Archive for the ‘Diyala’ Category

Late to the party, I know. But is this the worst example of biometrics as a religion yet? So the Shia-led, pro-Iranian government of Iraq we’re desperately propping up doesn’t like the Sunni, Iraqi chauvinist countergangs we organised to prop them up much. So the plan to reintegrate them, as they say, into society as law-abiding citizens ain’t going so well. (Ah, Sergeant Hussein? You know how we invaded your country, overthrew the dictator, then dissolved the army you spent the last 15 years in and left you to rot on the dole while we conspired with your despised religious and class enemies? And we finally agreed to enrol you and your old mates as an auxiliary police force because we couldn’t catch you? Well, thanks, we’re doing it again. Yes, the first bit. Have you considered becoming a plumber? Please don’t use any metalworking skills you may acquire to make EFPs, that’s all we ask.)

Worse, yer man is now trying to pick a fight with the Kurds, in which case they will no doubt retaliate by grabbing Sgt Hussein’s home town and telling the government in Baghdad it can’t have any more oil. As a lot of the army Maliki counts on for this is actually the Kurdish army, there’s a lot more that can go wrong here. So what’s the plan B?

Apparently it’s biometrics. All those ex-insurgents from the NOIA who signed up on our side were iris-scanned, and the information something or other with Saddam’s old secret police files. Hey, I remember that the secret police files got torched. Except for the bits involving George Galloway and various other people who all by coincidence opposed the war. And the ones the Chalabi Boys nicked and the US Army had to nick back; there’s a lot of different data sets wandering about, no? Of course, there’s absolutely no point in looking for Sunni Arab nationalist ex-army insurgents in Saddam’s old files; it was Sunni Arab nationalist army officers who compiled Saddam’s old files in the first place. Perhaps they mean the Republican Guard payroll, but who knows, eh.

Anyway, the biometrics. How is this meant to help? Specifically, the iris scans. Now, if you make a bomb, your irises don’t leave any traces on it. Iris-scanning implies you’ve caught the guy already and you want to check if he’s on the list. And the point of guerrilla warfare is that the enemy doesn’t know who to lock up, or else they can’t catch up with them, or the people they are after hide out somewhere they’ll need to stage a huge multidivisional onslaught and probably build a railway to get into. I mean, it’s got to be better than having absolutely no information, but it’s no solution, especially if the data is mashed up with the wrong kind of intelligence files. (Ah, Sergeant Al-Hakim. You must be proud of your years of heroic resistance to Baathist tyranny…)

It’s as if they believe that having an MD5 hash of someone’s iris means you can double-click on their photo and they’re delivered to your desk like an Amazon.com package; or that the camera will take your soul. But then, every government thinks this, at least some of the time. Which reminds me:

The immigration minister, Liam Byrne, promised yesterday to start issuing ID cards to foreign nationals within 300 days – by November 2008. The first required to apply will be students and those married to British citizens or involved in civil partnerships or long-term relationships.

Seven weeks to go. No contracts. No requirements document. No specs. No code. Someone’s in for an epic binge-coding session, aren’t they? Or is “Teh Stupid! It’s Byrne’s!” hoping we’ve all forgotten? Maybe NO2ID should put in a bid itself…

Az-zaman, via Cole reports that the Iraqi government “honoured” SCIRI…sorry…ISIC militiamen for their role in the Basra fighting, and that some 10,000 of them were officially signed up to the Government’s own forces (I thought they already were). The reason for this step is apparently that large numbers – thousands – of men in the Iraqi Army and other forces deserted rather than take part in the offensive. There is more here; supposedly two regiments did so in Baghdad, but I’d warn that what they call a regiment may just be an example of unit inflation.

Now, over at Kaboom! (officially the Colby Buzzell of 2008), here’s some corroboration.

Day 2: I stand in the streets, looking at a building with a sloping roof and two cannonball-sized holes in the middle of it. We have spent many hours zigzagging through the various Shi’a neighborhood cores in Anu al-Verona, but it is only now, with the light of the morning, that the full scope of JAM’s resurgent spectacle is comprehended. The aforementioned holes are the gift of an Iraqi Army’s BMP (armored personnel carrier) main gun, and the aforementioned building is the local Sawha headquarters. The one Son of Iraq who bothered to show up for work today expresses his displeasure with the situation. I thank him for his devotion to duty and ask him where his coworkers are. He looks at me like I have a dick growing out of my forehead and says, “they are at home, of course. It is not safe here.” I ask him why he isn’t home then. “Because my father kicked me out and told me to go to work and I have nowhere else to go.”

