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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #350 on: September 18, 2007, 09:37:56 PM »

Tom:

"C'mon guys...."We seek truth" and I had to go back 3 pages of posts to find anything on Iraq and my Yahoo home page has this story on its front page"

WTF?  Is there an inference here?

BTW did you not notice my post #339 in this thread?   huh  It was directed to you personally , , ,

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Howling Dog
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« Reply #351 on: September 18, 2007, 10:02:20 PM »

Woof Guro Crafty, Not at all an inference...........sorry.....I just want to hear you guys thoughts on this story.
I would have thought to read  posts from yuor sources......just a little disappointed there wasn't anything up on the forum concering this.
I think the revoking of Blackwaters license and the fact that diplomatice travel has been suspended more than just media hype.
I also think the attack on the convoy near the green zone to be some what significant, at least as far as security purposes go.
Maye Iam wrong.
I really hope that we don't count Blackwater expendable in light of the big picture.
                                                                                 TG
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Howling Dog
G M
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« Reply #352 on: September 18, 2007, 10:11:56 PM »

I'm cheating a bit by reading posts on a forum where lots of contractors post. They don't seem to give it much weight.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #353 on: September 18, 2007, 10:40:36 PM »

Tom:

I am still confused.  Post #339 is from me and is directed specfically to you.  Have you read it?
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Howling Dog
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« Reply #354 on: September 19, 2007, 05:46:23 AM »

Woof Guro Crafty, Yes I did read it. Thank you for posting it. Sorry again for the remark.
Do you have any personal thoughts on the incident?
GM, says the contratctors aren't concerned........
Being ex military.....I still don't hold that confidence........expendable keeps comming to mind.
                                                                        TG
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Howling Dog
Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #355 on: September 19, 2007, 07:58:24 AM »

Tom:

I forget where I read it, (but I have it mentally filed under "reliable source") but my understanding is that the known facts strongly suggest that BW was in the right in this case.  My readings over time resonate with what Strat says about contractors frequently being reviled as mercenaries and that there may be stories of some getting carried away or trigger happy.  Given the circs in which they operate this may as understandable as predictable that rumors can and will get things badly distorted.  Add in that the enemy will foment these rumors with lies and we have situation where you and I really are in a poor position to assess.

I also think that Maliki's response can be explained by political criteria and so can our government's response.

Bottom line:  I read the story with interest, but lack the basis for an opinion.
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G M
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« Reply #356 on: September 19, 2007, 12:53:42 PM »

http://hotair.com/archives/2007/09/18/the-blackwater-affair-licenses-who-needs-licenses/?print=1

The Blackwater affair: Licenses? Who needs licenses?
posted at 10:41 pm on September 18, 2007 by Bryan   


If you spend any amount of time at all in Iraq — and I mean that literally, any time at all — you’ll soon observe corruption. Iraq is a country that spent 35 years in survival mode, under the boot heel of a man who admired both Hitler and Stalin and who sought to combine the brutality of both on his way to becoming the next Nebuchadnezzar. The society was traumatized, and its people evidently learned to live by a police state version of the Wimpy rule: I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for what I’m swiping from you today, and mostly because by Tuesday the Mukhabarrat may have swiped me, myself and I, never to be seen again. I’ll be tortured and probably killed, but at least I won’t be out the couple of dinars I would have paid you.

I give you that as a preamble to the latest story about the Blackwater affair because it’s important to understanding how things work in Iraq. You’ve probably heard by now, that the North Carolina-based Blackwater security company is in hot water with Iraq’s Interior Ministry over an incident in which “innocent Iraqis” were killed. I added the scare quotes because the term “innocent” means different things to different people, and it’s not at all clear yet that whoever was killed in that incident was innocent in any way that we would commonly use the term. It’s not clear yet that they weren’t innocent either, or that at least some of them weren’t. It’s all under investigation, but the Interior Ministry has pulled a Murtha and gone ahead and convicted Blackwater anyway. The consequences of said conviction include revoking Blackwater’s license. It’s at this point that someone needs to cue up the laugh track while someone else pops up on camera and says “Licenses? We don’t need no steenkin’ licenses!”

Private security contractors in Iraq say most expatriate companies in the country operate without licenses because corrupt government officials who issue them demand bribes of up to $1 million.

“A couple of companies tried to get licenses, but no one has licenses because the bribes they were asking were too big, up to $1 million,” said a member of the elite Blackwater USA security company which has been ordered by Iraqi authorities to halt its operations.

Yes, we’re talking about the same Ministry that’s accusing Blackwater of crimes. It’s a Ministry run by bribes, that answers in part to the very paragon of virtue himself, the so-called “Mullah Atari,” Moqtada al-Sadr.

Exploiting that anger, anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demanded the government ban all 48,000 foreign security contractors, whom Iraqis have long viewed as mercenaries, the Associated Press reported.

If nothing else, that’s another reason that we should have taken Mookie out a long time ago.

So if just about every private contractor in Iraq operates without licenses, what’s really going on with Blackwater?

Well, internal politics seem to have a lot to do with it: We could be looking at a shakedown to make up for the bribes that Blackwater presumably didn’t pay. We could be looking at an attempt to weaken the US position in Iraq overall, since Blackwater and similar security companies have about 48,000 personnel on the scene engaged in various security duties. (Do ya think Mookie wouldn’t like to see 48,000 guns that ultimately answer to the US taken out of the game?) And like everything else in Iraq, putting a fixed number on it reduces its actual complexity by several orders of magnitude. A drive through the base complex around the Baghdad airport, for instance, will take you through private security guards from enough different continents and countries that you’d swear you were cruising through a muddy UN session: Nigerians man this gate, Brazilians man that post over there, and Peruvians are running that street from there to there, but beyond them, it’s the South Africans or someone else who will ask to see your papers, please.

I’ll hazard a guess that all the companies hiring and supporting all those nationalities probably aren’t licensed to the nth degree. They’re probably sufficiently paid up on their bribes, though.

Back to the incident that started the current row:

The incident, which left eight Iraqi civilians dead by most accounts, occurred Sunday when Blackwater was escorting a convoy through one of Baghdad’s Sunni neighborhoods.

According to the North Carolina-based company, the convoy was attacked by armed insurgents using small-arms fire. The U.S. contractors returned fire to get their clients out of the area safely.

“By doctrine, you return fire — that’s how you stay alive,” said the Blackwater contractor, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. “They killed who they needed to kill to get out of there. The teams that try to be all nicey-nicey, guess what? Their guys get kidnapped,” he said.

Several expatriate security contractors who did not open fire have been taken hostage while protecting their clients in western Iraq near Ramadi and in Baghdad.

Along with the bewildering corruption, that’s another reality in Iraq: At times, it’s a kill or be killed kind of place. The fate of those Blackwater contractors killed in Fallujah in 2004 surely informs decisions made in real time today. Undoubtedly most would take condemnation from the Interior Ministry over having their corpses rhetorically spat upon by the likes of Kos after thugs have killed and mutilated them.

I’m loath to predict how the Blackwater affair will turn out, but it is hard to imagine the military or State Dept (especially the State Dept) getting much done without Blackwater’s guys and guns around doing the jobs they’ve been doing for four years now. It probably will blow over. But the corruption is probably there to stay.

Today, the Iraqi government appeared to back down from statements Monday that it had revoked Blackwater’s license and would order its 1,000 personnel to leave the country, Associated Press said. It is not clear whether Blackwater was operating under an active license.

The special operations contractor, who has been in Iraq for four years, said he had seen the Ministry of Interior (MOI) demand bribes of security companies in three different contracts.

“You would apply for a license and it would stall, then someone from the MOI would show up and say that the license application was sitting in a box and that for a certain fee it could be pushed through,” said the contractor, also asking that his name not be used.

The size of the bribe depended on the size of the company, he said, starting in the area of $100,000 and up.

That all sounds hopelessly corrupt, but honestly, quite a bit of Europe doesn’t operate much more clean than that. Of course, Europeans don’t have Sadrist death squads lurking in the background to enforce and collect on the bribes.
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Howling Dog
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« Reply #357 on: September 19, 2007, 04:03:12 PM »

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070919/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 Iraqi leader disputes Blackwater account By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer
15 minutes ago
 


BAGHDAD - Iraq's prime minister Wednesday disputed Blackwater USA's version of a weekend shooting that left at least 11 people dead, saying he cannot tolerate "the killing of our citizens in cold blood."
 
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki suggested that the U.S. Embassy should find another company to protect its diplomats.

Blackwater, which provides security for American diplomats and other civilian officials in Iraq, insisted its contractors were responding to gunfire from insurgents.

But more witnesses came forward saying they saw Blackwater security guards firing at civilians in the Mansour district of western Baghdad on Sunday. Two witnesses recalled hearing an explosion before the gunfire, suggesting a bomb may have targeted the American convoy, prompting the guards to start shooting.

American and Iraqi officials announced they would form a joint committee to try to reconcile widely differing versions of Sunday's incident. Conflicting accounts were circulating among Iraqi officials themselves.

Land travel by U.S. diplomats and other civilian officials outside the fortified Green Zone remained suspended for a second day after Iraqi authorities ordered Blackwater to stop working as a separate Iraqi investigation continues.

The Moyock, N.C.-based firm is the main provider of bodyguards and armed escorts for American government civilian employees in Iraq.

U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo refused to offer any version of what happened Sunday at busy Nisoor Square. She told reporters the contractors involved in the incident were still in Iraq.

But al-Maliki spoke out sharply against Blackwater, saying the shooting was "the seventh of its kind" involving the company, "and these violations should be dealt with."

"We will not tolerate the killing of our citizens in cold blood," al-Maliki told reporters. "The work of this company has been stopped in order to know the reasons."

Al-Maliki said the shootings had generated such "widespread anger and hatred" that it would be "in everyone's interest if the embassy used another company while the company is suspended."

Blackwater spokeswoman Anne E. Tyrrell said in a statement late Monday that its employees acted "lawfully and appropriately" in response to an armed attack against a State Department convoy.

"The `civilians' reportedly fired upon by Blackwater professionals were in fact armed enemies and Blackwater personnel returned defensive fire," she said. "Blackwater regrets any loss of life but this convoy was violently attacked by armed insurgents, not civilians, and our people did their job to defend human life."

But al-Maliki said Blackwater's version "is not accurate" and that the company "should be held accountable for such a violation."

Iraqi officials offered several versions of what happened. One official said the Blackwater convoy got stuck in traffic and the guards began firing and throwing stun grenades to clear the vehicles.

Another official said men in a passing car shot at the convoy and the Blackwater guards responded with heavy fire, hitting civilians. Others said a car bomb exploded and the guards opened fire.

All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to release the information. Some accounts spoke of a child being killed, others that the infant was wounded.

Two Iraqi witnesses said they saw only Blackwater firing, although U.S. officials said Monday that gunfire had disabled one of the American vehicles.

"Several SUVs were passing from Nisoor Square when an explosion took place. I couldn't tell whether it was a roadside bomb or a car bomb," said Imad Mansour Abid, 35. "This was followed by heavy fire by guards of the security vehicles."

He said the shots were fired "at streets in the area where civilians and passers-by were moving. The firing lasted about 10 to 20 minutes."

Suhard Mirza, a hairdresser who works in the area, said she heard a "distant explosion" and raced outside to see what was happening.

"I saw four-wheel-drive vehicles opening fire randomly on people and civilian cars in the area," she said. "After five minutes police and ambulances reached the area to evacuate casualties."

Eager to contain the crisis, the State Department said Wednesday a joint U.S.-Iraqi commission will be formed.

The size and composition of the commission have yet to be determined but its members are charged with assessing the results of both U.S. and Iraqi investigations of Sunday's incident, reaching a common conclusion about what happened and recommending possible changes to the way in which the embassy and its contractors handle security, the State Department said.

Also Wednesday, the U.S. military said an American soldier was killed the day before in an attack in southern Baghdad. Another soldier died Wednesday of non-battle related causes in Salahuddin province, the military said.

The Iraqi Cabinet decided Tuesday to review the status of all foreign security companies in the wake of the Mansour shooting.

The Interior Ministry had said Monday it had lifted Blackwater's license and ordered its 1,000 employees to leave the country. The next day, Iraqi officials said Blackwater's operations were merely suspended pending an investigation.

Some Iraqi officials said privately that it would be difficult to order Blackwater out of the country because the Americans rely so heavily on it.

Iraqis have long resented the presence of thousands of armed foreign security guards, whose numbers swelled after violence escalated in late 2003 months after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.

With too few U.S. and coalition forces available to maintain order, governments and private companies hired thousands of security guards to protect their operations from Sunni and Shiite extremists and criminal gangs.

Blackwater, whose convoys of SUVs careen through the streets with weapons displayed, has been singled out for much of the criticism — in part because of its high profile operations.

"Blackwater has a reputation," said James Sammons, a former Australian Special Air Service commander who now works for the British-based AKE Group, which also provides security in Iraq.

"If you want over-over-the-top, gun-toting security with high profile and all the bells and whistles," he said, "Blackwater are the people you are going to go with."

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Howling Dog
rogt
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« Reply #358 on: September 19, 2007, 04:12:24 PM »

I would ask: is Iraq a sovereign nation or isn't it?  I'd say their "sovereignty" is pretty much a joke if this y'know, mercenary group is allowed to operate throughout the country with immunity from prosecution by any Iraqi authorities.
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G M
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« Reply #359 on: September 19, 2007, 04:39:45 PM »

I'm sure (I'm too lazy to look it up right now) that the Blackwater and other companies that are working for the state department are covered under diplomatic immunity. As an example, that would be why SFPD couldn't ticket a vehicle illegally parked that belonged to the PRC's consulate.
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rogt
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« Reply #360 on: September 19, 2007, 05:17:19 PM »

From what I understand, BW is not operating under "diplomatic immunity" as the term is understood under international law, but under this "Order 17" that was adopted by the Coalition Provisional Authority back in the early days of our occupation:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_17

"CPA Order 17 granted all foreign contractors operating in Iraq immunity from "Iraqi legal process," effectively granting immunity from any kind of suit, civil or criminal, for actions the contractors engaged in within Iraq."

So it's not clear what (if any) legal recourse the Iraqi government has if Bush decides that BW should stay there. 

The Iraqi government still wouldn't be able to criminally charge any members of BW if they were operating under diplomatic immunity, but they would at least be able to order them expelled from the country.
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Howling Dog
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« Reply #361 on: September 19, 2007, 07:25:59 PM »

My concern in the Black water issue is: Maliki is seeking to show his fellow countrymen that he's the boss in Iraq.
Bush and company are eager to also see this happen.
Enter Blackwater.....Sacrifical lamb for "the cause".

I would really be dissmayed to see this happen.......I think for the most part these guys have provided a service and done a job for us bled and died.....I think it would be A shame to cut thier throats for "the cause" (But think it VERY possible to see happen)
If they have to go let them go on good terms.
Not with a boot up the arse kicked to the curb.......
I agree Guro Crafty, this is a hard one to read....things are sketchy and pretty grey......
                                                                          TG
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Howling Dog
rogt
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« Reply #362 on: September 19, 2007, 08:12:10 PM »

Woof Tom,

I may disagree with the war itself, but the members of the US military fighting over there are getting paid regular military salaries and can be said to be (whatever the term means to the individual) "serving their country".  They (at least nominally) have to respect whatever US military code of conduct there is and international law that applies to members of a nation's military.

