The US in Iraq: New Tactic, Same Strategy
By Amer Jubran
December 20, 2005
George Bush and his warmongers – Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, Wolfowitz, Cheney – and their counterparts in Europe and Australia, have learned the hard way from invading Iraq that economic, political, military, intelligence, and technological superiority cannot defeat the spirit of a small number of poorly armed Iraqi resistance fighters. Thirty-three months into the occupation of Iraq, the USA and its international and local Iraqi collaborators remain without political or military control. Moreover, it is only getting worse for the invaders, as evidenced by the drastic increase in numbers of US military casualties. Not being able to hide its losses anymore, the US is working hard just to survive its predicament in Iraq.
But, does that mean an end to the war? Is the US, which defeated Germany, Japan, and Italy by fighting a very bloody World War Two, the US which dismantled the USSR without having to fire one single bullet, and the US which contained China by economic means, ready to acknowledge another Vietnam? Bush and his band are not ready to concede defeat, lay down their weapons and surrender to people they think of as "sand niggers" and "towel heads," especially if this defeat could endanger US strategic interests in the Arab world: oil, client Arab regimes, and Israel. If the war ends, would Bush favor going home and spending the rest of his presidency dealing with the poor US economy and its consequences? Not likely.
To stop the ongoing humiliation at the hands of the Iraqi resistance and to avoid defeat, the US will do the following:
- It will continue to attempt to isolate the Iraqi resistance both politically and militarily. Sadly, worldwide objection to the US occupation does not translate into support for the Iraqi resistance. This is due to US media propaganda, US economic global domination, and Europe's labeling of the resistance as "terrorism."
- It will suppress opposition to the war in the US despite the huge loss of life. Democrats are political and ideological joint partners with the Republicans with regard to Iraq. Their rhetoric is not opposition but accommodation. Most of the US media acts like a non-paid branch of the government. As long as the war does not interfere with their ability to consume, the majority of the American public cares to know only as much about the war as a two minute report by the corporate media will provide. As far as those Americans who really oppose the war, they have made themselves insignificant by following a collaborating anti-war leadership. They have allowed this leadership to dictate political slogans and tactics which do not adequately express the outrage they feel over the war. The slogans called for unity despite disagreement, and standing with the troops.
- It will maintain the presence of high troop levels and a military arsenal in and around Iraq. It is estimated that the value of military hardware now in place there exceeds $100 billion, and the number of soldiers in the region reaches 250,000.
- It will seek the collaboration of local states – Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Pakistan, Turkey, and Israel, as well such as the Iraqi puppet regime. Also, it will continue to extort Iran and Syria in order to get their help in stopping supply routes of men and arms to the Iraqi resistance and in illegitimizing the Iraqi resistance. It will see to it that Iran keeps providing political and military aid to the US occupation through the Shiite cleric Sistani, the Badr Brigades of the "Higher Counsel of the Islamic Revolution," and collaborating technocrats such as Ibrahim Jafari. Perhaps the most helpful assistance from Iran was compelling the Lebanese resistance faction, Hezbollah, to condemn the Iraqi resistance, and to approve the political Shiite puppets of the US occupation in Iraq.
- It will continue its policy of division of Iraq into different ethnic groups of Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd. Sixty percent of Iraqis have a neutral position regarding the war. Iran has played a critical role for the US in this by pacifying the Shiite majority in Iraq.
In the coming months, Bush will attempt to change the current military tactics of the war, but not change the strategy of the war itself. The Iraqi resistance needs to be aware of what the enemy's intentions are, it needs to change its military tactics in response to the US change in tactics. It needs to choose targets based on their importance to the US, And it needs to deliver a military knockout to US troops before they reposition inside or around Iraq.
On November 30, Bush delivered his "Strategy for Victory in Iraq." This strategy used words like redeployment, fighting the terrorists on their own turf, reducing the number of troops without scheduling a timetable, making progress in Iraq and claiming victory against "terrorism." This speech sounded like Bush's usual lying and doubletalk, but it wasn't – it was distinctly unlike his past speeches where he lied through his teeth about progress in Iraq. The Bush "strategy for victory" is a plan to con the US public, the world community, and, most importantly, the Iraqi resistance by setting up the illusion that US troop redeployment means an end to the war.
The Israeli Example
Under the pressure of the Palestinian resistance in Gaza, the Israelis found themselves unable to defend their bases and settlements inside Gaza Strip. In spring 2005 Israel introduced a plan called "Unilateral Disengagement" which meant evacuating bases and settlements in Gaza and redeploying the Israeli Army to positions outside and around it. This helped Israel achieve the following:
- A military plan for control over Gaza with minimum losses to its armed forces and a new basis for state-against-state warfare. Having an intense concentration of Israeli troops around Gaza allows Israel to continue on a daily basis its military strikes against resistance bases and membership inside Gaza and the West Bank regardless of whether the security pretext comes from one place or the other.