My bold. OK, so not only did some members of the Iraqi Army go over to the other side, but these ones took their BMP with them – and immediately turned its guns on the ex-NOIA guys, with the result that they made themselves scarce (or possibly set off for the nearest concentration of Shia for some revenge). There have been reports scattered around of the Sadrists capturing armoured vehicles from the government, but most have referred to Humvees and such; this is the first heavy armour to be mentioned.

It can be pretty heavy, too; the BMP-3, despite ranking as an infantry fighting vehicle, carries a 100mm gun. I don’t know which version we supplied to the Iraqi government (I think the armour came from Hungarian stocks). Meanwhile, Des Browne says:

At one point, he said, British tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and ground troops were deployed to help extract Iraqi government troops from a firefight with Shiite militiamen in the city.

Extract; as in “cover the retreat of”, “aid in escape of”, or just “save” them. It’s Sadr’s move, it always has been; as far as I can see, the only meaningful exit strategy has always been to recognise the people with actual mass support, so NOIA in the Sunni sector and Sadr in the Shia sector. Half of this has actually been done, although nobody wants to admit it; the problem is that their territories overlap. Lieutenant G’s area of responsibility is exhibit A; he’s far enough north to have 1920 Revolution Brigade NOIA on his side, but this doesn’t mean he doesn’t also have a major Sadrist presence.

Extra points: did anyone else spot Chalabi claiming credit for the ceasefire?

The Times has been doing the best reporting from Iraq by far at the moment. Here’s some evidence.

Now, to substance. Note this:

“We have received a shipment of Strela antiaircraft rockets,” Abu Sajad boasted to a Sunday Times reporter.

“We intend to use them to prove to the world that the Mahdi Army will not allow Basra to be turned into a second Falluja.”

This could get bad, especially if the Sadrists can be as good at shooting down helicopters as that NOIA outfit in early 2007 were. Anyway, the last dispatch is that far from the Iraqi government offering anyone mercy in exchange for surrender, Moqtada al-Sadr has just issued an official Leave It, Daz, He’s Not Worth It order to his army to stop beating them. I can’t see any evidence of this being due to imminent government triumph, so I reckon it’s a mix of an exercise in contemptuous indulgence and a renewed assault on the moral high ground.

Think of that; officially at least, the Sadrists have been on ceasefire, more sinned against than sinning, acting only in self defence, but they’ve also kicked the shit out of the Iraqi government, and now they’re looking to exit the confrontation on their terms. The question about this is of course whether the big red stop button will work; Sadr has historically had only coarse control of his army, basically a choice between STAND BY and BURN SHIT DOWN. It’s quite possible that the political dynamic will get out of hand, though, and there are signs of this round taking on a life of its own.

For example, it is reported that the Mahdi Army in Baghdad has been going after the usually ex-NOIA, Sunni “Awakening Councils”/”Sons of Iraq”, even to the point of attacking Sunni territory; apparently, their outposts are being rolled up into more defensible concentrations, which would mean at least a temporary disruption of the US counter-insurgency strategy, and at worst the enduring loss of territorial control and a major NOIA counteroffensive, probably (if you want a guess) in Diyala. Policemen are deserting in droves of up to battalion strength. It may be that this round of violence, like all the others in Iraq, is breeding its own army; 2004 gave us the original Mahdi Army and the NOIA, 2005 the SCIRI fake policemen, 2006 the ex-NOIA countergangs, 2007-8 the Mahdi Army 2.0?

There’s more evidence of renewed sectarian war here. Brief thought; has anyone else noticed that as well as improving its coverage, the Times has started referring to Moqtada al-Sadr as Hojetoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr? This shows both greater respect, and significantly improved spelling. (So has the US Army.)

Finally, let’s all be thankful the Mahdi Army mortarmen missed Tariq al-Hashemi, this blog’s favourite not-quite-an-insurgent Sunni politico and Iraqi vice president. Because that probably would have been the starting gun for the various Awakenings to turn.

Update: I spoke too soon. Someone tried to assassinate the governor of Diyala earlier today.

