The White House did not recognize the power of cultural opposition to its occupation, and its use of misinformation to convince Iraqis of Saddam Hussein's pre-invasion insurgent planning backfired, causing distrust from Iraqi people.
The International Crisis Group, a non-profit organization issued a field-based analysis of Iraq on the third year approach to the United States' invasion.
The group said that Hussein had no ties to Al Qaeda, nor was his army prepared (nor preparing) or organized enough to wage a war against the United States' military, which led to a quick ground victory in 2003.
What started as sporadic attacks against the United States occupation, has grown into a legendary force, which is highly dynamic and organized --void of Hussein's legacy-- and vows to end all elements introduced to Iraq from the West with support of Iran.
"When the United States leaves, the insurgents do not doubt
that Iraq’s security forces and institutions would quickly
---The International Crisis Group
In April 2004, the United States' famed siege of Falluja, actually boosted Iraqi support for armed opposition and thus recruits. However, public killings and suicide attacks by the insurgents have too altered Iraqi public opinion and has left the nation divided. The insurgency however, begun as numerous small groups, has grown itself into large, organized and well-armed factor in Iraq. These groups, unlike Hussein's Iraq, are succeeding to convince Iraqis that their own struggle against the White House is tied to a greater struggle for Muslims against the Christian West.
The term insurgents, coined by the United States military in early 2004, defined disassociated Iraqi groups fighting against the United States' armed forces. However, the term no longer applies. Due to the insurgency's growth and organization, a better term is "opposition forces" or groups.
The insurgents are considered patriots to Iraq and form four main opposition groups:
Additionally there are other smaller groups the International Crisis Group defines:
From research by the International Crisis Group, the December 2005 elections allowed opposition groups to align with Sunni Arab identification. The report concludes that discourse between those who oppose United States' occupation and Sunnis has grown organically to oppose the United States.
Opposition leaders are mindful of their image across Iraq, and are riding on the country's division to wage a public relations war against the United States. Opposition groups hold the belief that they are winning against the United States, because they have learned from past mistakes and have organized enough to outlive the occupation.
According to the report, "The emergence of a more confident, better organized, coordinated, information-savvy insurgency, increasingly susceptible to Sunni Arab opinion, carries profound implications for policy-makers." The insurgency has not only survived, but grown "despite being vastly outnumbered and outgunned," which suggests that at the highest levels of Iraq's new government "it appears to have been effective at maintaining agreement on core operational matters, generating new recruits, and mobilizing a measure of popular sympathy among its target audience."
The authors say the United States has to hold Iraq's government responsible and tie economic aid to Iraq's disbanding of the opposition.
The United States should punish behavior, authors suggest, end use of sectarian militias as a substitute for armed forces and disarm militia fighters. However, the United States must openly negotiate with all parties the rules of engagement and turn over Iraq oil revenues to the Iraqi people. The United States must also agree to withdraw upon Iraq's Parliament request.
Researchers fail the United States for not analyzing opposition group communications. "Through what is said and, just as importantly, not said, they indicate what image the groups are seeking to project. Most often written or spoken in Arabic and targeting a sympathetic audience, the material also offers information on the arguments the insurgents believe to be most effective in terms of bringing in fresh recruits and mobilizing a wider sympathetic constituency."
Polls indicate that Iraqis do not view the United States occupation as legitimate, but Iraqis are also divided on opposition force support.
"Perceptions, in others words, will play a critical part in the conflict’s outcome. Prevailing in this arena requires, at a minimum, taking seriously what the armed opposition says, understanding how it resonates and why, and addressing the legitimate grievances it expresses."
Authors call the White House's claims "seriously flawed" with regards to naming insurgents as an outcome of Hussein or the extension of Al Qaeda moving into Iraq.
"There is no evidence that Saddam designed a guerrilla strategy in anticipation of military defeat. Indeed, the period immediately following the overthrow of the Baathist regime was remarkably calm. United States forces, in effect, suddenly found themselves without an enemy."
When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the fall of Hussein was quick, and President George W Bush declared the war had ended. "Senior Baath party members as well as army and intelligence officers initially were at a loss, facing both an uncertain future and a population that, in its vast majority, appeared willing to give the United States a chance. Far from preparing a collective comeback, these so-called Saddamists above all were preoccupied with personal survival."
