[Mb-civic] Iraqi City on Edge of Chaos
michael at michaelbutler.com
Tue Sep 28 18:33:01 PDT 2004
Also see below:
Insurgents Are Mostly Iraqis, U.S. Military Says
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Iraqi City on Edge of Chaos
By Alissa J. Rubin
The Los Angeles Times
Tuesday 28 September 2004
U.S. troops have tried to win over residents in Ramadi, but a surge in
abductions and killings is threatening to create another Fallouja.
Ramadi, Iraq - Insurgents are killing and kidnapping government
officials, police and Iraqi national guard members in an apparent campaign
to destabilize this city, the capital of Sunni Muslim-dominated Al Anbar
province west of Baghdad.
The rash of attacks threatens to eliminate the interim Iraqi
government's control over Ramadi, notwithstanding the presence just outside
the city of thousands of U.S. Marines and Army soldiers who back the
The provincial governor's three sons were kidnapped, and released only
after he resigned. More recently, the deputy governor was kidnapped and
killed, his body found this month. The president of the regional university
and the provincial directors of the national sewage and communications
ministries have also been kidnapped, and 10 contractors working for the
United States have been assassinated.
Then there are the ominous posters that appeared on the walls of
mosques a couple of weeks ago. Directed at Iraqi police and national
guardsmen, they read, "Quit or we'll kill you."
The apparent aim is to make Ramadi into an ungovernable area like
neighboring Fallouja, where insurgents have free rein. Ramadi and Fallouja
represent 70% of Al Anbar's population, according to U.S. estimates.
The erosion of order in Ramadi illustrates the success of the
insurgents' methods and the serious problems facing the interim government
and its U.S. backers in maintaining stability in Iraq. It also threatens to
thwart plans for a national election in January, at least in Al Anbar's main
cities. An election that omits key population centers in the so-called Sunni
Triangle region would have greatly diminished credibility.
"We do not know who the attackers are or who is backing them," said
Ramadi's acting governor, Mohammed Abid Awad. "Are they backed from outside?
Some victims have disappeared without a word; others have been
assassinated, their bodies left on the roads. Still others have fled their
jobs, afraid of suffering a fate similar to that of their co-workers.
"There's been a lot of kidnappings, a lot of assassinations, just in
the last couple of weeks," said Col. Jerry L. Durrant of the 1st Marine
Expeditionary Force, who oversees the coordination of the U.S. military with
Iraqi security forces. "The government in Baghdad is not recognized by
anyone in Al Anbar."
Durrant said leaders of the Iraqi national guard do not want to meet
him in public or travel in military vehicles. Many no longer wear their
uniforms for fear of being identified with the interim government's security
Ramadi is not yet lost, but it is teetering. The Marines, aware of what
is at stake, are trying to back up the local government. But they are
hamstrung, because taking too visible a role could endanger the lives of
Iraqi officials. Working with the Army, Marines are also trying to undertake
small reconstruction projects they can complete quickly - an approach they
hope will make a difference in neighborhoods still open to the American
Unlike in Fallouja, where U.S. troops within a hundred yards of the
city draw fire, there are areas of Ramadi where Marines and soldiers
dismount from their vehicles, talk to residents and respond to their
"Ramadi is a much more benign environment," said Lt. Col. Mike Cabrey,
who runs an Army artillery unit stationed in Ramadi. "I'd like to say it's
the civil affairs work we've done that's made a difference."
Between $8 million and $10 million has been spent in the greater Ramadi
area, he said.
It may also be the hard work of Cabrey and fellow soldiers in a few
discrete neighborhoods. Although he is an artillery expert by assignment and
training, Cabrey has taken it upon himself to become deeply involved with
projects that provide a combination of money and personal outreach. He
visits the ongoing work efforts three times a week, so he maintains a
relationship with the people his unit is trying to help.
Regardless, the U.S. military's grip seems tenuous, the insurgency is
persistent, and it appears that the troops face an uphill battle to maintain
the bonds they have forged with the community.
