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Power User
Posts: 29616

« Reply #850 on: July 22, 2013, 05:20:35 PM »

HUGE PRISON BREAK IN IRAQ: 500 Escape Including Senior Al-Qaeda Members Who Were Due To Be Executed
Kareem Raheem and Ziad al-Sinjary, Reuters   Jul. 22, 2013, 4:47 PM 5,292 12


Iraqi security forces at Abu Ghraib prison.

The deadly raid on the high-security jail happened as Sunni Muslim militants are re-gaining momentum in their insurgency against the Shi'ite-led government that came to power after the U.S. invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.

Suicide bombers drove cars packed with explosives to the gates of the prison on the outskirts of Baghdad on Sunday night and blasted their way into the compound, while gunmen attacked guards with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

Other militants took up positions near the main road, fighting off security reinforcements sent from Baghdad as several militants wearing suicide vests entered the prison on foot to help free the inmates.

Ten policemen and four militants were killed in the ensuing clashes, which continued until Monday morning, when military helicopters arrived, helping to regain control.

By that time, hundreds of inmates had succeeded in fleeing Abu Ghraib, the prison made notorious a decade ago by photographs showing abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers.

"The number of escaped inmates has reached 500, most of them were convicted senior members of al Qaeda and had received death sentences," Hakim Al-Zamili, a senior member of the security and defense committee in parliament, told Reuters.

"The security forces arrested some of them, but the rest are still free."

One security official told Reuters on condition of anonymity: "It's obviously a terrorist attack carried out by al Qaeda to free convicted terrorists with al Qaeda."

A simultaneous attack on another prison, in Taji, around 20 km (12 miles) north of Baghdad, followed a similar pattern, but guards managed to prevent any inmates escaping. Sixteen soldiers and six militants were killed.


Sunni insurgents, including the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq, have been regaining strength in recent months and striking on an almost daily basis against Shi'ite Muslims and security forces amongst other targets.

The violence has raised fears of a return to full-blown conflict in a country where Kurds, Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims have yet to find a stable way of sharing power.

In the northern city of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle packed with explosives behind a military convoy in the eastern Kokchali district, killing at least 22 soldiers and three passers-by, police said.

Suicide bombings are the hallmark of al Qaeda, which has been regrouping in Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city and capital of the Sunni-dominated Nineveh province.

A separate attack in western Mosul killed four policemen, police said.

Relations between Islam's two main denominations have been put under further strain from the civil war in Syria, which has drawn in Shi'ite and Sunni fighters from Iraq and beyond to fight against each other.

Recent attacks have targeted mosques, amateur football matches, shopping areas and cafes where people gather to socialize after breaking their daily fast for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

Nearly 600 people have been killed in militant attacks across Iraq so far this month, according to violence monitoring group Iraq Body Count.

That is still well below the height of bloodletting in 2006-07, when the monthly death toll sometimes exceeded 3,000.

(Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and Suadad al-Salhy in Baghdad; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

Read more:
Power User
Posts: 29616

« Reply #851 on: August 29, 2013, 10:22:01 AM »


The tempo of deadly attacks has quickened in Iraq, with coordinated bombings and other assaults occurring almost daily since the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. On Aug. 28, for example, some 12 devices reportedly detonated simultaneously in mostly Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, killing 30 people and wounding another 160. Casualties over the past four months have reached their highest levels since the sectarian conflict that raged from 2006 to 2008 during U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom. Near-daily attacks seem likely to continue, but the dramatic rise in violence in Iraq does not portend a return to total instability.

A close look at the tactics, target sets and geographical locations of recent operations indicates that there has not been a marked increase in militant capabilities, despite the high casualty counts. Moreover, militants have avoided attacking critical economic installations and important government targets, and the violence has not disrupted Iraq's delicate balance of power, which has helped facilitate the country's reconstruction after a decade of war.

Coordinated, high-casualty attacks like those on Aug. 28 have become common in Iraq since the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country at the end of 2011. The majority of operations, which are carried out by groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, have been concentrated in certain geographic regions against similar targets by insurgents using a standard set of tactics.

Iraq's Limited Risk of Civil War

The violence has occurred primarily in regions around Baghdad, Tikrit, Kirkuk and Mosul. Less frequently, militants have also attacked national security forces stationed in Sunni regions and targets deeper into areas traditionally controlled by Shia. The geographic focus of the attacks indicates that the reach of militants is limited to areas in which they can routinely operate freely, typically where the Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish spheres of influence intersect.
Small Attacks, Soft Targets

The high daily casualty rates are typically achieved by detonating multiple devices dispersed across large areas. Exact details of the attacks are elusive, but the fact that there are relatively few casualties and relatively little structural damage in each explosion suggests the use of weak vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices and small improvised explosive devices placed in cars rather than traditional car bombs. Suicide vests have also been used, albeit less frequently, and while small-scale small arms attacks are common, they have been used only rarely in large, coordinated assaults.

Civil War is Unlikely in Iraq Despite a Surge in Violence

Thus far, militants appear to be taking a path of least resistance, preferring softer targets to pillars of Iraqi stability. These targets include civilians in residential areas and security personnel manning exposed checkpoints. More notable is what has not been attacked: oil transportation infrastructure, the revenues from which are critical to uniting Iraq's various power factions, and systems essential for daily needs, such as drinking water and electricity. Government buildings, including ministry headquarters, have also been spared.

Militants have occasionally carried out larger, more complex operations. For example, an assault freed several hundred prisoners from Abu Ghraib on July 21. The attack utilized vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, suicide vests and armed personnel infiltrating a hardened target. However, the prison was not as strategically significant or symbolic as other targets around Baghdad, and such sophisticated operations have remained relatively rare. Moreover, the spike in casualties during Ramadan was not due to improved capabilities among the militants but rather the wider availability of soft targets. Insurgents simply increased the tempo of their attacks to take advantage of the holiday.
Despite Vulnerabilities, a Resilience to Violence

The militants' preference for soft targets was caused in part by the success Iraqi security forces have had hardening and protecting critical targets. Iraqi forces have also proved capable of carrying out successful offensives against insurgent groups, such as one launched in western and central Iraq after the end of Ramadan that resulted in the arrests of more than 800 suspected militants. Still, Iraqi authorities cannot protect the entire country or project strength widely enough to degrade the insurgency. There are just too many targets and too few resources available to protect them, so the Iraqi government has prioritized hardening some targets while leaving others exposed.

Moreover, militants can take advantage of the vast, desolate desert regions in western Iraq, as well as in areas disputed between Kurdish and Iraqi authorities or the security vacuum in eastern Syria. Large, insecure areas with borders that restrict movements of security forces (or require coordination among authorities from multiple territories) serve as ideal sanctuaries for militants to plan operations, access supplies and project power.

For the time being, current levels of violence will likely continue in Iraq, without devolving fully into civil war. Iraqi stability has been achieved through careful cooperation among Sunni, Kurdish and Shiite authorities, and thus far militants have failed to destabilize the balance of power or provoke the three sides into fighting one other. If they are unable to fracture modern Iraq's power structures, militants will continue to achieve high body counts with daily attacks but little else. Iraq's resilience to bloodshed is high after years of war, and the country appears capable of absorbing the recent spike in violence as well. 

Read more: Iraq's Limited Risk of Civil War | Stratfor
Power User
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« Reply #852 on: October 16, 2013, 11:52:47 AM »

Underlining my repeated point that our exiting from Iraq will be revealed to have been a huge historical error.
Power User
Posts: 29616

« Reply #853 on: October 25, 2013, 11:34:46 AM »

Obama's decision to throw away success in Iraq begins to reify.

Violence Reverses Gains in Iraq
Matt Bradley and
Ali A. Nabhan
Oct. 24, 2013 7:37 p.m. ET

BAGHDAD—A flurry of recent attacks by al Qaeda-linked militants in Iraq—strengthened by their alliance with jihadist fighters in Syria—is threatening to undo years of U.S. efforts to crush the group, widening sectarian conflict in the Middle East.

The chaos across the border in Syria and Iraqi Sunnis' feeling of discrimination under the Shiite-led government has reignited the kind of intense sectarian strife that brought Iraq to the verge of civil war in 2006-2007. A security vacuum left by the withdrawal of American combat troops in December 2011 is also helping the fighters regain a foothold.

The civilian death toll so far this year is nearly double last year's, up to over 5,700 from at least 3,200. In July 2013 alone, 1,057 people were killed—the deadliest month for Iraqis in five years.

Iraqi security officials say al Qaeda-linked fighters from the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, are moving aggressively to re-establish a base of operations in Anbar province, the stronghold of the Sunni insurgency during the U.S.-led war.

If the extremists succeed, they would undo one of the hardest-fought gains of U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies. By the time of the U.S. pullout at the end of 2011, the insurgency had been significantly weakened, in large part by a U.S. alliance with moderate Sunni tribesmen.

"This is a strategic goal for ISIS to control the western part of Iraq," said Ammar Tou'ma, a member of the Iraqi parliament's security and defense committee. "In 2005 and 2006, they were controlling on the ground and used some areas as bases and training camps for their members and as a safe haven to carry out operations."

Sparsely populated Anbar province, with its majority Sunni population, sits on the porous frontier with Syria and borders Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Violence there has risen dramatically since the spring, when a mostly Sunni and primarily peaceful protest movement against the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad drew a violent response from security forces.
Enlarge Image

Iraqi policemen inspect the damage inside a building after clashes and suicide bomb attacks in Fallujah on Oct. 21. EPA

On Tuesday, at least 22 members of the security forces were killed in a series of suicide bombings and shootings, mostly in Anbar.