OTOH, BW is essentially a mercenary force of guys risking their necks solely for profit (presumably they're getting paid a LOT more than they would be getting from Uncle Sam) and (I'm guessing) is not bound by many of the restraints (again, at least nominally) to which US troops are subject.

I'm not saying that BW "contractors" don't become just as dead as US troops when they get shot, or that them getting killed is a good thing, but I have a hard time having any real sympathy for them.  In short, IMHO "support the troops" does not apply to BW.

Rog
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Howling Dog
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« Reply #363 on: September 19, 2007, 08:32:18 PM »

Rog, Its really simple. Money paid for services rendered.
I agree....they are not"the troops" Though in my opinon they are good employees and do thier job.

Bear in mind they guard all the "Big shots" Both political and military. Seems that alone should earn them some credibility and respect.
Thats why, I think if they have to go they should be retired....and not fired....and esp not a ploitical pawn or sacrifical lamb.
Also as far as the troops go.....lets not forget these guys are former mil. elite......
Surely you can't blame them for getting out of the military and doing similar work for 10x's the pay......
                                                                                   TG
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Howling Dog
G M
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« Reply #364 on: September 19, 2007, 08:37:42 PM »

Blackwater and other companies (Blackwater is the biggest, but far from the only) still fall under US legal jurisdiction. You can be prosecuted for acts far outside America's borders in federal court. Most American contractors would not consider themselves "mercenaries", as they aren't selling their skills to the highest bidder but would only work for the US State department or other USG entities in Iraq/Afghanistan.
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G M
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« Reply #365 on: September 19, 2007, 09:23:07 PM »

http://pajamasmedia.com/2007/09/cia_shut_down_in_iraq.php

CIA Shut Down in Iraq
September 19, 2007 11:58 AM

A perfect storm set to roil Blackwater?
According to exclusive information obtained by Pajamas Media’s Washington editor Richard Miniter, the movement of key CIA station personnel in Baghdad has been all but shut down. Are we witnessing Iran’s counter-strike to the surge?
Support Pajamas Media; Visit Our Advertisers

By Richard Miniter, PJM Washington Editor
Movements of key CIA station personnel in Baghdad—along with most State department diplomats and teams building police stations and schools—have been frozen for the second day in a row, according to a State department source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Essentially, the CIA, State department and government contractors are stuck inside the International Zone, also known as “the Green Zone,” in Central Baghdad. Even travel inside that walled enclave is somewhat restricted.

Pajamas Media is the first to report that the CIA station is all but motionless—as meetings with informants and Iraqi government officials have been hastily cancelled.

What caused the shut down? Following a firefight between Iraqi insurgents and a Blackwater USA protection detail on Sunday (12:08 PM Baghdad time), Iraqi officials suspended the operating license of the North Carolina-based government contractor. While the Iraqi government is yet to hold a formal hearing on the matter, Blackwater and all it protects remain frozen.

“By jamming up Blackwater, they shut down the movements of the embassy and the [CIA] station,” a State department source told Pajamas Media. He is not cleared to talk to the press.

Blackwater provides Personnel Security Details—or PSDs—for most CIA, State department, and U.S. Agency of International Development officers. In addition, Blackwater’s special-forces veterans guard many of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams—or PRTs—that build schools, clinics, police and fire stations and other structures that house essential Iraqi government services. Work on these vital “hearts and minds” projects has all but stopped across Iraq.

The State department has long insisted on using Blackwater and other private security firms so that its convoys and legations would not be controlled by the Defense department.

There are now more private contractors working in Iraq than U.S. soldiers serving there. Many are not U.S. citizens. Triple Canopy, another private firm, usually hires Peruvians to man the checkpoints inside the International Zone and Ugandans to guard distant airbases. The Peruvians, known as “incas” among Americans there, usually do not speak English or Arabic—a persistent source of complaint by Iraqi politicians who speak one or both languages.

At least eight Iraqis are reported dead after the Sunday shoot out and some press reports refer to the local casualties as “civilians.”

“Initial press accounts were inaccurate,” said Blackwater USA spokeswoman Anne Tyrell. “The ‘civilians’ reportedly fired upon by Blackwater professionals were in fact armed enemies and Blackwater personnel returned defensive fire. Blackwater regrets any loss of life but this convoy was violently attacked by armed insurgents, not civilians, and our people did their job to defend human life.”

“Blackwater professionals heroically defended American lives in a war zone on Sunday and Blackwater will cooperate with any inquiry into this matter.”

It’s well known in Iraq that dead insurgents become “civilians” as soon as their comrades carry away their AK-47s and spare magazines. Captured al Qaeda manuals detail how militants should use deaths as a propaganda tool.

TIME magazine received a partial copy of the official incident report.
According to the incident report, the skirmish occurred at 12:08 p.m. on Sunday when, “the motorcade was engaged with small arms fire from several locations” as it moved through a neighborhood of west Baghdad. “The team returned fire to several identified targets” before leaving the area. One vehicle engine was hit and disabled by bullets and had to be towed away. A separate convoy arriving to help was “blocked/surrounded by several Iraqi police and Iraqi national guard vehicles and armed personnel,” the report says. Then an American helicopter hovered over the traffic circle, as the U.S. convoy departed without casualties. Some reports have said the helicopter also opened fire on Iraqis, but a Blackwater official told TIME that no shots were fired from the air.

By apparently lifting Blackwater’s license, the democratically elected Iraq government may stall the forward progress created by the Gen. Petraeus’ surge and change in counterinsurgency tactics.

Indeed, some contend that the actions of Iraq’s Ministry of Interior, which supervises police and some intelligence functions, may be influenced by insurgents or even by Iran.

The staffing and internal rules of the Interior ministry were set up by Biyat Jabr, an affable and charming Shia Muslim who once worked for Saddam Hussein. (He was never a member of the Ba’ath party and thus survived de-Ba’athification with ease.)

Jabr is widely believed to be in the pay of Iranian intelligence services, although U.S. officials caution that there is no firm evidence of this charge. Jabr left the ministry in August 2006 and is now Finance Minister, but before he exited he salted the ranks with people loyal to Iran and hostile to the U.S. “Innocents dying [in the Sunday gun battle with Blackwater] is just a pretext,” the same State department source said.

Enemies of the U.S. inside the Interior ministry have been looking to shut down Blackwater for some time.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has adopted the same hard line against the American company. “This company should be punished. We are not going to allow it to kill Iraqis in cold blood. We have frozen all its activities and a joint panel has been formed to investigate the incident,” the prime minister told wire-service reporters.

“For their own interests, the Americans should hire a new company to protect their people so they can move freely.”

Both the State department and the Congress have signaled that investigations in to Blackwater will begin soon.

The State department hopes to shift blame onto Blackwater’s low-level “trigger pullers,” says the State department source, while Rep. Henry Waxman’s committee is expected to target senior executives at Blackwater and top Bush Administration officials. A perfect storm is set to roil Blackwater.

If Blackwater and other private contractors are shut out of Iraq, Democrats in Congress and Iranian intelligence operatives may have stumbled on a way to end the Iraq War—less than a week after Gen. Petraeus testified that the U.S. is turning the corner.
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rogt
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« Reply #366 on: September 19, 2007, 09:27:28 PM »

Blackwater and other companies (Blackwater is the biggest, but far from the only) still fall under US legal jurisdiction. You can be prosecuted for acts far outside America's borders in federal court. Most American contractors would not consider themselves "mercenaries", as they aren't selling their skills to the highest bidder but would only work for the US State department or other USG entities in Iraq/Afghanistan.

Good point.  I would agree that this is an important distinction.
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G M
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« Reply #367 on: September 19, 2007, 10:07:03 PM »

I had the opportunity to do some contracting work in Iraq in 2003/2004. It's a good thing that I didn't as the company I was looking at turned out to be scammers that did lots of stupid things and went out of business after burning lots of people. I believe the US DOJ is investigating them these days.

Depending on how things go, I am considering taking a police trainer position in Iraq/Afghanistan in 2009. Depending on if we are even in Iraq in 2009 and if the major attacks CONUS happen, as I anticipate.
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SB_Mig
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« Reply #368 on: September 20, 2007, 11:02:26 AM »

 U.S.-hired guards operate in a legal limbo in Iraq
By John M. Broder and James Risen
Thursday, September 20, 2007

WASHINGTON: The shooting involving private security guards in Baghdad that left at least eight Iraqi civilians dead has illuminated large gaps in laws applying to such armed contractors.

Early in the period when Iraq was still under American administration, the U.S. government unilaterally exempted its employees and contractors from Iraqi law. Last year, Congress instructed the Defense Department to draw up rules to bring the tens of thousands of contractors in Iraq under the U.S. laws that apply to the military, but the Pentagon has not acted. Thus the thousands of heavily armed private soldiers in Iraq operate with virtual immunity from Iraqi or American law.

There have been numerous incidents of killings or injuries of Iraqi civilians by employees of Blackwater USA, the company involved in the incident Sunday, and other private military contractors.

The most egregious recent episode came in December when a Blackwater gunman was reported, during an argument, to have killed a bodyguard for Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi. He was whisked out of Iraq and has not been charged with any crime, said Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution scholar who has written extensively about contractors in Iraq.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki complained of killings of Iraqis "in cold blood" by U.S. contractors. He said the shooting Sunday was the seventh such case involving Blackwater. The government is now threatening to throw Blackwater out of Iraq, a move that would have a dramatic impact on U.S. operations there.

The Bush administration has not said how it would respond if the Maliki government tried to carry out its threat to evict Blackwater. But administration officials and executives in the security contracting industry said Wednesday that they believed that the White House and the State Department would support Blackwater and would seek to block any move to force the company out.

The issue has led to tensions, and any effort by the United States to force Iraq to keep Blackwater could make the Maliki government appear to be a puppet.

Government officials and members of Congress have debated for years what has become in Iraq the most extensive use of private contractors on the battlefield since Renaissance princes hired private armies to fight their battles. The debate flares up after each lethal incident in Iraq, but there has been no agreement on how to police the private soldiers in American employ.

Since the war began, congressional attention and action on the contracting issue have been intermittent at best.

The Blackwater incident, which Iraqi officials have branded "a crime," has led the U.S. authorities to suspend temporarily most uses of private contractors as traveling bodyguards, and it has put the issue of the contractors back on the front burner in Washington.

A Blackwater spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday, but in an earlier statement the company said its employees "responded legally and appropriately to an attack by armed insurgents."

Several members of Congress and analysts outside the government said that the oversight of thousands of private military personnel is plainly inadequate, and they are urging the passage of new laws governing contractors, particularly those carrying weapons.

Senators John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, successfully sponsored an amendment to a Pentagon budget bill last year to bring all military contractors in Iraq under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The bill did not include State Department contractors, like the Blackwater employees involved in the incident Sunday, but Graham said Wednesday that he intended to try to extend its reach to all civilian contractors in Iraq and other war zones. While contractors are not subject to the military code, some argue they could be prosecuted for crimes abroad under civilian law, but in the case of Iraq, that has not been tested.

"If we go to war with this number of contractors in the war zone, thousands of them armed, you need application of UCMJ to maintain good order and discipline," said Graham, who serves in the air force reserve judge advocate general corps, referring to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He added: "This is a real gap in discipline. These people are on a legal island."

In the House, Representative Jack Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania and chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, is pushing legislation that would require the secretary of defense to set new personnel standards for contractors and to establish clear rules of engagement for security contractors operating in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Murtha's panel said that "the oversight and administration of contracted security services is woefully inadequate."

Even the trade association representing armed contractors called for new regulations to rein in contractors who abuse Iraqi civilians or violate the terms of their U.S. government contracts.

"If you're going to be outsourcing this much of our war-fighting capability, you have to have appropriate oversight," said Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, which represents private military contractors, including Blackwater.

From 20,000 to 30,000 civilians work for the United States in Iraq as private military contractors, part of a civilian workforce that equals or exceeds the 160,000-person military force there.

The State Department employs about 2,500 personnel, chiefly to guard U.S. diplomats and sensitive facilities. The three prime security contractors for the State Department are Blackwater, DynCorp International and Triple Canopy. Many of their workers are former military special forces troops, like Navy Seals and members of the U.S. Army's elite Delta Force.

Officials with other security companies said Wednesday that Blackwater now is the dominant contractor for State Department diplomatic security in Iraq, making it all but impossible for the department to operate without the company, at least in the short term.

For the moment, the military will provide any security needed by the State Department in Iraq. But officials at other firms said that the State Department has in recent weeks awarded Blackwater another major contract, for helicopter-related services, a strong signal of the close relationship between the State Department and Blackwater.

"If all Blackwater personnel had to leave the country, there would be no one to provide security for the diplomatic mission in Baghdad, except the U.S. Army," said an executive at another security firm, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a competitor.
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« Reply #369 on: September 21, 2007, 08:56:46 AM »

1133 GMT -- RUSSIA, IRAQ -- Iraq could offer significant incentives to Russian oil and gas firms to operate in Iraq and expects Russia to write off 80 percent of Baghdad's Soviet-era debt of $13 billion in return, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Sept. 21 in Moscow. The incentives could be granted before Iraqi energy legislation is approved, Zebari said.

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« Reply #370 on: September 21, 2007, 10:12:08 PM »

Feds target Blackwater in weapons probe By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer
26 minutes ago
 
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070922/ap_on_go_co/us_blackwater_probe

WASHINGTON - Federal prosecutors are investigating whether employees of the private security firm Blackwater USA illegally smuggled into Iraq weapons that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, officials said Friday.

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The U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh, N.C., is handling the investigation with help from Pentagon and State Department auditors, who have concluded there is enough evidence to file charges, the officials told The Associated Press. Blackwater is based in Moyock, N.C.

The U.S. attorney for the eastern district of North Carolina, George Holding, and a spokeswoman for Blackwater did not return calls seeking comment Friday. Pentagon and State Department spokesmen declined to comment.

Officials with knowledge of the case said it is active, although at an early stage. They spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, which has heightened since 11 Iraqis were killed Sunday in a shooting involving Blackwater contractors protecting a U.S. diplomatic convoy in Baghdad.

The officials could not say whether the investigation would result in indictments, how many Blackwater employees are involved or if the company itself, which has won hundreds of millions of dollars in government security contracts since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, is under scrutiny.

In Saturday's editions, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported that two former Blackwater employees — Kenneth Wayne Cashwell of Virginia Beach, Va., and William Ellsworth "Max" Grumiaux of Clemmons, N.C. — are cooperating with federal investigators.

Cashwell and Grumiaux pleaded guilty in early 2007 to possession of stolen firearms that had been shipped in interstate or foreign commerce, and aided and abetted another in doing so, according to court papers viewed by The Associated Press. In their plea agreements, which call for a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the men agreed to testify in any future proceedings.

Calls to defense attorneys were not immediately returned Friday evening, and calls to the telephone listings for both men also were not returned.

The News & Observer, citing unidentified sources, reported that the probe was looking at whether Blackwater had shipped unlicensed automatic weapons and military goods to Iraq without a license.

The paper's report that the company itself was under investigation could not be confirmed by the AP.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered a review of security practices for U.S. diplomats in Iraq following a deadly incident involving Blackwater USA guards protecting an embassy convoy.

Rice's announcement came as the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad resumed limited diplomatic convoys under the protection of Blackwater outside the heavily fortified Green Zone after a suspension because of the weekend incident in that city.

