INDEX - IMPERIALISMwww.islandbreath.org ID# 0615-18
SUBJECT: THE IRAQNAM QUAGMIRE
SOURCE: JUAN WILSON email@example.com
POSTED: 31 October 2006 - 7:30am HST
Put a fork in it. Were done.
US troops in control of streest in Sadr City have been asked to take down some check points
U.S. Obeys Order to Abandon Checkpoints
by Sinan Salaheddin on 31 October 2006 in the Associated Press
U.S. troops on Tuesday abandoned checkpoints around the Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City on orders from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the latest in a series of moves by the Iraqi leader to assert his authority with the U.S. administration.
The U.S. military announced the deaths of two soldiers in fighting in the Baghdad area on Monday, bringing the number of troops killed in Iraq this month to 103.
More insurgent violence was also reported against civilians, with at least 11 people killed, including four children, and 21 others wounded when a suicide car bomber struck a wedding party in Baghdad.
U.S. forces disappeared from the checkpoints within hours of the order to remove the around-the-clock barriers by 5 p.m., setting off celebrations among civilians and armed men gathered on the edge of the sprawling slum that is under the control of the Mahdi Army militia run by radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Iraqi troops loaded coils of barbed wire and red traffic cones onto pickup trucks, while small groups of men and children danced in circles chanting slogans praising al-Sadr, who earlier Tuesday had ordered the area closed to the Iraqi government until U.S. troops lifted what he called their "siege" of the neighborhood.
Extra checkpoints were set up last week as U.S. troops launched an intensive search for a missing soldier, who has yet to be found.
Shortly after leaving Sadr city, U.S. troops dismantled other checkpoints in the downtown Karradah neighborhood where the soldier had been abducted, loading barbed wire coils onto their Stryker armored vehicles.
Al-Maliki's statement said U.S.-manned checkpoints "should not be taken except during nighttime curfew hours and emergencies."
"Joint efforts continue to pursue terrorists and outlaws who expose the lives of citizens to killings, abductions and explosions," said the statement, issued in al-Maliki's name in his capacity both as prime minister and commander of the Iraqi armed forces.
U.S. troops have increased their presence on Baghdad streets as part of a two-month-old security crackdown. However, they rarely man checkpoints in populated areas where they risk coming under attack or angering residents by conducting vehicle and body searches.
Al-Maliki's order underscored the his government's reliance of Shiite support and sensitivity to their concerns.
Besides al-Sadr, the largest Shiite coalition in the 275-member parliament, the United Iraqi Alliance, had also condemned the checkpoints for inflicting what it described as "collective punishment" against residents of Baghdad's Shiite neighborhoods.
"Kidnapping a man can't be a pretext for laying siege to these neighborhoods," Sheik Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer, a prominent Shiite lawmaker, said at a news conference.
Al-Maliki's threatened to further roil relations with the U.S. that hit a rough patch last week after Al-Maliki issued a string of bitter complaints - at one point saying he was not "America's man in Iraq."
Al-Maliki had apparently been angered by a statement from U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad that the prime minister had agreed to set a timeline for progress on reaching security and political goals - something al-Maliki denied. He also angrily rebuked the U.S. for a raid on Sadr city targeting an alleged death squad leader in which 10 people were killed.
U.S. concern over the relationship was signaled when National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley showed up unannounced in Baghdad on Monday to meet with al-Maliki and his security chief, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, telling them he "wanted to reinforce some of the things you have heard from our president."
Al-Rubaie told the AP late Monday that Hadley was here to discuss the work of a five-man committee that al-Maliki and Bush agreed to Saturday.
Hadley also presented some proposals concerning the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces as well as security plans. U.S. spokesmen could not immediately be reached on Tuesday and it wasn't known whether Hadley had yet returned to Washington.
American voter support for the war at a low point as the Nov. 7 congressional election approaches, and a top aide to al-Maliki said the Iraqi leader was using the Republicans' vulnerability on the issue to leverage concessions from the White House - particularly the speedy withdrawal of American forces from Iraqi cities to U.S. bases in the country.
Al-Maliki has said he believes that the continued presence of American forces in Iraq's population centers is partly behind the surge in violence.
