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Today in Iraq

September 4, 2006


Residents stand near the wreckage of a vehicle used in a car bomb attack targeting an Iraqi police patrol in Baghdad September 4, 2006. The attack wounded two policemen and one civilian, police said. REUTERS/Ali Jasim (IRAQ)

MNF reports a Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province September 1.

Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 7 died from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province September 3.

Ministry of Defence announces deaths of two British soldiers near the town of Ad Dayr, north of Basrah City, in an ambush. One more soldier seriously injured, a second less seriously.

UPDATE: These came in after I first posted. (Thanks to Whisker.)

CAMP ANACONDA, Iraq – A 15th Sustainment Brigade Soldier died of non-combat injuries during the early morning hours on Sep. 4.

CAMP ANACONDA, Iraq – A 1/34th Brigade Combat Team Soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device while conducting a convoy escort mission north of Baghdad at approximately 12:10 a.m. today.

A Soldier from the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division died Sunday from wounds sustained after his vehicle was struck by an IED near Mosul."

That's 13 coalition military deaths so far in the 4 days of September. It's early in the month, but they are now at the highest rate since January, 2005. -- C


Soccer player Ghanim Ghudayer, a member of Iraq Olympic team, kidnapped in western Baghdad. Kidnappers wore military uniforms.

Also in Baghdad:

  • A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol exploded near al-Wathiq intersection in Karrada district, central Baghdad, wounding two people, including one policeman, an Interior Ministry source said.
  • - Two car bombs exploded in quick succession on Sunday at an Iraqi army checkpoint on a road that links Abu Ghraib and Baghdad, killing or wounding seven Iraqi army soldiers and destroying one military vehicle, Falluja policeman Ammar Abd said. (The source of this item seems rather odd -- C

Police find 35 bodies, bound, shot, and tortured, in various parts of Baghdad.


Car explodes in a market in New Baqubah, killing the driver and four of his children. (This sounds like an assassination, rather than an attack on the market, but who knows?) This story also reports:

  • Three people were killed when unidentified militants opened fire on them in central Baquba;
  • Unidentified person shot in Al-Miqdadiya district;
  • Two policemen were shot dead when insurgents opened fire on a police patrol in New Baquba;
  • Unidentified government official assassinated on his way to work in Yarmouk district in western Baquba;
  • In Zaghnia northeast of Baquba a Shiite mosque was blown up overnight.

Ramadi: Major General Mohammed al-Fahdawi, a former commander of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard, was killed in a drive-by shooting on Sunday in an area just east of Ramadi.

Two bodies dumped on highway in Kut.


(We have traditionally headlined the innumerable reported captures or killings of the al Qaeda in Iraq second in command as "al Qaeda deputy leader #1,276 captured," or some such ridiculous number.) Blogenlust has what purports to be a full list of "al Qaeda #2s captured or killed in Iraq -- they count 39. (So, sarcasm has once again become obsolete. From now on, I pledge to keep actual count. The next one is #40. -- C)

High level Iraqi delegation to visit Iran, but there is confusion over whether Maliki will follow, apparently reflecting sensitivity over Sunni Arab suspicions of Iran. Excerpt:

BAGHDAD, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Senior Iraqi ministers will go to Iran on Tuesday, officials said, possibly paving the way for a first official visit as prime minister by Nuri al-Maliki to Iraq's powerful Shi'ite neighbour.

Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, who oversees Iraq's economy, will travel with the finance and trade ministers, government aides said.

But the Iraqi government spokesman denied a report on Iranian state television that suggested Maliki might travel next week to visit his fellow Shi'ite Islamist leaders.

"There is no arrangement right now for any visit by the Prime Minister to ... Iran," spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said, adding: "The government of Iraq would like to maintain the best relations with all neighbouring countries."

An Iranian government spokesman said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has angered Washington with his defiant defence of Iran's nuclear programme and a series of anti-Israel comments, would visit Iraq "very soon".

Read in Full

Rumblings grow that Kurdistan will make secession official. Proximate issue is symbolic dispute over the Iraqi flag. Excerpt:

ARBIL (Reuters) - The leader of Iraq's ethnic Kurds brandished the threat of secession on Sunday as a row with the Baghdad government over the flying of the Iraqi national flag exposed an increasingly bitter rift. After the Kurdish regional government banned the use of the Iraqi flag on public buildings, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki issued a blunt statement demanding use of the national tricolor and implying that the Kurds' own banner was illegitimate.

Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan region, told its parliament that Iraq's flag was a symbol of his people's past oppression: "If at any moment we, the Kurdish people and parliament, consider that it is in our interests to declare independence, we will do so and we will fear no one." He called on the Iraqi parliament to adopt a new flag.

A terse statement from Maliki's office, that made no direct mention of the Kurds, said only: "The Iraqi flag is the only flag that should be raised over any square inch of Iraq, until parliament makes a decision as laid down in the constitution."


Largely free of Baghdad's control for 15 years and spared the violence that followed the U.S. invasion in 2003, the Kurds have prospered. But their territorial designs on Iraq's northern oilfields around Kirkuk are a potential flashpoint for violence.

Yet Kurdish leaders are mindful of their landlocked region's dependence on its neighbors and opposition to independence from their U.S. ally as well as outright hostility from Turkey, Iran and Syria, which have restless Kurdish minorities of their own.

Barzani's Decree No. 60 stated: "All government sites that used to raise the Baathist flag must lower it and hoist the flag of Kurdistan in its place." The Kurdish red, white and green banner with a sun motif at the center is ubiquitous in the region, which is home to about 5 million of Iraq's 26 million people. Some officials of a rival Kurdish party, led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, did still fly Iraq's red, white and black tricolor on buildings.

But Barzani recalled the suffering of Kurds in Saddam's Anfal military campaign of 1988, for which the former leader and several Baath Party aides are now on trial: "This is the flag of the Baath and Anfal, of chemical attacks and mass graves. "This is the flag of the destruction of the whole of Iraq."

Read in Full

Many Arabs have sought refuge in Kurdistan from the violence elsewhere in Iraq. Kurdistan plans to expand Arabic language education in response, but there is evidently considerable resentment. Kurdish Media invites public response:

London (KurdishMedia.com) 04 September 2006: Due to stability and peace in Kurdistan, a huge number of Arab families have been moving from the troubled parts of Iraq to the Kurdish cities of southern Kurdistan, in particular Sulemani and Hewler (Arbil). Now these Arab families face a number of problems, including education of their children The Kurdistan Regional Government plans to expand the Arabic education system in Kurdistan to accommodate the needs of the Arab families as they do not wish to study in Kurdish.

The migration of huge numbers of Arab families into Kurdistan has grave impacts on Kurdistan, including demographic changes, i.e. Arabisation of Kurdistan in a different way. After all, the Arabisation of Kirkuk started with migration of Arab families and tribes to work in irrigation projects.

Do you think children of these Arab families should be educated in the Kurdish language or in Arabic? When Kurds migrate to the Arab parts of Iraq, they are not allowed to study in Kurdish and there are no Kurdish schools available. What do you think? Have your say now!

Kurdish Media has not posted any comments as of this writing, but you can Watch This Space to see what the response is like.

In Halbja, the Kurdish town where Saddam's forces are accused of killing 5,000 people in a gas attack in 1988, resentment festers over neglect by the Kurdish government. Excerpt:

By Ibon Villelabeitia. HALABJA, Iraq (Reuters) - Broken glass crunched under Adnan's feet as he walked through Halabja's vandalized memorial. He stopped and pointed to an inscription on the wall. "There is my father's name. I remember the day they gassed us as if it were yesterday. We ran but my father and sister didn't make it," said the 27-year-old Kurdish Peshmerga militiaman.

Near Iraq's border with Iran, Halabja became synonymous with atrocities against civilians after Saddam Hussein's forces killed 5,000 people here in a gas attack in 1988. Iraqi Kurds call Halabja the "town of martyrs" and hold the massacre in their collective memory as a Kurdish Auschwitz.

Today, the victims' memorial also bears witness to more recent violence and simmering discontent in this dusty town. In March, on the 18th anniversary of the gas attack, hundreds of locals attacked the memorial and set it on fire as anger at perceived neglect and corruption by Kurdish authorities boiled over.

"It is sad to see what happened to the museum," said Adnan, who camps with his unit on cots in what used to be an exhibition room. In another room, decapitated statues of women and children, representing victims of the gas attack, lie scattered.

Local officials blamed Islamists and outsiders, a veiled reference to Iran. But youths in Halabja said the protests were spurred by local anger at the Kurdish government. They said Kurdish leaders had exploited Halabja for their political ends, and that donations and investment from outside had not translated into better schools, roads or services. Adnan, who was 9 when Halabja was gassed and survived by fleeing to the mountains with his uncle and mother, does not understand the reasons.

