Originally Published 2003-12-29 05:15:58 Published on Dec 29, 2003
Police and Army are perceived to be low . The mercenaries of the Iraqi members of the governing council such as Ahmed Chalabi are better paid. The staff of the Iraqi Police and Army were till recently not entitled to the war hazard allowance. A proposal to grant that allowance even to them was under consideration.
Iraq Continues To Bleed
by the US under circumstances, which are still far from clear, theground situation shows no signs of improvement. The total number ofviolent incidents per day admitted by the coalition forces, whichwent down from an average of 30 plus to 20 after the end of theMuslim fasting period in November, has again increased to 26.

I am using the word "admitted" because the coalition spokesmen areadmitting only those incidents which independently come to thenotice of the media. No public announcement is made about otherincidents. This became obvious when the attempt to kill PaulBremer, the civilian head of the US operations in Iraq, in anambush laid by the Iraqi resistance on December 6 was admitted onlya fortnight later after a TV channel had come to know of it. Thus,there is obvious management of statistics by coalition spokesmen ingeneral and by US spokesmen in particular.

The interrogation of Saddam and hundreds of others arrested by theUS troops at Samarra and other places has apparently not yieldedany worthwhile intelligence as could be seen from the repeatedlyexhibited ability of the resistance fighters and the foreign jihaditerrorists to strike at will at targets of opportunity or of theirchoosing even in areas where the US troops in their search andarrest sweeps had rounded up hundreds of suspects.

Baghdad and Samarra and their neighbourhood continue to seetargeted attacks on the US troops, the Iraqi Police andestablishments associated with them despite the campaigns ofintimidation periodically undertaken by the US forces by usingheavy weapons, tanks and artillery in inhabited areas. Theincidents of repeated mortar firing by resistance fighters onbuildings in Baghdad used by the US troops and civilian personneland foreign journalists around Christmas show the continuingfragility of the security situation even in the capital. PaulBremer and the members of the US-controlled Iraqi governing councilhardly move around in the capital and have practically nointeraction with the people except the anti-Saddam elements, whohave returned from exile in the US and West Europe. Bremer's toursare confined to the Kurdish areas in the North and the Shia areasin the South under British control.

The US continues to avoid much interaction with large sections ofthe Iraqi elite, who had remained loyal to Saddam before theoccupation. This is the section, which had always contributed thebest of the professionals of the Iraqi society such as bureaucrats,law enforcers,enginners, doctors, teachers etc. These are thepeople with their ears close to the ground, who know the countryand the pulse of the people. In its continued reluctance to make adistinction between Saddam and those who had served his regime andto seek to win over the latter while acting against the former, theUS has laid the seeds of the failure of its policies, whetherrelating to the restoration of law and order or rehabilitation andreconstruction.

The political exiles, who have returned after a long comfortablelife in the West, and dominate policy-making under the protectionof the US gun and watchful eyes of Bremer, neither know theircountry nor their people. There are already allegations of some ofthem making money by asking for commission from foreign contractorsand traders. The allegations are particularly serious with regardto contracts for the purchase of arms and ammunition from abroadfor issue to the newly raised Police and Army.

The morale of the newly-raised police and army is low. Policeofficers have been increasingly the targets of attacks by theresistance fighters and foreign jihadi terrorists. Over 250 Iraqipolice officers have died since May at the hands of the resistancefighters and jihadi terrorists, though US spokesmen have admittedthe death of only about 120 as on December 19 ( they call them theIraqi security service personnel).

There have been already unreported incidents of desertions from thepolice and the new Army. The desertions have been partly due to thelow morale and partly to unhappiness over what they view asdiscriminatory conditions of service. While the US troops have thehighest scales of remuneration and canteen facilities plus ahandsome war hazard allowance, the pay scales fixed for theofficers of the Iraqi Police and Army are perceived to be low . Themercenaries of the Iraqi members of the governing council such asAhmed Chalabi are better paid. The staff of the Iraqi Police andArmy were till recently not entitled to the war hazard allowance. Aproposal to grant that allowance even to them was underconsideration.

The counter-insurgency methods adopted by the US troops have beenreminiscent of those adopted by them in Vietnam and by Israelagainst the Palestinians--- massive acts of reprisals,indiscriminate arrests, restrictions on the movements of Iraqisinside their own country and often inside their own towns as, forexample, in Samarra.

