Iraq War Backfiring on US: US, Iraqi Forces Clash with Shi’ite Militia

June 29th, 2006 - by admin

The Age & Reuters International – 2006-06-29 23:44:14

Iraq War Backfiring on US, Experts Warn
Bob Deans / The Age

WASHINGTON (June 30, 2006) — The United States is losing its fight against terrorism and the Iraq war is the main reason, more than 80 percent of American terrorism and national security experts have said in a survey.

One expert, former CIA official Michael Scheuer, said the war in Iraq had provided global terrorist groups with a recruiting bonanza and a valuable training ground.

“The war in Iraq broke our back in the war on terror,” said Mr Scheuer, author of Imperial Hubris, a book highly critical of the Bush Administration’s anti-terrorism efforts. “It has made everything more difficult and the threat more existential.”

Mr Scheuer, a former CIA counter-terrorism expert, is one of more than 100 national security and terrorism analysts surveyed in the poll by Foreign Policy magazine and the Centre for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank headed by John Podesta, a White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration.

Of the experts surveyed, 45 identified themselves as liberals, 40 said they were moderates and 31 called themselves conservatives. The pollsters weighted the responses so that the percentage results reflected one-third participation by each group.

Asked whether the US was winning the war on terror, 84 per cent said no and 13 per cent answered yes. Asked whether the war in Iraq was helping or hurting the global anti-terrorism campaign, 87 per cent said it was undermining those efforts.

A similar number, 86 per cent, said the world was becoming more dangerous for the US.

The views of the analysts were starkly at odds with those espoused by President George Bush. He has repeatedly expressed confidence in US progress in the anti-terrorism campaign and often asserts that the war to depose Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq is not only a vital part of this mission but that Iraq has become the central front in that campaign.

The public gives Mr Bush higher marks in this effort than the policy experts.

In an ABC News-Washington Post poll last week, 57 per cent of respondents said America’s efforts to fight terrorism were going well; 41 per cent said they were not going well. In the same poll, 59 per cent said the country was safer from terrorism today than it was before the attacks of September 11, 2001, while 33 per cent said the country was less safe.

One participant in the Foreign Policy-Centre for American Progress poll of experts, retired army colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, said the US military deserved credit for actions in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world meant to disrupt terrorist operations.

But he criticised the Bush Administration for what he called an over-reliance on the military in the anti-terrorism campaign. Like many other analysts polled, Colonel Wilkerson stressed the need to increase US diplomacy and other sources of so-called “soft power” to help win Muslim hearts and minds.

“Bombs, bullets and bayonets are not the answer to this problem,” said Colonel Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to Colin Powell while he was the secretary of state during Mr Bush’s first term.

He and Mr Scheuer made their remarks during a panel discussion the poll’s sponsors held to announce their findings.

Copyright © 2006. The Age Company Ltd.

US, Iraqi Forces Clash with Shi’ite Militia

(June 29, 2006) — Iraqi and US troops battled Shi’ite militiamen in a village northeast of Baghdad on Thursday, and witnesses and police said US helicopters bombed orchards to flush out gunmen hiding there.

Iraqi security officials said Iranian fighters had been captured in the fighting, in which a sniper shot dead the commander of an Iraqi quick reaction force and two of his men. They did not say how the Iranians had been identified.

A civilian was also killed and five people were wounded in the clashes. The U.S. military had no immediate comment.

In violence elsewhere, a suicide car bomber rammed into a funeral service for a Shi’ite soldier and killed seven people in the Iraqi northern city of Kirkuk on Thursday, police said.

Deputy police commander Turhan Abdul Rahman said the bomber, who died in the attack, targeted a tent set up for mourners outside the house of an Iraqi soldier killed two days ago.

The blast wounded 25. Oil-rich Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, is an ethnically mixed city claimed by Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen which has seen violence in the past.

The fighting between Iraqi and U.S. troops and Shi’ite militias was taking place in the predominantly Shi’ite village of Khairnabat, outside Baquba, capital of Diyala province.

Local residents reported hearing shooting and explosions.

A bomb in the town’s main market killed 18 people on Monday. On Wednesday, Shi’ite militiamen fired mortars at a Sunni mosque in nearby Miqdadiya, destroying the building and 20 shops.

Police said the mosque attack and other attacks on Sunnis in Khairnabat itself persuaded Sunnis that it would be safer to leave the village. But as a convoy of vehicles was leaving on Thursday, “gunmen surrounded them and started shooting,” a captain in Diyala’s police intelligence unit told Reuters.

Baquba’s quick reaction force, an Interior Ministry unit, responded and clashed with the fighters, the captain said. Iraqi and U.S. reinforcements then arrived and sealed off the village.

Police and witnesses said U.S. helicopters had bombed orchards where militiamen were believed to be hiding under date palms. Police said the bombing continued as night fell.

Iranian Prisoners
The captain and other Interior Ministry sources said the commander of the quick reaction force, Colonel Sami Hussein, and two of his men were killed by a sniper.

No other casualties were reported from the clashes and police said it was not clear how many civilians had been killed or wounded in the initial shooting.

“We captured a number of militants and were surprised to see that some of them were Iranian fighters,” the police intelligence captain said.

An Interior Ministry official, who did not want to be named, also said Iranian gunmen had been captured. Baquba lies 90 km (60 miles) from the Iranian border.

The United States and Britain have accused Shi’ite Iran of meddling in Iraq’s affairs and providing military assistance to Iraq’s pro-government Shi’ite militias. However, there have been few instances of Iranians actually being captured inside Iraq.

Some Iraqis, particularly Sunnis, are quick to label Shi’ite fighters as Iranian agents. And among the militants are Iraqis who grew up in refugee camps in Iran, speak Iranian-accented Arabic and, in some cases, carry Iranian identity papers.

Police have said Shi’ite fighters in the area belong to the Mehdi Army of radical, Iranian-backed cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Sadr’s movement, which staged two uprisings against occupying troops in 2004, denies being behind sectarian violence.

Diyala, where al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed earlier this month, has seen much sectarian violence.

Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has made controlling Shi’ite militia groups, as well as Sunni insurgents, a goal of a national reconciliation plan unveiled on Sunday.

Sunni political leaders dismissed on Thursday reports of significant peace moves from insurgents since Maliki’s speech in parliament.

Several politicians and figures who claim to speak for militant groups said the plan was short on guarantees about curbing Shi’ite guerrillas and on the withdrawal of US troops.

(Additional reporting by Ross Colvin, Mohammed al-Ramahi, Alastair Macdonald, Mussab Al-Khairalla, Ibon Villelabeitia and Hiba Moussa in Baghdad)

© 2006 Reuters Limited

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.