Read in Full

Security crackdown suppresses violence in Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, but both residents and Gen. Casey are not yet convinced the results will last. Excerpt:

By DAMIEN CAVE, the New York Times Published: September 4, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 1 — Three weeks after American and Iraqi troops began searching, fortifying and patrolling Dora, one of Baghdad’s bloodiest neighborhoods, the odor of death on the streets has eased. After 126 bodies surfaced in Dora in July, only 18 turned up in August, according to United States military figures. Killings, most often Sunni against Shiite or vice versa in this mixed neighborhood, dropped as well: 14 were reported last month, down from 73 in July.

But in a country long on disappointment and short on hope, Dora represents only the embryo of progress. It was the first of several violent neighborhoods covered by a new Baghdad security plan — which seeks to create walled-in sanctuaries where economic development can grow in an environment of safety — and American and Iraqi officials are still struggling to make residents feel safe enough to let their children play in the streets.

The local progress is coming as death tolls across the country have been soaring, up more than 50 percent in recent months, according to the latest Pentagon assessment. And in Baghdad as a whole, the toll has been high, with the city’s morgue reporting more than 334 people killed or found dead from Aug. 24 to the end of the month.

Most of those deaths occurred in areas without a reinforced military presence. Yet the challenge for American and Iraqi officials lies in spreading security to additional trouble spots without letting Dora slide back into lawlessness. American generals admit that lasting progress will be hard to achieve.

"The difficult part is going to be holding these areas with Iraqi security forces," the top United States commander, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., told reporters on Wednesday. "And building the relationships between the Iraqi people in the neighborhood and their security forces so they can get on with their economic development."

American forces have frequently focused on violent areas of Iraq and then moved on — in part because they lacked enough troops to hold the territory — only to return when chaos ensued. In Tal Afar for example, a dusty agrarian city northwest of Baghdad, American troops were forced to reassert control in 2005 after a large military offensive a year earlier failed to yield a lasting peace.

In Dora, local leaders worry that violent gangs are just lying low, scouting for ways to circumvent the additional safeguards while attacking other neighborhoods or waiting for the Americans to leave.

"The calm situation right now is temporary, and if the state does not continue to build trust with the people, the situation might explode," said Sattar al-Jabouri, 51, a Sunni sheik and member of Dora’s municipal council. "We know there are people who do not want this operation to succeed."

Mr. Jabouri emphasized that the American presence had made Dora safer. Like others in the area, he raved about being able to sleep again on his roof, away from the sweltering indoor heat. He said some of the families who had fled the violence seemed to be returning, and that the Iraqis and Americans who searched his home were respectful and seemed sincerely interested in improving the neighborhood.

Col. Michael Beech, the American commander overseeing Dora, said the second phase of the operation, now in effect, included cutting off all but a few access points, searching every car that entered Dora, and linking American soldiers with Iraqi police officers for joint patrols. Sections of the neighborhood have been assigned to the same squads so that residents and officers can become better acquainted.

The United States military has also allotted $5 million to Dora and the surrounding area, with much of the current outlay going to Iraqis who pick up trash. On a recent afternoon, the results were hard to miss. Piles of rancid garbage behind the market had been cleared, and workers elsewhere tossed more into trucks. Iraqi police cars and American humvees lined the streets.

Yet even as residents described the progress as encouraging, they said that life in Dora had not returned to normal. They trust neither neighbors nor the police. They still keep their children indoors. They still warn visitors to stay away.

Read in Full

Residents of other neighborhoods where crackdown has focused express similar sentiments. Excerpt:

Generals are hailing a 46 per cent fall in the Baghdad murder rate last month as proof that more muscular tactics are bringing order back to the most dangerous areas. Local people caught in the vice of Sunni extremists and Shia fighters say that the spiralling bloodshed has diminished but that the mayhem will return as soon as the Americans leave.

However, the plan has failed to stop militants from carrying out major attacks in the capital. At least 90 people died in two city bombings last week. Operation Together Forward was first announced in mid-June. The offensive, which consisted of 50,000 Iraqi forces and 7,200 US soldiers, failed to bring any safety to the city.

The plan relied on the Iraqi Army and police patrolling districts but, in places such as western Baghdad, Iraqi forces often turned a blind eye to abundant Sunni and Shia militants. With bodies piling high, shops shuttered and mortar bombs flying early last month the spectre of civil war loomed. On August 7, the US military announced that it was bringing the 3,500-man Stryker Brigade to western Baghdad for the second phase of Operation Together Forward. The armoured Strykers roared down streets and US and Iraqi soldiers started clearing the danger zones of Ghazaliya, Amariyah and Dura house by house. Violence dropped and the tide started to turn.

