Sunday, December 03, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SUNDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2006 A US soldier secures the site of a suicide bombing in Kirkuk. Shell-shocked Baghdadis have cleared the bloody wreckage from the latest deadly bomb attack on their city, as the United States sought a new strategy to pull Iraq back from the abyss.(AFP/Marwan Ibrahim) LSA Anaconda, Iraq– Two Soldiers assigned to the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) were killed by an improvised explosive device while conducting a security patrol in the Al Anbar province of Iraq Dec 2. BAGHDAD – A Multi-National Corps – Iraq Soldier died from injuries sustained when the convoy he was traveling in struck an improvised explosive device near Taji, Iraq, at approximately 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Air Force officially lists Troy Gilbert, pilot of downed F-16, as KIA. Baghdad UPDATE: Death toll in yesterday's market bombing now given as 60. Gunmen kidnapped Haitham Yassin, an adviser to the electricity minister, on Saturday in Baghdad's northern Shaab district, police said. A roadside bomb wounded six people near al-Shaab Stadium in east-central Baghdad, police said. A roadside bomb went off on the Highwaynear the Sha'ab Stadium in eastern Baghdad wounding three. A mortar round landed on a secondary school, wounding 10 students in Bab al-Muadham district in north-central Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said. Gunmen killed an official of the Mandaeans, a pre-Islamic gnostic religious group, after they dragged him from his house on Saturday in northern Baghdad, police said. Police found the body of Hidaib Mejhoul, a member of the national Iraqi Football Association, in Baghdad's Yarmouk district on Saturday, relatives said. Mejhoul, who had been kidnapped from his home on Thursday, had been shot twice in the head and his body had signs of torture. Three civilians were gunned down in a mixed area just south of Baghdad, according to a security official A roadside bomb detonated Sunday near a joint U.S. and Iraqi patrol in eastern Baghdad, damaging a U.S. Humvee, a well-informed police source said. "A roadside bomb planted in the highway of Muhammad al-Qasim, went off near a passing U.S. and Iraqi joint patrol in front of Zaiyounah neighborhood," the source said on condition of anonymity. U.S. forces immediately cordoned off the scene, but the police said they saw a U.S. Humvee was hit by the blast, he added. An Iraqi soldier was killed and 11 people wounded, including two professors, when mortar rounds landed near the Health Ministry in central Baghdad on Sunday, an Interior Ministry source said. Baqubah U.S.-Iraqi forces launched an offensive in the volatile town of Baquba north of Baghdad, killing three insurgents and detaining 44. Three Iraqi soldiers were wounded in the operation, the U.S. military said in a statement. U.S. and Iraqi troops also captured a suspected insurgent leader during a raid on Friday near Baquba, the military said. Meanwhile, at least 16 people were murdered in and around Baquba, according to security and medical sources. Basra A roadside bombing targeting British military patrol in the southern oil city of Basra wounded three university students, police said. British troops, meanwhile, clashed with Shiite militia during a search operation in the southern city of Basra, Iraqi police said. Sinea A sniper killed a civilian in Sinea, an insurgent stronghold in northern Iraq, police Captain Saad Nuri told AFP Kirkuk A suicide bomber blew himself up next to a police station, killing three policemen on Sunday, Major General Torhan Yussef of Kirkuk police said. Yussef said the attack took place at Lailan town, west of Kirkuk, and was targeting the town's police chief Colonel Faulah Othman Abdallah. "The bomber blew himself up at a checkpoint near the police station," Yussef said. A bit more on this here. Karmah On Saturday night in the town of Karmah, coalition ground and air forces killed six insurgents while destroying two buildings that militants were using, the military said. Searching through one of the destroyed buildings, coalition forces also found a weapons cache and the bodies of two women and a child, the military said, without providing the age of the women or the age and sex of the child. Three suspected insurgents also were detained. Thanks to Whisker, as usual, for the info. OTHER NEWS OF THE DAY Yet another classified memo is leaked to the NYT, contradicting Bush's public optimism. This one, from outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, does little more than echo the narrow range of "respectable" inside-the-beltway options for reshuffling military assets, but it is notable for its call to lower expecatations. (These recent leaks of embarassing material are uncharacteristic of the Cheney administration, at least until recently. One wonders if there aren't some upper mid-level staffers who are worried that the CinC still hasn't fully grasped reality and are trying to use the news media to prick the bubble. Just a theory, but who has a better one? -- C) Excerpt:
By MICHAEL R. GORDON and DAVID S. CLOUD WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 — Two days before he resigned as defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld submitted a classified memo to the White House that acknowledged that the Bush administration’s strategy in Iraq was not working and called for a major course correction. “In my view it is time for a major adjustment,” wrote Mr. Rumsfeld, who has been a symbol of a dogged stay-the-course policy. “Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.” Nor did Mr. Rumsfeld seem confident that the administration would readily develop an effective alternative. To limit the political fallout from shifting course, he suggested the administration consider a campaign to lower public expectations. “Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis,” he wrote. “This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not ‘lose.’ ” “Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist,” he added. The memo suggests frustration with the pace of turning over responsibility to the Iraqi authorities; in fact, the memo calls for examination of ideas that roughly parallel troop withdrawal proposals presented by some of the White House’s sharpest Democratic critics.
