Monday, May 21, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- May 21st edition

May 21, 2005: Iraqi Soldiers prepare to take over an alleyway where there is enemy contact during a firefight in Abu Ghraib

May 21, 2002:

Rumsfeld Warns of Terror With Super-Weapons

WASHINGTON — It's only a matter of time before terrorists determined to destroy America obtain nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Capitol Hill Tuesday.

"They inevitably will get their hands on them and they will not hesitate to use them," Rumsfeld told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and North Korea are developing such weapons of mass destruction and will supply them to terrorists to which they already are linked, the defense secretary said...

At his White House briefing, press secretary Ari Fleischer said he hadn't heard Rumsfeld's exact words, but that "the secretary knows what the president knows and that is that we're in the middle of a war to protect the country and diminish the ability of people who would do us harm from getting their hands on such weapons."

Read the rest at Fox News

May 21, 2003:

Report: Labs' Purpose Was Biowarfare

Two trailers found in Iraq were apparently built to be mobile biological weapons laboratories, U.S. officials tell a newspaper.

The report in The New York Times is the first U.S.-confirmed find of any of the prohibited arms that the Bush administration alleged Iraq possessed before the way.

A senior military commander says the U.S. will invite a team of international experts to inspect the labs. So far, the United States has chosen to conduct its weapons hunt without help from U.N. inspection teams.

Although the laboratories do not represent proof that Iraq had biological weapons, American officials believe their only purpose was for making such weapons. The Times says U.S. experts eliminated every other possible explanation for the trailers' design and contents.

Pentagon officials said troops seized the first trailer at a checkpoint near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on April 19 and found the second trailer on May 9 at al-Kindi, a former missile research facility in Iraq.

No biological agents were found in the labs, which were apparently cleaned with a caustic substance at some point before they were found. It is not clear that the labs were ever used to produce weapons.

Read the rest at CBS News

May 21, 2004:

Making a hooligan into a hero

It was always clear that the success of the US-led occupation in Iraq would depend on whether it could make friends faster than it made enemies. Yet through most of the year since the war ended, the reverse has been the case - as a credible poll reported in yesterday's Financial Times dramatically illustrated.

The poll, conducted by the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, shows that nine out of 10 Iraqis see American forces as occupiers, not liberators. More alarming still, it establishes that Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia radical confronting the coalition in the south, has suddenly emerged as the second most popular figure in Iraq.

That this poll was conducted before revelations of the torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib makes its findings even more salutary - with less than six weeks to go before the Coalition Provisional Authority is due to hand over to an interim Iraqi government it has yet to identify.

There is no single explanation for the intensifying Iraqi hatred of the occupiers. But a root cause is the violence that has enveloped so much of the country, and the way US troops have used disproportionate and reckless force in response not only to the insurgency but to any perceived threat...

There was another tragic illustration of this on Wednesday in western Iraq, when US aircraft fired on and all but razed a small village, killing more than 40 people. A senior US officer said they had targeted "suspected foreign fighters in a safe house". Iraqi police, medical staff and victims' relatives insist the dead - more than half of them women and children - were at a wedding party. Two years ago US warplanes killed a similar number at a wedding in Afghanistan, after mistaking celebratory gunfire for hostile fire.

Altogether, it is estimated that thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed and, while some accidents are admitted, US officers defend most such incidents - as they did yesterday - as "within our rules of engagement". But the occupation is not only making far too many enemies, it is building some of them into national heroes.

Moqtada al-Sadr, for instance, was until six weeks ago regarded as little more than a hooligan with no theological standing among the majority Shia Muslims. Once Paul Bremer, the CPA chief, decided to confront him, however, he was easily able to mobilise his rag-tag militia - part of a network inherited from his revered cleric father, who was assassinated by Saddam Hussein. Now, the young Sadr ranks only behind Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the leading Shia cleric and a force for stability, in the estimation of all Iraqis, including the minority Sunni - a catastrophic own-goal for the occupation.

Read the rest at the Financial Times

May 21, 2005:

Contractor deaths in Iraq prove difficult to track

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — There are 50,000 to 100,000 contractors working in Iraq, experts believe, though reliable estimates are hard to come by.
Private security personnel are thought to account for as many as 20,000 of those, or more than all U.S. coalition partners together.

The number of contractors killed is just as difficult to pin down, partly because the employers often keep the deaths quiet. The U.S. military death toll, now over 1,620, would be higher but for the number of military tasks contracted out to the private sector, say analysts.

"Outsourcing troops not only outsources costs and capabilities, but also casualties," said Peter Singer, who specializes in the topic for the Washington-based Brookings Institution. Security firms "have sent more troops and taken more casualties than all of our other reluctant allies combined."

The U.S. Labor Department reports at least 305 cases where death benefits have been claimed for private contractors working in Iraq — many by families of Iraqis who worked for U.S. companies, but the Labor Department wouldn't provide a breakdown by nationality. The total number of contractors killed is larger, but the true figure is difficult to estimate because many firms don't publicize workers' deaths and the U.S. government statistics aren't comprehensive.

Read the rest at USA Today

May 21, 2006:

Iran's Iraq Strategy

From the moment the first U.S. warheads detonate over an Iranian nuclear installation, the United States will be at war with the Islamic Republic. A vast tableau of American facilities around the world -- as well as the streets of U.S. cities -- could be targets for retaliation by Iran's agents and surrogates. "The Americans should know that if they assault Iran, their interests will be harmed anywhere in the world that is possible," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, warned last month.

The most likely theater of operations in the initial stages of a U.S.-Iranian conflict, however, would be next door -- in Iraq. Since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iran has methodically built and strengthened its military, political and religious influence in Iraq. Iran's Revolutionary Guard has extensively infiltrated Iraq's Ministry of the Interior and police force, both mainstays of Shiite power. The hundreds of Iranian mullahs and businessmen who have slipped across the border have a commanding presence in southern Iraq's commercial and religious sectors.

Iran's sway over Shiite militias and its considerable paramilitary presence in Iraq give Tehran leverage in the ongoing nuclear stalemate with Washington, and would emerge as a key factor should armed conflict break out. U.S. forces and prestige are vulnerable in Iraq, making them particularly attractive targets. However, should Iran decide to strike in Iraq, it would have to weigh competing priorities: a desire for revenge against the Americans, and the strategic need to both avoid chaos in its western neighbor and bolster the political role of Iraq's Shiite majority.

Read the rest at the Washington Post