Think tanks slam US Iraq strategy

Two influential thinktanks have roundly criticised US strategy in Iraq.

    Iraq has been convulsed by violence since the 2003 invasion

    The Wasington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIC) said on Wednesday that the US

     is facing

    increasingly deadly attacks in Iraq because

    it has failed to honestly assess facts on the ground

    .

    And in a report published on the same day, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said Iraqi hostility towards the US-led "occupation" means that Washington can no longer achieve its pre-war goals.

    The CSIC report, prepared by senior fellow Anthony Cordesman,

    said

    administration spokesmen had appeared to live "in a

    fantasyland" when giving accounts of events in Iraq.

    Cordesman, a former Pentagon official who has made several

    trips to Iraq, said Iraqi spies are a serious threat to US

    operations and there is no evidence that the numbers of anti-US fighters is

    declining despite vigorous US and Iraq

    attacks.

    After the 2003 invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, the US

    "assumed that it was dealing with a limited number of

    insurgents that coalition forces would defeat well before the

    election" of a new Iraqi government, Cordesman said.

    "It did not see the threat level that would emerge if it

    did not provide jobs or pensions for Iraqi career officers or

    co-opt them into the nation-building effort ... . It acted as if

    it had years to rebuild Iraq using its own plans, rather than

    months to shape the climate in which Iraqis could do it."

    Vietnam analogy

    Cordesman said in the first year of the US occupation,

    Washington "failed to come to grips with the Iraqi insurgency ...

    in virtually every important dimension".

    Under the heading "Denial as a method of counter-insurgency

    warfare", the report accused the US of minimising

    the anti-US and criminal threat in Iraq and of exaggerating

    popular support for US-led efforts.

    "It [the US] did not see the threat level that would emerge if it

    did not provide jobs or pensions for Iraqi career officers or

    co-opt them into the nation-building effort

    "

    Anthony Cordesman,
    Center for Strategic and International Studies

    Washington "in short ... failed to honestly assess the

    facts on the ground in a manner reminiscent of Vietnam",

    Cordesman wrote.

    He said that as late as July 2004, administration spokesmen

    still lived "in a fantasyland in terms of their public

    announcements", including putting the core anti-US fighting force

    at

    5000 individuals when experts in Iraq knew the correct number

    to be 12,000 to 16,000.

    Sympathisers

    within the Iraqi interim government and Iraqi forces, as well as Iraqis

    working for US-led forces, media and non-governmental

    organisations, "often provided excellent human intelligence [

    about US-led operations] without violently taking

    part in the insurgency", the report said.

    Cordesman said US attempts to vet these Iraqis cannot

    solve the problem because "it seems likely that family, clan

    and ethnic loyalties have made many supposedly loyal Iraqis

    become at least part-time sources".

    Soaring resentment

    Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group (ICG), a conflict-resolution organisation, said on Wednesday that Iraqi confidence in the US "is in fre

    e fall".

    Soaring resentment feeds anti-US violence, making the transition process a source of, not the solution to, Washington's legitimacy deficit.

    Bush said Iraq would become a
    model for the region

    The US said its initial objective was to turn Iraq into a model for the region - a democratic, secular and free-market oriented government, sympathetic to US interests, not openly hostile towards Israel, and possibly home to long-term American military bases.

    But the Bush-administration now needs to limit its ambitions and focus on achievable goals, the ICG said

    .

    Specificially, it should gradually disengage politically and militarily from Iraq and let Iraq disengage politically from it.

    Legitimacy defecit

    "Washington has to realise - you occupy the Iraq you have, not the Iraq you might wish to have later," said Robert Malley, director of the IGC's Middle East/North Africa Programme.

    "The credibility of Iraqi institutions depends essentially on their ability to respond to the Iraqi population's needs and aspirations, which inevitably will entail distancing themselves from the US-led occupation"

    Peter Harling,
    International Crisis Group

    Moreover, the IGC said the US should design a counter-insurgency strategy which is less focussed on militarily eliminating its opponents in Iraq, thus gaining more support within the country.

    The report said Iraqis must believe they are building a unified, independent state which must define itself at least partially in opposition to US policies or risk provoking the ire of many of its own citizens.

    "The credibility of Iraqi institutions depends essentially on their ability to respond to the Iraqi population's needs and aspirations, which inevitably will entail distancing themselves from the US-led occupation," said Peter Harling, the IGC's Middle East analyst.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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