How about ‘Go Smart’? (...Periodically Updated This Week)
[Kindly scroll down for updates]
One Pentagon plan for fixing Iraq that is allegedly under discussion these days is called ‘Go Big, Go Long or Go Home.’ The military planners should begin with ‘Go Smart.’
Most of the debate on Iraq has been distorted by the ‘Flee, flee, the sky is falling’ variety. The cacophony of political venom, snap expertise and sheer intellectual lethargy is drowning out any meaningful and practical suggestions that address the original problem of what to do about the insurgency.
Sure there must be a political component to tampering down the insurgency, but the insurgents won’t find a reason to sit down at the negotiating table if they continue believing that they will win eventually. An effective counterinsurgency effort—one that tells them that they are doomed if they stick to violence—is the wake-up call that the bad guys need.
Let us start out by asking: “Have we done all that is operationally possible to win?” The insurgents have made use of advances in technology to operate nimbly and propagate loudly, but has America’s technological superiority been leveraged against them?
The blunt answer is no, and the reason is incompetence, on both the American and Iraqi sides. Here are some ideas of where improvements can be made. Such detailed proposals should be the meat of the debate, instead of inaccurate perceptions. The congressional and public refrain should be “Why hasn’t this been tried?”
-Cell phone technology: Insurgents have used cell phones and the internet to share information, to spread disinformation, and to showcase their successes. The cell phone technology used in Iraq is obsolete from a security vantage point. We don’t know who is using what cell phone and dialing from what cell number. The security authorities in Syria will turn your mobile off if there any gaps in the personal questionnaire you fill out when buying a cellular chip at the authorized agent. You’d get a text message telling you to pay a visit to the retailer and provide more information about yourself, or your phone will be shut off. The authorities in Turkey can approximate your location and can figure out if the actual cell phone device you are using is registered in their database. If the phone device has not been registered with Turkish customs it is abruptly shut down after 10 days—you can’t even retrieve numbers from your contacts list! Jordanians hide their phones when discussing politics for fear that the secret police can listen in through the cell phone receiver even when the phone is shut off. Such ‘Big Brother’ dread can be very helpful. One can spread the rumor (and some ‘doctored’ news) that a kidnapping ring was caught because the Iraqi police had managed to pinpoint their location after only 30 seconds of phone use. Such stories floating around will make kidnappers think twice and push them to take more time-consuming extra steps. It simply makes their crimes harder to pull off.
In Iraq on the other hand, kidnappers can use cell phone without being traced—unless they speak continuously for over an hour. Communications from particular numbers at the scene of a crime, and the patterns they reveal, are lost (note, for example, how useful this was in the Hariri murder case in Lebanon). There is no streamlined monitoring done by the cell phone operators that can be shared with Iraqi security. What phone calls were made by whom and from where right before an IED explodes, for example, would go a long way to establishing how the look-out networks masquerading as shepherds and roadside produce sellers actually works.
The cell phone licenses for the corporations that run them are up for renewal; the Iraqi government should demand that all the technological trappings that may serve Iraq’s security goals be included in the new package.
-GPS on police and government vehicles: Death squads almost invariably use police cars or government vehicles in carrying out their false arrests and abductions. There is a device that is sold commercially in the States for 600 USD that allows the pinpointing of stolen cars. Why can’t we put this device inside every single police and government car? Next time Sunni residents report that policemen had abducted their young men, data can be pulled up to show what police cars were operating in that neighborhood and at that time. If these devices are tampered with or disabled, then this would also become apparent when the data goes off the network. Cars may also have fake police markings, but these can be distinguished from real police cars at checkpoints: if a police car doesn’t have a GPS device, then it’s a fraud. Why hasn’t this been tried?