The fact that despite such intimidatory methods, the Iraqiresistance movement continues to get volunteers for operationsdirected against the occupation troops speaks much of thecontinuing high level of motivation. The motivation has in no waybeen weakened by the capture of Saddam.The local support enjoyed bythe resistance fighters has facilitated their operations andthwarted the attempts of the US and other coalition troops topenetrate the resistance movement, identify its individual cellsand their leaders and members and neutralise them.

It is remarkable that eight months after the resistance movementstarted, the US has even now very little idea of its organisationalstructure, leadership, sanctuaries and modus operandi. Despitespectacular successes such as the killing of the two sons of Saddamin July and the capture of Saddam himself on December 13, whichwere apparently made possible by betrayals by individual Iraqis,there have been very few instances of arrests of resistancefighters and foreign jihadi terrorists by the coalition troops onthe basis of similar betrayals.

Those arrested seemed to have had very little to do with theresistance movement and those in the core and forefront of theresistance movement have successfully evaded capture. Theresistance movement continues to be well organised in autonomouscells of not more than five persons per cell capable of acting ontheir own in pursuance of their master objective of making theoccupation troops and their Iraqi collaborators bleed without theneed for centralised command and control and modern means ofcommunications.

The resistance fighters avoid operating in large groups and do notindulge in direct confrontational tactics despite claims to thecontrary made by US spokesmen with regard to Samarra. The claims ofthe US spokesmen that the resistance fighters in Samarra, who,according to them, confronted a US column, were wearing fedayeenuniform illustrate the confusion or ignorance, which continues toprevail among the coalition troops, about their enemy, whom theyhardly know. The resistance fighters do not wear any uniform inorder to avoid attracting attention to themselves.

The resistance cells avoid identifying themselves by any name, donot issue fatwas and threats like Al Qaeda and other jihadiorganisations do, do not make claims of success, do not indulge inpropaganda and publicity and avoid using modern means ofcomminications, including the Internet.

The coalition troops continue to be as ignorant of the identity andstrength of the foreign jihadi terrorists, who have infiltratedinto Iraq and have been operating independently of the resistancefighters, as they are of the resistance fighters. The spectacularand well-orchestrated attacks in Karbala on December 27, whichkilled four Bulgarian and two Thai troops and six Iraqi Policeofficers, bear the signature of the Chechen elements in the foreignjihadi force.

There have been no reports of any fresh infiltration of jihaditerrorists from abroad. The tightening of border controls by theSaudi authorities has deterred any fresh bid to infiltrate intoIraq. The total assessed number of foreign jihadi terroristsalready operating inside Iraq remains at around 320 or even lessdue to attrition.Like the resistance fighters, the foreign jihaditerrorists too operate in small autonomous cells and avoid claimingsuccess and using modern means of communications, including theInternet.

By adopting suitable evasive flying tactics, US helicopters havebeen able to avoid any loss in December similar to those ofNovember.

The US and other coalition troops will continue to bleed till theyare able to get a better measure of the resistance fighters and theexternal jihadi terrorists and their modus operandi. While theshort-term prospects remain negative, the US should still be ableto turn the tide in the medium and long term and soften and winover the resistance fighters if only it tries and succeeds inwinning the co-operation of the estranged and sulking Iraqi eliteof the Saddam days. Continued reliance on stooges could provecounter-productive.

As I have been repeatedly reiterating in my writings and talks, itis not in India's interest that the US fails to prevail in Iraq.Whatever its past mistakes---there have been many and of a veryserious nature---some of the adversaries which it faces in Iraqpost-May are India's adversaries too. Many of them were previouslykilling hundreds of innocent civilians in India, Russia (Chechnya)and other countries. They are now killing Americans and Iraqis. Ifthey succeed against the US, they will receive a shot in the armand will gravitate to other jihadi fronts, including India, withrenewed confidence and heightened morale. This has to be prevented.

India's decision not to send troops to Iraq was the right one. Wecannot afford to get involved in a counter-insurgency orcounter-terrorism role in a Muslim country. At the same time, weshould not hesitate to consider other ways of discreetly assistingthe US such as intelligence-sharing, training of the new Iraqibureaucrats, including military, police and intelligence officers,in Indian institutions and acting discreetly as an interfacebetween the US and the angry and sulking Iraqi elite in an attemptto bring the two together. (29-12-03)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), CabinetSecretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, InstituteFor Topical Studies, Chennai, and Distinguished Fellow andConvenor, Advisory Committee, Observer Research Foundation (ORF),Chennai Chapter. E-mail: [email protected] )

* Views expressed in this article are those of the author anddo not necessarily reflect those of the Observer ResearchFoundation.
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