Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Bloodbath Strategy

Over halfway through the month of January, it's become pretty clear that the U.S. is adhering to the strategy I predicted in this space a few weeks ago. Resistance bombings are way up, but American casualties are down - this is shaping up to be the lowest month for U.S. casualties since last summer.

What this suggests is that U.S. troops are planning a very low profile for the elections in two weeks, and that most of the casualties on election day, which could be massive, will be among the faceless Iraqi Defense Forces and not U.S. soldiers.

Here is a pretty good article in Der Spiegel about the elections and how they are being contested. A couple of things stand out for me - one is that Allawi's party, which is known to have close to zero popular support, appears to be doing pretty well with its media management. This suggests to me that he has U.S. media consultants working for him, since it is hard to imagine where he would have picked up a lot of PR skills in his career as an Baath official and later CIA spy.

My hunch would be that in a lawless environment like the one likely to prevail on January 30th, the CIA will have an advantage over the DoD because the tactics the CIA can use are more diverse than what's available to the military. That should mean Allawi has an advantage over Chalabi, but...

The wild card in the whole situation is Porter Goss. The key question is this: to what degree has Goss taken control of the Agency? If he has gained a great deal of control (which is doubtful but not impossible) it's likely that the CIA will not interefere decisively on Allawi's behalf, and his party will be somewhat hamstrung during the Constitution-writing process.

It will be very interesting to watch exactly what unfolds on January 30th. The biggest mistake the U.S. has made so far is making the assumptions that the resistance will pursue the same sorts of tactics that the U.S. would pursue in a similar situation. Thus the military is probably prepared for a campaign of violence and intimidation at polling places on January 30th, since we have a long history of that kind of intervention in Latin America and elsewhere - it works pretty well.

But there are other options available to the resistance. They may choose, for example, to attack not the polling places themselves but the convoys that will be transporting the ballots to the counting locations. Such a tactic would be difficult to defend and presumably would expose American soldiers to attack.

Another big danger is that there is a significant fifth column within the Iraqi Defense Force that is planning a surprise reversal of loyalty on election day. This danger is particularly acute because the U.S., in the course of implementing the "hands off" approach in January, has had to recall large numbers of formerly disbanded Iraqi army battalions in a very big hurry. For the first time on January 30th, the IDF forces will have heavy weapons that would make them only a slight theoretical underdog in a direct confrontation with the Americans.

Of course, the potential also exists that the resistance will choose not to significantly disrupt the elections at all. Particularly depending on the degree to which the resistance is being supported by Iran, a Shi'ite-dominated constitutional parliament, particularly one significantly influenced by Ahmed Chalabi, might actually be their best shot at getting rid of the U.S. in short order. To know whether this is realistic, we would have to know the actual degree to which the resistance is truly dominated by Sunni ex-Baathists, which of course we have no way of knowing.


  • Don't forget, these elections are merely to participate in the writing of elections. The insurgents may not particularly care about them, or the outcomes. They
    can murder anyone they don't like. As you say, in the effort to "iraqize" the conflict, the US has created a situation where the quickest way to power will not be through the elections, but through control of the IDF.

    Uncle Carlos

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at January 19, 2005 at 6:08 PM  

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