The Advisor – 14 October 2006

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I continue to post the weekly edition of "The Advisor" in this space for several reasons:

1- Fairness toward those who think the present policy in Iraq is wise.

2- A desire that there should be an appreciation among Americans of the quality of the effort being made by our forces and those of the British under very trying circumstances.

3- The irony of some of the material is irresistible.


I was just listening to Congressman Mark Kennedy on MTP.  Russert worked him over pretty thoroughly.  Kennedy is running for the senate from Minnesota. 

He said something that struck me as being right out of the "talking points" that he was issued.  He kept saying that if the coalition withdraws from Iraq the "terrorists; will take over.  The president says the same thing.  In other words, the "pitch" is to conflate all the varied forces of the insurgent groups with "the terrorists" i.e., the international Sunni jihadis.

This is nonsense.  It is political gibberish like the conflation between the names of Hilary Clinton and Jim Webb which is repeated over and over in the Virginia senate race.  Two people more unlike each other than these would be hard to find, but it matters not to those who seek to manipulate the electorate.

In the case of Iraq, anyone who knows anything about Iraq knows that if we leave there will be a continuation and probably an intensification of the fighting over power and booty in Mesopotamia and Kurdistan.  The one thing that is certain is that the Sunni jihadis are not going to rule what has been known as Iraq.

Might they end up as powerful actors in the "Sunni Triangle?" Ah, that is another matter.  Someone should be thinking about how to prevent that.

Pat Lang

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17 Responses to The Advisor – 14 October 2006

  1. Will says:

    when the Americans leave, the sunni tribal leaders, and baathists, will take care of the foreigners and salafists.
    Profividing they are cut in on the oil profits. If not, then they will using them to raid the oil pipelines and oil wells.
    Best Wishes

  2. b says:

    “I continue to post the weekly edition of “The Advisor” in this space for several reasons:
    1- Fairness toward those who think the present policy in Iraq is wise.”
    Pat, do you really think there is one living soul left who serious believes so?
    “Might they end up as powerful actors in the “Sunni Triangle?” Ah, that is another matter. Someone should be thinking about how to prevent that.”
    No way, but they may try. The Saudis will prop up the Sunnis in Anbar with lots of money, and don’t want the jihadis to have a refuge there. But they will only pay the tribes if they get rid of jihadis, so the tribes will do so.

  3. W. Patrick Lang says:

    George W. Bush. He is the “decider.”
    As to what will happen in Anbar, you have no real basis for making that judgment. It is merely a wish. It may develop that you are right. There will be a variety of actors both regional and international seeking to affect the outcome.
    It is one thing to make a statement like yours in the context of an analysts’ bull session. It is another to make such a forecast in an official intelligence product which may affect events on the ground. If I were still in the business and you made that judgment in public without talking to me about it, I would fire you. pl

  4. Fred says:

    What is the Saudi influence in Iraq?
    There was also much noise made previously about Saudi funding of fundamentalist madrassas globally. Is the latter funding still occurring and what is their impact?

  5. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Rich Sunnis and Sunni organizations from all over the world are funding the revolt against Shia rule and incidentally against us since we are there.
    In addition to that there are AQII people some of whom are Saudi. pl

  6. zanzibar says:

    “the “pitch” is to conflate all the varied forces of the insurgent groups with “the terrorists” i.e., the international Sunni jihadis.” -PL
    This has been going on for a while and ramped up during the Sept PR offensive. I don’t believe it is having the results that the Decider may have expected as recent polls show that a large segment of the American public believe that the problems of Iraq and jihadists are separate issues. Maybe all the Repubs need is 30% of the electorate to buy into it. With the election less than 3 weeks away many Repub candidates have no choice but to stick with the pitch or separate from the Decider – not good choices when their opponent keeps bringing up the chaos in Iraq and the continued loss of American life.
    “Might they end up as powerful actors in the “Sunni Triangle?” Ah, that is another matter. Someone should be thinking about how to prevent that.” -PL
    Isn’t it likely that this will be a lower order priority for the Sunni leadership? Wouldn’t they first need to battle the Shia militias and achieve whatever level of power equilibrium that is possible? They have a tough fight on their hands as the Shia are taking all the oil resources in the south and the Kurds plan to annex Kirkuk with its oil resoures. I am not sure how they battle on two fronts with a population that is just about even with the Kurds. Maybe they just act as spoilers and continue a long fought insurgent/guerilla war attacking pipelines, etc. Will the Shia with their larger population be able to suppress the Sunni in Anbar through force similar to what Saddam did to the Shia?

