The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] STRATFOR: Iraq and the Broader War


Iraq and the Broader War

28 July 2003: Summary

The failure of the United States to achieve a decisive victory in
Iraq would have substantial consequences. The deaths of Qusai and
Odai Hussein last week reflect the American belief that
decapitating the guerrilla movement might be decisive. So far,
the tempo of operations by the guerrillas has not declined, but
that means nothing yet; it might take time for the effect of the
two deaths to ripple through the system. Nevertheless, it is
possible that the Hussein brothers were not critical to guerrilla
operations. Indeed, it is possible that those operations are
designed to continue without centralized leadership. Bringing the
guerrillas under control could be a daunting task, but the
current disarray within the Bush administration makes it much
harder to achieve.


The Stratfor Weekly is supposed to focus on the most important
geopolitical issue of the week. The last six have been about
Iraq; this will make the seventh. Certainly, there are a great
many things happening in the world. However, our apparent
obsession with Iraq reflects our conviction that Iraq, right now,
is the pivot of the international geopolitical system. A global
war is under way between the United States and militant Islam.
That war is reshaping the international system. As with the Cold
War or World War II, a host of relationships in the international
system are aligning themselves along the axis defined by the war.
The Iraqi campaign is a subset of that global war; however, it is
a critical subset because the outcome of that campaign will
decisively shape the U.S.-Islamist conflict -- which in turn will
shape the international system.

The failure of the United States to achieve a decisive victory in
Iraq can have a massive effect on the global war. The United
States has now invaded two countries: Afghanistan and Iraq. In
both, the regime has been displaced and the strategic threat to
the United States eliminated. Yet in neither case has the United
States been able to impose a Pax Americanus. The inability to
reach a completely satisfactory outcome undermines the perception
the United States wanted to achieve -- relentless, irresistible
power. U.S. officials knew they could do nothing about anti-
Americanism in the Islamic world, so they moved to compensate by
increasing fear of the United States. The current situations in
Afghanistan and Iraq are, from this standpoint, unsatisfactory;
they undermine the intent of the war and represent a major crisis
in U.S. global strategy. Therefore, the next few weeks and months
are, in our mind, absolutely critical in defining the shape --
difficulty, length and outcome -- of not only the Iraq campaign
but the global war as well. We are at a defining moment.

There are four possible outcomes for the Iraq campaign:

1. The attacks against the Baath leadership will shatter the
Iraqi guerrillas, who will shortly fade away. This will set the
stage for the United States to exploit its Iraq victory by
redefining the dynamics of the Islamic world.
2. The guerrillas will be able to maintain the current tempo of
operations but not to increase it. This would represent a
strategic military victory for U.S. forces, but one with
potential political ramifications in the region and in the United
3. The guerrillas increase their tempo of operations
dramatically, imposing higher casualties on American forces --not
threatening, in strictly military terms, the U.S. occupation of
strategic points of Iraq, but deeply undermining the intention
behind the invasion.
4. The guerrillas, coupled with a mass uprising of the
population, make the American presence in Iraq untenable --
forcing a withdrawal, shattering U.S. strategy in the broader

There are variations on these themes, but these four general
outcomes are reasonably definitive categories.

Washington wants to limit the worst-case scenario to Case 2,
while working aggressively to achieve Case 1. The guerrilla
desire is to prevent their suppression, remaining in Case 2 while
working up the scale to Case 3 and, at some point, triggering a
massed uprising -- taking them to Case 4. For both sides, Case 2
is a barely tenable condition. U.S. forces do not want to be in a
guerrilla war tying down hundreds of thousands of troops,
creating an appearance of failure and preventing follow-on
operations. The guerrillas must show that they not only can
sustain the current level of operations but increase it, both for
internal morale reasons and political reasons.

We therefore have a situation that neither side wants to remain
static. However, the United States has a bigger problem than the
guerrillas: In the end, the longer the guerrillas can sustain the
current tempo of operations, the greater their credibility, their
ability to recruit and the greater their effect on the war as a
whole. The longer they can stay at this stage, the more likely
they are to move to Stage 3. The longer the United States stays
at Stage 3, the more difficult it will be to achieve Stage 1.
Therefore, while neither side wants the current status as an
outcome, the United States can afford it less. It must, if
possible, pacify the country.

This is why the deaths of Qusai and Odai Hussein are so
important. If the guerrilla war emanates primarily from the Baath
party, and if it is organized along the centralized lines the
party historically followed, then a decapitation strike against
the leadership is both a logical and deadly strategy. The deaths
of Odai and Qusai represent a major coup in two senses: First,
they mean that two of the movement's three key leaders have been
eliminated, and second, they demonstrate that U.S. intelligence
has successfully penetrated the Baath security system. This is of
potentially greater importance than the deaths -- the sense that
the United States has penetrated the guerrilla movement could
well destabilize it. Certainly, the insecurity of Saddam Hussein
increases dramatically, as does that of other guerrilla leaders.

