28 October, 2006

Causes for optimism in Iraq.

Analysing the situation in Iraq in this week's Spectator, William Shawcross argues that, although mistakes have been made, events are going in the right direction for the Coalition and to pull now would present Islamic terrorism with a disastrous victory over the Iraqi people.

Shawcross is clear where the blame lies for the present chaos in Iraq: not, as so much of the media would have us believe, with the USA but with Iran, Syria and Al Qaeda, who are stirring up various groups of Sunni and Shia terrorists against each other as much as against the Coalition. Yes, the US has made some mistakes but they are tactical rather than strategic. In particular, Shawcross singles out the Pentagon which he accuses of paying insufficient attention to the Iraqi defence ministry, specifically a failure to ensure that the Iraqi army is paid on time and has sufficient equipment.

After early mistakes, the US army and marines are learning fast; effective counter-insurgency training is now being given to all officers down to platoon level with the result that since 2003 their performance on the ground has improved considerably. In this, Shawcross detects echoes of the British army's learning curve in Malaya and Oman.

To Shawcross, the Iraqi army itself is another cause for optimism. Officer and NCO training is underway and, although more needs to be done, the initial success can be judged from the increase in reliable units from about four battalions in 2005 to several divisions a year later.

An interesting perspective in a week when it seems that the terrorists' allies in the US and UK fossil media have launched a second front against the Coalition.


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