[Marxism] A new turn in US military strategy in Iraq?

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at rogers.com
Tue May 24 18:53:57 MDT 2005

A report in the Asia Times asserts that the US is abandoning its effort to
build a conventional army in Iraq in favour of irregular militas operating
under direct US command against the anti-occupation resistance. If the
report is accurate, it means the Americans have written off the fledgling
satrap army, composed in the main of jobless and weakly motivated Iraqi
youth, as ineffective in combat operations and a heavily infiltrated source
of intelligence and weapons for the resistance.

A turn to ethnic-based militias would represent a huge and desperate gamble
for the US. According to the report, the Kurdish peshmerga and Shiite Badr
brigades would be used against the primarily Sunni resistance in the centre
and north of the country, while "former members of the Ba'ath Party and the
Iraqi army who were part of the Saddam regime but who have now thrown in
their lot with the new Iraqi government" would be sent into the Shia south.
This sounds like a perscription for a full-scale sectarian civil war, and if
the US appears ready to risk this, it is only because it fears there would
be wholesale defections of Shia and Sunni puppet troops sent to suppress
unrest in their own population centres.

Meanwhile, the resistance appears to have strengthened itself politically at
a recent conference in Algiers co-sponsored by the Higher Committee for
National Forces, grouping "various Iraqi communist, Islamic, Ba'athist and
nationalist groups" united on a program of resistance to continued foreign
occupation and the surrender of Iraq's oil wealth and other assets to
foreign investors.

The wild card, as always, is the militant but politically shrewd Sadrist
movement within the Shia community. If former Baathist officials and troops
are deployed to quell unrest in the Shia south, as reported, that would in
itself likely be sufficient for the Sadrists to finally throw in their lot
with the broad new political front against the occupation.

An interesting report whose accuracy is still to be tested.

US fights Iraq fire with street fighters
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
Asia Times
May 25, 2005

KARACHI - With the Iraqi resistance showing no signs of wavering and
extending its roots deep into the population, the US has realized that to
counter this threat it must change its approach.

Asia Times Online has learned that the US, instead of training up a regular
professional Iraqi army, will create what in effect will be  armed militias,
acting under US central command, to take the militias of the resistance on
at their own game.

The Iraqi resistance against the presence of foreign forces in the country
has had many faces. Initially, the ousted Ba'ath Party's security committee,
members of the Iraqi military and para-military forces were the main

Later, after many of the top brass were arrested and others were forced to
flee, many to Syria - including Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri (there are doubts
that the former No 2 in Saddam Hussein's regime died while in Syria) - the
resistance lost its central command. Various Islamic groups filled the
vacuum, and they have dominated the resistance ever since.

In the meantime, various groups, including former communists, members of the
Ba'ath Party and even those who were against the Saddam regime, organized
themselves in different European countries. These groups played an important
role in adding a political face to the resistance: they sent representatives
to various Arab countries and finally succeeded in coordinating their
activities with those in the field in Iraq.

Recent meetings of the so-called Higher Committee for National Forces (a
grouping of Iraqi resistance bodies) and the 16th Arab National Congress
held in Algiers played a pivotal role in building consensus among various
Iraqi communist, Islamic, Ba'athist and nationalist groups on several
issues, such as the right of Iraqis to defend themselves against foreign
aggression and imperialism, and the right of Iraq to demand a political
process untainted by occupation and which reflects the uninhibited will of
the Iraqi people for a pluralistic and democratic Iraq.

The groups also condemned the continued occupation of Iraq and the
establishment of any permanent US bases in the country, the privatization of
the Iraqi economy and foreign corporations' unrestricted access to Iraq's

On this common ground, the central command of the resistance reorganized its
activities, a key to which was merging mohallah-level (street-level) Islamic
groups scattered in their hundreds across Iraq to work toward a common
goal - defeating the occupation. In turn, these militias would co-opt common
folk into their struggle, so that, literally, the streets would be alive
with resistance.

Aware of this development, the US has accepted that no conventional military
force can cope with such a resistance, and therefore similar mohallah-level
combat forces are needed.

According to Asia Times Online contacts, these US-backed militias will
comprise three main segments - former Kurdish peshmerga (paramilitaries),
former members of the Badr Brigade and those former members of the Ba'ath
Party and the Iraqi army who were part of the Saddam regime but who have now
thrown in their lot with the new Iraqi government.

All three segments have already been equipped with low- and medium-level
weapons purchased from various countries, including Pakistan. Military
analysts believe the US military in Iraq will use the Kurd and Shi'ite
militias to quell the resistance in central and northern Iraq, while in the
south the former Ba'athists and old-guard Iraqi soldiers will be used
against anti-US Shi'ite groups.

To date, the Iraqi army has only been supplied with small arms - air and
armored forces are still in the hands of the US Army - and there is no
indication that the US will hand over any of this, or high-tech equipment,
to the Iraqis.

Iraq's future now seems to be in the hands of militias, under the command of
the US on the one side and militias under the command of the resistance on
the other; reminiscent of wartime Lebanon and Vietnam.

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