Friday, October 15, 2004

The Last Two Weeks

Not much time to post today. But here's a roundup of some news in Iraq.

Date Story
October 15, 2004 US continues to pound Fallujah as Ramadan begins -- cross border fire with Syria exchanged at Qusabayah
October 15, 2004 US arrests spokesman for the Fallujah city delegation -- Falluja police commander also taken into custody
October 15, 2004 16:53 Z US begins major operation in Fallujah with troops and targeted fires  -- "not an offensive to retake Falluja, but rather to lay the groundwork for that eventual offensive"
October 15, 2004 14:24 Z Fallujah religious leader threatens holy war over US onslaught
October 14, 2004 Allawie threatens Fallujah over Zarqawi -- "hand him over"
October 13, 2004 Radical Sunni, Shi'ite groups help free U.S. photographer

"An American photojournalist who was kidnapped during a photo shoot in Baghdad Sunday has been driven into the center of Baghdad and set free — after what appears to have been unprecedented cooperation between Sunni clerics and hard-line Shi'ite fighters loyal to the renegade cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Both are rivals and oppose the U.S. presence in Iraq. The kidnapping was first reported in The Washington Times. "We find it encouraging that the level of tolerance for kidnapping among anti-Western groups in Iraq seems to be declining," said a security source, who declined to be identified."

October 13, 2004 U.S. Raids in 2 Sunni Cities Anger Clerics and Residents -- New York Times description of outrage at raids on seven Ramadi mosques, fires on Fallujah.
October 13, 2004 Insurgent Alliance Is Fraying In Fallujah -- Long backgrounder from the Washington Post 'Locals, Fearing Invasion, Turn Against Foreign Arabs'
October 12, 2004 Operations against the Enemy in Ramadi -- Mosques searched, fire returned on them. No longer sanctuaries.
October 9, 2004 Al-Sadr's Shiite Militia Agrees to Start Handing in Weapons, but Violence Continues in Sunni Areas -- AP
October 5, 2004 U.S. Warplanes Bomb Vast Baghdad Slum; American Troops and Insurgents Clash in Ramadi -- AP reports U.S. warplanes pounded the vast Baghdad slum of Sadr City overnight
October 4, 2004 Armed Iranian Fighters Arrested in Samarra

The Interim Iraqi Interior Minister stated that armed Iranian agents have been arrested among rebels fighting in the city of Samarra. The Al-Hurriya TV aired footage of Falah Naqib who accused Iran of backing insurgents in this presently volatile region of Iraq.

Iraq Grabs 42 Foreign Fighters in Samarra -- Reuters including 18 Egyptians and 18 Sudanese

October 2, 2004 US Retakes Samarra -- The actual NYT headline is "The conflict in Iraq: military; aided by Iraqis, U.S. Seizes part of rebel town"

There were 33 US deaths in the month by October 13, 2004, on track to reach 70+ by month's end. Despite the offensive nature of activities, US casualties are actually trending lower than September. A reminder that one is not necessarily safer leaving the enemy alone.

If it was possible to speak of a tactical encirclement of Fallujah in April, it may be meaningful to think of a wider, operational encirclement that has taken place since then. The keystone of course, was dealing with the Shi'ite insurgency first, specifically the Al-Sadr threat in Baghdad and Najaf. That was a classic solution to the "two front war" problem. Establishing an interim Iraqi government created the political preconditions to isolate the Sunni rebels. The silent part of the encirclement was the development of intelligence assets, whose only physical manifestation was the arrival of smart bombs on specific targets.

Now comes the sequenced reduction of mutually supporting enemy systems. There have probably been hundreds of minor, unnoticed operations directed against enemy nodes. One of these made the news on October 12, 2004.

For the past two months, most of Camp Lejeune's 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit has worked to take charge in northern Babil Province south of Baghdad as part of two-month operation punctuated by a thrust north over the past week. The MEU, which left Lejeune in July, is trying to cut off routes used by terrorists and Iraqi insurgents, MEU spokesman Capt. Dave Nevers said by telephone during a lull in the fighting at about 1:30 a.m. Iraqi time. Nevers said Marine forces took control of a bridge over the Euphrates River. It's also seized a large cache of weapons with help from the reserve 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment. ...

Nevers said the MEU's small craft company has been pulling security patrols along the Euphrates River. ... Nevers said that over the past two months, Marines have captured 160 criminals and anti-Iraqi forces.  "Last week they rounded up another 50 suspected militants in a raid spearheaded by the 24th MEU's Force Reconnaissance Platoon and Iraqi SWAT units," Nevers said. "The Iraqi SWAT force is emerging as an elite unit." According to the Department of Defense, more than 700 Iraqis have been killed defending their country from insurgents since the end of major combat operations. "In many respects, they are at greater risk than we are," Nevers said.

The "big show" if it comes, will be something of an anticlimax, the period at the end of a long sentence. Many in the press will see the period and never read the preceding phrases, which may be the inevitable consequence in an industry where  news is equated with spectacle. "If it bleeds, it leads". It is unfortunate that for the men who make up the grist of the news mill another phrase is often true. Who leads, bleeds.