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Progress in Iraq?
Posted by: Jon Henke on Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The turnover of security in Iraq is progressing somewhat more rapidly...
The U.S. military says 40% of Iraq's combat battalions are effective enough to have taken the lead role in fighting the insurgency, a key measure for determining when U.S. forces can withdraw.

The U.S. military expects to complete the handover of responsibility to nearly all of Iraq's army by the end of the year, meaning Iraq's military will rely on U.S. troops primarily for logistical support and for providing airstrikes and heavy artillery. The main fighting will be conducted by Iraqis.
The two important questions arise from this. The questions — along with my optimistic answers — are:

  1. How will we redeploy our troops?
    We ought to be able to bring many Guard and combat units back home, while redeploying some to nearby areas. (e.g., Afghanistan, Kuwait) Meanwhile, our footprint in Iraq should be minimized, with as much support as possible done from positions of obscurity — i.e., the sparsely occupied southern and western deserts.

    The US should gradually shift our posture from combat to support, and, eventually, to a Status of Forces Agreement where we only act as a tripwire—a consequence multiplier—as we do in the Korean DMZ.



  2. What will Iraqi troops do with responsibility?
    Iraqi troops will not devolve into brutal sectarian militias, bent on accumulating power for their group, sect or politician. I hope.

    Failing that, however, there's little left for us but to wish them well storming the castle and hope the civil war doesn't last too long.
 
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I wish I were as optimistic as you are about #2. The real question is what does the US do after the ethnic cleansing starts. Our main mission to date has been to protect the Sunnis from the Shia while a government forms. I’m not sure that’s a tar baby we can get away from as easily as just wishing them well.
 
Written By: Steven Donegal
URL: http://
been to protect the Sunnis from the Shia while a government forms
REALLY, and to think all those dead Shi’i over the last few years... what they were the result of stroke, heart disease? The goal has been to produce a legitimate government, that can field a capable militray/police force that can quell the SUNNI rebellion, not "protect" the Sunni from the Shi’i, unless all those insurgents are really Shi’i in disguise.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Yeah, I dont believe we have had to do much in the way of protecting the sunni from the shiites. The shiites really havent attacked the sunnis that I can remember.
 
Written By: Chris
URL: http://
As i said, the ultimate goal is to create a stable Iraqi government. But the main military mission has been to prevent a civil war from breaking out. The point, Joe, is that had the US military not been there, the Shia militias would have dealt with the Sunni insurgency far more viciously (and probably effectively from one point of view) than has occurred to date. The Sunni insurgency in reality had very little chance of preventing a national government from forming. Uncontrolled Shia militia would have blown the country apart (and still may do so).
 
Written By: Steven Donegal
URL: http://
Something can always go wrong. It’s nice to see some good evidence of something going right. It might not be as wonderful as hoped, but a 98% solution is to be applauded.
Deaths/murders are bad, sure. But it would be extremely difficult for the level of blood and violence to reach the level it was under Saddam.
I’ll take this level of good.
 
Written By: Nathan
URL: http://brain.mu.nu/
Steve, I see your point, but I still think you have the wrong emphasis...The violence has been directed at non-Sunni’s to drive the US out, to allow SUNNI domination, or to spark a civil war between Sunni’s and Shi’i, the instigators of this being SUNNI’S!
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Yeah, I dont believe we have had to do much in the way of protecting the sunni from the shiites. The shiites really havent attacked the sunnis that I can remember.
Steve, I see your point, but I still think you have the wrong emphasis...The violence has been directed at non-Sunni’s to drive the US out, to allow SUNNI domination, or to spark a civil war between Sunni’s and Shi’i, the instigators of this being SUNNI’S!
From the LA Times - 11/29/05
An Aug. 18 police operations report addressed to Interior Minister Bayan Jabr, who has ties to the Badr militia, listed the names of 14 Sunni Arab men arrested during a predawn sweep in the Baghdad neighborhood of Iskaan.

Six weeks later, their bodies were discovered near the Iranian border, badly decomposed. All of the corpses showed signs of torture, and each still wore handcuffs and had been shot three times in the back of the head, Baghdad morgue officials said.

A Western diplomat in Baghdad who spoke on condition of anonymity said that "we hear repeated stories" of police raids on houses and indiscriminate arrests of Iraqi civilians — many of them Sunni Arab Muslims.

