The Admixture Of Military And Law Enforcement

Herschel Smith · 20 Apr 2014 · 2 Comments

My son Daniel did a combat tour of Fallujah in 2007, but his other deployment with the Marine Corps was a MEU to the Gulf of Aden and Persian Gulf (which both he and I think is a horrible way to throw away money if we're never going to use the Marine Corps for anything on these MEUs except for humanitarian missions - but that's another topic). As the pre-deployment workup for this MEU, the Battalion underwent extensive training in evidence collection protocol and procedures.  At the time I…… [read more]

The British Flight from Basra

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

In Calamity in Basra and British Rules of Engagement, we pointed out that the British had essentially been militarily defeated in Basra.

Richard Beeston, diplomatic editor of The Times of London recently returned from a visit to Basra, his first since 2003. He says in 2003, British soldiers were on foot patrol, drove through town in unarmored vehicles and fished in the waters of the Shaat al Arab on their days off. He says the changes he saw four years later are enormous.

“Nowadays all troop movement in and out of the city are conducted at night by helicopter because it’s been deemed too dangerous to go on the road and its dangerous to fly choppers during the day,? he says.

Beeston says during his latest visit, he noticed a map of the city in one of the military briefing rooms. About half of the city was marked as no-go areas.

British headquarters are mortared and rocketed almost everynight.

In this article we cited Anthony Cordesman (Center for Strategic and International Studies) who began openly discussing the situation by calling it a defeat in a white paper entitled The British Defeat in the South and the Uncertain Bush Strategy in Iraq.  In response to Cordesman there is a row in Britian over the idea that there has been a defeat.  On August 12, the Scotsman published an article containing responses to Cordesman.

STRAINED relations between Washington and London were stretched still further over Iraq last night, as a senior American official condemned Britain’s “failure” in its mission to bring peace to the south of the war-torn country.

Defence chiefs reacted with fury after right-wing commentator and adviser Anthony Cordesman weighed into the row over the UK’s contribution to the post-Saddam operation with a withering claim that Britain had effectively handed control of its zone to local “mafiosi”.

More significantly, Cordesman claimed the British “failure” had allowed Iran to gain a toehold, which it was using to increase its influence over its neighbour. The damning accusations, made after a fact-finding visit to Iraq, increase the pressure over the continuing dilemma confronting coalition leaders, amid expectations that Gordon Brown is poised to pull British troops out within the next few months.

In a report completed following his return from Iraq last week, Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said: “British weakness and failure in the south has both encouraged Shi’ite extremism and partially opened the door to Iran.

“The struggle for each major shrine city has become messy and local in the south, and the British defeat in the four provinces in the south-east – particularly Basra – has created the equivalent of rival Shi’ite mafias, whose religious pretensions in no way mean they are not the equivalent of the kind of rival gangs that dominated many American cities during prohibition. Young street thugs wander much of the area, stealing and bullying in the name of God.”

But the dismal assessment of the security situation in the British-controlled zone was angrily refuted by British officials and military experts.

“This bears no resemblance to what we know to be the case,” a senior source at the Ministry of Defence said last night. “If Mr Cordesman had actually been to Basra during his visit, he would have seen that the British forces have a lot more control than he suggests. We have never suggested that every-thing was perfectly peaceful, but this is terribly unfair on the hard work that our armed forces are doing every day.”

The indignation seems genuine enough and the notion of British success seems to be believed.  But subsequent reports of the calamity in Basra surface, betraying the British claims and re-telling the story of three competing Shi’a militias in Southern Iraq: the Fadhila Party, the SIIC (i.e., Badr organization) and the JAM.

Then in a stark admission of the reality of Basra, senior U.S. and British military analysts and officers weigh in on just how bad the British pullout from Basra could get.

An adviser to the U.S. military said that British troops face an “ugly and embarrassing” withdrawal from southern Iraq in the coming months, a British newspaper reported.

Stephen Biddle, a member of a group that advised U.S. Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq last year, told the Sunday Times that insurgents and militia groups were likely to target British soldiers with ambushes, roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades as they leave.

“It will be a hard withdrawal. They want the image of a British defeat,” Biddle told the paper. “It will be ugly and embarrassing.”

The Sunday Times also quoted a senior British officer as saying that British troops have lost control of the main southern city of Basra.

“I regret to say that the Basra experience is set to become a major blunder in terms of military history,” the officer was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “The insurgents are calling the shots … and in a worst-case scenario will chase us out of southern Iraq.”

As we have pointed out before, alignment with the Badr organization simply because they have joined the government is a deal with the devil because it empowers Iran, and failing to confront the JAM leaves arrogant, violent teenagers in charge of the richest city in Iraq.  And the British failure might have left the U.S. in the situation of cleaning up the mess.

Iranians Proud to be Terrorists

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

The U.S. administration intends to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (or perhaps better known as the Quds force) as a specially designated global terrorist group.  “The designation of the Revolutionary Guard will be made under Executive Order 13224, which President Bush signed two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to obstruct terrorist funding. It authorizes the United States to identify individuals, businesses, charities and extremist groups engaged in terrorist activities.”

Ralph Peters adds that “The real reason for the move is to set up a legal basis for airstrikes or special operations raids on the Guard’s bases in Iran.  Our policy is that we reserve the right to whack terrorists anywhere in the world. Now we have newly designated terrorists. And we know exactly where they are.”  Of course as Michael Ledeen points out, the Quds force is a terrorist organization simply because they are an arm of Iran, which is a state sponsor of terror.

The only real mystery is why anyone in the government felt that it was necessary to have a formal decision to declare the IRGC a bunch of terrorists. I guess that would be the lawyers, for whom it wasn’t sufficient to know that the entire Islamic Republic had been branded a sponsor of terrorism, and hence (a normal person would say) any part of it is ipso facto culpable of terrorist activity, and it’s particularly true of the IRGC, which directly kills people, both inside and outside Iran.

And indeed, the Iranians are proud of it.  A more preening, arrogant, self-important dance-strut is hard to imagine.  Think end-zone dance during a football game.  This is the picture of the “Holy Man” of Iran dancing to the sound that the U.S. declares his nation’s special forces to be a terrorist organization.

