Guerrillas Near Tikrit Set Off Roadside

*Guerrillas near Tikrit set off a roadside bomb that wounded four US soldiers in a passing convoy. Later they fired mortar rounds at US positions in Tikrit, but the US military responded forcefully and chased them off. For now. Meanwhile, the US military revealed that a shoulder-held ground to air missile was fired at a plane at Baghdad Airport on Saturday, and that six such attempts to shoot down a plane there had been made this summer! The Saturday attempt resulted in no casualties (-al-Zaman/CNN). Although the road into Baghdad from Jordan is crawling with thieves and lots of people have been robbed on it, it sounds to me preferable to trying to land at the airport right about now.

*Of course, I am delighted that Colin Powell has finally been authorized to engage in serious negotiations with UN Security Council members about a new resolution that might allow the internationalization of the military coalition in Iraq. The UNSC seems to be asking for the ability to train Iraqi police and is pressing the Interim Governing Council to set a date for democratic elections. While it is true that internationalizing will not solve all the problems, it will help at the margins by giving the enterprise much more political legitimacy. Virtually no one outside the US and the UK thinks that the US has any legitimate business in Iraq, and all the Arab League and most global South countries have told the US they would not cooperate without a UN resolution. Right now, the US is on its last legs in Iraq. If things go on deteriorating at this rate until March, when the bulk of US forces will rotate out with no obvious replacements, the situation could become dire.

*A wonderful piece of local journalism about the US military reservists that has many national and international implications has been written by Bill Burke for the Virginian- Pilot. The details about how 50,000 of the 180,000 or so reservists are small businessmen, about how many employers do not make up the difference between military pay and the reservists’ regular salaries, the stories about home mortgages forfeited and childrens’ college funds depleted, are touching and horrifying. See:


*Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, 52, brother of slain leader Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, has been selected to head the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (-al-Zaman). Abdul Aziz was born in Najaf in 1950. In his youth he was active in the al-Da`wa Party. He followed his brother into exile in Tehran (his brother went in 1980) as a result of Baathist persecution. He became deputy head of SCIRI, and headed its paramilitary Badr Corps, which has now been reactivated in Najaf and elsewhere. Unlike his brother, Abdul Aziz is not an Object of Emulation or a widely popular writer on religious law who is followed by large numbers of laypersons. Given his demand on Monday that the US withdraw immediately from Iraq, it remains to be seen whether he will continue as a member of the US-appointed Interim Governing Council. His brother Baqir had argued that only by cooperating with the US could Shiites remain in the political game and avoid having their rights denied them as happened all through the 20th century.

*The ex-Muslim Brotherhood Islamist thinker Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whose legal rulings or fatwas on the World Wide Web are enormously popular, said yesterday in Cairo that the American-appointed Interim Governing Council in Iraq is totally without legitimacy or validity. At a news conference in Cairo, it was also revealed that jurisprudents at al-Azhar Seminary, the most prestigious in the Sunni Muslim world, have been under enormous pressure from Egypt’s secret police to calling for non-cooperation with the IGC and to rescind earlier fatwas to that effect. The US can pressure Hosni Mubarak’s regime to twist people’s arms, but the fact is that public opinion in the Arab world and probably in Iraq simply does not recognize the American-appointed IGC as legitimate. Only when there is an elected Iraqi government will there be hope for a change of opinion. (Al-Zaman).

*My posting on the internationalization of the Coalition forces in Iraq:

Many thanks to . . . for perceptive questions about the possible internationalization of the military forces in Iraq. I entirely agree with him that it is hardly a panacea.

For the US to suddenly withdraw from Iraq (unlikely in any case) would probably Lebanonize the country, and it seems to me it would also be a dereliction of duty. The US invaded and it disbanded the Iraqi army, so now it has the responsibility to try to put things back together again.

When I said that the US can’t go it alone, I meant that literally. It does not have the needed men and resources. The current US troop strength of 139,000 or so in Iraq is a temporary arrangement. The numbers are bucked up by reservists, and by the decision to keep the troops there for a fully year rather than the more normal 6-month rotation. For reservists in particular, a year abroad is an extreme privation; some of them have small businesses to run, after all, or are foregoing normal salaries for military pay. Many are losing their homes or using up savings. When the year ends in March, they will go home, and there are not a lot of replacements for them; there are certainly not 140,000 men under arms who can be moved into Iraq fresh in March, if present troop strength levels in other key regions are to be maintained. Creating two new US divisions for Iraq would take 5 years and cost $30 billion, so expanding the US military is no solution in the short term.

There are probably not enough coalition troops to provide order in Iraq, a country of 25 million. The US National Security Council estimated last spring that, based on our experience in the Balkans, some 500,000 peace enforcers would be needed for post-war Iraq. There are about 160,000 presently.

If the US can get a division each (15,000 – 20,000 men) from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Turkey, it could at least replace many of the reservists it will lose in March. I do not know whether the US has enough carrots to offer them to pull this off, but it is trying.

The real hope is that Iraqi military and civil police forces can be trained and put in place. But it is estimated that it will take two years to train 18,000 new policemen. How long it will take to stand up a new Iraqi army I do not know, but it won’t happen tomorrow.

All this is without reference to the $4 bn. a month it costs the US to keep the troops in Iraq, and without reference to the $30 bn. a year it costs to run the Iraqi government, or the $60 – $100 bn. in reconstruction costs the country is facing. Because of sabotage of oil pipelines, Iraq is pumping less than a million barrels a day, so the United States is going to have to pick up a lot of the tab. But Bush has, by deep tax cuts on the wealthy, put the country $450 bn. in debt this year not counting Iraq, and it is unclear where all this extra money is going to come from.

The US has no choice but to internationalize the Iraq endeavor, either militarily or financially. Whether internationalization will succeed better than unilateralism or be better for Iraqis has yet to be seen. But I don’t see what other option Bush has.

In support of Dr. . . ‘s cautions: The Bulgarians who took over Karbala last week have received rocket propelled grenade fire four times. And this is in the supposedly “calm” south! So internationalization will not in and of itself result in less resistance to foreign presence or more security.

The upshot is that the US needs the rest of the world now in Iraq because the US is a lot weaker, economically and militarily, than Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Wolfowitz thought it was, and because the Sunni Arab Iraqi resistance is a great deal stronger than they had imagined; and because the latter can effectively turn off the oil spigots and starve the American administration of Iraq of money. I do not know if the Sunni Arab resistance can be defeated or coopted in the medium term. I do know that the US cannot accomplish that goal unilaterally.

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