The Sunshine boys, Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, are out today with patent nonsense that the mainstream media will lap up – We Are Winning in Iraq. According to O’Hanlon and Pollack in today’s New York Times:
Here is the most important thing Americans need to understand: We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms. As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration’s miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily “victory” but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.Yes sirree. That O’Hanlon is one tough analyst and critic. Here’s what he told the Voice of America in March 2005:
The last year in particular has seen, first, a great intensification of the insurgency but, at the very end of it, perhaps a slight reduction in its strength and its lethality. And of course, then, the preparation for the elections, which took place in early 2005 and, essentially, commemorated the end of the second year and finished it on a much more positive political note. So we see an economy that’s still struggling, although gradually improving. We see Iraqi security forces that are still in their very fledgling state, although at least starting to get better. And we see a political process that is far from resolved, but at least hopeful. So if you’re a pessimist or an optimist, either way, you have a lot of evidence to back up your view about how things have gone this last year in Iraq.Be assured of one thing, O’Hanlon and Pollack did not freely travel around Iraq and did not travel without a security team. Their eight day visit and upbeat assessment ignores other plausible explanations:
1. The slowing of body counts in Baghdad is not a consequence of less sectarian strife; instead, the effectiveness of the death squads and ethnic/sectarian cleansing has reduced the number of targets.
2. Moqtada al Sadr’s control of police and intelligence organs is pretty extensive. He’s biding his time and smartly avoiding a direct confrontation with US forces. There is zero evidence that Moqtada is backing down or backing away.
3. The Sunni controlled forces are doing a better job of defending their sectors.
That is true.
But Al Qaeda is not the main threat and never has been. But the units in charge in the Sunni sectors out west are not ready and willing to join arm-in-arm with Shia units and work for the benefit of Iraq. There are significant changes underway in Iraq that are going to hamper the movement and operations of U.S. forces. Last year, for example, when the U.S. tracked and killed Abu Musab Al Zarqawi we did not have to coordinate in advance with the Iraqi government.
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That operation was carried out independently of the the Iraqi government and security forces. Even with that freedom of movement, when our forces showed up on scene after dropping a bomb on Zarqawi the Iraqi police (Sunnis) were already there trying to gather up Zarqawi and get him to a hospital. Even under those so-called optimal conditions we could not trust the Iraqi security forces to be completely transparent with us. Today we have less freedom of movement and it is going to get worse, not better.
For example, US forces moving into contested areas in Baghdad must provide advance notice to Iraqi police (IP) and/or the Iraqi Army (IA). At a minimum that increases the likelihood that an operation will be compromised. It also means that Iraqi forces will protect the insurgent forces and individuals loyal to them while giving us free access to blast away at those forces they themselves want to see eliminated. The days of free fire zones are coming to an end. (This applies to contractors as well.) We will see a gradual decline in U.S. casualties as the number of combat patrols diminish and we avoid attacking the centers of power of entrenched militia like the Mehdi Army and the Badr Brigade.
But the end result is still a country fragmented into sectarian regions and not under the control of a central government. The problem with the current surge strategy is that we are still following a plan that has us fighting both Sunni and Shia elements in different parts of the country. Oh yeah. We’re also fighting the Iranians. The fact that Sunni sheiks in Ramadi are banding together to fight outsiders does not mean they have decided to support Prime Minister Maliki and his government. It is worth noting that despite our increased presence in Baghdad the ethnic purge is steadily marching on. Just check out these reports from the last week:
Reuters: Twenty-five bodies were found dumped across Baghdad in the
past 24 hours, police said. Seven police commandos killed by a roadside
bomb in Samarra. Seven police commandos were killed by a roadside bomb
in Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. The police
patrol then opened fire, killing three civilians.
AP: Car bomb kills at least four in Baghdad. An area in the heart of
Baghdad frequently struck by suspected Sunni insurgents has been hit
again. At least four people are dead and ten others wounded from a
noontime bombing today. Police say the explosives were in a parked car…
Reuters: 20 bodies found in Baghdad on Saturday The bodies of 20 people
were found in different areas of Baghdad on Saturday, police
- 07/30/07 AP: Insurgents attacked village south of Baqouba, killing 20 civilians
Northeast of the capital, dozens of suspected Sunni insurgents attacked a Sunni village south of Baqouba, killing 20 civilians and kidnapping others for not cooperating with them, a local police official said.
If you are eating a dozen donuts a day and sitting around waiting to lose weight I guarantee that you will not lose pounds no matter how optimistic you are. Well that analogy applies to Iraq. Surging US troops will not solve the basic political dilemma confronting Iraq. Iraq is a country largely under the control of Shia forces that have a close relationship to Iran. The Sunni minority are not going to buy in to this deal. They will continue to fight it every way they can. And to the degree we get in the middle of that fight we will be casualties.
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