Insurgents becoming more sophisticated in infrastructure attacks

NY Times:

Insurgent attacks to disrupt Baghdad's supplies of crude oil, gasoline, heating oil, water and electricity have reached a degree of coordination and sophistication not seen before, Iraqi and American officials say.

The new pattern, they say, shows that the insurgents have a deep understanding of the complex network of pipelines, power cables and reservoirs feeding Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

The shadowy insurgency is a fractured movement made up of distinct groups of Sunnis, Shiites and foreign fighters, some of them aligned and some not. But the shift in the attack patterns strongly suggests that some branch of the insurgency is carrying out a systematic plan to cripple Baghdad's ability to provide basic services for its six million citizens and to prevent the fledgling government from operating.

A new analysis by some of those officials shows that the choice of targets and the timing of sabotage attacks has evolved over the past several months, shifting from economic targets to become what amounts to a siege of the capital.

In a stark illustration of the change, of more than 30 sabotage attacks on the oil infrastructure this year, no reported incident has involved the southern crude oil pipelines that are Iraq's main source of revenue. Instead, the attacks have aimed at gas and oil lines feeding power plants and refineries and providing fuel for transportation around Baghdad and in the north.

In an indication of how carefully chosen the targets are and how knowledgeable the insurgency is about the workings of the infrastructure, the sabotage often disrupts the lives of Iraqis, leaving them dependent on chugging, street-corner generators to stave off the darkness and power televisions or radios, robbing them of fuel for stoves and heaters, and even halting the flow of their drinking water.

The overall pattern of the sabotage and its technical savvy suggests the guidance of the very officials who tended to the nation's infrastructure during Saddam Hussein's long reign, current Iraqi officials say.

Now that the pattern is known, US and Iraqi forces should be able to defend the targets. When the insurgents give up the advantage of ambiguity as to the time and place of targets, they are most vulnerable. They do not have the capacity to attack a defended area. Also since the persons who had the special knowledge used for the attacks must be known, they will now be persued. They are no longer an anonemous enemy.

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