Today’s Iraq news from StrategyPage:
Five men were arrested as suspects in the December 27th attacks in Karbala. Their nationality was not given, but Shia leaders say they believe the attacks were carried out by Sunni Arabs and al Qaeda foreigners. There has been little, or no, political violence in the Shia areas since Saddam’s government fell. The Shia are not intimidated by the Sunnis any more, and the attacks of the 27th just made more Shias determined to meet violence with violence if the Sunnis continue to use violence against other Iraqis.
In the north, police arrested two Egyptians, an Iranian and an Afghan on suspicion of being members of Ansar al-Islam. This organization is affiliated with al Qaeda, and was founded by Kurds who had become Islamic radicals. Islamic radicalism is rare among Kurds, but Islamic conservatives in Iran offered bases and other support to get Ansar al-Islam started. After al Qaeda was driven out of Afghanistan in late 2001, many al Qaeda members fled to Iran and some ended up with Ansar in northern Iraq. A Kurd attack on Ansar camps a year a go drove many Ansar members back into Iran. But now Ansar members are sneaking back into northern Iraq. The four men arrested has false documents and were apparently planning terrorist attacks in the northern city of Kirkuk.
Sunni Arab tribal and religious leaders have formed a reconciliation committee in Tikrit to urge Sunnis to stop armed resistance against the coalition and the new government. The tribal leaders realize that the Sunni Arabs will be a minority in any democratically elected government and will not have control of the army or police (as Sunnis have for centuries.) As a result, Sunni Arabs would suffer greatly as Sunni and Kurd dominated police fought the Sunni resistance. In such a low level civil war, the Sunnis would be at a major disadvantage, would suffer the most and could not win. US Army Special Forces have been working with the Sunni tribal chiefs for over a year, and that has finally paid off.
StrategyPage has this summary today:
August 8, 2003: In the last four weeks, attacks on American troops have declined from about 40 a day to about three dozen.
I’m not sure if that’s what he means to say here. “About 40” and “about three dozen” are very similar numbers! Does he mean “from 40 a day to about three dozen over four weeks”?
Defining what is an “attack” is sometimes difficult. US troops hearing nearby gunfire often discover they have come upon a crime being committed, or two groups of Iraqis settling a dispute. But the lethality of the attacks is going down. In the past week, there were four straight days without an American fatality.
American intelligence efforts have gathered a growing mountain of information on what’s going on among Iraqis and that has made it possible for troops to more effectively go after the Baath Party resistance. The same “battlefield internet” that was so useful doing the fighting is now enabling commanders to quickly share information on the situation inside Iraq. This has led to the rapid development of new tactics and understanding of the rapidly changing situation in Iraq. This high speed communication system was enormously popular during the war, and continued in use after the shooting stopped. The impact of these new communications tools has gone largely unnoticed in the post-war operations. One of the few visible signs of this commo situation is the talk of “keeping Saddam on the run.” This chase has been propelled by the masses of information gathered and the battlefield internet.
Some interesting news and analysis from Jim Dunnigan’s StrategyPage:
Thousands of Iraqi policemen have finished their training, received their new blue uniforms (the old ones were green) and gone to work. Most of these men worked as police for Saddam. All of those police were screened to remove the most corrupt and abusive. Under Saddam, the police were part of the system of repression. Force, random violence and corruption were used to keep the population terrorized and the police were often called in to help out. But most of the time the police just dealt with catching criminals and directly traffic. Their work was complicated when Saddam, in a 2002 “good will gesture”, released several thousand of the worst criminals from prison (and kept most of the political prisoners locked up.)
Coalition forces are screening former members of the Iraqi military in order to find suitable candidates for the first division (12,000 troops) of the new Iraqi army. This unit is to be put together and ready for service by the end of the year. An army of 40,000 is to be ready within three years. Press reports of “a million unemployed Iraqi soldiers” are wildly inaccurate and misleading. The Iraqi army was down to about 400,000 troops before the coalition invaded, and the vast majority of those were conscripts who were paid little, abused much and eager to go home. But about 80,000 troops were career professionals, and these are the ones who are out of a job and possibly looking for revenge. The Republican Guard troops were recruited exclusively from the Sunni Arab minority that was loyal to Saddam (and on his payroll.)