As a provincial capital with a university, Ramadi has developed an
insurgency of a much different character than that of Fallouja, where there
appear to be many more Islamic extremists, including Wahhabis and Salafists.
But Ramadi is strongly influenced by the tribes, who seem to think they have
little to gain by working with the Marines.
"A lot of these guys have read history," said Durrant, recounting a
recent meeting with Ramadi tribal sheiks, educators and businessmen. "They
said to me the government in Baghdad is like the Vichy government in France
during World War II, and I got called a Nazi several times."
The Vichy government was set up by the German Nazi occupation forces
and ran a large area of France.
The attacks have discouraged law enforcement efforts by the Iraqi
police and national guard, Marine intelligence officers say.
"In many cases, intimidation and pressure prompts a bias toward
non-action. Maybe you're just not there when you hear something might happen
in a place," said Lt. Col. George Bristol, a senior intelligence officer for
the 1st Marine Division.
Ramadi police deny there are problems. "Things are going well in the
province," said deputy police commander Brig. Jassim Mohammed Baddaa.
Rank-and-file officers, who were trimming the dried bushes outside the
police headquarters one day recently, said they were intimidated regularly
but were not allowed to talk to the media.
Not that the entire city is without hope.
In the small neighborhood known as Tamim, or Five Kilo, on Ramadi's
western edge, residents seem pleased by U.S. efforts to refurbish schools,
build a soccer field and two clinics, expand the police station and restore
a badly damaged mosque.
On a recent day, seven U.S. armored Humvees drove into the
neighborhood. There was no small-arms fire, no roadside bomb explosions, and
when the troops dismounted, people looked up briefly and continued whatever
they were doing.
Cabrey had brought with him a military policy trainer to meet the
commander of the local precinct, and he was carrying sacks of medicine for
one of the clinics.
At the police station, which the U.S. military supplied with 15
vehicles, the commander, who identified himself only as Chief Saleh, asked
Cabrey to pose for a picture cutting the ribbon on the refurbished station
so that the building's use would be official.
He then complained that U.S. troops had detained some of his men when
they were assigned outside the Tamim neighborhood and had taken their
weapons. "If you hurt a man's dignity, that's very sensitive," Saleh said.
Cabrey nodded and before leaving made sure the police trainer had
linked up with the deputy police commander to get details on the incident.
"We'll try to get them back for you," he said.
Saleh acknowledged that there had been kidnappings of police in his
precinct in the last year, but said it had been "over tribal matters." He
also said he had met with community leaders and imams and explained to them
why he was accepting goods from the Americans. Cabrey nodded and added,
"Col. Saleh went and worked directly with the community; I don't know if
these other people who are getting attacked have made the same effort."
When the soldiers and Marines reached a mosque, also being rebuilt with
a grant from Cabrey's team, there was no one there. Cabrey, however,
recognized a child running across the street. "That's the imam's daughter -
ask her where her father is," he said.
A few minutes later the imam emerged from his house, greeted Cabrey in
the middle of the street where all the neighbors could see, and the pair
walked to the mosque. They agreed Cabrey would leave the medicines there for
the clinic doctors to pick up the next day.
The imam showed Cabrey the minaret, tall and elegant with white and
turquoise tiles and almost complete. The imam had wanted the mosque and
minaret rebuilt so they would be the first sight travelers saw as they
entered Ramadi from the west.
For the moment, Cabrey's efforts appear to have paid off. But with an
estimated 6,500 people in the Tamim neighborhood - in a city of about
400,000 - it is also a measure of how much effort may be needed in every
hamlet, every quarter of the Sunni Triangle if the U.S. is to maintain trust
and blunt the insurgency.
