Monday, April 30, 2007

Opinion (Ron Hutcheson): $564 billion, and counting


WASHINGTON - The bitter fight over the latest Iraq spending bill has all but obscured a sobering fact: The war will soon cost more than $500 billion.

That's about ten times more than the Bush administration anticipated before the war started four years ago, and no one can predict how high the tab will go. The $124 billion spending bill that President Bush plans to veto this week includes about $78 billion for Iraq, with the rest earmarked for the war in Afghanistan, veterans' health care and other government programs.

Congressional Democrats and Bush agree that they cannot let their dispute over a withdrawal timetable block the latest cash installment for Iraq. Once that political fight is resolved, Congress can focus on the president's request for $116 billion more for the war in the fiscal year that starts on Sept. 1.

The combined spending requests would push the total for Iraq to $564 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

What could that kind of money buy?

Read the rest at the Akron Becon Journal

Opinion (William M. Arkin): What we should learn from Jessica Lynch

Private Jessica Lynch has again been made very public, used by Congressional Democrats to make a political point about the administration's evil deceptions. Congress missed the true story in 2003, and misses it today.

Jessica Lynch and her compatriots found themselves in Nasiriyah, Iraq on day four of Operation Iraqi Freedom because the intelligence world did not understand the Iraqi enemy, and because the Army was organized for the wrong war, implementing a set piece operational plan.

Eleven U.S. soldiers were killed on March 23, 2003 in the Nasiriyah mistake, and thousands more have died since because the U.S. military continues to make the same operational and intelligence mistakes.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

Opinion (Jeremy Scahill): Corporate warriors

The Democratic leadership in the US Congress is once again gearing up for a great sellout on the Iraq war. While the wrangling over the US$124 billion Iraq supplemental spending bill is being headlined in the media as a "showdown" or "war" with the White House, it is hardly that. In plain terms, despite the impassioned sentiments of the anti-war electorate that brought the Democrats to power last November, the congressional leadership has made clear its intention to keep funding the Iraq occupation, even though Senator Harry Reid has declared that "this war is lost"...

While all of this is troubling, there is another disturbing fact that speaks volumes about the Democrats' lack of insight into the nature of this unpopular war - and most Americans will know next to nothing about it. Even if the president didn't intend to veto their legislation, the Democrats' plan does almost nothing to address the second-largest force in Iraq - and it's not the British military. It's the estimated 126,000 private military "contractors" who will stay put there as long as Congress continues funding the war.

The 145,000 active-duty US forces are nearly matched by occupation personnel who currently come from such companies as Blackwater USA and the former Halliburton subsidiary KBR, which enjoy close personal and political ties with the Bush administration. Until Congress reins in these massive corporate forces and the whopping federal funding that goes into their coffers, partially withdrawing US troops may only set the stage for the increased use of private military companies (and their rent-a-guns) which stand to profit from any kind of privatized future "surge" in Iraq.

Read the rest at Asia Times

Perspective: Around globe, walls spring up to divide neighbors


TIJUANA, Mexico (Reuters) - What do Tijuana, Baghdad and Jerusalem have in common?

They all have walls that divide neighbors, cause controversy and form part of an array of physical barriers around the world that dwarf the late, unlamented Iron Curtain.

There are walls, fences, trenches and berms. Some are reinforced by motion detectors, heat-sensing cameras, X-ray systems, night-vision equipment, helicopters, drones and blimps. Some are still under construction, some in the planning stage.

When completed, the barriers will run thousands of miles, in places as far apart as Mexico and India, Afghanistan and Spain, Morocco and Thailand, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, and Iraq.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

Analysis: The Turkish military weighs in

ISTANBUL - Turkey's presidential election, once considered a simple matter by a Parliament under single-party domination, has become a major case before the Constitutional Court - complicated by a sudden military involvement.

When Parliament voted on Friday, the sole candidate was Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, an affable 57-year-old politician and a ranking member of the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP). His election would have brought the first Islam-inspired politician with a headscarf-wearing wife to the presidency of constitutionally secular Turkey.

But in the face of fierce opposition by secular deputies, Gul received 357 votes - 10 short of the required two-thirds majority...

While eyes were turned to the Constitutional Court, which could give a decision before the second round of voting on Wednesday or later, the country was rocked by an unexpected development: the military, which has staged four coups since 1950, weighed in with an unexpected communique a few hours after the voting.

Read the rest at Asia Times

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- April 30th edition

April 30, 2005: U.S. soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, prepare to enter the home of a suspected insurgent during an early-morning raid in Baghdad


April 30, 2002:

Iraq ready to let weapons inspectors back in

Iraq is preparing to back down on its refusal to allow UN weapons inspectors to return to the country in the hope that this will avert a US attack.

The US and Britain have led calls for Iraq to permit the UN weapons inspectors to establish whether Saddam Hussein is hiding biological and chemical weapons and developing a nuclear capability.

Iraqi willingness to cave in, after more than two years blocking the entry of the inspectors, comes amid reports that the US is planning an invasion of Iraq early next year.

Read the rest at the Guardian


April 30, 2003:

Blair: Doubters of Iraq WMD Will 'Eat Their Words'

LONDON — Anyone who believes Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction will be left "eating some of their words" when the banned arms are found, Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) predicted Wednesday.