Provisional Friday Prayer Leader of Tehran said here Friday the US decision to include the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in the list of international terrorist organizations is another golden page in the IRGC’s history.

Ayatollah Seyyed Ahmad Khatami added, “As in the nuclear case, the Iranian nation and government would never leave alone their revolutionary offsprings.”

Two leading US dailies, the Washington Post and the New York Times reported in their Wednesday edition about US officials intention to survey adding the name of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to the list of the international organs involved in terrorist acts.

According to IRNA Political Desk reporter, Ayatollah Khatami in his second sermon, addressed to thousands of Tehrani worshipers at central campus of Tehran University, congratulated the IRGC on blessed birth anniversary of the Third Shi’a Imam, Husain ibn Ali (PBUH), that is marked as the Islamic Guards Day.

He said, “The IRGC has truly shined well during the 28-year history of the Islamic Republic of Iran, both in confronting foreign enemies and foiling domestic plots.”

Khatami said, “Among the prides of the IRGC we can refer to the late founder of the Islamic Republic’s words about the Guard Corps, where he said he was pleased with the IRGC, and that he would never think negatively about them.

He added, “The late Imam also said that there would have been no Islamic Republic of Iran if there were no IRGC; I love the IRGC very dearly; My entire hope lies in IRGC’s conduct;” and “There is nothing in the records of the IRGC, save serving Islam.”

Ayatollah Khatami said, “Therefore, the US State Department’s decision to include IRGC in its list of world terror organs is merely another golden point in the records of IRGC pride.

A senior Iranian cleric also warns the U.S. not to pick on the Guards. ”“Americans should know that in this field, as with nuclear energy, they are dealing with the whole nation. And the great nation of Iran will never abandon its revolutionary people,? Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Friday prayers in Teheran.”

A clearer indication of the intentions of the state of Iran is not needed.  It is not just that the Quds force is a terrorist organization.  More than that, the state of Iran is an international sponsor of terror.  Hence, its official international machinations must be seen as those of terrorists.  Iran and sponsors of terror is a global problem, and until a global solution is implemented, the U.S. will likely lose the local skirmishes that occur, including Operation Iraqi Freeedom.  Each and every military engagement in Iraq will be a victory for the U.S., and yet the final result will be a loss or statemate with the global forces of terror.  That is, until we think and act globally.

**** UPDATE ****

Quds threatens to “punch” the U.S.:

Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards said they would not bow to pressure and threatened to “punch” the U.S., in their first response to Washington’s plan to list them as a terrorist organization, newspapers reported Saturday.

Local press in the Iranian capital of Tehran quoted Revolutionary Guards leader Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi saying that he could understand Washington’s ire toward the group because of their “leverage” against the U.S.

“America will receive a heavier punch from the guards in the future,” he was quoted as saying in the conservative daily Kayhan. “We will never remain silent in the face of U.S. pressure and we will use our leverage against them.”

There was no elaboration on what Safavi meant by the punch or the organization’s “leverage.”

Read the story here.

Accolades for the Marines

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

The U.S. Navy Secretary recently had praise for the Marines and their efforts in Anbar.

U.S. Marines have achieved “very significant results” in restoring security in western Iraq by engaging with locals, U.S. Navy Secretary Donald Winter said Wednesday.

Winter, who also oversees the U.S. Marine Corps, said an example of success in Iraq was western Anbar province, where U.S. Marines have principal responsibility for security.

“I think that we’ve seen a great lessening of tension there, reduced attacks, and a general support of the coalition efforts to provide peace in the region,” Winter told reporters in the Australian capital, where he held discussions with local defense officials.

“And we just hope that that is replicated throughout the rest of Iraq,” he added.

Asked if the cited progress in Anbar was evidence that the deployment of more U.S. troops was working, Winter replied: “I think in Al Anbar, we’ve seen some very significant and positive results.

“I think it’s a positive indication. I’m not sure to what extent we can use that as totally exemplary of what’s occurring in all areas of Iraq, because I’m not sure it totally represents the situation elsewhere.”

Winter said Marines had been focussing in recent months on “engagement with the local population, and I think that that has helped very significantly.”

The only thing as tough as a Marine infantry company is another Marine infantry company.  Only the Marines could have done this in Anbar.  Consider the situation.  Al Anbar had a more dense activity of terrorism than any place on earth in 2004 when the Marines took over responsibility.  Further, the indigenous insurgency upon which the terrorism was superimposed made the fight more local and near to the hearts of the people of Anbar than it otherwise would have been if the fight had only been against foreign fighters.  Yet within three years Anbar is relatively safe compared to other parts of Iraq, and this might have been shorter if not for various political decisions that hampered the military effort.  In a professional military academic climate that claims that counterinsurgency is supposed to take ten years, the Marines have beaten that benchmark by seven.

As we have observed earlier:

The coup is not merely that the tribal chiefs and their people are cooperating with U.S. forces.  It is larger than that.  The coup is that the insurgency, properly defined as indigenous fighters rather than terrorists and foreign fighters - those who were previously pointing a gun towards U.S. troops – are now pointing them at the terrorists.  Not only have many of them made peace with the U.S., but in a development just as important, the U.S. forces have made peace with them.  This has been accomplished with the new difficulty introduced by globalization (foreign fighters), and the new difficulty introduced by religious fanaticism (suicide bombers), and the new difficulty introduced by technology (stand off weapons such as roadside bombs).  This is a counterinsurgency tour de force, and as time judges this victory it will take its rightful place in the great military campaigns of world history.

While the Marines have won a military victory in Anbar, there are always the political and bureaucratic problems that threaten to unravel the situation that the Marines have worked so hard to repair (see How to Lose in Iraq).

Secretary Winter concludes the discussion with welcome words for those of us who have covered rules of engagement.  Says Winter:

U.S. personnel could not be taken captive by Iranian forces if there was a repeat of a clash in the Arabian Gulf in March in which 15 British sailors and marines were held for almost two weeks for allegedly straying into Iranian waters.

