. Ties After CIA Indictments, it appears that Italy doesn’t really want to mend ties.  Rather, Italy wants the U.S. to take actions to mend ties.

Italy hopes to mend strained U.S. relations over indictments against CIA agents for kidnapping and a U.S. soldier for murder, Italy’s foreign minister said, before meeting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday.

But Massimo D’Alema said Washington had more responsibility than Rome in overcoming the “turbulence” in bilateral relations and intelligence cooperation.

“These are two episodes that have created some turbulence in our relations and we want to work to overcome this turbulence,” D’Alema told Reuters in an interview hours before he was due to fly to Washington for a dinner meeting with Rice.

D’Alema said he would raise the issue with Rice and, asked what Italy could do to resolve the situation, said: “In truth, there would be several things that the United States should do, more than Italy”. He did not elaborate.

Continuing Coverage of Anbar Tribesmen in Their Battles Against AQI

A British general claims that the Anbar Province is reaping the benefits of the security plan.

The US-Iraqi offensive launched last month has put anti-government forces on the defensive in their former insurgent strong­hold of Anbar, Britain’s top general in Iraq has told the Financial Times.

“We’re getting momentum … We’re seeing a number of points … which would imply that [anti-government militants] are being challenged,? said Lieutenant General Graeme Lamb, deputy commander of the multinational forces in Iraq.

Lt Gen Lamb said that US and Iraqi forces were recruiting hundreds of police for the first time in towns in the Anbar region and that the forces were working together in shared combat outposts.

The insurgency “didn’t do too well in Anbar … Their claims have failed to come to fruition,? he said, referring to the declaration by Islamist radicals that they had established a “caliphate? encompassing much of western Iraq.

MEMRI has a lengthy analysis on this trend (only a small portion is reproduced below).

In late February and early March 2007, the London dailies Al-Hayat and Al-QudsAl-’Arabi reported on an escalation of the conflict in western Iraq between the local population and the Al-Qaeda in Iraq organization. Fierce battles were reported in Al-Amariyah and Al-Falluja between Al-Qaeda and the local Al-Anbar tribes, resulting in the death of dozens of Al-Qaeda fighters and in the weakening of Al-Qaeda in these areas.

In Important Undercurrents in Anbar we discussed the terror, houses of horror and torture tactics in use by AQI, and how these heavy handed tactics have gone so far as to be the very cause of lack of security.  Even when the population acquiesces to their demands, they shoot from behind their women and children, fill the streets with sniper fire, and steal and kidnap innocent people for pleasure or ransom.  The population is turning on AQI.  In relative importance, security trumps everything else.

Insurgents Use Women and Children as Shields

That Hezballah used women and children in the war with the IDF as human shields, fought amongst the population and ultimately used civilian deaths to their political advantage is well documented.

Hizbullah stored ammunition and weapons in mosques, knowing that the IDF does not attack religious sites. Civilians were not allowed to leave so that Hizbullah could use them as cover. IDF officers said they ordered pilots not to strafe Bint Jbeil in order to spare civilian casualties.

A United Nations peace keeping officer from Canada told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that Hizbullah used the same tactic to draw fire on the UNIFIL post which resulted in the death of four U.N. observers. “This is their favorite trick,? he said. “They use the U.N. as shields.?

We see the same tactic being used in Iraq.

Insurgents in Iraq detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle with two children in the back seat after US soldiers let it through a Baghdad checkpoint over the weekend, a senior US military official said Tuesday.
The vehicle was stopped at the checkpoint but was allowed through when soldiers saw the children in the back, said Major General Michael Barbero of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.

“Children in the back seat lowered suspicion. We let it move through. They parked the vehicle, and the adults ran out and detonated it with the children in the back,” Barbero said.

The general said it was the first time he had seen a report of insurgents using children in suicide bombings. But he said Al-Qaeda in Iraq is changing tactics in response to the tighter controls around the city.

There is another report that the children lost their lives in this attack.  The most significant asymmetry between the U.S. and the insurgents is not one of military might.  It is of moral character.

Sadr’s Long Game

Martin Sieff (with whom we have significant disagreements most of the time) has an analysis and opinion piece up at UPI entitled Sadr’s Long Game.  This one is worth the time to read entirely.  Sieff connects the stand-down of the loyal Sadrists with their effort to wait out the “surge,” rebuild, and prepare to respond inside Iraq to a potential U.S. attack on Iran to destroy enrichment capabilities.  We agree.  As we have argued before, Sadr’s organization, however loosely coupled, must now be seen in international terms.  In Intelligence Bulletin #3 we have further argued that:

… if Sadr returns to Iraq, his arrest or disappearance might incite such a firestorm of problems that the Baghdad security plan is brought to a halt.  The Mahdi army doesn’t like even the presence of combat operation posts or bases in Sadr City.  Sadr will never be convicted in a court in Iraq, and a show trial that exhonerates him would be the worst of all possible outcomes.  The U.S. is tracking the whereabouts of Sadr.  Major General William Caldwell said that Sadr was still inside Iran as of 24 hours ago.  This seems like a confident report, and assuming its accuracy, it gives lattitude for the appropriate action to remove Sadr from the political and spiritual scene, thus enabling the security plan to succeed.  We highly commend the notion of a strategic disappearance of Sadr as one key to the overall success of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

This analysis appears to be more important with each passing day.  We must not make the mistake that Robert Haddick discusses concerning the radical Sunni insurgency, of assuming that as a group, they were “in play.”  Moqtada al Sadr and his loyal followers are no more “in play” to reconcile with the Sunnis and join the political process than the disaffected Saddam Fedayeen and other radical Sunnis were.  Failure to effect the ‘strategic disappearance’ of Sadr as we have recommended will entail the failure of OIF.

