Thursday, April 29, 2004

Canadians Allow Islamic Courts To Decide Disputes (
Sharia Gains Foothold in Ontario
TORONTO -- Suad Almad, her head wrapped in a blue silk scarf, was discussing her beliefs with a group of friends. She said fervently that she thought the lives of all Muslims should be governed by Islamic law, known as sharia.
'It's something nobody can change and we must follow,' said Almad, who came to Canada from Somalia, then engulfed by war, more than 12 years ago. 'We come to Canada and we become lost . . . We need our own court and we need our own law,' she said, her voice strong and certain. 'That's what I believe.'
Almad and thousands of other Muslims, taking advantage of a provision of the law in the province of Ontario, can now decide some civil disputes under sharia, including family disagreements and inheritance, business and divorce issues, using tribunals that include imams, Muslim elders and lawyers. While it is less than full implementation of sharia, local leaders consider it a significant step."
MSNBC - Iraq congress members under investigation Members of the Iraqi National Congress and its leader Ahmed Chalabi were airlifted into southern Iraq the day Saddam’s government fell.....
But NBC News has learned that members of the group are now under investigation by Iraqi police in Baghdad — allegations of:
* abduction
* robbery
* stealing 11 Iraqi government vehicles
* assaulting police by firing on them during a search.
An Iraqi police official says one doctor claims he was kidnapped at gunpoint: “They bound him, took him to an unknown place and after he got back to his house he discovered they took $20,000. We caught the suspects and they said they were from the INC.”
Iraqi authorities tell NBC that four INC operatives are under arrest, and an arrest warrant has been issued for the INC’s chief of intelligence.
The INC confirms its offices were searched six times and 11 cars seized. But officials say they’ve done nothing illegal. “There is something going on which basically is, what it appears to me, is trying to put political pressure on the INC,”according to INC official Mudhar Shawkat.
All this comes in the wake of findings that key intelligence on weapons of mass destruction provided by Chalabi’s group was false, perhaps even fabricated.
In fact, the former head of the weapons hunt, David Kay, questions why a group that provided “fabricated information” is still on the U.S. payroll. “You know, once taken, excused," says Kay. "Twice taken you’re an idiot. And I think we’re now at the point of we’re really an idiot.”
Why Iraq Governing Council failed | : "To council member Ghazi al-Yawar, the conclusion is simple. 'We've failed,'' he says. With a trace of disgust, he complains that a sectarian council, more focused on survival than on serious issues, has simply added to the country's problems.
'We sit in the council while the country is burning and argue over procedure,'' says Sheikh Yawar, a Sunni tribal leader who lived abroad until last year. 'We're like the Byzantines in Constantinople, debating whether angels are male or female with the barbarians at the gate.'
Under Mr. Brahimi's plan for a transitional government, all 25 members of the US-appointed council would be culled in favor of a team of technocrats to be chosen next month by Brahimi's team and influential Iraqis, with US input. The group would take power in July and shepherd Iraq to elections next January - in which, ideally, they would not participate."
The New York Times > Washington > Hussein's Agents Are Behind Attacks in Iraq, Pentagon Finds
WASHINGTON, April 28 — A Pentagon intelligence report has concluded that many bombings against Americans and their allies in Iraq, and the more sophisticated of the guerrilla attacks in Falluja, are organized and often carried out by members of Saddam Hussein's secret service, who planned for the insurgency even before the fall of Baghdad.
The report states that Iraqi officers of the "Special Operations and Antiterrorism Branch," known within Mr. Hussein's government as M-14, are responsible for planning roadway improvised explosive devices and some of the larger car bombs that have killed Iraqis, Americans and other foreigners. The attacks have sown chaos and fear across Iraq.
In addition, suicide bombers have worn explosives-laden vests made before the war under the direction of of M-14 officers, according to the report, prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency. The report also cites evidence that one such suicide attack last April, which killed three Americans, was carried out by a pregnant woman who was an M-14 colonel.
Its findings were based on interrogations with high-ranking M-14 members who are now in American custody, as well as on documents uncovered and translated by the Iraq Survey Group. While the report cites specific evidence, other important assessments of American intelligence on Iraq have been challenged and even proven wrong.
Yahoo! News - Top House Dem Says She'll Take Communion : "WASHINGTON - House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., like John Kerry a Catholic who supports abortion rights, said Thursday she will continue to ask for Holy Communion in spite of Vatican opposition to pro-choice Catholics doing so.
'I fully intend to receive Communion, one way or another. That's very important to me,' Pelosi told reporters during her weekly press conference.
A top Vatican cardinal said last week that priests must deny Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion rights. The cardinal stopped short of saying whether it was right for Kerry to receive Communion, and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee quickly affirmed his support for abortion rights and took Communion the next day."
Hahaha! So they believe in the Catholic church when it administers communion, but don't believe in it when those pesky priests try to tell them what they can and can't do. Either you're Catholic, or you're not. Period. What hypocrites. Arrogant politicians who don't think the rules apply to them.
Was it all fabricated? The still unexplained attacks in Damascus on Tuesday night were a fabrication of Syria's Ba'ath Party hoping for carte blanche for a crackdown on the regime's opponents, claimed the dissident Reform Party of Syria (RPS) Wednesday.
Syria blamed al-Qaida for the attacks which according to reports left a police officer and at least two terrorists dead in the Mazza district of the capital, home to several embassies and international organizations.
RPS noted that the attack had little of the telltale markers of an al-Qaida strike, usually a well-coordinated, high-potential attack using a combination of suicide bombers and gunmen. Al-Qaida's predilection for larger attacks, and its use of Syria as a base for operations, casts doubt that the Wahabi group was involved, said RPS.
"Anyway, why would al-Qaida, which uses Syria as a conduit to send Mujahideen to Iraq, risk its standing with such an attack?" he added.
An Israeli intelligence source said the nature of the attack and the assailants remains unclear, although Syria, a totalitarian police state, has in the past covered up terrorist attacks. Staging them, he said, is not so different, perhaps even easier.
The purpose of such a fabrication, claims RPS, is that it could offset mounting pressure on the regime to fight terror. It also gives Bashar Assad a free hand to wipe out his opponents while showing that "his ruthless and autocratic regime serves to protect Western interests," said the RPS statement.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Inside Falluja, a Cease-Fire in Name Only American commanders were also closely monitoring reports from inside Najaf said that growing anger of residents there against Mr. Sadr and his militiamen, who have sown a pattern of lawlessness since launching an uprising in the city earlier this month, had taken a startling new turn with a shadowy group of assassins killing at least five Sadr militiamen in attacks on Sunday and Monday.
Those reports, from residents of the city who reached relatives in Baghdad by telephone, said the killings had been carried out by a group calling itself the Thulfiqar Army, after a two-bladed sword that Shiite tradition says was used by Imam Ali, the martyred son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed, the patron saint of Shiism. Accounts of the killings said the new group had distributed leaflets in Najaf threatening to assassinate members of Mr. Sadr’s militia, known as the Mahdi Army, unless they left Najaf immediately.
One Najaf resident said some of Mr. Sadr’s militiamen were shedding the black clothing that had been their signature during the weeks that they have occupied Najaf and large parts of other cities in central and southern Iraq with majority Shiite populations.
The same resident said that he knew of two killings of Mahdi Army members on Sunday, near a roundabout in Najaf named for the 1920 tribal revolt against British colonial authority in Iraq, and that three more Sadr militiamen had been killed later on Sunday or Monday.
…reports of violence against Mr. Sadr’s followers in Najaf suggested that the American occupation authority might finally be seeing the beginnings of Iraqis taking action of their own to curb the firebrand cleric - as the American administrator, L. Paul Bremer III, recently urged in a television address…

