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Crushing the
insurgency and stabilising Iraq

By Sama Hadad
Monday, November 23, 2004
Published: openDemocracy

American and new Iraqi forces rapidly occupied the insurgent stronghold city of Falluja and are almost in complete control. While the military campaign has been a success the fact there was a need for Operation Phantom Fury signals a significant failure of policy - namely that of 're-Ba'athification'.

Following the fall of Saddam, Ayad Allawi, along with his supporters in Washington, fiercely opposed both de-Baathification, and the disbanding of the former Saddam army. Because Allawi's Iraqi National Accord draws its support from former Baathists and the Sunni elite, his opposition to the de-Baathification policy is understandable.

Whilst American forces had Falluja in a tight grip in April, mounting international pressure and civilian casualties led Washington to abandon its year-old de-Baathification policy and to resort to forming the Falluja Brigade made up of former Baathists. This signaled the beginning of a wave of appointments of high ranking Baathists to top security service and government posts - just as Allawi had been advocating. Their thinking was that appointing former Sunni elite and Baathists in positions of power would kill two birds with one stone: make use of their 'expertise' as well as appease the Sunni population.

Falluja was left in the hands of a newly formed Falluja Brigade, under the command of Jasim Muhammed Salih. To the embarrassment of the CPA, Salih was removed days after his appointment because opposition mounted against his past as a chief of staff of one of Saddam's Republican Guard Brigades and participation in the bloody quelling of the 1991 uprising. The Falluja Brigade command was then handed to a former Saddam intelligence officer, Mohammed Abdul Latif. As insurgency activity unsurprisingly soared once more in Falluja, coalition forces eventually found the Falluja Brigade to be working 'with them' by day and planning and executing insurgency activity by night. The Brigade was eventually disbanded in September.

Whilst the mess of the Falluja Brigade symbolises the incompetence of the 're-Baathification' policy and has served to bring us full circle back to where we were in April, there have been far more dangerous repercussions of this policy. Allawi's aggressive re-Baathification of the government and security services has paved the way for such people as Amer al-Hashimi to be appointed chief of staff of Iraq's new army. Al-Hashimi, a Salafi ex-Major General in Saddam's army, was eventually fired last August as it became apparent he was supplying Salafi insurgents with intelligence and appointing them to high ranks in the new army. More worryingly, not only was al-Hashimi replaced by Mohammed Abdul-Qadr, former Baathist Governor of Mosul and deputy chief of staff under Saddam, but al-Hashimi himself has since been appointed an advisor to the Ministry of Defence.

Allawi's policy has also seen the appointment of Talib Al-Lahibi as commander of the new Iraqi National Guard for the province of Diyala. Al-Lahibi, a former Saddam officer, was eventually arrested in September as it came to light he was leading the insurgency in Diyala.

What may prove to be Allawi's most close-to-home re-Baathification blunder, was his appointment of former Baathist, Yousef Khalaf Mahmood, as head of security for the Iraqi interim cabinet - an individual who would never have been appointed to such a post under de-Baathification. Mahmood was arrested at the end of October after it transpired he was working with the insurgents and had supplied them with the names and addresses of every government official and ministerial staff. Six staff and their family members have already been murdered in their homes. Such a grave mistake will serve to keep insurgents busy for months to come. And so, the very people Iraq is relying upon to help its rebuilding and democratisation are now sitting ducks.

Thanks to the active reinstatement of Sunni elite and former Baathists, leadership of the new Iraqi security forces is once again Sunni-dominated, as it had been the four decades under Saddam. The weeks and months have proved that not only are high ranking Sunnis exacerbating Iraq's insecurity, but even low ranking Sunnis cannot be relied upon to carry out their duties - in one Iraqi unit alone in Operation Phantom Fury, some 100 Sunni soldiers chose to desert their posts en route to Falluja. So it's not a surprise that we find ourselves in the position we are in and one thing is certain - relying on the same pillars of power as Saddam did will ensure continued infiltrations, desertions and insurgency.

Most commentators and political advisors are now correctly identifying the need for a political solution to couple the current military operation in Falluja. However, they seem to have learnt nothing from the past, as they are now advocating the same policy that was adopted six months ago: calling for increased Sunni and 'clean' Baathist representation in order to somehow appease the Sunni population.

Washington needs to be brave enough to discard Allawi's policy of re-Baathification and Sunni-dominance and advocate what reality on the ground has pointed to time and time again: de-Baathification coupled with Shia-dominance in the leadership of the new security forces is the only long-term option to crushing the insurgency and moving Iraq towards democracy.

 

© 2007 Iraqi Prospect Organisation
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