Sunday, May 15, 2005

Did the elections make things worse in Iraq?

From Informed Comment:

Hannah Allam of Knight Ridder raises the question of whether the January 30 elections made the situation in Iraq worse. Allam writes, "Two weeks of intense insurgent violence have made it crystal clear that Iraq's parliamentary elections, hailed in late January as a triumph for democracy, haven't helped to heal the country's deep divisions. They may have made them worse. The historic election sheared off a thin facade of wartime national unity and reinforced ethnic and sectarian tensions that have plagued Iraq for centuries. Iraqis immediately began playing the roles the election results delivered to them: victorious Shiite Muslim, assertive Kurd, disaffected Sunni Arab. Within those groups lies a mosaic of other splits, especially between secularists and Islamists vying for Iraq's soul."


The Washington Post finally took the plunge and did a story on the leaked British intelligence memo that shows that President Bush had decided to go to war in Iraq by summer of 2002, and that the "intelligence" would be "fixed" around the "policy." It is a mystery as to why, however, it has taken so long for the editors to break the story in the US. Knight Ridder did a report late last week, and the bloggers have blogged the hell out of it. My own post on the matter last week rose high on the index. Kudos to Walter Pincus for laying out the story in D.C.


The British officer corps is continuing in its efforts to convince the US military that its current rules of engagement are over-kill and result in the loss of many civlian lives (thus driving Iraqis to join or support the guerrillas). The British commanders feel that they learned lessons from Northern Ireland relevant to the US in Iraq. Sean Rayment quotes a British officer, ' "I explained that their tactics were alienating the civil population and could lengthen the insurgency by a decade. Unfortunately, when we ex-plained our rules of engagement which are based around the principle of minimum force, the US troops just laughed." ' The British are concerned that the US will eventually so alienate Iraqis as to endanger British troops, as well.


Iraq is emerging as a key transit point for the internatonal drug trade, especially that from Afghanistan. Some of the smuggling could be bankrolling the guerrillas.


The Washington Post argues that a disproportionate number of suicide bombings in Iraq is carried out by foreign jihadis, and that Saudis constitute 50 percent or more of the bombers. But if you look more closely, the article admits that there are only about 1,000 foreign jihadis fighting in Iraq. I'd figure the number of Iraqi guerrillas at 25,000 hardcore, and nearly twice that if we count weekend warriors, so this group is a relatively minor part of the whole.

What is the proof that they make up more of the suicide bombers? The names gleaned from radical Muslim fundamentalist websites, where "martyrdoms" are announced. Personally, I don't think you can trust those web sites. I think they are being manipulated by Iraqi Baath military intelligence, which benefits from being able to blame bombings of, e.g., Shiites on foreigners. The foreign jihadis in Iraq are not the major actors. The Baath and the remnants of the Iraq military are.

The attraction of the "foreigners thesis" for Washington is obvious. It allows the Bush administration to sidestep the implication that a substantial proportion of the Iraqi public violently rejects the US presence. And it implicitly ties Iraq to al-Qaeda, which accords with a long-term black psy-ops operation of the administration aimed at making a connection between Iraq and September 11 in the minds of Americans (actually, there is none).