Analysis of the Falluja Ceasefire
I found some interesting analysis of the ceasefire (now in its second day) that was agreed to in Falluja. The website DEBKA, an independent web-based newspaper based in Jerusalem devoted to security issues in the Middle East (and writing from the perspective of the Israeli right) argues that the US military agreed to the ceasefire under pressure by the IGC, and that it reflects the weakness of the US position there. In an article over the weekend DEBKA asserted several things that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the media (which they say are supported by military intelligence sources, presumably in the Israeli military community):
- “Thursday night, April 8, US forces, diverted to regain the southern town of al Kut from Sadr’s militia, rolled into the town center. They rolled out again with all speed once they saw the steady barrage directed against them could be halted only by a heavy bombardment of the streets and residential districts with resultant heavy civilian casualties.”
- “Friday afternoon, intelligence reached the US command that a combined Shiite-Sunni-al Qaeda attack on Mosul was in the offing. US forces were ordered to evacuate bases in the city area and barricade themselves in camps outside. The immediate result was the breakdown of Iraqi administrative and police authority in this part of northwestern Iraq. Iraqi police and security officers began surrendering to the various militias including al Qaeda and handing over the weapons distributed by the Americans. The breakdown touched off the flight of tens of thousands from the Sunni suburbs of Mosul.”
- “US forces withdrew from Baghdad’s Sadr City suburb at the same time as they left Mosul. By Friday nightfall, the last US patrol had left the hostile suburb to the control of Sadr’s militia in the hope of stemming further bloodshed on both sides.”
- “According to DEBKAfile’s military sources, a wave of desertions is sweeping the 150,000-strong command and rank-and-file levels of the Iraqi army, border guard and police. Faced with these desertions, the Iraqi Governing Council is beginning to fall apart as one minister after another abandons the government. Turning on its maker, the IGC demands that the US halt its military offensive in Iraq without delay.”
The argument that this piece suggests is that the US military is faced with an intractable problem at this point: they simply can not defeat the insurgents without causing large numbers of civilian casualties. For sound political reasons if nothing else, however, the Iraqis who are cooperating with the US administration will not tolerate this. Therefore the US can not forcefully pursue the insurgents militarily without losing the Iraqi Governing Council — which would probably mean completely abandoning the Bush administration’s June 30th handover deadline. After all, how can you hand authority over to the Iraqis if there’s no body to hand that authority over to? So we have a stalemate, where the US authority has to cede control of several city centers, or else risk destroying the IGC and thus the handover of sovereignty. The US authority needed the ceasefire, because of precisely this dilemma.
I’m not exactly sure how much stock to put in this source. We haven’t been hearing much about ongoing military developments in Iraq for the past few days, other than a downed helicopter yesterday and the ceasefire in Falluja. But for a weekend that was supposedly quiet, there certainly were a lot of casualties — at least 25 US soldiers were killed in just the past 3 days — which may suggest that there’s a lot going on in Iraq that we’re not hearing about. Regardless of the details, however, the dilemma faced by the US authority in Iraq is clear. I see no good options at all at this point.
What a miserable failure.