Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Inside The Surge An Interview With Prof Peter Mansoor Former Executive Officer To Gen Petraeus

The Surge in Iraq created a huge controversy in American politics when it started in 2007. There were arguments about whether the U.S. should send in more troops or withdraw its forces to solve Iraq’s increasing chaos. Since then there has been a lively discussion about how much of a factor the Surge was in combination with other events such as the sectarian cleansing of Baghdad, the Anbar Awakening, the Sons of Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr’s cease fire, and more in reducing the violence in the country. To provide an inside view of the Surge is Professor Peter Mansoor the General Raymond E. Mason Jr. Chair of Military History at Ohio State University and General David Petraeus’ former Executive Officer from 2007-2008. He recently published a book about his experience during that time entitled Surge, My Journey with General David Petraeus and the Remaking of the Iraq War.

1. The Surge was proposed out of a sense of desperation in Washington about the situation in Iraq. In 2005 sectarian fighting had broken out, but after the February 2006 bombing of the Samarra shrine things quickly descended into a full-scale civil war. President Bush heard several proposals about what to do and decided upon the Surge. He said he was “doubling down” and not only changed the military approach but his own handling of Iraq. Can you explain how the president dealt with Iraq before 2007 and its consequences?

President Bush believed that his subordinate commanders should be given wide leeway to prosecute the war as they saw fit. In my view, he believed this was a proper reading of the lessons of the Vietnam, a conflict in which President Lyndon B. Johnson was accused of running the war from the White House. Bush erred in the other direction by supporting his commanders with inadequate supervision from above and nearly suffered defeat in Iraq as a result. The civilian and military leaders in Baghdad developed a strategy and operational concept—focused on killing and capturing terrorist and insurgent operatives while transitioning security responsibilities to the nascent Iraqi security forces as quickly as possible—that allowed the insurgents and al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) to embed themselves among the Iraqi people, while creating a security vacuum that nearly caused Iraq to break apart in 2006. By mid-2006, President Bush sensed that something was wrong and he sought a way to reverse the downward spiral in violence. The result was the Surge.

2. On the ground in Iraq General George Casey ordered Operation Together Forward in 2006 try to secure Baghdad. How was the plan executed and what were its faults?   

There were two iterations of Operation Together Forward, which were cordon and search operations in the heart of Baghdad intended to clear the city of insurgents. In these two large scale operations a significant number of buildings were searched, weapons caches confiscated, and suspects detained. The problem was that once complete, there were not enough forces left behind to secure the areas ostensibly cleared of insurgents. In time the insurgents and terrorists returned, and the security situation continued its downward spiral.

3. Around that same time you were called to the Pentagon to join the Council of Colonels, which was originally organized by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss the War on Terror, but eventually came to focus upon the Iraq War. What did that group come to see as the main problems in Iraq, and what were its recommendations to solve it?

“We are losing because we are not winning, and time is not on our side,” is how the Council of Colonels announced to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the United States and its allies were losing the Iraq War. This was a revelation and a shock to them. The main problem in Iraq that we saw was an ethno-sectarian competition for power and resources, exacerbated by the intervention of outside powers such as Iran and the injection of jihadists into the conflict. In our view, the United States had three options: Go Big (mobilize its military power to overwhelm the insurgency), Go Long (configure its support to Iraq to prevail over the long haul), or Go Home (withdraw from Iraq and manage the consequences). President Bush chose a combination of Go Big and Go Long, resulting in the Surge.

4. The Iraq Study Group suggested that the U.S. gradually withdraw its forces while reaching out to Iraq’s neighbors as the best way to stabilize things in the country. Why did you disagree with that approach?

Iraq’s neighbors were part of the problem. As long as states such as Iran thought that they could achieve their aims in Iraq through proxy warfare, negotiations with them were a dead end. We proved this during the Surge when the United States and Iran held three negotiations in Baghdad (Ambassador Ryan Crocker was the U.S. representative) that went nowhere. Furthermore, outside powers could not solve the fundamental issues inside Iraq, which were ethno-sectarian in nature and required a resolution from within.

5. Retired General Jack Keane and the American Enterprise Institute argued for an alternative strategy of a population centered counterinsurgency campaign. Why do you think that approach won over President Bush?

President Bush wanted to win the war in Iraq. Not lose. Not tie. Not exit the conflict gracefully. I don’t think General George Casey, General John Abizaid, or the Joint Chiefs ever understood the determination of the president in this regard. As the situation in Iraq worsened, President Bush understood that something had to change, but as he pressed his commanders for solutions, the same stock answers came back. Stay the course. Transfer security responsibilities to the Iraqis. The strategy is working, but will take more time. As 2006 progressed, the president realized something had to change. The surge seemed the only viable alternative strategy, and he adopted it as his own.

