Monday, November 20, 2006

Eye on Iraq: Worse than Tet

By Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Nov. 20, 2006 at 11:47AM

"By contrast, the military offensive in Baghdad in the late summer and early fall of 2006 was launched by U.S. forces against not one but several militias including Shiite ones that had very close ties to the democratically elected, but exceptionally weak and ineffectual government of Iraq led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Where Viet Cong forces were trapped and wiped out during Tet, major Shiite militia paramilitary formations were not even significantly degraded in Baghdad. Where Tet boosted the military power and political credibility of the Thieu government among the South Vietnamese people, the success of the militias in defying the U.S. forces further undermined the Maliki government.
Where the Thieu government, although established by military officers and unelected, was an effective government before Tet, the Maliki government, although based on a democratically elected parliament, had shown itself in the half year before the Baghdad fighting unable to guarantee security and basic services in much of Iraq. That was especially the case in the government's own capital, except where it depended upon the support and approval of the Shiite militias.
The Maliki government is therefore far weaker after the 2006 fighting in Baghdad than the Thieu government was after Tet 1968. U.S. ground forces in South Vietnam after were supplied across the ocean by air and their lines of communications where never seriously threatened. U.S. ground forces in Iraq remained in 2006 precariously dependent on the land route to Baghdad from Kuwait and Basra that the Shiite militias controlling most of southern Iraq could interdict at any time.
Ties between the Thieu government and the U.S. government and military grew far closer after Tet. Ties between the Maliki government and the U.S. government and military grew dangerously strained after the fighting in Baghdad. After Tet, the Viet Cong was weaker. After Baghdad, the Sunni insurgents were stronger.
After Tet, the U.S. forces in Vietnam still could concentrate on the Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese army allies. Increasingly, even major guerrilla operations were fought by North Vietnamese officered, and partially manned, forces rather than purely indigenous South Vietnamese Viet Cong ones. The Army of the Republic of South Vietnam became more credible after Tet. The new Iraqi army, heavily penetrated by Shiite militias, became far more unreliable as an ally to the U.S. forces in Iraq after Baghdad.
U.S. policymakers and public opinion arguably became too pessimistic after Tet. They probably remain far too optimistic after Baghdad."

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