Thursday, July 27, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR THURSDAY, July 27, 2006 Photo: Iraqi woman runs for cover moments after a bomb attack in central Baghdad July 27, 2006. The death toll from a car bombing and mortar attacks in central Baghdad on Thursday has risen to at least 25, Ministry of Interior sources said. They said 45 people were wounded in the attacks. REUTERS/Ceerwan Aziz (IRAQ) (See below) A mortar barrage followed minutes later by a car bomb blasted Baghdad's upscale Karradah district, killing 31 people and wounding 153. Several mortars landed in the district, some destroying a bank and an apartment building that later collapsed in flames. The car bomb exploded near a gas station, shattering storefronts and spraying flaming gasoline onto homes. OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: Gunmen killed four security guards outside a Sunni mosque in western Baghdad. Two mortar shells hit the Dora district of southern Baghdad on Wednesday, wounding four civilians, Interior Ministry sources said on Thursday. Three people were shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the Mansur district of the capital. Gunmen wearing military uniforms and using military vehicles attacked a cash-in-transit vehicle and stole two Iraqi billion dinars, worth around 1.3 million dollars. Nineteen bodies with bullet holes and showing signs of torture were found in different areas of the capital. Baqubah: Gunmen opened fire on Gerogian troops manning a checkpoint near Baquba and hurt five, according to the U.S. military. An official from the office of the Georgian president said six had been injured. Four people were killed, including three women, and five others wounded when an ambulance hit a roadside bomb near Baquba. A car bomb exploded in Baquba 65 km, (40 miles) north of Baghdad, wounding three people. Ishaqee: A roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded four others in the city of Ishaqee, 90 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad. Kut: A translator working for U.S. troops was found killed in his car near Kut, 170 km (105 miles) southeast of Baghdad. A former member of Saddam Hussein's Baath party was killed in a drive by shooting in front of his house. Tikrit: A roadside bomb killed two policemen and wounded two more near Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad. Kirkuk: An army lieutenant was wounded and a soldier was killed when gunmen attacked their car in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad. (Debes) A policeman and an Iraqi soldier were killed after their patrols opened fire on each other near a petrol station in the town of Debes, 45 km (28 miles) northeast of Kirkuk. A body was found with bullet wounds and signs of torture near Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad. Mosul: A policeman was wounded when gunmen opened fire on him in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad. Karmah: A roadside bomb exploded on an Iraqi army patrol, killing four soldiers, near Karmah, 25 miles west of Baghdad. >> NEWS Video A group of Iraqis in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Wednesday signed up to join the Shia militant group Hezbollah in solidarity with Hezbollah fighters under attack from Israel in southern Lebanon Video The Iraqi government on Tuesday announced a 35 million dollar aid package for Lebanon. Iraqis IHA spoke to were critical of the aid, stating that they need the money more than Lebanon. >> REPORTS Up to two-thirds of the Army's combat brigades are not ready for wartime missions, largely because they are hampered by equipment shortfalls, Democratic lawmakers said Wednesday, citing unclassified documents. In a letter to President Bush, Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said that "nearly every non-deployed combat brigade in the active Army is reporting that they are not ready" for combat. The figures, he said, represent an unacceptable risk to the nation. At a news conference, other leading Democrats said that those strategic reserve forces are critically short of personnel and equipment. "They're the units that could be called upon or would be called upon to go to war in North Korea, Iran, or any other country or region," said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a decorated Marine who has called for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. A DANCE OF DISPLACEMENT Wiam Mohammed, a 32-year-old Sunni Arab car painter, fled here from the mostly Shiite city of Basra in May, hoping to find a more peaceful place. But he found there may not be anywhere safe in Iraq, not really. Mohammed had sought a place with fewer bombings and a life free from the men with guns who killed at least 36 people around the country, including one U.S. serviceperson, on Tuesday. Instead he found more trouble, and has begun moving back to his hometown in what has become a dance of displacement among Iraqis scuttling around the country in search of havens. read in full... 