“We think we’d be able to deal with any situation that would present itself,” Winter said without elaborating.

Just so.  No elaboration is necessary.  We know what you mean, and so do the Iranians.

How to Lose in Iraq: Inconsistent and Inequitable Policy

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

In Al Qaeda, Indigenous Sunnis and the Insurgency in Iraq, we discussed the two-step process by which the United States Marines have prevailed in the Anbar province.  First, they have substantially militarily defeated both the terrorists and the indigenous insurgency.  Second, upon recognition of this and settling with the enemy, U.S. forces have actually made military use of the erstwhile insurgents for both intelligence and kinetic operations against the remaining terrorist and insurgent elements.  It has been observed that  ”Americans learned a basic lesson of warfare here: that Iraqis, bludgeoned for 24 years by Saddam’s terror, are wary of rising against any force, however brutal, until it is in retreat. In Anbar, Sunni extremists were the dominant force, with near-total popular support or acquiescence, until the offensive broke their power.”

Having militarily lost, and seeking a place in the new government, the tide has turned against the terrorists, as we observed in The Counterinsurgency Campaign in Anbar Expands.  ““This is much less about al-Qaeda overstepping than about them [Sunnis] realizing that they’ve lost,? said Lt. Col. Douglas Ollivant, a planner for the U.S. military command in Baghdad. As a result, Sunni groups are now “desperately trying to cut deals with us,? he said. “This is all about the Sunnis’ ‘rightful’ place to rule? in a future Iraqi government, he said.

But now comes an example of exactly the wrong way to do it, an approach that is almost certain to stop the progress of this model in its tracks; perhaps U.S. forces even risk a turnaround in the all but pacified Anbar province.

BAGHDAD – Wearing a bandanna that hides his face, Omam Abed leads U.S. soldiers on raids in the west Baghdad streets where he grew up – kicking down doors and interrogating neighbors in search of fighters for al-Qaida in Iraq.

The 20-year-old is part of a ragtag collection of former Sunni insurgents – some even from the al-Qaida ranks – who have thrown their support behind U.S.-led security forces under pacts of mutual convenience.

The Sunni militiamen have grown leery of al-Qaida in Iraq and its ambitions, including self-proclaimed aims of establishing an Islamic state. The Pentagon, in turn, has latched onto its most successful strategy in months: partnering with former extremists who have the local know-how to help root out al-Qaida in Iraq.

But for Abed and others, this new war also brings grave dangers …

Last month, two of Abed’s best friends, both 18-year-old members who also decided to aid U.S. forces, were dragged out of their high school during final exams and beheaded. Their bodies were flung up into a tree with the severed heads displayed on the sidewalk below, according to Abed and U.S. military officers stationed in the area.

There was no claim of responsibility, but the scene didn’t need one. All knew it was a ghastly warning to residents who choose to challenge al-Qaida in Iraq, which takes inspiration from Osama bin Laden but whose direct links to his terror network is unclear.

“They weren’t wearing masks on missions, so al-Qaida recognized who they were. They were my friends – we were always the three of us, like brothers,” Abed told The Associated Press in an interview this week, choking back tears.

He would not give his real name out of fear for his safety, and would not comment on his past insurgent activity. His codename – Omam Abed – means “courageous slave” in Arabic.

Since the murders, Abed wears a mask or scarf to conceal his identity when he accompanies U.S. and Iraqi soldiers on raids. These are the same palm-shaded streets with wide green lawns where he played as a boy. His father was a prominent businessman who owned a textile factory here before fleeing to Syria in 2003. Almost everyone knows Abed and his family.

“I want to stay and help my neighborhood, and the future of my country, but sometimes I’m scared I’ll also be targeted,” he said.

The Amariyah beheadings – and waves of other attacks – suggest a mounting al-Qaida campaign of reprisals against fellow Sunnis who challenge group’s footholds in Iraq.

On Saturday, militants bombed the northern Baghdad home of a moderate and highly regarded Sunni cleric, Sheik Wathiq al-Obeidi, who had recently spoken against al-Qaida. He was seriously wounded and three relatives were killed.

The same day, police said a local tribal leader in Albu Khalifa, a village west of Baghdad, was killed by gunmen who stormed his home. Sheik Fawaq Sadda’ al-Khalifawi had recently joined an anti-al-Qaida alliance in Iraq’s western Anbar province.

[ ... ]

Abed wears a beige bulletproof vest with “Allah Akbar” – `God is great,’ in Arabic – written in permanent marker across the front. He bought it on the black market with his own money. He does not earn a salary for working with U.S. forces, and the military does not provide him with weapons, equipment or safe haven …

“(Al-Qaida) is trying to get me or my family. I’m constantly changing locations – not staying in one place longer than a few hours – and moving my children,” said Abu Abed, who also refused to comment on his own insurgent past.

American military officials acknowledge that Abed’s group is in danger because of its cooperation with U.S. forces. But – as former insurgents – the fighters are not eligible for services provided to civilians or legitimate Iraqi security forces.

“It’s just not something we can do,” said Lt. Col. Dale Kuehl, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment.

At least two members of the group were former allies of al-Qaida, said Kuehl, 41, from Huntsville, Ala. Others, he said, were part of the Islamic Army in Iraq, the 1920s Revolution Brigades and Tawhid and Jihad – all Sunni insurgent groups responsible for past attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.

The U.S. military offers humanitarian aid, but the fighters are denied access to U.S. bases and military hospitals. American medics, however, have treated them on the battlefield.

Kuehl is awaiting approval from his commanders for a 90-day security contract under which the fighters would be paid to man checkpoints and conduct regular patrols through Amariyah. The salaries would be commensurate with the Iraqi police, about $300 a month.

Until the contract wins U.S. approval, the fighters remain unpaid volunteers.

Capt. Dustin Mitchell, with the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Reconnaissance Troop, said it sometimes creates awkward moments for his soldiers.

“We try to help them out within the guidelines if our commanders approve it,” said the Louisville, Ky., native. “If not, we’re the guys who look them in the eye and have to say, `I’m sorry.’”