-Register all vehicles in Baghdad to begin with, and prevent unregistered vehicles from entering the capital: Did you know that all vehicles imported into Iraq since April 2003 (over 1.5 million of them) have not been permanently registered yet? For three years, car bombs have been an unrelenting nightmare, but we still have a problem matching cars to owners and owner history. At this time, Iraq has a numbered and province-specific ‘temporary inspection’ system in lieu of a real license plate. The system was thoroughly abused by corrupt traffic and auto registration officials and continues to be. A major overhaul is needed: every car in Baghdad must be registered (and pass safety regulations) in a year’s time. To circumvent the inevitable temptation of petty corruption, let’s insert a chip and a barcode on these license plates that can be electronically read at checkpoints, saving time and improving accuracy (as well as establishing traffic data). And while we wait for a ‘smart’ national ID card plan to be implemented, let’s start an electronically monitored Driver’s License ID: the car you drive must match the license you hold, or else it’s impounded. Why hasn’t this been tried?
-Outbid the black market on explosives and ordnance: Most IEDs and VBEDs consist of artillery shells that the Saddam regime left in its wake. Let's put up generous money to buy it back from the black-market folk who are collecting these shells and selling them to the insurgents. To begin with, insurgents will sell the shells themselves to raise money, but the long-term result would be more prohibitive prices for these items. Sure, then they would kidnap and ransom more people, but that only means that they need to take extra steps to maintain their terrorist output. Plus, more steps involve more chances for error—mistakes that the counterinsurgency effort can take advantage of. The increased demand would encourage cross-border smuggling (most probably with Iran)—with or without the acquiescence of Iraq’s neighboring states. But attempting to monitor the flow of arms over borders is much easier than watching out for similar acitivity within Iraq’s borders. The usual smuggling suspects are a known bunch, and an ‘accommodation’ can be reached that allows them to smuggle some things unimpeded (hashish and opium to Saudi…?) if they stay off things like explosives.
-Shut down the Green Zone for Iraqi officials: Deputy Ministers, General Directors, Iraqi army, intelligence and police officers, and parliamentarians: all of them get a security stipend to hire bodyguards and buy vehicles for protection. There are hundreds of them with thousands of bodyguards. Push them out into the city of Baghdad, and force to use their security detail to protect little ‘islands’ out there in the urban landscape. Assassinations have been a terrible scourge on managerial talent, but most of the attacks occurred against unprotected targets or those who were barely protected. Instead of housing them in the GZ, give them each a 100,000 USD armored SUV, and more money for protection. They would have to secure their residences and collect daily information on their routes of travel to and from work. The net result is having more eyes and ears (and guns) watching for insurgent movement. The GZ should be reduced in size to the immediate vicinity of American embassy that is being built there.
Current officials such al-Hakim and ex-officials such as Chalabi are surviving outside the GZ. They are also the most targeted figures; if they can do it, then others should too. When it comes to families, many of them can be relocated to Iraqi Kurdistan—there was always an idea on the books to have Arbil as a summer capital for Iraq. The families of top state employees who may be endangered can be moved there for the time being until security improves. There is also the added benefit of securing the routes from Baghdad to Kurdistan as the officials travel back and forth to visit their families (a five hours ride).
-Counter insurgent propaganda: Insurgents upload videos through independent satellite links to jihadists websites, while jubilant Arabic-language press releases written by the Coalition Forces to highlight their own successes in battling the insurgency are full of spelling and grammatical mistakes. There should be a slick satellite channel and a website jointly run by Coalition forces and the Iraqi government covering security around the clock. Every little arrest should be reported with footage, full names and other details. Iraqis need to see that there is a counter-insurgency effort that is actually delivering body blows to the bad guys. They should be able to turn this station on or frequent the website whenever it strikes their fancy—or whenever they need some reassuring that the battle will be eventually won.
-Punish the insurgents more severely: There are very little financial and familial punitive procedures taken by the authorities to offset the damage that insurgents inflict on other Iraqis. Once an insurgent is killed or arrested and then charged, there are no further measures such as freezing his assets and selling them at auction. The proceeds could go to a terror victims’ fund or the state treasury for all the losses sustained by public property and services. Furthermore, family members, including womenfolk, should be treated as accomplices if they fail to report blatant criminal activity such using homes as bomb-making factories or detention cells holding abductees. Such arrests of women can be undertaken by the Iraqi police to ward off the stigma of “the foreigners are touching up our women.” Iraqi law already stipulates that accomplices should be held responsible. The financial and familial price for choosing to be an insurgent must get steeper; the consequences are too mild even by western standards.
