Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Salvador option

On 10 January, the Guardian summarised an article in Newsweek which says that the Pentagon is drawing up proposals to send US special forces teams to advise, support and train hand-picked Iraqi [death] squads to target Sunni rebels in Iraq (see here).

This is called the "Salvador option" after the strategy that was secretly employed by the Reagan administration to combat leftist guerilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s.

BBC Radio 4's Newsnight picked up the item towards the end of that same day, and quizzed Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution about this.

Singer argued that El Salvador in the 1980s and Iraq today presented significantly different challenges. In El Salvador there were few Americans visible on the ground, but there was a strong, efficient and effective local ally - the Salvadorian government, its intelligence services and killers. In Iraq this situation was reversed. Singer thereby implied - although I don't recall him as saying - that the Salvador option for Iraq was likely to fail.

In his 5 Jan column for openDemocracy (see here) Paul Rogers notes that elite Iraqi government commando units - some of them presumably being trained for these kinds of activities? - have been one of the targets of recent attacks by insurgents:

"In both instances, the assassination of [Baghdad governor] Ali al-Haidri, and the attack on the commando unit, the insurgents demonstrated their ability to strike at the heart of the Iraqi state".

Singer's profile is here. He wrote an important book on privatising military operations (see here). His interests include children in war and at war.

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