Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Perspective: On this day in Iraq -- October 2nd edition

October 2, 2006: Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division provide security during an engagement with insurgents in the Shaab neighborhood of northeast Baghdad.

October 2, 2002:

Iraq war resolution gains momentum

Democrats and Republicans in Congress began closing ranks Wednesday behind a resolution giving President Bush broad authority to use military force against Iraq. Bush hailed the development and suggested war with Baghdad could become "unavoidable" if Saddam Hussein does not disarm.

Full compliance with all U.N. Security Council demands "is the only choice and the time remaining for that choice is limited," Bush said, standing with top congressional leaders in the Rose Garden.

Bush struck a deal on the resolution with House leaders in the morning, and momentum quickly built behind it throughout the day. Leaders of both parties predicted passage, probably next week, by large margins.

"Mr. President, we delivered for your father. We will deliver for you," said Sen. John Warner of Virginia, the senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. In January 1991, Congress authorized the first President Bush to use force to reverse Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Said House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo.: "We disagree on many domestic issues. But this is the most important thing that we do. This should not be about politics. We have to do what is right for the security of our nation and the safety of all Americans."

At the United Nations, the administration was pursuing a Security Council resolution that would give Iraq 30 days to compile an "accurate, full and complete" inventory of all aspects of its weapons programs — and provide U.N. inspectors military backing to carry out their search.

The 3.50-page draft proposal, obtained by The Associated Press, has not been submitted formally. It faces deep opposition from Russia, China and France, each of which holds veto power.

Bush planned an address Monday in Ohio to bolster his case for regime change in advance of the congressional votes, senior White House officials said. The speech, which is in its final draft, is also aimed at U.S. allies as Bush seeks support for the U.S. resolution before the United Nations.

As part of the deal with the House, Bush bent to Democratic wishes and pledged to certify to Congress — before any military strike, if feasible, or within 48 hours of a U.S. attack — that diplomatic and other peaceful means alone are inadequate to protect Americans from Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.

The resolution also would require Bush to report to Congress every 60 days — instead of the 90 days suggested by the White House — on matters relevant to the confrontation with Iraq. And it would reaffirm the policy embedded in U.S. law that Saddam should be overthrown.

Still, the resolution would give Bush wide latitude to act, with or without waiting for the United Nations.

Read the rest at USA Today

October 2, 2003:

Iraq to remain poor "for years to come" -report

Iraq will remain poor for years as oil revenues will not fund budget spending, money from donors is likely to fall short of what is needed and few companies will invest there, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said.

"Even under the best circumstances, with socio-political stability, comprehensive debt relief, massive international support, and favourable oil prices, we estimate Iraq's per capita gross domestic product would not surpass $3,500 in the next 10-15 years," the influential banking body said in a report.

That compares poorly with other Gulf Arab states. Saudi Arabia, for example, has had GDP per capita of $9,000 over the past five years.

Iraq was once one of the richest developing nations with GDP per capita of $7,000 in the late 1970s, but a combination of decades of economic mismanagement, three wars and 13 years of sanctions has pushed that to around $1,000 per capita, a level which puts it among the world's poorest countries.

Read the rest at Forbes

October 2, 2004:

U.S. bid to rein in Iraq weapons scientists slows to crawl

The dangers of Baghdad and a shortage of cash have set back the U.S. effort to put Iraqi weapons scientists to work rebuilding their country and keep them off the global job market for makers of doomsday arms.

To steer them to civilian projects and training, the State Department had planned a dozen workshops and seminars for hundreds of idled specialists from Iraq's old nuclear, biological and chemical weapons programs, beginning in the first half of 2004.
It also envisioned an early project, a desalination plant, as a model for other ventures employing scientists, engineers and technicians who once built weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear physicists might work in radiotherapy, for example, and chemists at environmental monitoring stations.

But the department got no new funds for the program, and none of these plans has gotten off the ground, nine months after U.S. officials said they would "jump-start" the initiative to discourage weapons experts from emigrating and offering their services to the highest bidder.

Such nearby countries as Syria, Iran and Egypt are believed to have programs in unconventional weapons that might benefit from Iraqi expertise.

