Hitting Samarra Hard

U.S. launches major offensive in Iraq’s north

At one time, Samarra had been subdued by the Stryker Brigade and the US military turned the city over to Iraqi security forces in January. It was an example of the way to do things.

Mission accomplished.

Except that the Iraqi forces didn’t get the job done and the area became a no-go zone for US units. At the beginning of the month, the 1st Infantry Division, who is now responsible for the region, hoped that a settlement could be reached with the local strongmen, most of whom seem to be Baath-party holdovers. (What a coincidence.)

Apparently, we want to soften them up for negotiations first:

Residents of Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, told Reuters by telephone that big explosions were shaking the city, one of several places where the U.S. military has vowed to wrest control from insurgents to enable elections in January.

The residents, speaking early on Friday morning Iraq time, said there were more than two hours of airstrikes and most residents were sheltering indoors.

CNN’s reporter in Iraq, Jane Arraf, in a live broadcast from Samarra, said she was accompanying U.S. forces engaged in the attack, which she described as “an entire brigade-size operation into Samarra to root out insurgents.”

Arraf said the forces, accompanied by Iraqi national guards, were moving “sector by sector through the city to secure it.” Power had been cut off and her report was punctuated several times by what she said were explosions of rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.

Despite good kill ratios and what seems to be increasing support throughout the majority of the country, the fact that we have to go in brigade-sized force into a city that a brigade-sized force had subdued in December and January is more than a little disheartening. We should expect Fallujah to remain troublesome for a while, and probably Sadr City and Najaf from time to time whenever Darth Sadr decides to stir things up a bit. But the facts that what had been a successful operation fell totally apart under the Iraqi military and that negotiations were obviously fruitless is not encouraging, despite what I wrote earlier today.