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What Will Define Victory In Iraq


Washington (UPI) Dec 05, 2005
President's Bush's newly minted "Strategy for Victory" in Iraq lists the criteria for snatching success from the jaws of failure. It could work provided Congress and the American people understand the strategy's hidden persuaders.

U.S. field commanders estimate the number of insurgents - Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says terrorists should not be elevated to the lofty status of "insurgents" - at about 20,000 with a supporting cast of about 200,000 (Saddam Hussein loyalists, including former members of elite units of the Republican Guard, secret intelligence and security service veterans and senior Baath party operatives).

The insurgency could easily last another five to 10 years. But it will be the Iraqi army's job to cope with as many as 100 different and semi-autonomous insurgency groups as the United States gradually draws down to about 100,000 troops by the end of 2006.

In the western province that adjoins the Syrian border, insurgents are regrouping in guerrilla units in small communities along the Euphrates River. By day, the villages project a peaceful image with peasants going about their chores. By night, each village has a small guerrilla unit ready to attack Iraqi security forces should they approach after dark.

The scene is reminiscent of Vietnamese towns and villages in the days of French colonialism. They were French by day, Vietminh by night. The same scenario emerged during the decade-long U.S. involvement (through March 1973 when the last U.S. soldier left the country); U.S. by day, Vietcong by night.

Many pundits and foreign correspondents fell for Hanoi's strategic deception and became convinced the Vietcong were spontaneous insurgents rebelling against the "tyranny" of the U.S.-supported Ngo Dinh Diem regime, and that Saigon should be negotiating with them.

Ignored later was captured evidence that the order to organize the Vietcong in the south came from Hanoi in 1959, following a Politburo decision of the North Vietnamese Communist Party. The memoirs of Communist generals after the war confirmed the Communist cadres for the VC had indeed come from the north to organize the south against the U.S. presence that gradually replaced the departed French.

The peace negotiations that took place in Paris between Washington and Hanoi dragged on in the early 1970s in a perpetual cycle of talk-fight-talk-fight-talk. We should draw on this past experience to guide us through the thorny thicket of secret negotiations with Iraq's homegrown insurgency.

Bush separated the insurgency into three broad categories - rejectionists, Saddamites and al-Qaida's foreign jihadis. He clearly favors the sub-rosa talks already taking place between some members of the provisional Iraqi government and the rejectionists (believed to be mostly disillusioned Sunnis).

But Bush firmly rejects any notion of talking about a cease-fire with the Saddamites and/or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's foreign jihadis. Problem here is rejectionists and Saddamites are frequently indistinguishable.

If the object of the exercise is to split the foreign jihadis and the homegrown insurgents, then Saddamites better be brought into the negotiating track, along with the rejectionists. Failing that, the Saddamites will remain in a tactical alliance with foreign jihadis.

Bush says, "We will never accept anything less than complete victory" and that the lesson he wants the world to take from U.S. intervention in Iraq is, "advancing the cause of freedom and democracy in the Middle East begins with ensuring success of a free Iraq."

If a free Iraq means the freedom for the local Sopranos to rob the country blind, the criteria have been amply met. Even with frequent sabotage of the country's two principal pipelines, some 1.9 million barrels are pumped each day. Deducting 400,000 barrels for daily local consumption, that's $87 million a day in oil income. Or about $2.6 billion per month. Would you believe $31.3 billion a year? A staggering $62.6 billion for the past two years.

Where has it all gone? No one in the Iraqi government seems to know. Several members of Congress have asked the Pentagon and the State Department for an accounting and so far they have drawn a blank.

About $1 billion missing in arms procurement scandals is a new variation on the old Saddam and U.N. oil-for-food con. But it's just the tip of a gargantuan rip off in the billions. This time Iraqi arms procurers in the defense ministry agreed to pay intermediaries three times the going rate for commissions while lining their own pockets to buy old equipment from former Soviet satellite countries - weapons, ammo, vehicles, tanks and helicopters.

In one case under investigation, the defense authority paid $226 million for a consignment of old Russian helicopters from Poland. A Polish Iraqi employee at the ministry cobbled the deal. The investigating magistrate, Judge Hamza al-Radhi, who heads the Commission on Public Integrity, said, "Two helicopters were delivered but were useless" The contract was then canceled, but Iraq never got its money back.

There are also a number of cases of fraudulent links between Iraqi government employees and the insurgency. Some 450 cases are under investigation, including officers who sold ID badges to terrorists. U.S. military and diplomatic sources, who requested anonymity for obvious reasons, say the unofficial estimate is anywhere between $10 billion and $20 billion in unaccounted disbursements. An unknown amount came from U.S. taxpayers' pockets.

This is not the kind of freedom Bush had in mind to advance freedom in the broader Middle East. Iraq's Arab neighbors watch nervously as they open the political doors a crack - and see popular masses getting ready to break them down. The anti-U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, the Mideast's most popular political organization, is biding its time. The MB's battering ram is its campaign against corruption.

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Bush On Iraq Strategy
Dubai, UAE (UPI) Dec 05, 2005
Are we seeing a changing trend in the war in Iraq? Since the start of hostilities President Bush and his administration have referred to the insurgency as though it was a single, unified force fighting the U.S.-led coalition. In the past the president always spoke of the enemy, without getting too specific.







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