In the United States, officials in Washington said the smuggling investigation grew from internal Pentagon and State Department inquiries into U.S. weapons that had gone missing in Iraq. It gained steam after Turkish authorities protested to the U.S. in July that they had seized American arms from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, rebels.

The Turks provided serial numbers of the weapons to U.S. investigators, said a Turkish official.

The Pentagon said in late July it was looking into the Turkish complaints and a U.S. official said FBI agents had traveled to Turkey in recent months to look into cases of missing U.S. weapons in Iraq.

Investigators are determining whether the alleged Blackwater weapons match those taken from the PKK.

It was not clear if Blackwater employees suspected of selling to the black market knew the weapons they allegedly sold to middlemen might wind up with the PKK. If they did, possible charges against them could be more serious than theft or illegal weapons sales, officials said.

The PKK, which is fighting for an independent Kurdistan, is banned in Turkey, which has a restive Kurdish population and is considered a "foreign terrorist organization" by the State Department. That designation bars U.S. citizens or those in U.S. jurisdictions from supporting the group in any way.

The North Carolina investigation was first brought to light by State Department Inspector General Howard Krongard, who mentioned it, perhaps inadvertently, this week while denying he had improperly blocked fraud and corruption probes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Krongard was accused in a letter by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, of politically motivated malfeasance, including refusing to cooperate with an investigation into alleged weapons smuggling by a large, unidentified State Department contractor.

In response, Krongard said in a written statement that he "made one of my best investigators available to help Assistant U.S. Attorneys in North Carolina in their investigation into alleged smuggling of weapons into Iraq by a contractor."

His statement went further than Waxman's letter because it identified the state in which the investigation was taking place. Blackwater is the biggest of the State Department's three private security contractors.

The other two, Dyncorp and Triple Canopy, are based in Washington's northern Virginias suburbs, outside the jurisdiction of the North Carolina's attorneys.

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« Reply #371 on: September 21, 2007, 10:59:39 PM »

Wow.  This could get very interesting.
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« Reply #372 on: September 27, 2007, 08:42:55 AM »

The NY Times weighs in on Blackwater:

WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 — The American security contractor Blackwater USA has been involved in a far higher rate of shootings while guarding American diplomats in Iraq than other security firms providing similar services to the State Department, according to Bush administration officials and industry officials.

Blackwater is now the focus of investigations in both Baghdad and Washington over a Sept. 16 shooting in which at least 11 Iraqis were killed. Beyond that episode, the company has been involved in cases in which its personnel fired weapons while guarding State Department officials in Iraq at least twice as often per convoy mission as security guards working for other American security firms, the officials said.

The disclosure came as the Pentagon said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates had sent a team of officials to Iraq to get answers to questions about the use of American security contractors there.

The State Department keeps reports on each case in which weapons were fired by security personnel guarding American diplomats in Iraq. Officials familiar with the internal State Department reports would not provide the actual statistics, but they indicated that the records showed that Blackwater personnel were involved in dozens of episodes in which they had resorted to force.

The officials said that Blackwater’s incident rate was at least twice that recorded by employees of DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, the two other United States-based security firms that have been contracted by the State Department to provide security for diplomats and other senior civilians in Iraq.

The State Department would not comment on most matters relating to Blackwater, citing the current investigation. But Sean McCormack, the department’s spokesman, said that of 1,800 escort missions by Blackwater this year, there had been “only a very small fraction, very small fraction, that have involved any sort of use of force.”

In 2005, DynCorp reported 32 shootings during about 3,200 convoy missions, and in 2006 that company reported 10 episodes during about 1,500 convoy missions. While comparable Blackwater statistics were not available, government officials said the firm’s rate per convoy mission was about twice DynCorp’s.

The State Department’s incident reports have not been made public, and Blackwater refused to provide its own data on cases in which its personnel used their weapons while guarding American diplomats. The State Department is in the process of providing at least some of the data to Congress. The administration and industry officials who agreed to discuss the broad rate of Blackwater’s involvement in violent events would not disclose the specific numbers.

“The incident rate for Blackwater is higher, there is a distinction,” said a senior American government official who insisted on anonymity in order to discuss a delicate, continuing investigation. “The real question that is open for discussion is why.”

A Blackwater spokeswoman declined to comment.

Blackwater, based in North Carolina, has gained a reputation among Iraqis and even among American military personnel serving in Iraq as a company that flaunts an aggressive, quick-draw image that leads its security personnel to take excessively violent actions to protect the people they are paid to guard. After the latest shooting, the Iraqi government demanded that the company be banned from operating in the country.

“You can find any number of people, particularly in uniform, who will tell you that they do see Blackwater as a company that promotes a much more aggressive response to things than other main contractors do,” a senior American official said.

Today, Blackwater operates in the most violent parts of Iraq and guards the most prominent American diplomats, which some American government officials say explains why it is involved in more shootings than its competitors. The shootings included in the reports include all cases in which weapons are fired, including those meant as warning shots. Others add that Blackwater’s aggressive posture in guarding diplomats reflects the wishes of its client, the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

Still, other government officials say that Blackwater’s corporate culture seems to encourage excessive behavior. “Is it the operating environment or something specific about Blackwater?” asked one government official. “My best guess is that it is both.”

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Page 2 of 2)



Blackwater was founded in 1997 by Erik Prince, a former member of the Navy Seals, and is privately owned. Most of its nearly 1,000 people in Iraq are independent contractors, rather than employees of the company, according to a spokeswoman, Anne Tyrrell. Blackwater has a total of about 550 full-time employees, the she said.

Its diplomatic security contract with the State Department is now the company’s largest, Ms. Tyrrell said, while declining to provide the dollar amount. The company also provides security for the State Department in Afghanistan, where it also has counternarcotics-related contracts.

In addition to the Sept. 16 shooting in the Nisour area of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said Blackwater employees had been involved in six other episodes under investigation. Those episodes left a total of 10 Iraqis dead and 15 wounded, they said.

Many American officials now share the view that Blackwater’s behavior is increasingly stoking resentment among Iraqis and is proving counterproductive to American efforts to gain support for its military efforts in Iraq.

“They’re repeat offenders, and yet they continue to prosper in Iraq,” said Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat who has been broadly critical of the role of contractors in Iraq. “It’s really affecting attitudes toward the United States when you have these cowboy guys out there. These guys represent the U.S. to them and there are no rules of the game for them.”

Despite the growing criticism of Blackwater and its tactics, the company still enjoys an unusually close relationship with the Bush administration, and with the State Department and Pentagon in particular. It has received government contracts worth more than $1 billion since 2002, with most coming under the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, according to the independent budget monitoring group OMB Watch.

Last year, the State Department gave Blackwater the lead role in diplomatic security in Iraq, reducing the roles of DynCorp and Triple Canopy.

The company employs about 850 workers in Iraq under its diplomatic security contract, about three-quarters of them Americans, according to the State Department and the Congressional Research Service. DynCorp has 157 security guards in Iraq; Triple Canopy has about 250. The figures compiled by the State Department track the number of shootings per convoy mission, rather than measuring against the number of employees.

Just in recent weeks, Blackwater has also been awarded another large State Department contract to provide helicopter services in Iraq.

The company’s close ties to the Bush administration have raised questions about the political clout of Mr. Prince, Blackwater’s founder and owner. He is the scion of a wealthy Michigan family that is active in Republican politics. He and the family have given more than $325,000 in political donations over the past 10 years, the vast majority to Republican candidates and party committees, according to federal campaign finance reports.

Mr. Prince has helped cement his ties to the government by hiring prominent officials. J. Cofer Black, the former counterterrorism chief at the C.I.A. and State Department, is a vice chairman at Blackwater. Mr. Black is also now a senior adviser on counterterrorism and national security issues to the Republican presidential campaign of Mitt Romney.

Joseph E. Schmitz, the former inspector general at the Pentagon, now is chief operating officer and general counsel for Blackwater’s parent company, the Prince Group. Officials at other firms in the contracting industry said that Mr. Prince sometimes met with government contracting officers, which they say is an unusual step for the chief executive of a corporation.

No Blackwater employees, or any other contractors, have been charged with crimes related to the shootings in Iraq, although there are a number of American laws governing actions overseas and in wartime that could be applied, according to experts in international law. In addition, a measure enacted last year calls for the Pentagon to bring contractors in Iraq under the jurisdiction of American military law, but the Defense Department has not yet put into effect the rules needed to do so.

Separately, American officials specifically exempted all United States personnel from Iraqi law under an order signed in 2004 by L.Paul Bremer III, then the top official of the American occupation authority. The Sept. 16 shootings have so angered Iraqis, however, that the Iraqi government is proposing a measure that would overturn the American rule and subject Western private security companies to Iraqi law. The proposal requires the approval of the Iraqi Parliament.

In a sign of the Pentagon’s concern over private security contractors, Mr. Gates last Sunday sent a five-person team to Iraq to discuss with Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, the rules governing contractors. “He has some real concerns about oversight of contractors in Iraq and he is looking for ways to sort of make sure we do a better job on that front,” Geoff Morrell, Mr. Gates’s spokesman, told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday.

On Tuesday night, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England sent a three-page memorandum to senior Defense Department officials and top commanders around the world ordering them to ensure that contractors in the field were operating under rules of engagement consistent with the military’s.

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« Reply #373 on: September 28, 2007, 07:20:45 PM »

Why We're Winning Now in Iraq
Anbar's citizens needed protection before they would give their "hearts and minds."

BY FREDERICK W. KAGAN
Friday, September 28, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Many politicians and pundits in Washington have ignored perhaps the most important point made by Gen. David Petraeus in his recent congressional testimony: The defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq requires a combination of conventional forces, special forces and local forces. This realization has profound implications not only for American strategy in Iraq, but also for the future of the war on terror.

As Gen. Petraeus made clear, the adoption of a true counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq in January 2007 has led to unprecedented progress in the struggle against al Qaeda in Iraq, by protecting Sunni Arabs who reject the terrorists among them from the vicious retribution of those terrorists. In his address to the United Nations General Assembly Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also touted the effectiveness of this strategy while at the same time warning of al Qaeda in Iraq's continued threat to his government and indeed the entire region.

Yet despite the undeniable successes the new strategy has achieved against al Qaeda in Iraq, many in Congress are still pushing to change the mission of U.S. forces back to a counterterrorism role relying on special forces and precision munitions to conduct targeted attacks on terrorist leaders. This change would bring us back to the traditional, consensus strategy for dealing with cellular terrorist groups like al Qaeda--a strategy that has consistently failed in Iraq.





Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the consensus of American strategists has been that the best way to fight a cellular terrorist organization like al Qaeda is through a combination of targeted strikes against key leaders and efforts to discredit al Qaeda's takfiri ideology in the Muslim community. Precision-guided munitions and special forces have been touted as the ideal weapons against this sort of group, because they require a minimal presence on the ground and therefore do not create the image of American invasion or occupation of a Muslim country.
A correlative assumption has often been that the visible presence of Western troops in Muslim lands creates more terrorists than it eliminates. The American attack on the Taliban in 2001 is often held up now--as it was at the time--as an exemplar of the right way to do things in this war: Small numbers of special forces worked with indigenous Afghan resistance fighters to defeat the Taliban and drive out al Qaeda without the infusion of large numbers of American ground forces. For many, Afghanistan is the virtuous war (contrasting with Iraq) not only because it was fought against the group that planned the 9/11 attacks, but also because it was fought in accord with accepted theories of fighting cellular terrorist organizations.

This strategy failed in Iraq for four years--skilled U.S. special-forces teams killed a succession of al Qaeda in Iraq leaders, but the organization was able to replace them faster than we could kill them. A counterterrorism strategy that did not secure the population from terrorist attacks led to consistent increases in terrorist violence and exposed Sunni leaders disenchanted with the terrorists to brutal death whenever they tried to resist. It emerged that "winning the hearts and minds" of the local population is not enough when the terrorists are able to torture and kill anyone who tries to stand up against them.

Despite an extremely aggressive counterterrorism campaign, by the end of 2006, al Qaeda in Iraq had heavily fortified strongholds equipped with media centers, torture chambers, weapons depots and training areas throughout Anbar province; in Baghdad; in Baqubah and other parts of Diyala province; in Arab Jabour and other villages south of Baghdad; and in various parts of Salah-ad-Din province north of the capital. Al Qaeda in Iraq was blending with the Sunni Arab insurgency in a relationship of mutual support. It was able to conduct scores of devastating, spectacular attacks against Shiite and other targets. Killing al Qaeda leaders in targeted raids had failed utterly either to prevent al Qaeda in Iraq from establishing safe havens throughout Iraq or to control the terrorist violence.

The Sunni Arabs in Iraq lost their enthusiasm for al Qaeda very quickly after their initial embrace of the movement. By 2005, currents of resistance had begun to flow in Anbar, expanding in 2006. Al Qaeda responded to this rising resistance with unspeakable brutality--beheading young children, executing Sunni leaders and preventing their bodies from being buried within the time required by Muslim law, torturing resisters by gouging out their eyes, electrocuting them, crushing their heads in vices, and so on. This brutality naturally inflamed the desire to resist in the Sunni Arab community--but actual resistance in 2006 remained fitful and ineffective. There was no power in Anbar or anywhere that could protect the resisters against al Qaeda retribution, and so al Qaeda continued to maintain its position by force among a population that had initially welcomed it willingly.

The proof? In all of 2006, there were only 1,000 volunteers to join the Iraqi Security Forces in Anbar, despite rising resentment against al Qaeda. Voluntarism was kept down by al Qaeda attacks against ISF recruiting stations and targeted attacks on the families of volunteers. Although tribal leaders had begun to turn against the terrorists, American forces remained under siege in the provincial capital of Ramadi--they ultimately had to level all of the buildings around their headquarters to secure it from constant attack. An initial clearing operation conducted by Col. Sean MacFarland established forward positions in Ramadi with tremendous difficulty and at great cost, but the city was not cleared; attacks on American forces remained extremely high; and the terrorist safe-havens in the province were largely intact.





This year has been a different story in Anbar, and elsewhere in Iraq. The influx of American forces in support of a counterinsurgency strategy--more than 4,000 went into Anbar--allowed U.S. commanders to take hold of the local resentment against al Qaeda by promising to protect those who resisted the terrorists. When American forces entered al Qaeda strongholds like Arab Jabour, the first question the locals asked is: Are you going to stay this time? They wanted to know if the U.S. would commit to protecting them against al Qaeda retribution. U.S. soldiers have done so, in Anbar, Baghdad, Baqubah, Arab Jabour and elsewhere. They have established joint security stations with Iraqi soldiers and police throughout urban areas and in villages. They have worked with former insurgents and local people to form "concerned citizens" groups to protect their own neighborhoods. Their presence among the people has generated confidence that al Qaeda will be defeated, resulting in increased information about the movements of al Qaeda operatives and local support for capturing or killing them.
The result was a dramatic turnabout in Anbar itself--in contrast to the 1,000 recruits of last year, there have already been more than 12,000 this year. Insurgent groups like the 1920s Revolution Brigades that had been fighting alongside al Qaeda in 2006 have fractured, with many coming over to fight with the coalition against the terrorists--more than 30,000 Iraq-wide, by some estimates. The tribal movement in Anbar both solidified and spread--there are now counter-al Qaeda movements throughout Central Iraq, including Diyala, Baghdad, Salah-ad-Din, Babil and Ninewah. Only recently an "awakening council" was formed in Mosul, Ninewah's capital, modeled on the Anbar pattern.