There are tens of good ideas out there for winning this war that have not been implemented or debated in the public realm, neither in America nor in the Iraqi parliament. The US Congress should look into a forming a joint sub-committee with their equal number in Iraq that holds teleconferenced hearings for both American and Iraqi officials as to why such counter-insurgency measures have not been enacted or are lagging behind. Let’s call it the ‘Subcommittee on Iraq Stabilization and Reconstruction.’
Most of these technical suggestions should be put in place by Iraqis. The Americans need to equip them and train them on using the technology properly. These plans can be paid for by the Iraqi budget—there is something like a 13 billion USD projected surplus in next year’s budget if the oil prices hold or if Iraq increases oil output. It should definitely be done outside America’s cumbersome and botched contracting channels. Iraqi businessmen need to be egged-on to invest in security-related expertise: they should be made to understand that ‘counterinsurgency know-how’ is an exportable commodity once the jihadists set up shop around the rest of the Middle East.
Victory will not come about with increasing the number of American or Iraqi boots on the ground. “How many microchips are going to be enervated in mapping out and combating the insurgency?”—that should be the debate, and not only in specialized military science circles and wonkish journals. Running patrols and shooting straight and around corners is only part of what is necessary in such a ‘new’ war. Americans and Iraqis must adapt their strategies to fit the battle before they can win the battle. This hasn’t been done in earnest yet, and we need to ask “why?” rather than run around in panic.
So let’s ‘Go Smart,’ folks!
I’ll be posting updates to these ideas (as well as improvements) over the next few days as I continue to speak to technical experts on such stuff. I have more ideas on securing neighborhoods, incarcerating suspects and using culturally-specific psychological torment methods. Yes, I do condone something akin to the doctrine of ‘humane torture’—come back to see what I mean. Please share your own suggestions and debate them.
UPDATE (Sunday, November 3, 2006):
-The ‘Fallouja Model’ and the ‘Kadhimiya Canton’: After the November 2004 offensive to take-back Fallouja from the insurgents, the U.S. military embarked on a drastically new experiment of controlling the turbulent town of 200,000 souls: fence the population in. Instead of bringing back old Ba’athists like the failed ‘Fallouja Brigade’ experiment of April 2004 to police the town, which only ended-up emboldening the insurgents, the Americans opted to turn Fallouja into a vast interment camp. But for a few incidents here and there, the plan worked very well.
All residents of Fallouja were issued special localized IDs, and unknown vehicles were barred from entering the town. The US forces set-up a perimeter around the dense urban center. However, this chokehold did not completely surround Fallouja’s ‘rural suburbs’ on the western back of the Euphrates River—hence, there is room for improvement on this particular model.
A ‘closed canton’ model was voluntarily imposed on the Kadhimiya suburb in northern Baghdad. This Shi'a center with a population of 500,000 is now virtually closed off: entry points have been bottle-necked to a handful, and no unfamiliar cars are allowed to pass through. The levels of violence in Kadhimiya have been drastically reduced over the past year since this model was put in place. In lieu of car bombs and suicide bombers, the insurgents now resort to lobbing mortar attacks to get the residents of Kadhimiya. But there is a feeling among the resident that their town is safe—a spectacular feat considering that it borders some major hotbeds of insurgent activity.
At least 90 percent of attacks on U.S. troops over the last year were conducted by Sunni insurgents, so isolating them and their operative bases should be the starting point in rolling back the insurgency.
I propose a ‘closed canton’ method for Baghdad’s Sunni-heavy suburbs of Hai al-Jami’a, ‘Amiriya, Jihad, Ghazaliya, Yarmouk, Dora, Khadra’ and ‘Adhamiya, closing each off unto itself. A similar fix should be extended to the rural Sunni satellite towns (the housing clusters) to the north, west and south of Baghdad: Mushahdeh, Khan Dhari, Mahmoudiya, Yusufiya, and ‘Arab Jbour.