(If you're interested in reading the whole memorandum, it's here.) Negroponte calls Iraqi sectarian violence "self-sustaining," says solution is up to the Iraqis. (I'm not sure what the technical definition is of "self-sustaining," but in any event the intelligence chief's analysis doesn't seem to square easily with the CinC's continuing insistence on achieving a solution through continued U.S. military action. -- C)
By Scott Malone, CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (Reuters) - Sectarian violence in Iraq has become "self-sustaining," increasing the challenge of stabilizing the country, the top U.S. intelligence official said on Friday. "Violence between the Sunnis and Shia has become self-sustaining and has spread out to a wider range of ... groups and actors," said John Negroponte, the U.S. national intelligence director. Negroponte, who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said the violence "presents great challenges toward Iraqi Prime Minister (Nuri) al-Maliki in trying to implement reforms geared to improve life for all Iraqis and to reverse the escalating trend of ethno-sectarian violence. "Nonetheless, the key to moving Iraq in the direction of a fully functioning, stable democracy must come from Iraqi leaders themselves," Negroponte said at Harvard University. "Only if they seek to resolve their differences, reach compromises on important issues and observe the state's authority on a full range of political, security and economic challenges in Iraq can they chart a successful path globally," he said.
A Baathist leader traveling through the Middle East states the party's demands for a cease fire. I definitely recommend reading this one. Excerpt:
DAMASCUS, Syria: A top spokesman for the former Baath party of Iraq said in a recent interview that his group will not reconcile with the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad nor stop its active support of the insurgency unless the Iraqi government and U.S. officials first meet strict conditions including the withdrawal of American troops. The interview with the man who identified himself as Abu Mohammed came after repeated efforts by The Associated Press to make contact in Syria with supporters of the insurgency in Iraq. The man, who appeared in person at the interview, is believed to be Khudair al-Murshidi, a former head of the Iraqi Doctors Syndicate under the rule of Saddam Hussein. He refused to give his real name during the interview and also refused to be photographed but said he was in Syria temporarily while on his way to other Mideast countries to advance the party's goals. Al-Murshidi also appeared last month on the pan-Arab al-Jazeera television network, also using the pseudonym Abu Mohammed. Abu Mohammed said he is now the official spokesman for what he called the Iraqi Regional Command of the Baath, headed by Izzat Ibrahim, Saddam's former vice president and a fugitive with a $10 million bounty on his head, believed the top leader of Saddam loyalists. Other Baathist sympathizers and party members interviewed in Damascus confirmed the man's position and helped to arrange the interview.
Read in Full Now this is seriously ugly, if true. Excerpt:
BAGHDAD, Dec. 3 Shiite death squads in Iraq are secretly seeking out Sunni patients in Baghdad's hospitals and targeting them for killings, it was reported Sunday. Patients are unexpectedly dying without medical cause or disappearing under strange circumstances, with medical records lost or altered, a surgeon at Baghdad's Medical City hospital told The Sunday Times of London. The doctor said the Mahdi Army, a militia force created by rebel Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, had infiltrated the hospital's porters and cleaners. He said he was approached by a porter who offered him $300 for every patient he would identify from the Sunni provinces of Diyala and Anbar and from Baghdad's Adhamiyah district, the Times said. The doctor did not accept the offer.