In a feisty performance at the House of Commons (search), Blair shrugged off an opposition lawmaker's question whether he would resign if inspections failed to turn up chemical, biological or nuclear weapons -- the coalition's main argument for invading Iraq.

"Forgive me if I refuse to engage in all sorts of speculations," Blair said in response to the question from Conservative lawmaker Peter Tapsell. "But let me say to him, I am absolutely convinced and confident about the case on weapons of mass destruction (search)...

"We are now in a deliberative way and in a considered way investigating the various sites and we will bring forward the analysis and the results of that investigation in due course," Blair told lawmakers. "And I think when we do so, the honorable gentleman and others will be eating some of their words."

Read the rest at Fox News


April 30, 2004:

One year later, Bush defends Iraq speech

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- One year after President Bush declared major combat operations over in Iraq, Democratic critics say the commander in chief spoke too soon, pointing to continuing battles between U.S. forces and insurgents and mounting U.S. causalities.

Bush, however, stood by his speech when asked about it Friday.

"We're making progress, you bet," he told reporters...

But Bush defended the speech as he talked to reporters Friday during a Rose Garden appearance with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.

"A year ago, I did give the speech from the carrier saying that we had achieved an important objective, that we had accomplished a mission, which was the removal of Saddam Hussein," Bush said.

"And as a result, there are no longer torture chambers or rape rooms or mass graves in Iraq. As a result, a friend of terror has been removed and now sits in a jail.

Read the rest at CNN


April 30, 2005:

War images released

The military honour guard snaps to attention over the remains of a fallen comrade. Chaplains dignify the scene as coffins are laid out in a transport aircraft, ready to make their last journey home. And troops in camouflage gently tweak the Stars and Stripes draped over the coffin of another lost in battle.

Yesterday, two years after the invasion of Iraq, Americans were confronted with their first view of the human cost of the war to the US, after the Pentagon was pressured by a law suit to release more than 700 images of coffins and funeral ceremonies.

But military censors blacked out the faces of pall bearers, and little information was provided about the context of the photographs, all of which were taken by military photographers...

American presidents have been concerned about the effects on public morale of such images since the Vietnam war. But the Bush administration has been especially vigilant in enforcing regulations on the release of images. On the eve of the war, the Pentagon banned cameras from homecoming ceremonies for returning war dead.

Read the rest at the Guardian


April 30, 2006:

Bush Warns of 'More Days of Sacrifice'

WASHINGTON -- President Bush warned in his weekly radio address of tough fighting to come and "more days of sacrifice and struggle" in Iraq as April drew to a close as the deadliest month for American forces this year.

"The enemy is resorting to desperate acts of violence because they know the establishment of democracy in Iraq will be a double defeat for them," Bush said Saturday as he saluted the emergence of a permanent government.

"There will be more tough fighting ahead in Iraq and more days of sacrifice and struggle," he cautioned. "Yet, the enemies of freedom have suffered a real blow in recent days, and we have taken great strides on the march to victory."

With the war in its fourth year, Iraq hovers as a huge problem for Bush, whose approval ratings have fallen to record lows. Republicans are anxious that Iraq -- along with other public concerns like soaring gasoline costs -- will lead to the GOP losing control of one or even both houses of Congress in November.

As of late Thursday, at least 69 Americans had died in Iraq in April.

Read the rest at the Guardian

Security Summary: April 30, 2007

A soldier stands guard today in an auto repair shop while others search for clues about recent bombings in Mosul.

Diala- Chairman of Diala provincial council on Monday survived unharmed an attempt on his life when a bomb exploded near his motorcade in central Baaquba, capital city of Diala province, 57 km northeast of Baghdad, a security source said.

Kut- A Kut morgue received on Monday six unidentified bodies found dumped in north of Kut city, 180 km southeast of Baghdad, a medical source said.

Falluja- A U.S. base on Monday came under a mortar attack in the western Iraqi city of Falluja, a police source said.

Baghdad- An Iraqi civilian was killed and four others were wounded on Monday afternoon when an explosive charge went off near al-Talbiyah bridge, eastern Baghdad, a police source said.

Baghdad- At least one civilian was killed and six others were wounded on Monday afternoon when four mortar rounds landed into a residential area in al-Shaab district, eastern Baghdad, a police source said.

Baghdad- At least one civilian was killed and six others were wounded on Monday when a car bomb went off in al-Bayaa district, southwestern Baghdad, a police source said.

Baghdad- Unknown gunmen on Monday attacked and killed a brigadier general as he drove to work at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, a security source said.

Baghdad – Four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were killed and another soldier was wounded in two separate attacks in eastern Baghdad, increasing to 3,350 the number of U.S. soldiers killed since the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. 103 of this number were killed this month, the U.S. army said.

Mosul – Two members of Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barazani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) were killed by gunmen in two separate incidents in the city of Mosul, KDP sources said.

Baghdad – Casualties from the car bomb earlier on Monday in the western Baghdad area of al-Harithiya increased to 17, including two dead and 15 wounded, Iraqi police said.

Baiji – An Iraqi police brigadier was kidnapped while returning home from work in the district of Baiji, said a source from the Sunni Salah al-Din province police.

Basra – Two British bases in Basra came under shelling attacks on Sunday night and Monday morning but no casualties were reported, a military spokeswoman said.

Mosul – Two policemen were killed and three others, including a policeman, were injured when a vehicle rigged with explosives blew up near a police patrol in southwestern Mosul, a police official said.

