This analysis of the situation in Iraq, published by BBC News on May 8, concludes that while the "election in January was a success . . . the challenge was always going to be building on it, in order to stabilize the country in the long term and quell the insurgency. That challenge still remains." -- And the "challenge now is to bring Sunnis, most of whom stayed away from the polls on 30 January, back into the political process." -- Unstated in this analysis, written from the point of view of the U.S. national security state and its allies, is the fact that from the point of view of those who are fighting what is being "challenged" is not so much the new government as U.S. power in Iraq. -- Those collaborating with the U.S. "are called children of Ibn Al-Alqami, from the name of the vizier who turned Baghdad over to the invading Mongols in the 13th century," as David Baran and Mathieu Guidère point out in a recent analysis of the opposition's ideology. -- From their point of view, there is something very old about this "new Iraq": "the enemy is an unbelieving occupation force assimilated to the crusaders or the barbarians," say Baran and Guidère. -- It can't help to change their minds that the U.S. counterinsurgency campaign is directed by an outspokenly militant Christian, Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin, whose title at the Pentagon is "principal deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and warfighter support," who "calls the U.S. Army 'the house of God' and Islamic insurgents 'agents of Satan'" and who "warned Muslims, 'my God is bigger than your god, which is an idol,' as Eric Margolis reminded readers of the Toronto Sun a few months ago. -- This is an aspect of the situation in Iraq that the U.S. press is studiously ignoring. -- NOTE: By the way, Gen. Boykin was one of the special forces operatives in the failed Iranian hostage-rescue mission on Apr. 24, 1980, a fact in which the mainstream press has shown no interest whatever, which is odd, considering that the Iranian Revolution of 1979 was the event that led directly to the redesign of the U.S. military in order to enable it to occupy the Middle East instead of relying on proxies like Iran and Saudi Arabia. -- The military certainly recalls the significance of the date, though. -- When the 25th anniversary of that disaster rolled around, an elaborate ceremony of remembrance was staged at Arlington National Cemetery -- a http://rescueattempt.tripod.com/id26.htmlceremony that was completely ignored by the U.S. media. -- Since JROTC programs have recently been in the news here in Tacoma, where we have been told by a JROTC instructor at Foss HS that JROTC is not about military recruiting but about "good citizenship," it may be of interest that two JROTC members participated in the ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery....
MILITANTS' CHALLENGE TO NEW IRAQ
By Gordon Corera
May 8, 2005
The recent wave of attacks in Iraq appears indicative of a new stage in the insurgency.
And Thursday's attack on a recruitment center illustrates the way in which the insurgents are targeting the most critical function of the new government -- its ability to provide security.
Attacks had increased in the run up the 30 January election but then appeared to have dropped back slightly -- although they were still at about the same level as a year ago according to General Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, with about 400 attacks a week.
This figure covers everything from major bomb blasts to smaller incidents with no casualties.
But a spate of attacks in the last week indicates that we may be encountering a new spike closely related to political maneuvrings in Baghdad, as insurgents try to destabilize the new government.
The sophistication and scale of some of the attacks appears to be increasing, including the use of tandem bombings, when one device is timed to go off soon after another as rescuers rush to the scene.
There have been military-style assaults, such as on the Abu Ghraib prison.
There also appears to be a continuing trend towards the targeting of ethnic communities, as witnessed by Wednesday's attack on the Kurds in Irbil.
This is seemingly a sign of the way in which politics and violence are closely intertwined in Iraq.
While foreign fighters have often been the most visible of those involved in the insurgency due to their extreme methods, the bulk are thought to be former-Baathists and from the Sunni community.
The challenge now is to bring Sunnis, most of whom stayed away from the polls on 30 January, back into the political process.
NOT ABOUT NUMBERS
But so far the signs are not good.
The new government, with its Shia prime minister and Kurdish president, has struggled to draw in Sunni figures. Its talk of further de-Baathification may alienate Sunnis further and undermine the attempts to reach out to tribal leaders and other figures of influence, and to try to persuade them to stem the violence in favor of politics.
Along with the political tasks, the other key challenge for Iraq in trying to stymie the insurgency is developing its own security forces.
With a newly elected government at least partially in place, building up the ability of the Iraqi forces remains the key determinant of how long U.S., U.K. and other coalition forces stay in the country.
But trying to establish the real strength of these Iraqi forces is not easy, not least because the raw numbers can be misleading.
On 6 April 2005, the Multinational Command in Iraq reported there were more than 150,000 men in the Iraqi military, security and police forces.
Recently, the Pentagon has had to lower its estimate for the number of Iraqi security forces -- because the US had been counting police and soldiers who were technically on the payroll rather than those actually reporting for duty, and had been counting those who were not yet fully equipped.
One military planner admitted that tens of thousands still included might still actually be absent.
The repeated attacks on recruitment centers -- as with Thursday's suicide bomb -- are clearly an attempt to undermine morale and recruitment as well as the ability of the security forces to combat the insurgency.
And, as Anthony Cordesman of the U.S. think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies points out: "The bad news is that such head counts say nothing about combat power."
He estimates that most of the national guard is still too lightly equipped and trained to perform more than limited security missions.
In other words, even if the numbers are at last picking up, the capabilities are still a long way from matching those of the multi-national coalition, and allowing them to take greater responsibility.
"The key point as people rush to talk about early exit strategies, and timelines for U.S. withdrawal, is that creating Iraqi forces does not make them combat-effective or capable of ending crime," wrote Mr. Cordesman in a recent report.
Thursday's attack may also increase pressure from the Kurdish and Shia communities to use their own well trained militias to put down the insurgency.
But the fear is that sending Kurdish troops into predominantly Sunni towns may only further fuel sectarian tension.
The election in January was a success. But the challenge was always going to be building on it, in order to stabilize the country in the long term and quell the insurgency. That challenge still remains.
[GRAPHIC: Recent Iraq death toll]