Saturday, July 14, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- July 14th edition

July 14, 2006: A Soldier from the 101st Airborne Division takes cover during a gun battle with insurgents in Salah Ad Din Province

July 14, 2002:

British spies in Iraq to incite revolt

British and American agents are on the ground in Iraq fomenting revolt among opposition groups and potential traitors in Saddam Hussein's inner circle as part of a covert campaign to topple him, senior officials disclosed last night.

The admission, on the eve of a conference of Iraqi opposition figures in London, is powerful evidence of a renewed determination in Washington and London to overthrow the Iraqi dictator.

Although the officials conceded that the CIA and MI6 operations were unlikely to succeed without direct military action, a senior source in the Bush administration said that the world should not be misled by the lack of overt military activity.

"American personnel are supporting the Iraqi opposition and working with dissatisfied elements within Saddam's regime, even though he has killed quite a few of these people. Britain is involved too," the official told The Telegraph.

"We could wake up one morning and find regime change in Baghdad has happened completely unexpectedly. It would be hard to do but it's not impossible."

British officials sought to play down the significance of the operations, saying they were no different in character from what had been happening in Iraq since 1991. One diplomat said: "We could get lucky and Saddam could be killed or overthrown. But do I think it will happen? No."

Military plans to overthrow Saddam are being drawn up by US central command in Florida and should be on President George W Bush's desk this summer. A full-scale invasion could take place as early as the end of the year.

Senior aides have said that the outside time limit for removing Saddam is 2004, the end of Mr Bush's first term of office, but action is likely to be taken much earlier.

One said that next January or February was the optimum time to strike.

Read the rest at the Telegraph

July 14, 2003:

Pentagon delays soldiers' return from Iraq

Thousands of U.S. Army troops initially scheduled to come home from Iraq during the next two months are being told they will have to stay for an unknown length of time, U.S. Army officials said Monday.

The delay affects 9,000 men in the Army's battle-weary 3rd Infantry Division, which has been in Iraq since the start of the war. A soldier in that division was killed Monday in Baghdad when his convoy was attacked with multiple rocket-propelled grenades.

With security in Iraq still a concern, Army officials said that U.S. troops are still needed in the country.

The decision will leave two brigades of the 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq for an unknown length of time, Army officials said.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told a Senate panel that according to a redeployment plan, the 2nd Brigade would return to its home at Fort Stewart, Georgia, in August. It has been in the gulf region since September.

That would be followed by the return of the 1st Brigade in September. That unit has been in Kuwait and Iraq since January.

Read the rest at the CNN

July 14, 2004:

The Iraq side effects

"Opportunity costs" are what you could have done with the money, time and other resources that you are devoting to a project if you hadn't undertaken it.

In the case of America at present, the voracious resource-eater is the war in Iraq, which is causing the United States to let other important issues and opportunities in the country's overseas relations fall into serious disuse because of the all-consuming involvement in Iraq.

The overseas opportunity costs are apart from whatever domestic needs are being ignored or underfunded because of the costs of the war, estimated at $150 billion and rising rapidly. These shortfalls are occurring in education, infrastructure and long-term financing of Medicare and Social Security, as examples.

This assessment is not basically one of gloom and doom. Nor is it one that suggests that the only way out of the dilemma is getting rid of the Bush administration. In fact, both the handover to Iraqis in June and reports that the administration is now looking at troop withdrawal timetables are indications that it, too, may see that it is time to wrap this one up and get on with the rest of our lives.

But here is what we could be doing if the Bush administration -- for whatever reasons -- hadn't led the country into war in Iraq.

The primary opportunity cost that we are paying is in Afghanistan. That long-troubled country was a perfect case for a forward-looking, newly security-conscious America to do something useful in the world. After Sept. 11, no one could or did argue that the United States didn't have a right to do something about al-Qaida and its Taliban hosts. In that effort, we had Afghan allies and the support of the world, even militant Muslim states.

The Taliban were easily driven out of Kabul, the capital; al-Qaida were put to flight; and the Afghans seemed to take readily to political and economic reconstruction. A national conference, the Loya Jirga, was held; a politically savvy leader, Hamid Karzai, was selected as interim president; democratic elections were scheduled and foreign donors pledged assistance. NATO agreed to provide forces to address security, the most severe of Afghanistan's problems and the precondition to resolving its other problems.

But then came Iraq, soaking up U.S. resources, putting Afghanistan firmly on the back burner, where it remains. The recent postponement of its elections to the spring of 2005, a year later than originally scheduled, is perhaps the most dramatic indication of what the United States has not done there, although Karzai's repeated laments about his government's lack of authority due to the omnipresence of armed militias outside of Kabul are as ominous in their implications.

A second problem, less directly related but still relevant to the fundamental U.S. concern with combating terrorism, is the Middle East peace process -- resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. U.S. attention to it is also a victim of the Iraq war. Because of the Bush administration's unilateral approach to that war, the United States has lost virtually all credibility with the countries that were previously U.S. allies in the effort to bring about reason on the Arab/Palestinian side of that question, countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states.

And because the Israelis know full well that we have no leverage with the Arabs, Israel feels perfectly free to stick its fingers in our eyes on a range of important issues, ranging from the wall and fence across the West Bank, to dismantling settlements in the West Bank or Gaza, now even to meeting with the Quartet -- the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia -- that devised the road map to two states and peace in the area in the first place.