No group has claimed responsibility, but the high level of coordination and sophistication—one attack sparked a 10-hour standoff with security forces—points to the involvement of ISIS, which Iraqi and American intelligence forces believe is operating out of eastern Syria.

Following recent attacks in Anbar and the northern city of Mosul, Syrian and Iraqi jihadis openly congratulated ISIS operatives on jihadi Web forums.

Whereas attacks in the rest of the country tend to be isolated acts of terror such as car and suicide bombings, Anbar officials say attacks in the province look more like muscular efforts to gain and hold territory.

The growing instability in Iraq coincides with the strengthening of jihadist rebels in Syria, many of them foreign fighters, battling to unseat President Bashar al-Assad.

The fighters flow fluidly back and forth across the Iraq-Syria border, staging attacks on both sides, Iraqi intelligence officials said.

Cooperation has bolstered the main jihadist groups in both countries and caused an escalation of attacks in Iraq, the officials said.

Security officials in Anbar say the weapons al Qaeda uses in Anbar have become more sophisticated than those used by the police and military, reflecting a relatively new interchange in military hardware between Syria and western Iraq.

"The regional situation is applying huge pressure on us," said Falih al Essawi, the deputy head of Anbar provincial council and a member in a prominent Sunni tribe. "ISIS is trying to control the borders to find a means to transport weapons, equipment and fighters between the two countries."

In Syria, the Nusra Front, an al Qaeda-linked group, has been one of the most effective fighting forces in the revolt against Mr. Assad. But it has also contributed to divisions within the rebel camp and complicated Western efforts to aid the uprising because U.S. officials don't want to help the jihadists.

Iraqi and American intelligence agencies suspect Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of al Qaeda's Iraq division, is operating out of eastern Syria.

During the Iraq war, Syria's regime facilitated a flood of foreign fighters who flowed into Iraq. The militants were battling U.S. forces and the Shiite-led government that took over after Saddam Hussein's minority Sunni regime was ousted in the early days of the war.

American troops fought some costly battles against al Qaeda and its sympathizers in Anbar, particularly in the so-called Sunni Triangle, which extended from Fallujah near Baghdad westward to the provincial capital of Anbar, Ramadi.

U.S. and Iraqi forces were finally able to subdue Anbar province during the "surge" of 2007.

While most local residents in Anbar don't support al Qaeda, many see the group as a last bastion of resistance against Shiite domination.

"ISIS isn't facing any refusal or resistance from the locals," said Mr. Tou'ma, the Shiite legislator.

Iraq, and by extension Anbar, lies at the fulcrum of the Middle East's power struggle between Shiite-majority Iran and Sunni states such as Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Assad, who belongs to a sect that is an offshoot of Shiite Islam, has received substantial support from Iran and some tacit encouragement from Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who hasn't blocked Iranian flights suspected of carrying weapons over Iraqi airspace to Damascus, despite U.S. objections.

The Obama administration, in turn, has angered its Persian Gulf allies with its overtures to Iran and its decision not to intervene in Syria.

Inspired by the Arab uprisings sweeping the region, Sunnis in Anbar and other western provinces began weekly protests in December 2012, mostly against antiterrorism laws they claimed were disproportionately aimed at Sunnis.

When security forces killed more than 50 in a raid on a protest encampment in April, the protests evolved into a cycle of rising violence.
Power User
Posts: 29616

« Reply #854 on: October 30, 2013, 10:02:57 AM »

 BAGHDAD — Imagine how Americans would react if you had a terrorist organization operating on your own soil that killed dozens and maimed hundreds every week. For Iraqis, that isn’t a hypothetical question; Al Qaeda in Iraq and its affiliates are conducting a terrorist campaign against our people.

These terrorists aren’t just Iraq’s enemies. They are also America’s enemies. That is why, when I meet with President Obama on Friday, I plan to propose a deeper security relationship between the United States and Iraq to combat terrorism and address broader regional security concerns, including the conflict in Syria and the threat that proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons could pose in the region.

It has been almost two years since American troops withdrew from Iraq. And despite the terrorist threats we face, we are not asking for American boots on the ground. Rather, we urgently want to equip our own forces with the weapons they need to fight terrorism, including helicopters and other military aircraft so that we can secure our borders and protect our people. Hard as it is to believe, Iraq doesn’t have a single fighter jet to protect its airspace.

The United States is our security partner of choice, so we have been working with the U.S. government and American defense firms to procure the equipment we need. We see this as helping to solidify a relationship that we want to remain the cornerstone of our security strategy. Iraqis are grateful for the great sacrifices Americans have made on behalf of our country. But Iraq today is no longer a protectorate; it is a partner in what President Obama has described as “a normal relationship based on mutual interests and mutual respect.”

These mutual interests include combating terrorism and resolving the conflict in Syria. The war in Syria has become a magnet that attracts sectarian extremists and terrorists from various parts of the world and gathers them in our neighborhood, with many slipping across our all-too-porous borders. We do not want Syria or Iraq to become bases for Al Qaeda operations, and neither does the United States.

While the world sees Syria as a humanitarian tragedy, we also see an immediate threat to the security of our own country. Al Qaeda is engaged in a renewed, concerted campaign to foment sectarian violence and drive a wedge between our people. We will not let that happen again.

Because we do not want Syria to continue to attract violent extremists, much less cause a regional conflagration, our top priority is to end the bloodshed and achieve a negotiated settlement. The Iraqi government is serious about not allowing our own citizens to arm any side of the Syrian conflict.

We are also committed to preventing the territory, the waterways and, yes, the airspace of our country from being used by any outside entity to fuel the conflict in Syria. But, with many better-armed neighbors and no air force or air defenses to speak of, our ability to enforce this policy is limited. This is one of many reasons we are urgently seeking to improve our air defense capabilities.

After some initial differences, American and Iraqi policies toward Syria are converging. We are pleased by the agreement to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons and eager to support it in any way we can. No country would be more threatened than Iraq if these awful weapons fell into the hands of terrorists.

In our region, we worry not just about chemical weapons, but all weapons of mass destruction. We strongly support gradually transforming the Middle East into a nuclear-weapon-free-zone. (MARC: Translation:  Israel needs to give up its nukes too) And to underscore our commitment to this goal, Iraq recently became the 161st nation to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

As we combat violent extremism, we are striving to create and improve our vibrant democracy. Iraqis understand and respect the difference between terrorist attacks and peaceful protests. While resisting terrorists and militias, our government is responding to peaceful protesters by engaging in extensive dialogue through the formation of high-level coordinating committees, and we are working to address the demands of protesters. Since the end of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny in 2003, we have conducted more than five free elections, cementing our democracy and creating a coalition government that represents every region and religious group.

Ultimately, the answer to terrorism is progress. We have one of the world’s fastest-growing economies; it expanded by 9.6 percent in 2011 and 10.5 percent in 2012. Our oil production has increased by 50 percent since 2005, and we are expected to emerge as the world’s second largest energy exporter by 2030. We are reinvesting our energy revenues in rebuilding our infrastructure and reviving our education and health care systems. As we rebuild, Iraqis can be promising partners for American companies in all of these fields.

Iraq has matured into a country with democratic institutions. But we are in need of more training, education, practice — and patience.

We are on the road to security, democracy and prosperity. While we still have a long way to go, we want to walk that road together with the United States.

Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is the prime minister of Iraq.
Senators Warn Obama Before Iraq Leader’s Visit
Published: October 29, 2013


WASHINGTON — As Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq headed to Washington on Tuesday, an influential group of senators sent a strongly worded letter to President Obama warning that Mr. Maliki’s “mismanagement” of Iraqi politics had contributed to the surge of violence there.

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq is to meet with President Obama Friday.

Mr. Maliki, who is scheduled to meet with Mr. Obama on Friday, has signaled that he wants the United States to provide sophisticated weapons, including Apache attack helicopters, so that the Iraqi government can fight Al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent groups.

The letter, signed by ranking Democratic as well as Republican lawmakers, sought to put Mr. Maliki on notice that continued American support for Iraq would depend heavily on his willingness to share power with his nation’s Sunni and Kurdish minorities.

Mr. Maliki, a Shiite politician who became prime minister in 2006 with the support of the American ambassador to Baghdad, has often been accused of being sectarian and authoritarian. Those tendencies, the senators wrote, made Iraq more fertile ground for insurgents who have been mounting attacks with increasing frequency.

“This failure of governance is driving many Sunni Iraqis into the arms of Al Qaeda in Iraq and fueling the rise of violence,” the letter said.

Earlier on Tuesday, two of the senators spoke angrily in separate interviews about Mr. Maliki’s failure to unify the competing factions in Iraq. “He’s got a lot of work to do in terms of pulling together diverse elements of his country,” said Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who heads the Armed Services Committee. “He’s not done a particularly good job of it.”

Mr. Levin also criticized Mr. Maliki for acquiescing in, if not facilitating, Iran’s efforts to supply weapons to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, using flights through Iraqi airspace. “They’ve allowed overflights, Iranian planes, to supply Syria,” Mr. Levin said.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, which is to meet with Mr. Maliki on Wednesday, was even more critical of the Iraqi leader. “What he’s done is create a situation where the population is more accepting of what Al Qaeda is doing there because of his lack of inclusiveness,” Mr. Corker said.

The other senators who signed the letter were John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, both Republicans who have long taken a strong interest in Iraq; Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who is chairman of the Senator Foreign Relations Committee; and James M. Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma who is the ranking minority member of the Armed Services Committee.

In expressing alarm over the rising number of bombings and the deteriorating security situation in Iraq, the senators also appeared to chide Mr. Obama for not being more outspoken about developments there.