The contrary example is given to us with the approach to the Shi’ite in the South of Iraq.  As we observed in The Rise of the JAM, neither (a) has there been a decisive and final military defeat of the Mahdi army (or the Badr organization), nor (b) has there been any interest in reconciliation on their part.  Yet the Mahdi army is allowed to roam freely throughout Iraq, and U.S. forces are said to avoid direct confrontation with them.  They are the military wing of a political bloc in Parliament, and are responsible for the deaths of not only Sunnis but U.S. forces as well.  Further, there is an unwillingbess to excise Badr from the ISF, while Badr, funded and backed directly by Iran, is believed to still carry out targeted assassinations.

The Sadrists are allowed their own political bloc in Parliament, their own militia, and the freedom to behave like mafiosi in the neighborhoods, while U.S. forces steer clear of entanglement with them.  Conversely, former Sunni insurgents are relegated to the sidelines where policy stipulates that they can never be under the permanent employ of the Iraqi government.  Even temporary support for these fighters is subject to a 90-day ‘security’ contract, permission for which likely sits in bureaucratic quick sand, the location of which only God and a few people know.

These circumstances are a perfect catalyst for the Sunnis to conclude that the deal they struck with the Americans wasn’t so good after all.

Danger Signs in Shi’ite Country

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

Courtesy of John Robb’s Global Guerrillas, William Lind tells us why the U.S. forces should not replace a “war with the Iraqi Sunnis with a war against the Shi’ites.”

If we replace a war against Iraqis Sunnis with a war against the Shiites, we will not only have suffered a serious, self-inflicted operational defeat, we will endanger our whole position in Iraq, since our supply lines mostly run through Shiite country.

I say such a defeat would be self-inflicted because Shiite attacks on Americans in Baghdad seem to be responses to American actions. In dealing with the Shiites, we appear to be doing what spurred the growth of the Sunni insurgency, i.e., raids, air strikes and a “kill or capture” policy directed against local Shiite leaders. Not only does this lead to retaliation, it also fractures Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army as he tries to avoid fighting us. Such fracturing works against, not for, the potential re-creation of an Iraqi state.

Notwithstanding whatever contributions William Lind has made to this field of theory, these warnings are not only based on misconception, but they also betray a lack of clear thought on the matters at hand.

As my friend Michael Ledeen is quick to point out (and has so many times to me), air raids and “kill or capture” policy didn’t spur the growth of the insurgency.  Insurgencies are not born, and the Iraqi insurgency didn’t have a birthplace called Fallujah.  They are planned, and the Iraqi insurgency was planned and crafted before the war began in Baghdad, Damascus and Tehran (and possibly Riyadh).

We have covered rules of engagement quite thoroughly at The Captain’s Journal, the most recent of which was an article entitled Calamity in Basra and British Rules of Engagement (which bears re-studying at this point to remind the reader about the situation in Basra after three years of the presence of the British and their ‘soft’ rules of engagement).  For all of those ‘professionals’ who claim that the U.S. ROE have caused halting progress in the pacification of Iraq, it warrants serious, quiet and pensive reflection that Anbar is all but pacified and Basra is currently a calamity, having been utterly lost to the various factions of the Shia militia.

In Rise of the JAM, we covered the the current danger the Jaish al Mahdi pose to the security of Iraq, and cite Omar Fadhil on the danger Moqtada al Sadr poses to the political stability and infrastructure of the country.  This is a clear and present danger, not one that awaits heavy handed U.S. rules of engagement.

Contrary to Lind’s short-sighted and hand-wringing assessment, the U.S. will choose to deal a blow to the JAM and thereby allow reconciliation among the more peaceful of the population, or it will cower to the arrogant, undisciplined teenagers roaming the streets as thugs and criminals, taking and harming whatever and whomever they wish.  The first choice means stability and security for Iraq.  The second means a complete, chaotic disaster.

Danger Signs in Shi’ite Country

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

Courtesy of John Robb’s Global Guerrillas, William Lind tells us why the U.S. forces should not replace a “war with the Iraqi Sunnis with a war against the Shi’ites.”

If we replace a war against Iraqis Sunnis with a war against the Shiites, we will not only have suffered a serious, self-inflicted operational defeat, we will endanger our whole position in Iraq, since our supply lines mostly run through Shiite country.

I say such a defeat would be self-inflicted because Shiite attacks on Americans in Baghdad seem to be responses to American actions. In dealing with the Shiites, we appear to be doing what spurred the growth of the Sunni insurgency, i.e., raids, air strikes and a “kill or capture” policy directed against local Shiite leaders. Not only does this lead to retaliation, it also fractures Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army as he tries to avoid fighting us. Such fracturing works against, not for, the potential re-creation of an Iraqi state.

Notwithstanding whatever contributions William Lind has made to this field of theory, these warnings are not only based on misconception, but they also betray a lack of clear thought on the matters at hand.

As my friend Michael Ledeen is quick to point out (and has so many times to me), air raids and “kill or capture” policy didn’t spur the growth of the insurgency.  Insurgencies are not born, and the Iraqi insurgency didn’t have a birthplace called Fallujah.  They are planned, and the Iraqi insurgency was planned and crafted before the war began in Baghdad, Damascus and Tehran (and possibly Riyadh).

We have covered rules of engagement quite thoroughly at The Captain’s Journal, the most recent of which was an article entitled Calamity in Basra and British Rules of Engagement (which bears re-studying at this point to remind the reader about the situation in Basra after three years of the presence of the British and their ‘soft’ rules of engagement).  For all of those ‘professionals’ who claim that the U.S. ROE have caused halting progress in the pacification of Iraq, it warrants serious, quiet and pensive reflection that Anbar is all but pacified and Basra is currently a calamity, having been utterly lost to the various factions of the Shia militia.

In Rise of the JAM, we covered the the current danger the Jaish al Mahdi pose to the security of Iraq, and cite Omar Fadhil on the danger Moqtada al Sadr poses to the political stability and infrastructure of the country.  This is a clear and present danger, not one that awaits heavy handed U.S. rules of engagement.

