Thursday, January 11, 2007

Cartoon by Steve Bell
U.S. warplanes on Thursday bombed parts of Baghdad's Shiite-majority neighborhood of Sadr city, while joint Iraqi-U.S. forces raided some areas in the district, eyewitnesses said. The planes hovered above the Sadr City until 3:00 a.m. and bombed some areas there, one of the witnesses told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The witness did not say if there were arrests but reported heavy shootings during the aerial bombing.
Five policemen, in civilian clothes and off duty after leaving work, were killed when gunmen ambushed them in al-Khadra neighbourhood in western Baghdad, said a security source and a medical official at the local hospital.
A man was killed and two others wounded when armed men barged into a money changer's outlet in downtown Baghdad.
The Russian embassy in Iraq twice came under automatic gunfire on Wednesday evening, the Foreign Ministry's website reported on Thursday. No one was injured, but the embassy building sustained material damage, the ministry said.
U.S. forces killed eight suspected insurgents and detained seven more during raids to capture al Qaeda leaders in the area of Tarmiya, on the northern outskirts of Baghdad, between Saturday and Monday, the U.S. military said.
Four Oil Ministry officials were kidnapped from a minibus near Nahrawan, just southeast of Baghdad.
Dhi Qar:
The [Australia] Defence Department says one of its armoured vehicles has been in a road accident in southern Iraq, with one soldier suffering minor injuries. The department said that the Australian Light Armoured Vehicle (ASLAV) accidentally drove into a tank ditch while on routine patrol about 8pm Monday, (Iraq time). The incident was said not to be a result of enemy activity.
Three Iraqis were killed and 31 others wounded in an initial toll of a suicide car bombing outside the house of Samaraa local council chief on Thursday, a police source in Samaraa said. "A suicide attacker driving a pick-up targeted at 11:00 a.m. the house of Sheikh Assad Ali al-Yassin the chief of Samaraa local council in al-Khadraa neighborhood in central Samaraa," the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) by telephone.
Police found the bodies of eight people from different districts of Mosul 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad.
Two mortars fired by insurgents hit a mainly Sunni Arab girls' school in Mosul on Wednesday, wounding nine people including four students and three other children, the U.S. military said.
Gunmen shot dead assistant dean of Mosul law faculty , a security source said. "Unidentified gunmen opened fire on Dr. Kamel Abdul-Hussein, assistant dean of the law faculty in Mosul University at noontime, killing him immediately," the source in Ninawa police operations rooms told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
Diyala Prov:
The Multi-National forces in Iraq said they killed eight gunmen and detained seven others in Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad, while joint forces killed 85 gunmen and detained 25 south of Balad Roze, Diala province.
"Coalition Forces killed eight (gunmen) and detained seven suspected (gunmen) during a series of raids which began Saturday and ended Monday to capture al-Qaida in Iraq leaders in the Tarmiyah area," the forces said in a statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). (…)
Another statement said that joint Multi National-Iraqi forces launched a massive operation south of Balad Roze.
"After seven days of combined operations south of Balad Roze, Iraqi Army soldiers, in partnership with 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, continue to discover large weapons caches and destroy anti-Iraqi forces throughout the Turki Village area," it said.
"Having cleared over 200 kilometers of terrain, the 1st Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army, with support from 3-1 Cav., has unearthed approximately 20 caches, killed more than 85 (gunmen) and detained 25 suspected anti-Iraqi forces," the statement added.
In Country:
Suspected Sunni insurgents attacked and set fire to a large oil pipeline in northern Iraq on Thursday, about 155 miles north of Baghdad, interrupting the flow from the Kirkuk oil fields, an official of the Northern Oil Company said. The 26-inch pipe, which feeds into a line running to Turkey's Mediterranean oil terminal, was still burning late on Thursday morning, and U.S. forces had cordoned off the area.
U.S. forces stormed an Iranian consular office in the northern Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil early on Thursday and arrested five people, including diplomats and staff, Iranian officials said. The U.S. military made no direct mention of Iranians but in answer to a query issued a statement saying six "individuals" were arrested during "routine" operations in the area. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini condemned the raid -- the second such operation in the past month as tensions between Washington and Tehran have mounted -- and said it was a violation of international law.
Iran's foreign ministry summoned the Iraqi and Swiss envoys to Tehran over the detention of five Iranian staffers at a diplomatic mission in northern Iraq state-run television reported. The broadcast said the ministry had summoned the ambassadors and "demanded an explanation" about the incident. Switzerland represents American interests in Iran, where there is no U.S. embassy.
