Saturday, January 07, 2006

Iraq: Shia-Kurdish alliance under strain

One of the main factors delaying defeat in Iraq is the support of SCIRI and its alliance with the Kurds. It seems the SCIRI is now under pressure to come out against the US and its allies.

This story is interesting, but mostly on a point buried right at the end of the article: dissension between US generals on a point I've been going on about for years, namely why the US Army and Marines have so many men in the wilds of western Iraq when the action is in urban Iraq, where the people are.
In the past several months, General Vines said that the flow of foreign fighters infiltrating Iraq had diminished in part because of nearly 20,000 Iraqi forces now stationed in restive Anbar Province, a series of American military operation in the Euphrates River Valley and increased cooperation from Syria and Saudi Arabia in tightening border controls.

In the weeks leading up to the December election, however, General Vines differed with his boss, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the overall American commander in Iraq, over how and where to assign troops to ensure a peaceful and successful balloting.

According to interviews with several senior Army officers, who were granted anonymity because their bosses' discussions were confidential, General Casey wanted to build up operations along the border between Iraq and Syria, as well as the Euphrates River Valley, to make it harder for suicide bombers to infiltrate and explode themselves in Baghdad during the elections.

But General Vines and his field commanders said the center of gravity was Baghdad and its predominantly Sunni suburbs like Falluja, the officers said. General Vines wanted to position more forces there to increase the Sunni turnout, a major political goal of the Bush administration but also a means to help reduce the insurgency.

The two commanders eventually worked out a compromise to put troops in both places, the senior officers said.

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