This is an "imminent danger," said one of the Iraqi experts, Mahdi Obeidi.

"I hear there are some cases where scientists have left Iraq. There's a concern of proliferation, and this should be controlled," said Obeidi, an engineer and key figure in Iraq's effort to build nuclear bombs in the 1980s.

Washington arms control specialist Rose Gottemoeller agreed.

"If they're in despair because they cannot get jobs, because the entire country is in chaos, they may be driven by necessity to find work elsewhere. That could include WMD work for other countries," said Gottemoeller, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The State Department says the kidnappings, car bombings and general violence wracking much of Iraq are a major obstacle to the joint U.S.-Iraqi activities needed to build momentum in the "redirection" program, as it's called.

In fact, the program's on-the-ground manager arrived in Baghdad only three weeks ago.

Prospects for the jobs-for-scientists program had dimmed when the Bush administration, facing a projected $521 billion budget deficit this year, "flat-lined" spending in many areas. Its request to Congress calls for the same $50 million for this purpose in fiscal year 2005 as allocated in 2004, when all of it was spent on a continuing, 12-year-old program in the former Soviet Union to employ ex-weapons builders. No new money is specified for Iraq.

The coming year "is going to be a very challenging year for all programs," said Anne Harrington, deputy director of the State Department's nonproliferation office.

Discussions a year ago suggested $16 million or more in first-year costs for Iraq projects, but so far in 2004 Harrington's office has scraped up only $2 million from a State Department contingency fund.

Iraq's interim government has a "nonproliferation fund" of $37.5 million, but "it's unclear at this point how this would be used," said Raphael Della Ratta, who tracks nonproliferation programs for the Russian-American Nuclear Security Advisory Council, a private Washington group.

Della Ratta said it's also unclear just which Iraqis should be "engaged with."

His council estimates Iraq has between 2,000 and 4,000 "WMD scientists." The State Department hopes to focus on 500 key physicists, chemists, biologists and others. Although not yet working on projects, 50 of those are receiving U.S. retainer payments – amounts undisclosed. A dozen others have been in U.S. detention since last year.

In addition, Iraq's new Ministry of Science and Technology pays stipends of about $50 to $200 a month to hundreds of others. But this "is not enough to stabilize them," said Obeidi, who left Iraq last year for the United States and was a director of Iraq's Military Industrialization Commission.

Despite Bush administration claims to the contrary, international inspectors have confirmed that Iraq's work on banned arms ended more than a decade ago, after which the scientists and engineers were diverted to work on conventional weapons, or to more peaceful pursuits.

But the U.S.-British invasion of March 2003, and the subsequent wholesale looting and arson in Baghdad, devastated many of their workplaces.

"The infrastructure was damaged, buildings were destroyed, equipment was looted," Obeidi said. Some are teaching at reopened universities, but "only a small percentage of the scientists have found work."

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

October 2, 2005:

Iraqi middle class is crumbling as war takes toll

From her bedroom window, Nesma Abdul-Razzaq, a 43-year-old housewife, has watched insurgents fire grenades from a patch of grass near her garden. Frequent patrols by U.S. tanks rattle the glass. A bullet has pierced a pane.

"You can't live in safety if you cooperate with either side," she said, standing in the bedroom of her house, deep in insurgent-controlled western Baghdad. So when American troops offered to pay for the use of the roof last month, she politely declined.

"What would I say to the neighbors?" she said.

Two and a half years after the U.S.-led invasion, the violence shows no sign of relenting, and life for middle-class Iraqis seems only to be getting worse.

Educated, invested in businesses and property and eager for change, the middle class had everything to gain from the American effort.

But frustration is hardening into hopelessness, as families feel increasingly trapped by the many forces that are threatening to split the country apart.

Insurgents fight gun battles on their streets. Sectarian divisions are seeping into their children's classrooms and their own dinner table discussions.

Their secular voices are barely audible above the din of religious politicians and the poorer Iraqis they appeal to.

The daily life they describe is an obstacle course of gas lines, blocked roads and late-night generator repairs.

In these families' homes, the talk is more often of leaving.

