Sunday, July 24, 2005

Wait - I Thought We Had "Mostly Eliminated" The Ability Of Iraqi Insurgents To Conduct Sustained, High-Intensity Attacks?

From The New York Times:

"BAGHDAD, Iraq, July 23 - They just keep getting stronger.

Despite months of assurances that their forces were on the wane, the guerrillas and terrorists battling the American-backed enterprise here appear to be growing more violent, more resilient and more sophisticated than ever.

After concentrating their efforts for two and a half years on driving out the 138,000-plus American troops, the insurgents appear to be shifting their focus to the political and sectarian polarization of the country - apparently hoping to ignite a civil war - and to the isolation of the Iraqi government abroad.

And the insurgents are choosing their targets with greater precision, and executing and dramatizing their attacks with more sophistication than they have in the past.

American commanders say the number of attacks against American and Iraqi forces has held steady over the last year, averaging about 65 a day.

But the Americans concede the growing sophistication of insurgent attacks and the insurgents' ability to replenish their ranks as fast as they are killed.

'We are capturing or killing a lot of insurgents,' said a senior Army intelligence officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make his assessments public. 'But they're being replaced quicker than we can interdict their operations. There is always another insurgent ready to step up and take charge.'

At the same time, the Americans acknowledge that they are no closer to understanding the inner workings of the insurgency or stemming the flow of foreign fighters, who are believed to be conducting a vast majority of suicide attacks. The insurgency, believed to be an unlikely mix of Baath Party die-hards and Islamic militants, has largely eluded the understanding of American intelligence officers since the fall of Saddam Hussein's government 27 months ago.

The danger is that the violence could overwhelm the intensive American-backed efforts now under way to draw Iraq's Sunni Arabs into the political mainstream, leaving the community more embittered than ever and setting the stage for even more violence and possibly civil war.

And then, just in case you think the New York Times is highlighting the "bad news" in Iraq while ignoring the "good", here's some more recent bad news that shows just how dangerous and chaotic Iraq is right now:

"BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A suicide attacker slammed a truck loaded with explosives into concrete barriers outside a Baghdad police station Sunday, killing at least 20 people and wounding 30, police said.

The attacker detonated his charge at the Rashad police station in the eastern neighborhood of Mashtal around 2:50 p.m., said Capt. Mahir Abdul Satar.

Six cars, including two police cars, were seen burning and several nearby shops were damaged, police officials said. The blast left a giant, blackened crater at the scene.

Body parts lay scattered around the area as firefighters worked to extinguish the blaze and rescue workers carried away victims on stretchers.

Insurgents have regularly targeted Iraq's police and security forces in attempts to further destabilize the country, which has been struggling to put together a new constitution and broad-based government."

The political situation in Iraq doesn't seem to be doing any better than the security situation:

"Members of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's bloc threatened Sunday to walk out of the constitutional drafting committee in support of a Sunni group that boycotted the process.

Committee member Adnan al-Janabi, who also is part of secular leader Allawi's eight-member bloc, criticized the way the commission dealt with Sunni members' decision to suspend their participation in drafting the new charter.

'Their demands and suspension of membership should have been studied and taken in a way that reassures them and brings them to participate in the draft constitution that we want to be agreed upon by all Iraqis,' he said.

Al-Janabi, who also is a spokesman for Allawi's group, said the bloc's continued participation remains in question.

'Our continuation in the committee drafting the constitution has become dependent on getting clarifications to what we have asked earlier,' al-Janabi said.

The mixed makeup of the committee was deemed crucial for drafting a constitution acceptable to all of Iraq's ethnic and religious communities, a key to any political exit from the unremitting violence and the need for American troops to remain in Iraq.

If Allawi's secular group joins the Sunnis in pulling out of the process, it raises the concern that a committee already dominated by Shiite religious parties and ethnic Kurds would be left in control of drafting the charter.

Al-Janabi also expressed anger over commission chairman Sheik Humam Hammoudi's announcement that a draft would be ready within days, saying it was 'a draft that we were not consulted about and I don't know how it was written or who wrote it.'

On Thursday, the 12 remaining Sunni members of the commission suspended their participation to protest the assassination of Sunni member Mijbil Issa and adviser Dhamim Hussein al-Obeidi by unknown gunmen. Two of the original 15 Sunni members resigned earlier after insurgents threatened them.

The Sunni members demanded an international investigation into the killings, better security and a greater Sunni role in deliberations.

On Sunday, no Sunni members showed up at a planned constitutional meeting even though the group indicated a day earlier it was considering a possible return.

Shiite member Bahaa al-Araji said no decision will be taken 'without the presence of the brothers (Sunnis) unless there is a reason for the absence. Therefore, the committee will be committed to handing over the draft at the time agreed upon.'

The threatened walkout by Allawi's group is the latest hurdle in the commission's goal of getting a constitution drafted and approved by the assembly Aug. 15. That charter then would be scheduled for a public referendum two months later.

Voters in only three of Iraq's 18 provinces can scuttle the constitution if they reject it by two-thirds majority in the October referendum."

If you are reading the news reports from the Associated Press and The New York Times, it seems the only thing that has been "mostly eliminated" in Iraq these days is any chance of success. But the administration repeatedly hums the line that "times are tough but we're making progress" and points to how more people in Iraq are using cell phones and the Internet now than during Saddam's reign as signs that life is better in post-Saddam Iraq. And yet on average, 800 Iraqis a month are dying in suicide bomb incidents or other insurgent attacks. This is the progress? This is better?

Recent polls show that the administration's "progress" line is growing stale with the American people, but most Americans want to keep troops in Iraq until the "mission is completed".
I want to keep troops in Iraq too because I think to completely pull out now would create a horrible bloodbath and such grave political instability that the current Iraqi government wouldn't survive. But how long is it going to take us to "complete the mission" in Iraq to where we can start to bring the troops home?

The current political and security situation tells me that whatever "progress" we have made in Iraq is becoming "regress". It is increasingly obvious that the Bush administration has so fucked up the post-war phase in Iraq that the mission can never be completed now. I don't know when a majority of Americans are going to come to similiar decisions, but it won't be long. Within six months or a year, if the political and security situations in Iraq don't improve, I think majorities of Americans are going to start to say "Bring 'em home."

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