General Happenings Around Iraq
Prime Minister al-Maliki finally finished naming his officials in the government on Thursday:
In a stormy session, Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki presented Shiite Jawad Polani as interior minister, Sunni Abdel Qader Al Obeidi as defense minister and Shiite Shirwan Al Waili to head national security.
All the candidates were approved by an overwhelming majority of the parliament after they read out their credentials and were subjected to questioning from parliamentary members.
I mention this not because it wasn’t covered, but because of an interesting statement made by the speaker of the parliament after the debate:
“We are doing like our uncle America; it is democracy speaking,” he said.
The Pentagon has released an unclassified version of its quarterly report on Iraq. Of particular interest is the section on Iraq’s security forces:
The report says the Iraqi army and police forces are growing in numbers and capability. It says 71 army units are taking the lead in combat, and 40 others are fighting in support of foreign troops. Iraqi units have taken primary responsibility for security in several parts of the country.
General Barry McCaffery was in Iraq in April of this year, and his conclusions about the situation are far different from what the mainstream media would have you believe:
1. The morale, fighting effectiveness, and confidence of U.S. combat forces continue to be simply awe-inspiring. In every sensing session and interaction – I probed for weakness and found courage, belief in the mission, enormous confidence in their sergeants and company grade officers, an understanding of the larger mission, a commitment to creating an effective Iraqi Army and Police, unabashed patriotism, and a sense of humor.
2. The Iraqi Army is real, growing, and willing to fight. They now have lead action of a huge and rapidly expanding area and population. The battalion level formations are in many cases excellent – most are adequate.
3. The Iraqi police are beginning to show marked improvement in capability since MG Joe Peterson took over the program. The National Police Commando Battalions are very capable – a few are simply superb and on par with the best U.S. SWAT units in terms of equipment, courage, and training. Their intelligence collection capability is better than ours in direct HUMINT.
You can download the entire document here.
In news related to the morale of the U.S. soldier, many who have sustained serious wounds in Iraq are choosing to stay and finish the job:
Nearly 18,000 military personnel have been wounded in combat since the war began in Iraq more than three years ago, according to Defense Department statistics. Some have lost legs and arms, suffered horrific burns to their bodies and gone home permanently.
But the vast majority have remained in Iraq or returned later – their bodies marked by small scars and their lives plagued by aches and pains.
“I wear my scars proudly,” said Skidis as he gingerly lifted his pant leg to show the railroad-like tracks where doctors made incisions to save his foot. Why didn’t he stay home? “I felt guilty because I wasn’t sharing the same hardships that they were,” Skidis said shyly, while another soldier nodded at his side.
What Zarqawi’s End Means
Bolstered by the death of Zarqawi, Prime Minister al-Maliki offered a plan to stabilize the country. The plan focuses on reigning in Shiite militias, strengthening Iraq’s security forces, continuing the rebuilding of the country’s infrastructure, and overseeing a “national reconciliation” between Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian groups. The national unity plan is an extensive one:
In the near future, the Iraqi prime minister’s government will begin to implement an extensive program of national unity. This program establishes achievable and sustainable objectives to improve security, restore Iraq’s energy and public utility infrastructure, encourage economic growth and foreign investment in private business ventures, enhance general health, education, and welfare programs for all citizens, and strengthen the bonds between national, provincial, and local government agencies.
After the death of Zarqawi, while the media aired once again Michael Berg blaming George Bush for his son’s death, it missed the story of the family of another of Zarqawi’s victims, Jack Hensley, saying that justice had been served by Zarqawi’s death. Hensley’s brother commented:
“I’m thankful this guy can’t hurt anybody else,” Ty Hensley told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday.
But Ty Hensley, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., also said he feels renewed sadness and anger toward Al-Zarqawi.
“It is a personal thing,” he said. “He desecrated my family.”
Now that is a sentiment I can understand.
Zarqawi’s death won’t end the violence in Iraq, but it will have an effect on al Qaeda:
Western intelligence sources and analysts said the killing of the 42-year-old Al Qaida network chief would not end the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. But they said Al Zarqawi’s death would significantly hamper Al Qaida operations throughout the Middle East, particularly in the Levant.
“Al Zarqawi created a terrorist laboratory in Iraq for the training of foreign fighters who would then return to their home countries,” a U.S. intelligence source said. “Without Al Zarqawi, this effort could be damaged.”
