TCS Daily


Making Iraq Too Nice for the Devil

By Michael Fumento - May 3, 2006 12:00 AM

"Go out of our country saveges [sic]," reads the sign proudly displayed at a combined American-Iraqi outpost in Karma, just northeast of Fallujah. "If you don't we shall kill you all because you are terrorists and killers." It's signed "Islamic Resistance."

The "saveges" aren't leaving anytime soon, but not for lack of trying on the part of the enemy. During the week I spent in the Fallujah area, in the vast rough-and-tumble Sunni province of Al Anbar that's a way-station for Jihadists between the Syrian border and Baghdad, I heard countless firefights, repeatedly felt the rumble of outgoing howitzer fire from Camp Fallujah, was targeted by 122-millimeter mortars, and visited two Iraqi Army (IA) observation posts that had just been attacked.

It wasn't like Ramadi, a terrorist hotbed closer to Syria where I was personally in two firefights. And yet when I was in Fallujah for over a week last year I never heard a single firefight or a single explosion, friendly or enemy.

After the hard-fought Battle of Fallujah in November, 2004, is the enemy slowly taking back the area? Is beating off enemy attacks somehow better than not having them at all?

The answers are not simple. But what's happening now in Fallujah illustrates what must be done if we are to ultimately defeat the insurgents and terrorists not just in Al Anbar but throughout the country.

Part of the uptick in violence is simply because during May, 2005, residents had just started trickling back to their homes. Now the people have returned and, à la Mao Zedong's rules for guerrilla warfare, have become "the sea" in which the enemy can swim. The increased violence was therefore a given.

Yet the other reason almost certainly has something to do with the Iraqization program. Shortly after seizing Fallujah, U.S. troop strength in the area was something above 3,000 and was still high when I was there. Now it's down to about 300, with a few thousand IA and IP (Iraqi Police) filling the vacuum. (Exact numbers are confidential.)

The bad guys continue to attack Marines, but around Falluja at least they prefer Iraqis. Is that because they're softer targets? Col. Thomas C. Greenwood says no. "I think the insurgents target the Iraqis not because they're lesser fighters; I think it's because they can have a huge psychological effect. Any small victory they score helps them. It puts a damper on recruiting and allows the local populace to see insurgents have strength."

Greenwood is assistant chief of staff for Marine advisers to all three branches of the Iraqi security forces: the army, the border forces, and the police.

There's truth to his claim. But it remains that the enemy needs softer targets. I watched a video of an attack on a Falluja police station with a surrounding wall. The tape had fallen into coalition hands when the cameraman dropped his equipment and ran. The video depicted one bad guy firing an RPG while running, making the odds of hitting the target slightly less than zero. Another was too scared to take the safety off his RPG and just stood there looking like an idiot.

Another fired his light machine gun at a wall directly in front of him, while yet another kept tripping over the ammo belt that dangled from his weapon and dragged on the ground. Others simply held their weapons above their head and fired over the wall.

It also remains true that the IP and IA provide softer targets; they are not yet up to the job of defeating these Keystone Kop "warriors."

The police are still woefully undertrained and undermanned; they spend all too much time sitting in their reinforced stations and often require protection themselves.

The IA are clearly superior to the IP in terms of ability and weapons, yet they lack the aggressiveness of American troops. Later, in Ramadi, I watched Americans kill the enemy either with no emotion or even happiness. The "Islamic Resistance" aren't the poor conscripts we've traditionally fought; they're all volunteers and truly evil. But the IA often seem to think that merely breaking off an enemy attack is the equivalent of victory.

The Iraqis will never be up to American fighting standards. But they've greatly improved as a fighting force in the last year. Moreover, while there's no evidence enemy numbers are increasing, the size of the IA and IP are growing dramatically.

"We only have about 3,000 IP now" in Al Anbar, Greenwood said, "but we expect to break the 10,000 point by next fall. Further, "we have about 18,000 Iraqi soldiers in Al Anbar and had only half of that last year." The Iraqis are still in need of more powerful weapons, but they've finally gotten to up-armor their ubiquitous Nissan pickup trucks and are just now taking delivery of their first Humvees.

