Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Exacting Analysis of Iraq's Insurgency - A MUST READ

The following article appeared in the New York Sun, which, unlike most American newspapers, has been publishing balanced, cogent analyses of the Iraq War and all its various issues since the beginning.

This article describes EXACTLY what the insurgency in Iraq is all about and as such serves to reveal why the anti-U.S. American Left has been so actively opposing our presence there: they are defending their fellow Leftists--the Ba'athists! Whatever his other alleged flaws may have been, former Coalition Provisional Authority leader Paul Bremer had it right on one issue: the Ba'aths HAVE to go. They are the source of all the problems, and no compromises with them will ever bring anything positive to Iraq. Allowing them to re-enter Iraqi politics will guarantee a resurgent Ba'athist state in time. People who use mass murder to conduct domestic policy are not the kind who willingly share power.

Basic Misconceptions
The New York Sun
July 7, 2006
by Laurie Mylroie

The new Iraqi government has just released a list of the top 41 individuals involved in the insurgency there. The national security adviser, Mowafaq al-Rubaie, explained, "We're releasing this list, so that our people can know their enemies."

Americans should take note, because they are America's enemies too, and the list is at such odds with our conception of that enemy that it suggests something is seriously amiss.

Americans generally see the enemy in religious terms, dominated by Islamic militants, such as the Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who led al Qaeda in Iraq until his death last month in an American bombing raid.

For Iraqis, however, the principal enemy is the former regime, and the central issue is not so much religion, but power and authority.

Iraq's most-wanted list is dominated by Baathists, starting with Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, Saddam's former deputy, for whom a $10 million reward is offered. Al-Duri is a leader of the insurgency and heads a reconstituted Baath party. Number two is Mohammed Yunis Ahmed al-Moali, a senior Iraqi Baathist, who now lives in Syria, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. Al-Moali is al-Duri's deputy in the new Baath party. There is a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture, as there is for the next two men on the list: the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, Tahir Jalil Habboush al-Takriti, a member of the party's new Regional Command; and Sayf Al-Din Fulayyih Hasan Taha al-Rawi, former Republican Guard chief of staff.

By contrast, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, nom de guerre of al-Zarqawi's shadowy successor, is way down the list at number 30 and worth only a $50,000 reward.

Senior Iraqi figures have long maintained that the insurgency is essentially Baathist. Last fall, one Iraqi official described the insurgency to a small group of Americans in Washington. Zarqawi was "nothing," he said. Jihadis were recruited through the mosques to Syria — which is ruled by the Baath party, as was Iraq.

The jihadis were then trained by individuals from Afghanistan under the auspices of Syrian intelligence, after which they crossed into Iraq. Although they were involved in a major Syrian intelligence operation, the jihadis did not understand that. A senior official in Iraq's Defense Ministry gave a similar account of the insurgency following a November 22, 2005, mortar attack targeting General George Casey and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

That official instructed the embassy in Washington to tell the Americans that the Baathists were the enemy. The situation was just too dangerous not to recognize that. He also relayed the threat that had been made to him by a senior Syrian official, "We can get you, even in the Green Zone." Just a few weeks ago, an Iraqi friend in Baghdad related to this author a discussion he had had with an Iraqi intelligence official, who affirmed that the Baathists were responsible for the violence,whether directly or indirectly, through their penetration of al Qaeda. He was adamant on that point.

Indeed, until early 2005, U.S. officials held the same view.National Security Council Adviser Condoleezza Rice stated in January 2005, "as we swept through [Iraq] really rather rapidly, the core of this insurgency, that is the Baathists and many of Saddam's loyal forces,melted into the population.They didn't stand and fight.When they reemerged, they reemerged as an insurgency."

In October 2004, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told the Atlantic Monthly, "Almost no one says the real problem is that Saddam never surrendered. And even though he was captured, his people never surrendered. His organization is still operating as though they have a chance to win and they're allied with people who want to help them win, by which I mean the jihadis on the one side and the Syrian Baathists on the other—even though the minute they triumphed they would start fighting over the spoils. I think we're even seeing signs that the Syrian Baathists and the Iraqi Baathists are getting back together temporarily. They all want us to lose and that's more important to them than who comes out on top. But if you don't see who the enemy is and why they're fighting, you can't win."

In the spring of 2005, however, U.S. commanders in Iraq began to focus on al-Zarqawi's organization, because, as they reasoned, al Qaeda was responsible for the more spectacular attacks.There was, however, a fatal flaw in this approach: they did not understand that al-Zarqawi could not operate without the Baathists,who provided critical logistical support for his assaults.

The more that U.S. intelligence focused on al-Zarqawi, the more the jihadis were all it saw — "like a moth drawn to the flame," as one U.S. military officer put it.Iraqi officials — who know their own society far better than Americans — maintain that if they can defeat the Baathists, the jihadis will be relatively easy to deal with. Their numbers are limited, and they are not very sophisticated.

With a new, sovereign Iraqi government in place, counter-insurgency efforts will presumably take this direction and focus on the Baathists.Americans need to pay attention to what Iraqi officials say and do, not only for the consequences inside Iraq, but also for the implications for the broader war on terrorism.

The Iraqi view harkens back to the understanding Americans had of terrorism before Bill Clinton became president, when major attacks were presumed to be statesponsored, because the resources and expertise of a state were generally far greater than that of a group. The notion that Islamic militants operate on their own, without support from terrorist states, and pose a much greater threat than those states is a Clinton-era concept.

President Bush implicitly corrected this fundamental mistake when he decided to oust Saddam. He did not, however, correct the basic misconceptions about terrorism that Mr. Clinton introduced, and they continue to undermine the effective implementation of his decisions, including the war in Iraq.

Just possibly, the new government in Baghdad will clarify what Americans now have such difficulty understanding.

Ms. Mylroie is an adjunct fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of "Study of Revenge: The First World Trade Center Attack and Saddam Hussein's War Against America" (American Enterprise Institute Press).