Barry Schweid / Associated Press, San Jose Mercury News – 2004-12-24 00:01:29
WASHINGTON (December 22, 2004) — The growing insurgency against US forces in Iraq is fed by nationalist feelings and widespread distrust of the United States, the private International Crisis Group said Wednesday. Challenging the Bush administration, the crisis group said, “The insurgency is not confined to a finite number of fanatics isolated from the population and opposed to a democratic Iraq.”
Iraqi elections set for Jan. 30 to pick a national assembly will change little unless they produce Iraqi institutions that can distance themselves from the United States, the group said in a report.
The group’s recommendations include gradual US political and military disengagement from Iraq and a clear Iraqi political disengagement from the United States. “The new Iraq state must define itself at least partially in opposition to US policies or it runs the risk of defining itself in opposition to many of its own citizens,” the report said.
US strategy, meanwhile, should focus on gaining the Iraqi people’s support and not on eliminating insurgents, it said. “Washington must grasp the extent to which the ground beneath its feet has shifted since the onset of the occupation,” the report said.
Also critical, Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the Iraqi insurgency continues to grow in size and capability and that the Bush administration has failed to provide reliable estimates of the insurgency’s size. Cordesman said most of the insurgents are Iraqi, with foreign volunteers accounting for only 5 percent of the force.
The State Department gave no indication of any change in tactics or strategy. Referring to attacks, including Tuesday’s that killed 22 people, most of them Americans, at a base near Mosul, spokesman Richard Boucher said, “We need to defeat them. We need to stop them.”
“We will do that using military force, using political progress, using economic progress and renewed determination to make sure the election offers real opportunity for Iraqis to control their own nation and their own destiny,” he said. “The fact is these forces of hatred are the forces of the past,” Boucher said. “They’re the people that are trying to drag Iraq back into some past of Saddam Hussein or even worse. And we can’t let that happen.”
• International Crisis Group: http://www.icg.org
• Center for Strategic and International Studies: http://www.csis.org
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