The Command Post
Iraq
January 31, 2004
Unco-operative Saddam for Iraqi Court : Bremer

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Ousted dictator Saddam Hussein remains in Iraq and will be handed over to a special court being set up by the US-appointed Governing Council to face charges of genocide and invasion of neighbouring countries, US administrator Paul Bremer said in an interview published on Saturday.

Saddam is in Iraq now, and yes he will be tried publicly by a special Iraqi court when the prerequisites for setting up such a court are completed,” Mr Bremer told the Arabic-language daily Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Governing Council has started setting up the special court and we have spent some funds on that and he (Saddam) will be tried publicly after bringing charges of mass killing and invading neighbouring countries against him.”

Saddam will be handed over to the Governing Council after it finishes setting up the court.”

Asked if Saddam was cooperating with investigators, Mr Bremer replied: “He is not cooperating, but he is not a troublemaker either.”

He has not given us any important or useful information up to now and has not confessed to the whereabouts of his offshore funds, but we know for sure that he has a lot of money outside Iraq.”

The 2002 NIE: Read It For Yourself

While tracking links about the most recent airborne terror concern, I came across this WaPo link to the excerpt from the 2002 National Intelligency Estimate discussing the probabiliites and confidences of WMD in Iraq. It's one of the documents of which so much has been made, and thanks to the link and Adobe Acrobat, you can read the excerpt for yourself. Do so here, and I've posted a screen cap of one key passage below (click to see it full-sized).

wmd.jpg

Posted By Alan at 11:46 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Death Toll now 18

Updating a previous post, from the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Separate attacks in Iraq have claimed 18 lives, including nine killed in a suicide car bombing in the country's northern city of Mosul.

A powerful car bomb blew up in front of a police station in Mosul, killing two policemen and seven civilians and leaving more than 40 others wounded.

Witnesses say the police station was quickly engulfed in flames and the building was partially destroyed.

In Baghdad, two blasts in the neighbourhood of Baladiyyat killed at least six people and wounded several others, according to witnesses and hospital sources.

The US military said it was aware of the explosions but had no information about them.

Earlier, three US soldiers were killed when their convoy was struck in the northern oil city of Kirkuk.

Dutch Embassy Hit By RPG

FOX:

Attackers fired two rocket-propelled grenades at the Dutch Embassy in Iraq on Friday, hitting the roof with one and setting it on fire. The blaze was quickly extinguished, and there were no injuries.

Security guards and U.S. soldiers said the projectile detonated on the roof after the embassy had closed for the day. Another missed the building, and two other launchers were found in the garden behind the embassy, guards said.

Guards fired at the attackers' vehicle as they fled, said guard Karim al-Zubaidi.

Two Bombings, 12 Dead
Two bombings in Iraq on Saturday killed 12 people, including three American soldiers, and wounded at least 45 others, according to the U.S. military and news agency reports.

A car bomb exploded early Saturday, which was payday at a police station in the northern Iraq of Mosul. The blast killed nine people and wounded at least 45 others, according to news agency reports.

And:

A roadside bomb killed three American soldiers Saturday when it ripped through their convoy near the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, while a car bomb outside a police station in Mosul left nine people dead and 45 others wounded.

The homemade bomb exploded as a 4th Infantry Division convoy passed by about 25 miles southwest of Kirkuk, killing the three soldiers, the U.S. military said. Their names were not immediately available. Kirkuk, a major oil producing area, is about 60 miles north of Tikrit.

No Evidence CIA Slanted Iraq Data

So say WaPo:

Congressional and CIA investigations into the prewar intelligence on Iraq's weapons and links to terrorism have found no evidence that CIA analysts colored their judgment because of perceived or actual political pressure from White House officials, according to intelligence officials and congressional officials from both parties.

Why do I not think this is the final word?

January 30, 2004
Carbondale, CO Honors The Fallen

This item was forwarded by the folks at Five Star Flags:

Now, Therefore Be It Proclaimed, That for the purpose of honoring our war dead, the United States flag that Carbondale flies at its Town Hall shall be lowered and flown at half staff each and every Monday at 8:00 a.m., beginning January 19, 2004, and raised again each Tuesday at 8:00 a.m.

Be It Further Proclaimed, That Carbondale shall continue to honor our war dead in this manner until the state of war no longer exists.

Carbondale is a town of 5,000 residents.

Posted By Alan at 10:20 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
Another Democratic Congressman On Iraq

U.S. Rep Steve Israel of Long Island just returned from visiting Iraq, and sent this note to his constituents:

First, the morale, dedication and professionalism of our troops is extraordinary. As I have said often, in America we have the right to agree with policy to go to war, to disagree or to remain silent. But we have
a profound obligation to support our troops when they are deployed overseas and when they return home.

Second, serious challenges remain. One general told me, “My job is to maintain security, but security is more than just military power. Maintaining security and stability involves governance, rebuilding infrastructure, democratization and economic development. All these things help us maintain security.”

Later, while flying in a Blackhawk helicopter over Tikrit, the general told me how he spends most of his time promoting security by setting up town halls, building police forces, organizing women’s and school groups, and teaching people how to start small businesses. Combat was “hard power.” The general now deploys “soft power.”

To truly accomplish our mission in Iraq, to demonstrate to the world
that the Middle East can engender democracy and not dictatorship,
prosperity and not poverty, education and not indoctrination, we will need to
provide our troops with the resources they need: hard power as well as
soft power.

Israel has posted photos of his trip on his congressional web site.

(Cross-posted at Late Final.)

January 29, 2004
Oil, Oil, Someone's in Trouble


[click for bigger image;Cartoon by TCP regular CERDIP]

Is it chicken roosting time? Here, from MEMRI, is a short list of the countries/people who allegedly benefitted from Saddam's oil vouchers. Yesterday, we posted about the possibility of Saddam bribing Chirac.

Merde in France says:

It's official, it was all about the oil; and then calls the whole thing a money train:

Blood money. Looks like some of the moolah splashing around French political circles thanks to barrels of Iraqi oil went to pay for hyping the Iraqi regime. Here is a web page covering a presentation organized at the Paris 9th district City Hall in June 2000 called 'Irak: the Forgotten Land' organized by 'L'association Jeunes France-Irak'.

Iraqi blogger Hammoribi chimes in:

These individuals should be followed up not only by the Iraqis but by the UN to investigate the breach of the UN sanction at that stage! This breach is coin with two faces, one is the breach of sanction and the other is the breach of using the money for propagand or things other than the food for the starved Iraqi children!

From another Iraq blogger, Zeyad of Healing Iraq:

Now you know why Iraqis suffered from the UN sanctions. Now you know why hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children had to die during the last ten years. Now you know why those people were vehemently anti-war.

Meanwhile, CNN, Fox and NYT have nothing on their front page in relation to this story. We'll have to watch the Iraqi bloggers for this one.

Update: A word of caution from Tom Maguire.

MEMRI's List: Who Were the Benificiaries of Saddam's Oil Vouchers?

MEMRI: The following report from MEMRI's Baghdad office is a translation of an article which appeared in the Iraqi daily Al-Mada,(1) which obtained lists of 270 companies, organizations, and individuals awarded allocations (vouchers) of crude oil by Saddam Hussein's regime. The beneficiaries reside in 50 countries: 16 Arab, 17 European, 9 Asian, and the rest from sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Only a portion of the 270 recipients are listed and identified.

[ed. note: Read the background MEMRI provides and the other notes, as well as endnotes, with the article]

The List

The following is a partial list and description of individuals and organizations that MEMRI has been able to identify:(2)

Canada: Arthur Millholland, president and CEO of the Calgary-based Oilexco company, received 1 million barrels of oil.

United States: Samir Vincent received 10.5 million barrels. In 2000, Vincent, an Iraqi-born American citizen who has lived in the U.S. since 1958, organized a delegation of Iraqi religious leaders to visit the U.S. and meet with former president Jimmy Carter. Shaker Al-Khafaji, the pro-Saddam chairman of the 17th conference of Iraqi expatriates, received 1 million barrels.

Great Britain: George Galloway received 1 million barrels. Fawwaz Zreiqat received 1 million barrels. Zreiqat also appears in the Jordanian section as having received 6 million barrels. The Mujahideen Khalq(3) in Britain received 1 million barrels.

France: The French-Arab Friendship Association received 15.1 million barrels. Former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua received 12 million barrels.(4) Patrick Maugein of the Trafigura company received 25 million barrels. Michel Grimard, founder of the French-Iraqi Export Club, received 17.1 million barrels.

Switzerland: Glenco Re, the largest commodity trader in Switzerland, received 12 million barrels. Taurus, which has been associated with Iraq for 20 years and was the first company to renew its business with Iraq after the fall of Saddam, received 1 million barrels. Petrogas, which is listed under three sub-companies - Petrogas Services, Petrogas Distribution, and Petrogas Resources - and is associated with the Russian company Rosneftegazetroy, received 1 million barrels. Alcon, listed in Lichtenstein and associated with larger oil companies, received 1 million barrels. Finar Holdings, which is listed in Lugano, Switzerland, and is under liquidation, received 1 million barrels.

Italy: The Italian Petrol Union received 1 million barrels. West Petrol, an Italian company that trades crude oil and oil products, received 1 million barrels. Roberto Formigoni, possibly the president of Lombardia, received 1 million barrels. Salvatore Nicotra, a former NATO pilot who became an oil merchant, received 1 million barrels.

Spain: Basem Qaqish, a member of the Spanish Committee for the Defense of the Arab Cause, received 1 million barrels. Ali Ballout, a pro-Saddam Lebanese journalist, received 1 million barrels. Javier Robert received 1 million barrels.

Yugoslavia: Four Yugoslav political parties received vouchers: the Yugoslav Left party received 9.5 million barrels. The Socialist Party received 1 million barrels. The Italian Party received 1 million barrels. Another party, whose name in exact transliteration is “kokstuntsha” - possibly Kostunica's party - received 1 million barrels.

Other political parties: The Romanian Labor Party received 5.5 million barrels. The Party of the Hungarian Interest received 4.7 million barrels. The Bulgarian Socialist Party received 12 million barrels. The Slovakian Communist Party received 1 million barrels.

Austria: The Arab-Austrian Society received 1 million barrels.

Brazil: The 8th of October Movement, a Brazilian Communist group, received 4.5 million barrels. Fuwad Sirhan received 10 million barrels.

Egypt: Khaled Gamal Abd Al-Nasser, son of the late Egyptian president, received 16.6 million barrels. 'Imad Al-Galda, a businessman and a member of the Egyptian parliament from President Mubarak's National Democratic Party, received 14 million barrels. Abd Al-Azim Mannaf,(5) editor of the Sout Al-Arab newspaper, received 6 million barrels. Muhammad Hilmi, editor of the Egyptian paper Sahwat Misr,(6) received an undisclosed number of barrels. The United Arab Company received 6 million barrels. The Nile and Euphrates Company received 3 million barrels. The Al-Multaqa Foundation for Press and Publication received 1 million barrels.(7)

Libya: Prime Minister Shukri Ghanem received 1 million barrels.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Chad's foreign minister received 1 million barrels.(8) Four South Africans are listed: Tokyo Saxville received 4 million barrels. Montega received 4 million barrels. Both are associated with the African National Party.

Palestinians: The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) received 4 million barrels. The PLO Political Bureau received 5 million barrels. Abu Al-Abbas received 11.5 million barrels. Abdallah Al-Horani received 8 million barrels. The PFLP received 5 million barrels. Wafa Tawfiq Al-Sayegh received 4 million barrels.

Oman: The Al-Shanfari group received 5 million barrels.

Syria: Farras Mustafa Tlass, the son of Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass, received 6 million barrels. 'Audh Amourah received 18 million barrels. Ghassan Zakariya received 6 million barrels. Anwar Al-Aqqad received 2 million barrels. Hamida Na'Na', the owner of the Al-Wafaq Al-Arabi periodical, received 1 million barrels.

Lebanon: The son of Lebanese President Emil Lahoud received 4.5 million barrels. Former MP Najjah Wakim received 3 million barrels. Nasserist Party head Osama M'arouf received 3 million barrels. National Arabic Club Chairman Faisal Darnika received 3 million barrels.

Jordan: Former Islamist MP and head of the Engineers Union Leith Shbeilat(9) received 15.5 million barrels. Former MP and Jordanian Writers Union head Fakhri Qi'war received 6 million barrels.(10) Former Jordanian chief of staff Mashhour Haditha received 1 million barrels. Former MP Toujan Al-Faisal received 3 million barrels.(11) The Jordanian Ministry of Energy received 5 million barrels. Muhammad Saleh Al-Horani, the Amman Stock Exchange head and former Minister of Supplies, received 4 million barrels. Lawyer Wamidth Hussein Al-Majali received 6 million barrels.(12)

Qatar: Qatari Horseracing Association Chairman Hamad bin Ali Aal Thani received 14 million barrels. Gulf Petroleum received 2 million barrels.

The Indian Congress Party received 1 million barrels.

Indonesia: Indonesian President Megawati received 1 million barrels as “the daughter of President Sukarno,” and 1 million barrels as Megawati.

Myanmar: Myanmar's Forestry Minister received 1 million barrels.

Ukraine: The Social Democratic Party received 1 million barrels. The Communist Party received 6 million barrels. The Socialist Party received 1 million barrels. The FTD oil company received 1 million barrels, as did other Ukrainian companies.

Belarus: The Liberal Party received 1 million barrels. The Communist Party received 1 ton [sic] of oil. The director of the Belarussian president's office received 1 million barrels.

Russia: The Russian state itself received 1,366,000,000 barrels. The list also included the following:

Companies belonging to the Liberal Democratic Party received 79.8 million barrels - the list notes the name of party president Vladimir Zhirinovsky. The Russian Communist Party received 1 million barrels. The Lukoil company received 63 million barrels. The Russneft company received 35.5 million barrels. Vladimir Putin's Peace and Unity Party received 34 million barrels - the list notes the name of party chairwoman Saji Umalatova. The Gazprom company received 26 million barrels. The Soyuzneftgaz company received 25.5 million barrels - the list notes the name Shafrannik. The Moscow Oil Company received 25.1 million barrels. The Onako company received 22.2 million barrels. The Sidanco company received 21.2 million barrels. The Russian Association for Solidarity with Iraq received 12.5 million barrels. The Ural Invest company received 8.5 million barrels. Russneft Gazexport received 12.5 million barrels. The Transneft company received 9 million barrels. The Sibneft company received 8.1 million barrels. The Stroyneftgaz company received 6 million barrels. The Russian Committee for Solidarity with the People of Iraq received 6.5 million barrels - the list notes the name of committee chairman Rudasev. The Russian Orthodox Church received 5 million barrels. The Moscow Science Academy received 3.5 million barrels. The Chechnya Administration received 2 million barrels. The National Democratic Party received 2 million barrels. The Nordwest group received 2 million barrels. The Yukos company received 2 million barrels. One Russian company which phonetically reads as Zarabsneft received 174.5 million barrels. Vouchers were also granted to the Russian foreign ministry, one under the name of Al-Fayko for 1 million barrels, and one to Yetumin for 30.1 million barrels. The Mashinoimport Company received 1 million barrels. The Slavneft Company received 1 million barrels. The Caspian Invest Company (Kalika) received 1 million barrels. The Tatneft Tatarstan company received 1 million barrels. The Surgutneft company received 1 million barrels. Siberia's oil and gas company received 1 million barrels.

In addition, the son of the former Russian Ambassador to Iraq received 19.7 million barrels. Nikolay Ryjkov, a former prime minister of the USSR, received 13 million barrels. The Russian President's office director received 5 million barrels.

Iraq Minister: WMDs Carefull Hidden

Reuters

Iraqi foreign minister Hoshiyar Zebari said Thursday Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction had been carefully hidden, but he was confident they could be discovered.

“I have every belief that some of these weapons could be found as we move forward,” Zebari, an Iraqi Kurd, told a news conference in Sofia. “They have been hidden in certain areas. The system of hiding was very sophisticated.”

The United States and Britain cited Iraq's possession of chemical and biological arms as their main reason for invading the country in March and toppling Saddam. But no such weapons have so far come to light despite intensive searches.

Former chief U.S. weapons hunter David Kay said Wednesday “we were almost all wrong” about the issue and it was “highly unlikely that there were large stockpiles of deployed militarized chemical and biological weapons” in Iraq.

But Zebari, on a visit to Bulgaria, said: “We as Iraqis have seen Saddam Hussein develop, manufacture and use these weapons of mass destruction against us. He hasn't denied that.”

January 28, 2004
Did Saddam Bribe Chirac?

Via Drudge comes a report in the Washington Times that the Iraqi Governing Council has evidence showing that “top French officials” were bribed by Saddam with oil:

Documents from Saddam Hussein's oil ministry reveal he used oil to bribe top French officials into opposing the imminent U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The oil ministry papers, described by the independent Baghdad newspaper al-Mada, are apparently authentic and will become the basis of an official investigation by the new Iraqi Governing Council, the Independent reported Wednesday.

Oddly, the article is entitled Iraqi govt. papers: Saddam bribed Chirac, but the body of the article never mentions Jacques Chirac personally receiving any improper payments, and this article in the Independent (which appears to be the Times' source) never points the finger directly at Chirac. So take this for what it's worth - if the IGC really has the goods on top French officials, whether or not they go as high as Chirac, we should see more on this in the near future.

Transcript of Kay's Opening Statements

The following is the statement former U.S. Weapons Inspector David Kay made to the Senate committee before questioning:

KAY: As you know and we discussed, I do not have a written statement. This hearing came about very quickly. I do have a few preliminary comments, but I suspect you're more interested in asking questions, and I'll be happy to respond to those questions to the best of my ability.

I would like to open by saying that the talent, dedication and bravery of the staff of the [Iraq Survey Group] that was my privilege to direct is unparalleled and the country owes a great debt of gratitude to the men and women who have served over there and continue to serve doing that.

A great deal has been accomplished by the team, and I do think … it important that it goes on and it is allowed to reach its full conclusion. In fact, I really believe it ought to be better resourced and totally focused on WMD; that that is important to do it.

But I also believe that it is time to begin the fundamental analysis of how we got here, what led us here and what we need to do in order to ensure that we are equipped with the best possible intelligence as we face these issues in the future.

Let me begin by saying, we were almost all wrong, and I certainly include myself here.

Sen. [Edward] Kennedy knows very directly. Senator Kennedy and I talked on several occasions prior to the war that my view was that the best evidence that I had seen was that Iraq indeed had weapons of mass destruction.

I would also point out that many governments that chose not to support this war — certainly, the French president, [Jacques] Chirac, as I recall in April of last year, referred to Iraq's possession of WMD.

The Germans certainly — the intelligence service believed that there were WMD.

It turns out that we were all wrong, probably in my judgment, and that is most disturbing.

We're also in a period in which we've had intelligence surprises in the proliferation area that go the other way. The case of Iran, a nuclear program that the Iranians admit was 18 years on, that we underestimated. And, in fact, we didn't discover it. It was discovered by a group of Iranian dissidents outside the country who pointed the international community at the location.

The Libyan program recently discovered was far more extensive than was assessed prior to that.

There's a long record here of being wrong. There's a good reason for it. There are probably multiple reasons. Certainly proliferation is a hard thing to track, particularly in countries that deny easy and free access and don't have free and open societies.

In my judgment, based on the work that has been done to this point of the Iraq Survey Group, and in fact, that I reported to you in October, Iraq was in clear violation of the terms of [U.N.] Resolution 1441.

Resolution 1441 required that Iraq report all of its activities — one last chance to come clean about what it had.

We have discovered hundreds of cases, based on both documents, physical evidence and the testimony of Iraqis, of activities that were prohibited under the initial U.N. Resolution 687 and that should have been reported under 1441, with Iraqi testimony that not only did they not tell the U.N. about this, they were instructed not to do it and they hid material.

I think the aim — and certainly the aim of what I've tried to do since leaving — is not political and certainly not a witch hunt at individuals. It's to try to direct our attention at what I believe is a fundamental fault analysis that we must now examine.

And let me take one of the explanations most commonly given: Analysts were pressured to reach conclusions that would fit the political agenda of one or another administration. I deeply think that is a wrong explanation.

As leader of the effort of the Iraqi Survey Group, I spent most of my days not out in the field leading inspections. It's typically what you do at that level. I was trying to motivate, direct, find strategies.

In the course of doing that, I had innumerable analysts who came to me in apology that the world that we were finding was not the world that they had thought existed and that they had estimated. Reality on the ground differed in advance.

And never — not in a single case — was the explanation, “I was pressured to do this.” The explanation was very often, “The limited data we had led one to reasonably conclude this. I now see that there's another explanation for it.”

And each case was different, but the conversations were sufficiently in depth and our relationship was sufficiently frank that I'm convinced that, at least to the analysts I dealt with, I did not come across a single one that felt it had been, in the military term, “inappropriate command influence” that led them to take that position.

It was not that. It was the honest difficulty based on the intelligence that had — the information that had been collected that led the analysts to that conclusion.

And you know, almost in a perverse way, I wish it had been undue influence because we know how to correct that.

We get rid of the people who, in fact, were exercising that.

The fact that it wasn't tells me that we've got a much more fundamental problem of understanding what went wrong, and we've got to figure out what was there. And that's what I call fundamental fault analysis.

And like I say, I think we've got other cases other than Iraq. I do not think the problem of global proliferation of weapons technology of mass destruction is going to go away, and that's why I think it is an urgent issue.

And let me really wrap up here with just a brief summary of what I think we are now facing in Iraq. I regret to say that I think at the end of the work of the [Iraq Survey Group] there's still going to be an unresolvable ambiguity about what happened.

A lot of that traces to the failure on April 9 to establish immediately physical security in Iraq — the unparalleled looting and destruction, a lot of which was directly intentional, designed by the security services to cover the tracks of the Iraq WMD program and their other programs as well, a lot of which was what we simply called Ali Baba looting. “It had been the regime's. The regime is gone. I'm going to go take the gold toilet fixtures and everything else imaginable.”

I've seen looting around the world and thought I knew the best looters in the world. The Iraqis excel at that.

The result is — document destruction — we're really not going to be able to prove beyond a truth the negatives and some of the positive conclusions that we're going to come to. There will be always unresolved ambiguity here.

But I do think the survey group — and I think Charlie Duelfer is a great leader. I have the utmost confidence in Charles. I think you will get as full an answer as you can possibly get.

And let me just conclude by my own personal tribute, both to the president and to [CIA Director] George Tenet, for having the courage to select me to do this, and my successor, Charlie Duelfer, as well.

Both of us are known for probably at times regrettable streak of independence. I came not from within the administration, and it was clear and clear in our discussions and no one asked otherwise that I would lead this the way I thought best and I would speak the truth as we found it. I have had absolutely no pressure prior, during the course of the work at the [Iraq Survey Group], or after I left to do anything otherwise.