This should be done using the Israeli method: fence them with concrete and technology. The Israelis have been building a separating wall between them and the Palestinians over the past two years. It is an expensive solution but not exceedingly prohibitive. According to Iraqi pricing, a 4 meter high and 1.5 concrete wide ‘T-wall’ barrier costs about 1,200 USD. That evens out to 1 million dollars per kilometer of concrete. Motion sensors, night-vision cameras, sniper observation towers and barbed wire would probably cost an additional 250,000 USD per Km. It is doable.
This would take 6-8 months to complete, and should be dismantled in two years time.
The benefits are the following: keeping the insurgents in, and the death squads out. The US military can pledge that all police patrols or raids in these enclosed areas would be accompanied by American overseers and advisors. The municipal councils should be encouraged to form sub-contracting firms from within their neighborhoods to undertake high-visibility development projects such as putting-in spanking new water mains and fiberglass optic cables (the ‘Sadr City model’). Instead of low-output neighborhood generators, the Iraqi government should bring in larger temporary electrical generators (…there are some that are worth 1 million USD a piece) to provide 24 hrs of electricity to these cantons.
Close it off, throw money at it and gather information. Such measures restricting maneuverability would render these Sunni enclaves useless for insurgents, driving them to find other locales.
A state-of-the-art biometric ID card system that incorporates DNA data as well as genealogical tables (…I’ll discuss this at length later) should be beta-tested on the residents of these cantons.
Furthermore, a systematic effort to match the Saddam regime’s personnel archives to the current residences of these ex-officers from the military and intelligence services should be undertaken. Most of these officers were given state-sponsored housing in the above mentioned neighborhoods during the Saddam era. The former regime kept meticulous files on all its officers and their extended families—these need to be updated and the officers placed under closer supervision for either recruiting or counterinsurgency purposes. We should match skills, such as sniper expertise, to sophisticated insurgent tactics. It holds to reason that if an ex-army sniper lives in a certain sector and there is sniper activity there, then that this person would be a good starting point for an investigation: he may be doing it himself or training others.
Moreover, the current rule that allows every Iraqi family to hold an unregistered Kalashnikov rifle for protection inside its home should be suspended in these cantons. Since these areas are closed off in the first place, they should have less to fear from death squads or criminal gangs. No weapons outside of state control would be registered; finding such a weapon (and ammunition) during a routine search should result in a fine and some prison time (two months).
UPDATE (Wednesday, December 6, 2006):
Overall, I liked the Iraq Study Group report! Of course, it was a colorless dud for all those hoping that the Baker commission would come up with something damning to embarrass President Bush. Well, that’s too bad for the administration’s enemies; now watch them go all vicious on Baker’s behind. Plus, I don’t think that the diplomatic approach of engaging Iraq’s regional neighbors would amount to much; too many varying and ambitious agendas are in conflict with one another, and there is no way of even starting a dialogue when Syria wants to gobble-up Lebanon and Iran wants its nuke.
But the other parts of the report were sober, measured and responsible—nothing like the leaks we’ve been hearing. Phew! I particularly liked ideas such as moving the Iraqi National Police (the ‘Commandoes’) and the Border Police under the control of the Defense Ministry, reordering the Facilities Protection Services, and my favorite; bequeathing US military equipment to the Iraqi armed forces. No more Soviet junk!
Other good recommendations include sending an ‘ambassador’ to Najaf, increasing economic assistance, and streamlining ‘technology transfer.’
One of the crucial sentences was (p. 9) “The entire appropriation for Iraqi defense forces for FY2006 ($3 billion) is less than the United States currently spends in Iraq every two weeks.”
I have a column out today, Cognitive Dissonance on Iraq that mirrors the ‘Go Smart’ post over here. But I added some observations about the Iraq debate in Washington:
The Iraq Study Group report is due out today, serving to focus minds and sharpen talking points about what to do in Iraq. And yet, for all the time spent talking about this urgent matter, and with all the political and security ramifications at stake, the level of the debate has been intellectually mediocre and muddled with hysterics.
