War News for Sunday, July 31, 2005
Bring 'em on: Four US soldiers killed in a bomb attak in southern Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Five killed and ten injured in car bomb attack on police patrol in Haswa
Bring 'em on: Four Marines injured in suicide bomb attack on their convoy in Hit
Bring 'em on: American soldier and Iraqi civilian killed by roadside bomb in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: A least five Iraqis killed in suicide bomb attack at police checkpoint in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Two British security guards killed in bomb attack on their convoy in Basra
Bring 'em on: Senior Iraqi civil servant kidnapped in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Senior Sunni who is part of the constitutional drafting committee escaped assassination attempt in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Iraqi civilian killed and three wounded by roadside bomb in Mahmudiya
: The death toll in the Rabiah attack has now reached 48. As was linked in the comments yesterday.
Some survivors of a suicide bombing targeting Iraqi army recruits were shot and wounded immediately afterward when U.S. and Iraqi soldiers opened fire at the scene, police, doctors and witnesses said Saturday.
: US and Iraqi security forces have virtually sealed off the former rebel bastion of Fallujah, but insurgents continue to stage hit-and-run attacks in this Sunni stronghold, according to a top US marine. "Fallujah remains fatal as insurgents continue to carry out attacks against security forces," Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph L'Etoile, commanding officer of the US marines in southern Fallujah, told AFP.
: The framers of Iraq's constitution appear likely to enshrine Islam as the main basis of law in the country — a stronger role than the United States had hoped for and one some Iraqis fear will mean a more fundamentalist regime.
One million signatures
: Radicals within Iraq’s Shia majority community said on Friday that they had collected one million signatures demanding the withdrawal of US-led troops. “We obtained the Iraqi signatures demanding the withdrawal of the occupation troops as asked for by Sayyed Moqtada Sadr,” said Sheikh Abdel Zahra Al Suwaidi, an aide of the Shia radical leader.
USA, not leaving Iraq, for quite some time yet
But this will be a long-term project. And the reality is that if the Americans want the Iraqi Army to take responsibility for a large swath of country next year, the United States will have to provide the supplies, the transportation, and the logistics know-how.
General Sattler says that when his force returns to Iraq, its priorities will be different from what they were before. Rather than fighting insurgents, his marines' top priorities will be training the Iraqis and providing them logistics support. That, Sattler says, could mean that his marines bring fewer riflemen and more logisticians and other "combat enablers." Says Sattler: "As Iraqis come on line, our commitment should come down. We may have to increase these enablers at the same time we decrease some of the infantry."
Given that even the best military minds don't know what the state of the insurgency will be next spring, predicting the level of troops needed is still largely a guessing game. But Iraqi leaders made clear last week that securing a troop reduction is a political imperative for them. It probably won't be bad politics in America, either.
: American troops have established the first long-term military base along a major smuggling route near the Syrian border in a new effort to block potential suicide bombers from reaching targets in Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities.
A force of 1,800 U.S. soldiers, responding to continuing concerns that foreign fighters are crossing the Syrian border into Iraq, recently began an operation that includes setting up a base 3miles from the crossroads town of Rawah.
Too little too late?
"I can see the fear in the eyes of some of these soldiers," said Harith Sulaiman, a former member of Iraq's Republican Guard who has participated in more than 20 U.S. military exercises. "Some of them hadn't left their small towns. They don't know nothing about Iraq."
Sulaiman has played a farmer, a religious leader and a general. He said the role players never break character.
"You can't laugh," he said. "We're trying to make it most realistic so that when they go there they won't get shot."
William Donnelly, a historian with the U.S. Army Center of Military History, said it is the first time the Army has done such realistic training and on such a large scale.
Eviction notice confirmed
: Uzbekistan has formally evicted the United States from a military base that has served as a hub for its combat operations in Afghanistan, a move confirmed by the US State Department. "I can confirm that our embassy in Tashkent received a diplomatic note from the Uzbek government late last week to terminate the agreement for use of the K-2 air field," Nancy Beck, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said on Saturday.
Opinion and Commentary
This week's talk of "withdrawal in 2006" (20,000 troops, possibly, if the Constitution gets finished, things go well with the elections, the insurgents convert to Tibetan Buddhism, etc.) is a sham, as the New York Times' Bob Herbert points out. The long-term goal was, and still is, to establish a permanent base of operations in Iraq to control the world's last great oil reserves. That doesn't mean there couldn't very well be troop reductions next year. But they may have more to do with human resources than human rights.
Balls of Brass
Even his most bitter rivals exhibit a grudging admiration for Chalabi's phoenix-like ability to reinvent himself, though some complain he deals without principle to advance himself.
"This is his problem," said Sheik Homam Hamoodi, a senior Shiite politician who leads the drafting committee for the Iraqi constitution. "This comes from his background as a banker. ... He sells and buys without a specific strategy."
Chalabi rejects claims that he lacks popular support. While he said it's "too early" to talk about his plans for the December elections, he's obviously hard at work on his latest makeover.
This time, he's fashioning himself as an Iraqi patriot able to reach across Iraq's sectarian lines. He's even become something of a populist, as one of the very few leaders to live outside the U.S.-guarded Green Zone compound or to risk the perilous roads leading out of the capital. Last week, he made a dangerous foray south along a route where gunmen had previously ambushed his convoy.
Chalabi wanted a firsthand look at the aftermath of the inferno in Musayyib, a tiny, mostly Shiite village where a suicide bombing killed nearly 100 people this month. He pored over maps with local Iraqi authorities, recreating the bomber's path. He comforted survivors in a rank hospital. He paused to gaze at the shimmering Euphrates River.
He glad-handed two American soldiers stationed in the area, thanking them for helping to get rid of Saddam. Then he was gone.
"Um, who did I just meet?" asked a bewildered Lt. Col. John Rhodes of the 155th Separate Armored Brigade.
"Remember the guy the CIA cut off, the one pumping the bad intelligence that got us over here in the first place? That was him," the other soldier replied.
"Oh, yeah. That guy," Rhodes said with a shrug.
Glad to see Saddam ousted, Mrs. Al Ali’s family welcomed the American invasion and still supports the basic tenets that led to it. But like many other Iraqis, some of her family members are growing impatient with the occupation. The problem as she saw it was poor planning after the war.
"The Americans didn’t do their best," she said. "They have bad post-war policy. Everything could be in better shape if they had a better post-war policy."
As an example, she said in Baghdad there is only one hour out of every seven when the electricity works, the garbage is not collected and schools are not operating regularly.
Recently she spoke to a niece in Baghdad who was lamenting these facts. Mrs. Al Ali counseled patience, which was hard for her niece to accept.
"You are sitting in an air-conditioned house and you say ‘be patient,’" her niece scolded.
Recalling the conversation, Mrs. Al Ali shrugged, acknowledging the rebuke and the truth behind it.
The frustration is hard to explain because the whole country is not wracked with the violence that has consumed Baghdad under the American occupation.
According to Mrs. Al Ali, one sector of the country occupied by Japan was much safer than American areas because the Japanese got garbage trucks on the streets, immediately started rebuilding schools and have been very sensitive to the locals.
It’s a fact that Mrs. Al Ali was not sure most Americans were aware of.
"Americans need to know what is going on on the ground there," she said.