Into Fallujah

I think it’s at least politically significant that Iraqi forces made the first big move into the city when they captured the hospital without a shot. Yes, they were supported by US forces which had sealed off the area. And of course US airpower continues to support everyone.

But if Iraqis can make a good impression during the clearing of Fallujah and Ramadi, it will be a good thing both for the Iraqi military and for the Iraqi people who need something to look up to.

The major fighting, if it in fact comes to pass, will happen in the eastern sections of city.

Meanwhile, the United Nations continues to fret. Kofi Annan believes that Iraqi elections might be jeopardized by the Allied attack on Fallujah.

Annan warned that major military assaults, “in which the main burden seems bound to be borne by American forces,” could discourage Iraqis from participating in the vote.

Annan offered U.N. help and urged the coalition to give more time for dialogue to succeed.

Well, it seems clear that the participation of Iraqi forces will be spotlighted. And I’ve never been convinced that a peaceful Fallujah was required to have elections, anyway. Of course, if the potential attacks from Fallujah-based fighters can be minimized or prevented, the whole process has a much greater chance of proceeding smoothly.

As for the offer of UN help, I’m not sure what he means. Certainly not help to quell the violence that he fears will delay the elections.

Maybe he’s offering UN help in the negotiations. A bit of a reach, since I don’t know how much oil Fallujah residents can offer as bribes. Maybe he wants to set up polling stations in the city. Which will get bombed.

I think Iraqi prime minister Allawi summed up Annan’s message pretty neatly:

It was a confused message that I got from him. It’s not clear to me, and we are now seeking clarification,” Allawi said in an interview on British Broadcasting Corp. television. “We don’t know exactly what his intentions are. We don’t know whom he means. It’s a very unclear message.

I would submit that many non-Baathist Iraqis have seen just about enough UN help to last a lifetime.

As for the fight in Fallujah, it’s been billed for quite some time as the biggest urban fight we’re likely to see. Last time we used a cautious, sniper-based approach for the most part, and I expect that we’ll see a lot of the same this time around.

No doubt there will be some major firefights in places, but unless the insurgents decide to make a stand there’s not likely to be much in the way of major engagements. If the insurgents do try to put up a solid fight, they’ll be pounded from the air. And if we see Iraqis leading the way into some of the scrapes, particularly around places like mosques, we’ll know that we have a decent regard for their ability.

We’ll probably end up with a couple scenarios similar to the mosque-centric fights we saw in Najaf against Darth Sadr’s over the past few months. It will be curious to see how Allawi plays those types of situations.