StrategyPage reports that there is less rioting in Iraq than media accounts would have you believe:
Nearly all the demonstrations are held in front of the hotels journalists are staying in. The rest of Iraq is pretty quiet, although people are still steamed about lack of water and electricity. Despite that, coalition troops on patrol generally encounter friendly, or simply curious, Iraqis. Several decades of Saddam’s police state has discouraged tourists, and Iraqis from meeting, or even seeing, any foreigners. So the American and British troops on patrol are often the first foreigners most Iraqis, especially kids, have ever seen in the flesh. But all Iraqis know about America and Britain, as these nations have been the two favorite destinations of the fifteen percent of the population that has fled since Saddam came to power. Nearly every Iraqi has a relative in America or Britain, or a friend who does. So except for the few Iraqis working the foreign press for one reason or another, most Iraqis are happy to see America come to them, even if they couldn’t get to America.
This wouldn’t be the first time reporters overestimated crowd size by taking the small view. Not only do they often do this with domestic protests, it was part of the reason we went into Somalia in 1992, when mass starvation in Mogadishu was reported as a nationwide famine.
And, more evidence that we care more about the fate of the Iraqi people than Saddam:
Coalition engineers have discovered that Iraq’s infrastructure is basically falling apart. Saddam spent little on it during the 1980s, because of the war with Iran. During the 1990s, what money was available went to building palaces, military bases and not the power or water systems. So what you have now is a jury rigged system that has, for years, been on the verge of breakdown. American engineers, after examining the water system, and talking to Iraqi engineers, estimate that up to half the water is lost because of broken or elderly pipes. The electrical system isn’t much better, with many ancient, and inefficient, generators and a distribution system rife with power theft and wasted power. For the last few years, there have been brownouts throughout the country every Summer. While the bombing campaign did not target any of the power or water facilities, government and military buildings that were hit often resulted in damage to nearby water and power lines. These have had to be repaired in order to restore power and water to all neighborhoods.
So, apparently, it wasn’t US/UN sanctions that were responsible for the horrible plight of the Iraqi people but rather a corrupt regime. Imagine that. Which reminds me of the old joke about corruption in Africa, albeit with a different locale:
An Asian and an African became friends while attending Graduate School in the West. Years later, each rises to become Finance Minister of his country. One day, the African ventures to Asia to visit his friend and is startled by the Asian’s palatial home, the three Mercedes-Benzes in the circular drive, the swimming pool, the servants. ‘My God!’ the African exclaims, ‘We were just poor students before. How on earth can you afford all this now?’ The Asian takes his friend to the window and points to a new elevated highway in the distance. ‘You see that road?’ he says, and then proudly taps himself on the chest. ‘Ten percent.’
A few years later, the Asian returns the visit of his of his old friend. He finds the African living on a massive estate. There’s a fleet of dozens of Mercedes-Benzes, an indoor pool, an army of uniformed servants. ‘My God!’ says the Asian, ‘How do you afford this?’ This time the African leads his friend to the window and points. ‘You see that highway?’ he asks. The Asian looks and sees nothing, just an open field with a few cows. ‘I don’t see any highway,’ he says. The African taps himself on the chest. ‘One hundred percent!’
I have been neglecting Dunnigan of late, given that the war has wrapped up. But a couple interesting tidbits is today’s Iraq summary. First, there is some Sunni resistance:
As the shock and awe wears off, the Sunni Moslems who have been running Iraq for centuries are reorganizing, rearming and planning their comeback. Heavily Sunni areas, like Tikrit, Mosul and parts of Baghdad, have seen armed resistance to American troops. US forces are fighting back, returning fire and then going after local Baath party leaders and other known Sunni leaders. In areas where there are more non-Sunnis, coalition troops also have to worry about retribution attacks against Sunnis.
The search goes on for Saddam Hussein and his closest aids continues. More of these people are captured every day, but there are many pro-Saddam areas in the country where these people can hide.
