Friday, June 22, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- June 22nd edition

June 22, 2006: An Iraqi woman peers at a 10th Mountain Division Soldier from her driveway gate in Amariyah

June 22, 2002:

Americans 'expect more terror attacks'

More than half of all Americans believe their country is likely to be attacked again during the national 4 July holiday, according to an opinion poll.

The findings came as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a warning about potential terrorism using fuel tankers, and follows other scares involving allegations of overheard phone calls and suspicious behaviour.

The Bush administration has frequently warned Americans that their country is in grave danger of further attacks.

The message has obviously hit home, as 57% of people surveyed in a Time magazine/CNN poll said they believed an attack on the Independence Day holiday was likely.

US intelligence agencies have been heavily criticised for failing to act on information received before the attacks on 11 September, and over the past months they have issued a number of warnings about possible new attacks.

The FBI continues "to receive information from detainees and other sources about possible terrorist activities," said spokesman Bill Carter.

Most of the information is uncorroborated or unconfirmed, Carter warned, "but out of an abundance of caution, we provide this information to law enforcement agencies".

On Friday, the FBI issued a warning that fuel tanker trucks could be used in attacks against American targets in the United States or abroad.

Bureau spokesman Paul Bresson said the organisation had received uncorroborated information that the targets could be fuel depots, Jewish schools or synagogues.

The FBI has also spent time investigating warnings that terrorists are planning an attack on Las Vegas, after a man said he intercepted a phone conversation in Arabic last week in which such an attack was discussed.

A scare in Newark, New Jersey, has meanwhile been resolved. A man of Middle Eastern appearance who tried to buy an ambulance has been traced and found to have a perfectly innocent reason for wanting the vehicle.

Rumours have also been circulating in Washington about a possible attack on the city's subway system and even the possible use of scuba divers to launch an attack.

Read the rest at the BBC

June 22, 2003:

Policing of Iraq to Stay U.S. Job

Bush administration officials, after months of diplomatic effort, proudly discuss their expectation that more than 40 countries will combine to send at least 20,000 troops to help U.S. forces police Iraq. The result, as a Pentagon spokesman put it, is a "good news story."

Yet with President Bush and his most senior advisers making telephone calls and cornering foreign leaders in meetings around the globe, the number of military personnel offered by other countries remains small compared with the U.S. contingent and Iraq's anticipated need.

The high ratio of U.S. forces to coalition partners will do little to diminish the reality that the remaking of Iraq is a U.S.-commanded operation, analysts and diplomats contend, and it seems unlikely to deliver the relief expected by U.S. military commanders anxious to shift the peacekeeping burden to other nations.

Administration officials found a wide array of contributors from Spain and Slovakia to Ukraine and South Korea, but few able or willing to send large forces to Iraq, according to several people involved in the effort.

Some governments said they could not afford the economic or political costs. Some said they remain dubious about the legitimacy of the unprovoked U.S. war. Some said their militaries are already stretched thin by peacekeeping projects in Afghanistan, the Balkans and elsewhere...

The structure of the Iraq force is markedly different from the peacekeeping contingent in Bosnia and Kosovo following wars that attracted broader international support. After hostilities ended in Bosnia, the security force was about one-third American; in Kosovo, about one-fifth. By contrast, the United States currently has 146,000 troops operating in Iraq alongside 12,000 foreign troops, mostly British.

Combined with another 67,000 U.S. soldiers in neighboring Kuwait, the American total is 213,000, a number the Pentagon has said will drop as security conditions and the arrival of foreign forces permit. For the foreseeable future, U.S. troops will be the predominant occupation force.

"It's all dependent on the security situation on the ground. That's not knowable. There's no magic formula for this," said a senior administration official who is working on the postwar effort. "We are very comfortable with the support we are getting in the stability operation."

Attacks on U.S. troops have escalated in recent weeks, claiming the lives of nine American soldiers this month and 16 since Bush declared hostilities formally over on May 1.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

June 22, 2004:

Iraq ministers told only US can impose martial law

The US-led occupation authority in Baghdad has warned Iraq's interim government not to carry out its threat of declaring martial law, insisting that only the US-led coalition has the right to adopt emergency powers after the June 30 handover of sovereignty.

Senior American officials say Iraq's authorities are bound by human rights clauses in the interim constitution, known as the Transitional Administrative Law, prohibiting administrative detention.

But they say the recent United Nations Security Council resolution 1546 sanctions the use by foreign forces in Iraq of "all necessary measures" to provide security.

A senior coalition official in Baghdad said: "Under the UN resolution, the multinational force will have the power to take all actions traditionally associated with martial law." He said they had raised their legal objections with Iyad Allawi, Iraq's prime minister.

Mr Allawi on Tuesday appeared to back away from remarks made on Sunday that the government would assume emergency powers after the handover.

"No, I didn't specifically say martial law meaning martial law," he said, adding that the government was developing a "public safety law" which would allow it to implement curfews, searches, and "apprehend the enemies of Iraq".

The coalition's warning highlights growing tension between the US-led multinational force and Iraq's appointed government over how to handle counter-insurgency after the handover.

