Is the Iraqi resistance weakening?
One of the big questions in the wake of Saddam’s capture is what effect it will have on the security situation in Iraq. Reports like these don’t offer a world of comfort. The Washington Post has a front-pager suggesting that the impact — combined with a choking off of financial incentives — could prove significant: ...
One of the big questions in the wake of Saddam's capture is what effect it will have on the security situation in Iraq. Reports like these don't offer a world of comfort. The Washington Post has a front-pager suggesting that the impact -- combined with a choking off of financial incentives -- could prove significant:
One of the big questions in the wake of Saddam’s capture is what effect it will have on the security situation in Iraq. Reports like these don’t offer a world of comfort. The Washington Post has a front-pager suggesting that the impact — combined with a choking off of financial incentives — could prove significant:
As U.S. forces tracked Saddam Hussein to his subterranean hiding place, they unearthed a trove of intelligence about five families running the Iraqi insurgency, according to U.S. military commanders, who said the information is being used to uproot remaining resistance forces. Senior U.S. officers said they were surprised to discover — clue by clue over six months — that the upper and middle ranks of the resistance were filled by members of five extended families from a few villages within a 12-mile radius of the volatile city of Tikrit along the Tigris River. Top operatives drawn from these families organized the resistance network, dispatching information to individual cells and supervising financial channels, the officers said. They also protected Hussein and passed information to and from the former president while he was on the run. At the heart of this tightly woven network is Auja, Hussein’s birthplace, which U.S. commanders say is the intelligence and communications hub of the insurgency. The village is where many of the former president’s key confidants have their most lavish homes and their favorite wives…. The families have sought to disperse the money around the country to make it available for local operations. U.S. forces discovered that Hussein loyalists had set up a network of front companies, in particular construction businesses and produce-sellers, to move the cash. Raids have uncovered caches of millions of dollars, officers said. A series of strikes early this month proved especially successful in netting key financiers and revealing front companies. “When we take out pockets of inner-circle families, we also take out the money that we find,” Russell said. Now, U.S. officers said they suspect the resistance may be running low on funds because Hussein partisans have recently been selling off some of their properties, even hawking household items. At the same time, some local guerrillas are demanding higher pay, military officers said. Hickey said the ambush last month of two U.S. convoys bringing new Iraqi currency to Samarra was carried out by insurgents badly in need of cash. The subsequent firefight left 54 guerrillas dead, according to U.S. military officials. Hickey added he has detected very little movement of cash around his area. But he and other officers have reported efforts to smuggle munitions into the Tikrit area, an indication that U.S. raids on local weapons caches may have depleted the insurgency’s stores. Most of the arms discovered during recent raids, such as rusting, decrepit Kalashnikov rifles, have been of poorer quality than the newer, more sophisticated weapons found during the summer, he said.
The caveat paragraphs should be read closely, however:
U.S. commanders said the resistance sometimes seems to be a nationwide network, with mid-level operatives and low-level fighters from one part of the country surfacing in other regions. A recent rocket attack on Tikrit, for instance, appeared to be carried out by guerrillas from Fallujah, located nearly 90 miles away on the Euphrates River west of Baghdad. Within the past several months, U.S. officers have also noticed two or three waves of attacks that extended across the country, indicating an attempt at nationwide coordination, Hickey said. But he added that those efforts had failed to gain momentum. At other times, commanders say, the resistance seems mostly decentralized, with mid-level operatives choosing targets locally and supplying weapons kept close at hand.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School at Tufts University and the author of The Ideas Industry. Twitter: @dandrezner
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