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[casi] Ritter on resistance in Iraq: "It's not foreign and it's well prepared"

Defining the resistance in Iraq - it's not foreign and it's well prepared |

from the November 10, 2003 edition -

Defining the resistance in Iraq - it's not foreign and it's well prepared

UN weapons inspector saw 'blueprints' for Monday's insurgency
By Scott Ritter

DELMAR, N.Y. - In the Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib is a compound on an
abandoned airstrip that once belonged to a state organization known as M-21,
or the Special Operations Directorate of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. As
a UN weapons inspector, I inspected this facility in June of 1996. We were
looking for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). While I found no evidence of
WMD, I did find an organization that specialized in the construction and
employment of "improvised explosive devices" - the same IEDs that are now
killing Americans daily in Iraq.

When we entered the compound, three Iraqis tried to escape over a wall with
documents, but they were caught and surrendered the papers. Like reams of
other documents stacked inside the buildings, these papers dealt with IEDs.
I held in my hands a photocopied primer on how to conduct a roadside ambush
using IEDs, and others on how to construct IEDs from conventional high
explosives and military munitions. The sophisticated plans - albeit with
crude drawings - showed how to take out a convoy by disguising an IED and
when and where to detonate it for maximum damage.
Because WMD was what we were charged with looking for, we weren't allowed to
take notes on this kind of activity. But, when we returned to our cars, we
carefully reconstructed everything we saw.

What I saw - and passed on to US intelligence agencies - were what might be
called the blueprints of the postwar insurgency that the US now faces in
Iraq. And they implied two important facts that US authorities must
 The tools and tactics killing Americans today in Iraq are those of the
former regime, not imported from abroad.
 The anti-US resistance in Iraq today is Iraqi in nature, and more broadly
based and deeply rooted than acknowledged.
* * *

IEDs are a terrifying phenomenon to the American soldiers patrolling Iraq.
The IED has transformed combat into an anonymous ambush, a nerve-racking
game of highway roulette that has every American who enters a vehicle in
Iraq today (whether it be the venerable, and increasingly vulnerable,
Humvee, or an armored behemoth like the M-1 Abrams tank) wondering if this
ride will be their last.

Far from representing the tactics of desperate foreign terrorists, IED
attacks in Iraq can be traced to the very organizations most loyal to Saddam
Hussein. M-21 wasn't the only unit trained in IEDs. During an inspection of
the Iraqi Intelligence Service's training academy in Baghdad in April 1997,
I saw classrooms for training all Iraqi covert agents in the black art of
making and using IEDs. My notes recall tables piled with mockups of mines
and grenades disguised in dolls, stuffed animals, and food containers - and
classrooms for training in making car bombs and recruiting proxy agents for
using explosives.

That same month, I inspected another facility, located near the wealthy Al
Mansur district of Baghdad, that housed a combined unit of Hussein's
personal security force and the Iraqi Intelligence Service. The mission of
this unit was to track the movement and activities of every Iraqi residing
in that neighborhood straddling the highway that links the presidential
palace with Saddam International Airport.

A chilling realization overcame us when we entered a gymnasium-sized room
and saw that the floors were painted in a giant map of the neighborhood. The
streets were lined with stacked metallic "in-box" trays - each stack
represented a house or apartment building. A three-story building, for
example, contained three levels of trays; each tray contained dossiers on
each citizen living on that floor. Similar units existed in other
neighborhoods, including those deemed "anti-regime."
Hussein's government was - and its remnants are - intimately familiar with
every square inch of Baghdad: who was loyal, where they live, and who they
associated with. (The same can be said about all of Iraq, for that matter,
even the Kurdish and Shiite regions.) This information allows officials from
the remnants of Hussein's intelligence and security services to hide
undetected among a sympathetic population. Indeed, a standard quotient among
counterinsurgency experts is that for every 100 active insurgents fielded,
there must be 1,000 to 10,000 active supporters in the local population.

Though the Bush administration consistently characterizes the nature of the
enemy in Iraq as "terrorist," and identifies the leading culprits as
"foreign fighters," the notion of Al Qaeda or Al Ansar al Islam using
Baghdad (or any urban area in Iraq) as an independent base of operations is
far-fetched. To the extent that foreigners appear at all in Baghdad, it is
likely only under the careful control of the pro-Hussein resistance, and
even then, only to be used as an expendable weapon in the same way one would
use a rocket-propelled grenade or IED.

The growing number, sophistication, and diversity of attacks on US forces
suggests that the resistance is growing and becoming more organized - clear
evidence that the US may be losing the struggle for the hearts and minds of
the Iraqi people.

To properly assess the nature of the anti-American resistance in Iraq today,
one must remember that the majority of pro-regime forces, especially those
military units most loyal to Hussein, as well as the entirety of the Iraqi
intelligence and security forces, never surrendered. They simply melted

Despite upbeat statements from the Bush administration to the contrary, the
reality is that the Hussein regime was not defeated in the traditional
sense, and today shows signs of reforming to continue the struggle against
the US-led occupiers in a way that plays to its own strengths, and exploits
US weakness.

For political reasons, the Bush administration and the Coalition Provisional
Authority (CPA) haven't honestly confronted this reality for fear of
admitting that they totally bungled their prewar assessments about what
conditions they would face in postwar occupied Iraq.

The failure to realistically assess the anti-American resistance in Iraq
means that "solutions" the US and CPA develop have minimal chance of success
because they're derived from an inaccurate identification of the problem.
The firestorm of anti-US resistance in Iraq continues to expand - and risks
growing out of control - because of the void of viable solutions. Unless
measures are taken that recognize that the tattered Hussein regime remains a
viable force, and unless actions are formulated accordingly, the conflict in
Iraq risks consuming the US in a struggle in which there may be no prospect
of a clear-cut victory and an increasing possibility of defeat.

 Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq (1991-1998), is author
of 'Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of
America.' | Copyright  2003 The Christian Science Monitor. All
rights reserved.
For permission to reprint/republish this article, please email

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