Return of the Republican Guard I hate to say "I told you so", but re-Baathification has once again reared its head, upsetting people like Ahmad Chalabi who understandably made de-Baathification a major goal of theirs since the whole point was to "liberate" Iraq.
"We have now begun forming a new emergency military force," (Jasim Muhammad Saleh) told Reuters, saying people in Falluja "rejected" U.S. troops.
But Marine commanders insisted that their men, who pulled back from many positions during the day but fought guerrillas in others, would keep overall responsibility in the city and continue operations against suspected foreign Islamic militants.
They described Saleh's force of 1,000 or so former soldiers as an Iraqi battalion under U.S. control.
But Saleh, cheered by crowds waving the Saddam-era Iraqi flag as he drove through his home town in his old uniform, said local people wanted Falluja to be run by Iraqi forces only.
The motivation is pretty clear, as I wrote almost a year ago. Secular Baathists form an authoritarian force that can counter religious radicals like Moqtada al Sadr and are people with whom the US could make a deal. The problem is that doing so is likely to deeply upset many Shia Iraqis for whom the Baathists remain a worse enemy than the Americans. Oddly enough, the US seems to have become more conciliatory towards opponents in Fallujah than around Najaf, even though a military attack on Najaf would prove far more inciendary than one on Fallujah.
Perhaps the US is going to back off across the board, recognizing that its aggressive posture helped inflame passions rather than to deter attacks by both Sunni irregulars and Sadr's Jaish-e Mahdi (Mahdi Army).
posted by The Insurgent |
12:29 PM |
Monday, April 12, 2004
The Ceasefire I'm glad to see that coalition forces took my advice and arrived at a ceasefire with both Sunni insurgents in Falluja and with al Sadr's Mahdi Army in Karbala, Kufa and Najaf.
The US media is as usual avoiding gruesome images that affect the self-image of Americans. Go to the English version of al Jazeera for images of civilian dead in Falluja and elsewhere. That's what you get when you use Apache-mounted Hellfires, tanks and 500 lb laser-guided munitions against civilian targets.
I am under no illusion about al Jazeera's objectivity; they're the FoxNews of the Arab world. But I detest self-censorship, and I urge all Americans to view the other side of the story.
I suppose a two-front war between Coalition and Shia and Sunni militants does calls for me to retire from retirement.
Here are my two cents: While the clashes look bad, and the US is doing itself no favors by striking at mosques and helping provide images on al Jazeera of dead babies in Sadr City, there is still time to contain the damage. Sistani is clearly trying to remain equidistant between the Mahdi Army and the US, and important Shia groups like SCIRI and the al Dawa party are refusing to openly support Moqtada al Sadr. The key variable here is Shia support: Will the larger Shia population choose to stay out, since a democratic, stable Iraq is best for Shia interests, or will passions take control of reason?
Advice to the US: Be really, really nice to the Shia, and avoid the kind of rhetoric that only Marines can produce. Unlike the British, and other forces more experienced at counter-insurgency, the US seems to have a propensity to commit itself to courses of action that are more suited to Rambo movies. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt should remain silent, for one. You do not "destroy" insurgent armies, because you cannot. You contain them. Then you try to work out a political situation, once you've bribed or killed the right people. (I don't mean that cynically; a political solution will have to relatively fair.)
The gruesome assassination of Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim has jolted the Insurgent out of his late summer revery and to remark--in a typically dismal vein--that this event might mark the beginning of a Shia-Sunni civil war in Iraq. Already, CNN reports that 300 or so Badr Brigade troops are moving from Baghdad to Najaf. The report may be exaggerated, and it's unclear how heavily armed Badr Brigade members in Iraq are (having told the Americans that they are entering Iraq unarmed).
While the shockwaves of this attack will most likely to be felt by the Sunni community, the United States will also have to deal with Shia resentment. Although US forces have wisely stayed away from the Imam Ali Mosque, SCIRI officials have complained that the US failed to act on a proposal to set up a special security force to secure holy Shia sites. There is the small chance that Moktada al-Sadr's rival movement carried out the attack, but it seems incredible that fellow Shia would strike at the Imam Ali Mosque.
But the greatest danger lies in an emotional response by various Shia groups, sparking the very spiral of action and reaction that the attackers intended. This could be a turning point.
Meanwhile, Indonesia's restive Aceh province is set to re-ignite into a vicious civil war. Indonesian forces spent thirty years brutalizing East Timor, and a renewed Aceh civil war will bring disaster to its people.
Human Rights Watch last month wrote an open letter to Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Teungku Hasan di Tiro, the president of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which summarizes recent developments.