I think that shows a level of maturity and understanding that I think bodes well for getting to the bottom of this. But it is really up to you and your staff, on behalf of the American people, to take on that challenge. It's not something that anyone from the outside can do. So I look forward to these hearings and other hearings at how you will get to the conclusions.

I do believe we have to understand why reality turned out to be different than expectations and estimates. But you have more public service — certainly many of you — than I have ever had, and you recognize that this is not unusual.

I told Sen. [John] Warner [chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee] earlier that I've been drawn back as a result of recent film of reminding me of something. At the time of the Cuban missile crisis, the combined estimate was unanimity in the intelligence service that there were no Soviet warheads in Cuba at the time of the missile crisis.

Fortunately, President Kennedy and [then-Attorney General] Robert Kennedy disagreed with the estimate and chose a course of action less ambitious and aggressive than recommended by their advisers.

But the most important thing about that story, which is not often told, is that as a result after the Cuban missile crisis, immediate steps were taken to correct our inability to collect on the movement of nuclear material out of the Soviet Union to other places.

So that by the end of the Johnson administration, the intelligence community had a capability to do what it had not been able to do at the time of the Cuban missile crisis.

I think you face a similar responsibility in ensuring that the community is able to do a better job in the future than it has done in the past.

Davies Resigns from BBC

Sky News:

The chairman of the BBC board of governors has resigned following criticism in the Hutton Report.

The BBC suffered its first casualty, Gavyn Davies, as the corporation's director general, Greg Dyke, “apologised” for “certain key allegations” made by reporter Andrew Gilligan which were false.

Mr Davies offered his resignation at a meeting of the BBC board of governors, which it had accepted with immediate effect.

In a statement, he said there was an “honourable tradition in British public life” of those at the top of an organistion accepting responsibility for what took place within in it.

The development followed criticism for the BBC and Mr Gilligan in Lord Hutton's report for an “unfounded” story that the Government had lied in its 45 minutes claim about Iraq's weapons capability.

More:

Main Points of the Hutton Report

From TimesOnline

BBC and Andrew Gilligan

Andrew Gilligan's claim that the 45-minutes claim was “sexed up” was unfounded.

BBC management and governors should have made more detailed investigation of Mr Gilligan's notes

BBC should have seen and approved Mr Gilligan's script before it was used in broadcast

The BBC was right to protect its independence but its procedure for dealing with the Government's complaints was “defective”.

Dr David Kelly

Dr Kelly did not tell Mr Gilligan that the Government probably knew or suspected that the 45-minutes claim was wrong before it was inserted into the dossier.

Dr Kelly killed himself after “severe loss of self esteem”
and no third party was involved.

No one involved in the inquiry was to know that Dr Kelly would kill himself.

Dr Kelly's meeting with Mr Gilligan was unauthorised and his discussion of intelligence was in breach of Civil Service rules.

Dr Kelly may have said more to Mr Gilligan than he intended to and did not realise the gravity of the situation he was creating.

Dr Kelly told his wife that he knew it was inevitable that his identity would become public

Government and MoD

No underhand strategy within the Government to identify Dr Kelly to the media.

MoD at fault for not informing Dr Kelly that its press office would confirm his name if it was stated by journalists.

MoD failed Dr Kelly in allowing an hour and a half to pass before informing him that the press office had confirmed his name to the press.

Tony Blair did not lie to journalists on a flight to Hong Kong when he said he did not name Kelly.

The Joint Intelligence Committee did not act inappropriately in considering the changes proposed by Downing Street.

Other

The debate on whether the dossier falsely made the case for war does not come under the terms of reference for his inquiry.

The final submissions of the parties involved in the inquiry, will be published on the inquiry's website today.

Kay Testifying

Former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay is testifying before the Senate in regards to finding weapons of mass destrution in Iraq.

It's being aired live on both Fox, C-Span and CNN. You can also watch it on the C-Span website.

We will print partial transcripts as soon as we get them.

Tony Blair's Statement on the Hutton Report

Prime Minister Tony Blair has made a statement following the publication of Lord Hutton's report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly.

- Watch the PM's statement (windows media player)

The statement in full, as provided by the 10 Downing Street website:
With your permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement following Lord Hutton's report into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly.

I am immensely grateful to Lord Hutton, his team and inquiry staff for the work they have carried out. The report itself is an extraordinarily thorough, detailed and clear document. It leaves no room for doubt or interpretation. We accept it in full.

Lord Hutton has just finished reading the summary of his findings. Before coming to those I want to echo one thing Lord Hutton said about Dr Kelly himself. Lord Hutton makes his findings about Dr Kelly's conduct in respect of the matters at issue here, but as he says, nothing should detract from Dr Kelly's fine record of public service to this country. He was respected here and abroad. I am sorry that as a result of the gravity of the allegations made it was necessary to have this inquiry and that the Kelly family have had to go through reliving this tragedy over the past months. I hope now it is over, they will be allowed to grieve in peace.

Lord Hutton has given a most comprehensive account of the facts. It is unnecessary for me to repeat them. But let me emphasise why I believed it right to establish such an inquiry. Over the past six or more months, allegations have been made that go to the heart of the integrity of government, our intelligence services and me personally as Prime Minister. There are issues, of course, as to how the case of Dr Kelly was handled in personnel terms; and I shall come to those.

But these have not sustained the media, public and parliamentary interest over all this time. What has sustained and fuelled that interest has been, to put it bluntly, a claim of lying, of deceit, of duplicity on my part personally and that of the Government. That claim consists of two allegations: first that I lied over the intelligence that formed part of the Government's case in respect of Iraq and WMD published on 24 September 2002; the second that I lied or was duplicitous in respect of the naming of Dr Kelly, leaking his name to the press when it should have remained confidential.

Lord Hutton finds the following:

1. Contrary to the claim by the BBC that intelligence was put in the dossier against the wishes of the intelligence services; the dossier of 24 September was published with the full approval of the JIC, including the intelligence about Saddam's readiness to use some WMD within 45 minutes of an order to do so.

2. That the allegation by the BBC that the Government deliberately inserted this 45 minute claim probably knowing it was wrong was “unfounded”.

3. That the allegation by the BBC that the reason for it not being in the original draft of the dossier was because the intelligence agencies didn't believe it to be true, was also “unfounded”.

4. That no-one, either in the JIC or Downing Street acted improperly in relation to the dossier.

5. That the BBC claim that it was “sexed up” in the sense of being embellished with intelligence known or believed to be false was also “unfounded”.

6. That Mr Gilligan's key allegations repeated by the BBC were never in fact said even by Dr Kelly himself.

7. That there was “no dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy by the Government covertly to leak Dr Kelly's name to the media”.

8. That on the contrary it was reasonable for the Government to conclude that there was no practical possibility of keeping his name secret and that the Government behaved properly in relation to naming him.

9. That the suggestion that either I or Sir Kevin Tebbit in our evidence were in conflict with each other or that one of us was lying was “incorrect and not supported by the evidence”.

10. And for good measure, he also dismisses the allegations surrounding what I said on a plane to journalists in these terms.

“Some commentators have referred to answers by the Prime Minister to questions from members of the press travelling with him on an aeroplane to Hong Kong on 22 July and I have read the transcript of that press briefing. As I have stated, I am satisfied that there was not a dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy on the part of the Prime Minister and officials to leak Dr Kelly's name covertly, and I am further satisfied that the decision that was taken by the Prime Minister and his officials in 10 Downing Street on 8 July was confined to issuing a statement that an un-named civil servant had come forward and that the Question and Answer material was prepared and approved in the MOD and not in 10 Downing Street.”

Let me now return to the two central allegations.

On 29 May 2003, following the end of the conflict in Iraq, the BBC Today programme broadcast a story by its Defence Correspondent, Andrew Gilligan. It dominated the morning bulletins and reverberates to this day. It alleged that part of the September 2002 dossier - that Saddam could use WMD within 45 minutes of an order to do so - had been inserted into it by Downing Street, contrary to the wishes of the intelligence services and that moreover we “probably knew it was wrong even before we decided to put it in”. There could not be a more serious charge. The source for this extraordinary allegation was said by the BBC to be “a senior official in charge of drawing up that dossier” and an “intelligence service source” implying a member of the JIC or assessments staff who would be in a position to know. If true, it would have meant that I had misled this House on 24 September and the country; that I had done so deliberately; and I had behaved wholly improperly in respect of the intelligence services.

From that day, 29 May onwards, that story in one form or another has been replayed many times in the UK, and all over the world.

It dominated my Press Conference in Poland on 30 May; and PMQs when I returned. It led that week to the Foreign Affairs Committee deciding to conduct an Inquiry into the issue. In particular, on the Sunday following the story, Mr Gilligan wrote an article in the Mail on Sunday, not merely standing by the story but naming Alastair Campbell as the person responsible in Downing Street. The headline read:

“I asked my intelligence source why Blair misled us all over Saddam's weapons. His reply? One word…..CAMPBELL”

This again, was completely untrue; and not merely stood up but further inflamed the original allegation of deceit.

The BBC has never clearly and visibly withdrawn this allegation. This has allowed others to say repeatedly I lied and misled Parliament over the

24 September dossier.

Let me make it plain: it is absolutely right that people can question whether the intelligence received was right; and why we have not yet found WMD. There is an entirely legitimate argument about the wisdom of the conflict. I happen to believe now as I did in March that removing Saddam has made the world a safer and better place. But others are entirely entitled to disagree.

However, all of this is of a completely different order from a charge of deception, of duplicity, of deceit, a charge that I or anyone else deliberately falsified intelligence.

The truth about that charge is now found. No intelligence was inserted into the dossier by Downing Street; nothing was put in it against the wishes of the intelligence services; no-one, either in Downing Street or the JIC, put any intelligence into it, “probably knowing it was wrong”; and no such claim to the BBC was made by anyone “in charge of drawing up the dossier”. Indeed, Lord Hutton's findings go further. The claim was not even made by Dr Kelly himself.

The allegation that I or anyone else lied to this House or deliberately misled the country by falsifying intelligence on WMD is itself the real lie. And I simply ask that those that made it and those who have repeated it over all these months, now withdraw it, fully, openly and clearly.

Furthermore, Lord Hutton deals with the issue of the 45 minute claim. Instead of this being disputed by the intelligence services and inserted into the dossier at the behest of Alastair Campbell or Downing Street; the true position was that a concern about how it was phrased in the dossier was raised by a

Dr Jones in DIS, was rejected by the Head of Defence Intelligence and never actually came to the attention of the Chairman of the JIC let alone Downing Street.

In any event, Dr Jones did not say it should have been omitted from the dossier. On the contrary Dr Jones thought it should be included as it was “important intelligence”. Dr Jones told the Inquiry that Dr Kelly thought the dossier was “good” and Mr A, from the Counter Proliferation Arms Control Department said of himself and Dr Kelly “Both of us believed that if you took the dossier as a whole it was a reasonable and accurate reflection of the intelligence that we had available to us at that time.”

Lord Hutton does fairly comment: “However I consider that the possibility cannot be completely ruled out that the desire of the Prime Minister to have a dossier which, whilst consistent with the available intelligence, was as strong as possible in relation to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's WMD, may have sub-consciously influenced Mr Scarlett and other members of the JIC to make the wording of the dossier somewhat stronger than it would have been if it had been contained in a normal JIC assessment.”. However he goes on to say: “although this possibility cannot be completely ruled out, I am satisfied that Mr Scarlett, the other members of the JIC, and the members of the Assessments Staff engaged in the drafting of the dossier were concerned to ensure that the contents of the dossier were consistent with the intelligence available to the JIC.

Lord Hutton also says, in terms, that Mr Scarlett “only accepted those suggestions which were consistent with the intelligence known to the JIC and he rejected those suggestions which were not consistent with such intelligence.”

I hope that from now on the wholly unjustified attacks on the Chairman of the JIC John Scarlett and the JIC will cease. These people are people dedicated to this country and its wellbeing. The publication of intelligence by Government - which we did, let me remind the House, because of the clamour for it - was a unique exercise never done before, and difficult for all our Agencies. But in the interests of openly sharing intelligence with people, they worked hard in good faith to release it properly. And let me also remind the House that when this dossier was published it was routinely described at the time as “low key” and by Mr Gilligan, no less, on 24 September 2002 as “sensibly cautious and measured”; and actually moved public opinion hardly at all. Only in retrospect was it elevated into the single thing that conclusively persuaded a reluctant country to war.

The dossier reflected independent reports such as that of the IISS on 9 September. It reflected precisely that evidence which led the UN Security Council unanimously in November 2002 to agree Saddam and his weapons posed a threat to the world. The 45 minute claim was in fact mentioned once by me in my statement in this House on 24 September and not mentioned by me again in any debate, not even in the debate on 18 March or indeed by anyone else in that debate. Only again in retrospect, has history been rewritten to establish it as the one crucial claim that marched the nation into conflict.

Lord Hutton establishes clearly why the 45 minutes was put in the dossier, what its provenance was - and whether or not subsequently it turned out to be correct or not - finds it was put into the dossier entirely in good faith by the JIC.

So much for the first charge of dishonesty over the dossier. The second charge was over the naming of Dr Kelly. Again throughout these past six months, the context in which this has been debated has largely been that Dr Kelly's name should not have been revealed, it should have remained confidential and therefore anyone, including myself, who discussed or acted upon the issue was acting improperly.

In hindsight, of course, the name of Dr Kelly and his evidence to the FAC has taken on a different and altogether more tragic aspect. Rightly Lord Hutton puts it back into its proper contemporary context.

The truth is that by early July the FAC was actively engaged in examining the truth of the Gilligan allegations and due to report on 7 July. The ISC was about to begin its deliberations the same week. Evidence had already been given by the Government to the FAC and all of us, myself included were due to give evidence to the ISC beginning with the Chairman of the JIC on 9 July.

Suddenly in late June, Dr Kelly came forward and said to his managers he believed he may have been at least part of the source for the Gilligan story. That information was given to me personally on 3 July. By Monday 7 July it was apparent that in all likelihood he was indeed the source of the Gilligan story.

The dilemma we were in, therefore, as Lord Hutton accepts, was how we could possibly keep this information secret not just from the FAC, who had just taken evidence on this very point; but also from the ISC who were about to interview us all about the intelligence relating to Iraq, with the first session on the morning of Wednesday 9 July.

The evidence, very frankly given, of both my RHF, the Chairman of the FAC, and at least one of the Committee's members, was that if they had been told that the MOD knew the source and had interviewed him, the FAC would have wanted to do the same. As, of course, they did. Indeed, they told the Inquiry that they would have liked to have been told sooner.

The context therefore for the meetings on 7/8 July which I chaired was how to act properly in relation to these two committees where we were in possession of information plainly relevant to their inquiries and when one committee was on the point of publication and another about to begin proceedings.

The evidence of Sir David Omand was that it would be “improper” to keep this information secret and that we were under a duty to reveal it to Parliament. So as Lord Hutton accepts the whole basis of the claim that somehow Dr Kelly should never been been named or that his name was leaked in breach of a duty of confidentiality, is based on a false premise. On the contrary our duty was to disclose his name to the Committees and allow them to interview him if they so wished; and Lord Hutton finds that our concern, at being accused of misleading those Committees was “well-founded”.

In any event, again as Lord Hutton finds, no-one in fact “leaked” his name. Not myself, not the Secretary of State, not the officials. As Lord Hutton finds, the decision by the MOD to confirm Dr Kelly's name, if the correct name was put to it by a journalist, was based on the view that in a matter of such intense public and media interest it would not be sensible to try to conceal it.

There was no dishonourable or underhand or duplicitous strategy to name Dr Kelly. He was named for the reason we gave. And again I ask that those that have repeatedly claimed that I lied over this issue or that Sir Kevin Tebbit did, now withdraw that allegation also, unequivocally and in full.

Lord Hutton does however find that the MOD were at fault in not telling Dr Kelly clearly and immediately that his name would be confirmed to the press if it was put to the MOD. The MOD accepts these findings. However Lord Hutton goes on to say:

” However these criticisms are subject to the mitigating circumstances that (1) Dr Kelly's exposure to press attention and intrusion, whilst obviously very stressful, was only one of the factors placing him under greater stress; (2) individual officials in the MOD did try to help and support him in the ways which I have described in paragraphs 430 and 431; and (3) because of his intensely private nature, Dr Kelly was not an easy man to help or to whom to give advice.”

I believe that the civil servants concerned were acting in good faith doing their best in difficult and unusual circumstances. Lord Hutton has not criticised any individuals in the MOD. Some have been subject to trenchant media criticisms far beyond what they ever should have had to bear. Sir Kevin Tebbit has, as has my RHF the Secretary of State. Both are cleared of any allegations of impropriety. My RHF in particular has been subject to a constant barrage of such claims as parts of the media have alternated between wanting his scalp or mine.

I hope that these attacks on him over this issue also cease.

I come to the final issue: the cause of Dr Kelly's death; in effect, why he took his own life, since it is now beyond doubt that he did.

Lord Hutton finds that no-one could have foreseen that Dr Kelly would commit suicide. He finds further that in all probability, he did not decide to do so until the day of his death. He finds that the reason he did so was not for any reason of conspiracy or dark motives. The truth is that Dr Kelly did speak to Mr Gilligan and whatever the distortion, it was an unauthorised meeting, as was his conversation with Susan Watts, the Newsnight journalist; and he was surprised to be asked about this at the FAC. Lord Hutton finds that the existence of a note of that conversation must have weighed heavily on his mind. Finally, on the day of his death he received notice of a series of Parliamentary Questions about his contacts which he was going to have to answer.

Dr Kelly was a decent man, whose very decency made him feel wretched about the situation in which he found himself.

No-one wished this tragedy to happen. All of us felt, and feel still, desperately sorry for Mrs Kelly and her family. None of us could have foreseen it because none of us, at that time, knew what Dr Kelly knew.

Lord Hutton puts it in this way at paragraph 15 of his report:

“I also consider it to be important to state in this early part of the report that I am satisfied that none of the persons whose decisions and actions I later describe ever contemplated that Dr Kelly might take his own life. I am further satisfied that none of those persons was at fault in not contemplating that Dr Kelly might take his own life. Whatever pressures and strains Dr Kelly was subject to by the decisions and actions taken in the weeks before his death, I am satisfied that no-one realised or should have realised that those pressures and strains might drive him to take his own life or contribute to his decision to do so.”

In conclusion I repeat what Lord Hutton said in his Summary, at page 322.

“The communication by the media of information (including information obtained by investigative reporters) on matters of public interest and importance is a vital part of life in a democratic society. However the right to communicate such information is subject to the qualification (which itself exists for the benefit of a democratic society) that false accusations of fact impugning the integrity of others, including politicians, should not be made by the media.”

That is how this began: with an accusation that was false then and is false now.

We can have the debate about the war; about WMD; about intelligence. But we do not need to conduct it by accusations of lies and deceit. We can respect each other's motives and integrity even when in disagreement.

Let me repeat the words of Lord Hutton:

“False accusations of fact impugning the integrity of others … should not be made”.

Let those that made them now withdraw them.

A bit of editorializing on my part:

Brilliant.

The Guardian was blogging the statement live.

Jeff Jarvis has a lot more on this.

Palace Demolition Authorised

From The Australian :

US authorities today prepared to demolish Saddam Hussein's five palatial homes in the village where he was born, having stripped them of expensive marbles, tiles and valuable furniture.

The 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, based in Tikrit, received permission from coalition authorities yesterday to go ahead with the demolition in Uja village, said the commander, Lt Col Steve Russell.

For the past couple of months, contractors hired by the US forces have been removing valuable materials from the homes including hand-cut Italian bricks and polished marble tiles, Russell told reporters taken on a tour of the ousted dictator's home.

I see a lot of the abuse typical of Third World dictators who use their country's money and use it for their own personal gains, not for the people,” said Maj Bryan Luke.
[…]
Russell said that once the homes are levelled the property would be returned to the owner, Sheik Mahmoud Nassiri, from whom Saddam had seized the land. He did not say when the demolition will begin or how long it will last.

Ambulance Bomb in Baghdad

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

A powerful suicide car bomb tore off the front of a hotel occupied by a government minister and destroyed a police station in the centre of Baghdad early Wednesday, killing at least three people.

The explosion hit the the Shahine hotel, frequently used by foreign businessmen, in the city's upmarket Karrada district and a small police station across the street shortly after 6:30am (local time), punching out windows.

There are at least three dead,” said Lieutenant Ahmed Abdul Karim, shortly after the 6:30am (local time) blast.

A large portion of the hotel is occupied by Iraq's interim minister for labour Sami Azara al-Majun, according to security officials.

The minister was praying when the blast happened, he is safe, all of the second floor was occupied by the minister and his security,” said Uday Nuri, one of the minister's guards

Lieutenant Hussein Ali, the chief of police patrols in Karrada, said the bomb was concealed inside an ambulance which drove up to the hotel at high speed.

According to testimonies we received, an ambulance arrived very quickly in front of the hotel,” he said.

Hotel guard Salem Jabbar, who was manning a barrier protecting the hotel, said a suicide bomber was responsible for the blast.

I was in front of the barrier when an ambulance arrived at high speed. We opened fire but it succeeded in getting past us, exploding in front of the hotel,” Mr Jabbar said.

January 27, 2004
Le Monde Names Names

via Glenn Reynolds, this is the Google translation of a Le Monde article that published a list of politicians paid off by Saddam.

“million oil barrels was offered to individuals who have nothing to do with the oil activities”

Read the whole awkwardly translated article.

Assasination Attempt on Bremmer

This just in:

27 January 2004; 1500 EST: At approximately 0200 this morning, a second assassination attempt was made against US Ambassador Paul Bremmer as he was traveling in an armored vehicle in the vicinity of the Baghdad airport. His convoy attacked was although there were no known injuries to any coalition members. —Analyst Laura Manfield

No link yet, but word is Northeast Intell Network is reporting the same.

Radiation Detected on Four Trucks
The Stryker brigade's nuclear, chemical and biological reconnaissance platoon detected high levels of radiation on four trucks attempting to cross the Iraq-Turkey border, officials said Monday.

The trucks emitted radiation signatures of more than 100 centigrade per hour, which could be dangerous depending on how the measurement was taken.

Brigade officials said the platoon, from the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, was sent to the Habur Gate border crossing Monday after Turkish authorities called for U.S. military assistance. Officials said they had no information about why the Turks were suspicious of the vehicles.

[Full story]

Two CNN Employees Killed in Attack

CNN:

Two CNN employees were killed, and a third was lightly wounded Tuesday afternoon when the cars they were traveling in came under fire.

The employees were returning to Baghdad in a two-car convoy from an assignment in the southern city of Hillah, when they were ambushed on the outskirts of Baghdad.