A targeted raid killed Abu Musaab al Zarqawi, founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, near Baqubah in June 2006. After that raid, al Qaeda's grip on Baqubah and throughout Diyala only grew stronger. But skillful clearing operations conducted by American forces, augmented by the surge, have driven al Qaeda out of Baqubah almost entirely. The "Baqubah Guardians" now protect that provincial capital against al Qaeda fighters who previously used it as a major base of operations. The old strategy of targeted raids failed in Diyala, as in Anbar and elsewhere throughout Iraq. The new strategy of protecting the population, in combination with targeted raids, has succeeded so well that al Qaeda in Iraq now holds no major urban sanctuary.

This turnabout coincided with an increase in American forces in Iraq and a change in their mission to securing the population. Not only were more American troops moving about the country, but they were much more visible as they established positions spread out among urban populations. According to all the principles of the consensus counterterrorism strategy, the effect of this surge should have been to generate more terrorists and more terrorism. Instead, it enabled the Iraqi people to throw off the terrorists whose ideas they had already rejected, confident that they would be protected from horrible reprisals. It proved that, at least in this case, conventional forces in significant numbers conducting a traditional counterinsurgency mission were absolutely essential to defeating this cellular terrorist group.





What lessons does this example hold for future fights in the War on Terror? First, defeating al Qaeda in Iraq requires continuing an effective counterinsurgency strategy that involves American conventional forces helping Iraqi Security Forces to protect the population in conjunction with targeted strikes. Reverting to a strategy relying only on targeted raids will allow al Qaeda to re-establish itself in Iraq and begin once again to gain strength. In the longer term, we must fundamentally re-evaluate the consensus strategy for fighting the war on terror. Success against al Qaeda in Iraq obviously does not show that the solution to problems in Waziristan, Baluchistan or elsewhere lies in an American-led invasion. Each situation is unique, each al-Qaeda franchise is unique, and responses must be tailored appropriately.
But one thing is clear from the Iraqi experience. It is not enough to persuade a Muslim population to reject al Qaeda's ideology and practice. Someone must also be willing and able to protect that population against the terrorists they had been harboring, something that special forces and long-range missiles alone can't do.

Mr. Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author most recently of "No Middle Way: The Challenge of Exit Strategies from Iraq." (AEI, 2007).
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« Reply #374 on: October 04, 2007, 12:16:23 PM »

Geopolitical Diary: The Kurdish Oil Reality

Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said on Tuesday that it is moving ahead with oil development in its region, independent of Baghdad's oil policies. To be more precise, since the Baghdad government hasn't passed laws enabling an oil policy, the Kurds have decided to take steps on their own. For its part, Iraq's Oil Ministry said any oil deals signed by the KRG would be "ignored or considered illegal." The KRG denies that it has violated any law -- since, after all, there isn't one. Deals have been struck for production-sharing agreements with a number of companies, including Canadian and American companies such as Texas-based Hunt Oil Co.

There are many symbolic moves toward separatism in Iraq, but this is the heart of the matter in the most practical sense. Whoever is able to make deals over extracting oil from Iraq can define who gets the money from those deals. That is where the power lies, and that is where the money comes from. Once these deals are struck and the money begins to flow into Kurdish hands, the Kurds will have the wherewithal to resist Baghdad's demands. It won't simply be a matter of money. The oil companies they are signing deals with will have a major stake in preserving the status quo. Therefore, those companies' governments will come under pressure to support increased autonomy for the Kurds.

That will put the United States in a difficult position. Officially, the U.S. policy is to supported a united, federated Iraq with a coalition government that will define both oil policy and the extent to which the Kurds (or others) have the right to determine whom they will do business with. But the Kurds are now moving to create a new reality on the ground -- and at least some oil companies are prepared to bet that the deal they are making with the Kurds will be upheld in whatever Iraqi oil agreement is finally signed.

Washington has had a special relationship with the Iraqi Kurds since the early 1990s. It helped the Kurds against the Saddam Hussein regime. The United States also does not mind seeing American oil companies benefit from deals with the Kurds, since it is still unclear what kind of oil policy will eventually come out of Baghdad. The special relationship also, we would imagine, gives the United States leverage with the Kurds. We suspect the Americans could have blocked the deals if they wanted to. But they haven't.

Part of the reason could have to do with a U.S. desire to force the Iraqis to create oil legislation. The fact that the northern deposits are going to be controlled by the Kurds -- and that the United States is going to allow it to happen -- is sure to cause more than a little consternation in Baghdad, particularly among the Sunnis. The Sunnis have no oil of their own -- they either get a share of the revenue from the central government, get a piece of the northern fields, or wind up with nothing. So this could be directed against them. But the Sunnis are not, at the moment, Washington's main problem. That is the Shia -- who control the southern oil fields and are ambivalent on the whole issue. This could simply encourage them to accelerate their unilateral exploitation of their own oil reserves.

It could, in other words, lead to the de facto division of Iraq into three regions -- with the Sunnis the odd man out -- faster than any other process. This might be what the United States is thinking. But there are complicating factors. An autonomous Kurdish region is not something that Turkey wants to see, and the United States would then be following a policy in direct opposition to Turkey's interests. At the moment, the American dance card is already filled with Muslim enemies. We doubt that it wants another one in Turkey.

Most important, we find it hard to imagine that the United States really wants to see a tripartite division of Iraq. That would leave southern Iraq, and the border with Saudi Arabia, in Shiite hands -- and therefore, in all likelihood, in the hands of a regional government with close ties to Iran. That would give the Iranians strategic opportunities Washington clearly doesn't want to give them. In some ways, Iranian domination of southern Iraq would be better for Tehran than dominating all of Iraq. Less fuss and bother, and a clear road into the Arabian Peninsula.

Too much should not be made of these contracts, nor of the unwillingness or inability of the United States to block these deals. But there is a tendency developing now to impose realities on the ground, regardless of Baghdad's position, and oil is what will impose realities most effectively. Kurdish oil policy will be one of the best indicators of where this is all going.

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« Reply #375 on: October 05, 2007, 10:51:44 AM »

IRAQ: Every Arab who wishes to leave the northern Iraqi province of Kirkuk is being paid about $16,500, Gulf News reported, citing Abdul Rahman Mustafa, governor of the Kirkuk province. An article in the Iraqi Constitution states that Shiite and Sunni Arabs in Kirkuk will be paid in order to facilitate their return to their native provinces.
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« Reply #376 on: October 05, 2007, 07:31:23 PM »

Second (or third?) post of the day:

Iraq: Increasing Frictions Between Baghdad and Arbil
Summary

Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani said Oct. 5 that oil companies that sign contracts with Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will be blacklisted and prevented from working in Iraq. At the same time, Arab newspapers are reporting that the KRG is actively reversing the demographics in Iraq's oil-rich city of Kirkuk by monetarily compensating Arab families to relocate. The tug-of-war over Kirkuk carries significant implications for foreign companies with investments in northern Iraq, and the struggle will escalate in the coming months.

Analysis

Arab newspapers report that Kurdish parties in Iraq are working to reverse the demographics of Kirkuk by paying Arabs to relocate. Arabs leaving Kirkuk are being paid approximately $16,248 per family to leave the city, according to Dubai-based Gulf News.

The process of "Kurdifying" the ancient, multiethnic and oil-rich city of Kirkuk has been going on for awhile and is, for Iraqi Kurds, a vital step toward financial independence. Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq's Sunni and Shiite factions all have a vested interest in making sure Kirkuk's oil wealth does not officially fall under the Kurds' control, however, and are actively working to settle more Arabs in the city in order to shift the demographics back in their favor.

This tug-of-war over Kirkuk will intensify in the coming months as the constitutional deadline approaches. Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution stipulates that the final status of Kirkuk and other disputed areas is supposed to be settled in a local referendum by the end of 2007. For the referendum to take place, Kirkuk must first be demographically "normalized" and a census must be conducted. But Iraq's central government has put enough obstacles in place to prevent the census from being taken.

Despite rhetoric to the contrary, Iraqi Kurdish officials have privately resigned themselves to the fact that the referendum very likely will not be held by the end of the year. Holding the referendum would lead to a nightmarish security situation, including the potential for a Turkish military intervention in northern Iraq. Jihadist attacks in northern Iraq also have increased over the past year, and as the Kirkuk issue flares up, militant activity in the North will escalate and will likely have the support of Iraq's neighbors. And the United States is simply unwilling to further destabilize its relations with Ankara and its delicate negotiations with Iraq's Sunni and Shiite factions by meeting Kurdish demands to hold the referendum.

But the Kurds have other means to secure the oil-rich city. Kurdish officials are stepping up efforts to both hand out compensation checks to Arab families to leave and bring more Kurdish families back to the city. Data on how many Arabs have accepted compensation and left Kirkuk vary wildly; Arab estimates show that more than 1,000 families have relocated, while Kurdish figures put the number at 9,450. That these families have actually left cannot be confirmed, but if the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) can make enough progress in the Kirkuk normalization process, it can attempt to proceed with the referendum when it feels the timing is appropriate.

The failure to hold the Kirkuk referendum by year's end would carry significant implications for energy investment in northern Iraq. Breaking Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution would undermine the constitution's validity in the eyes of Kurdish officials, particularly when they face resistance over the signing of energy contracts without central government approval. In other words, if a constitutionally mandated referendum cannot take place, why should the constitution restrict the KRG's energy deals with foreign companies?

While Baghdad has been boiling, the KRG has been signing oil contracts with foreign energy companies, including Norway's DNO, Texas-based Hunt Oil Co., Canada's Heritage Oil Corp. and France's Perenco, as well as two other international oil companies whose names will be revealed in approximately two weeks by the KRG.

The Iraqi central government is fighting back against the KRG, however. Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani, a Shi'i with close ties to Tehran, said Oct. 5 that any oil companies that sign contracts with the KRG will be blacklisted and prevented from working in Iraq. The oil companies with contracts in the North do not currently have projects elsewhere in Iraq, but this is a dangerous escalation between Arbil -- the seat of the KRG -- and Baghdad. Foreign oil majors will now have to think twice before pursuing lucrative energy investments in Iraq's most stable region in the North, especially when they consider that Iraq's southern -- albeit insurgent-wracked -- region has three times as much oil waiting to be extracted.

Foreign oil companies in Iraq also will have to grapple with the fact that, even if they invest in energy exploration and production in the North, the KRG will still need permission from Baghdad to transport oil out of the country. The oil extracted in the short term can supply domestic consumption in the North, but anything beyond that also will involve the good graces of Ankara, which will be difficult to come by since Turkey has its own incentives to keep the Kurds contained and strapped for cash. Iran also has demonstrated the ease with which it can constrain the Kurds by closing its border in the North.

The KRG already has given up on holding the Kirkuk referendum on time, in the interest of maintaining stability in the region and safeguarding foreign investment in Iraqi Kurdistan. But with the Kurds' rivals holding a number of potent levers to keep them constrained, the foreign investment the KRG has strived to protect also runs the risk of coming under attack.

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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #377 on: October 08, 2007, 08:06:42 AM »

Al Qaeda's War of Villages
Signs that the terrorists are losing in Iraq.

BY OMAR FADHIL
Monday, October 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

BAGHDAD--The latest chapter in al Qaeda's war manual in their war against the Iraqi people and the Coalition is this: raiding remote peaceful villages, burning down homes and slaughtering both man and beast. It's a campaign of self destruction.

For about a year al Qaeda has been trying to build a so called Islamic State in Iraq. On several occasions al Qaeda has even declared parts of Baghdad or other places in other provinces the capital of this Islamic State.

But now that they are losing one base after another, their objective seems to have changed from adding more towns and villages to the "state" to destroying the very same towns and villages. Obviously, it's all about making headlines regardless of the means to do that.

This change in plans began to take shape with the battle between al Qaeda and the joint forces on Sept. 6 and 7 in Hor Rijab and then the massacre that followed in the same spot a week later and finally the attacks on other villages north, south and east of Baghdad in the last week or so.

Actually first I'd like to recommend reading a good post by Jules Crittenden about the flawed timing of this "Little Tet.

Anyway, our interest today is more about the field situation and strategy than about timing since the latter seems to be not so friendly to al Qaeda. Well, actually timing is very important here too but at a rather different level. In my opinion al Qaeda found itself forced to start this villages war. It wasn't a choice as much as a last resort because villages are among the few fighting spaces that al Qaeda can still utilize as large cities become increasingly difficult for them to operate in. They know that without engaging the enemy--that's us by the way--their existence and influence would end and I'm almost positive that they feel bitter about having to fight this way.





In order to fight a "good" guerilla war one has to stay in fluid state, have no permanent bases or barracks, no distinguishable uniform and above all one should be able to always have civilians around so as to deter the enemy--that's again us--from attacking out of concern about collateral damages and casualties among innocent civilians. No one questions the fact that no army in the Middle East, and I doubt there are any elsewhere, that can engage and defeat the U.S. military power in open terrain, in other words in a case of two traditional armies fighting on traditional battlefield.
The last factor is exactly what al Qaeda is sacrificing by waging this war on villages. But how can we make advantage of this situation? The greatest challenge I guess would be to have an alarm and information system through which the nearest available troops could be notified when an attack begins so they could interfere and repel the attack. This might be logistically difficult to establish in a short time since villages are usually far from the cities. In fact I worked in some such villages and I know that most of them are outside the administrative divisions or "civil planning" of provinces therefore they lack their own government offices and departments which means the nearest hospital, fire department, even phone and above all police station could be many miles away.

But even then if the troops fail to arrive in time to intercept the attack, which would be truly sad, the long distance that al Qaeda fighters would have to travel to go back to their base would require them to lose precious time since they have to rely only on ground transport on mostly exposed terrain while the troops very often have the advantage of the much faster air transport.

In the worst case scenario what's left of a village if the attack is not intercepted would be only al Qaeda fighters and the remains of what used to be a village. Now isn't that the perfect target for the countless aggressive fire units of the U.S. military?

Now please let's put emotions aside for a while because this is war we're talking about and if sacrifices cannot be avoided we should make sure the enemy pays the heaviest price possible. If reaction is quick enough--and timing here is of crucial importance--the hunt would be great and the results would be spectacular.





Again, of course it would be much more pleasant if the attacks can be prevented or repelled but since I doubt there's such an alarm system we could at least make benefit of the gap in time that immediately follows the action of the attackers taking advantage of faster transportation means and the old principle in combat that says the enemy can be best attacked immediately after he makes his move.
For the duration of the war on al Qaeda in Iraq so far, the most frustrating fact for soldiers and military commanders has been that they were asked to identify terrorists who move like ghosts, separate them from civilians and kill or capture them and that's a truly difficult mission. That's partly because a soldier would have to be careful when and where each bullet he fires would hit. But when the ghosts are identified, isolated and far from any friendly objects/personnel a pilot could attack with assurance of not hurting a friend.

That's why I think the troops should seize each and every such opportunity (which are technically moments during which the crippling rule of engagement become much more flexible) and strike as hard as they can once they are sure the battlefield falls in the category we just described.

Mr. Fadhil and his brother Mohammed write a blog, Iraq the Model, from Baghdad.


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« Reply #378 on: October 08, 2007, 11:15:12 AM »

http://victordavishanson.pajamasmedia.com/2007/10/06/observations_about_the_war.php
Observations about the war, from Victor Davis Hanson

Last week’s quiet

I just returned to Kuwait, and have been in Iraq visiting forward operating bases in Anbar and Diyala provinces, as well as suburbs of Baghdad the last week, hence the recent silence on this blog given sporadic internet facilities in Iraq. I hope to post a series of observations. But for now here are a few initials impressions from my second visit to the country. (Please excuse the typos, writing in haste from Kuwait City)

Better News?

