Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Insurgency May Be Back on Its Heels, but It's No Setback

By William S. Lind

"Bush's splurge is already bringing premature claims of success, even though the first troops are just arriving in Iraq. A column in today's Washington Times by Ollie North quotes an American officer in Iraq as saying, "Do they [members of Congress opposed to the war] even know that in the last two weeks we have set AQI [al-Qaeda in Iraq] and the Mahdi Army both back on their heels?" Well, maybe, but if they are back on their heels, it is only to sit and see how their enemy's latest operation evolves. That is smart guerilla tactics, and does not mean they have suffered a setback......

The Mahdi Army and other Shi'ite groupings have a different perspective. Once we understand what it is, we can see that it makes sense for them to avoid a confrontation with the U.S. military if they can. From the Shi'ite perspective, American forces are in Iraq to fight the Sunnis for them. Our troops are, in effect, the Shi'ites' unpaid Hessians.

Thus far, we have been willing to play the Shi'ites' game. Their challenge now is to make sure we continue to do so as Bush's "big push" in Baghdad unfolds. Originally, they wanted U.S. forces to control access to Baghdad, cutting the Sunnis' lines of communication and reinforcement, while the Shi'ite militias carried on their successful campaign of ethnic cleansing. With Bush insisting American forces work in Baghdad, the Shi'ites came up with an alternate plan, one we have seemingly accepted: the Americans will drive out the Sunni insurgents, leaving Sunni neighborhoods defenseless. As the American troops move on, they will be replaced by Iraqi soldiers and police, mostly Shi'ite militiamen, who will ethnically cleanse the area of Sunnis, just as in plan A. Again, the Americans will have fulfilled their allotted function, fighting the Sunnis on behalf of the Shi'ites. Aren't Hessians great?....."

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