- A political plan where Israel's apologists describe Israel's redeployment as a great sacrifice and proof of compliance with its responsibility toward "peace." A great show was made of the ordering out of the settlers in Gaza who displayed great anger over the government dismantling their homes. This was a small cost for the Zionists compared to the eventual prize of obtaining all of historic Arab Palestine, including the West Bank.
- Creating a false picture in which it is now the responsibility of the Palestinians to halt their aggression and "unjustified attacks" against Israel, since all reasons for hostility are supposedly over. Europe and the US now express outrage that the Arab regimes and the Palestinian Authority fail to meet Israel half-way by stopping Palestinian extremists and spoilers of peace in "liberated Gaza."
The Israeli redeployment, in other words, preserved the occupation and created conditions for Palestinians to self-destruct. The Palestinian resistance is now faced with the option of carrying on with resistance and thereby challenging the collaborator Palestinian Authority, which falsely claims the legitimacy of a state. Such a challenge would lead to civil war. The Palestinian resistance's other option is to divert its resources to useless political opposition to military occupation and play into the "good Muslim/bad Muslim" dichotomy which the US has set up in the region. A "good Muslim" is one who accepts democracy, meaning military occupation and illegitimate US client regimes, and rejects violence, meaning resistance and armed struggle against the military occupation and its client regimes. A "bad Muslim" is one who accepts violence and rejects "democracy." The US has made an effort to isolate the Iraqi resistance by making sure it is seen in the latter category.
After characterizing Islamic people in this way, the US secretly opened up a dialogue with groups like the Muslim Brotherhood Movement. The US offered the Muslim Brotherhood a deal whereby if it compels its different state branches, including Hamas, which is suffering from a leadership void after the Israeli assassinations of Dr. Rantisi and Salah Shehadeh, to cease fire and subscribe to "democracy," the US will take the Muslim Brotherhood off its "bad Muslim" list and even allow the Muslim Brotherhood to gain power through elections. This explains why the Movement pushed hard for elections in Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, and Egypt. In similar fashion, Iran convinced Hezbollah to enroll in the Lebanese elections.
While political pressure by the US is put on Hamas and Hezbollah to comply, Israel takes a different approach. Israel uses militarily provocation to push these organizations to retaliate with violence. This puts them in violation of cease fire agreements and paints them as outlaws with guns who do not play by the rules of the game as set by the so-called "international community." Strong condemnation and calls for disarmament place pressure on the collaborating Palestinian Authority and puppet Lebanese regime to take action that could in turn lead to civil war.
On the other hand, when Hamas and Hezbollah agree to participate in the elections game, they face strong opposition from the Israelis, the US government, and the European Union. The objections focus on putting both groups in a defensive position by questioning whether their commitment to democracy is real. In Western countries, police and military power is supposedly important for protecting democracy, but this is not an acceptable standard for others. For others, power and democracy are contradictory and cannot be combined. Resistance movements must choose between democracy (i.e., submission), or terrorism (i.e., resistance). Pressure for "reform" and "democracy" also help weaken the region, thus assuring obedience to Washington's demands, the continued thievery of oil, and the furthering of other strategic interests.
Silvan Shalom, the current Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs, said about the Israeli redeployment in Gaza, "we have locked the doors on Gaza, and opened the wide gates of the world." The successful Israeli redeployment in Gaza is the intended US plan for Iraq. The US will present a public face of conciliation, it will hold elections to hand over power to Iraqis, and it will speak of imminent withdrawal. But all this will be to conceal a continuing strategy of creating civil war and carrying out major genocidal attacks. Redeployment does not equal withdrawal or admission of defeat. It allows the war to continue. This change in tactics is an acceptable compromise for the US ruling class and the upper stratum of the US military.
The Iraqi resistance has in fact caused a split in the unity of top US policy makers, the upper ranks of the US military, and European allies of the US. On March 18, 2003 the clear view was that the war against Iraq was winnable and would not have serious economic or political costs. Today this camp has two sides, but neither one has shown any sign of a pang of conscience or re-examination of basic principles and ethics after killing another 100,000 Iraqis.
On one side, Bush and his band wish to "stay the course," with all that that entails. The other side has concluded that in following Bush on his current course of military occupation, the war is unwinnable. They have thought strategically about how they can save imperialism from losing the battle but win the war. Evading responsibility for defeat at the hands of lowly Arabs helped the second camp to think objectively that a new plan must be built: forget today . . . tomorrow is another day to fight, to triumph, to plunder.