"And they disappear, but the bodies show up maybe two or three governorates away," the diplomat said.
From the Seattle Times - 11/17/05
One such group, the Volcano Brigade, is operating as a death squad — under the influence or control of Iraq’s most potent Shiite factional militia, the Iranian-backed Badr Organization, said several Iraqi government officials and western Baghdad residents.

In the past six months, Badr has heavily infiltrated the Interior Ministry under which the commandos operate, the sources said. Badr also was accused of running the secret Interior Ministry prison raided Sunday by U.S. troops.

About 2 a.m. on Aug. 23, men in Volcano Brigade uniforms and trucks rolled into the streets of Dolay, a mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhood of western Baghdad, residents say. "I got a call from my cousins" around the corner, said Ahmed Abu Yusuf, 33, an unemployed Sunni. "They told me to stay hidden because the Volcano were in the streets, arresting Sunnis."

For three hours, the raiders burst into Sunni homes, handcuffed dozens of men and loaded them into vans. They ended the assault and drove out of the neighborhood just before the dawn call to prayer, which would bring men into the streets, walking to the local mosques, Abu Yusuf said.

Two days later and 90 miles away, residents of the desert town of Badrah, near the Iranian border, found the bodies of 36 of the men in a gully, their hands still bound and their skulls shattered by bullets. Two were the cousins who had phoned him the warning, Abu Yusuf said.
From the NYT - 11/29/05
As the U.S. military pushes the largely Shiite Iraqi security services into a larger role in combating the insurgency, evidence has begun to mount suggesting that the Iraqi forces are carrying out executions in predominantly Sunni neighborhoods.

Hundreds of accounts of killings and abductions have emerged recently, most of them brought forward by Sunni civilians, who claim that their relatives have been taken away by Iraqi men in uniform without warrant or explanation.

Some Sunni males have been found dead in ditches and fields, with bullet holes in their temples, acid burns on their skin, and holes in their bodies apparently made by electric drills. Many have simply vanished.

Some of the young men have turned up alive in prison; in a secret bunker discovered earlier this month in an Interior Ministry building in Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi officials acknowledged that some of the mostly Sunni inmates appeared to have been tortured.

Bayan Jabr, Iraq’s interior minister, and other government officials denied any government involvement, saying the killings were carried out by men driving stolen police cars and wearing police and army uniforms purchased at local markets. "Impossible! Impossible!" Jabr said. "That is totally wrong; it’s only rumors; it is nonsense."

Many of the claims of murder and abduction have been substantiated by at least one human rights organization working here - it asked not to be identified because of safety concerns - and documented by Sunni leaders working in their communities.

U.S. officials overseeing the training of the Iraqi Army and the police acknowledge that police officers and Iraqi soldiers, and the militias with which they are associated, may indeed be carrying out killings and abductions in Sunni communities, without direct American knowledge.


From the WaPo - 8/4/05
BAGHDAD, Aug. 3 — In the fall of 2003, freelance writer Steven Vincent traveled to Iraq to "experience the daily realities of life and death in the crossfire of the war on terror," according to a statement on his publisher’s Web site. The violence he chronicled — and often condemned — online and in print caught up with him Tuesday night.

Vincent, 49, an American whose recent articles described the growing influence of Shiite Muslim militias in the southern city of Basra, was found dead there Wednesday morning from multiple gunshot wounds.

He had been abducted the night before along with his Iraqi interpreter, Nour Weidi, who was seriously wounded and taken to a local hospital. Gunmen traveling in a police vehicle seized the two outside a currency exchange, a policeman told the Associated Press.
Never mind the fact that the Shia death squads are operating under the cover of the government that the United States supports. Your tax dollars support a government that rounds up Sunnis in the middle of the night, shoots them in the back of the head, or worse, and then dumps their bodies for their loved ones to come collect.

And according to Jon, handing over more power to these animals represents "progress." I call it ethnic cleansing. I guess we are just different that way.

Here’s what else Jon has to say about it:
Iraqi troops will not devolve into brutal sectarian militias, bent on accumulating power for their group, sect or politician. I hope.
You hope? Where in the he** have you been for the last six months? The last year? This is the most underreported story of the war, as I have said before. And when reporters do try to report it, well, just ask Steven Vincent what happens.

Hundreds of Billions of American dollars, thousands of American lives - and for what? To install a Islamic fundamentalist government that engages in ethnic cleasing and allies itself with Iran?