Many commentators are herding into three "exit plan" categories: (1) the counterinsurgency cannot win militarily and we must grant political concessions to the insurgents, (2) America cannot afford to be embroiled in a sectarian civil war with regional implications, and (3) even if there were a chance for victory, the long-term effect would damage America's soul.
The last group — that argues an American win would be a Pyrrhic victory — belongs to a subgenre of leftist politics that has consistently maintained that using American might is wrong. This group should be ignored outright. The term is borrowed from classical times when King Pyrrhus won a victory over the Romans, but this win was devastating to the victor. The reasoning is that the cost of winning is so high that it would have been better not to enter a war in the first place. Those making this argument seize upon the numbers of American and Iraqi casualties and brandish that national pain against wartime leaders, disregarding the leaders' original intent in fighting the enemy. "Why should soldiers die in lieu of generals?" they ask, forgetting that there is an enemy intent on killing. Gullible, they are susceptible to bogus and manipulated reports of civilian casualties. The cynics among them would peg Saddam Hussein as the lesser evil to a chaotic Iraq.
Then there are those who are eager to declare that Iraq has entered its civil war phase. This intellectual stampede began when Senator Warner suggested that America's involvement in tamping down the flames of a sectarian conflict would require a renewed — and impossible to get — congressional mandate. The cynics wanted to call what is happening in Iraq a "civil war" in order to put Mr. Warner's threat of an immediate pullback into play.
Civil war experts, who know little about Iraq's history and society, suddenly appeared to claim the press's attention, with some presumably eyeing book deals down the road. Such is the market quality of intellectualism. Others, influenced by the "Pyrrhic victory" crowd, tend to see the trees for the forest: the number of bodies piling up at Baghdad's morgue. But in the cycle of sectarian-driven killings and reprisals, one often forgets that the number of killers has not dramatically increased. Rather, the killers are simply killing more people to leave an impression of burgeoning sectarian strife.
The most rational camp arguing for quitting Iraq comprises those who believe that a military win is impossible. But assuming that America can't win and is therefore losing, then who among its jihadist and Baathist enemies can claim victory on the ground? The answer is that no one can demonstrate that the insurgents are on the upswing. Insurgent activity may have increased, but its overall results, such as holding down territory, are meager. To further understand this disconnect between one side losing and the opposite side not winning, we need to take a fresh look at the insurgency — the original problem so often forgotten — and the flawed counterinsurgency effort that was supposed to quell it.
Here are two more ideas in the ‘Go Smart’ category:
-Banking services for military and security personnel: The Baker report alluded to this problem: most soldiers and policemen go on leave to deliver salaries to their families. The soldiers and policemen receive their salaries in cash. This greatly contributes to the pervasive reluctance to serve beyond their home provinces: traveling the dangerous and arduous routes to and from their homes and duty stations every month is not a pleasant thought. Not only are they targeted by insurgents anyway, but carrying cash on their persons would wet the appetite of bandits. Almost half of Iraq’s soldiery has signed-up for localized duty. This exemption should be scrapped. If American soldiers and Marines are kept away from their families for months on end, then Iraqis should accept some sacrifices.
[Historical note: When the Iraqi Army was first set-up under King Faisal I (early 1920s) it was hoped that it would embody Iraqi identity. One of the most important ways of doing so was to deploy troops around the country (and away from home provinces) to shake off narrower tribal and religious affinities. It was to be the first ‘Iraqi institution.’ Too bad it suffered from the get-go from a Sunni monopoly (abetted by a Shi'a rejection of military or government service) over the officer corps by ex-Ottoman military types. And within a decade, the Iraqi Army began killing Assyrian civilians (not Iraqi citizens at the time) and then pretty soon was in the habit of experimenting with Nazi-friendly coups.]
