Monday, October 03, 2005

Squeeze Play

Iron Fist, a battalion sized operation aimed at "al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists operating in and around Sadah", was announced on October 1. But a slightly older article in the San Francisco Chronicle described some of the events leading up to it. (This account was also referenced by Bill Roggio)

Saturday, October 1, 2005 -- Outside Sada, Iraq -- The mortar rounds hit in the early morning. The first one, a harbinger of the assault to come, whooshed up from the sleepy border town of Sada at around 5:30 a.m. Friday, landing in a burst of sparks several hundred yards short of the sandstone cliffs where U.S. Marines were camped out.

The article went on to describe how insurgents near a "blue mosque" in Sadah fired mortars and rockets at the 1st Mobile Assault Platoon, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment as they kept watch over the town from a position on some elevated ground. The Marines kept on sleeping for a while, then when the fire crept closer, jumped into their Humvees and relocated.

As the 3rd Battalion prepared for an assault on insurgents holed up in five Iraqi towns on the border with Syria, the mortar and rocket attack suggested that the Marines are up against a well-armed and determined enemy. ... Lt. Col. Julian Alford, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, stationed outside the western Iraqi town of Qaim, said fighters linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi control Sada and four other towns in this western corner of Anbar province, including Qaim.

The mortar position and a car loaded with ammunition was subsequently destroyed by a Marine helicopter gunship strike which resulted in secondary explosions. This tracks very closely with an account provided by the DOD and widely reported in various newspapers that "Coalition forces, including helicopters from 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, engaged and killed eight armed terrorists in fighting early Oct. 1, officials said." One aerial attack that was not widely reported elsewhere was a fixed wing strike.

An F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter, flying so high that it was invisible from the ground, dropped a 500-pound bomb known as Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM, on the house, sending a plume of black smoke in the air. Several seconds later, there was a large cracking sound and the rumble of an explosion.

Assuming the San Francisco Chronicle article is accurate Iron Fist is a fairly broad operation aimed at clearing out "five Iraqi towns on the border with Syria" against an enemy named as "al Qaeda in Iraq". The context of the campaign is discussed by a New York Times article, datelined October 3 at an American base in Rawah (34.36 N 41 00 E), about 2/3 of the way to the Syrian border along the Euphrates from Ramadi.

the greater battle lies ahead, in the towns in the Euphrates River valley, where for nearly two years Mr. Zarqawi's fighters have had free rein, blowing up police stations and building a network of safe houses to stockpile weapons, make car bombs and move fighters into the country from Syria. ... Now, American and Iraqi forces are trying to change that by occupying towns like Rawa and installing Iraqi Army battalions to keep insurgents at bay ... they continued to carry out airstrikes and ground raids against insurgent safe houses along the Syrian border. ... Rawa, built on a finger of land formed by a hairpin turn in the Euphrates, overlooks a major bridge that was an important site in Mr. Zarqawi's network, military officials say. "We believe it was the last point at which they would decide to send the foreigners south to Baghdad or north across the desert to Mosul," said Lt. Col. Mark Davis, who commands the new Army outpost.

An examination (speculation alert) of Iraqi topography helps us understand the river and border campaigns better. Global Security has a trafficability map.  Rawa is not so coincidentally on the northern limit of riverine Iraq along the Euphrates. It lies between what the US Naval Institutes in its article Military Geography of Iraq calls "Type I" terrain -- desert and steppe -- and "Type II" riverine Iraq.  If the Syrian frontier is the "outer border" the "inner border" is the boundary between the Type I and Type II; between the desert and the sown. Riverine Iraq, the area which contains most the nation's population, cities and wealth is the prize; and only by traversing the Type I steppe and desert can the insurgents move from the Syrian border to attack Iraq's heartland. The area northwestward from Rawa to the Syrian border, south to the Jordanian frontier and north across the Euphrates to Mosul are all Type I and it is here where the battle for the borders is being fought. It has two characteristics which make it relatively ideal for as a line of communication for the insurgency. One is trafficability. According to the US Naval Institute article:

Roads that traverse region I to and from Iraq are few, but that deficiency inhibits military movement much less than elsewhere because the hard, flat surface simplifies cross-country trafficability for wheeled as well as tracked vehicles. The author, for example, long ago journeyed from Damascus to Baghdad by bus, with rare glimpses of any formal route. 

The other is the presence of a large nomadic population for whom smuggling was a traditional activity and which is ethnically sympathetic to the former Ba'athist regime.

After the Marines anchored their western defense on Fallujah in November 2004 they have been steadily creeping westward within the riverine zone along the Euphrates. The latest efforts to secure Ramadi means they can move the Iraqi training center from Habbaniyah westward to Ramadi; and the probable objective is to extend the writ of the Iraqi government until it reaches Rawah. In the meantime, Task Force Olympia, with the 11th ACR and the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (including Michael Yon's 1st BN, 24th Infantry "Deuce Four") has been campaigning in Mosul along the Tigris. Therefore, returning to the New York Times account, whether Zarqawi decides "to send the foreigners south to Baghdad or north across the desert to Mosul" he will be running into hard stops and harassed in all the intervening ground. If the US is successful, it will greatly reduce the insurgency's prospects of holding out against the government. The insurgency will of course attempt everything in their power to bend back this creeping siege of their main strongholds and the repeated interdiction of their lines of communication with sanctuaries in Syria.


Blogger Papa Bear said...

It's going to be inevitable that we will have to enter Syria to put an end to its support for the insurgency

At the very least, we need to convince Assad that continuing to allow alQ and others to use Syria as a base will cause great difficulty to his continuing to stay in power

10/03/2005 07:19:00 AM  
Blogger Goesh said...