Thoughts on the Walter Reed Scandal

In Intelligence Bulletin #2 we discussed the Walter Reed scandal and the troubles at the VA, saying that six months was not long enough for General Weightman to get the lay of the land, and that the troubles did not seem to point to Walter Reed proper so much as outpatient care of the wounded.  The real problem would seem to be inadequate congressional funding given to the Army for this care, along with an overgrown and inefficient bureaucracy at the DoD.  In this case, it is easy for the congress to point the finger of blame at someone else and cry foul.  In fact, this might be just what has happened.  WSJ has an opinion piece up (h/t ROFASix)that argues that the fiasco that this has become has caused the wrong man to be fired, the only one, in fact, who might have been able to ameliorate the failures.

Doubtless, the VA and Walter Reed in particular have some gifted, motivated, well-trained and highly qualified individuals performing their jobs.  The very last thing that this head hunt should do is force these people into retirement or into a defensive posture.  The goal is to fix the problems, not find the culpable party.  There is enough blame to go around.

Enemy Operations in Baghdad and Fallujah

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 6 months ago

There have been additional deployments to the Diyala Province due to the flight of AQI and other insurgents from Baghdad just prior to the increase in U.S. force size.  But there currently appears to be two foci – two points of importance in the counterinsurgency campaign – that are shaping up.  The first is Baghdad, where radical Shi’a are running out of patience even at the beginning of the security plan.  The second is Fallujah where radical Sunni, being squeezed in Ramadi and other parts of the Anbar Province, are wreaking violence and causing intimidation.

Al Sadr, believed to be in Iran, recently issued a statement explaining exactly where he and his leadership stood regarding the security plan for Baghdad.

“The occupiers want to harm this beloved (Sadr City) and tarnish its name by spreading false rumors and allegations that negotiations and cooperation are ongoing between you and them,” the statement said. “I am confident that you will not make concessions to them and will remain above them. Raise your voices in love and brotherhood and unity against your enemy and shout ‘No, No America!”

In tempo, a Sadr City official who has cooperated with the U.S. security plan was attacked, the attack wounding him and killing his two body guards.

An attack against the top Sadr City official has created tension in the ranks of Shiite militiamen with some blaming a faction unhappy about cooperation with Americans, a local commander said Friday.

Gunmen opened fire on the convoy carrying Rahim al-Darraji Thursday in eastern Baghdad, seriously wounding him and killing two of his bodyguards on Thursday, police and a local official said.

Al-Darraji was the principal negotiator in talks with U.S. officials that led to an agreement to pull fighters off the streets in Sadr City, a stronghold of the feared Mahdi Army, and a local commander said suspicion fell on a group of disaffected militiamen who are angry about the deal.

‘This is a faction that enjoys some weight,’ the Mahdi Army commander said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

He said the attack has created tension within the ranks of the militia and renewed a debate on the merits of allowing the Americans to operate in Sadr City without resistance during a security sweep aimed at ending the sectarian violence that has raged since a Feb. 22, 2006, bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra.

Some Mahdi army members have splintered off from al Sadr, and notwithstanding this splintering the Mahdi army is a loose knit organization anyway.  But it is clear now that al Sadr has given marching orders to his loyal followers, and his orders do not include participating with any security plan for Baghdad.  Not missing an opportunity to spin the events in a positive light, the Multi-National Force said:

“We’re very encouraged by what we’re seeing on the ground right now in Sadr City,” said Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the U.S. military’s chief spokesman in Baghdad. “There is a tremendous amount of cooperation and dialogue ongoing. It’s proven to be very beneficial to both sides.”

Some reports have even gone so far as to suggest that Sadr is losing his grip on the Mahdi army.  We do not believe that this is so, any more than we believe that there is a “tremendous amount of cooperation” between the hard line Sadrists and the Multi-National Force.  What we believe concerning Sadr is summed up previously in Intelligence Bulletin #3.

General David Petraeus said that discussions are ongoing with Sadr’s organization, adding that “over time the Mahdi Army, as with all the militias, has to be disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into society in some fashion.  The militia will not be allowed to join the Iraqi security forces as an organization.?  We would dryly observe that unless Moqtada al Sadr himself is out of the picture, this is probably not possible.  It must be remembered that Sadr is not merely the spiritual leader of a movement.  He essentially commands the largest voting bloc in the Iraqi parliament.

