Why anti-US fighting grows in Iraq

The US headquarters compound in Baghdad was attacked twice this week.

A full-page notice in the Baghdad daily Al Sabah carries good news for thousands of former civilian employees - many now unemployed - of Saddam Hussein's ousted regime. They will be able to collect three months' salary as a kind of back pay.

But the ad also includes a long list of the excluded: Saddam's close aides, his Republican Guard and Fedayeen, but also the many other thousands of Iraqis who occupied top bureaucratic levels of the once-ubiquitous Baath Party, and employees of the Mukhabarat, or intelligence service.

Excluding the top pillars and enforcers of the despised regime from compensation for work that perpetuated Hussein's rule makes sense. But as attacks against the US military and American civilian authorities increase - in number, accuracy, and deadliness - some observers here say the salary measure is just one more step that risks swelling the ranks of Iraqis who are turning to resistance against the American occupation.

Who makes up the resistance and why it is strengthening - with attacks two nights in a row this week on the American civilian authority's fortress compound in central Baghdad - are queries with answers that remain to a large extent murky and conjectural.

American authorities, admitting they have poor intelligence on what appears to be a diffuse but increasingly organized insurgency, plan to step up development of Iraqi intelligence sources they hope can get a better handle on this new opposition.

Evidence gathered from suspected insurgents or those who have been caught in the act suggests an amalgam of malcontents and occupation opponents.

Die-hard Hussein loyalists, high-ranking ex-Baathists who have lost all their privileges, military officers, Islamists - both Iraqi and from outside the country - and poor young men who feel the American occupation has made their life worse - are included in the list of candidates for the resistance. But for some experts, the most worrisome and likely explanation for the increased violence is a kind of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" collusion between some ex-Baathists and militant Islamists.

"We're seeing a growing alliance between Islamist forces and some pro-Saddam Baathists, not in ideology, but in opposing the same enemy," says Sadoun al-Dulame, executive director of the Iraq Center for research and Strategic Studies in Baghdad. "Where they agree is in opposing what the Americans want to do here, so if they can make it fail they will work in that common interest."

No one estimates the active resistance as approaching the size of a guerrilla army. But many observers worry that it could grow, as it seems to be now, if widespread frustrations - especially with economic hardship - festers further. That is why measures like the back-salary decision worry some Iraqis.

Abdulrahmin, a young former Mukhabarat agent who asked to give only his first name, says the salary measure rubs salt in the wounds of Iraqis who are sinking into poverty. And he predicts its effect, like the failure of the Americans to get Iraq back on its economic feet faster, will be more anti-American violence.

"Even I say that with Saddam there was tyranny, but at least you had a salary to put food on your family's table," says the young father of two girls, who is a native of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown and stronghold. "The resistance will grow from the ranks of those who had something before and are now closed off from everything."

US leaders seem to have different explanations for the increasingly violent attacks. "There's a lot of - some people who are upset [Saddam Hussein] is no longer in power," President Bush said Tuesday.

But Abdulrahmin says the Americans are "losing" the battle to stop the attacks because they consider all ex-Baathists their enemy - "when Baathists were 85 percent of the population," he says, exaggerating to make a point. He calls the Americans "very bad" at figuring out who opposes them.

Turning wary, the former intelligence agent says he has heard of former colleagues who are helping the resistance.

His comments are a reminder that even though the US has a large intelligence operation here, experts say it is hampered by a lack of contacts on the ground, or "human intelligence." The FBI has a large number of agents here, for example, investigating recent car bombings and the increasing rocket attacks. But the American prowess with high-tech surveillance and investigative wizardry is often useless in a country where records and phone service are in a shambles, and where low-tech person-to-person contact reigns.

"How are you going to find out if someone is rigging up a generator to be a rocket launcher?" says Adm. Stansfield Turner, former director of the CIA. "Not by a satellite photograph or intercept - you're going to find it because some Iraqi sees it and tells you."

Many Iraqis say they are sure that foreign Islamists are entering the country to fight a "jihad" against the occupying infidels. Abdulrahmin says he has seen evidence of a growing Iranian presence here. Even European intelligence officials say they are picking up on a bump-up in travel by young Muslim men to Iraq.

Some experts say they suspect religious extremists are behind the attacks, because they have more of a cause than former Baathists, many of whom only joined the party to partake of the system's advantages.

But others say the attacks are growing because they are working.

Foreigners are withdrawing, as witnessed by Tuesday's decision by Spain to slash its diplomatic presence here. And Americans working with the provisional authority are increasingly sealed off from the population.

"You've got an opposition that is obviously charged - there's no incentive you can offer them to spy for you," says Bob Baer, a former US intelligence operative who spent several years in and near Iraq.

What worries some observers is that reversing Iraq's security slide will take time.

"We're at a crossroads where, if we don't in the next few weeks persuade the Iraqi on the street that we're going to straighten things out for him, we won't get [the] intelligence," says Admiral Turner.

Mr. Wolfowitz also said Tueday that the US has trained 100,000 new Iraqi security forces, and American officials say developing Iraqis to help the US stop the attacks is a priority. But Abdulrahmin says he won't be among them.

"I could be helpful to the Americans because of what I know," he says. Says. "But I wouldn't want to help my enemy against other Iraqi citizens."

Staff writer Faye Bowers in Washington contributred to this report.

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