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

AFRL Developing Technology to Help Military,
Law Enforcement See through Walls
ROME, N.Y., Jan. 27, 2003 --- Visions of Superman!!
: "Engineers at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Information Directorate are pursuing technologies that will allow military peacekeepers and civilian law enforcement personnel to monitor individuals concealed in buildings."
My Way News - Saudis Reinforce Hunt for Militants : "RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) - Convoys of police vehicles headed into a mountainous area northeast of Riyadh Tuesday to join a hunt for terror suspects, possibly including the chief of al-Qaida's Saudi network.
Abdulaziz Issa Abdul-Mohsin al-Moqrin, the kingdom's most wanted militant, is believed holed up with four to five other terror suspects near al-Hassayah, 30 miles northeast of Riyadh.
Police armed with automatic weapons stopped traffic at a checkpoint near al-Hassayah, and a helicopter flew overhead as police vehicles streamed past palm groves to the area.
A security official told The Associated Press that counterterrorism officers have surrounded the area since late Sunday."
My Way News : "DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) - Gunmen attacked a former United Nations office in a diplomatic quarter of Damascus, setting off a battle with police that pelted nearby buildings with bullets and grenades.
The fighting killed two attackers, a policeman and a civilian, the government said.
Syria has not seen such violence since the 1980s, when the government put down an insurgency by Islamic militants.
>>>Syria has been on the U.S. State Department's list of terror-sponsoring nations for its support of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah that attack Israel. Syria, though, says the anti-Israeli groups are not terrorist, and that it has an interest in fighting Islamic extremist groups like al-Qaida.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Syria's hard-line government fought a fierce war with Islamic fundamentalists of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was blamed for a 1980 assassination attempt on President Hafez Assad, the country's authoritarian leader who died from natural causes in 2000. Assad was succeeded by his son, Bashar Assad.
In 1982, the Muslim Brotherhood staged a rebellion in the northern province of Hama. During the clashes, Syrian forces razed much of the city, killing as many as 10,000 people and finally crushing the Brotherhood after a five-year war."
This is very interesting. I wonder if Syria is perhaps going along with the US more than we know, and rounding up Islamic terrorists, and this is their punishment, or if it was more of an anti-regime attack due to the political change in Iraq, and the government is trying to play down any whiff of rebellion.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Najaf's leaders call on al-Sadr to end standoff - The Washington Times: World - April 22, 2004 NAJAF, Iraq (AP) — Tribal leaders in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf yesterday called on an anti-American cleric's militia to end its standoff with U.S. troops.
The statement, signed by 25 tribal leaders, was the first direct call by residents of Najaf for Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi's Army to put down its weapons.
"To all armed people in the holy city of Najaf: After the failure of peaceful efforts and increasing tension in the city, we ask you in the name of Islam to preserve the holiness of the city," the one-page statement said.
"We call upon you to leave matters to Iraqi officials and legitimate authorities so that the blood of innocent people is not shed," it said. "We call on you to take your responsibilities in front of God and in front of society."
KurdishMedia News - Daily Kurdish news updates SULEIMANIYA, Iraq, April 22 (AFP) - 12h03 - Twenty members of the Ansar al-Islam extremist Islamic group who were allegedly planning attacks against US-led coalition forces have been arrested in northern Iraq, a Kurdish official said Thursday
"Twenty members of Ansar al-Islam (Followers of Islam) were arrested between April 14 and 19. Large quantities of arms and explosives were seized from those people who were planning terrorists attacks," said Sarkut Hassan, a security official for Suleimaniya province which is controled by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
"The detainees are Kurds from Suleimaniya," he told a press conference, adding that they had planned to attack public institutions and coalition forces.
On March 22, the United States added Ansar al-Islam to its official list of terrorist organizations, saying it is linked to Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network and has mounted attacks against US-led forces in Iraq.
Telegraph | News | Beirut veteran blamed over Basra attacks : "A leading Lebanese terrorist accused of blowing up the American embassy in Beirut in the 1980s is being held responsible for the increase in suicide bomb attacks against coalition targets in southern Iraq.
In the latest blasts, in the British-controlled sector in Basra at the end of last week, 73 people - including 18 children - were killed when five suicide car bombs exploded outside police stations.
Western intelligence officials have uncovered evidence that the attacks are being co-ordinated by Imad Mugniyeh, a leading figure in Lebanon's extremist Hizbollah Shia Muslim terror organisation."
New Iraqi Flag Meets With Public Disapproval ( : "BAGHDAD, April 26 -- It was supposed to be the perfect symbol for a new and unified Iraq: an Islamic crescent on a field of pure white, with two blue stripes representing the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and a third yellow stripe to symbolize the country's Kurdish minority.
But the new national flag, presented Monday after an artistic competition sponsored by the Iraqi Governing Council, appears to have met with widespread public disapproval here -- in part because of its design and in part because of the increasing unpopularity of the U.S.-appointed council.
>>>To a large extent, however, public objections to the new flag seem to be intertwined with broader unhappiness with the 25-member Governing Council, which many Iraqis closely identify with U.S. interests.
Criticism of council members, and disputes among them, have sharply increased with the approach of the June 30 deadline for U.S. authorities to hand over power to a new interim government, which is to remain in office until elections are held early next year.
Some members have made it clear they want to be part of the new government. But both U.S. and U.N. officials here have suggested a clean sweep may be in order. "
I think it's dumb to make a new Iraqi flag now. It's going to be difficult to get the Iraqis to think of their new government as belonging to them, and flying a new "foreign" flag over their offices doesn't help matters. Maybe add some symbol to the existing one or something.
News about Infantry at's How to Make War. INFANTRY: Sniper Tactics Dominate the Iraqi Battlefields The army has a five week sniper school, and the marines have a ten week course that is considered one of the best in the world. These schools turn out professional snipers who know how to operate independently in two man teams. Marine regiments (about the same size as army brigades) have about three times as many snipers per battalion as army units. But both the army and the marines are taking advantage of the greater number of veteran troops in their combat units, and the fact that just about every soldier has a rifle with a scope, and has a lot of target practice behind them. Infantry commanders are encouraged to find and designate about ten percent of their men as “sharpshooters” (sort of “sniper lite”) and make use of these guys to take out enemy troops at a distance, and with single shots. This is a trend that has been growing for over a decade, but has now become a major feature of American infantry tactics.
The marines won’t release any numbers of sniper kills (except that the top scoring sniper in Fallujah has 24 kills so far), but it is known from emails coming back that the marines use snipers, and sniping tactics (for non-snipers), extensively. Part of this is to comply with the Rules of Engagement (ROE) that call for minimizing civilian casualties. Most often, the marines only use a lot of fire power when they are ambushed (there is no better way to deal with an ambush than to blast your way out of it). But most of the Iraqi gunmen are killed by single shots, usually by the trained snipers, after the snipers and their commanders had carefully set up sniper firing positions that covered areas they knew Iraqis liked to travel through. UAVs and lots of scouting, plus questioning of prisoners, reveals the Iraqi routes and makes them deadly to use. This has terrorized the Iraqis, which is exactly what it is intended to do. The army and marine snipers particularly like to work at night, when their night vision and thermal imaging equipment enables them to shoot accurately in the darkness. This further reduces the chance of civilian losses, and increases the terror.

Sunday, April 25, 2004 Inside Cover Story : "On Saturday, Jordanian officials announced that they had seized WMD components from the cars of the al Qaeda terror plotters, which had been intercepted just 75 miles from the Syrian border. Experts said that had the WMD plot succeeded, it could have killed 20,000.
Jordan's King Abdullah confirmed that the al Qaeda vehicles had come from Syria,
Noted Loftus:
'Syria dopes not make VX nerve gas - only Saddam Hussein did. So it looks as if now that Israeli intelligence and British intelligence were right - that Syria did indeed get a hold of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction just before the war.'
Loftus said lab tests of the al Qaeda weapons would be key to establishing a link between the WMDs found in Jordan and Saddam's missing stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons."
DEBKAfile - Terrorists Lose Rantisi, But Learn to Beat Border Detectors Faced with these obstacles, the Hizballah and Al Qaeda tried moving the venue of their joint chemical mega-strike to Amman. They prepared three bomb vehicles packed with poison gas canisters. The gas was to be released by massive explosions. The element of Palestinian revenge for Yassin’s death was embodied in the attachment to the seven-man terrorist team of Azmi Jayoussi from the West Bank town of Jenin.
The entire team has been rounded up, but for Jayoussi, who has so far eluded the long arm of Jordanian security. He is the first Palestinian known to have been integrated in an Al Qaeda hit group. Had the calamitous attack come off, Hamas would have hailed Jayoussi as their dead leader’s great avenger and living proof that their organization’s reach extends beyond the narrow limits of the Gaza Strip.
Jordanian intelligence director Lt.-Gen Saad Kheir may have been exaggerating the potential death toll of 20,000 from this attack, but even one quarter of that number would have outstripped the total of Americans killed on 9/11. Since the death vehicles crossed from Syria into Jordan already rigged for action, there can be no doubt that Syrian president Bashar Assad and the head of his security bodies knew what was going on and may even have abetted in the plot.
After it was foiled, Jordan’s King Abdullah II in telephone calls made his certainty on this point known to President W. Bush, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and finally told Assad he knew what he was up to.
It is no coincidence that the March 17 attack on Israel’s Mediterranean port at Ashdod like the foiled Amman mega-strike was orchestrated from Damascus. DEBKAfile’s terror experts have become convinced that the mega-strike hanging over Israel’s head may indeed emanate from the Syrian capital rather than the Gaza Strip.
A second common factor is noted by our analysts between the foiled al Qaeda-Hizballah attack in Amman and the most recent terrorist attacks against Israel: a dangerous gap in anti-terror defenses, which has been heavily overshadowed by the precision of the strikes that wiped out two Hamas leaders. What it means is that the Hizballah, al Qaeda and the Palestinians have learned how to smuggle explosive devices and war materials undetected through well-secured crossing points and borders.
>>> The disposal of a terrorist mastermind such as Rantisi, however important for stemming Palestinian violence, could pale compared with the terrorists’ success in bringing the tools of their deadly trade through an unidentified hole in the standard inspection systems that guard ports the world over. The terrorists have clearly developed some way of blinding the detectors, maybe new types of explosive components, metals or detonators.
The sensitivity of regulation walk-through detectors is adjusted to avoid setting off false alarms for small personal objects like keys, coins, belt buckles, small ornaments or pacemakers. They also feature high-speed detection of objects moving up to 15 meters per second. The Karni and Erez crossings are also equipped with an X-Ray scanner. Explosives sniffers are present. Yet individuals and vehicles loaded with explosive devices were able to pass through this battery of gadgets in Gaza, Israel and Jordan without being stopped.
So why not international airports?