Contrary to Lind’s short-sighted and hand-wringing assessment, the U.S. will choose to deal a blow to the JAM and thereby allow reconciliation among the more peaceful of the population, or it will cower to the arrogant, undisciplined teenagers roaming the streets as thugs and criminals, taking and harming whatever and whomever they wish.  The first choice means stability and security for Iraq.  The second means a complete, chaotic disaster.

The Rise of the JAM

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

Jaish al Mahdi (JAM) essentially had its beginnings in June of 2003.  Since then, they have grown, developed and embedded themselves into Iraqi Shi’ite culture more efficiently than the mafiosi, and their thugery, control and violence is rivaled only by their analogue in Lebanon, the Hezbollah.

A Muslim imam dropped his cloak to the sidewalk. It was a signal for the gunmen to move.

They surrounded the top Iraqi security official in a north Baghdad district. Iraqi military vehicles – commandeered by other Shiite militiamen – screeched into a cordon, blocking his exit. A gun was put to his head.

Brig. Gen. Falah Hassan Kanbar, a fellow Shiite, managed to escape when his bodyguards pulled him into a vehicle that sped down an alley.

Details of the Aug. 5 ambush emerged this week in interviews with Kanbar, U.S. military and intelligence officials. It remains unclear whether the thugs sought to kill Kanbar or simply intimidate him, but suspicions over the source of the brazen assault pointed in just one direction: the powerful Shiite armed faction known as the Mahdi Army and its increasingly unpredictable trajectory.

The vast Mahdi network – ranging from hardcore fighting units to community aid groups – is emerging as perhaps the biggest wild card as Iraq’s U.S.-backed government stumbles and the Pentagon struggles to build a credible Iraqi security force to allow an eventual U.S. withdrawal.

Just a few months ago, the Mahdi Army and its leader, firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, were seen as reluctant – but critical – partners with Iraq’s leadership. Al-Sadr agreed to government appeals to lessen his anti-American fervor and not directly challenge the waves of U.S. soldiers trying to regain control of Baghdad and surrounding areas.

But now, the once-cohesive ranks of the Mahdi Army are splintering into rival factions with widely varying priorities.

Some breakaway guerrillas are accused by Washington of strengthening ties with Iranian patrons supplying parts for powerful roadside bombs – which accounted for nearly three-quarters of U.S. military deaths and injuries last month. The devices suggest that Shiite militias could replace Sunni insurgents as the top threat to American troops.

Other Mahdi loyalists are seeking to expand their footholds in the Iraqi military and police, frustrating U.S. attempts to bring more Sunni Muslims into the forces as part of national reconciliation goals.

And in many Shiite strongholds across Iraq, Mahdi crews are trying to shore up their power and influence. The pace has picked up with the sense that the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government could be irrevocably damaged after political mutinies by Sunni and Shiite Cabinet ministers.

The Mahdi Army, meanwhile, appears to be going through its own leadership crisis. Al-Sadr has been unable to rein in the renegade Mahdi factions. On Friday, a U.S. military commander said al-Sadr had returned to Iran, where he spent several months earlier this year. Al-Sadr’s top aides called the claim baseless.

But there is no dispute that Mahdi Army operatives are busy planning for the future.

The militia is working behind-the-scenes to solidify control of rent markets, fuel distribution and other services in Shiite neighborhoods – taking a page from other influential groups across the region, such as Hezbollah, that have mixed militia muscle and social outreach.

The JAM uses force to control the supply of ice in Baghdad, a non-trivial thing at this time of year.

Each day before the midsummer sun rises high enough to bake blood on concrete, Baghdad’s underclass lines up outside Dickensian ice factories.

With electricity reaching most homes for just a couple of hours each day, the poor hand over soiled brown dinars for what has become a symbol of Iraq’s steady descent into a more primitive era and its broken covenant with leaders, domestic and foreign. In a capital that was once the seat of the Islamic Caliphate and a center of Arab worldliness, ice is now a currency of last resort for the poor, subject to sectarian horrors and gangland rules.

In Shiite-majority Topci, icemakers say that Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army militia issued a diktat on the first day of summer ordering vendors to set a price ceiling of 4,000 dinars, or $3, per 25-kilogram, or 55-pound, block of ice – 30 percent less than they charge in areas outside Mahdi army control.

Everyone complied, delivering an instant subsidy to the veiled women and poor laborers who are the radical Shiite cleric’s natural constituency. The same price is enforced in his other power bases, like Sadr City.

We have discussed both the counterinsurgency victory by the Marines in the Anbar province, as well as the expansion of this model into other areas of Iraq (e.g., the Diyala province).  Some senior military officers are advocating the position that the Shi’ite militias have replaced al Qaeda as the most significant threat.  “The longer-term threat to Iraq is potentially the Shiite militias.”  In addition to Sadr’s army, there is another with which to contend, perhaps even more deeply embedded into Iraqi culture and with deeper roots and history.

The two largest militias, Sadr’s Mahdi Army and the Badr Organization of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, are tied to prominent Iraqi families whose rivalries date back generations. Both militias have infiltrated the security forces.

Badr, which has never openly battled American forces, generally gets credit for being the more astute player of the two. “The Badr corps understood the game from the beginning and incorporated itself into the security forces,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said.

A senior U.S. military official described American support for Badr — an Iranian-funded organization that many think still conducts targeted assassinations — as the only option since many of its members have been absorbed into the Iraqi security forces.

“Badr has decided to join the government, and they gave up their weapons and became part of the state,” the senior military official said.

Note the excuses and unwillingness to excise the Badr corp from the ISF.  But these main stream media reports about the JAM splintering, while having a kernel of truth, are probably exaggerated.  Omar Fadhil has noted the power of Moqtada al Sadr.  “While Al-Qaeda poses a serious security challenge in some provinces, Sadr threatens the future of the whole country. He can paralyze or disrupt the proper functioning of whole ministries and provinces.?

This problem of the JAM is largely a creation of coalition policy and strategy in Iraq.  We have discussed how the British have militarily lost Basra, in Calamity in Basra and British Rules of Engagement.  Various JAM factions roam and fight freely in Basra attempting to establish rule in this oil-rich city in preparation for the departure of coalition forces.  In what is potentially becoming the most dangerous city in Iraq, the British casualty rate per soldier is now higher than the U.S. forces sustain.  But even before the calamity of British loss in Basra, the U.S. contributed significantly to the creation of JAM.