His government depends heavily on the backing of a pair of Shiite political organizations and has resisted concerted American pressure to eradicate their private armies - al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade, the military wing of Iraq's most powerful Shiite political bloc, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI.
[Editor's note: the following are typical blog comments to the material above on 31 October 2006 in The Huffington Post]
by mark kleiman
The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld strategy for Iraq is now obviously a dead letter.
In a showdown between the U.S. Army and the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr, the Prime Minister of Iraq sided with Moqtada, and we are obeying his orders and backing down. The Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, thinks the presence of U.S. forces in Iraqi cities is fueling violence, and he'd like to see them withdrawn to bases in the countryside.
Mr. Bush is losing the support of the military. On top of that, he's losing the support of the current Iraqi government. Plus, Murtha's prescription for phased withdrawl on a time-line is being supported now by Bush himself (flip-flop).
Bush wants less freedom and liberty, more government intrusion, less accountability, more pollution, less science, more superstition, more pride, less humility, more government spending on weapons and killing, less government spending on helping people. He wants to promotes big business as if that's the best way to help individual citizens, yet offers little support to the proposition of encouraging the re-sizing and re-scaling of our economy so that enterprises are more human scale with more people in charge, more learning, more satisfaction and less volatility and more community connections and social and national connectivity. Breaking up the big corporations, not cultivating them, is the way to bring prosperity back to the USA.
It's fine with him if the companies in his stock portfolio increase their profits by outsourcing American jobs. He's in favor of more discord, less concord, more war and less peace.
As for the elections this Nov. 7th, the Republican majority has been a rubber stamp for his cabal. His vision for America is all about war and big business and polarization and oligarchy - every man for himself - but the big boys get a helping hand. Do we stay the course? Let's change the course.
This is all so reminiscent of the last months of Vietnam that I'm expecting hot pants and blue eyeshadow to make a comeback.
Then as now, the bigwigs assumed that the greatest military force in the world couldn't possibly be defeated, and so they blamed it on the people at home who opposed the war for not having "the will to win," as if we could all have this big Harmonic Convergence where we sit in the lotus position and beam positive energy at the Middle East that would make all the terrorists evaporate and fill it with happy obedient people urging us to take all their oil and put their children to work in our sweatshops.
Whoever voted for these pricks should be ashamed of themselves. It's time for America to grow up and face the facts about what we've done, which is to waste trillions of dollars and millions of lives on the greed and vanity of a few psychopaths who conned us by waving the cross and the flag at us.
SUBJECT: THE IRAQNAM QUAGMIRE
SOURCE: JUAN WILSON firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTED: 23 October 2006 - 9:00pm HST
US troops in negotiations with insurgents
cooperation with Sunni insurgents may be America's best hopr for Iraq
[Editor's Note: The unravelling of the war in Iraq continues. James Baker has been brought in to take George Bush to the woodshed, and give him a thrashing, after the election. The neo-con crazies (led by Rumsfeld) have lost the ball to the Iranian Shiites and Jimbo representents the old fashioned Arab Sunni school of geopolitical domination (Aramco). Looks like they deals for Iraq are about to get dealt.]
US offers amnesty in secret talks
by James Hider on 23 October 2006 in The Times Online
Policy is reversed as October becomes the deadliest month this year for US troopsAMERICAN forces are negotiating an amnesty with Sunni insurgents in Iraq to try to defuse the nascent civil war and pave the way for disarmament of Shia militias, The Times has learnt.
The tactic marks a dramatic reversal of policy by the US military, which blocked attempts to pardon insurgents with American blood on their hands after handing over sovereignty to a secular Iraqi Government in June 2004.
The U-turn comes amid the bloodiest fighting for two years and growing domestic opposition to the war as Americans prepare to vote in crucial midterm elections.
Even as President Bush convened emergency talks with his generals and national security advisers to review strategy in Iraq, commanders on the ground were negotiating a peace deal. Observers expect leaders of the Sunni insurgency to join a peace conference early next month.
“There’s been a change in the position of the Americans,” Jabr Hadeeb Jabr, an independent Shia politician and member of the Council for Reconciliation government agency, said. “Before, they refused to give any amnesty to the people killing Americans because there was some dispute about the risk of rewarding their killers.”