- and who is to say that a very large explosion on the Syrian side was not from the fumble-fingers of a terrorist as he prepared a bomb to blow up Iraqi women and children? What are the syrians going to do, hold up bits and pieces of dead jihadis and claim it was an American missle that sent them to paradise?

10/03/2005 07:25:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Syria and Mr Assad may find themselves in the same position as both Jordon and Lebannon were in with Arafat's PLO. While the stated enemy is across the border, the real threat was to the hosting Nation State.

The blowback from hosting a Guerilla Army is often not foreseen. The Law of Unitended Consequences often are enforced by outside influences.

The US has made a conscious decision to leave Syria out of the line of fire. There would have to be a MAJOR escalation in Syrian action before the US takes direct action in Syria.

What happens in '06, when the Iraqi's begin to take charge is still an unknown. They may not be as forgiving as US.

10/03/2005 07:37:00 AM  
Blogger kstagger said...

I can read the MSM dispatch already - the hardened battle ready insurgents who make no mistakes, who will blend into the background, make their escape and fight on - versus the confused weary Americans who are struggling to defeat the emboldened popular 'resistance'. I salute Orwell, for language is such a powerful tool. Just read the next TIme Magazine!

The reality is an increasingly effective Coalition operation to hamper and destroy terrorist safe havens. The terrorists are a finite group, and constant decimation can only reduce the rank and scope of their operations. What major battle have they ever won? What land can they hold onto? Where is their popularity? What alternative are they offering?

This is not an insurgency or a resistance - this is a criminal organization.

10/03/2005 07:38:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

They are Insurgents, representing a desire to return power to a Criminal Government.

The fact the Saddam's Government was essentially a Criminal Gang in control of a Nation State is often over looked.

How much of the Insurgency is aQ Jihad and how much of it is Baathist Reactionaries has not been answered by US, as far as I know.

Bombs exploded in Bali over the weekend, part of a Global Conspiracy? Nah, no such thing.

These are all just isolated incidents, right?
The fact that all the terrorists are Mohammedans...just coincidence.

If we aborted all Mohammedan babies, the world wide crime rate would drop. eventually.

Would that be morally reprehensible?

10/03/2005 07:54:00 AM  
Blogger gmat said...

Very informative speech by Petraeus, discussed here.

Media missed it entirely.

10/03/2005 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

I thought Sec. Rice gave us excellent context at Princeton for our tactics in Iraq. Or course, libs will have a cow and immediately stop reading at the mention of 9/11:

"People still differ about what the September 11th calls us to do. And in a democratic society, that debate is healthy and just and right. If you focus only on the attacks themselves and believe they were caused by 19 hijackers, supported by a network called al-Qaida, and operating from a failed state -- Afghanistan -- then our response can be limited. The course of action presumes that we are still living in an ordinary time.

But if you believe, as I do and as President Bush does, that the root cause of September 11th was the violent expression of a global extremist ideology, an ideology rooted in the oppression and despair of the modern Middle East, then we must speak to remove the source of this terror by transforming that troubled region. If you believe as we do, then it cannot be denied that we are standing at an extraordinary moment in history.

Some would argue that this broad approach to the problem is making the world less stable by rocking the boat and wrecking the status quo. But this presumes the existence of a stable status quo that does not threaten global security. This is not the case. A regional order that produced an ideology of hatred so savage as the one we now confront is not serving any civilized interest.

For 60 years, we often thought that we could achieve stability without liberty in the Middle East. And ultimately, we got neither. Now, we must recognize, as we do in every other region of the world, that liberty and democracy are the only guarantees of true stability and lasting security.

There are those who worry that greater freedom of choice in the Middle East will only liberate and empower extremism. In fact, the opposite is true: A political culture of transparency and openness is not one in which extremist beliefs can ultimately thrive. Extremism is most dangerous when it lurks in the dark and hides underground. When there is no political space for individuals to advance their interests and redress their grievances, then they retreat into the shadows to grow ever more radical and divorced from reality. We saw the result of that on September 11th and now we must work to advance democratic reform throughout the greater Middle East."

10/03/2005 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger Aristides said...

I was struck by the questions asked of Rice after her speech. The questions came at her from the right, asking why movement towards total implementation of Bush's democracy policy was so slow, and why actions on the ground fell short of matching the soaring rhetoric of the White House.

I made this argument before, but I'll make it again. Bush's second inaugural address changed the terms of debate. If you agree with Bush, you make arguments from principle, as Rice does. If you disagree with Bush, you highlight his shortcomings in not living up to his rhetoric. But either way you approach it, the idea that democracy and freedom are the only ways forward has been conceded by both sides of the argument.

Sure, you still get realists preaching stability, but most of the debate has shifted to how to implement the policy, not whether we should. Opponents focus on what we're not doing to live up to our rhetoric, proponents defend that which has taken place, but everybody speaks in terms of freedom. Bush has created the measuring stick by which every subsequent Administration will be examined.

Language is subversive, and terms of debate are coveted landmarks and consequential assets. President Bush took the high ground, and is only vulnerable from attack launched from even higher. In that way, the speech was a radical success. In such a way does the world shift.

10/03/2005 08:46:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

Aristides, I know this has been discussed before, but I still find it amazing that the left can say with a straight face that we should have supported the status quo in Iraq.

10/03/2005 08:58:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

As far as the inevitability of engaging Syria, it seems unlikely at this point. Although Syria will do what they can get away with, operating under the veil of deniability, the Type I terrain of the area would expose too much of Syria’s hand, provided they would risk overt support at all. Syria must be increasingly weary of US intelligence activity and can at best ‘put up a good front’ to placate it’s internal enemies as a state actor. AQI is largely on their own and if the Coalition Forces step foot in Syria, it would likely be in hot pursuit, pursuant to nominal rules of engagement.