Mosul – Six gunmen were killed and two others were arrested in clashes with security forces in the city of Mosul, 402 km north of Baghdad, a Ninawa police source said.

Baghdad- Iraqi police patrols found 27 unidentified bodies dumped in different parts in Baghdad over the last 24 hours, a police source said on Monday.

From VOI

Thousands protest in Kadimiyah after U.S. raid on Sadr office kills 8

Thousands of followers of Shi’ite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr took to the streets in Baghdad Monday in protest at a US military operation that killed eight “extremists” near a revered Shiite shrine.

The demonstration followed an overnight raid in which US and Iraqi forces intended to capture “high-value individuals” meeting in the north of the capital, the US military said in a statement.

One Iraqi soldier and eight militants were killed during the operation near the Khadimiyah mosque, although none of the intended targets was captured, the military said.

Around 3,000 Sadr supporters filled the street in front of the shrine, waving Iraqi flags and banners and holding aloft a coffin they said contained the body of someone killed in the attack.

The US statement said that no American soldiers had entered the shrine or a nearby office of Sadr’s movement, and complained of “misreporting in media.”

“After setting up the cordon, coalition and Iraqi Forces received small arms fire. Men burned tyres in the streets south of the Al-Sadr Mosque and near a children’s hospital,” the military said.

“Neither the hospital nor the mosque caught fire. Eight individuals were detained as a result of the operation and were turned over to the Iraqi security forces,” it added.

“None of the targeted individuals were captured as a result of this operation and all detained individuals were later released.”

From the Peninsula

Military: Captured insurgent documents include IDs for green zone, embassy

One of many checkpoints that lead the way to Baghdad's heavily fortified 'Green Zone'.


WASHINGTON – Documents captured in recent fighting in Baghdad included two identity cards for access to the fortified Green Zone, which contains Iraqi government headquarters, and an ID card for access to the U.S. Embassy, the Pentagon says.

The area where the documents were captured – just west of the Green Zone – has been a stronghold of Sunni extremists linked to al-Qaeda, said Army Col. Steven Townsend, commander of 3rd Stryker Brigade that led the operation...

The adequacy of security in the Green Zone, also known as the international zone, has recently come into question, particularly in the aftermath of the April 12 suicide bombing in the Iraqi parliament building's dining hall. One lawmaker was killed in the blast, which was claimed by an al-Qaeda-led amalgam of Sunni insurgents.

About two weeks before that attack, two suicide vests were found unexploded in the Green Zone. Less than a week before that, a rocket attack in the restricted zone killed an American contractor and an American soldier.

Read the rest at the San Diego Tribune

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Source: Larijani tells Maliki Iraq 'part of the United States' and 'part of the danger' to Iran

Ali Larijani is Iran's top national security official.

BAGHDAD: A senior Iranian envoy has told Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the U.S. military presence in Iraq is a serious threat to Iran's security but Tehran is willing to moderate its policies if it receives security guarantees from the U.S., an official familiar with the talks said Monday...

"Your (Iran's) conflict is with the America," al-Maliki said.

Larijani responded that Iraq is "part of the United States" because of the presence of more than 140,000 U.S. troops. More are expected next month as part of the Baghdad security operation.

"Iraq is part of America's project and for that reason we are forced to deal this way with it. America's presence in Iraq is a serious danger to us. Iraq now is part of this danger," Larijani said.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

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U.S.: Iran world's biggest sponsor of terrorism

Teheran, capital of Iran

WASHINGTON: Iran continues to be the biggest supporter of terrorism around the world, with elements of its government supporting extremist groups throughout the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, the U.S. State Department says.

In its annual global survey of terrorism to be released Monday, the department once again singles out Iran as the "most active state sponsor" of terror, accusing it of helping plan and foment attacks to destabilize Iraq and derail Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

The designation in the 2006 edition of the Country Reports on Terrorism is not new, as the State Department regularly identifies Iran as the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

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Report: Kurds will oppose draft oil law


BAGHDAD: Kurdish lawmakers will try to block parliamentary approval of legislation to regulate the country's oil industry because some of the annexes added to the bill are unconstitutional, a Kurdish official said Monday.

Kurds hold 58 of the 275 parliament seats, not enough to defeat the measure on their own. But Kurdish objections could delay passage of the bill, whose ratification into law is a top U.S. priority.

Last February, the Kurdish bloc agreed to support the draft bill following lengthy negotiations and strong U.S. pressure. The measure was endorsed by the Iraqi Cabinet, which includes Kurdish members, but without technical annexes which must be approved along with the bill.

On Monday, Kurdish spokesman Khalid Saleh said annexes prepared by the central government in Baghdad would give almost 93 percent of Iraq's proven oil reserves to the state-owned Iraq National Oil Company.

Saleh said that violated the February agreement.

Read the rest at the International Herald Tribune

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Report: Sadr calls for painting barriers to 'depict the ugliness and terrorist nature of the occupier'


BAGHDAD (AFP) - Shiite radical leader Moqtada al-Sadr urged Iraqis on Monday to paint the concrete barriers springing up around Baghdad with murals showing what he dubbed the "ugly face" of the US military in Iraq...

"I call on you to draw magnificent tableaux that depict the ugliness and terrorist nature of the occupier, and the sedition, car bombings, blood and the like he has brought upon Iraqis," he said, in a statement issued by his office.

