2006 September 12 Tuesday
US Marine Intelligence Report Portrays Anbar In Iraq As Lost

Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post has gotten wind of a military report from the western Sunni Anbar province of Iraq which paints a very dismal picture of the war there. Col. Pete Devlin of the US Marines Corps serving in Anbar provice since February says we have lost Anbar.

The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.

He thinks Al Qaeda is the biggest political force in Anbar. If we had not overthrown Saddam Hussein then Saddam - and not Al Qaeda - would be the biggest force in Anbar and every potential rival group would be miniscule in size.

The US military has pulled a lot of troops out of Anbar and deployed them into Baghdad in order to head off the building civil war in Baghdad. Anbar is easier in some respects because few Shias are left in Anbar and so the Shias and Sunnis can't battle each other much in Anbar the way they can in Baghdad.

I doubt the US can maintain the current number of soldiers in Iraq. So local warlords and international groups will have a field day.

Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

Devlin offers a series of reasons for the situation, including a lack of U.S. and Iraqi troops, a problem that has dogged commanders since the fall of Baghdad more than three years ago, said people who have read it. These people said he reported that not only are military operations facing a stalemate, unable to extend and sustain security beyond the perimeters of their bases, but also local governments in the province have collapsed and the weak central government has almost no presence.

Think about that. Anbar has little government left that derives power from the supposed central government in Baghdad.

The Sunnis fear (correctly in my view) that confederation will cut them out of oil revenue.

Feeling marginalized in the new Iraq, the Sunnis in Anbar have generally lost faith in the new government in Baghdad. The Sunnis' "greatest fears have been realized," the report notes.

The Sunnis' suspicion of the central government makes the task of forging a political reconciliation more difficult. It has also complicated one policy option that some critics of Bush administration's strategy have proposed as an alternative means of stabilizing Iraq: dividing the country into Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni enclaves.

Such a plan would not be welcomed by Sunnis, since they would not trust the central government to share proceeds from oil sales, the assessment notes.

As the situation has deteriorated, insurgent attacks have increased. The report describes Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as an "integral part of the social fabric" of Anbar. The organization, which is predominantly made up of fighters who are native Iraqis, is flush with cash, much of it earned from black market or criminal activity.

Okay, the terminology here is confusing. Al Qaeda is this international terrorist group which aims to blow up Westerners in the West if they can manage and they want to force everyone to convert to Islam. These "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia" are locals fighting for their tribes and sect of Islam (and for oil money!) against other tribes in a different sect that have all the oil money. Also, they are fighting American soldiers because those soldiers are in their neighborhood helping those other tribes in the other sect get the political power and oil.

But if Iraq was formally divided the Sunnis wouldn't get any oil revenue at all. If the Sunnis were left in charge of their own Sunni country they'd be helpless to do much about it.

Devlin's boss says his job is not to defeat the insurgency.

Marine Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer told reporters in a telephone interview from his headquarters in Fallujah that he has enough U.S. troops about 30,000 to accomplish what he called his main mission: training Iraqi security forces.

"For what we are trying to achieve out here I think our force levels are about right," he said. Even so, he said the training of Iraqi soldiers and police had not progressed as quickly as once expected.

His job is not to defeat the insurgency because the US government would have to implement a draft to field a military force big enough to do the job. Either that or the US would have to use far more brutal and ruthless tactics such as kidnapping family members of tribes fighting in the insurgency and kill a subset of the people they capture. Neither of those options is in the cards.

Zilmer wants a political and economic solution.

What is needed, he said, is progress on the economic and political fronts that will undercut support for the insurgency.

Good luck on getting progress on economic and political fronts. The price of oil is already a multiple of what it was when the US invaded. No further help for the Iraqi economy can be expected on that front. Inflation is raging and the economy is hampered by the security situation. So it is hard for better economic times to improve security when the insurgency is keeping the security situation dismal and the economy throttled.

How about progress on the political front? Well, many powerful Shias in the central government are supporting death squads against Sunnis. The Sunnis wouldn't reconcile themselves to Shia rule under much better circumstances than these.

Zilmer the boss agrees with Devlin his intelligence chief.

Pentagon officials hastily arranged the interview with Zilmer in response to a series of news reports about a classified report by the chief of intelligence for the Marines in western Anbar province, Col. Pete Devlin. Zilmer said he agreed with the assessment by Devlin, who works for Zilmer, and he did not dispute news reports that characterized it as depicting Anbar as locked in a military stalemate with inadequate political progress.

What I want to know: When US forces pull out will the Shias become willing to put down the Sunni insurgency with utter ruthlessness? Or will they reach a deal to confederate or even to split apart entirely?

The invasion of Iraq was a massive miscalculation by incompetent people. To protect the West from terrorism we should isolate ourselves from Muslims. Imperialism combined with immigration is absolutely the wrong response.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 September 12 05:39 PM  Mideast Iraq Decay

Stephen said at September 12, 2006 7:52 PM:

Randall said: "The invasion of Iraq was a massive miscalculation by incompetent people. To protect the West from terrorism we should..."

Its clear now that the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with 'protecting the West from Terrorism'. Their only relationship is that the latter was used as a pretext for the former.

PS: I'm not disagreeing with your article (including your conclusion), I'm just saying that the topics should not be conjoined.

John S Bolton said at September 12, 2006 11:18 PM:

Couldn't international boundaries be drawn so as to leave each nation with a decent share of production?
That is, where Iraq became four populous countries with oil, plus several sovereign urban walled cities, so to speak?
Then US forces could just maintain the peace between those nations for a while, intervening also if a Taliban-type country which was harboring terrorists even more than Canada does, were to emerge from one of the new nations.
Nation-building is also empire-building in a sense, not because we want to own such territories, but because we want to hold together people who hate each other.
When you have two ethnic groups in one country whose tendency is to fight, there is no end of power and tyranny which can't be excused, when the supposedly enlightened internationalists proclaim that they must use aggression to further brotherhood, unity, antidiscrimination, the better to fight the atomization of those nobly large polities, upon which so much prestige rides in glory.

Stephen said at September 13, 2006 4:43 PM:

If I were Iran, I'd volunteer to send in 7 or 8 Divisions to help out the US.

nzconservative said at September 14, 2006 4:09 PM:

If you can't beat em join em. If the US expects to stay in Iraq long term, then it might as well encourage the country to split up along ethnic lines. It is likely that this would result in one US allie -the Kurds; one neutral side the Sunni's; and one pro-Iranian side - the Shiites. Trying to force all these factions toghether is only making them all enemies of the US.

The US aid should go to people wanting to move from one ethnic area to another and the troops should protect minorities during the trasition process. The current focus on protecting infrastructure isn't really working.

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