10/03/2005 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...


I find it even harder to accept the "Bush lied" charge. The reasons the libs declare as lies, mostly "no WMD's!" and "no connection to Al Qaeda before we invaded" were widely declared and published in the MSM in the 90's. All the UN resolutions, all the Democratic declarations of the dangers of Saddam and his WMD's and connections to AlQ, the feckless bombing in Sudan, Operation Desert Fox, the fears of Clinton, Berger, Clarke, et. al. detailed in "The 9/11 Commission Report" - these are just a part of the reasons given by Bush for his bold action.

Of course, as Ari points out, Bush went far beyond these points of the 90's in his historic speeches and actions to change the world for the better.

10/03/2005 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

It seems to me that it was OK for the Clinton administration to site WMD and openly call for regime change… his most high achievement, according to the Left wing, is that he did not act on it. Which is to say, “say what you will” but do nothing. A noble cause indeed.

10/03/2005 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Doug Santo said...

Current U.S./Iraqi operations are important. Results will show to what extant the terrorist insurgency has been attrited. Still, these operations are but a small window into the larger political picture. An article today by an American contractor in Iraq, John Connelly Walsh, includes an on-scene analysis of the upcoming constitutional referendum. He makes the following political prediction:

"To those who ask how it will go, I predict the Constitution will win. At least one province (Anbar) will cobble together the necessary two-thirds majority to defeat it. There is a long shot chance two provinces will vote it down. But opponents will not muster the necessary third province (out of 18) that would kill the Constitution and send everything back to square one."

Mr. Walsh considers the constitutional vote to be very important. After predicting victory in the constitutional referendum, he goes on to make predictions about the near-term direction of political and military affairs:

"The December elections will bring back the U.S.'s favorite Iraqi politician, Ayad Alawi. And, then the New Iraqi Army will be unleashed in January or February. The NIA will, perhaps brutally, put down the internal Sunni killers while the U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, and U.S. Special Forces will take care of the cross-border infiltrators."

The whole article is at:

I believe we are in the beginning of the end-game. In the early months of 2006 there will likely be a voter-approved constitution, recently completed national elections, a new popularly elected government, and an increasingly battle hardened Iragi Army supported by American strength. The terrorist insurgency is in trouble.

Doug Santo
Pasadena, CA

10/03/2005 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger mledeen said...

excellent as always. i suppose we will find the terrorists using the iranian border more frequently, huh? especially since they seem to have a lot of control over Basra.

10/03/2005 11:41:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

I'm very, very sorry to interrupt here but I wanted ask you folks if you knew of any books dealing specifically with the establishment of Turkish hegemony over the Arabs between the years 1100 and about 1300 - later to become the Ottoman's Arab provinces. Does anyone know of one? I can't find any, and don't quite know how to look.

Thanks in advance, and sorry again to interrupt.

10/03/2005 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

As far as the border with Iran is concerned, it's hard to say, news is hard to come by. Besides, when ever I Google Iran all I get is a bunch of Michael Ledeen articles. ;-)

10/03/2005 11:59:00 AM  
Blogger Soldier's Dad said...


A couple of "nit picks".

The 172nd Strykers replaced the 25th ID troops. The 3rd ACR replaced the 11th ACR. Task Force Olympia is now called Task Force Freedom.

10/03/2005 12:15:00 PM  
Blogger Buffy said...

Using Kurds undercover in Syria and Iran for covert operations and instigating insurgencies is an excellent idea. Turkey would probably suffer some blowback too, but who cares? No good guys, only the bad and the indifferent. All the middle eastern and arab world has gone putrid. A major cleaning has been due for a long time.

10/03/2005 12:16:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Seems like the prudent thing to do is seal up the borders. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Insurgency and counter-insurgency are messy affairs. Isolating the states provide the US with the option of using it’s strength, like air power, armor, and embargos. Effective border enforcement will keep it an Iraqi issue. A better wedge in order to pry the Iranian agitators off the backs of the Iraqi people.

I suspect that the Iraqi Defense Forces will be up to the task in time. It is hard to imagine doing much without them, nor them doing what they need to do to protect themselves from a state 3 times larger than theirs without us.

10/03/2005 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

In regards to "The insurgency will of course attempt everything in their power to bend back this creeping siege of their main strongholds and the repeated interdiction of their lines of communication with sanctuaries in Syria." I believe that this may be a desire but probably is not considered to be a realistic objective by their senior leadership.
By late 1943 Adm Donitz of the Kreismarine had come to realize thet the Battle of the Atlantic was lost and that he was only sending his men to their deaths without any hope of his U-boats affecting the course of the war. He kept sending them out anyway, because as German forces were smashed on the ground and in the air, it would be ignomious for the German navy to sit at home. The Japanese Navy sent the battleship Yamoto on a suicidal charge toward Okinawa in 1945 for the same reason; honor demanded it, even if the act would only result in many more Japanese deaths.
Of course, the 1940's Axis of Evil did not have have Cindy Sheehan, George Soros, and Michael Moore on their side...

10/03/2005 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...

Unless they voluntarily open themselves, as in Ghaddafi, to US, Syria & Iran will both have to be dealt with sooner or later.

In Syria the ba'athists aren't likely to comply with any demands made of them. They probably have much of saddaam's remaining arsenel of WMD's & therefore are emboldened despite their long odds.

Iran looms more menacing given the weak Euro-attempts of controlling their nuclear progress. What are the odds of revolution there?

For Iraq border security is the greatest issue now.

Is it also for US?