Change in positions
From January, 1991 to March, 2003, the US carried out its war against Iraq in an offensive from outside. Not having to hold any position while using its military superiority gave the US a "victory" in which less than two hundred US soldiers were killed. The Iraqis, having to defend their land, were in a defensive position and easy targets of lethal US aerial attacks. As defenders, they lost almost two million people and suffered near-total economic and social collapse.
The invasion and the military occupation of Iraq in the spring of 2003 caused a change in the positions of the US and Iraq: the Iraqi resistance at large became a formidable hit-and-run guerilla force fighting against US soldiers who now had to defend the land they occupied.
Top strategic military thinkers believe that US military forces need to go back to the pre-March, 2003 position. A report put out by the Center for American Progress, interestingly titled "Strategic Redeployment: A Progressive Plan for Iraq and the Struggle Against Violent Extremists," states that:
- "As redeployments begin, the remaining forces in Iraq would focus on our core missions: completing the training of Iraqi forces; improving border security; providing logistical and air support to Iraqi security forces engaged in battles against terrorists and insurgents; serving as advisors to Iraqi units; and tracking down terrorists and insurgent leaders with smaller, more nimble Special Forces units operating jointly with Iraqi units."
- "By the end of 2007, the only US military forces in Iraq would be a small Marine contingent to protect the US embassy, a small group of military advisors to the Iraqi Government, and counterterrorist units that work closely with Iraqi security forces. This presence, along with the forces in Kuwait and at sea in the Persian Gulf area, will be sufficient to conduct strikes coordinated with Iraqi forces against any terrorist camps and enclaves that may emerge and deal with any major external threats to Iraq."
And further that:
- "14,000 troops would be positioned nearby in Kuwait as part of a Marine expeditionary force located offshore in the Persian Gulf to strike at any terrorist camps and enclaves and guard against any major acts that risk further destabilizing the region."
For this plan to succeed, the US needs to find easier access to western Iraq, where most of the strongholds of the Iraqi resistance are. Easy access means the existence of US military troops and logistics on the western borders of Iraq. Therefore, it is vital to the US to secure the collaboration of both Jordan and Syria.
Uses of Jordan and Syria
According to a Washington Post article published in November 2005, most of the US military hardware inside the US Thumrait air base in Oman was moved to the Al-Azraq air base located in the northeastern Jordanian desert. More hardware was moved from US bases in Qatar to the same location. The Washington Post reported that the value of the military hardware is over $4 billion.
In February, 2005, Rafiq Hariri, the ex-prime minister of Lebanon with well-known ties to the US and Saudi-Arabia, was killed in Beirut by a powerful explosion. Syria was immediately blamed for it. An international investigation was called for by the United Nations Security Council. The German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis was appointed to prove that the killing of Hariri was carried out by Syria. The investigation was similar to that headed by Hans Blix to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – an investigation tailored to fit a premeditated charge.
Syria is an active partner in Bush's "War on Terror." According to US State Department testimony, Syria has helped save US lives. Its demand for its own land in the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967, is almost non-existent, making for zero military or political friction with Israel. Syria's military presence in Lebanon took place by virtue of a US-Lebanese deal reached in the Al-ta'ef cease fire agreement in 1990. Syria agreed to become a peacekeeper and a cop to protect that agreement. Syria condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and fought on the side of the US against Iraq. Syria participated in the 1992 Madrid Summit called by Bush senior to lay out his vision of the "New World Order" in the "Middle East" in the aftermath of the first Gulf war and the collapse of the USSR. Syria enforced the sanctions on Iraq between 1991 and 2003. Despite a smokescreen of US accusations of non-cooperation, Syria is currently doing a superb job of sealing the border with Iraq to close supply routes to the Iraqi resistance: Along its less than six hundred kilometer border there are over 260 Syrian military border patrol posts.
So what more is wanted of Syria? The US and Israel were the only beneficiaries in the killing of Rafiq Hariri. The Mehlis investigation was used to put pressure on Syria to ensure its cooperation in all areas listed above, and to play a much more overt role in the new phase of US redeployment in Iraq. The plan is to force Syria to allow the US to use Syrian land to carry out military attacks in western Iraq against the Iraqi resistance, or face destabilization efforts that would lead to regime change. These efforts would include political isolation, sanctions, military action by the US, and the fomenting of civil unrest by the "Syrian opposition." Difficulties in bringing Syria to an agreement will lead to an escalation of accusations of Syria's involvement in the Hariri assassination. On the other hand, a breakthrough in negotiations for US bases in Syria, and perhaps Syrian troops joining in the actual fight against Iraq now, and against Hezbollah later, may lead to a sudden discovery that Syria is actually innocent in the killing of Rafiq Hariri.