And while I’ve seen mention of this before, the detail here is clarifying:
The looting of the Iraqi national museum, initially declared to represent a loss of over 100,000 items, appears to have actually involved only a few dozen. The looting was apparently more of a carefully planned theft, rather than a random looting. Meanwhile, the Iraqi looting of Kuwaiti museums in 1990 took over 2000 items, of which only a few have been recovered.
Now we know the war is REALLY over: we’re sending in the Italians.
StrategyPage devotes most of today’s Iraq summary to the heightened tensions with Syria:
The U.S. has warned Syria to stop it’s support for Saddam Hussein and his henchmen or face grave consequences. Many of the foreign fighters encountered in Iraq are Syrians, Special Forces watching the Syrian border have seen many fighters and much military equipment crossing into Iraq. The U.S. also believes that Iraq has moved its chemical weapons to Syria. Special Forces also discovered an illegal oil pipeline into Syria, which apparently sent over a billion dollars worth of Iraqi oil a year. This would explain some of the Syrian support for Saddam, who had long been a bitter enemy of the Syrians. Back in the 1960s, Syria and Iraq were run by the same Baath party, but then there was a political dispute that left the two Baath parties bitter enemies for decades.
Thousands of senior Iraqi officials have been seen headed for the Syrian border and many appear to have made it across. U.S. Special Forces and coalition commandos are trying to catch some of these fugitives. But the tribes in the area have been smuggling people and goods over the border for centuries and Saddam’s cronies have plenty of cash. So far, about half a dozen senior Saddam aides have been caught near the Syrian border.
I’m hopeful that the statements over the last couple of days by President Bush and Deputy SECDEF Wolfowitz will persuade the Syrian regime to cooperate.
In cheerier news, the civilian casualty figures have been revised downward:
Civilian casualties for the war were between 484 and 856 dead and between 4.411 and 6,606 wounded. Civilian losses after a major bombing campaign have never been so low. Sixty years ago, dropping that many bombs would have caused a hundred times more civilian injuries.
StrategyPage, not surprisingly, reports that things are going well. The interesting thing about today’s column was this paragraph:
U.S. casualties have been revised upward, with the total wounded upped to 399, from the previous 155. The reason is problems with reporting, with many minor wounds, treated on the spot for a soldier who went back to his unit, recorded only later. The wounds counted earlier were the ones that came back to field hospitals. Another potential problem with counting wounds is how to rate bullets being stopped by the new protective vests (which are truly bulletproof to rifle bullets). These often leave a major bruise behind, or even a cracked rib? Is this guy “wounded.” In most cases, the soldier says some nice things about the vest manufacturer, thanks God and gets back into the fight. Anyway, after 21 days of combat, U.S. casualties are now at 518 (101 dead, 399 “wounded”, 11 missing and seven prisoners. This comes to 8 casualties per division per day. Still a historical low for divisions on the offensive and in contact with the enemy for three weeks.
It is indeed amazing how small the casualty count is, even when counting as “wounds” the sort of injuries people might get doing minor home repairs. May it continue: Remember, in Gulf War I, a huge chunk of our casualties came in a single Scud attack on a rear echelon base after the war seemed all but over. My estimate was that we’d lose 200; I’d like to stay well short of that.
The headline on StrategyPage’s summary says it all: Baghdad Doesn’t Fall, It Crumbles. The performance of US troops continues to impress:
The coalition casualty rate has stayed as low as ever (about five casualties per division per day), mainly because of the high level of training and combat leadership among coalition troops, and the equally low levels among Iraqi troops. On the Iraqi side, the men most likely to resist are paramilitary troops (security troops, foreign Islamic volunteers.) These men, who appear to be clueless about what they are getting themselves into, are slaughtered by the coalition professionals. The Iraqi fighters are making matters worse by deliberately using civilians for cover. But the coalition rules of engagement do not force troops to not fire if Iraqis are shooting from behind civilians. In southern Iraq, the local civilians eventually took sides and went over to the coalition forces. This made it impossible for the pro-Saddam fighters to carry on and they fled. While this is happening in parts of Baghdad, there is really no place to run. While there may be a last stand in Saddam’s home town Tikrit (north of Baghdad), coalition forces have blocked all the main roads out of the city. For Saddam’s diehard defenders, it’s surrender or die, and many are choosing the latter option.