10/03/2005 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

It seems that the administration has depleted what moral authority they have with the general public (support of OIF is down). Iran is a tough nut to crack and as in most totalitarian states does not fear it’s populace or it’s voting habits when they control who gets on the ballot. Ahmadinejad just held the UN assembly spell bound with the taquiya that states that the Iranian constitution doesn’t allow for nuclear weapons development. Whew, what a relief.

Meanwhile the BS has gone lyrical; “Nuclear Tunes Blast onto Iranian Airways.”( Artists extol that the great and powerful Iran has destroyed it’s oppressors.

Thanks to the lack luster performance of the EU3 negotiations, this situation will get worse before it gets any better. It seems that the Persians have learned a trick or to from the Arabs and now have successfully inveigled there way into some sort of legitimacy with the easily controlled West whose worship of all things ‘Politically Correct’ renders them irrelevant to the future of the world. The military approach is off the table for right now, apparently, and any pro-business government would be loath to threaten an embargo that would really put the pinch on Europe. Probably all the more reason it may be worth doing, maybe a referral to the UNSC could be obtained, but like all things regarding the UN, one must ponder whether it is worth the trouble.

10/03/2005 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

I think that Syria is likely to have increasing economic difficulties, as it's ties with Lebanon are weakened. That will end up causing them to "play right."

10/03/2005 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger Jesse Clark said...

Iron Fist, a fairly local operation, needs to be put in its proper context as a part of the larger Operation Hunter. Hunter has a far more strategic goal of securing the al Qa'im/Haditha Corridor, while Iron Fist is limited to a few towns directly on the Syrian Border. There has been almost no mention and/or analysis of Hunter in either the standard media or the blogging community with the exception of Bill Roggio's excellent coverage. In fact, if you Google 'Operation Hunter', his reports are the only substantial documentation you will find.

10/03/2005 03:31:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Roggio and everybody else emphasizes the importance of boots on the ground, in Iraq. Makes perfect sense in the ancient towns and Asia-dense riverine areas, where vast crowded populations sustain an eternal infection of lawlessness.

But "Type I" terrain sounds ideal for remote sensing by UAV, satellite, airborne. I think there was a Belmont discussion of long-term surveillance, and the ability to "roll back the tape" to find where a bomber who struck at 5am was at 2am. [enter the JDAM drum roll]

The articles in AWST talked about doing that in urban environments. In "Type I" terrain, heat trails would be seamless lines, I think. Combined with local intelligence, "connecting the dots" gets a whole lot easier, for our boots on the ground. The ancient smuggling routes will come back, after a few years. The new government will tolerate them again, once they're clean of Islamofascist "insurgents."

Spooling up the Iraqi capability is the only effective way to peace in "Type II" riverine areas.

Hmm, maybe Rummy is right, maybe we do have all the troops and capability the field generals are asking for.

While we're all biting our nails now, this thing could turn out like the US Hockey Team in 1980! They were the crew who emboldened the martial chant of USA.

10/03/2005 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Following from a post by an Iraqi blogger at Mudville Gazette, pointing in the direction of an increasingly-likely civil war. However, the part that brought me up abruptly is the mention of Fallujah. Is the cycle entering its THIRD iteration, for god's sake, with the bad guy's roaming free, and no good guys in sight to make them go away???

He told me what happened with him when he entered the "fallen province".

- When we reached Falluja, the area was scary. No police, no army and no Americans at all. Just them [the armed men] driving their cars freely.
- What were they doing?
- Just driving carrying their weapons.
- What did you do then? You are a governmental employee which means you are a target for them.
- We did not stop until we reached Rawa. We stopped at restaurant to have some lunch. At that time, a man in an OPEL sedan drove near us going further and returning back at the same road.
- Was he looking at you? Did he suspect you?
- I didn't know at the beginning. I was scared and all of us were scared.
- How many employees were there with you?
- Just me and another employee and of course, the driver.
- So what happened then?
- I asked a man wearing a dishdasha what is the OPEL man doing here? He said 'don't worry he is checking the road for his men who are planting an IED on the road.' I was shocked. He said that as if it is something normal. I didn’t know whether to feel happy that I wasn't the target or feel sad as they are destroying the country by that.

10/03/2005 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Scary story Nahncee, however, I don’t see how the decrepit state of Falluja is inconsistent with MNF tactics to keep the insurgents off balance while a viable ISF can be fielded to participate in Clear and Hold tactics. If the referendums on the constitution and the parliamentary elections are successful, many Sunni’s are likely to resign themselves to reason. The dead-enders are being increasingly isolated and recent events bolster that assertion. As for AQI, they ain’t done yet but their prospects are looking increasingly bleak. But if a man in an Opel can still incite terror, it suggests that nobody will ever be completely unmolested.

10/03/2005 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger trangbang68 said...

On borders,particularly Iran's.I am reading Paul Williams' frightening book"Osama's Revenge".It is the one about Al Quaida already possessing nukes and planning to use them.God help us that its not true.
On borders though Williams postulates that Bush invaded Iraq because our government has proof of advanced nuclear programs in Iran and amongst the Jihadis and knows war with Iran is inevitable and we needed established bases to fight Iran with short supply lines.
The book pictures AQ Khan,the Pakistani proliferator as a combination of Dr.Mengele,Eichmann,Himmler,the antichrist and you name it,a world class devil turning the key to Armageddon.

10/03/2005 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I don't believe it. I might be in denial but it seems to me that the Middle East doesn't have the resources to come up with nuclear weapons, let alone refined ones, let alone the capability to deliver them other than hand-carrying them.