Further, if Sadr returns to Iraq, his arrest or disappearance might incite such a firestorm of problems that the Baghdad security plan is brought to a halt.  The Mahdi army doesn’t like even the presence of combat operation posts or bases in Sadr City.  Sadr will never be convicted in a court in Iraq, and a show trial that exhonerates him would be the worst of all possible outcomes.  The U.S. is tracking the whereabouts of Sadr.  Major General William Caldwell said that Sadr was still inside Iran as of 24 hours ago.  This seems like a confident report, and assuming its accuracy, it gives lattitude for the appropriate action to remove Sadr from the political and spiritual scene, thus enabling the security plan to succeed.  We highly commend the notion of a strategic disappearance of Sadr as one key to the overall success of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Recent events and al Sadr’s statement have only strengthened this view.

Turning our attention to Fallujah, it is helpful to read a report from an embedded reporter directly from the front in Fallujah.  Andrew Lubin gives us a first hand account of recent kinetic operations in Fallujah.

“AQI is both feared and hated,? Capt Broekhuizen said, referring to Al Qaeda in Iraq.  “They’ve been running a brutal terror campaign.  No city leaders are left here who will take a leadership role.? Marines from Golf Company said they recently fished two bodies out of the local river: a man had been decapitated, and his 4-year old tied to his leg before both were thrown into the river and the little boy drowned.  The killings were a product of Al Qaeda terror …

Last night, 4th Platoon won a small victory in the battle against AQI.  Under the command of Lieutenant Anthony Friel, four Marine humvees on patrol spotted a white Toyota parked close to a house along the Euphrates River.  Both the Toyota and the house looked suspicious.  Quickly, the Marines surrounded the latter, and knocked on the door.

Inside the house were several young men (with dubious identification), women and children, as well as an older man.  The squad leader, Corporal Jon Bates, and his Marines thoroughly searched the young Iraqis.  After discovering one ID marked in English “Progressive Mosque Security,? a subsequent search of the young man’s Toyota turned up sophisticated IED triggering devices, a pressure plate and an AK-47. Two were detained.

At the same time, another pair of locals were pushing a small skiff up the river, and seemed to be moving to land at the house.  The Marines on the riverbank spotted an AK-47 in the boat’s bottom, and they fired a pyrotechnic flare.  The locals turned the boat around and fled downriver.  The Marines chose not to pursue.

As it turned out, the older gentleman was the real prize. He was Sheik “X?, the local Okhash tribal elder, and he was fully aware of how the Marines and Sheiks were cooperating in rebuilding Ramadi thirty miles west (ON Point reported from Ramadi last week).  Having tribal connections in the Ramadi area, Sheik X said that he wanted to use it as a model for Marine assistance to drive AQI and the others from his city.  He said that he had been “biding his time? before contacting them.

Calmly, the Sheik watched as the Marines detained the two young men in the house, volunteering that if they were “bad guys? he was happy to see them go.  “You and I are going to find a way to work together to make this area better,? he told Lt Friel, “like Ramadi.?  The Sheik added that it was “Iranians and foreigners? who were destabilizing his tribal area. “Iranians are forcing out the doctors and teachers.  Soon this town will look like Afghanistan.?

This report from Dr. Lubin is thematically consistent with our discussions, including the themes of brutality as the primary tactic of the insurgency, security as a necessary pre-condition for political solutions to take effect, the necessity to prevent Iranian influence inside Iraq, and the global jihadist war on educators.

Consistent with the first theme, chlorine attacks are becoming more commonplace in the attempt to terrorize the tribal leaders into submission to al Qaeda in Iraq (more from Foxnews).

Suicide bombers sent another chilling message to Sunni Arab tribal leaders who have rebuffed Al Qaeda, blowing up three trucks rigged with chlorine-laden explosives in Al Anbar province, the military said Saturday. At least two people were killed, and more than 350 were sickened by the noxious clouds, including seven U.S. troops.

Since January, suspected Sunni insurgents have waged six attacks involving a combination of explosive devices and chlorine, killing 26 people. One of the bombings, in the provincial capital Ramadi, left 16 people dead.

The latest bombings appeared to be part of a vicious campaign by Sunni insurgents against local sheiks who had once harbored them but turned against them last fall in the face of relentless attacks against civilians.

Caught in the middle is the province’s overwhelmingly Sunni population, whose mosques, homes and roads have been targeted in retaliation for their elders’ decision to work with the Iraqi government and the U.S. military.

Last month, at least 37 Iraqis were killed in a bomb attack as they were leaving a Sunni mosque in the province. A preacher at the mosque in Habbaniya, 40 miles west of Baghdad, had delivered a blistering sermon a day earlier condemning Al Qaeda activities in Iraq, an official in the town said at the time.

Witnesses say one of the latest attacks targeted the home of a sheik who is part of the newly formed Anbar Salvation Council, a Sunni group that has led calls to oppose Al Qaeda.