Translator and producer Duraid Isa Mohammed, 27, and driver Yasser Khatab, 25, died from multiple gunshot wounds. Cameraman Scott McWhinnie, traveling in another vehicle, was grazed in the head by a bullet.

Roadside Bomb Kills Three Soldiers

CNN:

A roadside bomb west of Baghdad killed three U.S. soldiers and one Iraqi Tuesday, a U.S. military spokesman said. One U.S. soldier and three Iraqis were wounded in the blast, the spokesman said.

The explosion was in Khaldiyah, which is between Fallujah and Ramadi, in the volatile Sunni Triangle.

The military is investigating the blast, which took place at 1:30 p.m.

January 26, 2004
Kay on WMD: "components of Saddam's WMD programme ... went to Syria" - consistent with 2001 NATO Report on Iraqi WMD

Outside the Beltway recently posted an item on David Kay's conclusion that “components of Saddam's WMD programme … went to Syria.”

Specifically, David Kay indicated this in the January 25 edition of the Telegraph:

- - - - - - -

Saddam's WMD hidden in Syria, says Iraq survey chief
By Con Coughlin
(Filed: 25/01/2004)

David Kay, the former head of the coalition's hunt for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, yesterday claimed that part of Saddam Hussein's secret weapons programme was hidden in Syria.

In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, Dr Kay, who last week resigned as head of the Iraq Survey Group, said that he had uncovered evidence that unspecified materials had been moved to Syria shortly before last year's war to overthrow Saddam.

“We are not talking about a large stockpile of weapons,” he said. “But we know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam's WMD programme. Precisely what went to Syria, and what has happened to it, is a major issue that needs to be resolved.”

Dr Kay's comments will intensify pressure on President Bashar Assad to clarify the extent of his co-operation with Saddam's regime and details of Syria's WMD programme. Mr Assad has said that Syria was entitled to defend itself by acquiring its own biological and chemical weapons arsenal.

Syria was one of Iraq's main allies in the run-up to the war and hundreds of Iraqi officials - including members of Saddam's family - were given refuge in Damascus after the collapse of the Iraqi dictator's regime. Many of the foreign fighters responsible for conducting terrorist attacks against the coalition are believed to have entered Iraq through Syria.

A Syrian official last night said: “These allegations have been raised many times in the past by Israeli officials, which proves that they are false.”

- - - - - - -

It is important to note in supporting Kay's claim (and in response to the chorus of “no WMD” claims - including, oddly from Kay) that the strong international consensus as late as 2001 was that Iraq had WMD. See, e.g., pages 7 - 10 of this 2001 NATO Report - in which, e.g., Defense Secretary Les Aspin of the Clinton Administration warns about the dangers of WMD proliferation by Iraq and other Middle Eastern and Southern Asian nations.

Note: there's more discussion on this topic (and especially the discrepancies between the NPR and Telegraph reports) at Instapundit and Dust in the Light.

Kay's Two Stories on WMD

Cross-post from OTB

Black-5 passes on this Dow Jones report:

David Kay, the outgoing leader of a U.S. weapons search team in Iraq, says that part of Saddam Hussein's secret weapons program was hidden in Syria, a published report said Sunday.

Kay reportedly told The Sunday Telegraph that he had uncovered evidence that unspecified materials were moved to Syria shortly before last year's war to overthrow Saddam.

“We are not talking about a large stockpile of weapons but we know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam's WMD (weapons of mass destruction) program,” Kay reportedly said in the interview conducted Saturday.

This would seem to verify a DEBKA story that I posted—skeptically—on January 9.

Which makes Kay's widely-reported denial of Iraqi WMD stockpiles really confusing:

Though Kay has said new information has been uncovered about Iraq's programs — particularly its efforts to build missiles — he has since concluded there are no weapons stockpiles to be found.

“I don't think they existed,” Kay told Reuters news agency on Friday. “What everyone was talking about is stockpiles produced after the end of the [1991] gulf war, and I don't think there was a large-scale production program in the '90s.”

Kay, supported by the coalition's Iraq Survey Group, went to Iraq in the wake of the war to lead the search for evidence of WMDs.

Given how the statement was obviously going to play in the press and the campaign trail, why not mention them both simultaneously? They're rather connected.

Update (2251): The Telegraph story.

Posted By at 02:15 PM | Comments (19) | TrackBack
Saddam Rewarded Supporters With Oil
Iraq's former dictator Saddam Hussein rewarded 200 of his leading supporters abroad by giving them millions of barrels of crude oil, government officials said.

Oil ministry undersecretary Abdul Sahib Salman Qotob said on Sunday that the supporters included at least two prime ministers and two foreign ministers, as well as high profile politicians and political parties.

Journalists and the sons of ministers and heads of states across four continents, including South Africa, were also among recipients.

Qotob said documents belonging to the State Oil Marketing Organisation (Somo) "reveal how Saddam jeopardised the oil wealth of Iraq on personalities who had supported him and turned a blind eye on the mass graves and injustice he inflicted on the sons of the Iraqi people".

Full article from IOL...

(Hm. Maybe it really was all about the oillllll!?)

[Cross-posted to Electric Venom]

Posted By at 02:06 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack
Baghdad Ribbon Cutting Ceremonies
LINK

Iraqi Minister of Electricity Ayham al Samaraie and Brigadier General (P) Steven R. Hawkins, Commander, Task Force Restore Iraqi Electricity (TF RIE) joined distinguished guests for two ribbon cutting ceremonies in Baghdad today. The informal ceremonies recognized TF RIE’s support of the Coalition’s efforts to provide stable and dependable electricity throughout Iraq.

The first ceremony highlighted the rehabilitated Ma’ari Substation in Baghdad that features a new and rehabilitated Control Center, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system as well as remote transfer units. The $14 million projects will provide for monitoring and control over distribution of electrical power in Baghdad. Unlike in the past, this new distribution system will allow hospitals and other critical need areas to now receive a continuous supply of electricity. It also will ensure reliable and consistent service to all neighbourhoods, factories, schools, and office buildings throughout Baghdad.

The second ribbon-cutting followed Ma’ari at the Baghdad South substation and heralded the activation of the 400 KV Baghdad (South) to Diyaniwa electrical power line, a critical main electric line reinforcing and stabilizing the Baghdad super ring electric architecture. The 5 month, $10 million project will add substantial stability to the power grid and will allow bulk generation to flow to and from Southern Iraq and Baghdad.

“These projects signal a major turning point in our efforts to bring stable, secure power to the Iraqi people”, said Randy Richardson, the Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Electricity. “Ma’ari and Baghdad South are critical components of our overall goal of rebuilding and stabilizing Iraq’s power systems after decades of neglect and misuse. In the weeks and months ahead, the Coalition will continue to bring new projects online to grow capacity and to improve the quality of life of every Iraqi,” concluded Richardson.

David Kay on WMD: "I don't think they exist."

David Kay gave quite an interview to NPR yesterday:

David Kay, who recently resigned as head of the U.S. group searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, now says he doesn't think stockpiles of such weapons existed. He no longer believes that Iraq had a large-scale production program in the 1990s.

The Bush administration disagrees, and stands by its previous assessments.

Listen to the interview here. The story has been reported widely this morning; here's a typical take, this from the Sacramento Bee:

U.S. intelligence agencies need to explain why their research indicated Iraq possessed banned weapons before the American-led invasion, says the outgoing top U.S. inspector, who now believes Saddam Hussein had no such arms.

“I don't think they exist,” David Kay said Sunday. “The fact that we found so far the weapons do not exist - we've got to deal with that difference and understand why.”

Kay's remarks on National Public Radio reignited criticism from Democrats, who ignored his cautions that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction was “not a political issue.”

Robin's Winds of War: Jan 26/04

Welcome! Our goal is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Today's “Winds of War” is brought to you by Robin Burk.

TOP TOPICS

  • The threat of nuclear proliferation, especially to non-state entities (such as Islamacist terror networks) is serious and growing. Libya's decision to renounce WMD programs has blown the cover off of a black market in nuclear technologies.The head of the IAEA, Mohammed elBaradai, says that illicit trafficking of nuclear-related material and equipment has grown so widespread that it amounts to a Wal-Mart for weapons-seeking countries.
  • The IAEA has acquiesced to a continued US role in dismantling Libya's programs; key equipment and materials are already being prepared for shipment to the US for safekeeping. A Congressional delegation visted Tripoli by invitation this weekend.

Other Topics Today Include: Blair, Straw defend the decision to invade Iraq; Iraqi WMD in Syria?; Iraqi Marines; power struggle in Iran; prisoner swap in ME; Israel & her neighbours; al Qaeda supporter indicted in US; China and France get together; German armed forces restructure.

Read the Rest…

January 25, 2004
Get Out The Link!

Many readers have supported us with donations, which we appreciate. But the best way to support The Post is with traffic. So with the final push in New Hampshire to get out the vote, we ask that you help us “Get Out The Link.”

Support Command Post this Monday by sending the www.command-post.org URL to everyone in your contact list who you think might enjoy the site. We're not picky: we just want to introduce people to The Command Post, and think the day before the primary is a great day to do so.

So “Get Out The Link” on Monday the 25th, and thanks for reading The Post!

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Howard Dean: Iraqis Are Worse Off Now
“You can say that it's great that Saddam is gone and I'm sure that a lot of Iraqis feel it is great that Saddam is gone,” said the former Vermont governor, an unflinching critic of the war against Iraq. “But a lot of them gave their lives. And their living standard is a whole lot worse now than it was before.”

Feel free to refute or defend the statement while I dig up some links.

Syria denies receiving Iraq arms

BBC:

Syria has strongly denied allegations that it has been harbouring Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The charge that part of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programme went to Syria before the war came from the ex-head of the US weapons inspection team.

David Kay said former Iraqi officials had given evidence that materials had been moved across the border.


Full article...

Posted By at 03:16 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack
US pilots missing in Iraq crash

BBC NEWS:

Two US pilots are missing after their helicopter crashed during a search and rescue mission in the Iraqi city of Mosul, US officials have said.

The helicopter was searching for a US soldier who went missing in the Tigris river while on patrol.

It is not clear how the aircraft crashed or whether hostile fire was involved in the incident.


Full Article...


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Blair defends Iraq WMD reports
LONDON, England (CNN) -- Intelligence reports suggesting Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction were correct, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said in an interview with a Sunday newspaper.

Blair said he believed in the intelligence material presented to him ahead of last year's conflict, despite the subsequent failure of coalition forces to find WMD in Iraq.

Blair made the comments shortly before U.S. official David Kay quit his job as head of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), the body tasked with locating Saddam's alleged WMD.

Full article...
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Mass Arrests follow Attacks

From The Australian :

An American soldier died today of wounds suffered in a grenade attack on his Bradley vehicle that was patrolling the central Iraqi town of Beiji the day before, said Major Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the 4th Infantry Division.
[..]
Today, US soldiers raided several locations in Baqouba, 55km north-east of the capital, and captured 46 people including three men suspected of involvement in anti-coalition activities, Aberle said. The remaining 43 were detained for possessing weapons without authorisation, she said.

In Mukayshifa, a town south of Tikrit, soldiers raided a house yesterday and confiscated 100 hand grenades, Aberle said.

Insurgents fired the rocket-propelled grenade at the Bradley in the town of Beiji, north of Tikrit, late yesterday, piercing the driver's compartment and critically wounding the soldier. The soldier was evacuated to a military hospital, where he died.

A second Bradley Fighting Vehicle returned fire toward the area from where the grenade was launched, and soldiers later captured six men who were in the possession of a grenade launcher, Aberle said.

There's also a roundup of yesterday's attacks:

In Khaldiyah, some 110km west of Baghdad, three US soldiers were killed and six more were wounded yesterday when a vehicle, possibly driven by a suicide bomber, exploded at a US checkpoint near a bridge across the Euphrates river, the US command said.

Iraqi witnesses said a four-wheel-drive vehicle drove up to the checkpoint and exploded in front of a US Army Humvee trying to block it. At least eight Iraqis – six of them women – were injured, according to Dr Ahmed Nasrat Jabouri of the provincial hospital in nearby Ramadi.

Two other US soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb that struck their four-vehicle convoy north of Fallujah, a Sunni Muslim city near Khaldiyah.

A fourth attack took place when a truck bomb exploded yesterday morning near government buildings in Samarra, about 110km north of Baghdad, barely missing a US military police patrol as it turned into a police station compound.

The blast killed four Iraqi civilians and wounded about 40 people, including seven American soldiers who were cut by flying glass inside one of the buildings. The Americans' wounds were not life-threatening.

Explosion near Baghdad Hotel

From The Australian :

A Hotel in the centre of Baghdad was rocked by a large explosion early Sunday, but there were no immediate reports of any casualties, a reporter at the scene said.

The explosion occured near the Masbah hotel in the upmarket Karrada area of the city as a US military convoy was passing at about 10.30am local time.

January 24, 2004
Powell: It's 'Open Question' Whether Iraq Had WMD

And even more fuel for the fire. Reported widely, here via Wired:

Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Saturday it was an “open question” whether stocks of weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq and conceded it was possible Saddam Hussein had none.

Powell made the comments one day after David Kay, the leader of the U.S. hunt for banned weapons in Iraq, stepped down and said he did not believe there were any large stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons in the country.

“The open question is how many stocks they had, if any, and if they had any, where did they go. And if they didn't have any, then why wasn't that known beforehand?” Powell said to reporters as he flew to Tbilisi to attend Sunday's inauguration of Georgian President-elect Mikhail Saakashvili.

I can't wait to read the comments on this one …

Truck Bomb in Samarra

From The Australian :

Three people were killed and four wounded today when a truck bomb exploded outside a courthouse in the northern Iraqi city of Samarra, a local official said.

The blast rocked Samarra, 125km north of Baghdad, at 10:20am (6.20pm AEDT), said governorate spokesman Major Salah Mawlud Khamis.

More Violence in Iraq Claims Two U.S. Soldiers

The two soldiers were part of a convoy that was driving just south of Fallujah when the bomb exploded.

Later, a bomb - nprobaly meant for a U.S. patrol that had just passed through - exploded, killing three Iraqis and wounding 40 others, including seven U.S. soldiers.

Earlier today, a sniper shot and wounded a U.S. soldier.

Also, the LA Times is reporting that a helicopter crash has killed two soldiers.

And in northern Iraq, two U.S. pilots were killed when their OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter crashed outside Qayyarah on Friday. The cause of the helicopter crash, the fourth this month in Iraq, was not immediately known, according to U.S. military officials.
January 23, 2004
Profile: Ayatollah Ali Sistani

Hmmm … kind of nice over here on the Iraq page. Been spending so much time getting 2004 ramped up for the primaries that I started to miss PTG's sardonic wit.

I digress.

The BBC has an informative profile of Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani here, which is worth reading (but don't let the picture startle you).

Halliburton Finds Possible Iraq Kickbacks

Well … fuel for the fire. From Yahoo / Reuters:

Halliburton Co. workers may have taken kickbacks from a Kuwaiti subcontractor supplying U.S. troops in Iraq, causing a potential $6 million overcharge to U.S. taxpayers, the company said on Friday.

Moving to blunt the firestorm of criticism, the company said late on Friday it had sent a $6.3-million check to the U.S. Army Materiel Command, its customer, to cover potential overbilling.

“We will bear the cost of the overcharge, not the government,” Randy Harl, chief executive of Halliburton's Kellogg, Brown & Root unit, or KBR, said in a statement.

U.S. Troops Capture Iraq Rebel Leader

Gotcha. From Yahoo/AP:

U.S. forces in Iraq captured a leader of the insurgency who is believed to be a close associate of Abu Musab Zarqawi, described by some as a key link between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein, a senior American official said in Washington on Friday.

U.S. troops captured Husam al-Yemeni Thursday, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. He is described by U.S. officials as a top member of the al-Qaida linked Ansar al-Islam group and the leader of an insurgency cell in Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

Posted By Alan at 11:40 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
Cleric Asks Iraqis to Await U.N. Inquiry

From WaPo:

An influential Shiite Muslim cleric urged his followers Friday to refrain from the kind of mass protests witnessed in Iraq's two largest cities this month until a U.N. team determines whether nationwide elections are feasible.

The call by Abdel-Madhi Salami, a representative of Iraq's most powerful cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, suggested that the country's religious leadership fears that grass-roots opposition to U.S. plans for the political transition may gather a momentum of its own. That could complicate efforts to reach a compromise with U.S. officials and their Iraqi allies, who want to hold local caucuses to pick an assembly that would then choose a provisional government. Sistani and his supporters want the assembly chosen through direct elections.
Posted By Alan at 11:24 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack
They're Baaack ...

… sort of: UN Team in Iraq to Study Staff's Return. Reported in this instance by the Bradenton Herald, and widely in general.

Posted By Alan at 11:20 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
Castro Slept With Saddam

Metaphoricallly speaking, of course.

A senior Defense Department official tells us one of the alarming after-action intelligence reports that reached the Pentagon is that the communist government of Cuba shared intelligence on the United States with Saddam Hussein's regime.

The reports stated that Cuban intelligence, which is known to have extensive “coverage” of U.S. military bases, supplied information to Saddam's intelligence service on the movement of troops and other military activities.

[Full story at Washington Times]

Iraq Support Stable, Bush Not Seen as Unilateralist

Pew Research Center for the People and the Press

Public support for the U.S. military operation in Iraq has remained strong since the capture of Saddam Hussein, despite the continuing American casualties there. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) feel the war was the right decision, which represents little change from December, shortly after Hussein's capture (67%). That event also boosted the public's sense of progress in Iraq; even so, fewer than a quarter (22%) say things there are going very well there.

The latest Pew Research Center national survey, conducted Jan. 6-11, shows that, on balance, the public believes that the Bush administration pays the right amount of attention to the concerns of U.S. allies and is not overly aggressive in pushing American interests abroad. A 46% plurality of Americans thinks the administration gives appropriate attention to concerns of U.S. allies, compared with 30% who say he gives too little attention to those concerns.

However, Democrats have become more critical of how Bush deals with the allies. Compared with early September 2001 (Survey was conducted Aug. 21-Sept. 5, 2001, before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.), more Democrats think the administration pays too little attention allied interests (44% now vs. 28% then). By contrast, increasing numbers of independents and Republicans believe the administration gives an appropriate level of attention to allied concerns.

In a survey conducted last year by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, lopsided majorities in 16 of 20 populations surveyed said the U.S. does not take their country's interests into account in carrying out its foreign policy. This perception was widespread even in friendly nations like Canada (70%). But Americans have consistently rejected that idea; 73% of U.S. respondents in the survey taken last May saw the United States taking the concerns of other nations into account in conducting its foreign policy.

The latest Pew poll also finds the public believing that Bush strikes the right balance in advocating America's overseas interests. Nearly half of Americans (47%) say Bush pushes U.S. interests "about right," while 26% think he is too aggressive in pursuing those interests and 22% say he is not aggressive enough. Bush's image is quite different from former President Clinton's in this regard. In June 1995, 42% of the public felt Clinton did not press hard enough for American interests while 39% said he had advocated those interests appropriately.

The partisan gap over the war in Iraq, which briefly narrowed following Hussein's capture, has again widened. Only about four-in-ten Democrats (42%) feel the war was the right decision, down from 56% in December. By comparison, independents have become somewhat more supportive of the war ­ 66% now, 60% then ­ while Republicans overwhelmingly believe the war was the right decision.

Americans are feeling more positive about the situation in Iraq than they were in the fall. While fewer than a quarter (22%) say the U.S. military effort there is going very well, another 51% believe things are going fairly well. Both ratings are up significantly since October, and the percentage of the public expressing a negative view of progress in Iraq has fallen from 36% to 24% in that period. Currently, four-in-ten Democrats rate progress in Iraq negatively, compared with just one-in-ten Republicans.

Nearly half of Americans (48%) say their greater concern in Iraq is that the United States will wait too long to withdraw its forces from the country. But a sizable minority (41%) are more concerned that the U.S. will put out too quickly, before a stable democracy is established. Democrats by more than two-to-one (62%-30%) say the bigger concern is the U.S. will stay too long in Iraq; Republicans by a smaller margin (53%-34%) voice the opposite concern.

David Kay Replaced as WMD Adviser

Flash from live FOX News:

David Kay (head of the US WMD search) has been replaced. According to Reuters, he stated that he expects nothing more to be found, and that he never believed that there were large stocks of weapons to be found.

UPDATE from Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - David Kay has quit his post as leader of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which so far has failed to find any actual arms, and will be replaced by former U.N. weapons inspector Charles Duelfer, the CIA said on Friday.
Coalition Provisional Briefing from Baghdad

Over the past week, there has been an average of 18 daily engagements against coalition military forces, just over two attacks daily against Iraqi security forces, and just over one attack daily against Iraqi civilians. The coalition remains offensively oriented to kill or capture anti-coalition elements, terrorists and conspirators against the Iraqi people, and to establish a safe and secure environment. In the past 24 hours, the coalition has conducted 1,492 patrols, 29 offensive operations, 15 raids, and captured 105 anti-coalition suspects.

In the northern zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 196 patrols and conducted a neighborhood engagement in Mosul where 105 homes were searched, resulting in the confiscation of a number of illegal weapons. Coalition forces hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of phase two of the Mosul Regional Confinement Center. The current class of corrections officers and prison guards graduated in conjunction with the opening ceremony. Forces conducted a cordon and search of a house in western Mosul and detained their primary target, Sima Fakhri Hamid al-Talir (ph), the facilitator for suspected suicide bombers in the Mosul region. One-hundred and ninety-two Civil Defense Corps personnel graduated in Diyala, bringing the total number of ICDC soldiers in the northern region to 3,700.

In the north-central zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 184 patrols, eight raids, and captured 31 individuals. In a raid near Abu Saida, coalition forces targeted four personnel responsible for a series of rocket-propelled grenade attacks on coalition forces. The raid resulted in the capture of two targets: Ahmed Jamil Mohammed (ph), a member of the Jaburi tribe, and Ayuh Khalil Abrahim (ph), a member of the Ghalali (ph) tribe.

Coalition forces found 10 personnel digging up a weapons cache on the side of the road two kilometers east of Bahia (sp). The personnel attacked the convoy, and coalition forces returned fire, capturing two of the individuals. The Iraqi Civil Defense Corps has the site secured and are recovering the weapons.

Working independently in the village of Jazra at Maklaq (sp), Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers raided a building, looking for individuals suspected of being involved in RPG attacks against coalition forces. Two of the targeted individuals were captured, and soldiers located and confiscated five rocket-propelled grenades and two AK-47 rifles.

Coalition forces raided seven locations in Baiji, looking for members of a Fedayeen cell. Forces captured nine individuals, including three people specifically targeted for suspected involvement in anti-coalition activities.

In Baghdad, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted eight offensive operations, 470 patrols and captured six enemy personnel.