"Paint the civilisation of Iraq and the ugliness of the occupier. Paint the bright face of Iraq and the ugly face of the occupier," he continued.

"Draw with your pens and brushes your suffering caused by the occupier, leading to shortages of services and the theft of your rights. Long live those hands that depict the reality and injustice and the duty of the government."

Read the rest at Yahoo News

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'Officials': Maliki office behind sectarian purge of Sunni army, police officers


BAGHDAD, April 29 -- A department of the Iraqi prime minister's office is playing a leading role in the arrest and removal of senior Iraqi army and national police officers, some of whom had apparently worked too aggressively to combat violent Shiite militias, according to U.S. military officials in Baghdad.

Since March 1, at least 16 army and national police commanders have been fired, detained or pressured to resign; at least nine of them are Sunnis, according to U.S. military documents shown to The Washington Post.

Although some of the officers appear to have been fired for legitimate reasons, such as poor performance or corruption, several were considered to be among the better Iraqi officers in the field. The dismissals have angered U.S. and Iraqi leaders who say the Shiite-led government is sabotaging the military to achieve sectarian goals.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

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AF Chief of Staff General Moseley to resist Army requests for airmen outside their competencies

Left: One example Moseley gave was airmen assigned to Camp Bucca, Iraq, where they guard detainees. Says Moseley, "We don’t guard prisoners. We don’t even have prisons."

The Air Force chief of staff said he intends to resist requests for airmen to fill Army and Marine Corps jobs when those assignments fall far outside the airmen’s core competencies.

Gen. T. Michael Moseley also said that while he understands the Pentagon plan to divert $800 million each from the Air Force’s and Navy’s fourth-quarter personnel accounts, that money must be returned by the middle of the summer.

Although the Air Force is continuing to draw down the force, with the current goal of reaching 316,000 active-duty personnel by the end of 2009, requests for airmen to do jobs in Iraq and Afghanistan that would ordinarily be performed by soldiers and Marines continues unabated.

More than 20,000 airmen have been assigned to these so-called “in lieu of” jobs outside their specialties, Moseley said April 24 at a meeting with defense reporters.

Read the rest at Air Force Times

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Casey: Army growth needed sooner than planned


SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii — The Army’s new chief of staff says he wants to accelerate by two years a plan to increase the nation’s active-duty soldiers by 65,000.

The Army has set 2012 as its target date for a force expansion to 547,000 troops, but Gen. George Casey said Saturday that he has told his staff to have the soldiers ready earlier.

“I said that’s too long. Go back and tell me what it would take to get it done faster,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press during a stop in Hawaii.

Casey became the Army’s chief of staff on April 12 after serving as the top U.S. commander in Iraq for two-and-a-half years.

Read the rest at Army Times

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Fort Lewis commander General Dubik relinquishes command to deploy to Iraq this week


Left. Lt. Gen. James Dubik. Above: Stryker Soldiers out of Fort Lewis take a knee and provide security during a joint foot patrol with Iraqi Army forces in Mansour, Baghdad on April 10

FORT LEWIS, Wash. — Lt. Gen. James Dubik is relinquishing his command of Fort Lewis to deploy to Iraq, where he will join nearly 10,000 troops from the base who are stationed there.

Dubik, 57, will turn over Fort Lewis to his deputy, Brig. Gen. William Troy, on Monday, then fly to Baghdad to take over the effort to train Iraqi military and police forces. He has commanded the base for the past two and a half years, and says he plans to keep in close contact with the soldiers who were formerly under his command.

During an interview with reporters Friday, he said he wants to “do my part on behalf of the soldiers I’ve commanded here,” and said he believes the war is necessary.

Read the rest at Army Times

'First 100 Days' handbook, aimed at first line of command, to go online in May

A Staff Sargeant hugs his godson at a deployment ceremony for departing Maryland National Guardsmen on Friday.

The second in a series of three handbooks on surviving the first 100 days in Iraq will be posted online by mid-May, and if the success of the first handbook is any indication, it promises to be a bestseller.

“Soldiers Handbook: First 100 Days” was published online in January for junior troops and basic trainees and has been hugely popular, according to the Center for Army Lessons Learned at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The handbook is based on a CALL survey of more than 1,700 troops on observations about the dangers in early deployment and measures that can be taken to be safer...

The newest handbook, “Leaders’ Handbook: First 100 Days,” which will go into print about three weeks after it’s posted online, is based on the same survey and aimed at leaders in the first line of command — the lieutenants, captains, platoon sergeants and first sergeants who make decisions about soldiers’ activities every day.

Read the rest at Army Times

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Perspective: The man who rescued the Baghdad Zoo


Left: Lawrence Anthony. Above: Following the invasion, and after the looting of the zoo, only a few animals remained at the Baghdad Zoo. One was Mandor, an emaciated 20-year-old Siberian tiger. The plight of Mandor and 8 more big cats (1 tiger, 7 lions) was grim. The only sustenance they had were weeks-old bones that they gnawed at in an ever-more weakened state.

On March 19, 2003, the United States begins its shock-and-awe campaign, with missiles raining down on Baghdad as the opening salvo of the Iraq war.

Four thousand miles away, at the idyllic Thula Thula Game Preserve in South Africa, wildlife conservationist Lawrence Anthony was following the war on TV.

