Monday, October 17, 2005

War News Monday, October 17, 2005 Bring 'em on: Senior British military policeman (he was investigating the SAS Basra jailbreak) found dead in Basra. Bring 'em on: US airstrikes kill twenty five in Ramadi. Bring 'em on: Five US soldiers killed by roadside bomb in Ramadi. Bring 'em on: One US marine killed by roadside bomb in Saqlawiya. Bring 'em on: Two Iraqi soldiers killed and three injured in a grenade attack in Fallujah. Bring 'em on: Fighting reported between insurgents and US troops in Karabila. Bring 'em on: Mortar attack on the Green Zone in Baghdad. Referendum Day Violence:
But the tight security was not enough to stop a roadside bomb from exploding on al-Madhif street in al-Amiriya area, targeting an Iraqi police patrol stationed near a polling centre. Two police officers were seriously injured and a police vehicle was damaged, Khalid told Aljazeera. The explosion occurred as the centre was opening at 7am, and no voters were there, said police Lieutenant Muhammad Kheyon. Fighters also attacked a polling centre in al-Dhuluiya, north of Baghdad, clashing with US forces who were backed by helicopters. A civilian was injured when a rocket-propelled grenade hit a polling centre in al-Adhamiya. Police sources told Khalid that explosive devices were planted along roads leading to polling centres in al-Amiriya, and bomb experts had been called in. In Baquba, three Iraqi soldiers guarding a polling centre were killed and three others injured in a bomb explosion. In the city of Ramadi, fighting erupted at about 7am between a small group of fighters and US and Iraqi troops patrolling the mostly empty streets of the city, said police 1st Lieutenant Muhammad al-Ubaidi. Mortar and rocket blasts and machine-gun fire echoed around the regional governor's compound in the city centre. Clashes could also be heard in other parts of Ramadi, the capital of al-Anbar province. It was not immediately clear whether anyone was wounded or killed. Aljazeera learned that Ramadi residents had stayed at home frightened by the presence of US forces. The heavy gunfire heard in the morning had scared voters, he said. The journalist added that US warplanes were hovering over Ramadi city at low altitude. South of Basra, three armed men who attacked an empty polling station at 3am (2300 GMT) were caught and arrested, said police Captain Mushtaq Kadhim. On Friday night, four polling stations in southern Baghdad were fired upon, an Interior Ministry source said. No casualties were reported. The attacks may cause delays that may push back the polling centres' scheduled closing time of 5pm. Up to 15 million Iraqis are set to accept or reject the new constitution.
Sham Weapons Inspectors: I had approached the Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA, for assistance in this effort. At first it appeared that the CIA was cooperating, but after a tip-off from British intelligence that something was afoul, I began to investigate the true nature of the CIA's so-called "assistance." Much to my dismay, I found that the CIA was using the SCE as a cover for the conduct of its own intelligence collection effort, one which was focused not on the search for WMD, but rather America's unilateral policy of regime change in Iraq. Arm and a Leg: Although Loria's problems may be striking on their own, the Army has recently identified 331 other soldiers who have been hit with military debt after being wounded at war. The new analysis comes as the United States has more wounded troops than at any time since the Vietnam War, with thousands suffering serious injury in Iraq or Afghanistan. "This is a financial friendly fire," charged Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Committee on Government Reform, which has been looking into the issue. "It's awful." Davis called the failure systemic and said military "pay problems have been an embarrassment all the way through" the war. Trading accusations: Iran's hardline president said Sunday he suspected British involvement in a double bomb attack in the southwest of the Islamic republic, an allegation that came hot on the heels of British complaints of Iranian meddling in Iraq. Iran: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday gave full backing to Washington's key ally London over its handling of Iran, accused of developing nuclear weapons and involvement in insurgent attacks on British troops in Iraq. "The British are doing everything that they can," regarding Iran's alleged nuclear ambitions, Rice told reporters before heading to lunch with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at his country residence Chequers, north of London. Swing Province: Opponents of the constitution needed two-thirds no votes in three of Iraq's 18 provinces to scuttle the draft. All eyes were focused on two ethnically and religiously mixed provinces, Nineveh and Diyala, which have large populations of