I know Khan was scurrying about giving everyone everything, but have you noticed that Pakistan itself hasn't shot off a bomb in how many years, Saddam was doing his damndest to buy anything anyone would sell him, ditto the Saudi's, AND Iran has had a concentrated program for how many years now pouring money and materiel and educated people into it and they *still* don't have anything.

My own personal scientific theory is it's too sandy there, and little granules of sand keep getting in everything and jiggering it up. Over and above the lack of education, focus, and commitment other than being ordered to do it.

10/03/2005 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger trangbang68 said...

Nahncee,Not saying I necessarily believe Williams story,but only speculating that Bush and company are privy to information you and I and the hyenas in the MSM aren't .
Williams sources Al Quaida nukes to the leaky Russian arsenal via the Chechnian mafia.After 70 years of oppression,communist tyranny,atheism and a slow dance into third worldism,I don't doubt there are people in Russia who are amoral enough to sell nukes to a looney toon like Bin Laden.In the last thread we discussed those in the west unable to judge evil.I think this is the engine that will carry the war to victory or dash us on the rocks;whether we see that there are men with black hearts out there who would turn our streets red unless we first grind them to powder.

10/03/2005 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger Bob Smith said...

Nahncee - it's all in the sand.

I have my own theories about the desert influence, but short story is that, regardless of whether your're right about nuclear capabilities, NOW was an opportune time to intervene, rather than after the fact, at which point the question would undoubtedly have been less puzzlng.

10/03/2005 08:15:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

kstagger - The reality is an increasingly effective Coalition operation to hamper and destroy terrorist safe havens. The terrorists are a finite group, and constant decimation can only reduce the rank and scope of their operations. What major battle have they ever won? What land can they hold onto? Where is their popularity? What alternative are they offering?

No, the reality is what JCS Myers and Lt. General George Casey now admit the situation is:

1. NO dimunition in insurgency strength or deadliness. The fall in their monthly US soldier harvest is only because they are focusing more on killing Shiite apostates.

2. Casey estimates it will take another 9 years to defeat the insurgency. The military now concludes it faces a widespread, classic insurgency that has considerable access to money and resources.

3. Things are likely to get worse leading up to and after the Iraqis vote on their Constitution.

10/03/2005 08:48:00 PM  
Blogger Jesse Clark said...

As for terrorist nukes, IMHO, the first atomic detonation by terrorists will be against Russia. There are so many nuclear devices already missing or just lying around the former Soviet Union that the Chechens could easily aquire one if they haven't already. (I've seen reports that they already have several suitcase nukes.) The Chechen terrorists certainly have the will to use one against the Russians, and it would be much easier than another group transporting a nuke into the US, which will undoubtedly happen or be attempted at some point anyway, but not initially.

10/03/2005 08:53:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

Re: USSR nukes. Look at who made *them*, for God's sake. These guys couldn't even build a ballpoint pen, and you're scared that some jihadist froot loop is gonna be able to detonate a used Russki nuke 30 or 40 years later???

Isn't there a "use by" date on those things?

10/03/2005 09:55:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Is this open sourced?

10/03/2005 10:03:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Ever heard of a dirty bomb?

10/03/2005 10:04:00 PM  
Blogger Aristides said...


You mistake what Casey said, and misstate their comments on the insurgency.

The 9 year comment was brought up in opening statements by Casey, not as a prediction, but as an observation. He merely commented that the average insurgency took nine years to defeat. In fact, when later questioned about that statement, Meyers interrupted Casey's response to make it clear that he was not making a prediction, but making a statistical observation. The weight of the information lies in the sobriety it imparts, not in its predictive value. In fact, in the next breath Casey said that a draw down of troops beginning in 2006 was quite likely. I took it as a way of saying, "Let's get some perspective, we're ahead of the curve."

Casey did not say categorically that the strength of the insurgency was unchanged or unaffected by the latest operations, he said there were no good ways to tell when their numbers waxed and waned. Sen. Graham pushed him on the 1/10th of 1% comment at this point, and Casey made clear that the metric to look to was not the numerical strength of the insurgency per se, but the willingness of the rest of the population to support them. In that respect, the Coalition has made enormous inroads in the past year, as the Iraqis have started coming forward in droves with information on the terrorists.

Casey also commented on a metric they are looking to in Tal Afar to judge success: the number of local men joining the police after the operation. He said about 100 a day line up in town to join the police--a reassuring number, he said.

In the entire four hour interview--and I know, I've watched it twice--nobody said the insurgency was "widespread". Not even Ted Kennedy could say that with a straight face. It is a small percentage of the population; deadly, yes, but not classic in the way other insurgencies were. They offer no alternatives but death and war, make no pretense at governing, target the indigenous people of Iraq almost exclusively, and operate with a sizable contingent of foreigners. This is not an insurgency that will win, nor is it an insurgency that will last 9 years.

Watch the interview again. You missed quite a bit of the nuance.

10/04/2005 05:50:00 AM  
Blogger wildiris said...


"Isn't there a "use by" date on those things?"

The answer is yes. All nuclear detonations, fussion or fission, are trigered initially by conventional chemical explosives. These explosives do have a finite shelf life.

10/04/2005 05:55:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

nahncee and wildiris: Nukes do have a shelf life, and not just because that of the chemical explosives, although you are correct about that. The nuclear materials decay even faster than do the chemical explosives. In the early days nukes had quite short shelf lives, to the point where they had to be built on as as-needed basis. The Tritium used in hydrogen bombs appears to be more subject to decay problems than the U-235 or Pu. One reason for testing nukes was to check and see how much deterioration had occurred in operationally deployed weapons. Aside from the chemical explosives and decay of the nuclear material I would wonder about decay of the activation electronics - which cannot like being located to so ionizing radiation. So they will indeed deteriorate - but fail to go off at all? Don't know. Solzhenitsyn, a Soviet nuclear physcist, once advised us to not get too scared of the USSR because "When they push the button I can tell you what will happen - nothing." Maybe he is right, but I don't think we can risk it.