Says Greenwood, "One high-ranking Iraqi officer told me 'Al Anbar is worse than the devil!'" But Greenwood disarmed him. "I said with your help, we're going to make it too nice for the devil to visit."

Michael Fumento is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute and a former Army paratrooper.

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5 Comments

Another Hezbollah? Holy Shiite!
Shiite cleric seen trying to broaden his base of support
Knight Ridder Newspapers, May 1, 2006

...American officials think that al-Sadr, who already controls the LARGEST BLOC OF VOTES IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, is modeling himself after Lebanon's Hezbollah by trying to better organize and train the Mahdi Army, expanding his reach by placing fighters in Shiite communities beyond Sadr City.

"I think he is now trying to work a parallel program and make (the Mahdi Army) more professional while also developing these organizations throughout the districts that ensure religious outreach, education, social advantage and opportunity," said a TOP U.S. INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL who agreed to speak only if granted anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject. "All the things that the government doesn't fill in, he will."

Sheik Yousif al-Nasseri, an al-Sadr supporter and the HEAD OF AL-SHAHEEDIN, an al-Sadr-oriented research center, said "If this is their vision, that we resemble Hezbollah, then GOD WILLING WE ARE GOING TO BE STRONGER THAN HEZBOLLAH and move the people and the nation," al-Nasseri said...

...American officials also take a dim view of al-Sadr, whom they hold chiefly responsible for attacks on Sunni Muslim mosques after the Feb. 22 bombing of the Askariya shrine, a Shiite holy site, in the mostly Sunni city of Samarra. In the aftermath of those attacks, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said MILITIAS WERE A GREATER THREAT TO IRAQ THAN THE COUNTRY'S SUNNI INSURGENCY.

http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/special_packages/iraq/14475068.htm

Still don't get it
This paragraph say's it all realy...

"The IA are clearly superior to the IP in terms of ability and weapons, yet they lack the aggressiveness of American troops. Later, in Ramadi, I watched Americans kill the enemy either with no emotion or even happiness. The "Islamic Resistance" aren't the poor conscripts we've traditionally fought; they're all volunteers and truly evil. But the IA often seem to think that merely breaking off an enemy attack is the equivalent of victory."

This is the reason why you are losing the war. Just like Vietnam the US will win every battle but it will still loose the war.

"largest bloc"?
"al-Sadr, who already controls the LARGEST BLOC OF VOTES IN THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, ..."

Is this what passes for news for Knight Ridder? The largest bloc is held by the UIA coalition, which, if it can be said to have a leader at all, is led by al-Jarafi. While al-Sadr is very influential, he has joined in with a large coalition.


Iraq is a baby democracy, but already they have campaigned and voted; now they are horse trading via coalitions. It is different from the US's two big parties, but it is familiar for, e.g., Germany.

FWIW, here's a blog about Iraqi politics from a secular point of view:

http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/2006/02/united-iraqi-allianceisnt-really-that.html

One Man, Thrity Votes
The United Iraqi Alliance is a broad-based coalition of over 20 groups. Moqtada Al-Sadr PERSONALLY CONTROLS 30 of UIA's 120+ seats (Iraqi National Aassembly totals 275 seats). Those thirty seats are equalled only by the party SCIRI -- meaning Al-Sadr will have more votes than any other single leader in Iraq. Understand the distinction?

30 out of 200+ is diddly
Thanks for the details, but the report was at least misleading. By your own count, Sadr leads a *party* with 30 seats out of over 200. The report made it sound like he has some awesome power in the assembly.

Morever, Ridder said "bloc" instead of "party". If they meant party then why not say it?

A more accurate view of the situation, one that a news agency could have chosen to portray, is that Sadr got far fewer seats than he hoped for, that the UIA is far more fragmentary than he hoped, and thus that Sadr is leaning hard on his militia to make things go the way he wants. I hope Iraqis, especially his supporters, are watching. The man was outvoted; are they going to tolerate him using guns to increase his vote?

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