Baghdad Crackdown

By Mike Whitney

Information Clearing House

Even a cursory review of Bush’s speech shows that the president is less
concerned with “security” in Baghdad than he is with plans to attack Iran.
Paul Craig Roberts was correct in his article Wednesday when he questioned
whether all the hoopla over a surge was just “an orchestrated distraction”
to draw attention away from the real war plan.

Apparently, it is.

As Roberts noted, “The US Congress and the media are focused on President
Bush’s proposal for an increase of 20,000 US troops in Iraq, while Israel
and its American neoconservative allies prepare an assault on Iran.”

Roberts’ analysis is further supported by today’s news that American troops
stormed the “Iranian consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Abril and
arrested 5 employees.” (Reuters)

Iran had set up the embassy at the request of the Kurdish Governor-General
who was not informed of US intentions to raid the facility and kidnap its
employees. The American soldiers confiscated computers and documents just 5
hours after Bush had threatened Iran in his address to the nation.

Clearly, Bush is looking for a way to provoke a military confrontation with
Iran. Now he has 5 Iranian hostages at his disposal to help him achieve that

Will the Mullahs overreact or will they show restraint and try to prevent a
larger conflict?

Bush’s hostility towards Iran was evident in comments he made in Wednesday’s

“Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and
stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with
addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and
insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is
providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt
the attacks on our forces. We will interrupt the flow of support from Iran
and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced
weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

“Seek and destroy”? Is that the plan?

A region-wide conflagration with results as uncertain as they are in Iraq?

So far, there’s no solid evidence that Iran is “providing material support
for attacks on American troops.” All the same, the administration has
consistently used “material support” as the basis for preemptive war. In
fact, the so-called Bush Doctrine is predicated on the assumption that the
US is free to attack whoever it chooses if it perceives a threat to its
national security. The normal rules of self defense or “imminent danger” no
longer apply.

Bush knows that if Iran was seriously involved in arming the Iraqi
resistance, we’d be seeing the Russian-made, armor-piercing rocket launchers
that were used so effectively by Hezbollah during their 34 day war with
Israel. That hasn’t been the case. Iran is undoubtedly active in Iraq, but
in ways that are much subtler that Bush claims. In fact, Bush’s great ally,
Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, who runs the feared Badr Brigade out of the Iraqi
Interior Ministry, has strong ties to Iran (having lived there for 20
years.) He is probably using the US military to remove his enemies (the
Sunni-backed resistance and al Sadr’s Mehdi Army) before he turns his
attention to his US benefactors.

Iran clearly has interests in Iraq, but it is the Bush administration’s
reckless war that has assured that Iran will be the “default” superpower in
the entire region. Bush has shattered the fragile balance of power between
Sunnis and Shiites while eliminating Iran’s main adversaries in Afghanistan
(Sunni-Taliban) and Iraq (Saddam-Ba’athist Party). Bush now seems to think
that the only way he can challenge Tehran’s ascendancy, is by launching a
Lebanon-type assault on military and civilian infrastructure in Iran.

If Iran is set back 20 years, Bush assumes, then our trusted-friend Israel
will be the prevailing power in the Middle East. That, of course, was the
plan from the get-go.

To that end, Bush averred:

“We’re taking steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American
interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an
additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence
sharing and deploy Patriot Air Defense Systems to reassure our friends and
allies.And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear
weapons and dominating the region.”

All the pieces are being put in place for a much larger and more destructive

It’s an ambitious plan, but it has no chance of succeeding. The United
States is hopelessly bogged down in Iraq and its actions in Somalia,
Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine have only ensured that the US days in the
Middle East are quickly drawing to a close.

As for Iraq, Bush’s speech provided few details of how the miniscule and
incremental increase in troop-strength (only 17,000 to Baghdad over a 4
month period) was expected to quell the raging violence which has gripped
the capital since the last major operation in August. Operation “Forward
Together” turned out to be a complete disaster precipitating a sharp boost
in attacks on US troops as well as an increase in sectarian violence.

Bush has enlisted some support for his “escalation” plan by committing to
the “clear-hold-build” strategy promoted by the Council on Foreign
Relations. The CFR has been pushing their “model for counterinsurgency” for
3 years, but have been largely ignored by the Bush administration.

