Thursday, July 19, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- July 19th edition

July 19, 2004: Iraqi soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 1st Brigade, Iraqi Intervention Force lock and load their weapons as they prepare to walk a field patrol of an area outside of Al Taji in search of a mortar launch site.

July 19, 2002:

Reservists called up in build-up for Iraq

The Ministry of Defence is planning a mass mobilisation of key reservists beginning in September, heightening expectation that the United States and Britain are stepping up preparations for an attack on Iraq.

British troops have also been pulled out of Nato's ACE Mobile Force rapid reaction corps and British involvement in a large number of exercises has been cancelled or scaled down to leave troops ready for the attack on Iraq.

The Prime Minister has strongly backed the idea of a pre-emptive strike on Iraq and refused to commit the Government to a vote in the House of Commons on the deployment of British forces.

British military planners are working on the basis that Britain will provide a very large force, including an armoured division, a naval task force and substantial numbers of combat aircraft.

The decision to pull out of the Nato rapid reaction force was taken at the same time as it was announced that the bulk of British forces were being withdrawn from Afghanistan and Bosnia.

It means that the 1,500 British troops previously earmarked for the force will not now be taking part in two major exercises this autumn, in Germany and Ukraine.

In another move to free forces for an attack on Iraq, 3,000 members of Britain's main fighting force, 1 (UK) Armoured Division, have been withdrawn from a tank exercise in Poland. The MoD insisted that no decision had been made on Iraq but did not deny that planning was under way. "Any government department has contingency plans," a spokesman said.

Defence sources said the reservists who would be called up would cover key shortages such as pilots, medical staff, special forces, intelligence and signals.

Read the rest at the Telegraph

July 19, 2003:

Thousands of Shiites protest in Iraq

Thousands of Iraqi Shiite demonstrators staged protests Saturday in Baghdad after reports that U.S. troops surrounded the house of a Shiite cleric a day after he criticized a U.S.-appointed governing council for Iraq and said he was forming an army.

About 3,000 to 4,000 people marched to coalition headquarters in Baghdad after reports that U.S. armored personnel carriers briefly surrounded the house of Moqtada al Sadr, a 29-year-old cleric in the holy city Najaf.

There were also protests in Najaf, the spiritual center for the world's Shiites.

In a sermon during Friday prayers, Sadr called the governing council -- appointed by U.S. administrator for Iraq L. Paul Bremer -- an assembly of "nonbelievers," according to The Associated Press.

Sadr also said he was raising an army and called for volunteers.

A coalition spokesman would not comment on the demonstrations or the report the cleric's house was surrounded by U.S. troops, but he said that the creation of any military force in Iraq has to be under the auspices of the government.

"There can only be one army," the coalition spokesman said. "Nobody can just start an army."

Read the rest at CNN

July 19, 2004:

Iran seeking influence in Iraq

The war in Iraq both toppled Saddam Hussein and shifted the political balance in the Middle East. One of the major changes in Iraq over the last year has been the increasing influence in Iraq of its neighbor, Iran. Did the war to remove Saddam Hussein empower another country the Bush administration has declared part of the “axis of evil?”

Packed on tour busses, every day Shiite Muslims make a pilgrimage to holy shrines in Iraq. But it's where they're coming from — Iran — and that country's growing influence that has many worried.

In Karbala, hotels are overwhelmed, so tented cities handle the overflow. For tens of thousands of Iranians, it's a dream — a trip long forbidden by Saddam Hussein.

Some are putting down roots. Businessman Sahib Yahia is building a home. “I hope my sons will soon move here with me,” says Yahia. So many Iranians are buying land in Karbala, property costs 100-times what it did a year ago.

But there is a growing concern among some Iraqis that Iran's interest in this country is more than just religious — that the goal of the hard-line mullahs in Iran's Islamic government is to bring Iraq under its sphere of influence — using money, funding hundreds of charities, promoting ideology at events like book fairs, and with spies.

One United States official tells NBC News that senior Iranian intelligence agents were operating in Amarah, Iraq, near the Iranian border, within two months of the fall of Baghdad.

And today, thousands of Iranian-trained and financed militiamen operate in Iraq, in places like Karbala and Baghdad. A senior Iraqi security official tells NBC News that Iran funds Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army.

United States intelligence and defense sources also tell NBC the Iranian-backed guerilla group Hezbollah provides money and support to Jordanian militant Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, who Iraqi officials say entered the country through Iran.

Iran's goal, analysts say, is to weaken Iraq, gain control of Shiite religious sites and increase its power in the region. “If we handle the transition clumsily, if things get out of hand in Iraq, then Iran's influence will grow and that could be very much to our detriment,” says Geoffrey Kemp, a Middle East specialist with The Nixon Center.

That’s a problem for the United States, but it’s an advantage for mullahs in Tehran, who want the United States to stay focused on the chaos in Iraq, and not turn its sights on Iran.

Read the rest at Newsweek

July 19, 2005:

25,000 civilians killed since Iraq invasion, says report

The number of Iraqi civilians who met violent deaths in the two years after the US-led invasion was today put at 24,865 by an independent research team.
The figures, compiled from Iraqi and international media reports, found US and coalition military forces were responsible for 37% of the deaths, with anti-occupation forces and insurgents responsible for 9%. A further 36% were blamed on criminal violence.

Civilian deaths attributed to US and coalition military forces peaked in the invasion period from March to May 2003 - which accounts for 30% of all civilian deaths in the two-year period - but the longer-term trend has been for increasing numbers to die at the hands of insurgents.

Figures obtained last week from the Iraqi interior ministry put the average civilian and police officer death toll in insurgent attacks from August 2004 to March 2005 at 800 a month.

Read the rest at the Guardian

July 19, 2006:

Texas division's 2nd tour deadlier

FORT HOOD - A Texas-based Army division that sustained 81 deaths in its first deployment to Iraq is already approaching that grim number a little more than halfway through its second tour of duty there, officials said Tuesday.

With Monday's still-unconfirmed combat death of a tank commander from Houston, the 4th Infantry Division has recorded 76 deaths as it attempts to stem escalating sectarian violence in Baghdad while training Iraqi security forces in central Iraq.

The 75 confirmed deaths since December were mainly caused by roadside bombs and sporadic attacks that average 65 a day on the division's 18,000 troops, said commanding Maj. Gen. James Thurman.

The division's first tour of duty, which ended in early 2004, came after the initial push into Iraq by U.S. forces, at a time when the insurgency was less effective than it is today. Now, with the division in charge of Baghdad security, it's the daily target of well-organized attacks that have produced mounting deaths and injuries.

Thurman, at Fort Hood on a brief leave from his role as leader of nearly 30,000 coalition forces in central Iraq, said he takes each death personally.

"I carry the names of every soldier I've ever lost in this conflict in my right pocket. It's with me every day. Every one of these men and women have a special meaning for the rest of my life," Thurman said.

"My heart goes out to the families that have lost loved ones. That'll never be lost on me," the general said.

His comments came after he attended the division's monthly memorial ceremony to honor its fallen — 13 soldiers who died in June.

Read the rest at the Houston Chronicle