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NSN Iraq Daily Update 1/10/08

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THE ADMINISTRATION CONTINUES TO MOVE THE GOALPOSTS

Acknowledging that the benchmarks set by the Bush Administration have not been met, the U.S. now aims for 'Iraqi solutions.' After countless unsuccessful efforts to push Iraqis towards political, economic and security goals, the U.S. has decided to let the Iraqis figure some things out for themselves. From Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to Army privates and aid workers, officials are expressing their willingness to stand back and help Iraqis develop their own answers. "The Iraqis are at the point where they are able to fashion their own approaches and desired outcomes," Crocker said in an interview, "and we, I think, in part recognizing that and in part reflecting on where we have been over the last almost five years, are increasingly prepared to say it's got to be done in Iraqi terms." In many cases--particularly on the political front--Iraqi solutions bear little resemblance to the ambitious goals that Bush laid out last January. [Washington Post, 1/10/08]

PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS HAVE A LONG HISTORY OF UNDERMINING US EFFORTS

Blackwater used restricted CS gas at a U.S. checkpoint to clear traffic - endangered U.S. troops. Blackwater helicopters and armored vehicles released CS gas, a riot-control substance the American military in Iraq can use only under the strictest conditions and with the approval of the president or top military commanders. It temporarily blinded drivers, passers-by and at least 10 American soldiers operating a checkpoint leading into Baghdad's Green Zone. "This was decidedly uncool and very, very dangerous," Capt. Kincy Clark of the Army, the senior officer at the scene, wrote later that day. "It's not a good thing to cause soldiers who are standing guard against car bombs, snipers and suicide bombers to cover their faces, choke, cough and otherwise degrade our awareness." U.S. Army personnel say there were no signs of violence at the checkpoint. Instead, the Blackwater convoy appeared to be stuck in traffic and may have been trying to use the riot-control agent as a way to clear a path. [NY Times, 1/10/08]

VIOLENCE CONTINUES UNABATED

9 U.S. soldiers killed in Sunni strongholds. Militants killed nine soldiers north of Baghdad on Tuesday and Wednesday as the military began its third offensive against Sunni extremists in Diyala Province. Six of the American soldiers were killed Wednesday in Diyala when insurgents detonated a bomb hidden in a house. Three American soldiers were killed Tuesday in neighboring Salahuddin Province, where fighting has been fierce recently between Sunni extremists and U.S.-allied Sunni extremists. The attacks were another sign that insurgents remain strong in the Sunni-dominated cities north of Baghdad. [NY Times, 1/10/08]

Join the American-backed militias "and you will end up like this."
This message, in Arabic, was scrawled in blood across the forehead of five severed heads found near Diyala's provincial capital of Baquba on Monday. [NY Times, 1/10/08]

IRAQI CIVILIAN CASUALTIES ESTIMATED AT OVER 150,000

WHO survey estimates 151,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed from March 2003 until June 2006. This number is nearly three times higher than that of the Iraq Body Count campaigning group, but a third less an October 2006, study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The result is based on interviews with over 9,000 families across Iraq carried out by the health ministry for the WHO. The survey says more than half of all violent deaths were in Baghdad. However, there is a lot of uncertainty in making such estimates. Many families have fled their homes, some leaving the country, making it hard to give a precise assessment. As a result, the margin of error for the toll was relatively high. The study says the actual number of violent deaths between March 2003 and June 2006 could vary from 104,000 to 223,000. The US does not give estimates of civilian deaths, although President George W Bush once gave a figure of 30,000. [LA Times, 1/10/08. BBC, 1/10/08]

THE IRAQI GOVERNMENT IS RIPE WITH CORRUPTION

US authorities in Iraq probe phone contracts. US authorities in Iraq have put on hold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of mobile telephone contracts, while they investigate allegations that the bidding process was hijacked by associates of the new Iraqi governing council. The delay to the signing of the mobile phone licenses comes amid broader US concern about the workings of the Iraqi governing council. Senior US officials have voiced frustration that the interim body of 25 hand-picked Iraqis is putting their own political and economic interests first. At the Pentagon, the Department of Defense's Inspector General has separately been asked to investigate how the telecom licenses were awarded, as evidence of corruption would reflect badly on the US authority, which played a central role in evaluating the bids. [Financial Times, 1/10/08]

AIRSTRIKES TARGET MILITANTS IN IRAQ

U.S. aims airstrikes at Iraqi militants. U.S. bombers and jet fighters released 40,000 pounds of explosives during at 10-minute air strike Thursday, flattening extremist strongholds on the southern outskirts of the capital. The strike was part of Operation Phantom Phoenix, a nationwide campaign launched Tuesday against Sunni extremists. The campaign's scope is nationwide but is mainly focused on gaining control of Diyala and its most important city, Baqouba. [AP, 1/10/08]