6. Even before the Surge started in December 2006 a raid upon an Al Qaeda safe house discovered a treasure trove of documents about the group’s strategy for Baghdad. What did those papers reveal about the organization, and what kinds of plans were made to counter it when the Surge began?

The raid revealed the importance of the “Baghdad Belts,” or the regions around Baghdad that were in effect insurgent and terrorist sanctuaries. From these regions the insurgents and terrorists could inject violence into the capital city at will. As the document made clear, to control Baghdad, we had to control the Baghdad Belts. As a result, more than fifty percent of the extra combat power provided by the surge ended up being deployed outside Baghdad in al-Anbar Province and the Baghdad Belts.

7. Many have tried to simplify the Surge down to a troop increase, counterinsurgency tactics, and a dynamic leader in General Petraeus. In fact the new strategy was made up of many different elements. Can you go through what those were and how they worked together?

General Petraeus has done a wonderful job of describing the new strategy in his Foreword to my book, adapted as an article in Foreign Policy, which can be accessed at here. The surge was a holistic strategy to change the war in Iraq. It featured a new (or at least, one evenly applied across the force) operational concept that stressed the overriding need to protect the Iraqi people from insurgent, militia, and terrorist violence. More forces were needed to realize this goal. Gen. Petraeus also realized that to contain the violence in Iraq, the reconcilable elements of the insurgent and militia opposition (including detainees in coalition custody) needed to be brought into support of the Iraqi government, so outreach to these groups was part of the strategy—bringing the Awakening into play and resulting in the creation of the Sons of Iraq. Targeted strikes to kill or capture irreconcilables were also part of the surge—to eliminate from the equation those who refused to be part of the solution to the conflict. To give the Iraqi people hope for the future, nation building aspects to improve the economy, provide jobs, and deliver essential services were also stressed. If strategy is defined as the provision of ways and means to secure an end, then the Surge was most definitely a new strategy.
PM Maliki was fine with the Awakening as long as it stayed in Anbar but when the US started the Sons of Iraq program he was opposed (AP)

8. After General Petraeus found out about the Awakening in Anbar, he decided to try to replicate it throughout the country with the Sons of Iraq (SOI). He was hoping that this would lead to local reconciliation and eventually be connected to the central government. A major barrier to that was Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. What were some of the struggles Coalition officials went through trying to convince Maliki of the advocacy of the SOI, and did he ever seem to fully accept the program?

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki welcomed the Awakening as long as it was confined to al-Anbar Province, a region of little concern to his government and the Shi’a constituency which he represented. When the Awakening and its offspring, the Sons of Iraq, approached areas of greater concern to Shi’a Iraqis, such as Diyala Province or Baghdad, then Prime Minister Maliki and his administration were reluctant to embrace the movement. Gen. Petraeus attempted to assuage Prime Minister Maliki’s concerns by pointing out that it was better to have former insurgents inside the tent, as opposed to outside the tent trying to tear it down. Furthermore, we could gather biometric identification (fingerprints, retina scans) of the Sons of Iraq, along with their personal information, which would make them vulnerable to reprisals should they backslide. Gen. Petraeus also realized that whoever paid the SOI would have control over them. Initially, the paymaster was Multi-National Force-Iraq, but later it was the Iraqi government. This gave Maliki great control over the Sons of Iraq. Despite these certainties, he never warmed to the program, although he is probably now regretting his decision not to do so.

9. One reason that Sunnis seemed willing to join the Sons of Iraq was that they realized that they were losing the civil war. You quoted one U.S. Army Colonel that worked on reconciliation that said, “The Sunnis recognize that they’ve lost, and they’re coming to the table.” The Anbar Awakening also expanded at this time from its start in Ramadi to across the province. Moqtada al-Sadr announced a cease-fire in the middle of 2007, and Premier Maliki eventually went after his militia with the 2008 Charge of the Knights campaign in Basra, Maysan, and Baghdad. This has created a debate within the United States over whether the Surge was the main catalyst for security improving in Iraq or whether it was a combination of the Surge and those other developments in Iraq. What are your thoughts on the matter?

The Surge was the catalyst that brought to fruition a number of factors that influenced the outcome of the war in Iraq. Without the Surge, the Awakening would have remained a local movement confined to Ramadi or, at most, al-Anbar Province. Without the improved security conditions in Baghdad created by the Surge, Muqtada al-Sadr would never have offered a cease-fire after the gun battle between his militia and the shrine guards in Karbala in August 2007.  Without the Surge, Prime Minister Maliki would not have felt emboldened to confront the Jaish al-Mahdi in Basra, Sadr City, and Maysan Province. On the other hand, the Surge would not have had the same results had it been attempted earlier in the war. It needed the other elements at play in Iraq in 2007 to succeed.