The Presidency and government of Iraq's Kurdistan Thursday demanded the Multi-National Force (MNF) to release Iranian consulate staff members who were detained earlier today.
They expressed in a statement their dissatisfaction towards the incident and said that attacking a consulate violates 1963's Vienna conventions regarding diplomatic immunity of foreign consulates.
The statement pointed out that the operation contradicted with the Iraqi government's efforts to impose peace and stability in the country.
"Citizens of Iraq's Kurdistan express their dissatisfaction to such operations which violate the region internal affairs and create tension between Iraq and neighboring countries, therefore Iraqi Kurds demand the immediate release of the Iranian officials," the statement concluded.
The Iraqi government declined to comment on the U.S. forces raid on the Iranian consulate in Erbil and said it was waiting for "a clarification from both sides" the American and Iranian.
"Yes, we heard that the American forces stormed the Iranian consulate in Erbil and detained six employees," Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in reply to a question from the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) in a press conference in Baghdad.
"However, we still want to know the details of the issue, so we asked the foreign ministry to contact the American and Iranian sides to get to the bottom of the issue," he said.
Earlier in the day, Kurdish party sources told VOI that U.S. forces raided the Iranian consulate in Erbil, seized computers and documents and detained five people who were there.
An official source in Kurdistan government told VOI that Kurdish security forces were "trying to stop an American force from transferring detained Iranians out of the city through Erbil airport."
"Kurdistan government did not know and had no prior information of the raid on the Iranian consulate in Erbil. That is why the (Kurdish) security forces stopped the Americans from transferring those detained through Erbil international airport," the source said.
Another party source in Erbil said that forces of Zirfani Brigade affiliated to Kurdistan Democratic Party surrounded a U.S. force at the entrance of Einkawa town in northeastern Erbil.
He noted that no clashes erupted between the two forces.
Meanwhile, Kurdish security forces detained al-Hurra TV correspondent Sarwa Abdul-Wahid and assaulted the cameraman when they tried to shoot U.S. and Kurdish forces on the main road from Einkawa town to Erbil international airport, the correspondent said.
Later, the correspondent told VOI the Kurdish forces released her and the cameraman "after we promised no to shoot and leave the area."
According to NPR correspondent Ivan Watson, Kurdish forces prevented three American humvees from crossing into another part of town. A Kurdish guard told him that after an hour and a half standoff, weapons cocked, four blackhawks came to evacuate some of the US soldiers.
Condoleezza Rice warned Iran that the United States won't "stand idly by" if Tehran tries to disrupt Washington's renewed effort to stabilize Iraq.
Speaking hours after US troops reportedly arrested five Iranians in a raid in northern Iraq, Rice said Washington was determined to crack down on Iran's "regional aggression."
Rice declined to comment specifically on the operation in the northern city of Arbil, which came shortly after.
Video: US troops raided Iran's consulate in Arbil in northern Iraq on Thursday arresting five staff members.
Shotlist: Exterior shots of the Iranian consulate for Arbil, details of security officials and Peshemergas
Bush, visiting with troops at Fort Benning, Ga., cautioned that the troop increase "is not going to yield immediate results. It's going to take awhile."
And Defense Secretary Robert Gates, just three weeks on the job, told the House Armed Services Committee that despite one's view about whether the U.S. should have gone to war in the first place, "There seems to be broad agreement that failure in Iraq would be a calamity for our nation of lasting historical consequence."
At the same time, Gates said that "American patience is limited, and obviously if the Iraqis fail to maintain their commitments, we'll have to revisit our strategy." (...)
Meanwhile, Gates said he could not say just how long the buildup would last. "It's viewed as a temporary surge, but I think no one has a really clear idea of how long that might be," he told an early-morning White House briefing.
But he also said the United States should know pretty soon whether Iraqis were living up to their part of the deal and increasing their own forces.
In the first U.S. opinion poll results after Bush's address to the nation last night, 61% of Americans say they oppose boosting U.S. troop levels in Iraq, 58% say the war is not worth fighting, 57% say the U.S. is losing the war, and 57% say they're doubtful the Iraqi government can meet its security-related promises.
There is no electricity in Baghdad and the city of nearly 6 million people spends its nights in total darkness. The Ministry of Electricity says the total outage is the result of sabotage in which power lines feeding Baghdad were knocked out.
Nearly four years after the U.S. invasion, the country still has less electricity than under the former leader Saddam Hussein who was executed last month.