  7. W. Patrick Lang says:

    you are doing the same thing. i.e., assuming that jihadi and or sunni arab leadership and groups are one organization rather than a many headed creature that can do many things at the same time. pl

  8. zanzibar says:

    I accept that the Sunni’s, Shia’s and the jihadis are not singular organizations in Iraq.
    My point was that fighting the jihadis maybe a lower priority fight for the myriad Sunni militias compared to fighting the myriad Shia militias. Your point if I get it correctly is that the various Sunni groups can fight amongst themselves, with the Shia groups and the different jihadi outfits at the same time. I don’t disagree with this contention either but I would guess on a tactical level some of the Sunni and jihadi groups may make arrangements to fight their common “enemies” which could change from moment to moment. But this type of situation seems more like complete anarchy to me which is what it probably is in Iraq today.

  9. zanzibar says:

    “It is political gibberish like the conflation between the names of Hilary Clinton and Jim Webb which is repeated over and over in the Virginia senate race. Two people more unlike each other than these would be hard to find, but it matters not to those who seek to manipulate the electorate.” -PL
    From what I’ve read it seems the outcome of the Allen-Webb race will be determined by the margin that Allen gets in Central VA and Webb gets in NoVA. Allen is clearly the slicker of the two and very adept spouting the talking points and making character insinuations. And he has the name recognition as a previous governor and incumbent senator.
    Issues like the prescience and judgement of Jim Webb on critical matters like Iraq will not get the level of hearing it deserves. From his OpEd in Sept, 2002:
    Is there an absolutely vital national interest that should lead us from containment to unilateral war and a long-term occupation of Iraq? And would such a war and its aftermath actually increase our ability to win the war against international terrorism?
    Heading for Trouble
    Despite the fact that Webb is a novice politician he won a primary against the establishment candidate and is even in the recent polls considering that Allen is spending millions of dollars.

  10. Frank Durkee says:

    I.s it perhaps possible that the Sunni’s would concentrate on establishing the best deal they can for themselves, if we left? While the Kurds and Shias would seek, to fragment the Sunnis to gain adherents for their positions and/or neutralize potential oppostition. Our absence would focus attention on things of great significance other than us. since the sunni situation is comolex that could move ina variety of directions.

  11. Freeman says:

    In response to General Dannatt’s forthright comment that the Brits should leave Iraq sometime “soon” because the presence of coalition troops was only “exacerbating” the problem, two notable replies have been reported in the London newspaper The Sunday Times.
    1. A spokesman for the governor of Basra, Mohammed al-Waili, said: “It’s true they saved us from Saddam Hussein, but that war is over. We believe their continuing presence makes the security situation worse. They must now either leave or stay put in their barracks and allow the Iraqi forces to take control”.
    2. The Basra police chief, Mohammed Hamadi, said: “All trust between the British and local forces has now broken down. We do not need the British in our streets and cities”.
    I have a hunch that we may have overstayed our welcome.

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Chaos! You’ve broken the code. pl

  13. Chris Bray says:

    In fairness, I would guess that some of the trust between the police in/around Basra and the British has broken down because some of the police in that area are engaged in hijackings and shakedowns, and the British are in the way. As much as the “Coalition Forces” are drawing fire and exacerbating the violence, I think it’s pretty clear that some of the Iraqi actors have dirty hands, and the occupying forces are a check on their power. Movement toward withdrawal is necessary and overdue, but will have both positive ~and~ seriously negative effects for ordinary Iraqis.

  14. K says:

    “The irony of some of the material is irresistible”
    The irony may be a cloak to other goals that are beyond any comprehension of the simple minded masses.

  15. confusedponderer says:

    “My point was that fighting the jihadis maybe a lower priority fight for the myriad Sunni militias compared to fighting the myriad Shia militias.”
    I think it depends on your plans. It is well possible that the Sunnis will want to achieve a degree of unity, be it only to prevent being conflated with or undermined by the Jihadis. To make a sustainable political deal, you better speak with one voice. Sooner or later, the Sunnis will want to rid themselves of the spoilers with the foreign accents that distract them from dealing with the really important things: Their role in a future Iraq.
    Considering that the Sunnis are today tolerating the Jihadis as long as they attack Americans and disrupt and undermine the acting gvt that doesn’t work in their interest, I can also imagine a, maybe temporary, alliance between Sunnis and Shias to end the brutal and indiscriminate carnage committed by Jihadis, so that they then can go on to deal with each other undisturbed.
    The Sunnis certainly know that they have no choice but to accept Shia majority as a fact of life. In fact, the Shia let them know. The point is what they will get. If offered a decent face-saving deal, they might even be appeasable. Condition for that is that the US leave.
    But then, the situation may well be beyond the point where this could still be possible.

