Monday, March 27, 2006

NOIA is Back

Among the bad news from Iraq, I seem to have forgotten that our old friends the New-Old Iraqi Army are back. In early 2005, this blog covered a succession of big, sophisticated, company-sized or more assaults launched by Iraqi insurgents on a number of targets - notably Abu Ghraibh prison and the Palestine Hotel. Worrying features included evidence of advanced command and control, and cooperation between the NOIA - insurgents rooted in the old army - and the jihadi suicide bombers. Now, despite a string of spectacular incidents, they didn't manage to pull off the big one of overrunning a fortified coalition site. The Abu Ghraibh and Palestine Hotel assaults both narrowly failed - in the first case, because a suicide car bomber exploded early rather than breaching the prison wall as intended, in the second case, because the second carbomb blocked the breach in the wall. They then went quiet for some months.

Last week, though, they were back. Two company-sized assaults occurred, and both were successful. The first saw a jail stormed, with roadside IEDs placed to stop reinforcements intervening, a mortar bombardment, RPGs, and then the charge. 20 policemen and 10 insurgents were reported dead - and 33 insurgents were sprung. The next day, a police station went the same way, this time with the twist that two US helicopters summoned to help were shot up and a crewman killed. Again, a considerable number of prisoners were released.

Meanwhile, the US Army and the Iraqi Special Forces (aka the MOI Commandos, aka the 36th ING Battalion, aka the Badr Corps) raided a mosque in northern Baghdad and seem to have killed quite a few people. Juan Cole seems to think they got the wrong place. I'm not so sure - the ISF is after all a SCIRI-aligned unit, so it's quite possible they'd go after the Sadrists. The same night, the US Army raided a secret prison run by the SCIRI, and found 17 people who they later gave back to the SCIRI..sorry..Ministry of the Interior because they really turned out to be rebels after all.

So, on the same night they managed to intervene against 1) the SCIRI, 2) the Da'wa Party (one of whose militia was killed in the first raid), and either 3) the Sadr movement or 4) the Sunnis. Perhaps they really are using John Robb's controlled chaos theory after all. Sorry. Snark off. Robbo now thinks the window of opportunity for that one has passed. I never thought the chaos could be controlled.

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