Friday, June 08, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- June 8th edition

June 8, 2006: A soldier from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team provides security during a patrol in Mosul.

June 8, 2002:

Pentagon will not seek UN approval

Despite the increasingly loud demands around the world for any military action against Iraq to be backed by the United Nations, Washington is unlikely to seek such approval, saying that it already has ample legal authority.

The American-led war against Iraq in 1991 was carried out under UN Security Council resolution 678, which gave member states the right to take "all necessary means . . . to restore international peace and security in the area" after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait.

But, more than a decade later, diplomats said yesterday that Washington was increasingly suspicious of the UN, seeing it as a constraint on its freedom of action, rather than the essential means of legitimising military intervention to remove the Iraqi dictator.

"Ultimately the decision on whether to seek UN approval is a political issue rather than a legal matter," said Jonathan Eyal, director of studies at the Royal United Services Institute.

"The Americans would dearly like to have a resolution, but they need to be absolutely clear that they can get it through.

"If they seek a resolution and it is vetoed by Russia or China, the Americans will have shot down their own argument that they have enough justification at the moment."

"The Americans can argue that Iraq's repeated violations of UN resolutions is enough to justify force. But where they are on more rickety ground is in the objective of regime change.

There is no way of reading the current UN resolutions to say that they allow a country simply to replace the government."

Read the rest at the Telegraph

June 8, 2003:

U.S. Sidelines Exiles Who Were To Govern Iraq

Former Iraqi opposition leaders, many of whom were brought back from exile by the U.S. government with the expectation that they would run the country, have been largely sidelined by the U.S.-led occupation authority here, which views them as insufficiently representative and too disorganized to take charge.

In the six weeks after Baghdad fell to U.S. forces, leaders of seven political groups that had opposed former president Saddam Hussein acted with the swagger of a government in waiting. Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the Pentagon-backed Iraqi National Congress, returned from London and ensconced himself with the help of his own militia in a private club in the capital's poshest neighborhood, where he received a procession of visitors who treated him with the deference due an incoming president. The chieftains of the two largest Kurdish parties traveled down to Baghdad from autonomous northern Iraq to hold court in large hotels surrounded by dozens of heavily armed guards. Other political leaders wooed people by touting their parties as key participants in a new government.

But as a scorching June heat envelops Baghdad, plans to cede power to the former opposition leaders have evaporated. Taking advantage of a recently passed U.N. Security Council resolution that gives the United States and Britain broad authority to run Iraq, the top U.S. civil administrator here, L. Paul Bremer III, said he intends to appoint Iraqis to a council that will advise him on policy decisions instead of endorsing the formation of a full interim government, which the former opposition leaders had hoped to lead. Bremer has promised that the council will include a spectrum of Iraqis and not be dominated by former exiles.

In a recent meeting with the seven leaders, Bremer told them they "don't represent the country," participants said. U.S. officials said he repeatedly asked the Iraqis to broaden their coalition to include women, Christians and tribal chiefs, but they failed to do so.

Rebuffed by Bremer, the former opposition leaders are quietly regrouping. One of the top two Kurdish leaders, Jalal Talabani, has left Baghdad. Chalabi's group moved out of the Mansour Hunting Club and into less prominent accommodations this week. His militia, the 700-member Free Iraq Forces, an American-trained contingent of paramilitary fighters, was disbanded last month on Bremer's order.

Representatives of the seven political organizations now devote much of their regular "leadership council" meetings to talking about how to regain political influence with the United States.

The decision not to hand over power to the former opposition leaders through a hastily formed transitional government, which U.S. officials here said was made by the White House, means the United States will occupy Iraq much longer than initially planned, acting as the ultimate authority for governing the country until a new constitution is authored, national elections held and a new government installed. One senior U.S. official here predicted that process could last two years or more.

"The idea that some in Washington had -- that we would come in here, set up the ministries, turn it all over to the seven and get out of Dodge in a few months -- was unrealistic," the official said.

"We gave them a chance," the official said. "We bankrolled some of them. But they just couldn't get their act together. It was amateur hour"...

In a last-ditch effort to influence the interim administration, the former opposition leaders have insisted that the participants be selected through a national assembly they would organize. Such a forum could give them a chance to ensure that the council was stacked with their members and allies.

Bremer, however, has rejected that request, insisting that it would take too long to convene an assembly and that it could be prone to manipulation by former Baathists and radical Islamic clerics.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

June 8, 2004:

U.S. force in Iraq to grow as Marine deployment pushed up

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq to around 145,000 this summer, from the current 140,000, in recognition of the continued difficulty coalition forces are having in providing security leading up to the hand-over of political power to Iraqis on June 30.