Another Iraqi MP, Izzat Shabander, a member of the secular Iraqiya bloc, said: “This amnesty is coming because the American military are always pressuring the Iraqi Government to give a general amnesty to all fighters, even those who killed Iraqis.”
The proposed amnesty, which one Sunni politician said had been negotiated between the US and insurgents without involving the Government, came as a senior State Department official admitted that US policy in Iraq had been at times “stupid” and “arrogant”.
“We tried to do our best, but I think there is much room for criticism because, undoubtedly, there was arrogance and there was stupidity from the United States in Iraq,” Alberto Fernandez, the director of public diplomacy at the department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, said. “We are open to dialogue because we all know that . . . the solution to the hell and the killings in Iraq is linked to an effective Iraqi national reconciliation.”
The violence continued yesterday when bombers attacked shoppers buying sweets for the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, killing at least nine. A US Marine died west of Baghdad, taking the number of US servicemen killed this month to 80 and making October the most deadly month for the US this year. At least 43 civilians have been killed every day this month.
Mr Jabr said it was possible that two of the main insurgent groups — the Islamic Army and the 1920s Revolutionary Brigades — could participate at a national reconciliation conference next month. Facing increasing losses of US soldiers, and with Iraq threatening to suck the entire region into a disastrous conflict, the Bush Administration is being forced to drop its “stay the course” policy and examine new options.
In tandem with the US initiative, Iraqi religious leaders are trying to stem the bloodshed.
On Friday, 29 senior Sunni and Shia leaders met in Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, to urge their communities not to shed Muslim blood, to free hostages and to allow hundreds of thousands of ethnically cleansed people to return home. But deadly bombings of markets over the weekend have dispelled hopes of a swift end to the killing.
Mr Jabr said that the Mecca fatwa, or edict, was aimed at isolating Iraqi nationalists from al-Qaeda fanatics, who have a global agenda of attacking the West and imposing an Islamic state on Iraq.
Salman al-Jumeili, a deputy from the main Sunni bloc, Twafoq, said that the amnesty reports had caught Sunni politicians by surprise. “I’m betting this must be part of a dialogue between the resistance and the Americans,” he said.
The plan — still officially under wraps — would be to isolate Iraqi guerrillas from al-Qaeda by offering an amnesty and a date for a US withdrawal, and to use the resistance’s highly sophisticated intelligence network to stamp out foreign Islamist fighters and criminal gangs.
“The promise that on a certain date [US forces] would leave the country is hugely important for Iraqi citizens. I think a great deal of the resistance would accept a general amnesty as an important step,” he said. But the Shia-dominated Government is dragging its heels about granting amnesty to fighters who have killed Iraqi policemen and soldiers.
Yesterday, gunmen in five cars ambushed a convoy of buses carrying police recruits near Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, killing at least 15 and wounding 25 others.
Proponents of an amnesty hope that, once the threat from terrorist bombs has diminished, Shia militias would have no cause to remain under arms. Mr al-Maliki, whose two main Shia government partners run the two largest militias, might then be able to negotiate a disarmament programme.
US troops could deploy to neighbouring countries, leaving military advisers with Iraqi government troops. They would be ready to return if necessary. But huge obstacles remain. Mr Shabander said that some of the main Shia parties were reluctant because the sectarian conflict bolstered their agenda for an autonomous Shia region in the oil-rich south. Armed al-Qaeda militants paraded through city centres at the weekend, proving that they are far from being isolated from the community.
Exit strategies under discussion include:
• Coalition troops withdraw gradually to neighbouring countries, returning to hotspots if necessary. Military advisers stay to train Iraqi forces
• Partition into federal autonomous regions. Backed by some Shia and Kurdish groups, but not by Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr and Sunnis
• Talks with Syria and Iran to try to prevent foreign infiltration and to stabilise Iraqi Government
• Cut and run: instant withdrawal of US forces despite probable civil war and regional meltdown
SUBJECT: THE IRAQNAM QUAGMIRE
SOURCE: KEN TAYLOR email@example.com
POSTED: 28 September 2006 - 9:00pm HST
US troops in Iraq are Tehran's 'hostages'
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki shakes hands with Iranian President Mamoun Ahmadinejad 9/13/06
by Gareth Porter on 22 September 2006 in Asia Times Online
For many months, the administration of US George W Bush has been complaining that Iranian meddling in Iraq is a threat to the country's stability and to US troops. The irony of this publicity campaign over Tehran's alleged bid to undermine the occupation is that Iran may well be the main factor holding up a showdown between militant Shi'ites and US forces.
