Major Assaults on Hold Until After U.S. Vote
Attacks on Iraq’s rebel-held cities will be delayed, officials say. But that could make it harder to allow wider, and more legitimate, Iraqi voting in January.
By Mark Mazzetti, Times Staff Writer
The Bush administration plans to delay major assaults on rebel-held cities in Iraq until after U.S. elections in November, say administration officials, mindful that large-scale military offensives could affect the U.S. presidential race.
Although American commanders in Iraq have been buoyed by recent successes in insurgent-held towns such as Samarra and Tall Afar, administration and Pentagon officials say they will not try to retake cities such as Fallouja and Ramadi — where the insurgents’ grip is strongest and U.S. military casualties could be the highest — until after Americans vote in what is likely to be an extremely close election.
“When this election’s over, you’ll see us move very vigorously,” said one senior administration official involved in strategic planning, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Once you’re past the election, it changes the political ramifications” of a large-scale offensive, the official said. “We’re not on hold right now. We’re just not as aggressive.”
Any delay in pacifying Iraq’s most troublesome cities, however, could alter the dynamics of a different election — the one in January, when Iraqis are to elect members of a national assembly.
With less than four months remaining, U.S. commanders are scrambling to enable voting in as many Iraqi cities as possible to shore up the poll’s legitimacy.
U.S. officials point out that there have been no direct orders to commanders to halt operations in the weeks before the November 2 U.S. election. Top administration officials in Washington are simply reluctant to sign off on a major offensive in Iraq at the height of the political season.
Surely there must be an explanation other than the shrill, partisan one offered by Atrios:
George W. Bush believes his re-election is more important than the lives of our soldiers and the situation in Iraq.
How unfortunate, then, that I find myself completely unable to imagine what that interpretation might be.
Commentary seems superfluous, except for this comment Kevin Drum recalls from George W. Bush:
“I don’t see how you can lead this country in a time of war, in a time of uncertainty, if you change your mind because of politics.”