DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2006
Smoke rises from the site of an explosion east of Baghdad. Explosions have echoed around the Iraqi capital with fearful civilians keeping off the streets on the third day of a curfew imposed to rein in bloodletting that has killed hundreds.(AFP/Joseph Eid)
TIKRIT, Iraq – A Task Force Lightning Soldier assigned to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was killed and two others were wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle while they were conducting operations in Diyala Province Saturday
. The two wounded Soldiers were transported to Coalition Forces’ medical treatment facilities.
CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq – One Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 and one Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died Saturday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province.
U.S. military post in Eastern Baghdad hit by mortar rounds
, setting it on fire. U.S. has no comment. Iraqi security forces have no information on casualties because the area is off limits to them.
AP reports "several explosions" near Green Zone
, possibly including the one described above. No information on damage or casualties.
Angry crowds attack Maliki's motorcade with stones as he visits Sadr City
Mortar round lands in Sadr City
, injures one woman.
Mortar attack kills one woman
, injures three people.
(40 km south of Baghdad)
Car bomb near Osama ibn Zayd mosque kills 5, injures 23
. Reuters says other sources give death toll as "six or seven
," describes the target as a "crowded market" rather than a mosque.
Pitched battle rages between Sunni insurgents and Iraqi security forces
. Little information is available, but police claim to have killed 11 "suspected militants." (36 reported killed Saturday.)
Three men and one woman were shot by gunmen who attacked their car at a road junction
Seven British soldiers injured by missile attack on their base at the Shatt Al-Arab Hotel
MNF says it came to the aid of the Abu Soda tribe when it was attacked by "al Qaeda
, with artillery and air strikes. AFP gives the location as Sofiya
, says a tribal leader gives casualties as 15 tribe members and 45 insurgents. Abu Soda is a member of the "Anbar Awakening" coalition which has allied with the government.
Somewhere in Anbar
Sattar al-Buzayi, head of the Anbar Salvation Council, an umbrella group of tribes in Anbar, said tribal fighters had raided an al Qaeda stronghold and killed 55 militants and arrested 25
. He said nine tribal fighters were killed. (Here's your grain of salt for this one -- C.)
The bodies of 11 Iraqis were discovered by a Coalition patrol about 30 kilometers west of Haqlaniyah Wednesday
. The 10 men and one youth died from apparent gunshots. A burned-out van was found close to the bodies.
Two members of the local town council were dragged from their car and killed by gunmen in Mahaweel, 75 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad, on Saturday night, police said
An office worker for Iraqiya state television was killed by gunmen on her doorstep, police said
. KUNA identifies her as Fadhila Abdulkarim
Five students injured by mortar rounds
Car bomber attacks police checkpoint, kills 5 police
, injures 23.
Body of kidnapped fuel truck driver is found
OTHER NEWS OF THE DAY
Maliki, Sunni Speaker of Parliament Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, and President Talabani issue joint statement promising to find perpetrators of Thursday attack in Sadr City, urging calm
Sadrists seize control of state television for 2 hours, denounce the government
Baghdad curfew to continue until Monday at 6:00 am
. Talabani postpones his trip to Iran until the airport reopens. IRIB confirms he will make the visit on Monday
Iranian President Ahmadinejad
says Iran is ready to help U.S. stabilize Iraq but only if U.S. withdraws its forces.
NYT Reports that according to a classified National Security Council memo, the Iraqi "insurgents" and "terrorists" now raise $70 million to $200 million per year
from activities including oil smuggling, kidnapping for ransom, and counterfeiting, with the tolerance or complicity of the Iraqi government. However, outside analysts criticize the document as vague, unclear about its evidentiary sources, and possibly politically tendentious in claiming that funds may finance activities outside of Iraq. (A big question for me is exactly who these "insurgent" and "terrorist" groups are supposed to be. It is not clear that this is talking specifically about the sectarian Sunni movement that is usually labeled as "the insurgency," which certainly would not enjoy the complicity of the Iraqi government, such as it is. Note that for most of 2004-2005, John Burns attributed all of the violence in Iraq to Abu Musab al Zaraqawi. -- C)
By John F. Burns and Kirk Semple
BAGHDAD, Nov. 25 — The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, connivance by corrupt Islamic charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to prevent, a classified United States government report has concluded.
The report, obtained by The New York Times, estimates that groups responsible for many insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising $70 million to $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says $25 million to $100 million of that comes from oil smuggling and other criminal activity involving the state-owned oil industry, aided by “corrupt and complicit” Iraqi officials.
As much as $36 million a year comes from ransoms paid for hundreds of kidnap victims, the report says. It estimates that unnamed foreign governments — previously identified by American officials as including France and Italy — paid $30 million in ransom last year.
