Friday, April 4, 2008


Iraqi leader reverses course
U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker had praised al-Maliki for his decision to strike at Shiite militias last week in Basra, even as he acknowledged that the operation ran into "a boatload of problems."

By ROBERT H. REID and QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writers 14 minutes ago;_ylt=AmsYD03Qx2zmyhx3zqjjdhZX6GMA

In a dramatic reversal, Iraq's prime minister ordered a nationwide freeze Friday on Iraqi raids against Shiite militants, bowing to demands by anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr only one day after promising to expand the crackdown to Baghdad.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued the order after al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army militia fought government troops last week in Basra and elsewhere, hinted at retaliation if Iraqi security forces continue to arrest his followers.

A statement by al-Maliki's office, broadcast on government television, did not mention the Mahdi Army by name or give a timeframe for the freeze. It said the move was designed to give a "chance to those who repented and want to lay down their arms."

But the statement was issued less than 24 hours after al-Maliki told reporters he intended to launch security operations against Mahdi Army strongholds in Baghdad, including Sadr City, home to some 2.5 million Shiites and the militia's largest base.

"It is not possible to look for only a military solution. There must be a political solution and that's why the prime minister issued today's statement," a top al-Maliki adviser, Sadiq al-Rikabi, told The Associated Press.

"We must have calm. Many politicians advised al-Maliki against confrontation, warning him that clashes benefited other parties," al-Rikabi said without elaborating.

In his Friday statement, al-Maliki said that extremists "who lay down their arms and participated in the recent acts of violence" would not be prosecuted.
American military officials did not respond to requests for comment.


At least 47 Iraqis were killed and 78 more were wounded in the latest violence. A U.S. airman was killed in an IED attack as well. Seven likely Arab nationals were also killed in Tikrit. In Baghdad, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki continues his attacks against Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's followers, threatening a cease fire imposed after clashes left hundreds dead and al-Maliki's government weakened.

Updated at 12:35 a.m. EDT, April 5, 2008

Prime Minister al-Maliki continues to verbally attack the cleric's followers, threatening a fragile truce between his government and political rival Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Last week, al-Maliki implemented a "security crackdown" in Basra that appeared to be an operation actually aimed against the Mahdi Army alone. This resulted in clashes throughout the southern provinces and ended in an embarrassing failure for the al-Maliki government. This week he singled out Mahdi strongholds other cities--where U.S. forces would be able to lend significant support--for similar crackdowns.

The Mahdi Army had been observing a 7-month long unilateral truce at the time of the battles. Analysts believe the operation was meant to demolish the cleric's political base before October elections. Also, the Iraqi authorities dropped leaflets on Basra, calling for citizens to support them against militia groups.

Meanwhile, al-Sadr has called on Iraqis to descend on the holy city of Najaf for a peaceful million-strong march against the U.S. occupation. The Iraqi government has pledged not to interfere unless it becomes violent.

In Basra, a U.S. airstrike left as many as
three dead and six others wounded, according to police. U.S. forces claim they only killed two gunmen, but pictures of a woman's body have surfaced. Near the city in al-Maqal, Iraqi security forces detained the head of the Thaar al-Allah Shi'ite religious party.

In Baghdad, two dumped bodies were recovered. A car bomb killed three people and wounded ten more in the Harthiya district. One Iraqi soldier was killed and three more were wounded in Yarmouk when their patrol was blasted by a roadside bomb. In Qahtan Square, two people were wounded during a roadside bomb blast. A traffic policeman was wounded during a bomb blast in western Baghdad. Four street sweepers were wounded when they came across an IED on Sinaa Street. U.S. troops killed a man planting a bomb and wounded another who was helping him; they also killed a woman who was used as a human shield. Two Iraqi soldiers were killed and seven were wounded during operations that netted 11 suspects. Also, a bomb blasted a U.S. patrol in Bayaa, but no casualties were as yet reported.

Five policemen were killed during a roadside bombing near the al-Askariya shrine in Samarra. East of the city, U.S. forces killed four suspects.

In Mosul, a
suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint, killing about five people, including a woman and five-year-old child, and injuring as many as 19 others. Eight were injured during a roadside bombing. U.S. forces captured six suspects.