10. President Bush went from delegating Iraq policy to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and the Pentagon from 2003-2006 to being hands on during the Surge. Why did you believe this was the proper approach for all presidents to take when it comes to conducting a war?

In his book Supreme Command, Eliot Cohen analyzes the war leadership of Abraham Lincoln, Georges Clemenceau, Winston Churchill, and David Ben-Gurion, and concludes that hands-on executive leadership is required to ensure success in war. President Bush read Cohen’s book early in his presidency, but didn’t internalize its lessons regarding what kind of leadership was required in difficult endeavors. For the first six years of his presidency, President Bush empowered his key subordinates to wage the war in Iraq without a lot of supervision from the White House. Finally in 2006, Bush realized that he needed to take a hands-on approach to fashioning a strategy to win the war. The resulting concept, the Surge, would not have succeeded without his involvement and support. This example, along with many others, shows the need for presidents to be intimately involved in the details of the strategy for waging war.

11. From late-2007 into 2008 Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) started concentrating more and more on Shiite militias and Special Groups that were run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force commander General Sulaiman. There have been many stories about these operations and some of the interactions between Sulaiman and General Petraeus. Can you speak about what MNF-I’s strategy was to counter the Iranians and whether it was effective or not?

MNF-I realized that Iranian support of Jaish al-Mahdi Special Groups was a destabilizing factor in Iraq. Part of Gen. Petraeus’ Surge concept was the even-handed treatment of Sunni insurgents and Shi’a militia operatives. Petraeus pushed very hard to ensure the targeting of extremists of all sects, with excellent results. After the capture of a number of Iranian Qods Force operatives in Iraq, Iran withdrew most of its personnel from the country and moved the training of proxy forces back to Iran. Although MNF-I was able to reduce the effectiveness of Iranian backed operatives, it could not eliminate Iranian influence on the war in Iraq.

12. Throughout the entire Surge there was great skepticism about its effectiveness. That was seen when General Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker had to testify before the American Congress. Less well known was the fact that sectors of the military such as the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Admiral William Fallon who was commander of the Central Command at that time were opposed to the new strategy as well. What were their concerns, and how did they attempt to affect policy?

The Joint Chiefs of Staff were concerned that the provision of the Surge forces to Iraq would cause deterioration in the readiness of U.S. ground forces due to the excessive strain put on the Army and Marine Corps by the Iraq War. President Bush gave an excellent reply to these concerns in his meeting with the Joint Chiefs in the Tank in the Pentagon in December 2006 by pointing out that the worst thing that could happen to the U.S. military would be to lose the war in Iraq. All other considerations, in the president’s mind, were secondary. But the Joint Chiefs were lukewarm at best about the Surge, a mindset bolstered by the elevation of General George Casey, the former commander of MNF-I, to be the Army chief of staff in February 2007. Casey didn’t believe the Surge was the right strategy for Iraq, and his presence on the Joint Chiefs dampened what little enthusiasm they had for the new way forward.

Admiral Fallon likewise did not believe the Surge was the right strategy for Iraq. Like Casey, Fallon believed that U.S. forces should slowly withdraw from the conflict and allow the Iraqis to fight it out among themselves. He put sand in the gears of the process of providing reinforcements to Iraq to slow it down, much to the consternation of General Petraeus.

13. One of the main goals of the United States from 2007-2008 was to reduce violence so that Iraq’s elite could focus upon politics. Do you think that was achieved by the end of the Surge, and if so what were some examples you saw?

The Surge accomplished its goal of enabling the competition for power and resources in Iraq to move back into the realm of politics, at least the kind of politics that doesn’t use bombs and bullets to make its point. In the winter of 2008 the Iraqi Council of Representatives passed a number of laws, such as amnesty legislation, de-Ba’athification reform, and an annual budget, that showed that Iraqi legislators could make deals with one another. After the Charge of the Knights operation in Basra and the clearing of Sadr City in the spring of 2008, all but one of the political parties in Iraq gave a vote of support to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The provincial elections of 2009 brought a large majority of Iraqis of all sects and political persuasions to the polls and brought the Sunnis back into the political process. The wheels started to come off the bus after the presidential election of 2010, when the United States backed Maliki’s candidacy for another term as prime minister instead of supporting the winner of the elections, Ayad Allawi. After that election the Sunnis lost faith in the political process and the jihadists were once again able to make inroads among them. The current violence in Iraq dates to that ill-considered decision, not to the outcome of the Surge, which ended in July 2008.

