Monday, April 09, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- April 9th edition

April 9, 2003: Saddam Hussein's statue is toppled in Baghdad.

April 9, 2002:

Bush speeds up preparations for war on Iraq

President Bush has summoned congressional leaders for top-level talks in the White House today amid clear signals that the United States is accelerating its preparations for war with Iraq.

Mr Bush's meeting with senior Republicans and Democrats is an indication that the president will try to regain control of the fractious debate over Saddam Hussein.

It was announced last night after Mr Bush returned from holiday apparently with a renewed determination to topple Saddam.

White House officials say it is almost certain that Mr Bush will seek the authorisation of Congress to use force against the Iraqi dictator, even though he is probably not legally bound to do so.

Leading figures in both houses support overthrowing Saddam, and Mr Bush's position is bolstered by stronger public and congressional support than his father enjoyed before the Gulf War in 1991.

Read the rest at the Telegraph

April 9, 2003:

Success in Iraq strengthens Bush politically

WASHINGTON — The imminent end of the shooting war in Iraq is the beginning of a reshaped presidential campaign at home.

President Bush's standing with the public is sure to rise after a conflict that lasted weeks, not months — as his top aides had predicted to some skepticism — with minimal U.S. casualties and without the nightmare of chemical or biological attacks. The victory is likely to strengthen his hand for the battle in Congress in coming weeks over his proposed tax cut and for his re-election campaign next year.

The scene of cheering Iraqis dragging the severed head of Saddam Hussein's statue through the streets while TV cameras recorded the scene was seen by some administration officials as a satisfying vindication of Bush's leadership and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's war plan...

"When the dust settles, he'll get great credit from the American public for having the courage of his convictions — and then for being right," predicts Ron Kaufman, a Republican consultant who was a White House political director for the first President Bush.

Read the rest at USA Today

April 9, 2004:

Iraq in turmoil on Saddam anniversary

BAGHDAD, April 9 (Reuters) - Bloody turmoil reigned in Iraq on Friday, the first anniversary of Saddam Hussein's fall, with Sunni and Shi'ite rebels battling U.S.-led forces and holding three Japanese and other foreign hostages.

Fierce fighting that has convulsed the Sunni cities of Falluja and Ramadi reached the western outskirts of Baghdad, where insurgents killed nine in an attack on a U.S. fuel convoy, and said they had seized four Italians and two Americans.

A Reuters journalist saw two captive foreigners in a mosque in a village in the Abu Ghraib district. One was wounded in the shoulder. Both were weeping.

At the scene of the convoy attack, a Reuters photographer saw the bodies inside blazing vehicles. A dead foreigner lay on the road with a bloody head as an Iraqi beat him.

Teenage fighters with rocket-propelled grenades and rifles lurked on bridges or in derelict lots near the main highway leading west towards the embattled town of Falluja.

Iraq's U.S administrator Paul Bremer said U.S. forces had unilaterally suspended operations in Falluja at midday after this week's crackdown on guerrillas there.

He said the U.S. ceasefire would allow humanitarian access and what would be unprecedented talks with insurgents.

This week's bloodshed, engulfing the hitherto quiescent Shi'ite south as well as the bastions of Sunni insurgency in central Iraq, has shown how far the United States is from securing the country whose dictator it toppled on April 9, 2003.

Read the rest at the Financial Times

April 9, 2005:

2 Iraqi clerics, usually rivals, call for anti-U.S. protests

Two militant Muslim clerics, one Sunni and one Shiite, have called for demonstrations today to protest the continuing U.S. occupation of Iraq two years after the toppling of President Saddam Hussein.

If the protests materialize, they will be the first large-scale rallies to occur under Iraq's new government, whose most senior leaders -- President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari -- were formally installed this week. Jafari is now forming his Cabinet.

Moqtada al-Sadr, a young militant Shiite cleric with a large following in Baghdad's huge slum of Sadr City, has urged a peaceful march from Firdaus Square -- where U.S. troops tore down a statue of Saddam to mark the capture of Baghdad on April 9, 2003 -- to the heavily fortified Green Zone. An al- Sadr spokesman said protesters would demand a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal, release of detainees in U.S. military prisons and Saddam's prosecution.

Al-Sadr's militia, the Mahdi Army, twice engaged U.S. forces in weeks of street fighting last year until a truce was negotiated in August.

During communal prayers Friday at Baghdad's Um al-Qurra Mosque, Sunni cleric Harith Dhari, chairman of the Association of Muslim Scholars, urged Sunnis to come out in protest against the 138,000-strong U.S. military presence.

Read the rest at the SF Chronicle

April 9, 2006:

I no longer have power to save Iraq from civil war, warns Shia leader

The most influential moderate Shia leader in Iraq has abandoned attempts to restrain his followers, admitting that there is nothing he can do to prevent the country sliding towards civil war.

Aides say Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is angry and disappointed that Shias are ignoring his calls for calm and are switching their allegiance in their thousands to more militant groups which promise protection from Sunni violence and revenge for attacks.

"I will not be a political leader any more," he told aides. "I am only happy to receive questions about religious matters."

It is a devastating blow to the remaining hopes for a peaceful solution in Iraq and spells trouble for British forces, who are based in and around the Shia stronghold of Basra.

The cleric is regarded as the most important Shia religious leader in Iraq and has been a moderating influence since the invasion of 2003. He ended the fighting in Najaf between Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army and American forces in 2004 and was instrumental in persuading the Shia factions to fight the 2005 elections under the single banner of the United Alliance.

However, the extent to which he has become marginalised was demonstrated last week when fighting broke out in Diwaniya between Iraqi soldiers and al-Sadr's Mehdi army. With dozens dead, al-Sistani's appeals for calm were ignored. Instead, the provincial governor had to travel to Najaf to see al-Sadr, who ended the fighting with one telephone call.

Read the rest at the Telegraph