"I was actually standing outside, looking at a herd of elephants, and it was two o'clock in the morning, and my attention just kept getting pulled back to the TV I'd been watching," Anthony told CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston. "And I thought, I've got to do something. I'm going to do something."

Read the rest at CBS News

Opinion (Afshin Molavi): Iranian-Saudi ties defy the caricature

As Arab presidents, emirs and kings lined up alongside the United Nations secretary general and the Pakistani, Malaysian and Turkish heads of state in last month's Arab League summit in Riyadh, one key player was missing at the highest level: Iran. Its nominal head of state, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was not invited to the summit. Instead the relatively weak foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, attended on behalf of the Islamic Republic.

On the surface, this fits the caricature narrative that has emerged in policy and media circles on both sides of the Atlantic and in the Mediterranean: Saudi Arabia, the bulwark of Sunni Islam, is caught in a battle for regional hegemony tinged with sectarian hues against Iran, the bulwark of Shiite Islam.

This analysis, however, fails to capture the growing and diverse range of diplomatic contacts between Riyadh and Tehran in the last few months, the insistent and loud anti-sectarian statements made by top leaders on both sides, and the evolving Saudi-Iranian relationship over the past decade. It also fails to capture the strategic philosophy of the Islamic Republic and the personal thinking of King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz.

Read the rest at the Daily Star

Opinion (Bhaskar Dasgupta): A butterfly flaps in the magic kingdom

One recent correspondence that I received about Saudi Arabia made me go: "hmmm". As it so happens, this bunch of guys apparently got together and raised a petition to the King asking for reform. Typically, they were immediately rounded up and thrown into jail. Well, we know that at least some were, but no concrete information is available, as the magic kingdom, for some reason, doesn't allow free flow of information. Amnesty International got on the case, but overall, the debate fizzled out. One month after the original petition was launched; the matter seems to have quietly died. Flash in the pan! Nobody cares; nobody knows what happened, it's dead as the Norwegian Blue Parrot or the dodo. But remember what chaos theory says, the flapping of a butterfly's wings in Chile can produce a typhoon in China. Will this petition for change in Saudi Arabia possibly be a small step in the very long pilgrimage to getting that magic kingdom join reality?

Read the rest at the Desicritics

Opinion (Thomas W. Lippman): At the displeasure of the King

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia caused a lot of heartburn in official Washington with his speech at last month's Arab summit in Riyadh, where he referred to the "illegitimate foreign occupation" of Iraq.

The Americans had good reason to be distressed after reading the speech, but not because of what Abdullah said about Iraq. After all, he was addressing Arab conference delegates; he could hardly have endorsed the US adventure there, which everyone in his audience knew he had opposed.

No, what should have bothered the Americans was that the ruler of an important, longstanding regional ally was so unhappy over US policy and performance in the Middle East that he took the unusual step of distancing himself publicly from Washington. Saudi Arabia always prefers to express its displeasure with the United States in private conversations and diplomatic exchanges. Only rarely in the 60 years of their alliance with America have Saudi leaders felt compelled to issue a public challenge, the last notable example occurring during the oil embargo of 1973 to 1974.

Read the rest at the Mid-East Times

Opinion (Martin Indyk): The Honeymoon's Over for Bush and the Saudis

What has happened to the love affair between Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and President Bush? Two years ago, down on the Texas ranch, they were photographed walking hand in hand. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship: Bush dropped his demand for democratization in the puritanical kingdom, and Abdullah did his best to moderate oil prices. The dowry was a new U.S. arms deal for the Saudis. A second honeymoon was scheduled for this month, when Bush planned to host Abdullah for his first state visit.

So the White House was mightily perplexed when it was informed that the king's schedule didn't allow for a spring visit to Washington. Then, at an Arab League summit in Riyadh last month, Abdullah denounced the U.S. war in Iraq as an "illegitimate occupation." He also used the occasion to make up with Bush's bete noire, Bashar al-Assad, the brash Syrian president who had previously denounced the Saudi leader as "a dwarf."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

Perspective: A Saudi Prince Tied to Bush Is Sounding Off-Key

WASHINGTON, April 28 — No foreign diplomat has been closer or had more access to President Bush, his family and his administration than the magnetic and fabulously wealthy Prince Bandar bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia.

Prince Bandar has mentored Mr. Bush and his father through three wars and the broader campaign against terrorism, reliably delivering — sometimes in the Oval Office — his nation’s support for crucial Middle East initiatives dependent on the regional legitimacy the Saudis could bring, as well as timely warnings of Saudi regional priorities that might put it into apparent conflict with the United States. Even after his 22-year term as Saudi ambassador ended in 2005, he still seemed the insider’s insider. But now, current and former Bush administration officials are wondering if the longtime reliance on him has begun to outlive its usefulness.

Read the rest at the NY Times

Perspective: Saudi Arabia woos the detainees

Alarmed to find that detainees are emerging from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and other U.S. detention centers more devoted than ever to radical Islam, Saudi Arabia is offering counseling, financial aid and even matchmaking to pull young militants away from terrorism.

To keep the former detainees from deep-pocketed militant recruiters, Saudi officials have treated them to perks that have included new cars, resort stays, job placement and help in finding brides. They've also exposed them to moderate clerics and reminded them of Islam's restrictive rules for waging holy war, or jihad.

