Wednesday, August 15, 2007

So much for rosy predictions of imminent success in Iraq.

Back on July 30th Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack wrote that the debate taking place in in Washington about Iraq was "surreal." After spending 8 whole days in country they found "significant changes taking place." One example cited of the surge "finally getting somewhere" was a trip they took up to Tal Afar and Mosul in Nineveh province. There, they write, "American troop levels in both cities now number only in the hundreds because the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate. . . While Iraqi Army troops cover the country side."

Right. Or could it be that the reason US troops number in the hundreds is due to the fact that we don't have enough to spread around? Because yesterday, in that supposedly pacified country-side, four suspected al-Qaeda suicide bombers attacked Qahataniya populated by a small sect of ethnic Kurdish Yazidis near Sinjar, west of Mosul, killing at least 250 and wounding 400 of them -- perhaps more. [AP] On the same day 9 US troops died, five in a helicopter crash, a deputy oil minister was kidnapped in broad daylight with no resistance bu uniformed gunmen and what was left of a previously bombed bridge Taji was completely destroyed. [WaPo]

I heard on the BBC thing morning that the Yazidis had requested protection from Iraq or coalition forces after a particularly ugly incident involving an honor killing of a Yezidi girl who had converted to Islam, but none was forthcoming.

It looks as if all the al-Qaeda types the US military has been crowing about chasing out of Baqubah have redeployed a little further north. But, not to worry. Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch has the answer to that. Along with Operation Lightning Hammer, a reprise of the Baqubah offensive, there's also Operation Phantom Strike, a series of simultaneous raids on al-Qaeda, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias, which has supposedly led to the uncovering of safe havens, the capture of weapons caches and, according to the LAT, the rounding up of several "high value" suspects. Maj, Gen, Rick Lynch says "The intent is to keep the enemy on the run."

Oh, he's running alright, all the way up to Mosul and surrounding environs. It appears that somewhere along the way, during all the safe haven crashing and air strikes, Lynch & Co. missed two car bombs and one tanker truck loaded for bare with bombs. The nomenclature of the operation in appropriate, though, they're chasing phantoms.

Nineveh: the forgotten province.

Last week I had posted about the problems with Nineveh province, and Mosul in particular. Contrary to O'Hanlon's and Pollack's rosy appraisal of the situation, what seems to be going on in the area is not so much an example of Pax Petraeus, but rather a new front in the sectarian warfare so endemic in most other parts of Iraq. This time the struggle is between the Arab Sunnis and the Kurds, who are fighting for territory they covet for a new Kurdistan. AQI has come along for the ride because they're being pressed by all those macho sounding military operations in Diyala. (The Yezidis really don't have a dog in the fight; they appear to have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.)

Things are so out of control in the nearby oil rich and ethnically contested city of Kirkuk, that officials have ordered a ban on truck traffic into the city after a series of bombings in July which killed 150 people. The LAT reported on July 18 that: "At a meeting in Kirkuk, officials announced the indefinite truck ban and the digging of a trench, which already had been planned on the southwest and western edges of the city." When you're to the point where building a medieval moat around your city sounds like a great idea -- which has also been proposed for Baghdad. Is this O' Hanlon’s and Pollack’s idea of "sustainable stability?"

At any rate, in an article in the NYT on Nineveh province and its sectarian and ethnic travails [cited previously] the province's deputy governor Kasro Goran said Sunnis had chased some 70,000 Kurds from the western half of Mosul. (An estimated third of the population of 1.8 million people had been Kurds.)

However, to their credit, the Kurds have been keeping their powder dry -- so far. Goran, the deputy governor, told the NYT at the end of last May: "I compare the Sunni Arabs to the Bosnian Serbs: Their behavior, their way of thinking, their way of acting. They are for killings, they are for mass graves. Not all of them, but a majority of them." He went on to say, "We can kill every day 50 Arabs in the streets. Every day, everywhere, in Mosul and outside of Mosul. But we don't so that, because we know they want us to do that."

I wouldn't be too sure that after what happened yesterday that Mr. Goran, or some of his more hotheaded compatriots, aren't going to be tempted to do what the Sunnis want them to do.

Ex Post Pax Petraeus?

Before these latest horrific attacks even took place, the military was already covering their asses by warning that the insurgents or AQI would be staging large camera grabbing attacks like these in the run-up to Petreaus' and Ryan Crocker's report to Congress in September. The PR strategy this time, as it has been every other time, will be to blow off this latest outrage as another example of ongoing success, but I don't know if it’s going to fly this time.

If at this late date 30,000 extra troops can't stop the insurgents from bombing the infrastructure at will; AQI from killing hundreds at a time; or the prevent the Shiites from just waltzing into highly guarded compounds and government buildings and kidnapping government officials whenever they feel like it, then what's the point? Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch excuse for the military's inability to stop any of this is: "As we surged the enemy surged." But our surge was supposed to stop their surging, wasn't that the whole point? Mission not accomplished.

What I'm really wondering about is how Petraeus & Co. plans on keeping the lid on Nineveh and Kirkuk while they're still engaged up to their eyeballs in Baghdad, Diyala and Diwaniya. And soon enough US forces will be needed down south in Basra, too, to cover our vital supply lines to Kuwait after the British go. Because, the British are going soon, and we're not about to let the Iranians move right into a vacuum in Basra. That's not only on the way to Kuwait, but it's also where the only outlet to the Gulf sea is and, oh yes, most of the oil.

If I'm General Patraeus, I'm thinking, why didn't I "take that civilian job."

[Extra note: I haven't read this anywhere, but when you take into account the growing number of attacks on Kurdish targets in Mosul, Kirkuk and on into the Kurdish autonomous region in Irbil, one might get the idea that the Turks had something to do with what's going on. They certainly can't be crying into their beers about a little destabilization in the previously very stable Kurdish region. A preoccupied Pashmerga further south makes the Turkish army's job easier against the PKK on their south-eastern border. I ain't saying this is so, but its food for thought.]


Post a Comment

<< Home

hit counter script Top Blog Lists Favourite Blogs Top List
My Zimbio
Top Stories