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Escalation Of Military Force In Iraq Will Backfire, Experts Say

by Peyman Pejman

Bush Appears To Hit Panic Button After Latest Bad News In Iraq
(IPS) BAGHDAD -- The announcement over the weekend that the coalition forces will turn over sovereignty to Iraq by next June has prompted many to ask whether Washington's recent "get tough" military policy will ease as well.

Many political allies of the United States say the 'get tough' policy is shortsighted and could backfire.

The CIA issued a classified report last week saying the policy is likely to further alienate the Iraqis, and drive them into the arms of the resistance.

Gen. Mohammad Abdullah al-Shahwani, a former decorated Iraqi military commander and one of the ringleaders of the failed 1996 coup against Saddam Hussein says the recent remark by U.S. Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid that the coalition faces an opposition force of up to 5,000 means the current military policy will not work.

"John Abizaid says the resistance could be 5,000," Gen. Shahwani told IPS in his Baghdad home. "Okay, each day they are going to kill six, seven. So, how many days do you need to get rid of all those guys? This is not a solution. They will create more hate for the United States rather than people welcoming them because they liberated the country."

Political allies of Washington are equally dismayed by the military policy.

"A prerequisite of having power is to know how to use it," says Haitham al-Hosseiny, political advisor to Abdel Aziz Hakim, a governing council member and head of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). "The Americans cannot distinguish between common criminals of the past regime and terrorists who have come here for a reason." Now criminals and terrorists are getting together, he says.

The "get tough" policy has made even some top U.S. military ranks in Baghdad uncomfortable.

"I don't know what the hell they are thinking," says a ranking U.S. officer."This is a waste of men and money. If they know where the terrorists are, it would make much more sense to surround them, flush them out and get some info out of them, not send a barrage of artillery in the dead of the night and find out in the morning the building was empty."

Coalition forces have carried out a series of high-profile apparently made-for-television raids in Baghdad in the past week, attacking suspected hideouts of sympathisers of the former regime. Almost every night for the past week, Baghdad residents have been hearing explosions that are believed to be U.S. artillery and rocket attacks on "enemy positions."

These attacks are not limited to Baghdad. For the first time since President George W. Bush officially declared "the end of the major phase of the hostilities," U.S. forces fired a computer-guided missile from somewhere in Baghdad Sunday night on a suspected "terrorist camp" near Kirkik north of Baghdad. Opponents of the military intensification point out that as this policy is implemented, attacks on coalition forces have multiplied.

Although the overall military policy is dictated by the central command, each local commander has the freedom to choose appropriate tactics and necessary force.

U.S. military officials here point out that initiative taken by local commanders is the reason some areas like Mosul and even most of Baghdad had been relatively calm until recently compared to other areas such as Falluja and Tikrit, where most of the attacks on U.S. forces have taken place.

U.S. commanders concede that quelling the resistance requires more than a military solution.

"Do I see this as a political, or military issue?" the top U.S. military man in Iraq Lt-Gen Ricardo Sanchez said at a recent press conference. "Actually it is both and more. It is a political, military and economic solution that is necessary in order for us to win this low-intensity conflict. And all those three lines of operation must progress together for us to bring peace and stability to Iraq."

Until the announcement last weekend that Washington will surrender sovereignty to Iraqis by next June, few here saw progress on these fronts.

Following the announcement many Iraqis have been pointing out that political sovereignty means little if their country continues to be occupied by the coalition forces.

Various U.S. officials from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to Gen. Sanchez have said the troops are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

The only question here is how many troops and whether soldiers from other countries will replace departing U.S. troops. Currently more than 30 countries are participating in the coalition forces. But with some 130,000 troops the United States has the bulk of the force.

Jalal Talebani, this month's chairman of the Iraqi governing council says the upcoming Iraqi provisional government will draft a law "inviting" the forces to stay.

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Albion Monitor November 17, 2003 (

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