Tomorrow 669 candidates will graduate from two Iraqi Civil Defense Corps academies in the Baghdad region. This will bring the total number of ICDC soldiers in Baghdad to over 3,300.

In the western zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted eight offensive operations, 220 patrols, cleared three caches, captured 13 personnel and detained entry to 37 personnel at Trebil and one at Husaybah, all because they lacked passports.

Coalition forces conducted a cordon-and-search in Usafiyah (sp) to capture or kill anti-coalition forces in the area. The enemy personnel Sadiq Sukani (sp) and his brother are suspected of killing Iraqis who have cooperated with coalition forces. The operation was conducted without incident and resulted in the capture of both targets.

The Iraqi border police and custom personnel continue to operate the Arar border crossing site. In the last 24 hours, 2,400 hajj pilgrims and 54 buses crossed the border at Arar, en route to Mecca. A total of 5,255 pilgrims and 155 buses have entered Saudi Arabia so far from the western zone of operations to celebrate the hajj.

Civil Affairs teams met with coalition and municipal leaders to discuss methods to improve the water quality in Al-Tash (sp). Due to infrastructure deterioration, some of the populace have been forced to take water from local irrigation canals. Teams are developing quick-impact and long-term projects to provide potable water to the Al-Tash (sp) community, at a cost of $64,000.

In the central south zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 91 patrols, captured 13 personnel and escorted 31 convoys. A coalition patrol detained 38 illegal persons and three minibuses at the border crossing point 20 kilometers north of Badrah City. The illegal persons were deported to Iran, and the vehicles and drivers were handed over to the border police.

In the southeast zone of operation, 2,500 pilgrims crossed the border yesterday. Five thousand remain at the camp at Safwan, and the hajj committee has requested doubling of the daily flights up to 5,000 personnel, in order to get the backlog cleared.

Briefing Link

Iraq Operations In Tikrit Area Of Iraq

The former regime elements we have been combating have been brought to their knees. Capturing Saddam was a major operational and psychological defeat for the enemy. But a more important result of his capture is the increase in accurate information brought forward by Iraqis allowing us to conduct numerous precise raids to kill or capture financiers, IED-makers, and mid-level leaders of the former regime. These groups are still a threat, but a fractured, sporadic threat with the leadership destabilized, finances interdicted and no hope of the Ba'athists' return to power.

The number of enemy attacks against our forces has been declining since a peak in November during Ramadan. And now their desperate attacks are targeting civilians; terrorist car bombs have killed
innocent civilians and Iraqi police; ambushes attacked civilian supply convoys and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers, demonstrating the enemy's disdain for peace and prosperity in Iraq and for Iraqis. The enemy is focused solely on indiscriminate murder and promoting their own cause.

Snippets from the briefing:

  • In my area alone we have recruited over 5,000 Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers,
    18,000 police officers and 2,000 border police.
  • Over the past 10 months we have completed nearly 2,000 improvement projects valued at $41 million throughout our area of operations. Today we have another 700 projects worth almost $42 million in progress. We have another — we have refurbished over 600 schools, 70 mosques, 75 medical facilities, improved over 500 miles of roads, completed hundreds of other projects for children, such as soccer fields and youth centers. These projects have created over 60,000
    jobs and have been a major boost to local economies.
  • And in fact, we've been extremely successful in Samarra. We conducted an operation in December, and we are now turning that back over to the police and the ICDC. And in
    fact, it's a different city than it was 45 days ago. So we have broken up. I believe there's probably still one cell, small cell operating out of Samarra.

Entire Briefing Link

Iraqis to receive higher pensions

Baghdad, January 23 -- The Ministry of Finance today announced that pension payments to all public sector pensioners will increase with effect from 1 January 2004. Under the new arrangements, pensioners will no longer be paid a flat rate. Those with longer service and higher grades of service at retirement will be awarded higher pension payments.

First quarter pension payments for the lowest-paid pensioners are set to rise from 90,000 ID to a minimum of 95,000 ID. Those in receipt of a full pension with over 25 years’ service will see their pensions rise from 90,000 ID to a minimum of 125,000 ID for the first quarter.

Under Saddam Hussein, pensioners used to receive as little as 15,000 ID a quarter.

Pensioners will also once again be able to draw their pension from a neighbourhood bank branch rather than the central Pension Department, making it easier to access their money.

It will take some time to collect information on length of service and grade of pensioners at retirement. But all pensioners will receive the minimum increase with their February pensions. When their full entitlement is calculated, it will be backdated and paid to 1 January.

This change in the pension system will make future reform efforts easier. The Ministry of Finance is committed to ensuring that all public sector workers are adequately provided for when they retire.

January 22, 2004
Kurdistan

BBC reporter explores Kurdistan in a nice series of articles

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3

Kurdistan is different - there are trees unlike much of the flat desert land in the south, the traffic lights work, the people speak an entirely different language. And they like going to the pub.
Iraq laundresses killed in attack

Four Iraqi women who worked for the US army have been killed in a gun attack on their minibus.

Police said several other women were wounded in Wednesday's attack near the town of Falluja, about 50 kilometres (32 miles) west of the capital Baghdad.

They all worked as cleaners and laundry staff at a US base near Baghdad. LINK

SNIP

Day of Violence in Sunni Triangle

“Insurgents” in the Sunni Triangle area of Iraq launched several attacks in one day.

Two U.S. soldiers were killed and one seriously wounded in a mortar attack on a U.S. military encampment near Baquba.

In one attack, assailants fired from a car and killed two Iraqi policemen, Lieutenant Hakam Hilmi and 2nd Lieutenant Ibrahim Khaled, and wounded three other Iraqis. An Iraq civilian was also killed as his car came upon the scene and was hit with gunfire.

In Habbaniya, a bus carrying women home from work was ambushed. Three of the women were killed.

[various sources]

Rebuilding Iraq Armed Forces

MAJOR GENERAL PAUL EATON:

Well, good afternoon, everybody. Glad I'm finally here and I'm happy to tell you that I just spent the better part of the afternoon at the Kirkuk military training base watching the 3rd Battalion and 4th Battalion train; so, fresh from the training base to be able to give you any input that you might want to hear about that. Again, I'm going to give you a prepared statement, I will then embark upon any questions that you have.

Over the past several months, Coalition Military Assistance Training Team, known as CMATT, has been engaged in training the Iraqi army. We are developing forces which are under political control, accountable to the nation, and defensive in capability and intent. Our vision is to man, train, and equip nine infantry brigades, a small coastal defense force, and the beginning of an aviation element to establish the foundation of the Iraqi army run by Iraqis.

I have come to you today about three things. First is the process by which we are recruiting, training and employing the Iraqi army. Second is the benefit an Iraqi force will provide to the Iraqi people. And third and most importantly, we are building the values we expect of a professional military in a democratic society.

Sippets of the briefing:

  • The process starts at three main recruiting hubs in Basra, Baghdad, and Mosul. Now, that also represents, as you might predict, the spread of the country and the ethnic distribution. Each class that is recruited is ethnically balanced. This provides an atmosphere where tolerance is essential to mission accomplished. We are looking for those individuals who wish to defend Iraq and its newfound freedom, and are skilled in such professions as truck driver, heavy equipment operator, food service, first aid, and above all else, infantry. A majority of new recruits have prior military service, and nearly all of the non-commissioned officers and officer candidates do as well.
  • Nearly 1,000 recruits are recruited in order to produce an active battalion of 757 soldiers.
  • The first battalion graduated on 4 October and is currently based at Kirkuk, and employed by the 4th Infantry Division Mechanized.
  • The second battalion has been employed by the 1st Armored Division, and they're garrisoned at Taji since their graduation on 6 January, which is also Army Day and celebrated as such since 1921.
  • And we look forward to the graduation this week of the 3rd Battalion and their subsequent deployment to the Mosul area.
    [ed.: January 24]
  • In addition to the 27 infantry battalions in the army, we are building the Iraqi Coastal Defense Force and the Iraqi Army Air Corps. The Coastal Defense Force will be comprised of a patrol boat squadron of five 30-meter boats and a naval infantry regiment. The naval infantry is currently training with the Iraqi army for basic skills. This coastal defense force will then move down to the Umm Qasr/Basra area for boat training and where they will learn interdiction and boarding operations in order to protect the some 80 kilometers of Iraqi coastline.
  • The Iraqi Army Air Corps will focus primarily on troop and logistics movements as well as air medevac for life-threatening and casualty-producing situations. We are currently training both helicopter and transport pilots, and we will field the first operational squadrons this summer. We're also investigating the use of reconnaissance aircraft in order to effectively monitor the miles of Iraqi border, and infrastructure such as pipelines and electrical transmission facilities.
  • We're running about 60 percent with prior military service. What does "prior military service" mean? If you're a private in the old army, not a whole lot from what we're seeing. The Iraqi officer corps of the old army is a pretty good officer corps in a lot of respects, certainly from the perspective of military training. The non-commissioned officer corps we find deficient, and the soldiers and the training they received we found deficient. So if you say "prior service," it may mean that they know how to march and carry a rifle and employ it, but we have not had terrific results of the former army training base at the young soldier level.

    With respect to the officers, the military skill set of the officers, we are finding their education and their ability to learn is very high. And given initial poor experience with those above the rank of major, we have found that focusing on the younger officers, the lieutenants and captains, that these men are well educated, they're talented, they are focused on the future of this country, and we have had very high success.

  • The trainers that we have right now are a mix of the Vinnell contract, which is a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, and they have other contract trainers with them; Vinnell is the umbrella organization; and in fact, talking to the program manager today, a terrific amount of combat experience, of training experience. The average time in service for those men who are working with the Vinnell contract is 19.8 years. And those are the men who started the program because they are the men who could react the fastest. They deployed within 25 days of contract signing into theater to establish a training environment. They provided the structure and the primary instructor and the initial drill sergeant contact. We added to that uniformed men from the coalition. Australia, Great Britain, the United States, and more recently Spain have contributed to that environment.

    Finally, after the graduation of the first battalion, Iraqi trainers -- men who -- that we saw high talent in, in training and particularly those who were multilingual -- we were able to bring Iraqi officers and non-commissioned officers from the first battalion and integrate them into the training pool for the second and third and fourth battalions. That has been particularly effective. We have also taken a lot of those Iraqi officers, and they have, like Major Ahmed (ph) here, have integrated into our training organization and are, in fact, part of the joint headquarters that will be the higher headquarters for Iraqi armed forces.

    Finally, I alluded to the Jordan Training Initiative. We have the -- a number of officers today training with Jordanian armed forces and will continue to do so into the middle of March.

January 21, 2004
Chaplain Puts Green Beret Past to Use
VOLTURNO BASE, Iraq — By day, this military camp is a self-contained American bubble in a bizarre setting. Off-duty soldiers listen to country music, watch big-screen basketball, eat grilled steaks, read e-mail from home and jog around an artificial lake, built on a landscaped former resort for Saddam Hussein's cronies and loyalists.

By night, the base becomes a launching pad for forays into another world that is equally surreal but far more dangerous. Lightless convoys rumble into the nearby city of Fallujah, where troops hop out and creep through deserted streets, searching houses for enemies and weapons. Then they rapidly withdraw, listening for the crack of gunfire and praying they will make it back to the base without a bomb exploding in their path.

On most missions, the raiders of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment are accompanied by Dan Knight, a strapping captain with a shaved head, an aw-shucks drawl and an awesome résumé: 12-year Green Beret, Persian Gulf War combat veteran, Special Forces company commander, demolitions expert, high-altitude jumper and deep-sea scuba diver.

Knight carries no weapon, though he mightily wishes he could. Instead, tucked in his rucksack is a book covered in camouflage canvas that says “Army of the Lord.”

Knight is the regimental chaplain, a soldier's soldier who switched gears in mid-career, spent two years at a Louisiana seminary and reappeared in Afghanistan and Iraq carrying a military-issue Bible.

“Being a noncombatant is not exactly my cup of tea, but if it's what God wants me to do, I'll abide,” said Knight, 37, whose duties are to nurture the living, comfort the wounded and honor the dead. “I don't crave combat, but I fight to get on every mission I can. There's nothing more rewarding to me than being on the battlefield, praying with a wounded man.”

Knight spends little time in his quarters, a makeshift wooden chapel with an attached bunk room, built on the ruins of a lakefront cafe at the Hussein-era “Dreamland” resort that was bombed by U.S. forces last April. On Sunday mornings he leads a simple Protestant service, but attendance is usually sparse.

Last Sunday, the service drew fewer than a dozen of the 800 troops at Volturno, about one-third of whom wear dog tags stamped “no religious preference.” Knight readily acknowledged it's hard to drum up enthusiasm among men who are often out on raids until 3 a.m.

Out in the field, though, the soldiers' appreciation for his presence is clear. When the commando chaplain jumps into an armored Humvee bound for Fallujah, the nervous jokes stop and a sense of calm seems to pervade the soldiers gripping their rifles in the back of the vulnerable, open vehicle.

“With Dan, there's a bit of an awe factor at work,” said 1st Sgt. Chris Dunn, a close friend and fellow Army Ranger who is also with the 82nd Airborne Division. “He can relate to any soldier because he's done everything, and he automatically commands their respect. He's just got an extra chain of command than the rest of us do.”

More at the link

Army Deploys 'Shadow' Unmanned Air Vehicle in Iraq
HABBANIYAH, Iraq, Jan. 20, 2004 – Having better intelligence than your enemy is vital to the success of a military operation, and the current situation in Iraq is no exception.

Every day, terrorists, insurgents, and members of the ousted Baath Party attempt ambushes and place improvised explosive devices intended to kill innocent civilians and coalition soldiers.

To combat this, the Army has recently developed and deployed a new information gatherer – the Shadow, a tactical unmanned aerial vehicle.

Soldiers from the 312th and 313th Military Intelligence Battalions operate and maintain the Shadow TUAV for the 82nd Airborne Division, which is calling the Anbar province home these days. The vehicle's mission is to gather intelligence from high altitudes, which allows it to remain mostly imperceptible to enemy detection.

For the plane to accomplish its mission effectively, a variety of different soldier occupations must work together effectively.

"The TUAV platoons are made up of TUAV operators, mechanics, and electronic- warfare technicians," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Norris, the platoon standardization instructor pilot from the 312th. "It is important for all the different (specialists) to work together, because they all cover very different areas in the operation."

The 312th normally is part of the 1st Calvary Division, from Fort Hood, Texas, but they have been temporarily assigned to the 82nd. The 82nd does not yet have its own Shadows, so it borrowed a platoon from the 1st Cavalry for the current deployment to Iraq. In addition to performing normal combat missions, the soldiers from the 312th are training the soldiers from the 313th for when they receive their own equipment.

Normally, each brigade-level asset in a combat division would have its own TUAV platoon, but that was impossible, given the current situation and the lack of 82nd-specific TUAVs. The platoon at Forward Operating Base Ridgway is responsible for supporting the entire 82nd Airborne Division and its subordinate elements throughout the largest province in Iraq.

"This platoon is supporting the entire division, so we are further apart than normal," said Chief Warrant Officer James Harris. "An added intricacy is that the launch/recovery site has to occasionally fly missions, so we are operating at a higher rate and a nonstandard format for this system."

The soldiers at Ridgway are responsible for launch and recovery and all maintenance on the Shadows. Once the vehicle passes all preflight checks and is launched, the operators maneuver it into position for a team at the division headquarters to take control. The Shadows are designed so flight operation can be transferred seamlessly from a team at one location to another at a separate location.

Supporting the entire division makes it even more important to keep all four Shadows fully operational. The platoon takes this task very seriously and performs thorough and consistent maintenance.

"We are the only TUAV platoon in the Army, at this time, to go through the initial 500 hours of flight time without any incidents," said Staff Sgt. Jason O'Neill, the platoon sergeant for the group from the 312th.

The significance of the Shadow's mission isn't lost on the soldiers who make it happen. "While we are flying our birds and doing surveillance, we are saving troopers' lives," said Pfc. Emmanuel Rendon, a Shadow operator, "either from route recon, looking for IEDs, or identifying any enemy ambushes or attacks on the road."

Photos at link

January 20, 2004
Iraqi Border Open to Pilgrims During Hajj

RAMADI, Iraq— For the first time in more than three decades, Iraqis are able to participate in the Hajj pilgrimage without preferential oversight from the former regime.

The Hajj Pilgrimage occurs annually and constitutes one of the Five Pillars of Islam. The ritual journey to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is an important event in the life of Muslims, both those actually traveling and those who hope to do so within their lifetime.

Task Force “All American” soldiers have been quietly assisting the Iraqi security forces who have taken the lead the efforts to facilitate the safe travel of the Hajj pilgrims. Over the past two days, more than 2,400 Iraqis have crossed the Iraqi border at Ar Ar into Saudi Arabia to participate in the Hajj.

Iraqi border guards and customs agents are operating the Ar Ar border crossing and managing traffic into Saudi Arabia. Iraqi Civil Defense Corps troops have been actively involved in the security of the routes and rest areas with additional support from Red Crescent volunteers, who have been integral in providing support for the travelers.

120 Baathists Renounce Political Party

MOSUL, Iraq – Former high-ranking members of the Ba’ath Party renounced affiliation with their political party in today Rabiah on the Syrian border, in a meeting with the leaders of the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade (Stryker), 2nd Infantry Division, attached to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

The meeting took place in a schoolroom filled with 120 Ba’athists, and was led by the town mayor and Lt. Col. Buddy Carman, regiment commander. Before the Ba’athists stood to take an oath renouncing the party, Carman made it clear what taking the oath meant.

“This pledge is voluntary, there will be no payment, no promise of jobs,” he said.

Following the mass renouncement, Carman thanked the group for their support for the rebuilding of Iraq.

“I think that just as Iraq was once powerful, it’ll be powerful again,” Carman said. “Iraq has a bright future and America and other coalition countries will join Iraq as brothers.”

Earlier in the day there was another denunciation in Tal Abtah, south of the city of Mosul, hosted by 5th battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). That brings the total to four cities in northern Iraq that have held mass denunciations in cooperation with coalition forces.

CPA Announces $18 Billion Iraq Jobs, Reconstruction Program

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2004 – A senior Coalition Provisional Authority official today announced an $18 billion jobs and reconstruction program for Iraq that aims to create 50,000 jobs by the June 30 handover of sovereignty.

The main purpose of the program "is to help rebuild your country," retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. David Nash, director of the CPA's program management office, told Iraqis during a Baghdad news conference.

About $12.4 billion is earmarked for 2,300 construction projects spread across Iraq, Nash pointed out, to include roads, schools, power plants and other infrastructure work. Many projects funded by the program, he noted, should be up and running by March.

About a third of the $18 billion will be used for training Iraqis and purchasing needed equipment, he said.

The admiral noted that many contractors already had signed on, and that he hopes the program would provide 50,000 new jobs for Iraqis by the time the coalition returns sovereignty to the Iraqi people.

It would take three to four years, Nash estimated, to complete all of the projects funded by the program. He also noted that security would play an important role in the program's success.

Nash acknowledged that the U.S.-funded reconstruction program won't be able to address all of Iraq's infrastructure-renewal needs, but he expressed optimism that the international community also would pitch in toward the rebuilding process.

Iraqis participating in the reconstruction program will learn new skills, the admiral noted, and will assist Iraq in taking its rightful place among the nations of the world.

The program puts "Iraqi men and women back to work, providing decent, honorable jobs for all," Nash pointed out. "These jobs will bring the dignity of honest earnings to Iraqi families, while providing tangible improvements in the quality of life for all Iraqi families."

January 19, 2004
Joe's Iraq Briefing, Jan 19/04

Welcome! Our goal is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. In addition, our "Winds of War" coverage of the global War on Terror is a separate breifing today.

TOP TOPICS

* Spirit of America is loading medical & school supplies for Iraqi civilians on Jan. 21st at Camp Pendleton, and Armed Liberal is helping to coordinate the effort. If you're in the area, be there!

* Zeyad has an excellent post that discusses the Shi'ites and Sunnis in Iraq, their history, and the current situation.

* I haven't seen much coverage of this, but Iraq may be about to get its own 4-star U.S. Army Command, which ais a level equal to CENTCOM. It sounds technical, but if true it has very big implications for the whole region.

* Could the key to al-Awda's defeat in Iraq be... printing new money? It doesn't get much coverage, but Trent Telenko thinks the effect could be huge.

Other Topics Today Include: Baghdad blast; Foiled blasts; Anti-helicopter tactics; Body armor on the way; Marines learning Arabic; Sean Penn again; The CERP issue; Alaa's advice; Iraqi government maneuverings; Iraqi booze-runners; Liberal hawks reconsider Iraq; Who has troops there?; Saddam photos; Ba'ath poker; Support the Troops.

Read the Rest...

January 18, 2004
Large Weapons Cache Uncovered In AR Ramadi
RAMADI, Iraq – Members of Task Force “All-American” conducted cordon and search missions in western Ramadi last night to capture anti-Coalition forces identified in previous interrogations. In addition to the 23 personnel detained in the operations, two weapons caches, which were the largest found to date in Al Anbar province, were also captured.
At the first site, Coalition Forces found: three SA-7 missiles, 105 rocket-propelled grenades, 125 RPG boosters, 16 RPG launchers, two RPG sights, two 14.5 mm anti-aircraft machine guns with 3,000 rounds, one Belgian 7.62 mm machine gun, one MG-42 World War II German crew-served weapon, ten 7.62 mm machine guns with 18,800 rounds, two 7.62 mm sniper rifles, three spare 7.62 mm barrels, three 7.62 mm bipods, one .50 caliber machine gun with 700 rounds, three Russian RPK machine guns, 20,000 .22 caliber rounds, 500 .30 caliber rounds, 200 9 mm rounds, 2,300 5.56 mm rounds, 40 60 mm mortar rounds with two mortar tubes and four tripods, 15 82 mm mortar rounds with four mortar tubes, six fuses and three tripods, one mortar baseplate and two fragmentation grenades.

After searching the second site, Task Force “All-American” soldiers found: one SA-7 missile, 95 RPG’s with 24 RPG launchers, 43 RPG motors and 7 RPG sites, 19 82 mm RPG adapters, one rifle-launched grenade, 152 60 mm mortar rounds with 16 tubes, two baseplates and two tripods, 145 82 mm mortar rounds with 149 fuses, 52 120 mm mortar rounds, 30 pounds of mortar zone charges, 46 37 mm projectiles, 29 57 mm rockets, 23 90 mm projectiles, three 107 mm Chinese rockets, two 100 mm artillery rounds, 17 155 mm artillery rounds, 12 anti-tank mines, 104 hand grenades, 24 hand grenade fuses, one flash grenade cartridge, one sniper rifle, four 7.62 mm machine guns, three AK-47’s, 1,400 loose and 500 linked 7.62 mm rounds, 200 14.5 mm rounds, three smoke generators, 125 pounds of TNT, 100 pounds of plastic explosives, 500 meters of detonation cord, 20 pounds of black powder, 71 blasting caps, 16 fuse igniters, six wick fuses, 25 pounds of propellant, five tank propellant charges, one flare gun with 20 flares, 20 white-star cluster flares, two pairs of binoculars, 10 radio-controlled transmitters and seven receivers.

