Thursday, June 21, 2007

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

June 21, 2006: A soldier from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, provides marksmanship coaching to an Iraqi soldier near Tal Afar.

June 21, 2002:

Rumsfeld: Al-Qaeda leaving through Iran and Iraq

Iran and Iraq have served as corridors for al-Qaeda fighters going home to Arab countries from Afghanistan, and Iran has sheltered some members of the terrorist organization, U.S. officials said Friday.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, briefing reporters Friday, accused Iran's government of helping terrorists fleeing the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

"Iran had served as a haven for some terrorists leaving Afghanistan," he said. "It is also true it has permitted the transit of terrorists, and the supporters of terrorists, through Iran."

Some of those allowed to stay in Iran include an al-Qaeda leader, Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian accused of helping plot a bombing at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman aimed at killing Americans and Israeli tourists during millennial celebrations, a U.S. official has said.

In 1999, Jordanian authorities broke up that hotel bombing plot. Zarqawi, who has used the alias Ahmad Fadeel al-Khalayleh, went from Afghanistan to Iran not long after the U.S. war in Afghanistan began last October, and he later left, U.S. officials have said. His current whereabouts are unclear.

Iran has rejected allegations that it is tied to the those fleeing Afghanistan.

"We have no common ground with these terrorist groups and the Taliban," Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar said in March.

Some small groups of al-Qaeda have also crossed Iran and Iraq, but not to stay. Instead, U.S. officials say they returned to their home countries on the Arabian peninsula and elsewhere.

One U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity Friday, said there's no evidence that any al-Qaeda members have set up a base of operations in Iraq.

Nor does the United States have any evidence of Iraqi complicity in the terrorists' using Iraq as a transit corridor to return to their home countries, the official said.

A Bush administration official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. government remains suspicious that al-Qaeda is using Iraq to hide some of its members, but acknowledged there is no hard evidence to date.

As the administration considers options to topple the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, any signs of Iraq working with al-Qaeda would bolster the case for action. But no strong links have materialized.

Read the rest at USA Today

June 21, 2003:

Beating the Heat Factor in Iraq

The arrival of the Iraqi summer brings another potentially deadly danger to the estimated 145,000 troops in the country: the heat.

In central Iraq, the heat in the past few days has hovered at around 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. That's in the sun, around midday. In southern Iraq,where British troops are based, the heat is compounded by unbearable humidity.

The temperatures might drop to a mere 110 in the evening. For a soldier, who must wear about 25 pounds of combat gear outside his camp, that is potentially lethal.

U.S. troops continue to be sniped and shot at on an almost daily basis here, and on average, are dying at the rate of one soldier a day. Since May 1, when President Bush declared the war to be officially over, about 53 American soldiers have been killed, though many of those deaths have been due to accidents, not hostile fire.

"The flak jackets hold in heat and can present a dangerous situation if a guy isn't properly hydrated or spends too much time in the sun, " says Capt. Chris Griffin of the U.S. Marine Corps. "We've had some Marines that are borderline heat casualties. We've got to make sure people are hydrating and resting during the hottest parts of the day."

Griffin commands Alpha Company, lst Battalion, 4th Marines of the Marine Expeditionary Force, based near Babylon. He wears a watch that gives him the temperature as well as the time, something of a mixed blessing. Knowing how hot it is … somehow makes you feel even hotter.

Griffin spoke to ABCNEWS in the relative cool of the evening, it read 124 degrees. By that hour, his men were permitted to jog around their compound — a former Ba'athist Party Headquarters — or even do a few pushups, as long as they drank gallons of water.

A few hours before, they were out on foot patrol through a nearby village, in the blistering heat of the noonday sun. The streets were empty. The temperature then was 130.

Why were they going against their own regulations about resting during the hottest time of the day, I asked as I staggered along beside them?

"If I were a bad guy, I would expect this to be the least likely time for us to come out. So sometimes it's best to come out when they least expect you," says Lt. "Hoot" Stahl, a giant of a man who seems to cross the street in about two strides.

Stahl acknowledges that the heat is just about the biggest problem in their company now. His men haven't been attacked since the war.

Read the rest at ABC News

June 21, 2004:

Iraq: Where Are The Refugees?

On June 17, I received a telephone call from an Iraqi friend. Had I heard about the car bomb outside a military recruiting center in Baghdad? I had. It was headline news. He proceeded to tell me that a mutual Iraqi friend was in the hospital. He was heading to a meeting with an American official and was in the wrong place at the wrong time; he was hit by shrapnel.

Many Iraqis sacrifice for their country. Over the course of the four years I have been involved in Iraqi affairs, I have lost a number of Iraqi friends and, more recently, American colleagues. Newspapers, pundits, and academics may scream "quagmire," but Iraqis remain better off today than they did under Saddam. More importantly, Iraqis believe their lives will be better in two years than they were two years ago. They have hope.

He-said, she-said arguments about media focus are meaningless. Cameras do not lie, but they do not give the full perspective. The New York Times has an editorial position in its news department which is not going to change. Headlines will continue to favor hyperbole over fact. Journalists will write that Fallujah was a Sunni uprising, ignoring the relative calm in Sunni towns like Ramadi, Baquba, Samarra, Hib Hib, Nahr al-Shaykh, and Mosul.