10/04/2005 06:29:00 AM  
Blogger al fin said...

The old russian nukes would have to be remade almost from the raw materials. Fusion bombs are beyond the expertise of 99.99% of the muslim terror group. Fission bombs can be made by monkeys if there is enough fissionable material of high grade.
It takes a large entity like the Iranian government to purify enough high grade fissionables. That is why the Khan-Iranian-muslim terror axis is so dangerous.

10/04/2005 06:42:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Don't think we can risk it?

We "risked it" every day of my life. We have "risked it" for over well over 50 years.

Should we try to mitigate the risk, of course. Should we suspend the 1st, 2nd, 4th and other Amendments to our Constitution to "limit" the risk, No.

By now the NYPD must have searched well over 100,000 bags of "profiled" suspects entering the subways there.
Yet not one conventional, let alone Nuclear, bomb has been found.
Mean while the crime rate in NY rises, the Police becoming less effective in combating REAL crime.

The Bird Flu is a much greater "real" threat to US then an aQ nuclear device. Yet there is no "emergency" about that issue, yet.

The Battle of Iraq is all but over, for US. The Iraqi State no longer a base for terrorists. No doubt their Civil War will drag on for a while longer, but the threat of Terrorists of International Reach is gone, from there.

The Constitutional Referendum just 10 days and a wake up away.

Why not Osama?

10/04/2005 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Wait a second - they Sill have a "large nomadic population" in Iraq? I thought these people had all been settled in the various modernization attempts of the post-WWII period, notwithstanding the hallowed Arab reverence for their Bedouin forebears. This is depressing news; that means the place is still like "Lawrence of Arabia." This is frustrating news. Are they in any way remotely interested in cooperating with us? For camels or money? Or what? They probably think we're all Jews, and want M-16s. Who knows what they think. I wonder to what extent they are implicated in this supply line; if deeply, we have quite a big problem on our hands. This constitution vote cannot come too soon. My lord, the Arabs are a backward, backward bunch. But of course this only highlights the influence that can be achieved by having favorable conditions in only a few of the major Iraqi cities - Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk. What is required to make the Sunnis accept their proportional power? There must be Something short of ruthless ululating domination. If there isn't, I say bring on the civil war. Obviously there can be no stopping such ancientry, the cessation of which is a predicate for the success of any of our modern institution-building. But large populations of nomads! Good God.

10/04/2005 06:52:00 AM  
Blogger ex-democrat said...

C4 - make sure that the long-winded screed you are currently working on (to counter ari's elegant fisking of your previous deceit) is replete with original source material: your own credibility is, um, zero.

10/04/2005 06:59:00 AM  
Blogger Aristides said...

re: lost in translation.

It's frustrating, instead of amusing, to watch our media make fools of themselves, because their ignorance is somehow transmuted to the rest of society. In the movie Serenity, the Operative triggers River's insanity by sending subliminal messages through the TV. Our insanity is also triggered by watching television, but it is a much less subtle message that does the triggering.

Lost in the three-to-one
independently-operating Iraqi-battalion debate is whether the numerical retrogression in type I battalions is also a retrogression in effect and capability overall. The whole media focus on this number, when the entire remainder of Casey's information is positive and hopeful, is pathetic, especially when they are not even curious about it's net effect.

Yes, three is greater than one. So, going from three to one is a priori BAD, right? Actually, no, but you can see why the media grabs onto such information. It's easy. It takes no work, no study, no education to understand the concept of going from 3 to 1. And because it is so easy to understand, and therefore so easy to complain about, it is the lead story coming out of the Casey-Abizaid-Meyers-Rumsfeld interview. It's pathetic.

It's pathetic because there is no context in the complaint, nor is there curiosity in how this number fits into our strategy to win. We do want to win, remember? That is the point, isn't it? Instead, the media stands back and studies information coming out of Iraq as if it's sole importance is how it plays to the American people. The only type of campaign the media understands involves elephants and donkeys, so they project this paradigm onto campaigns involving bullets and blood. Russert asks Casey about selling the war, and the national IQ drops another point.

The chutzpah of the media--who control the information fed to the public, then use the negative coverage of the war to attack those who fight it--is astounding. But even more so is their provincialism. "3-to-1 means we've lost two!" is the extent of their analysis, and the extent of their message. Lost is any question of capability in the field, that maybe retaining American support in combat is a good thing, that maybe winning is more important than PR.

Alas, I do not expect much from our media, and I especially to not expect much of their military analysis. But every once in a while there is an episode that engenders from me complete contempt.

This is one of those moments.

10/04/2005 07:01:00 AM  
Blogger wildiris said...

rwe, you're right about the shelf life of fusion devices. The tritium used in their makeup has a half life of about 12 years. Fusion devices using U-235 or Pu don't have this decay problem, their isotope half lifes are on the order of 704 million years and 25,000 years respectively. The problem is that fusion weapons are about 10 times more efficient in converting mass into energy than fission devices. As a result, fission weapons are always much heavier that fusion devices for the same yield.

I'm not all that knowlegeble on this issue, but, for this reason, I would expect that any "suitcase" nukes would have been fusion devices and would therefore suffer from the short tritium half life problem.

As far as the electronics goes, any place where there are dissimilar metals in contact, there will be migration and corrosion issues. Over time (10,20 plus years) mechanical contacts at connectors as well as the integrity of solder joints and the lead bondings inside of any semiconductor device will degrade.

10/04/2005 07:05:00 AM  
Blogger Aristides said...


