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Facing Realities In Iraq Part 3

There are indeed positive lessons to learn from the recent U.S. military successes in Anbar. But the first and most important is that U.S. grand strategy for all of Iraq has indeed collapsed, and that therefore strategy for dealing with different parts of the country, and with different militia groups within, cannot follow some grand plan but needs to respond to the very different local conditions in different regions.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Jul 18, 2007
In the first two parts of this series we have noted the remarkably improved security situation in Anbar province thanks to the new policy of working much closely with and enlisting the cooperation of local tribes and already existing security forces there. Major caveats must be added, as respected U.S. security analysts have warned, about how much can be expected from this policy.

What works in Anbar with a Sunni Muslim majority area may not work remotely as well, if at all, in the very different religious, cultural, political and social conditions of much of the rest of Iraq. Sunnis in total after all comprise only 20 percent of Iraq's 28 million people.

Most of all, conditions are very different in giant Baghdad, the Iraqi capital with a population of up to 7 million. And as the Washington Post reported Monday, U.S. military commanders in Baghdad are increasingly concerned not so much about Sunni paramilitary militia groups, or even Sunni insurgent forces including al-Qaida, but the far more numerous and formidable Mahdi Army, led by a pro-Iranian and fiercely anti-American young cleric, Moqtada Sadr.

Indeed, the more the U.S. strategy of cooperation with Sunni groups in Anbar succeeds, the more it may undermine the much more crucial remaining goodwill and cooperation that the U.S. forces in Iraq need from the Shiite 60 percent majority and from the Shiite-controlled national government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Finally, it must be stressed that the success of the U.S. policy in Anbar comes from the pragmatic recognition by U.S. field commanders there, and by their military chiefs in Baghdad, that the Bush administration's political grand strategy in Iraq -- the creation of a stable, credible, democratically elected national government responsible to the Iraqi Parliament -- has totally failed.

In the year and a half since Iraq's much-touted democratic national elections produced the new Parliament, the nation has splintered between warring Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish enclaves and groups controlled by a bewildering mosaic of competing militias. As we have so often emphasized in these columns, Belfast and Beirut rules now operate throughout Iraq. The national Iraqi security forces remain ineffectual at best and heavily infiltrated by the militias, especially the major Shiite ones, at worst.

The recent U.S. successes in Anbar province therefore cannot be magnified or lifted out of context to argue that they provide a blueprint for boosting security and defeating the Sunni insurgents throughout the country.

There are indeed positive lessons to learn from the recent U.S. military successes in Anbar. But the first and most important is that U.S. grand strategy for all of Iraq has indeed collapsed, and that therefore strategy for dealing with different parts of the country, and with different militia groups within, cannot follow some grand plan but needs to respond to the very different local conditions in different regions.

The Anbar success therefore does not contain the recipe for some new political grand strategy to replace the failed old one. The best that can be said for it is that it is a holding action that increases U.S. leverage with the militia groups and that it therefore offers some hope of using existing U.S. military forces in Iraq to influence the emergence of a more stable short-term equilibrium or military-political stability between the many different warring groups in the country.

Finally, as we have noted before, the success of the new strategy, even to a limited degree within only one of Iraq's 18 different provinces, is attributable to the open-mindedness and flexibility of Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. and Coalition forces commander in Iraq, and of Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Washington.

That is especially the case in contrast to Gates' predecessor, long-serving Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who, with his top lieutenants, brooked no independent initiative or changing of their strategic directives for Iraq either by senior U.S. generals or local commanders there. They therefore cut themselves off from the possibility of permitting a rapid response to, and taking advantage of, changes in local conditions such as those that drove the more successful recent policy in Anbar.

The Anbar successes probably come too little and too late to reclaim the catastrophic failures of the first two and half years of the U.S. presence in Iraq. But they contain positive and sobering lessons for later stages of this conflict and for the management of U.S. involvement in future ones.

Source: United Press International

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US Troops Find Iranian Rockets Aimed At Iraq Base
Baghdad (AFP) Jul 14, 2007
The US military on Saturday said its soldiers found rocket launchers armed with dozens of Iranian-made missiles aimed at one of its bases south of Baghdad. "After several rockets hit FOB (Forward Operating Base) Hammer on July 11, the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team manoeuvred to find the source of the attack," a military statement said.







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