Sunni Arabs. Several officials in Nineveh said opponents of the draft failed to come up with enough votes to defeat it in the province, which includes the mixed cities of Mosul and Tall Afar. According to officials tallying initial results, 322,000 voters in the province voted yes compared with 90,000 who voted no, with more than half the ballots counted. Constitution will Pass: Minutes after polling stations closed on Saturday evening, groups of exuberant Shia took to the streets in eastern Baghdad firing gunshots into the air and chanting: "Our constitution has been approved. Down with the Ba'athists!" Last night it looked as if their early predictions of their country's referendum result were right. As preliminary figures were leaked throughout the day by election officials and US military officers, it appeared that two Sunni provinces had mustered a two-thirds majority for the No vote. Answering a reader's query re US casualties: They recently created a separate listing of U.S. troops who died in hospitals in Germany and back home to debunk rumors that the military is leaving those deaths out of the government's official death toll. War Crimes: A senior United Nations official has accused US-led coalition troops of depriving Iraqi civilians of food and water in breach of humanitarian law. Human rights investigator Jean Ziegler said they had driven people out of insurgent strongholds that were about to be attacked by cutting supplies. Opinion and Commentary Insurgency destroyed several times over:
Despite this setback, the military and the Bush administration continue to claim progress, though this progress appears to be measured in the familiar metric of body counts. According to the military, it kills or captures 1,000 to 3,000 insurgents a month. Its estimate of the insurgency, however, is a mere 12,000 to 20,000 fighters. Something is clearly wrong. Simple math indicates we have destroyed the insurgency several times over since it started. Perhaps Iraq's insurgency is much larger than the Defense Department has reported. Other observers estimate that up to 20 percent of the two million former Baathists may be involved in the insurgency. This estimate would partly explain the insurgency's ability to withstand high losses while increasing its market share of violence. The other likely explanation is one the military itself makes: that the insurgency isn't a fragile hierarchical organization but rather a resilient network made up of small, autonomous groups. This means that the insurgency is virtually immune to attrition and decapitation. It will combine and recombine to form a viable network despite high rates of attrition. Body counts - and the military should already know this - aren't a good predictor of success. Given this landscape, let's look at alternative strategies. First, out-innovating the insurgency will most likely prove unsuccessful. The insurgency uses an open-source community approach (similar to the decentralized development process now prevalent in the software industry) to warfare that is extremely quick and innovative. New technologies and tactics move rapidly from one end of the insurgency to the other, aided by Iraq's relatively advanced communications and transportation grid - demonstrated by the rapid increases in the sophistication of the insurgents' homemade bombs. This implies that the insurgency's innovation cycles are faster than the American military's slower bureaucratic processes (for example: its inability to deliver sufficient body and vehicle armor to our troops in Iraq). Second, there are few visible fault lines in the insurgency that can be exploited. Like software developers in the open-source community, the insurgents have subordinated their individual goals to the common goal of the movement. This has been borne out by the relatively low levels of infighting we have seen between insurgent groups. As a result, the military is not going to find a way to chop off parts of the insurgency through political means - particularly if former Baathists are systematically excluded from participation in the new Iraqi state by the new Constitution. Third, the United States can try to diminish the insurgency by letting it win. The disparate groups in an open-source effort are held together by a common goal. Once the goal is reached, the community often falls apart. In Iraq, the original goal for the insurgency was the withdrawal of the occupying forces. If foreign troops pull out quickly, the insurgency may fall apart. This is the same solution that was presented to Congress last month by our generals in Iraq, George Casey and John Abizaid. Unfortunately, this solution arrived too late. There are signs that the insurgency's goal is shifting from a withdrawal of the United States military to the collapse of the Iraqi government. So, even if American troops withdraw now, violence will probably continue to escalate.