The large caches were used by anti-Coalition forces to attack friendly soldiers and Iraqi people supporting the democratic changes. Since the capture of Saddam Hussein and Kahmis Sirhan the cooperation of those who feared the return of the old regime are now free to assist Coalition Forces by providing information on the location of cache sites and anti-Coalition forces. This increased cooperation has led to the successful capture of key anti-Coalition personnel and more caches.

The recent capture of these personnel and the confiscation of these weapons will aide the soldiers of Task Force “All-American” in their pursuit of peace in the Al Anbar province. Task Force “All-American” will continue its operations in the Al Anbar province to help increase the safety and security for the people of Iraq.

More on This Morning's Bombing [with photo]

Blogger/soldiers Rich Galen and Chief Wiggles (of Operation Give fame) both had a close call with this attack - thankfully both are okay.

Rich has some pictures, including this one of the crater the explosion left. Be sure to read the rest of Rich's post; there's a ton of interesting information he shares about Iraq.

crater.jpg

CNN is reporting that the bomber(s) may have used innocent Iraqi citizens to pull this attack off:

A suicide bomber who killed nearly two dozen people in Baghdad on Sunday attempted to enter a heavily fortified zone around coalition headquarters and may have used eight unsuspecting Iraqis in the back of his truck to disguise his intentions, a security source told CNN.

The security source said the bomber was carrying eight Iraqis, who appeared to be day laborers, in the back of the truck.

"We don't think they knew it was a bomb," he said.


Update on Car Bomb

VOA:

The car bomb exploded near the main entrance leading to the U.S. military and civilian headquarters in Baghdad.

"At three minutes after eight a vehicle driven by a terrorist detonated just outside of one of our major checkpoints with approximately 1,000 [450 kilos] of explosives in the vehicle," said Colonel Ralph Baker, who is responsible for security in the area.

Almost all victims were Iraqi citizens; there are reports that among the dead are two American citizens, possible DoD workers.

FOX:

At least 28 people, including six Americans, were wounded by the blast, which occurred at about 8 a.m. near the "Assassin's Gate" to Saddam Hussein's former Republican Palace complex, now used by the U.S.-led occupation authority for headquarters. The gate is used by hundreds of Iraqis employed by the Coalition Provisional Authority, the formal name of the U.S.-led occupation authorities, as well as U.S. military vehicles.

Fox TV is reporting that immediately after the bombing, American soldiers announced an offer of $25,000 and no questions asked for information on the attack.

Baghdad Homicide Bomber Kills 23

A homicide bomber who detonated at least a half-ton of explosives in his car killed at least 23 people - including possibly two Department of Defense workers - and injured another 60, CNN is reporting.

Said Paul Bremer, chief administrator of the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority:

The attack, which took place at the height of rush hour in Baghdad, was clearly timed to claim the maximum possible number of innocent victims. Once again, it is innocent Iraqis who have been murdered by these terrorists in a senseless act of violence.

January 17, 2004
NCO Awarded For Stopping Attack At Checkpoint

Sgt. 1st Class David A. Ainslie of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his service during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Ainslie was wounded while conducting stability operations in Mosul, Iraq. His platoon established a vehicle checkpoint when the troops were attacked by Iraqi gunmen.

“I was run over by a vehicle and four other Soldiers were wounded during the attack,” Ainslee said. “We were able to stop the vehicle (and) shoot the gunmen before they were able to do more damage. We captured four rocket propelled grenades and four AK-47 assault rifles during the skirmish.”

While recovering from his injuries, Ainslie is serving as the rear detachment first sergeant for Company D, 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky. LINK

Task Force “All American” continued operations in the Al Anbar province

At 9 a.m. this morning, elements of 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division identified an improvised explosive device north of Habbaniyah. Upon further analysis, the device was found to be four SA-3 warheads, each wrapped in approximately 45 pounds of TNT. Approaching traffic was stopped while an explosive ordnance disposal team disarmed the devices.

Last night at approximately 7 p.m. in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment’s area of operations, soldiers identified 36 explosions impacting near a border checkpoint. A quick reaction force conducted reconnaissance of the point of origin and observed a van traveling east. The force was engaged with two rocket-propelled grenades near the point of origin and the coalition forces returned fire, killing two enemy personnel. The unit subsequently conducted a cordon and search of a compound where the identified van stopped and captured six enemy personnel. They also confiscated an RPG launcher and a 62 mm Chinese rocket.

During the last 24 hours, Task Force “All American” conducted 213 patrols, to include 13 joint patrols, and cleared three weapons caches. LINK

RAKKASANS LEAVE; STRYKERS TAKE OVER

MOSUL, Iraq – The 187th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), handed over control of part of northwest Iraq today to the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, in a ceremony outside the town of Tallafar.

Col. Michael Linnington, commander, 187th Inf. Rgt., relinquished control to Lt. Col. Buddy Carman, commander, 1st Squadron, 14th Cav. Rgt., during the relief in place ceremony in front of an audience of the leaders of the 101st, including Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, division commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin L. Hill, division command sergeant major.

Since arriving in Iraq, the 3rd Brigade Rakkasans participated in many key battles during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Once major combat operations stopped, the Rakkasans made their way to northern Iraq and worked hard on stabilizing and rebuilding the region. They helped with local government elections, trained Iraqi military and police, and worked on several projects in the region, Gen. Petraeus said.

“(This) showed what could be done to improve the life of the Iraqi people by working with Iraqis of all tribes, ethnicities and religions,” Petraeus said.

The Rakkasans will soon be leaving for America, leaving the Stryker Brigade in charge of the area and completing projects.

Linnington thanked his soldiers for their exceptional duty and Iraqis for their help in restoring the country. “Today is a great day for the Rakkasan soldiers who are heading home to family and friends,” he said.

The incoming Carman spoke about his readiness to finish off where the 101st soldiers began.

“Thank you for your excellent work,” he told the Rakkasans. “We have our work ahead of us now. We’re up to the task and poised to complete this mission so that one-day we too will return to our families."

The departing soldiers are ready to get home to their families, and satisfied with the job they did to bring stability and peace to Iraq.

“It feels great,” said Sgt. Rickey Flagg, Charlie Company, 326th Engineer Battalion, attached to 3rd Bn. 187th Inf. Rgt. “I’ve been away a whole year and my wife had my first son on Aug. 13th.

“I think we’ve done a lot for these people. They’ve been oppressed for years and we came over here and helped them learn how to live independently,” he said.

U.S. Death Toll Tops 500

With the death of three U.S. soldiers this morning, the number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq passed the 500 mark.

In all, three U.S. soldiers and two Iraqi civil defense workers were killed by [this morning's] blast, and two other U.S. soldiers were wounded. That brought the total number of U.S. soldiers who've died since the beginning of the war to 500, of whom 346 died from hostile actions and 154 from non-hostile causes, according to the Defense Department. Most deaths have occurred since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May

CNN's Michael Holmes talked about the recent attack in an interview today:

HOLMES: Many of these roadside bombs are set off by remote control, not necessarily even wired. They are using things like car alarm transmitters to set off some of these bombs these days, and they can be set to anything, an old gas canister, even dead animals used to hide the bomb.

This one was extremely large for what we normally see. To blow a Bradley off its tracks and pop the turret the way it did, it was a big, big bomb.

Three people were taken into custody after this explosion. The three men were picked up in a truck, which the U.S. military says was carrying materials used in the manufacture of roadside bombs just like this one.

Five Killed by Roadside Bomb

[CNN]

Three U.S. soldiers and two Iraqi civil defense force members were killed Saturday morning when a powerful roadside bomb detonated north of Baghdad, splitting open the gun turret of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle they were traveling in, according to the 4th Infantry Division.

The blast happened at 7:45 a.m (11:45 p.m. Friday ET) as the patrol was searching the area for improvised explosive devices, a 4th ID statement said.

The vehicle flipped over and caught fire after the blast, and the gunner and commander escaped with injuries, 4th ID sources told CNN. Four people in the back and the driver were killed.

January 16, 2004
IAEA Confirms Yellowcake Found in Rotterdam Likely From Iraq

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — The U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed Friday that Iraq was the likely source of radioactive material known as yellowcake that was found in a shipment of scrap metal at Rotterdam harbor.

Yellowcake, or uranium oxide, could be used to build a nuclear weapon, although it would take tons of the substance refined with sophisticated technology to harvest enough uranium for a single bomb.

A spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency said the Rotterdam specimen was scarcely refined at all from natural uranium ore and may have come from a known mine in Iraq that was active before the 1991 Gulf War.

"I wouldn't hype it too much," said spokeswoman Melissa Fleming. "It was a small amount and it wasn't being peddled as a sample."

The yellowcake was uncovered Dec. 16 by Rotterdam-based scrap metal company Jewometaal, which had received it in a shipment of scrap metal from a dealer in Jordan.

Company spokesman Paul de Bruin said the Jordanian dealer didn't know that the scrap metal contained any radioactive material. He said the dealer was confident the yellowcake, which was contained in a small steel industrial container, came from Iraq.

Jewometaal detected the radioactive material during a routine scan and called in the Dutch government, which in turn asked the IAEA to examine it.

Fleming said the agency will compare the chemical composition of the sample to other samples of ore taken from Iraq's al-Qaim mine, which was bombed in 1991 and dismantled in 1996-97.

She estimated that the Rotterdam sample contained around 5 pounds of uranium oxide.

President Bush came under heavy criticism last year when he asserted in his State of the Union address that Iraq was shopping in Africa for uranium yellowcake -- intelligence that turned out to be based on forged documents.

Coalition Forces in Iraq

At this time, 35 countries, in addition to the United States, have contributed a total of approximately 22,000 troops to ongoing stability operations in Iraq. These 34 are Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Thailand, the Philippines, Romania, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

Multi-National Division (South East) -- MND (SE) (U.K.)

* Headed by the U.K. it has several national contingents under its command, including the following:

ItalyNetherlands
Denmark/Lithuania Romania
Czech RepublicNorway
PortugalNew Zealand
Korea

Multi-National Division (Central South) -- MND (CS) (Polish)

* MND(CS) is headed by the Polish and has several national contingents under its command, including the following:

Poland Ukraine
SpainBulgaria
NicaraguaHonduras
Dominican RepublicMongolia
RomaniaLithuania
LatviaKazakhstan
SlovakiaThailand
HungaryPhilippines
El Salvador
101st Airborne Redeployment

CAMP DOHA, Kuwait – The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), which landed in Kuwait in February 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, is beginning its 10,500-mile, three-month odyssey back home to Fort Campbell, Ky., with a massive transfer of troops and equipment by air and land.

Brig. Gen. Jeffery Schloesser, 101st Airborne Division assistant division commander (support), has overseen the division’s redeployment operations in Kuwait, which serves as the primary staging area for all equipment and personnel returning to the U.S. The 101st Airborne Division’s first redeployment convoys arrived shortly after the beginning of the new year and are currently washing their equipment, vehicles and just a few of the division’s 200-plus aircrafts that will be shrink-wrapped and sent back to Fort Campbell.

“This is the largest operational move of soldiers, Marines and Coalition Forces that anyone really remembers, and that goes all the way back to Normandy in World War II,” said Schloesser, who arrived in Kuwait from Iraq in late December.

Roughly 20,000 soldiers with or attached to the 101st Airborne Division are scheduled to be sent home by early March. Approximately 4,000 “Screaming Eagles” who aren’t essential to the redeployment of equipment through Kuwait will fly directly back to the United States from Iraq, with a stop in Incirlik, Turkey.

The next homes for the majority of the 101st Airborne Division, albeit briefly, will be Camps Doha, Udairi and Arifjan in Kuwait.

Around 6,000 vehicles and 1,600 containers will pass through the bases from the division. There the battle-tested soldiers are readying their vehicles and equipment for U.S. Customs inspections.

“If anybody could be prepared, we are prepared,” Schloesser remarked. “The Kuwaitis on post have bent over backwards for this. They have allowed us to reopen camps that were only open for the first part of the war back in the March-April time frame.

“They have allowed us to take a good amount of the commercial shipping port facilities that they have and dedicated them for our military and the same thing goes for their airports.”

Soldiers who think they are approaching the finish line will find one last steep mountain to climb. No vehicle can board the ship destined for Fort Campbell via Jacksonville, Fla., without having been thoroughly washed, a process that can take around six hours per vehicle.

“I’ve spent a lot of time on wash racks, on aircraft parking positions as well as on the base camps, and there is not a Screaming Eagle down here who is not motivated,” Schloesser said. “It’s natural as you come down and start washing things and cleaning up that actually you would start to lose a little bit of motivation. I have not yet seen that.”

In addition to washing out all foreign soil from U.S. equipment, helicopters must undergo a special “shrink wrap” process to protect their sensitive equipment from the ocean environment.

The aircraft that are going to go home through the port on the ships can be exposed to salt water. The division’s aviation units wrap their aircraft in the cocoon-like plastic wrap and suck the air out, giving the helicopters a protective plastic covering.

“It goes all around the aircraft, protects it from the salt water which could cause corrosion. If it’s going home via the ship – and a large number of our aircraft are, some two hundred – they’re going to be shrink-wrapped,” Schloesser said.

Aircrafts severely damaged in combat are considered a biohazard and will be properly disposed of in theater instead of going back to Fort Campbell, according to Schloesser. One issue that has been resolved is what the division will do with the makeshift armor and “Dohuk” weapon mounts the 101st soldiers have utilized to reinforce their vehicles in Iraq. The “Dohuk” mounts, named after the Iraqi town the division had contracted to manufacture the M249 stands, will be staying in theater to support the next rotation of Operation Iraqi Freedom units. Any protective armor welded onto the vehicles will go back to Fort Campbell; otherwise it will stay in Iraq.

A Demonstration of Support

Because most of the mainstream media believes that good news is no news when it comes to Iraq, you may have missed this one:


This morning at 10 a.m., a pro-coalition demonstration occurred in downtown Ar Ramadi. It was organized to demonstrate against terrorism and show support for the unity of Iraq. The group stopped at the Government Center and the organizers took pictures with the Mayor and Chief of Police as a show of public support for their Iraqi civic leaders. At its peak, the crowd reached approximately 1,000 people.

In other areas of western Iraq, Task Force “All American” civil affairs personnel with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team delivered two new police vehicles to the Eskan Police Department. These vehicles are the first in a Coalition Provisional Authority-funded project to provide police vehicles to the Iskandariyah area. They will also receive six pickup trucks and six motorcycles.

Civil Affairs troops with 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, attended the re-opening of the Al Farsan Primary School for Boys and delivered school supplies and soccer balls as part of the event.

The 82nd Airborne Division and its subordinate units have been conducting missions over the previous months to bring peace and prosperity to the residents of the Al Anbar province. The tireless efforts of Task Force “All American” soldiers, working for and with the people of Iraq, will ensure a safe and secure environment to rebuild it as a free society.

[CENTCOM]

Photos of Saddam's Capture Surface

Though the Pentagon has not officially issued photos of the December 13 capture and they will not confirm the authenticity of these pictures, they are believed to be actual photos of Saddam's capture, his "hideout," and a box filled with U.S. currency.

The pictures have been circulating on the internet and the Pentagon, obviously, is not happy they have gotten out. Anonymous government officials have verified that the pictures are genuine.

You can see a gallery of the photos here.

January 15, 2004
Statement By Adnan Pachachi

Adnan Pachachi, president of the Iraqi Governing Council, held a news conference in Baghdad today as he prepares to lead a delegation to the U.N. His opening statement was in Arabic, but you may read an English translation here (via WaPo). Most of the statement is standard diplomatic expectation-setting, but I thought the following was interesting it that it reflects a slant not often reported in mainstream media:

I am not denying that there are a few differences in points of view in regards to the selection process of the members of the Transitional National Assembly. The differences are not related to the principles but the details, for we all agree that the best way to select the National Assembly is direct general elections, if it was possible to prepare for them and conducting them in a correct manner to include true representation at the will of the Iraqi people during the remaining short period to regain authority and sovereignty.

We are holding on to the June 30th agreement because we believe that any delay to this date of returning authority and sovereignty will result in disappointment and great depression for the Iraqi people, and I do not believe that there is anybody that would like to take responsibility of that. Disagreements in opinion are a natural phenomenon in a democratic debate targeting subjectivity. We prefer this form of debate and interaction and we look down on the dictatorship tactics that the Iraqi people suffered from for more than 30 years.

Iraqi Women Protest Proposed Law Changes

[AFP]

About 100 Iraqi women led by a minister protested in central Baghdad against a Governing Council proposal to scrap the secular family affairs code and place it under Muslim religious jurisdiction.

"I am outraged how the decision was taken," public works minister Nesrine al-Barwari told AFP.

"Iraq is a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional society and the Governing Council must be more sensitive to this and it must create a true dialogue when it comes to these matters."

Barwari said the council has formed a committee to consider turning the proposal into law but that she and other women leaders in Iraq wanted to make their opposition heard to both the council and the US-led coalition.

She said women also demand greater representation in any future Iraqi government.

Link via Roger L. Simon, who says:

A horrible move is afoot in Iraq. A proposal is in front of the Governing Council to return the family affairs code back to religious jurisdiction. Naturally, Iraqi women are protesting this because we all know what Sharia means for equality of the sexes. It will virtually legislate misogyny, allowing men to summarily divorce their wives, etc.

Simon links to a Financial Times article that has more on this troubling development.

Progress in Iraq

Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing, Commander's Emergency Response Program

  • All major cities now have city councils.
  • For the first time in 30 years, an independent judiciary is functioning, and nearly all of Iraq's 400 courts are open.
  • Baghdad now has 88 neighborhood advisory councils.
  • The citizens of Iraq stay informed about developments in the country through more than 200 independent newspapers.
  • 35 percent of households now receive news via satellite TV dishes, which were illegal under Saddam's regime.
  • Health care spending has increased to 26 times what Saddam spent.
  • With the help of $6.4 million in CERP funds, all 240 hospitals, and 95 percent of Iraq's 1,200 clinics have reopened, and the neglected health care facilities are undergoing rehabilitation and reconstruction.

  • 856 health projects have been funded.
  • Over 22 million vaccinations have been administered.
  • Pharmaceutical distribution has increased from 700 tons in May to a total of 12,000 tons through today.
  • 5.9 million students are registered and attending school, which exceeds prewar numbers.
  • During the prior regime, only one in six students had access to textbooks, most of which were outdated and filled with Ba'athist and pro-Saddam messages. Today, 51 million textbooks, free of propaganda, are printed and distributed.
  • All 22 universities and 43 technical institutes are open.
  • Ninety- seven thousand freshman applications have been received by the Ministry of Education, compared to 63,000 last year.
  • Over 230,000 Iraqis now provide security for their fellow citizens, and Iraqi security forces now account for more than half of all forces in Iraq.
  • Over 68,000 policemen have been hired. An additional number are currently in training.
  • The new Iraqi Civil Defense Corps has over 17,000 personnel operating and another 3,800 in training.
  • Fifty-one thousand five hundred Iraqis are in the border police force.
  • Ninety- seven thousand are in the Facility Protection Service, protecting vital infrastructure from sabotage and terrorist attacks.
  • Before the war, nearly three-quarters of Iraq's 27,000 kilometers of vital irrigation canals were weed-choked by years of neglect. Today over 18,500 kilometers of irrigation canals have been cleared, bringing water to tens of thousands of farmers, creating jobs and revitalizing the Iraqi economy.
  • In Baghdad, commanders have used CERP funds to make emergency repairs to a sewer and water system that had collapsed due to neglect and looting.
  • Construction has begun on over 1,000 new houses.
  • As anyone who has driven in Baghdad knows, the number of privately owned vehicles has doubled from 500,000 in April to over 1 million today

Shias Protest in Basra

From the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

Tens of thousands of Iraqis have gathered outside the main Shia Mosque in the southern city of Basra to demand direct elections for the country's new authorities.

The demonstration follows a call by local clerics for a show of force to back their demand for elections.

Clerics at the main Shia mosque called Iraqis to show their rejection of the US plans for Iraq.

The mosque was surrounded by people in a show of force and power in a warning to the US that it cannot afford to ignore the Shia.

The top Shia cleric in Iraq, Grand Ayotollah Ali Sistani, has rejected the current US proposal.

He says the provisional assembly which will choose a new government must be elected, not selected.

7 Insurgents Killed

From The Australian :

Seven Iraqis were killed by US soldiers in three separate incidents yesterday north of Baghdad, the US Army said today.

Soldiers shot dead six insurgents in two attacks around the restive town of Baquba, a bastion of resistance, home to sympathisers of the old regime, said Sergeant Robert Cargie.

Another suspected rebel was shot dead and one wounded near Tikrit, the hometown of jailed tyrant Saddam Hussein, Cargie added.

Dan's Iraq Report: Jan 15/04

Welcome! Our goal is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from Iraq that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Today's briefing is brought to you by Dan Darling of Regnum Crucis.

TOP TOPICS

* Former Clinton NSC official Ken Pollack takes a look at what happened to Iraq's WMDs in a lengthy Atlantic Magazine article that should serve as required reading for everyone involved in both sides of the debate.

* Joe takes a look at the importance of understanding tribes when it comes to dealing with the Iraqi insurgents. In a related post, Art of Peace looks at the tribal dynamics behind the situation in Fallujah.

* The troops are still there. So is the (UPDATED) Winds of Change.NET consolidated directory of ways you can support the troops. That means American, Australian, British, Canadian and Polish troops... not to mention Iraqi and Afghan children. [updated January 15, 2004]

Other Topics Today Include: Rundown of attacks and counterattacks; Ba'ath Poker updates; Saddam a POW; New use for Saddam statues; Syria to return cash; No early elections; Germans noticing progress; More tests on mortar shells; The 'shipped to Syria' issue.

Read The Rest...

F.B.I. Director Calls Attack Quite Likely

From tomorrow's NYT:

The F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, said on Wednesday that terrorists would "quite probably" strike the United States again and that Al Qaeda remained a major threat despite the lowering of the nation's threat status last week.

"Al Qaeda would very much relish another high-profile attack within the United States in which numerous U.S. citizens would be killed," Mr. Mueller told reporters at a luncheon meeting sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. "We have disrupted their capability, but there are still persons out there who have that capability."

