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From Iraq: Observations of a USMC Liason to the ISF

Tuesday, April 1, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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From a USMC liason to Iraqi Security Forces:

Everyone,

I’ve received a lot of emails regarding the situation in Iraq and have
decided to pass as much information regarding the current situation
precluding any sensitive information. The Iraqi Army (IA) has gone on
the offensive, at the request of the Government of Iraq (GoI), against
criminal and corruptive elements that in the past they more or less had
to find equilibrium with and coexist in an uneasy harmony. Anytime you
disturb an equilibrium there is chaos, like sweeping a dirty floor, the
air gets a little dusty. Unfortunately, the International Zone has been
included among other targets of opportunity in the response to the
offensive meant to intimidate and in the hopes that the GoI will
capitulate, sadly the attacks on the IZ kill far more innocent Iraqi’s
than any other bloc, further serving to discredit the elements being
confronted.

There are several points that need to be clarified that I think are not
being made well known.[# More #]

This offensive is not against Sadr or a particular religious sect. This
Government of Iraq has done a very good job of publicizing and conveying
to the people of this country that they are not targeting a sect, they
are targeting criminal elements that serve oppress this country and the
government. This conveyance has been confirmed in many conversations I
have had with numerous Iraqi’s (from senior Ministry of Oil officials,
middle management, to the janitors who live in Sadr City and work in my
building, to include all sects). Many see this as the right action, as
strengthening the Government and as courage from the Prime Minister,
even I didn’t believe that. When you here that coming from a White
House press secretary, you tend to not believe it, however, when it
comes from the people who live in the very society it affects, it
carries more significance.

The battle in Basra. There have been many reports of the battle not
going as planned. However, as General Eisenhower stated, “No battle was
ever won according to plan, but no battle was ever won without a plan.”
The Iraq Army has cordoned off the city and is methodically advancing to
allow residents to leave the city amidst the fighting, militants to
turnover arms while gradually isolating the factions they intend to up
root. This is a stark contrast from tactics used during “Saddam times”
where indiscriminant death and destruction were used to rule by fear.
The methodology is symbolic because it demonstrates that the Army and
the GoI are not indiscriminately targeting the population, it also
demonstrates military and governmental confidence and strength. The use
of US air support has been criticized, however, what people need to
realize is that while there is a young Iraqi Air Force that has been
doing a great deal of reconnaissance and intelligence gathering, the
risk of a rogue air weapons element at the moment is too great. US air
involvement in Basra has been dictated by the army and has been limited
in nature.

Stories highlighting defections. It was reported yesterday that 40
Iraqi Police (IP) defected to “join the militia movement”. This is most
likely true. However, the IP consists of tens of thousands of personnel
and that number equates to less than half of 1% of the IPs. This should
not be viewed as a systemic issue and represents an improvement on
several orders of magnitude from years ago when defections were far
greater in magnitude and scope.

Finally, it is very real that easy targets such as the IZ have been
frequently targeted in the last week and that will most likely continue
for the interim. While I know how to keep myself fairly safe and
maintain the highest chance of survival, there is an element of chance
that is very tangible, but I like to believe my being Irish is going to
assist me on that end. I would much rather be in the cockpit, but my
current mission is to maintain relations between the US, it’s allies and
my various Iraqi counterparts and I do that to the best of my ability
(it is quite surreal to get phone calls from people in the red zone
asking if I am ok). That being said, every time I hear of an air asset
taking out a rocket site with their second hellfire missile shot, I
can’t help but think I would have gotten them on the first go around . .
. I got my one miss out of the way at the China Lake missile range!

The next few weeks will be interesting for many people are going to
attempt to draw strategic conclusions from a sample size that is far too
small to justify that analysis, the true results will be evident in the
coming months. Regardless, I will still be doing my job, working on
graduate school and finding time to workout, even if it means running up
stairs in a building. I may alter the times for when I do things, but
I’m not going to change what I do, I won’t give them that pleasure.

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