At today’s press conference, Coalition spokesman Dan Senor stated that "[i]f the peaceful track does not play out [in Fallujah] . . . major hostilities will resume on short notice." While he refused to answer questions at this point about the progress of the terms of the cease-fire--specifically whether individuals were turning in their illegal weapons--this statement was a none-too-veiled threat that if progress is not sufficient, the gloves will come back off.
The situation in Fallujah has been a difficult one for the military. The Marines have been aggressive, but have acted in a humanitarian fashion. They have used limited air support and limited heavy artillery in order to avoid non-combatant casualties. But those who they fought do not care about non-combatant casualties. Therefore, the insurgents took advantage of the American humanitarian impulse by making sure the battles were in the city, near where women and children might congregate. They sought to increase these innocent casualties, and then encouraged the media to ravage the Americans for being barbaric. While the purported killing of women and children in Iraq has had a profoundly negative effect Coalition sentiment among Iraqis, the Coalition has an even more perplexing problem: while the Iraqis are angry when their women and children are killed, they do not respect the military ethic which respects life. At yesterday’s press conference, it is notable that it was an Iraqi woman who questioned how it is that Fallujah could have kept the most powerful army in the world at bay. Some of this kind of sentiment is based on an overestimation of American technology. At times, Iraqis believe that we are so powerful that we should be able to kill just the bad guys and none of the good guys. But in part this is a function of having lived for years under one of the most brutal tyrants on earth. The most graphic images of death to come from the war look weak by comparison to what they saw under Saddam. Similarly, American restraint for humanitarian purposes may be mistaken by some Iraqis as American weakness.
Given this no-win situation, and the anxiety expressed by the governing council, the Coalition acceded to pursuing diplomatic channels. While they did not require the leaders to turn over all those who participated in anti-Coalition violence, they did require that all illegal weapons be turned over. It is very unlikely that this request will be met. Even if a large amount of weapons comes in--large enough to justify the continued cessation of offensive operations--there will be continued skirmishes as the second major requirement--regular patrols--are implemented. All this is to say, Fallujah will likely be a source of conflict for some time to come.