In response to the deteriorating security situation, the Iraqi military has launched a series of clearing missions in Anbar, Ninewa, Tamim, and other provinces recently. These operations have received a growing number of complaints from politicians and average citizens who claim that the police and army are violating people’s rights, carrying out arbitrary arrests, hindering travel, and destroying property. This is in direct contrast to government statements, which emphasize the cooperation of the public. This turn of events points to two major shortcomings with the Iraqi forces. The first is that these are all clear and leave missions, which have no hope of lessoning the insurgency. Second, their punitive measures are antagonizing the population, which can only help the militants. Together that means that there is no military solution coming for Iraq’s growing violence.
Iraqi forces have recently been publicly criticized for carrying out arbitrary arrests (New Sabah)
There have recently been two articles detailing complaints about the on going security operations. The first was in New Sabah, which cited locals in Anbar accusing the security forces of heavy handed tactics. Local politicians said that the military was not listening to their concerns. The Defense Ministry denied any abuses. Ground forces commander General Ali Ghidan added that the security forces were only at the border, that they had carried out no arbitrary arrests, and that the only people who would lodge complaints were connected to terrorists. The second piece was in Al-Mada that quoted a parliamentarian from Anbar and the deputy head of the provincial council there who said that people’s rights were being violated, and that they had received around 200 complaints about raids, arrests, property damage, and roads being cut off. In most public statements by the government they have stressed that the population has cooperated with the army and police to track down insurgents. These were entirely different. Instead, General Ghidan actually attacked the critics, implying they were with the militants. More importantly, this showed that the Iraqi military and police are no longer carrying out counterinsurgency operations, which stress cooperation with the locals. What they do today is raid and carry out mass arrests, which tends to turn the populace against the operations.
For the last several months, Baghdad has picked up the pace of operations to try to counter the growing wave of bombings and attacks. In mid-May the Defense Ministry said that the army was getting ready for an operation to free 35 soldiers that were kidnapped in Anbar. This became part of The Ghost that started on May 16 to clear out the desert regions of the province. On May 28, another mission was announced across Anbar, Ninewa, Diyala, Salahaddin, Babil, and Baghdad. Zero Hour was launched in June in the Horan Valley of southwest Tamim governorate. Most recently, forces were deployed along the Syrian border in Ninewa and Anbar in preparation of the local voting there. The problem with all of these operations is that they are so limited in nature that they have no hope of changing the current situation. The army goes out into the countryside for just a few days, cleans up a few camps, arrests lots of people, some of which they claim are Al Qaeda fighters, and then leaves. Most of these bases were temporary to begin with, so when the military departs, militants simply move right back in. It might give the image that the government is doing something to counter the growing number of attacks, but it is actually completely fruitless.
The Iraqi government is between a rock and a hard place. It must respond to the renewed insurgency and the increasing death counts, but its response is actually making the situation worse. Its tactics don’t work. Not only that, the military operations leave behind a bitter populace, which is not willing to help the authorities, and might turn towards militants as a result. This is exactly the same situation the United States was in from 2003-2006 in Iraq. What their tactics led to was a growing insurgency. Baghdad is facing the exact same set of circumstances again.
Al-Janoob, “Mohammed al-Askari declares the readiness of the army to attack and free the kidnapped soldiers in Anbar,” 5/19/13
Al-Mada, “Army in Anbar is facing 200 complaints and “clan-trial” after stripped citizen and entry border towns,” 6/16/13
New Sabah, “The island confirm forces: our reach in the desert areas “to restrict terrorists,”” 6/15/13
Al-Qaisi, Mohammad, “Iraqi forces capture al-Qaeda cell in ‘Zero Hour’ operation,” Al Shorfa, 6/11/13
- “Iraqi forces launch operation in response to recent attacks,” Al-Shorfa, 5/31/13
Sadah, Ali Abel, “Al-Qaeda-Iraq Statement A Sign Of Rising Sectarian Violence,” Al-Monitor, 5/31/13
Al-Shamar, Salah, “Iraq masses troops on border with Syria to guard elections in two provinces,” Azzaman, 6/16/13