Saudi officials said the goal is to stop the proliferation of radical ideology that they said is bred in prisons and on the Internet. The ideology has flourished at Guantanamo and is evident among the returning Saudi detainees - even those who were moderates before they were imprisoned, Saudi officials said.

Read the rest at Real Cities

Perspective: A Saudi mother becomes an international activist

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA The poems come quickly and in the middle of the night. They are desperate words for the son that Luluwa al Dakheel hasn't seen in nearly six years.

Her henna-stained hands trembled as she read a verse she wrote one recent night when she was crying too hard to sleep:

"My longing for him shakes my heart and wets my eyes

"Will my wishes reach the faraway lands where Fahd is confined?"

"I'm no poet," Dakheel said, "but prison and misery made me write."

The prison is the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where her son, Fahd al Fawzan, 23, has been held for the past five years.

Read the rest at Real Cities

Perspective: Iraqi national police train for future but struggle in violent present

Graduating cadets at the National Police Training Academy demonstrate martial arts and hand-to-hand fighting techniques at the graduation ceremony March 29.

NUMANIYAH, Iraq (AP) - A smoke grenade is tossed and Iraq's most elite paramilitary commandos storm an apartment building. The raid goes off without a hitch.

The problem is that it's just an exercise - part of the U.S. military's four-week drills for the Iraqi National Police. In reality, Iraqi commanders say it could be years before the force is competent enough to control Baghdad on its own.

Or like "trying to build an airplane while you're flying it," said Col. Chip Lewis, the chief U.S. training officer for the National Police.

The slow pace of police training highlights just one of the conundrums taking shape amid calls for an American troop withdrawal timetable: How to begin an exit strategy without leaving behind a crippled state that's easy prey for al-Qaida or homegrown militias?

Read the rest at AOL News

Perspective: Uneasy Alliance In Taming One Insurgent Bastion

A child contemplates a U.S. Marine as fellow Marines search her home in Anbar province last month

RAMADI, Iraq — Anbar Province, long the lawless heartland of the tenacious Sunni Arab resistance, is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas, shops and schools are reopening, police forces are growing and the insurgency appears to be in retreat...

Many Sunni tribal leaders, once openly hostile to the American presence, have formed a united front with American and Iraqi government forces against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia...

Yet for all the indications of a heartening turnaround in Anbar, the situation, as it appeared during more than a week spent with American troops in Ramadi and Falluja in early April, is at best uneasy and fragile...

Furthermore, some American officials readily acknowledge that they have entered an uncertain marriage of convenience with the tribes, some of whom were themselves involved in the insurgency, to one extent or another.

Read the rest at the NY Times

Perspective: As British draw down, violence in Basra is up


BASRA, IRAQ — If it weren't for the alcohol-free drinks, the scene could have been straight out of an English pub.

Young men sat in animated groups, sipping milkshakes and mugs of milky tea in a cozy, wood-paneled room. Others tucked into heaping plates of fish and chips. The TV was tuned to a soccer match, a game of pool was underway, and pop music pulsed in the background.

Until a crashing explosion sent everyone diving to the floor. For the next 10 minutes, the patrons of the restaurant at a British base here lay on their stomachs, waiting for the all-clear to sound.

Once an island of relative tranquillity in the mostly Shiite Muslim south, Basra has suffered a dramatic turnaround in the last two years.

Read the rest at the LA Times

Perspective: 'I thought I would not stand the torture'

Picture of a 'detainee' after being released by the Ministry of the Interior

BAGHDAD, 29 April 2007 (IRIN) - Saleh Nizar, a 58-year-old gardener, says he was tortured in an Iraqi prison after he was arrested and accused of participating in an attack in the capital, Baghdad. He was arrested on 15 October 2006 and set free on 5 April 2007 after he was helped by a senior Iraqi officer who said that Nizar was his gardener and that he was definitely innocent.

As result of the torture he endured, one of his legs sustained serious injuries and doctors said it might require amputation. Nizar, who has a heart condition which he did not receive treatment for while in prison, now spends much of his time in hospitals and clinics trying to stay alive.

"For the nearly six months that I was in prison I didn't have a day of peace. Either they were torturing me or shouting at me, using the ugliest words, accusing me of being a Saddam Hussein follower who deserved the same fate as his."

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

Perspective: The accursed -- Widows of Iraq’s torn-apart society


When Um Noor’s husband was blown to pieces by a car bomb last year, she drew comfort from the thought that she and her five children could at least depend on their close-knit community for support.

But Um Noor, a fragile figure barely 5ft tall, was a Sunni in the predominantly Shi’ite Baghdad district of Amil, and sectarian strife was taking the city by storm.

Soon her brother was murdered by a Shi’ite gang that spotted him in the street and chased him into a neighbour’s house where he was shot in cold blood.

Then the death squad burst into Um Noor’s own home and dragged away her eldest son and a nephew only six years old. They, too, were shot, just for being the sons of Sunnis.

Um Noor fled to a Sunni area where she believed she would find sanctuary, only to be warned that her remaining children were at risk from hitmen on her side of the sectarian divide. The reason: her husband had been Shi’ite. That made her children Shi’ites - potential targets for Sunni gunmen with a particular distaste for mixed marriages.