Despite Bush’s feeble defense of the policy, he has no intention of putting
it into practice. He is merely pacifying other members of the political
establishment who are demanding that their voices be heard.

The reality of the present strategy is manifest in military operations
currently underway in Baghdad. These operations are being conducted in a way
that is reminiscent of Rumsfeld’s activities in Falluja 2 years ago. The
attacks on alleged “insurgent strongholds” on Haifa Street, (which is just a
few hundred yards from the Green Zone) show that the military has returned
to the policy of using overwhelming force to subdue the resistance. In this
case, the US pounded the area with helicopter gun-ships and F-16s, while
ground troops went rampaging door to door. The civilian casualties in these
scattershot operations invariably skyrocket and further alienate the local
population. In one day alone, US forces killed an estimated 50 Iraqis in the
predominantly Sunni “residential” area.

Another catastrophic “hearts and minds” operation.

Sunni leaders are now accusing the US military of carrying out ethnic
cleansing operations at the request of the Shiite militias.

Is that the plan; purging Baghdad of the Sunnis?

It appears so.

Certainly, the lynching of Saddam was intended to send a message to the
Ba’athist-led resistance that there would be no more efforts at negotiations
or compromise. The US is now pursuing Cheney’s “80-20” plan; a strategy to
throw their support behind the Shiites while eradicating the Sunnis (20% of
the pop.). Bush hints at this new approach in his speech when he says:

“Our efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principle reasons: There were
not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure the neighborhoods that have
been cleared of terrorists and insurgents AND THERE WERE TOO MANY

“Too many restrictions”? (The respected British medical journal Lancet
reported 650,000 casualties in the conflict so far with over 2 million Iraqi
refugees. Is that “Too many restrictions”?)

Bush’s comments suggest that the “gloves are coming off” and we can expect a
return to the scorched earth policy that was used so savagely applied in
Falluja and other parts of the Sunni Triangle.

Bush also intimated that he would strike out at other “armed militias” in
Iraq; an indication that US forces are planning an offensive against Muqtada
al-Sadr’s Mehdi Army. The Shiite cleric, al Sadr, is despised by the
Washington Warlords and is described by the Pentagon as “the biggest threat
to Iraq’s security.” Even so, al-Sadr has operatives placed strategically
throughout the al-Maliki government (and within the Green Zone) and
attacking him now would only make the occupation more perilous. In fact, an
attack on the Mehdi Army could create a situation where Shiite militias cut
off vital supply lines from the south making occupation virtually untenable.

Bush has decided to abandon all sense of caution and blunder ahead taking on
all adversaries without concern for the consequences. It is a prescription
for disaster.

Bush’s “Victory Strategy”; more force, but no political solution

Bush’s speech invoked none of the flashy slogans that he typically uses and
which normally appear in headlines the next day. Nor did he make any attempt
to elicit support for his planned “escalation” of troops. That idea has
already been thoroughly rejected by the Iraq Study Group, the Congress, and
the American people. Instead, he reiterated the same worn bromides (of
“ideological” warfare, 9-11, and terrorism) which have long since lost their
power to move public opinion.

The Bush administration has run out of gas. They have no plan for
“pacification”, security, reconstruction, or regional stability. Their
“one-size-fits-all” solution requires ever-increasing levels of violence for
an intractable Iraqi Resistance which is now fated to spread mayhem
throughout the entire Middle East.

Carl von Clausewitz said, “War is not a mere act of policy, but a true
political instrument, a continuation of political activity by other means.”

Bush and his fellow-neocons are incapable of thinking politically, so
America’s decline in Iraq is likely to be precipitous. The crackdown in
Baghdad and the anticipated bombing of Iran will have no significant affect
on the war’s outcome. America has lost its ability to influence events
positively or to arbitrarily assert its will. We’re now facing “death by a
thousand cuts” and the steady erosion of US power.

Brute force alone will not produce a political solution in Iraq. Those who
think it will are bound to fail.

Robert S. Rodvik
Author/media analyst

“Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became the truth.”
George Orwell – 1984

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