Echo

Friday, September 24, 2004

THOUGHTS

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Hi,

It seems to me that conventional armies and armaments are not designed for this kind of war against terrorism. For example, the tank may be effective when confronting enemy tanks and forces in well defined combat scenarios, in which case the range, fire power, accuracy and all the other specifications can be relevant and effective. However, when roaming the narrow alleys of "Sadr City" or the back streets of "Najaf", the tank is a vulnerable liability and an easy target for even the most pathetic R.P.G. wielding individual. Its massive fire power itself can be a disadvantage and rather like a surgeon trying to perform heart surgery with a Viking Axe. Many such examples and comparisons can be made to illustrate this fact.

What I am trying to say is that a fundamental and serious rethinking is required, of the military strategy and the kind of weapons and means necessary to deal with the kind of situation that we have here. I am not talking here about the complex totality of the problem, that is to say the sociological, economic, and political aspects, but purely the military side of the problem.

Long time ago I have stated my views regarding the kind of measures required to deal with the security problems. It is a strategy based on information, identification and denying the enemy freedom of movement; painstaking “inventorying” of the population and vehicles and the establishment of permanent security centers overseeing all the locations, especially in the troubled areas. Many protested then, that this kind of thinking is dangerous from the point of view of civil liberties and the democratization process. I don’t deny such problems, but the alternative of allowing the cities to fall to the terrorists and their dirty tactics is by far the more serious threat to civil life and the reconstruction of humans and country alike. The Government has decreed right at the start, that emergency measures may be declared when necessary, and if the present situation does not constitute one of these contingencies, I don’t know when will that be ?

Massive military action with tanks, aircraft, and the like may be necessary at times, but consolidating the situation and the establishment of permanent security structures to control the appeased areas are of paramount importance, otherwise you will see the infestation reappearing as soon as the forces withdraw. Najaf is one example where this has been done rather successfully, so far at least. The success in Najaf, is due also to the fact that the rebels lacked popularity, and that the police and local forces had some real basis of local support. But it must not be forgotten that the firm action of the American forces and close cooperation with the local forces were the really decisive factor, not to mention the timely intervention of the moderate religious leadership to provide the proper face saving exit for the rebels. The examples of the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala should be looked at very carefully, as these areas have become some of the most secured regions in the country. The success should be followed up with energetic economic and reconstruction efforts to consolidate these important gains.

We must not, however bury our heads in the sand and indulge ourselves in wishful thinking and rosy talk. The situation is serious, but in my humble opinion winnable. We shall win if we know how to use our brains right. There have been mistakes in the past as I have repeatedly said before, but there is no point on dwelling on these. The important thing is to learn from these mistakes, however regrettable they may be. For example, and since the enemy has the declared strategy of bringing the fight to Baghdad, which is the real key to this country; the Emergency Law may be declared in the Baghdad region for say, one month for a start. Curfews and restrictions may be put in place in certain well known areas; vehicles have to obtain new permits, information compiled about inhabitants, new identity papers for individuals, entries and exits from the capital properly controlled, etc. etc. At the same time, these “no-go” zones must be ended once and for all, by all means necessary. They must be secured after being taken, even if that requires extra tough measures. I am personally certain that much of the planning and logistical support for terrorist acts is being hatched in these places. It is a fact, though, that many in those areas are rather helpless and intimidated and essentially hostages to the gangs of terrorists and criminals of all kinds.

Another very important point: much criticism has been leveled against the ex-CPA for having disbanded the Army and Police. However, I must say that it is the abrupt and rather careless manner in which that was done, rather than the principle itself that is at fault. In the rush to build up the new Iraqi army and security forces, it is very important to remember that reliability is more important than numbers. Today only, one of the members of the “Association of Muslim Scholars” is calling openly, upon the National Guards and Police Forces to rebel against the Government. This man should be immediately arrested, regardless of turban and beard.

Well, these are some thoughts for all they are worth, and I look forward to hearing your views about them.

Salaam

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