The underlying reality in Iraq, which the Bush administration does not appear to grasp fully, is that the United States is now dependent on the sufferance of Iran and its Iraqi Shi'ite political-military allies to continue the occupation.
Three and a half years after the occupation began, the US military is no longer the real power in Iraq. As the chief of intelligence for the US Marine Corps revealed in a recent report, US troops have been unable to shake the hold that Sunni insurgents have on the vast western province of al-Anbar.
But the main threat to the occupation comes not from the Sunni insurgents but from the militant Iraqi Shi'ite forces aligned with Iran, led by Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army. The armed Shi'ite militias are now powerful enough to make it impossible for the US occupation to continue.
Gone are the days when the US military could be so cavalier about Muqtada's forces that it deliberately provoked a major confrontation with him in Najaf in April 2004. That was when he was believed to have 10,000 poorly trained troops.
Since then, US officials have avoided giving any estimate of the Mehdi Army's strength. But according to a report published last month by London's Chatham House, which undoubtedly reflected the views of British intelligence in Iraq, the Mehdi Army may now be "several hundred thousand strong". Even if that estimate vastly overstates his troop strength, it reflects the sense that Muqtada has the strongest political-military force in the country - because of the loyalty that so many Shi'ites have to him.
The Mehdi Army controls Sadr City, the massive Shi'ite slum in eastern Baghdad that holds half the capital's population. But even more important, perhaps, it holds sway in the heavily Shi'ite southern provinces, and as Muqtada knows well, that gives him a strategic position from which to bring the US military to a standstill.
Patrick Lang, former head of human-intelligence collection and Middle East intelligence at the Defense Intelligence Agency, explained why in an important analysis in the Christian Science Monitor of July 21: US troops must be supplied by convoys of trucks that go across hundreds of kilometers of roads through this Shi'ite heartland, and the Mehdi Army and its allies in the south could turn those supply routes into a "shooting gallery".
Lang noted that the supply trucks are driven by South Asian or Turkish civilians who would immediately quit. And even if the US military used its own troops to protect the routes, they would be vulnerable to ambushes. "A long, linear target such as a convoy of trucks is very hard to defend against irregulars operating in and around their own towns," Lang wrote.
It would not require a complete cutoff of supplies to make the US position untenable. A significant reduction in those supplies would begin a "downward spiral", according to Lang.
US officials and the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki realize that Muqtada is too powerful to be dealt with by force. When Iraqi forces raided Sadr City last month accompanied by US advisers, Maliki denounced the operation on television and promised "this won't happen again".
Last week, a "senior coalition official" admitted to the Washington Post that "there's not a military solution" to the Mehdi Army.
But the Bush administration and the military in Iraq still appear to believe that there is some way to contain Muqtada's power. They have not yet accepted that Muqtada has both the intention and the capability to bring down the US occupation.
Yet Muqtada has made no secret of his intentions. In an interview with the Washington Post published on August 11, his top deputy, Mustafa Yaqoubi, said, "If we leave the decision to [the Americans], they will not leave. They'll stay. To get the occupiers to leave, they need [to make] some sacrifice."
The Shi'ites have never forgiven the US for its "betrayal" in calling for an uprising against Saddam Hussein after the 1991 Gulf War and then standing by as Saddam slaughtered thousands of Shi'ite militants who took up arms. Most of them never supported the current occupation in the first place.
Wayne White, principal Iraq analyst for the US State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, recalls that polling done by the department soon after the US occupation began but never made public showed that a clear majority of Shi'ites were already opposed to it.
Growing anger at US military atrocities, combined with a rising sense of power in the Shi'ite community, have made Muqtada's readiness for a showdown with the US occupation forces enormously popular.
By last spring, the political atmosphere in the Shi'ite community was seething with hatred of the US and support for war against the occupation forces. In a May 6 story, Borzou Daraghi of the Los Angeles Times quoted a spokesman for the Ayatollah Mohammed Taqi Moderessi in Karbala, known in the past as a moderate, as saying the slogan at Friday prayers is "Death to America." The ayatollah reported that people were preparing for a military showdown with the US, saying, "The Americans won't leave except by the funerals of their sons."
