*Guerrillas in Iraq killed one 1st Armored Division soldier and wounded two others with an improvised explosive in Baghdad just before midnight Wednesday. In Afghanistan, Taliban forces killed a US Special Operations officer in Orgun in Paktia province.
*CENTCOM commander Gen. John Abizaid, a straight shooter, is admitting that 140,000 US troops may be in Iraq indefinitely, according to Peter Spiegel of the Financial Times. The US does expect foreign troops (but who?) and local Iraqi forces (good luck) to take over Iraqi domestic security chores. But Abizaid says that US troops may then be ‘redeployed for a “more aggressive posture on external duties”, such as securing borders.’ He added, “It depends on the security situation. It doesn’t necessarily mean that additional foreign troops would cause a corresponding drawdown of American forces.” I don’t like the sound of that one bit. The US cannot afford to maintain 140,000 troops (many of them reserves) in Iraq for the long haul. And, what borders need to be policed? Kuwait, Jordan,Saudia and Turkey are all US allies. The Iranian border is all that is left. And if the plan is to have US troops go mano a mano with the Revolutionary Guards along the Iraq-Iran border, that is a recipe for disaster. Abizaid’s views here contradict what we have been told by his bosses, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Sec. of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Of course, Dr. Wolfowitz was maintaining not so long ago that after the war we could quickly draw down to about a division in Iraq (about 20,000 troops). In actual fact, the US National Security Council estimated last winter that 500,000 US troops would be required to restore security to a postwar Iraq. Of course, no such number will be sent; but then we may not get good security any time soon, either. See
Abizaid is also saying that terrorism is now replacing hit and run attacks as the most pressing security threat in Iraq, fingering Ansar al-Islam. I have to say I am a little suspicious of this rhetoric. The hit and run attacks have killed more than 60 US soldiers and wounded over 1200 since May 1, whereas the two major terrorist attacks targeted the Jordanian Embassy and the UN HQ. And, for all we know, the UN bombing was carried out by the same sort of people who do the hit and runs when they have access to fewer bombs. Bringing up terrorism seems to me a way to get the US public behind the Iraq endeavor again, since it evokes the threat of more September 11 style attacks. All this is ironic, since the US was not in danger from Iraq to begin with.
*Former chief UN weapons inspector Richard Butler is raising the question of why the US is not sharing what Tariq Aziz and others have told them about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. (All the speculation that Chemical Ali, just apprehended, will finally spill the beans is silly; Tariq Aziz knows as much or more than he does). Butler said, “”What arrangement has been made with Tariq Aziz? He knew everything. Certainly [former presidential scientific adviser] Amir [Hamudi Hasan] al-Saadi did. Why aren’t they putting us out of our misery by telling us the truth of these matters? Have they already told the United States but the United States for some reaon isn’t telling … others. I’m making no accusation, I’m puzzled.” Uh, Mr. Butler, the answer seems pretty obvious. Scott Ritter was right, and the Iraqis destroyed all or almost all of their WMD stockpiles and mothballed all or almost all of their programs. There have been numerous statements to the press by high Iraqi officials to this effect. If it weren’t true, the US would have gleefully demonstrated the contrary. The US silence is the sheepish toe-swinging of a little boy caught in a tale tale that produced major carnage.
*Japan’s plan to send Self-Defense Forces to Iraq to help with humanitarian aid is now being rethought, in the aftermath of the bombing of the UN HQ in Baghdad. My reading is that PM Junichiro Koizumi is a closet chauvinist, and that sending the SDF to Iraq was intended by him to be a first step toward the rehabilitation of the Japanese army. But, obviously, if the SDF forces are sent to Iraq and get blown up, the whole thing would backfire badly with the Japanese public, which still has a strong pacifist streak. There has been an uproar about sending the SDF abroad already, anyway. Koizumi has stirred controversy by insisting on visiting a Shinto shrine where many Japanese officers are buried, some of whom are considered major war criminals by the Chinese and the Koreans. For all the more militant sectors of the capitalist world (and Koizumi is the least of them), the Iraq war was seen as a cure for the Vietnam Syndrome and a way to rehabilitate ‘small wars’ for the purpose of regime change and expansion of business opportunities. It will be ironic if it just produces a new version of the Vietnam Syndrome, the Iraq Syndrome. The global Right has never understood or accepted the rise of nationalism and the end of the colonial era, which is why they misjudged Iraq so badly.
