Archive for the 'Sons of Iraq' Category

Whence Goeth Iraq?

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 2 months ago

Ralph Peters is sanguine concerning Iraq.  Daniel Pipes is much less so.  I tend towards bleak outlooks, but am waiting on either of the very good analysts at Iraq the Model to weigh in, or Nibras Kazimi at Talisman Gate (with whom I have had knock down, drag out fights).  Several things are clear at this point.  It is clear that there is a lot of confusion.  It is clear that Ahmad Chalabi is a sniveling lackey and treacherous scumbag who has empowered Iran and hurt Iraqi unity by causing the dissociation of its sects.  I have complained long and loudly concerning the Status of Forces Agreement and what it has done to U.S. power in the region.  We have spent too much blood and treasure to give up so much authority and allow the criminalization of so many Sunnis who participated in the sons of Iraq program to defeat al Qaeda.  ITM weighed in on the exclusion of so many Sunnis from elections and concluded that it has as its basis sectarianism.


More troubling still, this sectarian violence is still going on.

Hunkered down in a community outside Baghdad, Raad Ali watched the national elections Sunday in anonymity. No one bothers him here. Strangers think he is just another displaced Iraqi from the capital.

The days are long, and he misses his wife and children.

He believes that the election results could mean either his return home or exile, far from his loved ones.

With his button-down shirts, slacks and habitual smile, Ali looks like an unassuming civil servant or eager salesman growing into a chubby middle age. The only sign of worry is his five o’clock shadow.

A little over two years ago, he was shaking U.S. Army Gen. Ray Odierno’s hand in his old neighborhood, Ghazaliya, where Ali commanded one of the first Baghdad branches of a Sunni paramilitary movement that helped restore calm to Baghdad. Now Iraqi security forces are hunting him, despite the fact that he took on the Mahdi Army and Al Qaeda in Iraq in his west Baghdad neighborhood.

Ali prays that the national elections will solve his problems. If Iyad Allawi wins, he thinks there would be a place for him in his country. If Nouri Maliki or another Shiite Islamist wins, he believes the harassment will never stop. It would only be a matter of time before he was jailed and separated from his family forever.

“If Allawi doesn’t win, the future is dark,” he said. “They will target everyone.”

Having allowed such a situation to obtain is not only bad for Iraq (and to say that Maliki is bad for Iraq is redundant).  It is also bad for U.S. power and force projection.  God help us if we ever have to go back to Iraq, or if the tribal leaders in Afghanistan see how we have deserted the Sunnis.  We have no staying power, no stomach for enforcing deals we have struck.  We are in such felt-need for legitimacy in our campaigns that we are willing to allow Iraq to stipulate the conditions of the SOFA when the U.N. approvals expire.  To have a picture of General Odierno shaking the hand Raad Ali in 2008 while he is being hunted now is more than embarrassing.  It’s belittling to the most powerful nation on earth – which is also still engaged in counterinsurgency campaigns across the globe.

I have the utmost respect for General Odierno and his son who lost his arm fighting in Iraq.  I have difficulty mustering such respect for the politicians who agreed to the Status of Forces Agreement or timeline for withdrawal, or who refused to take Iran on in the regional war that it declared against the U.S.  This picture is worth a thousand words, and it makes me sick.

Betraying the Sons of Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
15 years ago

Professor W Andrew Terrill, Research Professor of National Security Affairs, Strategic Studies Institute, US Army War College, has a good history of the Sons of Iraq program, including the near and present danger that Iraq faces by refusing to make good on the promises to the Sons of Iraq.  The Washington Post gives us an even more personal account of the evolution of this fated program.  After cataloging the exploits of one particularly powerful and renowned insurgent, the fall from grace hits hard.

They were polite but insistent; he, the wounded Yasser and another brother had to come with them. Khalil asked to change into a clean gown known as a dishdasha, then sent word to another brother, Shaker, to tell militiamen loyal to him not to start trouble.

He was taken to neighboring Balad, where, Khalil said, cheering members of the Iraqi security forces began shouting slogans for Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric.

Loyalties in Thuluyah are mercurial and suspicions entrenched, even more so since the arrest of Khalil, whose absence has emboldened his rivals and confused his supporters. Maliki, in no uncertain terms, said that Khalil “will be released.” But as Jabbouri, a critic of Khalil, pointed out, the future tense can be rather indefinite.

