Us Is Bogged Down In Low Intensity

*The US is bogged down in a low-intensity guerrilla war in Iraq, with daily attacks that for the most part go unmentioned in the Western press, including grenade, mortar and rocket propelled grenade assaults on Anglo-American military and on Iraqi police personnel and facilities. So reports Richard Sale, the intrepid terrorism correspondent of UPI. He says that US proconsul in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer III, began asking for more troops 10 days ago, and that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reviewed the request. It seems unlikely to be granted. The US military is already stretched thin in Iraq, and the army doesn’t have much more to give. Reservists are being kept out there, away from their jobs, already.

Sales writes, A former very senior CIA official commented: “There is a deep foreboding spreading across (Washington) about Iraq. Bremer can’t win without another 100,000 troops, and he isn’t going to get them. U.S. troops on the ground are almost used up, and literally tens of thousands of active duty and reservists are blocked from leaving the Army. We’ve got trouble, and we’re in Vietnam-era denial.” But there is agreement on one matter. Several administration officials and serving U.S. intelligence agents said they believe the United States is now involved in a guerilla war in Iraq, also despite the Defense Department’s denials. “It’s what I would call a long-term, low-intensity conflict,” an administration source said, adding: “There is a high degree of concern at the White House.”

The problem is acute. The US does not have the troops on the ground to provide security, even to key facilities such as electrical plants. One of Sales’s interviewees thought Bremer needs another 100,000 troops to get the job done. (I am suspicious of such assertions; it may just be that the job is too big to get done at this scale at all). Bush and Rummy are afraid to admit that they are now bogged down in a guerrilla war, castigating their foes as “terrorists” and “Baath remnants.” But there is evidence, Sale says, in radio intercepts of coordination among groups, and all the groups are not Baathists. The guys who blew themselves up in the al-Hasan Mosque in Falluja during a bomb making class are more likely to be Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood than Baath.

The basic problem for the real terrorists, i.e., al-Qaeda and its sub-contractors, was that the US was an awfully difficult target. It has limited exposure. The few loopholes that existed in its security, as with the unforeseen tactic of hijacking a plane and using it for suicide bombings, have largely been closed since September 11. But the Iraq War was a godsend to Sunni radicals, since it placed 160,000 American troops right in the middle of the Arab world, where they could be gotten at easily. Al-Qaeda likes symbolic targets, and now it has thousands of them. Although foreign al-Qaeda fighters may represent a small number of the insurgents striking at US troops now, the danger is that as the occupation drags on, there will be more of them, and more of the Sunni Arab Iraqis will give them cover. The Bushies have Bin Laden exactly where he wants them.

*Bremer brushed off Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s demand for an elected constitutional convention, according to the Financial Times: ‘Mr Bremer brushed off a religious edict issued on Monday by Ayatollah Ali Sistani, a leading Shia Muslim jurist. He said his call for an elected convention to draw up a constitution was impractical. “There is no way to conduct national elections,” said Mr Bremer. “There is no census. There is no voting register. There are no constituency boundaries. There is no electoral law, and there is no law governing political parties.” Mr Bremer reaffirmed that the administration would by mid-July announce a political council of 25-30 people “representative of the broad strata of Iraqi society”, which would exercise “political responsibility . . . [including] responsibility for appointing ministers and making recommendations on how they spend money”.’

All this talk about the lack of electoral rolls and so forth is not completely irrelevant, since one wants elections to be fair. But the US held a Loya Jirga in Afghanistan to elect Karzai, and it could hold some sort of consultative elections if it wanted to in Iraq. My guess is that the US civil administration isn’t confident that they could orchestrate elections in Iraq the way they did in Afghanistan, and they don’t want Shiite firebrand Muqtada al-Sadr elected head write of the Iraqi constitution. This is a case where I am a typical intellectual and can see both sides of the issue. Bremer is doing what he thinks is for the best in the long run. Sistani is insisting on the preservation of Iraqi national sovereignty, which is also a legitimate concern. I guess I think the Washington crowd has become awfully arrogant, talking about imposing their will on Iraq, and about “writing their constitution for them the way we did with Japan and Germany.” I wonder if some sort of political solution could not be had that would satisfy both Bremer’s concerns and those of Sistani, if that Washington arrogance were not getting in the way.

Asharq al-Awsat ran an unsourced item today claiming that the US civil administration intends to give pride of place to the Shiite community because they are the majority and have suffered more than anyone else, and will in fact acquiesce in Sistani’s demand that the delegates to any constitutional convention be elected. This looks to me like planted disinformation for the Arabic reading public. I’d say it is unwise to raise unrealistic expectations in people in a short term attempt to mollify them.

*In fact, Hamid Bayati of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq is already complaining that his organization was misled by the US into thinking it would hand off power to the Iraqis soon after Saddam was overthrown. The AP article notes, ‘During war preparations, the U.S. special envoy to the Iraqi opposition, Zalmay Khalilzad, promised the government would be handed over to Iraqi representatives once the war ended, al-Bayati said. “They have swallowed all their promises, and from now on we should ask them for written statements of pledges because they always back down,” he said. I think the Iraqi expatriates were led on by the US. On the other hand, the expatriate politicians were the ones who blew smoke up our asses about all those Iraqi nuclear programs and weapons of mass destruction and Saddam-al-Qaeda links, and who promised clueless Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz that Iraqis were nice secular people who would be friendly to US soldiers. SCIRI was using Rumsfeld to install a Khomeini-style government in Iraq, which they knew the US did not want, just as the US was using SCIRI and others to gain legitimacy for the invasion. It is not as if there was good faith on all sides here.