Read the rest at the Times of London

Perspective: Iraq's refugee crisis

Among the many humanitarian disasters produced by the civil war now raging in Iraq is one that is almost invisible. Only rarely do scenes of massive displacement of the civilian population make it on to our television screens, because, unlike bombs and suicide attacks, displacement does not generate the blood, fire, or screams that constitutes compelling footage. Yet the numbers are staggering: each month, some 40,000 Iraqis flee their homes because of the war. Half of them go to other parts of Iraq; the rest go abroad.

Iraq's population, frankly, is bleeding away.

Read the rest at the Guardian

Perspective: Walling Off Your Enemies


THE rulers of China spent 2,000 years building and rebuilding the world’s greatest wall, to keep out invaders from the north. The Roman emperor Hadrian built battlements across Britain against the barbarians 19 centuries ago. The Soviets cut Berlin in two; that wall came down when the will to defend it faded. The Israelis now build barricades against the Palestinians, guarding against an Arab population bomb as well as suicide bombers.

These are walls of war — the architecture of long struggle. Hard to erect, harder to maintain, they are never stronger than the political skill of their designers.

Last week, thousands of people in Baghdad were uniting against a wall dividing them.

Read the rest at the NY Times

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- April 29th edition

April 29, 2005: A Marine fires his shotgun onto a lock holding a chained door shut during a cordon and knock in Kharma, Iraq


April 29, 2002:

Ground Force Size Key in Plan for New Iraq War: Washington Times

The commander of US forces in the Persian Gulf has told senior Pentagon officers that a new war against Iraq would likely take five divisions and 200,000 troops, reported Washington Times Friday.

The commander of US forces in the Persian Gulf has told senior Pentagon officers that a new war against Iraq would likely take five divisions and 200,000 troops, reported Washington Times Friday.

Gen. Tommy Franks "wants to do a Desert Storm II," said one official, referring to the 550,000 troops deployed to the region in 1990-91 to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Two defense sources said the briefings by Gen. Franks, who heads the U.S. Central Command that oversees U.S. forces in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf, came as the Bush administration is moving closer to deciding on a general military campaign to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Officials say it likely will rely on fewer ground troops than suggested by Gen. Franks and call on extensive use of air power and indigenous rebel forces.

"Less ground-centric and more air-centric," is how one official described the emerging consensus.

Read the rest at People's Daily


April 29, 2003:

Iraqi Lawyer Who Helped Save Jessica Lynch Granted Asylum

WASHINGTON — The Iraqi lawyer who led U.S. forces to missing soldier Jessica Lynch has been granted asylum by the United States...

Al-Rehaief is considered a hero by many Americans and the U.S. military for making a series of trips between Saddam Hospital in Nasiriyah, where Lynch was being held, and U.S. forces several miles away. He had to walk through dangerous enemy territory each time he made the trek.

He was among several sources who helped the CIA and the military find Lynch, a 19-year-old West Virginian who was rescued in a commando raid on April 2.

Al-Rehaief, whose wife worked in the hospital, told U.S. Marines he saw Lynch being slapped by a security guard there.

To confirm her location, officials with the Defense Intelligence Agency (search), the military counterpart of the CIA, equipped and trained an Iraqi informant with a concealed video camera. On the day of the raid, the informant walked around the hospital, videotaping entrances and a route to Lynch's room...

That night, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and other commandos helicoptered to the hospital while troops engaged Iraqi soldiers in another part of the city. Rescuers entered the hospital and persuaded an Iraqi doctor to lead them to Lynch.

Read the rest at Fox News


April 29, 2004:

Photos Show Alleged GI Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners

NEW YORK — One photograph shows Iraqi prisoners, naked except for hoods covering their heads, stacked in a human pyramid, one with a slur written in English on his skin.

That and other scenes of humiliation at the hands of U.S. military police that appear in photographs obtained by CBS News have led to criminal charges against six American soldiers.

The images were shown Wednesday night on "60 Minutes II."

CBS says they were taken late last year at Abu Ghraib prison (search) near Baghdad, where American soldiers were holding hundreds of prisoners captured during the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Read the rest at Fox News


April 29, 2005:

Lynndie England to plead guilty to Abu Ghraib abuses

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Pfc. Lynndie England, the Army reservist shown in some of the most notorious photos in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, will plead guilty to abusing Iraqi detainees in a case that sparked global outrage against the United States and its military.

England, 22, faces a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison as part of the plea deal, which still must be accepted by a military judge, her attorney, Rick Hernandez, said Friday. She had been facing up to 16 years...

England was one of seven members of the Maryland-based 372nd Military Police Company charged with humiliating and assaulting Iraqi detainees at the prison near Baghdad. She became a focal point of the scandal after photos of her surfaced, including one that showed her smiling and posing with nude prisoners stacked in a pyramid...

Top military officials first became aware of the Abu Ghraib abuses in January 2004. The scandal after the pictures became public tarnished the military's image in Arab countries and worldwide and sparked investigations of detainee abuses.

England's lawyers have argued that she and others in her unit were acting on orders from military intelligence to "soften up" prisoners for interrogations. But Army investigators testified during hearings last summer that England said the reservists took the photos while "they were joking around, having some fun."

Read the rest at USA Today


April 29, 2006:

In Iraqi Town, Trainees Are Also Suspects

HAWIJAH, Iraq -- After midnight on a bare stretch of highway near this ramshackle town last week, Staff Sgt. Jason Hoover saw what looked like a fishing line strung across the road and ordered his Humvee to a screeching halt.