The letter emphasized that Mr. Maliki’s visit was an opportunity for Mr. Obama to “re-engage with the American people about the continuing strategic importance of Iraq.”

The last American troops left Iraq at the end of 2011 under an agreement signed by President George W. Bush and Mr. Maliki. The United States and Iraq have signed an agreement calling for cooperation on security and economic issues. But critics say that such cooperation has never fully developed.

In their letter, the senators urged the president to step up American efforts to help Iraq’s security force to fight terrorist groups, especially through the increased sharing of intelligence.

The senators stopped short of saying that such support should be withheld if Mr. Maliki did not adopt a more inclusive approach in governing. But they warned that the degree of American support for security assistance and arms sales would be influenced by Mr. Maliki’s “governance strategy.”

A major concern of many lawmakers is that American weapons supplied to the Iraqi government might be used by Mr. Maliki to crack down on his political opponents.

Mr. Maliki is leading a large delegation to Washington and is also scheduled to meet with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other senior officials.

In his remarks in Baghdad before flying to Washington, Mr. Maliki made clear that his priority was to secure support for sale of American arms and other forms of security assistance. “We will discuss security and intelligence in addition to arms needed by the military to fight terrorism,” he said.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2013, 10:57:42 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
Power User
Posts: 5527

« Reply #855 on: October 30, 2013, 12:00:41 PM »

How We Won in Iraq
And why all the hard-won gains of the surge are in grave danger of being lost today.

One of five internet pages, more at the link.  Free registration required or (contact me).

 The news out of Iraq is, once again, exceedingly grim. The resurrection of al Qaeda in Iraq -- which was on the ropes at the end of the surge in 2008 -- has led to a substantial increase in ethno-sectarian terrorism in the Land of the Two Rivers. The civil war next door in Syria has complicated matters greatly, aiding the jihadists on both sides of the border and bringing greater Iranian involvement in Mesopotamia. And various actions by the Iraqi government have undermined the reconciliation initiatives of the surge that enabled the sense of Sunni Arab inclusion and contributed to the success of the venture.  Moreover, those Iraqi government actions have also prompted prominent Sunnis to withdraw from the government and led the Sunni population to take to the streets in protest.  As a result of all this, Iraqi politics are now mired in mistrust and dysfunction.

This is not a road that Iraqis had to travel. Indeed, by the end of the surge in 2008, a different future was possible.  That still seemed to be the case in December 2011, when the final U.S. forces (other than a sizable security assistance element) departed; however, the different future was possible only if Iraqi political leaders capitalized on the opportunities that were present.  Sadly, it appears that a number of those opportunities were squandered, as political infighting and ethno-sectarian actions reawakened the fears of Iraq's Sunni Arab population and, until recently, also injected enormous difficulty into the relationship between the government in Baghdad and the leaders of the Kurdish Regional Government.

To understand the dynamics in Iraq -- and the possibilities that still exist, it is necessary to revisit what actually happened during the surge, a history now explored in a forthcoming book written by my executive officer at the time, Col. (Ret.) Peter Mansoor, now a professor of military history at the Ohio State University.

Leading the coalition military effort during the surge in Iraq in 2007 and 2008 was the most important endeavor -- and greatest challenge -- of my 37 years in uniform. The situation in Iraq was dire at the end of 2006, when President George W. Bush decided to implement the surge and selected me to command it. Indeed, when I returned to Baghdad in early February 2007, I found the conditions there to be even worse than I had expected. The deterioration since I had left Iraq in September 2005 after my second tour was sobering. The violence -- which had escalated dramatically in 2006 in the wake of the bombing of the Shiite al-Askari shrine in the Sunni city of Samarra -- was totally out of control. With well over 50 attacks and three car bombs per day on average in Baghdad alone, the plan to hand off security tasks to Iraqi forces clearly was not working. Meanwhile, the sectarian battles on the streets were mirrored by infighting in the Iraqi government and Council of Representatives, and those disputes produced a dysfunctional political environment. With many of the oil pipelines damaged or destroyed, electrical towers toppled, roads in disrepair, local markets shuttered, and government workers and citizens fearing for their lives, government revenue was down and the provision of basic services was wholly inadequate. Life in many areas of the capital and the country was about little more than survival.

In addition to those challenges, I knew that if there was not clear progress by September 2007, when I anticipated having to return to the United States to testify before Congress in open hearings, the limited remaining support on Capitol Hill and in the United States for the effort in Iraq would evaporate.

In short, President Bush had staked the final years of his presidency -- and his legacy -- on the surge, and it was up to those on the ground to achieve progress. In the end, that is what we did together, military and civilian, coalition and Iraqi. But as my great diplomatic partner Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and I used to note, Iraq was "all hard, all the time."

The Surge of Forces and the Surge of Ideas

The surge had many components. The most prominent, of course, was the deployment of the additional U.S. forces committed by President Bush -- nearly 30,000 of them in the end. Without those forces, we never could have achieved progress as quickly as we did. And, given the necessity to make progress by the hearings anticipated in September 2007, improvements before then were critical.

As important as the surge of forces was, however, the most important surge was what I termed "the surge of ideas" -- the changes in our overall strategy and operational plans. The most significant of these was the shift from trying to hand off security tasks to Iraqi forces to focusing on the security of the Iraqi people. The biggest of the big ideas that guided the strategy during the surge was explicit recognition that the most important terrain in the campaign in Iraq was the human terrain -- the people -- and our most important mission was to improve their security. Security improvements would, in turn, provide Iraq's political leaders the opportunity to forge agreements on issues that would reduce ethno-sectarian disputes and establish the foundation on which other efforts could be built to improve the lives of the Iraqi people and give them a stake in the success of the new state.

But improved security could be achieved only by moving our forces into urban neighborhoods and rural population centers. In the first two weeks, therefore, I changed the mission statement in the existing campaign plan to reflect this imperative. As I explained in that statement and the guidance I issued shortly after taking command, we had to "live with the people" in order to secure them. This meant reversing the consolidation of our forces on large bases that had been taking place since the spring of 2004. Ultimately, this change in approach necessitated the establishment of more than 100 small outposts and joint security stations, three-quarters of them in Baghdad alone.

The establishment of each of the new bases entailed a fight, and some of those fights were substantial. We knew that the Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias would do everything they could to keep our troopers from establishing a presence in areas where the warring factions were trying to take control -- and those areas were precisely where our forces were needed most. Needless to say, the insurgents and militias would do all that they could to keep us from establishing our new operating bases, sometimes even employing multiple suicide car bombers in succession in attempts to breach outpost perimeters. But if we were to achieve our goal of significantly reducing the violence, there was no alternative to living with the people -- specifically, where the violence was the greatest -- in order to secure them. Our men and women on the ground, increasingly joined during the surge by their Iraqi partners, courageously, selflessly, and skillfully did what was required to accomplish this goal.

"Clear, hold, and build" became the operative concept -- a contrast with the previous practice in many operations of clearing insurgents and then leaving, after handing off the security mission to Iraqi forces that proved incapable of sustaining progress in the areas cleared. Then -- Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, and his staff developed and oversaw the execution of these and the other operational concepts brilliantly. Indeed, in anticipation of the new approach, he ordered establishment of the initial joint security stations in the weeks before I arrived.  His successor in early 2008, then Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, did a similarly exemplary job as our operational commander for the final portion of the surge. On receiving the Corps' guidance, division and brigade commanders and their headquarters orchestrated the implementation of these concepts. And our company, battalion, and brigade commanders and their troopers translated the new strategy and operational concepts into reality on the ground in the face of determined, often barbaric enemies under some of the most difficult conditions imaginable.

But the new strategy encompassed much more than just moving off the big bases and focusing on security of the people. Improving security was necessary, but not sufficient, to achieve our goals in Iraq. Many other tasks also had to be accomplished.

The essence of the surge, in fact, was the pursuit of a comprehensive approach, a civil-military campaign that featured a number of important elements, the effects of each of which were expected to complement the effects of the others. The idea was that progress in one component of the strategy would make possible gains in other components. Each incremental step forward reinforced and gradually solidified overall progress in a particular geographic location or governmental sector. The surge forces clearly enabled more rapid implementation of the new strategy and accompanying operational concepts; however, without the changes in the strategy, the additional forces would not have achieved the gains in security and in other areas necessary for substantial reduction of the underlying levels of ethno-sectarian violence, without which progress would not have been sustained when responsibilities ultimately were transferred to Iraqi forces and government authorities.
(Much more at link)
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Posts: 29616

« Reply #856 on: October 31, 2013, 07:47:13 AM »

Following up on Doug's fascinating post of yesterday:

TAMPA, Fla.—The top U.S. commander in the Middle East said Iraq has entered a downward spiral of violence that threatens to drive the country's leader further into the hands of Iran and heighten sectarian tensions across the region.
Enlarge Image

Gen. Lloyd Austin talking to reporters at Fort Riley, Kansas, in a file photo from July 2012. Associated Press

With Iraqi security forces responding inadequately, U.S. officials are concerned that al Qaeda will develop a haven stretching from western Iraq into Syria.

"If left unchecked, we could find ourselves in a regional sectarian struggle that could last a decade," Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of the U.S. military's Central Command, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview here.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with Vice President Joe Biden and congressional leaders on Wednesday, at the start of a visit to Washington and is set to meet President Barack Obama on Friday.  The Washington visit comes at a pivotal moment. Gen. Austin and other U.S. officials have blamed the violence in part on decisions by Mr. Maliki's government to exclude most Sunni Muslims from access to any real power in the Shiite Muslim-majority country.