Go to Original
Insurgents Are Mostly Iraqis, U.S. Military Says
By Mark Mazzetti
The Los Angeles Times
Tuesday 28 September 2004
Bush, Kerry and Allawi have cited foreign fighters as a major security
Washington - The insistence by interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi
and many U.S. officials that foreign fighters are streaming into Iraq to
battle American troops runs counter to the U.S. military's own assessment
that the Iraqi insurgency remains primarily a home-grown problem.
In a U.S. visit last week, Allawi spoke of foreign insurgents
"flooding" his country, and both President Bush and his Democratic
challenger, Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry, have cited these fighters as a
major security problem.
But according to top U.S. military officers in Iraq, the threat posed
by foreign fighters is far less significant than American and Iraqi
politicians portray. Instead, commanders said, loyalists of Saddam Hussein's
regime - who have swelled their ranks in recent months as ordinary Iraqis
bristle at the U.S. military presence in Iraq - represent the far greater
threat to the country's fragile 3-month-old government.
Foreign militants such as Jordanian-born Abu Musab Zarqawi are believed
responsible for carrying out videotaped beheadings, suicide car bombings and
other high-profile attacks. But U.S. military officials said Iraqi officials
tended to exaggerate the number of foreign fighters in Iraq to obscure the
fact that large numbers of their countrymen have taken up arms against U.S.
troops and the American-backed interim Iraqi government.
"They say these guys are flowing across [the border] and fomenting all
this violence. We don't think so," said a senior military official in
Baghdad. "What's the main threat? It's internal."
In interviews during his U.S. visit last week, Allawi spoke ominously
of foreign jihadists "coming in the hundreds to Iraq." In one interview, he
estimated that foreign fighters constituted 30% of insurgent forces.
Allawi's comments echoed a theme in Bush's recent campaign speeches:
that foreign fighters streaming into the country are proof that the war in
Iraq is inextricably linked to the global war on terrorism.
Kerry has made a similar case, with a different emphasis. In remarks on
the stump last week, he said that the "terrorists pouring across the border"
were proof that the Bush administration had turned Iraq into a magnet for
foreign fighters hoping to kill Americans.
Yet top military officers challenge all these statements. In a TV
interview Sunday, Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central
Command, estimated that the number of foreign fighters in Iraq was below
"While the foreign fighters in Iraq are definitely a problem that have
to be dealt with, I still think that the primary problem that we're dealing
with is former regime elements of the ex-Baath Party that are fighting
against the government and trying to do anything possible to upend the
election process," he said. Iraqi elections are scheduled for January.
U.S. officials acknowledge that Iraq's porous border - especially its
boundary with Syria - allows arms and money to be smuggled in with relative
ease. But they say the traffic from Syria is largely Iraqi Baathists who
escaped after the U.S.-led invasion and couriers bringing in money from
former members of Hussein's government.
At the behest of the interim government, U.S. forces last month cracked
down on traffic along the 375-mile Syrian border. During Operation Phantom
Linebacker, U.S. troops picked up small numbers of foreign fighters
attempting to cross into Iraq, officials say.
Yet the bulk of the traffic they detected was the kind that has existed
for hundreds of years: smugglers and Syrian tribesmen with close ties to
sheiks on Iraq's side of the border.
Top military officers said there was little evidence that the dynamics
in Iraq were similar to those in Afghanistan in the 1980s, when thousands of
Arabs waged war alongside Afghans to drive out the Soviet Union.
Instead, U.S. military officials said the core of the insurgency in
Iraq was - and always had been - Hussein's fiercest loyalists, who melted
into Iraq's urban landscape when the war began in March 2003. During the
succeeding months, they say, the insurgents' ranks have been bolstered by
Iraqis who grew disillusioned with the U.S. failure to deliver basic
services, jobs and reconstruction projects.
It is this expanding group, they say, that has given the insurgency its
deadly power and which represents the biggest challenge to an Iraqi
government trying to establish legitimacy countrywide.
"People try to turn this into the mujahedin, jihad war. It's not that,"
said one U.S. intelligence official. "How many foreign fighters have been
captured and processed? Very few."
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