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Insurgents Not Heroes to Iraqis

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 14, 2005 – Any idea that the insurgency is a spontaneous rising of the Iraqi people is "hogwash," said a senior Multinational Force Iraq official here.

The insurgents are people who stand to lose if the Iraqi people choose freedom and democracy, the official told American Forces Press Service. "There are no illusions about the insurgents," he said. "The people know they are immoral, vicious animals who want only their own power."

The insurgents generally are die-hard members of the Baath Party. They are bankrolled out of funds stashed by Saddam Hussein and senior members of the party before the coalition entered Iraq.

"The good news is, those funds are drying up," said the official. "The bad news is, they don't need a lot of money to buy weapons. Iraq is littered with weapons and ammunition."

In addition to Iraqis, foreign fighters are operating in Iraq. Fugitive Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi is the best known. His network has been responsible for some of the most heinous acts of violence against Iraqis and coalition soldiers. Zarqawi took "credit" for attacks on the U.N. compound, attacks against Kurds in northern Iraq and many of the attacks against Iraqi security forces.

Coalition officials said some foreign fighters are entering the country and assuming Iraqi identities. Marines in Fallujah uncovered a building loaded with clothes and identification cards used for that purpose.

The recent battles of Fallujah and Samarra were huge loses for the insurgents. However, small cells of mostly senior members managed to evade the Marines and soldiers at those battles. The leaders managed to begin operations elsewhere. MNFI officials said that is where the insurgents launching attacks in Mosul, for example, came from.

Officials estimate that in all of Iraq, there are between 10,000 and 14,000 dedicated, die-to-the-last-man insurgents. These men and they are mostly men rule through intimidation.

Almost every soldier or Marine here has a story about insurgent intimidation. In one, a pharmacist set up a small business cleaning the buildings at Camp Victory. He and his brother and three women journeyed daily onto the camp. One morning, insurgents stopped his vehicle and killed all of them.

In Fallujah, Marines discovered torture chambers where insurgents inflicted unspeakable pain on Fallujans. "We found corpses that were horribly mutilated," said a Marine. "If this were truly a popular uprising, these people would not have to do this."

But the insurgents do recruit, and they are finding a willing pool. This has nothing to do with philosophy, and everything to do with economics, officials said. Unemployment in the nation is high, and the insurgents will pay people to launch attacks on Iraqi security forces or the coalition. "If someone is supporting a family and there is no money coming in, then $200 a month from the insurgents starts looking pretty good," said an MNFI official.

So rebuilding Iraq, getting people work, getting food, water and medicine to the people and clearing sewage is just as much a part of the war against insurgents as "kinetic operations" actually killing or capturing them. "Take away the need, and you will take away the motivation for joining," said one official.

Another used the example of Sadr City the Shiia neighborhood in Baghdad. The coalition began a major project to deliver electricity and clean water to the city. It started in the eastern part of the city and worked west.

"You could see the number of incidents drop along the line of the project," he said. "The people didn't want insurgents taking away everything they had gained." Intelligence tips from the people in the city also increased, and Iraqi security forces and members of the 1st Cavalry Division were able to round up dozens of insurgents.

This is an example of affecting people where they live. Providing dependable and safe electricity in homes is almost more important than building new power plants, officials said. Iraqis typically wired their own homes and used everything from barbed wire to car-battery cables to tap into the electrical grid.

Water-borne diseases are a major killer in Iraq. Fixing the water distribution system to homes is almost more important than building new purification plants.

"People with raw sewage in their street or front yard don't want to clean up the Tigris, they want the sewage out of their yards," said an official. Making these type of changes in the daily life of average Iraqis will go a long way to destroying the insurgency, he said.

Officials expect the level of intimidation to increase as the Jan. 30 election approaches. To that end, the Iraqi interim government, Iraqi security forces and coalition forces are working to increase the level of security. Up to election day, coalition and Iraqi forces will continue operations targeting the insurgents, officials said.

On election day, the Iraqi security forces will provide security around the almost 6,000 polling places in the country. Coalition forces will provide a quick-reaction capability to incidents.

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