“The Sword that Cuts the Arteries of the Infidels”

October 27, 2006

“The Sword that Cuts the Arteries of the Infidels,” referring to supply lines and apostate forces which support American and Shi’ite forces, is the title given to a fifty-two minute video presentation recently issued by Ansar al-Sunnah, one of the primary insurgency groups in Iraq. The video bears a resemblance to another of the group’s past releases, “Path of Glory ,” in which two men identified as Husam al-Shamri and Mohammed Abu Hajer, a member of Ansar al-Sunnah’s military office, sit and discuss the attacks which unfold and provide clarification for the group’s purpose in these actions. Abu Hajer explains that the supply lines of the enemies are like the beating heart in the body, and the enemy cannot function without supplies. To cut off the supplies then, is like “stopping the heart beat of the enemy”.

Footage from operations conducted within the Northern, Southern, Western, and Eastern regions are shown and described by Mohammed Abu Hajer, captions under each clip providing a description of the individual attacks. He explains that due to the isolated terrain of the western region there is very little influence from the Iraqi government and Shi’ite forces. However, this area and the Eastern region are where the Mujahideen show the captured drivers and alleged members of Jeish al-Mahdi they capture and execute. "


A colleague sent me the previous reference to Iraqi insurgent meditations on the subject of the vulnerability of Coalition forces to interruption of their lines of supply I Iraq. I had previously written about this weakness and thought it likely that the insurgents had taken note of the vulnerability as well. This seems to indicate that this is true.

From talking to people involved, I perceive that "planning guidance" from our national leadership to the military focuses altogether on excluding any thought that there is a possible outcome other than a complete victory in Iraq, "victory" being defined as complete achievement of President Bush’s goals in that country and in the region.

Planning guidance like that effectively prevents contingency planning for future events that would be severe reverses. An interruption of the lines of supply would be such a reverse. A hostile entry into combat of one or more of the Shia factions would be another.

Given the current mentality of the civilian government and consequently of the military command in Iraq, I would bet a lot of my own money that there are no serious and detailed plans anywhere in the command structure designed to cope with a massive and adverse series of events in Iraq.

Pat Lang


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62 Responses to “The Sword that Cuts the Arteries of the Infidels”

  1. taters says:

    Welcome back, Col. Lang, I hope and trust all is well. This was a matter of grave concern when you mentioned it before, as it is now.

  2. How could any true patriot accept this state of affairs?
    I am a liberal and I have to say that as a liberal who loves this country and wants to see it thrive, I am offended. Such incompetence verges on treason.
    Conservatives – can you defend this? Is your only defense that it isn’t really happening? Or maybe, just maybe, that it’s an offense against conservative values to be so damn stupid?
    ‘Cause nobody who actually loves American values really wants to see this disaster unfold.

  3. McGee says:

    Whatever happened to Worst Case Contingency Planning?

  4. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I would say that “the beast” is crawling toward a dark outcome. Does “the beast” know where it is headed?
    Quien sabe?

  5. W. Patrick Lang says:

    An art practised by generals unlike these. pl

  6. backsdrummer says:

    It is tragic how Iraq has provided a self-sustaining proving ground for all manner of militant anti-American movements. The insurgents can probe for our weaknesses while our aggressive military presence and overly-ambitious political goals create enough hostility to provide them a multitude of inexhaustable sources of eager replacements, supplies, and funding.
    My guess is the US military could quickly re-establish any break in the supply lines, but the ongoing cost of military operations would increase dramatically for as soon as we reduced the protection, the insurgents would be back. This could well become a key event in convincing everyone Iraq is “unwinnable”.
    I agree nothing will change until Bush is gone. I believe the President’s Iraq policy is overly-burdened by political baggage, but he will not change anything as it could risk his domestic political base.
    So we will continue to spend billions forcibly searching and bombing homes we ensure everyone belong to “terrorists”, maintaining sometimes trigger-happy check-points, and conducting occasional raids without the knowledge or consent of the “sovereign Iraq Government”. We will keep these and other tactics up, while also ignoring any non-American government investigation of civilian losses or the conduct of our forces and/or our allies and contractors, until everyone in Iraq eagerly embraces “democracy”.
    Unfortunately, from what I’ve read Bush’s “Iraqi Democracy” has a few strings attached: Willingly providing permanent American military bases, American control of the air-space, turning all allegations of criminal or civil wrong doing by Americans or their allies or contractors over to American authorities, granting Americans the right to warrantless searches and the use of deadly force, eliminating most if not all tariffs on foreign products, privatizing the economy, especially the oil industry, and whole-heartedly supporting the US and Israel against Iran, Syria, and Palestinian militant causes. Not much to ask for.
    “Democracy” also means ignoring the hard-to-solve causes of ethnic tension like the history of ethnic cleansing at Kirkuk and control of the oil that lies beneath it.
    So I’m not expecting a military solution, nor expecting this President to reduce his definition of victory for a sovereign” and “democratic” Iraq anytime soon.

