2005 January 28 Friday
Will Massive Arrests By Police State Stop Iraq Insurgency?

General George Casey, top commander in Iraq, says the Iraqis may never be able to defeat the insurgency on their own.

"Can I sit here and look you in the eye and say that the Iraqi security forces guaranteed 100 percent are going to be able to defeat this insurgency by themselves? Of course not," Casey said.

"From what I've seen in the seven months that I've been here, I believe that we can achieve capable Iraqi security forces over a period of time that can deal with the Iraqi insurgency that's here."

He's hedging but at the same time trying to sound optimistic.

General Casey also says that US forces definitely can't defeat the insurgency on their own either.

"We can't stay in front of this over the long haul and be successful," Gen. George Casey Jr., the top commander in Iraq, said this week.

"We're an outside force and we're viewed by the people ... as an occupation force," Casey added. "We've got to get the Iraqis in front to ultimately prevail here."

Think about that for a second. Effectively Casey is more optimistic about Iraqi government military forces prevailing than about US forces prevailing. But he has no other choice given the constraints he is under. There has to be a solution (so sayeth Dubya). US forces can't be scaled up high enough to be the solution and they are seen as outsiders and can't speak the local language well enough anyway. So Casey has to see Iraqi forces as the eventual solution. This has been the official Pentagon message ever since capturing Saddam and establishing a semi-sovereign appointed government did not help. Expect this solution to continue to be pushed when the elections aftermath produces little change in insurgency activity. What, democracy isn't the solution?

We are supposed to believe that the unenthusiastic locals and the resented outside forces together can march to victory. Well, maybe. But count me pessimistic. Still, I see one way the Iraqi government may yet prevail. Read on.

Anne Barnard of the Boston Globe has an excellent article about Iraqi security forces that are claimed to have over 120,000 on paper but which disintegrate very easily.

On election day, Osama's unit must back up newer, untested Iraqi forces, including a brand-new Public Order Battalion that had more than 200 men until half failed to show up after a recent home leave.

"They'll stand and fight -- as long as we're with them," Captain Adam Wojack, the US adviser to the 150-man commando team, said of Samarra's fledgling forces as he rested after the auto-shop mission at Patrol Base Razor, on the edge of this Sunni Muslim city 60 miles north of Baghdad. Extra cement barriers have ringed the US outpost since July 6, when a suicide car bomber, wearing an Iraqi police uniform, killed five US troops and three Iraqi National Guardsmen there, scaring all but 50 of the town's 500 guardsmen off the job.


The problems began, Schacht said, on April 11, when the 202d Battalion of the Iraqi National Guard, mainly from Samarra, disintegrated as uprisings broke out in Fallujah, Samarra, and other Sunni Muslim areas. The battalion had 750 soldiers, but under insurgent pressure, Schacht said, "in eight hours it went to 40."

A few batallions in Samarra brought in from other areas are holding together. But even though those batallions of course speak very fluent Arabic and supposedly belong to the same country (calling Iraq a country at this point is a bit of a stretch) they are not getting any help from the locals in identifying insurgents. Why? Barnard says that family ties trump other considerations. But of course. Among many Iraqis feelings of loyalty are felt much more strongly toward tribal networks anchored by consanguineous marriages than they are toward the new Iraqi government.

Numbers on the size of Iraqi security forces have to be taken with a very large grain of salt. (same article here)

Building a security force from scratch under current conditions is a mind-boggling venture. Before Petraeus arrived, the Pentagon claimed the Iraqi security force numbered 200,000, a bogus figure it has since dropped.

The bulk of the current 50,000 soldiers are poorly trained national guard battalions that have been subsumed into the army this month. Even regular army soldiers get only an eight-week course. Their fighting abilities are only beginning to be tested.

Also, note that police are often included in numbers for "Iraqi security forces". But police are not equipped to fight insurgencies and police have lots of normal policing work to do for which they are understaffed. So they shouldn't be counted in official totals of Iraqi forces available to fight against the insurgency.

That previous article starts out describing how fairly peaceful conditions were established in Mosul until a withdrawal of two thirds of the US forces there gave insurgents room to build up. Among the results was the collapse of the police force, assassinations of dozens of politicians, and an angry populace. Bush and the neocons have given the United States a bad case of imperial overreach.

So can the Iraqi government assert effective control of the country? I see one way it may be possible. A DOD video conference from Iraq of Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Barham Salih shows that massive arrests may be the preferred tactic of the Iraqi government.

Q Sir, Joe Tabet, from Al Hurra TV. My first question is, Iraq's military chief of staff, General Zebari, said that 2,000 insurgents had been detained in the past three weeks, including some from Syria. Are those detainees -- do you think they are working alone, acting alone, or linked to any network outside Iraq? And who do you think is still financing those people?

MIN. SALIH: The intelligence assessment and estimate that we have of the security environment in Iraq and based on many debriefings that we have reviewed points to the fact that we're talking about the former regime loyalists. Having reorganized certainly the former intelligence, special forces, Saddam loyalists have reorganized and are working hard to destabilize the security environment. And they have entered into a lethal alliance with the Zarqawi and al Qaeda affiliates that are operating in Iraq. We certainly know of the existence of many senior leaders from the former regime, beyond the borders of Iraq, financing terrorist operations inside Iraq and directing terrorist operations inside Iraq.