Soldiers and policemen should be posted away from their locales according to the same rationale; furthermore, a policeman arresting criminals and insurgents within his own neighborhood risks bringing reprisals against his own family and loved ones—no one should be forced to make that sacrifice. Another added benefit is that it would be harder to operate a death squad if one is far away from familial and social networks that one can count on to hush-up macabre activities such as executions and dumping bodies.
Let’s find a way whereby the families of soldiers and policemen can receive salaries through a banking system. And let’s keep the warriors at their posts.
-Employ the ‘Saudi method’ of Most-Wanted Lists: The Saudis periodically issue lists of wanted terrorists that they already have leads on so that when arrests or raids are conducted, it looks as if the Saudi government is in hot pursuit of its most dangerous enemies. The Iraqi government should do the same: issue lists of Most-Wanted mid-level insurgents that are easier to catch than others. This will demonstrate that the government is succeeding in tracking down its enemies. Further down the road, these lists can be used for disinformation purposes: put a name on a list to give the impression that a particular insurgent network had been compromised. Panic among the terrorists may lead to a break in the case.
I had an interesting conversation about cell-phones today with one of the leading vendors (out of three) in Iraq today. A total overhaul of the estimated 6.5-8 million cell phone lines in Iraq would take about a year to conclude but would be doable. I’ll post the details tomorrow.
[I also address a very pertinent question on how Sunni politicians would respond to these 'Go Smart' proposals in the comments section]
UPDATE (Thursday, December 7, 2006):
-More on cell phones: I spoke to a guy in a senior management position at one of the three leading mobile telephone providers in Iraq. He shall remain anonymous, as will the name of his company. This company has approximately 1000 BSU (Base Station Unit) towers across Iraq (with 200 concentrated in the Baghdad region) serving 2.5-3 million subscribers. The location of a cell phone in use (one that is only turned on) can be roughly deduced by triangulating the signal from the BSU to the phone and the RF (Radio Frequency) being emitted from the phone itself. This is being done by Americans in Iraq through deploying two monitoring vans to the general area of the BSU in communication with the phone and then narrowing down the scope, or through the use of sophisticated satellite technology. Triangulation is a very simple and basic concept that’s been around since WWII. Saddam deployed such technology in his last days to track down Thuraya satellite phones. But Iraqi authorities do not currently have access to, and have not been trained on, such equipment.
Apparently there is a stand-alone device that can “watch” the RF of cell phones and triangulate the signal with existing BSUs. This device can be added to existing BSU towers, and the information from all the other BSUs of the three leading providers (Iraqna/Orascom, Atheer/MTC, and AsiaCell) can be pooled and fed into a government server. This would be necessary, that is, if the US does not want to share its satellite technology with the Iraqis, which is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future. Adding these devices would greatly help Iraqi law enforcement in dealing with kidnapping cases and would amplify counterinsurgency efforts, especially since ransoms provide a sizable income stream to the insurgents.
This particular company has given access to its internal networks to US intelligence but has been barred by them from sharing information with any official Iraqi body. With this access, the call history of a particular cell phone number can be pulled up. Other NSA technology is being used by the Americans to listen in on conversations.
When a customer comes in to buy a GSM chip, or a phone line, he/she has to provide some basic documentation establishing identity. This is usually photocopied by the vendor and sent in paper form to the parent company. At this time, this information does not get digitized or databased.
There are an estimated 6.5-8 million cell phones in use in Iraq. A phased registration of GSM lines along with cell phone devices may take a couple of years to complete. But it seems to be worth the effort to know which number/device belongs to whom. And it can become easier to centrally shut down cell phones suspected of being employed by insurgents or look-outs.
UPDATE (Sunday, December 10, 2006):
-Criminalize hate-speech and shut down insurgent disinformation outlets: If Shi'a-Sunni sectarian strife is now the top concern in Iraq then the Americans will need to realize that there is an ideology with a Wahhabi pedigree that feeds this hate. Zarqawi did not come up with his anti-Shi'a talking points all on his own, as I demonstrate in this paper I wrote for Hudson. Let us shut down every single website that propagates hate-speech against both Shi'as and Sunnis. The sad reality at this point is that even blatantly jihadist websites are allowed to function, and that most of these websites are hosted on US-based servers. One reader pointed out to me that the website for the ‘Islamic Army of Iraq’ is registered in California. Why is this allowed to happen? Why does the Mahdi Army get to keep its ‘mumehiddoon’ website up and running?