  7. DeWitt Grey says:

    I trust that you are exaggerating in the hope that you will be proven wrong. After the PLA’s attack on the Eighth Army in the fall of 1950, I would have thought our field forces would always have contingency plans for problems like these. I must say that the serious British talk of withdrawal from Basra makes me wonder who will be minding the LoCs. Is “redeployment” north through Kurdistan and Turkey a fallback option?

  8. W. Patrick Lang says:

    1950? These men were nearly all born after that.
    Their ahistoricity is so bad that arguments that involve history have to be couched in other language in order to get them to listen. pl

  9. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I gather that you missed this lesson at the Staff College.
    Yes, you can fight one convoy through. You can fight ten convoys through, or a hundred. What you can not do is keep a four hundred mile long LOC (line of communication) open through hostile human terrain unless you have enough resources to “outpost” the whole thing and still have enough left over to do whatever you have to do up in central Iraq.
    Applied math:
    one RPG + 1 guerrilla = 1 dead truck + drivers frightened to death.
    Look up the concept of “friction in war” in Clausewitz. pl

  10. Matthew says:

    Col. Lang: Contingency planning? Unless that is a political attack ad, I ask–why would Bush start now?

  11. confusedponderer says:

    Under SecDef Rumsfeld an act of defaitism like Worst Case Contingency Planning will probably be punished severly. Sad enough.
    Still, it is possible that there is some planning going on on this, as an unofficial and unordered back-up plan for the generals, just to cover all bets.
    They may be spineless, but they aren’t stupid (at least I hope so). When finally the shit hits the fan Rumsfeld will be refusing any responsibility.

  12. emptywheel says:

    I’d be curious to hear your comments about the British evacuation of the consulate in Basra. Between that and Sadr’s forces taking Amara, it seems like the Sadr’s men are accomplishing what the Sunnis are talking about. How dangerous are the developments in the south?

  13. Grimgrin says:

    Col. Lang, this discussion of supply lines brought to mind this incident.
    To my mind, the supply lines in Iraq are uniquely vulnerable because they’re manned by civilians. What happens when the danger gets to be such that they can no longer find qualified drivers at any price?

  14. Walrus says:

    Col. Lang,
    Once again it seems we are in furious agreement.
    With all the talk of “options” in Iraq I’m afraid no one has thought of the Walrus “option five”. I refer to my comment under the “Follies” Thread:
    “”Option Five” is that the insurgents coordinate well enough to cause our defences in Iraq to collapse and they then kill every single one of the 140,000 troops there and boot our sorry ass right out of the Gulf.”
    I have always been concerned and a little envious about the amount of material the American army requires to fight a war, and the expectations the troops have of their living conditions.
    While I would not characterise these conditions as “soft”, and soldiers are entitled to the best food and accomodation they can scrounge, I think a considerable amount of logistic load is stuff that other armies might consider unnecessary. In my opinion this is the army’s achillies heel and it seems the insurgents have woken up to it.
    One has to wonder what the effect on morale and fighting ability will be like if the creature comforts are removed.
    P.S. But way back in 1970, I still would have loved to have had one of those rinky dinky Government issue Coleman stoves to heat my rations instead of a soggy cube of hexamine.
    Cheers! Walrus.

  15. Walrus says:

    Re: Basra and the evacuation of the British Consulate.
    Word from a soldier on the ground in Basra who is two months into a six month deployment: “Situation is unpleasant, and getting worse by the day.”

