Iraqi insurgency far from 'fizzling'

by Tom Regan

Just a few weeks after US military officials optimistically predicted that the Iraq insurgency was 'fizzling' because the number of attacks per day was down, many of those same officials now believe they were wrong, and that the insurgency is strengthing again.
The Boston Globe reported Sunday that US military officials now believe that the greater coordination and sophistocation of attacks demonstrated by insurgents in recent weeks means they have changed their tactics, rather than disappeared or given up.

'One of the insurgency's strengths is its capacity to regenerate,' said retired Army General John Keane, who returned recently from a fact-finding mission in Iraq. 'We have killed thousands of them and detained even more, but they are still able to regenerate. They are still coming at us.'
More troublesome is that these same military experts also believe that the insurgents "are making inroads toward sparking a full-blown sectarian war," and that it may not be possible for the US to reduce its troop strength as quickly as some recent Defense Department statements have indicated.

The Wall Street Journal reported last Thursday that internal US Army analysis, writtenfor US troops going to Iraq to prepare them for the kind of dangers they will face, concludes that the number of attacks in recent months haven't lessened very much, but have shifted away from US troops to attacks on Iraqi civilians.

The Army report catalogs the five most deadly tactics employed by insurgents. It concludes that the most deadly threat to Iraqi civilians and security personnel comes from small-arms fire - typically AK-47 rifles or machine guns - and not roadside bombs. "Firing small arms in close combat remains the No. 1 casualty producing tactic," the report states. Iraqi army and police forces, which typically patrol in unarmored white pickup trucks, are especially vulnerable to attack from small arms.
The report also found that, increasingly, insurgents are pairing remotely detonated bombs with ambushes. In one example cited in the report, the insurgents used a remote-detonated bomb to stop a convoy of private security contractors. When the contractors got out of their vehicles to assess the damage, the insurgents began shooting at them. The report describes the incident as a 'disciplined' attack, noting that the insurgents collected their own casualties before fleeing.

The Belfast (Ireland) Telegraph reports on the inability of the US and Iraqi forces to quell the violence, particularly in Baghdad, and how that is being viewed by the local population.
The inability of the US army to secure the seven-mile road between Baghdad and the airport, also the site of the main US military base, has become a symbol of the failure of the US in Iraq. Heavily armored US patrols, prone to open fire unpredictably, are regarded as being as dangerous as the insurgents.
The Washington Post reports that many of the attacks have gone unchallenged by the Iraqi forces, particularly in areas of the country largely controlled by insurgents. US officials are also privately saying that "violence is getting much worse."
'My strong sense is that a lot of the political momentum that was generated out of the successful election, which was sort of like a punch in the gut to the insurgents, has worn off.' The political stalemate 'has given the insurgents new hope,' the official added, repeating a message Americans say they are increasingly giving Iraqi leaders.
Radio Free Europe reports that US Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice and US Vice President Dick Cheney have been pressing Shiite and Kurdish politicians to "come together and form a new government." But The Times of London reported on Saturday that former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and the Kurdish block in the new parliament are "determined not to have Ibrahim Jaafari as prime minister" and are trying to derail his attempts to form a new government.

Mr. Jaafari has until May 7 to form a new government or he must let someone else try. The Times speculates the winner of this showdown could ultimately be Ahmad Chalabi, the former Pentagon favorite who has fallen out of favor with the US government.

The Associated Press, however, reported Sunday that Jaafari, after three months of negotiations, has decided not to include Mr. Allawi's party and supporters in the new government. He could submit a list of ministers to the Iraqi parliament as early this week.

Allawi's group, which won 40 seats in the January elections, had wanted at least five cabinet posts in the new government, including a deputy premiership.