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November 17, 2003
Creative Thinking By Coalition Leadership

Today's Washington Post carries a story about creative thinking in opposition to the insurgency emanating from the Tikrit area and how it's allowed the Coalition to gather better intelligence, as well as more cooperation from local Iraqis:

Frustrated by a persistent insurgency, the U.S. military has surrounded ousted president Saddam Hussein's birthplace with concertina wire, issued identification cards to all male residents and begun controlling access to this wealthy enclave of Hussein relatives on the outskirts of Tikrit.

In order to pass through the wire and military checkpoints, all males have to present their ID cards. No card, no access, either in or out of Auja. The result is a much clearer picture of the town's residents, mostly wealthy Hussein backers and family, and better face-to-face contact with more sympathetic Iraqi leaders around the area. It avoided the intrusive and dangerous door-to-door searches that would have otherwise been necessary to determine identities. It also showed these leaders that Americans were willing to respect them if they were met half-way:

Despite the concertina wire, Russell has begun pushing a council of sheiks he meets with regularly in Tikrit to begin considering a process of reconciliation with at least some of the people of Auja, from the Bayjat tribe, who have chosen to put aside past loyalties and work with U.S. occupation authorities. ... Even the mayor of Tikrit, Wail Ali, an erudite former diplomat in Hussein's government who served in Belgium, France and Holland, expressed hatred for the people of Auja. "During Saddam's time, like mad dogs, they bite all the tribes," he said.

Asked about the fence Russell has built around Auja, Ali said, "I told him it was the best thing he did."

Now that the US has gone to the offensive again in the Sunni Triangle, opportunities like these are more critical to Coalition success in Iraq. We have to demonstrate the strength and the will to stick it out, to outlast the insurgents, but also the will to learn about the people and tailor our approach in respectful ways. I suspect that the latest offensive has been largely enabled by intelligence that efforts such as these provided, too. As we progress in providing the Iraqi people self-determination, something that they've never had before, we will see more and more Iraqis rejecting the Ba'athist tactics and goals and fingering those who perpetrate the terrorist acts.

Three cheers to the WaPo for featuring articles like this, which demonstrate that progress is being made, even if it's quiet progress.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 17, 2003 8:18 AM

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Tracked on November 17, 2003 11:41 PM

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