Gosh, how could anybody be against the War in Iraq?

 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Once again, mkultra misses a good point by just a little bit. It seems to be a specialty.

The Shi’a in particular, and to a lesser extent the Kurds, have been attacking the Sunni in ways that we would find, well, brutal, including simply rounding up, torturing for information, and then shooting suspects. (We’ll leave aside for the moment the probabilities of whether or not those rounded up and executed were or were not some of Saddam’s thugs and torturers.) This is, well, not a good thing.

However, to therefore suggest that the government is Islamist, or is engaging in ethnic cleansing, or that any imperfection in the nascent Iraqi government invalidates any good that could potentially have come from the war in Iraq is, well, stupid at best and vile moral equivalence at worst. You see, prior to our invasion, Saddam’s goons were doing this same kind of brutal stuff, and worse, at far higher rates to the Shi’a and Kurds. It’s not a good thing that this is happening. But it’s not as bad as what was happening before.

The trick for the US is to guide the new government, as much as possible, away from this behavior and into a pattern of behavior as civilized as, say, France (and in that respect, Iraq already is not too far off the mark in many ways). This will take time, and constant effort. I am sure that mkultra does not realize this (I suspect he is misguided rather than foolish or unintelligent), but the consequence of us pulling out would be worse than the consequence of us staying. And the consequence of us not invading in the first place would have been as bad as or worse than the consequence of us pulling out now.

Had mkultra argued that these incidents showed that we have a long ways to go before Iraq is a democracy in the same sense as Europe or the US or Japan or even Korea, he would have had a good point. By arguing that these incidents show that we have failed and that nothing is possible other than failure, mkultra has instead just made a stupid argument.
 
Written By: Jeff Medcalf
URL: http://www.caerdroia.org/blog
I am sure that mkultra does not realize this (I suspect he is misguided rather than foolish or unintelligent), [...]
Wow, you are the optimist.
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
"The US should gradually shift our posture from combat to support, and, eventually, to a Status of Forces Agreement where we only act as a tripwire—a consequence multiplier—as we do in the Korean DMZ."

I do hope I am misinterpreting this if I imagine that you are advocating an indefinite, a la Korea, military presence in Iraq.

 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
"Indefinite" might mean different things to different people, but I’d be surprised if our presence in Iraq was less than another ten years. The intent, as in other post-war instances, is to provide a stabilizer for the region while it matures in civil matters to the point where they don’t need such a stabilizer any more.

Granted, we tend to stay too long because of inertia. We should have been out of Germany over ten years ago at the very latest, for example. But with the risk of failure likely being eventual nuclear attack of an American city, erring on the side of caution is appropriate.

Keep in mind that it takes a generation for change in a civil society to really sink in, and only then if the society in question is within shouting distance of a functioning society in the first place. See Russia for an example of what happens when the starting point is bad and there’s no significant external influence to improve.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
I would hardly call our presence in the middle east a stabilizing influence, and I doubt that even a successfully free and democratic Iraq would deter attempts to nuke American cities, particularly with the goad of an American military presence in the region. But this discussion begins to sound drearily familiar, so I will limit myself to saying that an indefinite American military presence in the region would be counter-productive abroad and politically insupportable at home.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Once again, mkultra misses a good point by just a little bit. It seems to be a specialty.

The Shi’a in particular, and to a lesser extent the Kurds, have been attacking the Sunni in ways that we would find, well, brutal, including simply rounding up, torturing for information, and then shooting suspects. (We’ll leave aside for the moment the probabilities of whether or not those rounded up and executed were or were not some of Saddam’s thugs and torturers.) This is, well, not a good thing.

However, to therefore suggest that the government is Islamist, or is engaging in ethnic cleansing, or that any imperfection in the nascent Iraqi government invalidates any good that could potentially have come from the war in Iraq is, well, stupid at best and vile moral equivalence at worst. You see, prior to our invasion, Saddam’s goons were doing this same kind of brutal stuff, and worse, at far higher rates to the Shi’a and Kurds. It’s not a good thing that this is happening. But it’s not as bad as what was happening before.
I am going to assume that this post is some kind of joke. The "pinciple" on which it is based is that as long as the government we have allowed to take control is not as bad as Saddam, there is no problem.

I suspect this viewpoint is shared by most on the right.

