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November 7, 2004
Iraq Declares Martial Law As Talks Drag On

After a series of bombings that killed dozens of people yesterday, the Iraqis declared a country-wide emergency, excluding Kurdistan. The measure placed the country into an equivalent status of martial law while the Allawi government continued its efforts to negotiate with the terrorists of Fallujah:

Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi declared martial law on Sunday and said a U.S.-led military offensive against the rebel-held city of Falluja could not be delayed much longer. ...

Allawi was doing all he could to find a peaceful solution, his spokesman Thair al-Naqib said. "He still hopes that it may be possible to avoid a major military confrontation in Falluja ... He is, however, not optimistic," Naqib said.

The Americans say they are only awaiting the word from Allawi, who returned from Europe on Saturday, to attack.

Why does Allawi hesitate? First, the battle of Fallujah will certainly be bloody, more bloody than Samarra or Ramadi. I believe that some elements of the Governing Council remain sympathetic to the Fallujan insurgents and will use the casualty rate coming from any assault to attack Allawi politically. The defense minister has already stated his opposition to military action against Zarqawi's stronghold -- which calls into question his appointment. Obviously, the terrorists have the capability of attacking, and the defense minister doesn't appear to have the stomach to respond.

Allawi cannot afford to give the same impression. He needs to quit pandering to public opinion in Old Europe and the good graces of Kofi Annan. Neither want Allawi to succeed anyway, and no matter what he does short of resignation, they won't lift a finger to help. Talking with Fallujans have only given them the impression that they have something to hold over Allawi. He's given the peaceful solution the best shot, and now it's time to attack the terrorists before more of his own people get killed while he dithers.

The run-up to Fallujah reminds me of the Najaf campaign, where Allawi had to drag himself into facing off against rebels and insurgents and had the annoying habit of starting and stopping military action to chat a bit more with his enemy. With the Imam Ali shrine at risk, hesistancy was somewhat understandable for political reasons. In Najf, however, he faced off against a rather conventional opposition, which styled itself as an army with a single leader. In Fallujah, he's facing a much different foe, and the political stakes are reversed. Doing nothing only assures more destruction around the country, more senseless civilian deaths and butchery. Allowing this to continue while negotiating with terror masterminds will convince Iraqis that Allawi is too weak to protect them from the killers.

The time to act is now. The elements are in place. All that's needed is political intelligence and a bit more moral certitude from Ayad Allawi.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 7, 2004 10:29 AM

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» Start and Stop in Najaf and Fallujah from RussBlog - Russell Newquist's Weblog
Captain Ed notes that Iraq has declared martial law and worries that Fallujah will turn out like Najaf, with Iraqi political forces constantly calling start and stop to the offensive. With respect to Captain Ed, I think that's exactly the situation we... [Read More]

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