Friday, May 02, 2003

A few weeks ago, I noted a surprise (to me, at any rate) about the war in Iraq:

the conflict was not doomed to turn the cities into meat-grinder urban battlefields, à la Stalingrad. The post-mortems on that will be interesting reads.

I still haven't read much about why exactly the dug-in Republican Guard city divisions dried up and blew away. It doesn't seem to be because the Americans have some special tricks for scattering determined, dug-in opposition, witness the problems they've had later on just dealing with unruly crowds. Well, now comes Henry Liu to offer this explanation, amid other interesting observations:

The "victory" appeared to be less than honorable, achieved mainly through treason on the part of the enemy high command induced by bribes. The Battle of Baghdad was no Iwo Jima or Stalingrad. It appeared that the massive precision bombing did not destroy the Iraqi army as much as treason facilitated through the uninterrupted linkage between the Iraqi high command and its former handlers in the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon Special Section. If these conspiracy theories are valid, then the question arises whether the intensive bombings of Baghdad and other cities, with tragic collateral damage of sizable civilian casualty, were militarily necessary, and whether the chaos after the fall of Baghdad was part of the war plan. ...

Le Monde, the French daily, reported that Maher Sufyan, commander of the Republican Guard, reached an agreement to cease resistance in exchange for money and postwar protection for himself and his top officers. Maher Sufyan is not included in the infamous "deck of cards" identifying the most wanted officials in the Saddam Hussein government. Iraq's information minister, Mohammed Saeed Al Sahaf, its foreign minister, Naji Sabri, and the minister of health, Oumid Medhat Mubarak, are also not included on the list. Vladimir Titirenko, the Russian ambassador to Iraq, told NTV upon returning to Moscow: "I am confident that the Iraqi generals entered into secret deals with the Americans to refrain from resistance in exchange for sparing their lives."

Not all of these folks may be cooperating -- American forces just don't seem to care about al-Sahhaf, as I noted below -- but the case of Sufyan is interesting, to say the least. And it also fits with the well-reported oddity that for most of the time of the Baghdad bombing raids, the bombers seemed to be deliberately avoiding the civilian phone network -- almost as if they needed it to talk to somebody. (And the less well-reported fact that bribe-induced side switching was critical to the apparent quick win in Afghanistan -- I say apparent because we have plenty of unfinished business there, but that's another rant).

Of course, as Liu goes on to note, this strategy may not work against leadership elsewhere which is capable of inspiring loyalty. Which may make it of limited use elsewhere...


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