Rantisi’s Putsch
DEBKAfile’s Islamic sources reported the shock experienced by the main body of Hamas when they discovered overnight that their movement had always been a mere offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. This emerged from the Yassin obituary published in Cairo by the Brotherhood’s head, Muhammed Aqf, in which he honored the late leader as “Supreme Teacher of the Muslim Brotherhood-Palestine.” Hamas members had always believed they were fighting in the name of Palestinian nationhood - not Islamic fundamentalism. Because of its position in the world movement, Yassin was careful never to allow the Hamas to carry out overseas operations, which he accepted were the province of other parts of the Brotherhood, such as the Egyptian Jihad Islami which has amalgamated with al Qaeda.
One key decision facing the new Hamas leader is whether to start launching operations overseas or stick to Yasin’s restrictiveness. A pointer that the new men plan to spread their wings came from the stream of hate-filled invective against the United States issuing in the last 24 hours from the movement’s post-Yassin spokesmen.
Hamas’ Missteps Set Scene for Yassin Assassination: The same mistakes that set the scene for the assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin are now tying the hands of his organization for carrying out its sworn revenge mega-strike against his Israeli killers. It was only after his death that the Hamas perceived they had been treated to the second half of Israel’s massive 2002 operation on the West Bank in the wake of the Netanya Park Hotel massacre, an operation aimed at cutting terrorist capabilities down to the bone. They found themselves left with insufficient resources for wreaking the revenge they craved and mounting a striking mega-terror attack that would bring Israel to its knees.
This realization dawned on them too late after too many losses:
1. The Ashdod Port strike had blown for good their most important method of smuggling terrorists past heavy security - a cargo container. Months will be needed before they can come up with a new dodge.
2. Hamas lacks the organization for operations outside the Gaza Strip. DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources report Hamas can field only one competent operative on the West Bank, Ahmed Bader. But even he is hardly active after lying low for several months in the Ramallah district to avoid the long arm of Israeli security. He is therefore not the man to orchestrate mega attacks.
3. It is no good counting on Arafat’s Fatah-al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades for an operation that will spill the blood of hundreds of Israelis. This group is not capable of much beyond sending suicide bombers with explosive belts against buses, cafes and malls – nothing more impressive.
To find terrorists capable of large-scale massacres, the group was forced to turn to major outside terrorist players. Hizballah and al Qaeda have therefore been asked to perform expeditiously against an Israeli or Jewish target overseas. Security has been stepping up in all parts of Israel and increased for Israeli embassies aboard and Jewish synagogues and schools.
Hamas has no real overseas resources – except in Syria. The Hamas plea has accordingly been addressed to the Hizballah, al Qaeda and the Islamic Republic of Iran, all of whom function in many countries and know how to plant agents in Israel.
The question now is does such an operation suit the agenda of any of these partners in terror. Israel will soon find out.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Najaf: Radical Cleric Is Unwanted by His Neighbors …Standing in the courtyard of [Najaf’s] golden-domed Shrine of Ali on Friday, staring at 2,500 worshipers seated on rugs, the imam, Sadr al-Din al-Kubanchi, hurled words as sharp as scimitars at the army that had invaded this holy city.
But the soldiers he denounced were not Americans but members of [Moktada al-Sadr’s] Mahdi Army…
“It’s not brave to take refuge in the house or the mosque or the markets and use women and children as human shields,” Mr. Kubanchi said of the Mahdi Army. “They are people who are trying to cheat you, and they are people from the regime of Saddam Hussein, former intelligence officers. They want to drag you into battle to be destroyed. If that happens, the soldiers will attack Najaf, and our enemies will happily see our blood flow.”
The standoff in Najaf has turned into a showdown between the clerics of the city and Mr. Sadr, as the religious and tribal leaders here try to nudge their unwanted neighbor out of town…
Gingerly, since Mr. Sadr now runs the city, they have handed out flyers and given speeches urging the Mahdi Army to take its fight elsewhere. They have done so while their mosques and homes are surrounded by undisciplined militiamen…
Aljazeera.Net - Pakistan in deal with 'al-Qaida' fighters : "The five men were expected to hand in a list of foreign fighters living with them in South Waziristan, a desolate region where al-Qaida leader Usama bin Ladin and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri have been hunted in the past.
Thousands of turbanned Pashtun tribesmen looked on as the five men from the Zali Kheil tribe turned themselves in before a 'jirga', or tribal council, and pledged loyalty to Pakistan in return for clemency.
The deal also allows hundreds of alleged al-Qaida fighters to remain at liberty in exchange for pledges to live peacefully.
It also ends the Pakistani army's bloody hunt for Taliban guerrillas in the tribal region which has left more than 100 people dead."
Looks like this whole Waziristan offensive by the Pakistanis has basically petered out. Pretty slim pickings.
Aljazeera.Net - Iraqi government will exclude INC members : "The US has decided to exclude from the interim Iraqi government the majority of politicians who have served on the US-appointed Governing Council over the last year.
In a report on Saturday, The Washington Post cited unnamed US and UN officials who claimed an entirely new Iraqi government would be picked to assume power on 30 June.
The latest shift in policy comes as the US-led occupation administration faces some contentious and long-standing issues ahead of the power transfer.
The Post said at the top of the list of those probably to be jettisoned was Ahmad Chalabi, a Shia politician who for years was a Pentagon favourite and popular with Vice President Richard Cheney.
Fall from favour?
Chalabi has increasingly alienated his paymasters in the Bush administration, including the president."
Fallujah Impasse to Be Decided in `Days,' U.S.'s Says
`Days, Not Weeks'
``We do caution that we are in a mode right now of days, not weeks,'' Senor said of the standoff in Fallujah. Fallujah's fighters, urged to turn in weapons, yesterday gave up only about enough to fill a pickup truck, Conway said. U.S. Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt at the Baghdad news conference with Senor characterized what was turned in as ``junk'' and ``trash,'' rather than the heavy weapons the U.S. requested.
``We need to see a better indication of good faith on the part of the negotiators,'' said Conway.
Over the past 24 hours, Marines were attacked twice in Fallujah, according Kimmitt. The soldiers are maintaining a cordon around the city, not allowing people in or out.
Foreign Fighters
Senor said foreign terrorists, members of Hussein's intelligence service, elite Special Republican Guard and militiamen, as well as drug users and other ``serious, dangerous, violent criminals'' are inside Fallujah. Conway declined to say what countries the foreign fighters are from.
``Our concern is that if they're able to escape the cordon here, we'll have to fight them someplace else,'' Conway said.
The U.S. estimated that between 1,000 and 2,000 foreign fighters were in Fallujah before the U.S. military operation there began earlier this month, according to Kimmitt.
In Balad, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, U.S. soldiers raided a suspected safe house for Shiite Muslim al-Sadr-linked fighters and detained ``six targeted individuals and 15 males,'' Kimmitt said.
Baghdad Attacks
In Baghdad, coalition forces were attacked 16 times and 18 suspects were captured in military operations. In Sadr City, a Baghdad slum and stronghold of the cleric, U.S. soldiers raided ``several Sadr strongholds'' and detained five people, Kimmitt said.
Coalition soldiers came under 10 separate attacks over the last 24 hours in northern Iraq. Four Iraqis, allegedly operating an illegal checkpoint and demanding bribes, were killed near Tuz - - between the cities of Baghdad and Kirkuk -- by U.S. soldiers, Kimmitt said. Twenty hand grenades, one rocket-propelled grenade launcher with three rounds and a vehicle with four 155-millimeter rounds were captured, he said.
The U.S. is seeking to ``expedite'' the appeals process for thousands of former officials of Hussein's Baath party who have been denied government or social work jobs under the U.S.-led occupation and reconstruction process because of security concerns, Senor said.

Friday, April 23, 2004 - Top Stories - Iraqi Cops Arrest 5 in Basra Blasts BASRA, Iraq — Police arrested five Iraqis on Friday believed linked to Al Qaeda and suspected in this week's homicide bombings in Basra, and the men led police to a stash of 20 tons of explosives, a police intelligence chief said.
The arrests came two days after attackers set off car bombs outside police stations and a police academy in this Shiite-majority southern city, killing 74 people, including at least 16 children whose school buses were incinerated by the blast as they passed one of the stations.
Five car bombs were used in the attack, and police seized two more explosive-laden vehicles Wednesday before they could be detonated.
>>>The five confessed to working with a Syrian connected to Al Qaeda who travels between Iraq and neighboring Kuwait, he said. They said they had prepared a total eight car bombs for use in Wednesday's attacks.
Syrians once again interfering in Iraq, as are Iranians. What will happen to them, I wonder? - Top Stories - U.S. Eases Ban on Ex-Saddam Party Members BAGHDAD, Iraq — U.S. administrators are easing the purge of members of Saddam Hussein's (search) disbanded party, allowing thousands of former Baathist army officers and teachers back in their jobs, officials said Friday.
Some Iraqi leaders welcomed the change, saying the policy of strict de-Baathification was a mistake from the start that fueled the anti-U.S. insurgency. The move, however, is likely to face opposition, especially among Kurds (search) and Shiites (search) who were brutally suppressed by Saddam's Baath Party and welcomed the purge.
L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. administrator in Iraq, is expected to announce the new policy in a national address Friday night on al-Iraqiya, a U.S.-funded television station.
The U.S. decision to disband the military and the Baath after Saddam's fall was at first popular. But it led to widespread unemployment, especially among the Sunni minority that formed the core of Saddam's regime, some of whom joined the ranks of the anti-U.S. insurgency, Iraqis and U.S. commanders say.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

The New York Times > International > Asia Pacific > For Japanese Hostages, Release Only Adds to Stress: "The young Japanese taken hostage in Iraq returned home this week, not to the warmth of a yellow ribbon embrace but to a disapproving nation's cold stare.
The first three hostages, including a woman who helped street children on the streets of Baghdad, first appeared on television two weeks ago as their knife-brandishing kidnappers threatened to slit their throats. A few days after their release, they landed here on Sunday, in the eye of a peculiarly Japanese storm.
'You got what you deserve!' one Japanese held up a hand-written sign at the airport where they landed. 'You are Japan's shame,' another wrote on the Web site of one of the hostages. They had 'caused trouble' for everybody. The government, not to be outdone, announced it would bill them $6,000 for airfare.
Treated like criminals, the three have gone into hiding, effectively becoming prisoners inside their own homes. The kidnapped woman was last seen arriving at her parents' house, looking defeated and dazed from taking tranquilizers, flanked by relatives who helped her walk and bow deeply before the media, as a final apology to the nation."