Insecurity–For the Bad Guys
Zarqawi isn’t the only top terrorist to be stopped in Iraq recently. On May 31, the Iraqis announced the arrest of a terrorist who claimed to have beheaded hundreds:
The Iraqi government, meanwhile, said its security forces had arrested a key terror suspect, Ahmed Hussein Dabash Samer al-Battawi, who it said had confessed to beheading hundreds of people.
Battawi was arrested by an Iraqi antiterrorist combat unit, which also seized documents, cellphones and computers that contained information on other suspected terrorists and Islamic extremist groups, the prime minister’s office said.
In addition, Hamzi al-Aini was also captured:
Iraq’s Interior Ministry announced Thursday it had arrested its second “high-ranking terrorist” in a week.
Hamza Khair al-Aini, accused of killing dozens of Iraqi civilians and security forces, was hiding in the town of Abu Saydah north of Baghdad, where police said they caught him. They found a bloody saw and clothes in his hideout, the ministry said.
Iraqi forces also arrested seven members of the “Mujahideen Shura Council,” a group closely affiliated with al Qaeda in Iraq, after they fled to Baquba following the death of Zarqawi:
Iraqi Defense Minister Abdel Qader Mohammed Jassim pledged to launch attacks on insurgent hideouts in Iraq.
“In the coming days Iraqi and other security forces will launch multiple activities to chase terrorists and attack their cells and hideouts,” Jassim said in a statement.
This is part of a security plan that will be carried out soon.”
A police official from the northern oil hub of Kirkuk confirmed the arrest of seven members of the Mujahideen Shura council, a group of militant organisations led by Al-Qaeda.
The seven men had fled from Baquba after the killing of Zarqawi.
Other operations following Zarqawi’s death led to the capture of several important terrorists:
On Friday Abbas al-Mufraji, described as an aide to Zarqawi, was also arrested in security sweeps south of Baquba, an officer in the Iraqi army said.
Twenty-three other suspected followers of the Al-Qaeda leader were also picked up in sweeps throughout the villages south of Baquba.
Caldwell said Zarqawi’s death on Wednesday led to a number of operations on against his men.
“There were certain personnel that we have been watching and monitoring that coalition forces had made the decision not to take down, because they had given key indicators at different points of time where Zarqawi might be–so they were monitored, watched and tracked,” Caldwell said.
“When Zarqawi went down, that enabled us to go in and conduct those operations,” he said.
The mainstream media mercifully couldn’t help but cover Zarqawi’s demise, but the amount of news they are still ignoring is staggering. The last few weeks have been hard on terrorists in Iraq, and al Qaeda in particular. In the end of May, three al Qaeda members were killed near Yusafiyah.
Near Lake Thar Thar, four terrorists were killed, and two detained.
In Tikrit, no civilians were injured by a planned multiple car bombing because of the quick thinking of Iraqi police. The police officers noticed two suspicious vehicles and began to clear the area. One car exploded, but the second was disarmed before it could go off. Two terrorists in the second car were killed. No civilian injuries were reported.
Near Abu Ghraib, three terrorists were killed while they were digging holes for IED’s.
Fifteen terrorists were detained in three separate incidents in Baghdad.
Six al Qaeda terrorists were captured at a gathering in Ramadi. Information about the gathering was gained from detainee interrogations.
Seven al Qaeda terrorists, and a pile of EID-making materials, were captured near Ramadi. One car bomb and several IEDs were destroyed at the location.
Two of Saudi Arabia’s most wanted al Qaeda terrorists are being held by the Kurds in northern Iraq:
Two Saudis on the kingdom’s most-wanted list of suspected Al-Qaeda militants are being held in Iraqi Kurdistan, a Saudi-owned daily reported yesterday.
Abdullah Mohammed Al-Ramian and Mohammed Saleh Al-Rushoodi were arrested in September 2003 as they crossed into Iraq’s Kurdish region from Turkey after transiting through Jordan and Syria, the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper said.
In Ramadi, three terrorist were killed, and one wounded, as they were transporting several IEDs.
In Balad, an IED terrorist cell was wiped out by Iraqi forces:
This cell is responsible for at least two attacks against Iraqi security and police forces in the Karada area. The first attack, in December 2005, resulted in no casualties. The second attack, in January of this year, killed several Iraqi police officers riding in a vehicle.
No Iraqi forces were killed or wounded during this operation.
