Saturday, August 25, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- August 25th edition

August 25, 2005: Members of the Iraqi Highway Patrol unfurl the national flag atop the new national Highway Patrol Headquarters in Baghdad.

August 25, 2002:

Saddam to be target of Britain's 'E-bomb'

The Pentagon is planning to use a British weapon that can disable electronic and electrical systems without killing anyone to attack Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons sites.

The "radio frequency weapon", or E-Bomb, developed at a secret site in south-west England, sends out a high-intensity radio wave with similar effects to the electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear blast.

It is also able to penetrate the underground bunkers where Saddam's chemical and biological weapons are stored as protection from allied bombing. The radio pulse will travel easily down the bunkers' power and ventilation ducts.

One of the biggest problems facing allied troops if they were sent into Iraq would be that, with any attack aimed at removing him from power, Saddam knows he has nothing to lose in using his weapons of mass destruction.

Bombing the sites would only spread the chemical or biological agents, killing innocent Iraqi civilians and threatening invading forces.

By using the E-bomb to cripple the plants' refrigeration and computer systems, the allies would ensure that the weapons could not be used in any effective way.

Although the weapon is still in the final stages of development, American defence sources said they were interested in acquiring it for immediate deployment in any attack on Iraqi chemical and biological weapons sites.

Read the rest at the Telegraph

August 25, 2003:

For Al Qaeda, Iraq may be the next battlefield

Jihad in Iraq? The devastating Al Qaeda-style suicide bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad has given new heft to declarations by US officials that there is mounting evidence of Islamist fighters crossing Iraq's borders.

It's also spurring analysts to ask if Iraq is becoming the new Afghanistan - a magnet for Islamic extremists bent on waging jihad against the United States in the heart of the Arab world.

"Iraq is developing as Al Qaeda's new battlefield," says Rohan Gunaratna, an author and terrorism expert. "Without a theater of jihad, they cannot produce terrorists for operations anywhere else. They lost Afghanistan, so they needed a new combat theater in which to train and inspire. And the US invasion gave it to them."

Thousands of Muslim volunteers flocked to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight Soviet occupation forces which had invaded the country in 1979.

The cumbersome Soviet military was unable to subdue the lightly armed, resourceful Afghan and Arab mujahideen (holy fighters) and withdrew from the country in 1988.

Now analysts say that calls for young men to fight in Iraq are popping up on jihad websites across the world.

If Gunaratna is right, the US is in for a long and bloody occupation. In the thinking of Al Qaeda, the mere sustaining of a presence, and the ability to carry out intermittent attacks, is a form of victory, a sign that the world's great superpower is incapable of stamping them out.

"We recommend luring the enemy forces into a protracted, close, and exhausting fight," Osama bin Laden threatened in a taped statement to "his Iraqi brothers" in February. "The enemy fears city and street wars most."

Bin Laden loathed the secular Saddam Hussein, who repressed Islamic movements in his country as much as he did his political opponents.

But in the wake of the US invasion, he urged his followers to make common cause with the socialist Baath regime.

"Under these circumstances, there will be no harm if the interests of Muslims converge with the interests of the socialists in the fight against the crusaders, despite our belief in the infidelity of socialists," he said.

But despite the potential common cause among Hussein's Baathists and Al Qaeda fighters, not all analysts believe that the Afghanization of Iraq has already begun.

US officials have said nothing conclusive about the source of specific attacks yet, but they are convinced that militant Islamist groups, both Shiite and Sunni, are well established in Iraq and that foreign fighters are pouring into the country.

"The borders are quite porous, as you'd imagine, and the fact that we've captured a certain number of foreign fighters in Baghdad and around Iraq indicates that the ways that these people are getting into the country is from Iran and from Syria and from Saudi Arabia," said Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in an interview Friday with the Al Jazeera Arabic satellite channel.

The number of volunteers crossing into Iraq remains unclear. However, the Saudi security authorities reportedly have expressed unease at the "disappearance" of some 3,000 young men, suspecting that they have crossed the border into Iraq to wage jihad against the coalition forces.

Read the rest at

August 25, 2004:

Iraq's top Shiite cleric returns home; Najaf crisis awaits

Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric returned from Britain on Wednesday and his aides called for a nationwide march to Najaf to end nearly three weeks of fierce fighting between U.S. forces and Shiite militants in this holy city.

In honor of Grand Ayatollah Ali Husseini al-Sistani's arrival, militants loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said they would suspend fighting with coalition and Iraqi forces in every region al-Sistani passes through on his way to Najaf, said al-Sadr aide Aws al-Khafaji.

Heavy fighting persisted in Najaf's Old City, the center of much of the past three weeks of clashes. U.S. warplanes fired on the neighborhood, helicopters flew overhead and heavy gunfire was heard in the streets, witnesses said...

In nearby Kufa, just northeast of Najaf, unidentified gunmen killed two people and wounded five others taking part in what appeared to be a peaceful demonstration supporting al-Sadr, said Mohammed Abdul Kadhim, an employee at Kufa's Furat al-Awsat Hospital.

