Analyst: U.S. erred in dismissing Saddam forces

Monday, May 10, 2004

The United States was said to have committed a major error when it dismissed thousands of soldiers and officers who had served in Saddam Hussein's army.

The Senate Foreign Relations heard testimony from a leading government analyst that the dismissal of officers and soldiers in May 2003 caused many of them to join the Sunni insurgency against the U.S.-led coalition, Middle East Newsline reported.

They said this revived Saddam loyalists and made their attacks more lethal. "It is important to realize that initially most of the insurgents were truly Former Saddam Loyalists [FRLs]," Ahmed Hashim, a professor of strategic studies at the U.S. Naval War College, said.

"By fall disgruntled military personnel with no profound sympathy for the defunct regime but outraged over the loss of status, privilege, and jobs as a result of the disbanding of the armed forces in May 2003 had increasingly joined the ranks of the insurgency."

Coalition Provisional Authority administrator Paul Bremer has announced an easing of the ban on Saddam loyalists that would allow thousands of former regime operatives to return to the military. Bremer said military officers who were not accused of atrocities would be allowed to enter the army and government.

Hashim, who stressed in his April 21 testimony that he was not speaking for the naval college, said the capture of Saddam in November 2003 hurt loyalists. But this allowed the rise to prominence of Islamic nationalists within an insurgency that had been comprised mostly of former military personnel.

"These Islamo-nationalist insurgents showed greater motivation and dedication than the FRLs or the free-lance insurgents of the early months of the insurgency," Hashim said. "More ominously the new insurgents showed a dramatic improvement in small-unit fighting skills during the bloody outbreak of fighting in the Sunni areas in April 2004. They have shown an ability to stand and fight, rather than merely to shoot and scoot or pray and spray as in the past, to conduct coordinated small unit ambushes and attacks against U.S. forces as in Ramadi in early April, and to press attacks on supply convoys."

Hashim said the Islamic insurgents have been joined by young men from Sunni Arab tribes. He said the influx of foreign Islamic insurgents constituted a force multiplier in that they were willing to carry out suicide attacks.

Iraq was approaching the start of a national insurgency, Hashim said. He said the rise of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada Sadr stemmed from his popularity among young unemployed Shi'ites, particularly in the suburbs of Baghdad and Kut, where unemployment hovers around 70 percent. But Hashim said the Mahdi Army still remains the weakest of the major Shi'ite militias.

"If political power grows out of the barrel of the gun, Moqtada has the least number of barrels in Iraq," Hashim said. "His militia is the weakest in the country; and it does not even begin to compare with the formidable militias of the Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq the Iranian-trained and commanded Badr Organization the Dawa Party, and Iraqi Hizbullah."

Hashim warned that the United States would be unable to remain in Iraq once Shi'ites revolt throughout the country. He urged the Bush administration to develop what he termed a "clear and coherent political goal" that is believed by Iraqis.

Among Hashim's recommendations for short-term stability include the increase of coalition troop levels, the sealing of Iraq's borders, dismantling of militias, the reconstitution of the Iraqi security forces, including the recall of thousands of members of Saddam's security forces.

"Creating effective Iraqi security forces is a long hard and painstaking task," Hashim said. "Moreover, as we proceed in this task the focus of our efforts should be on the police and the internal security forces, rather than the New Iraqi Army. Internal security and the re-establishment of law and order is what the Iraqis need."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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