Different Strategies in Iraq

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dr. Hossein Deheshyar

The plan to attack Iraq and the military strategies to topple Saddam Hussein were conceived at the Pentagon. The political justification for the invasion was legitimized by the US ruling administration.

As to when, how and relying on what arms should the military attack be launched was the manifestation of the army’s perspectives and priorities. A clear-cut victory by the Americans in the war, a battle of less than four weeks and very limited human and material losses by the Americans were assumptions that encouraged the military to formulate combat operations and the statesmen to draw up the political blueprint. The division of work became the basis for a very favorable evaluation from the outcome of the Iraqi onslaught. However, the US military never succeeded in their scheme to thwart the military power held by the leader of the Iraqi Baathist Party in the period of consequent revolt and instability.

Military leaders completely failed in managing (post-Saddam era) the political epoch. The various political factions in Iraq were pitted against one another; terrorist operations and political assassinations reached their peak; and the American troop casualties began soaring. The US military were defeated in all dimensions in post-Saddam era. Military leaders at the Pentagon were totally unable to make strategic planning for the post-invasion era. They also failed in the operational scene to introduce any military plan to thwart the activities of the insurgents.

There were three options in front of the American military leaders: One option was to design anti-riot policies to eliminate the insurgents who were under strong influence of al-Qaeda. The second option was to expand training programs for Iraqi military and security forces in countering the insurgents. The third option was to launch an all-out attack on the insurgents by relying on combat-ready US forces and armaments.

In the meantime, an Iraqi study group comprising statesmen from both Republican and Democratic parties issued a report on the most desirable and logical policy vis-à-vis Iraq after a long field study and just before the 2006 by-elections. At this time, the US public opinion was very negative about the policies of the White House and performance of the US military in Iraq and the Republicans were completely on the defensive. The political leaders both at the White House and at the Congress had noted the demand of US citizens for a troop pullout from Iraq. Appreciating this demand, the liberal politicians put forth the idea of military withdrawal from Iraq without paying attention to the situation in the operational fields.

After the by-elections and the decisive victory of the Democrats who favored the policy of troop pullout from Iraq, the report by the Iraq study group was published. The report stressed that the best strategy to put an end to instability in Iraq and defeat the insurgents was to raise the budget for training Iraqi military and security forces followed by a quick withdrawal of the American army in several stages. US political leaders at the Congress supported the proposal so did the people of America. But more important than all was the endorsement of the conclusion of the report by US military commanders at the Pentagon and in Iraq. They believed that American troops must leave Iraq as quick as possible in order to restore stability to the country. In their opinion, the US troop pullout was the only way to halt the victories of the insurgents. The end of the elections and the bitter defeat of the Republicans at the Congress prompted the White House to consider the theory of military and political hawks and underline the policy of raising the number of military men as a main and substitute strategy in Iraq.

Donald Rumsfeld’s departure from the Pentagon and the assumption of the throne by Robert Gates as well as delegating the command of the US troops in Iraq to David Petraeus resulted in deployment of more troops to make up for the US defeats. Contrary to military commanders such as Donald Rumsfled, John Abizaid, George Miers, Mike Mullen and William Follen, the new leadership team at the Pentagon and Iraq implemented the strategy of increasing number of troops. George Bush too accepted the views of the new military leaders and the new anti-riot strategy was carried out. Despite all the opposition to this scheme and the announcement that it would not succeed, the White House made huge political investment to execute the strategy. The military leaders in Iraq, despite all the pressures on them, managed to restore security and political stability to Iraq concurrently.  

There is a big possibility for Barack Obama to be the next White House occupant. If so, he would owe this to his opposition to the policy of attacking Iraq in the first place, and to the strategy of increasing the number of the US troops in Iraq after the mid-term elections.

Nonetheless, what would definitely take place in the Iraq-related evaluations later on would be emphasis on the important point that the strategic victory of raising the number of troops which was endorsed by Bush despite all the opposition as well as the decision to oppose troop pullout was the main reason for Obama’s success in getting nomination of the Democratic party and finding his way into the White House. John McCain who was the main politician in shaping this strategy experienced defeat in the US despite the triumph of his views.


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