Thursday, October 04, 2007

Perspective: On this day in Iraq -- October 4th edition

October 4, 2004: Children collect usable metal from the site of a car bomb explosion which killed killed 6 and injured 15 in Baghdad.

October 4, 2002:

U.S. Intelligence: Iraq has chemical, biological weapons

Iraq has biological and chemical weapons and some illegal long-range missiles, but probably no nuclear weapons, a new report from U.S. intelligence agencies concludes.
The unclassified report, released by CIA officials on Friday, contains some of the U.S. government's most definitive statements on Iraq's weapons programs since 1998, when U.N. inspectors were forced out of Iraq.

"If left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade," says the report, "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs." The United States categorizes nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological weapons under the heading "weapons of mass destruction."

Iraq's weapons programs have been the chief complaint of the Bush administration against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Iraq maintains it has complied with all U.N. resolutions since the 1990-1991 Gulf War and destroyed all of its weapons.

The report, which officials described as an amalgam of information and analysis from various U.S. intelligence agencies, contains many of the same conclusions as a classified National Intelligence Estimate provided to lawmakers earlier this week. On Friday, CIA Director George J. Tenet held closed discussions with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Iraqi weapons programs.

Its authors discuss Saddam's capabilities but make no allegations that Saddam intends to use these weapons against U.S. interests. As an intelligence document, it does not recommend any particular U.S. course of action.

Saddam's nuclear program remains stymied by his inability to obtain weapons-grade enriched uranium or plutonium. If Baghdad is able to covertly acquire pre-made weapons material from overseas, Iraq could have a nuclear weapon within a year, the report says.

Otherwise, Iraq will have to make its own. Most analysts believe that Iraq will not be able to make its own material until the end of the decade, but, it says, Iraq "may have acquired enrichment capabilities that could shorten substantially the amount of time necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

As evidence of his continued nuclear ambitions, the report cites Saddam's efforts to secretly acquire high-strength aluminum tubes that could be used in centrifuges for a uranium-enrichment program. However, the report does note a minority of intelligence analysts believes the tubes are for conventional weapons, not a nuclear program.

The most immediate threat appears to be from Saddam's biological weapons programs, including anthrax, the report suggests.

Iraq has "some lethal and incapacitating BW (biological weapon) agents," the report says.

Its ability to produce more has grown in the last decade, the report says. Relying on mobile production plants that are difficult to detect, Iraq has a "large-scale, redundant and concealed BW agent production capability."

These weapons can be delivered by bombs, missiles, aerial sprayers and covert operatives, "potentially against the U.S. Homeland," the report says.

Read the rest at USA Today

October 4, 2003:

US weapons hunt in Iraq comes up empty-handed

Chief US weapons searcher David Kay says he found no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, and only limited evidence of secret programs to develop weapons, drawing fresh complaints about the Bush administration's prewar assertions of a serious threat from former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

Kay, in a report to Congress on Thursday, described evidence of a possible small-scale Iraqi biological weapons effort and said searchers had substantial evidence of an Iraqi push to boost the range of its ballistic missiles beyond prohibited ranges.

But his team had found only limited evidence of any chemical weapons effort, he said. And there was almost no sign that a significant nuclear weapons project was under way.

Mark Gwozdecky, spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said yesterday that the Vienna-based agency could not comment on Kay's report "without access to his findings."

"The IAEA still has an inspection mandate in Iraq, both under Security Council resolutions and under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, to ensure that Iraq has no nuclear weapons-related activities," Gwozdecky said.

"We therefore expect that Mr. Kay's findings will be shared with us, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1441, to enable us to fulfill our responsibilities."

A Western diplomat familiar with IAEA activities in Iraq, speaking on condition of anonymity, said yesterday that he doubted the agency "will be very impressed" by Kay's report.

"It appears that Kay hasn't unearthed much that wasn't already understood by the nuclear inspectors," the diplomat said. "What he is reporting is far from evidence of a nuclear weapons program."