There have been continued attacks since the deaths of Qusai and
Odai. Ten U.S. troops have been killed since the Hussein brothers
died, with additional casualties. Guerrilla operations have
intensified. The significance of this is ambiguous at this point,
but four explanations are possible:

1. The killings will take a while to seep through the system, as
will the security breach. Operations already planned are being
carried out and low-level planning for new operations is taking
place, but over time, the guerrilla movement will disintegrate.
This is the U.S. hope.
2. Odai and Qusai were not part of the military command and were
potentially estranged from the movement. Their security was
breached precisely because of their unimportance. The movement is
indeed a Baathist movement, but Odai and Qusai were not among its
3. The movement is not modeled on traditional, centralized
guerrilla organizations but takes its bearings from al Qaeda,
with individual units free to operate independently and central
command offering only general guidance. Knocking out Saddam
Hussein and his sons won't affect the movement.
4. The guerrilla movement is not primarily Baathist, but either
is controlled by Jihadists from outside the country or is a
hybrid of Jihadists and well-trained remnants of the Iraqi army
who identify with the religious factions rather than with the
secular Baathists.

If Cases 2-4 are true, then killing Hussein himself will have
minimal effect on the guerrillas' ability to fight. Quite the
contrary, it would represent wasted effort -- a U.S. pursuit of
irrelevant figures that doesn't really hurt the guerrillas'

The fourth case is the most troubling possibility. Hussein was
deeply hated by many Iraqis, particularly Shiites in the south.
There are certainly tensions between Sunni and Shiite under any
circumstances, but if the Baathist element was to be eliminated,
the possibility of some sort of collaboration along Islamist
lines obviously increases. This is the concern of the U.S.
command in Iraq: Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez, who commands U.S.
troops in Iraq, said July 27, "I think as long as we're present
here in Iraq, we will always have the threat of Islamic
fundamentalists and terrorists coming to try to kill American and
coalition soldiers, and that is something that we will have to
contend with."

The issue is the mix. If the center of gravity for the Iraqi
guerrillas was in fact the Hussein family and the Baathist
leadership, the events of the past week should shatter the
movement. If the center of gravity is the Jihadists plus local
allies -- or more precisely, if the movement is designed not to
have a vulnerable center of gravity -- then, from the U.S.
viewpoint, the situation is much more dangerous. One of the
things that Sanchez said was, "We have to understand that we have
a multiple-faceted conflict going on here in Iraq. We've got
terrorist activity, we've got former regime leadership, we have
criminals, and we have some hired assassins that are attacking
our soldiers on a daily basis." If the situation is as
multifaceted as Sanchez describes, it is difficult to see how
there will be a rapid termination of the conflict; there are
simply too many oars in the water.

Add to this the fact that over the past few days, tensions have
risen between U.S. troops and Shiites in the south. The United
States has been trying to win over the Shiites and at least
prevent their participation in the guerrilla war. But the
Shiites' price is extremely high: Essentially, they want to
supplant the U.S. occupation forces as the government of Iraq.
That is something Washington is not prepared to consider. At the
same time, the Shiites are showing the ability to bring large
numbers into the streets for demonstrations against U.S. troops.
Combine a guerrilla war with an intifada, and you have the worst-
case situation for the United States.

U.S. forces must, at the very least, achieve two objectives.
First, the guerrilla war must be contained at the current level;
second, there must not, under any circumstances, be a Shiite
rising in the south. An expanded guerrilla war in the north and a
rising in the south would move the U.S. situation to the worst-
case scenario.

Preventing this requires political rather than military
leadership. Washington must make core decisions about the future
of U.S. relations with Shiites in general and with Iran in
particular. Just as Nixon split the communist bloc by forming an
alliance with Mao, so too does the United States see the need to
divide the Islamic world, which it cannot face as a single bloc.
Complex and sophisticated political maneuvering is needed to
split the Islamic world and, more immediately, to co-opt Muslims
in Iraq.
If the United States can't achieve this, it must fight a
war on all fronts simultaneously -- hardly an ideal situation,
and possibly not winnable. Therefore, containing the Shiites in
Iraq at an affordable price represents not only a key to Iraq,
but to the entire war.

It is for this reason that we regard the events in Iraq as
definitive. At the moment, our expectations are low. The Bush
administration is in such internal disarray that it is not clear
whether it can make strategic decisions at this time. Command
appears to be in the hands of U.S. officials in Baghdad, whose
perspective is limited to this campaign rather than to the war as
a whole. In the meantime, Washington officials are maneuvering
against each other as if who held what post were a matter of
national significance. Whether CIA Director GeorgeTenet, National
Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld or any of the rest are here a week from now is not
nearly as important as the fact that there is a war to fight.

In fairness, the political infighting in Washington is inevitable
at times when wars enter crisis phases. The problem is that at
this moment, the debate does not appear to be concerned with what
strategy is to be followed either in the Iraq campaign or in the
war in general. Rather, the fighting is over who committed what
intelligence failure when. The situation in Iraq is difficult
enough, but the real threat to U.S. warfighting is that the
president will allow the "inside the Beltway" nonsense to
continue. There is a crisis in the war; he can fire someone,
everyone or no one. But the president must command, and that
command must generate political and military strategy.

Therefore, we would argue that there can be no strategic solution
to Iraq or the war until political order is imposed in the
administration. Killing Odai and Qusai Hussein can't possibly
hurt the warfighting effort, but their deaths are hardly a
substitute for a coherent strategy in which the military and
political aspects mesh.


Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]