In Iraq Allawi Deals and Christians Flee

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 9 months ago

Allawi has apparently made a deal with Maliki to form a unity government in Iraq.  This is good news, good to the extent that Allawi will be involved, and Maliki – good friend of Iran – will apparently be somewhat neutered.  But actions and decisions have consequences.  In fact, some decisions have effects that come calling on our conscience years after they are made.  Supporting Maliki, leaving Sadr alive and the pitiful SOFA under which U.S. troops labor are such decisions.

There is an increase in foreign fighters flowing into Iraq, and it isn’t apparent that the ISF are any match for them.

Despite the fact that the U.S. military insists Iraqi security forces are ready to handle their own security as American troops withdraw from Iraq, one U.S. commander says glaring mistakes were made by Iraqis during a recent battle.

Lt. Col. Bob Molinari of the 25th Infantry Division based in Hawaii says the fight in the eastern Iraqi province of Diyala, now being called the Battle of the Palm Grove, involved hundreds of Iraqi soldiers, U.S. ground troops and American fighter planes dropping two 500-pound bombs — all to combat just a handful of insurgents. And in the end, the enemy got away.

Molinari says the troubles in the palm grove started when local residents reported that insurgents affiliated with al-Qaida had assembled there to build bombs. An Iraqi commander led a unit of Iraqi soldiers in to investigate.

Molinari says Iraqi commanders from a total of seven different units showed up at the scene. Even the minister of defense was there. Molinari says too many commanders meant no coherent plan of action.

Iraqi soldiers were sent into the grove, in single file, each headed by an officer, Molinari says. The insurgent snipers would simply take aim at the officer who was leading each column.

“It was a matter of, as soon as the officers went down, the [Iraqi soldiers] went to ground. They didn’t know what to do next,” Molinari says.

The Iraqi soldiers fled from the palm grove and requested American firepower, Molinari says. So the Americans employed bombs, mortars, grenades and special forces. But the enemy only hid in drainage ditches, waited, then came out again, shooting.

In all, five Iraqis were killed and 13 were wounded. Two Americans were wounded as well. By the second night of battle, the Iraqis had ordered a full retreat from the palm grove.

After the battle, Molinari and the Iraqi commander in Diyala decided to set up a monthlong training session based on what went wrong in the Battle of the Palm Grove. The training is taking place in another palm grove that was once a vacation home for a commander in former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s army.

On the first day of training, Molinari’s men draw diagrams of how soldiers should move in diagonals, not straight lines.

Iraqi Lt. Gen. Tariq Abdul Wahab Jassim acknowledges that Iraqi soldiers made mistakes in the Battle of the Palm Grove and asks what to do differently next time.

Molinari responds that the Iraqis should have sent in just one platoon with one commander. And, he says, the Iraqis should never have given up their ground.

“Once the firefight starts, you do not break contact with the enemy,” Molinari says. “You continue to focus on him, and if you cannot maneuver, other forces come in — until he’s dead.”

After the question-and-answer session, Molinari’s men move into the trees to demonstrate how it’s done. A loudspeaker simulates how a message would be sent to civilians to evacuate the area before the fight begins.

American soldiers fire blanks at a simulated enemy target. The unit’s spokesman, Maj. Gabe Zinni, says this is the kind of training that any American soldier would receive before going into combat.

“These are … fundamentals,” he says. “Absolutely.”

In other words, if the enemy is hiding in a densely wooded area and shooting at you, advance on him and keep firing at him, while more of your men sneak around and attack him from the side or from behind.

In the end, it turns out that only four or five insurgents were fighting in the Battle of the Palm Grove.

And despite the efforts of hundreds of Iraqi soldiers, about 50 American soldiers, and massive firepower, the insurgents eventually managed to escape from the palm grove.

In the wake of Islamic militancy on the part of not only the foreign fighters coming into Iraq, but also the militant, pro-Iranian elements within Iraq, Iraqi Christians are fleeing North.

At a time when Christians in various parts of the Muslim world are feeling pressured, Iraqi Christians are approaching their grimmest Christmas since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 and wondering if they have any future in their native land.

They have suffered repeated violence and harassment since 2003, when the interreligious peace rigidly enforced by Saddam Hussein fell apart. But the attack on Our Lady of Salvation in which 68 people died appears to have been a tipping point that has driven many to flee northward to the Kurdish enclave while seeking asylum in the U.S. and elsewhere.