If SCIRI’s al-Furat TV and its Buratha News website are arousing Sunni anger, then the Iraqi government should move swiftly to shut them down temporarily. Only in Iraq is the media completely unregulated; it’s a free for all. Even al-Jazeera—officially banned in Iraq—can manage to get live guests from Baghdad, and some of them are government officials. Fixers working for banned stations like al-Jazeera should face prosecution. There must be a price to propagating inflammatory messages that are getting Iraqis killed. (Gossip: al-Jazeera recently got permission from Iran to re-open its Baghdad office.)
I have this deep suspicion that there is something very fishy about the numbers of dead bodies showing up in Baghdad and that get cited by the Associated Press and others and taken for fact. They are usually attributed to police sources, but very rarely to the official police spokesman. This provides an opportunity for insurgents to ‘game’ the western media; the AP can unwittingly become an outlet for insurgent propaganda. A new emergency approach must be taken when it comes to official data: any news agency or international body that cites numbers other than officially released tallies will be expelled from Iraq. No more press accreditation, and existing visas would be null and void. Overstaying visas would result in criminal prosecution and deportation.
There are hundreds of websites that propagate anti-Shi'a propaganda coming out of countries such as Saudi Arabia, and some are officially bankrolled. The US government must lean on the Saudis and other Gulf rulers to put an end to this. Why hasn’t this happened yet?
-Fighting corruption should be another topmost priority, especially since it has been demonstrated that corruption benefits the insurgents: Administrative corruption will never be completely blotted out—not in Iraq or anywhere else for that matter. Anti-corruption measures are usually geared to instill the self-disciplining fear of getting caught. We have a superb anti-corruption team working in Iraq who are doing some marvelous work. More resources should be directed towards propping them up and publicizing their work—an ‘Untouchables’ aura must be created around them. Furthermore, there are many ex-officials who are wanted for questioning or have been sentenced in absentia by the anti-corruption arm of the Iraqi government but seem to be enjoying their ill-begotten loot in places like Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, UAE and Poland. All these countries are US allies and they should be nudged to hand over the offenders to Iraqi authorities. Moreover, someone like Masoud Barzani regularly flaunts Iraqi law by providing sanctuary to his political allies wanted on corruption charges. The US needs to make clear to Barzani that such behavior is not in his best interest.
-Fire Bremer’s appointees: Muwaffeq al-Ruba’i (National Security Adviser), Babekir Zebari (Chief of Military Staff) and Muhammad Abdullah al-Shahwani (Head of Iraqi Intelligence) were all appointed by ex-CPA ‘proconsul’ Paul Bremer for five year terms in violation of what any country should deem to be its sovereign choice. All of them have failed at their jobs. The United States government needs to remedy this situation by working with Maliki on finding suitable replacements who may be able to do a better job.
-Flood ‘quiet’ areas in Nineveh, Diyala and Kirkuk Provinces with the peshmerga militia: The Kurdish peshmergas are disciplined and well-trained. They should take over the ‘quiet’ and uneventful areas in these nominally Sunni provinces. These areas are usually inhabited by ethnic Kurds, Christians, Turkmens, traditionally quietist Arab Sunni tribes (usually Arabized Kurds and Turkmens) and other minorities. The Turks will hit the roof and militant Sunnis will cry foul. Too bad for them. All attempts to be nice to them have failed. Allowing the peshmerga to flood these areas frees up Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police and Iraqi National Guard to engage insurgents in the hotspots of these provinces. As it stands, Iraqi soldiers and policemen are spread too thin compared to the challenge at hand, thus allowing many insurgents safe passage in rural areas. They should be relieved of keeping watch over the quiet areas and their numbers surged in the troubled countryside.