Taken together, the findings do not appear to so far validate most of the George W. Bush administration's prewar assertions of widespread and advanced Iraqi weapons programs, critics said.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday "it will be unfortunate" if it turns out that intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq turns out to have been seriously flawed.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, however: "This detailed interim report documents how Saddam's regime was in clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1441."

The resolution, which the US cited as justification for the war, threatened Iraq with "serious consequences" if it failed to show it had handed over or destroyed its WMD.

"While Dr. Kay notes it is too early to reach conclusions, we are pleased with the progress being made to uncover the full extent of the regime's WMD programs, and we look forward to the final report," the spokesman said.

Kay said he should know within six to nine months if there is more to be found in Iraq. The administration is asking for US$600 million to continue the search, according to congressional officials.

"We have not found at this point actual weapons," Kay said after briefing Congress behind closed doors. "It does not mean we've concluded there are no actual weapons."

Read the rest at Taipei Times

October 4, 2004:

Rumsfeld: Al Qaeda comments 'misunderstood'

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld conceded Monday that U.S. intelligence was wrong in its conclusions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and appeared to back off earlier statements suggesting former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had links to al Qaeda.

"Why the intelligence proved wrong (on WMDs), I'm not in a position to say," Rumsfeld said in remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "I simply don't know."

When asked about any connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, Rumsfeld said, "To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two."

But a short time later, Rumsfeld released a statement: "A question I answered today at an appearance before the Council on Foreign Relations regarding ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq regrettably was misunderstood.

"I have acknowledged since September 2002 that there were ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq."

Rumsfeld's restated position mirrors what Vice President Dick Cheney had said as recently as June.

"There clearly was a relationship. It's been testified to. The evidence is overwhelming," Cheney said in an interview with CNBC's "Capitol Report." "It goes back to the early '90s. It involves a whole series of contacts, high-level contacts with Osama bin Laden and Iraqi intelligence officials."

Suggesting that the 9/11 commission had reached a contradictory conclusion was "irresponsible," he said.

Before the war, in a speech in Atlanta in September 2002, Rumsfeld said he the CIA provided "bulletproof" evidence demonstrating "that there are in fact al Qaeda in Iraq."

In Monday's address, Rumsfeld told the Council on Foreign Relations that U.S. intelligence analysts have changed their assessment: "I have seen the answer to that question migrate in the intelligence community over a period of a year in the most amazing way."

The 9/11 commission report, issued in July, concluded there may have been meetings between Iraqi officials and Osama bin Laden or his aides in 1999 but there was "no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship."

Nor did the commission find any evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States," the commission report said.

In June, President Bush repeated his administration's claim that Iraq was in league with al Qaeda under Saddam Hussein's rule, saying that fugitive Islamic militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ties Saddam to the terrorist network.

"Zarqawi's the best evidence of a connection to al Qaeda affiliates and al Qaeda," Bush told reporters at the White House. "He's the person who's still killing."

But Rumsfeld Monday in his address to the CFR questioned whether al-Zarqawi is working with al Qaeda even as he seemed to have a similar agenda.

"In the case of al Qaeda, my impression is most of the senior people have actually sworn an oath to Osama bin Laden, and to my knowledge, even as of this late date, I don't believe Zarqawi, the principal leader of the network in Iraq, has sworn an oath, even though what they're doing -- I mean, they're just two peas in a pod in terms of what they're doing," Rumsfeld said.

On the question of whether Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, Rumsfeld dropped his common assertion that weapons "may yet be found," instead saying the world is "a lot better off" without Saddam Hussein.

Read the rest at CNN

October 4, 2005:

The Axis of Evil: From Rhetoric to Reality

When President Bush first uttered the phrase "Axis of Evil" in his 2002 State of the Union Address, many experts thought it was laughable. While the countries referred to -- Iraq, Iran, and North Korea -- were all malevolent, "axis" implied the kind of linkage that existed in World War II between Italy and Germany and, to a lesser extent, Japan.