U.S. forces came under attack while conducting an arrest operation in Hilla. An airstrike was called in after the operation turned into a clash. Six people were killed, including four policemen, and 15 others were wounded. The dead and wounded may all have been Iraqi security forces and not enemy combatants.

In Mahmudiya, a roadside bomb blasted an Awakening Council (Sahwa) patrol, killing one member and injuring two others.

A high-value al-Qaeda leader was captured in Salman Pak.

U.S. forces killed six suspects and detained nine more across Iraq.
In Tikrit, U.S. forces
killed 11 suspects. Seven of them were carrying Arab passports.
A weapons stockpile was
discovered near Arbil.
Eight wanted men were
detained near Kirkuk. On the highway to Baghdad, gunmen killed a civilian. A police officer was killed in the city.


War News for Friday, April 04, 2008

MNF-Iraq is reporting the death of a Multi-National Division - Baghdad Airman in a roadside bombing in an central neighborhood of Baghdad on Thursday, April 3. No other details were released.

The WCF Courier is reporting the death of a Marine in in San Diego California on Wednesday, March 2nd. Marine Cpl. Cody Wanken was seriously injured in the Fallujah area last September. Wanken's family said that his death was related to the injuries he received in Iraq.

Security incidents:Baghdad:#1: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki today ordered a nationwide freeze on raids against suspected Shiite militiamen, according to a statement issued by his office.

#2: A UN official says an estimated 700 people were killed in the fighting between Iraqi government forces and Shi'ite militiamen last week. "The conflict of the last few days we estimate has claimed more than 700 lives - 700 people have been killed and more than 1500 wounded," UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq David Shearer said.

#3: A Multi-National Division – Baghdad Airman was killed at approximately noon in an improvised explosive device attack in central Baghdad April 3.

#4: 3 mortar rounds fell on the Green Zone, 2 at 9.45 am and 1 at 12.30 pm, Friday. No further details were available at the time of publication.Diyala Prv:Sadiyah:#1: Iraqi police say a suicide bomber has struck a funeral for a Sunni policeman north of Baghdad, killing at least 15 people and wounding eight. Police say the attacker detonated an explosives vest in the midst of the mourners at the funeral on Friday. The attack occurred in Sadiyah, a town 60 miles north of Baghdad in the volatile Diyala province.The toll from the suicide bomb attack on mourners in Diyala province on Friday rose to 20 killed and 30 people injured, a provincial police source said.

Hilla:#1: Elsewhere, a roadside bomb killed four policeman and wounded one early today in Hillah, a town 60 miles south of Baghdad, a police spokesman said.Mussayab:#1: A roadside bomb killed three policemen and wounded two others when it struck their patrol in Mussayab, 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.Jurf al Sakhar:#1: One man was killed by a bomb blast on Thursday in Jurf al-Sakhar, 85 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.Basra:#1: Iraqi troops killed seven militants and detained 16 Thursday in three separate incidents, a U.S. military statement said today.

Samarra:#1: Gunmen killed a member of the U.S.-backed neighbourhood patrol in a drive-by shooting on a checkpoint near Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

Mosul:#1: A roadside bomb blast struck a police patrol, killing one policeman and wounding another on Thursday in western Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

Afghanistan:#1: A suicide bomber blew himself up near a police vehicle Friday in volatile southern Afghanistan, killing three policemen and a civilian, a police official said.The attack happened on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. Eight people were wounded, including a policeman and seven civilians, said provincial police chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal.A SUICIDE bomber in southern Afghanistan today attacked and killed a police commander who oversaw the arrest this week of a mid-level Taliban leader.

#2: In eastern Kunar province, a truck supplying fuel to NATO troops hit a roadside bomb that killed the Afghan driver Thursday, said a statement from NATO's International Security Assistance Force. No NATO service members were hurt in the attack.

#3: One person was killed and three others injured when a Canadian military convoy opened fire on a vehicle from a private security company that failed to heed repeated demands to stop, the military said yesterday. The convoy, which was part of Canada's Provincial Reconstruction Team, was departing Kandahar Airfield on Wednesday when it spotted the vehicle moving at a high rate of speed, Canadian Forces spokeswoman Capt. Josee Bilodeau said in a statement.


BAGHDAD — More than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen either refused to fight or simply abandoned their posts during the inconclusive assault against Shiite militias in Basra last week, a senior Iraqi government official said Thursday. Iraqi military officials said the group included dozens of officers, including at least two senior field commanders in the battle.