The effects of acute exposure to chlorine inhalation can range from mild irritation to death, but given that explosive ordnance is far more effective in destruction and loss of life than chemical weapons, along with the fact that airborne contaminants disperse per Guass’s law with the square of the radius from the point of origin (with no wind), it is obvious that chlorine attacks are being used as an instrument of terror rather than for their usefulness as a weapon (and with wind, the contaminants still disperse according to meteorological theory, possibly in the unintended direction).  While the force due to conventional explosive ordnance also decreases with the square of the radius, conventional ordnance can be delivered directly to the desired point (given the weapons currently available to the insurgents), whereas the trucks used to deliver the chlorine can be interdicted.  If the insurgents continue to use these means, we predict that it will instill terror but yield meager tactical results.

In further action in Fallujah, today on March 18 “an Iraqi army base was fully destroyed on Sunday morning when a truck crammed with explosives detonated in eastern Falluja, leaving an unidentified number of casualties, a police source said. An Iraqi army base was fully destroyed on Sunday morning when a truck crammed with explosives detonated in eastern Falluja, leaving an unidentified number of casualties, a police source said.”  In other action slightly east of Ramadi in between Ramadi and Fallujah, “armed tribesmen in the Eastern Husayba village (5 km east of Ramadi) in the Anbar Governorate managed to drive out a local insurgent group associated with the Al-Qaeda in Iraq organization from their village.”  Sunday also saw the capture of five suspected terrorists with alleged ties to vehicle-borne IED and rocket attacks against Coalition Forces.

We continue to believe that the strategic disappearance of Moqtada al Sadr is a cornerstone of the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and without it, any surge of coalition troops, no matter how long it lasts, will be waited out by the more loyal Sadrists.  Further, recent terrorism and combat action shows that robust kinetic operations against al Qaeda in Iraq and Ansar al Sunna is necessary to provide security and thus pacify the Anbar Province, with Fallujah being a current hot spot of action.

Thoughts on Abizaid’s Retirement

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 6 months ago

I am in receipt of information not available in the public domain that convinces me that the information in the article was substantially incorrect.  Rather than explain it, I have simply deleted the content.  I am not too big to admit mistakes.  In 427 articles, this is only the second time (of which I am aware) that false information was proferred.

Thoughts on Abizaid’s Retirement

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 6 months ago

I am in receipt of information not available in the public domain that convinces me that the information in the article was substantially incorrect.  Rather than explain it, I have simply deleted the content.  I am not too big to admit mistakes.  In 427 articles, this is only the second time (of which I am aware) that false information was proferred.

Multi-National Force You Tube Channel

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 6 months ago

In what we feel will prove to be an absolutely magnificent idea, the Multi-National Force now has a You Tube channel where you can witness video of combat operations, among other interesting things.  Here is their description of what they intend to do with this channel:

What you will see on this channel in the coming months:
- Combat action
- Interesting, eye-catching footage
- Interaction between Coalition troops and the Iraqi populace.
- Teamwork between Coalition and Iraqi troops in the fight against terror.

What we will NOT post on this channel:
- Profanity
- Sexual content
- Overly graphic, disturbing or offensive material
- Footage that mocks Coalition Forces, Iraqi Security Forces or the citizens of Iraq.

Bravo to what they DO and DON’T intend to include.  Here is the link, but a link will also be permanently included on this site.

Multi-National Force You Tube Channel

 

Intelligence Bulletin #3

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 6 months ago

The Intelligence Bulletin is an aggregation and commentary series, and this is the third entry in that series.

Intelligence Bulletin #3 covers the following subjects: [1] More forces deploy to Diyala province, [2] Disappearance of Jilal Sharafi yields intelligence bonanza, [3] More on international war against the CIA, [4] U.S. tracking whereabouts of al Sadr (and why his ‘strategic disappearance’ is necessary for the success of the security plan), [5] Balancing act by Saudi Arabia, [6] Martyrdom operations by Ansar al Sunna, and [7] Gates rolls back defense intelligence.

More Forces Deploy to Diyala Province

In The Surge and Coming Operations in Iraq we discussed the redeployment of insurgents from Baghdad to surrounding areas just prior to the implementation of the security plan, most particularly to the Diyala Province.  True to form, the insurgents are beginning to cause problems wherever they are, and more U.S. forces are being deployed to Diyala.

More than 700 U.S. troops rolled into Diyala on Tuesday in armored vehicles to help quell escalating violence in the Iraqi province that has become a haven for insurgents targeted by the Baghdad security crackdown.

The Army battalion was transferred from Taji to Baqubah, capital of the religiously mixed province that extends from Baghdad to the Iranian border, the military said. It joined about 3,500 U.S. troops already stationed there.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon, the U.S. commander for northern Iraq, had requested the reinforcements to confront a rise in sectarian and insurgent attacks in outlying regions since U.S. and Iraqi troops began a crackdown in Baghdad last month.

U.S. commanders believe insurgent fighters have moved into the province from Baghdad and Al Anbar, the western Iraqi province that is the center of the Sunni Arab insurgency.