January 14, 2004
No Chemical Agent in Iraq Mortar Shells

[AP]

Tests by Danish and American experts indicate there is no chemical warfare agent in mortar shells unearthed in southern Iraq, but conclusive word will only come from a lab in Idaho. Earlier examinations had indicated a blister agent was in the shells, which apparently date to the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. The U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group conducted tests on five of 36 shells found Friday and all came up negative, the Danish army said Wednesday in a statement from Copenhagen. Those results contradicted Danish and British field tests that were positive for a blister agent. "Based on the tests, the experts conclude that none of the shells contain chemical warfare agents," the Danish army statement said, adding that more studies are needed for final confirmation.
Terrorists Planning Iraq Attack

The following is a transcript from Special Report With Brute Hume that aired last night on Fox.

BRIT HUME, HOST: The administration is not saying anything about this, and it is not even clear officials know anything about it. But some sources in Iraq are talking about a development that could prove an important turn in the search for weapons of mass destruction. For more on this we turn to the man who so often seems to know things before everybody else.

Fox News foreign affairs analyst Mansoor Ijaz, who joins us now from Berlin.

Mansoor, what's up?

MANSOOR IJAZ, FOX NEWS FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST: Well, Brit, what I have learned in the last 24 hours is that about three days ago in the northern part of Iraq, a convoy of trucks and jeeps and cars was brought across from Iran where some of the Kurdish Peshmergah -- these are these Kurdish rebels that are sort of like Mujahideen, if I may put it that way, from the old Afghan War.

They intercepted one of those trucks that were carrying a large warhead that had extremely sophisticated plastic -- C- 4 plastic explosives in it. And when the driver of that truck was put under interrogation, he then admitted that as many -- there were a total of 30 warheads that apparently were scheduled to come across.

One of them got caught, and 29 made it across somehow or the other. Of those 29, we are told now that somewhere between six and 12 of them may have, in fact, been laden with chemical explosives that would be then attached to a rocket of some sort inside Iraq that's already there in a separate convoy. And that those warheads would then be exploded over, for example, an encampment near the Coalition Provisional Authority (search) or something like that.

Now, what alarmed me about this and the reason that I felt it was necessary to get this out as soon as possible, is because I have now heard three times in the last week, from separate sources that I have been talking to that something big is being planned for Baghdad. In which the idea that is being put forward is to kill as many as 3,000 to 5,000 people at one shot; something that would be similar to a World Trade Center (search) type of attack. In that part of the world, the only way you could get that done is if you launched a massive chemical or biological attack.

HUME: Now, talk to me a little bit about the Kurdish forces who were involved in this event. Are these -- are they friendly to the United States and the coalition? Are they not? And what -- you know, and how credible are they?

IJAZ: Yes. It's a good question. The strange thing here is that what I have been told is that the sources that got this information out, what they saw on the ground physically going on is that the Kurdish leaders that had -- the Kurdish rebels that had caught this guy had taken the warhead and were actually trying to sell it back to the Iranians along with their silence. Because there's something else going on here that's of a larger political nature.

We now know that during the past week, the reformists in Iran have been pummeled and stopped from allowing their candidates to be fielded for the upcoming elections. We also know that there is, as we have said here before about a month and a half, two months ago, that there is a wintertime offensive being prepared with the help of the Iranian and Revolutionary Guard in Afghanistan, maybe with the help of Al Qaeda, maybe even bin Laden, al Zawahiri, and people like that who, as we've said here before, are in Iran right now.

And at the same time, they're trying to launch something in Iraq. The idea of which would be the wag the dog scenario, where if your domestic politics, you can't fix it, and it's getting too much pressure under honor the mullahs in Iran right now. Better to start the fire and ratchet it up a notch on both sides outside, both in Afghanistan and Iraq at the same time.

HUME: Now, how great a likelihood do you believe that you are finding this out or others finding this out, and it getting out, will have on it actually happening?

IJAZ: Well, I think the first thing we've got to do is go and talk to those Kurdish rebels and find out where the heck those other convoy trucks went. The second thing that we need to do, and I talked with General McInerney earlier this evening to determine what the range is, what type of warheads would be used and how these things could be put together. He made a very strong recommendation, and I agree with that, that we need to get Global Hawk One back in theater. Because if these things...

HUME: That thing out of there now?

IJAZ: ... these chemical warheads were attached -- they are out of there right now, and they're not in theater. And the trouble is that they're in desolate areas in which these rockets could be launched from.

And remember, a chemical weapon, to have massive -- the most massive impact that it can have to have a midair burst. Which means that it needs to be launched from, let's say, 100 kilometers away or 50 kilometers away or 200 kilometers away.

These are areas that our people are just not, you know, focused on right now because we've got so much work to do in and around the urban areas in Iraq. So I think we need to get down to finding out where that convoy of 29 warheads are and do that immediately. And get our Kurdish friends to help us rather than trying to sell them back to the Iranians. That doesn't make any sense.

HUME: Oh, we've got just a few seconds left. The credible of your sources, your assessment?

IJAZ: They're unimpeachable. Again, I think they've been right all along. We'll find out in the coming days in a print report about the bin Laden story in great detail. Everything has been verified. We will see that.

HUME: Thank you Mansoor.

Top Baathist Captured
U.S. forces in Ramadi have captured a top Baathist -- number 54 on the most wanted list of Iraqi fugitives -- coalition officials announced Wednesday.

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, Army spokesman, identified the man as Khamis Sirhan al-Muhammad, the former Baath Party regional chairman for the Karbala governorate, a Shiite Muslim region.

Sirhan was captured by Special Operations forces and the 82nd Airborne Division soldiers January 11 in Ramadi, officials said.

[CNN]

US Soldier Dies in Mosul

From The Australian :

An American soldier has died in a non-hostile incident in northern Iraq, the US military said today, raising the US death toll since the Iraq conflict began to 496.

A US press statement said the soldier, attached to the 101st Airborne Division, died last night in the northern city of Mosul.

It said the "non-hostile incident" that led to the death is under investigation. It gave no other details.

The name of the soldier was withheld pending notification of next-of-kin.

Suicide Bombing in Baquba

From The Australian :

At least one person was killed and several were injured in a suicide car bombing at a police station in the centre of the restive Iraqi town of Baquba Wednesday, police said.

"A car exploded in front of the building of the civil emergency police unit killing and injuring many," police officer Haidar Ismail said.

"I saw the remains of the car driver all over the place and the building was severely damaged," he said.

Another Casualty

Updating previous posts, from the ABC(Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

A British colonel, hailed for his impassioned speech to soldiers on the eve of last year's Iraq war but later accused of mistreating prisoners, is to quit the Army later this year, his wife has told a British newspaper.

A major factor in Colonel Tim Collin's decision to leave his post by the summer was the Army's failure to immediately support him when he was wrongly accused of mistreating Iraqi prisoners following the US-led war last March, she reportedly told the tabloid.

She also blamed the underfunding of the armed forces.

"Tim is no longer convinced that the army reflects the country with the fourth largest economy in the world, he fears it is becoming a cottage industry" his wife Caroline told The Mail on Sunday newspaper.

"He's worried it is being crippled by political correctness, petty bureaucracy and the refusal of politicians who send British soldiers to war to give them enough money to do their job," she said.

The Ministry of Defence exonerated Colonel Collins following an internal investigation and fast-tracked him for promotion but he told bosses of his intention to resign on returning to his job in Britain last week, the paper said.
[...]
During a rousing eve-of-war speech, Colonel Collins old his men, "if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory".

Following his address, Britain's heir to the throne Prince Charles commended him on displaying "the highest traditions of military leadership", while US President George W Bush was understood to have requested a copy of the speech for the wall of the Oval Office.
[...]
Colonel Collins' success was soured, however, after a US reservist whom the Colonel had publicly disciplined on the battlefield accused the veteran soldier of mistreating Iraqi prisoners of war.

The complete text of Colonel Collins' speech is available.
We go to liberate, not to conquer.
We will not fly our flags in their country
We are entering Iraq to free a people and the only flag which will be flown in that ancient land is their own.
Show respect for them.

There are some who are alive at this moment who will not be alive shortly.
Those who do not wish to go on that journey, we will not send.
As for the others, I expect you to rock their world.
Wipe them out if that is what they choose.
But if you are ferocious in battle remember to be magnanimous in victory....

...and much more.

Ba'ath Party Leaders Denounce Saddam, Terrorism

Former Ba'athist leaders in Northern Iraq are now with the program, according to the news out of Central Command:

FORMER HIGH LEVEL BA'ATHISTS DENOUNCE TERRORISM IN IRAQ

MOSUL, IRAQ (Jan. 14, 2004) – Former Ba’ath Party leaders in Northern Iraq denounced the party of Saddam Hussein Tuesday and exhorted the people of the region to work with the Coalition to build a free and unified Iraq.

More than 50 leaders who once supported The Ba’ath Party objectives met in the city hall of Ash Shurah, a small town 35 kilometers south of Mosul, to discuss their role in the future of Iraq.

During the meeting, ten 2nd, 3rd and 4th tier leaders of the party publicly denounced terrorism, violence, and voiced the need for all Iraqis to work together for the future of the new Iraq.

The event was marked by impassioned speeches to cajole those who persist in identifying themselves with the Ba’ath Party to help end disruptive violence and join with them to make Iraq a better place.

No major media has yet reported on this meeting which, according to this write-up, seems to have been somewhat emotional and impassioned.

(Cross-posted at Late Final.)

Al-Douri Relatives Arrested

Could he be next?

Four relatives of the most-wanted member of Saddam Hussein's former regime were arrested during a raid by U.S. soldiers on Wednesday.

The military said two of those detained were nephews of former Iraqi Vice President Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, and were suspected in keeping the former official in hiding. The former right-hand man of Hussein has a $10 million bounty on his head...

..Al-Douri has a $10 million bounty on his head and is suspected to have been orchestrating insurgent attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces. The former Revolutionary Command Council vice chairman is No. 6 on the U.S. list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis.

Counterinsurgency in Tribal Socieities

We've covered "Small Wars" before here on Winds of Change.NET, and also noted both the importance of Iraq's tribal structure and Lt. Col. Alan King's successes in dealing with many Iraqi tribes.

Tribal societies are always tricky for outsiders, and there are real implications for counterinsurgency wars under these conditions. Fortunately, the Brothers Judd blog has an excellent feature covering counterinsurgency generally, incl. experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you want to get a feel for what's happening on the ground, grasp the underlying challenges of counterinsurgency, then broaden your understanding, start right here.

Read The Rest...

January 13, 2004
al Qaeda Members Arrested in Iraq

Short news item on Fox:

As U.S. forces in Iraq faced hostile fire in the air and on the ground, raids in northern Iraq yielded several members of the Al Qaeda terror network, military sources told Fox News.

Military officials could not immediately say how many suspected terrorists were detained but they said the Al Qaeda members were seized during raids by the 101st Airborne division in Mosul.

Apache Helicopter Crashes

A U.S. Apache crashed near Habbaniyah on Tuesday. All crew survived the crash, which was most likely caused by hostile fire.

Fox

January 12, 2004
Agent of a Foreign Power: "Spy" For Saddam Convicted In Chicago

The AP reports that a Palestinian-born Chicago man who published a community newspaper praising Saddam and denouncing the U.S. and Israel has been convicted under a federal law requiring agents of foreign governments to register with the U.S. government.

Prosecutors maintained that the Palestinian-born Dumeisi spied on Iraqi dissidents because he was desperate for money and admired Saddam Hussein as the only true friend of the Palestinian cause in the Mideast. They cited evidence of at least $3,000 in payments from the Iraqis to the debt-ridden publisher.

The jury also convicted him of conspiring not to register, lying to an immigration officer and lying to a federal grand jury. Dumeisi faces up to 25 years in prison at sentencing March 30, but he is likely to get much less time under federal sentencing guidelines.

* * *

Witnesses said Dumeisi received training in spying on a trip to Baghdad and even got a pen that was actually a combination tape recorder and camera.

The story also quotes the U.S. Attorney for Chicago, Patrick J. Fitzgerald (also the lead prosecutor on the Valerie Plame investigation):

This sends an important message that people can't come to our country and spy on their fellow residents.

Read the full report here.

Army War College article says invasion of Iraq was 'strategic error'

From SFGate / AP:

A report published by the Army War College calls the Bush administration's war on terrorism unfocused and says the invasion of Iraq was "a strategic error."

The research paper by Jeffrey Record, a professor at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, said the president's strategy "promises much more than it can deliver" and threatens to spread U.S. military resources too thin. Record also wrote that Saddam Hussein's Iraq did not present a threat to the United States and was a distraction from the war on terrorism ...

... "Dr. Record is a noted national security specialist. It's not at all at odds for us to analyze a given mission and arrive at a conclusion that seems at odds with national policy," Lovelace said. He said in the past the institute has released studies analyzing U.S. policy in Haiti, Afghanistan and other hot spots.

Record could not be reached immediately for comment Monday through Army public affairs offices and he did not immediately respond to e-mails from The Associated Press. He is the author of six books and is a former legislative assistant for national security affairs to Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Georgia, and former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas.


Attacks Have Decreased Since Saddam's Capture

[USA Today]

Attacks against coalition forces in Iraq have dropped 22% in the four weeks since Saddam Hussein's capture, military records show. U.S. military officers say the decline in attacks, after months of growing intensity, is the first proof that Saddam's capture and recent U.S. offensives have dampened, but not eliminated, resistance to the occupation.

The average number of daily attacks fell to 18 in the four weeks since Dec. 14, when the coalition announced that Saddam had been captured the day before. In the four weeks before Saddam was found, attacks averaged 23 a day.

During the same periods, U.S. combat injuries dropped only slightly, from 233 in the four weeks before Saddam's capture to 224 in the four weeks after. And the attacks remain deadly: 22 troops killed from Nov. 16 through Dec. 13 and 31 in the comparable period Dec. 14- Jan. 10. But the figures for deaths do not include the 17 U.S. soldiers who died Nov. 15 when two helicopters crashed in the city of Mosul.

Andrew's Winds of War: Jan 12/04

Welcome! Our goal is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Today's "Winds of War" is brought to you by Andrew Olmsted of Andrew Olmsted dot com.

TOP TOPICS

* Up to half of the candidates for Iran's parliamentary elections have been barred from next month's elections, prompting a number of serving ministers to stage a sit-in in protest. President Mohammad Khatami says he will hold talks with the Guardian Council in hopes of reversing the decision. If Khatami fails, it could lead to his resignation; this showdown will have significant effects on the future direction of Iran's politics. (Hat tip: Instapundit).

Other Topics Today Include: OIF II kicks off; Iraqis riot for jobs; America claims it has proof of Russian perfidy; and the Dutch may have found a few of Saddam's WMDs; Why the war is important; Syria; Uzbekistan; North Korea.

Read The Rest...

Japan Sends Troops to Iraq

From OTB:

DefenseLINK News

Japan's decision to send forces to Iraq is a "historic move," said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers during a press conference here today.

Myers, here to meet with Japanese military leaders, said the Japanese decision to send about 1,000 members of the Ground Self-Defense Force to Iraq is welcomed by the international community.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced the decision in December. This is the first time Japanese forces will serve as part of a coalition not sponsored by the United Nations. The soldiers will be engaged in helping to rebuild Iraq, and will be based in the southern part of the country. They will work with Dutch soldiers, and will come under the command of a British general.

Western diplomatic officials said the move was a courageous one, and that the prime minister "was ahead" of the Japanese people. Officials also said that there is uncertainty as to what will happen in Japan if the Japanese forces take casualties in Iraq.

Posted By at 12:02 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack
Soldier Killed in Bombing

[AP]

A U-S soldier has been killed and two wounded in a roadside bombing in the Iraqi capital today.

U-S military officials say the the soldiers are from the First Armored Division.

It's the first reported combat death among U-S troops in Iraq since Friday, when nine soldiers were killed when a medevac helicopter went down near Fallujah.

January 11, 2004
In Blow to U.S. Plans, Top Shiite Demands Direct Elections

Hmm. There always seems to be someone who doesn't want to follow the script. From NYT:

In a blow to White House plans for a smooth handover of power to an Iraqi transitional government by July 1, the most influential Shiite cleric in Iraq said today that members of an interim assembly had to be chosen through direct elections.

The cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, had called in November for direct elections to counter an American proposal to hold caucus-style elections, but had said he would reconsider his decision if a United Nations committee decided that general elections were not possible.

Iraqis Serious About Security

This story out of Central Command:

BA’QUBAH, Iraq – A terrorist attack against innocent Iraqis was thwarted at the Tahrir Husseinia mosque in Ba’qubah when an observant mosque official decided to investigate a suspicious vehicle parked near the building at approximately 2 p.m. Jan. 9.

The official asked people in the area and those at prayer if they knew who owned the unfamiliar automobile. He went to the extent of asking for information about the car over the mosque’s loudspeaker. When no one claimed the vehicle he contacted the Iraqi Police.

The police responded and discovered that the vehicle was in fact a potentially deadly car bomb packed with 250 pounds of plastic explosives and three 130-millimeter artillery rounds with a remote control detonator wired to the car’s antenna.

An Iraqi also did this:

RAMADI, Iraq – Task Force “All-American” soldiers discovered a large weapons cache with the help of a local Iraqi civilian at approximately 9 p.m. Jan. 9.

The man led them to a house in Ramadi where the following were found: 33 anti-tank and 16 anti-personnel RPG rounds, three RPG launchers, one crate of RPG propellant, 13 hand grenades, 40 fuses, a large quantity of small arms ammunition, one 82-millimeter mortar round, one 82-millimeter mortar tube with bipod and base plate, manuals to fire mortars, one empty light anti-tank weapon, thermal sites, 6,600 grams of TNT, 3,200 grams of plastic explosives, one .30 caliber machine gun, one 14.5-millimeter machine gun, one 37-millimeter anti-aircraft gun, one G3 machine gun, various machine gun parts, two complete SA-7 surface-to-air shoulder-fired missiles, 40 electronic blasting caps, 16 remote IEDs, six radio-controlled detonation devices, four emergency locator/transmitters, 349,000 New Iraqi Dinar and pro-Mujahadeen materials.

For the time being, there are now more reports of Iraqis thwarting terrorist acts in their own country than of Iraqis or al Qaeda pulling them off.

(Cross-posted at Late Final.)

Frontline Dispatch: The Capture of Saddam

A PBS Frontline crew in Iraq has been posting online dispatches from the field. The latest is up, and it covers, among other things, the reaction in a Nasiriya cafe to the capture of Saddam Hussein:

Isra'a is in disbelief. "It's not confirmed, but he is saying that an Iranian channel claims Saddam has been captured near Tikrit."

The entire restaurant gathers underneath the TV in total concentration. There are no smiles, no high fives, no slaps on the back. The only sound in the restaurant is the voice of the announcer on Al Arabiya. I look at my watch: it is 1:12 p.m.

Outside the restaurant, bursts of gunfire can be heard at some distance. The crackle of gunshots almost sounds like domino tiles cascading one onto another from afar, and then closer and closer. While Scott films the scene inside the restaurant, I step outside with Kais and ask the man carving shawarma if he knows what has happened. I mimic Abu Akil's handcuffing motion and ask him, "Saddam? Capture?" Kais translates. "It's only a rumor. Saddam is too smart to get caught," the vendor tells us.

Not so, it seems. Read the rest here.

Posted By Alan at 03:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Pass The Link

Reader Pass The Gas noted this first-person Iraq account by Rocky Mountain News writer Bill Johnson in our comments. It's an interesting counterpart to the Nagl article below (although Johnson is not, by any stretch, a Rhodes scholar with a Ph.D. in counterinsurgency). That said, his opinion counts as much as the next person, and you should give it a read.

Posted By Alan at 01:44 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
Tests Indicate Blister Agents in Shells

[Follow-up to this story]

Preliminary tests indicate that the shells do contain or have contained blister agents.

Officials are hesitant to release any specific findings yet as some previous weapons found in Iraq were thought to contain mustard gas and didn't.

And The Telegraph has this:

Ali Nimir, a former colonel in a Republican Guard artillery unit, said: "I remember seeing boxes of these kinds of armaments in our base two years ago. We were told that they were chemical weapons.

"They made a splashing sound inside if you moved them around. From what I recall they were removed from our bases and distributed to secret hiding places around the country about a year before the war. I never saw them again."

So, you may be thinking; Would the use of gas in a terrorist attack really be that big of a deal? If these shells are definitely found to contain nerve agents, how much does it matter?

Keep in mind that Saddam's chemical attack on Halabja in 1988 was made possible in part by mustard gas.

January 10, 2004
A MUST Read: Professor Nagl's War

For / against, it's about the peace / it's about the oil, Capt. Spin / PTG ... whatever your view, this NY Times Magazine account of Maj. John Nagl's experience in the Sunni Triangle is required reading.

Adding to the compelling nature of the piece: In addition to serving as third in command of his tank battalion, Nagl is West Point grad, Rhodes scholar, Gulf War vet, Bronze Star recipient, and has a Ph.D. from St. Antony's College, the leading school of foreign affairs at Oxford, in counterinsurgency.

This is a long article ... 13 web pages ... and requires the free NYT registration. But trust me: it's the first Must Read of 2004.

Invasion Was On Agenda Pre-Sept 11: Ex-Treasury Secretary

From the headline at The Age, which I have in the title above, this sounds like a smoking gun against the Iraq invasion as a post-Sept. 11th reaction. Reading the article, it's not quite so direct. It seems former Treasury Sec. Paul O'Neill has told CBS News that:

"From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go," O'Neill told the CBS television program 60 Minutes.

"For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the US has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap," he added.

More interesting is this:
Bush took office in January 2001 - and in his first three months in power, officials were already looking at military options to remove Saddam from power, according to documents that O'Neill and other White House insiders gave author Ron Suskind.

Officials were looking into including post-war contingencies such as peacekeeping troops, war crimes tribunals and the future of Iraq's oil, according to the documents.

One of the memos, marked "secret," says Plan for Post-Saddam Iraq, Suskind told 60 Minutes.

A Pentagon document, titled Foreign Suitors For Iraqi Oilfield Contracts, talks about "contractors around the world from ... 30, 40 countries and which ones have what intentions on oil in Iraq," according to Suskind.

O'Neill told Suskind he was surprised that no one on Bush's national security council - which includes national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - questioned why Iraq should be invaded.

"It was all about finding a way to do it," O'Neill is quoted in the book as saying. "That was the tone of it, the president saying, 'Go find me a way to do this."'

Make of this what you will. For the record, Bush fired O'Neill in December 2002 for publicly speaking out against the Bush tax cut plan.

Update on Weapons Find

The story has been picked up by most major news sites/stations.

Some of the major details:

There were 36 mortar shells found in a swampy area.
The mortar shells,believed to contain blister agents, were wrapped in plastic and some were leaking fluid.
The mortars are probably about ten years old.

Though the mortars - if they contain blister agents - can be considered WMDs, they are most likely leftovers from the Iran-Iraq war that ended in 1988.