The new troops will come from the Marine Corps, which will move up a deployment originally planned for this fall and send 5,000 Marines to Iraq by August. The first troops in that contingent — 2,200 Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit — have already left their home base in San Diego for Iraq. The remainder will come from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit in North Carolina.

Overall, U.S. force levels in Iraq could rise even higher than 145,000 as Marines already in Iraq have their tours extended to overlap with incoming replacements, said Lt. Gen. Robert Magnus, deputy commandant for programs and resources. How long the Marines now due to rotate home will be forced to stay "depends on how well the Iraqi forces come along and whether there are more troops, or less troops, from foreign countries," Magnus told reporters Tuesday.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the increase in the troop level in Iraq is routine. "As you bring troops in to replace troops that are there, you will have a spike in the total numbers as you do that transition," he said. But Whitman could not say when the number will drop back to the current level or lower.

Read the rest at USA Today

June 8, 2005:

Iraq's president backs Shiite militia

Iraq's president publicly praised Shiite and Kurdish militias Wednesday in a statement that could further antagonize Sunni Arabs and fuel fears of sectarian strife.

The divide between Iraq's Sunni and Shiite Arabs further widened when Sunni Arab leaders threatened to boycott a constitutional committee, a move which would deal a blow to the Shiite-led government's efforts to include them in the political process...

President Jalal Talabani's backing of the Shiite Badr Brigade militia came despite accusations by Sunni leaders that the militia has killed members of the minority. The Sunni leaders have demanded it be disarmed and complained it provides intelligence and support for some Shiite-dominated special security units...

The Badr Brigade was the military wing of the country's largest Shiite political party, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Republic in Iraq — or SCIRI. The party claims the Badr Brigade is no longer a militia but performs social and political functions.

"Badr is a patriotic group that works for Iraq's interest and it will not be dragged into sectarian or any other kind of conflict," said Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, SCIRI's leader and the former commander of the Badr Brigade. "Badr is for all Iraqis," he added.

Talabani, himself a Sunni Kurd, spoke at a conference marking the second anniversary of the Badr Brigade's transformation from a solely military body to a political one.

"May those who describe the heroes of Badr and their Kurdish brothers as militia be doomed to failure," Talabani said.

"You and your (Kurdish) brothers are the heroes of liberating Iraq," he added. "You, my brothers, march on without paying attention to the enemies' claims because you and the (Kurdish militia) are faithful sons of this country."

There are no accurate figures on the size of the brigade, but it is thought to be smaller than the Kurdish Peshmerga militia, estimated at 100,000. The Peshmerga has been largely exempted from efforts to disband militias because of its close ties to the United States and its supporting role during the war.

Read the rest at USA Today

June 8, 2006:

Army Officer Refuses to Deploy to Iraq

An Army lieutenant who refuses to deploy to Iraq with his Fort Lewis Stryker brigade said he's prepared to face the consequences, including a possible prison term.

1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who joined the Army in March 2003, said he researched the reasons behind the U.S. involvement in Iraq and concluded the war is illegal and immoral.

"We have violated American law," Watada said. "We can't break laws in order to fight terrorism."

Watada said he would be willing to serve in Afghanistan or elsewhere, but he said he believes intelligence on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was manipulated "to fit a policy that was already implemented prior to 9-11," and he cited "mistreatment of the Iraqi people," saying it was "a contradiction to the Army's own Law of Land Warfare."

Army officials said Watada's decision to publicly declare his intent to disobey orders "is a serious matter and could subject him to adverse action."

His unit _ the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division _ is scheduled to begin leaving later this month for a mission in Iraq.

Watada sent a letter to his command in January, saying he had reservations about the Iraq war and felt he could not participate, his lawyer Eric A. Seitz said. Months later, he resubmitted his request to resign, Seitz said.

The Hawaii native was told last month his request had been denied. The Army said it was because Watada's unit is in a stop-loss category, and he has not fulfilled his service obligation. His commission requires that he serve as an active-duty Army officer for three years ending Dec. 3, his lawyer said.

Watada said he would submit another request to resign but added, "I feel it is inevitable ... I will be charged and I will be punished." He said he could face prison time for failing to deploy...

"I know that my case has brought a lot of attention and scrutiny on me by my superiors," Watada said. "I'm probably very unpopular, if not the most unpopular person on Fort Lewis. But I know out there are people who believe in what I'm saying."

Read the rest at the Washington Post