NSN Iraq Daily Update 11/9/07

SECRETARY RICE ADMITS THE U.S. SHOULD HAVE UNDERSTOOD IRAQ BETTER

"If I had to do it over again, we would have had the balance between center, local and provincial better..." "I'm sure there are lots of things we might have done better," says Rice. She has admitted on occasion that the U.S. government made "tactical" mistakes in Iraq, but rarely has she gone into specifics. She added, "I think we didn't identify a lot of the kind of provincial and local leaders that might have been able to deliver services as well as politics on a more localized level early on." Her comments appeared to be an implicit criticism of L. Paul Bremer III, the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq until the end of June 2004. [Newsweek, 11/9/07]

THE BOTTOM UP ANBAR STRATEGY IS FRAUGHT WITH RISK

Will 'armloads' of US cash buy tribal loyalty? Since June, Sunni Sheikh Sabah al-Hassani has received at least $100,000 in cash and numerous perks from the US military and the Iraqi government. With his help, at least $1 million has been distributed to other tribal sheikhs who have joined his Salahaddin Province "support council," according to US officers. Together, they have assembled an armed force of about 3,000 tribesmen dubbed the "sahwa [awakening] folks." The goal is to rally Sunni tribes and their multitude of followers to support coalition forces. But the strategy is fraught with risks, including the serious potential for wars among the tribes themselves and the creation of militias in die-hard Sunni Arab lands where many continue to question the legitimacy and authority of the Shi'a-led central government in Baghdad. Additionally, there is the fear that the tribes will simply "do whatever to continue the flow of money." [CS Monitor, 11/8/07]

Paying civilians to turn in terrorists. "[The US military] threw money at [the sheiks]," says Col. David Hsu, who heads a team advising Iraq's armed forces in Salahaddin, Saddam's home province. He shows recent digital photographs he captured of smiling sheikhs holding bundles of cash as they posed with US military officers. "You are basically paying civilians to turn in terrorists. Money was an expedient way to try to get results." US military officers on the ground say there is tremendous pressure from high above to replicate the successes of the "awakening" against Al Qaeda in the western Anbar Province. [CS Monitor, 11/8/07]

Baghdad needs more oversight of the tribal outreach project. Humam Hamoudi, a member of parliament from the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council party, warns that Baghdad has to have more oversight over the tribal outreach project, otherwise the Sunni Arab tribes could turn against the government once the American presence diminishes. "They need to have dialogue with the government," says Mr. Hamoudi of the tribes. "If their connection remains only to the Americans, then they are a time bomb. In the future they may become enemies of the democratic project." Maj. Gen. Abdul-Jabbar Rabie, says the men lack discipline and loyaltyand could soon become a militia. "They can spin out of control. They may be double agents and deal with both sides." [CS Monitor, 11/8/07]

THE U.S. HAS RELEASED 9 OF 20 IRANIANS HELD IN IRAQ

The U.S. military released nine Iranians from custody in Iraq on Friday, including two accused of being members of an elite force suspected of arming Shi'a extremists. It said they were no longer considered security risks. The nine were released to Iraqi officials, and were being transferred to the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement. At the time of their detention, U.S. officials accused them of being members of Iran's elite Quds Force, an arm of the Revolutionary Guards that Washington has accused of funding and arming Shi'a extremists fighting American forces in Iraq. Iran said the five were diplomats working in a facility that was undergoing preparations to be a consular office. Three more Iranians remain in U.S. custody. They others were expected to return to Iran later Friday. [Washington Post, 11/9/07]

THE WAR CONTINUES TO BE MISMANAGED

The pace of production of the MRAP armored vehicle is moving slowly. The Pentagon's $23 billion program to rush thousands of lifesaving vehicles to Iraq is bogged down by production delays and the demands of the military services. At a hearing held by the House Armed Services Committee, lawmakers said a Navy warfare center in Charleston, S.C., being used to install the radio jammers and communications systems on the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, familiarly called MRAPs, is not organized to do the work. "It kind of reminded me of the middle of the night before Christmas assembling my kids toys," said Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., who recently visited the Charleston facility. "I'm still not convinced we're doing everything we can do." The 15,274 MRAPs are to be built to protect U.S. troops from the common threat of roadside bombs, each branch of the armed services has its own unique gear it wants installed, causing the delays in production. [USA Today, 11/8/07]

VIOLENCE CONTINUES TO RAGE UNABATED

Attacks on educators continue in Iraq. Gunmen killed a schoolteacher Wednesday on her way to class in a well-to-do Baghdad neighborhood, the third attack on Iraqi educators this week. Police said Hana Lafta Mohsen, 35, a mathematics teacher at the Mansour neighborhood's Intifada Intermediate School, was shot in the head by unknown assailants. She died at a local hospital. On Sunday, gunmen stormed into a primary school in the Sadiya neighborhood of south Baghdad and killed headmistress Bushra Abdul Hurr in front of her students. In the northern city of Kirkuk, armed men abducted a school principal Monday. The men stopped a car transporting the principal and several teachers. The gunmen released all but the principal. Iraqi schools previously have been beset by violence. Schools shut down in parts of Baghdad last year at the height of the country's civil war, with some teachers targeted by extremist groups. University professors also have been regularly targeted by militants and criminal gangs since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. [LA Times, 11/8/07]