A copy of the seven-page report was made available to The Times by American officials who said the findings could improve understanding of the challenges the United States faces in Iraq.
The report offers little hope that much can be done, at least soon, to choke off insurgent revenues. For one thing, it acknowledges how little the American authorities in Iraq know — three and a half years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein — about crucial aspects of insurgent operations. For another, it paints an almost despairing picture of the Iraqi government’s ability, or willingness, to take steps to tamp down the insurgency’s financing.
“If accurate,” the report says, its estimates indicate that these “sources of terrorist and insurgent finance within Iraq — independent of foreign sources — are currently sufficient to sustain the groups’ existence and operation.” To this, it adds what may be its most surprising conclusion: “In fact, if recent revenue and expense estimates are correct, terrorist and insurgent groups in Iraq may have surplus funds with which to support other terrorist organizations outside of Iraq.”
Some terrorism experts outside the government who were given an outline of the report by The Times criticized it as imprecise and speculative. Completed in June, the report was compiled by an interagency working group investigating the financing of militant groups in Iraq.
A Bush administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the group’s existence. He said it was led by Juan Zarate, deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism, and was made up of about a dozen people, drawn from the C.I.A., the F.B.I., the Defense Intelligence Agency, the State Department, the Treasury Department and the United States Central Command.
The group’s estimate of the financing for the insurgency, even taking the higher figure of $200 million, underscores the David and Goliath nature of the war. American, Iraqi and other coalition forces are fighting an array of shadowy Sunni and Shiite groups that can draw on huge armories left over from Mr. Hussein’s days, and benefit from the willingness of many insurgents to fight with little or no pay. If the $200 million a year estimate is close to the mark, it amounts to less than what it costs the Pentagon, with an $8 billion monthly budget for Iraq, to sustain the American war effort here for a single day.
But other estimates suggest the sums involved could be far higher. The oil ministry in Baghdad, for example, estimated earlier this year that 10 percent to 30 percent of the $4 billion to $5 billion in fuel imported for public consumption in 2005 was smuggled back out of the country for resale. At that time, the finance minister estimated that close to half of all smuggling profits was going to insurgents. If true, that would be $200 million or more from fuel smuggling alone.
For Washington, the report’s most dismaying finding may be that the insurgency now survives off money generated from activities inside Iraq, and no longer depends on sums Mr. Hussein and his associates seized as his government collapsed. American officials said that as American troops entered Baghdad, Mr. Hussein’s oldest son, Qusay, took more than $1 billion in cash from the Central Bank of Iraq and stashed it in steel trunks aboard a flatbed truck. Large sums of cash were found in Mr. Hussein’s briefcase when he was captured in December 2003.
But the report says Mr. Hussein’s loyalists “are no longer a major source of funding for terrorist or insurgent groups in Iraq.” Part of the reason, the report says, is that an American-led international effort has frozen $3.6 billion in “former regime assets.” Another reason, it says, is that Mr. Hussein’s erstwhile loyalists, realizing that “it is increasingly obvious that a Baathist regime will not regain power in Iraq,” have turned increasingly to spending the money on their own living expenses. The trail to these assets “has grown cold,” the report adds.
The document says the pattern of insurgent financing changed after the first 18 months of the war, from the Hussein loyalists who financed it in 2003 to “foreign fighters and couriers” smuggling cash in bulk across Iraq’s porous borders in 2004, to the present reliance on a complex array of indigenous sources. “Currently, we assess that these groups garner most of their funding from petroleum-related criminal activity, kidnapping and other criminal pursuits within Iraq,” the report concludes.
One section of the report is dedicated to the role played by “sympathetic donors,” including Islamic charities and nongovernmental organizations. It says that “intelligence reporting” indicates that only 10 to 15 of the 4,000 nongovernmental groups support terrorist and insurgent groups, but that those few take advantage of lax Iraqi regulation to divert funds to insurgent and other armed groups and, in some cases, “to provide cover for insurgent recruitment and the transport of weapons and personnel.”
The possibility that Iraq-based terrorist groups could finance attacks outside Iraq appeared to echo Bush administration assertions that prevailing in the war here is essential to preventing Iraq from becoming a terrorist haven, as Afghanistan became under the Taliban. But that suggestion was one of several aspects of the report that drew criticism from Western terrorism and counterinsurgency experts working outside the government who were given the outline of the findings.
Read in Full
. And please do read on for the critical commentary. David Kurtz on Talking Points Memo echoes my criticism.
