Defining the Resistance in Iraq - It's Not 0aforeign and It's Well Prepared
By Scott Ritter
Christian Science Monitor
Monday 10 November 2003
UN weapons inspector saw 'blueprints' for Monday's 0ainsurgency
In the Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib is a compound on 0aan abandoned airstrip that once belonged to a state organization known as M-21, 0aor the Special Operations Directorate of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. As a UN 0aweapons inspector, I inspected this facility in June of 1996. We were looking 0afor weapons of mass destruction (WMD). While I found no evidence of WMD, I did 0afind an organization that specialized in the construction and employment of "improvised explosive devices" - the same IEDs that are now killing Americans 0adaily in Iraq.
When we entered the compound, three Iraqis tried to 0aescape over a wall with documents, but they were caught and surrendered the 0apapers. Like reams of other documents stacked inside the buildings, these papers 0adealt with IEDs. I held in my hands a photocopied primer on how to conduct a 0aroadside ambush using IEDs, and others on how to construct IEDs from 0aconventional high explosives and military munitions. The sophisticated plans - 0aalbeit with crude drawings - showed how to take out a convoy by disguising an 0aIED and when and where to detonate it for maximum damage.
Because WMD was what we were charged with looking 0afor, we weren't allowed to take notes on this kind of activity. But, when we 0areturned to our cars, we carefully reconstructed everything we saw.
What I saw - and passed on to US intelligence 0aagencies - were what might be called the blueprints of the postwar insurgency 0athat the US now faces in Iraq. And they implied two important facts that US 0aauthorities must understand:
- The tools and tactics killing Americans today in Iraq are those of the 0aformer regime, not imported from abroad.
- The anti-US resistance in Iraq today is Iraqi in nature, and more broadly 0abased and deeply rooted than acknowledged.
IEDs are a terrifying phenomenon to the American 0asoldiers patrolling Iraq. The IED has transformed combat into an anonymous 0aambush, a nerve-racking game of highway roulette that has every American who 0aenters a vehicle in Iraq today (whether it be the venerable, and increasingly 0avulnerable, Humvee, or an armored behemoth like the M-1 Abrams tank) wondering 0aif this ride will be their last.
Far from representing the tactics of desperate 0aforeign terrorists, IED attacks in Iraq can be traced to the very organizations 0amost loyal to Saddam Hussein. M-21 wasn't the only unit trained in IEDs. During 0aan inspection of the Iraqi Intelligence Service's training academy in Baghdad in 0aApril 1997, I saw classrooms for training all Iraqi covert agents in the black 0aart of making and using IEDs. My notes recall tables piled with mockups of mines 0aand grenades disguised in dolls, stuffed animals, and food containers - and 0aclassrooms for training in making car bombs and recruiting proxy agents for 0ausing explosives.
That same month, I inspected another facility, 0alocated near the wealthy Al Mansur district of Baghdad, that housed a combined 0aunit of Hussein's personal security force and the Iraqi Intelligence Service. 0aThe mission of this unit was to track the movement and activities of every Iraqi 0aresiding in that neighborhood straddling the highway that links the presidential 0apalace with Saddam International Airport.
A chilling realization overcame us when we entered a 0agymnasium-sized room and saw that the floors were painted in a giant map of the 0aneighborhood. The streets were lined with stacked metallic "in-box" trays - each 0astack represented a house or apartment building. A three-story building, for 0aexample, contained three levels of trays; each tray contained dossiers on each 0acitizen living on that floor. Similar units existed in other neighborhoods, 0aincluding those deemed "anti-regime."
Hussein's government was - and its remnants are - 0aintimately familiar with every square inch of Baghdad: who was loyal, where they 0alive, and who they associated with. (The same can be said about all of Iraq, for 0athat matter, even the Kurdish and Shiite regions.) This information allows 0aofficials from the remnants of Hussein's intelligence and security services to 0ahide undetected among a sympathetic population. Indeed, a standard quotient 0aamong counterinsurgency experts is that for every 100 active insurgents fielded, 0athere must be 1,000 to 10,000 active supporters in the local population.
Though the Bush administration consistently 0acharacterizes the nature of the enemy in Iraq as "terrorist," and identifies the 0aleading culprits as "foreign fighters," the notion of Al Qaeda or Al Ansar al 0aIslam using Baghdad (or any urban area in Iraq) as an independent base of 0aoperations is far-fetched. To the extent that foreigners appear at all in 0aBaghdad, it is likely only under the careful control of the pro-Hussein 0aresistance, and even then, only to be used as an expendable weapon in the same 0away one would use a rocket-propelled grenade or IED.
The growing number, sophistication, and diversity of 0aattacks on US forces suggests that the resistance is growing and becoming more 0aorganized - clear evidence that the US may be losing the struggle for the hearts 0aand minds of the Iraqi people.
To properly assess the nature of the anti-American 0aresistance in Iraq today, one must remember that the majority of pro-regime 0aforces, especially those military units most loyal to Hussein, as well as the 0aentirety of the Iraqi intelligence and security forces, never surrendered. They 0asimply melted away.
Despite upbeat statements from the Bush 0aadministration to the contrary, the reality is that the Hussein regime was not 0adefeated in the traditional sense, and today shows signs of reforming to 0acontinue the struggle against the US-led occupiers in a way that plays to its 0aown strengths, and exploits US weakness.
For political reasons, the Bush administration and 0athe Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) haven't honestly confronted this 0areality for fear of admitting that they totally bungled their prewar assessments 0aabout what conditions they would face in postwar occupied Iraq.
The failure to realistically assess the 0aanti-American resistance in Iraq means that "solutions" the US and CPA develop 0ahave minimal chance of success because they're derived from an inaccurate 0aidentification of the problem.
The firestorm of anti-US resistance in Iraq 0acontinues to expand - and risks growing out of control - because of the void of 0aviable solutions. Unless measures are taken that recognize that the tattered 0aHussein regime remains a viable force, and unless actions are formulated 0aaccordingly, the conflict in Iraq risks consuming the US in a struggle in which 0athere may be no prospect of a clear-cut victory and an increasing possibility of 0adefeat.
Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector in 0aIraq (1991-1998), is author of 'Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction 0aand the Bushwhacking of America.'
Jump to TO Features for Tuesday 11 November 2003