Update: US News & World Report has an extensive article on the involvement of Iran in destabilizing Iraq: The Iran Connection. Well worth reading.
Iíve got an increasingly sickening feeling that the war in Iraq is being lost. An insurgency can only be defeated by locals. All the firepower on earth will not avail you if you do not have the active support of the people on whose behalf you are fighting. This is self evident, really. They know who the insurgents are. They know when sabotage is being planned. They know when an ambush is being planned. They know. You donít. Without them you simply canít win.
More importantly, the indigenous population (the IPís, in Viet Nam parlance) must be willing to lead the fight. In Iraq, the police seem unwilling even to defend their own police stations much less seek out and confront the terrorists and insurgents operating in their midst. The Iraqi national guard troops seem capable of little more than following behind the US Marines and patrolling the streets. Many, including commanders, seems to desert at the first hint of real trouble. Reports are that both the rank and file and leadership of the police and national guard are infested with informants and resistance sympathizers.
Hereíre some excerpts from Zeyad at Healing Iraq:
The general situation in Baghdad these days is sinisterly reminiscent of the war. You keep hearing distant and sometimes not so distant thuds and explosions that make windows rattle. Helicopters hovering 24 hours a day almost at palm tree levels and jet fighters screeching high above with an increasing urgency that makes one cringe from apprehension. Electric power is almost non-existent and there has been a serious shortage in petrol since Tuesday, most gas stations have been closed for days and it’s hard to find even on the black market, which means less electrical generator time for Iraqi households.
Fighting seems to have spread to several areas in Baghdad, including my neighborhood. Haifa street, Dora, Amiriya, Khadhraa’, Bayaa’, Adhamiya and Zayuna districts have all witnessed clashes, mostly between hit-and-run armed groups and IP or NG’s. IED’s are all over the capital and several key roads and bridges have been blocked.
Nobody is following the situation in Fallujah anymore since the whole country seems to have plunged into chaos. There has been fighting in Ramadi, Khaldiya, Hit, Haditha, Garma, Abu Ghraib, Qaim, Mosul, Kirkuk, Hawija, Baiji, Tikrit, Samarra, Tarmiya, Balad, Muqdadiya, Salman Pak, Jurf Al-Naddaf, and most likely in dozens more areas that go unreported.
That from one of the most consistently optimistic and pro-western Iraqis Iíve read. Or how about this assessment from Newsweek magazine:
But the truth is, neither party is fully reckoning with the reality of Iraqówhich is that the insurgents, by most accounts, are winning. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell, a former general who stays in touch with the Joint Chiefs, has acknowledged this privately to friends in recent weeks, NEWSWEEK has learned. The insurgents have effectively created a reign of terror throughout the country, killing thousands, driving Iraqi elites and technocrats into exile and scaring foreigners out. “Things are getting really bad,” a senior Iraqi official in interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s government told NEWSWEEK last week. “The initiative is in [the insurgents’] hands right now.
A year ago the insurgents were relegated to sabotaging power and gas lines hundreds of miles outside Baghdad. Today they are moving into once safe neighborhoods in the heart of the capital, choking off what remains of “normal” Iraqi society like a creeping jungle. And they are increasingly brazen. At one point in Ramadi last week, while U.S. soldiers were negotiating with the mayor (who declared himself governor after the appointed governor fled), two insurgents rode by shooting AK-47sófrom bicycles. Now even Baghdad’s Green Zone, the four-square-mile U.S. compound cordoned off by blast walls and barbed wire, is under nearly daily assault by gunmen, mortars and even suicide bombers.
Throughout much of Iraq, but especially in the Sunni Triangle at the heart of the country, U.S. troops are unable to control streets and highways, towns and cities. And allied Iraqi troops are simply not numerous, well trained or trustworthy enough. Attacks on Coalition and Iraqi forces are now in the range of 100 a day; casualties among Iraqis are far greater. More than 900 policemen have been killed in the past year, according to the Ministry of the Interior. The Iraqi media have been targeted, too: in just the past three weeks, assassins have killed two Iraqi journalists, both female TV personalities. On Saturday, a car bomb detonated near Al Arabiya TV in Baghdad, killing seven.
Does this sound like a war that weíre winning? There is no possible way for 150,000 troops to control a country of 28 million without the active support of its inhabitants. And donít tell me about the British Empire. This is not 1850. Today, support can stream in from across the globe to supply weapons and fighters to a guerrilla insurgency allowing them to wreak havoc for decades.
Why isnít this happening in Afghanistan? Quite simply because thereís no support for it. For starters, twenty years of civil war have simply worn them out. More importantly, in Afghanistan, by contrast with Iraq, the war was led by Afghanis, with the US merely supplying the overwhelming firepower when needed. Finally, the international community, much as it pains many Americans to admit it, provided the necessary political framework for the war to succeed, from the political meetings held in Bonn, Germany, to the active help of neighboring countries like Russia, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. All of which are missing in Iraq.
Iím not optimistic. As I heard one commentator recently put it, Iraq may simply prove to be a bridge too far.