Baghdad's alienation of Sunnis has compounded the problems Iraq faces from the civil war raging in neighboring Syria, Gen. Austin said, prompting some Sunnis to support, or at least tolerate al Qaeda. Al Qaeda-linked Sunni extremists have killed thousands of Iraqis this year, most of them Shiites.

Gen. Austin said that Shiite groups haven't yet joined in the fighting in Iraq. But he said if violence continues, Shiites are likely to retaliate, plunging Iraq into even deeper violence.

Iraqi soldiers arrest suspected militants this week. U.S. officials worry Sunni violence is pushing Iraq closer to Iran. Reuters

"What we are very worried about is a continued downward spiral that takes you to a civil war," Gen. Austin said. "It could easily get worse."

The presence of undisputed militant strongholds could lead to a push by al Qaeda-aligned groups in Iraq and Syria to form what Gen. Austin called "a larger caliphate"—a conservative Islamic empire ruled by Shariah law, long a goal of al Qaeda.

The U.S. spent more than $800 billion on the Iraq war, based on Congressional Research Service estimates. But U.S. officials said this week that Mr. Maliki has squandered many of the advantages the U.S. left to him, including a well-trained military. Mr. Maliki has flirted with making Iranian-backed militias part of the nation's security force, a move some U.S. officials believe could further strengthen the influence of Tehran inside Iraq. Gen. Austin said the increased power of al Qaeda in western Iraq has prompted Mr. Maliki to seek closer ties with Shiite-majority Iran.

"We do worry that this has driven Maliki further into the hands of the Iranians, I think it has a bit," Gen. Austin said.

Lukman Faily, Iraq's ambassador to the U.S. "categorically" denied the Iraqi government was reaching out to Iran for assistance. He said there were many causes of the rising violence in Iraq, including growing sectarian tension across the Middle East.

"We have no doubt the situation is a multilayered issue," he said. "One primary driver is spillover from Syria and the whole region is becoming more polarized."

Senior U.S. administration officials said Wednesday they were increasing intelligence cooperation with the Iraqis, but declined to provide specifics.

"We want to help the Iraqis have a better vision of what they face, so they can target it effectively," one official said.

The U.S. withdrew its forces from Iraq in December 2011. Since then, a small contingent of military officers has operated out of the U.S. Embassy, but there has been little U.S. training or advising of Iraqi forces.  U.S. officials said Iraq remained opposed to any overt presence of American troops. Still, Iraqi officials said they were open to more cooperation with the Defense Department.  Gen. Austin said a closer working relationship between the U.S. and Iraq was possible. "It is wise to help in any way we can, whenever we can," Gen. Austin said. "I do think there is some opportunity here. It will depend on whether their leadership wants the help."

U.S. military officials say many Iraqi units have seemingly forgotten their U.S. training, eschewing targeted raids on al Qaeda camps for heavy-handed tactics that have punished whole Sunni communities and are driving more Iraqis to back extremists. "The Iraqi government's tactics are accelerating the violence," said a military official.

Gen. Austin said the violence could be reversible if the government pursues policies that make the Sunni minority feel better represented.  He said a revival of the Sunni Awakening movement, an American program that paid salaries to Sunni militias to fight al Qaeda-aligned militants, could help counter the rising violence. A bipartisan group of lawmakers this week called on Mr. Obama for greater intelligence sharing. Some lawmakers and defense analysts have said now is a good time to reset the relationship between U.S. and Iraq.

Mr. Faily said the government has taken recent steps to reach out to Sunnis and address their concerns. He also said the delegation discussed with Mr. Biden a revival of the Sunni Awakening program. But Mr. Faily added that without more-powerful American weapons, Iraq's security forces cannot move effectively against al Qaeda.

Iraq officials met with U.S. lawmakers Wednesday to press for further arm sales, including the transfer of Apache attack helicopters, arguing they are needed to counter the heavy machine guns of al Qaeda fighters.

In the letter, released Tuesday night, lawmakers including Sens. John McCain (R., Ariz.), Carl Levin (D., Mich.), expressed similar concerns as Gen. Austin about rising violence in Iraq.  The lawmakers said Mr. Maliki's visit for a meeting with Mr. Obama—his first since December 2011—is an opportunity for the administration to press him to change his leadership style and be more inclusive.

"An Iraqi political strategy should involve sharing greater national power and revenue with Sunni Iraqis, reconciling with Sunni leaders, and ending…policies of blanket retribution," the senators wrote.
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« Reply #857 on: November 02, 2013, 10:35:26 AM »

Can Iraq Be Saved?
Published: November 1, 2013 207 Comments

With Iraq wracked by the worst violence in three years, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki was in Washington this week looking for military aid and other help. This was quite a turnabout, since he had essentially forced American troops to leave in 2011. Since then, the pressures in Iraq have grown, and Mr. Maliki bears much responsibility for the current turmoil.

His plea for assistance is urgent because Al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni group and Al Qaeda affiliate that was significantly degraded in 2008, is again a major threat, stoking war against Iraq’s majority Shiites. Since January, more than 7,000 people have been killed in bombings and shootings in outdoor markets, cafes, bus stations, mosques and pilgrimages in Shiite areas.

Al Qaeda in Iraq waged a virulent insurgency that brought the country near civil war in 2006 and 2007, then suffered big defeats from Iraqi Sunni tribal groups and American forces. Since the Americans withdrew, the group has gained strength against Iraqi forces that are incapable of fully protecting civilians and has taken in fighters spilling in from neighboring Syria. These are serious problems. Mr. Maliki, however, has been playing a central role in the disorder. There is no doubt that militant threats would be less pronounced now if he had united the country around shared goals rather than stoked sectarian conflict.

Instead, he has wielded his power to favor his Shiite majority brethren at the expense of the minority Sunnis. The Sunnis, banished from power after Saddam Hussein’s ouster, have grown more bitter as they have been excluded from political and economic life. Mr. Maliki is also at odds with the Kurds, the country’s other major ethnic group in what was supposed to be a power-sharing government.

American officials have often argued that, however imperfect, post-Saddam Iraq has benefited because Iraqis shifted their battles from the street to the political arena. But the escalating bloodshed has steadily poisoned the political space, undermined incipient democratic institutions and made a stable future that much more elusive.

Iraq might be in a safer place today had Mr. Maliki reached a deal with the administration to keep a small number of American troops in the country after 2011 to continue military training and intelligence gathering. (AND MAYBE THE DEAL WOULD HAVE BEEN REACHED IF OBAMA HAD SOUGHT A SERIOUS NUMBER OF TROOPS INSTEAD OF 3000-- A NUMBER WHICH CLEARLY COMMUNICATES AN INTENTION TO LEAVE) He would also have more credibility if he had not aligned Iraq so closely with Iran, a Shiite state, and had not permitted Iran to fly through Iraqi airspace to deliver arms to Syria.

The United States has a strategic interest in Iraq’s stability, and in recent months it has resumed counterterrorism cooperation, including intelligence sharing. That should continue, as should American efforts to foster better relations between Iraq and the region.

President Obama and Mr. Maliki, who met at the White House on Friday, agreed on the need for equipment so Iraqi forces can pursue militants. But there was no indication that Mr. Maliki, who plans to run for a third term, had received new commitments for American-made weapons like Apache helicopters and expedited delivery of F-16 fighters.

Given his authoritarian duplicity, there is no reason to trust him with even more arms unless he adopts a more inclusive approach to governing and ensures that next April’s election will be fair and democratic.
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« Reply #858 on: November 30, 2013, 03:51:01 PM »

From the article:

...since the U.S. invasion of 2003, Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region of Iraq, has become an oasis in an otherwise anarchic and dangerous country. The veteran journalist describes celebrations marking the Kurdish New Year in Sulaimaniya: “Never before had I, a Westerner, been able to walk safely through a vast throng of Iraqis, or experienced such tolerance, friendliness, and absence of fear or religious stricture. Women with uncovered heads wore makeup and golden jewelry. Teenagers discreetly flirted. A few obviously gay men, and the odd drunk, wandered uncensored through the crowds.”

With life so good for so many Kurds today, and so bad in the rest of Iraq, might Kurdistan secede?
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« Reply #859 on: December 18, 2013, 07:02:25 AM »

This piece concerns a point I have been pounding here for years.

This being from Pravda on the Hudson, no mention is made that Obama's offer was of only 3,000 troops i.e. the Iraqis could reasonably infer there was no meaningful intent instead of POTH's description "In 2011, the deal effectively broke down over Iraqi domestic politics."

Nonetheless, the fact of the advice offered Karzai is significant.

A Top Iraqi Official’s Advice to Karzai? Take America’s Deal
Published: December 17, 2013 2 Comments

KABUL, Afghanistan — With one of the most important chapters of Afghanistan’s history open before him, President Hamid Karzai took time this month for a personal meeting with the longtime foreign minister of Iraq, Hoshyar Zebari.

Mr. Zebari told Mr. Karzai that his government could not even secure Baghdad, the site of a May car bombing, after the American troop withdrawal in 2011.

It had been years since an Iraqi official had been to Afghanistan, and the trip was nominally meant to ease the passage of Afghan Shiites to holy shrines in Iraq. But it came right as Mr. Karzai had chosen to dig in and delay signing a security agreement with the United States, leaving long-term Western military support, and billions of dollars in aid, hanging in the balance.

In a moment of candor, Mr. Zebari offered a piece of advice to the president that would have been unthinkable from an Iraqi official just two years ago: Get over your differences with the Americans and sign the deal.