 
Written By: mkultra
URL: http://
Never mind the fact that the Shia death squads are operating under the cover of the government that the United States supports.
Yes, militias are a part of the ISF. It’s still an open question, though, whether they will integrate, or whether they will try to balkanize and create their own power spaces.
And according to Jon, handing over more power to these animals represents "progress." I call it ethnic cleansing. I guess we are just different that way.
Yeah, cry me a river. The status quo ante was already "animals" in charge, killing opponents at will. And your Parties preferred solution was to instigate an internal uprising, which would have been far, far more deadly than this.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
I do hope I am misinterpreting this if I imagine that you are advocating an indefinite, a la Korea, military presence in Iraq.
Indefinite, yes; permanent, no. I think it’s probably in our interest to maintain a tripwrire/backstop presence in Iraq for a few years to prevent a) an internal conflagration, or b) a revanchist or ambitious Iran which thinks it can take advantage of instability and/or the low cost of agitation. Our presence, as in NoKo, can raise the price of aggression.

That’s definitely not a permanent solution, but I think it would give us room to seek a more permanent solution in the meantime.
 
Written By: Jon Henke
URL: http://www.QandO.net
Keep in mind that if Saddam had been deposed, or died, we’d likely see a civil war anyhow with Iran having a much bigger role than it does now. So, it’s not as if it could be avoided.

US forces should eventually leave Iraq completely or at a maximum have a large base in western Iraq to help train their forces.

Now, is anybody up for predicting the 20 - 50 year blowback? You know, like when we helped the Afghan freedom fighters who morphed into the Taliban?

How about a hard core US style military in Iraq that ends up with M1 Abrams and our NCO system that creates a true United Arab Republic in the middle east?



 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
How about a hard core US style military in Iraq that ends up with M1 Abrams and our NCO system that creates a true United Arab Republic in the middle east?
And this would be bad, how?
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
How about a hard core US style military in Iraq that ends up with M1 Abrams [...]
I’d hope that we’d have better tanks than the M1 in 20 to 50 years. :-)

(Although the M60 series hung around a couple of decades. I had a platoon of them in 1981.)
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
Hey it’s just a scenario I dreamed up in 30 seconds or so. I just thought it might be different from the almost cliche Shia theocracy allied to Iran conquers the Arabian peninsula and controls all the oil one.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Saddam’s Ba’athist regime didn’t develop that way overnight. It emerged through several power struggles and coups dating back to the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958. It had episodic moments of brutality in the 1960s and 1970s - especially the war against Kurdish separatists in 1975. But it wasn’t until 1979, when Saddam took full control of the Ba’athist Party and led the nation into a disastrous war with Iran that the Ba’athists reached the height of their brutality. As with most hideous regimes, genocide occurred in phases. The worst was the Anfal campaign of 1985-1988, culminating in Halabja. Then there was the Shi’te crackdown in 1991, the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, as well as another botched anti-Kurd offensive in 1991. There were other mass acts of killing and brutality in the 1990s - the Marsh Arabs in 1997, the post-Sadr execution uprising in 1999, etc.

The point of all this is to say that the new SCIRI-dominated Shi’ite government cannot be judged in its entirety by a few months in office. There are moderating influences (Sistani) and there are radicalizing forces (Jabr, Moqtada Sadr). But if Jaafari’s one year in office is any indication, the Jabrites in the Interior Ministry have every intention of pursuing a Saddam-style crackdown on regime opponents. Will it blow up into a full-blown genocide like Anfal? Not if the US stays put. But if the only reason for the US staying in Iraq is to prevent an inevitable genocidal civil war then we haven’t really achieved much in the way of fundamental political transformation in Iraq, or the Middle East for that matter.

The irony of all this is that Iran has now emerged as the gravest threat to American national security. And yet, if we take any military action against Iran, our Iraqi Shi’ite governmental allies will openly rebel against the United States. True, many Iraqi Shi’ites have a complex relationship with Iran. But the most anti-Iranian Iraqi Shi’ite is actually Moqtada Sadr, and he’s pledged armed solidarity with Iran. SCIRI and Dawa are openly backed by Iran - incubated in Iran during its war with Iraq, actually - and so have no "patriotic" ties to Iraq in such a conflict. Does that mean the violently anti-Iranian Sunni insurgents will be the new US allies against Iran? Stranger things have happened. Saddam was once an ally too.
 
Written By: Elrod
URL: http://

 
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