And I somehow missed this one yesterday:
The United States declared air superiority over Iraq, which means there is no significant threat to coalition aircraft. However, an A-10 was shot down yesterday, apparently by a French made Roland missile. Iraq had bought Roland missiles in the 1980s, but it is not known if the ones being used now are those older (and likely no longer working) missiles, or new ones smuggled in.
What is it that Glenn says? They aren’t against the war, they’re just on the other side.
StrategyPage summarizes yesterdays military news about Iraq. A lot happened, almost all of it good:
The troops entered the two presidential palace compounds and killed hundreds of Iraqi troops who resisted. Scores of unarmed Iraqi troops could be seen fleeing on foot. All this took place across the river from the hotel where foreign journalists stay. The raid, in effect, went off right in front of the foreign reporters cameras. Coalition spokesmen described the operation as a raid, not an occupation of the center of the city. Some commandos were seen going into Iraqi occupied buildings, indicating that the raid has some specific objectives beyond a show of force and demonstration that coalition forces can go wherever they want in Baghdad. American soldiers and reporters were allowed to wander through the luxurious rooms of the palaces. Yesterday’s raid resulted in only one American soldier killed, and over a thousand dead Iraqis. So today’s raid also serves to kill off those Iraqis who are willing to resist. As was shown in southern Iraq, the number of Iraqis willing to fight is limited. When you kill most of them, things quiet down and Saddam’s crowd is no longer in control. The raid had the element of surprise, coming early in the morning and catching most Iraqi troops by surprise. While the raid was going on, reporters were in the nearby Information Ministry. With the sounds of artillery and gunfire in the background, the Minister of Information assured everyone that the American forces downtown had been destroyed.
Read it all. Unless you’ve been glued to the television all weekend, and maybe even then, you’ve missed something.
DUNNIGAN’S ROUNDUP: StrategyPage’s daily news summary depicts a war going much better than most of the TV pundits grasp. It depicts a professional “4th generation” military overwhelming their foe:
Now it becomes obvious, as it did in 1991, that the Republican Guard are not elite and well trained, but simply well paid and more loyal to Saddam. If the Republican Guards are thrown back trying to hold the line 80 kilometers south of Baghdad, many Saddam loyalists will rethink their willingness to resist.
What is particularly disheartening to the Iraqis is that they can fight the coalition, but they find it almost impossible to kill or injure their better trained foes. Moreover, Iraq is under siege, with very little getting in. Most of Iraq’s border crossings are observed, or controlled, by coalition Special Forces and commandos.
Which is why door-to-door fighting is going to be unnecessary. And there’s more:
In central and western Iraq, U.S. Special Forces have made contact with tribal leaders and won some of them over to the anti-Saddam cause. About a quarter of the Iraqi population has a strong tribal connection, and many of these have guns, legal or illegal. Iraqi tribesmen have been fighting with U.S. troops moving up from the south as well as Special Forces operating in the west.
In the last 24 hours, fast moving coalition forces, and commandos, have captured at least half a dozen Iraqi generals, along with many colonels and the like who work for some of these generals. All of these officers are being interrogated about the state of Iraqi troops and combat capability, as well as Iraqis chemical weapons.
Maybe this is what Rummy and Co. mean when they say things are going according to plan? These actions don’t show make for good television, but they win wars.
DUNNIGAN’S ROUNDUP: StrategyPage’s daily Iraq summary evokes the movie Star Wars in discussing the inside debate on the military strategy, reveals that the Serbs have been giving Saddam tactical advice, and notes that most of the pundits have been wrong about, well, everything.
DUNNIGAN’S ROUNDUP: Not much new today in the StrategyPage’s war summary. He does lend credence to my suspicions vis-a-vis last night’s air drop:
A battalion of the U.S. 173 Airborne Brigade parachuted onto a friendly airfield in northern Iraq. This was apparently a PR exercise, as the troops could have been landed via transports and walked off the aircraft.
You read it here first.