[Various sources]

Six killed in Iraqi protest

[AP]

British troops and Iraqi police fired into a crowd of armed, stone-throwing protesters in this southern city, killing six people and wounding 11, according to witnesses and officials.

A British military spokeswoman said shots were heard coming from among hundreds of protesters who had gathered in front of the office of the US-led coalition to demand jobs, and that Iraqi police, thinking they were under attack, opened fire.

At the same time there were "reports of small explosions in the crowd," said the spokeswoman, speaking on condition of customary anonymity.

"Chemical Weapons" found in Iraq - BBC
Danish troops have found dozens of mortar rounds in southern Iraq which could contain chemical weapons according to initial tests.
As always, take initial reports with a grain of salt.

BBC...

Reuters...

CNN...

Russian Arms in Iraq
US officials have found evidence corroborating White House allegations that Russian companies sold Saddam Hussein high-tech military equipment that threatened US forces during the invasion of Iraq last March, a senior State Department official said yesterday.

The official said the United States has found proof that Russian companies exported night-vision goggles and radar-jamming equipment to Iraq, the official said. The evidence includes the equipment itself and proof that it was used during the war, according to the official. Such exports would violate the terms of United Nations sanctions against Iraq.

"We have corroborated some of that evidence," the official told a group of reporters.

While insisting that the matter is "now in the past," he said that the Bush administration "never received entirely satisfactory explanations" of its charges, and that the issue "is still a sensitive one in the relationship."

"It's an issue that, shall we say, did not do much for strengthening trust," the official added.

Putin denies it all.

[Full story]

January 09, 2004
Saddam Given POW Status
US officials say the ousted Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, is being treated as an "enemy prisoner of war". A Pentagon spokesman said he was given the status as he was the leader of the "old regime's military forces".

Saddam Hussein has been given the status of "enemy prisoner of war."

Because Saddam is being treated as a POW, he can be brought to trial for war crimes. It also means that his treatment falls underThe Geneva Conventions, rules of which can be found here.

While the news has been confirmed by Pentagon lawyers, Colin Powell is claiming he knows nothing about it.

UPDATE: CNN now has the story.

Faces of Valor

Kimberly Hampton was an only child who wanted to be a pilot since she was young, her parents said. She grew up in Easley and wrote a paper for her third grade class that described how she had always wanted to fly, they said.

A short biography of every soldier killed in the Iraq war.

Thanks to Ed of Rook's Blog for the link.

Senior Syrian journalist reports Iraq’s WMD located in three Syrian sites

Via the DEBKA file website.

Nizar Najoef, a Syrian journalist who recently defected from Syria to Western Europe, reports in the Dutch newspaper “De Telegraaf” that Iraq’s WMD are located in three Syrian sites

* * *

Nizar Najoef, a Syrian journalist who recently defected from Syria to Western Europe and is known for bravely challenging the Syrian regime, said in a letter Monday, January 5, to Dutch newspaper “De Telegraaf,” that he knows the three sites where Iraq’s WMD are kept. The storage places are:

1. Tunnels dug under the town of al-Baida near the city of Hama in northern Syria. These tunnels are an integral part of an underground factory, built by the North Koreans, for producing Syrian Scud missiles. Iraqi chemical weapons and long-range missiles are stored in these tunnels.

2. The village of Tal Snan, north of the town of Salamija, where there is a big Syrian airforce camp. Vital parts of Iraq’s WMD are stored there.

3. The city of Sjinsjar on the Syrian border with the Lebanon, south of the city Homs.

Najoef writes that the transfer of Iraqi WMD to Syria was organized by the commanders of Saddam Hussein’s Special Republican Guard, including General Shalish, with the help of Assif Shoakat , Bashar Assad’s cousin. Shoakat is the CEO of Bhaha, an import/export company owned by the Assad family.

In February 2003, a month before America’s invasion in Iraq, DEBKAfile and DEBKA-Net-Weekly were the only media to report the movement of Iraqi WMD, the efforts to bring them from Iraq to Syria, and the personal involvement of Bashar Assad and his family in the operation.

Najoef, who has won prizes for journalistic integrity, says he wrote his letter because he has terminal cancer.

* * *

Six Killed in Mosque Blast
At least six people have been killed and dozens injured by a bomb blast at a Shi'ite mosque in the Iraqi town of Baquba.

Local police and witnesses said the bomb exploded outside a small mosque in a residential area during Friday prayers.

Officials at a nearby hospital said 39 people were injured

Witnesses gave conflicting reports about whether or not the explosion was caused by a car bomb.

[ITV]

Massive Raid in Tikrit: 30 Iraqia in Custody
In one of the biggest raids since the end of major combat in the war in Iraq, U.S. forces detained 12 suspected anti-American attackers and 18 others in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.

More than 300 soldiers swept through Tikrit just before midnight Thursday in a search for 18 men and teenagers suspected in anti-U.S. attacks, including the Oct. 1 killing of a female American soldier.

In the four-hour operation, the troops took 30 Iraqis into custody, among them 12 of the 18 wanted people. The other detainees were believed to have links to those suspected in the attacks, officials said.

Two of the captured men were suspected of planting a roadside bomb that killed Pfc. Analaura Esparza Gutierrez, 21, of Houston, on Oct. 1.


[Full story at Fox]

January 08, 2004
Powell: No Smoking Gun Showing Terrorist Ties

The song remains the same. From NewsMax:

Secretary of State Colin Powell acknowledged Thursday that he had seen no "smoking gun, concrete evidence" of ties between Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaida terror network, but insisted that Iraq had had dangerous weapons and needed to be disarmed by force.
At a State Department news conference, Powell disagreed with a private think tank report that maintained Iraq had not been an imminent threat to the United States. And the secretary defended the case he had made last February before the United Nations for a U.S.-led war to force Saddam from power.

"My presentation ... made it clear that we had seen some links and connections to terrorist organizations over time," Powell said. "I have not seen smoking gun, concrete evidence about the connection, but I think the possibility of such connections did exist and it was prudent to consider them at the time that we did."

Here's the link to the full text of the secretary's remarks at the Department of State.

Posted By Alan at 11:19 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack
Military Team Seeking WMD Pulled Out Of Iraq

From the Guardian:

The Pentagon has pulled out a 400-strong military team which was searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction, but US officers insisted yesterday that the hunt would go on.

The disbanded multinational team was known as the Joint Captured Materiel Exploitation Group (JCMEG) and its job, according to a Pentagon official who confirmed its withdrawal, had been to "scavenge the battlefield for military equipment".

It was an important element of the CIA-led Iraq Survey Group (ISG), which has spent seven months hunting for the arsenal that was the justification for the invasion.

"The hunt will go on." In Syria.

C-5 Hit by SAM at Baghdad

FOX News (broadcast)

A C-5 was hit in one engine by a surface-to-air missile at Baghdad Airport. The aircraft returned safely to the airport with no injuries

Dan's Iraq Report: Jan 8/03

Welcome! Our goal is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. In addition, we also have our global war on terror roundup. Today's briefings are brought to you by Dan Darling of Regnum Crucis.

TOP TOPICS

* The 82nd Airborne Division has captured 13 in al-Anbar province, while the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment has captured Abu Mohammed, a key facilitator and financier of foreign fighters. Further raids in al-Anbar are said to have led to the capture of 128 suspects.

* US forces inside Iraq have uncovered another mass grave containing the remains of 800 Shi'ites killed in the 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein.

* For those of you just joining us, I have an analysis of recent events that have been largely ignored by Western media outlets in Dagestan, Thailand, Nigeria, and Iraq.

Other Topics Today Include: An Iraqi interpreter's story; New Years Eve bombing; Capture in Mosul; 2nd Iraqi battalion on the way; Kirkuk tensions; Financial and legal developments; WMDs; Ba'ath poker update; Support the troops; Toy drive.

Read The Rest..

Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction Are Being Hidden In Syria

Via IraqNet Information Network:

* * *

A relative of Syrian President Bashar Assad is hiding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in three locations in Syria, according to intelligence sources cited by an exiled opposition party.

The weapons were smuggled in large wooden crates and barrels by Zu Alhema al-Shaleesh, known for moving arms into Iraq in violation of U.N. resolutions and for sending recruits to fight coalition forces, said the U.S.-based Reform Party of Syria.

The party, based in Potomac, Md., regards itself as a secular body comprised of Syrians who want to see the country embrace "real democratic and economic reforms."

One weapons-cache location identified by the sources is a mountain tunnel near the village of al-Baidah in northwest Syria, the report said. The tunnel is known to house a branch of the Assad regime's national security apparatus.

Two other arms supplies are reported to be in west-central Syria. One is hidden at a factory operated by the Syrian Air Force, near the village of Tal Snan, between the cities of Hama and Salmiyeh. The third location is tunnels beneath the small town of Shinshar, which belongs to the 661 battalion of the Syrian Air Force.

The nephew of Zu Alhema al-Shaleesh, Assef al-Shaleesh, runs Al Bashair Trading Co., a front for the Assad family involved prior to the war in oil smuggling from Iraq and arms smuggling into the country. Al-Bashair has offices in Damascus, Beirut and Baghdad.

In an exclusive interview yesterday with the London Telegraph, Assad came close to admitting his country possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

Assad told the London paper Syria rejects American and British demands for concessions on weapons of mass destruction, insisting Damascus is entitled to defend itself by acquiring its own chemical and biological deterrent.

He said Israel must agree to abandon its undeclared nuclear arsenal in order for Syria to consider any deal with the U.S.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported Al Bashair Trading Co. participated in the smuggling of millions of dollars worth of sophisticated arms and equipment to Saddam Hussein for three years prior to the Iraqi leader's overthrow.

Al Bashair executives met with North Korean firms before the war began, according to the Los Angeles daily. The paper's three-month investigation included the translation of 800 signed contracts found in the Al Bashair Trading Co. office shortly before U.S. troops entered Baghdad.

Just prior to the U.S.-led effort to oust Hussein, SES International Corp. signed at least 50 contracts to supply weapons and gear to Iraq, the Times said, including 1,000 heavy machine guns and up to 20 million rounds for assault rifles.

Not all the weapons were delivered, but some may still be in use by terrorists battling the U.S. occupation forces, the newspaper said.

At least one shipment of arms was completed with the help of the Syrian government in violation of a U.N. arms embargo.

SES International Corp. denied any wrongdoing, while Syria's foreign ministry refused to comment to the Times.

* * *

This is a story that has been percolating for some time. See, for example, related stories which have appeared at the Lebanese Foundation for Peace website, the NTI website, the U.S. Department of State website, the International Herald Tribune website, and in many other diverse outlets, such as the DEBKA file website and this South African television news website - News24.

Hat-tip to Mark at The Command Post for the DEBKA files tie-in.

In an extensive article published in the Los Angeles Times on December 30, 2003, staff writers Bob Drogin and Jeffrey Fleishman detailed some of the complex weapons-shipping relationships between Iraq and Syria:

* * *

DAMASCUS, Syria — A Syrian trading company with close ties to the ruling regime smuggled weapons and military hardware to Saddam Hussein between 2000 and 2003, helping Syria become the main channel for illicit arms transfers to Iraq despite a stringent U.N. embargo, documents recovered in Iraq show.

The private company, called SES International Corp., is headed by a cousin of Syria's autocratic leader, Bashar Assad, and is controlled by other members of Assad's Baath Party and Alawite clan. Syria's government assisted SES in importing at least one shipment destined for Iraq's military, the Iraqi documents indicate, and Western intelligence reports allege that senior Syrian officials were involved in other illicit transfers.

* * *

The Iraqi weapons files provide the first public evidence of Syria's extensive arms trade with Hussein's regime.

Most of Iraq's known arms smuggling schemes in the 1990s went through Jordan. Many involved "one man, one fax" offices set up by Iraqi agents or local businessmen for a specific deal. By 1998, U.N. inspectors had identified 146 Jordanian companies operating as fronts for Iraq.

Heavy pressure from Washington and other capitals finally forced Jordan's government to crack down.

Neighboring Syria, in contrast, had fought with the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and had no known role supporting Iraq in the 1990s. Neither SES nor any other Syrian company is listed in confidential U.N. records that identify more than 350 companies from 43 nations that U.N. inspectors suspect helped supply prohibited unconventional weapons materiel to Iraq prior to 1998.

But the crippling of Iraq's smuggling rings in Jordan coincided with a dramatic change in Syria. The country's strongman, Hafez Assad, had been a bitter rival of Hussein for most of his three-decade reign. But the Damascus dictator died in June 2000 and his son, Bashar Assad, assumed power. Syria's long-frozen relations with Iraq soon began to thaw.

In November 2000, a newly repaired pipeline from Basra in southern Iraq began carrying 150,000 to 200,000 barrels a day of discounted oil to Syria. Another pipeline to Syria from northern Iraq opened in 2002 to carry another 60,000 barrels a day.

The flow was outside the U.N.-run "oil for food" program, which allowed Iraq to export oil to buy food, medicine and humanitarian items. Experts say Syria kept the contraband Iraqi oil for domestic use, sold its own oil at higher prices on world markets and pocketed profits of up to $1 billion a year.

In return, diplomats and intelligence experts say, Baghdad got easy access to weapons and so many smuggled goods that it opened a trade office in Tartus, Syria's chief port. Baghdad also got access to the outside world: Iraqi officials, often holding counterfeit passports, increasingly used the airport in Damascus to fly abroad.

"Syria became the most important ally for Iraq in the region, and helped it come out of its global isolation," said a Washington-based diplomat. "Damascus became the gateway for Iraq."

Experts say money may have mattered more than politics in the new alliance.

"It was purely a matter of opportunity" for Syria, said an intelligence official in the region. "I don't think empathy for Iraq came into it. It was like, 'This is going to make me lots of money and I don't mind if it hurts the Americans a little bit either.' "

Among those who prospered was SES International Corp., a conglomerate of nine aviation, construction, oil, car and other divisions based in an industrial area on the northeast outskirts of Damascus.

SES was founded in 1980. According to company documents, it has about $80 million in annual revenue and 5,000 employees. It is run by a small group of businessmen and other powerful figures with family or clan ties to the Assad regime.

Prominent among them is the president's cousin Asef Isa Shaleesh, the general manager of SES. He is the son of the late dictator's half sister. Another relative, Maj. Gen. Dhu Himma Shaleesh, heads the elite security corps that protects the president. He recently told Western diplomats that he had sold his stake in SES, but they were unable to confirm his claim.

Records reviewed by The Times show Asef Isa Shaleesh, the SES manager, made at least four trips to the Al Bashair offices in Baghdad between September 2001 and August 2002 to sign or update more than 50 SES contracts to supply Iraq's military.

Contract #23/A/2001, for example, was for SES delivery to Iraq of Russian-designed heavy machine guns.

"The Iraqis have confirmed their reception of 1,000 pieces, according to the contract," meeting notes from Nov. 11, 2001 read. "The Iraqi side is in the process of paying the Syrians for a second delivery of 500 pieces of Machines Gun BKC."

Syria's Foreign Ministry helped SES at least once, according to minutes of meetings between Asef Isa Shaleesh and Munir, the Al Bashair director, on April 7-8, 2002.

Four precision metal lathes from HMT Machines International Ltd. in Bangalore, India, had "arrived in Baghdad," the notes said, but customs officials in Malta had seized others destined for Iraq. Documents show that Syria was listed as the final destination, and do not indicate that HMT knew the lathes were headed for Iraq's military. It's unclear what Syria's government knew.

* * *

Reached by telephone, Asef Isa Shaleesh, the general manager of SES, initially invited a Times reporter visiting Damascus to his office for an interview the next day. But an aide said the next day that Shaleesh "had unexpectedly gone to Romania" and later went to Russia. He has not replied since to numerous telephone calls, e-mails and faxes.

Western intelligence had traced some of the SES deals by mid-2002, two years after they began, With reports indicating illicit transfers into Iraq, the U.S. Embassy complained to the government in Damascus that summer. Assad replied that Syria would not violate U.N. sanctions.

"The president said, 'If you know of any cases, tell us,' " a Western official recalled. When evidence was provided, he added, "the Syrians would allege that that's been stopped."

No evidence has surfaced to show that Assad approved the SES deals with Iraq. But "sanctions-busting at this level would have been hard to keep from the president," a Western intelligence official said. An official from another government agreed. "We think it very unlikely that Bashar was not aware of this," he said.

He noted that two North Koreans flew to SES headquarters in Damascus in February 2003, a month before the war, to meet Munir, the director of Al Bashair.

"A North Korean is not a tourist," the official said. "Either Syria gave direct approval. Or it turned a blind eye."

IAEA inspectors reconstructed a report of the meeting from an erased computer hard drive that they had downloaded at Al Bashair in March. The sit-down at SES apparently focused on Pyongyang's inability to deliver $10 million of sophisticated ballistic missile technology — and its flat refusal to return the $10 million.

"The North Koreans said, 'It's too hot to refund your money,' " an official familiar with the report said.

* * *

Western intelligence reports allege that several Syrian officials or their adult children were involved in shipments of tank engines, treads for armored personnel carriers, fuel pumps for missiles and other military equipment to Iraq.

One Syrian named in an intelligence report as a "key player" is Firas Tlass, head of MAS Economic Group, a business conglomerate based in Damascus. In an interview, Tlass said his companies had shipped textiles, computers and steel bars to Iraq since the late 1990s. But he said Israeli intelligence had spread false reports that he also sold weapons.

"I'm the son of the Syrian defense minister and we're Israel's enemy and they want to discredit the Syrian government and my father," Tlass said. "The only offer my company ever made to the Iraqi military was camouflage field jackets and they turned us down."

Syria's arms trade hit the headlines in March this year when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld publicly accused Damascus of smuggling night-vision goggles and other military supplies to Iraq. He said Washington viewed "such trafficking as hostile acts and would hold the Syrian government accountable."

Syria's foreign minister called the charge "unfounded" and "an attempt to cover up what his forces have been committing against civilians in Iraq."

Damascus has sought to repair relations. Washington has praised Syria's assistance in rounding up suspected members of Al Qaeda since the Sept. 11 attacks. But President Bush signed a bill Dec. 12 barring export of military and dual-use items — equipment that could have civilian and military uses — to Syria until the White House certifies that Damascus has withdrawn troops from Lebanon, has cut support for Hamas and other terrorist groups, has stopped proscribed missile and chemical and biological weapons programs, and has acted to prevent militants from entering Iraq to attack coalition forces.

In contrast, the companies that knew the weapons and other sensitive supplies they sold to SES actually were destined for Iraq — a clear violation of U.N. sanctions — have faced little pressure. South Korea's Armitel Co. Ltd. is an example.

A 1998 spinoff from giant Samsung Electronics, Armitel develops and manufactures digital microwave systems for wireless communications. It is based in a high-tech industrial complex south of Seoul.

Armitel had signed contracts in 2001 and 2002 with SES totaling $23,431,487, the Iraqi files said.

On April 7, 2002, for example, Armitel's chairman inked a $1,859,862.18 contract with SES for "optical transmission, channel bank and auxiliary items."

But records labeled "secret" in the Al Bashair files show the Armitel equipment was "connected with the supply of air defense" and that the real buyer was the Salahaddin Co., based in northern Iraq, which was trying to develop a radar system to detect U.S. stealth bombers.

In an interview, Lee Dae Young, the 50-year-old chairman of Armitel, said he knew his equipment was headed to Iraq despite U.N. sanctions. But he said he thought he was helping Baghdad upgrade telephone and Internet service.

"We sold Iraq an optical cable system," Lee said. "Actually, now that this is over, I can tell you. We sold it to Syrians and they took it to Iraq."

Armitel had sent $8 million worth of equipment to Syria when U.S. intelligence got wind of the shipments in mid-2002. After the U.S. Embassy in Seoul complained, South Korea's Ministry of Commerce ordered Armitel to stop further shipments. An investigation was begun but Armitel was not charged. The company recently submitted proposals to the U.S.-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad for contracts to build a telecommunications network from Baghdad to Basra.

* * *

Black Hawk Crash Kills 8

A Black Hawk helicopter on a Medivac mission went down in Fallujah, killing all eight soldiers on board - four crew members and four passengers.

No cause for the crash has been determined yet.

Details at CNN

January 07, 2004
FOX News: 35 injured in mortar attack

At 5:32 p.m. EST, FOX news is reporting six mortars fired at a coalition location with 35 injured, one soldier possibly dead.

We're Sorry, We Meant to Kill You
Afghanistan's ousted Taliban apologized Wednesday for a bomb attack in the southern city of Kandahar that killed 16 people, including many children, and called it a botched attempt to target U.S. troops....." It was a mistake by our mujahideen (holy warriors)," senior Taliban commander Mullah Sabir Momin said by satellite telephone.

"We wanted to target the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) office in the city, but because of a small mistake, this plan failed," he told Reuters.

Sometimes "sorry" just doesn't cut it.

Another Mass Grave
U.S. forces in Iraq have discovered another mass grave in Iraq believed to contain the bodies of hundreds of Shiite Muslims slain by toppled President Saddam Hussein's forces in 1991, a senior U.S. defense official said on Tuesday.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said U.S. forces found the grave in the Baghdad area on Sunday.

U.S. authorities believe the grave is filled with about 800 bodies of Shiites killed by Iraq's military as they staged an uprising against Saddam following the defeat of his forces in the Gulf War, the official added.

Link from Glenn Reynolds who summed it up succintly: It's good that they found it. It's bad that it's there.

Prisoners to be released in Iraq

From the AFP via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The US-led coalition will release 100 people from Iraqi prisons tomorrow and hundreds more in coming weeks.

The top US official in Iraq, Paul Bremer, made the announcement in a policy address.

"Tomorrow, the coalition will release the first 100 detainees," Mr Bremer said.

"Hundreds more detainees will be freed in this way in the coming weeks."

Those released will be set free on the understanding they "must renounce violence" and have "a guarantor, such as a prominent person in his community or a religious or tribal leader, who will accept responsibility for the good conduct of the individual who is being set free."

He says those being freed are not directly linked to violence against US forces or other deadly attacks, involved in torture or crimes against humanity.

"Let me reassure you that this is not a program for those with blood-stained hands. No person directly involved in the death or serious bodily harm to any human being will be released," he said.

At least 10,000 people are currently detained by the coalition, of whom nearly 4,000 belong to the Iranian-armed opposition group, the People's Mujahedeen.

Mr Bremer says those being freed have "made a mistake and they know it".

"We are prepared to offer some of them a new chance."

A New General for Iraq?

From the BBC via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

The Pentagon is considering appointing a more senior general to its mission in Iraq to help oversee security issues.

The US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the military command structure could be reorganised by July 1, the target date for restoring Iraqi sovereignty.
[...]
That would allow General Sanchez or his successor to concentrate on the tactical issues of dealing with the Iraqi insurgency.

