Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sniper at work

Nibras Kazimi reports on the sniper propaganda some Iraqi insurgent groups have been putting out recently. The "Islamic Army of Iraq" (i.e. a chapter of NOIA) claims a large number of dead US soldiers, shows its sniper team preparing for action, using a US Marine Corps manual (nice touch), and then shooting various people. Interestingly, they engage with "Juba", the name US soldiers in Baghdad gave to a sniper back in 2004 - in fact, they claim that the man on screen is Juba and speculate on the name's origins.

I doubt it. Snipers seem to be a universal meme of warfare, and this sort of mixture of impersonal, long-range, silent death and extremely personal mythology is classic. The targets tend to attribute all sniping to The Sniper, and the other side always plays this up. I wouldn't be at all surprised if "Juba" is a group identity - some say the Stalingrad hero Zaitsev was a propaganda construct rather than any one man.

The rest of Kazimi's report rather bears it out. He complains bitterly about newspaper reports that the Islamic Army is negotiating with the Americans and demands to know "how American families who’ve lost soldiers in Iraq through Juba’s crosshairs would feel about that?" Well, there's no point negotiating with the people who haven't been shooting at you. (More here.) He also suggests that the sniper, who appears to speak English, might be getting around security checks because he works for the coalition. It's not impossible by any means, but it does point to "Juba"'s real role - the generation of paranoia.

Speaking of which, Kazimi quotes in another post a rumour that the Iranians are going to assassinate the Iraqi prime minister. Check out the whole thing for the explanation of why they might want to do something so wildly opposed to their own interests. After all, Nouri al-Maliki is a Dawa Party man leading a government dominated by Dawa and SCIRI, which has permitted the SCIRI and Dawa factions in parliament to pass legislation to permit a pro-Iranian SCIRI state in a state down south.

The story goes that they want to kill him to prevent the Americans from making him disarm the Sadr movement. Of course, were the Americans to remove the Sadrists from the chessboard by..ah..enter handwaving here, the most pro-Iranian force in Iraq, SCIRI, would be greatly strengthened. So why on earth would the Iranians want to weaken their own hand?

The answer is, of course, the Dr Evil theory. Now that's what I call paranoia.

Update: This post delayed from Saturday due to Blogger outage. Can this be time to move?


Anonymous said...

Zaitsev worked as part of a team - though the lowest reputable number I've seen quoted for him is just over 200 kills. Given that there are documented cases of snipers in other theatres with around 100 kills, I don't think that the figures for him are unfeasible in the urban surroundings of Stalingrad.

I think mythology plays a part here, but not completely in the way you outline. Take a quote from the film:

"He describes the skills needed by the marksman – a steady hand, concentration and, above all, faith in Allah."

There is a mythology being created here that - together with the wide ability of sniper capable rifles - has the potential to drive many many Islamists to try and acquire sniping skills. From a conventional force versus foes with 4GW tactics, this could have a huge impact. Especially given the nature of the terrain in current conflict zones.

Anonymous said...

And the mythology continues to be created:

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