Not so long ago, the Indy’s Patrick Cockburn suggested that the Sunni insurgents – the New-Old Iraqi Army, as I call them – are pursuing a strategy of encirclement as a counter to the Shia majority in Baghdad, pressing hard around Baqubah and Muqdadiyah to the north and the Mahmoudiyah/Iskandariyah area to the south in order to control the road and rail exits from the city. There has been a great deal of fighting in these places, and the Baqubah area has been very bad recently. It’s in Diyala province, which is a near-even mix religiously, and commands the last major road out of Shia Baghdad. Cockburn’s sources described a typical process – a big bang, then the intimidation of the police, then the elimination of local businesses so as to force everyone else out. Then, Sunni refugees from Baghdad appear in a convoy and move in. No doubt they will be asked to find a self-defence force, as was done in 1940 in the Warthegau of German-occupied Poland.

The NYT reports on the counterstrategy, which is to do the same to the Sunnis on the remaining road out in the hope of incorporating that territory in the future Shia state. The ethnic cleansing is indeed under way. It’s a horrible old European story – kill one lot, move them out, find enough of yours to secure the ground.

Here is a useful suggestion, now that the field is apparently open to useful suggestions – in the interval between now and withdrawal, the Coalition and the Iraqi government should declare the neutralisation of the roads north and south out of Baghdad, and bomb the hell out of anyone who interferes. If you want a humanitarian intervention, permitting the citizenry to escape Baghdad is it, as is staving off either an assault by the NOIA or a breakout by the SCIRI a while longer.

Update, 1231GMT 16/11/06: The Saudis are shitting bricks, as are the Syrians, the Turks and the GCC. But can we not take up Nawaf Obeid of CSIS on his suggestion, though? The last thing we need is Saudi Arabia warning Iran that, unless it stops it’s messing around, the Saudis will start their own proxy-war effort in Iraq. To be filed under “fighting fires with petrol”.

Not so long ago, the Indy’s Patrick Cockburn suggested that the Sunni insurgents – the New-Old Iraqi Army, as I call them – are pursuing a strategy of encirclement as a counter to the Shia majority in Baghdad, pressing hard around Baqubah and Muqdadiyah to the north and the Mahmoudiyah/Iskandariyah area to the south in order to control the road and rail exits from the city. There has been a great deal of fighting in these places, and the Baqubah area has been very bad recently. It’s in Diyala province, which is a near-even mix religiously, and commands the last major road out of Shia Baghdad. Cockburn’s sources described a typical process – a big bang, then the intimidation of the police, then the elimination of local businesses so as to force everyone else out. Then, Sunni refugees from Baghdad appear in a convoy and move in. No doubt they will be asked to find a self-defence force, as was done in 1940 in the Warthegau of German-occupied Poland.

The NYT reports on the counterstrategy, which is to do the same to the Sunnis on the remaining road out in the hope of incorporating that territory in the future Shia state. The ethnic cleansing is indeed under way. It’s a horrible old European story – kill one lot, move them out, find enough of yours to secure the ground.

Here is a useful suggestion, now that the field is apparently open to useful suggestions – in the interval between now and withdrawal, the Coalition and the Iraqi government should declare the neutralisation of the roads north and south out of Baghdad, and bomb the hell out of anyone who interferes. If you want a humanitarian intervention, permitting the citizenry to escape Baghdad is it, as is staving off either an assault by the NOIA or a breakout by the SCIRI a while longer.

Update, 1231GMT 16/11/06: The Saudis are shitting bricks, as are the Syrians, the Turks and the GCC. But can we not take up Nawaf Obeid of CSIS on his suggestion, though? The last thing we need is Saudi Arabia warning Iran that, unless it stops it’s messing around, the Saudis will start their own proxy-war effort in Iraq. To be filed under “fighting fires with petrol”.

This is the kind of good news that only illuminates how terrible your problems are. Yeah, it’s cracking that the Iraqi spooks (supposedly) got to hear about a plot for the Final Shootout, but it’s pretty bad news that the speaker of parliament’s bodyguards were behind it.

Worse, it looks like a hell of a plot. Apparently a multiple VBIED attack was planned inside the Green Zone, aiming to decapitate the government, whilst simultaneously an Islamic Emirate would be proclaimed next door in Diyala Province, on Eid ul-Fitr, and a pogrom against Shi’ites launched. It could well have worked, at least initially – the major fault being that the Diyala phase of the plot would have meant instant war with the Kurds, who have territory in Diyala in striking distance of Baghdad. And the plot would probably have killed the Kurdish president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani.

The Sunni, though, despite couping, would stand to lose a lot – SCIRI would surely go ape and ethnically cleanse most of Baghdad. So why was it Dulaimi’s lot?