If Muqtada and his followers are already preparing for a showdown with the US occupation forces, the only factor that appears to be restraining the Mehdi Army now is Iran. After all, Tehran's interest lies not in forcing an immediate withdrawal of US forces, but in keeping them in Iraq as virtual hostages. The potential threat to US forces in Iraq in retaliation for an attack on Iran is probably Tehran's most effective deterrent to such an attack.
Meeting with Maliki last week, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, "We hope that one day the Iraqi nation will regain its rightful place and take the financial and human capital of the country into their own hands with the withdrawal of the foreigners."
At the University of Virginia a week earlier, former president Mohammad Khatami answered a question on Iraq by saying the immediate departure of US troops would create instability.
It would be surprising if Iran were not urging Muqtada to hold off on attacking the occupation forces until after the Bush administration had either reached a broad political agreement with Tehran or had been replaced in two years by an administration that would do so.
Only Iran's ability to persuade Muqtada to hold off on his effort to end the occupation can prevent a violent confrontation between Shi'ite militants and the occupation forces. But Bush's advisers may still not understand how fundamentally the power equation in Iraq has shifted.
"They don't think like that," Patrick Lang said. "They think they are still in charge."
Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. His latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in June 2005.
Majority of Iraqis Approve of Attacks on US Troops, Why Are We Still There?
by Arianna Huffington on 28 September 2006 in the Huffington Post
President Bush has frequently cited the desires of the Iraqi people as a primary reason for our continued involvement in Iraq, liberally peppering his speeches with phrases like "it's what the Iraqi people want," "the people spoke," and "they want our help."
During a visit by Prime Minister Maliki this summer, the president said: "When 12 million Iraqis went to the polls and said, 'I want to be free,' it was an amazing moment."Well, we've just had another amazing moment in which the Iraqi people have spoken. But this time the message isn't "We want to be free." It's "We don't mind seeing American soldiers blown up."
You read that right. In a stunning new poll conducted by a well-regarded Iraqi public opinion research firm, over 60 percent of Iraqis said they approve of attacks on U.S. troops, including solid majorities of both Sunnis and Shiites.
U.S. deaths in Iraq just passed 2,700 and the Iraqi people seem to be dancing on the graves. Large numbers of those voters who held up their purple-stained fingers back in December now seem intent on giving America the finger.
Among the reasons why: the poll found that almost 80% of Iraqis believe the US military presence in Iraq provokes more violence than it prevents. And three-fourths say they think America plans to keep military bases in Iraq forever.
What more will it take for Washington to get the point that our continuing presence in Iraq has become a big part of the problem, not of the solution?
Apparently a lot more. As evidenced by its rose-colored response to the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), the Bush administration remains willfully clueless.
Another example: the State Department recently conducted its own poll on the sentiments of the people of Iraq, and found that two-thirds of Iraqis in Baghdad favor the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, as do majorities in all non-Kurdish regions of the country, saying the departure "would make them feel safer and decrease violence."
But, when asked about this, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack decided to overlook the facts and go with the truthiness: "What I hear from government representatives and other anecdotal evidence that you hear from Iraqis that is collected by embassy personnel and military personnel is that Iraqis do appreciate our presence there." That seems to be the Bush way: why believe a 20-page study when you can go with third-party anecdotal hearsay?
But the evidence continues to pile up. Fast on the heels of the damning NIE comes a new paper prepared for a British Ministry of Defense think tank which says that the war in Iraq has "acted as a recruiting sergeant for extremists across the Muslim world" and a UN Security Council report that concludes that Iraq has "provided many recruits and an excellent training ground" for al-Qaeda.
According to the UN report, "New explosive devices are now used in Afghanistan within a month of their first appearing in Iraq." So that's the Mission we've Accomplished: turning Iraq into the world's deadliest R&D facility. A terrorist laboratory.
The writing is on the wall - and on page after page of report after report. All leading to the same inescapable conclusion. Iraq has made us less safe; it's time to bring our troops home.
After all, "It's what the people of Iraq want."