Almost all the Marines and Army units I visited from Ramadi to Taji to various hot spots in Baghdad and Diyala believe there has been a sudden shift in the pulse of battlefield. Sometimes without much warning thousands of once disgruntled Sunni have turned on al Qaeda, ceased resistance, and are flocking to join government security forces and begging the Americans to stop both al Qaeda and Shiite militias.

Commanders in the field are cautious. They know that if the Shiite dominated government in Baghdad stays vengeful for decades of past suffering at the hands of Sunni Baathists, the reconciliation will fail. So thousands of American officers are desperately pressuring ministries to start distributing the vast wealth of Iraq’s $80 a barrel oil revenues to Anbar and Diyala before the Sunni revert back to insurgency.

The U.S. military

The brilliance of U.S. army and marines officers has not been fully appreciated. I met scores with PhDs and MAs, from Majors to Colonels, who are literally all at once trying to defeat al Qaeda gangs and Shiite militias, rebuild government facilities, arbitrate tribal feuds, repair utilities and train Iraqi army and police. As was true of the last trip to Iraq, I am left with three general impressions about the military.

(1) Our army and marines are far too few and overextended. The United States must either radically increase the size of these traditional ground units or scale back its commitments in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Through constant rotations, we are literally burning out gifted officers and lifetime professionals— and will lose their priceless expertise if they begin, as I fear, retiring en masse due to the sheer exhaustion.

(2) There is more optimism about success among the battlefield soldiers than present with analysts in Baghdad. The sudden decrease in violence has left many units stunned that Iraqis who used to try to kill them are suddenly volunteering information about terrorists and landmines, and clamoring to join the joint security force. Usually those behind the desk are the optimists, the soldiers who die the pessimists. But instead there is genuine feeling on the front that after four frustrating years of ordeal, at last there are tangible signs of real, often radical improvement.

(3) As a supporter of some four years of the now unpopular effort to remove Saddam and leave a democracy in his place, I continue to have only one reservation, albeit a major one. The U.S. soldier in the field is so unusually competent and heroic that one comes to despair at the very thought of losing even one of them. As a military historian I know that an army that can’t take casualties can’t win, but I confess after spending 16-hour days with our soldiers in impossible conditions one wonders whether the entire country of Iraq is worth the loss of just of these unusual Americans. I understand both the lack of logic and perhaps amorality in such a sweeping statement, but feel it nonetheless out here.

The complexity of the effort

The military is pulling out all the stops. Some examples. They have flown Vietnam-era veterans to lecture on counter-insurgency in their school at Taji, in addition to clinic psychologists and veterans of recent wars from Panama to Afghanistan. The problem is now not too few interpreters, but too many trying to join us. Some of the best are Iraqi-Americans, who know American idiom and deeply appreciate being an American.

Hundreds are working on IEDs, not just counter-technologies and aerial surveillance, but sophisticated methods of learning how they are made, how the bombers function, and how they are paid and maintained. Thousands of other reserve and retired engineers have come to Iraq to build and advise Iraqi contractors. I met a fascinating engineer in his mid-fifties who volunteered to return to the Marines and is now supervising the reconstruction of the governmental center in Ramadi.

Again, they are trying not just to defeat the insurgency, but to literally take Iraq from its primordial past to the twenty-first century within four years. A Herculean Task.

Mythologies

A common slur is that Halliburton is looting the treasury and contractors in Iraq are greedy profiteers. I again found the opposite to be true. Thousands of construction personnel build bases, road, and Iraqi facilities, sometimes under fire, but living with the notion of shelling or shooting any minute. I consider them more likely under- rather than overpaid.

Iraq is not a poor country. Flying over the Tigris-Euphrates valley (I speak now a farmer) is unlike anything in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. The soil is rich, the water plentiful and the dry climate perfect for intensive agriculture. That the country in theory within a year or two could pump well over three million barrels of petroleum a day, gives some indication of just how badly Iraq has been run the last forty years to screw up such natural bounty of a country—the Baathist-terror state, the attack on Iran, the massacres of Kurdish and Shiite innocents, the 1991 Gulf War, the no-fly zones and UN embargo, et al.

Next posting…

Hope to leave Kuwait tonight and post more on Iraq—some thoughts on our chances of winning, the nature of our colonels in the field, an interview with General Petraeus, the real Al Qaeda (or what Sunnis who once joined them now say about them) and other observations. .. Again, excuse the typos, since I write in haste.

Postscript
Hope to post tomorrow. One final thought. I must emphasize that we as a country have to support those in the field of fire. They believe not just that we can win by securing Iraq, but that they are doing a moral good by giving millions a chance of something quite different. Whatever one’s views on the war are, it seems to me morally reprehensible that anyone would slander an American soldier, whether comparing them to terrorists or their General to a betrayer. We have a very rare precious resource in today’s military that really does represent the moral upper crust of American society, and as long as it is engaged, we need to support it. We may come to the day that the military itself thinks victory is beyond our resources or not worth the cost, but from what I saw this week, as in 2006, we are not there at that day yet by a long shot.
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G M
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« Reply #379 on: October 08, 2007, 08:15:25 PM »

Ok, Rogt. Please explain how removing a nightmarish tyrant and trying to rebuild a shattened nation is "bullying".
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« Reply #380 on: October 08, 2007, 08:18:00 PM »

More on point for me wojuld be be to explain how a bullying friend getting his comeuppance and getting killed are indistinguishable, , ,
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« Reply #381 on: October 09, 2007, 11:15:11 AM »

Crafty, are you saying that a US withdrawal from Iraq will somehow result in the "death" of the US?

GM, you know as well as I do that Saddam was just as much a "nightmarish tyrant" during the time when we supported him as he was when we removed him from power, and that there are plenty of other "shattered nations" we could care less about rebuilding.  So these simply cannot be the real reasons we're in Iraq, although they sound good to people who like the idea of the war and/or don't particularly care why we're there.

The "bullying" I see is us telling Iraqis to run their country the way we want or continue to live under the effective rule of the US military.

And please, can we all just agree that none of us wants to see more troops killed?

Nor does any of us think "the troops" are stupid or incompetent.  This elevation of the US military command to the status of virtual god-kings (a la that VDH article) and the assumption that the interests of the generals and the foot soldiers are synonymous are both fairly new phenomena that the typical WW2 soldier would likely find laughable.
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #382 on: October 09, 2007, 11:07:40 PM »

"Crafty, are you saying that a US withdrawal from Iraq will somehow result in the "death" of the US?"

Although I do think that being driven out of Iraq, as vs. leaving upon enabling a stable situation, would hasten and increase attacks upon the American homeland, that is not my point here.  My point here is that IMHO you analogy is inapt, because here our soldiers die when they get the comeuppance you seem to think the US deserves.

"The "bullying" I see is us telling Iraqis to run their country the way we want or continue to live under the effective rule of the US military."

No, the bullying is AQ, the Sadr hit squads, the other Shiite hit squads, etc killing the millions of Iraqis who, enabled by American blood, sweat and tears, voted three times in election to choose their government.  AQ has specifically stated that democracy is anti-Islamic and are determined to stop it by any means necessary-- THAT is the bullying.

"And please, can we all just agree that none of us wants to see more troops killed?"

Actually, NO.  In war more people on one side die when that one side loses than when it wins.  You have plainly stated that you "oppose" (your repeated choice of word) our succcess.  To me the syllogism adds up to more American deaths.

"Nor does any of us think "the troops" are stupid or incompetent.  This elevation of the US military command to the status of virtual god-kings (a la that VDH article) and the assumption that the interests of the generals and the foot soldiers are synonymous are both fairly new phenomena that the typical WW2 soldier would likely find laughable."

The WW2 Army was a draft military.  This is a professional military and frankly there really are some really impressive people in it.

Marc
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rogt
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« Reply #383 on: October 10, 2007, 01:00:56 PM »

"Crafty, are you saying that a US withdrawal from Iraq will somehow result in the "death" of the US?"

Although I do think that being driven out of Iraq, as vs. leaving upon enabling a stable situation, would hasten and increase attacks upon the American homeland, that is not my point here.  My point here is that IMHO you analogy is inapt, because here our soldiers die when they get the comeuppance you seem to think the US deserves.

The US military being overrun and slaughtered by enemy forces in Iraq is NOT the same as us acknowledging that there's no point in continuing the war there.  There is pretty much zero chance of the former happening, and the latter is the "defeat" I think should happen.  We are literally the only force keeping the war going at this point.

Quote
"The "bullying" I see is us telling Iraqis to run their country the way we want or continue to live under the effective rule of the US military."

No, the bullying is AQ, the Sadr hit squads, the other Shiite hit squads, etc killing the millions of Iraqis who, enabled by American blood, sweat and tears, voted three times in election to choose their government.  AQ has specifically stated that democracy is anti-Islamic and are determined to stop it by any means necessary-- THAT is the bullying.

The Iraqis don't seem to see it that way.  How else do you explain polls showing 70%+ Iraqis in favor of immediate US withdrawal, and 50% or so who now consider armed attacks on US forces to be justified?

Quote
"And please, can we all just agree that none of us wants to see more troops killed?"

Actually, NO.  In war more people on one side die when that one side loses than when it wins.  You have plainly stated that you "oppose" (your repeated choice of word) our succcess.  To me the syllogism adds up to more American deaths.

The total US casualty count is now around 3,800, while the Iraqi death toll is estimated at somewhere near 1,000,000.  Even if that number were only 100,000 that's still an order-of-magnitude difference.  So if my position means I want more US troops dead, the same logic would mean you must want an Iraqi holocaust.  Obviously I know you don't, so why we just end this silly pissing contest now?

Quote
"Nor does any of us think "the troops" are stupid or incompetent.  This elevation of the US military command to the status of virtual god-kings (a la that VDH article) and the assumption that the interests of the generals and the foot soldiers are synonymous are both fairly new phenomena that the typical WW2 soldier would likely find laughable."

The WW2 Army was a draft military.  This is a professional military and frankly there really are some really impressive people in it.

I'm sure there are, but at what point did it become political heresy to criticize the military?  During WW2 we had generals being called idiots right to their faces on the Senate floor and nobody barked about how "unpatriotic" those senators were.  George Patton slapped two soldiers suffering from "shell-shock" for what he considered cowardly behavior and was almost sent home in disgrace, which many newspapers demanded at the time.

Another big difference I see between WW2 and the current Iraq war is that WW2 had a lot of public support.  Seems like the less public support a war has, the more important it becomes to brand any criticism of it as unpatriotic or downright treasonous.
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Maxx
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« Reply #384 on: October 10, 2007, 01:32:02 PM »

Casualties
Iraqi combatant dead
(during invasion period before Baathist government fell):
7,600 to 10,800

Insurgents dead
(After Saddam Hussein's Baathist government fell):
13,509 listed on
a representative list of reports 19,429 According to U.S. military


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Detainees (held by Coalition): 23,000
Detainees (held by Iraq): 37,000
 Iraqi Security Forces (After Saddam. Allied with Coalition). Total police and military killed: 7,479
Coalition dead (3,814 US, 170 UK, 131 other): 4,115

Coalition missing or captured (US): 4

Coalition wounded: 28,009 US, 300 UK.

Coalition injured, diseased, or other medical: 28,645 US, 1,155 UK.

Contractors dead (US 231): 1,003

Contractors missing or captured (US 9): 17

Contractors wounded & injured: 10,569
 
All Iraqi violent deaths, Opinion Research Business. As of August 2007: 1,220,580 (range of 733,158 to 1,446,063). Causes were gunshots (48%), car bombs (20%), aerial bombing (9%), accidents (6%), another blast/ordnance (6%).
Total deaths (all excess deaths) Johns Hopkins (Lancet) - As of June 2006: 654,965 (range of 392,979 to 942,636). 601,027 were violent deaths (31% attributed to Coalition, 24% to others, 46% unknown)

War-related & criminal violence deaths (all Iraqis) Iraq Health Minister. Through early November 2006: 100,000-150,000

War-related & criminal violence deaths (civilians) Iraq Body Count - : 69,045-75,495


-------------------------------------------

Here is also a link to a Wiki of the Casualites of War not to mention the Thousands of Americans that have suffered wounds were they would be better off dead then to suffer what they are suffering.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_conflict_in_Iraq_since_2003
 
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Crafty_Dog
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« Reply #385 on: October 10, 2007, 04:12:04 PM »

Rog:

To my sense of the meaning of words, there is a helluva big difference betweeen "there's no point in continuing the war there" and "I oppose our victory."  I am quite glad to see the change in your position.

I disagree with you about how things are going there, and point you to the Michael Yon blog as one source of many to understand why.

Do you have citation for any of your numbers?  Max has provided citation (thank you Max) and I note the 1,000,000 figure comes from Lancet, which as you and I have discussed previously, IMHO has substantial problems and thus I appreciate your apparent acknowledgement of the softness of the number.  In that vein I note that on the Wiki page cited by Max it says

"Los Angeles Times: "At least 50,000 Iraqis have died violently"—as of June 2006. "Many more Iraqis are believed to have been killed but not counted because of serious lapses in recording deaths."

There is a helluva difference between "well over 50,000" and "1,000,00".  I also place a lot less credence in the numbers thrown out by Iraqi ministries.  Is the ministry under the control of the Sadr brigades or some other , , , "interested" party?

Also, your numbers about the percentages who want us to leave right away (as vs. eventually) want us killed etc are at variance with what I read.

Marc

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« Reply #386 on: October 11, 2007, 06:25:18 AM »

Woof All:

We search for Truth.

Marc
==============================

http://www.d-n-i.net/lind/lind_10_10_07.htm
On War #236
October 9, 2007

Not so fast, John

William S. Lind

[The views expressed in this article are those of Mr. Lind, writing in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the opinions or policy positions of the Free Congress Foundation, its officers, board or employees, or those of Kettle Creek Corporation.]

Major General John Kelly is one of the Marine Corps' most thoughtful and most able leaders. Many who hope to see the Marine Corps' doctrine of Maneuver Warfare someday become real instead of just words on paper pray he has a bright future. When, as a major, he was commander of Infantry Officers’ Course at Quantico, he did what every Marine school director should do: he hauled all the old, Second Generation lesson plans out into the courtyard, poured gasoline on them and burned them. I have known him since that time, and I regard him as a personal friend.

In late September, speaking to the San Diego Military Advisory Council, General Kelly said:

I left Iraq three years ago last month. I returned a week ago after a two week visit of getting the lay of the land for my upcoming deployment. It is still a dangerous and foreboding land, but what I experienced personally was amazing and remarkable -- we are winning, we are really winning. No one told me to say that, I saw it for myself.

I have to reply, not so fast, John. I have no doubt the situation General Kelly found in Anbar Province is much quieter than it was just a short time ago. That means fewer casualties, for which we are all thankful. But in the inherent complexity of a Fourth Generation situation, it does not mean we are winning. If we put the improved situation in Anbar in context, we quickly see there is less to it than first meets the eye.

That context begins with the fact that Anbar is quieter primarily because of what al Qaeda did, namely alienating its base, not what we did. We enabled the local Sunnis to turn on al Qaeda by ceasing or at least diminishing our attacks on the local population. But if al Qaeda had not blundered, the situation would be about what it had been since the real war started. We have not found a silver bullet for 4GW.