"For Sale" signs dot the gates of the houses on their block.

But with extended families, leaving is proving difficult, and many families, potentially the most skilled builders of democracy, are bracing themselves for a future that appears to them increasingly under siege.

Over the past year, the insurgents have come to control large swaths of western Baghdad, including Khadra, the area where Abdul-Razzaq lives with her husband, Monkath, and their two boys, aged 9 and 12, in a spacious two-story house.

Their bedroom window looks out on elevated highways that are the main arteries into the capital from the north and west, where insurgents have built up no-go zones.

Four times in recent months Abdul-Razzaq has seen men, sometimes in masks, tramping across her outer lawn, lifting rocket-propelled grenade launchers to their shoulders.

Once, several men shot at a U.S. convoy from behind a funeral tent near her house. American troops often come to look for attackers. They have searched her house six times.

Even as the neighborhood deteriorated, Monkath Abdul-Razzaq, 46, a mechanical engineer and a secular Sunni, held out hope for a better life.

He felt that the election in January was important for Iraq and ignored commands of religious Sunnis not to vote. On election day, when men walked the streets near his house, warning residents not to go to the polls, Abdul-Razzaq sneaked out to vote.

Like many Iraqis, Abdul-Razzaq said, he despised Saddam Hussein.

His uncle was in prison for four years. As an officer in the Iraqi Army, he saw five of his friends executed for treason in 1983 during the war with Iran.

But Abdul-Razzaq also enjoyed benefits from his connection with the military, securing contracts for spare parts after he quit the army.

Still, Saddam's fall was a cause for celebration, and he had high hopes for his future.

But the rising militancy of the religious parties over the past seven months has sapped Abdul-Razzaq of his remaining hope.

The Iraqi middle class is largely secular, and most of its members are put off by the religious parties that appeal to the poor Shiite masses on the one hand and to embittered Sunnis, who lost their status after the U.S.-led invasion, on the other. In the election in January, Abdul-Razzaq voted for a Shiite because the candidate was secular.

He and his wife have talked of leaving. That would be expensive, though, and money is tight. Last month, for the first time since the war, Abdul-Razzaq sold nothing in his spare parts shop. Income from a building he owns helped pay the bills.

"I am very worried," he said, sweating after his third trip in two hours to fiddle with a generator on the roof. "No power. No peace. Do you think this is life? It is hell."

Downstairs, his wife was clearing lunch dishes. "In these two years I've learned to be patient," she said. "To be brave."

Across town in a quiet area of central Baghdad, a family of merchants knows a lot about leaving.

Dhia al-Din, a 70-year-old Shiite, presides over three generations spread over two houses. In all, five of eight grown children and their families live abroad, and he lives much of the year in Jordan.

He spoke on the condition that his family name not be used. He has received two death threats. One son escaped a kidnapping and left Iraq with his family this month.

He has the means to go, but the migration is scattering his family and slowly erasing the life that he had carefully built up over decades.

"I lost my money, my hotel, my lovely working with the people," he said, his voice breaking. "My family, it is disappearing."

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

October 2, 2006:

U.S. Military Deaths in Iraq Hit 2,719

As of Monday, Oct. 2, 2006, at least 2,719 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,164 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is six more than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Monday at 10 a.m. EDT.

The British military has reported 119 deaths; Italy, 33; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 17; Bulgaria, 13; Spain, 11; Denmark, five; El Salvador, four; Slovakia, three; Estonia, Netherlands, Thailand, two each; and Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Romania, one death each.

The latest deaths reported by the military:

-- Three U.S. Marines died Sunday in Anbar province.

-- A soldier died Sunday when his vehicle struck an explosive west of Baghdad.

The latest identifications reported by the military:

-- Army Staff Sgt. Scott E. Nisely, 48, Marshalltown, Iowa; died Saturday in Anbar province; assigned to the National Guard's 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry, Iowa Falls, Iowa.

-- Army Spc. Kampha B. Sourivong, 20, Iowa City, Iowa; died Saturday in Anbar province; assigned to the National Guard's 1st Battalion, 133rd Infantry, Iowa Falls, Iowa.

Read the rest at Fox News