“Don’t be under the illusion that no matter what you do the Americans are here to stay,” Mr. Zebari told Mr. Karzai. “People used to say that about the American presence in Iraq, too. But they were eager to leave, and they will be eager to leave your country as well.”

When the last American troops departed Iraq in 2011, after the collapse of a similar security agreement, many Iraqis reveled in a moment of national pride, expressing faith in the government’s ability to maintain security. Since then, the country has fallen back into hellish violence, with thousands killed in sectarian attacks this year.

The Iraqi government could not even secure Baghdad anymore, despite billions of dollars in oil revenue and well-trained security forces, Mr. Zebari told the Afghan president, according to Iraqi and Afghan officials at the meeting. So how could the Afghan government, which can barely fund 20 percent of what it spends each year, hope to control the country without American help?

The conversation was a resonant moment between two leaders at different points in their respective journeys — one pondering his country’s post-American future, the other contending with it. With the benefit of hindsight, Mr. Zebari reached out to a president he scarcely knew, seizing on their shared experience at the crossroads of American involvement in the Muslim world.

Some of the parallels for Afghanistan are clear. As impasse has deepened into crisis, some of Mr. Karzai’s closest aides have seized on Iraq as proof that the Americans could just walk away, leaving the country’s security forces without military support and training in the middle of a war against the Taliban. Billions in badly needed international aid would also probably dry up, collapsing the economy. Worries about a return to civil war in Afghanistan would leap to center stage.

But Mr. Karzai had heard it all before.

American officials, in fact, have long used the withdrawal from Iraq as a cautionary example when talking with reporters and Afghan officials about the struggle to reach an Afghan security deal. And in the days after Mr. Karzai said he would put off signing the agreement, several senior American officials warned him that they would be forced to begin considering the “zero option” — a total and final troop withdrawal in 2014 — if he did not reverse course.

And that was the way Mr. Karzai appeared to take Mr. Zebari’s words, to the chagrin of Afghan officials who had hoped their president might take heed of Iraq’s troubles.

“You see?” he told the small group of Afghan officials after the meeting ended. “The Americans want this deal so badly they are even getting the Iraqis to pressure me.”

In a telephone interview, Mr. Zebari insisted his advice had merely been an expression of good will, not water-carrying for the Americans.

“Two years after the troop withdrawal, because of the rise of violence, we went back to Washington and asked them for continued support and military help,” he said, referring to a Nov. 1 trip by the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, after a huge surge in attacks by Al Qaeda in Iraq and other Sunni militants. “One should really draw from that conclusion.”

In 2011, the deal effectively broke down over Iraqi domestic politics. But within Mr. Karzai’s response to Mr. Zebari’s plea lies one of the core reasons it might yet happen that the United States leaves Afghanistan outright, too, despite urgency within parts of the Obama administration not to see a decade of lost lives and treasure blown away.


(Page 2 of 2)

Facing a world of potential consequences, Mr. Karzai again seemingly reduced the moment to himself. And whether out of paranoia or justifiable suspicion, his reaction has increasingly been to express profound distrust for his American allies.

“Even if they are not bluffing, we will not give in to the pressure to sign if our requirements are not fulfilled,” he told the French newspaper, Le Monde last week. “What I am hearing these days, and what I have already heard, is typical of colonial exploitation.”

Trying to understand Mr. Karzai’s intentions has become something of a parlor game in Kabul and Washington over the last few weeks. Has the bitterness over a failed 12-year war against the Taliban, and fear that the Americans will betray him, made him feel he must finally take a stand? Is he, as he says, using brinkmanship to ensure the best possible deal for Afghans, as he has with greater frequency in recent years?

“It might be a political game he’s playing, it might be for the sake of the nation or for his personal interests,” said Mohammad Homayoon Shinwari, an adviser to the president. “Politics is always what happens behind the curtain.”

In any case, the specter of Iraq has not just been used as a threat. It has loomed over every step of the debate on a long-term troop presence, both inside the White House and the Afghan presidential palace.

For the Americans who want to see troops stay on, the Iraqi example has served as a fallback position. “You can point to what’s been happening in Iraq, and you can say, ‘We can’t allow that to happen in Afghanistan,’ ” one senior administration official said.

Those in favor of a total withdrawal have a sense of having avoided a debacle in Iraq — that leaving incurred almost no political cost at home and most likely saved American lives. The same would be true in Afghanistan, another American official said.

Still, even those relieved at having avoided catastrophe in Iraq are reluctant to see Afghanistan descend into bloodshed.

The outcome of a grand assembly of Afghan leaders last month, the loya jirga, was an expression of urgency to seal a security deal, just one indicator that at least some of the Afghan public wants continuing American support. And American officials do not want to “punish the Afghan people” because of Mr. Karzai’s intransigence, the senior administration official said.

The officials asked not to be identified because they were describing internal discussions and delicate negotiations.

Within the Afghan government, Mr. Karzai’s stance has started to create a sense that he is on the fringe.

Even his most senior cabinet officials, including the ministers of defense and the interior, had no idea he planned to insist on delaying the deal and push for better terms until the words had left his mouth, during a speech before the loya jirga on Nov. 21 that left the audience, and other officials, shocked, according to a range of Afghan officials.

Some officials even suspect Mr. Karzai had not planned to, either: They say the words had not appeared in any drafts of the speech.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2013, 07:06:23 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #860 on: December 26, 2013, 11:24:45 AM »

Coherent?  Half-assed?

Maybe we should have reached a status of forces agreement in the first place?
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« Reply #861 on: January 03, 2014, 09:02:59 AM »

Published: January 2, 2014 412 Comments

BAGHDAD — Radical Sunni militants aligned with Al Qaeda threatened Thursday to seize control of Falluja and Ramadi, two of the most important cities in Iraq, setting fire to police stations, freeing prisoners from jail and occupying mosques, as the government rushed troop reinforcements to the areas.

Falluja and Ramadi were major battlegrounds during the war in Iraq. Both towns formed focal points of the armed Sunni Arab insurgency against the American-led military presence.

In 2004, Falluja was the site of one of the biggest battles of the war as international forces struggled to wrest it from insurgent control. Dozens of allied soldiers were killed and hundreds wounded over eight days of sustained street-to-street combat.

Ramadi was also rocked by regular insurgent violence. In 2006, American officials recorded as many as 25 violent episodes every day in Ramadi.

Violence in both towns was largely tamed in 2007 when groups of local Sunni Arab leaders, some former militants themselves, organized into “Awakening Councils” that worked with American forces to turn their communities against violent jihadist extremism.

Dressed in black and waving the flag of Al Qaeda, the militants commandeered mosque loudspeakers to call for supporters to join their struggle in both cities in the western province of Anbar, which have increasingly become centers of Sunni extremism since American forces withdrew from the country at the end of 2011.

For the United States, which asserted at the time that Iraq was on track to become a stable democracy, Anbar holds grave historical significance — as a place for America’s greatest losses, and perhaps its most significant success, of the eight-year war.

Nearly one-third of the American soldiers killed in the war died trying to pacify Anbar, and Americans fought two battles for control of Falluja, in some of the bloodiest combat that American troops had faced since Vietnam.

The violence in Ramadi and Falluja had implications beyond Anbar’s borders, as the Sunni militants fought beneath the same banner as the most hard-line jihadists they have inspired in Syria — the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

That fighting, and a deadly bombing in the Beirut area on Thursday, provided the latest evidence that the Syrian civil war was helping breed bloodshed and sectarian violence around the region, further destabilizing Lebanon and Iraq while fueling a resurgence of radical Islamist fighters.

It was not possible, amid the unfolding chaos, to determine a precise number of casualties, but officials in hospitals in Anbar reported at least 35 people were killed Thursday and more than 70 were wounded. Security officials in Anbar said the total killed over several days of fighting was 108, including 31 civilians and 35 militants. The rest of the dead were Iraqi security force members.

The fighting began after Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a Shiite, ordered security forces to dismantle protest encampments in Falluja and Ramadi.

The order came after fighting erupted following the government’s arrest of a prominent Sunni lawmaker who had been a supporter of the protests, which had been going on for more than a year and had become an outlet for disenchanted Sunnis angered over their treatment by Mr. Maliki’s Shiite-dominated government. The arrest attempt set off a firefight that left several bodyguards and the brother of the lawmaker dead, and led to clashes between the government and armed tribesmen.

Officials later seemed to have calmed the situation, and in a deal between local tribal leaders and the central government, Mr. Maliki agreed to withdraw army troops from Anbar on Tuesday.

But as soon as any trace of government authority vanished, large numbers of Qaeda-aligned fighters attacked the cities, and by Wednesday the prime minister reversed his decision. He sent troops to try to secure the support of local tribal leaders, offering them guns and money to join forces with the regular army.

In a telephone interview on Thursday, one tribal fighter loyal to the government, Abu Omar, described heavy clashes across Falluja, and said the government had started shelling militant hide-outs.

“We told all the families to leave their houses,” he said over the phone, with the sound of gunfire in the background. “Many of the families fled from the city, and others are still unable to because of the heavy clashes. We have reports that the hospital in Falluja is full of dead and wounded people.”

Many of the tribesmen fighting alongside government security forces have been doing so reluctantly, making the calculation that, in this case, the government is the lesser evil than Al Qaeda.

Sheikh Hamed Rasheed Muhana echoed what many Sunnis in Iraq feel when he complained that the government had alienated Sunnis with harsh security crackdowns and mass arrests of Sunni men, militants and ordinary civilians alike. He said the government had worsened matters by “creating more depressed people willing to join Al Qaeda because of the sectarian behavior and ongoing arrests.”

