Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs
But there is another aspect to these attacks that is even more symptomatic of a shift in the resistance strategy: the targeting of police and police recruits. While these attacks have occurred in the past, they have now become the key weapon in the resistance struggle against Iraqi armed forces, replacing one that was almost its direct opposite.
Before the current campaign, most of the resistance attempted to co-opt, rather than defeat, the Iraqi police and national guard. The patterns were simple: when police and the national guard were stationed in cities, the resistance would cooperate with them in enforcing criminal law, delivering criminals to them and avoiding armed conflict, except when they participated in campaigns against the resistance itself. When the US called on local Iraqi forces to fight the resistance, the resistance would issue an appeal for the Iraqi armed forces to defect or abandon their posts and melt into the population. In virtually every important confrontation police stations were abandoned to the resistance, Iraqi units deserted and went home rather than fight other Iraqis, and some even joined the resistance and fought the Americans. The most highly visible of such cases occurred in the two battles in Fallujah last year and the confrontations in Sadr City, where the US could not mobilize any Iraqi units except those from the Kurdish areas.
This strategy was more successful than preventing the recruitment of police and national guards, since it created a "Trojan Horse" supplied and trained by the US that was frequently an ally and almost never the enemy. In Mosul, for example, US reliance on the local police allowed the resistance to take over the city (during the battle of Fallujah, when the US forces were otherwise occupied) with almost no fighting. A force of 3,000 policemen simply melted into the population (except those that joined the rebels) and left their weapons and supplies behind.
This new car-bomb strategy will therefore hurt the resistance whether it succeeds or fails. Any reduction in the size of the army will be more than offset by the antagonism to the resistance among the surviving forces, definitively undermining the "Trojan Horse" strategy.
So why have at least some elements of the rebellion abandoned the co-optation strategy? The most important answer lies in changes in US policy for deploying Iraqi military forces. Until last fall, the US recruited local residents for the local police force and assigned army units with matching ethno-religious backgrounds to local patrols. That is, they recruited Fallujans to police and patrol in Fallujah, Ramadans in Ramadi and Sadr City residents in Sadr City. When this was not possible, Sunnis were assigned to Sunni areas; Shi'ites were assigned to Shi'ite areas.
This policy, of course, was a key element in enabling the "Trojan Horse" strategy, since the soldiers' ties in the local communities gave families and tribal leaders personal, moral and clerical leverage over the local armed forces. Last fall, faced with the stark evidence of the power of these ties, the US military reacted by assigning outsiders to police the most troubled areas. That is, they began to use Sunni and Kurdish forces in Shi'ite areas; Shi'ite and Kurdish forces in Sunni areas. So, for example, while the Sunni military forces refused to fight in both battles of Fallujah, in the second battle a Kurdish force joined the Americans and fought alongside them.