Who Will Rule Iraq Now? Saddam’s Demilitarized Army Is an Option
The tune played by the American intelligence’s instrument of deep enemy penetration was “better than stunning”, a Western intelligence source told DEBKA-Net-Weekly(as first reported in Issue No. 106 on April 25). US, British and Australian special forces were armed with a flood of data for forging contacts with Iraqi field commanders. Two months before the war got underway the number of Iraqi officers willing to lay down arms spiraled under the stimulus of added incentives for commanders who “brought friends”. As the Western intelligence source told it: “Iraqi commanders competed over who could bring the highest-ranking officer into the surrender chain for the most advantageous deal.” Quite soon, deal was leading to deal at a bewildering rate. “US officers found it hard to keep up with the plethora of individual surrender arrangements and the promises to be met.”
The biggest human intelligence breakthrough achieved by the Americans, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources, was landing Iraqi General Waqil Massiri, Officer for Special Tasks. A close associate of Saddam and his sons, Massiri enjoyed unrestricted access to the commanders of the Special Republican Guard divisions and the Fedayeen Saddam, thanks mainly to being married to the daughter of Saddam’s most notorious cousin — General Ali Majid Al-Tikriti, who was known as “Chemical Ali” for organizing the poisoning of thousands of Kurds in Halabja. Ali Majid was given command of the southern warfront.
Our sources report that it was Massiri who brokered the contact between the Americans and General Maher Safiyan al-Tikriti, commander of Special Republic Guard units in Baghdad, which opened the door for the US 3rd Infantry Division and Marine 1st Expeditionary Force to push into the heart of the capital without a real fight.
The surrender agreements included a US pledge not to conduct air or ground attacks on Iraqi units giving themselves up. Commanders and men were given safe conduct and immunity from pursuit during and after the war and allowed to rejoin their families as civilians. The Iraqi commanders’ promised, for their part, not to attack American or British troops or sabotage strategic infrastructure such as bridges, intersections, dams, and gas, oil, water and electrical facilities. They also pledged not to mine or booby-trap military installations, equipment or defense lines.
Military sources report that Iraqi officers were scrupulous in carrying out their side of the bargain to the letter. Many jumped the gun abandoning their positions before US forces appeared on the scene.
These pre-war deals explain how Iraq’s 45 army divisions seemed to go up in smoke leaving a comparatively small number of military casualties in hospitals and relatively few prisoners of war in US and British hands. They also explain why not a single bridge over the Euphrates, Tigris, Diyala or Lesser Zab rivers was blown up – although all were booby-trapped – and the country’s oil and gas installations came out of the war by and large undamaged and ready to pump oil for export (as defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld noted during his tour of Iraq Wednesday, April 30), save for a small number of oil fields torched in southern Iraq.
All these gains bear strongly on the key question of who is to be given charge of governing ad rebuilding the New Iraq.
The Americans have been set back by the jumble of political, religious, ethnic and tribal impediments to setting up a functioning, democratic administration. Sketching the broad factions making up Iraqi society indicates the scale of the problem.
The Shiites: American strategists have been initially successful in stabilizing the potential for strife inherent in Iraq’s 14 million Shiites, who form close to 60 percent of the population, and pushing aside the Iranian arm reaching out for positions of influence in the community. However, these successes sufficed to demonstrate that years will be needed to bring democracy. There are two innate problems: 1. The Shiites accept democracy in its most literal form of one man, one vote, because it would take them straight to the helm of government in Baghdad. 2. The community is deeply divided among the various hawaz (religious courts or authorities), each headed by a senior cleric. The Shiites, unlike the Sunnis or Jews, maintain a form of democracy that allows the individual believer to choose the hawaz he follows. This freedom of choice is called taqalib. With this degree of autonomy, it is hard to see how the different hawaz leaders can be persuaded to come together on the form their representation will take in the future central federal government.
The Kurds: The two leading factions, Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan – PUK and Masoud Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party – KDP, have planted themselves squarely in the two northern oil cities of Mosul and Kirkuk and are proving difficult for the Americans to dislodge. US forces are also finding it hard to stop the armed clashes between the Kurds and the local Arab Sunni tribal militias, many of whom colonized Kurdish areas as part of Saddam Hussein’s Arabization program. It is hardest of all to deter Turkey from joining the fray in northern Iraq with a view to grabbing the oil fields on the pretext of aiding the Turkoman minority. As in the south, pacification is likely to be a protracted process.
Although no American official has said a word on the subject – interim US administrator retired general Jay Garner certainly never raised this option at the second gathering he called of prominent Iraqis this week – it is beginning to look as though the only organized Iraqi force that does not need to be pacified and is capable of getting down without delay to the tasks of restoring order and reconstruction may turn out to be the thousands of Iraqi generals, their subordinates and men, who shed their uniforms in the war and went home.
The conscription of Iraqi ex-soldiers army for national tasks would necessitate:
A. Vetting and sorting an extremely large body of men to unearth those with potential for becoming efficient civil servants and to weed out Saddam loyalists.
B. Keeping them out of reach of Saddam and his sons.
C. Teaching them to work within the democratic structures Washington is charting for post-war Iraq.
D. Gradually preparing Iraq’s ethnic and religious communities for integration in the national ruling administration.
End of two-part series