So far, Mehlis has presented the United Nations Security Council with two updates on his investigation. Both times, Mehlis offered neither direct accusation nor exoneration of Syria. Furthermore, he asked for time extensions. These updates drew two Security Council resolutions that did not clear Syria or ask for any kind of punishment or condemnation. Also, both resolutions granted the investigation more time. This pattern is the result of behind-the-scenes negotiations with Syria.
Use of Iran
The US has managed in large part to keep the Iraqis divided with the help of the Iranian government. Iran, as a regional power with strategic interests, cannot expand without colliding with the other power in the region – the US. A case in point is the conflict with the US and Israel over Lebanon and Palestine. For Iran, strategic interests dictate limited partnership, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A long history of conflict between Arabs and Persians has resulted in deep mistrust between both nationalities. Instead of Islam narrowing the gap, it became instrumental in helping one side dominate over the other. Iran's goals in collaborating with the US in Iraq are:
- To appease the US so that it is taken off the "Axis of Evil" list.
- To settle an old score with Iraq.
- To control the Iraqi Shiites (a part of claiming both religious and political leadership for Shiites worldwide).
- To contain the messy consequences of the US occupation of Iraq within the geographical boundaries of Iraq.
- To encourage the US to be restrained and thereby be weakened by the war in Iraq.
The US seeks Iran's involvement in Iraq for the following reasons:
- A collaborating Iran is much better than a hostile one.
- Iran is pacifying the majority of Iraqis – the Shiites – to prevent their opposition to the US-led occupation.
- Iran uses the ethnic card effectively in favor of the US occupation by declaring that Sunnis are enemies of the Shiite dream of ruling Iraq. Therefore, Iraqi Shiites fight on the side of the US against the US occupation.
- Iran provides a ready substitute for US forces needed in Iraq, meaning a reduction in US losses.
The US redeployment in Iraq will depend a great deal on Iran keeping the Iraqi resistance busy fighting either the Iraqi allies of Iran, or Iran itself. It would be a perfect scenario for the US to be rid of both enemies at the same time, as in the days of the Iran-Iraq war of the 80's.
However, the most dangerous problem for the Iraqi resistance in the redeployment plan is that it could isolate the resistance from its constituencies. The "Iraqi Reconciliation Conference" held last November in Cairo allowed a meeting between Iraqis who are pro-resistance and Iraqis manufactured by the occupation. Despite vague language about the general idea of the right to resist occupation, the Iraqi right to sovereignty, and Iraq's unity under elected rule, the Cairo conference aimed to divide the Iraqis by giving false hope that an Iraqi political structure could lead to a sovereign elected government which could then demand a US pullout.
This conference was used by the US to communicate to the Iraqi resistance and its constituencies that the US is ready to pull out if certain conditions are met, such as the Sunnis agreeing to participate in the Parliamentary elections. To demonstrate good faith, the US asked all of its military allies in Iraq to publicly declare their intention to withdraw in a short period of time and allow a larger role of the Sunnis in the government. Despite its claims, the US continued its military attacks against the resistance in western Iraq.
Meanwhile the Muslim Brotherhood Movement helped in communicating this message, and convincing other Sunni pro-resistance political movements to accept the deal. Immediately, they put out a call to establish a Sunni coalition that would participate in the election. A wide range of justifications, such as fear of civil war, the need to halt a pro-Iranian current filling the void of the Sunnis in the "post war era" political structure, and the need to have representation that would provide a fair allocation of resources to the Sunnis, were used to push the Sunnis into joining the illegitimate elections whose outcome in favor of ethnic division was already designed and decided by the occupation.
Most of the armed wings of the Iraqi resistance, seeing the continued military attacks, did not believe the US. But the Cairo conference was enough to convince tired supporters of the Iraqi resistance to give it a shot. The big turnout at voting centers for the elections in Iraq, with a lack of clear and direct condemnation by the resistance, indicates a division among the resistance factions, and within their constituencies.
Voices of wisdom within the resistance decided that it is better to give the US enough rope to hang itself with – to let time prove that participating in elections will not rid Iraq of the US occupation, or end the war. Now the resistance is getting ready for the new phase of the occupation – the so-called redeployment.
Since the US has failed to deliver a knockout to the Iraqi resistance, and has decided instead to drain it over a long period of time, the task of the resistance will be to convince the Iraqi people that resistance is the way to go. At the same time, those in the US discontented with the war in Iraq need to understand that "redeployment" is a lie – the war will only get worse, and US military casualties will continue to pour in.