NSN Iraq Daily Update 3/12/08

05/25/2011 12:25 pm ET


Adm. William J. "Fox" Fallon, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, whose views on strategy in the region have put him at odds with the Bush administration, abruptly announced his resignation yesterday, calling reports of such disagreements an untenable "distraction." His post as head of U.S. Central Command essentially put him in charge of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he frequently clashed with Gen. David H. Petraeus over strategy and troop levels. Fallon also made several comments reflecting disagreement with the administration's stance on Iran, most recently in an Esquire magazine article last week that portrayed him as the only person who might stop Bush from going to war with the Islamic republic. As a veteran of Pacific Command, where he focused on the rise of China, Fallon had reportedly told colleagues that he viewed Iran as a problem similar to China -- one that mainly required steady engagement rather than aggressive confrontation. That stance put him at odds with Iran hawks both inside and outside the administration. Fallon had also become a point man for crucial military relations in Pakistan, where their forces deal with Islamic extremism along the border with Afghanistan. [Washington Post, 3/11/08]


A new Pentagon study of over 600,000 Iraqi documents captured after the 2003 invasion found nothing indicating a "direct operational link" between Hussein's Iraq and al Qaida before the invasion. The Pentagon-sponsored study, entitled "Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents" has yet to be released. It does confirm that Saddam's regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shi'a Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime. As recently as last July, Bush tried to tie al Qaida to the ongoing violence in Iraq. "The same people that attacked us on September the 11th is a crowd that is now bombing people, killing innocent men, women and children, many of whom are Muslims," he said. The new Pentagon study isn't the first to refute earlier administration contentions about Saddam and al Qaida. A September 2006 report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that Saddam was "distrustful of al Qaida and viewed Islamic extremists as a threat to his regime, refusing all requests from al Qaida to provide material or operational support." The Senate report said that Saddam turned down a request for assistance by bin Laden, which he made at a 1995 meeting in Sudan with an Iraqi operative. [McClatchy, 3/10/08]


Attacks in Iraq remain steady. Newly declassified statistics on the frequency of insurgent attacks in Iraq suggest that after major security gains last fall, the conflict has drifted into a stalemate, with levels of violence remaining constant from November 2007 through early 2008. The figures were presented on Tuesday at a Senate hearing by the top official at the GAO, David M. Walker. Walker reported that the insurgent attacks tallied by the American military had decreased to an average of about 60 a day in January, in the latest available count, from about 180 a day in June 2007. But that lower number has remained unchanged since the last significant decrease between October and November. "While security has improved in Iraq, a permissive security environment has yet to be achieved," Mr. Walker wrote, using a term meaning an environment safe for ordinary business and social activity. American commanders in Iraq have been warning for months that the security gains were far from irreversible, particularly since progress in Iraqi political reconciliation, which would presumably address the tensions underlying the violence, has been halting. [NY Times, 3/12/08]

AP: Iraq violence sees spike. According to an Associated Press count, at the height of unrest from November 2006 to August 2007, on average approximately 65 Iraqis died each day as a result of violence. As conditions improved, the daily death toll steadily declined. It reached its lowest point in more than two years in January, when on average 20 Iraqis died each day. Those numbers have since jumped. In February, approximately 26 Iraqis died each day as a result of violence, and so far in March, that number is up to 39 daily. These figures reflect the months in which people were found, and not necessarily -- as in the case of mass graves -- the months in which they were killed. [AP, 3/12/08]

A roadside bomb exploded in southern Iraq on Tuesday as a busload of Shi'a pilgrims passed by, killing at least 16 people and wounding many more.
The bus was carrying residents home to Basra after a visit to the Shi'a shrines in Karbala and Najaf. Shi'a pilgrims traveling to and from shrines have constantly been targeted by insurgents in recent years. Last month, a suicide bomber killed at least 40 pilgrims who were marching near the town of Iskandariyah. An Iraqi spokesman for the security services in Dhi Qar province, said the bombing was meant to target a passing U.S. military convoy but instead hit the pilgrims. All the people killed were from Basra, and most of the injured were women and children, he said. [Washington Post, 3/12/08]


"The Iraqis have a budget surplus...We have a huge budget deficit. One of the questions is who should be paying." U.S. auditors told Congress on Tuesday that Iraq is not spending much of its own money, despite soaring oil revenues that are pushing the country toward a massive budget surplus. Officials did not give a figure for the likely surplus, but they said Iraq's lack of spending is due primarily to Baghdad's inability to determine where its money is needed most and how to allocate it efficiently. The U.S. continues to invest billions of dollars in rebuilding Iraq and faces a financial squeeze domestically because of record oil prices. In a letter to the head of the GAO, Sens. Levin and Warner said U.S. taxpayer money has funded Iraq reconstruction during the last five years while billions of dollars from Iraq's oil revenues have ended up in non-Iraqi banks.
[AP, 3/12/08]


The U.N. torture investigator said Tuesday that American officials are denying him access to U.S.-run detention facilities in Iraq, even though he has received credible reports that conditions there have improved. "The U.K. said yes, the U.S. said no," said the UN official. Added that U.S. officials told him that American-run prisons in Iraq were not subject to international human rights law because of the armed conflict, and as such were outside his area of responsibility. [LA Times, 3/12/08]


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