The disuse in the rest of U.S. foreign policy brought about by the preoccupation with the Iraq war has by no means been limited to the Middle East. Mexico and its president, Vicente Fox, in the process of shaping up as America's best friend at the beginning of President George W. Bush's administration, are now largely ignored, in no small part because Fox's Mexico did not sign on to the so-called "coalition of the willing."

It is hard to say the degree to which the growing problems in the rest of Latin America -- Venezuela, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil -- are due to America's preoccupation with Iraq, but it is certain that they have received little attention from us since the drum-roll toward war with Iraq started. And they know it. The U.S. quick in-and-out in Haiti clearly indicated a lack of interest and a shortage of forces to use for peacekeeping there.

Whatever the full cost will be, and whether it will also be reflected in U.S. relations with North Korea, Iran and China as well, the United States is paying dearly around the world for the administration's misguided adventure in Iraq. None of this is irreversible, but the drift is downstream and the sound of the falls is audible.

Read the rest at the Post-Gazette

July 14, 2005:

Analysts see no quick drop in U.S. troops in Iraq

The continuing strength of Iraqi insurgents and slow development of the nation's military make it unlikely that significant numbers of U.S. troops will leave Iraq soon, according to military commanders and analysts.

"If you look at the security situation there right now, it's crazy to ... say we can draw the forces down. It certainly doesn't look that way," said Frederick Kagan, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute think tank, which has strong ties to the Bush administration.

That's despite polls showing waning public support in the USA for the war and a growing chorus in Congress calling for a timetable to pull troops from Iraq. Last week the British Mail on Sunday newspaper published a memo by the British defense minister that said the Pentagon had a proposal to reduce by early next year the number of American and allied troops in Iraq to about 66,000 from the current 176,000.

So far, President Bush has refused to set a timetable, although administration officials want to find a way to reduce troop levels because of the strains on the all-volunteer military, said Daniel Goure, a former Pentagon official now with the conservative Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va. The war and other pressures have the military at a breaking point, he said.

U.S. commanders in Iraq have gotten the message, said Kagan, who taught military history at West Point for a decade. "It's been made very clear to the generals in the theater that no more troops are forthcoming and a drawdown is desired."

Col. Dan Grymes of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad said Iraqi forces aren't well enough trained to cut U.S. troops there.

"I don't care how much pressure they would like to put on it," Grymes said. "You can't make it go faster than it can."

Other allies have pulled their troops out of Iraq, most notably Spain in the wake of the train bombings March 2004 in Madrid.

The British memo, which Defense Minister John Reid said was legitimate, cited "a strong U.S. military desire" to cut the number of troops in Iraq, particularly on the part of the Pentagon.

Defense Department spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter said the United States has frequent consultations with Great Britain and other allies but no decisions have been made on the number of troops in Iraq.

The views of U.S. military officers about the situation in Iraq often depend on where they're based.

In some parts of the north, Kurdish former militia members have joined the Iraqi army and police forces, speeding up the training process.

Capt. Mitchell Smith, who commands a unit in the northern city of Kirkuk, said troop reductions in January wouldn't hurt his mission there.

As Iraqi forces improve, Smith said in an e-mail, the workload for U.S. troops is decreasing. Smith commands about 140 troops in Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team.

In Baghdad, however, U.S. military trainers said they're lengthening the training period for Iraqi soldiers from 8 weeks to 12 weeks to make sure the Iraqis are well trained.

"We're more concerned about doing it right than we are about doing it fast," Grymes said.

The lack of enough Iraqi military capability is a main obstacle for a reduced U.S. presence in Iraq, said military analyst Charles Pena of the libertarian Cato Institute think tank in Washington.

"If 140,000 U.S. troops haven't been able to put down the insurgency, that speaks volumes about how many and how capable the Iraqis have to be," Pena said. "They have to be better than 140,000 U.S. troops. The prospects for that are dim at best."

Read the rest at USA Today

July 14, 2006:

Former British base in Iraq still a focus of resentment

HABANIYAH, IRAQ - Lying at the edge of this vast military base, the quiet cemetery of 300 tombstones is a crumbling vestige of the British Empire. Once a Royal Air Force hub, the base now serves U.S. forces.

To historians, the base at Habaniyah, 50 miles west of Baghdad, represents one of many parallels between past and present.

Older Iraqis remember the British base as a symbol of foreign domination that stoked the country's nationalist movement. Today, Habaniyah's American occupants face similar hostility.

Neil Turnbull, who served in Habaniyah as a British corporal and left on the second-to-last plane out, remembers nearby Fallujah as particularly hostile.

Residents were "very anti-British the whole time. They would throw stones at buses and wagons that would pass," said Turnbull, 69.

Arriving after World War I, Britain did not intend to make Iraq a colony in its empire. It wanted access to oil and the port at Basra to protect its interests in India and Palestine.

In 1932 Iraq became an independent monarchy, but then came World War II and the British military dug in, worried Arabs were allying with Germany.

The British era ended in 1958 when rebels executed Iraq's royal family and closed in on Habaniyah's base. The next year, the British military withdrew entirely.

"On the day of the revolution, they just took over the camp, took over the armory, the transport," said Turnbull, the ex-corporal, who remembers being pushed into one corner of the camp as rebels took over most of Habaniyah. "They weren't shooting us, but they were hostile."

The abrupt takeover was a shock.

"We thought we were going to be there permanently," Turnbull said. "Everything seemed fine and normal and then the revolution came out of the blue."

Read the rest at the Houston Chronicle