*For rivalries inside the Shiite Sadr movement, see Nir Rosen’s excellent piece in the Asia Times:
*My Daily Star Op-ed for Aug. 21, 2003:
Expand the UN role in Iraq
The bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad Tuesday signaled a new and dangerous phase in the struggle between the United States and Iraqi guerrillas. By targeting the UN, the radicals were attempting to push out of the country the most popular foreign political institution, and to deprive the US administration in Baghdad of a key source of legitimacy.
The perpetrators may have thought of themselves as Iraqi nationalists, or they may have been Sunni radicals affiliated to Al-Qaeda. Each group would have its own grievances against the United Nations. Remnants of the Arab nationalist Baath Party may remember with bitterness the UN economic sanctions on Iraq and the weapons inspections that they considered so humiliating.
The Sunni radicals are the other suspects. Truck bombings against diplomatic offices such as embassies have been the stock in trade of Al-Qaeda, which has also frequently used suicide bombers, unlike the secular Baath Party. Al-Qaeda has a longstanding grudge against the UN, and members have plotted the destruction of UN headquarters in New York. Osama bin Laden has denounced Muslims who cooperated with the world body.
The guerrillas have added to their repertoire, branching out from small attacks on US military personnel with rocket-propelled grenades. Over the weekend, saboteurs blew up the oil pipeline to Turkey near Kirkuk, in two separate places. It may take weeks to repair. Each day the conduit is out of commission costs the Anglo-American civil administration in Iraq $7 million. Without income from such petroleum exports, the US will find it even more difficult to provide key services and to train a new Iraqi military.
Rebuilding Iraq depends crucially on the help of the United Nations and its member states, and of nongovernmental organizations such as charities. Reconstruction will cost $7 billion this year, and petroleum exports are unlikely to cover more than half that sum. The overall cost of rebuilding Iraq may be $100 billion or more, and just maintaining the US military in Iraq costs $48 billion a year. At a time when the Bush administration’s deep tax cuts have pushed the budget deficit to $450 billion a year, the US simply cannot afford to undertake reconstruction on its own.
Yet the bombing may help further isolate the US in Iraq. Civilian aid organizations may be unwilling to risk running offices if they fear their workers will become soft targets for terrorists. Many have already found it difficult to operate in Iraq because of a continuing crime wave that includes car thefts, robberies and burglaries. There is no danger of the UN pulling out altogether, but many of its efforts will be less successful if conducted from behind heavy barricades something the organization has avoided. Indeed, it was notable that while the Shiite religious leader Ayatollah Ali Sistani has refused to meet with Paul Bremer or other US officials, he did consult with the late head of the UN mission, Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Also, member states such as India, France and Egypt have refused to send troops to Iraq, in part out of fear that guerrillas would target them. The task of the US to acquire more military allies has just become much harder.
There is no doubt that the various guerrillas fighting the US administration in Iraq are, at the very least, succeeding in creating the impression that the Americans are not in control. The situation on the ground is not quite as bad as the guerrillas would like to make it seem. Still, the conflict has moved to a public relations phase in Iraq, the US and in the wider world. The guerrillas are winning the public relations war, and it is fairly easy for them to do so. All they have to do is commit symbolic acts that humiliate the US administration in their country.
The bombing of UN headquarters may reveal that the guerrillas fear most of all the moral authority and legitimacy of the international body. Without this, the US and Britain look suspiciously like neoimperialists to angry young Iraqis, whom the radicals hope to enlist in their fight. Ironically, the wisest American response may be to involve the UN much more extensively in Iraqi security and reconstruction.
It is increasingly clear that the Americans cannot rebuild Iraq by themselves and need the world community to help. Such a change in course would be the best way to honor the sacrifice made by de Mello and his colleagues Tuesday.