Read in Full Saddam's lawyers appeal death sentence. Talabani joins Hakim in rejecting Kofi Annan's call for an international conference on Iraq. I don't know how reliable this report is, but it's fairly disturbing because of the risk of widening conflict. -- C Five Tons of C4 Explosives Stolen in Iraq. Excerpt:
A pro-PKK website on Thursday claimed that five tons of C-4 explosives were stolen from the warehouses of Iraqi Defense Ministry. It was not certain by whom or when the plastic explosives in the warehouse were stolen. An investigation was reportedly launched into the theft. There is a possibility that the explosives in question are to be used in Turkey by the terrorist organizations in Iraq and northern Iraq-based PKK. Turkish security forces observed that use of C4 explosives was on the rise in PKK-claimed attacks. Turkish police sources had stated before that the PKK brought about one ton of C4 explosives into Turkey. The outlawed organization is laying the explosive in the regions in question and and trying to harm the Turkish security forces in the region.
IN-DEPTH REPORTING Storm clouds continue to gather over the region: Saudis and Iran prepare to do battle over corpse of Iraq. Excerpt:
By Philip Sherwell in New York, Sunday Telegraph The gulf's two military powers, Sunni-Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, are lining up behind their warring religious brethren in Iraq in a potentially explosive showdown, as expectations grow in both countries that America is preparing a pull-out of its troops. The Saudis are understood to be considering providing Sunni military leaders with funding, logistical support and even arms, as Iran already does for Shia militia in Iraq. The strategy — outlined in an article last week by Nawaf Obaid, a senior security adviser to the kingdom's government — risks spiralling into a proxy war between Saudi and Iranian-backed factions in the next development in Iraq's vicious sectarian conflict. Saudi Arabia, America's closest ally in the Arab world, is considering backing anti-US insurgents because it is so alarmed that Sunnis in Iraq will be left to their fate — military and political — at the hands of the Shia majority. However, a Saudi government spokesman said yesterday that Mr Obaid's view "does not reflect the kingdom's policy, which uphold the security, unity and stability of Iraq with all its sects." President George Bush sent vice-president Dick Cheney to Riyadh last weekend after the Saudis demanded high-level talks about their concerns. They told him Iran was trying to establish itself as the dominant regional power through its influence in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Saudi fears were strengthened as it emerged that some senior US intelligence officials are urging the Bush administration to abandon stalled attempts to reach a compromise with Sunni dissidents and adopt a controversial "pick a winner" strategy instead, giving priority to Shia and Kurd political factions. The proposal is also known as the "80 per cent solution" since the Sunnis, who ruled the country under Saddam Hussein, comprise just 20 per cent of Iraq's 26 million population. It has been put forward as part of a crash White House review of Iraq strategy. Its backers claim that ambitious attempts to woo anti-US Sunni insurgents have failed, and now risk alienating Shia leaders as well, leaving the US without strong political allies in Iraq.
Read in Full Refugee tide from Iraq to neighboring countries creates serious tensions and instabilities. Boston Globe's Thanassis Cambanis discusses the estimated 1.5 million Iraqis who have fled to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, and their impact on society and politics in the host countries. Brief excerpts cannot do justice to this complicated story, it's worth a read. -- C
By Thanassis Cambanis, Globe Staff | December 3, 2006 AMMAN, Jordan -- As Iraq's bloodshed worsens, the tide of refugees fleeing the country is straining the region's resources and inflaming fears that Iraq's sectarian conflict might spread to neighboring countries. A new United Nations report says Iraq is "hemorrhaging" refugees in staggering numbers. Anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 people are fleeing the country every day. After 3 1/2 years of nearly constant warfare, at least 1.5 million Iraqi refugees have moved to neighboring countries, reshaping the already complex demographic mosaics of Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. The influx has prompted government crackdowns and anger from local populations who feel refugees are grabbing scarce jobs and resources. Another 1.5 million people are displaced inside Iraq, many of them clamoring to leave but lacking the resources. Humanitarian agencies fear this group will drive a continued exodus that could quickly double the already massive refugee population in the region. The mass migration out of the country is transforming the region's culture, a diaspora rivaled in size only by the 3 million Palestinian refugees, including descendants of those who fled conflicts with Israel since 1948. With no end in sight to the fighting in Iraq, governments in Syria and Jordan worry that Iraqis are becoming the new Palestinians -- a permanent refugee population that will import its sectarian and religious squabbles into the host countries. snip Mustafa Ahmed, 29, an unemployed blacksmith, roams Amman's poor downtown, a warren of cheap clothing stores, flophouses, and street corners where day laborers seek jobs. Ahmed said he's terrified that he'll be deported like his cousin, who was put on a bus from Amman to Baghdad two months ago when police caught him in a roundup. Halfway home, Sunni insurgents in Anbar Province pulled the cousin from the bus; when they saw his Shi'ite name on his identity card, Ahmed said, they executed him. "If I go back, I will be killed on the road," Ahmed said, drawing a finger across his throat. Dressed in ratty workman's clothes, soiled jeans, and a dirty jacket, he spends his time drinking tea at a restaurant in downtown Amman frequented by other poor Iraqi refugees. Syria is schooling the children of the 600,000 Iraqi refugees who live there. But Jordan has barred its already inadequate school system to Iraqis; only those Iraqis rich enough to afford private school can educate their children in Jordan. Kristele Younes, a researcher who tracks displaced Iraqis in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan for the nonprofit advocacy group Refugees International, said Syria has been the most welcoming country for Iraqis, but like other Arab countries was running out of resources. "Very slowly but surely, Iraqis are starting to be treated like Palestinians," Younes said in a telephone interview from Washington, where her group is based. "There is a complete lack of political will in the region to admit that these people are not going home any time soon."