The cord was connected to an old, Russian artillery shell half-buried in the earthen shoulder and rigged to activate with a firm tug. Hoover traced its path nearly a half-mile though a plowed field, over another highway, and across a canal, where he found four Iraqi infrastructure policemen who were supposed to be guarding an oil pipeline. They said they had no idea what the cord was doing there.

"There's two kinds of Iraqis here, the ones who help us and the ones who shoot us, and there's an awful lot of 'em doing both," said Hoover, 26, of Newark, Ohio. "Is it frustrating? Yes, it's frustrating. But we can't just stop working with them."

The incident is a window on the mixed results of U.S. efforts to train Iraqi forces. American troops trying to tame the restive northern town of Hawijah have done what has proven impossible in many Sunni Arab enclaves: raised a security force from local volunteers. More than 1,500 Iraqi soldiers and 2,000 policemen patrol the area, virtually all of them drawn from the city and the pastoral hamlets that surround it.

But in a town where the local population is hostile to the American presence in Iraq, U.S. soldiers have developed a deep distrust of their Iraqi counterparts following a slew of incidents that suggest the troops they are training are cooperating with their enemies.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

Security Summary: April 29, 2007

Soldiers from Delta Co., 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, search a warehouse while investigating a mortar attack in northern Mosul today

Kirkuk- Iraqi police forces on Sunday detained five suspected gunmen during a security crackdown in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, a security source said.

Baghdad- An Iraqi soldier was killed on Sunday when gunmen attacked an army check point in western Baghdad, a security source said.

Baghdad- U.S. forces surrounded on Sunday the Sadr's office in al-Kadhemiyah city, northern Baghdad, and clashed with the office's guards, eyewitnesses said.

Falluja- An Iraqi army base came under a mortar attack in the western Iraqi city of Falluja, a security source said on Sunday.

Basra- A British soldier was killed on Sunday in the southern Iraqi city of Basra after his patrol came under small arms fire, the spokeswoman for the Multi-National forces in southern Iraq said.

Falluja – An unidentified number of people were killed and wounded and a U.S. Hummer vehicle was destroyed by a bike bomb on Sunday in central Haditha, Anbar province, local residents said.

Baghdad – Iraqi security forces arrested 138 suspected militants in several areas in Baghdad during the past 48 hours under the Baghdad law-imposing plan, the Baghdad operations command said.

Mosul – One civilian was killed and another wounded when gunmen shelled the villages of Jadou and al-Abtah in the district of Talafar, in Mosul, on Saturday night and Sunday morning, security sources said.

Baghdad – Gunmen attempted to assassinate renowned Iraqi radio presenter Amal al-Mudarris in the western Baghdad area of al-Khadraa, a security source said, adding Mudarris was in a hospital in a very serious condition.

Dalouiya – A U.S. armored vehicle was destroyed by a roadside bomb in the district of al-Dalouiya, Salah ad-Din province, local police said.

Kut – Three Iraqi policemen were killed and four others were wounded in clashes with unidentified gunmen in northeastern Kut, a police official in Wassit province said.

Baghdad – Several blasts were heard in different areas in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Sunday morning, eyewitnesses said.

From VOI

DOD Study: Mental health worsens as deployments lengthen

Jeremy Maresh, the most recently reported suicide of an active duty soldier in Iraq, was on his first tour. He deployed in September, 2006.

A recently released survey of soldiers and Marines puts concrete numbers behind problems experts have worried about since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

Suicides are up among combat vets, mental health issues are worse among those who deploy often and for longer periods, and one out of 10 service members surveyed said they have hit or kicked non-combatant Iraqis or destroyed their property...

Soldiers and Marines who have faced the most combat situations, deployed for longer periods of time, and deployed more than once face more mental health issues, according to a survey of 1,320 soldiers and 447 Marines. Of those on a second, third or fourth deployment, 27 percent screened positive for mental health issues, compared to 17 percent of first-time deployers. And 22 percent of those in-theater for six months or more screened positive for mental health issues, compared to 15 percent of those who had been there fewer than six months.

Read the rest at Navy Times

Report: Special forces sent to Iraq to protect Prince Harry

Second Lieutenant Harry Wales of the Household Cavalry will deploy to Iraq as a member of the 'A' Squadron of the Blues and Royals. He will be the first British royal to serve in a war zone since Prince Andrew during the Falklands war. Harry is third in line to the English throne, and there has been widespread talk amongst the royals and military about forbidding him from going, but he is reported to have threatened to quit the military if he is not sent. The two main militias in the area he will deploy to are the Badr Brigade of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr. Yesterday Denmark, whose forces in Southern Iraq are under British command, announced it was sending a special forces team to 'solve a special problem'.


Army special forces have been sent to Iraq to provide increased protection for Prince Harry ahead of his tour of duty in the country.

An extra detachment of special forces has arrived in southern Iraq to monitor militia groups and reinforce the prince's protection as fears grow that insurgents will target the third in line to the throne.

The Army is aware that militia groups are claiming to know when his regiment, the Blues and Royals, will arrive in the country. Last week The Observer revealed plans by insurgent groups to kidnap and kill Harry. The insurgents now claim to have informers inside the British base in Basra who will track the Prince's movements.

Read the rest at the Sunday Observer

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