BAGHDAD, Iraq --
The series of apparently coordinated attacks on police stations and other government buildings throughout Iraq yesterday once again underscored the fragile state of Iraqi security forces that are supposed to take on greater responsibility in just five days.
For many Iraqis, the attacks also raise a broader question: Will anything change after the U.S.-led occupation hands formal political power to an Iraqi government on June 30? The attacks were among the deadliest and most brazen of the yearlong Iraqi insurgency. More than 100 people were killed, many of them policemen and members of other nascent Iraqi security forces.
"These attacks were intended to send a message to Iraqis: The new government will not be able to provide security, and the insurgents will be able to carry on at will after June 30," said Wamidh Nadhmi, a leading political scientist at Baghdad University.
An Islamic militant group led by Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attacks. Iraqi and U.S. officials have blamed al-Zarqawi and other "foreign fighters" for most bombings and assassinations of Iraqi political leaders over the past year, but Iraqi analysts note that the insurgency has largely been homegrown, rather than being driven by fighters from neighboring Arab countries. They say U.S. military commanders made a grave mistake by ignoring the local - and often widespread - support that insurgents have, especially in the Sunni Muslim-dominated center of the country.
"There was always a miscalculation by the Americans about the nature of insurgency," said Nabil Salim, an Iraqi political analyst. "I hope that the new government doesn't make the same mistake."
Iraq's new prime minister, Iyad Allawi, has vowed to crush al-Zarqawi's followers and the wider insurgency. He has outlined a plan to rebuild the Iraqi army, which was disbanded by U.S. administrator Paul Bremer in May of last year. Many Iraqis view the army's dissolution as a catastrophic mistake that left more than 400,000 soldiers angry and unemployed and led to a further breakdown in security.
Allawi has told senior U.S. officials that he wants to reinstate five divisions of the old army, about 50,000 troops, within a few months. Even after the transfer of sovereignty, Iraqi forces will remain under the overall command of the U.S. military, but Allawi's plan would give Iraqi troops a greater role in fighting insurgents, controlling riots and performing other internal security functions. U.S. commanders had previously said the new Iraqi army would be a small force that would focus on external threats to Iraq's security.
Once the largest and best-equipped military in the Arab world, Iraq's army spiraled into decline after it lost the 1991 Gulf War. It put up little resistance during last year's invasion of Iraq.
Allawi also has said that his government is considering imposing martial law in some parts of Iraq after June 30, but he has backed away from that statement in recent days after strong criticism from other Iraqi leaders.
Many Iraqis are suspicious of Allawi, who was once a military officer in Saddam Hussein's regime. During more than 20 years he spent in exile, Allawi became close to the CIA and British intelligence.
"People don't trust Allawi and many others in his government because they are too close to the Americans," Nadhmi said.
Yesterday's attacks, coupled with renewed fighting in the Sunni city of Fallujah, highlighted the difficulty that the new government will have in exerting its authority outside of Baghdad. In Fallujah and nearby Ramadi, insurgents control entire neighborhoods.
U.S. officials say al-Zarqawi's followers have found a safe haven in Fallujah and that he has spent time there in recent months. Last week, U.S. helicopters dropped pamphlets over the city urging residents to turn in al-Zarqawi, who has a $10-million bounty on his head. Since Saturday, U.S. warplanes have launched two air strikes on suspected hideouts for his supporters in Fallujah.
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