But as I said, the arrests that we have made, whether they are with the Zarqawi group or the former regime loyalists, have been significant, and we hope that we have been able to erode their capability to inflict damage upon the Iraqi people. We are talking to neighbors as well to restrict the movements of these former regime loyalists and to bring them to justice before long.

They may not all be insurgents. But if these people are even related to insurgents then massive numbers of arrests might be an effective tool in getting the insurgents to stop fighting. Picture how this is going to work: Either provide information and stop fighting or your cousin or uncle or mother is going to get tortured in jail. This sort of tactic worked for Saddam Hussein. Surely the Iraqi government in power now will not shrink from copying Saddam's techniques. Oh, I know what you are thinking: "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss". No, it is not going to be just a brutal police state. Iraq is going to get a democratically elected brutal police state. I predict we will end up spending about $600-700 billion and a few thousand Americans dead plus tens of thousands permanently mained to achieve this outcome.

Check out this interview between Tim Russert and US Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte. Iraq is going to be a corrupt democratically elected police state too.

MR. RUSSERT: The Iraqi national security adviser said, "corruption is worse now than under Saddam Hussein."

AMB. NEGROPONTE: Well, I just--I simply can't accept that or can't agree to that allegation. I would also point out that while he may still carry the official title of national security adviser, he is, in fact, a candidate for political office and not carrying out the national security adviser function at this time. But when you think of the corruption in the Saddam regime, the oil-for-food scandals, the billions of dollars that were smuggled out of the country, I think those levels of corruption simply pale in comparison to anything that might possibly have been happening in recent months.

With so much stuff getting wrecked and so much economic activity being disrupted (e.g. oil production still at less than half the pre-war production level) by the insurgency there is not as much to steal as there could be. If the insurgency is eventually put down then more wealth can be accumulated to steal and corruption will be able to be much greater.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 January 28 12:54 PM  Mideast Iraq

gcochran said at January 28, 2005 2:27 PM:

Your tax dollars at play.

Stephen said at January 28, 2005 7:05 PM:

Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Stephen said at January 28, 2005 11:53 PM:

Its probably too late (I suspect everything's too late now), but maybe the US could install a MacArthur-style absolute ruler? A 5-star general who would live there and run the country with the absolute power of a monarch. The tribes would owe him fealty. He would treat everyone equally - whether kurd, sunni or shi'a. During the 50+ years of monarch-like stability, the ruler would gradually introduce democratic institutions and other liberal institutions.

crush41 said at January 30, 2005 11:26 AM:

During the 50+ years of monarch-like stability, the ruler would gradually introduce democratic institutions and other liberal institutions.

That sounds like Saudi Arabia today.

I know Bush is a moron, democracy can never work anywhere in the ME, most Iraqis side with the insurgency, and so on. I got that. But the preliminary voter turnout shows a higher portion of Iraqis voting than we have people vote here in the US. And as for the election day violence--it was nothing. Literally an average day for casualty counts, maybe even less.

Of course nothing is verifiable yet, but I heard upwards to 90% of the Shiites cast ballots. They are going to have power now--does that not mean that this large body will be forced to crush the insurgency to hold on to that nascent power (a methodology like the one you outlined and that Saddam used, only this time the people with the guns will be the majority)? They're going to ask the US to leave as their power becomes more stable anyway.

Stephen said at January 30, 2005 5:32 PM:

An ethnicity based simple majority doesn't produce a democracy, all it makes is a mob. That said, I do hope that they can reach some concensus that transends ethnicity, otherwise it won't be long till we start reading about 'ethnic cleansing'.

Stephen said at January 30, 2005 7:46 PM:

I've been thinking about the elections and the lack of any sign that the insurgents took advantage of the situation. I wonder if they were engaging in a bit of PR? Perhaps by not changing their normal bombing program they were really saying to the civilians, "See, we're not targetting you; we're really targetting the occupiers and their colaborators." If so, the implications are quite profound - they really do see themselves as a legitimate resistance against the invader.

crush41 said at January 31, 2005 11:11 AM:

Nine suicide bombers in one day--simply ceasing the attacks altogether for one full day might lead one to that conclusion, but it looks like they just got out played. Ansar al Islam is taking credit for killing the ten Brits as well, so it wasn't a very coordinated PR effort either!

Randall Parker said at January 31, 2005 4:05 PM:

The problem is that democracy does not equal liberal democracy or non-corrupt democracy. A country can have a democracy and still have severe corruption problems and lack of individual rights.

The assumptions of the democracy advocates is that in every country a large majority is competent to vote, wants freedom for themselves and their neighbors, and is not going to vote solely for their own group's interests at the expense of the common good. Well, these assumptions are wrong.

Yes, the Shias may crack down on the Sunnis with a police state. If the crackdown is conducted competently then expect to see a decrease in the rate of attacks.

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