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STRATFORT is the main US Institute of Strategic and militaries studies.

Geopolitical Diary: Monday, May 26, 2003 :

“Two U.S. soldiers were killed and several others wounded in attacks on U.S. convoys Monday in Iraq. The first incident occurred near the town of Haditha, about 110 miles northwest of Baghdad. Attackers fired automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at a column of the 3rd Armored Cavalry regiment. The second incident occurred a few hours later when an explosion -- probably a detonated land mine -- destroyed a Humvee in a convoy on the outskirts of Baghdad. One was killed and three others were wounded in the attack. Two other attacks were reported on Monday, May 26, without casualties. In addition, two other U.S. soldiers were hurt in accidents. Another U.S. soldier was killed on Sunday at an Iraqi ammunition dump.

These are serious events. An opposition clearly has been organized and now is capable of carrying out attacks on U.S. forces. These are not militarily significant at this point, since they do not affect the ability of the United States to occupy Iraq. But they do have substantial political implications. At this moment, the trend line on the U.S. occupation is downward. The perception -- and to some extent the reality -- of the situation is that Washington has not gained control of the situation in Iraq, that improvements have been slow in coming. The attacks, which must be assumed to be coordinated, indicates that there are forces still operational in Iraq that can reverse what progress there has been.

It is difficult to be certain of the opposition group's identity. However the attack in Haditha is in Sunni country, which seems to indicate that the Baath Party and possibly Saddam Hussein have gone underground to wage guerrilla warfare. Escalating beyond occasional attacks will not be easy. Hit-and-run attacks are different than waging concerted guerrilla warfare. But this is a serious problem for the United States.

The essential problem is that the United States wants Iraqi territory to deploy forces in relation to Syria, Iran and even Saudi Arabia, but does not want to undertake the burden of imposing order and destroying low-grade resistance. First, there is the question of manpower. The United States does not have sufficient forces trained in this type of operation for a country the size of Iraq. Then there is the political issue. U.S. officials do not want to be responsible for the casualties that inevitably will happen if it clamps down. In the case of Iraq, law and order and repression go hand in hand. Washington wants to transfer the onus to an Iraqi government, but it is afraid that it will lose control of the situation if it does. In short, the United States has to make some fundamental decisions about Iraq, and these are not going to be easy decisions to make. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, is going to have to sort out the matter, and he really doesn't have much time



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