Nor is the war in Iraq a binary conflict, America vs. al Qaeda, although, that is how Washington now portrays it. Al Qaeda is only one of a vast array of non-state actors, fighting for many different kinds of goals. If al Qaeda in Iraq disappeared tomorrow, Iraq would remain chaotic.

The fact that some Sunni tribes have turned on al Qaeda does not mean they like us. It just means we have for the moment become the #2 enemy instead of #1, or perhaps #3, with the Shiites ranking ahead of us. Some think the Sunnis are just getting whatever they can from us as they prepare for another, more bitter round of the Sunni vs. Shiite civil war.

But the biggest reason for saying "not so fast" is that the reduction of violence in Anbar does not necessary point toward the rise of a state in the now-stateless region of Mesopotamia. As I have argued repeatedly in this column and elsewhere, we can only win in Iraq if a new state emerges there. Far from pointing toward that, our new working relationship with some Sunni sheiks points away from it.

The sheiks represent local, feudal power, not a state. We are working with them precisely because there is no Iraqi state to work with (the Maliki government is a polite fiction). From a practical standpoint, there is nothing else we can do to get any results. But our alliances with Sunni sheiks in effect represents our acceptance, de facto if not de jure, of the reality that there is no state.

The sheiks, we must recognize, do not accept the Shiite puppet government in Baghdad (nothing illustrates its puppet nature better than its inability to expel Blackwater) or its armed forces, which are mostly Shiite militias who get government paychecks. The Baghdad government recognizes this fact. A story in the October 1 Cleveland Plain Dealer quotes Prime Minister al-Maliki's United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite) as condemning

"authorizing the (Sunni tribal) groups to conduct security acts away from the jurisdiction of the government and without its knowledge."

The statement went on: "We demand that the American administration stop this adventure, which is rejected by all the sons of the people and its national political powers."

Rightly, the ruling Shiites fear that what we are actually creating is new Sunni militias, which will fight the Shiite militias.

Finally, as if all this did not throw enough cold water on any notion that we are winning, just as the Marines are ramping down our war with the Iraqi Sunnis, in Anbar, the U.S. Army is ramping up a war with the Shiite population. Almost every day we read about another raid on the Shiite, all too often one where we have called in airstrikes on populated Shiite neighborhoods. A story in the October 6 Plain Dealer, U.S. raid north of Baghdad kills 25," was typical:

An Iraqi army official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said U.S. aircraft bombed the neighborhood repeatedly and he claimed civilians, including seven children, were among those killed.

He said the civilians had rushed out to help those hurt in the initial bombing…

…the town's top official said U. S. forces targeted areas built up by the locals to protect their Shiite neighborhoods against attacks by al-Qaida gunmen.

If we have not enjoyed fighting the 20% of the Iraqi population that is Sunni, how much pleasure will we find in fighting the 60% that is Shiite? Of course, an American attack on Iran will only intensify our war with Iraq's Shiites.

So no, we are not winning in Iraq. The only meaningful definition of "winning" is seeing the re-emergence of a real Iraqi state, and by that standard we are no closer to victory than we ever were. Nor can I see anything on the horizon that could move us closer to such a victory, other than a complete American withdrawal, which begins to look as unlikely under Hillary as under George. All we see on the horizon of Anbar province, sadly, is another mirage.

William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.
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Maxx
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« Reply #387 on: October 12, 2007, 01:16:46 PM »

Iraq strike 'kills 15 civilians'


The US military in Iraq says 15 women and children were killed in an operation north of Baghdad in which 19 suspected insurgents also died.
It is thought to be one of the biggest losses of civilian life in a single US-led operation since the war began.
The US said it regretted the loss of innocent life, but said it acted in self-defense and blamed insurgents for putting the civilians in danger.
A child was also killed on Friday by explosives hidden in a sweets trolley.
An official statement from the US military said Thursday's loss of life occurred during an air and ground assault aimed at senior leaders of al-Qaeda thought to be meeting in the Lake Tharthar region, 120km (75 miles) north of the capital.

An initial air raid killed four rebels and then more air strikes were launched to back up US ground troops, a statement from the coalition said.
The coalition said that after the first air raid suspects were observed fleeing to an area south of the man-made lake.
Ground forces attacked a building in which insurgents were believed to be hiding and were engaged by small-arms fire, the statement said. Further air strikes were then called in.
After securing the area, the troops found 15 dead suspected insurgents along with six women and nine children, the statement added.
Two suspected militants, one woman and three children were wounded and another suspect was detained, the statement said.
'Deliberate danger'
Maj Brad Leighton, a Multi-National Force-Iraq spokesman, said: "We regret that civilians are hurt or killed while coalition forces search to rid Iraq of terrorism.
"These terrorists chose to deliberately place innocent Iraqi women and children in danger by their actions and presence."
The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says the United Nations mission in Iraq has previously expressed concern about civilian deaths during air strikes by US-led forces.
Some 88 civilians were reportedly killed during air raids in the early part of this year, according to the UN.
On Friday, a bomber hid explosives in a trolley full of sweets that he was pushing in a playground in the northern Iraqi town of Tuz, where families were celebrating the Islamic festival of Eid.
A child was killed and at least 13 other people were wounded, police said.       
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« Reply #388 on: October 13, 2007, 12:58:44 AM »


Commentary: An Open Letter to Code Pink
By Richard Lund (10-02-07)


While the protest that you staged in front of my office on Wednesday, Sept. 26th, was an exercise of your constitutional rights, the messages that you left behind were insulting, untrue, and ultimately misdirected. Additionally, from the comments quoted in the Berkeley Daily Planet article, it is clear that you have no idea what it is that I do here. Given that I was unaware of your planned protest, I was unable to contest your claims in person, so I will therefore address them here.

First, a little bit about who I am: I am a Marine captain with over eight years of service as a commissioned officer. I flew transport helicopters for most of my time in the Marine Corps before requesting orders to come here. Currently, I am the officer selection officer for the northern Bay Area. My job is to recruit, interview, screen, and evaluate college students and college graduates that show an interest in becoming officers in the Marine Corps. Once they’ve committed to pursuing this program, I help them apply, and if selected, I help them prepare for the rigors of Officer Candidate School and for the challenges of life as a Marine officer. To be eligible for my programs, you have to be either a full-time college student or a college graduate. I don’t pull anyone out of school, and high school students are not eligible.

I moved my office to Berkeley in December of last year. Previously, it was located in an old federal building in Alameda. That building was due to be torn down and I had to find a new location. I choose our new site because of its proximity to UC Berkeley and to the BART station. Most of the candidates in my program either go to Cal or to one of the schools in San Francisco, the East Bay, or the North Bay. Logistically, the Shattuck Square location was the most convenient for them.

Next, you claim that I lie. I have never, and will never, lie to any individual that shows an interest in my programs. I am upfront with everything that is involved at every step of the way and I go out of my way to ensure that they know what to expect when they apply. I tell them that this is not an easy path. I tell them that leading Marines requires a great deal of self-sacrifice. I tell them that, should they succeed in their quest to become a Marine officer, they will almost certainly go to Iraq. In the future, if you plan to attack my integrity, please have the courtesy to explain to me specifically the instances in which you think that I lied.

Next, scrawled across the doorway to my office, you wrote, “Recruiters are Traitors.” Please explain this one. How exactly am I a traitor? Was I a traitor when I joined the Marine Corps all those years ago? Is every Marine, therefore, a traitor? Was I a traitor during my two stints in Iraq? Was I a traitor when I was delivering humanitarian aid to the victims of the tsunami in Sumatra? Or do you only consider me a traitor while I am on this job? The fact is, recruitment is and always has been a part of maintaining any military organization. In fact, recruitment is a necessity of any large organization. Large corporations have employees that recruit full-time. Even you, I’m sure, must expend some effort to recruit for Code Pink. So what, exactly, is it that makes me a traitor?

The fact is this: any independent nation must maintain a military (or be allied with those who do) to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. Regardless of what your opinions are of the current administration or the current conflict in Iraq, the U.S. military will be needed again in the future. If your counter-recruitment efforts are ultimately successful, who will defend us if we are directly attacked again as we were at Pearl Harbor? Who would respond if a future terrorist attack targets the Golden Gate Bridge, the BART system, or the UC Berkeley clock tower? And, to address the most hypocritical stance that your organization takes on its website, where would the peace keeping force come from that you advocate sending to Darfur?

Finally, I believe that your efforts in protesting my office are misdirected. I agree that your stated goals of peace and social justice are worthy ones. War is a terrible thing that should only be undertaken in the most dire, extreme, and necessary of circumstances. However, war is made by politicians. The conflict in Iraq was ordered by the president and authorized by Congress. They are the ones who have the power to change the policy in Iraq, not members of the military. We execute policy to the best of our ability and to the best of our human capacity. Protesting in front of my office may be an easy way to get your organization in the headlines of local papers, but it doesn’t further any of your stated goals.

To conclude, I don’t consider myself a “recruiter.” I am a Marine who happens to be on recruiting duty. As such, I conduct myself in accordance with our core values of honor, courage, and commitment. I will never sacrifice my honor by lying to anyone that walks into my office. I will never forsake the courage that it takes to restrain myself in the face of insulting and libelous labels like liar and traitor. And, most importantly, I will never waver from my commitment to helping individuals who desire to serve their country as officers in the Marine Corps.



Captain Richard Lund is the United States Marine Corps’ officer selection officer for the northern Bay Area.
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« Reply #389 on: October 16, 2007, 11:10:22 AM »

stratfor:

IRAQ: Shiite Islamist parties are forcing Iraqis in the country's South to adhere to strict Islamic rules and are using armed militias to spread fear, Reuters reported, citing four unnamed tribal Shiite leaders.

========

Could this lay the foundation a dynamic similar to what happened to AQ in Anbar?


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« Reply #390 on: October 17, 2007, 11:21:33 AM »

Geopolitical Diary: The Iranian Goal of Sunni-Shiite Relations in Iraq

Ammar al-Hakim, the son of the leader of Iraq's most powerful and pro-Iranian Shiite party, visited the Sunni province of Anbar on Oct. 14. Al-Hakim, who is being groomed to succeed Abdel Aziz al-Hakim as head of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), met with Ahmed Abu Risha, who leads the anti-jihadist Sunni tribal force, the Anbar Salvation Council.

In an Eid prayer sermon Oct. 13, the younger al-Hakim called for the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq and rejected the possibility of permanent foreign (read U.S.) military bases, stressing the need for the creation of autonomous regions there. These comments and the visit to the Sunni heartland occurred a few days after the ailing senior al-Hakim returned from a long stay in Iran.

The SIIC and its Iranian patrons are the architects of the call for the creation of the self-governing Shiite region in southern Iraq, which they have been pushing for several years. What is new, however, is the rejection of bases, which fits with Iranian plans to fill the vacuum created by a withdrawal of U.S. forces. It should be noted that this call is not coming from the maverick Muqtada al-Sadr, but from the Shiite establishment and the party that also happens to be the main working partner of the United States.

Even more significant is the visit to Sunni central Iraq and the meeting with a Sunni group that is aligned with the United States in the fight against al Qaeda and its jihadist allies. The Iranians and their Iraqi Shiite proxies abhor U.S. dealings with the Sunni forces independent of Baghdad and have long demanded that Washington try stabilizing Iraq as part of a broad comprehensive arrangement with Tehran.

But from the U.S. viewpoint, its relationship with certain elements among Iraq's Sunni community is beneficial. First, it allows Washington to undercut the Sunni insurgency, especially its jihadist component. Second and more important, a relationship with the Sunnis could help the United States counter Iranian influence in Iraq.

The Iranians realize this but thus far have lacked the means to counteract U.S. moves, largely because they lack a liaison within the Sunni community with which they could establish a working relationship. Al-Hakim's meeting with the Sunni tribal chieftain indicates that Iran might have finally found a way to get around the problem.

Abu Risha's council and the Shia both view the jihadists as their enemy, which could become a good starting point for a future relationship. The Sunni tribal force also is competing with fellow Sunni political, religious and insurgent groups, which further works to the advantage of the Iranians since it could allow Tehran to divide the Sunni community in order to contain the Baathists, whom the Shia and Iranians view as the real threat among the Sunnis. However, a successful Sunni-Shiite relationship would be hard for Iran to achieve for numerous reasons -- the ethnic and sectarian divide in Iraq being one of the biggest obstacles to overcome.

Forging ties with certain Sunnis certainly has its long-term advantages for the Shia regarding their ability to maintain their domination in Baghdad. But more immediate is the Iranian need to counter U.S. moves to undercut its influence in Iraq. Sunnis closely aligned with the United States and open to working with pro-Iranian Shia could go a long way in helping the Persian ayatollahs achieve this objective.

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« Reply #391 on: October 18, 2007, 08:11:37 AM »

1133 GMT -- IRAQ -- The Iraqi government plans to award $1.1 billion in contracts to Iranian and Chinese companies to build two power plants in the country, The New York Times reported Oct. 18, citing Iraqi Electricity Minister Karim Wahid. He said the Iranian project would be built in Baghdad's Sadr City area and the Chinese project would be built in Wasit. Iran also has agreed to provide cheap electricity from its own grid to southern Iraq, and to build a large power plant essentially free of charge in an area between the two southern Shiite holy cities of Karbala and An Najaf, the Times reported.

Stratfor
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« Reply #392 on: October 24, 2007, 07:56:02 PM »

Iraq: The Latest Turkish Incursion
Reports of a Turkish military operation in northern Iraq emerged Oct. 24. Supposedly, between Oct. 21 and Oct. 23, some 300 Turkish troops moved as far as six miles into Iraq before withdrawing while artillery and airstrikes were conducted. Sources in Turkey have said that more than 30 Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters were killed.


For weeks, Turkey has been positioning itself for a major incursion into northern Iraq to confront the PKK, which has been using the area as a safe-haven from which to operate. Indeed, Turkish special forces already operate extensively in northern Iraq, and cross-border shelling is hardly uncommon. But the last several days appear to have included overt strikes inside Iraq by F-16s (reportedly flying out of Diyarbakir, a major eastern Turkish air base) and AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, as well as at least one incident of "hot pursuit" by uniformed Turkish forces following PKK fighters across the border.

Tensions spiked Oct. 21, when the PKK killed 12 Turkish soldiers in an attack inside Turkey; the PKK reportedly has captured more Turkish troops since. The recent operation could have been a reprisal for that attack or an attempt to rescue captured soldiers. But the operation Ankara is preparing for is far larger in scale and scope. Historically, these operations have involved as many as 50,000 troops and lasted more than a month. (Though past major operations were concluded by this time of year; winter is fast approaching in the mountainous border region, and the optimal weather for an extensive incursion has passed.)

Meanwhile, the public revelation of this most recent incursion was quickly followed by an official statement from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) requesting restraint from both Ankara and the PKK. KRG President Massoud Barzani for the first time called on the PKK to end its rebellion, and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani indicated he is willing to hand over PKK fighters to Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan visited Baghdad at the same time Washington implied that it might be willing to strike at the PKK militarily -- a noteworthy confluence of events.

The KRG has its own issues with Ankara, as well as with Baghdad, where the fate of Kirkuk and the oil issue still hang in the balance. Ongoing internal Kurdish rivalries will rage. Turkish military positioning, including the expansion of buffer zones -- at least inside Turkey proper -- will continue.