In the town, residents once too fearful to speak have begun airing their resentment of Khalil’s past. Some suggested that Osama bin Laden had bought Khalil the Nissan Armada parked in his driveway. Others, even his fellow tribesmen, blame him for hundreds of deaths in 2006 and 2007. As a way of explanation, they contend that he was al-Qaeda in Iraq’s fifth-ranking leader. Only that much bloodshed, they insist, would have delivered him that much power.

To Khalil’s supporters, his arrest was simply motivated by politics, prompted by Sunni rivals fearful of his promised run for parliament in elections to be held by January. Even Hammoud acknowledged as much. Hammoud’s brother sits on the new provincial council, and the new governor belongs to the same party.

“Now with the situation in Iraq, everyone wants to win, everyone wants to prepare for the next elections. Every party — how do you put it? — is already challenging the other,” said Shaalan Mohammed, a friend of Khalil’s, sitting at his house.

Khalil’s brothers Shaker and Maher nodded their heads in agreement.

“But I still have a question,” Shaker said. “Why did the Americans take part?”

Just months ago, Lt. Col. David Doherty, a U.S. military spokesman in northern Iraq, praised Khalil’s role in the battle against the insurgency. “He has helped maintain peace and stability in the region,” Doherty said, “while supporting the populace’s need for the same.”

Hammoud said the town’s mayor had warned him not to file charges against Khalil because the U.S. military last year had declared Khalil “a red line” — untouchable.

In the interview from detention, Khalil still called himself “America’s man and one of its most important supporters in the fight against al-Qaeda and other armed groups.”

But these days, U.S. military officials are less generous. Another spokesman denied that the military had ever given him an amnesty, as Khalil claimed. Military officials now say he played no role in the Sons of Iraq, even as fighters in Thuluyah maintain that he is still their leader.

“We do believe Mullah Nadhim’s arrest is a matter for the government of Iraq and are confident he will be treated fairly under Iraqi law,” Maj. Derrick Cheng said.

“Citizens here are treated fairly under Iraqi law,” he added …

At the city council, long considered as corrupt as it was impotent, some members once too meek to offer anything but praise for Khalil have assumed a newfound swagger. Jabbouri, a lawyer and former general who was one of the few to speak out about Khalil, sat under a lazy fan, exuding the sense of someone proved right.

Asked if he was happy about Khalil’s arrest, he paused for a long moment.

“Definitely,” he finally said.

“He forgot that the Americans are going to leave one day,” he said. “It’s like a fiancee and her groom. Before he marries her, he promises her a lot. After the marriage, he forgets everything. The Americans have pulled the carpet from under his feet.”

The opinion expressed by the Major Cheng is stolid and dangerous.  It’s stolid because not even citizens in the U.S. are always treated fairly under the law.  No one believes that all citizens of any country are always treated fairly and with justice.  It’s dangerous because if the Iraqi people hear and believe the idea that we believe that all jurisprudence in Iraq is fair and just, then we’re in the pocket of the Iraqi administration and have lost all power and authority.  It would have been better to say nothing at all.

A whole host of bad decisions has led up to this point.  Professor Terrill believes that the worst decision in the campaign was the dismissal of the Iraqi Army.  I strongly disagree.  Moqtada al Sadr was actually in the custody of the 3/2 Marines in 2004 and released because command pressed for it.  Sectarianism is alive and well in Iraq, and leaving Sadr alive was, without any competition, the worst mistake of Operation Iraqi Freedom.  It may yet cost us the campaign.

Second, I worry about the cost to our souls of the betrayal of the Sons of Iraq.  We have too easily amended the public discourse in America to fret over the moral fidelity of enhanced interrogation techniques that were applied only to a handful of terrorists.  That promises were made to the thousands of Sons of Iraq is not important to us, and yet it says something very profound and deep about our honesty, integrity and continued support for an administration in Iraq that is as sectarian as is the culture.  It says something when we are able so quickly to dismiss and betray those who fought alongside us against al Qaeda.

Finally, the Anbaris and Sunnis in other parts of Iraq will not forget, and since this is probably not the last counterinsurgency campaign we will fight in the twenty first century, we had better hope that the balance of the world forgets our broken promises.  The next “awakening” may be much harder coming.

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