Major-General Bill Caldwell, the US military spokesman in Iraq, lauded the plan’s success at bringing down the murders, kidnappings and death squad activities. "In each of those areas where we’re operating, we are in fact being very successful in doing that," he told reporters. He said that the operation had been extended to Adhamiyah, the Sunni enclave. Iraqi defence officials have announced plans in the next two weeks to bring the mission to Sadr City, the stronghold of the Mahdi Army, the militia of Hojatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical cleric.

Residents in Ghazaliya, one of the neighbourhoods that have been swept, are far from upbeat. Yusuf, who had watched al-Mahdi Army and al-Qaeda fighters battle for Ghazaliya, said that he was glad that the US and Iraqi forces had brought some security, but doubted that it would last. Despite the crackdown, Sunni fighters still launch mortar bombs nightly at the adjoining Shia neighbourhood of Shaola and people still get killed. Even so, Yusuf conceded that conditions had improved.

"There are a lot more checkpoints by the Iraqi Army. Before, some of them had a deal, where they were paid off by the Mahdi Army and the [Sunni] insurgents. Some of them even worked for groups. Most of them were just scared."

Before the Stryker Brigade came, most shops in Ghazaliya had closed down. Al-Qaeda fighters would spray-paint their organisation’s name on shops and the next day the owner would flee. Yusuf was about to close his own grocery store when the Sunni Mujahidin [Islamic fighters] begged him to keep it open.

"The Mujahidin told me, 'If you go, we will die. We have nowhere else to shop. If we go to Shaola, we’ll get killed’." Assured he was protected, he stayed in business. After the Stryker Brigade arrived, the fighters didn’t scatter and continued to shop there. Yusuf warned: "If the Americans or Iraqi Army leave my area, I’m sure 20 or 30 people a day will be killed. Right now the Mujahidin are looking to see which people and families are talking and helping the Americans."

Meanwhile, in districts where US and Iraqi forces have not turned out en masse, the sectarian war rages. In the western neighbourhood of Jihad, where at least 40 Sunnis were shot dead by suspected al-Mahdi army militants in July, Shia families have moved in. Shia death squads have been patrolling the streets and in some cases have threatened Sunni families to leave.

Read in Full

New National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, requested by Democrats, is rumored to paint dire picture. Whether Cheney Administration will allow it to see the light of day remains to be seen. - C

News of the Weird: Iraqi who lost both eyes in a bomb blast arrested for reckless driving in England.

A blind Iraqi who lost his eyes in a bomb blast was caught driving a car while receiving instructions on steering and braking from a banned driver, a court heard today. Omed Aziz, who denies dangerous driving, reached speeds of up to 35mph on a half-mile route through Oldbury, West Midlands, in April.

Warley magistrates' court was told that Aziz - who also suffers from leg tremors and is partially deaf - was arrested by traffic police after removing his sunglasses to reveal his disability. Pc Glyn Austin told the court that Aziz and his friend, Dlear Ahmed, were both arrested shortly after 11pm on St George's Day (April 23) after their Peugeot 405 was followed along Oldbury Ringway and into West Bromwich Street.

The officer said Aziz, of Birmingham Street, Wednesbury, pulled his vehicle on to wasteground after being informed there was a police car behind him. "I attempted to speak to the driver, who appeared to be fumbling around with the controls," the traffic officer said. "At that point the passenger leaned across and stated 'He's blind'.

"We asked him to step out of the vehicle, which he did eventually and then Pc [Stuart] Edge questioned him as to his eyesight, at which point he then removed his glasses." Prosecutor Peter Love asked Pc Austin if he had noticed anything about Aziz. Pc Austin replied: "I did - he didn't have any eyes, Your Worships."

Read in Full


Walter Pincus debunks the Miami terror plot. Excerpt:

By Walter Pincus, Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, September 2, 2006

Standing in an empty Miami warehouse on May 24 with a man he believed had ties to Osama bin Laden, a dejected Narseal Batiste talked of the setbacks to their terrorist plot and then uttered the words that helped put him in a federal prison cell. "I want to fight some jihad," he allegedly said. "That's all I live for. What Batiste did not know was that the bin Laden representative was really an FBI informant. The warehouse in which they were meeting had been rented and wired for sound and video by bureau agents, who were monitoring his every word.

Within a month, Batiste, 32, and six of his compatriots were arrested and charged with conspiracy to aid a terrorist organization and bomb a federal building. On June 23, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales held a news conference to announce the destruction of a terrorist cell inside the United States, hailing "our commitment to preventing terrorism through energetic law enforcement efforts aimed at detecting and thwarting terrorist acts."

