(5 of 9)
In a sense, both Rumsfeld and Abizaid were right. The backbone of the insurgency was thousands of Baathist remnants organizing a guerrilla war against the Americans. According to documents later seized by the U.S. military, Saddam--who had been changing locations frequently until his capture in December 2003--tried to stay in charge of the rebellion. He fired off frequent letters filled with instructions for his subordinates. Some were pathetic. In one, he explained guerrilla tradecraft to his inner circle--how to keep in touch with one another, how to establish new contacts, how to remain clandestine. Of course, the people doing the actual fighting needed no such advice, and decisions about whom to attack when and where were made by the cells. Saddam's minions, including al-Duri and al-Ahmed, were away from the front lines, providing money, arms and logistical support for the cells.
But Saddam did make one strategic decision that helped alter the course of the insurgency. In early autumn he sent a letter to associates ordering them to change the target focus from coalition forces to Iraqi "collaborators"--that is, to attack Iraqi police stations. The insurgency had already announced its seriousness and lethal intent with a summer bombing campaign. On Aug. 7, a bomb went off outside the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad, killing 19 people. Far more ominous was the Aug. 19 blast that destroyed the U.N.'s headquarters in Baghdad, killing U.N. representative Sergio Vieira de Mello and 22 others. Although al-Qaeda leader Abu Mousab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attack, U.S. intelligence officials believe that remnants of Saddam's Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) carried it out. "It was a pure Baathist operation," says a senior U.S. intelligence official. "The Iraqis who served as U.N. security guards simply didn't show up for work that day. It wasn't a suicide bomb. The truck driver left the scene. Our [explosives] team found that the bomb had the distinctive forensics of Saddam's IIS."
On Oct. 27, 2003, the assaults on "collaborators" that Saddam had requested began with attacks on four Iraqi police stations--and on International Red Cross headquarters--in Baghdad, killing 40 people. The assaults revealed a deadly new alliance between the Baathists and the jihadi insurgents. U.S. intelligence agents later concluded, after interviewing one of the suicide bombers, a Sudanese who failed in his attempt, that the operation had been a collaboration between former Baathists and al-Zarqawi. The Baathists had helped move the suicide bombers into the country, according to the U.S. sources, and then provided shelter, support (including automobiles) and coordination for the attacks.
MISHANDLING THE TRIBES
By almost every account, Sanchez and Bremer did not get along. The conflict was predictable--the soldiers tended to be realists fighting a nasty war; the civilians, idealists trying to create a new Iraq--but it was troubling nonetheless. The soldiers wanted to try diplomacy and began reaching out to the less extreme elements of the insurgency to bring them into negotiations over Iraq's political future. The diplomats took a harder line, refusing to negotiate with the enemy.