Bing West briefly outlines the decision-making that led to the creation of JAM in American Military Performance in Iraq.

Bremer decided to move against the dangerous Shiite demagogue, Moqtada al-Sadr. American troops were thus engaged on two fronts-against Sunnis in Anbar and Fallujah and against Shiites in Najaf. At Fallujah in late April, the White house and Bremer, taking counsel of their fears that Iraq would fall apart because of adverse publicity about the assault, ordered the astonished marines to pull back just as Major General James Mattis was squeezing the insurgents into a corner.

Former Sunni generals came forward, claiming they could bring order to Fallujah. The marines, to the chagrin of the civilians in Baghdad and Washington, turned the city over to the generals and a “Fallujah brigade” that included the insurgents. In Najaf, al-Sadr was cornered, but the American officials in (sic) decided not to press home the attack. Within a month in Fallujah, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and foreign fighters took control, driving out the former Iraqi generals. By the summer of 2004, Iraq was a military mess.

Andrew Lubin of U.S. Cavalry On Point adds some detail to this in a personal communication.  “The Marines of 3/2 came in and arrested Moqtada al Sadr, and held him for 3 days before they were ordered by the Army to release him.”  More than just having Sadr “cornered,” he was in U.S. custody and then released.

After being released, Sadr began building and arming his army.  There were more tactical confrontations in mid-2004, but apparent agreement by Sadr to “disarm” and “join the political process” again convinced U.S. command to allow Sadr to escape justice.  From 2004 on, Sadr did indeed join the political process; the Sadr bloc and Sistani (who has been called the most powerful man in Iraq) strong armed Makili’s administration while Sadr continued to build his army.

The thinking that led to this perceived exigency remains today.

Each day, militiamen in civilian clothes patrol in the tight cluster of winding streets surrounding the Imam al-Kadhim shrine. U.S. forces keep their distance. They fear an all-out insurrection if they crack down on the Mahdi Army, often called by the Arabic acronym JAM. Also, they acknowledge that the Mahdi presence helps keep Sunni insurgents away.

“We could go downtown and have direct confrontation with JAM, and it’d be a tactical victory for us, but the political backlash would make it not worth it,” said Miska, of Greenport, N.Y.

But if we have learned anything over the conduct of Operation Iraqi Freedom, it is that things like the release of Sadr, and other political moves aimed at winning hearts that were never “in play,” only make matters worse and have unintended consequences an order of magnitude more destructive than doing nothing.

The erstwhile Sunni insurgents have proven that they are willing to settle with U.S. forces, add to region security, and become part of the political process.  The Shi’ite militias have proven since the inception of Operation Iraqi Freedom that they are unwilling to do the same.  Unless and until U.S. forces take down Sadr, there will be no peace or security in Iraq.  Taking down Sadr will not finish the job, however.  The balance of the Shi’ite militias (splintered from Sadr) will have to be defeated, and finally the Iranian terror masters stopped from their insidious influence inside of Iraq and the whole Middle East.

Doraville ain’t what it used to be!

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

In 1974 the Atlanta Rhythm Section (known to fans as ARS) released a cut called “Doraville.”  Do you remember ARS — the sophisticated southern rock style, up tempo tunes and silky smooth vocals?  Do you remember Doraville?  “… touch o’ country in the city, Doraville, it ain’t much but its home.  Friends of mine, say I oughta move to New York.  Well New York’s fine, but it ain’t Doraville.”  If not, here is a teaser:

Doraville

It appears that Doraville ain’t New York, and it also ain’t what it used to be.

A small-town Georgia police chief who left to face enemy fire in Iraq only to return and be fired by town officials got his job back Wednesday, thanks to an angry mayor.

Doraville Mayor Ray Jenkins deemed his council’s recent vote to oust Police Chief John King contrary to state and federal laws and put the chief back on the job.

“I support him 100 percent,” Jenkins told FOXNews.com. “The community is really upset and disturbed. I am trying to get it under control.”

King, a colonel with the Army National Guard, came under fire by council members who were upset after he was sent to Iraq, calling him a part-time police chief. Doraville is about 16 miles outside of Atlanta with about 15,000 residents, King said.

“Apparently they feel it takes away from my effectiveness as police chief,” King said. “I think my service to my country has made me a better chief.”

One of the three members who voted to fire King, Bob Spangler, said his vote was not personal. Ed Lowe and Tom Hart also voted against King.

“The City of Doraville must have a fair, honest and present Chief of Police. As a City Council Representative, it is my responsibility to ensure that happens. While some are attempting to spin our decision as personal, I assure you it was based on solid facts,? Bob Spangler said in a statement released to FOX 5 News Atlanta.

Police Chief King has just today given his story on national television.

Iraq war veteran and Doraville police Chief John King told a national CNN television audience Friday night that he was “absolutely shocked” to hear he had been fired, a move widely attributed to concerns over his National Guard service.

“This is not the America that I fought for and defended,” he said during an appearance on CNN’s “Out in the Open.”

King, an Iraq war veteranand commander of Georgia Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 108th Armor Regiment, was fired Tuesday by the Doraville city council, then reinstated Wednesday by the Mayor.

Earlier this week, King, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that when he was fired, “I felt like I was in south Baghdad getting hit by snipers and had no chance to fight back.”

King was fired at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday after a closed-door meeting, following an exchange in which Councilman Tom Hart called King a “part-time chief” and criticized him for being out of the loop during the 18 months he served in Iraq.

On Friday, Hart told the AJC that he misspoke by bringing up King’s service in Iraq but said he stands by his decision to fire the chief.

“I had gone two days without any sleep,” said Hart. “It [the firing] has nothing to do with the military stuff.”

The ploy at sympathy (“I had gone two days without any sleep”) is pathetic and irrelevant.  Since the alleged ‘facts’ are of interest, let’s go over them with Messers Spangler, Lowe and Hart.