It is not only Baghdad that is plunged into darkness. The national grid is so rickety that no province in the country now enjoys non-interrupted supplies.
A source at the ministry said two high-voltage power lines feeding Baghdad were sabotaged.
He said technicians were working to have them repaired.
But even under normal circumstances the national grid is off for nearly 20 hours a day in Baghdad.
The outage comes as Iraqi forces aided by U.S. troops are battling anti-U.S. rebels in streets just a stone's throw from the heavily fortified Green Zone where the Americans and Iraqi government have their headquarters.
Fierce clashes broke out two hours ago [3,00 o'clock] in Ahdamiya neighborhood between the residents and armed militias who are trying to storm the neighborhood.
[I bet the scenario as yesterday in Haifa Street, the militias will ask the Americans to assist]
As for yesterday attack on Haifa Street a letter written by a woman lives in "Haifa Street" addressing the Iraqirabita saying:
The Iraqi authorities and the occupation forces claimed that they had arrested Arab terrorists in Haifa Street, including Sudanese!
The Sudanese called (Tom) and working as a janitor in one of the buildings lived in Iraq since 80s and he is a student in the fourth grade of the Engineering College, he has nothing to do with the fighters.
They killed a guy who sells [falafel] because his name is Omar, later they discovered that he is a Shiite, selling [falafel] to support his family.
President Bush's plan to send tens of thousands of U.S. and Iraqi reinforcements to Baghdad to jointly confront Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias is likely to touch off a more dangerous phase of the war, featuring months of fighting in the streets of the Iraqi capital, current and former military officials warned.
"The terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are without conscience, and they will make the year ahead bloody and violent," the president said last night in explaining his revised approach.
"Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue -- and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties."
The prospect of a more intense battle in the Iraqi capital could put U.S. military commanders in exactly the sort of tough urban fight that war planners strove to avoid during the spring 2003 invasion of the country. The plan to partner U.S. and Iraqi units may compel American soldiers to rely on questionable Iraqi army and police forces as never before. And while the president insisted there is no timetable associated with the troop increase, military officials said sustaining it for more than a few months would place a major new strain on U.S. forces that already are feeling burdened by an unexpectedly long and difficult war.
Most of all, the White House's insistence on confronting all insurgents and militias, both Sunni and Shiite, may mean that the U.S. military will wind up fighting the Mahdi Army of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. That militia is estimated by some U.S. intelligence officials to have grown over the past year to about 60,000 fighters, and some in the Pentagon consider it more militarily effective than the Iraqi army. Fighting it could resemble on a citywide scale the sharp combat that took place this week along central Baghdad's Haifa Street, in which U.S. jets and attack helicopters conducted airstrikes just north of the U.S. Embassy in the protected Green Zone.
"There will be more violence than usual because of the surge, and a surge with more casualties plays up on the international stage," said a senior Army official. Sadr "is going to have to make a choice, and if he decides on a confrontation, it will be pretty significant," added a senior Pentagon official.
read in full...
As President Bush challenges public opinion at home by committing more American troops, he is confronted by a paradox: an Iraqi government that does not really want them.
The Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has not publicly opposed the American troop increase, but aides to Mr. Maliki have been saying for weeks that the government is wary of the proposal. They fear that an increased American troop presence, particularly in Baghdad, will be accompanied by a more assertive American role that will conflict with the Shiite government's haste to cut back on American authority and run the war the way it wants. American troops, Shiite leaders say, should stay out of Shiite neighborhoods and focus on fighting Sunni insurgents.
"The government believes there is no need for extra troops from the American side," Haidar al-Abadi, a Parliament member and close associate of Mr. Maliki, said Wednesday. "The existing troops can do the job."
read in full...
Forget that the official White House photo of Bush's grand Iraq speech could aptly be captioned "Deer In The Headlights." My question is, what was Bush doing in that dinky White House library -- which served as a laundry until it was remodeled by Theodore Roosevelt in 1902?
According to the NYT, the setting was chosen: "to create more of a sense of a conversation with an anxious American public." (I guess, as one of the closest rooms to the visitors entrance, that make some sense.) Still, it's almost too easy to critique the library location, as if the room offered physical compensation for the way the Iraq plan lacks rhyme or reason, or is hardly studied in any way.
What was most interesting about this location, however, was where it wasn't.
Where it wasn't was in the Oval Office, where Bush has made so many past promises, the backdrop would have clashed with his credibility. Where it also wasn't was in any other power spot in the White House -- which would have only emphasized how little authority Bush has left.