Iraqi forces raided a compound in Baghdad and captured three members of a VBIED (military lingo for “vehicle-borne IED”) cell.
Members of the 6th Iraqi army division detained 19 terrorists during a raid planned and executed solely by Iraqi forces:
“This was a complex operation, that netted 19 suspected terrorist leaders from 14 different locations,” said Maj. Gen. J.D. Thurman, commander, MND-B. “It was planned and executed by 2/6 Iraqi Army. It is not only indicative of their capability, but shows the Iraqi people their Soldiers are not only taking the fight to the enemy, they are winning.”
Iraqi and multinational forces continue to uncover terrorist weapons caches, often with the help of tips from Iraqis, tired of the terrorist violence in their country:
South of Baghdad, a cordon and search operation uncovered a large weapons cache consisting of 2,300 .50 caliber machine gun rounds, 300 30 mm mortar rounds, one 60 mm mortar round, eight 120 mm mortar rounds, one rocket, 30 disassembled .50 caliber weapons, two disassembled 30 mm weapons, nine large bags of homemade explosives and other bomb-making materials.
Near Lake Thar Thar, coalition forces discovered a weapons cache consisting of one missile launcher, two 152 mm shells, five missiles and seven anti-aircraft warheads.
A large weapons cache was discovered hidden in a dump truck in Baghdad. The cache consisted of twenty-eight 107 mm Katusha rockets, 82 anti-personnel land mines, 43 rocket-propelled grenade rounds, one RPG launcher, two 60 mm mortar systems, one 81 mm mortar system, thirty 60 mm mortar rounds, 33 rocket-propellant sticks, and other bomb-making materials.
On the Homefront
Senator Elizabeth Dole recently returned from Iraq, and commented that the only place we can lose Iraq is Washington:
“There’s no way they’re going to lose battles over there,” she said. “The only place we could lose is in Washington, D.C. It’s a test of wills, and terrorists know it.”
Her statement is so obvious it’s almost vapid, but it was also necessary when dealing with the defeatists in the Democratic Party. In the most recent Democratic radio address, Senator Harry Reid disowned our efforts to spread freedom and democracy in Iraq, and the efforts of our troops, by calling it Bush’s war:
Iraq is THIS President’s war. It is up to him–not the next president, as he has suggested–to turn Iraq over to Iraqis.
I’m sorry Senator Reid, but I thought our men and women fighting and dying in Iraq were doing so for the United States, not George W. Bush; so much for supporting the troops.
The discovery of more mass graves, a grim reminder of what life in Iraq was like under Saddam Hussein, provides a clarifying backdrop to Senator Reid’s comments.
But more than his blue shirt, and his blue-striped trousers, what distinguishes the remains is the way they speak for the terror of death under Saddam Hussein. The man was thrown backward by automatic weapons fire, his eyes blindfolded and his arms tied behind his back, his skull jerked upward at the neck, his fleshless mouth gaping, his two rows of teeth stretched apart, as though in a primal scream.
Together, in the late winter of 1991, at least 28 men were executed here, crowded together in a pit their killers scraped with a backhoe from the desert floor. Rounded up along the alleyways of their native city, they were forced aboard a bus or truck and driven out along an isolated highway.
After barely half an hour’s journey, the grim caravan turned off down a bumpy track, halting just far enough into the desert for gunfire to be muffled from passing traffic.
Forces to be Reckoned With
The Iraqi army is preparing for a major exercise to test its command and control capabilities.
NATO has supplied the Iraq’s army with new equipment worth three million Euros.
Soldiers of the 4th Iraqi army division are now in the lead in security patrols in Tikrit:
“The picture that the Iraqi people have of us is being changed,” said Lt. Col. Musab Josif, the Iraqi Army 1st Battalion’s Executive Officer. “They now cooperate with us and give us the information we need to catch the bad guys.”
Overall, Coalition Forces have been impressed with the progress of the Iraqi Army Soldiers, with only minor suggestions offered for perfection.
“We are getting to the level that we can operate by ourselves,” said Josef. “We are now on the level where the whole battalion is trained. We have control of all our patrols.”
In Diayala Province, Iraqi soldiers of the 5th Iraqi army division are in now in the lead in security operations:
Sending the Iraqi army forth to take care of security operations is the key to the safety of the Iraqi people and the ground work for the establishment of a free government.
