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Iraq | International

Robert Fisk: America's plan for Baghdad
by UK Independent (reposted)
Tuesday Apr 10th, 2007 6:16 PM
Divide and rule. A new counter-insurgency strategy to carve up the city into sealed areas. The tactic failed in Vietnam. So what chance does it have in Iraq?
Faced with an ever-more ruthless insurgency in Baghdad - despite President George Bush's "surge" in troops - US forces in the city are now planning a massive and highly controversial counter-insurgency operation that will seal off vast areas of the city, enclosing whole neighbourhoods with barricades and allowing only Iraqis with newly issued ID cards to enter.

The campaign of "gated communities" - whose genesis was in the Vietnam War - will involve up to 30 of the city's 89 official districts and will be the most ambitious counter-insurgency programme yet mounted by the US in Iraq.

The system has been used - and has spectacularly failed - in the past, and its inauguration in Iraq is as much a sign of American desperation at the country's continued descent into civil conflict as it is of US determination to "win" the war against an Iraqi insurgency that has cost the lives of more than 3,200 American troops. The system of "gating" areas under foreign occupation failed during the French war against FLN insurgents in Algeria and again during the American war in Vietnam. Israel has employed similar practices during its occupation of Palestinian territory - again, with little success.

But the campaign has far wider military ambitions than the pacification of Baghdad. It now appears that the US military intends to place as many as five mechanised brigades - comprising about 40,000 men - south and east of Baghdad, at least three of them positioned between the capital and the Iranian border. This would present Iran with a powerful - and potentially aggressive - American military force close to its border in the event of a US or Israeli military strike against its nuclear facilities later this year.

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http://news.independent.co.uk/world/fisk/article2439530.ece
by UK Independent (reposted)
Tuesday Apr 10th, 2007 6:16 PM
Pity the city that becomes a symbol of US success in Iraq. Last year,Tal Afar in the north-east of the country was being lauded in Washington as the one place where the US had brought peace. Perhaps the same prescription might work elsewhere in Iraq.

Embedded American journalists scurried to this poor and depressing Turkoman city between Mosul and the Syrian border to report on the good news. President Bush even singled it out for optimistic comment in March 2006. "Tal Afar shows that, when Iraqis can count on a basic level of safety and security, they can live together peacefully," he said. "The people of Tal Afar have shown why spreading liberty and democracy is at the heart of our strategy to defeat the terrorists."

It was always a myth. On 27 March, a gigantic truck bomb exploded in a Shia market area in Tal Afar. It was the deadliest single bomb out of the many that have been detonated by Sunni insurgents. The Interior Ministry said that 152 people were killed and 347 wounded in the explosion.

Hours after the blast, an event occurred that the Iraqi government had been dreading. The police, all Shia, possibly including some who had lost relatives in the explosion, went on a pogrom. They picked up Sunni men and boys in the streets and in their houses, and then killed them with single shots to the head. As many as 70 may have been executed.

Troops from the Iraqi Army 3rd Division were rushed to the town. They were followed by members of Mosul police force who were overwhelmingly Sunni Arab. Some 18 members of the Tal Afar police were arrested and then released.

It was always absurd to treat Tal Afar as a possible textbook case of how the US might successfully expedite a counter-insurgency policy. It is a very peculiar city, the only city in Iraq that is almost entirely Turkoman. They in turn are divided between a Sunni Turkoman majority and a large Shia Turkoman minority.

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http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article2439534.ece