But it simply wasn't believable that the mullahs in Iran would work with Saddam Hussein after eight savage years of war and bloodletting between Iran and Iraq -- the wounds were far too deep for a Shiite-Sunni rapprochement. Similarly, the idea that insular North Korea would join forces with either of these countries was nonsense. Once again, it looked as if President Bush had tortured the English language and intellectual discourse.

MUTUAL AID. Yet strangely enough, President Bush's policies, designed to thwart these countries, actually created what hadn't existed when he first broached the topic. Iran and Iraq haven't been as close in decades as they are now. And while I don't think North Korea and Iran are in cahoots, they do in effect aid each other when they negotiate over their nuclear programs. The nightmare Bush described in 2002 is now a reality, thanks to him.

Let's look at Iran and Iraq. Iran is exerting influence in Iraq far beyond what it ever could do in the past. Instead of Saddam's secular, Sunni-led government, Baghdad is now dominated by Shia with close ties to Tehran. Indeed, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, arguably the most powerful man in Iraq, was born in Iran. The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution, one of the most popular parties in Iraq, also has close ties to Iran.

Iran is infiltrating Iraq with money and political operatives. When a permanent government is in place in Baghdad, it could well be Islamist because secular moderates have all but vanished. While Islamist rule may not be as strict as it is in Tehran, the two governments will be closely aligned rather than at each other's throats, as in the past. Iraq no longer will be a counterbalance against Iran.

NUCLEAR LEVERAGE. In fact, Peter Galbraith, a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute for Peace, argues that the proposed Iraqi constitution, while flawed, is the only thing that limits an Iranian power grab. Tehran controls the southern part of Iraq and has great influence in Baghdad. By apportioning control over three sectors to the Kurds, Shia, and Sunni, the constitution "stops Iran from taking over all of Iraq," Galbraith says. "Under the constitution, they'll be running just half of it."

Iran also could have an unintended impact on the six-party nuclear negotiations with North Korea -- and the six-party talks could have an effect on Iran's negotiations. With its oil and economic ties to the West, Iran has leverage to argue that it should not be denied its sovereign right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to nuclear technology, and it may well win that debate. China and Russia seem likely to veto any move toward sanctions at the U.N. Security Council despite ample evidence that Iran has been hiding information about its program for nearly two decades.

What's more, the principles the six parties have agreed to in the North Korea negotiation contemplate a light-water reactor for Pyongyang at some point. If it's O.K. for North Korea, why not Iran?

GOALS VS. RESULTS. The reverse is true as well. The discussion of a light-water reactor for Pyongyang is supposed to take place at an "appropriate time," which the Bush Administration probably thinks means never. But if Iran takes a hard line and is allowed to get its hands on nuclear technology, that will make it harder to deny North Korea its reactor. What would be the principle for doing so? That Iran has oil and North Korea doesn't? Indeed, energy-poor North Korea would have a stronger argument that it needs an energy source than petroleum-rich Tehran. North Korea and Iran may not be working formally in tandem, but they might as well be.

It surely wasn't Bush's intent to create an Axis of Evil. But he has done precisely that when his goal was to defang those nations. The President is proving prophetic and visionary -- but not at all the way he wanted to be.

Read the rest at Business Week

October 4, 2006:

Iraq police brigade suspected of aiding abuctions pulled

The Interior Ministry has removed a police brigade from the streets of Baghdad because of a brazen kidnapping this week of 26 people, a ministry spokesman said Wednesday.

Some Sunnis blame the abductions on Shiite death squads, which many people suspect are infiltrating Iraqi police units.

Interior Ministry spokesman, Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, said Wednesday the brigade was patrolled the southwestern neighborhood of Amil, where the kidnapping happened on Sunday.