  1. Firing Mr. King violates United States Code 38 U.S.C. Section 4301.  It is manifestly obvious that Mr. King’s military service caused what the stolid councilmen call “part time” service to Doraville (on Foxnews King stated that the council complained that King wasn’t available by cell phone while in Baghdad), and thus by saying the things that they did they have already lost the certain lawsuit should they continue with their intent to fire King.  [Sidebar: If we were to deploy Messers Spangler, Lowe and Hart to Baghdad -- an appealing idea -- it is likely that their cell phones would not work there either].
  2. It is not germane that they had temporarily lost the services of King.  This is assumed as the precondition for application of the federal code (cited above).  Said another way, if they had not temporarily lost King’s services, the complaints would never have been lodged and the Federal Code would never have been invoked.
  3. It is even more damning that the council fired King when he returned rather that when he deployed.  Since they now have his full time services again, his termination can only be seen as punitive.
  4. As a rule of thumb, companies in the U.S. not only allow employees time off for service (including long term deployment) and ensure employment upon return, but most continue to pay the employee his or her full time salary while being deployed.
  5. Finally, Mr. Hart’s sleeping habits are not germane to the case and will not be mentioned in the upcoming lawsuit.

“Red clay hills, rednecks drinking wine on Sunday; behind their field, gettin’ down in Doraville.”

Doraville ain’t what it used to be!

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

In 1974 the Atlanta Rhythm Section (known to fans as ARS) released a cut called “Doraville.”  Do you remember ARS — the sophisticated southern rock style, up tempo tunes and silky smooth vocals?  Do you remember Doraville?  “… touch o’ country in the city, Doraville, it ain’t much but its home.  Friends of mine, say I oughta move to New York.  Well New York’s fine, but it ain’t Doraville.”  If not, here is a teaser:

Doraville

It appears that Doraville ain’t New York, and it also ain’t what it used to be.

A small-town Georgia police chief who left to face enemy fire in Iraq only to return and be fired by town officials got his job back Wednesday, thanks to an angry mayor.

Doraville Mayor Ray Jenkins deemed his council’s recent vote to oust Police Chief John King contrary to state and federal laws and put the chief back on the job.

“I support him 100 percent,” Jenkins told FOXNews.com. “The community is really upset and disturbed. I am trying to get it under control.”

King, a colonel with the Army National Guard, came under fire by council members who were upset after he was sent to Iraq, calling him a part-time police chief. Doraville is about 16 miles outside of Atlanta with about 15,000 residents, King said.

“Apparently they feel it takes away from my effectiveness as police chief,” King said. “I think my service to my country has made me a better chief.”

One of the three members who voted to fire King, Bob Spangler, said his vote was not personal. Ed Lowe and Tom Hart also voted against King.

“The City of Doraville must have a fair, honest and present Chief of Police. As a City Council Representative, it is my responsibility to ensure that happens. While some are attempting to spin our decision as personal, I assure you it was based on solid facts,? Bob Spangler said in a statement released to FOX 5 News Atlanta.

Police Chief King has just today given his story on national television.

Iraq war veteran and Doraville police Chief John King told a national CNN television audience Friday night that he was “absolutely shocked” to hear he had been fired, a move widely attributed to concerns over his National Guard service.

“This is not the America that I fought for and defended,” he said during an appearance on CNN’s “Out in the Open.”

King, an Iraq war veteranand commander of Georgia Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 108th Armor Regiment, was fired Tuesday by the Doraville city council, then reinstated Wednesday by the Mayor.

Earlier this week, King, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that when he was fired, “I felt like I was in south Baghdad getting hit by snipers and had no chance to fight back.”

King was fired at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday after a closed-door meeting, following an exchange in which Councilman Tom Hart called King a “part-time chief” and criticized him for being out of the loop during the 18 months he served in Iraq.

On Friday, Hart told the AJC that he misspoke by bringing up King’s service in Iraq but said he stands by his decision to fire the chief.

“I had gone two days without any sleep,” said Hart. “It [the firing] has nothing to do with the military stuff.”

The ploy at sympathy (“I had gone two days without any sleep”) is pathetic and irrelevant.  Since the alleged ‘facts’ are of interest, let’s go over them with Messers Spangler, Lowe and Hart.

  1. Firing Mr. King violates United States Code 38 U.S.C. Section 4301.  It is manifestly obvious that Mr. King’s military service caused what the stolid councilmen call “part time” service to Doraville (on Foxnews King stated that the council complained that King wasn’t available by cell phone while in Baghdad), and thus by saying the things that they did they have already lost the certain lawsuit should they continue with their intent to fire King.  [Sidebar: If we were to deploy Messers Spangler, Lowe and Hart to Baghdad -- an appealing idea -- it is likely that their cell phones would not work there either].
  2. It is not germane that they had temporarily lost the services of King.  This is assumed as the precondition for application of the federal code (cited above).  Said another way, if they had not temporarily lost King’s services, the complaints would never have been lodged and the Federal Code would never have been invoked.
  3. It is even more damning that the council fired King when he returned rather that when he deployed.  Since they now have his full time services again, his termination can only be seen as punitive.
  4. As a rule of thumb, companies in the U.S. not only allow employees time off for service (including long term deployment) and ensure employment upon return, but most continue to pay the employee his or her full time salary while being deployed.
  5. Finally, Mr. Hart’s sleeping habits are not germane to the case and will not be mentioned in the upcoming lawsuit.

“Red clay hills, rednecks drinking wine on Sunday; behind their field, gettin’ down in Doraville.”

The Counterinsurgency Campaign in Anbar Expands

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 8 months ago

In Al Qaeda, Indigenous Sunnis and the Insurgency in Iraq, we outlined a schema for the insurgency in the Anbar Province in which, in spite of the use of the term al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) or al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as a surrogate for the combination of the insurgency, terrorist elements, foreign fighters and criminals, we showed that the insurgency was primarily indigenous Sunnis.  To be sure, there are these other elements, and their presence has made the counterinsurgency more difficult.