April 4, 2008

The desertions in the heat of a major battle cast fresh doubt on the effectiveness of the American-trained Iraqi security forces. The White House has conditioned further withdrawals of American troops on the readiness of the Iraqi military and police.

The crisis created by the desertions and other problems with the Basra operation was serious enough that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki hastily began funneling some 10,000 recruits from local Shiite tribes into his armed forces. That move has already generated anger among Sunni tribesmen whom Mr. Maliki has been much less eager to recruit despite their cooperation with the government in its fight against Sunni insurgents and criminal gangs.

A British military official said that Mr. Maliki had brought 6,600 reinforcements to Basra to join the 30,000 security personnel already stationed there, and a senior American military official said that he understood that 1,000 to 1,500 Iraqi forces had deserted or underperformed. That would represent a little over 4 percent of the total.

A new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq cites significant security improvements but concludes that security remains fragile, several American government officials said.
Even as officials described problems with the planning and performance of the Iraqi forces during the Basra operation, signs emerged Wednesday that tensions with
Moktada al-Sadr, the radical cleric who leads the Mahdi Army militia, could flare up again. Mr. Sadr, who asked his followers to stop fighting on Sunday, called Thursday for a million Iraqis to march to the Shiite holy city of Najaf next week to protest what he called the American occupation. He also issued a veiled threat against Mr. Maliki’s forces, whom he accused of violating the terms of an agreement with the Iraqi government to stand down.

Click on link to read full story.


Military units pay an average of $3.23 a gallon for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, some $88 per day per service member in Iraq, according to an Associated Press review and interviews with defense officials. A penny or two increase in the price of fuel can add millions of dollars to U.S. costs.

U.S. troops in Iraq pay twice what Iraqis do for gas

Story Highlights
U.S. units in Iraq pay $3.15/gallon for gas; total fuel cost is $153 million per month
Iraqis only pay $1.36 per gallon because of government subsidies
Some lawmakers say Iraq should spend some oil revenue on cost of war there
Kuwait gives U.S.big discount on fuel; unlikely U.S. has asked Saudis for price break

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Think you're being gouged by Big Oil? U.S. forces in Iraq are paying almost as much as Americans back home, despite burning fuel at staggering rates in a war to stabilize a country known for its oil reserves.

Military units pay an average of $3.23 a gallon for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, some $88 per day per service member in Iraq, according to an Associated Press review and interviews with defense officials. A penny or two increase in the price of fuel can add millions of dollars to U.S. costs.

Critics in Congress are fuming. The U.S., they say, is getting suckered as the cost of the war exceeds half a trillion dollars -- $10.3 billion a month, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Some lawmakers say oil-rich allies in the Middle East should be doing more to subsidize fuel costs because of the stake they have in a secure Iraq. Others point to Iraq's own burgeoning surplus as crude oil prices top $100 a barrel. Baghdad subsidies let Iraqis pay only about $1.36 a gallon.

The U.S. military, through its Defense Energy Support Center, buys fuel on the open market, paying from $1.99 a gallon to as much as $5.30 a gallon under contracts with private and government-owned oil companies. The center then sets a fixed rate for troops, currently $3.51 a gallon for diesel, $3.15 for gasoline, $3.04 for jet fuel and $13.61 for avgas, a high-octane fuel used mostly in unmanned aerial vehicles.

Kuwait does grant substantial subsidies, but they cover only about half the fuel used by the U.S. in Iraq. And the discount is eaten up by the Energy Support Center's administrative costs and fluctuations in the market.

Overall, the military consumes about 1.2 million barrels, or more than 50 million gallons of fuel, each month in Iraq at an average $127.68 a barrel. That works out to about $153 million a month.

Historically, these figures are astounding. In World War II, the average fuel consumption per soldier or Marine was about 1.67 gallons a day; in Iraq, it's 27.3 gallons, according to briefing slides prepared by a Pentagon task force established to review consumption.

The surge in demand can be attributed in part to the military's expanding aviation fleet, including helicopters, and its reliance on planes to shuttle cargo and troops between the U.S. and Iraq. In addition, vehicles are more heavily armored and require more energy to run. Another major contributor is the widespread use of generators to cool troops.