  16. fasteddiez says:

    Walrus, It’s not the grunts who need dining facilities with enlarged lobster tails, LCD tv’s, it’s the REMF’s and or Fobbits, and the bloated, parasitic headquarters staffs
    who need such puffery. And if there is a God it is they who will suffer the most, come the downfall “Untergang”

  17. Jaime Gormley says:

    …”planning guidance” from our national leadership to the military focuses altogether on excluding any thought that there is a possible outcome other than a complete victory in Iraq…
    This can only mean that Barbara and Jenna Bush, Elizabeth and Mary Cheney, Nick Rumsfeld, Andrew Rove and the entire vast untapped pool of hypocritical war enthusiast youth, formerly exclusively focused on personal aggrandizement and chauvanist exhortation, will soon commit themselves in overwhelming numbers to the fray, enlist in the Army and Marine infantry and begin patrolling Dora, Sadr City and Anbar by Spring ’07.
    Not that their participation will turn the tide. Far from it; this war was lost before the first Downing Street memo was written. But when the national security elite’s children return from this strategic disaster of epic proportions in flag drapped transfer tubes or maimed and wounded in body and spirit the same as the economic conscripts they’ve so carelessly spent, it will finally become viscerally obvious to them that this deceitful war’s not only lost but also to be quit.
    Then our national leadership will graciously permit our military other thoughts than complete victory in Iraq.

  18. ali says:

    I do wonder about this.
    We are outnumbered by heavily armed and by now combat experienced militiamen. We’ve trained a sectarianly divided Iraqi army. Mortar teams attack our bases down South every night.
    An arrogant assumption of innate superiority lead to Isandhlwana, weary desperation came before Dien Bien Phu. Complacency lead to bloody messes like Spionkop.
    There is a military disaster waiting to happen and it probably will be in Southern Iraq.

  19. MarcLord says:

    Halliburton/KBR has resorted to employing non-US drivers for their convoy trucks. Drivers from Burma and the Phillipines are not only much cheaper, they complain less when they’re killed.

  20. Michael D. Adams says:

    About Basra; Perhaps the British remembered a lesson about not evacuating too late that they once learned at great cost in the Khyber Pass circa 1850. Perhaps…
    See you in Gitmo,
    Mike Adams

  21. Recondo says:

    In mod-April of ’04 when Sadr’s forces had cut Baghdad off from the south and Fallujah went off the charts the ‘dream zone’ was down to 10 days rations, if they served MREs for breakfast.
    Those that were there in NOV ’03 will remember how the lines for chow in the palace went from 45 minutes to walk in after a credible threat of a sizeable force being assembled to overrun the ‘dream zone. Bremer mysteriously departed the country leaving the Polish Ambo waiting for a meeting that never took place. When he returned and held a town-hall meeting, he told people to hide under their desks and shoot anyone that came through the door.
    Not only is it plausible thatBaghdad, or any of the other ‘super-bases’, could be cut off, it is eventually going to take place and then you are going to see planes and helos falling out of the sky in large numbers, particularly as we move back into the cooler months of the year.

  22. confusedponderer says:

    If I’m not mistaken, the US army additonally has outsourced logistics to a good extent to civilian contractors. IIRC a good deal of the US convoi truck drivers are turkish. The ‘new army’ is ‘lean’ and has reduced the number of combat capable logistic troops.
    The primary stake the hirees have in this conflict is (a) their hide and (b) their money. In that order. They wouldn’t fight. If attacks on the supply lines increase in intensity and focus, the US will be preoccupied saving US hides.
    The US will end up bribing everyone: The drivers, waylaying insurgent groups (who will find US vulnerability opens great business opportunities) as well as their allies (who want, reasonably enough, only get out of the mess in Iraq asap).
    PS: For completeness, PL’s article from the CSMonitor
    And one on the lines of communication in North Iraq
    “… more commonplace concerns such as the fear of being struck by anti-US insurgents abound among the thousands of truck drivers working to keep the occupation supplied. Abdullah Ramadan Guli, a 57-year-old driver, said he has never felt more endangered in 28 years of criss-crossing Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula than now.
    Guli is currently employed by the US Army, whose military base in Mosul he supplies with aircraft fuel. Turkish truck drivers such as Guli are some of the last professionals in the region to accept the risky business of working for the Americans. But even Guli is critical of the lack of security that the US Army provides on the often lethal three-hour drive down from the border to the strife-torn city of Mosul.
    “Should there be an attack, the Americans just run away,” he complained. “They only come back to tug the damaged trucks off the road.”
    In two years of driving his highly flammable truck within the 1.5-kilometer-long US convoys that cross the northern Iraqi countryside, Guli has been caught up in three attacks. So far he has been lucky, never having had his truck directly struck by insurgent fire. “Six months ago they hit us with mines and rockets, but more usually we’re just pelted with stones,” he said.”

