Iraq resistance to occupation higher than ever


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

August 17, 2006
Insurgent Bombs Directed at G.I.¹s Increase in Iraq
This article is by Michael R. Gordon, Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 ‹ The number of roadside bombs planted in Iraq rose in July 
to the highest monthly total of the war, offering more evidence that the 
anti-American insurgency has continued to strengthen despite the killing of the 
terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Along with a sharp increase in sectarian attacks, the number of daily strikes 
against American and Iraqi security forces has doubled since January. The 
deadliest means of attack, roadside bombs, made up much of that increase. In 
July, of 2,625 explosive devices, 1,666 exploded and 959 were discovered before 
they went off. In January, 1,454 bombs exploded or were found.

The bomb statistics ‹ compiled by American military authorities in Baghdad and 
made available at the request of The New York Times ‹ are part of a growing body
of data and intelligence analysis about the violence in Iraq that has produced 
somber public assessments from military commanders, administration officials and
lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

³The insurgency has gotten worse by almost all measures, with insurgent attacks 
at historically high levels,² said a senior Defense Department official who 
agreed to discuss the issue only on condition of anonymity because he was not 
authorized to speak for attribution. ³The insurgency has more public support and
is demonstrably more capable in numbers of people active and in its ability to 
direct violence than at any point in time.²

A separate, classified report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, dated Aug. 3, 
details worsening security conditions inside the country and describes how Iraq 
risks sliding toward civil war, according to several officials who have read the
document or who have received a briefing on its contents.

The nine-page D.I.A. study, titled ³Iraq Update,² compiles the most recent 
empirical data on the number of attacks, bombings, murders and other violent 
acts, as well as diagrams of the groups carrying out insurgent and sectarian 
attacks, the officials said.

The report¹s contents are being widely discussed among Pentagon officials, 
military commanders and, in particular, on Capitol Hill, where concern among 
senior lawmakers of both parties is growing over a troubling dichotomy: even as 
Iraq takes important steps toward democracy ‹ including the election of a 
permanent government this spring ‹ the violence has gotten worse.

Senior Bush administration officials reject the idea that Iraq is on the verge 
of civil war, and state with unwavering confidence that the broad American 
strategy in Iraq remains on course. But American commanders in Iraq have shifted
thousands of soldiers from outlying provinces to Baghdad to combat increased 
violence in the Iraqi capital.

The increased attacks have taken their toll. While the number of Americans 
killed in action per month has declined slightly ‹ to 38 killed in action in 
July, from 42 in January, in part reflecting improvements in armor and other 
defenses ‹ the number of Americans wounded has soared, to 518 in July from 287 
in January. Explosive devices accounted for slightly more than half the deaths.

An analysis of the 1,666 bombs that exploded in July shows that 70 percent were 
directed against the American-led military force, according to a spokesman for 
the military command in Baghdad. Twenty percent struck Iraqi security forces, up
from 9 percent in 2005. And 10 percent of the blasts struck civilians, twice the
rate from last year.

Taken together, the new assessments by the military and the intelligence 
community provide evidence that violence in Iraq is at its highest level yet. 
And they describe twin dangers facing the country: insurgent violence against 
Americans and Iraqi security forces, which has continued to increase since the 
killing on June 7 of Mr. Zarqawi, the leader of the insurgent group Al Qaeda in 
Mesopotamia, and the primarily sectarian violence seen in Iraqi-on-Iraqi attacks
being aimed at civilians.

Iraq is now locked in a cycle in which strikes by Sunni Arab militants have 
prompted the rise of Shiite militias, which have in turn aggravated Sunni fears.
Beyond that, many Sunnis say they believe that the new Shiite-dominated 
government has not made sufficient efforts to create a genuine unity government.
As a result, Sunni attitudes appear to have hardened.

As the politics in Iraq have grown more polarized since the elections in 
December, in which many Sunni Arabs voted, attacks have soared, including 
sectarian clashes that have killed an average of more than 100 Iraqi civilians 
per day over the past two months.

In addition to bombs, attacks with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and 
small-caliber weapons against American and Iraqi military forces have also 
increased, according to American military officials. But the number of roadside 
bombs ‹ or improvised explosive devices as they are known by the military ‹ is 
an especially important indicator of enemy activity. Bomb attacks are the 
largest killer of American troops. They also require a network: a bomb maker; 
financiers to pay for the effort; and operatives to dig holes in the road, plant
the explosives, watch for approaching American and Iraqi forces and set off the 
blast when troops approach.

With the violence growing in Iraq, American intelligence agencies are working to
produce a National Intelligence Estimate about the security conditions there ‹ 
the first such formal governmentwide assessment about the situation in Iraq 
since the summer of 2004.

In late July, D.I.A. officials briefed several Senate committees about the 
insurgent and sectarian violence. The presentation was based on a draft version 
of what became the Aug. 3 study, and one recipient described it as ³extremely 
negative.² That presentation was followed by public testimony on Aug. 3 by Gen. 
John P. Abizaid, the top American military commander in the Middle East, who 
told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the sectarian violence was 
³probably as bad as I¹ve seen it, in Baghdad in particular² and said if it was 
not stopped, ³it is possible that Iraq could move towards civil war.² General 
Abizaid later emphasized that he was ³optimistic² that the slide toward civil 
war could be prevented.

Officials who have read or been briefed on the new D.I.A. analysis said its 
assessments paralleled both aspects of General Abizaid¹s testimony.

The newest accounts of the risks of civil war may already be altering the 
political dynamic in Washington. After General Abizaid¹s testimony, the chairman
of the Armed Services Committee, Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, said that 
if Iraq fell into civil war, the committee might need to examine whether the 
authorization provided by Congress for the use of American force in Iraq would 
still be valid. The comments by Senator Warner, a senior Republican who is a 
staunch supporter of the president, have reverberated loudly across Congress.

Bush administration officials now admit that Iraqi government¹s original plan to
rein in the violence in Baghdad, announced in June, has failed. The Pentagon has
decided to rush more American troops into the capital, and the new military 
operation to restore security there is expected to begin in earnest next month.

Yet some outside experts who have recently visited the White House said Bush 
administration officials were beginning to plan for the possibility that Iraq¹s 
democratically elected government might not survive.

³Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are 
considering alternatives other than democracy,² said one military affairs expert
who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak 
only on condition of anonymity.

³Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect,² the expert said, 
³but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy.²

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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