Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A new liberation?

'Inad Khairallah

THE "second liberation of Baghdad" — that is what seems to be happening in the Iraqi capital, with American soldiers and Shiite militiamen who have joined government security forces carrying out what is intended to be elimination of not only jihadist insurgents but also others deemed sympathetic to the insurgency, mainly from the Sunni community.
The term "second liberation of Baghdad" was coined by the US military and cited in a recent report appearing in London's Sunday Times.
"The battle for Baghdad is expected to entail a 'carrot-and-stick' approach, offering the beleaguered population protection from sectarian violence in exchange for rooting out insurgent groups and Al Qaeda," said the report filed by Sarah Baxter from Washington.
The paper quoted sources as saying Iraqi forces would take the lead in the operation, supported by American air power, special operations, intelligence, embedded officers and back-up troops.
While the Sunday Times report said the "second liberation" was to come after a new government was installed in Baghdad, reports from the ground in the Iraqi capital indicate that the operation could be already under way.
News agencies have reported that "insurgents" were mounting attacks on Iraqi security forces in the Adhamiya neighbourhood of Baghdad and this had led to open street battles. Most of these reported quoted US military statements as their sources.
A news agency reported on Tuesday:  "A US military spokesman said 50 insurgents attacked Iraqi forces in a seven-hour battle early on
Tuesday that killed five rebels and wounded an Iraqi soldier.
"Fighting was so fierce that US reinforcements were brought in to the northern district, home to some of Iraq's most hard-core Sunni guerrillas and the Abu Hanifa mosque, near where Saddam Hussein was last seen in public before going into hiding."
The report quoted masked Sunni Arab insurgents as saying that they were gearing up for "another open street battle with pro-government Shiite militiamen."
Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist who writes exclusive reports for web sites, provided a clearer picture of what is actually happening, and his version shows that the operation is undertaken jointly by the US military and Iraqi security forces — Shiite militiamen of the Badr Brigade who dominate the ministry of interior fighting force as well as members of the Mahdi Army of firebrand Shiite leader Motqada Sadr.
It is not a matter of "insurgents" attacking government security forces, according to Jamail, but a concerted campaign of assault mounted by Shiite militiamen in the Sunni area and supported by American soldiers.
In an article appearing on, Jamail, who writes that there had been clashes every day for four days leading to Monday night's huge clash in the Adhamiya district of Baghdad.
Jamail quotes his sources in Baghdad as saying that fighters from the Badr Brigade and Sadr's Mehdi Army have been launching ongoing attacks against Sunnis in Adhamiya and the local residents were resisting the assaults.
According to the sources, residents of Adhamiya close access roads every night with tyres, trunks of date palm trees, and other objects to prevent "kidnappers and Shiite death squads" from entering the area.
Monday night's attack was "different from the other nights in quantity and quality; it was truly like the hell which I haven't seen even in the battles of the war between Iraq and Iran during the eighties," says the source.
Those mounting the attack wore uniforms representing special forces from the ministry of interior, the account said.
"When the uniformed forces entered the neighbourhood, the National Guards that are usually patrolling the streets left," Jamail quotes a resident as saying. "Young armed men from the neighbourhood fought side by side with mujahedeen against the attacking forces to protect Al Adhamiya. Several residents have been killed in the streets, but there are currently no figures available. US troops also entered the neighbourhood At first, they only stood by and watched; later on they, too, fired at the locals, who tried to repel the attacks. Later in the day, rumours circulated that another fierce attack of Al Adhamiya is planned on Wednesday, but … couldn't confirm this information."
The US military would only say that "gunmen clashed with residents in Baghdad's Adhamiya district."
The area remained sealed off on Wednesday.
Western reporters speculated on Wednesday that the resistance put up by Adhamiya residents against the militiamen — who are nicknamed "death squads" because they kidnap, torture and murder Sunnis — was an indication of their growing support for the insurgency.
Few reporters seem to bother to consider that the residents of the area are fighting for their life. The intruders' goal is clear: They want to kidnap prominent Sunnis from the area and murder them and dump their bodies somewhere. Therefore, it is natural that the Sunnis would put up the toughest of resistance.
At the same time, the reported role of the US military in the assault, if proved accurate, suggests that it could indeed be part of the "second liberation" of Baghdad.
The Sunday Times quotes Daniel Gouré, a Pentagon adviser and vice-president of the Lexington Institute, a military think tank, as referring to the formation of a new Iraqi government as  a “second liberation of Baghdad,”
“The new government will be able to claim it is taking back the streets," he says.
According to the Sunday Times report, US and Iraqi forces will be moving from one neighbourhood to the other, leaving behind Sweat teams —  "sewage, water, electricity and trash” —  to work on upgrading clinics, schools, rubbish collection, water and electricity supplies.
The first target for the campaign will be what the US military describes as Sunni insurgent strongholds — Al Adhamiya could now be qualified to be described as such —  moving later on to the Shiite armed groups, including Sadr's Mahdi Army and Badr Brigade.
The contradiction here is the reported alliance involving the US military, the Sadr forces and the Badr Brigade.
One thing is clear: The US military cannot afford to have the Mahdi Army and Badr Brigade running amok in Baghdad or anywhere else in Iraq. They have a record of targeting Sunnis and, given Washington's avowed concern to restore "national unity" to Iraq, the US military could not be seen as supporting the groups in assaults against the Sunnis.
At the same time, it is indeed a priority of the US to show that the American force in Iraq is in control and this requires a massive "house-to-house and area-to-area" cleansing. The US military does not have even a quarter of the number of soldiers required for an efficient and effective "cleansing" present in Iraq.
Perhaps, the US strategy is to let the Shiite forces take the lead and offer support for them from the periphery before turning against the Shiites themselves.
Well, by then, however, the US military would find out that they have created a monster whom they could not fight no matter how many rounds of "liberation" they are willing to undertake, whether in Baghdad or other towns of post-war Iraq