  23. Scary. I’m a liberal arts, apolitical (until 9/11/01), absolutely-unschooled-in- military-tactics woman, and I’ve been worried about that 400-mile supply line in hostile territory, and the position of our troops, and some awful disaster. Now I read that military thinkers have same concern. That says a lot about the level of competence being applied to administration of this war; it makes me really sad that I wasn’t being overly imaginative. I’ve mentioned it to friends, no one had a comment…guess they think the planners are on it. Yeah.

  24. zanzibar says:

    “What happens when the danger gets to be such that they can no longer find qualified drivers at any price?” – Grimgrin
    I have read reports that most of the drivers for the convoys are now South Asians – Pakistanis, Indians and Sri Lankan. I am sure Halliburton aint paying them $100K. And as the video you linked to stated they can be fired if they are “injured on the job” – no wonder Halliburton profits are doing so well. It seems there would be a pretty large pool willing to risk their lives to feed their families who may otherwise live in squalor.

  25. jonst says:

    On occasion here i have suggested that the Bush Admin must, for some unexplained, or even unimagined reason, WANTED the end result it got in Iraq. That it ACTIVELY sought, and planned, for the reaction it got. This opinion of mine…radical enough, and nearly impossible to prove, has been respectfully dismissed. But I still hold it only because, as incredible as it may seem, a great deal of evidence backs it up. Here is the latest. And IMHO it is damning.
    These guys wanted this to happen. At some level. They are encourging the chaos.

  26. confusedponderer says:

    Just read that Cheney said that the violence in Iraq is linked to the coming US elections. In this he is dusting off his ‘last throes’ theme one more time.
    Cheney suggests the insurgents want to influence the US electorate by causing US casualties. He is probably even right in that.
    But there’s a catch: In my opinion (probably shared by the Iraqi insurgents) the war in Iraq is not all about US domestic policy, and blame gaming.
    The point that the insurgent groups *can* increase the violence level, that they *can* take massive casualties and continue fighting, and that they *can* increase US casualties, to a new record level also suggests something else that is more important than US domestic policy:
    That, no matter that there are elections coming the US have proved unable to stabilise the country and that this sad state of affairs will likely remain so. And that this gives not so much testimony to the ruthlessness and persistence of the Iraqi resistance but about the abysmal absence of able leadership and sound judgement that steered America into Iraq.
    With regard to the LOC issue: Cheney and his goons have led the US forces into Iraq, where the US run risk losing an army in an battle of encirclement against a numerically superior but technically vastly inferior enemy.
    The funny thing is that this time the maneuvering enemy put himself in the static trap, rather than trapping an immobile enemy through out-maneuvering him. Ironic.

  27. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I still think they did not want this kind of trouble. pl

  28. W. Patrick Lang says:

    You have been right all along. pl

  29. 4 billion says:

    Not long ago, Mark Steyn graced Australia with his presence, thanks to our ‘liberal’ party leader, who paid for the whole trip, well, he didn’t pay, we did. One of the Acorns of knowledge I managed to gather, was that he (read neocons) believe 9/11 came about due to stability in ME.
    I think Steyn represents some sort of window into the mind of a neocon. His ‘comedic’ pursuits means he is able to let the ol’ guard down.

  30. João Carlos says:

    Scary… I just read this post at Defense and National Interest.
    However, I guess that can be worse than the author thinks. Iran have missiles that can hit the arabian refineries. If they can hit the arabian refineries they can hit the american bases at Iraq’s soil too.

  31. Brian Forester says:

    Reply to Jonst:
    If I wasn’t at my core a very rational person I would say that the only explanation for President Bush’s choices is that he believes in the ‘End of Times’ and that his actions are all part of that grand design.
    More realistically I would say that the world view of President Bush and those who work for him leaves no room for self-doubt or any kind of introspection. All problems they face are from external sources and none of those problems are from the choices they’ve made.

