Stabilizing Baghdad is only one element of the 11-point plan which the nominees for US Central Command in the Middle East commander, Adm. William Fallon, and US ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan C. Crocker, will be charged with executing.
The nominated commander, in a dour comment on America’s four-year expedition in Iraq, advised the Bush administration to be “more realistic about its objectives.” Addressing the Senate hearing for his confirmation this week, Adm. Fallon admitted “I don’t know what winning is.” But he added he would not have agreed to lead the US Central Command if he did not believe there was a chance of success in Iraq – which is the command’s first priority.”
He told the Senate Armed Services Committee the United States needed to engage every aspect of its economic, diplomatic and military capabilities if it was to have a chance of avoiding disaster in Iraq, “I believe the situation in Iraq can be turned around,” he said, but also warned that time is short.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military and intelligence exclusive sources disclose that the admiral had a specific program in mind when he spoke of turning the situation in Iraq around. In fact he, Crocker (who is soon moving from his post in Afghanistan to Baghdad) and the incoming US forces chief in Iraq, General David Petraeus, are now putting the final touches on a new plan prior to its submission to the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department.
As Adm. Fallon indicated to the Senate committee, the plan is a judicious blend of military steps with intense political and economic effort. Bringing security to Baghdad is one military element; another is an urgent operation to seal Iraq’s borders with Iran and Syria and cut off the flow of fighters, weapons, explosives and funding into Iraq.
US troops to focus on sealing borders
These are the 11 steps proposed, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s exclusive sources:
1. With the only exceptions of Baghdad and the main al Qaeda stronghold of Ramadi, all US troops are to be evacuated from Iraq’s towns and villages and hand over security to Iraqi security forces, whether or not they are fully capable of taking over.
2. Most of the US army in Iraq, consisting of some 150,000 men, will be deployed the length of Iraq’s borders with Iran and Syria to block them against hostile infiltration. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military experts comment here: Better late than never. As early as the fall of 2003, it was obvious that the Iraq War could not be won without cutting the logistical chain nourishing the Sunni insurgents, Shiite militias and al Qaeda from Syria and Iran.
3. Each Iraqi police or army unit standing up to US military tests of being cleansed of militias and dedicated to the ideal of a united Iraq ruled from Baghdad will be granted operational autonomy. Its equipment, including vehicles, will be upgraded to elite level, in contrast to the less privileged units.
4. The ex-officers, sergeants and soldiers of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist armed forces will be encouraged to re-enlist. This project has been limping along; it will be boosted by offers of high pay and financial compensation for the four years of unemployment imposed on the former servicemen under the joint US-Shiite de-Baathification program.
5. The state of security in each region will directly bear on the tempo of US military withdrawal from that region. Places where calm prevails will be the first to be marked down for the pull-back of US troops.
6. The central Iraqi town of Ramadi, north of Baghdad, warrants a major military operation on its own of comparable magnitude to the crackdown in the capital. This strategically-located al Qaeda bastion must be wiped out simultaneously with the sealing of Iraq’s borders – if the jihadist group is to be rooted out of Iraq.
Anbar tribes no match for al Qaeda in combat
7. Fallon, Crocker and Petraeus are preparing to sack the Sunni Arab tribal chiefs of the western Iraqi Anbar province who were designated to lead the war on the al Qaeda invaders of the province. The young chiefs have proved to be no match for the jihadists and will therefore be replaced by the reinstated veteran chieftains, Saddam’s old loyalists.
The decision to reshuffle the tribal leadership in Anbar province was prompted by two alarming discoveries, revealed here by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources:
- Al Qaeda fighters in Anbar province consistently prevail in battle over the US forces and Sunni tribal forces.
- Al Qaeda is now going for the kill after Sunni Arab insurgent groups in pursuit of their latest tactic, which is to decimate indigenous guerrilla groups and seize control of their movement. They are already making serious inroads on this movement by dint of their superior combat skills.
8. American talks with Sunni guerrilla leaders are to be renewed with the aim of bringing terror operations to an early end. The talks between American and Arab negotiators in the last eighteen months have made no headway.
9. Immediate, highly visible progress must be made to develop and rehabilitate the stabilized areas of Iraq. Preference will be given to three areas, Karbala and al Amara in the south and Mosul in the north. They will be exhibited widely as examples to encourage regions where stability and security are shaky and show them how much they are losing by their fidelity to the insurgency.
Dozens of new bridges for Euphrates and Tigris
The high-priority projects are:
A. The construction of dozens of new bridges over the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers. The authors of the new plan attach high importance to this program as the key to any economic progress because, since the passing of the Saddam regime, the number of vehicles in Iraq has trebled.
B. The building of new hospitals to modern standards of medicine and public health for the benefit of the general population.
C. An American investment in the establishment of new universities and institutions of higher learning across the country.
10. Electoral reform is considered by the American planners another must. They have come to the conclusion that the current proportional system was responsible for pro-Iranian parties winning a parliamentary majority in Iraq’s first general election.
Therefore, to redress this imbalance, a regional system is proposed to bring in local candidates instead of national party lists.
According to our sources, this electoral reform program is in keeping with the new approach which the new American political and military leadership is recommending to the White House.
(See separate article in this issue on the changed US attitude on the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr.)
11. An up-to-date population census will be organized for an exact count of the current population makeup. American policy-makers are at present working in the dark because available figures are incorrect.