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

World Page U.S. Marines engaged in 'silent war' near Syrian border U.S. officials said U.S. Marines have deployed along the Syrian border to stop the flow of insurgents and equipment to Iraq. They said Marines have engaged with both Sunni insurgents as well as some Syrian security personnel along the border in clashes that have intensified over the last few weeks.
The U.S. military presence – increased by more than a third over the last two months – was said to be focused on the western Iraqi towns of Al Qaim and Qusaybah, regarded as key points in the smuggling of insurgents and weapons from Syria to Iraq.
Officials acknowledged that at least five soldiers of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, who replaced the 82nd Airborne Division, were killed in battle with 150 insurgents in Husaybah over the weekend, Middle East Newsline reported.
"The Marines did suffer some casualties there," Maj. Gen. John Sattler, director of operations for U.S. Central Command, said. "But in the end, they were able to go ahead and calm that area down. I would say the last six, seven, eight days, we've had some sporadic fighting up in that area, but very limited casualties on the part of the Marines."
In a briefing on April 16, Sattler outlined the mission of the Marines along the Syrian border. He said the mission included constant air and mobile patrols as well as operation of reconnaissance and sensor assets.
Sattler said the Marines have deployed a quick reaction force that includes helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft for attacks along the Syrian border. He said the insurgents move through the Syrian border past Al Qaim to Ramadi and Fallujah. Eventually, he said, many of the insurgents arrive in Baghdad.
"It is a large border and at nighttime there's a lot of wadis and places where individuals can go in and work their way across," Sattler said. "But once they get across they still have a vast portion of desert to come through, and we constantly patrol that to either A. deter them because we are out there in such force, or B. catch them and go ahead and bring them to justice."
U.S. officials said that despite numerous warnings Syria continues to allow Al Qaida-aligned insurgents to enter Iraq. The officials said Syrian border guards have been bribed to ignore the infiltration of insurgents into Iraq.
So far, they said, the Syrian military has not engaged the U.S. Marines along the Iraqi-Syrian border. But they said in some cases Syrian border guards were involved in clashes between insurgents and U.S. troops. They did not report casualties among the Syrian guards.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

MSNBC - Robot plane drops bomb in test : "A robotic plane deliberately dropped a bomb near a truck at Edwards Air Force Base on Sunday, marking another step forward for technology the U.S. military hopes will one day replace human pilots on dangerous combat missions."

Sunday, April 18, 2004 Inside Cover Story : "Foiled al-Qaida Attackers Caught Red-Handed With WMDs in Jordan
Two members of an al-Qaida cell connected to top terror master Abu Musab al-Zarqawi have been caught in Jordan with chemical weapons and poisonous gas for a planned attack that Jordanian officials say would have killed up to 20,000 people.
The officials told the London-based newspaper al-Hayat on Friday that the al-Qaida plotters planned to launch a WMD attack against a Jordanian Military Intelligence installation, the U.S. Embassy in Amman and a government building in the country.
According to the Israeli newspaper Maariv, the al-Qaida terrorists managed to smuggle three cars packed with explosives into Amman. Jordanian security forces found a chemical charge in one vehicle.
'The bomb, had it been detonated, could have affected people in a one-kilometer radius and cause the deaths of up to 20,000 people,' Jordanian officials told Maariv.
According to United Press International, the al-Qaida car was intercepted just 75 miles from the Syrian border and 'carried explosives, a chemical bomb and poisonous gas.'
The discovery of the al-Qaida WMD plot is sure to renew speculation that some of Saddam Hussein's missing weapons of mass destruction were hidden in Syria before the U.S. attacked in March 2003, and have now found their way into al-Qaida's hands.
As of Saturday morning, the White House had not commented on the al-Qaida WMD plot and its possible ties to Iraq."
Toronto Sun Columnist: Coren - It's religion gone mad : "It is the pluralistic openness and decency of Europe and North America that has allowed so many Muslim immigrants. How ironic that a minority of those people hate that very pluralism and decency and want to slaughter women and children in the name of their god and their cause.
I opposed the war in Iraq, but I cannot remain silent when people kill contract workers, then disembowel and hang them from wires in the street. While children dance.
And, no, these murderers are not refugees from pain but the favoured sons of Saddam. Their fight is to restore fascism, not liberate their nation. Even if it was, nothing justifies such sadism.
German bomber pilots, their planes shot down, would parachute into London after destroying entire towns and killing thousands of people. Almost without exception they were treated properly, as prisoners of war.
It's not about colonization, globalization, Zionism, American dominance or any other cliches. The Muslims themselves are colonizers, having pushed most Christians out of the Middle and near East, once the cradle of the Christian world.
The Ottoman Turks, Muslims all, colonized the region for centuries. Arabs colonized Persians, Assyrians, Kurds and others. The Saudis, sponsors of so much terror, are nobody's victims. They are wealthy beyond belief, and deprive women and minorities of most basic civil rights.
This is something deeper, darker, than an imagined fight against a foreign foe. There is a virus at work. For the sake of the good, law-abiding Muslims of the world -- the majority -- we cannot pretend any longer it's about anything other than what it is: a religion gone mad and gone bad.
Stop the lies, they only make it worse. " - Top Stories - U.S. Closes Down Roads to Baghdad : "U.S. forces at Najaf appear to be holding back their firepower to allow moderate clerics to bring pressure against al-Sadr, avoiding an assault on Najaf.
Negotiations outside Fallujah focused on strengthening a fragile truce, allowing residents access to hospitals and arranging the return of tens of thousands who have fled the city.
The two sides are also working on a way to carry out the handover of the killers of four American civilians, whose slaying and mutilation sparked the Marine assault on Fallujah, launched on April 5, a representative of the Iraqi Governing Council at the talks said.
'We have a mechanism for that, and when we conclude our talks we will announce that,' Hashem al-Hassani told reporters after six hours of negotiations ended.
If the cease-fire holds and talks continue, negotiators have suggested they could move on to tackle more extensive moves sought by the Americans: the surrender of masses of weapons in the hands of insurgents, the return of police and Iraqi security forces to their posts and the handover of 'terrorists and foreign militants.'
'We are going to stabilize Fallujah,' U.S. coalition spokesman Dan Senor said. 'Those individuals must depart and in most cases they must be turned over to us.'
In the first round of talks Friday, U.S. officials agreed to reposition troops to allow Fallujah residents better access to hospitals."

Saturday, April 17, 2004

My Way News Hamas Leader Killed in Israeli Strike : "Rantisi is Hamas' top leader in Gaza and one of the most hard-line members of the militant movement who rejects all compromise with Israel and calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
Israel had previously tried to kill Rantisi June 10 when three Apache helicopters fired at least seven missiles toward Rantisi's car in a crowded Gaza thoroughfare, reducing his vehicle to a scorched heap of metal. Rantisi escaped with a wound to the right leg. Two Palestinian bystanders were killed.
In a retaliatory attack the next day, 16 Israelis were killed in a Hamas suicide bombing in Jerusalem.
Israeli officials justified the attack as part of the ongoing battle against militants who have killed more than 900 Israelis in attacks over the past 3 1/2 years of violence.
'We have to continue this war, every time and every place. And this story with Rantisi shows how the army can get everywhere. We have to continue, we have no other choice,' Cabinet Minister Gideon Ezra told Israel Radio.
Israel has stepped up strikes on Hamas in advance of a proposed unilateral pullout from Gaza. Israeli officials have said they hope a string of military successes to show that the militant group was not driving it out of the coastal strip.
The explosion occurred Saturday night a block from Rantisi's house in the Sheik Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City, about 100 yards from where Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin was buried after Israel assassinated him last month.
Since then, Israel has vowed to kill the entire leadership of the Islamic militant organization.
Israeli sources said Saturday they struck at Rantisi at the first available opportunity and said he was planning a large attack on Israel to solidify his leadership of Hamas and to retaliate for Yassin's killing."
The Australian: 'You shoot like a goat-herder' [April 17, 2004]:
IN Fallujah's darkened, empty streets, US troops blast AC/DC's 'Hell's Bells' and other rock music full volume from a huge speaker, hoping to grate on the nerves of the city's gunmen and give a laugh to Marines along the front line.
Unable to advance farther into the city, an Army psychological operations team hopes a mix of heavy metal and insults shouted in Arabic - including, 'You shoot like a goat-herder' - will draw gunmen to step forward and attack. But no luck this night.
Six days after negotiations halted a US offensive against insurgents in this city, Marines continue carving out front line positions and hope for orders to push forward. Many are questioning the value of truce talks with an enemy who continues to launch attacks.
'These guys don't have a centralised leader; there just here to fight. I don't see what negotiations are going to do,' said Captain Shannon Johnson, a company commander for the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment."