'WAITING TO GET BLOWN UP' Army Staff Sgt. Jose Sixtos considered the simple question about morale for more than an hour. But not until his convoy of armored Humvees had finally rumbled back into the Baghdad military base, and the soldiers emptied the ammunition from their machine guns, and passed off the bomb-detecting robot to another patrol, did he turn around in his seat and give his answer. "Think of what you hate most about your job. Then think of doing what you hate most for five straight hours, every single day, sometimes twice a day, in 120-degree heat," he said. "Then ask how morale is." Frustrated? "You have no idea," he said. As President Bush plans to deploy more troops in Baghdad, U.S. soldiers who have been patrolling the capital for months describe a deadly and infuriating mission in which the enemy is elusive and success hard to find. Each day, convoys of Humvees and Bradley Fighting Vehicles leave Forward Operating Base Falcon in southern Baghdad with the goal of stopping violence between warring Iraqi religious sects, training the Iraqi army and police to take over the duty, and reporting back on the availability of basic services for Iraqi civilians. But some soldiers in the 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division -- interviewed over four days on base and on patrols -- say they have grown increasingly disillusioned about their ability to quell the violence and their reason for fighting. The battalion of more than 750 people arrived in Baghdad from Kuwait in March, and since then, six soldiers have been killed and 21 wounded. "It sucks. Honestly, it just feels like we're driving around waiting to get blown up. That's the most honest answer I could give you," said Spec. Tim Ivey, 28, of San Antonio, a muscular former backup fullback for Baylor University. "You lose a couple friends and it gets hard." "No one wants to be here, you know, no one is truly enthused about what we do," said Sgt. Christopher Dugger, the squad leader. "We were excited, but then it just wears on you -- there's only so much you can take. Like me, personally, I want to fight in a war like World War II. I want to fight an enemy. And this, out here," he said, motioning around the scorched sand-and-gravel base, the rows of Humvees and barracks, toward the trash-strewn streets of Baghdad outside, "there is no enemy, it's a faceless enemy. He's out there, but he's hiding." read in full... >> COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS PERHAPS THEY'LL RENAME THE TIGRIS THE "BERLIN RIVER" I would be remiss in my duties as an Iraq blogger if I didn't mention this ominous Reuters story from Friday:
Iraqi leaders have all but given up on holding the country together and, just two months after forming a national unity government, talk in private of "black days" of civil war ahead. Signalling a dramatic abandonment of the U.S.-backed project for Iraq, there is even talk among them of pre-empting the worst bloodshed by agreeing to an east-west division of Baghdad into Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim zones, senior officials told Reuters. Tens of thousands have already fled homes on either side. "Iraq as a political project is finished," one senior government official said -- anonymously because the coalition under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki remains committed in public to the U.S.-sponsored constitution that preserves Iraq's unity. . . . "The parties have moved to Plan B," the senior official said, saying Sunni, ethnic Kurdish and majority Shi'ite blocs were looking at ways to divide power and resources and to solve the conundrum of Baghdad's mixed population of seven million. . . . "The situation is terrifying and black," said Rida Jawad al -Takki, a senior member of parliament from Maliki's dominant Shi'ite Alliance bloc, and one of the few officials from all the main factions willing to speak publicly on the issue. "We have received information of a plan to divide Baghdad. The government is incapable of solving the situation," he said. . . . Officials say the Tigris river is already looking like the Beirut "Green Line", dividing Sunni west Baghdad, known by its ancient name of Karkh, from the mainly Shi'ite east, or Rusafa.
How could the leaders of a supposed "national unity government" give in to a plan that breaks the country apart? In a story about the latest carnage in Iraq, the Los Angeles Times gives us a hint:
The attacks came as Iraq's political leaders attempted to jump-start a process of reconciliation among the country's warring factions. Iraqis hope such talks can stem a further descent into civil war.
But the conference, held in a hotel inside the heavily protected Green Zone, failed to draw or include representatives from insurgent and militia groups fueling much of the violence. . . . so far reconciliation plans have amounted to talk about establishing committees that would discuss possible "mechanisms," said Pascale Warda, a human rights advisor to parliament. Many of Iraq's political leaders were in exile during Hussein's rule and are viewed with contempt by armed groups and as ineffective outsiders by much of the Iraqi public.