And then, the other element dramatically missing from yesterday setting was the big flag in the background. Why? Because the White House has so twisted that cloth into a giant symbol of dominance and jingoism that its presence, too, only emphasizes that Dubya never delivered the goods.
Free Iraq: DÉJÀ VU
... what happened on January 10, 1967 ...
The big news story that night? President Lyndon B. Johnson's State of the Union address.
The topic that dominated all others: Vietnam.
I'm going to guide you to some excerpts of that address -- exactly 40 years ago tonight.
See how it compares to some of the excerpts from President Bush's speech that were just released minutes ago:
LBJ, Jan. 10, 1967: We have chosen to fight a limited war in Vietnam in an attempt to prevent a larger war--a war almost certain to follow, I believe, if the Communists succeed in overrunning and taking over South Vietnam by aggression and by force. I believe, and I am supported by some authority, that if they are not checked now the world can expect to pay a greater price to check them later.
GWB, Jan. 10, 2007: Tonight in Iraq, the Armed Forces of the United States are engaged in a struggle that will determine the direction of the global war on terror - and our safety here at home. The new strategy I outline tonight will change America's course in Iraq, and help us succeed in the fight against terror.
LBJ, Jan. 10, 1967: I wish I could report to you that the conflict is almost over. This I cannot do. We face more cost, more loss, and more agony. For the end is not yet. I cannot promise you that it will come this year--or come next year. Our adversary still believes, I think, tonight, that he can go on fighting longer than we can, and longer than we and our allies will be prepared to stand up and resist.
GWB, Jan. 10, 2007: Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have.
LBJ, Jan. 10, 1967: Our South Vietnamese allies are also being tested tonight. Because they must provide real security to the people living in the countryside. And this means reducing the terrorism and the armed attacks which kidnaped and killed 26,900 civilians in the last 32 months, to levels where they can be successfully controlled by the regular South Vietnamese security forces. It means bringing to the villagers an effective civilian government that they can respect, and that they can rely upon and that they can participate in, and that they can have a personal stake in. We hope that government is now beginning to emerge.
GWB, Jan. 10, 2007: Only the Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.
LBJ, Jan. 10, 1967: This forward movement is rooted in the ambitions and the interests of Asian nations themselves. It was precisely this movement that we hoped to accelerate when I spoke at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore in April 1965, and I pledged "a much more massive effort to improve the life of man" in that part of the world, in the hope that we could take some of the funds that we were spending on bullets and bombs and spend it on schools and production.
GWB, Jan. 10, 2007: A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced.
LBJ, Jan. 10, 1967: We have chosen to fight a limited war in Vietnam in an attempt to prevent a larger war--a war almost certain to follow, I believe, if the Communists succeed in overrunning and taking over South Vietnam by aggression and by force. I believe, and I am supported by some authority, that if they are not checked now the world can expect to pay a greater price to check them later.
GWB, Jan. 10, 2007: The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time...In the long run, the most realistic way to protect the American people is to provide a hopeful alternative to the hateful ideology of the enemy - by advancing liberty across a troubled region.
LBJ, Jan. 10, 1967: A time of testing--yes. And a time of transition. The transition is sometimes slow; sometimes unpopular; almost always very painful; and often quite dangerous. But we have lived with danger for a long time before, and we shall live with it for a long time yet to come. We know that "man is born unto trouble." We also know that this Nation was not forged and did not survive and grow and prosper without a great deal of sacrifice from a great many men.
GWB, Jan. 10, 2007: Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship...A democratic Iraq will not be perfect. But it will be a country that fights terrorists instead of harboring them - and it will help bring a future of peace and security for our children and grandchildren.
Not much to add here -- the words of Lyndon Johnson and George W. Bush pretty much speak for themselves.
Two things, though.
First of all, only 7,917 American troop had died in Vietnam through the end of 1966, or ten days before Johnson's speech. From the beginning of 1967 though the end of the war, an addition 50,285 -- more than six times as many -- Americans would lose their lives.
Also, and we're not endorsing this action by any means, then or now, but it is interesting to note that in that 1967 SOTU, LBJ also called for a 6 percent surcharge on personal and corporate income taxes to pay for the cost of the war. That's a level of responsibility -- and yes, sacrifice -- for war that our current president is unwilling to take.
Unwilling to accept the failure of his war of aggression in Iraq, his "war of choice," Bush announced tonight a plan that will succeed only in sending thousands of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers to their graves in the next year.