Also on Thursday, in a move that seemed calculated to appease Sunni resentment, the government arrested a Shiite militia leader in Baghdad who is believed to be the leader of the Iraqi affiliate of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group.

Page 2 of 2)

Thursday was the fourth consecutive day of battles in Anbar. Late in the afternoon, security officials said the government had regained some territory in Ramadi but that fighting was still fierce in Falluja, where militants controlled a much larger portion of the city than they did in Ramadi.

Falluja and Ramadi were major battlegrounds during the war in Iraq. Both towns formed focal points of the armed Sunni Arab insurgency against the American-led military presence.

In 2004, Falluja was the site of one of the biggest battles of the war as international forces struggled to wrest it from insurgent control. Dozens of allied soldiers were killed and hundreds wounded over eight days of sustained street-to-street combat.

Ramadi was also rocked by regular insurgent violence. In 2006, American officials recorded as many as 25 violent episodes every day in Ramadi.

Violence in both towns was largely tamed in 2007 when groups of local Sunni Arab leaders, some former militants themselves, organized into “Awakening Councils” that worked with American forces to turn their communities against violent jihadist extremism.

With Iraqi casualty rates at their highest in five years, the United States has rushed to provide the Iraqi government with new missiles and surveillance drones to combat the resurgence of Al Qaeda.

American officials have been in touch with the Maliki government and its Sunni critics, trying to encourage them to join forces against Al Qaeda.

“We’ve encouraged the government to work with the population to fight these terrorists,” said Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman.

The chaos in Anbar has underscored the steady deterioration of Iraq’s security since the withdrawal of American forces. The battles have heightened fears that Iraq is descending into the type of sectarian civil war that it once faced during the American-led occupation.

The center of that unrest was in the desert region of Anbar, a cradle of Sunni discontent where swaggering tribesmen defied authority even under Saddam Hussein. An American pact with those Anbar tribesmen in 2007 — to pay them to switch sides and fight alongside the United States against Al Qaeda — became known as the Awakening and is considered partly responsible for turning the tide of the war.

Abu Risha, a leading tribal sheikh in Ramadi, was perhaps the Americans’ most stalwart partner, and even today he is likely to show visitors the plaques he received from American officers, and old pictures of him with American soldiers, even as he speaks of what he calls betrayal by the United States for leaving without finishing the job.

(MARC: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! )

In a statement released this week, he exhorted his men to again fight Al Qaeda, and hinted at business left unfinished by the Americans.

(MARC: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

“We were all surprised that the terrorists left the desert and entered your cities to return a second time, to commit their crimes, to cut off the heads, blow up houses, kill scholars and disrupt life,” he said. “They came back, and I am delighted for their public appearance after the security forces failed to find them. Let this time be the decisive confrontation with Al Qaeda.”

Violence continued elsewhere in the country on Thursday, with a suicide attack in a market in Diyala Province killing at least 17 people, and two explosions around Baghdad that killed eight.

In another indication that the war in Syria is reverberating back here, Iraqis who fled the country by the thousands after the American invasion and then began to return as the fighting eased are becoming refugees again.

On Thursday, Andrew Harper, an official with the United Nations refugee agency in Jordan, posted a message on Twitter saying that over the past three weeks the number of Iraqi refugees entering Jordan, which borders Anbar Province, had increased fivefold, with an average of 415 Iraqis leaving their country each week.

Analysts have long worried that the war in Syria would engulf Iraq, as hard-line Sunni rebels in Syria have said they see the two countries as one battlefield in the fight for Sunni dominance. For some time, the Syrian war has dragged in Iraqis along sectarian lines, with Iraqi Shiites rushing to Syria to support the government of President Bashar al-Assad, and Iraq’s Qaeda affiliate fostering the most extremist Sunni fighting units across the border.

These fears of spillover have been most acute in Anbar’s ungovernable desert, which borders Syria and where tribal loyalties cut across national boundaries, making it fertile territory for Al Qaeda’s resurgence.

Earlier in the week many tribesmen fought against the government, following the arrest of the Sunni lawmaker and the dismantling of the protest tents, but when Al Qaeda returned many quickly switched sides.

“We don’t want to be like Syria,” said Sheikh Omar al-Asabi, who led a group of fighting men in an area east of Falluja.

For many men of Anbar over the last several years, fighting has been a constant, even as the enemy has shifted. “We fought the Americans, and we fought the Maliki army, and now we are fighting Qaeda,” said Firas Mohammed, 28, who is an engineer when he is not at war. “We will not allow any outsider to come here and impose his will on us.”
« Last Edit: January 03, 2014, 09:05:32 AM by Crafty_Dog » Logged
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« Reply #862 on: January 03, 2014, 09:52:06 PM »
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« Reply #863 on: January 04, 2014, 10:45:52 AM »

"Ending two wars" meant surrendering.  The year after we left Iraq was one of the bloodiest years there.  No we did not negotiate to keep a military base there as a deterrent to this sort of thing or to attack future terrorist camps as they spring up.

How many American dollars and lives went into securing Falluja?  Ah, who cares.  Or as the former Secretary of State would say, "what difference does it make now".

The Honolulu Star captured the President's reaction to this troubling development:
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« Reply #864 on: January 04, 2014, 11:53:59 AM »

On the Bret Baier Special Report last night the opening segment, plus one of the segments on the roundtable was on exactly this development and both segments featured a clip of retired military intel man Col. Ralph Peters saying that in his opinion the failure to go for and get a status of forces agreement and abandoning our success there was the biggest of Baraq's many errors in foreign affairs-- a historical error.  Charles Krauthammer and Steve Hayes agreed.

Almost sounded like Peters, SH and CK had been reading my posts here for the last five years.  I'd laugh, but for the tragedy of it all.

If there is someone willing and able to put up the clips of these two segments, it would be greatly appreciated.
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« Reply #865 on: January 04, 2014, 12:48:15 PM »
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« Reply #866 on: January 05, 2014, 05:52:18 PM »[471055873000324]&action_type_map=[%22og.likes%22]&action_ref_map=[]
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« Reply #867 on: January 08, 2014, 12:39:05 AM »
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« Reply #868 on: January 08, 2014, 07:46:32 AM »

Because Buraq Hussein Obama's foreign policy is about empowering America's enemies.
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« Reply #869 on: January 09, 2014, 09:09:29 AM »
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« Reply #870 on: January 13, 2014, 11:09:54 AM »

Sadly, you guys called this right. The scope of the problem is astounding.
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« Reply #871 on: January 14, 2014, 05:43:58 PM »

Government forces and al Qaeda-linked rebels from exploding. Associated Press

Tribal sheiks and al Qaeda-affiliated militants huddled in Iraq's embattled city of Fallujah on Monday night in an effort to negotiate an end to a two-week siege and avert a full-scale sectarian conflict.

The negotiations began a week ago, when Sunni tribal chiefs asked Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, to pause the military's assault on the city to give the Sunni sheiks time to persuade gunmen from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, to leave the city.

Iraq's Shiite-dominated military has laid siege to Fallujah, long a center of al Qaeda resistance to central authorities, since ISIS militants seized the city two weeks ago.

The discussions conferred added political power on one of western Iraq's more neglected groups: the Sunni tribal leaders who are wedged between their resistance to al Qaeda militants on the one hand and the mostly Shiite army on the other.

"Any military assault on the city without the help and coordination with the local tribes will worsen the situation even more," said Sheik Rafie Abdul Kareem, a leader in the Abu Fahad clan in western Iraq. 

Local Sunni leaders hope to arrive at a face-saving exit both for the ISIS militants and for soldiers fighting for Mr. Maliki. The Iraqi leader's bid for re-election in parliamentary polls this spring is widely seen as pegged to his ability to check al Qaeda's rise in western Iraq.  Local leaders say they hope to persuade ISIS fighters to yield control of Fallujah to local, Sunni-dominated police forces with the promise that Mr. Maliki's Shiite-dominated army will remain on the city's outskirts. Monday's negotiations were set to continue on Tuesday as ISIS leaders deliberate among themselves over terms of the deal.

Since fighting broke out in late December, Mr. Maliki has struggled to contain the violence, which seemed to take him and his security forces by surprise.

Scenes from Fallujah, in Iraq's Anbar province, where the fighting between al Qaeda-linked militants and government forces remains fierce. Via The Foreign Bureau, WSJ's global news update. (Photo: AP)

The latest episode began after Mr. Maliki's security forces arrested a prominent Sunni opponent in a violent nighttime raid that left six people dead. Mr. Maliki's forces then raided and dispersed a year-old encampment of Sunni demonstrators who had been protesting against the prime minister and what they described as his anti-Sunni security policies.

Mr. Maliki's decision to raid the camp sparked an abrupt uprising of al Qaeda-affiliated ISIS militants in Fallujah and Ramadi that belied Mr. Maliki's previous claims that he had successfully contained the group.

"Maliki needs to demonstrate that he's cleared Fallujah of al Qaeda one way or the other," said Michael Knights, an Iraq expert at the Washington Institute. "It can't recur—there has to be some kind of dependable end to this otherwise it's just going to risk humiliation again and again and again."

Mr. Maliki made a concession to ISIS on Saturday when he agreed to replace Fallujah's mayor and police chief with officials who had no history of fighting al Qaeda militants.

U.S. diplomats had also appealed to Mr. Maliki to take a cautious approach to the Fallujah militants to avoid further escalation. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday that while the U.S. would support Mr. Maliki's efforts in Anbar province, the U.S. had no plans to intervene militarily.

In a visit to Baghdad on Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern about the continuing violence in Anbar.