Read in Full COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS As Tony Blair prepares to quietly crawl off the world stage, analysts ask what Britain has gotten from his "special relationship" with George W. Bush. The answer: it is the number which, when multiplied by any other number, yields itself. James Button from Australia. Excerpt:
Blair's false faith in special relationship You read the news from Iraq - the death squads, the increasing number of kidnappings of government workers, the mosques used as execution chambers, the 3700 people murdered in October alone - and you wonder: what is going on inside the head of Tony Blair? The question may not interest the many British commentators, from the left and right, who regularly assert that Blair has messianic delusions, is a liar, or even an outright scoundrel. But those who see Blair as both more complicated and more decent than the caricature allows - a man whose strengths and flaws are in the normal range - must wonder how he feels. Does he believe he made a catastrophic mistake? Does he turn off the unbearable TV news, lie awake at night? He wouldn't be human if he didn't. As his prime ministership enters its final months, and rumours spread that both the Government and the bureaucracy are stalled, awaiting his departure, he is still feverishly announcing policy initiatives. Yet he looks older almost by the day; the once-easy smile is often a fixed grin. He seems oddly pumped up and his words sound at times overblown. "Here, in this extraordinary desert, is where the future of world security in the early 21st century is going to be played out," he told British troops in Afghanistan two weeks ago. snip Blair went to war because he believed it was right. That is why the "Bush's poodle" sneer is not accurate. But he also fought because he believed Britain could influence the United States, through their "special relationship". Yet if two recent assessments by insiders of the US Administration are correct, Blair's faith that he could sway President George Bush was fundamentally misplaced. The first was by Ken Adelman, a member of the Pentagon's Defence Policy Board and leading neo-conservative, who last month deplored the "incompetence" of the occupation. While he mostly blamed Bush and the former defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, he did not spare Blair. After the occupation began to go wrong, Britain's deep involvement in Iraq gave it unparalleled influence in Washington to get policy changed, but Blair chose not to use it, Adelman told Britain's Channel Four. "The Brits should have hit the Americans in the face with the realities on the ground instead of deploying their usual charming diplomatic processes," the station reported Adelman as saying.
Read in Full Juan Cole on the Rummy memo.
1. Rumsfeld doesn't understand the magnitude of the crisis or the tightrope the US is walking in the Gulf. His attitude is almost lackadaisical. Doing an all right job, but it isn't working fast enough or well enough. So maybe make some changes-- apparently any old changes will do because there are infinite lives to play with and infinite monies to spend. 2. Rumsfeld spends more time plotting out how to manipulate the American public than how to win the war. Everything is about spin, about giving the image of progress even in the face of a rapid downward spiral into the abyss. Consider these phrases: 'Publicly announce a set of benchmarks agreed to by the Iraqi Government and the U.S. — political, economic and security goals — to chart a path ahead for the Iraqi government and Iraqi people (to get them moving) and for the U.S. public (to reassure them that progress can and is being made) . . . Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis. This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not “lose.” Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist. . . ' It is about how we talk, how we are perceived to set goals, what is made to look like progress. It isn't actually about getting progress. The point of going minimalist is to reduce expectations among the American public. If you tell them you can only move the ball a yard, you get a lot of points for moving it two yards. There is nothing in the memo about effectively stopping the daily sectarian massacre in Iraq. Rumsfeld does not even appear to think there is a problem here. He doesn't see the basis on which the fabric of Iraq is coming apart. But God forbid he should be seen by the US public as failing. So let's set some vague "benchmarks" and make it look like progress is being made. 3. Rumsfeld openly admits that he wants to run Iraq just like Saddam did: 'Provide money to key political and religious leaders (as Saddam Hussein did), to get them to help us get through this difficult period.' I mean, bribing people to be your puppets is bad enough, but citing Saddam's policies as an example for how Iraq should be run is absolutely outrageous. Not only did Rumsfeld want to manipulate the American public with phony "benchmarks" and "minimalist" language, but he wanted to directly manipulate Iraqis by buying off their notables. The specifically military suggestions in the memo are all over the map. In addition to a lot of contradictory and not obviously effective politicies, he steals ideas from Democratic Senators and Congressmen.