From what I know, the fusion reaction in a hydrogen bomb is started by a fission reaction using plutonium, so I'm not quite sure what the weight differential would be, nor what the shelf-life differential would be.

10/04/2005 07:15:00 AM  
Blogger wildiris said...

aristides, I don't have any answer on that point.

The best conclusion on this issue was al fin's. After 10 or 20 years any old Soviet nuke would only be good for parts. The best any terrorist could do is to break them apart for the Pu and use that to make a dirty bomb. The conventional explosives used to initiate detonation are very special "machine-able" solids. The charges have to be shaped extremely precisely to get the initial implosive compression of the fissionable material to work. The facilities to manufacture such explosives, form and machine them are beyond the capabilities of any terrorist organization that I can imagine. Only with access to state sponsored, advanced technical support (i.e. Iran’s nuclear program) could a group like AQ be able to do this.

A crude fission device could be made using salvaged U235 or Pu, but without proper handling, everyone who worked on it would be dead from radioactive exposure. But I guess, for a suicide mission, that wouldn’t be a problem.

10/04/2005 07:50:00 AM  
Blogger David said...

Aristedes -

It's also the reason why you and I read blogs like Wretchard's and Michael Yon's. Yon tells me what's happening and proves to me that we are winning AND doing good in Iraq. Wretchard helps me understand the larger picture.

As for events on the ground, I believe we will eventually grind the AQI down as we build the Iraqi military structure up. When we leave, they should be able to take care of business and hopefully have only a small amount of bad guys to take care of. Whether that is reported in the MSM is moot - it will not change the facts on the ground.

10/04/2005 07:52:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

The other part that is extremely complex is the triggering device, so that the conventional explosives all explode at the precise moment that is required. I believe that those are the most difficult part of a bomb to develop/acquire.

10/04/2005 08:10:00 AM  
Blogger exhelodrvr said...

FYI, fission weapons are also much "dirtier."

10/04/2005 08:12:00 AM  
Blogger Rondo said...

Bush will not enter Syria except in 'hot pursuit' limited situations. Like his daddy he will not go up against any Sunni group or country. First the 60 year old mould smothering the Saudi/US relationship must be purged. Since most l GOPS and DEMS with influence over the age of 45 are part of this mould a really serious attempt at cleaning the Middle East of terrorism will not happen prior to another catastrophy equal or greater than 9/11. Until such time the political will and national determination to do what is necessary just isn't there.

10/04/2005 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

wildiris and artisdes: Yes, a fusion device is used as a trigger for a fusion device, and while there are at least theoretical ways to go to fusion directly I don't think we have those yet, or at least do not admit it.
Electronics can last a long time - I have WWII stuff that is still good - but I am not sure that solid state components can do that well in close proximity to nuclear material without maintenance - unless it was desigend that way, with rad-hardened semiconductors - which we have but others probably do not.
I recall a guy who was a nuclear weapons technician say that years ago they stuck him in the back seat of a B-57 and rushed him to Europe to look at a nuke. The weapon had been opened for inspection and they noted mold growing on the electronics and yelled for help. He found that the source of the mold was that someone had left a ham sandwich inside the bomb during assembly!

10/04/2005 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

"It takes a large entity like the Iranian government to purify enough high grade fissionables. That is why the Khan-Iranian-muslim terror axis is so dangerous."

Now we get back to my small but tangential area of expertise: NorK, and the Russian-trained nuke technicians it is only too happy to share with Pakistan and Iran, FOR A PRICE (but a pittance, for Iran)!

10/04/2005 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...


Speaking of simple numbers in the press, there is constant railing about tax cuts OBVIOUSLY reducing tax revenues. That's simple, right?

But history proves the tax cuts of JFK, Reagan and George Bush increased tax revenues, most recently in the whispered "news" in the press that the deficit was going to be substantially less than predicted.

But how can lowering taxes raise tax revenues? Doesn't make sense to a chld, therefore it can't be true.


10/04/2005 08:32:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

Rondo says: "Like his daddy he will not go up against any Sunni group or country."

Hm? Are we back to the argument that Iraq was a "secular" country and Saddam was some sort of atheist?

Both George Bush and his Daddy went up against a Sunni group, ie., the Sunni Baathists in Iraq. Am I missing something?

10/04/2005 08:42:00 AM  
Blogger Aristides said...


Exactly. Wretchard, Roggio, Winds of Change, Yon, Den Beste (back when): in an age of inversion and historical amnesia, the value added by these writers is inestimable.

War is hard. Nevertheless, the media think you solve a difficult problem merely by unleashing exceptionally bright people. They cannot embrace the fact that "difficult", in war, means accepting a string of failures that culminate in victory.

So, the first sign of turbulance and the media cries foul. Continued turbulance produces proclamations of failure. In our weird age of self-indulgence, easy successes are praised while hard-fought victories spawn committees.

Cesarean sections and diet pills, hard work be damned! Thus are the preferences of our effeminate elite. It was not always so.


You would think the Laffer curve didn't exist. As Milton Friedman says, never in history has wealth come from the bottom. It is always the top of society pulling up the rest. Let them keep their money, and everyone wins.

10/04/2005 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger jim said...

Aristides, There is nothing easy about a C-section, from the woman's perspective! Maybe for the good doctors and their golf dates, though-- Perfect points, otherwise. Our hard-working, gutsy and brilliant military deserves a corps of chroniclers with similar fortitude and insight.

10/04/2005 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Rondo said...

Tony says:
"Both George Bush and his Daddy went up against a Sunni group, ie., the Sunni Baathists in Iraq. Am I missing something?"

