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US Before the Third Iraq War

by Rainer Rupp Sunday, Aug. 17, 2003 at 2:49 PM
mbatko@lycos.com

The US has not learned from comparable situaitons in the past that `the best military victories cannot win the peace'.. The belief that Saddam Hussein's overthrow alone would win the `hearts and minds' of the Iraqis was a grave error.

US Before the Third Iraq War

Specialist for Military Strategy analyzes “Errors” of the Occupying Power and offers Depressing Prognoses

By Rainer Rupp

[This article originally published in: junge Welt, August 4, 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.jungewelt.de/public_php/drucken_popup.php?num=6&djahr…]

The US supreme commander in Iraq, General John Abizaid, spoke recently of a “classical guerilla war”. A few days ago, Anthony H. Cordesman, renowned Middle East expert and specialist for military strategy at the “Center for Strategic and International Studies” (CSIS), named the culprits: the poor planning of the Pentagon on “ending the conflict” and on Iraqi “nation-building”. The US has not learned from comparable situations in the past that “the best military victories cannot win the peace”.

In his detailed study on the mistakes of the US – for example the belief that Saddam Hussein’s overthrow alone would win the “hearts and minds” of the Iraqis -, Cordesman develops a series of scenarios on future developments in Iraq. “Most likely a half-hearted and poorly coordinated effort at nation-building to bring Iraq on a better political and economic path while a climate prevails in which security is constantly threatened on a lower level and serious ethnic and sectarian tensions dominate.” “The situation must quickly and radically improve to meet that standard. Otherwise the US at the end will wage a third Gulf war, this time against the Iraqi people.”

The conduct of the American occupying power suggests that the same mistakes are made that belong to the “worst-possible scenario” according to Cordesman’s analysis. Instead of forming an “Iraq for Iraqis” with the genuine support of all classes of the Iraqi population, “the US wants to build an Iraq according to its own image” according to the CSIS strategy. Progress in governmental and economic reconstruction is very slow. Many promises have not been kept.

Security doesn’t exist on the communal plane. Well-meaning reforms either didn’t generally function or took effect much too late to engender gratitude. The US and its allies sought “the leaders they wanted instead of those the Iraqis wanted” for the administration. Increasingly they rely on persons returning from exile who had no support in the indigenous population.

The US encountering the guerilla danger by “acting as occupiers instead of liberators” is one of the striking errors. The US armed forces barricaded in their protected bases only enlarged the distance to the Iraqi population. Even the Sunnites who were against Saddam demanded the withdrawal of the occupation troops. “The same pattern of a resistance ready for violence as in Sunnite central Iraq exists in the Shiite South. By doing everything to keep the religious representatives of the Shiites from power, “they alienate the majority of the Shiite population who in the past more or less tolerated without supporting the US/UK military presence.”

In northern Iraq the tensions between different sectarian groups are also mounting. While the Kurds altogether supported the US occupation, the old struggle for power over disappearing revenues from smuggling and the “oil-for-food program” is flaring up again between the Kurdish fractions. At the same time the Kurdish claim to power in northern Iraq made possible by the US creates ill-will among the Sunnites and Turkmenians and leads to tensions between the US and Turkey.

In this situation, according to Cordesman, “the US and its allies do what is right from a technocratic and scientific perspective while the mistrust of the Iraqis intensifies.” If the US fails, “this could become a war against the Iraqi people”. In any event, this kind of “asymmetrical war” cannot be won.



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