But court records released since then suggest that what Gonzales described as a "deadly plot" was virtually the pipe dream of a few men with almost no ability to pull it off on their own. The suspects have raised questions in court about the FBI informants' role in keeping the plan alive.

The plot featured self-proclaimed militant religious leaders who referred to themselves as kings, talked of establishing their own nation inside the United States, called their headquarters an embassy and discussed plans to train their recruits to use bows and arrows. One of their quixotic notions was to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower. Batiste's father, a Christian preacher and former contractor who lives in Louisiana, told the news media after the indictment that his son was "not in his right mind" and needed psychiatric treatment.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, separating serious terrorist plotters from delusional dreamers has proved one of the FBI's most challenging tasks. The effort is complicated by the bureau's frequent use of informants who sometimes play active roles in the plotting.

Read in Full

Wolcott interprets the increasingly bellicose rhetoric of the War Party as a sign that war is losing its cachet. Let's hope he's right. Excerpt:

September 11th is a day of mournful remembrance, our annual hurdle of traumatic flashbacks and funeral orations. A somber day, not a saber-rattling one. Yet for the last week or so, the fearmongers and the blog militia have taken the safety catches off their loaded mouths.

We've had Rumsfeld rolling the charge of appeasement like a hand grenade down the Democratic aisle.

Bush unveiling that Frankenstein hybrid meant to scare credulous villagers, "Islamic fascism."

Charles Krauthammer launching the latest in his line of wind-up goosestepping Hitler dolls.

The thumb-twiddlers at NRO's Corner trying to come up with a catchy new name for our enemies.

The brain stormers at the Gates of Vienna trying to come up with a punchy new slogan for the War on Terror. And trying. And trying. Among the bubblings from the tar pit, we get: "If you don't have the brains to know Islam is a threat, you won't miss your head when it's gone." "Terrorism is cancer -- it's time to get radioactive!" "KILL A JIHADI FOR MOMMIE."

The slovenly Debbie Schlussel (see here) and a bodywaxed dummy named David Warren (here) heaping scorn on the Fox News captives, inspiring this Frank Frazetta-ish beefcake graphic via TBogg.

Put this hyperbole and head-scratching together and you get an apocalyptic warning cry represented best by this showcased post at Pajamas Media from The Intellectual Activist bearing the dire title, "Five Minutes to Midnight: The War Is Coming, No Matter How Hard We Try to Evade It."


I have a theory on why the War Party rhetoric has gone skittish and skyhigh, a theory based on casual observation of New York streetfights (streetfights everywhere, really). What I've noticed is that the trash talk in a street altercation escalates in proportion to the expanding distance between the two protagonists. When two potential fighters are almost literally in each other's faces, their words are few, their expressions fierce. It's when the fist fight has been avoided (or tabled) and they're putting distance between each other that the taunting becomes louder and more florid. "Get back in my face again, motherfucker, and I'll pound your face into hamburger meat, motherfucker." "Come back and say that to my face, lame-ass motherfucker." Etc. You can supply your own David Mamet expletives and challenges. One of my favorite verbal showdowns occurred on 14th Street one rainy day when two non-pugilists kept up the trash talk until one of them said, "You're carrying an umbrella, motherfucker--how tough can you be?" Which I must say got quite a chortle from us idle bystanders.

Now what has this to do with the posings of our militaristic muscle mouths?

This: It is an index of the frustration and impotence they're experiencing at not getting their way. They're waging rhetorical escalation because de-escalation is the unacknowledged order of the day, and there's nothing they can do about it.

Read in Full (I'm not necessarily so sanguine -- C.)

Patrick Seale in the Daily Ireland sees U.S. policy in ruins.

Quote of the Day

The creepy spectacle of watching one warrior after the next insist that we must risk other people's lives and bomb more people so that we don't feel girlish and scared and submissive is repugnant enough, in itself, to have to witness on a daily basis. But the fact that these same people are the ones whose deep, irrational fears of The Terrorist override virtually all other considerations, and who demand that we change our nation and relinquish all of the values and liberties which have always defined it and which make it worth fighting for, all because they believe that doing so is necessary to allow them some marginally greater chance of avoiding death, renders their accusations and warrior dances -- on top of everything else -- an exercise in the grossest and most absurd hypocrisy.

-- Glenn Greenwald

:: Article nr. 26391 sent on 05-sep-2006 01:34 ECT


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