Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Thursday | April 10, 2003

Much work left to be done

Despite yesterday's rejoicing at the fall of Baghdad, the reality in the ground is far more volatile than those sipping the bubbly would have you believe.

It's true -- events on the ground have sped up in recent days thanks to relentless US bombings, overwhelming firepower on the ground, and inept Iraqi tactics (seriously, whose brilliant idea was it to deploy the Republican Guard outside of Baghdad?).

But, it's also true that the US hasn't defeated the Iraqis in battle. Most have melted away into the populace. Have they laid down their weapons, are are they bidding their time, ready to wage guerilla war? Given that US forces still face "pockets of resistance" (in other words, guerilla ambushes), it seems clear there is still much left to clean up. Capturing Baghdad's downtown is a strong psychological blow to the enemy, but it's not the end of the war.

And none of Iraqs major cities are secure -- with irregulars continuing their guerilla resistance and civilians looting under the disinterested gaze of US and British forces. In Basra:

"Local people are a bit surprised. They see the outward appearance of British control.

"But a lot of local people are wondering 'why are they still fighting Iraqis on the outskirts if we've got the tanks in the centre of the city, why is the security situation not better than it is?'"

Why? Because parking tanks in the center of a city doesn't do anything to control the territory outside of that tank's gun range. And Brits and Americans are earning further emnity for ignoring the looting going on under their noses:
Angry doctors in Basra's main teaching hospital - itself targeted by looters until soldiers arrived - told the BBC they had only about two weeks of medicine left.

And the electricity supply was only intermittent, they said.

One doctor, Muayad Jumah Lefta, was angry with the UK forces for failing to provide security. Many of his patients had been victims of the disorder rather than the fighting, he said.

"We're getting patients who were hurt in the looting, stabbed by their neighbours, hit by bullets in squabbles between members of the Baath Party and their rivals... The British are responsible for this."

In all fairness, US and UK forces are really in a no-win situation. If they tried to intervene they could be forced to fire on civilians. If they don't, well, we see that doesn't earn them any friends either.

In the north, Kirkuk fell unopposed to Kurdish forces, as Saddam loyalists fled to Tikrit to make their final stand.

At first blush, Kirkuk's fall would seem to be good news. But in this region, things are always more complicated. Turkey is alarmed at the Kurdish presence in Kirkuk -- which accounts for 40 percent of Iraq's oil revenues. That kind of wealth, in Kurdish hands, would strengthen that group's bid for independence and perhaps help it fund Kurdish seperatist movements in Turkey and Iran.

The US has promised Turkey it will remove the Kurds from Kirkuk. It better hope the Kurds play along, and abandon territory gained at bloody expense. NPR reported this morning that Powell will allow Turkey to send "military observers" to Kirkuk the ensure the Kurds withdraw. It'll be interesting to see how that plays with the Kurds.

Meanwhile, many Iraqis are already demanding the US leave, now that Saddam is effectively out of power.

Mehdi al-Aibi Mansur, a Shi'ite merchant, said he was glad Saddam's era was over, but warned against a U.S. occupation.

"People are no longer afraid," he said. "People will not be afraid to rise up against the Americans."

Such gratitude... And as Steve has written repeatedly over the past week -- Iran and Syria will have every incentive to encourage Iraqi hostility to the occupying Americans, lest the victory be too "easy" and the Chickenhawk neocons train their gun sights on their borders.

So who to take control of Iraq? Ahmad Chalabi? Shiites are already refusing to meet with his pretend government, and his call for US troops to stay in Iraq for at least two years will go poorly with Iraqis already chaffing at the US presence.

We all sound like broken records around here -- winning the war is the easy part. The real challenge will be winning the peace.

Posted April 10, 2003 07:19 AM | Comments (178)


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