“We see the Sunni insurgency trying to desperately gain control of Diyala, because it helps in their effort to control Baghdad and to prevent the government of Iraq from succeeding,” Mixon told Pentagon reporters via video link from Iraq last week.

U.S. officials did not specify how long the new battalion would be based in Diyala. But Mixon said he was “cautiously optimistic that in the next 30 to 60 days that we’re going to see some significant differences in the security situation in Diyala.”

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said Monday that U.S. commanders had anticipated that the Baghdad crackdown could drive some insurgent and militia leaders into areas such as Diyala. He said troops would spread out into communities on Baghdad’s fringes, where insurgents are believed to be operating car-bomb factories (italics mine).

The talk of anticipating the influx of insurgents to Diyala seems forced.  If this had been properly anticipated as claimed, troops deployments should have been done to Diyala prior to implementation of the security plan.  Failure to do so doesn’t point to the need to avoid a heavy footprint in Iraq, since the tribal leaders in Diyala had requested that they be included within the security plan.  This appears to be a numbers problem.  Larger force size would have given U.S. command the ability to avoid the chase.

Disappearance of Jalal Sharafi Yields Intelligence Bonanza

The disappearance of Jalal Sharafi and five other Iranians has apparently yielded an intelligence bonanza for the U.S.

The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security has revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that it had no updates regarding its investigation into Jalal Sharafi’s disappearance early last month. Kidnapped in front of the Iranian state-owned Bank Melli in Baghdad, it is alleged that Sharafi was abducted by US-supported Iraqi Defense Ministry elements. Likewise, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the al Quds Brigade’s investigations have failed to yield any leads pertaining to their members who have disappeared in Iraq over the past few weeks.

According to statements made by an official from the Iranian armed forces, the possibility of the detention of eight members from the IRGC and five elements from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence by US forces was “likely?, as the concerned parties had no evidence of their escape …

Furthermore, the information supplied by the five Iranian officials detained in Irbil last month [US troops confiscated vast amounts of documents and computer data], considered highly classified information has facilitated and enabled US forces to arrest more figures from the IRGC and al Quds Brigade in Iraq.

In a humorous sidebar, it should be noted that Iran has demanded the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq due to the fact our presence is fueling the violence.  In related news, General Petraeus has come out strongly concerning the role of Iran and Syria in Iraq.

The top U.S. commander in Iraq said in an interview released Monday that it’s “indisputable” Iran is training and arming militants to fight against U.S.-led troops in Iraq.

Gen. David Petraeus also told ABC News that suicide bombers are streaming across Iraq’s border from Syria and making their way into the country’s volatile western Anbar province.

His comments follow a harsh exchange of words over the weekend between the U.S. and Iran at a conference in Baghdad on Iraq’s security.

More on International War Against the CIA

In Intelligence Bulletins #1 and #2 we covered the international war against the CIA, exemplified in the formal charges against CIA agents in Italy and Germany, and we noted that the U.S. has refused any discussion of extradition.  The Strategy Page gives us a little more detail concerning how this war is shaping up and who the players are.

A new trend has emerged. Germany is charging 13 CIA operatives in connection with the capture of one suspected terrorist. Italy has charged 26 with the capture of another suspected terrorist. Again, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in involved with these efforts.

In essence, the CCR is trying to protect terrorists from the United States military. For an example of who they are protecting, one of their clients, Mohammed al Khatani, is worth a closer look. Khatani is believed to have been slated to be the 20th hijacker on 9/11. Information he gave up provided leads that enabled the break-up of terrorist cells before they could carry out attacks.

Khatani’s interrogation diary was leaked to Time Magazine in 2005. The methods used during the detainee’s interrogations were portrayed as routine. They were not – the techniques had been authorized as part of a special protocol. Naturally, human rights groups have been complaining about this, and their concerns are amplified by sympathetic news reports. Having lost in the legislative arena, they now have turned to foreign courts.

And the foreign courts are all too happy to oblige (although with all due respect to the Strategy Page, the war against the CIA has more players than just CCR).

U.S. Tracking Whereabouts of al Sadr

General David Petraeus said that discussions are ongoing with Sadr’s organization, adding that “over time the Mahdi Army, as with all the militias, has to be disarmed, demobilized and reintegrated into society in some fashion.  The militia will not be allowed to join the Iraqi security forces as an organization.”  We would dryly observe that unless Moqtada al Sadr himself is out of the picture, this is probably not possible.  It must be remembered that Sadr is not merely the spiritual leader of a movement.  He essentially commands the largest voting bloc in the Iraqi parliament.

Further, if Sadr returns to Iraq, his arrest or disappearance might incite such a firestorm of problems that the Baghdad security plan is brought to a halt.  The Mahdi army doesn’t like even the presence of combat operation posts or bases in Sadr City.  Sadr will never be convicted in a court in Iraq, and a show trial that exhonerates him would be the worst of all possible outcomes.  The U.S. is tracking the whereabouts of Sadr.  Major General William Caldwell said that Sadr was still inside Iran as of 24 hours ago.  This seems like a confident report, and assuming its accuracy, it gives lattitude for the appropriate action to remove Sadr from the political and spiritual scene, thus enabling the security plan to succeed.  We highly commend the notion of a strategic disappearance of Sadr as one key to the overall success of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Balancing Act by Saudi Arabia

In Regional Wars in the Middle East we pointed out that Saudi Arabia has been equipping and training Sunni extremists in Iraq (as has Jordan).  But there is an interesting twist in the case.  Al Baghdadi claims that Saudi Arabia is trying to undermine the extremists in Iraq.