Friday, April 16, 2004

OpinionJournal - Featured Article The Iranian Hand
Regime change in Tehran is necessary for peace in Iraq.
BY MICHAEL LEDEEN (requires registration)

That the war being waged by Shiite militants throughout Iraq is not just a domestic "insurgency" has been documented by the Italian Military Intelligence Service (Sismi). In a report prepared before the current wave of violence, Sismi predicted "a simultaneous attack by Saddam loyalists" all over the country, along with a series of Shiite revolts.
The Italians knew that these actions were not just part of an Iraqi civil war, nor a response to recent actions taken by the Coalition Provisional Authority against the forces of Sadr. According to Italian intelligence, the actions were used as a pretext by local leaders of the factions tied to an Iran-based ayatollah, Kazem al-Haeri, who was "guided in his political and strategic choices by ultraconservative Iranian ayatollahs in order to unleash a long planned general revolt." The strategic goal of this revolt, says Sismi, was "the establishment of an Islamic government of Khomeinist inspiration." The Italian intelligence agency noted that "the presence of Iranian agents of influence and military instructors has been reported for some time." Our own government will not say as much publicly, but Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, have recently spoken of "unhelpful actions" by Iran (and Syria).
The London-based Al-Hayat reported on April 6 that the Iraqi Governing Council was actively discussing "the major Iranian role in the events that took place in the Iraqi Shiite cities," noting that the Iranians were the predominant financiers of Sadr. Another London newspaper, Al Sharq Al-Awsat, quoted a recent Iranian intelligence defector that Iranian infiltration of Iraq started well before Operation Iraqi Freedom. Hundreds of intelligence agents were sent into Iraq through the north. After the fall of Saddam, greater numbers came across the uncontrolled border, masquerading as students, clerics and journalists--and as religious pilgrims to the now-accessible holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.
The editor of the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Seyassah recently wrote a front-page editorial saying that Hezbollah and Hamas were working with Sadr, "backed by the ruling religious fundamentalists in Tehran and the nationalist Baathists in Damascus." No classified information was required for that claim, since Sadr himself has publicly proclaimed that his militia is the fighting arm of both Hezbollah and Hamas. Nonetheless, the State Department still doesn't believe--or won't admit publicly--that there's a connection between Sadr's uprising and Iran's mullahs. Just last week, State's deputy spokesman, Adam Ereli, told reporters that "We've seen reports of Iranian involvement, collusion, provocation, coordination, etc., etc. But I think there's a dearth of hard facts to back these things up."
One wonders what Foggy Bottom's analysts make of Sadr's recent visit to Iran, when he met with Hashemi Rafsanjani (the No. 2 power in the regime), Murtadha Radha'i (head of intelligence for the Revolutionary Guards) and Brig. Gen. Qassim Suleimani (the al-Quds Army commander in charge of Iraqi affairs). And what might they say about the fact that much of Sadr's funding comes straight from Ayatollah al-Haeri, one of the closest allies of the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei?
Iraqi Nuclear Gear Found in Europe ( UNITED NATIONS, April 14 — Large amounts of nuclear-related equipment, some of it contaminated, and a small number of missile engines have been smuggled out of Iraq for recycling in European scrap yards, according to the head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog and other U.N. diplomats.
Mohammed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned the U.N. Security Council in a letter that U.N. satellite photos have detected “the extensive removal of equipment and, in some instances, removal of entire buildings” from sites that had been subject to U.N. monitoring before the U.S.-led war against Iraq.
- - - - - - -
ElBaradei’s letter is dated April 11 and was circulated privately this week among members of the Security Council.
Evidence of the illicit import of nuclear-related material surfaced in January after a small quantity of “yellowcake” uranium oxide was discovered in a shipment of scrap metal at Rotterdam’s harbor. The company that purchased the shipment, Jewometaal, detected radioactive material in the container and informed the Dutch government, according to the Associated Press. A spokesman for the company told the news agency that a Jordanian scrap dealer who sent the shipment believed the yellowcake came from Iraq.
ElBaradei did not identify the European countries where the materials were discovered. But U.N. and European officials confirmed that IAEA inspectors traveled to Jewometaal’s scrap yard to run tests on the yellowcake. The search turned up missile engines and vessels used in fermentation processes that were subject to U.N. monitoring.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

USA Ties Terrorist Attacks in Iraq to Extensive Zarqawi Network By Matthew Levitt, senior fellow in terrorism studies
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy Jane's Intelligence Review, April 1, 2004

The attack that killed 185 Shi'a Muslims in Iraq during the religious festival of Ashura bore the hallmarks of operations planned by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to US Central Command. Matthew Levitt examines Zarqawi's role as a co-ordinator of diverse extremist networks in Iraq and beyond.
According to General John Abizaid, commander of US operations in Iraq, the three major elements fighting Coalition forces are former regime elements, transnational terrorists and religious extremists or jihadists.
Gen Abizaid told the US House Armed Services Committee on 4 March 2004: 'Transnational terrorists such as the Zarqawi network, Ansar al-Islam and Al-Qaeda are attempting to destabilise Iraq by increasing both ethnic and sectarian strife with the intention of inciting chaos and a civil war. These terrorists are operating in the same areas as the former regime elements, which are largely former Ba'athist strongholds. They also have a presence in northern Iraq and are launching attacks into southern Iraq targeting the Shi'a population, the international community, and security forces.'
Two days before Abizaid's briefing, on 2 March, an estimated 185 Shi'ite worshippers celebrating the religious festival of Ashura were killed in bombings in Karbala and Baghdad, attacks that Abizaid said bore the hallmarks of operations planned by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (alias Fadel Nazzal al-Khalayleh).
US Central Command expects that terrorist activities by Zarqawi's network in Iraq will increase as the country moves towards sovereignty. In his testimony, Abizaid drew attention to a letter believed to have been written by Zarqawi, suggesting: 'Zero hour must be at least four months before the new government gets into place. We are racing time.'
The letter was found on a compact disc when Coalition forces captured senior Al-Qaeda operative Hasan Ghul in January 2004. Written as a response to an inquiry from Al-Qaeda operative Abd al-Had al Iraqi (alias Abdallah Khan), it detailed operations and planning in Iraq. It also called for more Al-Qaeda operatives to enter the country and increase attacks on Coalition forces as well as Iraq's Shi'a community.
Zarqawi's role
Not known as a bomb maker or financier, Zarqawi appears to function as a co-ordinator involved with several Islamist networks. According to a 23 February report by Brian Bennett and Vivienne Walt in Time magazine, Zarqawi is believed to have been 'given responsibility for rotating Al-Qaeda troops between Chechnya and Afghanistan, through the mountains of northern Iraq', as well as running a training camp in Afghanistan.
According to the US Treasury, after fighting against Soviet forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Zarqawi returned to Jordan in 1991 and founded Jund al-Shams, an Islamic extremist group operating primarily in Syria and Jordan. He was jailed in Jordan in 1992, apparently for a combination of his history as an 'Afghan-Arab' and his activities with Jund al-Shams, he was released in 1999. He promptly angered authorities again by his support for a radical Jordanian cleric who called for the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of an Islamic state in Jordan, and subsequently fled to Peshawar, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
At least 116 alleged terrorists linked to Zarqawi have been arrested in Europe and the Middle East with detentions having been made in France, Italy, Spain, the UK, Germany, Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia."
And rumor has it Zarqawi is trapped in Falluja right now
BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iran diplomat shot dead in Iraq
Iranian First secretary Khalil Naimi was attacked while driving near the embassy. Correspondents have seen a bullet-ridden car with a body inside.
At this stage it is not clear who carried out the attack or whether the diplomat was specifically targeted.
An Iranian foreign ministry delegation is in Iraq to try to assist in the crisis over the rebel leadership of cleric Moqtada Sadr.
Naimi died immediately, foreign ministry official Mohammad Nouri told the Associated Press news agency in the Iranian capital Tehran.
An Iranian official in Baghdad told another agency, Reuters, that Naimi had been driving to the office when “three men drove up and shot him”.
Najaf tension
The Iranian delegation - now reported to be in Najaf - has brushed off suggestions it is mediating between the US and Mr Sadr, saying it is merely "assessing" the situation.
Hussein Sedeqi is heading a delegation assisting in the Najaf crisis
Iraqi negotiators, however, say Iranian officials are trying to help resolve the standoff.
Mr Sadr, who US forces have vowed to "kill or capture", is barricaded inside Najaf, which is Iraq's holiest city.
The US has massed 2,500 troops in readiness for an offensive, though both sides have said they want to avoid bloodshed.
Wow, it's very interesting that Iran seems to be interceding to help defuse the crisis with Al-Sadr, since some have speculated that he is Iran's puppet in Iraq. Of course many said the same thing about SCIRI, but they seem to act as a moderate group, and are in the provisional government. It's also very interesting that their diplomat was killed. I have a feeling that there are alot of things occuring underneath the surface that we don't see.
Sharon gets Bush to agree to his plan for the occupied territories - My Way News : "A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Sharon thought that no American president had ever made concessions so important to Israel as Bush did on Wednesday.
Sharon, in gaining Bush's backing of his unilateral plan to withdraw all Jewish settlers and military installations from Gaza and from some areas of the West Bank, offered several concessions in a letter to Bush.

The Israeli leader said he would limit the growth of Jewish settlements and remove all unauthorized outposts on the West Bank. And Sharon said a security fence Israel is building to deter Palestinian attacks was 'temporary rather than permanent.'
Also, Sharon renewed his commitment to the so-called road map for peacemaking backed by the United States but said the Palestinian Authority had failed to stop terror and to reform its security service.
Bush called Sharon's plan historic and urged Palestinians to match Israel's 'boldness and courage.'
In his break with long-standing U.S. policy, Bush said it was unrealistic to expect Israel to disband all large Jewish settlements in the West Bank - or to return to the borders it held before capturing the territory in the 1967 Mideast war - in any final peace deal.
Behind the scenes, Bush administration officials tried to cast the day's events as Bush gaining concessions from Sharon. A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Palestinians' statements were viewed as simply reflecting anxiety that would be eased once they read Bush's and Sharon's statements on the issue, released separately.
But Bush, in a news conference with Sharon at his side, gave a key concession the Israeli leader had sought, saying there were 'new realities' on the West Bank since Israel captured the land along with Gaza and east Jerusalem in the 1967 war."
My Way News : "CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - A man identifying himself as Osama bin Laden offered a 'truce' to European countries that do not attack Muslims, saying it would begin when their soldiers leave Islamic nations, according to a recording broadcast Thursday on Arab satellite networks.
Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain quickly spurned what appeared to be an attempt to drive a wedge between Europe and America.
The tape, which ran in full at more than seven minutes, also vowed revenge against America for the Israeli assassination of Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin and denounced the United States as using the Iraq war for corporate profiteering.
'I announce a truce with the European countries that do not attack Muslim countries,' the taped message said as the stations showed an old, still picture of al-Qaida leader.
The message said 'the door to a truce is open for three months,' but the time frame could be extended. 'The truce will begin when the last soldier leaves our countries,' the speaker said without elaborating.
A CIA spokesman said the agency was reviewing the tape to determine its authenticity."

