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Eye On Iraq: The Fragmented War

The new fragmented Iraq and the dominant role of the militias in it are "creating growing problems in many Iraqi military units, regardless of their warfighting capability," Anthony H. Cordesman wrote. "It is a major problem in the Iraqi national and regular police, the facilities protection services, and virtually every element of civil government and the courts. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Jan 04, 2007
A new report released Thursday grimly confirms the warnings we have published in these columns over the past 10 months about the fragmented scope of the war in Iraq, and the inability of Bush administration and Pentagon strategists so far to recognize its true nature.

Ever since Iraq's Shiite militias erupted in fury in response to the Sunni insurgent bombing of the al-Askariya, or Golden Mosque, in Samara on Feb. 22, we have monitored in these columns the almost total failure of the new democratically elected and parliamentary supported Iraqi government and its police and army to operate effective against both the Sunni insurgents and the Shiite militias that are the real power in much, if not most, of the country, and especially in the capital Baghdad, where 25 percent of Iraq's 28 million people live.

Now, one of America's most experienced and respected military analysts, Anthony H. Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh H. Burke chair in strategy at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies, has published a new report warning that U.S. policymakers must at last face the real nature of what he calls "a new kind of war" caused by the collapse of the Iraqi government.

"The current debate over surging U.S. military manpower has steadily lost focus on the real issue: Providing more U.S. troops can only serve a purpose if it is tied to a new and comprehensive approach to providing stability and security in Iraq," Cordesman wrote in the analysis, entitled "Looking beyond A Surge: The Tests a New U.S. Strategy in Iraq Must Meet," which was released Thursday.

"The problem is not total U.S. force levels or the security of Baghdad. It is the ability to reverse the current drift toward a major civil war and separation of the country by finding a new approach to U.S. intervention in Iraq," Cordesman wrote.

But first U.S. leaders must face the fact that their armed forces in Iraq are "now fighting a new kind of war," he wrote. "The 'threat' from the insurgency and militias is only part of the problem. Iraq's central government is weak and divided and the nation is steadily dividing into sectarian and ethnically controlled areas."

"This division affects (Iraq's) cities, as well as areas in its provinces, and most of the major ministries in its government," Cordesman continued. "It often is reshaping neighborhoods, village, and towns, or rural and tribal areas in ways that are so complex that they are difficult or impossible to map."

The new fragmented Iraq and the dominant role of the militias in it are "creating growing problems in many Iraqi military units, regardless of their warfighting capability," Cordesman wrote. "It is a major problem in the Iraqi national and regular police, the facilities protection services, and virtually every element of civil government and the courts.

"... Any change in U.S. strategy must recognize the reality of Iraqi sovereignty and the major divisions and weaknesses in the Iraqi central government," Cordesman wrote. "It must deal with the acute and growing divisions in the Shiite coalition, separate Kurdish goals and objectives, and the fact that Sunni participation in the government is divided, has different objectives, and limited real-world legitimacy in representing Sunni in most of Iraq."

In defiance of the Conventional Wisdom and "spin" still propagated by the White House, the U.S. Department of Defense, and an army of media commentators, Cordesman wrote frankly that any new U.S. strategy in order to be effective "must address the fact that Iraqi forces are not yet ready to 'hold' -- even in Baghdad and 'safe' Shiite and Kurdish areas -- and the Iraqi government lacks the effectiveness and unity to provide services and 'build.'"

The United States "must look beyond the number killed and the number of measurable violent incidents, and consider a different kind of civil struggle that is increasingly dividing up Iraq," Cordesman wrote. "The situation has evolved to the point where the most serious threat to stability now seems to be a form of 'soft' ethnic cleansing that relies on pressure, threats, blackmail, and kidnappings as much as actual killings."

Readers of these columns will recall that since the beginning of April, we have used the phrases "Belfast Rules" and "Beirut Rues" to describe the strategic-political reality of what has been happening on the ground in Iraq. The new democratic government political system set up amid so much fanfare and with such apparently impressive -- and ponderous -- electoral and political processes a year ago has failed to gain effective control of security and basic services in much of Iraq. Effective control of them has devolved down to the grassroots, local militias, and insurgency groups, both Sunni and Shiite, as Cordesman details in his report.

Therefore no "surge" of 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. combat troops into Iraq, or even sending three or four times that number, is likely to change the situation on the ground there unless some radically different and more original and realistic political strategy is crafted to accompany it. There is no sign, however, of this happening in the corridors of the National Security Council or the Department of Defense. Cordesman's courageous frank talk and clear warnings therefore look likely to go unheeded.

Source: United Press International

Related Links
Iraq: The first techonology war of the 21st century

McCain Reaffirms Support For US Troop Surge In Iraq
Washington (AFP) Jan 04, 2007
US Senator John McCain on Thursday reaffirmed his support for the deployment of thousands of additional US troops in Iraq, a proposal expected to figure in President George W. Bush's upcoming reassessment of US strategy there. "When I raise my hand and vote to send young men and women, American men and women into harm's way and fight a war, I am committing to accomplishing the mission," McCain, an early frontrunner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, told MSNBC.







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