  32. dan says:

    I got the impression a couple of weeks ago that somewhere in the military people are now actually contemplating “nightmare” scenarios which involve a defeat of some description: Rumsfeld deployed in public to remind everyone that the US military is too powerful to be physically beaten in Iraq.
    What I’m curious about is what is the minimal level of US troops in Iraq required to avoid collapse given the current state of play, and how does this impact on the modalities of withdrawal once the Bush administration has expired, and the decision to leave is made?
    The lowest deployed level came in early 2004 – about 105k, although this number was supplemented by a much, much larger non-US coalition contingent than exists now; it’s currently around 150k, bolstered by a declining UK presence and some Danish, Aussie, Salvadoran and Polish levies. How much longer can the US military field this level of manpower and resources before a wheel falls off somewhere?

  33. John Hammer says:

    Multinational forces south of the iyahs are guests of the Ayatollahs. I hope that the Turks can be bribed, coerced, cajoled, something, into accepting a new logistical tail snaking through their country into Iraqi Kurdistan.

  34. Frank Durkee says:

    Col. At this point in whose interest within Iraq is it to force the US out? Will we in fact leave if the Maliki government requests that we do so? Do we have the capacity, with or without Iraqui help, to stop the increasing ethnic cleansing and defacto division of the country?
    Thank you.

  35. VietnamVet says:

    The Armed Forces in Iraq are at the end of a long logistic tail manned by mercenaries with inadequate forces.
    Worse than no contingency planning, the only goal of the US government is winning elections and keeping in power. Their strategic plan is to kill radical Muslims, also known as “whack a mole”. The bombing of the Mosque in Pakistan is the latest example, now reported to be a Predator rocket attack rather than Pakistani helicopters.
    Christian occupation of two Muslims countries, torture, American Gulags and indiscriminate killing in religious institutions will radicalize more Muslims than they kill. The Vietnam Body Count Syndrome is back big time except with a billion population pool the Jihadists will shortly overwhelm any American volunteer army. Not unlike Gordon of Khartoum.
    Sooner or later, the secular practical military dictatorship in Pakistan will fall due to current American strategic practices. Pakistani Atomic Bombs will then transform into Allah’s Weapons of Vengeance.

  36. Nand Jagnath says:

    Compared to what might happen in Iraq, America’s departure from Saigon is beginning to look very leisurely.
    Somehow, I can’t bring myself to believe that the world’s sole superpower, with highly professional men and women in uniform, hasn’t made any contigency plans.
    If America is unceremoniously booted out, the consequences for the region would be unimaginable and, I suspect, completely unpredictable. The Iraq conflict has created battle-hardened veterans who can train future generations of jihadists. Scary!

  37. Walrus says:

    We already have indications that the uncertainty about what would happen in Iraq post invasion was regarded as a good thing – “Creative Chaos” – unpredictability, was the quote by Rumsfeld.
    Well we have Chaos, and its creative, but we don’t like the creations.
    I believe we are about to see the Neo Cons argue that the reason we are losing is that the chaos is NOT creative enough. They will then bomb Iran.
    I expect a false flag operation any day now (before the election) – an attack on an American ship, ostensibly by Iran.
    The Republicans will then co-opt the Democrat candidates for an attack on Iran. After all, if American lives have been lost, what political candidate can be elected if he doesn’t call for revenge?
    There follows the bombing of Iran, followed by the imposition of the draft and other horrors.
    I’ve been studying the sources of German militarism prior to WW1….there are disturbing parallels to whats happening in the U.S. today.

  38. julie says:

    There isn’t or wasn’t the least “contingency planning.” From what I read at Fester’s Place the US had a reserve brigade in Kuwait to try and keep the south open in an emergency and for other thinngs I assume, but it was moved in for the Baghdad campaign. The British also seem to be getting out.
    The contingency plan as always if faith based reality and saying the media never reports the good news. That always works until it doesn’t.

  39. John Howley says:

    Odom explains cut and run:
    “THE UNITED STATES upset the regional balance in the Middle East when it invaded Iraq. Restoring it requires bold initiatives, but “cutting and running” must precede them all. Only a complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops — within six months and with no preconditions — can break the paralysis that now enfeebles our diplomacy. And the greatest obstacles to cutting and running are the psychological inhibitions of our leaders and the public.
    “Our leaders do not act because their reputations are at stake. The public does not force them to act because it is blinded by the president’s conjured set of illusions: that we are reducing terrorism by fighting in Iraq; creating democracy there; preventing the spread of nuclear weapons; making Israel more secure; not allowing our fallen soldiers to have died in vain; and others.”