Saudi Arabia is involved in a conspiracy to undermine the project of the Islamic State of Iraq, the group’s leader has announced in online remarks, according to a report in Arabic on al-Jazeera Net.

In a recording of spoken remarks, published online, a voice attributed to the figure known as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the group’s leader, accuses the kingdom of attempting to break its link with its “popular base? in Iraq, by funding other armed groups to attack it, and involvement in a media campaign against it.

The recorded remarks continue on to claim responsibility for operations around Iraq, including the brazen raid on Badoush prison, near Mosul, last week which freed scores of prisoners.

And there is yet another twist given to us by the Strategy Page:

The war in Iraq has been very useful for Moslem nations trying to deal with Islamic radicals. Many of the most dangerous Islamic radicals have gone off to fight, and die, in Iraq. Those that come back home are far fewer than those who left, and easier to keep an eye on. Many are not transformed into “experienced terrorists” by their time in Iraq, but into disillusioned and shell shocked veterans of things they had not expected to encounter.

Most Islamic clerics have a hard time condemning the “martyrs” who “died for the faith.” But Islamic governments see an opportunity to overcome this, because in Iraq, the Islamic terrorists appear to have crossed the line. The numerous murders of Moslems, especially women and children (who are traditionally left alone when Moslems fight each other), has appalled most Moslems, and al Qaeda is way down in the popularity polls as a result. The Islamic radicals have openly condemned the new program to support moderate Islam, which indicates that this new policy may help. By declaring all “moderate Moslems” to be enemies, the Islamic radicals isolate themselves even more in the Islamic world.

The Saudi strategy seems to be to allow the radicals to cross the border into Iraq so that the U.S. can take care of the problem.  This has a beneficial side effect, in that a stronger Sunni population keeps the Shi’a in check, and thus prevents Iran from having complete control over Iraq as well as preventing the diminution of the Sunni presence in Iraq - or so the thinking goes.  After all, Iran is the biggest problem that Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt face.  After the removal of the Iraqi regime, the Middle East now lacks the strongman to hold Iran back.

But there is a huge difference between funding secular Sunnis, those who have been deposed from power and don’t like it, and religious lunatics like al Baghdadi.  The strengthening of the very enemies that could threaten the stability of the Saudi regime is risky and presents a bridge too far.  The goal is to assist those who would hold Iran in check, while also undercutting those who would be a risk not only to Iran, but the house of Saud as well.

Martyrdom Operations by Ansar al Sunna

The MEMRI blog has a description of recent martyrdom operations carried out in Mosul, and the description of the suicide bomber is important.

“Abu Al-Bara was the youngest son in his family. He told us that his mother loved him very much because he obeyed her and used to help her with the housework. A few days before he set out on the operation, his brothers the jihad fighters called his family in Syria, and he spoke with his mother and told her: ‘I bought a car and I am getting betrothed today. My brothers are with me and they are preparing to accompany me to the marriage ceremony.’ His mother replied, with tears in her voice: ‘Oh my son, do as you wish, and as Allah is my witness, I wish you and your brothers every success. Go on [your way], and may Allah bless you.’ Next, he spoke with his brothers and sisters and told them to obey Allah… and after finishing this call, he set out on the operation.”

Take note of where the suicide bomber calls home: Syria.

Gates Rolls Back Defense Intelligence

The National Journal has a must-read article on Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plan to roll back defense intelligence.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is considering a plan to curtail the Pentagon’s clandestine spying activities, which were expanded by his predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, after the 9/11 attacks. The undercover work allowed military personnel to collect intelligence about terrorists and to recruit spies in foreign countries independently of the CIA and without much congressional oversight.

Former military and intelligence officials, including those involved in an ongoing and largely informal debate about the military’s forays into espionage, said that Gates, a former CIA director, is likely to “roll back” several of Rumsfeld’s controversial initiatives. This could include changing the mission of the Pentagon’s Strategic Support Branch, an intelligence-gathering unit comprising Special Forces, military linguists, and interrogators that Rumsfeld set up to report directly to him. The unit’s teams work in many of the same countries where CIA case officers are trying to recruit spies, and the military and civilian sides have clashed as a result. CIA officers serving abroad have been roiled by what they see as the Pentagon’s encroachment on their dominance in the world of human intelligence-gathering.

A former senior intelligence official who knows Gates said that the secretary wants to “dismantle” many of the intelligence programs launched by Rumsfeld and his top lieutenants, Stephen Cambone, the former undersecretary for intelligence, and Douglas Feith, who was Rumsfeld’s policy chief. The former official added that the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has also expanded its human spying efforts, could be returned to a more analytical role.