Iraq Vs Bahrain Ends In Draw In 8th West Asia Football Federation Championship In Doha Dec 28, 2013

Photos by AFP's Karim Jaafar

Monday, December 30, 2013

Iraq’s PM Maliki Goes From Offensive Against Al Qaeda To Crackdown On Anbar Protestors

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki just turned a military tragedy, which rallied much of the country behind the government, into a campaign against the Anbar protest movement. In the middle of December 2013 Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) set up an elaborate trap, which resulted in the death of much of the leadership of the Army’s 7th Division. Baghdad then launched a massive military campaign in Anbar that almost all parties and much of the public supported. In the midst of this offensive however, the prime minister decided to go after the Anbar demonstrators by claiming that they were behind the terrorists, and then ordered the detention of Parliamentarian Ahmed Alwani of the Iraqi Islamic Party who was one of their leaders. The lawmaker was captured, but not before a shoot out that resulted in several deaths and brought out hundreds of people into the streets in Anbar in support of him. Now the government is demanding that the protest sites close. In doing so, Maliki turned a national moment into a personal vendetta against his opponents.

In the middle of December 2013 Al Qaeda set a trap for the army, which turned into a rallying point for much of Iraq. On December 16, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) started a new operation in Anbar. On December 21, the Army’s 7th Division received news that an AQI camp had been discovered in Adham along the Ninewa border. The leadership of the division went to investigate the site believing that it was abandoned, but in fact it was a trap set by the Islamists with booby traps and suicide bombers. The result was that the 7th Division Commander General Mohammed Karawi, his assistant General Mohammed Nauman, and the heads of the 27th and 29th Brigades were all killed. In response, Baghdad immediately ordered a massive campaign against AQI. Most of the political class came out in support of the government, and there were rallies in major cities backing the security forces as well. Several tribes in Anbar also rallied behind the ISF and said they were going to help with the new security crackdown. Sheikh Mohammed al-Hayes for example called on all the sheikhs in Anbar to fight AQI during a meeting in Ramadi, and said that the soldiers dying against the terrorists were mostly native Anbaris. Amidst all of the divisions and sectarian tensions this was a rare moment in Iraq. In recent history there have been few times where Iraqis have rallied behind the flag. The deaths of the officers provided one of those events where both the elite and common people came out to express their support for the security forces and the fight against Al Qaeda.

Rallies in Babel and Karbala in support of the security crackdown in Anbar (Al-Mada)

In the midst of this nationalist sentiment Maliki decided to destroy the mood and follow his own political agenda. First, the prime minister gave a television interview where he claimed that the Anbar protest sites were harboring Al Qaeda leaders. After talks with local and national politicians the premier seemed to back down, but he didn’t. On December 27 he said that day’s Friday’s prayers were the last for the sit-in sites since they were areas of sedition and threatened to burn down their tents. The next day he ordered the arrest of parliamentarian Ahmed Alwani from the Iraqi Islamic Party who was one of the leaders of the activists. He had an outstanding warrant out for him since September for his sectarian verbal attacks upon Shiites during the rallies. In one speech for instance he said that the followers of Iran were in the country, meaning Shiites, and that they should be beheaded without mercy. The raid on his house led to an hour-long gunfight that ended up killing Alwani’s brother and five of his guards. Politicians from all different parties condemned the move saying that it only inflamed tensions. In Anbar, there were immediate protests in Fallujah and Ramadi in support of Alwani, his clan the Albu Alwan gave the government 12 hours to release him or face the consequences, the demonstrators’ Pride and Dignity Army was deployed to the demonstration sites, and they promised to fight anyone that used force against them. At the same time the ISF put armored vehicles around the protest areas, and the security forces stopped an investigative committee from parliament who wanted to look into Alwani’s arrest from entering the province. Acting Defense Minister Sadoun Dulaimi went on to say that Alwani would be released if the protests were ended, turning the lawmaker into a virtual hostage. Once again, local officials such as Anbar Governor Ahmed Diab, the provincial council, and sheikhs tried to mediate between the central government and Anbaris. Beforehand Maliki was in talks with Anbar politicians and sheikhs to negotiate an end to the demonstrations. Then when the 7th Division officers were killed he went back to making threats and demands against the sit-ins. This has been the prime minister’s long time modus operandi to offer concessions on the one hand, and then use the stick to intimidate people. The premier could not have picked a worse time however to go after his opponents, because it destroyed the nationalist feelings that were spreading throughout the country.

