A remarkable briefing yesterday at the Middle East Institute by Ahmed S. Hashim, a Naval War College professor just returned from Iraq, painted in broad outlines the potentially catastrophic situation that the Bush administration faces in Iraq the next few months. With polls showing that just two percent of Iraqis view the United States as “liberators,” Hashim’s report was sobering indeed. Making it clear that he was speaking only for himself, and not for any U.S. government body, Hashim said, “We went into Iraq with ideological lenses.” U.S. war planners avoided thinking about the worst that could happen, he said. “If you start with a rosy scenario and work backward, you’re in a world of shit. And that’s where we are.”
The subject of Hashim’s report was the evolving resistance in Iraq . He’s an expert on the subject, having penned an article on the Sunni insurgency last year, which you can read by clicking here. And earlier this year, serving as an adviser to the U.S. military in Iraq, he spent weeks (under fire) gathering information on the Iraqi insurgency in B aghdad, Basra and many other Iraqi cities.
The resistance, he reports, in highly organized. “They have web sites, both the Baathists and the Islamists. It’s an incredibly sophisticated outreach program.” The organizational infrastructure for the resistance is not visible to U.S. counterinsurgency teams. Why? It’s in the mosques. “The mosques are organizational centers.” Across Iraq, people are reverting to the mosque for leadership, and a country that was heavily secular for decades is drifting deeply into the religious, Islamic fundamentalist camp—both Sunni and Shia.
In Fallujah and Ramadi, strongholds of former Saddam loyalists and Sunnis, former Iraqi army officers are increasingly reverting to the Islamic camp, abandoning their secular, pro-Baathist ways. “They’ve gone back to religion,” said Hashim. At the same time, they’ve held on to the fierce Iraqi nationalism that they’ve imbibed over the past 30 years.
Hashim predicted the growth of what he calls a “complex warfare pattern” over the next few months. The insurgency will grow. Iraqi organized crime is expanding by leaps and bounds, tied to drug lords in Iran and Afghanistan. “They’ve coalesced into a kind of Iraqi mafia.” Communal tensions between Sunni and Shia will get worse, but Hashim also predicted intra-communal warfare among various factions of Kurds, Sunni and Shia. “The idea that the Kurds, or the Sunni, or the Shia are monolithic is absurd,” he said. Even sheer greed plays a role, said Hashim: The sabotage and disruptions of pipelines throughout Iraq is being caused by tribal militias who were paid by Saddam’s government for oil security, and were then cut off by the U.S. forces—and are so taking their revenge.
So, he expects things to get worse, with ethnic cleansing in some areas, the spread of what he calls “incipient civil war,” and the looming threat of “massive national resistance.”
Sounds like a fine backdrop for the November election.