  40. jonst says:

    The “end of days” ‘explanation’ is exactly what I am talking about. And it is clear that ‘rational people’ (and I count myself leaning in the direction of that group)are clueless to grasp what is going on. We, they, just can’t imagine something so crazy as that could motivate so one who is President. But I wonder…how many times have ‘rational people’ made that mistake in history? And wound up paying for it dearly.

  41. libs0n says:

    VietnamVet, on your last point, earlier today I was listening to an audio clip of a talk given by Scott Ritter with Seymour Hersh to promote his new book, and Hersh made a humourous aside in response to a question about Israel’s concern about the Pakistani bombs, that the special forces of Israel, America, and India will crowd each other out beating a path to secure them should Musharraf fall.
    The link is below; if you like discussions about a possible America-Iran war it’s right up your alley. I’ve always enjoyed Ritter’s coherent summation of the subjects he talks about, and luckily for me the book in question is on the shelf waiting to be picked up at the library.

  42. 4 billion says:

    A strike on Iran will only achieve setting back Nuclear bomb programme by 5 years and open up a new dimension in the world of hurt.
    A strike is more evidence of NeC-planX from planet chaos.

  43. billmon says:

    A question, Colonel. Can you think of another case where an American army has been left dangling at the end of such a long LOS?
    I can think of only three — Sherman and the Army of the Ohio in Georgia, MacArthur and Wainright on Bataan (which is to say, no LOS at all) and the Anglo-American Army in France in the fall of 1944, up until the opening of the port of Antwerp.
    The first led to Sherman’s daring but successful decision to live off the land, the second led to the largest surrender in U.S. Army history, while the third caused the allied drive to bog down on the German frontier — not a disaster, but a huge lost opportunity to end the war quickly.
    I’d call that a 1-1-1 record. What’s the damage likely to be in Iraq if someone makes a serious attempt to cut the line?

  44. Unmitigated Audacity says:

    Just as the roman emperor Julian lost his army in Mesopotamia, the British were forced from Iraq and many other armies (some lost to the sands of time) were humiliated in the land of the two rivers, so too will the cream of America’s military industrial complex be destroyed if we don’t effect a strategic redeployment, and soon.
    It’s hard to see a redeployment happening, even if the GOP gets it’s head handed to it in the mid-terms. Tho I fervently hope the Dems pick up a majority in the house to provide some kind of break on the lunatic policies of our neo-Nero, still, the Dems seem almost as thoroughly invested in this disaster as the most rapturized christian conservative.
    The poster who said that chaos was the end-game is on to something. This is my own conclusion. Not that these geniuses were prescient enough to foresee the present bloodbath in it’s particulars, but they certainly knew they were setting into motion a process that would lead to anarchy and revolutionary change in the SW Asia region.
    I think the goal of this crowd of neocons, who are merely the ‘office interns’ of their bosses, the synarchist Globalization mafia, was/is the destruction of the nation-state institution, starting in SW Asia, then spreading throughout the world in order to usher in a neo-feudal world order. The uber-bosses don’t care if the US economy and military gets gets destroyed in the process a spreading conflagration of asymmetrical warfare in Iraq (and Iran). That is something they intend to effect somewhere down the line anyway. The ultimate goal is a marriage of global cartels and financiers with a privatized, high-tech ‘Crusader’ military capability – an updated version of the Nazi ideal of international cartels wedded to an international Waffen SS.

  45. ali says:

    “Sunni insurgents have cut the roads linking the city to the rest of Iraq. The country is being partitioned as militiamen fight bloody battles for control of towns and villages north and south of the capital.”
    Another attempt to dishearten the GOP base in mid-Philidelphia?

  46. zanzibar says:

    Baghdad under seige
    As American and British political leaders argue over responsibility for the crisis in Iraq, the country has taken another lurch towards disintegration.
    Well-armed Sunni tribes now largely surround Baghdad and are fighting Shia militias to complete the encirclement.
    The Sunni insurgents seem to be following a plan to control all the approaches to Baghdad. They have long held the highway leading west to the Jordanian border and east into Diyala province. Now they seem to be systematically taking over routes leading north and south.

    The problem it seems is not only if Shia militias start attacking supply convoys in the south but also Sunni militias controlling access into Baghdad.