MP Alwani giving a speech at the Ramadi protest site (Al-Mada)

Rallies in support of Alwani in Anbar, and armed checkpoints set up in Ramadi
March in Ramadi Dec. 28, 2013 (AFP)

Rally in Fallujah Dec. 28, 2013 (Mohammed Jalil)

Fallujah (Mohammed Jalil)

Fallujah (Mohammed Jalil)
People gathering before a march in Ramadi near Alwani's home as gunmen watch guard Dec. 29, 2013 (AFP)



Armed checkpoint in Ramadi Dec. 29, 2013 (Mohammed Jalil)

(Mohammed Jalil)

(Mohammed Jalil)

In one swift move Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wrecked the chance to unify much of Iraq against Al Qaeda, so that he could take on the Anbar protest movement. The death of the army generals from the 7th Division was a perfect opportunity to reverse the worsening security situation by getting the public behind the government. With popular backing there would have been more intelligence coming in, and less passive support for the insurgency. Instead, Maliki instantly turned to the sit-ins, and restarted his feud with them, which he had just resolved a few days before, and was in the process of negotiating an end to. The prime minister could not pass up the chance to use the military campaign in Anbar to go after the demonstrators as well. By doing so he re-ignited tensions in the province, and probably gave the activists renewed life, just when it looked like they were losing steam with the loss of their political and tribal allies. Now there’s talk of war in the governorate, and that can only end badly for all involved. Any use of force by the ISF would only turn more people towards militancy, because it would just be the latest example of Baghdad not caring about them and the failure of national politics to solve anything. There could not be a better example of the premier’s short-term thinking. He like the rest of the elite only thinks about his own political future, and the country constantly suffers as a result. Violence is already increasing in Anbar as Al Qaeda is trying to re-establish itself there. Now things are on the verge of getting much worse if Maliki forces the matter with the demonstrators. Even if he walks away from the edge it would still be bad, because the attempt to negotiate an end to the protests will be over as well. The prime minister’s inability to think big picture has thus undermined his own work, and now things are much worse in Anbar when they were already heading in the wrong direction.


Anbar officials claim they worked out a deal with Defense Minister Dulaimi to take down the Ramadi protest site, which was done by local police today, December 30. This was said to be done peacefully, but fighting broke out in Ramadi and Fallujah with 10 dead, 7 gunmen and 3 police, and 43 wounded, 29 gunmen and 14 soldiers, and a mosque in Ramadi was head calling people to jihad against the government forces. Politically the Iraqi National Movement is threatening a boycott of government in protest.

Police vehicle set on fire near Ramadi sit-ins (AFP)


Agence France Presse, “Deadly clashes as Iraq forces demolish Sunni protest camp,” 12/30/13
- “Iraq forces destroy militant camps in Anbar: spokesman,” 12/23/13

AIN, “Breaking news…Dulaimi tribes join security forces in fighting Qaeda,” 12/23/13
- “Iraqi Navy Forces participates in Anbar military operations,” 12/25/13
- “Military operations launched in 4 Iraqi southern provinces,” 12/23/13
- “Urgent…MoD : Alwani’s release depends on lifting tents on protest yard in Anbar,” 12/29/13

BBC, “Bomb attack kills officers in Iraq’s Anbar province,” 12/21/13
- “Ten die as Iraq security forces dismantle Sunni camp,” 12/30/13

Buratha News, “Blast toll rises from bomber western Anbar to 24 martyrs, including the commander of the seventh division and a number of officers,” 12/21/13
- “Hayes calls Anbar tribes to take up arms and fight al-Qaeda,” 12/23/13
- “Hayes calls for the government to intervene to end the sit-ins,” 12/26/13

Al Forat, “Air forces attack terrorist shelters, 4 WD cars destroyed in Anbar desert,” 12/22/13
- “Clashes erupted near al-Asad Air force base in Anbar,” 12/21/13

Ghazi, Yasir and Arango, Tim, “Deadly Shootout and Arrest in Iraq Set Off Sunni Protests,” New York Times, 12/28/13

Haider, Roa, “Fears of the outbreak of the situation with the threat of al-Maliki breaking up the Anbar protests,” Radio Free Iraq, 12/25/13

Independent Press Agency, “Dolly large forces drove from Baghdad to al-Assad military base west of Ramadi,” 12/23/13
- “Large forces drove from Baghdad to al-Assad military base west of Ramadi,” 12/23/13