Given the deplorable record of the CIA in HUMINT, Gates’ plan is completely inexplicable and perhaps headed for disaster.

Insurgency in the Shadows

BY Herschel Smith
7 years, 6 months ago

There are shadowy operations going on in the Anbar Province conducted by AQI and other militant groups, these operations being directed against each other and spilling over into the broader population in an attempt to gain support.  As we have pointed out in Hope and Brutality in Anbar (and prior), although AQI has used persuasion in the form of money for some support (such as paying children to spy on U.S. snipers), their primary tactic has been intimidation, torment, torture and houses of horror to keep the population in submission and thus ensure safe haven for their terrorist activities.  However, the intimidation has taken a turn for the secretive, as we saw in Samarra.

The letter from Al Qaeda in Iraq to the members of the local police was clear.

Come to the mosque and swear allegiance on the Koran to Al Qaeda, the letter warned, or you will die and your family will be slaughtered. Also, bring $1,200.

It had the desired effect on American efforts to build an Iraqi security force here.

Nearly a third of the local police force went to the mosque, paid the money and pledged their allegiance. Another third was killed. By late October, only 34 local police officers were left to try to maintain order in this city of 100,000.

Secrecy is being used as a force multiplier, and this tactic is being repeated in Fallujah in a slightly different form but with the same general theme and intent.

A shadowy new militia apparently emerged in Falluja over the weekend, Slogger sources report.

Residents awoke to discover flyers and banners around the city bearing the name of a new militia, the “Chosen Soldiers of God.?

The flyers carry strange supernatural stories about the militia. One claims that the militia are actually angels who fought with Falluja’s Sunnis against American forces in 2004, its soldiers taking the shape of spiders, or the form of giant humans, residents report.

The flyers claim that the militia had received orders from God to depart from Falluja in order to fight elsewhere, but had now returned to deliver the city from corruption and to bring salvation to the people of the city, according to eyewitnesses.

Two days later, new flyers appeared, apparently from the Chosen Soldiers group, this time calling for a public conference, with the goal of bringing together the al-Qa’ida affiliated group al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad and the Abu Risha of the Anbar Salvation Front. The Front has recently fought against al-Qa’ida-allied forces in Anbar. The conference is apparently intended to bring the two parties into negotiation in order to establish a united front against the Iraqi government and the US occupation, according to eyewitness accounts.

It is necessary to get the appropriate backdrop in order to contextualize these tactics.  There is currently a war going on between rival terrorists in Iraq, and Anbar is the center of gravity of these battles.  Actually, this war has been going on for some time, and it is beneficial to rehearse the nuts and bolts of this war with a positive assessment of the nature of an enemy which battles itself, while we will also supply an assessment that is somewhat less sanguine.  We’ll begin with Nibras Kazimi writing at Talisman gate who, on February 17, discussed Mishaan al-Jebouri, a previous mouthpiece for AQI, and who began issuing anti al Qaeda remarks on his satellite station Al Zawra:

Yesterday, however, Al-Jebouri gave a whole anti-Al-Qaeda speech and this drove the jihadists berserk: the premier jihadist organ had begun to badmouth the jihad!

These are al-Jebouri’s main points:

  1. Al-Qaeda provoked the Shi’as and then failed to protect the Sunnis from retaliation.
  2. Al-Qaeda is forcing all the other insurgent groups to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq under Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, and is punishing the hold-outs.
  3. Al-Qaeda is killing and abducting Sunni notables who were part of the insurgency.
  4. Al-Qaeda wants to impose a Taliban-like Islamic State on Iraqi Sunnis, who are the worse for it—they don’t even have enough to eat.
  5. Al-Qaeda killed an emissary sent by al-Jebouri, who has wanted to negotiate with al-Baghdadi.
  6. Iraqi Sunnis across the board are preparing to clash with Al-Qaeda as is already happening in Anbar Province.

Al-Jebouri gets into details and names names, and he addresses his speech to Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, questioning the validity of pledging allegiance to an anonymous phantom.

There is nothing new here for veteran readers of Talisman Gate, for I recently wrote:

Al-Baghdadi also feels compelled to tell his fighters to take it easy with the other jihadist groups, which have yet to join the Islamic State of Iraq, while at the same time telling the holdouts that their obstinacy smells of sedition. There are other reports that insurgents are clashing among themselves as Al Qaeda imposes its hegemony over one and all, to the point that al-Baghdadi is compelled to tell his guys that “I am certain that the sincere monotheists are surely coming” our way “eventually, so be tender, be tender.”

And before that I wrote:

For most Sunnis, the insurgency has come to be about communal survival, rather than communal revival. They no longer harbor fantasies of recapturing power. They are on the run and are losing the turf war with the Shiites for Baghdad.

