The Four Wars of Iraq ---
The Northern Ireland Connection
SAN FRANCISCO, Ca -- There have been four wars fought in Iraq since 2003. Each has a paradigm and historical precedence. The U.S. and coalition Forces have won the first three wars in Iraq. For the fourth -- the current phase of sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites --- the 85 year conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland may serve as a model and a roadmap to resolution. More about that later.
In the first war, the goal was the capture of Baghdad. Coalition forces initiated a 21st century blitzkrieg, (lightening war) --an offensive operational-level military strategy that begins an initial bombardment followed by mobile forces attacking with speed and surprise to prevent an enemy from organizing a coherent defense. The blitzkrieg tactic was used by both the Axis and Allies in World War Two, and later by Israel. The U.S. accelerated the pace of forward advance, appropriately named "Shock and Awe. Aerial bombing --- 1700 air sorties, 504 using cruise missiles --targeted Iraqi communications, air defenses, and planning facilities. The bombings were also intended to demoralize enemy defense forces. The strategy worked. In two weeks, the U.S. entered Baghdad. The first war was a success.
The goal of the second war was the capture of Saddam Hussein. In tactics and strategy, this phase of the war resembled the 1989 invasion of Panama that brought down the Panamanian military leader Manuel Noriega. Like Saddam Hussein, Noreiga was a brash dictator overseeing assets critical to the U.S.-the Panama Canal. Noriega threatened the neutrality of the Panama Canal. Panama had also become a center for drug money laundering and a transit point for drug trafficking to the U.S. and Europe. The capture of Noriega took less time in the small country of Panama - thirty-five days from the start of the invasion. It took nine months to find Saddam Hussein who was captured by U.S. forces on December 13, 2003. Later, he was convicted of crimes against humanity by the Iraq Special Tribunal and sentenced to death by hanging. Mission Accomplished. We won the second war of Iraq.
The third war centered on battling non-sectarian insurgency, including imported insurgents, and instituting democratic-elected government. It's clear now that Saddam, long an admirer of Stalin, envisioned a Stalingrad counter attack strategy. Documents found by coalition forces confirm this including a memo from the director of Iraqi Intelligence, the Mukhabarat, from February 2003. These contained instructions to senior regime and intelligence officials in anticipation of a U.S. invasion.
Another key memo discovered by Coalition force featured a long list of jihadists who had been brought to Iraq before the war. This document indicated that "hundreds and hundreds" of fighters had come from several countries in the region including Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and Syria prior to the war. The strategy called for organized resistance which included the classic pattern of forming cells and training combatants in insurgency. 'Operatives' were to engage in 'sabotage and looting.' Random sniper attacks and ambushes were to be organized.
The insurgency was composed of at least a dozen major guerrilla organizations and perhaps as many as 40 distinct groups. This phase of the war ended On June 8th, 2006, Iraqi officials confirmed that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed by two 500lb laser guided bombs dropped from an F-16. At the time of Zarqawi's death, the non-sectarian insurgency was so badly weakened that he was working to draw Iran into the war based on a document found in Zarqawi's safe house. Despite the effort of these insurgents, 76% of registered voters participated in national elections. The Iraqi government is now considered a legitimate government. We won the third phase of the war, establishing a democratically elected government.
The fourth war began in April 2003 with the bombing at Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf that killed 125 Shi'a and Muhammed Baqir al-Hakim. This was the first major mosque bombing attributable to sectarian strife. Sectarian violence has continued to the present with mosques still targeted as in 2005, where a series of bombings killed 74 Shia worshippers and injuring 75 at two mosques. In addition, hundreds of killings of Sunnis and Shiites have marked this period. And this brings us to the present.
We can now turn to the decades old conflict in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics to see possible outcomes for the current situation in Iraq.
In Northern Ireland, many International leaders have attempted to create an effective coalition government and end the violence. But disarming the combatants has proved the most difficult challenge. That will also be the case in Iraq. The first step, like in Northern Ireland, will be to create a neutral international monitoring commission to oversee disarmament. And as the Republic of Ireland was brought into talks for settling the conflict in Northern Ireland, the U.S. must accept that neighboring countries surrounding Iraq must have a stake any final settlement for an independent and united Iraq.
Next, the British have consistently used the threat of remaining in Northern Ireland to prod the warring parties to negotiate. Despite implementing democratic reforms in Iraq, the U.S. and coalition forces are viewed by majority of Iraqis as an occupying Western force. Redeployment of U.S. and coalition forces out of Iraq can be a useful negotiating tool. Finally, like in Northern Ireland, a precondition for a working settlement, must be an Iraqi homeland security apparatus that is trusted. This is precisely the current policy of the Bush Administration. Namely, to establish an Iraqi army and police force that can maintain the peace, and make redeployment of U.S. forces possible.
So, with a successful resolution of the current war in Iraq, what will have been achieved? First, a working model for co-existence between warring factions of Islam, and the strengthening of moderate Moslems in Iraq (the majority) and around the world. Second, valuable military experience in countering militant insurgencies. Third, the groundwork for an eventual working agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Fourth, preventing Iraq from becoming an base camp and active supporter of Al Qaida terrorist efforts. Fifth, building a potential economic powerhouse in the Middle East and major supplier of oil to the U.S. and Europe (while we develop alternative energy sources for our cars, boats, homes and industries.)
And finally, ending the rule of Saddam Hussein, who started two major wars in the Middle East costing over a million lives, and who was active in supporting attacks on the U.S., and who was an arrogant and cold-blooded mass murderer. In other words, considering the deadly and demonstrated behavior of Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein, the U.S. and the world will be safer without him and his Iraq.