Al-Mada, “Civic organizations in Karbala: Our military is fighting a battle on behalf of the world against al Qaeda in Anbar and must be chased,” 12/28/13
- “Contradictory signals from al-Maliki and al-Dulaimi on Anbar sit-ins,” 12/26/13
- “Deputies: Anbar military operations late .. And “Daash” to withdraw within cities,” 12/26/13
-“Dozens of people from the tribes of Fallujah threaten violating curfew and helicopters flying flow overhead,” 12/29/13
- “Hayes: Ramadi sit-in square has become the headquarters for Al Qaeda and we will participate in clearing it of its most wanted,” 12/27/13
- “Hundreds in Babylon organize pause in solidarity with the campaign to eradicate Al Qaeda and stress the Iraqi army,” 12/27/13
- “MP Alwani clan threaten the government to “stand firm” if you do not release him within 12 hours,” 12/28/13
- “Mutlaq announce his refusal of the timing of the military operation in Anbar if the goal was electoral gain,” 12/28/13
- “Politicians and MPs: we disagree with al-Alwani and his arrest will set a dangerous precedent with dire consequences on the political process,” 12/28/13
- “Saadi accused the government of “abuse” with the activities of the year and calls for an “emergency” meeting in Anbar to consider the situation,” 12/28/13
- “Sadr and Hakim warn of “another Hawija” and call for a peaceful solution instead of storming Ramadi sit-in Square,” 12/28/13
- “A source reveals about the transfer of Ahmed al-Alwani to the Green Zone,” 12/28/13
- “United: the arrest of al-Alwani, giving priority to the logic of extremism and violence, and we hope not to be a gift for a neighbor,” 12/28/13

Naji, Jamal, “Maliki targets protesters as Anbar security crisis deepens,” Iraq Oil Report, 12/28/13

National Iraqi News Agency, “2 Qaeda commanders killed in western Anbar,” 12/21/13
- “Anbar Governor: Peaceful protests infuriates extremists in Iraq,” 12/27/13
- “Anbar Governor says that there are intense contacts with Baghdad to release Alwani,” 12/28/13
- “Anbar Governor: Threats come from Anbar desert not sit-in squares,” 12/26/13
- “Assistant General Chief of Staff leads a campaign to clean Anbar’s western desert from Qaeda elements,” 12/21/13
- “BREAKING NEWS More than 30 tanks taking position near Ramadi sit-in square,” 12/28/13
- “Chairman of Anbar tribes council: Anbar’s tribes support army to hunt down al-Qaeda,” 12/24/13
- “Gathering and demonstration in Fallujah and Ramadi to denounce the arrest of al-Alwani,” 12/28/13
- “Gunman killed, another wounded, 3 soldiers wounded in western Anbar,” 12/21/13
- “Head of Anbar council: Four demands to defuse the crisis in Anbar,” 12/29/13
- “Iraqiya coalition hold this evening a thoroughly meeting to announce its final stand toward the current events in Anbar,” 12/30/13
- “Maliki gives (short notice) seriously to empty the sit-in square and leave al-Qaeda elements,” 12/22/13
- “Maliki threatens to burned tents of sit-ins of Anbar,” 12/27/13
- “Militants (Pride Army) deployed near Ramadi Square sit-in in anticipation of the security forces,” 12/28/13
- “Military operations in Anbar will extend to Salahuddin,” 12/26/13
- “Minister of Defense gives two days to lift the sit-in’ tents,” 12/29/13
- “Urgent…Two Army Brigades’ leaders, among the victims of Anbar bombing,” 12/21/13

Al-Qaisi, Mohammed, “Iraq to tighten security on Syria border,” Al-Shorfa, 12/18/13

Radio Nawa, “Anbar Operations Command expects to escape Ali Hatem al-Suleimani outside Iraq,” 12/28/13
- “Awakening confirms agreement to change the location of the sit in yards away from the highway,” 12/27/13
- “Jaafari reviews with Najafi and Abu Risha ways to end the tension in the province of Anbar,” 12/28/13

Al Rayy, “Ghaidan: operations in Anbar desert destroyed the majority of al-Qaeda camps and clans lifting tents,” 12/29/13
- “Tribes threaten to storm the sit-in yard to release the security elements that belong to them,” 12/28/13

Salaheddin, Sinan, “7 killed as Iraqi troops arrest Sunni lawmaker,” 12/28/13
- “Iraqi police dismantle Sunni protest in west,” Associated Press, 12/30/13

Shafaq News, “Anbar: Al-Rifai and Saadi agreed to transfer sit-in Square,” 12/29/13
- “Anbar reveals contacts with al-Dulaimi to solve Sunni MP crisis,” 12/29/13
- “Anbar Tribes Council: there is a chance to end the tension in the province,” 12/29/13
- “Hayes: The majority of the killed in Horan Valley are from Anbar people,” 12/23/13

Yasin, Ali, “The military’s “New Morning”: Russian arms talk helped to destroy their camps,” New Sabah, 12/25/13

Al-Zubaidi, Ahmed, “A local official: to reach an agreement to end the sit-ins,” Radio Free Iraq, 12/29/13

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Crackdown On Protest Site In Iraq’s Anbar Province Seemingly Averted

After several attempts at reconciliation between Anbar’s provincial government and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to end the on-going protests there events turned for the worse in December 2013. The premier claimed that the demonstration sites were a base for Al Qaeda and demanded that they be ended, and hinted at a crackdown. Just before that Sheikh Hamid al-Hayes accused the death of his nephew upon the Ramadi protests as well, and threatened to use violence unless the perpetrators were turned over to him. It seemed like either the government or Hayes’ tribe was about to storm the Ramadi protest camp, but then things suddenly calmed down. Stepping back from the brink was best for all concerned, but it was another sign of the decline of the protest movement.

