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Military predicted rise in guerrilla attacks after Saddam's capture

BAGHDAD, Iraq—A top-secret report prepared for the American military command in Iraq just before Saddam Hussein was caught predicted that guerrilla attacks would increase after his arrest, as more anti-Saddam Iraqis joined the resistance.

The report argued that seizing Saddam could provoke more attacks by making the insurgency more acceptable to Sunni Muslims who weren't members of Saddam's Baath Party elite, according to senior administration officials who've seen it. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the report is classified.

The insurgency in Iraq has been strongest in the so-called Sunni Triangle, where most of Iraq's Sunni minority lives, and where Saddam drew his strongest political support.

Hopes that Saddam's capture might end the resistance appeared premature Tuesday, as U.S. soldiers captured a senior Iraqi rebel leader and 78 others in a raid on a northeastern village a day after guerrillas ambushed an American patrol in a firefight that left 11 assailants dead.

The top U.S. military official in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, on Tuesday conceded that Saddam's capture has had little effect on the pace of attacks on American troops. He said U.S. troops had clashed with insurgents about 18 times in the past 24 hours. That was the same as the average for the past two weeks, although drastically lower than the 40 attacks a day a month ago.

"We expect it'll be some time before we see any possible effects of what we've accomplished," Sanchez said. "As I've stated over and over, we expect the violence to continue at some level for some time. We're prepared for that."

The report says Sunnis—Baathists and non-Baathists—consider themselves the big losers because they have no place in the evolving provisional government. The majority Shiite Muslims, according to the report, are represented adequately through two parties on the Iraqi Governing Council. So are Kurdish and exile political groups. As a result, Sunnis are more willing to support the resistance, the report says.

The theory is that the Sunnis think it's better to force Americans out now, while there's still a chance of restoring Sunni political power. The Sunnis, including Saddam, have dominated Iraq's political system for most of the last century. They don't want to wait for elections, caucuses, a constitution that would hand power to the majority Shiites or the creation of an anti-Sunni coalition of Shiites and Kurds.

The influence of radical Islamists in the resistance is also likely to grow with Saddam gone. In the coming months, possible confusion caused by the rotation of U.S. troops and activities aimed at preparing for the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis on July 1 also could encourage an increase in attacks.

A major suicide bombing Saturday night in Khaldiya killed 20 police officers who were working with the Americans. There were more suicide bombings Monday in Baghdad, also directed against collaborators with the coalition, and two Polish officials were attacked Friday.

Suicide bombings have increased in the past three weeks, although there've been few American casualties, and suicide bombers tend to be radical Islamists, not secular Baathists.

The report says the resistance can be brought under control soon only if the coalition can involve non-Baathist Sunnis in the political system and negotiate a compromise on how to establish the democratic councils that are supposed to produce a provisional government by next summer.

The official military view differs from the report. "I don't think it's going to be good for recruiting," said Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, referring to the impact of Saddam's capture on the insurgency.

"When you take this leader, who was at one time a very powerful leader in this region, and find him in a hole in the ground, that's a powerful signal you may be on the wrong team."

Myers added that U.S. troops might stay in Iraq for one or two years, long after the United States hands over power to the Iraqis.

Tuesday's raid, conducted by the 4th Infantry Division, netted Qais Hattam, who was considered a "high value target" but wasn't among the 55 most-wanted leaders of Saddam's regime. He and 78 others were arrested in Abu Safa, a village near the northeastern town of Samarra, the U.S. military said.

Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the commander of the 1st Armored Division, said in an interview with CNN that they were able to effectively use documents found in a briefcase at the scene of Saddam's capture.

"Within the first 24 hours of the capture of Saddam Hussein, we acted on some of that information that we were able to analyze and we captured some high-level former Baath leaders," Dempsey said. He added that they probably were "the network that was providing financial support for the (guerrillas') cell structure in Baghdad."

In Monday's attack on the American patrol in Samarra, insurgents released a flock of pigeons as a signal to launch the ambush, according to a U.S. military statement.

Then two armed men on motorcycles sprayed gunfire at U.S. vehicles before retreating behind children who were leaving school, the military said. They also used roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. There were no American casualties, the military said.

The attacks on U.S. forces continued Tuesday when a roadside bomb wounded three soldiers in Saddam's ancestral homeland of Tikrit, the military said.

Meanwhile, pro-Saddam demonstrations have taken place in several cities, bringing violence and anger.

In Ramadi, American soldiers killed three protesters Monday after the U.S. military said it was fired on repeatedly. In Fallujah, pro-Saddam crowds overran and ransacked the mayor's office.

In Mosul, a policeman was killed and another injured during a pro-Saddam rally Tuesday. In Tikrit, schoolchildren demonstrated in the streets, waving notebooks that carried pictures of Saddam.


(Knight Ridder correspondent Jonathan S. Landay contributed to this report.)


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

GRAPHIC (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20031216 Iraq attack