  47. Chadwick says:

    I, too, am a completely untrained, concerned person who read about this supply line vulnerability soon after the invasion. My question is: if this is the case, why haven’t the insurgents done it already? Thank you.

  48. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The main LOC runs through Shia country to the south. The Shia have been content up until now to do nothing about it because the US occupation was producing a desired result from their point of view.
    From the Baghdad area out to the various FOBs the routes run through a lot of Sunni Arab country and these roads are under constant attack. pl

  49. confusedponderer says:

    Interesting article in todays AsiaTimes on the violence in Iraq today, and it’s (possible) roots, looking back to the pre-Baath era.
    For the author resistance to foreign occupation is an important factor. The IMO really interesting part is in the second half of the article: That, with a grain of salt, savage political violence is an expression of Iraq’s ‘national political culture’. Iraq’s history suggests that much: Iraq’s politics are a piranha pool, where losers and their extended families are killed off if they stay in country.
    That suggests that Iraq’s political groups would butcher each other until somehow a degree of stability has been reached, and that the US are caught in the middle. Whoever the US side with on their quest for elusive stability, they will inevitably antagonise their allies opponents, while discrediting their allies – with the added disadvantage that nobody except those exiles wants the US there anyway.
    The locals will try use the US to improve their political position in Iraq’s internal power struggle. That will continue until the US either withdraw, or antagonise a strong player (Iran and/ or the Shias) to an extent that the benefits ot US presence are outweighed by the nuisance of US meddling. That will then be the “The Sword that Cuts the Arteries of the Infidels” scenario.
    If Iraq is lucky the country will become stably unstable, much like Colombia. And much like in Colombia the US will keep a foot in the door, in case of withdrawal. In case of US defeat, that will no longer be possible.
    As for militias: It’s remarkable (and remakably under-reported) that the militias have in part been created or at least supported by the US. That probably also led to the creation of counter-militias to protect the groups threatened by pro-US militias. Units like that so-called ‘Wolf Brigade’ aren’t exactly ‘Iraqi’ units.
    ‘Recruited in Sadr City’ hardly inspires confidence in Sunni communities.

  50. The Shia/Iran coalition will do nothing overtly damaging to the US presence in Iraq as long as the Sunni/Saudis keep US troops “in-country” and attacking them.
    Piggy in the middle and killing a superpower in the process is pretty stragetic stuff.

  51. holy_bazooka says:

    i want to point jonst to this article by Naomi Klein, Baghdad Year Zero
    I don’t know if it strictly applies but gives an insight into the neo-con mind. Make what u will of it.
    I think their (non)approach to things is an amalgamation of various kinds of philosophies and thinking, each one more lunatic than the other.

  52. holy_bazooka says:

    Unmitigated Audacity :
    neo-feudal order is exactly what i think neo-cons are aiming for.
    its their dream world.Global free for all where all is fair and means don’t even matter. no more civil society(as much as it exists)
    –i think i need some fresh air.

  53. blowback says:

    After reading the article Baghdad Under Siege, the first issue that struck me was not the threat of the Shia blocking the lines of supply from the south. The real threat is if the Sunni insurgents truly break the lines of supply. This represents a threat to both the American occupiers and the Shia inhabitants of Baghdad. If people think that the Americans would have problems re-supplying themselves, then just think of the problems they would also have meeting the basic needs of the approximately two million Shia living in Baghdad.
    The second issue is how sincere the American administration is in backing the Maliki government. It seems to me that if they want “Iraqi forces to stand up so that the American forces can stand down” they would allow the Iraqi army greater firepower so that it can take on the Sunni insurgents. This the American forces are quite clearly not doing.
    He added that later two Iraqi regular army platoons turned up in Balad with little military equipment. When they were asked by locals why their arms were so poor “the reply was that they were under strict orders by the US commander from the [nearby] Taji camp not to intervene and they were stripped of their rocket-propelled grenade launchers”.

  54. Duncan Kinder says:

    According to Juan Cole, Sunni guerrillas are engaged in a “seige of Bhagdad” strategy which appears generally to be consistent with Col. Lang’s “cut off supply lines” thesis:
    Patrick Cockburn suggests that such actions are not random violence, but rather are part of a Sunni Arab strategy of surrounding and cutting off Baghdad.
    Cockburn is correct. The Sunni Arab guerilla movements have been attempting to cut off Baghdad for some time, and have at times successfully imposed a fuel blockade on it. So far the blockade has been stacctto and not very successful. But if they really could blockade the capital, they could deprive the Iraqi police and army of fuel for their vehicles, and then execute them. This step could only come, of course, once the US begins withdrawing. Once that process starts, the Shiites had better start negotiating with the Sunni guerrilla groups, or else it wouldn’t be long before the Green Zone fell.