January 06, 2004
Daily Iraq Roundup

From StrategyPage:

The Iraqi Governing Council has come up with a plan for a new government. A key dispute is developing over how much autonomy the Kurds will be allowed. For the moment, the Kurds are being allowed to govern themselves as they have for the last 13 years. Everyone agrees there will be a parliament and democracy, with the 18 provinces allowed more autonomy than in the past. The challenge will be to come up with a form of government that will not lead to a coup and another dictator in 5-10 years.
No kidding.
Ambushes, including roadside bombs, have become smaller and less frequent. There were 250 of them in November, 200 in December and the trend continues. The amount of explosives (often several artillery and mortar shells rigged to explode) has declined to the point were many of the bombs do little damage unless a vehicle is right next to it. Raids have seized a lot of bomb making material over the last few months. Better scouting and surveillance by American troops has caused the bombers to place their explosives among civilians, but this usually just hurts more Iraqis than Americans. The supply convoys are only attacked once or twice a day, and usually without much effect. Most of the ambushes are of combat patrols or civil affairs troops going about their business (visiting local Iraqi leaders and aid projects.)

***

About 20 percent of the attacks, and all the suicide bombings, are al Qaeda with the rest coming from Sunni Arabs and those who want the old government back. Al Qaeda is having a hard time operating because they are foreigners and stand out. The coalition offers cash rewards for information on these foreign terrorists and most Iraqis see nothing wrong with making a few bucks to turn in some foreign fanatics. As a result, al Qaeda tries to operate out of mosques run by conservative clerics. A minority of Iraqis want an Islamic republic, and this minority is large enough to provide cover for al Qaeda and Iraqi groups who still want to fight.

I don't doubt this assessment, but wonder upon what it is based. My guess is that opinion polling in Iraq is largely non-existent, and certainly unreliable in any case.

Cross-posted from OTB

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Graduation Day For New Iraqi Soldiers

The Coalition Provisonal Authority says 691 members of the second battalion of the new Iraqi army are graduating today:

Who: 691 members the Iraqi Army

What: Graduation of the second battalion of the Iraqi Army

When: Jan 6, 2004, 08:30

Where: Tadji Military Training Base

Details: Media representatives will be transported to Tadji by bus. Media representatives wishing to attend the graduation ceremony should meet outside the Baghdad Convention Center (on the sidewalk between the Convention Center and the Al-Rashid Hotel) at 8:30am.

It's still a far cry from the world's fourth-largest military, but it seems to be a tangible step toward the Iraqization of the military there.

January 05, 2004
StrategyPage Roundup

From StrategyPage

Osama bin Laden released another audio tape in which he denounced Saddam Hussein for getting captured alive and urged Moslems to go to Iraq to fight America. Al Qaeda is being perceived more and more as a hollow organization that talks big and acts ineffectively. Al Qaeda attacks in Iraq have killed far more Iraqis than Americans. In fact, al Qaeda has not been able to make another attack in the US since 2001, and has suffered many humiliating reverses since then.

Today, the long process of turning control in Iraq over to an Iraqi government begins. The process will be complete by July 1. Between now and then, a new constitution has to be created and accepted. A deal has to be worked out with the coalition about how many foreign troops will remain for how long. There appears to be general agreement that the new constitution will allow for a federal form of government. This means that the Kurds will have a lot of autonomy within their provinces, as will all 18 of Iraq's provinces. This will create the potential for political struggles over who gets what from the oil wealth.

About two percent of the American combat casualties in Iraq have been female troops (who comprise about eleven percent of the troops in the combat zone.)

Hmm. Either the women are more careful. . . or fewer of them are in combat arms specialties.

Cross-post from OTB

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January 04, 2004
New bin Laden Tape Refers to the Capture of Saddam

The full story on Sky News:

Al-Jazeera television is broadcasting what is said to be a new audio tape of Osama bin Laden.

On the tape, the al Qaeda leader appears to refer to the capture of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.


The speaker mentioned the capture of Hussein in December, indicating that the tape was made within the past three weeks.

The tape criticised Gulf Arab governments for supporting the invasion of Iraq, urging that the fight against US forces should be with arms not through dialogue.

The speaker on the tape also called on Muslims to fight against what he called conspiracies against Islam.

US Probe Lands On Mars, Begins Search For WMD

This is, of course, satire:

"Seems like somebody doesn't want us poking around up there," said Mr. Rumsfeld.

"Mars is a lot like Iraq and the other Middle Eastern countries," he continued. "It's basically a desert, with lots of sand, and we know from our experience in Iraq that that's a great scenario for hiding WMDs. We suspect that Saddam and the terrorists may have had a clandestine space program for several years, and that they have been using it to hide WMDs on Mars. Did Saddam have WMDs? He sure did, but we just don't know where they are, and he won't tell us. So are we just taking a reasonable precaution? You bet we are."

Read more at DeadBrain.

Saddam’s Capture: Was A Deal Brokered Behind The Scenes?

This story persists, here in Scotland's Sunday Herald.

According to one Israeli source who was in the company of Kurds at a meeting in Athens early on December 14, one of the Kurdish representatives burst into the conference room in tears and demanded an immediate halt to the discussions.

“Saddam Hussein has been captured,” he said, adding that he had received word from Kurdistan – before any television reports.

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the delegate also confirmed that most of the information leading to the deposed dictator’s arrest had come from the Kurds and – as our earlier Sunday Herald report revealed – who had organised their own intelligence network which had been trying to uncover Saddam’s tracks for months ...

... Whatever the full extent of their undoubted involvement in providing intelligence or actively participating on the ground in Saddam’s capture, the Kurds, and the PUK in particular, would benefit handsomely.

Apart from a trifling $25 million bounty, their status would have been substantially boosted in Washington, which may in part explain the recent vociferous Kurdish reassertion of their long-term political ambitions in the “new Iraq”.

Read the article.

CIA Setting Up secret Iraqi Police To Combat Saddam Loyalists

So reads the Albawaba headline.

According to the report, the force will cost up to $3 billion over the next three years in money allocated from the same part of the federal budget that finances the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The report added that its ranks are set to be taken from Iraqi exile groups, Kurdish and Shi'ite forces - in addition to former Mukhabarat agents who are currently working for the Americans.

The story also notes that the CIA has 275 officers on the ground in Iraq.

Note that this story is reported widely ... I thought the Mid-East link would offer the most interesting reading.

Iraq’s Governing Council President Endorses Federalism

The do so "in principle," but he also counselled the country’s Kurds, eager for virtual autonomy, to be patient and not rush the issue. Why this is important:

Pachachi, a member of Iraq’s Sunni Muslim minority, committed himself to a federal framework that would most probably grant the Kurds virtual autonomy in the north and similar liberties to Iraq’s Shiite majority in the south.
Read more at the Khaleej Times.

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Blair Makes Visit to Iraq

CNN:

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made an unannounced visit to British troops in Basra, Iraq.

He landed in the southern Iraqi city around 11 a.m. (3 a.m. ET) Sunday after traveling by military aircraft from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where he and his family were on vacation, according to a Downing Street spokesman.

During the day-long visit, he praised British soldiers in a speech delivered to some of the 10,000 British troops stationed in and around Basra, Iraq's second-largest city.

Rumors that he brought a fake turkey with him are false.

Blair Rallies Troops On Surprise Iraq Visit

Blair pulls a G.W., visiting Basra unannounced. Read more here via Reuters. Pundits are already claiming that he was seen holding a fake pint of Bass ...

Posted By Alan at 10:22 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack
January 03, 2004
Accounts From The Front

A non-news item for a change: Today I stumbled across this site by Marine Lt. Colonel Chris Lorenzo … it’s worth visiting for the travelogues filed from Afghanistan and Iraq, and for the large number of pictures taken from the field.

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1 Killed in Mortar Attack

From the AFP, via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

One US soldier was killed and two wounded in a mortar attack on a US base in a town north of the Iraqi capital on Friday, a US military spokesman said on Saturday.

The attack in Balad, 75 kilometres north of Baghdad, occurred at about 5:00 pm (local time) and the soldier was killed from shrapnel, said Sergeant Robert Cargie, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division.

He said coalition troops searched vehicles in the area after the attack and have detained six suspects, adding that wounded soldiers were in stable condition.

Train Attacked

From The Australian :

Insurgents derailed a train in western Iraq, hitting it with a rocket-propelled grenade, a US military statement said today.

"An Iraqi train en route to Habbaniyah was attacked with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG)," on Wednesday, the 82nd Airborne Division said.

"The round impacted the train and disabled the vehicle," it added.

The 82nd Airborne Division described the attackers as "looters" and said they only stripped the train of its engine batteries.

Elsewhere, 82nd Airborne troops said they captured six guerrillas who recently attacked a police station in al-Haswah.

More Ba'athists Give In

Updating a previous post, from Yahoo News :

"They're coming to us, saying they want to be part of the new Iraq," Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. "It has slowly sunk in that Saddam isn't coming back."

Separately, the 101st Airborne has paid more than $20,000 in rewards in recent weeks to a black marketeer who has handed in 300 shoulder-fired missiles.

The Baathists who have recently begun to cooperate with the division held positions in the second, third and fourth tiers of the Baath Party, top-level officials banned by the U.S.-led administration from any leadership role in Iraq's government and public institutions. The men have handed over more than 270 AK-47 semiautomatic rifles, as well as rocket-propelled grenade launchers and other weapons.

On Monday, some of the men — whose names have not yet been made public — will publicly renounce their participation in the Baath Party at a regional headquarters of the 101st Airborne's 1st Battalion in Talafar, south of Mosul.

Petraeus said he doubted the former leaders had taken a direct role in aiding the five to 10 anti-U.S. guerrilla cells operating in the region, and he characterized their decision to cooperate with the U.S. military as an opportunistic move to regain stature.

"They were on the fence. I'm not sure whether they were aiding and abetting," Petraeus said. "They were opportunists before and they're still opportunists. They're chameleons."

The series of weapons hand-ins began Dec. 19 in Talafar when, over three days, a third-tier Baathist gave up 65 AK-47s, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and more than a dozen grenade rounds, according to a division data sheet. None of the men requested a reward, Petraeus said.

By Dec. 28, the 101st's 1st Battalion Combat Team had received 267 AK-47s, along with ammunition magazines, a pair of grenade launchers with 15 rounds as well as 15 hand grenades.

On Dec. 31, a second-tier Baath Party member — among the highest-ranking officials in the region from Saddam's former government, handed over seven AK-47s and 14 magazines to the 101st's 3rd Brigade.

The division's 2nd and 3rd battalions have been seeking contacts with other former regime leaders in northern Iraq, trying to convince them to cooperate as well, Petraeus said.

The 101st Airborne has also paid rewards of about $1,200 apiece for intact Russian-made SA-7 missiles with their launch tubes and sights to a black marketeer who has turned in 300 of the shoulder-fired missiles, said division spokesman Maj. Trey Cate.

Hat Tip : Instapundit

Tales Of The Tyrant

In May 2002 the Atlantic published a fascinating, detailed account of Saddam Hussein's daily life during his reign. They've reposted it in conjunction with Hussein's capture, and you may read the article here. A sample:

Fresh food is flown in for him twice a week—lobster, shrimp, and fish, lots of lean meat, plenty of dairy products. The shipments are sent first to his nuclear scientists, who x-ray them and test them for radiation and poison. The food is then prepared for him by European-trained chefs, who work under the supervision of al Himaya, Saddam's personal bodyguards. Each of his more than twenty palaces is fully staffed, and three meals a day are cooked for him at every one; security demands that palaces from which he is absent perform an elaborate pantomime each day, as if he were in residence. Saddam tries to regulate his diet, allotting servings and portions the way he counts out the laps in his pools. For a big man he usually eats little, picking at his meals, often leaving half the food on his plate.

Luckiest Guys in Iraq

Seen in a comment on a post at LGF, so not confirmed :

I stopped into my office about an hour ago to get some things I needed for my trip on Sunday. I opened my e-mail and had an e-mail from HQ.

Yesterday, a combined EOD team of 2 USA EOD [Explosive Ordnance Demolition - Bomb Disposeral Technicians - AEB] and 4 USAF EOD, were disposing of captured ordnance in Iraq. They completed their operation and were cleaning up. The security detail left so it was just the 6 EOD techs left. While the 2 USA EOD techs went to check the disposal area the 4 USAF EOD techs stood on a berm and watched. At that moment the IED [Improvised Explosive Device : Boobytrap Bombs -AEB] that had been buried in the berm detonated, the 4 men were literally standing on the device. One man was thrown over 20 yards away, the rest nearly as far. They had been standing on 2 130mm High Explosive rounds. Not one man received any serious injuries.

The only bad news is that the terrorists are targeting EOD techs.

An ex-Soviet pattern 130mm HE round has about 3.5 Kg of explosive in a 33 Kg projectile, if memory serves. Enough to demolish a medium-sized house, disintegrate a light tank, or make a decent-sized crater.

January 02, 2004
Operation "Iron Grip"

From The Australian :

Heavy artillery and cannon fire rocked Iraq's wartorn capital today in an extension of a week-old US counter-insurgency offensive.

"That is a continuation of the ongoing Operation Iron Grip," a military spokesman said of the Baghdad bombardment this morning (AEDT).

US aircraft roared overhead, and deafening bangs shook the capital.

Iron Grip, launched on December 24, has targeted rebel hideouts used for firing mortars on the US-led coalition's fortress-like headquarters on the west bank of the Tigris.

The US offensive has primarily been on the outskirts of Baghdad in the southern suburb of Dura.

The commander of the US First Armored Division that patrols the capital, Brigadier General Martin Dempsey, said on Wednesday that the operation had already resulted in the arrest of 185 suspected guerrillas and the disabling of four of 14 insurgent cells in Baghdad.

There had been some previous data about this, but nothing that gave enough details so we could report it. Here's one dated Christmas Eve from a Command Post reader, "somewhere in Iraq":
I would like to have passed on the news that all is quiet here as we approach this holiest of nights. Sadly that is not the case, it was always going to an opportunity for the bad guys to give the media some "Bad News".

Actually I think that on this occassion we got our retaliation in first.

Anyhow, tonight we will sing some carols, Silent Night would certainly be
appropriate, there will be lumps in the throat, and for the first time in
weeks the dust will get into our eyes again.

I would just like to pass on my regards to you all, and wish you, your
families and loved ones a very happy Christmas.

I will also thank you all, for enriching my life through the wonderful
debates and rants which we all enjoy at The Command Post, my particular
thanks to Alan and Michele our hosts.


Amen.

...And Two Pictures of Saddam Hussein

CENTCOM Release:

3RD BRIGADE COMBAT TEAM CAPTURES 34 SUSPECTS

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Soldiers from Task Force 1st Armored Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team detained 34 suspected insurgents along with several weapons and bomb making materials during a cordon and search operation Jan. 1.

The mission kicked off at about 10 a.m. in central Baghdad. Iraqi Police, Iraqi Civil Defense Corps and soldiers from 4th Battalion, 1st Field Artillery Regiment surrounded and searched the Al Tabul Mosque. Intelligence sources indicated that the mosque was a center for anti-Coalition activity and a major weapons storage area.

The operation was completed at about 3 p.m. and a total of 34 persons were detained for questioning.

The mission also netted 11 AK-47 assault rifles, five sticks of PE4 explosives, eight hand grenades, three packages of TNT, a case of blasting caps, 83 pounds of gunpowder. Also recovered was a 60 mm mortar tube, two rocket-propelled grenade launchers, a SA-7 missile, four computers with disks, assorted documents and two pictures of Saddam Hussein.

[via Chuck Simmins]

One Dead in Iraq Helicopter Incident
A U.S. military helicopter was shot down west of Baghdad on Friday, killing one soldier and wounding another, the U.S. military said.

In Baghdad, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said he had spoken to the 82nd Airborne Division about the cause of the crash of the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior near the town of Fallujah, where the division operates.

"They are fairly convinced that it was enemy fire," Kimmitt said.

[CBS]

Night Moves

From the latest StrategyPage update:

Some 65 kilometers north of Baghdad, a thousand U.S. troops and about 400 Iraqi police conducted a series of raids to round up rebels. American troops captured nine of the eleven rebel leaders being sought while Iraqi police picked up at least 16 men who had participated in attacks on Americans and Iraqis. Several weapons caches were also seized. These operations leave the Iraqis somewhat in awe of American military prowess. That's because U.S. troops prefer to operate at night, where convoys of armored vehicles and trucks can move rapidly down roads with no lights on. The troops use their night vision goggles to see the road, but to any Iraqis, it's just these dark shapes hurtling through the night. Even scarier is the precision with which the troops appear to operate. The vehicles surround a village or large compound and dozens of American troops dismount, each one quickly going about a specific task. No shouting (many troops use personal radios or hand signals), and no milling around. And no lights. If the people the troops are looking for try to escape out a back door, American troops swiftly cut them off and arrest them, or shoot them if there is resistance. It seems like magic to Iraqis who witness this. But it's technology and training more than magic. The troops practice their raiding drills beforehand, and are briefed on the "game plan" before each operation. The commanders back at the base have access to live video from a UAV overhead (which is displayed on large, flat screen TV monitors), and Blue Force Tracker shows all commanders the position of all vehicles and helicopters at all times. Sometimes the Special Forces has the target under observation before the troops show up, as does a UAV overhead. There are also electronic intelligence troops listening in on any cell phone (or other radio) signals coming from the target location. Detective work tries to find out exactly who is in the buildings to be raided, and who is in charge. Interpreters or Arabic speaking G.I.s will then call for the senior Iraqi to let them know why the troops are there and to avoid any resistance. This is shock and awe.

Story telling is an old tradition in Iraq, and the stories of these raids get embellished. While Iraqis like to emphasize how these American barbarians searched women for weapons (leaving out that usually only a metal detector is used), the "magical" manner in which the troops come out of the darkness and grab exactly who, or what, they want, never fails to impress. It sounds like a fairy tale, but it's real.

On a more practical level, U.S. troops are getting lots of training with the new electronic gear that has just been introduced during the last few years. The 4th Infantry division is actually the "test division" for a lot of this stuff and what this unit is doing in Iraq is something of a large scale field test, with real ammo. The troops have rapidly come up with new ways to use the equipment to protect themselves (by spotting ambushes and roadside bombs) and, of course, carrying out raids quickly and with few, if any, injuries to either side. This kind of "shock and awe" works. Iraqis tend to freeze during these rapid raids, and just let the Americans get it over with and leave.

Cross-posted from OTB

Posted By at 12:17 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack
Iraq's Road Warriors

Trent Telenko sends in a nice follow up to his August 5, 2003 "Return of the Gun Trucks" post and his recent bit on armored Hummers and wartime mobilization. According to this AP dispatch from Jim Krane, it looks like the National Guard can innovate, too:

"We believe we're still in combat," said Carpenter, 24, a lanky suntanned man from Jackson, Mich., one of about 600 soldiers in the Army's 181st Transportation Battalion.

He and other truckers at this sprawling logistical base north of Baghdad are the lifeline for 130,000 U.S. troops flung across this California-sized country. Despite the attacks, they operate supply lines stretching over 800 miles, hauling food for 475,000 meals per day, as well as a million gallons each of fuel and water.

"It's something we're proud of. We're the Road Warriors. We're based on Mad Max," said the 181st's Maj. Robert Curran, 38, of Manchester, Mass. "And we're starting to look the part."

Here's where to find the whole story on Yahoo - if that fails, use the Freep link above instead.

UPDATES:

* Wince and Nod have more on this subject, thanks to a couple of Jefferson City, Missouri businesses.

* They're not alone, either. Working with a growing team of Iraqi engineers, Reservist Capt. Darryl M. Butler of the 1st Armored Division has created a kit that turns Hummers into "Butler Mobiles."

Jihadi "Facilitator" Nabbed

From the AFP, via the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) :

US troops arrested an Iraqi who was believed to be smuggling foreign fighters into Iraq from Syria, and also captured 10 Muslim fundamentalists northeast of Baghdad, the military said on Friday.

In the western town of Ar-Rutbah, soldiers from the Third Armoured Cavalry Regiment on Thursday caught a man they suspected of managing the movement of foreign fighters inside Iraq from Syria.

They billed him as a "high-value target" for the coalition's military command, but did not rank where he stood on the US military's most wanted list.

"This afternoon at 12:35 am (local time), elements of the 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment captured Abu Mohammed ... a key facilitator operating in the al-Anbar province," the military said in a statement.

"He is believed to be responsible for moving foreign fighters and large sums of cash throughout the area of operations."

The detention of Abu Mohammed resulted in the arrests of three others at "a suspected foreign fighter transit point."

An additional piece of information which may be of high significance:
Meanwhile, the US 4th Infantry Division conducted a sweep Thursday...the division's 2nd Combat Brigade team arrested 10 wanted individuals in a raid "targeting Wahhabi terrorists in the area," a US military officer from Baquba told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The Wahhabi sect of Islam is essentially the State Religion in Saudi Arabia.

January 01, 2004
The Mass Grave Strategic Plan

The Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq has unveiled a Mass Grave Strategic Plan, in an effort to grapple with the wreckage of Saddam Hussein's genocide.

According to the CPA, the plan is aimed at both helping grieving families, as well as providing accountability and justice. The plan was developed with Iraqis, and will focus on several atrocities, including, but not limited to:

*The 1983 attack against Kurdish citizens belonging to the Barzani tribe, 8,000 of whom were rounded up by the regime in northern Iraq and executed in deserts at great distances from their homes.

*The 1988 Anfal campaign, during which as many as 182,000 people disappeared. Most of the men were separated from their families and were executed in deserts in the west and southwest of Iraq. The remains of some of their wives and children have also been found in mass graves.

*Chemical attacks against Kurdish villages from 1986 to 1988, including the Halabja attack, when the Iraqi Air Force dropped sarin, VX and tabun chemical agents on the civilian population, killing 5,000 people immediately and causing long-term medical problems, related deaths, and birth defects among the progeny of thousands more.

*The 1991 massacre of Iraqi Shi’a Muslims after the Shi’a uprising at the end of the Gulf war, in which tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians in such regions as Basra and Al-Hillah were killed.

*The 1991 Kurdish massacre, which targeted civilians and soldiers who fought for autonomy in northern Iraq after the Gulf war.

A key part of the plan, the CPA said, includes training and assisting Iraqis with the tasks needed to handle the graves, and the remains of the victims.

(Cross-posted at Late Final.)

BourboCam

From the Life Goes On department, I present you New Years Eve on Bourbon Street, USA. (Go here to watch the action live.)

nph-cachecam.jpg
Posted By Alan at 02:15 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack
We Welcome 2004 With ... Willie Nelson

Welcome to the New Year, friends and readers.

I'm a Willie fan, for the record (pardon the pun) ... visit the San Antonio Express to read about the "anti-war" song Willie wrote on Christmas and plans to rush-release as a single.

May all the war news of 2004 be so banal.

food recipes