The presence of terrorist elements and global and religiously motivated fighters – who do not wish to provide governance or welfare for the people – has caused the necessity to militarily defeat the terrorists while at the same time defeating the insurgents and providing for the security of the people.  It was ultimately and finally necessary to settle with the insurgency (not the terrorists), and so the twists and turns of this strategy involved hard and lengthy negotiations (over several deployments of Marines) with the insurgency to effect their reintegration into Iraqi culture and society.  This all constituted the greatest counterinsurgency campaign in history.  Surely, it is a victory that was fraught with problems and obstacles never seen before in history.  And while saying that a significant part of the battle was with fighters other than AQI carries heavy political baggage in the U.S., it doesn’t make the assertion false.  In fact, recognition of this fact only serves to fill out the almost incredible picture of the campaign the U.S. Marines have waged in Anbar.

The so-called “Anbar Awakening? is about more than just enlisting the assistance of the tribal Sheiks.  The magnitude and brilliance of this coup by U.S. forces should not be underestimated.  To assert that AQI was the only enemy in Anbar belittles the scope of the accomplishment and ignores the intricate military, political, religious and anthropological machinations that were involved to pull off this coup.  Regardless of the disposition of OIF, the pacification of Anbar by the United States Marines will go down as the greatest counterinsurgency campaign in history and will be studied in professional war college classrooms for generations to come.  Contrary to Nance’s suggestion, requesting that Syria or Iran fake cooperation with the U.S. is not necessary.

With respect to al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other foreign elements (e.g., suicide bombers and Ansar al Sunna), their members and actions never met the classical definition of insurgency because they were not aiming to govern or provide for the population.  Rather, they brutalized the population with torture, houses of horror, beatings, bombings and other tactics aimed at forcing the population into submission.  They terrorized the population because they are terrorists.  It was not uncustomary to find electric drills used to put holes through each rib in the ribcage of some poor victim.

This terrorization of the population (and competing groups) managed to achieve its goal of keeping the population in submission, at least until the Marines prevailed over the course of several years at hunting down and killing many of the rogue elements.  It has been observed that  “Americans learned a basic lesson of warfare here: that Iraqis, bludgeoned for 24 years by Saddam’s terror, are wary of rising against any force, however brutal, until it is in retreat. In Anbar, Sunni extremists were the dominant force, with near-total popular support or acquiescence, until the offensive broke their power.?

When the population observed that the Marines had no intention of retreat and never lost a military engagement, and also when the tribal leaders saw that the rogue elements were subsuming their role as chieftans and leaders of their people, the storied alliance developed.  This alliance may have been strategic and convenient at first, but is now pivotal and absolutely essential to the success of pacification of Anbar.

The coup is not merely that the tribal chiefs and their people are cooperating with U.S. forces.  It is larger than that.  The coup is that the insurgency, properly defined as indigenous fighters rather than terrorists and foreign fighters - those who were previously pointing a gun towards U.S. troops – are now pointing them at the terrorists.  Not only have many of them made peace with the U.S., but in a development just as important, the U.S. forces have made peace with them.  This has been accomplished with the new difficulty introduced by globalization (foreign fighters), and the new difficulty introduced by religious fanaticism (suicide bombers), and the new difficulty introduced by technology (stand off weapons such as roadside bombs).  This is a counterinsurgency tour de force, and as time judges this victory it will take its rightful place in the great military campaigns of world history.

These are politically charged words, but nonetheless substantiated by the evidence.  On August 9, 2007, the Washington Post published an article that adds to the position we have taken as outlined above, showing the attempt to expand this model to the Diyala province and Baghdad.  The description is entirely consistent with the schema we have presented.

The Sunni insurgent leader lifted up his T-shirt, revealing a pistol stuck in his belt, and explained to a U.S. sergeant visiting his safe house why he’d stopped attacking Americans.

“Finally, we decided to cooperate with American forces and kick al-Qaeda out and have our own country,” said the tough-talking, confident 21-year-old, giving only his nom de guerre, Abu Lwat. Then he offered another motive: “In the future, we want to have someone in the government,” he said, holding his cigarette with a hand missing one finger.

Abu Lwat is one of a growing number of Sunni fighters working with U.S. forces in what American officers call a last-ditch effort to gain power and legitimacy under Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government. The tentative cooperation between the fighters and American forces is driven as much by political aspirations as by a rejection of the brutal methods of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, U.S. officers and onetime insurgents said.

“This is much less about al-Qaeda overstepping than about them [Sunnis] realizing that they’ve lost,” said Lt. Col. Douglas Ollivant, a planner for the U.S. military command in Baghdad. As a result, Sunni groups are now “desperately trying to cut deals with us,” he said. “This is all about the Sunnis’ ‘rightful’ place to rule” in a future Iraqi government, he said.

Across Iraq, a variety of Sunni insurgent groups, political parties and tribes are coming forward to help provide fighters for local policing efforts, with an estimated 5,000 having been rallied in Baghdad alone in recent months, according to Col. Rick Welch, head of reconciliation for the U.S. military command in the capital.

“Some of the insurgent leaders may have a political agenda and want to run for office at some point,” said Welch, who has helped negotiate with Sunni insurgent groups including the 1920 Revolution Brigades, the Army of Truth and the Islamic Army.

Omar Fadhil of Iraq the Model laments the horrible political situation in Iraq, and wonders if it is possible for the political class to put the interests of the people first.

… a majority in our parliament care only about themselves and their blocs’ interests much more than they do about the country’s in such difficult time and their attitude tells that the blocs don’t want to work together and don’t want to reconcile their differences.  Like we always said, we don’t need reconciliation among the people, we need reconciliation among the components of the political class and if they don’t want to do this then I think the best solution to ensure a fresh political start would be to change the political class through early elections once the security situation allows for. And to do this Iraq will need the “surge” to continue for several months beyond September.

The British have lost Basra, the Shi’ite militias are fighting for control of oil in the area, Maliki is proving more inept and secretive than ever, his administration is powerless, and Moqtada al Sadr remains unmolested and free to disrupt infrastructure in Iraq.  If the Strategy Page assessment is accurate, more will be needed for many more months than “beyond September.”


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