What seemed different this time was the way the gunmen brazenly barged onto sacred ground, the subsequent targeting of homes by bombers who clearly knew every Christian address, and the Internet posting in which al-Qaida-linked militants took responsibility for the church attack and vowed a campaign of violence against Christians wherever they are.

Moqtada al Sadr continues to make trouble, but this time he is beclowing himself.  He has banned his followers from accepting work from foreign oil companies.  This will likely only do harm to his standing and that is a good thing.  But it does go to show that Sadr is nothing if not persistent in his anti-Americanism.

Whether getting in bed with criminals like Ahmed Chalabi, supporting Iranian lackey Maliki, laboring under a Status of Forces Agreement that has U.S. troops locked down as if under house arrest, allowing Iranian influence to go relatively unchecked in Iraq, or leaving Sadr alive after he was actually in the custody of the 3/2 Marines in 2004 and released in a tip of the hat to the British notion of soft counterinsurgency tactics, the situation in Iraq today can be directly traced, at least to some extent, to decisions made during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

To say like so many Americans do that “We have given them a chance at freedom and if they screw it up it’s on them” simply doesn’t work.  We stacked the deck against them by leaving al Qaeda intact enough to cause regime destabilization, allowing Iran unmolested access to Iraq, leaving Sadr alive to cause regime destabilization, and leaving the Christians to the designs of the Islamic militants.

Thus do we bear at least some of the moral responsibility for the suffering today, in spite of the fact that we didn’t actively perpetrate the evils.  Pay close attention to these things.  History may be very hard on our decisions, and we should learn from this example for all such counterinsurgency efforts in the future.



  • anan

    Violence in November, 2010, was down about 95% from November, 2006. The ISF are generally demolishing their enemies, although they are helped by the fact that the Arab dictatorships are no longer backing Baa3thist, AQ, and Sunni Arab militias on nearly the scale they were backing them until 2007. Iran has also reduced their support for the sectarian Shiite militias . . . in part because of a wave of anti Iranian sentiment among Iraqis in 2007 and during the March-May, 2008 battles between the ISF and Iranian backed militias, and open revolt against Khamenei’s Iraqi madness by the Quom clerics in 2008 [who took a pro Iraqi and pro Najaf Marjaya line against Khamenei]

    We should remember that in 2006 and 2007, by far the two worst Iraqi Army divisions were British mentored 10th IAD in Basrah and Maysan [the 10th IAD brigades assigned to Dhi Kar and Muthana that were not British mentored did better], and then BG Shakar’s 5th IAD in Diyala.

    The fact that 5th IAD still has problems is no surprise.

    In general the IA continues to vary greatly in quality by unit, much of this variation driven by officers leading these units.

    It is important not to over generalize about anecdotes and the performance of specific IA companies may not reflect the IA in general.

    If this had happened to 1st, 7th, 2nd, 4th, 3rd, 17th, 8th, 9th IADs, this would be more worrying.

    I think the way Petraeus and Maliki handled Sadr was brilliant. Mookie where is my wookie is widely percieved to be a laughing stock by Iraqi Shiites. He is politically weak. His militia is dismantled. Even Khamenei knows Mookie is damanged goods.

    Iran destroyed itself in the court of iraqi public opinion, being considerably more unpopular than America. Heck the Iranians were polling below Saudi Arabia for a while in 2008. Saudi Arabia being Iraq’s enemy and widely considered to be the sponsor of the Iraqi resistance of a Sunni Arab kind between 2003 and 2007.

    Maliki bashes Iran in public and private and has won elections because of it. Even Mookie frequently bashes Iran in public.

    Maliki an Iranian puppet? Really?

    You exxagerate AQ’s capacity in Iraq. The real problem with AQ lies in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, KSA, Sudan, Yemen, and the other Gulf states. AQ uses sactuaries in the sunni arab dictatorships to try to mass murder Shiites, Sufis, Iraqis, and Persians. This is a continuation of an old pattern.

    The more AQ mass murders Iraqis, the more they bring Iraqi Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Shiites together to fight them. AQ forces its own demise.

    Agree with you that the Allawi/Maliki government is good for Iraq, bad for AQ and bad for Khamenei.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Anan,

    And you exaggerate the capabilities of the ISF, saying that they are demolishing their enemies. You’re just making that up. It’s the stuff of fantasies. They are as inept as they ever were, and pretending otherwise is just dangerous.

