[Marxism] Anbar: no man's land for USA

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Nov 28 07:39:39 MST 2006


Anbar Picture Grows Clearer, and Bleaker

By Dafna Linzer and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 28, 2006; A01

The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in 
western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to 
newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report 
that set off debate in recent months about the military's mission in Anbar 
province.

The Marines recently filed an updated version of that assessment that stood 
by its conclusions and stated that, as of mid-November, the problems in 
troubled Anbar province have not improved, a senior U.S. intelligence 
official said yesterday. "The fundamental questions of lack of control, 
growth of the insurgency and criminality" remain the same, the official said.

The Marines' August memo, a copy of which was shared with The Washington 
Post, is far bleaker than some officials suggested when they described it 
in late summer. The report describes Iraq's Sunni minority as "embroiled in 
a daily fight for survival," fearful of "pogroms" by the Shiite majority 
and increasingly dependent on al-Qaeda in Iraq as its only hope against 
growing Iranian dominance across the capital.

True or not, the memo says, "from the Sunni perspective, their greatest 
fears have been realized: Iran controls Baghdad and Anbaris have been 
marginalized." Moreover, most Sunnis now believe it would be unwise to 
count on or help U.S. forces because they are seen as likely to leave the 
country before imposing stability.

Between al-Qaeda's violence, Iran's influence and an expected U.S. 
drawdown, "the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point" 
that U.S. and Iraqi troops "are no longer capable of militarily defeating 
the insurgency in al-Anbar," the assessment found. In Anbar province alone, 
at least 90 U.S. troops have died since Sept. 1.

The Post first reported on the memo's existence in September, as it was 
being circulated among military and national security officials. Several 
officials who read the report described its conclusions as grim.

But the contents have not previously been made public. Read as a complete 
assessment, it paints a stark portrait of a failed province and of the 
country's Sunnis -- once dominant under Saddam Hussein -- now desperate, 
fearful and impoverished. They have been increasingly abandoned by 
religious and political leaders who have fled to neighboring countries, and 
other leaders have been assassinated. And unlike Iraq's Shiite majority, or 
Kurdish groups in the north, the Sunnis are without oil and other natural 
resources. The report notes that illicit oil trading is providing millions 
of dollars to al-Qaeda while "official profits appear to feed Shiite 
cronyism in Baghdad."

As a result, "the potential for economic revival appears to be nonexistent" 
in Anbar, the report says. The Iraqi government, dominated by 
Iranian-backed Shiites, has not paid salaries for Anbar officials and Iraqi 
forces stationed there. Anbar's resources and its ability to impose order 
are depicted as limited at best.

"Despite the success of the December elections, nearly all government 
institutions from the village to provincial levels have disintegrated or 
have been thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated by Al Qaeda in Iraq," or a 
smattering of other insurgent groups, the report says.

The five-page report -- written by Col. Peter Devlin, a senior and seasoned 
military intelligence officer with the Marine Expeditionary Force -- is 
marked secret, for dissemination to U.S. and allied troops in Iraq only. It 
does not appear to have been made available to Iraqi national forces 
fighting alongside Americans.

The report, "State of the Insurgency in Al-Anbar," focuses on conditions in 
the province that is home to 1.25 million Iraqis, most of whom live in 
violence-ridden towns such as Fallujah, Haditha, Hit, Qaim and Ramadi.

Devlin wrote that attacks on civilians rose 57 percent between February and 
August of this year. "Although it is likely that attack levels have peaked, 
the steady rise in attacks from mid-2003 to 2006 indicates a clear failure 
to defeat the insurgency in al-Anbar."

Devlin suggested that without the deployment of an additional U.S. military 
division -- 15,000 to 20,000 troops -- plus billions of dollars in aid to 
the province, "there is nothing" U.S. troops "can do to influence" the 
insurgency.

He described al-Qaeda in Iraq as the "dominate organization of influence in 
al-Anbar," surpassing all other groups, the Iraqi government and U.S. 
troops "in its ability to control the day-to-day life of the average Sunni."

Al-Qaeda itself, now an "integral part of the social fabric of western 
Iraq," has become so entrenched, autonomous and financially independent 
that U.S. forces no longer have the option "for a decapitating strike that 
would cripple the organization," the report says. That is why, it says, the 
death of al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June "had so 
little impact on the structure and capabilities of al-Qaeda," especially in 
Anbar province.

The senior intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity 
because of the sensitivity of his work, said yesterday that he largely 
agrees with Devlin's assessment, except that he thinks it overstates the 
role of al-Qaeda in the province. "We argue that it is a major element in 
Anbar, but it is not the largest or most dominant group," he said.

In a final section of the report, titled "Way Ahead," Devlin outlined 
several possibilities for bringing stability to the area, including 
establishing a Sunni state in Anbar, creating a local paramilitary force to 
protect Sunnis and to offset Iranian influence, shifting local budget 
controls, and strengthening a committed Iraqi police force that has "proven 
remarkably resilient in most areas."

Devlin ended the assessment by saying that while violence has surged, the 
presence of U.S. troops in Anbar has had "a real suppressive effect on the 
insurgency." He said the suffering of "Anbar's citizens undoubtedly would 
be far worse now if it was not for the very effective efforts" of U.S. forces.

The Marine Corps headquarters had no comment on the August report or the 
updated assessment, Lt. Col. Scott J. Fazekas, a spokesman, said yesterday.

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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