US advisers are concerned about the security powers sought by Mr Allawi, a one-time Baath party member, and are struggling to check the ambitions of his ministers to rebuild and re-arm Iraq's forces.

"Iraq will have a lightly-armed standing army and no heavy field artillery," says Jacinta Caroll, director of defence policy for the Coalition Provisional Authority. If tanks and attack aircraft were needed, Iraq would have to rely on US-led forces, she said.

Frustrated Iraqi officials say reliance on US-led forces will undermine public confidence in the restoration of sovereignty and re-ignite claims that they are lackeys of the occupying forces.

To curb Iraq's access to heavy weapons, observers say the occupation authorities have signed a $259m contract with US company Anham Joint Venture to be sole supplier of arms to Iraq's armed forces for the next two years.

Alarmed that the deal could leave Iraq's forces outgunned by an enemy with mortars and rockets, Mr Allawi this week vowed to refurbish the old Iraq army's arsenal, and appealed to neighbouring states to provide military hardware.

All but 20 per cent of the defence ministry's 2004 $1.5bn budget stems from US funds, say coalition officials, and Iraq's share is earmarked for the payment of salaries, not equipment. In addition, the coalition has impounded Iraq's remaining heavy weapons and is hampering the issue of end-user certificates for fresh supplies, say western security experts.

Read the rest at the Financial Times

June 22, 2005:

'Enemy on enemy' fire signals split among insurgents in Iraq

U.S. marines watching the skyline from their second-story perch in an abandoned house here saw a curious thing: In the distance, mortar rounds and gunfire popped, but the volleys did not seem to be aimed at them.

In the dark, one marine spoke in hushed code words on a radio, and after a minute found the answer. "Red on red," he said late Sunday night, using a military term for enemy-on-enemy fire.

Marines patrolling this desert region near the Syrian border have for months been seeing a strange trend in the complex Iraqi insurgency. Insurgents, they say, have been fighting one another in this constellation of towns along the Euphrates, from Husayba to Qaim. The observations offer a new clue in the hidden world of the insurgency and suggest that there may have been, as American commanders suggest, a split between Islamic militants and local rebels.

A United Nations official who served in Iraq last year and who consulted widely with militant groups said by telephone that there had been a split for some time.

"There is a rift," said the official, who requested anonymity. "I'm certain that the nationalist Iraqi part of the insurgency is very much fed up with the jihadists' grabbing the headlines and carrying out the sort of violence that they don't want against innocent civilians."

The nationalist insurgent groups "are giving a lot of signals implying that there should be a settlement with the Americans," while the jihadists have a purely ideological agenda, he added.

The insurgency is largely hidden, making such trends difficult to discern. But marines in this western outpost have noticed a change.

For Matthew Orth, a Marine sniper, the difference came this spring, when his unit was conducting an operation in Husayba. Mortar shells flew over the unit, hitting a different target.

"The thought was, 'They're coming for us.' But then we saw they were fighting each other," he said during a break in operations Monday. "We were kind of wondering what happened. We were getting mortared twice a day, and then all of a sudden it stopped."

Access for the foreign fighters is easy through the porous border with Syria, where the main crossing, Husayba, has been closed for seven months to stem their flow.

"They will come from wherever we are not," Colonel Stephen Davis, the commander here, said. "Clearly there are foreign fighters here, and quite clearly they are coming in from Syria."

Marines have conducted a number of offensives in villages along the Euphrates, including one over the past few days in Karabila, to disrupt the fighters' networks. During raids on mostly empty houses here, marines found nine foreign passports, and of the approximately 40 insurgents killed, at least three were foreign, marines said.

Captain Chris Ieva said he could tell whether an area was controlled by foreign insurgents or locals based on whether families had cellphones or guns. Foreign fighters do not allow local residents to have cellphones for fear they will spy on them. Marines cited other tactics of foreigners. Sophisticated body armor, for example, is one sign, as well as land mines that are a cut above average, remote-controlled local mines and well-chosen sniper positions.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

June 22, 2006:

Casey: U.S. Forces in Iraq to Shrink

WASHINGTON -- The top U.S. commander in Iraq predicted on Thursday that the size of the U.S. fighting force will shrink this year, although he said he had not made new recommendations to his Pentagon bosses on the size and timing of any cuts.

"I'm confident that we'll be able to continue to take reductions over the course of this year," Army Gen. George Casey told a Pentagon news conference with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at his side.

Rumsfeld said Casey had not yet had sufficient time to consult with the new Iraqi government, but that in any case the size of the U.S. force is likely to rise and fall in coming months, depending on political and security conditions.

"It will very likely not be a steady path down," Rumsfeld said. "It could very likely be a drawdown with an increase." Noting that there now are 126,900 U.S. troops in Iraq, he said: "It could very well go back up at some point. It very likely will go down and up and down and up depending on the circumstances and depending on the need."

Casey, who said more than once last year that he expected to see "fairly substantial" U.S. troop reductions during spring and summer of 2006, noted that the force has dropped from about 138,000 in March to 126,900 now.

Read the rest at the Washington Post