What Bush is really proposing is using thousands of additional U.S. soldiers in a planned reign of terror in the streets and neighborhoods of Baghdad against those who want the U.S. to leave. Bush chose to use a euphemism about the planned reign of terror when he stated that one of the past "mistakes" of the U.S. military operation in Baghdad was that, "there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have." The blood will flow just as Bush promises but this plan will fail just as badly as every announced initiative since Bush arrogantly taunted the Iraqi resistance with his infamous "Bring em on" speech back in 2003. Bush gave the people of the United States a warning that they should expect the coming year will be "bloody and violent," with "television screens filled with images of death and suffering." He tried to innoculate himself from responsibility for this carnage although his plan makes it inevitable.
Bush's aspiration to salvage his "legacy" and his place in history isn't worth one more life. Every mother and father of a U.S. soldier, every person who has a loved one in the U.S. armed forces should make it clear that the lives of their family members are too precious to be sacrificed for such an ignoble cause.
read in full...
Reality Based Educator: TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE
The United States had 165,000 troops in Iraq in late 2005/early 2006 for the Iraqi national elections.
The Pentagon rotated troops out over the ensuing months and never replaced them until the troop level dropped by more than 35,000.
Now the administration is going to add 22,000 more troops in its vaunted "surge," yet even after all the surge troops are rotated into Iraq, the total number of U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq will be less than the 165,000 we had in there in late 2005/early 2006.
The Washington Post put it this way:
Bush said it is now clear that there have not been sufficient troops in Baghdad, and that part of the difference in this approach is that the plan will be adequately resourced. Yet the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq after the planned increase will be about 153,000, less than the peak of about 165,000 in December 2005. Military experts last night wondered, as one said, how a "thin green line" of 17,500 additional soldiers in Baghdad could affect the security situation in a city where many of the 5 million residents are hostile to the U.S. presence. "Too little, too late -- way too late," said retired Col. Jerry Durrant, who has worked as a trainer of Iraqi forces.
So how is Bush's vaunted troop surge really so different than previous administration war policy?
It seems to me to be just another dog and pony show designed by the administration's propaganda-meisters to delay the inevitable withdrawal of U.S. troops from a ruptured and destroyed Iraq.
The preznut's going to leave that job to the next president.
Citing a desire to finally make a difference in Iraq, in the past two weeks, more than 800,000 young people from upper-middle- and upper-class families have put aside their education, careers, and physical well-being to enlist in the military, new data from the Department Of Defense shows.
"I don't know if it was the safety and comfort of the holidays or what, but I realized that my affluence and ease of living comes at a cost," said Private Jonathan Grace, 18, who was to commence studies at Dartmouth College next fall, but will instead attend 12 weeks of basic training before being deployed to Fallujah with the 1st Army Battalion. "I just looked at my parents in their cashmere sweaters and thought, 'Who am I to go to an elite liberal arts college and spend all my time reading while, in the real world, thousands of kids my age are sacrificing their lives for our country?' It's not right."
Added Grace: "Whether I agree with the war or not, our president needs us, and I'll be damned if I'm going to let our least advantaged citizens bear the brunt of this awesome burden."
At the on-campus temporary recruitment table at Reed College in Portland, OR, the line of students eager to sign up for active duty stretched around the block Monday. Recruiters across the country reported a similar trend, with scores of young people asking how soon they could be ready to go to battle in Iraq. (...)
U.S. Gen. John Abizaid, who has in the past argued against a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, now says that with the influx of nearly a million troops expected to be on the ground Feb. 1, the region should be stabilized within six weeks.
read in full...
Jan. 11 is the fifth anniversary of the arrival of the first group of prisoners at Guantanamo.
Some of those original 20 men are still there today, having been through almost unbelievable travails and abuses. None face the prospect of anything like a fair trial, and most are expected never to have any trial at all. Yet unlike prisoners-of-war who are held under the conditions defined in international law they cannot even expect to return to their homes at the end of any duly defined war. (And they are held in conditions far, far worse than the minimum standards established for POWs under international law.)
Now, there are some 395 men still in Gitmo. The vast majority of them have been there between two-and-a-half years and five years. Just 14 men were added to the rolls there last September, having been flown in from a secret CIA pirson or prisons elsewhere.
read in full...
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "[Bush's 'surge' plan is] the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out." -- Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska speaking to Condoleeza Rice at today's US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings.


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