  55. confusedponderer says:

    holy_bazooka & Unmitigated Audacity,
    I disagree, and disagree strongly, about the point that the neo-cons seek a neo-feudal order. The neo-cons put quite an emphasis on the State, the US in particular. Sure, neo-liberals see global free market as the ultimate destiny of mankind, but neo-cons are not like that.
    Look at John Bolton, if anything, he is against the UN because it impedes US ‘policies of the free hand’. In international law that means going back to the era before WW-I. In the sense that they want to re-establish (US) gvt control in so many aereas they are in fact outright reactionary. Yes there is the Ledeen school of ‘chaos breeds opportunity …’, but that sentence is incomplete without the proper ending “… to increase US power”. I also feel their patriotism is heartfelt and deeply serious, no matter how counterproductive and debased their policies.
    In fact, a strategy aimed on establishing ‘global benevolent hegemony’ can hardly go along with dismantling of the state per se – dismantling state sovereignty for every country other than the US is merely a means to the end of achieving US dominance.
    When the neo-cons happen to act in unisono that’s not so much because they have an all-out masterplan but a shared mindset and worldview. Chalmers Johnson said something along the line: “One doesn’t need to tell geisha what to do, they know what to do.” So do the neo-cons.
    They are acting on their own, with a very much alike worldview. That eans they require minimum coordination. Bolton for instance doesn’t report or take orders from Cheney. He knows what to do. That’s creating the echo chamber effect.
    These people are working in perfect understanding, and to uphold that occasional phonecalls and dinners are absolutely sufficient.

  56. kevin says:

    I remember when that ambush occured. The guard unit escourting the convoy was cherry and did not know the route. Some of these poge backwood guard units are like the guy said-too incompetent to even work a fastfood joint.
    and some aren’t

  57. bardo says:

    Looking at the no-win situation of Iraq, I thought I’d revisit the old Comical Ali quotes from the early days of the invasion. Frightening reading:
    1. “Iraqi fighters in Umm Qasr are giving the hordes of American and Brtish mercenaries the taste of definite death. We have drawn them into a quagmire and they will never get out of it.”
    2. “Now even the American command is under siege. We are hitting it from the north, east, south and west. We chase them here and they chase us there. But at the end we are the people who are laying siege to them. And it is not them who are besieging us.”
    3. “The simple fact is this: they are foreigners inside a country which has rejected them. Therefore, these foreigners wherever they go or travel they will be rained down with bullets from everyone. Attacks by members of the resistance will only go up.”
    4. “Washington has thrown their soldiers on the fire.”
    5. “I can assure you that those villains [American’s and British] will recognize, will discover in appropriate time in the future how stupid they are and how they are pretending things which have never taken place.”
    6. “I told you yesterday that the shock has backfired on them. Indeed, they are shocked because of what they have seen. No one received them with roses. They were received with bombs, shoes and bullets. Now, the game has been exposed. Awe will backfire on them. This is the boa snake. We will extend it further and cut it in the appropriate way.”
    I remember at the time chuckling, but with a touch of nervousness. Who’s laughing now?

  58. Reply to Jonst: starting with ’round about 98% of the German and Jewish intelligentsia in late 1920’s/early 30’s…?

  59. Happy Jack says:

    Should I assume that Task Force Smith is no longer part of the curriculum at West Point?

  60. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Those kids get very little military history. The Army does not believe in history, thinks it largely irrelevent.
    The curriculum at WP is a college curriculum. pl

  61. tony says:

    “Their ahistoricity is so bad that arguments that involve history have to be couched in other language in order to get them to listen”
    Col., this short statement says truth not only about the military but about the society at large – it is sometimes shocking that any reference to history makes one appear scurrilous… in the eyes of interlocutors
    I agree with one other comment that this blog is one of the best I have seen.
    PL for Pres.!

  62. backsdrummer says:

    I saw this article and thought of this thread immediately. It sounds like a convoy was over-run and a number of prisoners taken:

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