    Go back and read the links I give for Sadr (and watch the video I embed). It wasn’t brilliant. What world do you live in? Petraeus and everyone else wouldn’t claim such a thing. To a man (every field grade, staff level and flag level officer in the U.S. Army, and even some in the British Army), they all believe that they screwed the pooch by not killing him when the 3/2 Marines had him in their custody. And they are right. It’s best to kill you enemies Anan.

    What would be good for the criminal Khamenei is if the U.S. would conduct covert warfare against them as if we are really at war with them – for they are indeed at war against us.

  • anan

    Captain,

    http://iraqimojo.blogspot.com/2010/12/violence-down-in-iraq.html

    -105 Iraqi civilians and 46 members of the security forces were killed in terrorism-related violence in November.
    -Additionally, 40 suspected insurgents were killed and 195 arrested, the data shows.
    -That’s the Iraqi government’s lowest monthly casualty count since November 2009, when 122 people died.

    How can Iraqi violence be down 95% from 4 years ago unless the ISF were knocking the snot out of their enemies? Remembering that there have been only 48 K US military combat enablers in Iraq for some time. Moreover, the US embedded advisors are limited in what they can do by the Status of Forces Agreement.

    I don’t think you appreciate how much Iraqi Shiites respected the Sadr family in March, 2003. In April, 2003, credit for the liberation of Iraq was shared between the coalition, SCIRI/BADR [Hakim's forces . . . now called ISCI/Badr], Jaffari’s al Dawa, Sadrists [of whom Muqtada was the most important leader, Chalabi was closely alligned with Muqtada in March, 2003], Fadheela Sadrists, Peshmerga, Allawi’s Iraqi Accord Front, and Iran.

    All of them were praised by Iraqis for their role in bringing down the hated Saddam.

    Muqtada’s father, brothers, and uncles were deeply respected, and Muqtada was one of the only family members to survive Saddam’s wrath. It was Muqtada and Chalabi’s boys to brought down Saddam’s statue on April 9th, 2003, on international television.

    This is why Iraqis in 2003 and 2004 use to emphasize what a good family Muqtada came from when they use to discuss him.

    The objective of the Iraqi establishment and MNF-I was to reduce Mookie’s popularity, and to dismantle his militia. This was much more valuable than killing Muqtada. This was done.

    Iraq is a free democracy. Would you rather have hamfistedly killed Muqtada and had some of his allies win the next Iraqi election on a sympathy vote.

    This said, it might have been best to bring in the INP, or Najaf Marjeya associated authorities in 2004, and let them arrest Muqtada and try him in public for his crimes. When that did not happen, the best way to deal with Muqtada was indirect.

    Muqtada’s militia could only really be taken on after the ISF were somewhat built up and after the Sunni Arab militias were weakened. This happened by early 2007, which allowed the brilliant 2007/2008 strategy of dismantling JAM while discrediting Muqtada in the court of public opinion.

    The best way to handle Khamenei is to strenghten the greens over the long run and facilitate them handling Khamenei their own way.

    In part war, especially COIN and regime change, are about local politics.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Good grief, man! Of course violence is down compared to four years ago. Four years ago was 2006, and U.S. troop presence was still ramping up to the surge at the beginning of 2007 running for six or seven months in 2007. Violence was at an all time high then because it was being perpetrated on the enemy by U.S. forces, while the insurgents were fighting back. What you attribute to the ISF was U.S. forces beating up AQ, the Shi’ite militias, etc.

    I still claim that you’re in fantasy land. And as for Sadr, killing him would have brought an end to his “army,” and instead of doing that, we had to fight them for another several years. There is nothing like killing your enemies to “discredit them in the court of public opinion.”

    As for bringing in the “authorities” to handle Sadr, we had just that. The 3/2 Marines. The problem is that the political “authorities” (both U.S. and Iraqi) sided with the British (and Bremer) and wanted Sadr released. You have your facts backwards. Exactly backwards.

    Finally, I take a more robust view of what we should be doing to handle Khamenei. We should indeed be aiding the opposition, but we should also be in a covert war with them, an issue I have discussed before at length.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Iraq,Moqtada al Sadr,Religion,Religion and Insurgency and was published December 20th, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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