For Turkey especially, a momentary resolution on the PKK issue does not solve the underlying issue of the strongest Kurdish presence it has ever seen -- one with an autonomy Ankara opposes not only in Turkey (where half the Kurdish population lives) but also in Iraq, Iran or elsewhere. The PKK offers the proximate cause and the justification, but Turkey is likely also now repositioning its forces to confront the long-term reality of a semiautonomous Kurdish state on its border.

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« Reply #393 on: October 25, 2007, 02:54:38 AM »

WSJ

Oh, the Humanity!
A report from the Integrated Regional Information Networks of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs brings what sounds like good news from Baghdad:

Iraqis are breathing a sigh of relief as violence in their war-torn country is ebbing and the number of violence-related victims has dropped sharply since the beginning of this year, according to statistics compiled by the country's interior, defence and health ministries.

"Violence-related deaths in September dropped remarkably to levels not seen in more than a year as the number [of violence-related deaths] stood at 290 while in September 2006 the number was about 1,400," Adel Muhsin, the health ministry's inspector-general, told IRIN in a phone interview.

But relief from violence is not without cost, IRIN notes:

Taxi driver Ahmed Khalil Baqir used to station himself outside Baghdad's main morgue, waiting for grieving families who went there to claim their relatives' dead bodies.

"I was totally dependent on them for my living," Baqir, a 44-year-old father of four, said." I never thought about picking up people in the street as I was being hired five to eight times a day by these families. But now it is a waste of time to wait there and these days I wait only for about three hours in the morning and I continue my work picking up passengers in the street."

And to make matters worse, he has to face competition from all those out-of-work hearse drivers.

Translate This
From NBC News:

In a development experts call a significant shift, Iraqi insurgent groups are speaking out against al-Qaida and its brutally violent tactics.

Last week, two groups, Asaeb al-Iraq al-Jihadiya (aka "the Iraqi Jihad Union") and a splinter faction of the 1920 Revolution Brigades called "Hamas in Iraq" issued statements accusing al-Qaida's Iraq wing, al-Qaida in Iraq, of brutally killing their fighters and commanders, as well as women and children.

We'd love to see what the New York Times's editors would do to that second paragraph.

It's About the Children!
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« Reply #394 on: October 25, 2007, 06:50:39 AM »

On the other hand , , , This from the WSJ:

Fighting Within Sects
Complicates U.S. Iraq Plans
Partition Strategy
Falters as Militias
Jockey for Influence
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
October 25, 2007; Page A12

BAGHDAD -- While fighting between Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites has begun to ebb, fighting within the sects has increased, as rival groups jockey for power, influence and money.

The trend may complicate efforts to promote a partition of the country along sectarian lines, an idea gaining traction among U.S. lawmakers seeking a politically palatable exit strategy.

THE ENEMY WITHIN

 
•  The Shift: The violence in Iraq is changing from a low-grade civil war between Shiites and Sunnis to internecine fighting within each community.
•  The Background: Rival groups, likened by one U.S. commander to organized-crime families, are battling for power, influence, and money. Some U.S. commanders believe the groups are jockeying to be in dominant positions if Iraq is partitioned into three homogenous ministates.
•  What's Next: U.S. military commanders are trying to decide whether to intervene in the fighting, a move that could boost the forces friendliest to American interests but also runs the risk of inflaming the Iraqi population.Proponents, such as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (D., Del.), say they believe that creating ministates populated exclusively by Shiites, Sunnis or Kurds offers the best chance of gradually pacifying Iraq. Late last month, the Senate overwhelmingly endorsed a nonbinding partition plan.

But the internecine strife suggests that dividing the country into three autonomous regions might present new problems, as armed groups within each sectarian community pursue control over their newly created ministates.

"People think that all of the violence in Iraq is Sunni on Shia or Shia on Sunni, but it's not," said Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, who commands the army's Third Infantry Division, in an interview in Iraq last month. "It's guys from the same communities fighting each other for power, money and influence."

Gen. Lynch likens the strife to the fights among organized-crime families. "I tell my guys, the best way they can prepare before they come out here is to watch 'The Sopranos,'" he said, referring to the popular U.S. television mob drama.

U.S. commanders also stress that sectarian violence continues in areas such as in the ethnically mixed neighborhoods of Baghdad and other major cities.

Iraq's overall level of bloodshed has been steadily declining, in part because of the U.S. "surge" policy of sending more U.S. troops into the country. The number of Americans killed in Iraq fell from 84 in August to 63 in September and, according to the Iraqi government, Iraqi civilian fatalities fell by nearly half. Twenty-nine U.S. soldiers had been killed in October, as of yesterday.

Another reason for the drop, U.S. commanders suggested, stems from the evolving nature of the fighting here. They said the conflict was beginning to shift from open warfare between Shiite and Sunni militias -- which often targeted civilians from the other sect -- to battles within the communities themselves. That has resulted in fewer casualties.

 FIGHT FOR IRAQ

 
 
See continuing coverage of developments in Iraq, including an interactive map of day-to-day events in Iraq and a tally of military deaths.Several U.S. commanders based in different parts of Iraq said they saw the internecine violence as a sign that Iraq's major sects were preparing for when, in the near future, they are expected to work out a viable power-sharing arrangement for the country.

The commanders said rival players within each sect were jockeying now to ensure that they are seen as spokesmen for their community in any future negotiations.

"These internal struggles are all about securing your position relative to the other guys," Lt. Col. David Oclander, executive officer of the 82nd Airborne Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said last month.

The intrasectarian violence has been particularly acute in Shiite areas of Baghdad and oil-rich southern Iraq, where cleric Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army and Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council leader Abdul-Aziz al Hakim's Badr Corps have been battling over oil, smuggling routes and patronage jobs.

"For a guy like Sadr, the goal is to maneuver and maneuver so that when things begin to shake themselves out, he can say, 'I speak for the Shia,'" said Col. Oclander.

In the past two months, the Shiite governors of Muthanna and Qadariyah provinces, both loyal to Mr. Hakim, were assassinated in attacks attributed to fighters loyal to Mr. Sadr. Gun battles between the two militias left more than 50 dead during a Shiite pilgrimage in Karbala.

Messrs. Sadr and Hakim issued a joint declaration in early October calling for a cease-fire between their groups. But Mr. Sadr has struggled to control his militia in the past, and several U.S. commanders said they were unsure whether the agreement would endure.

 
The struggle between the competing Shiite factions is posing policy dilemmas for U.S. commanders. They are trying to decide whether to back Mr. Hakim's fighters, who are seen as being relatively more friendly to U.S. interests in the country, or whether it would be too dangerous to intervene.

In Sunni areas, the U.S. is already involved, funneling money and other supplies to Sunni tribal militias that have been battling al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni religious militants. Commanders said these alliances have contributed to a steep decline in violence in once-restive parts of Iraq, such as Anbar Province.

U.S. commanders hope to build similar relationships with Shiite tribal leaders. U.S. officers said growing numbers of Shiite sheiks, alarmed by Mr. Sadr's radicalism and the continuing intra-Shiite bloodshed, are beginning to share intelligence tips and discuss more formal alliances with the U.S forces.

Many U.S. commanders remain divided over whether to intervene directly in the infighting between the Mahdi Army and the Badr Corps, given the possibility that such a move could inflame large portions of Iraq's Shiite majority.

In an interview last month, Lt. Col. Peter Andrysiak, then-deputy commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, said the U.S. "can and should" support the Badr Corps in its fight with the Mahdi Army. He argued that Mr. Hakim's militia is broadly supportive of the Iraqi government while Mr. Sadr's forces aren't.

"Badr is reconcilable, and we can win them over. JAM is not," he said, using the military's acronym for the Arabic name of Mr. Sadr's forces, the Jaish al-Mahdi.

Other senior officers disagreed. "It's a dangerous thought process, once you start down that path," Gen. Lynch said.

Write to Yochi J. Dreazen at yochi.dreazen@wsj.com
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« Reply #395 on: October 29, 2007, 08:07:13 AM »

The Middle East War thread today has analysis on the Kurds, US, and Turkey.  This NY Times piece focuses on the Kurds.
=======

By SABRINA TAVERNISE
Published: October 29, 2007
RANIYA, Iraq, Oct. 27 — A low-slung concrete building off a steep mountain road marks the beginning of rebel territory in this remote corner of northern Iraq. The fighters based here, Kurdish militants fighting Turkey, fly their own flag, and despite urgent international calls to curb them, they operate freely, receiving supplies in beat-up pickup trucks less than 10 miles from a government checkpoint.

Skip to next paragraph
 
The New York Times

Multimedia
Map
Hiding in Rugged Terrain
Related
Turkey Attacks Kurdish Rebel Positions (October 29, 2007)
Petraeus Says U.S. Seeking Calm in North (October 29, 2007) “Our condition is good,” said one fighter, putting a heaping spoonful of sugar into his steaming tea. “How about yours?” A giant face of the rebels’ leader — Abdullah Ocalan, now in a Turkish prison — has been painted on a nearby slope.

The rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., is at the center of a crisis between Turkey and Iraq that began when the group’s fighters killed 12 Turkish soldiers on Oct. 21, prompting Turkey, a NATO member, to threaten an invasion.

But the P.K.K. continues to operate casually here, in full view of Iraqi authorities. The P.K.K.’s impunity is rooted in the complex web of relationships and ambitions that began with the American-led invasion of Iraq more than four years ago, and has frustrated others with an interest in resolving the crisis — the Turks, Iraqis and the Bush administration.

The United States responded to the P.K.K. raid by putting intense pressure on Iraq’s Kurdish leaders who control the northern area where the rebels hide, with a senior State Department official delivering a rare rebuke last week over their “lack of action” in curbing the P.K.K.

But even with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice scheduled to visit Istanbul this week, Kurdish political leaders seemed in no hurry to act.

An all-out battle is out of the question, they argue, because the rugged terrain makes it impossible to dislodge them.

“Closing the camps means war and fighting,” said Azad Jindyany, a senior Kurdish official in Sulaimaniya, a regional capital. “We don’t have the army to do that. We did it in the past, and we failed.”

But even logistical flows remain uninterrupted, despite the fact that Iraqi Kurdish leaders have some of the most precise and extensive intelligence networks in the country. As the war has worsened, the United States has come to depend increasingly on the Kurds as partners in running Iraq and as overseers of the one part of the country where some of their original aspirations are actually being met.

Iraqi Kurdish officials, for their part, appear to be politely ignoring American calls for action, saying the only serious solution is political, not military. They have taken their own path, allowing the guerrillas to exist on their territory, while at the same time quietly trying to persuade them to stop attacks.

“They have allowed the P.K.K. to be up there,” said Mark Parris, a former American ambassador to Turkey who is now at the Brookings Institution. “That couldn’t have happened without their permitting them to be there. That’s their turf. It’s as simple as that.”

The situation poses a puzzle to the United States, which badly wants to avert a new front in the war, but finds itself forced to choose between two trusted allies — Turkey, a NATO member whose territory is the transit area for most of its air cargo to Iraq, and the Kurds, their closest partners in Iraq.

The United States “is like a man with two wives,” said one Iraqi Kurd in Sulaimaniya. “They quarrel, but he doesn’t want to lose either of them.”

Kurds are one of the world’s largest ethnic groups without a state, numbering more than 25 million, spread across Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.

Most live in Turkey, which has curtailed their rights, fearing secession. The P.K.K. wants an autonomous Kurdish area in eastern Turkey, and has repeatedly attacked the Turkish military, and sometimes the civilian population, since the 1980s, in a conflict that has left more than 30,000 dead.

In this small town a short drive from the edge of rebel territory, and in Sulaimaniya, 55 miles to the south, it is business as usual. A political party affiliated with the rebel group is open and holding meetings. Pickup trucks zip in and out of the group’s territory, and a government checkpoint a short drive away from the area acts as a friendly tour guide. Its soldiers said they had waved through eight cars of journalists on one day last week.

Mala Bakhtyar, a senior member in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party that governs this northeastern region, said there had been no explicit orders from Baghdad to limit the P.K.K., and scoffed at last week’s statement by the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, that Iraq would close the P.K.K.’s offices, saying they had already been shut long ago.

“They are guests, but they are making their living by themselves,” Mr. Bakhtyar said. “We don’t support them.”

He added: “We don’t agree with them. We don’t like to make a fight with Turkey.”

--------------

Fayeq Mohamed Goppy, a leader in the Kurdistan Democratic Solution Party, an offshoot of the P.K.K. that still operates freely, argues that Iraqi Kurdish leaders are only paying lip service to wanting the P.K.K. to leave. In reality, the politicians want the separatists around as protection against Sunni Arab extremists, who most Iraqi Kurds believe will move in if the P.K.K. leaves the mountains.

Skip to next paragraph
Multimedia
Map
Hiding in Rugged Terrain
Related
Turkey Attacks Kurdish Rebel Positions (October 29, 2007)
Petraeus Says U.S. Seeking Calm in North (October 29, 2007) Noshirwan Mustafa, a prominent Kurdish leader, said the area was as impenetrable as the mountains in Pakistan where leaders of Al Qaeda and the Taliban are thought to be hiding. “For me, the P.K.K. is better than the Taliban,” he said.

Local Kurdish authorities have asked Mr. Goppy to keep a low profile, including canceling a planned conference in Erbil, he said, but otherwise have not limited his activities.

“They really don’t want P.K.K. to go,” he said in an interview in his home in Sulaimaniya. If the group is eliminated, the Iraqi Kurdish area “is a really small piece for eating, very easy to swallow.”

Mr. Parris argues that the Kurdish leader of northern Iraq, Massoud Barzani, ever astute, is holding onto the P.K.K. as a future bargaining chip with Turkey, and will not use it until he absolutely has to.

“The single most important piece of negotiating capital may very well be his ability to take care of the P.K.K.,” he said.

Mr. Jindyany said local authorities would be happy to get rid of them if they could, calling the situation a sword of Damocles for Iraqi Kurds.

Throughout its history in northern Iraq, which dates back to the early 1980s, under an agreement with Mr. Barzani, the P.K.K. has had contentious relations with Iraqi Kurdish leaders. It fought in their civil wars, against Mr. Barzani in 1997, and three years later, against Jalal Talabani, a powerful Kurd who is now the president of Iraq.

But since the American invasion in 2003, the political landscape has changed. Iraqi Kurds, emboldened by their secure position, have stopped fighting each other and turned their attentions to other threats like Turkey, a state that has long oppressed its Kurdish population, and Islamic extremism from Baghdad.

This area of northern Iraq, which Iraqis call Kurdistan, in some ways eclipsed the P.K.K.’s struggle for an autonomous Kurdish area, Iraqi Kurds said.

“They were jealous of our autonomy,” said Goran Kader, a Communist Party leader in Sulaimaniya. “They wanted to do the same thing in Turkey.”

At the same time, the P.K.K. was reorganizing, after its leader, Mr. Ocalan, was captured in 1999, and a skilled group of military commanders took over day-to-day operations, said Aliza Marcus, the author of “Blood and Belief: The P.K.K. and the Kurdish Fight for Independence.”

The commanders were intent on military escalation, she said, and stepped up attacks, under Mr. Ocalan’s jailhouse orders, in part to remain relevant.

“They don’t want to be sidelined,” Ms. Marcus said. “That’s really what’s driven them since 2004,” when attacks resumed after a five-year cease-fire. “They want to say, ‘Turkish Kurds are important too — don’t think the Kurdish problem has been solved.’ ”

The ambush of Turkish soldiers on Oct. 21, which took place just a few miles from the Iraqi border, served the purpose perfectly.