In the middle of December Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki attacked the Anbar protest sites as a terrorist haven and threatened to close them down as a result. Maliki said that the situation in Anbar was allowing insurgents to operate there. He claimed that had allowed the province to become a base for Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), that 30 of its leaders were hiding amongst the protesters, and called for those that did not support the Islamists to exit the demonstration sites immediately. Anbar Governor Ahmed Diab backed the premier and had the security forces surround the Ramadi protest area. It seemed like some sort of crackdown was imminent as one of the protest organizers Sheikh Mohammed al-Fayadh told the National Iraqi News Agency. This was a change in tone for the prime minister who had recently been in talks with Governor Diab, the governorate council, and sheikhs such as Ahmed Abu Risha to offer some concessions that might end the demonstrations. The death of much of the leadership of the 7th Division on December 21 by AQI in Anbar’s Horan Valley likely led to Maliki’s reversal on the protesters. Baghdad launched a major security operation in the governorate in response, and the premier probably thought he could force an end to the demonstrations at the same time.

Fortunately there was a step back from the brink. Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujafi tried to mediate by making a series of calls to political leaders in the country. He eventually secured a guarantee from the prime minister not to storm the protest sites. Governor Diab also ordered the security forces to withdraw from the Ramadi camp as well. If Maliki had followed through with his threat to clear out the protesters there was a good chance that it would have led to a bloodbath like what happened in April in Hawija when dozens of people were killed and wounded by the security forces during a raid on the demonstrators there. Afterward there was an explosion of violence across western, northern and central Iraq by insurgent groups and tribes, which has not subsided since then. That should have taught Baghdad that force was not the way to deal with the protests. All of the rhetoric by Maliki might have been brinkmanship anyway to scare people to leave the sites rather than an actual threat.

At almost the exact same time there was another crisis dealing with Sheikh Hamid al-Hayes. At the beginning of December the sheikh’s nephew was gunned down in Ramadi, and Hayes said his murderers fled into the protest camp there to escape. He gave the organizers 48 hours to turn over the suspects or he would use force to close them down. Hayes was an early supporter of the demonstrators, but has since turned against them. At the beginning of the month for example, he claimed that Al Qaeda was taking over the movement. The provincial council stepped in and got Hayes to back down a bit. The major reason why protests in Anbar and other provinces have been able to sustain themselves for so long compared to previous ones is that it had support of three powerful groups. Those were political parties such as Speaker Nujafi’s Mutahidun and the Islamic Party, tribes likes Hayes and Abu Risha’s, and the clerical establishment. In recent months however, the activists have lost the backing of Mutahidun and many of the sheikhs as well. That was shown by Hayes’ tirade against the Ramadi site. This too might have played a role in Maliki’s threat against Anbar as well, because he could see that organizers did not have the strength that they had before, and might have even found a local ally in Hayes to shut down the protests.

These two events are further signs of the problems the Anbar activists are running into. They started in December 2012 after Maliki issued arrest warrants for some of then Finance Minister Rafi Issawi’s bodyguards who hails from Fallujah. They quickly spread to other provinces such as Ninewa, Diyala, Salahaddin, Baghdad, and Tamim. Since the 2013 provincial elections more and more of their supporters have abandoned them. Mutahidun has been scared by the resurgence of Al Qaeda in the governorate and would like to get on to ruling Anbar after its victory in this year’s vote, and that has led it to open talks with Maliki. Hayes and Abu Risha have joined it, and come out in support of Baghdad as well. They have all had a series of meetings with the prime minister, and gained a number of concessions over security and development. This led some organizers to threaten militancy by reviving the idea of forming a Pride and Dignity Army that would supposedly protect Sunnis from the government. Governor Diab responded by calling on the protesters to suspend their activities until after the 2014 national balloting for parliament, and condemned them forming any armed group. He was then criticized by the Islamic Party, activists, and some sheikhs. Without the support of notables in Anbar the demonstrations would not be able to maintain themselves. It is due to this backing that they have been able to build large tent cities and feed the thousands of people who have attended for the last twelve months. Now the pressure is beginning to mount on them not only from Baghdad, which has always been there, but from groups within Anbar itself, which could eventually mean the end of the demonstrations.