Officials in Saudi Arabia, which shares borders with Iraq, watched the Fallujah and Ramadi violence with dismay. Some Saudi officials said they believe Mr. Maliki has tried to hide the rising discontent among Anbar's Sunnis from U.S. officials to keep them from questioning his authority over the province.

"He doesn't want to show the Americans that he's weak," said Ahmed al-Ibrahim, an adviser to the Saudi government.  Mr. Maliki "wanted to show that with him, Iraq is safe," believing that it is critical to his political survival to show Iraqis that Americans supported him, said Mr. Ibrahim.
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« Reply #872 on: January 19, 2014, 06:19:39 PM »

Mustache mania

Posted 5/11/03

BAGHDAD--Want to insult a man in Iraq? Threaten to shave off his mustache with your shoe. But be prepared: Nothing is a bigger symbol of manhood here than the mighty 'stash. "A mustache means strength and manliness. A full and long mustache gives a man a strong face, and you know he is a good person," says Farris Al-Timini, proprietor of the Al Fen Nanin barbershop, as his customers get their bushy black lip-toppers trimmed. "The people in our country like to look like their leaders. If a leader has a big mustache, then the men will grow big mustaches."

A flier circulating around Baghdad shows Iraq's 55 "most wanted" individuals. Most sport an abundance of autocratic facial hair. Apparently, the Great Father--well known for his own thick whiskers--worked hard to promote the cult of facial fur. "Saddam used to give bonuses to some of his soldiers if they grew longer mustaches because it made them look angrier," recalls Muttaz Al-Abbas, 31, who runs an ad agency. "When he spoke of the Israelis, he said that the people of Iraq must fight them so hard that their mustaches will tremble," adds Al-Abbas, who sports a neat goatee, popular with a younger generation of Iraqis trying to bring more panache to the facial-hair sweepstakes.

Real men. Actually, Iraq's love affair with the mustache long predates Saddam Hussein; there are endless tales and proverbs about its powers. Tribal chiefs, for instance, measure a man's worth by his mustache. To wit, the old adage: An eagle can land on a great man's mustache. To swear on one's mustache here is to swear on one's honor. Tell a friend that he's "in your mustache," and you're vowing to protect him, perhaps for life.

More practically, Iraqi women are loath to pick a mustacheless partner. Hairdresser Hanan Al-Azawi, 35, takes great pride in her husband's lustrous mustache; without it, she says, she would never have married him. "A man with no facial hair is not attractive," she shrugs. "It is very important for a man to have a mustache. It means he is a real man." -Ilana Ozernoy 

This story appears in the May 19, 2003 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.
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« Reply #873 on: January 20, 2014, 02:09:37 PM »

Forgive me for not having the citation, but I gather that (then General? CIA director?) Petraeus told Obama that we had proof that one cause of our difficulties in obtaining a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq was that Iran was paying off Iraqi legislators.

Question presented:  Why did we not go public with this information?
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« Reply #874 on: February 05, 2014, 06:57:37 AM »

WASHINGTON—Hundreds of contractors working for America's biggest defense companies are taking on a broader role in helping Iraq's military learn to use new weapons in a growing battle against Islamist insurgents.

Over the next few months, the U.S. government is expected to begin sending more than $6 billion in military equipment to Iraq. The latest deal includes 24 Apache attack helicopters made by Boeing Co. BA -0.19% and nearly 500 Hellfire missiles produced by Lockheed Martin Corp. LMT -0.01%

While the helicopters may not arrive in time to help with the current fighting, the missiles are expected to be used by the Iraqi military in the battle to uproot Islamic fighters from Ramadi and Fallujah, cities that were the focus of major U.S. military operations during the height of the war in Iraq.

When the U.S. begins sending the first batch of Apache helicopters and additional Hellfire missiles this year, more than 200 private defense-company personnel will be on hand.

They won't be alone.

Across Iraq, military specialists are helping the Iraqi military maintain its growing number of surveillance drones, attack helicopters and powerful missiles. Thousands more support the U.S. government as security guards, analysts, drivers and cooks.

The strategic deployment of defense contractors in Iraq underscores the shifting security landscape as the U.S. downsizes its military presence around the world. With fewer than 200 American military personnel in Iraq, continued U.S. military support there relies increasingly on the presence of contractors.

The role for the military contractors, which has dwindled along with the U.S. presence in Iraq, could become more important in the coming months as the Iraqi government seeks billions more in international military support to combat a growing threat from Islamist militants.

Employees of Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron Inc., TXT +1.53% are training Iraqi forces to fly and repair light attack helicopters stationed at a military base in the so-called Sunni Triangle northwest of Baghdad, where the Iraqi military is battling resurgent Islamist fighters..

Two dozen Lockheed employees are helping the Iraqi military keep their C-130 transport planes in the air. The company is also sending nearly 500 Hellfire missiles, which are being increasingly used in the fight against al Qaeda militants.

And more than a dozen employees with Beechcraft Corp. and General Atomics maintain a fleet of "Peace Dragon" surveillance airplanes used to track insurgent activity around the country.

The U.S. spent more than $200 billion on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade as its reliance on private support grew, according to congressional estimates. In all, more than 5,000 contractors now work in Iraq as intelligence analysts, security guards, military trainers, translators and cooks.

"You have a situation where the government has become dependent on contractors," said Allison Stanger, a political-science professor at Middlebury College. "It's a real quantum shift."

Most U.S. contractors working in Iraq are unlikely to get involved in direct military operations. Along with U.S. legal restrictions on civilians engaging in combat, foreign military sales contracts often include provisions preventing contractors from being involved in direct combat, said Anthony Cordesman, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"Almost all of them will be protected from being asked to, or participating in, combat," Mr. Cordesman said. "You can't require anyone to have any kind of direct combat role."

Still, contractors serve in dangerous areas. In Afghanistan, more civilian contractors were being killed than U.S. soldiers by 2012, according to an analysis by Steven Schooner, a professor at George Washington University Law School. Now, he said, the traditional U.S. military role has been supplanted by civilians who are training and equipping the Iraqi military.

"The military task has, in fact, been outsourced in Iraq," he said.

The U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 brought the war to an official end. But the U.S. still retains a large presence at the embassy in Baghdad, which is still one of the biggest American diplomatic facilities in the world.

Over the past few years, the U.S. has been scaling back its presence in Iraq, and even the contractor force has dwindled.

As of January 2013, the U.S. had more than 12,500 contractors in Iraq, according to State Department and Pentagon figures. The U.S. has significantly reduced that number over the past year.

Of the roughly 5,000 contractors supporting the American diplomatic mission in Iraq, the State Department said, more than a third of them are U.S. citizens. They work for companies like Triple Canopy Inc., which provides security guards for U.S. diplomats, and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., LLL -0.56% which helps the State Department vet Iraqis seeking jobs with the U.S. Many serve as cooks, translators and janitors.

Those numbers don't account for scores of military contractors working in Iraq as part of U.S.-approved foreign military sales that provide the Iraqi government with helicopters, missiles and other critical support.

U.S. lawmakers, led by Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), had blocked the Apache helicopter sale because of concerns that the Iraqi government would use them to crack down on minority groups.

Those concerns have now been allayed and the U.S. is stepping up its help as the Iraqi government tries to quash Sunni militants in Anbar province.
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« Reply #875 on: March 17, 2014, 10:50:57 AM »


For Iraq, he was a decorated war hero, severely wounded in battle. As an officer for the Iraqi army, Brigadier General Mustafa Al Mashhadani fought against Iran in the 1980s, against Kuwait in the early 1990s, and on his home turf against Americans in 2003.

But now, coming out of retirement at age 55, he is doing battle with a new enemy in his hometown of Fallujah: the army he served for decades. And he is doing it with a contingent of more than a hundred al Qaeda-linked fighters.

"Every time I fight, I whisper to myself, 'It's me, you idiots,' " said Gen. Mashhadani. "This could have been different."

His anguish is emblematic of some of the strange alliances that have cropped up since armed militants overtook the important city of Fallujah early this year and placed it under the control of the city's Sunni majority. That majority may hate al Qaeda and its rigid theocratic mores—but they despise Nouri Al Maliki, the Shiite prime minister, even more.

More than two years after U.S. forces withdrew from the country it occupied for almost a decade, Iraq is on a bloody downward spiral. Devastating terror attacks now kill dozens of people with horrifying regularity. Highly organized and well-armed militants, capable of bold strikes against police and military targets, have been able to take and hold territory.

Indeed, the past year of worsening sectarian tensions and violence has already produced death tolls reminiscent of Iraq's not-so-distant past. At least 7,818 civilians were killed in Iraq in 2013, the highest annual total since 17,956 were killed in 2007, the year the sectarian civil war first began to subside, according to the United Nations. And the violence hasn't let up: In Baghdad on Saturday, a car bombing—a style of attack that has become routine—killed 19 people.

Experts say that as the crisis deepens, the country risks returning to the kind of sectarian civil war that, at its zenith in 2005 and 2006, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and nearly tore the country apart.

Nowhere are signs of the country's crumbling more evident than in Fallujah, a city seared in the minds of U.S. Marines who did fierce battle with insurgents there. Mr. Maliki, who is vying for a third term in parliamentary elections at the end of April, has sought to portray the occupation of Fallujah as an al Qaeda uprising with international links. And U.S. officials, concerned about the deteriorating security there, have responded. In December, the U.S. delivered 75 Hellfire missiles to Iraq, the first such shipment since it left the country. Then in January, the administration notified Congress of a new weapons package for Iraq that includes up to 500 Hellfire missiles.