Public sympathy in Raniya and Sulaimaniya is enormous, and the fighters procure supplies and health care here with ease. Fighters do not go to hospitals, for fear of standing out — the ones from Turkey speak a different Kurdish dialect — but are treated in doctors’ homes, said one former fighter, an Iraqi Kurd who was recruited at age 14.

“Their organization is everywhere,” said the fighter, who now works as a police officer for the main political party, after surrendering to local authorities in 2003. “Their members are everywhere.”

To Iraqi Kurds, Turkey’s approach is pure politics. There is no military solution to the problem of the P.K.K., they say, because the terrain would never permit victory, and Turkey’s leaders know that.

The solution, Mr. Mustafa argued, lies with moderates in Turkey, who must push for an amnesty for the rebels. Militant Kurds, for their part, should take advantage of the political opening in Turkey — 20 Kurdish deputies are now serving in Parliament there.

“When you have the door to the Parliament open, why are you going to the caves?” he said.

To that aim, talks were held with intermediaries for the P.K.K., Mr. Bakhtyar said. Since then, the rebels have not attacked, and officials and security analysts say that if the quiet holds until Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meets with Ms. Rice on Friday and with President Bush three days later, he might not be pressured into military action.

“Soon there will be snow,” Mr. Kader said. “The roads will be blocked. That will be that until next year.”
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« Reply #396 on: October 30, 2007, 03:53:52 PM »

U.S.: U.S. State Department investigators have offered immunity deals to the Blackwater security guards who were involved in a Sept. 16 shootout in Baghdad, Agence France-Presse reported, citing The New York Times and The Washington Post. The State Department officials reportedly do not have the authority to grant immunity, and the FBI officials who took over the investigation of Blackwater cannot use information obtained by the State Department to prosecute the guards.

IRAQ, U.S.: A delegation of Iraqi tribal leaders plans to visit Washington to propose to U.S. officials that former officers from the disbanded Iraqi army be reinstated, IraqSlogger.com reported, citing Al-Malaf Press. Tribal leader Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha reportedly said the delegation will discuss ways to help Iraqi security forces become self-sufficient and face foreign challenges. He added that former Iraqi army officers can offer expertise in defending Iraq's borders.

IRAQ: The Iraqi Cabinet approved a draft law to end foreign security contractors' immunity from prosecution. The bill follows the Blackwater shooting incident on Sept. 16, when 17 Iraqis were killed, though the U.S. firm has said its guards acted lawfully. The legislation places foreign firms and those they employ under Iraqi law, an Iraqi government spokesman told Reuters. It also suggests requiring foreign security firms to register and apply for licenses to work in Iraq and proposes that all guards have weapons permits. Under the law, contractors with identity cards from the U.S. Defense Department would have to apply for entry visas. Further, it has been proposed that guards and the convoys they protect be subject to searches at Iraqi security checkpoints.

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« Reply #397 on: October 30, 2007, 11:28:56 PM »

Iraq, U.S.: A Sunni Signal to Iran
October 30, 2007 17 44  GMT



A delegation of Iraq's anti-jihadist Sunni tribal sheikhs is planning to visit Washington to meet with senior officials including U.S. President George W. Bush, Iraq's Al Malaf news agency reported Oct. 30. The tribal chiefs will discuss, among other issues, ways of improving security. They also will propose the reinstatement of high-ranking Iraqi officers from the disbanded army of the ousted Baathist regime. Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of the Anbar-based Iraq Awakening Movement, said he will call on the Bush administration "to support the Iraqi security forces to become self-sufficient in addressing any foreign challenge, and to stamp out the intelligence role that neighboring countries, and its (sic) influence on the security and political situation in Iraq." The report adds that the idea was to benefit from the accumulated battlefield expertise of the former officers' expertise in defending the borders of Iraq from external forces.

Considering that these are Sunni tribal elements with ties to the now-defunct Baath Party, the unnamed foreign power with whom they have experience fighting is Iran. These Sunni elements have despised the takeover of the country's security and intelligence apparatus by Iraqi Shia and their Iranian patrons. Abu Risha and his allies are trying to take advantage of the recent rise in U.S.-Iranian tensions over Iraq and align with Washington in the Sunni bid to combat Iranian domination of Iraq. Conversely, the United States also benefits immensely from the move because it signals to the Iranians that they either cut a deal with the United States instead of aligning with Russia or face the prospect of the revival of the Baathist military structure -- the only force capable of mucking up Iranian plans to dominate Iraq.

We fully expect the Iranians will get the message, and that they will be more than a little concerned. But we do not expect them to yield on the issue. Instead, they probably will try to counter the U.S. moves. This will manifest itself as the Iraqi Shia backing away from the review of the de-Baathification law. The Iranians want in on all U.S.-Sunni dealings, but they are not going to come to the table easily.

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« Reply #398 on: October 31, 2007, 12:27:17 PM »

In Baghdad Neighborhood,
A Tale of Shifting Fortunes
By PHILIP SHISHKIN
October 31, 2007; Page A1

BAGHDAD -- In many neighborhoods across the Iraqi capital, Shiite Muslims have defeated their Sunni cousins in the civil war that's raged here over the past two years.

Shiites, marginalized under Saddam Hussein, have been able to seize real estate, businesses and municipal services from Sunnis. A mafia-like network of Shiite militias has engineered the takeover of entire neighborhoods. Of the 51 members on Baghdad's City Council, only one is Sunni; the police are almost entirely Shia.

 
Riyad Obaidi, center, standing next to policeman in blue cap, in Sayidia.
The central government here says the violence is winding down, and the U.S. military points out that civilian deaths have declined recently. But a new, quieter chapter of the civil war is unfolding. Shiite groups are trying to consolidate their on-the-ground gains and push into neighborhoods that have so far eluded their control. The Sunnis, pressed into a corner, are looking for new ways to fight back. In some cases, they've joined their former American enemies as allies.

Nowhere is this dynamic more evident than in the city's Sayidia section, a majority-Sunni enclave where Sunnis and Shiites had lived in relative peace. While other pockets of Sunni resistance remain, this district of 30,000 has emerged as the biggest theater in the battle against Shiite militants.

In February, a white sedan swerved and flipped over in front of Riyad Obaidi's home in Sayidia. The passengers clambered out and ran. Hearing a tapping sound, Mr. Obaidi approached the car and opened the trunk. A hog-tied and terrified elderly Sunni man tumbled out.

Shiite gunmen had just killed the man's son, the captive said, and packed the father off for a bumpy ride to an almost-certain death. Mr. Obaidi, a Sunni himself, had just fled to Sayidia after Shiite militias overran his old neighborhood. Shocked by the man's story, he decided to join a local band of Sunni fighters.

"When Sunnis were displaced from other areas, Sayidia became the most important place for us," he says.

Shiite forces now control more than half of Baghdad's neighborhoods. Shiite Arabs comprise roughly 60% of Iraq's total population; the remaining 40% are split between Sunni Arabs and Kurds, plus a few smaller minority groups.

Under Saddam Hussein, Sayidia, almost 70% Sunni, was home to many ranking military officers and educated elite. Well-off professionals lived here, too. Its shopping streets were among the best in the capital. "You used to see castles, not just houses, with swimming pools. It was a very rich area," says Abu Ibrahim, a dentist who used to live there.

Karim Obaidi, Riyad Obaidi's brother and a colonel in Mr. Hussein's air force, remembers the 2003 fall of Baghdad with remorse. "It was the first time in my life that I cried," Karim recalls. The Americans disbanded the Iraqi army, and the veteran fighter pilot took off his uniform, came back home to Sayidia and joined the anti-American resistance.

Other unemployed military officers from the area joined the insurgency, but the neighborhood itself remained relatively peaceful. Sayidia still held traces of its old affluence as late as last October. Shops were open, people were trimming hedges in front of their homes, and trash was collected on time.

But all around the district, other neighborhoods were falling under the sway of Shiite militants. The broader municipal area that includes Sayidia, known as West Rashid, is home to some 800,000 residents, or about one-fifth of Baghdad's total population. American officers stationed here have watched as Shiite militias made steady inroads. "Within West Rashid, the Shia have gained a lot of neighborhoods that weren't Shia in 2003," says U.S. Army Maj. John Cross.

 
Reconciliation is crucial to making Iraq a functioning state -- and a key condition for the eventual withdrawal of U.S. troops. But as Baghdad's few mixed areas yield to Shiite forces, that goal becomes harder to achieve. "If communities and their leaders can come together in mixed neighborhoods and hammer out some understandings, that's critical," says Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

Riyad Obaidi used to manage some 200 small shops in a mixed neighborhood next to Sayidia. Shopkeepers paid him rent. But when his leases came up for renewal, local Shiite militants muscled him out and told him to leave the area, he says. Around the same time, another Obaidi brother who ran a parking lot nearby was strangled with a rubber cord. Mr. Obaidi got the message and fled to Sayidia, where his brother, the colonel, lived. It was fast becoming the only safe haven for Sunnis in West Rashid.

Things weren't that way for long. Shiite militants started infiltrating Sayidia from adjacent areas under their control. According to U.S. military officials, their movements were often aided by the Shiite-dominated Iraqi police. "We were surrounded," says Omar Mohammed, a local Sunni resident.

Late last year, the Iraqi police started setting up a maze of checkpoints throughout Sayidia. Shiite militants would often be lurking nearby. Reports of kidnappings of Sunnis in the vicinity of checkpoints started piling up in the spring, according to U.S. officers and local Sunni activists.

In one recent incident, plainclothes gunmen ambushed a car carrying two Sunni political activists after police pulled them over at a checkpoint. The gunmen shot at the ground and then aimed their fire at the two Sunnis, according to an American account of the incident. The two men managed to get away with minor gunshot wounds.

Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, says the accusations that the police are working with Shiite militants are unsubstantiated. "The police forces represent the government, and the government doesn't support one side against the other," he says.

Shiite forces also targeted basic services in the neighborhood, according to U.S. military officials. Electricity lines were cut. Water delivery became erratic. Trash collectors were murdered.

Sunni shop owners were ordered to close down. Shiite gunmen raided Sunni mosques. Last month, only one of 11 mosques remained open. Sunnis started to leave Sayidia. House rents, once among the highest in Baghdad, plummeted.

But some Sunni residents also started fighting back. Mr. Obaidi, the air force colonel, joined a ragtag Sunni militia that started challenging Shiite gunmen, battling it out with them in the streets. His brother Riyad, shocked by the man he found in the trunk of the car, joined him.

"Almost every night we fought," says Riyad. Gunfire became so frequent and indiscriminate that local resident Abu Hassan observed that fronds of a palm tree in front of his house had become shredded by bullets.

Still, Shiite militants gained ground, and a new band of combatants entered the fray early this year: extremist fighters from al-Qaeda in Iraq, a fundamentalist Sunni group known for slaughtering Shiites. Al-Qaeda fighters trickled into Sayidia through a neighboring enclave called Dora.

Just east of Sayidia, Dora is one of the last exclusively Sunni parts of Baghdad, and it opens out onto Sunni-controlled belts that wind along the outskirts of the Iraqi capital. Dora is home to battle-hardened Sunni militants, and gunfire aimed at American patrols crackles throughout the sprawling district.

Sayidia's desperate Sunnis were initially happy to see the new fighters, hoping they would help fend off the Shiite onslaught. "The Sunnis had no choice but to receive al-Qaeda, because nobody else was protecting them" says Mr. Ibrahim, the Sayidia dentist.

Instead, the Sunni extremists embarked on a simple but brutal strategy: kill any Shiite they could get their hands on. A peaceful Shiite population had always resided in the neighborhood. They were now targets.

Ali al-Ameri, a Shiite, lost two brothers in Sayidia's increasingly chaotic clashes. One worked as a carpenter and was gunned down in his shop. The other went to check on a malfunctioning electricity generator and disappeared. The murder rate in Sayidia went through the roof.

Sayidia's Sunnis, who initially tolerated al-Qaeda, soon realized the group had no interest in protecting them -- only a desire to kill Shiites. Far from being any sort of ally, al-Qaeda was living up to its reputation for inciting violence.

Sayidia's Sunni residents regrouped. Recruited by a major Sunni political party, some 300 Sunni fighters joined an ad-hoc police unit that would provide a counterweight to the neighborhood's Shiite-dominated cops. The Americans patrolling Sayidia, desperate for a solution, went along with the plan. They screened applicants and helped finance the unit, paying between $300 to $450 a month to each volunteer. Both Obaidi brothers passed muster and joined the force.

One morning last month, a dozen Sunni volunteers, including the Obaidi brothers, shared a checkpoint with a regular police unit. The joint watch was tense, with the Shiite police heckling the Sunni outfit. "Make sure you shave your beards, so you look like soldiers, not like men from a mosque," a Shiite officer teased a huddle of Sunni volunteers, most of whom were clean-shaven.

Local Sunnis -- who had grown so terrified of the checkpoints that many procured fake IDs with Shia-sounding names -- were happy to see Sunni volunteers on the streets.

The new Sunni presence enraged Nahil al-Musawi, a prominent Shiite cleric and a member of the Baghdad City Council. He's not originally from Sayidia but chose to rent a house in the neighborhood, and he started leading prayers at a local Shiite mosque.

Mr. al-Musawi and his supporters accused the Sunni volunteers of burning Shia shops and houses, and complained to the central government. The Americans, who closely monitor the new force, say they have no evidence the Sunni guards have done anything improper.

Early this month, the Iraqi government issued an order banning the Sunni battalion from the streets. "It was like a punch in the gut to get that order," says Maj. Cross.

Shiite militants, with their sophisticated roadside bombs, pose as much of a threat to American lives as the most battle-hardened Sunni insurgents.

Under pressure from the Iraqi government, the U.S. is now trying to recruit some Shia volunteers into the force, so that it can be allowed back on the streets. Mr. al-Musawi is insisting that the group include Shiites, not just Sunnis.

But the Americans scored their own small victory. They've repeatedly complained to the Iraqi government that Sayidia's official, Shia-dominated police unit has been harassing local Sunnis. Last month, the government replaced the unit with an Iraqi army battalion. Though also almost exclusively Shia, it is far less sectarian than the old guard, according to local residents and U.S. troops in the area.

Mr. al-Musawi, the Shiite cleric, has pushed the transformation of Sayidia in other ways. In early September, he convened a meeting of what he said were displaced Sayidia residents at the local police headquarters. He told American military officials that his meeting was an attempt at reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites.

The room that day was filled with over a hundred people. But American officers who attended noticed there were almost no Sunnis in the room, a fact Mr. al-Musawi doesn't deny. A few days later, workmen lifted concrete barriers from an approach road to a residential block in the neighborhood, and two dozen Shiite families who had attended the meeting drove through the breach.

Panic spread among Sunni residents as plainclothes gunmen went door to door, ordering Sunnis to vacate their houses. U.S. officers rushed to the scene. Most of the new Shia arrivals couldn't produce titles to homes they claimed were theirs, so the Americans turned them back.

Fingering red prayer beads on a recent day, the black-turbaned Mr. al-Musawi says that Sayidia had always been a majority-Shia area. "Most people who suffered in Sayidia are Shia," he says.

Write to Philip Shishkin at philip.shishkin@wsj.com
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« Reply #399 on: November 07, 2007, 12:30:30 PM »

A long and thoughtful piece from Col. Ralph Peters
http://armedforcesjournal.com/2007/10/3026423
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