At least 20 gunmen, several dressed like police commandos, parked in front of a meat processing plant, seized the workers and put them in three trucks before driving away.

U.S. Maj. Gen. William Caldwell announced the Iraqi police unit's recall earlier Wednesday and identified it as the 8th Brigade, 2nd National Police.

There is "clear evidence that there was some complicity in allowing death squad elements to move freely when, in fact, they were supposed to have been impeding their movement; that perhaps they did not respond as rapidly when reports were made," Caldwell said.

The brigade police officers "had not put their full allegiance commitment behind the government of Iraq," and instead, aligned with "some other elements outside" of the national police, he said.

The government lost "trust and confidence" in the unit because of "poor performances" and "alleged criminal wrongdoings," said Caldwell.

The brigade will get "anti-militia, anti-sectarian violence, and national unity training, both at the unit level and at the individual level," he said.

Read the rest at CNN

Emerging militias in Iraq draw widespread condemnation

Reports of the setting up of US-backed Sunni militias have brought new uncertainty to deepening chaos within Iraq.

Some Sunni leaders from the troubled al-Anbar province west of Baghdad recently met away from their tribes to set up new militias, according to local reports.

These new armed groups have received early praise from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki and US officials. The United States had earlier called for the disarming of all militias for the sake of social peace and reconciliation, but that policy has clearly changed.

The occupation forces now back both Shia and Sunni militias in different areas of the country.

These new groups are drawing strong condemnation from other Sunni tribal chiefs.

“They are a group of thieves who are arming thieves, and this is something dangerous and nasty,” Sheikh Sa’adoon, chief of a large Sunni tribe near Khaldiyah city in al-Anbar told IPS. “This only means we will have more disturbances here, and it could create local civil war.”

Another tribal leader in the area, speaking to IPS on condition of anonymity, said: “They are only doing this in order to kill as many Sunnis as possible, and this time with Sunni hands.”

He said true tribal leaders should lead any militias they form, rather than issue orders from the Green Zone, the US and Iraqi government enclave in Baghdad.

“Leaders should lead their soldiers on the battlefield, but those so-called sheikhs are well protected behind concrete walls inside the dirty zone (green zone),” he said. “How can they win a battle by remote control?”

The controversial move appears to have brought widespread condemnation also from academics, Iraqi military leaders, and even Shia politicians. “It is a new way of making millions of dollars,” a professor at al-Anbar University in Ramadi told IPS.

Brigadier-General Jassim Rashid al-Dulaimi from the new Iraqi Army in Anbar province told IPS: “I cannot imagine 30,000 more guns in the Iraqi field. I hope they will reject the idea.

“Iraq needs more engineers and clean politicians to solve the dilemma of the existing militias rather than recruiting new ones to kill more Iraqis. The idea sounds to me as turning the country into a mercenary recruitment centre.”

Shia leader Jaafar al-Assadi said the move will bring more violence. “Al-Anbar will fight even more now with the guns given to those fools,” he told IPS. “They are surely going to sell their weapons to the terrorists or surrender to them soon or later.”

Some of these group leaders have distanced themselves from the new militias. Sheikh Hamid Muhanna, chief of the large tribe al-Bu Alwan appeared on al-Jazeera denying the creation of such militia. He said he and the other sheikhs are in control of their tribes, and those who met al-Maliki speak for themselves only.

The main Sunni religious group, the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), remains staunchly opposed to any continuance to the occupation.

“It is all in the hands of the Americans, we are trying to cover the sun with a piece of glass,” Sheikh Ahmed from AMS told IPS in Baghdad. “The occupation power is too strong for any player to make a major change, and so we should believe in our own capabilities without dreaming of useful solutions from our enemy.”

The association has consistently refused to take part in Iraqi politics under US occupation.

The new militias are riding the back of what is controversially referred to as federalism, under which each group appears headed its own way.