Videotape from Associated Press Television News showed apparently unarmed demonstrators wounded during a few minutes of heavy gunfire, but it was not clear who was shooting. Witnesses said the gunfire appeared to come from an Iraqi National Guard post.

Witnesses said the marchers, numbering in the hundreds and carrying slogans in support of al-Sadr and pictures of both al-Sadr and al-Sistani, were headed to Kufa.

Earlier, Najaf Gov. Adnan al-Zurufi said Iraqi security forces had "taken all needed measures to prevent any crowds from entering the province," calling it a "military area."

In Kufa, Iraqi police sealed off the Old City, preventing cars from entering, and Najaf's police chief, Maj. Gen. Ghalib al-Jazaari, said al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia was on its last legs.

"The Mahdi Army is finished," he said. "Its hours are numbered"...

Al-Sistani, 73, had been in London for medical treatment since Aug. 6, one day after clashes erupted in Najaf. The cleric wields enormous influence among Shiite Iraqis and his return could play a crucial role in stabilizing the crisis.

Read the rest at USA Today

Auditor Criticizes Iraq Contract Oversight

A Defense Department auditor last week criticized Army managers responsible for overseeing a giant logistical contract with Halliburton Co., saying in a memo they have not been firm enough in seeking justification for $1.8 billion in expenses for work in Iraq and Kuwait.

The Aug. 16 memo, made public yesterday, said Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root Inc. has "not provided this basic supporting data" while the auditors had identified "significant unsupported costs" totaling about $1.8 billion -- 42 percent -- of $4.3 billion in bills reviewed by the Defense Contract Audit Agency.

The author, an audit official in Texas, urged officials at the Army Field Support Command, who oversee the logistical contract, to penalize the company by withholding 15 percent in payments until the billing disputes are resolved. "It is clear to us KBR will not provide an adequate proposal until there is a consequence," the memo said.

Read the rest at the Washignton Post

August 25, 2005:

US army looks to leave Iraq

The US is expected to pull significant numbers of troops out of Iraq in the next 12 months in spite of the continuing violence, according to the general responsible for near-term planning in the country.

Maj Gen Douglas Lute, director of operations at US Central Command, yesterday said the reductions were part of a push by Gen John Abizaid, commander of all US troops in the region, to put the burden of defending Iraq on Iraqi forces.

He added it was "entirely feasible" that British troops in the south would be withdrawn before US forces.

He denied the withdrawal was motivated by political pressure from Washington.

He said: "We believe at some point, in order to break this dependence on the . . . coalition, you simply have to back off and let the Iraqis step forward.

"You have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq. It's very difficult to do that when you have 150,000-plus, largely western, foreign troops occupying the country."

While he cautioned that any troop reduction would depend on political progress and an improvement in Iraqi force training, he said planners believed "the political process will play out, that we will see a constitution, that we will see . . . theSunnis brought into the process and we will proceed to national elections in December".

"If we see that and if we see progress on the second front, which is continued progress with the Iraqi security force next year, this time we'll be in the position to make some adjustments in our force structure."

Read the rest at Financial Times

August 25, 2006:

Study calls Iran 'biggest beneficiary' of US war on terror

Two new reports criticize the US's handling of Iran, just as the West gauges Iran's response to a proposal meant to rein in Tehran's nuclear ambitions. One report says the US war on terror has strengthened Tehran, the other slams America's poor intelligence on Iran.

The first report, released Wednesday by the non-government Royal Institute of International Affairs (also known as Chatham House) in Britain, says that Iran, despite being a part of US President Bush's "axis of evil," has been the "chief beneficiary of the war on terror in the Middle East."

The United States, with Coalition support, has eliminated two of Iran's regional rival governments — the Taliban in Afghanistan in November 2001 and Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq in April 2003 — but has failed to replace either with coherent and stable political structures. The outbreak of conflict on two fronts in June –July 2006 between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza, and Israel and Hizbullah in Lebanon has added to the regional dimensions of this instability.

Consequently, Iran has moved to fill the regional void with an apparent ease that has disturbed both regional players and the United States and its European allies. Iran is one of the most significant and powerful states in the region and its influence spreads well beyond its critical location at the nexus of the Middle East, Turkey, the Caucasus, Central Asia and South Asia.

Of particular note is Iran's influence in Iraq. Chatham House argues that "the great problem facing the US is that Iran has superseded it as the most influential power in Iraq," due in part to Tehran's tremendous sway with influential militant cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), one of the country's dominant Shia parties.

This influence has a variety of forms but all can be turned against the US presence in Iraq with relative ease, and almost certainly would heighten US casualties to the point where a continued presence might not be tenable. Sources in Iraq are already warning that the major cities (including Basra and Baghdad) have witnessed a rise in the activities of Iranian paramilitary units and the recent bout of violence and instability in Basra is now considered to be a small display of what would happen if Iran itself was targeted.

Read the rest at the Christian Science Monitor