In Fallujah, many Sunni politicians blame the bloody uprising on Mr. Maliki and his policies, which his critics say amount to Shiite chauvinism. Contrary to recent reports, locals interviewed in the city say the strongest occupying force in the Sunni-majority city isn't al Qaeda but tribal fighters whose impatience with Mr. Maliki has finally boiled over into violence.

In response, the premier has said the policies aren't chauvinistic and that militants are trying to use them to stir an uprising. Mr. Maliki's spokesman also denied criticisms that the prime minister had been playing up al Qaeda's presence in Anbar province, saying that there would be "no political benefit" to overstating the region's terrorist threat.

But observers warn that unless Mr. Maliki takes a more conciliatory tone with Iraq's powerful Sunni minority, the sectarian division could lead to a more permanent political rupture. Mr. Maliki risks pushing Sunnis out of politics altogether only months before this spring's parliamentary vote, Sunni politicians warn.

"If the government fails to convince people to stand against al Qaeda…it could be the beginning of a civil war in Iraq," said Rafi Al Essawi, a Sunni who served as Finance Minister under Mr. Maliki, but quit under protest last year after his bodyguards were arrested and accused of terrorism. He said he is working to encourage Fallujah's tribal leaders to reject al Qaeda.

In all, since the outbreak of violence began in Fallujah, Ramadi and other areas of Anbar province in December, some 400,000 civilian residents have been displaced, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The fighting in Fallujah has pushed February's death toll above 1,000 across the country, according to the U.N. and the Health Committee of the Provincial Council of Anbar.

Known as the city of mosques, Fallujah has long been a focal point of Sunni extremist sympathies. U.S. forces fought two blistering battles against al Qaeda-linked insurgents in the city in 2004. Though some U.S. officials have quietly voiced concern over Mr. Maliki's policies, a spokeswoman for the White House said this month that the U.S. was actively consulting with Iraqi leaders because of concerns about terrorism.

For the moment, the size of the threat directly from al Qaeda is hard to determine. While al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, can claim a sizable deployment in Fallujah, interviews with local officials, tribal sheiks and antigovernment fighters suggest that much of the fighting is also led by ordinary Sunni Iraqi tribesmen, jilted loyalists of Saddam Hussein's regime like Gen. Mashhadani and Islamist fighters whose jihad, unlike that of al Qaeda, doesn't exceed Iraq's borders.

For the bulk of the fighters, locals say, the goal of the uprising is far more provincial than al Qaeda's global agenda. Their aims align more closely with the Sunni protesters who erected and maintained largely peaceful protest encampments against Mr. Maliki's government throughout Anbar and other Sunni provinces over the past year.

Among the Sunni protest movement's chief grievances is a counterterrorism law that Sunni leaders say Mr. Maliki has wielded disproportionately against Sunnis, arresting them by the tens of thousands.

The Sunnis' other main complaint is an exclusion law against loyalists of the former regime. Demonstrators say the law against former Baath Party members, the dominant party under the old regime of Saddam Hussein, functions as little more than a sectarian filter to keep Sunnis from getting government jobs or rising in the ranks of Iraq's bureaucracy and military.

"What Maliki has done, the way the security services operate, this has created support for al Qaeda," said Kirk Sowell, a Jordan-based political risk analyst who is the publisher of Inside Iraqi Politics. Al Qaeda-linked fighters, he estimated, make up only about a fifth to a third of the fighters in Fallujah.

Mr. Maliki and his supporters say that both laws are essential tools in the fight against global Islamist extremism and the return of the former regime of Hussein—very real threats that the prime minister insists are incubating inside at least a dozen Sunni protest camps.

"The de-Baathification law included people from both sides, and even may include more Shiites than Sunnis," said Ali al-Moussawi, Mr. Maliki's spokesman, who added that Mr. Maliki is bound by the law and remains "unhappy" that he isn't able to recommission certain former officers who had "proven their loyalty" to the nation. "These are attempts by the politicians in the Sunni areas to gather people around them by telling them that the government is treating them unfairly as an excuse to create trouble in Iraq."

Mr. Moussawi acknowledged that some former senior army officers under Hussein were now colluding with al Qaeda to fight against the Iraqi army. While he didn't know of Gen. Mashhadani, the general would definitely be considered a traitor if he were caught, Mr. Moussawi said.

Loyalists of Hussein, who was executed in 2006, have organized themselves into a group known as the Army of the Men of the Naqshabandi Order, a violent resistance movement with loose ties to the global Naqshabandi Order of Sufi Islamic mystics. Their ranks have populated some of the protest encampments in the north of the country.

ISIS, meanwhile, has strengthened as the bloody conflict in neighboring Syria drags on. Syria's war has given militants access to a plethora of heavy weapons and fighters transported over the two countries' porous shared border, allowing them to ramp up the scale, frequency and sophistication of their attacks. ISIS operates in multiple countries with the aim of carving out an Islamic caliphate.

Though pro-Maliki politicians acknowledge the Sunni protesters' legitimate grievances, they say al Qaeda-linked groups like ISIS have exploited sectarian divisions to advance a regional agenda.

"If the government didn't raid the protest camps, then Anbar would have already been named an Islamist state for al Qaeda," said Khaled Al Assady, a member of the Dawa Party that Mr. Maliki leads.

Despite their ideological differences, most antigovernment militants in Fallujah see their main goal as preventing Mr. Maliki's Shiite-majority Iraqi military from re-entering the city—which to them is tantamount to a hostile takeover by foreign occupiers.

Weeks of negotiations between local tribal leaders loyal to the militants and Anbar politicians with ties to Baghdad have revolved around which security force would eventually take charge of the city in lieu of the armed forces.

For Mr. Maliki's part, the Fallujah calculations include the added complication of the April 30 parliamentary elections, in which the two-term prime minister will be seeking a third chance at the helm. In Fallujah, analysts say the prime minister has what may be his last, best chance to show Shiite Iraqis that he can deal firmly with a rising jihadist threat without further alienating the Sunni minority.

"Maliki needs to demonstrate that he's cleared Fallujah of al Qaeda one way or another," said Michael Knights, an Iraq expert at the conservative-leaning Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "There has to be some kind of dependable end to this, otherwise it's just going to risk humiliation again and again."

Yet as the fighting wears on, more and more secularists like Gen. Mashhadani are finding themselves seduced by al Qaeda.

When he enrolled in the military academy in 1979 at age 20, he says being in the army was a different experience. Being an officer was "marvelous, and you could propose to any girl."

Greeting guests in his house in a neighborhood populated by former officers loyal to Hussein, the sharply dressed, mustachioed Gen. Mashhadani still boasts of the war wounds he earned while fighting against Iran—what he calls "the Persian state of evil." His disfigured leg recalls where an Iranian shell gouged out a chunk of muscle during a firefight in 1987.

He says he climbed the ranks by fighting in what he termed "the disastrous invasion of Kuwait" in 1991 and then against American air incursions in 1993 and 1997. After the army was dissolved following the U.S. invasion in 2003, Gen. Mashhadani returned to his home in Fallujah, and tried civilian jobs. He says he asked about recommissioning in the army four years later, but says he and other Sunni retirees were turned down under the de-Baathification law.

Ultimately, the former general cites increased crackdowns on his fellow Sunnis as a driving force behind his shift in allegiance. In December last year, after the prime minister declared that a protest camp outside Ramadi was dominated by al Qaeda-linked militants, Iraqi security forces killed at least a dozen protesters while dispersing the camp. Shortly afterward, Gen. Mashhadani says he followed his son to a Fallujah mosque where militants were organizing themselves and distributing weapons.

He says he was quickly assigned as a brigade commander over 60 mostly untrained men, and on the same day found himself face-to-face with the first division of the same Iraqi army he served. He says he ordered his unit to retreat. "Some of my old colleagues serve in that division," he said.

Gen. Mashhadani believes the presence of at least one hundred former Iraqi army officers among the Islamists' ranks has made them a more professional, merciful fighting force. He claims to have convinced al Qaeda leaders to halt the practice of launching rockets from civilian neighborhoods.

The former general recalls one incident in which he and his ex-officer colleagues argued with al Qaeda leaders to prevent them from executing 14 captured Iraqi soldiers. Gen. Mashhadani says he saw to it that the men were given over to the protection of a local Fallujah sheik. Such experiences have hardened Gen. Mashhadani's belief in the dignity of his fight.

"I'm not exaggerating when I say I'm a living schizophrenia case," he said. "On the one side I refuse al Qaeda ideology, but on the other I miss military life and hate the government that commands this army."

According to Khalid Al Dulaimi, a leading figure in the Fallujah tribal military council that functions as an informal umbrella group for antigovernment militants, Gen. Mashhadani has become a favorite among younger fighters. He now controls a unit of 103 militants, all from different tribal backgrounds, in a southern suburb of Fallujah.

Gen. Mashhadani admits that it was "bad luck" that compelled him to join with al Qaeda. But for the first time since 2003, he says, he is earning a respectable salary of about $1,000 a month—comparable to that of a new army lieutenant, he says. And he has a refrigerator stocked with food, some spare cash to spend and a loyal following of young soldiers who value his hard-won expertise.

"Today I will prove to Maliki and to anyone who refused my return to the army that I deserve to be an army commander," he said. "Today, I am absolutely with al Qaeda."

—Uthman Al Mukhtar, Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes contributed to this article.

Write to Matt Bradley at
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« Reply #876 on: March 26, 2014, 08:46:27 AM »
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« Reply #877 on: April 05, 2014, 08:34:13 PM »

I do not have audio where I am, but if I am not mistaken I know one of the men who was on this roof top.  BTW he has attended a DB Gathering and is a big fan.  He also introduced me to some serious friends of his and asked me to share my analysis of certain things.
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