Iraqi army Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division are independently conducting operations in their area of Diyala Province. They are performing tasks such as gathering their own intelligence, to patrolling their streets and hunting suspected anti-Iraqi forces.
The benefits of having Iraqis in the lead are significant:
Benefits are already accruing. Iraqi soldiers do not have to learn the culture of the country because they are a part of it. They speak the same language as the population and they can recognize when something or someone is out of place, officials said. As they become better trained, they will take the lead, allowing coalition troops – in this area, primarily Americans – to step back and serve in an overwatch capacity.
The IA units are making good progress and officials here expect them to be in the lead in the next few months. Coalition forces will continue to advise the IA and will provide air support, medical evacuations, certain logistical help and advice.
In Anbar Province, a special company of Iraqi soldiers is being put together to fight in an area known as a hotbed of terrorist activity:
“We’re putting together a sort of ‘super company’ of Iraqi forces here,” Marine Lt. Col. Greg Branigan, senior adviser to the Iraqis and military transition team chief, said here yesterday. “They know individual skills. They need their own space so they can come up with an Iraqi solution to the road ahead.”
The super company will contain the most-motivated, best-trained soldiers in the battalion. It will have about 140 soldiers and will be based across the Euphrates River from this city of roughly 30,000 people. The town, Hai al Bekr, is no sinecure, the colonel said. “There are bad guys operating in the area,” said Iraqi Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Abdul Salam. “It is not as densely populated, but it will be an opportunity for us to operate independently.”
In northern Iraq, Iraqis are joining together to stop sectarian violence:
Kurds, Turcomans and Christians from northern Iraq have established independent organisations that aim to reduce the influence of sectarian militias operating in the area.
Two of the organisations are the mixed Peace Union for Iraqis(PUI) and the Kurdish Autonomous Freedom Organisation (KAFO).
“Iraqis in the region have begun to unite, without consideration of ethnic background, to prevent sectarian violence from spreading,” said PUI member Dorah Muhammad, 38, from a village in northern Kurdistan near the Turkish border.
The World Bank has provided Iraq with an $8 billion loan to strengthen social safety nets and pensions. The loan will increase the number of households which receive government assistance by a factor of six.
Iraq’s state-run aluminum company has spent $1.6 million to rehabilitate its facilities. The company has orders to provide $3.6 million worth of aluminum to private companies.
Former enemies are mending relations now that Saddam is gone. Kuwait has signed a deal with Iraq on the transfer of natural gas. The $800 million deal will transfer 238 million cubic feet of natural gas from Iraq to Kuwait for domestic consumption.
A new women’s magazine has been launched in Iraq, one of hundreds of new publications since the removal of Saddam.
According to a survey team from Duke University, Iraq’s marshes on well on their way to recovery:
Populations of many native fish, invertebrate animals, birds and plants are well on their way to recovery.
The marshes of southern Iraq, devastated in recent decades by Saddam Hussein’s regime, are showing a “remarkable” recovery, according to an ecological survey team led by scientists at Duke University and the University of Basrah, according to a press release by EurekAlert.
In their latest and most thorough evaluation of the marshes–claimed in some quarters to be the site of the biblical Garden of Eden–the researchers found that populations of many native fish, invertebrate animals, birds and plants are well on their way to recovery.
Enviro-guru Al Gore couldn’t be reached for comment.
The Iraqi Association of Security Dealers moved into its new headquarters under the watchful eye of capital markets experts from USAID. The IASD currently represents 51 brokerage companies.
In related news, Iraq has joined the Arab Stock Exchange.
Small and medium-sized businesses in Iraq recently received a boost when Italy offered to provide loans for business expansion.
In Bayji, the grand opening ceremony for an emergency operations center was recently held. The center is similar to 9-1-1 centers here in the U.S.:
The Bayji JCC has a direct line to the police, fire, and medical responders in the city and is currently being run by six employees who take all the calls and assure the proper agency is contacted to provide the needed attention. They currently have several map boards which detail the roads, lanes, and buildings within this community of 92,000 residents. In addition, they have several computers to help track the type and location of incidents within the city.
In addition to getting the typical “9-1-1” type of emergency call, they have had citizens walk into their office and report sightings of insurgent activity; from the placement of improvised explosive devises (IEDs), to ambush or “gathering” activities. It is this community-minded spirit which gives the new leadership of this city hope that the corner has been turned and they can start taking their city back and make it a thriving, safe community again.