Thafir al-Ani, official spokesman for al-Tawafuq, a major Sunni parliamentary group, resigned as chairman of a constitution committee last week. “I would have had to take part in dividing Iraq under the flag of federalism, which would have put a mark in my history as one of those who established

the dividing of my country,” he said.

The solutions being put forth are all driven by personal and sectarian interests, and fail to consider what is best for the country, Maki al-Nazzal, political analyst from Fallujah told IPS.

“The change that could take place is an Iraqi people’s ‘Orange revolution’, which could occur with all Iraqis, regardless of their ID information,” al-Nazzal said. “But that would be very dangerous without international protection to the people who would do it because Iraqi rulers today, together with the US Army, could massacre demonstrators.”

Read the rest at the Dawn

Number of displaced Iraqis said to have reached 9,000 per week

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced on October 3 that the number of Iraqis fleeing their homes to escape sectarian violence has reached 9,000 per week. Violence since February has pushed the number of internal refugees in central and southern Iraq to 190,000, the organization said. The displacement increasingly looks like permanent settlement and there is urgent need for shelter and employment solutions for these families, it added. "The vast majority of those displaced this year are not planning to return to their former homes. If this is not to become a chronic humanitarian crisis, we need to put in place livelihood and integration programs in addition to providing emergency assistance such as food and water," IOM Chief of Mission for Iraq Rafiq Tschannen said. Movement in Iraq's 15 central and southern governorates has taken place largely along sectarian lines, with Shi'a moving to the south and Sunnis to the center, the IOM added.

From RFE

From 'bold' student to soldier

When adulthood beckoned after graduation from Parkrose High School in 2002, Chase Haag joined the U.S. Army and became a good soldier.

On Friday night, about 300 family members, friends and others from the community joined in a memorial service for him at the school. He was honored for his military service and remembered as a multidimensional person: son and brother, friend and funny guy.

Brandon Haag of Gresham, one of his two brothers, said that as kids Chase was his sidekick and "a brother who was just so good at life."

"He gave his life the only way he thought was right, and nobody can take that away from him," the older brother said.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that Cpl. Haag, 22, of Portland died Sunday in Baghdad when a bomb exploded near his vehicle.

Assigned to the 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Hood, Texas, Haag was the 76th member of the military with ties to Oregon or Southwest Washington to die in Iraq or Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, his rank was upgraded to sergeant.

This week, his teachers at Parkrose talked about his leadership qualities, music interests and fascination with video production, direction and editing.

In a video made by his video teacher, Bob Forrest, and shown during the service, Haag is shown chronicling daily life at Parkrose as a stern-faced news anchor and as a jovial reporter for Parkrose Community Television.

Another Parkrose staff member recalled Haag's good-time persona, calling on a friend of Haag's in the audience to confirm a rumor about a prank late in his senior year.

Yes, the friend said: Haag was among the seniors who shook the school's "Senior Bench" from its foundation and placed it on the school roof.

Such zest for life defined Chase for his younger sister, Ana Haag, of West Linn.

"Chase, he was one of a kind," she said, standing at the podium with her mother, Bonnie Gilkison of Milwaukie, and father, Frank Haag of Portland, behind her.

"If there was ever a standard set, Chase broke it. . . . And if there was ever a bar, he met it and went above and beyond it."

Such was his approach to being a soldier, as conveyed in the last letter he wrote, dated Oct. 1:

"We are happy as our tenure here is coming to an end, but we are dog tired, exhausted and ready to get out of here. Thank you for thinking of us, and we are doing good things."

A candlelighting ceremony around the Parkrose High flagpole followed the memorial service in the school's performing arts center. As many small flames glowed in the darkness, the flag was slowly lowered to half-staff.

Chase also is survived by older brother Marine Cpl. Taylor Haag, based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. A family member said Taylor Haag was on his way from Guam to join the family.

Haag's body arrived Thursday at Dover Air Base, Del. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Read the rest at the Oregonian