The Anbar protests were at the brink with threats coming from not only the central government but a local sheikh as well, but that was luckily averted. Now the question is what will come of the movement. They are slowly losing their allies with local voices now calling for their end. That doesn’t mean the protesters will go home any time soon, but the signs are growing that they have lost their luster. Mutahidun wants to focus upon security and governing. Anbar’s sheikhs have been divided since the end of the Awakening, and those rivalries are coming out again. That is the bigger picture that has emerged from the recent events, and bodes ill for the future of the demonstrations.  


AIN, “Anbar PC supports postponing protests,” 12/9/13
- “Urgent…Security forces withdraw from Anbar protest yard,” 12/24/13

Ali, Ahmed, “Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Iraqi Anti-Government Protest Movement: Iraq Update #38,” Institute for the Study of War, 10/28/13

Buratha News, “Chairman of the Board of Anbar announces agreement with Hayes on calm,” 12/9/13
- “Hayes calls Anbar tribes to take up arms and fight al-Qaeda,” 12/23/13

Al-Forat, “Breaking News MoD arrives in Anbar,” 12/11/13
- “Nijaifi assures getting warranties from Maliki over not storming into demonstrations yards,” 12/25/13

Haider, Roa, “Fears of the outbreak of the situation with the threat of al-Maliki breaking up the Anbar protests,” Radio Free Iraq, 12/25/13

Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Investigate Deadly Raid on Protest,” 4/24/13

Iraq Times, “Anbar warns of forming a tribal army and calling on residents to support the security forces,” 12/9/13

Al-Mada, “The governor of Anbar: fear of armed attacks unexpected .. The tribes claim to take the role to counter violence,” 12/15/13
- “Mufti blesses the formation of the “Army of Glory” and the governor of Anbar threatens to “break the back” of its members,” 12/10/13
- “Sulaiman Responds to Maliki: clans fight any target for sit-in yards and we are not attached to peg us your failure,” 12/23/13
- “Suleiman refuses to raise the sit-in tents and postpone the demands of the protesters until after the next parliamentary elections,” 12/11/13
- “Uniting surprising position of governor of Anbar on the resolution of the demonstrations and asked about plants to “deal with al-Maliki,”” 12/16/13

National Iraqi News Agency, “Ali al-Suleiman Sahwa forces must be taken out of Anbar,” 12/13/13
- “Anbar Governor rejects forming militia under whatever name,” 12/15/13
- “Maliki gives (short notice) seriously to empty the sit-in square and leave al-Qaeda elements,” 12/22/13
- “MP: The sit-in Squares do not follow any political party and cannot be exploited politically,” 12/18/13
- “Nijaifi continues his efforts to end the crisis between the Government, Ramadi sit-in square,” 12/25/13
- “Nujaifi calls for an urgent conference to discuss the repercussions of the recent events in Anbar and Salahuddin provinces,” 12/23/13
- “Ramadi sit in organizer expects military attack in the coming hours,” 12/24/13
- “Urgent…Two Army Brigades’ leaders, among the victims of Anbar bombing,” 12/21/13

New Sabah, “Hayes accept mediation to calm down,” 12/9/13

Radio Nawa, “Abu Risha confirms contesting the elections with a “united”,” 12/13/13
- “Hayes threatening to forcibly break up the sit-in squares,” 12/8/13

Al-Rayy, “Joint force surrounded the Square sit-in Ramadi after a deadline for protestors to withdraw Maliki,” 12/24/13

Rudaw, “Maliki Receives Warnings Against Cracking Down on Anbar Protesters,” 12/24/13

Shafaq News, “Anbar provincial council demands clans to raise protester’s tents,” 12/11/13
- “Anbar provincial council held an emergency meeting,” 12/24/13
- “Anbar Salvation council holds “leaders” responsible al-Jumaili’s death,” 12/1/13
- “Hayes: Our guns towards the protesters’ tents,” 12/22/13

Interview With Global Politics On Iraq In 2014

Here’s a recent interview I did with Bob Tollast for Global Politics entitled “Who can bring unity to Iraq in 2014?”

Celebrating Arbaeen In Iraq's Karbala Dec. 22-23, 2013

In the middle of December 2013 thousands of Shiites from around the world celebrated Arbaeen by making a pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala where the Shrine of Imam Abbas resides. These pictures are from Agence France Presse's Mohammed Sawaf showing pilgrims in Karbala on Dec. 22 and 23, 2013.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

This Day In Iraqi History - Jul 19 Qasim started crackdown on Communists hoping to limit their power

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