Renovations to the Al Jamaii electrical substation are 95 percent complete. When completed, 1,500 homes will have more reliable electrical service:
According to a USACE-GRS spokesman, the project will increase the reliability and safety of the local electrical distribution network when connected to the national grid. In addition, the substation equipment will safely handle more electricity with less chance of equipment malfunctions or loss of service due to local overloads. “This substation will provide electricity for more than five sectors,” explained Kalisz. “That means more than 1,500 homes will have more dependable electrical service.”
In Tameen Province, the last of 52 school projects was completed:
In the Tameen Province, construction of the 52 schools costing $5.4M began in November 2004. The first of the schools was completed in January 2005 and the last to be finished was Zam Zam Primary, completed late last month. The hand-over of the Zam Zam Primary school signals the end of the Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund program in this province.
The GRD has released the Iraq Reconstruction Update for the two weeks ending May 30. You can access the PDF file here.
The Iraq Reconstruction and Relief fund has completed more than 2,900 projects at a cost of $11.4 billion. Projects include:
Hospital Renovation and Construction
Primary Healthcare Facilities
Municipal Buildings and Schools
Water and Wastewater Treatment Facilities
Police Stations and Border Forts
Electrical Power Generation and Distribution
Roads, Sea and Air Ports
Courts and Prisons
In Al Asad, U.S. Marines and Sailors helped clean up an oasis historically important to Muslims and Arabs:
According to Arabic legend, the Quran and other Islamic writings, the oasis was the campsite of Abraham, a patriarch of the Hebrew bible, during his journey from Ur, located near the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, now named Tellel-Mukayyar, to Harran, located in southeastern Turkey, now Carrhae.
Because there are so many visitors to the area, garbage builds up on the banks of the pool. To revive the natural beauty of the landscape, a sailor with the chaplain’s office, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, scheduled a cleanup of the location to help preserve the site for future visitors.
“Although the area has not been destroyed by the war, a lot of people tour the area and leave trash,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Hatondra D. Willis, religious program specialist, MAG-16 (Reinforced) and Reed, Ark., native. “I thought that if people were going to continue to tour the area, it would be better if it were clean, due to its religious significance.”
Two-hundred families in Sadr City, a Baghdad slum, were provided with a free meal by coalition forces:
The packages contained canned beef, rice, flour, water, oil, sugar and tea.
“It’s not much, but it’s a token of good will. Handing-out these bags has another benefit because we put a card in it with a number that these people can call if they see any suspicious activity,” said Yarbrough. “That way they don’t have to talk to us directly if they don’t feel comfortable.”
Marine Corps Lt. Colonel John Capdepon was awarded his second Bronze Star for his actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom:
The honor was awarded March 30 at Camp Lejeune, N.C. According to his citation, Capdepon was awarded the Bronze Star for the significance he played in the success of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force actions during attacks against coalition forces. When Abu Gharaib prison was attacked, his coordination helped in the evacuation of 30 wounded Marines.
“What’s important in my view with that particular attack is the level of coordination required between three major units directly involved in the attack. The prison was in the close proximity of three separate units, and the three units assisted in providing support and worked quickly together,” Capdepon said. “My position was to provide coordination between the three major units that facilitated the response.”
Senior Chief Reginald Dean, a Navy Corpsman, was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during a suicide attack in Iraq:
Moments after the suicide vehicle exploded, Senior Chief Reginald Dean was on the move.
There was no armored truck in sight, but the hospital corpsman knew the wounded couldn’t wait.
He jumped into the only ride he could find–a thinly walled Iraqi army ambulance–and headed to the explosion site just east of Tal Afar, Iraq.
Ten injured Iraqi soldiers and civilians soon would be thankful for Dean’s urgency, among them, a 4-year-old boy.
The rescue occurred in April 2005, but the Pensacola Naval Hospital corpsman said the lessons he learned will linger during every treatment he administers in his career.
Marine Lance Corporal Beau Links was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroic action in Iraq:
The 23-year-old Links received the medal for his heroic actions while fighting in Iraq last year.
Despite being severely wounded, he advanced on enemy combatants during a fire fight and held his position until reinforcements arrived.
Links still caries scars on his forearm and walks with a limp, but he’s confident he’ll make a full recovery.
Links’s Company lost 16 soldiers during its tour in Iraq.
–Bill Crawford lives in San Antonio, Texas. He blogs at All Things Conservative.