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Aljazeera.Net - Italian hostage killed - Aljazeera TV : "In a statement accompanying the tape, the abductors of the four Italians justified the killing.
'When your president says pulling the troops out of Iraq is non-negotiable then this means he does not care for the safety of his citizens as much as he is concerned with satisfying his masters in the White House,' the statement said.
'We have killed one of the four hostages we have in order to teach a lesson for those who are involved. We know they are guards working for the American occupation in our country.
'We ask you one more time to revolt once again in the face of your leaders and reject this unjust war on us so that we can protect your citizens. We are waiting for that from you or else we will kill them one by one,' added the Green Brigade."
'They have destroyed a life, they have not cracked our values and our efforts for peace'
Silvio Berlusconi
Italian President
MSNBC - Insurgents' tactics more sophisticated :
The bridge demolitions are not the only evidence of the insurgents' increasing sophistication.
'When we first got here, it was just IEDs,' the roadside bombs known as improvised explosive devices, 'and mortars,' said Sgt. James Amyett, a scout with the 1st Infantry Division who arrived in Iraq just over a month ago. 'Then all of a sudden, it's full-scale ambushes.'"
>>>In another departure being studied by U.S. military intelligence, groups of fighters launched synchronized attacks Friday on several U.S. and Iraqi installations in Baqubah, a provincial capital north of Baghdad. By simultaneously striking U.S. troops at the police station, the provincial governors' office and a U.S. military office, the insurgents displayed not only a considerable amount of planning and positioning but also a level of aggressiveness far beyond the roadside bombings and firing of rocket-propelled grenades that occur daily in Iraq.
"This ain't just 15-year-old kids with RPGs," said a combat engineer in the 1st Infantry Division.
The new assertiveness of the anti-U.S. fighters was displayed further later that day on the outskirts of Baqubah, where dozens of RPG-toting fighters confronted a platoon of four Bradley Fighting Vehicles, according to a 1st Infantry Division after-action report. "The platoon was literally surrounded by the enemy," the report said. One U.S. soldier and about 20 Iraqis were killed in the encounter, the report said.
>>>'Starting to stand and shoot'
"More and more, they're starting to stand and shoot," said Sgt. Maj. John Fourhman, the top enlisted soldier in the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade. "Before, they just ran."
In addition, Iraqi fighters have begun dynamiting highway overpasses in Baghdad. Though they did not destroy the spans, they succeeded in slowing traffic, depriving U.S. supply convoys of their best defense against ambushes -- speed. It is far easier to use roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades against a truck mired in traffic than it is to hit one moving at 60 mph.
The evolution of the insurgents' tactics is particularly surprising, military analysts say, because many such moves had been expected but did not occur during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq last spring.
Attacks on bridges were widely expected within the Army because it was clear that the U.S. troops heading for Baghdad would have to cross the Euphrates. Also, while much of the Iraqi military, including its armored units and air force, was believed to have deteriorated badly after a decade of crippling economic sanctions, Iraqi military engineers, who would have overseen the destruction of bridges, were judged to be extremely competent. As it happened, not one bridge was detonated to block the path of the invasion force.
>>>"It's a combination of Saddam loyalists and Shiite militias," Maj. Gen. John R. Batiste, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said in a brief interview here at FOB Duke, where he was reviewing combat preparations.
Batiste said the influence of former Iraqi Republican Guard officers was especially apparent in the fighting in the Sunni town of Fallujah, where, he said, many veteran officers made their homes. "You could staff a division with the Iraqi officers living there," he said.
Maj. Kreg Schnell, Pittard's intelligence chief, agreed with Batiste's assessment. "There's been a marriage of convenience between Sadr's militia and Saddam loyalists," he said.
What officers here say they are not seeing is a sharp increase in the number of foreign guerrillas involved in the fighting. That element, said Pittard, is tiny -- perhaps "about 2 percent."
Looks like Iranian Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guards to me. Would they stick out as "foreign fighters" to the Iraqis, or would they blend in? - Top Stories - U.S. Forces Battle Gunmen in Fallujah A U.S. Cobra attack helicopter fired rockets and heavy machine guns before dawn at gunmen gathered on the northern edge of Fallujah. Rocket-propelled grenades streamed up toward the helicopter and a second gunship providing support, but none apparently hit their target.
Early Wednesday, an A-130 gunship pounded a row of buildings from which Marines say ambushes have repeatedly been launched in a residential area.
Gunmen repeatedly attacked one house in Fallujah that the Marines were using. At least 12 gunmen were killed in two nights of attacks.
Many — but not all — residents have fled neighborhoods around the Marine positions. Marines have taken over abandoned houses and use sledgehammers to bash through walls and move between houses without exposing themselves to fire.
Marines fought fierce battles Monday and Tuesday with insurgents in Karma, a village outside Fallujah. Some 100 gunmen were killed in battles in palm groves and over canals that were so intense that wounded Marines were sent to rejoin the fight.
"They ran in there with bandages and all," said Col. B.P. McCoy, commander of the 3rd Battalion.
Marines came under two heavy ambushes Tuesday, the best coordinated and largest guerrilla operations in days, said Capt. James Edge. Two Marines were killed Tuesday and two Monday, the military said.
A force of 20 insurgents attacked a Marine position in a residential neighborhood of Fallujah, then damaged an armored vehicle that came to support it, Edge said. A fierce battle followed to extract the vehicle as F-15s overhead fired on gunmen.
Outside the city, an MH-53 Pave Low helicopter was hit by ground fire early Tuesday. A Marine team that came to secure it was ambushed and suffered casualties.
The Marines called a halt to offensive operations Friday to allow negotiations between U.S.-allied Iraqis and Fallujah representatives. Gunmen in the city called a cease-fire Sunday, but Marines have been responding to guerrilla fire — and striking gunmen who appear about to attack.
Insurgents Wednesday offered the Iraqi equivalent of $7,000 for anyone who kills Mouwafak al-Rubaie, the Iraqi national security adviser, after he called for Fallujah residents to hand over militants to the United States.
In the south, Iraqi politicians and ayatollahs tried to negotiate a solution to avert a U.S. attack on Najaf, home to one of Shiite Islam's holiest shrines.
Al-Sadr, was holed up in his office in Najaf, shielded not only by gunmen but by the presence of the city's main shrine only yards away. He vowed to continue what he called "a popular revolution" to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
When Islam Breaks Down
Theodore Dalrymple

Anyone who lives in a city like mine and interests himself in the fate of the world cannot help wondering whether, deeper than this immediate cultural desperation, there is anything intrinsic to Islam—beyond the devout Muslim’s instinctive understanding that secularization, once it starts, is like an unstoppable chain reaction—that renders it unable to adapt itself comfortably to the modern world. Is there an essential element that condemns the Dar al-Islam to permanent backwardness with regard to the Dar al-Harb, a backwardness that is felt as a deep humiliation, and is exemplified, though not proved, by the fact that the whole of the Arab world, minus its oil, matters less to the rest of the world economically than the Nokia telephone company of Finland?
-I think the answer is yes, and that the problem begins with Islam’s failure to make a distinction between church and state. Unlike Christianity, which had to spend its first centuries developing institutions clandestinely and so from the outset clearly had to separate church from state, Islam was from its inception both church and state, one and indivisible, with no possible distinction between temporal and religious authority. Muhammad’s power was seamlessly spiritual and secular (although the latter grew ultimately out of the former), and he bequeathed this model to his followers. Since he was, by Islamic definition, the last prophet of God upon earth, his was a political model whose perfection could not be challenged or questioned without the total abandonment of the pretensions of the entire religion.
-But his model left Islam with two intractable problems. One was political. Muhammad unfortunately bequeathed no institutional arrangements by which his successors in the role of omnicompetent ruler could be chosen (and, of course, a schism occurred immediately after the Prophet’s death, with some—today’s Sunnites—following his father-in-law, and some—today’s Shi’ites—his son-in-law). Compounding this difficulty, the legitimacy of temporal power could always be challenged by those who, citing Muhammad’s spiritual role, claimed greater religious purity or authority; the fanatic in Islam is always at a moral advantage vis-à-vis the moderate. Moreover, Islam—in which the mosque is a meetinghouse, not an institutional church—has no established, anointed ecclesiastical hierarchy to decide such claims authoritatively. With political power constantly liable to challenge from the pious, or the allegedly pious, tyranny becomes the only guarantor of stability, and assassination the only means of reform. Hence the Saudi time bomb: sooner or later, religious revolt will depose a dynasty founded upon its supposed piety but long since corrupted by the ways of the world.
-The second problem is intellectual. In the West, the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, acting upon the space that had always existed, at least potentially, in Christianity between church and state, liberated individual men to think for themselves, and thus set in motion an unprecedented and still unstoppable material advancement. Islam, with no separate, secular sphere where inquiry could flourish free from the claims of religion, if only for technical purposes, was hopelessly left behind: as, several centuries later, it still is.
-The indivisibility of any aspect of life from any other in Islam is a source of strength, but also of fragility and weakness, for individuals as well as for polities. Where all conduct, all custom, has a religious sanction and justification, any change is a threat to the whole system of belief. Certainty that their way of life is the right one thus coexists with fear that the whole edifice—intellectual and political—will come tumbling down if it is tampered with in any way. Intransigence is a defense against doubt and makes living on terms of true equality with others who do not share the creed impossible.
-Not coincidentally, the punishment for apostasy in Islam is death: apostates are regarded as far worse than infidels, and punished far more rigorously. In every Islamic society, and indeed among Britain’s Muslim immigrants, there are people who take this idea quite literally, as their rage against Salman Rushdie testified.
The Islamic doctrine of apostasy is hardly favorable to free inquiry or frank discussion, to say the least, and surely it explains why no Muslim, or former Muslim, in an Islamic society would dare to suggest that the Qu’ran was not divinely dictated through the mouth of the Prophet but rather was a compilation of a charismatic man’s words made many years after his death, and incorporating, with no very great originality, Judaic, Christian, and Zoroastrian elements. In my experience, devout Muslims expect and demand a freedom to criticize, often with perspicacity, the doctrines and customs of others, while demanding an exaggerated degree of respect and freedom from criticism for their own doctrines and customs. I recall, for example, staying with a Pakistani Muslim in East Africa, a very decent and devout man, who nevertheless spent several evenings with me deriding the absurdities of Christianity: the paradoxes of the Trinity, the impossibility of Resurrection, and so forth. Though no Christian myself, had I replied in kind, alluding to the pagan absurdities of the pilgrimage to Mecca, or to the gross, ignorant, and primitive superstitions of the Prophet with regard to jinn, I doubt that our friendship would have lasted long. - Firm�cheers loss of robot in Iraq - Apr 13, 2004 : "BURLINGTON, Massachusetts (Reuters) -- A U.S. robot manufacturer Monday hailed the destruction of one of its units in Iraq and said it showed how valuable the machines have become for the U.S. military.
iRobot Corporation learned last week from the Pentagon that one of its units, called a PackBot, was 'destroyed in action' for the first time. Its destruction meant the life of a U.S. soldier may well have been saved, the company said.
'It was a special moment -- a robot got blown up instead of a person,' said iRobot CEO Colin Angle.
The company, based in Burlington, Massachusetts, declined to provide further details on how the PackBot was destroyed in Iraq.
'The U.S. military is ... concerned that if they release too many details, insurgents will be able to take action (against the robots),' said Osa Fitch, program executive at iRobot's Government and Industrial Robotics division.
Between 50 and 100 PackBots are now being used in Iraq and Afghanistan for battlefield reconnaissance, search-and-destroy missions of explosives and ordnance disposal, while the soldiers who control them keep out of harm's way."