SUBJECT: 911 FIFTH ANNIVERSARY
SOURCE: JUAN WILSON firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTED: 24 September 2006 - 9:00pm HST
The Iraq War has Fueled Terrorism Across The Globe
Study of Iraq War Stirs Strong Political Response
by Philip Snenon & Mark Mazzetti on 24 September 2006 in the NYT
Democratic lawmakers, responding to an intelligence report that found that the Iraq war has invigorated Islamic radicalism and worsened the global terrorist threat, said the assessment by American spy agencies demonstrated that the Bush administration needed to devise a new strategy for its handling of the war.
Representative Jane Harman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that while she could not discuss details of the classified National Intelligence Estimate, “Every intelligence analyst I speak to confirms that” the Iraq war had contributed to the increased terrorist threat.
“Even capturing the remaining top Al Qaeda leadership isn’t going to prevent copycat cells, and it isn’t going to change a failed policy in Iraq,” Ms. Harman said on CNN’s “Late Edition.” “This administration is trying to change the subject. I don’t think voters are going to buy that.”
In public comments on Sunday, Republican Congressional leaders did not dispute the accuracy of the reports about the intelligence estimate, although they continued to defend the American presence in Iraq.
”I think it’s obvious that the difficulties we’ve experienced in Iraq have certainly emboldened” terrorist groups, Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, said on the CBS News program “Face the Nation.”
“But I would also argue that these people didn’t need any motivation to attack us on Sept. 11,” he said.
The intelligence estimate, an assessment by America’s 16 intelligence agencies, found that the war in Iraq, rather than stemming the growth of terrorism, had helped fuel its spread across the globe.
The estimate was completed in April, and is the first formal review of global terrorism by the United States since the Iraq war began. More than a dozen government officials and terrorism experts described the estimate to The New York Times, but spoke on condition of anonymity because its contents are classified.
Several of the lawmakers who appeared on Sunday talk shows said they had not seen the classified document, whose disclosure comes weeks before the Nov. 7 elections. Intelligence reports from American spy agencies are not circulated widely on Capitol Hill, and Congressional officials said neither the House nor the Senate intelligence committees had been formally briefed on the report.
In a statement released Sunday, the White House said the characterization of the report in The New York Times “is not representative of the complete document.” The White House did not release any specifics about the report, citing the fact that it was classified.
John D. Negroponte, director of national intelligence, said in a statement on Sunday that conclusions about the Iraq war are only a part of the overall intelligence assessment, and that viewing the reports conclusions “through the narrow prism of a fraction of judgments distorts the broad framework they create.”
“While there is much that remains to be done in the war on terror, we have achieved some notable successes against the global jihadist threat,” he said.
The White House also issued three pages of excerpts from recent speeches by President Bush, including remarks about the continuing threats from terrorist groups inspired by Al Qaeda.
The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California, said in a statement that news reports about the intelligence estimate were “further proof that the war in Iraq is making it harder for America to fight and win the war on terror.”
Her Senate Democratic counterpart, Harry Reid of Nevada, said that “no election-year White House P.R. campaign can hide this truth — it is crystal clear that America’s security demands we change course in Iraq.”
SUBJECT: 911 FIFTH ANNIVERSARY
SOURCE: JUAN WILSON email@example.com
Situation Called Dire in West Iraq
11 September 2006 - 9:00pm HST
Anbar Is Lost Politically, Marine Analyst Says
by Thomas E. Ricks on 11 September 2006 in The Washington Post
The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.
The officials described Col. Pete Devlin's classified assessment of the dire state of Anbar as the first time that a senior U.S. military officer has filed so negative a report from Iraq.
One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost."
The "very pessimistic" statement, as one Marine officer called it, was dated Aug. 16 and sent to Washington shortly after that, and has been discussed across the Pentagon and elsewhere in national security circles. "I don't know if it is a shock wave, but it's made people uncomfortable," said a Defense Department official who has read the report. Like others interviewed about the report, he spoke on the condition that he not be identified by name because of the document's sensitivity.
Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.
Devlin offers a series of reasons for the situation, including a lack of U.S. and Iraqi troops, a problem that has dogged commanders since the fall of Baghdad more than three years ago, said people who have read it. These people said he reported that not only are military operations facing a stalemate, unable to extend and sustain security beyond the perimeters of their bases, but also local governments in the province have collapsed and the weak central government has almost no presence.
