Operation Swarmer is a significant operation in its scope but mostly for its composition; the Iraqi forces comprise the main battle group of the contingent of 1500 troops and have performed well under the lead of the 101st Airborne.The Iraqis performed well when they went along for the ride but what would they have done if there had actually been shooting? That's where they have had problems in the past. The pre-operation hype from the military indicates they thought it was going to be a big deal. It wasn't.
Christopher Allbritton probably has the best analysis:
“Operation Swarmer” is really a media show. It was designed to show off the new Iraqi Army — although there was no enemy for them to fight. Every American official I’ve heard has emphasized the role of the Iraqi forces just days before the third anniversary of the start of the war. That said, one Iraqi role the military will start highlighting in the next few days, I imagine, is that of Iraqi intelligence. It was intel from the Iraqi military intelligence and interior ministry that the U.S. says prompted this Potemkin operation. And it will be the Iraqi intel that provides the cover for American military commanders to throw up their hands and say, “well, we thought bad guys were there.”James Joyner agrees with Allbritton assessment.
It’s hard to blame the military, however. Stations like Fox and CNN have really taken this and ran with it, with fancy graphics and theme music, thanks to a relatively slow news day. The generals here also are under tremendous pressure to show off some functioning Iraqi troops before the third anniversary, and I won’t fault them for going into a region loaded for bear. After all, the Iraqi intelligence might have been right.
That strikes me as a fair assessment. As I wrote when learning of the operation, “highly visible action is sometimes necessary for maintaining the will to fight on one’s own side.” But for that to be effective, one can’t oversell the operation in advance. If P.R. is one’s goal, then lowering expectations, not raising them, is the smart play.The fact remains this is an egg on your face moment for the US military in Iraq and the administration; a moment of their own making.