"What makes the piece murky is no distinction is made between "insurgents," "terrorists," and other militant groups in Iraq. Maybe that's the approach of the secret report that the NYT piece is based on. But it would seem to me that lumping all of the various armed factions in Iraq into one category called "the insurgency" would be to miss many important differences in the goals and strategies--and the means of funding--of the many disparate groups currently operating in Iraq."
King Abdullah of Jordan fears wider conflict
. Hopes for "something dramatic" from the upcoming Bush-Maliki meeting in Amman, but says Israel-Palestine problem is the key to Middle East peace. Excerpt:
Jordan's King Abdullah said Sunday the problems in the Middle East go beyond the war in Iraq and that much of the region soon could become engulfed in violence unless the central issues are addressed quickly. "We could possibly imagine going into 2007 and having three civil wars on our hands," he said, citing conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon and the decades-long strife between the Palestinians and Israelis.
"Therefore, it is time that we really take a strong step forward as part of the international community and make sure we avert the Middle East from a tremendous crisis that I fear, and I see could possibly happen in 2007," he said.
Speaking on ABC's "This Week," Abdullah said he remained hopeful a summit he will host this week in Amman with President Bush and the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, will somehow lower the sectarian violence that threatens to push Iraq into all-out civil war. "We hope there will be something dramatic. The challenges, obviously, in front of both of them are immense," the king said.
"We have to make sure that all parties in Iraq understand the dangers of the ongoing escalation. I hope Prime Minister Maliki will have some ideas ... on how he can be inclusive in bringing all the different sects inside of Iraq together. They need to do it now," he said, "because, obviously, as we're seeing, things are beginning to spiral out of control."
The king spoke of the urgent need for a change in course in Iraq. "There needs to be some very strong action taken on the ground there today," he said. "I don't think we're in a position where we can come back and revisit the problem in early 2007. There needs to be a strategy. There needs to be a plan that brings all the parties together, and bring them today and not tomorrow."
Bush plans to fly to Jordan after attending a NATO summit in Latvia. Vice President
Dick Cheney made a quick trip to Saudi Arabia for talks on Saturday as part of the administration's effort to bring peace to the region.
Abdullah said it is natural that Americans, with troops fighting in Iraq, view that war as the major problem in the Middle East. "But, for the majority of us living in this part of the world, it has always been the Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Arab problem. I fear that if we do not use the next couple of months to really be able to push the process forward, I don't believe that there will be anything to talk about."
Unless something is done soon to lower the tension, he said, the two-state solution of Israel and an independent Palestinian state existing side by side becomes less a possibility. "If we don't solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem then how can we ever solve the Israeli-Arab problem?" he said. "Do we resign this whole region to another decade or two of violence?"
Read in Full
Harith al-Dhari, head of the Sunni religious bloc Association of Muslim Scholars, calls on Arab League and UN to withdraw support from the Shiite-led government
. No big surprise since they've issued a warrant for his arrest. He is now in Cairo. -- C
Vice President Dick Cheney returns to Washington after a brief meeting with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah
. No public information on what transpired.
Commentary and In-Depth Reporting
John Tirman of MIT discusses the prospects for a "regional" solution to Iraq in the Boston Globe
WILL THERE be a new emphasis on regional cooperation to end the Iraq war? Involving the neighbors to help stabilize Iraq is attractive and could shape a plausible exit strategy for the United States. But the closer one looks, the less promising it seems.
The Bush administration's war thinking has long had a regional focus, but it is now -- like Iraq itself -- in shambles. That strategy was to transform the region, with regime change in Tehran and Damascus openly discussed in Washington. So regional cooperation would be a 180-degree reversal -- itself a barrier to such a strategy.
But the Iraq Study Group headed by former secretary of state James Baker and former congressman Lee Hamilton will recommend regional engagement, including direct dialogue and tradeoffs with Iran and Syria and the other neighbors. The main alternatives on the president's desk -- the Pentagon's options reported last week -- discuss troop size, withdrawal schedules, and training of Iraqis, not regional strategy.
As many have noted, no credible exit strategy can exclude Iran's cooperation. Iran's links to the majority Shi'ites, the government, and other powerful actors, including militias, make it the most significant regional player by far.
What would Iran want for cooperation, and what would cooperation mean? The first is easier to answer: Iran wants the same security guarantees -- i.e., no regime change -- that it also seeks in the standoff over its nuclear program. Beyond that, some movement toward normalization, including the ending of punitive trade restrictions, would be welcome. In return, stout restraint on all their Iraqi allies would be expected.
The deal would be similar for Syria. Here, the equation would perhaps include movement on discussions with Israel over the return of the Golan Heights. Washington blocked such discussions this autumn. Along with Jordan, Syria has borne the brunt of the growing numbers of refugees from Iraq -- now more than 2 million region wide -- and some financial assistance on this is important.
