Thursday, April 22, 2004

Bits and Pieces

Sorry about the light posting today.

Just a few interesting tidbits. This Global Security has an archival link to an Iraqi yellowcake program (uranium enrichment) which was located at Al-Qaim, Iraq. Because the map on the site doesn't show international boundaries, it was not until the recent border battles between the Marines and a battalion sized force of uniformed Jihadis and the revelation that America had been fighting a secret war against infiltrators on the border that I realized that these yellowcake refining facilities were right on the Syrian frontier. I am now beginning to understand why David Kay believed that WMDs may have been shipped to Syria in the lead up to OIF. With the recent VX gas attempts against Jordan, whose provenance is suspected to be Syrian, the plot thickens indeed.

Of a piece is this backgrounder of Fallujah from the Department of Defense. Apparently, the town is an artificial nest of criminals almost entirely created by the sanctions policy which the US had pursued in the 1990s and bloated by the UN "Oil for Food" program. Here's an excerpt, but follow the link to read the whole thing.

While Iraq is laced with antiquities, Fallujah isn't one of them. Just after World War II, the population of the town was around 10,000. The city, about 40 miles west of Baghdad, is on the edge of the desert, and now has about 300,000 citizens. It is a dry and arid landscape, made productive only because of extensive irrigation from the nearby Euphrates River. It was, however, located on the main routes into Jordan and Syria. And in crime, as in real estate, location is everything. The city was on the main route for smugglers, and sheltered a number of very successful crime lords. The area is poor, and the villages surrounding the city still shelter subsistence farmers and their families. The smugglers were a source of money – even wealth – for those in the region. Even government officials sheltered the smugglers, DoD officials said.

When Saddam Hussein took power in 1979, the city received a boost. Many of the people in Fallujah supported Saddam, and many of his closest advisors, highest- ranking military officers and high-ranking members of the Baath Party came from Fallujah, Ramadi, Tikrit and other areas in the center of the Sunni Triangle. Arab tribes in and around the city also owed fealty to Saddam and became bastions of the regime. Hussein returned the favor by building factories in the city and providing jobs for his chosen people. Fallujah took a number of hits in the first Gulf War. News reports indicate that in one instance, a U.S. bomber tried to take out Fallujah's bridge over the Euphrates. The bomb missed and allegedly killed 200 Iraqis in the city market. Following the Gulf War, the city became an even larger smuggling center, this time with government encouragement, officials said. Saddam encouraged the smugglers to skirt the U.N.-imposed sanctions on Iraq. Since the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq, former regime supporters have allied themselves with foreign fighters who seem to be entering Iraq via Syria, officials said. U.S. officials suspect that members of al Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Islam have cells in the city. Other terror groups have allied themselves with former regime elements and Sunni extremists, making for a very volatile mix.

To an almost literal degree the current fighting in Iraq is the direct consequence of catastrophic policies of the 1990s and to some extent, the failures of the post 9/11 response. It is clear now that Saddam Hussein and his allies never stopped fighting after Desert Storm, they simply continued the offensive by other and covert means. Worse, they funded the offensive from the very sanctions process that the "international community" put in place. Then the prolonged United Nations inspection process, which was the pride and joy of Hans Blix, may have provided the window of opportunity for Iraq to simply skip the yellowcake and the VX over the border.