Thursday, April 08, 2004

Smoking Out the Pests 

Is there anybody who did not expect at least one “tough guy” to try and seize control of Iraq through force? To use the tools and mechanisms that have, for over 50 years, been the one sure-fire road to power? To attempt to follow in the footsteps of their spiritual parents: Lenin, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Saddam and others? If there are any true surprises in the fact that al-Sadr and his gang of thugs have violently burst upon the scene in Iraq it is in the coordination and timing of these actions. For while they are more coordinated and widespread in activity than I anticipated, they may also more ill timed than I would have imagined. While the former may speak to the competence of al-Sadr’s people or his backers (assumed by many to be Iran), I feel the latter is, at least in part, the result of US actions.

If I were al-Sadr, when would I time my take-over? There are advantages to both moving prior to and after the June turnover. In favor of moving early is the potential surging of other anti-US forces as unknowing accomplices. In fact, this seems to be the nature of the unlikely Shiia/Suni partnerships seen in some areas of the Suni triangle. It also avoids the possibility that he would find himself having to act against a truly popular governing body of Iraqis. This especially would have been a problem if the governing body were largely made of competing Shiia political forces. The main advantage, obviously, of waiting until after turnover is to be able to fight against more poorly armed, trained units as well as being able to configure it as a “legitimate” civil war between Iraqis, and the general rule of civil wars, internationally, has been “hands-off.” Of course, victory in the post-turnover scenario requires victory, while victory in pre-turnover scenario, according to conventional wisdom, merely requires you to punch long and hard enough to get the US to go home. So while in this view, it seems that a fight clearly against the US and not against other Iraqis has the advantage, we are still left with the question of “why now?” While it seems to not have worked so far, another potential goal of action pre-turnover might be to force a rollback of the June date, helping to support the assertions that the US has imperialistic goals in Iraq and serving as a further recruiting tool. We are, however, rather far removed from that date, meaning that they either mistimed the “uprising” or had their hand forced.

It is my opinion that we pushed al-Sadr by the arrests and warrants issued and that it was intentional. Despite the widespread nature of operations specific reporting is rather sparse. This all looks like a plan that was waiting to be sprung. There is no doubt that we have known about a lot of bad guys and groups that either for lack of evidence or proximity to civilians we could not effectively move against. Well, now they’ve been smoked out and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are being taken down piece-by-piece and if in our actions we’re getting more bad guys than just al-Sadr’s gang. The confusion and combat is giving us the opportunity to take out more of those potential trouble makers long before June gets here. Hints by Joe Roche and John Galt seem to bear this out.

The long-view? This will be a good thing. We will get rid a lot of the scary folks that have been keeping normal Iraqis cowed and we will get rid of a lot of bad guys that were going to cause trouble in June anyway. We will also strengthen the argument for disarming militias, as whomever takes over in June will probably welcome any measure that helps prevent someone from trying this on them. Finally, with the memory of what the al-Sadr uprising would have looked like if they had been targeted, it greatly improves the odds the coalition will operate in a sovereign Iraq at the clear and welcome request of the Iraqi government. Contrary to what CNN will tell you, this looks to be a battle of our choosing at our chosen time and there is a lot to gain in the victory.

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