Sunni sectarian attacks, usually conducted by jihadists, finally provoked the Shiites to turn to their most brazen militias — the ones who would not heed Ayatollah Sistani’s call for pacifism — to conduct painful reprisals against Sunnis, usually while wearing official military fatigues and carrying government issued weapons. The Sunnis came to realize that they were no longer facing ragtag fighters, but rather they were confronting a state with resources and with a monopoly on lethal force. The Sunnis realized that by harboring insurgents they were inviting retaliation that they could do little to defend against.

Sadly, it took many thousands of young Sunnis getting abducted by death squads for the Sunnis to understand that in a full-fledged civil war, they would likely lose badly and be evicted from Baghdad. I believe that the Sunnis and insurgents are now war weary, and that this is a turnaround point in the campaign to stabilize Iraq.

On March 12 Kazimi updated his analysis in an article with The Sun entitled Jihadist Meltdown.

Six months ago, many of the strategists behind the Sunni insurgency, faced with a more effective counterinsurgency effort, began to wonder just how long they could keep their momentum given their diminishing resources and talent. These strategists realized that their “resistance” would just peter out over time, as classical insurgencies tend to do. Some argued that, given one last push, the Americans would be sufficiently distressed to grab at cease-fire negotiations that would end with a hasty American withdrawal, leaving the insurgents to work things out with a much-weakened Iraqi government on more favorable terms.

Others, like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the organization founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, saw that there was no future for their vision of establishing a Taliban-like state should these negotiations with the Americans get underway, which would only serve to strengthen the hand of the rival insurgent factions that counsel this course.

This sense that they were running out of time compelled Al Qaeda to take a bold initiative of declaring the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq four months back, appointing the hitherto unknown Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as its head. This was no propaganda stunt for Al Qaeda. This was the real thing: the nucleus state for the caliphate, with al-Baghdadi as the candidate caliph.

After dissecting the methodology chosen for starting this caliphate, Kazimi continues with his analysis of the insurgency in Anbar:

When the insurgency started in mid-2003, it was largely led, funded, and mobilized by the Baathists. But over time, and through Zarqawi’s pioneering work, the jihadists began to take over, and the role of the Baathists, per se, diminished. Zarqawi converted Baathists and Saddam-loyalists into jihadists by fanning the flames of sectarianism. He had to gradually wean them off the secular, and ostensibly nonsectarian, ideology of Baathism to his way of thinking, and to do that, he needed a dark force that could appeal to the Baathist rank and file: hardcore anti-Shiism …

Initially, Zarqawi’s strategy worked very well, and it almost brought Iraq to the verge of an all-out civil war that would have pushed the Sunnis to submit to Al Qaeda as their only protectors. But something else happened that rendered his approach as yet another strategic mistake: The Sunnis realized that Al Qaeda wasn’t strong enough to beat back a full Shiite assault — the group couldn’t even protect Sunni communities from Shiite death squads — and that Al Qaeda’s vision for reestablishing the caliphate would mean decades of unending warfare. Most Sunnis thus fell in with the crowd that counseled finding a negotiated settlement with the Americans and the Iraqi government — this time, at whatever cost. After four years of this insurgency, the Sunnis have grown weary and tired, and they want to move on.

But that is something that Al Qaeda would not brook, and it set out to force the other jihadist groups to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and to al-Baghdadi himself, or else. Almost everyone balked at this threat, and sharp words were exchanged among them on the streets of the Sunni triangle and on jihadist Internet discussion forums, and then a bloodbath ensued. Things have deteriorated to the point where these other jihadist groups have begun informing on the whereabouts of Al Qaeda’s leaders and local headquarters to the Iraqi government, so that American and Iraqi forces could raid these locations and arrest those who only recently were fellow insurgents of the guys now snitching.

Further coverage on this and related issues can be found at IraqSlogger.  At TCJ, due to contacts in the intelligence community, we have known for months that a war was underway between the various insurgent factions in Iraq, and more particularly, in Anbar.  There is no doubt that there is internecine warfare occurring between the disaffected Sunnis, Anbar tribes, AQI, AAS, and various other factions, some striving for superiority, others (like some of the Anbar tribes) striving for survival.

But it is wrong to identify each and every terrorist in Anbar as AQI, and frankly, most of the individuals identified in Ramadi as AQI are in fact AAS.  The hospital in Ramadi has been under the control of AAS, regardless of the fact that there are reports that AQI controlled it.  Suicide bombers regularly come across the border from Syria and Jordan, and are hired by both AQI and AAS to perpetrate acts of terror mostly on each other.

But there are criminal gangs and disaffected Sunnis, Sadaam Fedayeen and other Baathists who cannot accept the reduction in class that a new Iraq brings, who constitute a significant portion of the violence in Anbar and throughout Iraq.  Some of these rogue elements sell their services to the highest bidder, and will not be a part of any new Iraq regardless of what tribe agrees to what in Anbar or who constitutes the opposition.

There are encouraging signs that the insurgency is turning on itself due to competing philosophical and ideological beliefs.  But to assume that this internecine war will kill the insurgency is wrong.  Someone will win.  The winner must be killed or captured, and they will not be amenable to negotiations.  The letters and myths and secret intimidation of the population is a tactic to force them to take sides with one group or the other.


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