Meanwhile, Back in Iraq...
the world's attention has been focused for the past 10 days on the
catastrophic tsunamis in South Asia and the subsequent relief efforts,
the situation for the United States and its dwindling number of
allies in Iraq appears to have worsened.
administration of President George W. Bush and its supporters continue
to insist that elections to a constitutional assembly scheduled
for Jan. 31 will turn the tide against the insurgency, even as key
figures in Baghdad's interim government as well as outside analysts,
are expressing growing doubts about whether the poll should even
go ahead, given the deteriorating security situation.
two weeks after a suicide bomber killed 18 U.S. troops and contractors,
as well as three Iraqi security personnel, at a military base in
Mosul, the ambush and killing in broad daylight Tuesday of the governor
of Baghdad, Ali Haidary, raised new questions about whether even
senior officials could be adequately protected less than four weeks
before the scheduled elections.
a staunch U.S. ally, was the highest-ranking official to be killed
by insurgents since last May.
the same day, five U.S. soldiers were killed in several incidents
around Iraq the worst toll since the Mosul bombing. And the
number of U.S. wounded in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion, more
than half of whom have not returned to active duty due to the gravity
of their injuries, surpassed the 10,000 mark.
Iraq's interim president, Ghazi Yawar, who Bush himself had quoted
just a week ago as being determined to proceed with the elections,
expressed renewed doubts Tuesday, telling Reuters that the United
Nations should "stand up for their responsibilities and obligations
by saying whether [holding elections] is possible or not."
He said it was a "tough call."
spoke a day after President Iyad Allawi himself telephoned Bush
on the latter's first day back at work after the Christmas holidays
about what White House officials described as "impediments" to pulling
off the elections given the prevailing insecurity and the growing
likelihood that the Sunni population about 20 percent of
Iraq's voters is unlikely to participate.
days before, another longtime U.S. favorite who played a leading
role in the transition from the formal occupation to the formation
of the interim government last June, Adnan Pachachi, expressly urged
the administration to put off the vote to enhance the chances for
Sunni participation and get the security situation under control.
"That situation has deteriorated significantly," stressed the veteran
Sunni politician and former foreign minister in a column published
in the Washington Post entitled "Delay the Elections."
as if to underline the security problem, the interim government's
intelligence chief, Gen. Mohammed Shahwani, told a Saudi newspaper
this week that he believed that U.S. and Iraqi forces were facing
as many as 40,000 "hardcore fighters" twice Washington's
previous biggest estimate backed by as many as 150,000 to
200,000 others who acted as part-time guerillas, spies, and logistics
personnel. He blamed the growth in the insurgency on a "resurgent
Ba'ath Party" under the direction of former officials, some of whom
he said, are based in Syria.
think the resistance is bigger than the U.S. military in Iraq,"
even remotely accurate and U.S. officials were quick to cast
doubt on Shahwani's claims, although they did not deny them either
those numbers should discourage the U.S. military, since
basic doctrine calls for a 10:1 troop-rebel ratio to control and
eventually defeat an insurgency. Washington currently has 150,000
troops in Iraq.
worse, the insurgency, by virtually all accounts, is actually growing.
now, the best efforts of the United States and the emerging Iraqi
army have not succeeded in preventing the growth of the insurgency,"
noted Robert Killebrew, a retired Army colonel and counter-insurgency
specialist, who believes that even if the elections come off, Washington
may well soon face the greater danger of a region-wide insurgency.
whose theories will be featured next week at a forum at the influential
neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), argues that
the only way to redress the situation is to increase Washington's,
as well as the Iraqi government's, troop strength, close the borders
with Iran and Syria, and threaten Iraq's neighbors with retaliation
if they provide support or safe haven to the insurgency. He also
favors substantially expanding the U.S. military as a signal of
to other counter-insurgency specialists who believe that Washington
might still snatch some modicum of victory from the jaws of defeat,
increasing U.S. forces and influence in Iraq at this point is likely
to be counterproductive, if only because Washington's actions have
so thoroughly alienated so much of Iraq's population.
beginning of wisdom," writes James Dobbins, an analyst at the Rand
Corporation who served as U.S. special envoy in a host of hotspots
from the Balkans to Afghanistan, in the latest Foreign Affairs
magazine, "is to recognize that the ongoing war in Iraq is not one
that the United States can win."
a result of its initial miscalculations, misdirected planning, and
inadequate preparation, Washington has lost the Iraqi people's confidence
and consent, and it is unlikely to win them back," according to
Dobbins, who argues that the situation can still be saved "but only
by moderate Iraqis and only if they concentrate their efforts on
gaining the cooperation of neighboring states, securing the support
of the broader international community, and quickly reducing their
dependence on the United States."
Anthony Cordesman, a highly regarded military expert on the Middle
East at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS),
also argues that eventual success will depend on Iraqis themselves
taking control, mostly through the creation of "larger and more
effective Iraqi forces as soon as possible" and far more effective
governance than the interim regime has been capable of to date.
nature of both the insurgency in Iraq and Iraqi politics makes it
all too clear ... that only Iraqi forces can minimize the anger
and resentment at U.S. forces, give the emerging Iraqi government
legitimacy, and support efforts to make that government and the
Iraqi political system more inclusive," Cordesman wrote in his latest
analysis. "It is also clear that even the segments of Iraqi society
that tolerate Coalition forces as a necessity today want them out
as quickly as is practical."
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2005 Inter Press Service