Tony, this Sunni group, Sadamite Iraq, also did a nono. They threatened oil supply stability and, more importantly, they threatened Saudi Arabia by placing troops on the Saudi border by occupying Kuwait. It was therefore a piece of cake for Daddy Bush to get the approval from the Saudi royals for the first Iraqi invasion. Iraq now no longer being a threat to the Sauds, the royal family wants the US out of the Middle East, until, of course, the next temporary emergency.

10/04/2005 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger M. Simon said...

All guerilla warfare is based on criminal organizations.

France 1940-'44 is instructive.

Saddam knew this. Which is why he emptied the prisond when his regular armies were nearing defeat.

So how do we tell if we are winning?

Are we winning yet?

10/04/2005 11:12:00 AM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Aristedes -

The 9 years is indeed an estimate. It could be longer, it could be less, but even in his induced Pentagon Party Line ambiguity, Casey was saying we have to PLAN on it lasting that long.

The insurgency is widespread. You can quibble that it is not geographically widespread, only involves 5 or so million who support it, not all 23 million Iraqis, but bottom-line, it is widespread enough that it has tied down half to 2/3rds of available American ground combat forces for years and burned out the eligibility of 70% of front line ground combat reservist troops, and involuntarily extended the enlistments of over 50,000 Army and Marines deployed. And the extended insurgency has cost us 125 billion so far in "extra costs" beyond the initial "cakewalk" costs.

Given that, it is prudent for any person interested in national defense to think about what changes, if any we must make to Iraq "stay the course until the evildoers are attrited away" strategy, defense spending, and how we will deal with the rise of China and the other global hotspots that are unlikely to go away on their own. We have the revived spread of Castroism/Chavezism spreading all over Latin America and the Caribbean while we ignore it to fixate on Iraq. We have proved that our Gov't is still largely incompetent at responding to a large terrorist or natural disaster for weeks. We face a flu disaster that could dwarf the Katrina, even the Tsunami disaster where we saw Team Bush in action....or inaction.

If this conflict involving part of the "noble, freedom-loving Sunni Iraqi people" and the foreign fighters they invite in persists years out, we have to weigh what is best for America, not the Iraqis. That is true as well about the insistence of a good part of the "purple-fingered majority" -- to sit on their asses and let Americans die in their stead to better "their democracy". At some point, "times up".

Reagan would vomit it what the Bushies have done.

Ex-democrat writes:

C4 - make sure that the long-winded screed you are currently working on (to counter ari's elegant fisking of your previous deceit) is replete with original source material: your own credibility is, um, zero.

I only observe the time for brainless cheerleeding ended long ago, ex-democrat.

10/04/2005 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Cedarford said...

Nuclear bomb comments, given past nuclear training:

1. Nahncee - I might be in denial but it seems to me that the Middle East doesn't have the resources to come up with nuclear weapons, let alone refined ones, let alone the capability to deliver them other than hand-carrying them.

That is echoing the general racial supremacist Zionist propaganda that the "sand nigger" is inherently stupid and incapable of complex thought or technology. A racialist attitude that is belied by Arabs now managing their own complex oil industry, building precision missiles, and being about 10% of the top doctors, engineers, and scientists in the global workforce. Build a bomb? Find a jihadi fighter pilot to drop it? All possible.

Clark : There are so many nuclear devices already missing or just lying around the former Soviet Union that the Chechens could easily aquire one if they haven't already.

That is silly. No ex-Soviet nation outside Russia has fissionable material or overlooked nuclear weapons "lying around". They have a few research reactors left that are fueled with discrete assemblys of HEU. Like our sub reactors. No one has gotten an "easily acquired" nuclear weapon. If they had, if intel failed, we would have known it by the sight of a mushroom cloud long ago.


The tritium used in their makeup has a half life of about 12 years. Fusion devices using U-235 or Pu don't have this decay problem

No, all fusion devices except the abandoned "layer cake" require tritium in the reactions. All fusion devices use PU or HEU on top of tritium.

I'm not all that knowlegeble on this issue, but, for this reason, I would expect that any "suitcase" nukes would have been fusion devices and would therefore suffer from the short tritium half life problem.

All suitcase nukes are straight fission or boosted fission devices that use tritium only to release more neutrons so more of the fissile material chain-reacts. Lack of tritium "only" makes for a smaller bomb. Instead of something 20,000 times more powerful than a 2,000 lb bomb you get an explosion "only" 1500 times as powerful. Still One.. Big.. Problem!

A crude fission device could be made using salvaged U235 or Pu, but without proper handling, everyone who worked on it would be dead from radioactive exposure. But I guess, for a suicide mission, that wouldn’t be a problem.

Nuke bombs before use give no (HEU only devices) or little (PU, tritium) rad exposure. A person working with nuke weapons in Amarillo, TX gets less exposure than a Boulder, CO evironmentalist and organic health store owner. Working with HEU or PU to fabricate components is safe given controls like exist in any industrial facility in every country for any toxic material. The layman has an exaggerated fear of HEU or PU as some sort of "worlds most lethal substances". They aren't even close. Less so than cadmium, beryllium, and mercuric organics. More deaths and disabilities are related to workers making beryllium components for the Manhattan project and adv. electronics compenents in WWII than from PU and uranium put together.

RWE - FYI, current weapons are designed with a 30-60 year shelf life as long as tritium is renewed every 8 years or so.

10/04/2005 01:31:00 PM  
Blogger Cutler said...

"Solzhenitsyn, a Soviet nuclear physcist, once advised us to not get too scared of the USSR because "When they push the button I can tell you what will happen - nothing."

Sorry to nitpick, but you mean Sahkarov, right?

10/04/2005 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger Aindriú said...

maybe if british and american troops left the fighting would stop

10/23/2005 12:53:00 PM  

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