Those conclusions are striking because, even after four years of fighting an unexpectedly difficult war in Iraq, the U.S. military has tended to maintain an optimistic view: that its mission is difficult, but that progress is being made. Although CIA station chiefs in Baghdad have filed negative classified reports over the past several years, military intelligence officials have consistently been more positive, both in public statements and in internal reports.
Devlin, as part of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) headquarters in Iraq, has been stationed there since February, so his report isn't being dismissed as the stunned assessment of a newly arrived officer. In addition, he has the reputation of being one of the Marine Corps' best intelligence officers, with a tendency to be careful and straightforward, said another Marine intelligence officer. Hence, the report is being taken seriously as it is examined inside the military establishment and also by some CIA officials.
Not everyone interviewed about the report agrees with its glum findings. The Defense Department official, who worked in Iraq earlier this year, said his sense is that Anbar province is going to be troubled as long as U.S. troops are in Iraq. "Lawlessness is a way of life there," he said. As for the report, he said, "It's one conclusion about one area. The conclusion on al Anbar doesn't translate into a perspective on the entire country."
No one interviewed would quote from the report, citing its classification, and The Washington Post was not shown a copy of it. But over the past three weeks, Devlin's paper has been widely disseminated in military and intelligence circles. It is provoking intense debate over the key finding that in Anbar, the U.S. effort to clear and hold major cities and the upper Euphrates valley has failed.
The report comes at an awkward time politically, just as a midterm election campaign gets underway that promises to be in part a referendum on the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war. It also follows by just a few weeks the testimony of Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, who told the Senate Armed Services Committee early last month that "it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war."
"It's hard to be optimistic right now," said one Army general who has served in Iraq. "There's a sort of critical mass of tough news," he said, with intensifying violence from the insurgency and between Sunnis and Shiites, a lack of effective Iraqi government and a growing concern that Iraq may be falling apart.
"In the analytical world, there is a real pall of gloom descending," said Jeffrey White, a former analyst of Middle Eastern militaries for the Defense Intelligence Agency, who also had been told about the pessimistic Marine report.
Devlin, who is in Iraq, could not be reached to comment. Col. Jerry Renne, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said Saturday that "as a matter of policy, we don't comment on classified documents."
Anbar is a key province; it encompasses Ramadi and Fallujah, which with Baghdad pose the greatest challenge U.S. forces have faced in Iraq. It accounts for 30 percent of Iraq's land mass, encompassing the vast area from the capital to the borders of Syria and Jordan, including much of the area that has come to be known as the Sunni Triangle.
The insurgency arguably began there with fighting in Fallujah not long after U.S. troops arrived in April 2003, and fighting has since continued. Thirty-three U.S. military personnel died there in August -- 17 from the Marines, 13 from the Army and three from the Navy.
A second general who has read the report warned that he thought it was accurate as far as it went, but agreed with the defense official that Devlin's "dismal" view may not have much applicability elsewhere in Iraq. The problems facing Anbar are peculiar to that region, he and others argued.
But an Army officer in Iraq familiar with the report said he considers it accurate. "It is best characterized as 'realistic,' " he said.
"From what I understand, it is very candid, very unvarnished," said retired Marine Col. G. I. Wilson. "It says the emperor has no clothes."
One view of the report offered by some Marine officers is that it is a cry for help from an area where fighting remains intense, yet which recently has been neglected by top commanders and Bush administration officials as they focus on bringing a sense of security to Baghdad. An Army unit of Stryker light armored vehicles that had been slated to replace another unit in Anbar was sent to reinforce operations in Baghdad, leaving commanders in the west scrambling to move around other troops to fill the gap.
Devlin's report is a work of intelligence analysis, not of policy prescription, so it does not try to suggest what, if anything, can be done to fix the situation. It is not clear what the implications would be for U.S. forces if Devlin's view is embraced by top commanders elsewhere in Iraq. U.S. officials are wary of simply abandoning the Sunni parts of Iraq, for fear that they could become havens for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
One possible solution would be to try to turn over the province to Iraqi forces, but that could increase the risk of a full-blown civil war. Shiite-dominated forces might begin slaughtering Sunnis, while Sunni-dominated units might simply begin acting independently of the central government.