Robert Lopez served 8 years in our military, fighting in Iraq as a tank commander. He was told he'd get his whole education bill paid for when he got out of the service, but like so many others, Mr. Lopez has faced the bleak reality of a government that has turned its back on its veterans.That is why Senators Jim Webb and Chuck Hagel proposed the new GI Bill, which would bring back WWII-style standards of providing vets with full tuition, room and board. And that is why 51 senators have signed on, including 9 Republicans like John Warner, giving this GI Bill tremendous bipartisan support.

Why Won't McCain Support Our Vets? [VIDEO in link below]

By Robert Greenwald, Brave New FilmsPosted on April 3, 2008, Printed on April 4, 2008 Click on this link to see vets of Iraq war talk about how the government and Veterans Affairs administration let them down.

But it isn't enough. Faced with unprecedented filibusters, the only way to ensure Senate passage of the GI Bill is to get 60 co-sponsors. So far, John McCain has refused. The same McCain who insists he supports our troops. The same McCain who is voting lockstep with the Bush administration (who have also resisted this bill). We need to get John McCain to lead -- to sign now and signal to other Republican leaders that we should be strongly behind our vets.
Robert Lopez thinks John McCain ought to stand in his shoes to know how difficult it is to be a vet and have to pay staggering education costs. THIS is your call to arms. Pass the video along and implore your friends to
sign the petition.

Vote Vets, WesPAC, and Brave New Films feel passionately about giving our veterans the support they rightly deserve. Our government owes our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan the opportunity to receive full educational benefits. These patriots have fought hard for our government; it's time our government started fighting hard for them.


How the U.S. Just Got Schooled by a 'Rag-Tag' Neighborhood Army in Iraq

By Gary Brecher, The eXilePosted on April 4, 2008, Printed on April 4, 2008

What happened in Iraq this week was a beautiful lesson in the weird laws of guerrilla warfare. Unfortunately, it was the Americans who got schooled. Even now, people at my office are saying, "We won, right? Sadr told his men to give up, right?"

Wrong. Sadr won big. Iran won even bigger. Maliki, the Iraqi Army, Petraeus and Cheney lost.
For people raised on stories of conventional war, where both sides fight all-out until one side loses and gives up, what happened in Iraq this past week makes no sense at all. Sadr's Mahdi Army humiliated the Iraq Army on all fronts. In Basra, the Army's grand offensive, code-named "The Charge of the Knights," got turned into "The Total Humiliation of the Knights," like something out of an old Monty Python skit.

Thousands of police who were supposed to be backing up the Iraqi Army either refused to fight or defected to Sadr's Mahdi Army. In Basra, the Iraqi Army was stopped dead and clearly in danger of being crushed or forced to retreat from the city. In Baghdad, Sadr's militia was rocketing the Green Zone non-stop -- not a good look for the "Surge is working" PR drive -- and driving the Iraqi Army clean out of the 2.5-million-strong Shia slum, Sadr City. And in every poor Shia neighborhood in cities and towns all over Iraq, local units of the Mahdi Army were attacking the government forces.

Then, after four days of uninterruptedly kicking Iraqi Army ass, Sadr graciously announces that he's telling his men to end their "armed appearances" on the streets. Makes no sense, right? It makes a ton of sense, but you have to stop thinking of formal battles like Gettysburg and Stalingrad and think long and slow, like a guerrilla.

If you want to know how not to think about Iraq, just start with anything ever said or imagined by Cheney or Bush. Our Commander in Chief declared a week ago when the Iraqi Army first marched into Basra, "I would say this is a defining moment in the history of a free Iraq." When the Iraqi Army fled a few days later, he suddenly got very quiet. But anybody could see how deluded the poor fucker is just by all the nonsense he managed to cram into that 15-word sentence. I mean, "the history of a free Iraq"?

Click on link to read full story.


General William Odom Tells Senate; "I see no reason to change my judgment now. The surge is prolonging instability, not creating the conditions for unity as the president claims. Rapid Withdrawal Is Only Solution."

By William E. Odom, LT General, USA, Ret.
2 April 2008

Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. It is an honor to appear before you again. The last occasion was in January 2007, when the topic was the troop surge. Today you are asking if it has worked. Last year I rejected the claim that it was a new strategy. Rather, I said, it is a new tactic used to achieve the same old strategic aim, political stability. And I foresaw no serious prospects for success.

