THE BLOG
02/19/2008 11:20 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

NSN Iraq Daily Update 2/19/08

COMMANDANT OF MARINE CORPS VENTS FRUSTRATION OVER BAGHDAD'S INCOMPETENCE AND LONG DEPLOYMENTS

Top Marine sees progress in Anbar, frustrated by lack of cooperation from Baghdad. Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, said Monday he was confident Islamist extremists had been defeated in western Iraq but that he was disappointed the central government in Baghdad had not done more to reconcile with the region and begin providing essential services. Conway also said he was concerned that back-to-back deployments were stretching the Marine Corps thin, giving it little or no time to train young enlisted personnel and officers for amphibious assaults, cold-weather warfare and other "core competencies." After consulting with Conway and other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General David Petraeus, top U.S. commander in Iraq, is to provide a recommendation this spring to President Bush about a possible drawdown of U.S. forces. [LA Times, 2/19/08]

VIOLENCE CONTINUES TO RAGE

Rockets slammed into an Iraqi housing complex near the Baghdad international airport and a nearby U.S. military base, killing at least five people and wounding 16, including two U.S. soldiers. The brazen attack followed a weekend in which U.S. and Iraqi officials touted the security gains in Baghdad. Twelve 107 mm rockets fell in and around the airport and the nearby Camp Victory, the main U.S. military base on the western outskirts of Baghdad. In other violence, a roadside bombing in the northwestern city of Mosul killed three civilians and wounded four others. The U.S. military has described Mosul as the last major urban stronghold of Islamist extremists in Iraq. U.S. troops acting on a tip captured a Shi'a militia leader suspected of being a powerful criminal boss and providing Iranian weapons to fighters in western Baghdad, the military said. A roadside bomb also killed a taxi driver, a female passenger and her two young children Tuesday. The blast occurred in the Sunni-dominated northern neighborhood of Waziriyah. [AP, 2/19/08]

Female suicide bomber strikes Baghdad. A suicide bomber detonated her explosives in a commercial area in a Shiite neighborhood of Baghdad on Sunday morning, the latest in a string of attacks by female bombers in Iraq. Iraqi police said the bombing killed three people and wounded five. However, the U.S. military said only the bomber was killed and two people were injured. [Washington Post, 2/18/08]

IRAQI MEDICAL SYSTEM ON BRINK OF COLLAPSE

The Iraqi medical care system has fallen to the brink of collapse since the U.S.-led invasion five years ago. Scores of doctors have been slain or displaced by sectarian violence. Even with the security gains of the past several months across Iraq, it is still too dangerous for many doctors to return. Specialists are hard to find. At one point, Baghdad -- a city of more than 5 million -- had no neurosurgeon. Drug supplies are so low that Iraqis hospitalized for illnesses as serious as cancer are asked to track down their own medicine. War has taken a toll on hospitals as well. Jassim Naseef, 52, took his pregnant wife to a private clinic three months ago, paying 20 times what the public hospital would have charged for the birth of their son: US$247 compared with US$12. The hospital wards, he complained, were dirty and lacked electricity. "I chose the expensive private clinic in order to ensure that my wife and my son got the best medical care," he said. [AP, 2/19/08]

SECTARIANISM PLAYS A ROLE IN DELAYING TRIAL OF IRAQI OFFICIALS

The trial of two former Iraqi officials accused of letting Shi'a militiamen use ambulances and hospitals to kidnap and kill rivals was delayed until March 2 because prosecution witnesses failed to show up. Former Deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamili and Brig. Gen. Hameed al-Shimmari are accused of having ties to the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The case is seen as a test of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's willingness to crack down on Shi'a extremists as well as Sunni insurgents. The move avoids angering al-Sadr before he makes a decision on whether to renew a cease-fire he called that expires at the end of the month. "The trial adjourned until the second of March because of the absence of witnesses," said a spokesman for the Iraqi Higher Judicial Council. "If witnesses do not come the second time, it is possible that the court will depend on witness testimonies available in investigation documents." Militiamen also were allowed to use government hospitals and clinics to gather information on Iraqis seeking treatment and "those Iraqis that were discovered to be Sunnis would later be targeted for attacks," the military said. [AP, 2/19/08]

TURKEY-IRAQ BORDER REGION REMAINS TENSE

Turkey reportedly weighing land operation vs PKK in Iraq. "The option of a ground operation is on the table. The timing (of such an operation) and weather conditions are important," said Turk Foreign Minister Ali Babacan. Turkey has massed tens of thousands of troops along its mountainous frontier with Iraq. It has already carried out several small-scale cross-border commando operations as well as aerial bombing raids against rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Earlier this month, Turkish warplanes bombed 70 PKK targets inside Iraq in one of the biggest raids to date and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan vowed to continue the cross-border campaign "until we win." Ankara blames the PKK for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people since the group launched its armed struggle for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984. [Reuters, 2/19/08]