But whatever the outcome of the referendum, one result is certain: the birth of a sort of "Shi'iteistan" in central and southern Iraq, virtually autonomous, sitting on the bulk of Iraq's fabulous oil wealth, and with privileged cultural/diplomatic ties with Tehran. This certainly was not what Khalilzad's masters in Washington had dreamed of. Iraq's Shi'ites, on the historical brink of their "intellectual and political emancipation", as the Shi'ite-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) put it, have clearly seen through Khalilzad's meddling game. Ali al-Adad, a member of the central committee of the SCIRI, described it in al-Hayat newspaper as "an attempt to reshuffle the cards, with the aim to embarrass Shi'ite negotiators under the pretext of reinforcing national unity". The creation of Shi'iteistan is non-negotiable, as for Shi'ites it means direct control over oil. Al-Adad added, "The adoption of a set of measures putting limitations on the creation of federal provinces ... would make it difficult for the Shi'ites to set up a province in the center and south in the future." The SCIRI, already in power alongside the Dawa Party, is getting the constitution it wanted. From Najaf, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has already stated this is what he wanted too and urged the Shi'ite masses to vote "yes". But there are fissures even among Shi'ites. Sheikh Jawad al-Khalessi, the imam of the Kazimiya mosque in Baghdad, said that the constitution "answers to American objectives, but not the aspirations of Iraqis". He personally called for a boycott, "but I know that George W Bush is already preparing his declaration on the success of the constitution". Kalessi has a counter-proposal: a timetable for the end of the military occupation; UN supervision of Iraqi affairs; and UN-supervised elections. What the whole constitutional show has achieved so far is to intensify Sunni Arab resistance. But Sunnis, as well as Shi'ites, also have nuanced takes on the matter. They may see through the "divide and rule" tactics inherent in any colonial project. But some, like the Iraq Islamic Party, finally decided to support - or at least not to boycott - the constitution vote because of the compromise on how the document can be amended.
Regional Media Reports on Referendum:
Egypt's Al-Ahram
The referendum on Iraq's constitution today is a crucial step to strengthen the political process and put an end to the spiral of violence... It is important for all Iraqi people to participate... This is a democratic and civilised way for people to express their opinions peacefully, not through violence.
Iran's Al-Vefagh
The referendum can be regarded as a crucial step in Iraq's history... It is a step which will pave the way for a national government that will be able to decide Iraq's future.
It is of paramount importance for the Iraqi people to have their say... and vote for Iraq's unity and progress... Iraq's future today is in the hands of the Iraqis themselves.
Iran News
The approval of the constitution will definitely have positive results. First, the Iraqi people will have a say in their national affairs and obtain their civil rights. Iraq may also experience a decline in the prevailing chaos.
Qatar's Al-Rayah
Iraq today will witness a historic event whose outcome will decide the country's political future... Whether the constitution is accepted or rejected, there is a pressing need for people to return to reason and wisdom to resolve tension.
UAE's Al-Bayan
The Iraqi people today should prove to the world that they are the sole masters of their fate... Iraq today will sit a demanding test, and we hope that they will finally be given the opportunity to voice their will in an honest and objective fashion.
London-based Al-Hayat
The referendum on the draft constitution is meant to help bring things back to normal in Iraq. Whatever its shortcomings and the objections to it, we should bless this initiative aimed at restoring stability.
Lebanon's Al-Safir
The referendum is not a bad choice, because it is first and foremost a sign that the US-UK occupation is no longer willing or able to create a new Iraqi dictatorship... and because it gives Iraqis the chance to express their views... However, al-Zarqawi will be the one to make the referendum look like a suicide operation.
Lebanon's Al-Anwar
Whatever the outcome of the referendum, it is unlikely that the Iraqi people will be able to get over their ordeal in a country that is threatened with disintegration.
Saudi Ukaz
The endorsement of the Iraqi constitution... will not stop the spiral of violence in the country. The proposal of Arab League secretary general [Amr Moussa], calling for a national summit attended by all Iraqi national forces and parties, is the best solution to bring about reconciliation among Iraqis and prevent the country from sliding into civil war.
Jordan's Al-Ra'y
Whatever the outcome of the referendum, Iraq's future remains bleak and doubtful... There is no point in Mr Moussa visiting Iraq since this country... is on the brink of chaos.


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