I see no reason to change my judgment now. The surge is prolonging instability, not creating the conditions for unity as the president claims.

Last year, General Petraeus wisely declined to promise a military solution to this political problem, saying that he could lower the level of violence, allowing a limited time for the Iraqi leaders to strike a political deal. Violence has been temporarily reduced but today there is credible evidence that the political situation is far more fragmented. And currently we see violence surge in Baghdad and Basra. In fact, it has also remained sporadic and significant inseveral other parts of Iraq over the past year, notwithstanding the notable drop in Baghdad and Anbar Province.

More disturbing, Prime Minister Maliki has initiated military action and then dragged in US forces to help his own troops destroy his Shiite competitors. This is a political setback, not a political solution. Such is the result of the surge tactic.

No less disturbing has been the steady violence in the Mosul area, and the tensions in Kirkuk between Kurds, Arabs, and Turkomen. A showdown over control of the oil fields there surely awaits us. And the idea that some kind of a federal solution can cut this Gordian knot strikes me as a wild fantasy, wholly out of touch with Kurdish realities.

Also disturbing is Turkey’s military incursion to destroy Kurdish PKK groups in the border region. That confronted the US government with a choice: either to support its NATO ally, or to make good on its commitment to Kurdish leaders to insure their security. It chose the former, and that makes it clear to the Kurds that the United States will sacrifice their security to its larger interests in Turkey.

Turning to the apparent success in Anbar province and a few other Sunni areas, this is not the positive situation it is purported to be. Certainly violence has declined as local Sunni shieks have begun to cooperate with US forces. But the surge tactic cannot be given full credit. The decline started earlier on Sunni initiative. What are their motives? First, anger at al Qaeda operatives and second, their financial plight.

Click on link to read full story.


WASHINGTON: Members of the U.S.Congress have as much as $196 million (126.2 million) collectively invested in companies doing business with the Defense Department, earning millions since the start of the Iraq war, according to a new study by a nonpartisan research group.

By The Associated Press 03/04/08 "AP"

The review of lawmakers' 2006 financial disclosure statements, by the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, suggests that members' holdings could pose a conflict of interest as they decide the fate of Iraq war spending. Several members who earned the most from defense contractors have plum committee or leadership assignments, including Democratic Sen. John Kerry, independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman and House Republican Whip Roy Blunt.

The study found that more Republicans than Democrats hold stock in defense companies, but that the Democrats who are invested had significantly more money at stake.

In 2006, for example, Democrats held at least $3.7 million (€2.3 million) in military-related investments, compared to Republican investments of $577,500 (€372,000).Overall, 151 members hold investments worth $78.7 million (€50.6 million) to $195.5 million (€125.9 million) in companies that receive defense contracts that are worth at least $5 million (€3.2 million).

These investments earned them anywhere between $15.8 million (€10.1 million) and $62 million (€39.9 million) between 2004 and 2006, the center concludes.It is unclear how many members still hold these investments and exactly how much money has been made. Disclosure reports for 2007 are not due until this May.

Also, members are required to report only a general range of their holdings.According to the report, presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain did not report any defense-related holdings on their filings; Hillary Rodham Clinton did note holdings in such companies as Honeywell, Boeing and Raytheon, but sold the stock in May 2007. All three are members of the Senate.

Not all the companies invested in by lawmakers are typical defense contractors. Corporations such as PepsiCo, IBM, Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson have at one point received defense-related contracts, the report notes."So common are these companies, both as personal investments and as defense contractors, it would appear difficult to build a diverse blue-chip stock portfolio without at least some of them," wrote the center's Lindsay Renick Mayer.

Still, earning dividends from companies tied to the military "could be problematic" for members that oversee defense policy and budgeting, Mayer adds.


BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber killed at least 15 people and wounded eight when he blew himself up during a funeral Friday north of Baghdad, police said.

Attack occurs 60 miles north of Baghdad in volatile Diyala province

The Associated Press

updated 3:52 a.m. CT, Fri., April. 4, 2008

The attacker detonated an explosives vest in the midst of the mourners attending the funeral for a Sunni policeman who had been shot dead on Thursday night, said an officer who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Friday's attack occurred in Sadiyah, a town 60 miles north of Baghdad in the volatile Diyala province.

Most of the victims appeared to be relatives of the dead policemen, the officer said.