22 Killed in Iraq Guerrilla Violence
US, UK, to Massively Draw Down Troops during Next Year
Reuters has picked up on a report that first appeared in The Guardian on July 6, that the British are planning to draw down from 8,000 to 9,000 troops in Iraq now to 2,000 to 3,000 by spring-summer of 2006. But it has gotten hold of a leaked memo from the British Ministry of Defense that reveals that the US plans to draw down its forces from 138,000 to 66,000 by July of 2006, as well. The Pentagon is expecting to be able to turn security duties in 14 of the 18 provinces over to the Iraqi government by then.
Presumably the British force would be centered at Basra and used sparingly in security emergencies in the Shiite south. They may be bolstered by some Australian troops, whose officers will actually take over the command of the Shiite south from a Coalition point of view.
The remaining 66,000 US troops would presumably be responsible for the most turbulent, largely Sunni Arab provinces, such as Baghdad, Anbar, and Salahuddin.
I remain unconvinced that the new Iraqi army will actually be able to take up the slack, even if the Australians help out.
What in the world, then is actually going on? In practice, I think the withdrawal plan implies a willingness to turn the five northern provinces over to the Kurdish Peshmerga paramilitary, and the 9 southern provinces over to a combination of Shiite militias and new Iraqi government security forces (Interior Ministry gendarmes and regular army). And, I think this obviously desperate plan really risks damaging the integrity of Iraq as a nation-state. But, it is unlikely that for the US to remain at its present force levels would help maintain that integrity, anyway.
Ironically, the peace groups who have been demanding a rapid US withdrawal have in recent months been closer to Pentagon thinking than they could have imagined.
Of course, it should be remembered that the Pentagon has wanted to draw down its troop numbers radically in the past. In April of 2003, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told Congress that the US would be down to about a division (20,000 troops) by October of 2003! Wanting to draw down and being able to are not the same thing.
Meanwhile, constitution-making in Iraq has bogged down. The Shiites and the Kurds might have been able to do a deal, but the addition of Sunni Arabs to the mix appears to have thrown the timetable off. The Sunni Arabs don’t like the first sentence of the draft, which proclaims Iraq a federal state. They want a centralized, France-style government, not federalism, and certainly not the loose Swiss-style federalism favored by the Kurds. Even the Shiites balk at some Kurdish demands, like the ability of the provinces to maintain their own standing armies! (Many Kurds also want to permanently exclude Federal troops from their territory).
Al-Sharq al-Awsat also says that the Kurds are rejecting any language in the constitution that recognizes Iraq as “part of the Arab nation.” I hear Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish president, on al-Jazeera a couple of days ago, making the argument that the Iraqi state is part of the Arab nation but that the Iraqi people are multicultural and not necessarily Arabs. These Kurds who are objecting appear to have a harder line on the issue than Talabani.
That a whole constitution can be written in a month (Aug. 15 was the deadline) seems highly unlikely, especially when there is no agreement on first principles. I’d say that most probably the government will have to take advantage of the clause in the interim constitution that allows a 6-month postponement in drafting the permanent constitution.
Guerrillas shot down 11 Iraqis in Mosul in separate incidents, including 2 soldiers and a police officer.
Guerrillas invaded a home in Baiji on Saturday and killed all 4 family members living there. The man of the house may have been employed by a foreign company.
An Iraqi civilian in Baquba was killed by a roadside bomb.
Guerrillas in the Shiite holy city of Karbala detonated a bomb, killing a police officer and his son and wounding 4 of their relatives.
In Baghdad, police stopped a car at a checkpoint, but the driver tried to get away. Police killed him and two passengers, then discovered that the car was packed with explosives.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat says that a high-ranking police officer, Saad Muslim Abdul-Amir, in was assassinated by guerrillas in West Baghdad.
BBC correspondent Jon Leyne talks about what an upside-down place American-occupied Iraq is, and how poor Bush adminsitration decision-making helped make it that way.