Paul Craig Roberts questions The Decider's sanity. Excerpt:
The president of the United States is so deep into denial that he is no longer among the sane. Delusion still rules Bush three weeks after the American people repudiated him and his catastrophic war in elections that delivered both House and Senate to the Democrats in the hope that control over Congress would give the opposition party the strength to oppose the mad occupant of the White House. On November 28 Bush insisted that US troops would not be withdrawn from Iraq until he had completed his mission of building a stable Iraqi democracy capable of spreading democratic change in the Middle East. Bush made this astonishing statement the day after NBC News, a major television network, declared Iraq to be in the midst of a civil war, a judgment with which former Secretary of State Colin Powell concurs. The same day that Bush reaffirmed his commitment to building a stable Iraqi democracy, a secret US Marine Corps intelligence report was leaked. According to the Washington Post, the report concludes: “the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point that US and Iraqi troops are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar province.” The Marine Corps intelligence report says that Al Qaeda is the “dominant organization of influence” in Anbar province, and is more important than local authorities, the Iraqi government and US troops “in its ability to control the day-to-day life of the average Sunni.” Bush’s astonishing determination to deny Iraq reality was made the same day that the US-installed Iraqi prime minister al-Maliki and US puppet King Abdullah II of Jordan abruptly cancelled a meeting with Bush after Bush was already in route to Jordon on Air Force One. Bush could not meet with Maliki in Iraq, because violence in Baghdad is out of control. For security reasons, the US Secret Service would not allow President Bush to go to Iraq, where he is “building a stable democracy.”
Read in Full I had to put on gloves to insert this link to the latest from Andrew Sullivan. He continues to believe in the mission, but he accepts that it has failed. It's worth reading to see how the war party is trying to shed its own responsibility onto its Fearless Leader. Thanks (I think) to Whisker for the tip. -- C Excerpt:
ONE of the grimly fascinating aspects of observing the Bush administration these past few years has been the question of when the US President will actually face reality. I don't mean grasping the underlying fact of our time: that the West faces a mortal and metastasising threat from Islamist terrorism allied with stray weapons of mass destruction. To his great credit, Bush understands that, and has always understood that. The problem is that he seems to understand nothing else. Constructing a viable, flexible, practical strategy to defeat and de-fang this threat seems utterly beyond his grasp. I originally thought the Iraq invasion was a sane, if ambitious, attempt to grapple with this crisis. Saddam Hussein had to go, he was a monster and a danger, his state was crumbling. Why not intervene, secure the country, impose order and start the long, slow process of democratic nation-building? Only a democratic space could begin to offer a more hopeful alternative to the lure of Islamism in a beleaguered Arab world. But this, it now seems clear, was never on the agenda of the Bush administration. The President never sent even faintly enough troops - and when that became clear, about a month after Baghdad fell, he still refused to budge.
Read in Full (If you have a strong stomach) QUOTE "The fact that Washington is seriously considering sending more American troops to Iraq illustrates a common phenomenon in war. As the certainty of defeat looms ever more clearly, the scrabbling about for a miracle cure, a deus ex machina, becomes ever more desperate - and more silly. Cavalry charges, Zeppelins, V-2 missiles, kamikazes, the list is endless. In the end, someone finally has to face facts and admit defeat. The sooner someone in Washington is willing to do that, the sooner the troops we already have in Iraq will come home--alive." William S. Lind (A conservative, BTW.)


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