  16. Yohan says:

    First of all, anyone who assumes that “al qaeda” is one unified organization is making more of a leap than anyone. “al qaeda” has to be the most nebulous term in politics these days, and that’s saying a lot!
    Furthermore, using the possibility of an al qaeda presence in Sunni Iraq as a reason against leaving is just plain silly since al qaeda *already* has a presence there. US troops don’t seem to be affecting the number or quality of foreign fighters in Iraq as it is, so I don’t see how withdrawing US troops and falling back on Shia puppets to bonk heads in Anbar is going to make the international terrorism situation any worse. How will foreigners be more willing/able to plot large scale attacks on the US with a civil war within a civil war going on all around them? How are locals going to be less effective in fighting al qaeda than the overstretched and humint-poor American forces currently are?
    I see the Sunni areas of Iraq as an inhospitable environment for the foreign fighters specifically *because* there is no unity within or between the local and foreign insurgencies. The foreign fighters exist in Iraq at the pleasure of the locals, and even if a minority of local groups turn on the foreigners, the foreign presence becomes untenable. The locals know who belongs and who doesn’t and so they can be much more effective at rooting out the foreigners than the (also foreign) Americans can. American bombs ended Zarqawi, but local Sunnis(and not even all or most of them) turning on him was what killed him. That’s why he was in the dangerous Baqubah area rather than in Anbar; that even a few of the locals in Anbar had it in for him made it impossible for him to operate there. I don’t know for sure, but I’ve read in many places that local Sunni insurgents were the ones that ratted him out.
    Specifically because there is no unity within and between local and foreign groups is exactly why I think that conflicts between Sunni groups is more than just likely. Bin Laden didn’t start plotting against America until he had a peaceful safe haven within a unified Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan. Taliban and foreign fighting against the Northern Alliance was nothing compared to what Sunni-Peshmerga and Sunni-Shia fighting will be like once the Civil War comes into the open, all without a unified local Sunni front to act as a Taliban. Of course no one knows what the future will hold, but I suspect that a post-US Iraq will progress more like the GIA/MIA/AIS/GSPC/etc. splinter groups in Algeria than like the Taliban/al qaeda alliance in Afghanistan.

  17. confusedponderer says:

    I agree with that the Iraqis, left to themselves would probably quickly rid themselves of the foreign fighters, hopefully permanently. With the US gone, they have served their purpose. That said:
    “Bin Laden didn’t start plotting against America until he had a peaceful safe haven within a unified Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan.”
    While that may be true, I doubt the opposite is true as well. Bin Laden, like the decider, is a believer. He will not stop plotting, only because of losing safehaven.
    Safehaven is an interesting point. IMO the delusion the silver bulleteers fall prey to is that escalation to the safehaven, will allow them the attritionist battle US forces excell at, and unhinge the guerrillas, and annihilate them. While that strategy looks great on powerpoint, it is easier presented than done, and sometimes impossible to implement.
    An interesting article on safehaven by William S. Lind, and the silver bulleteers eternal quest for the ‘hardware fix’ against it.
    “They say that if we only put enough pressure on states such as Pakistan not to permit sanctuaries, and overthrow state governments that openly provide sanctuary such as Syria’s, then the Fourth Generation will disappear. Sorry, but it won’t.
    The error is that, as usual, the silver bulleteers are thinking in terms of states. They argue not only that Fourth Generation entities need sanctuaries, which is true, but that those sanctuaries have to be in states, which is not true. On the contrary, stateless regions provide the best sanctuary Fourth Generation forces can hope to find.
    The sanctuary delusion has two unfortunate consequences. First, like all silver bullet answers to 4GW, it leads us astray from the slow, painful and difficult task of understanding the Fourth Generation in all its evolving complexity. Second, as with Pakistan, it leads the American government to push friendly governments in weak states over the edge. By demanding they deny sanctuary on their territory to “terrorists” who have strong popular support, Washington exacerbates their crises of legitimacy. Washington then acts surprised and dumbfounded when those governments fall, as it discreetly folds away the pocket knife that cut their high wire. If their fall creates another stateless region, the Fourth Generation gets another ideal sanctuary.
    As is so often the case in 4GW, the fact that Fourth Generation forces need sanctuaries means neither that they must obtain them from states nor that they can be targeted. Our troops in Afghanistan don’t call their Taliban opponents “ghosts” for nothing.”
    Fourth Generation or not, it’s IMO a point worth pondering about.
    After the recent coup attempt, it’ll be interesting to see how Musharaf will succeed in fighting his internal resistance. The US pressure must be intense.
    If US pressure collapses Pakistan it will become a super safehaven, that cannot possibly controlled by the US. That will be the end of the US and NATO effort in Afghanistan. The repercussions will be felt far wider.

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