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Senator, Iraq Is No Vietnam The Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah outnumbered the Marines and were armed with Kalashnikov automatic rifles, RPG-7 antitank grenade launchers and mortars. Chechen fighters used the same weapons in Grozny in 1995, 1996 and 2000, killing thousands of Russian soldiers and destroying hundreds of armored vehicles.
Just like the Russians in Grozny, the Marines last week were supported by tanks and attack helicopters, but the end result was entirely different. U.S. forces did not bomb the city indiscriminately. The Iraqis fought well but were massacred. According to the latest body count, some 600 Iraqis died and another 1,000 were wounded. The Marines lost some 20 men.
The Marines are far better trained, of course, but the Iraqis were fighting in their hometown. The decisive difference between the two sides was the extensive use of a computerized command, control and targeting system by the U.S. military. Satellites, manned and unmanned aircraft collected precise information on enemy and friendly movements on the battlefield night and day.
Modern U.S. field commanders have real-time access to this system, allowing them to monitor the changing situation on the battlefield as no commander in the history of war has been able to do. This technology has greatly enhanced the effectiveness of aerial bombardments in the last decade. And now the nature of house-to-house combat has changed as well.
The more accurate historical analogy to the current war in Iraq is not Vietnam but, say, the battle at Omdurman, Sudan, in 1898, when Horatio Herbert Kitchener, a British field marshal, crushed the Sudanese forces of al-Mahdi by bringing machine guns to bear against the enemy's muskets and spears. Today the United States has the capability and the technical superiority to fight and win colonial wars against numerically superior enemies.
But military superiority is not enough. Will the Bush administration -- or the Democrats, should they win the White House in November -- prove better, kinder rulers of the world than the British Liberals and Tories of a century ago?
Pavel Felgenhauer is an independent defense analyst.
Police cams to add gunshot detectors : Another great Mayor Daley quote. Story is about installing cameras in neighborhoods which also "hear" gunshots, and triangulate where they came from and alert the police. "'In America, there's no such thing as a police state. . . . It's a public way. . . . You want safety in public ways,' Daley said Tuesday."