Oh, yes, now I remember, there's an old legend about this -- something about a baby and a custody dispute, and an imposter "mother" who's willing to see the child split in half rather than give it up. Only in this case, there's no wise judge, and no real parent willing to save the child. Real life can be disappointing that way. link MALIKI: DEAD MAN WALKING Maliki's message [to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday] was a simple one, and he delivered while standing in front of his puppet master, the scowling Dick Cheney. Did Maliki headline the sectarian bloodletting and ethnic cleansing in Iraq, the death squads and militias? No. Did Maliki present a plan for securing Iraq's capital? No. Instead, he stuck to the Republican Party's 2006 electoral talking points: that Iraq is the central front in the so-called Global War on Terrorism. He cited 9/11, a crime perpetrated by what he called "impostors of Islam," and he portrayed the violence in Iraq as the direct continuation of America's effort against Al Qaeda: Iraq is the front line of this struggle. ... Iraq is your ally in the War on Terror. ... The greatest threat Iraq faces is terror created by extremists. Iraq is free and the terrorists cannot stand this. ... This terrorist front is a threat to every civilized country. Iraq is the battle that will determine the war. ... I will not allow Iraq to become a launching pad for Al Qaeda. .. Iraq will be the graveyard for terrorism and terrorists." (...) The fact is, getting out of Iraq is a winning position, despite efforts by the GOP and Maliki to link the war to the struggle against Al Qaeda. Even Republicans, especially those in swing districts in the Northeast and the Midwest, are getting the message. Last week, Rep. Gil Gutknecht, a six-term Republican congressman from Minnesota, put it bluntly: "What the White House is saying is, 'Stay the course, stay the course.' I don't think that course is politically sustainable." One highly placed political insider told me: "There are people in the [Republican] party, on the Hill and in the White House, who see a political train wreck coming." If the Democrats win back one or both houses of Congress in November, he said, that would unleash a series of investigative hearings on Iraq, the war on terrorism, and civil liberties that could fatally weaken the administration and remove the last props of political support for the war. And that prospect has moved many moderate GOPers, such as Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, and Jim Gerlach and Charles Dent of Pennsylvania to question the Bush administration's stay-the-course idiocy. During Maliki's dead-man-walking performance on the Hill, the applause was lackluster. Members seemed distracted and unenthusiastic, and Cheney looked downright glum. Some Democrats, such as Reid, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, and House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, tried to make a big deal of Maliki's refusal to condemn Hezbollah, going so far as to suggest that Maliki's invitation to speak to Congress be repudiated. (In the end, Reid and Pelosi relented, dutifully joining the pall-bearers who carried Maliki into the House chamber.) But in fact, these Democrats have a point: Maliki's regime, despite being installed by the Pentagon's puppeteers, maintains close ties to Iran, further complicating the ability of the United States to halt the civil war and disarm Iranian-backed Shiite death squads. Meanwhile, no one seriously believes that the latest plan to secure Baghdad will work. The New York Times devilishly pointed out that while Maliki calls it "Phase II" of the plan announced six weeks ago, in fact there was never meant to be a Phase II; instead, it is Plan B. But even this is more wish that plan. read in full... MALIKI THE IDIOT He went to America to ask for the withdrawal of the occupiers
Iraq's prime minister Nouri al-Maliki yesterday in London suggested that foreign troops could leave Iraq within months rather than year, despite the virtual raging civil war,
Top Iraqi leaders ready to ask the US to leave He will comeback to Iraq with more occupation forces.
Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, after meeting the visiting Iraqi leader at the Pentagon, said the increase in forces in the Baghdad area will be "more than hundreds," but was no more precise.
Bush, Maliki agree on more US troops for Baghdad link CHARTING A NEW COURSE AFTER YOU'VE ALREADY STRUCK AN ICEBERG A few days ago, I responded to the announced U.S. desperate improvisation plan to shift troops to Baghdad from other areas of Iraq by comparing it to "a fire engulfing a house, with an overwhelmed man racing from one end to the other wondering where to pour his lone bucket of water." This morning, the New York Times tries to explain where and how the water will be wasted used:
The plan is to concentrate on specific neighborhoods rather than distribute the forces throughout the city, control movement in and out of sectors of the capital and try to sweep them of insurgents and violent militias. In effect, the scheme is a version of the "ink blot" counterinsurgency strategy of grabbing a piece of terrain, stabilizing it and gradually expanding it. Only this time the objective is not a far-flung Iraqi city or town, but the capital, the seat of the fledgling government and home to some seven million Iraqis. . . . By securing the city a sector at a time, American and Iraqi commanders hope to allow the Iraqi government to restore essential services and build support and legitimacy among an anxious public. . . . The Americans and the Iraqis are likely to start with the easiest sectors, calculating that they need to demonstrate a measure of success before taking on the most contested areas.
Uhh, but who's going to notice your "measure of success" when death squads and car bombs are still running rampant through the rest of the city? After all, there already is a well-secured area of Baghdad -- the Green Zone -- and nobody in the streets seems to be deriving a great deal of confidence from that. Come to think of it, maybe the Green Zone is where they intend to deploy the added troops. It would make about as much sense as anything else. (P.S. The NYT story includes this sobering reminder: "In the past two weeks, more Iraqi civilians have been killed than have died in Lebanon and Israel.") link JULY 27TH 2006 MID-MORNING I expect today to be bad. Juan Cole has saved me the trouble of giving a prècis of this article in Al-Zaman [Arabic] really you need to read whole thing, the situation in the south of the country is coming very badly unstuck for the green zone government. In particular this statement by Grand Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi is ominous:
"We fear the coming of a day when we cannot restrain a revolution of the people, with all its unsavory consequences."