The Baathist party did reach out to Al Qaeda after the invasion, but negotiations never amounted to much and they adopted more of a defeatist stance.
"First, the insurgents’ perspective has undergone a remarkable evolution. Initially, they perceived and presented the United States presence as an enduring one that would be extremely difficult to dislodge; they saw their struggle as a long-term, open-ended jihad, whose success was measured by the very fact that it was taking place."
However, in 2006, "the prospect of an outright victory and a swift withdrawal of foreign forces has crystallized," mainly due to Iraqis' disenfranchised view of the United States. Iraqis feel let down by the United States and see little if any daily change to their way of life post-invasion.
"When the United States leaves, the insurgents do not doubt that Iraq’s security forces and institutions would quickly collapse."
The Internet acts as a main communication tool for opposition leaders, and the report says the White House and media in the West pass-off the websites as disinformation. Opposition leaders gain "newfound confidence" from spontaneous expressions by militants and sympathizers on Internet chat sites.
"Websites are used to announce new policy positions, alliances or strategic shifts, react to breaking news, or comment on how the western media is addressing the struggle." Authors say the immediacy of interaction allows for a swift changes in opposition policy to align more with public opinion in Iraq.
Opposition leaders plan that upon the United States' withdrawal all that has occurred since the invasion in 2003 must be wiped out.
"Invoking the Islamic precept that whatever stems from an illicit act is illicit, the armed groups argue that because the war was illegitimate both in terms of Islamic jurisprudence and international law, the institutions and political process to which it has given rise are equally illegitimate and thus must go."
Further minimizing current Iraq government relations, Iraqis claim elected officials barricade themselves with the United States military behind the Green Zone, and thus are isolated from daily life of Iraqis "and, therefore, of lacking genuine sovereignty or independence.
"Armed groups condemn the constitution as a recipe for partition, a symptom of politicians’ opportunism and selfishness and evidence of United States plans to break up the country."
Opposition groups also feel that United States is installing a puppet government, and are using the lack of electricity and water to hold Iraqis hostage to democratic cause. Contrarily, oil production from Iraq under the protecion of the United States has not experienced the infrastructure problems faced in day-to-day life across Iraq.
The groups have turned their focus on the internal enemy -- those Iraqis in support of the United States occupation.
Authors say the United States' policy on insurgents is not working. The White House focuses upon three pillars - destroy the insurgency, suppress the insurgencies' messages, and disrupt insurgent lines of communication.
"Yet the armed opposition has been able to replenish its ranks and mobilize necessary (albeit limited) popular support. Even Tandhim al-Qa’ida, a prime target for both coalition and Iraqi security forces, has not displayed any sign of exhaustion."
The insurgency "feeds on deep-seated family, tribal and local loyalties, with allegiance to a cause rather than to specific individuals." The leaders are an important, but there is no evidence their individual roles are crucial; those who have been killed or captured have been swiftly replaced with no notable impact on any group’s performance.
Meanwhile, the opposition groups have been both playing on and exacerbating Sunni Arab hostility, first toward the occupation, and now also toward sectarian Shiite parties seen as intent on taking over national institutions and resources, "waging a dirty communal war and pursuing an essentially Iranian agenda."
Social networks, an ample supply of weapons, a powerful message and adequate funds has allowed the insurgency to maintain a relatively constant level of violence. The United States meanwhile has limited funds, and military personnel complain of inadequate equipment and lack of direction. Military personnel hold behind safe zones, which allows opposition groups to arm, regain territory, and conduct attacks.
"An effective counter-insurgency campaign requires emphasizing this political dimension, taking the armed opposition’s discourse seriously, and directing one’s efforts at the sources of its popular support."
The report says that excessive use of force by the United States and its coalition troops further undermine legitimacy and boost the insurgents’ own support.
"For the U.S. and its Iraqi allies to prevail on this battlefront, they first of all must establish a monopoly over the legitimate use of violence –- which means establishing the legitimacy both of the means being deployed and of the state on whose behalf violence is being exercised." Instead, the insurgency flourishes on widespread Sunni Arab perception of a self-serving United States presence.
The United States should reach-out to the Sunni Arab community, amend the constitution and build a more inclusive polity. "But that aside, important steps must be taken to alter radically how the counter-insurgency campaign is being waged."
Such measures include:
The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organization, with over 110 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.
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