Monday, April 12, 2004 - Top Stories - Militia Pulls Out of Police Stations in 3 Towns NAJAF, Iraq — A radical Shiite (search) cleric has pulled his militia out of police stations and government facilities in three cities they took control of last week, partially meeting a U.S. demand for ending the standoff in southern Iraq, the cleric's representative said Monday.
Police on Monday were back on the streets and in their stations in Najaf (search), Kufa (search) and Karbala (search) for the first time in days since the al-Mahdi Army militia of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (search) rose up last week in bloody fighting against U.S.-led forces in much of the south, witnesses said.
Few of the black-garbed gunmen of al-Mahdi Army were seen in Najaf's streets, except around its holy shrines in the center of the city. Militiamen also stayed out of sight in nearby Kufa, and their numbers were lower around their main stronghold in the city, its main mosque. >>> U.S. forces are present near Najaf, say witnesses, who reported seeing U.S. soldiers patrolling the outskirts of the city in past days.
Iraqi Shiite political parties have been holding negotiations with al-Sadr representatives to try to find a peaceful way to end the standoff.
"Al-Sayed al-Sadr issued instructions for his followers to leave the sites of police and the government," said lawyer Murtada al-Janabi, one of al-Sadr's representatives in the talks.
A police officer in Karbala said police forces have taken control of all stations in the city.
"All (police) stations have come again under the command of police and policemen have returned to their offices," said the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Emergency police units are also back on duty."
Over the weekend, a negotiator from the Shiite Islamic Dawa Party presented al-Sadr's side with a letter of conditions from the Americans for ending the crisis.
The demands included the dissolution of the al-Mahdi Army, withdraw from all government facilities and respect for law, according to the Dawa representative, Hameed al-Maliki.
Al-Janabi said al-Sadr's supporters reject the demand that the militia dissolve. Al-Janabi called the demand "ridiculous. Dissolving the al-Mahdi Army would be very difficult."
The surrender of al-Sadr was not among the U.S. conditions mentioned by al-Maliki.
New York Post Online Edition: news IRAN, HEZBOLLAH AID CRAZED CLERIC Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah are secretly providing outlawed Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr with money, training and logistical support for his violent campaign against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, The Post has learned.
U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials said last night there is evidence that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, the security services loyal to Iran’s hard-line religious leader Ayatollah al Khameini, have funneled as much as $80 million into Shiite charities established by al-Sadr’s influential family that have been diverted to fund his fanatic al-Mahdi militia.
Intelligence sources also said operatives from the Lebanese Hezbollah, a Shiite terror group created by Iran, have trained 800 to 1,200 al-Mahdi fighters in guerrilla warfare and terrorist techniques at three camps in Iran near the Iraq border.
Al-Sadr’s group is also believed to have been recently provided with 800 satellite phones and new radio broadcasting equipment by diplomats at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, sources told The Post.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Suicide bomb workshop found in Falluja: US military - SpecialsWarOnIraq - : "Suicide bomb workshop found in Falluja: US military
US marines this week killed one suicide bomber and discovered a suicide bomb workshop in the Sunni Muslim bastion of Fallujah apparently run by Iraqis and foreigners, marines said.
The building, found on Thursday when marines chased a sniper, provided new indication of the growing role of Iraqis in suicide bombings, marines said.
The US marines are entrenched in a near week-long campaign to rid Fallujah of insurgents after four US contractors were killed by a mob and two of them were savagely mutilated on March 31.
Iraqi police and judges have recently expressed alarm about the increasing involvement of Iraqis in suicide bombings, which US officials have previously blamed on foreign fighters thought to be slipping across the border.
Police in the holy city of Karbala charged that some Iraqis are indoctrinated and high on drugs when they are dispatched on suicide missions.
Top US military officials have warned the radical Islamist current in Iraq relies more heavily on Iraqi nationals than foreign elements.
Members of the 1st Battalion 5th (1-5) Marines stumbled on the workshop on Thursday, when they were trying to locate a sniper position.>>>
The belts were fashioned in the style of the radical Palestinian group Hamas that popularised suicide bombings in Iraq, with a hand-held detonator attached to the belt, Byrne added."
>>>A box of old US military uniforms were also found, issued by the US Army’s 82nd Airborne, said Lieutenant Colonel Brennan Byrne.
>>>Asked about the people using the workshop, he said: “It seems a mix of nationalities.” Home US : "Terrorists plotting to use chemical weapons in Europe have more advanced plans than security services previously suspected, a senior French counter-terrorism official has warned.
Small groups of chemicals experts have been detected in several European countries and have developed ways of communicating with each other that allowed them to avoid being exposed.
'We have underestimated the terrorists' willingness and capacity to develop chemical weapons,' the French official told the Financial Times. He said a recent wave of arrests in Britain and France has revealed how far they had developed their plans."
The New York Times > International > 3rd Round of Talks to Be Held in Fallujah: "``What is coming is the destruction of anti-coalition forces in Fallujah ... they have two choices: Submit or die,'' he told reporters.
Nearly 60,000 Fallujah residents, about a third of the population, have fled over the past two days, a Marine commander said. Kimmett said 60 insurgents had been captured in the Fallujah campaign so far, including five foreign Arabs.
>>>In the south, the militia of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr remained in control of Karbala and nearby Najaf and Kufa. Braced for an American assault, hundreds of militiamen with assault rifles roamed the streets of Najaf and Kufa and guarded makeshift checkpoints.
In anticipation of violence and because of a major religious occasion this weekend, most stores in Najaf and Kufa were closed. Some owners emptied shops of goods, storing them at home for fear of looting.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims are in Karbala and other Shiite cities to mark al-Arbaeen, the end of the mourning period for a 7th-century martyred Shiite saint. Ceremonies last until Sunday night.
U.S. forces continued to fight gunmen in Kut, where hundreds of troops moved in Friday to wrest the city from the control of al-Sadr's militia. An AC-130 gunship and helicopters blasted militia positions as the Americans seized police stations and government buildings, Kimmitt said.
Kimmitt said seven militiamen were killed and 74 captured. Hospital officials in Kut said 23 Iraqis have been killed in clashes between al-Sadr supporters and U.S. forces since the incursion began.
The U.S. military's death toll from the week of fighting across the country stood at 47. The fighting has killed more than 500 Iraqis -- including more than 280 in Fallujah, a hospital official said. At least 649 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003."
Iraqi Battalion Refuses to 'Fight Iraqis' ( "Iraqi Battalion Refuses to 'Fight Iraqis'
BAGHDAD, April 10 -- A battalion of the new Iraqi army refused to go to Fallujah earlier this week to support U.S. Marines battling for control of the city, senior U.S. Army officers here said, disclosing an incident that is casting new doubt on U.S. plans to transfer security matters to Iraqi forces.
It was the first time U.S. commanders had sought to involve the postwar Iraqi army in major combat operations, and the battalion's refusal came as large parts of Iraqi security forces have stopped carrying out their duties.
The 620-man 2nd Battalion of the Iraqi Armed Forces refused to fight Monday after members of the unit were shot at in a Shiite Muslim neighborhood in Baghdad while en route to Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim stronghold, said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who is overseeing the development of Iraqi security forces. The convoy then turned around and returned to the battalion's post on a former Republican Guard base in Taji, a town north of the capital.
>>> The battlefield refusal of the battalion -- one of just four that exist in the Iraqi army -- began Monday when it was ordered to travel about 60 miles to support the Marines, then locked in battle with fighters in Fallujah. The mission of the Iraqi troops was to help with secondary military tasks such as manning road checkpoints and securing the perimeter, Eaton said.
One of the problems, Eaton said, was that the Iraqi troops were not told they would be given a relatively benign role, and assumed they were being hurled into the middle of a bloody fight, battling on the side of the Americans against Arabs. "The battalion thought it was going to be thrown into a firestorm in Fallujah," he said.
Complicating communications, he said, was that the battalion had 10 new U.S. advisers who rotated into their jobs April 1, just four days before the incident, replacing the advisers who had trained the unit for months.
The battalion, traveling by truck and escorted by troops from the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division, passed through a Shiite area in northwest Baghdad. They were fired on, and six members of the unit were wounded, one seriously, Eaton said. A crowd of Shiites gathered and "surged" at the convoy, he said. "They were stunned that they were taken under fire by their fellow population," he said.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Dieter Bednarz, Erich Follath Claus Christian Lalzahn, Volkhard Windfuhr, and Bernhard Zand, "The Scourges of God," Der Spiegel, 1 September 2003
The Muslim cleric Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim has been the most prominent victim to date of the bloody power struggle among religious leaders in the holy city of Najaf. As Iraq descends into chaos, young extremists are attempting to transform the country into a Shiite theocracy modeled after Iran.
If it weren't for the shining, centuries-old dome on the mosque marking the grave of the Imam Ali, the faithful would have perceived the destruction visited upon the holy city of Najaf by dictator Saddam Hussein as a deep disgrace. It seemed as if the brilliance of the mosque's golden roof could offset all the suffering inflicted upon Iraq's Shiite population by its former president. Saddam brutally oppressed the Shiite clergy and turned their holy city into a miserable place. Najaf's religious district was left marred by the ruins of destroyed caravans and the gaping pits of construction projects left unfinished for years."
This is a fantastic, yet lengthy article, about Shia Islam, esp regarding Iran, Iraq, reformers, zealots, terrorism and moderation.
Here's a satellite photo map of Falluja, for reference. Pics I've seen showed soldiers dug in by railroad tracks, which appear on the top of the map. I heard of fighting in the SE, by the quarries as well
Belmont Club Quick Notes
I won't be able to post much in the coming days due to the pressure of work, and all I can do is regurgitate a reply I sent to a reader.
W: I'm getting nervous. Feels like it's spinning out of control. Reminds me of the Spanish Civil War and Vietnam -- we can win if we want but is there the will on the part of the West to win this? Hezboallah and Iran are clearly making their play. Do we have what it takes? I don't know. The news here is working against the bigger picture. And, Condi testimony, in the middle of all this....I watched it live, what a tragic backdrop for a key battle in ther war. Victor Hanson got it right today on NRO....
Dear ...
I've been looking at the casualty returns and the type of ops. The Marines killed in Ramadi, plus the Army soldiers who died in Saddam City are the bulk of the "spike" casualties so far and they seem to have been hit in vehicular ambushes. The kind of rear echelon attack or "counterseige" I've been talking about. In the Fallujah battle itself, very few Marines have died. That's going into the end phase because the Marines now have position on them. They're two klicks in from the south and one in from the north. The town is 4 klicks wide and deep, almost a square, so the enemy is compressed into a very narrow pocket. Probably cut in two by the times you get this. News is lagged. The Marines have got Iraqi Special Forces knocking on doors to while they do the maneuver. Things like this are like arm wrestling. Looks slow at first, but once you get on top, its a slaughter.
But on the main Shi'ia front, things are more fluid. I think the US is in intel gathering and economy of force mode. The real question is why they are holding back on Sadr, indeed why Sadr decamped from the Golden Mosque to start with. The problem does not seem to be lack of US forces, as such. The Marines have two identified battalions committed to Fallujah, although the operation probably has involved more, maybe half of total Marine combat strength is engaged in some form or other including security duties. But the real problem is operational. You can't just whack away at everything. CENTCOM is looking to use the force available as a scalpel to adjust the political situation in Iraq. So the priority now is not, as the press opines "finding enough troops" -- let the enemy believe that though -- it is creating a plan of operations. Finding the targets and hitting them to change the political situation in our favor. We'll whack Sadr if and when it suits us.
Back to type of ops. We are seeing hostage taking tactics plus a few symbolic types of seizures by the Madhi Army. Painful to see, but objectively it is greasy kid stuff. The only really sustained fighting is in Fallujah involving a Marine brigade. So this gives you the measure of the enemy combat power. They have to find some more. Therefore their basic hope is to start a panic, get a bandwagon going. Ergo this hostage routine and symbolic seizure routine. Raise up all Iraq. Uh, huh. That's easier said than done. That fits in just fine with intel and planning cycle, to get the Mahdi Army in a self-identifying process. Knowing what to hit is, with the US forces available, 95% of the problem. The rest is relatively straightforward.
A few other comments. During Iraqi Freedom, there were severe logistical problems. The tail stretched back to the Gulf. Aircraft flew thousands of miles. Now the US has dozens of airfields and bases. Logistically, personnel are the easiest of all the move. It's equipment that takes time. We could ship more troops into Iraq, but there's no sign of that and that is information in itself. What is the Press metric for stretched? Look at the air support used in Fallujah. Single aircraft strikes. Well, well within the envelope. That indirectly says a lot about how confident CENTCOM is. When you can tattoo the enemies nose with artistic punches you are in no real trouble. Not saying things are easy, that people aren't dying or getting maimed. But the forces in Iraq are pretty cool. Cooler it seems than we bystanders might be.
The most important thing about force is for it to be controlled force, guided by a intelligence and political goal. And the great thing about CENTCOM so far is they have not let their legs get ahead of their brains.
posted by wretchard | Permalink: 4:25 AM Zulu
This is a good post from the belmontclub blog/website
National Review Online ( There are other reasons why Iraqis resent the implication that as Sistani says, so Iraq will do. First of all, Iraqi Sunnis question the assumption that the Shia are the majority in Iraq. The Shia sparsely populate the south, while the Sunnis live in concentrated clusters. Anyone who has visited the environs of Baquba, Tikrit, Mosul, or Fallujah, and compared them to the suburbs of Karbala, Najaf, or Kut, will notice the difference immediately. If there is one lesson for the West, it should be to not trust the estimates of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Sistani may have the bully pulpit, but opponents seek to undermine his base daily. Iranian agents have free run of Iraq, thanks to Ambassador Bremer's failure to close the borders. The Islamic Republic of Iran bases its legitimacy on the fallacy that its unelected Supreme Leader has religious legitimacy. The United States has made many mistakes in Iraq, but they have given us freedom of speech. This frightens the Iranian mullahs, who fear that Sistani will muck around in Iranian politics, just as he now does in Iraq. The irony is that Sistani may even have a greater following in his home country, Iran, than in Iraq. These Iranian agents — from the Qods Force, Revolutionary Guards, and Iranian intelligence service — seek to muzzle Sistani, just as the Iranian regime has muzzled Grand Ayatollah Montazeri and dissident voices from Qom. Iraqis want real democracy, not the farce that is Iranian democracy.
Sistani may have trouble translating his calls into action. Most Iraqis do not take the old man literally, but rather see him as a symbol. Shut tight within the walls of Saddam's palace, Ambassador Bremer has failed to translate American promises into reality. Sunnis and Shia alike may be grateful for Iraq's liberation, but that does not mean we want to give the Americans a carte blanche. If American policy continues to move aimlessly, Iraqi nationalism will grow. By kowtowing to his beck and call, the Americans have bolstered Sistani's prestige. Sistani has tasted power and likes it. He will use his bully pulpit to voice Iraq's frustration. It would be a mistake, however, for America to overestimate Sistani: He is a barometer, nothing more. To treat Sistani with anything more than polite respect will only antagonize the vast majority of Iraqis — Sunnis and Shia alike — upon whom the new Iraq will be built.
— Abu Ayad is the pseudonym for an Iraqi Arab Sunni who sits on a Baghdad district council.