Al-Najafi is often thought to be second most important of the four Grand Ayatollahs living in Najaf with Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani being "primus inter pares" (the fifth Grand Ayatollah Kazem al-Hairi lives in Iran.) Al-Najafi's office would not under any circumstances have issued that statement unless the Grand Ayatollahs (who act collegially) were of the opinion that their ability to restrain their followers was slipping. Please note the scale of the attacks. I also expect today to be dire in Baghdad. Why do I expect today to be dire? Because yesterday night there was heavy fighting on Haifa Street. Why is Haifa Street important? Well if you look at a map of Baghdad it's the big street pointing like a dagger right into the heart of the green zone. It's been "pacified" oh a couple of hundred times by now. At the time of writing (just gone 11 a.m my time) the death toll in Baghdad from what seems to be a particularly well coordinated set of combined mortar/bombing attacks is at least 25 including children and rising. I wonder will the Syrians give al-Maliki political asylum again ... ... ... maybe, if Dubya asks them really nicely. That's if he stumps up their price for extracting his buddy Olmert from Lebanon of course ... ... ... Oh by the way the movement of more American [hostages body bag occupants -- crossed out] soldiers ordered by the [Cheney -- crossed out] Bush administration is well underway. The [Cheney -- crossed out] Bush administration bringing an entire new meaning to the expression "charlie fox." link >> BEYOND IRAQ Afghanistan: (update) A Russian-made helicopter crashed in bad weather in eastern Afghan mountains, killing all 16 on board, including at least two American civilians and two Dutch military officers, officials said Thursday. ROBERT FISK: A WARNING TO ISRAEL Is it possible - is it conceivable - that Israel is losing its war in Lebanon? From this hill village [Qlaya] in the south of the country, I am watching the clouds of brown and black smoke rising from its latest disaster in the Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil: up to 13 Israeli soldiers dead, and others surrounded, after a devastating ambush by Hizbollah guerrillas in what was supposed to be a successful Israeli military advance against a "terrorist centre". (...) The battle for southern Lebanon is on an epic scale but, from the heights above Khiam, the Israelis appear to be in deep trouble. Their F-16s turn in the high bright sun - small, silver fish whose whispers gain in volume as they dive - and their bombs burst over the old prison, where the Hizbollah are still holding out; beyond the frontier, I can see livid fires burning across the Israeli hillsides and the Jewish settlement of Metullah billowing smoke. It was not meant to be like this, 15 days into Israel's assault on Lebanon. The Katyushas still streak in pairs out of southern Lebanon, clearly visible to the naked eye, white contrails that thump into Israeli's hillsides and border towns. read in full... IS BEIRUT BURNING? "It seems that Nasrallah survived," Israeli newspapers announced, after 23 tons of bombs were dropped on a site in Beirut, where the Hizbullah leader was supposedly hiding in a bunker. An interesting formulation. A few hours after the bombing, Nazrallah had given an interview to Aljazeera television. Not only did he look alive, but even composed and confident. He spoke about the bombardment - proof that the interview was recorded on the same day. So what does "it seems that" mean? Very simple: Nasrallah pretends to be alive, but you can't believe an Arab. Everyone knows that Arabs always lie. That's in their very nature, as Ehud Barak once pronounced. The killing of the man is a national aim, almost the main aim of the war. This is, perhaps, the first war in history waged by a state in order to kill one person. Until now, only the Mafia thought along those lines. Even the British in World War II did not proclaim that their aim was to kill Hitler. On the contrary, they wanted to catch him alive, in order to put him on trial. Probably that's what the Americans wanted, too, in their war against Saddam Hussein. But our ministers have officially decided that that is the aim. There is not much novelty in that: successive Israeli governments have adopted a policy of killing the leaders of opposing groups. Our army has killed, among others, Hizbullah leader Abbas Mussawi, PLO no. 2 Abu Jihad, as well as Sheik Ahmad Yassin and other Hamas leaders. Almost all Palestinians, and not only they, are convinced that Yassir Arafat was also murdered. And the results? The place of Mussawi was filled by Nasrallah, who is far more able. Sheik Yassin was succeeded by far more radical leaders. Instead of Arafat we got Hamas. As in other political matters, a primitive military mindset governs this reasoning too. -- Uri Avnery is an Israeli journalist, writer and peace activist read in full... QUOTE OF THE DAY: "The Iraq debacle predicts utter collapse for the United States? Not at all. One suspects a 'soft landing' will happen instead. Bush or one of his successors in the White House will find a respectable way to remove the American presence from Iraq, and our political and economic leadership will do everything necessary to maneuver a gentle aftermath when the dollar finally bottoms out, as it shall. Afterwards we will be able to carry on with our lives just as Spaniards have done since the seventeenth century, just as the French have done since Waterloo, and just as the English and Germans have done since the end of World War II. And, lest we forget, just as Canada has done since its very beginning. Of course our imperial pretensions will be far more modest than before, but we shall be better for it. And eventually we might live down our infamous reputation acquired in both Vietnam and Iraq." -- from Bush Does Iraq: Anatomy of a Failed Operation by Edward Jayne


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