Possibly more difficult to parse would be the role of Turkey. Their military has insisted that if, as a result of a referendum next year, the city of Kirkuk becomes part of the Kurdish territory in northern Iraq, Turkey would move in to protect ethnic Turks in the area and to block Kurds from declaring independence. The Turks now have 250,000 troops deployed along the border with Kurdish Iraq. One of the two oil pipelines from Kirkuk (which has perhaps 25 percent of Iraqi oil reserves) goes through Turkey. Small bands of Kurdish rebels are pestering Turkey from Iraq. The entanglements are extensive, and messy.
For Turkey, as for Syria and Jordan, money would have to be part of the equation -- there need to be investments that are not mere bribery. Jordan's war-related woes stem from the pro-American stance of King Abdullah and his dwindling political capital domestically; financial capital for economic development could be a balancing offset.
Saudi Arabia, like all of Iraq's neighbors, is keen to keep Iraq united in a single state -- fearing the bleed-out of political violence and refugees from a failed Sunni heartland, or trouble with its own Shi'ite minority. The Saudis also hold Iraqi debt and demur from funding reconstruction of an oil-rich country.
A grand bargain would be a complex, inter-state affair. Syria plays a cozy game with its porous border, for example, and fears growing Iranian influence in Lebanon as well as Kurdish independence, and has its own anxieties about regime stability. Iran promotes Shi'ite supremacy in Iraq, its longtime rival, which sets Tehran against Amman and Riyadh.
Read in Full
William Pfaff slaps down the supposed existential threat posed by Islamic militancy
PARIS - At Harvard a few weeks ago, Gen. John Abizaid, head of the American Central Command, responsible for operations in Iraq, said that if a way is not found to stem the rise of Islamic militancy, there will be a third World War.
I do not understand from where in the labyrinths of Pentagon and Washington think-tank deliberations, grounds are found for such sensationalist forecasts by people in responsible positions in and out of American government. Henry Kissinger has made the same forecast, while readjusting his personal position from support for the war to a prediction that the war can't be won, but that it nonetheless should continue.
Who is going to fight this third World War? Presumably Islamic militants against the United States (with such allies as remain, now that Britain is leaving). That is not a World War.
It is war of American intervention in foreign countries to stamp out movements supported by at least a part of the people there. We are doing that in Iraq and it's not working, nor did it work in Somalia or Vietnam.
Why go on with it? These movements or countries cannot invade or overthrow the government of the United States. Hijacking airplanes, blowing up the Sears Tower, anthrax in the reservoirs, nerve gas in the New York subway, or even a rogue nuclear explosion at the Super Bowl would not cause the U.S. government to totter and fall, sending masses of Americans to adopt Islam, install Sharia in the place of the U.S. Constitution, while putting 300 million Americans into beards and burqas. Surely Osama bin Laden and his colleagues are clever enough to know they can't win a World War.
Ah, the promulgators of the new World War theory say, the terrorists have already told us that they will first seize power in Iraq (and Iran), proclaim a new universal caliphate, and take power with the support of the masses in Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Sudan and the Maghreb.
Then Western Europe, enfeebled by welfare governments and cowardice, in need of oil and subverted from within by Islamic minority populations, will submit to al-Qaida, or appease it (Europe's people turning themselves into "Euarabs," as one recent American scenario has it). That will leave a heroic America standing alone, battling the Islamic hordes.
This is puerile fantasy. Yet Abizaid said to his Harvard audience: "Think of (today) as a chance to confront fascism in 1920. If we only had the guts to do it!" More fantasy and misinformation. There was nothing to confront in 1920. The Fascist party did not exist until 1921, and Mussolini did not form a government until 1923, when it won general praise in America and Britain for its spirit and efficiency.
Read in Full
Quote of the Day
Back in 2002, when the U.S. was debating whether to invade Iraq, those who opposed the invasion were, for that reason alone, dismissed as unserious morons and demonized as anti-American subversive hippies. Despite the fact that subsequent events have largely proven them to have been right, and that those who did the demonizing were the frivolous, unserious, know-nothing extremists, this narrative persists, so that -- even now, when most Americans have turned against this war -- the only way to avoid being an "extremist," and to be rewarded with the "centrist" mantle, is to support the continuation of this war in one form or another.
A desire to keep troops in Iraq even in the face of what is going on there may be many things, but "centrist" is not really one of them. Any Commission [i.e., the ISG] which commits itself in advance to keeping American troops fighting in Iraq for the foreseeable, indefinite future is itself "extremist" -- whether that term is seen as a function of public opinion or assessed on its own merits.