2006/05/29

So much news...

Let's see - The Second Battle of Fallujah occured right after the American election of 2004. American soldiers appeared to have won the battle, but months later, the city still wasn't safe. Now:

Falluja has resurfaced as a major stronghold of anti-U.S. resistance despite a massive U.S. assault that had almost turned the city of nearly 300,000 inhabitants into ruins.

Rebel attacks have intensified recently and the U.S. finds it increasingly difficult to subdue the city.

The Americans control all entrances to the city and have remote control digital cameras guarding volatile quarters.

But the rebels still find ways to infiltrate Falluja and mount suicide raids on U.S. convoys.

In other words, a Third Battle of Fallujah may be necessary because the job wasn't done right either the first OR the second time! Here's a possible reason why:

Yet, visible rebuilding is taking place. More than 140,000 of the city's original residents have returned. Groups of men hammer away at buildings, and shops and restaurants have reopened in some neighborhoods. American officials say more homes have running water now than before November.

Right after the siege, the Americans doled out $8 million to 20,000 people as an initial reconstruction payment. Iraqi engineering teams estimated that 32,000 homes needed repairs and that the total cost of reconstruction would be $500 million. The government of Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister, ordered a fifth of that to be paid out, and it was flown by helicopter to the main Marine base, called Camp Fallujah.

Problem: After an Iraqi sheik brought the continued failure to deliver the remainder of the needed money to the attention of the Americans, the Americans talked to him about the elections coming up in December 2005, suggesting they were using the reconstrction money as an incentive for Iraqi citizens to get out the vote. Obviously, if the city is exploding again, then the aid might not have ever arrived.
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In the competition between Americans and Iraqi insurgents, it's not clear who's making better use of technology.

This is a dangerous problem, because the insurgents are stitching together their own communications network. Using cellphones and e-mail accounts, these guerrillas rely on a loose web of connections rather than a top-down command structure. And they don’t fight in large groups that can be easily tracked by high-tech command posts. They have to be hunted down in dark neighborhoods, amid thousands of civilians, and taken out one by one.

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Then, suddenly, the lead tank lurches to a halt. Through roiling clouds of dust, illuminated by the tank’s headlights, Feldmayer sees a pile of concrete and earth. The lead tank’s fancy navigation system has just led them into a roadblock, too tall for the vehicles to climb. A dozen soldiers curse in unison.

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It’s at this point, just beyond the edge of the American network, where the guerrillas are best connected. Using disposable cellphones, anonymous e-mail addresses at public Internet caf├ęs, and “lessons learned” Web sites that rival Cavnet, disparate guerrilla groups coordinate attacks, share tactics, hire bomb makers, and draw in fresh recruits. It’s an ad hoc, constantly changing web of connections, so it’s hard for U.S. spooks to know where to listen in next. It also lets the insurgents keep a loose command structure, without much hierarchy—just like the network-centric theorists call for. Even if their communications are compromised, only a small cell is exposed, not the entire insurgency. "They’re more effectively networked than we are," says Hammes, the guerrilla-war expert. “They have a worldwide, secure communications network. And all it cost them was two dinars.”

On the plus side for Americans, friendly fire incidens are way down. American soldiers are far less likely to be shot at by their own forces than before.

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And hey! Good news! The Washington Post ombudsman has corrected an error! And it only took her since January to do so.

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The BBC reports a accident by an American "large cargo truck." Very disturbingly:

Hundreds of Afghans gathered after the accident, chanting "Death to America" and "Death to Karzai".

They pelted the US military vehicles with stones before scattering when the shooting began.

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As many as 2,000 protesters then headed for the city centre, towards the presidential palace and parliament, setting fire to police cars and police checkpoints.

Bursts of heavy gunfire could also be heard close to the US embassy, whose staff were moved to a secure location.

This doesn't sound to me like things are going well between the occupation forces in Aghanistan and the Afghanis. In fact, it sounds like the Afghanis are awfully hostile to the Americans in their midst.

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And in the category of extremely positive news, the momentum the Bush Administration was trying to build up for military action against Iran seems to be dissipating.


In Iraq, our ability to dictate events and a direction for the country is diminishing with every passing day. New Prime Minister al-Maliki is still unable to get agreement among the parties on filling the Interior and Defense ministry positions. Nir Rosen’s essay yesterday in the Post shows that we are less and less of an influence in Iraq, while the militias now are the power center in the country, inciting fear and disorder. Bush has in effect made our military look impotent and criminal in the Islamic world, evidenced further by how we are losing control in Afghanistan, the job Bush never finished.

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Furthermore, Iran wants direct talks, its president and clerics are unified in this desire for the first time, and the Iranians seem to be either slowing down their enrichment program or running into technical difficulties. I have heard from a source that the Iranians are willing to compromise and trade off the work they have already done at one site if we would simply show them some respect and talk with them directly.

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Our tough, rejectionist posture towards Iran was further undermined when the new al-Maliki government in Iraq came out in support of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and Iran signaled it was tired of waiting for the Bush Administration to talk with it about Iraq’s future, and decided to work with regional states to forge their own future.

Iran's president appears to have agreed to tone things down and to not play into the hands of the warmongers who wish to use him as a scare figure. The NY Times article linked to above cites Iranian economic problems as having been a significant moderating influence.


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