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www.stratfor.com THE STRATFOR WEEKLY: 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. Analysis 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 States. 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 war. 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 leaders. 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' operations. 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. Copyright: THE STRATFOR WEEKLY _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk