Western Anbar Versus the Shi’a South: Pictures of Contrast

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 10 months ago

Much discussion has ensued on Eastern Anbar in and around Fallujah, but RCT-2 is seeing steady improvement in Western Anbar Province.

Marines have seen a 75 percent plunge in “enemy incidents� since the beginning of the year, Regimental Combat Team 2 commander Col. Stacy Clardy said Monday.

RCT-2’s area of operations in western Iraq, which encompasses 30,000 square miles of Anbar province, was once considered some of the toughest ground in the battle-torn country. But since January, Marines have tracked the return of urban activities, such as open markets, banks and municipal governments, the commander told reporters via teleconference from Iraq.

The development is “a significant crippling of the al-Qaida in Iraq and the Sunni insurgent capability, and a real opportunity for progress,� said Clardy, who credits the presence of more than 4,000 Iraqi soldiers in the area of operations.

“The [Iraqi] army brigades have grown 200 percent in the last seven months with the support of the sheiks and are now responsible for their own security areas and missions across the province, but particularly around the urban areas,� he said.

The Iraqi police force has grown 40 percent, to 5,200 officers, he said.

This is a meaningful metric, and the 75 percent drop in enemy incidents happens to be exactly the same as the three-fold decrease in enemy attacks in the Fallujah area of operations resulting from Operation Alljah.  Nibras Kazimi, who was touting the victory long ago, weighs in on what he believes to be the end of the insurgency.

Now that the insurgency—the war that Al-Qaeda and the enemies of the New Iraq had launched—is over, we can start dealing with the trauma of what has happened to us over the last four years, in addition to the pain and suffering of the preceding Ba’athist nightmare.

Yet there’s one thing I will never get over: how the anti-Bush crowd and the insurgents have overlapped in rhetoric and fantasy.

So when dilettantes claiming to be Iraq “experts” still obsessively adhere to the “Iraq is a disasterâ€? line, I begin to imagine that their wounded egos—since they’re wrong, so utterly wrong—would secretly cheer whenever the bad guys strike again in Iraq, because that may generate a bad headline with a Baghdad byline thus prolonging the shelf-life of the myths they’ve constructed (bold original).

I have been somewhat more moderate, saying that al Qaeda can still perpetrate spectacular attacks and must be rooted out completely, and also that reconstruction must proceed apace.  Yet there is no denial of the successes in Anbar.  But for all of the success in the West, there are still big questions for the Shi’a South.  In the same spirit as Basra and Anbar Reverse Roles, The Rise of the JAM and Calamity in Basra and British Rules of Engagement, Richard Fernandez wrote a superb article at Pajamas Media entitled Has the British Strategy in Southern Iraq Failed?  In this article he laments the soft British tactics, concluding that hard times may yet be on the horizon for the Iraq South:

The “softly-softly” strategy was a political check backed by the currency of force. The safety of every Iraqi who accepted the check; who cooperated with the Coalition and believed in their promises depended on the full faith and confidence in the British Army. When the British Army could not provide security for those who trusted it the political check bounced.  The new Iraqi Army being formed under American tutelage is the new gold reserve against which checks will be issued after the British have gone. And despite the recent success in Anbar, Diyala and south of Baghdad it may be some time before the residents of Basra find the willingness to trust someone else after the bitter disappointment of the past.

The Sunni and Shi’ite tribal leaders are cooperating to oust al Qaeda in both the Anbar and Qadissiya Provinces, but where the Shi’a militia have had free reign there are deep problems.  Translators are now too afraid to work for the British due to the lack of ability to protect them, so there is no communication between British troops and the people of Basra.  Thus, the British are no longer even patrolling Basra.  The Basra police chief has just survived the second assassination attempt in less than a week, and militia gangs are still active in Basra, engaging in kidnapping and dumping of dead bodies in the streets and at the city square.

These gangs follow in the footsteps of their masters, the Iranian elite.  Iran weighed in on their own Iraq solution, with plans for Iranian and Syrian troops openly patrolling and in charge of security for Iraq.  Of course, it was snubbed by Iraqi authorities.  The Stratfor analysis is correct on the what Iran wanted and why Iraq rejected the plan.

The two land mines in the Iranian proposal are the inclusion of militias in the Iraqi security forces and the exclusion of any group that has cooperated with terrorists. What the Iranians mean by this is that the Sunni insurgents who have cooperated with al Qaeda should be excluded, while Shiite militants who might have engaged in terrorism but not collaborated with al Qaeda should be included. Just as important, implicit in the Iranian proposal is the idea that these fighters would be admitted to the Iraqi military and police forces as distinct units. This would mean they would retain their identities, and that their primary loyalty would be to their former organizations — guaranteeing continuing instability. By putting off the question of regionalism and adding Shiite militia members to the army, the Iranians are attempting to place their Shiite partners in control.

This is exactly right, but later the Stratfor analysis falls off of the wagon.

The Iraqis have said Iran has no place defining the future of Iraq. But the reality is that, given Iran’s influence among the Shia, it will have a role — as will the Americans. Iran and the United States cannot impose a reality on Iraq, but either one could prevent the other from imposing a reality that it doesn’t like. Therefore, as unlikely as it has appeared for a while, U.S.-Iranian negotiations are logical, especially in a war in which logic has not always predominated.

After acknowledging the real intentions of Iran in Iraq, Strafor suggests that negotiations are in order – the same negotiations that have brought us to the brink of a nuclear Iran, the same negotiations that sees Iranian Revolutionary Guard killing Americans in Iraq, and the same negotiations that allows factories in Iran to build EFPs (explosively formed projectiles) to kill Americans.  Negotiations like this have been ongoing for twenty or more years, and yet Iran has become hardened because of the world view of her radical leaders.  Stratfor is confused, as are all proponents of talking to Iran who believe that our conversation with her will change anything.  Regime change remains the only wise option.

The Anbaris have said that they want the U.S. to stay.  The British cannot find translators anymore because they all get killed.  We are left with a very questionable Southern Iraq, with teenage thugs, gangs, militia, and Iranian forces present and involved in a fight for supremacy.

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You are currently reading "Western Anbar Versus the Shi’a South: Pictures of Contrast", entry #757 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Counterinsurgency,Iran,Iraq,Jaish al Mahdi,Quds Force,Syria,The Anbar Narrative and was published November 8th, 2007 by Herschel Smith.

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