Pundits and academics -- the shrillest of whom have not been to Iraq -- will cast doubt on achievements. They will repeat the canard that the Defense Department was mistaken in its belief that Americans would be greeted as liberators. They will ignore their own reporting from just over a year ago: On April 10, 2003, the Washington Post headlined, "Hussein's Baghdad Falls; U.S. Forces Move Triumphantly through Capital Streets, Cheered by Crowds Jubilant at End of Repressive Regime." Buried in the Baltimore Sun the same day was a story entitled, "On Arab TV, few tears shed over regime's fall; in a switch, U.S. forces shown controlling capital, being welcomed by mobs." Many small-town newspapers readily reported what their un-jaded reporters saw. The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, for example,
reported, "American soldiers were welcomed as liberators as the citizens in the streets told what U.S. military leaders were hesitant to formally proclaim: the end of Saddam's tyranny." The Greenville [South Carolina] News reported that young people chanted, "'Bush, Bush, thank you...' as American troops rolled through Saddam City in eastern Baghdad." Even the French, never fans of liberation (except their own) conceded the welcome. The day after the fall of Baghdad, French radio announced, "Saddam Hussein has fallen, his dictatorship too. The American soldiers are received in Baghdad as liberators."

There are several objective factors to indicate that Iraqis have more confidence in their future than do American pundits. On October 15, 2003, the Coalition Provisional Authority issued a new run of Iraqi currency. The Iraqi dinar floats freely and is traded not only across Iraq, but also in the currency markets of Beirut, Cairo, and Karachi. Upon the release of the new dinar, one dollar bought 2,000. When I witnessed a chaotic currency auction on the streets of Basra three months later, the dollar bought only 1,100 dinar. For the last several months, the rate has hovered between 1,400 to 1,450 dinars to the dollar. Simply put, national currencies do not strengthen when constituents have no faith in their future...

Ultimately, however, it is the editors' choice of what stories to dedicate space to which shapes public opinion. Often, these stories involve violence and the result is far less confidence in our mission among Americans than among Iraqis. Objective indicators tell a far different story, though. On August 16, 2002, the Guardian published analysis which showed that one-in-six Iraqis fled their country during the reign of Saddam Hussein. Human-rights groups intervened as Iraqis smuggled themselves onto the shores of Australia and England. The French set up detainment camps for refugees in towns like Calais. Turkey and Greece cooperated to crackdown on people smuggling. In 2000-2001, while a visiting lecturer in Safavid and Qajar dynasty Iranian history at the University of Sulamani in northern Iraq, I lost ten percent of my class not to dull lectures, but rather to people smugglers and illegal immigration in Europe. This raises the question: If Iraq is in chaos, too dangerous for even the United Nations to function, then where are the refugees? Rather than fleeing, Iraqis are returning. They are opening restaurants, boutiques, hotels, and car dealerships across the country. One Iraqi told me he invested more than $200,000 in a new bottling plant. Another spent $550,000 on a restaurant. Generally speaking, people do not invest money when they have no confidence in the future. After 35 years of dictatorship, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, Iraqis see light at the end of the tunnel.

Read the rest from National Review

June 21, 2005:

General: No reductions in troops yet, but possible early next year

WASHINGTON – A top U.S. general in Iraq suggested on Tuesday that reductions in American troops there could be possible by early next year despite the recent spasm of violence, though he said he was not ready to recommend any significant reduction now.

Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, the No. 2 U.S. officer in Iraq, asserted that the creation of democratic institutions in Iraq could accomplish what American troops and Iraqi security personnel have been unable to achieve: the defeat of the insurgency.

"If the transitional government has the wisdom to oversee the constitutional drafting and drafts a constitution that is acceptable to the larger segments of the population and is ratified, my assessment is the insurgency could dwindle down very quickly," Vines told reporters at the Pentagon via teleconference from Iraq.

Earlier this spring, during an ebb in violence, several top generals expressed confidence that the U.S. presence in Iraq could begin declining by March 2006, either through withdrawal of units or by sending fewer troops to replace those who are rotating home.

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

June 21, 2006:

General warns of rising levels of violence in Basra

British troops are facing an increasingly dangerous security situation in Basra, with rising levels of violence, a senior British officer warned yesterday.

Painting a gloomy picture of British-controlled southern Iraq, Lieutenant General Nick Houghton, Britain's chief of joint operations, also told the Commons defence committee that it would be "some time" before Britain could hand over responsibility to Iraq for defending the country's crucial oil producing region in the northern Gulf. Describing the situation as "worrying" he said provincial elections in the region, originally planned for the summer, would probably have to be delayed until the autumn.

The general's assessment was in contrast with recent upbeat comments about the security situation in Iraq by Tony Blair. But the general's words were echoed by the armed forces minister, Adam Ingram, who told the committee: "I am conscious of the fact that the first time I visited Iraq I was on the streets with our soldiers who were in soft hats, no body armour. I don't think that could happen now."

Read the rest at the Guardian