Thursday, February 10, 2005


New Perspectives in Iraq

I met a man today from St. Louis who manages over 100 police professionals who train Iraqi police. These men, civilian contractors and many retired, have lost many of their men, and many more of their trainees. He speaks of a chance for things to get better, and they are training and installing their 3rd Police force in Samarra (police chiefs killed and forces run off).

His focus is Samarra, as well it should be. My reading suggests that Mosul will be the tipping point in the Sunni hot zone, that's within his area too, and he seems to concur (without giving away operational details). The theory goes, that Mosul represents the outermost point of Sunni influence, and if Mosul is pacified like Fallujah then the Sunni holdouts will fall below a decisive level of control sufficient to thwart ratification of a new constitution.

They are actively seeking military men with police experience, and may pull many of our Guardsmen her who would be excellent candidates for this mission. But it is more dangerous. Their good efforts however may have a decisive effect on conventional military and how long we will be there. Our intelligence focus remains a top priority of course, as does the ongoing interrogation and debriefing of Iraqis in custody. But there is clearly an increasing need to focus on civil security, and the face of that effort will be Iraqi.

The conditions are touch and go, but as with other areas of life in Iraq, there are more positives than negatives. My friend Mike stateside (who probably follows things better than I do) suggests the residual (terrorist, insurgent) death rate in Iraq compares favorably to Columbia among other places. In discussions immediately following the elections, first hand accounts relate that the rate and level and seriousness of local violence (in those few areas in Iraq where there is any) is WAY down. Its like they took a break or lost heart (or face) or something got even the violent holdouts to ask themselves, "what might be in this for me?"

Not remarked in any press account is an observation I made on election day. It's like a reversal of the climactic scene in High Noon: this time the townspeople pushed Gary Cooper out of the way and fillled the street until they pushed the bad guys right out of town.

When it was just U.S. Soldiers, terrorist and Baathist holdouts attacked U.S. soldiers. Then there were many more U.S. Soldiers, and the forces against us had to spread themselves a little thinner against a larger force. Then, the CPA and the Iraqi Interim Government and even Non-governmental organizations (NGO) became too much of a problem, so the terrorists had to also consider targeting them.

Then it was the newly estalished Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police forces, and again, the number of possible terrorist targets increased by another huge magnitude. Finally, millions of Iraqis came out and voted despite very real threats of violence (and a few actual incidents), and now the forces against us have millions of targets when once there were thousands. Yet their fighting numbers shrink by the day, from capture, death, giving up, or walking away. When you can target a select number of targets, and get some favorable media coverage, you stand a chance for political success. When there are millions, and they're no longer afraid, and the press starts to yield to irrepressible Truth that is so evident, spin and prejudice won't sell, then Terror has lost any power to compel change -- other than the change in the form of a heightened determination to end it once and for all.

My police trainer acquaintance returns to the states in March, comes back for another year, and thinks they may go next to Palestine (!)

I will save extensive comment on that for another day, but in short let me say that the Middle East has been transformed for decades to come, and what Thomas Friedman today has suggested as an antidote for Iran, applies equally well to the rest of the dysfunctional Middle East.

Democrats do not favor using military force against Iran's nuclear program or to compel regime change there. That is probably wise. But they don't really have a diplomatic option. I've got one: Iraq. Iraq is our Iran policy.

If we can help produce a representative government in Iraq - based on free and fair elections and with a Shiite leadership that accepts minority rights and limits on clerical involvement in politics - it will exert great pressure on the ayatollah-dictators running Iran. In Iran's sham "Islamic democracy," only the mullahs decide who can run. Over time, Iranian Shiites will demand to know why they can't have the same freedoms as their Iraqi cousins right next door. That will drive change in Iran. Just be patient.

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