The U.S. Army launched Operation Iron Hammer November 12. Within a few days, U.S. troops had killed dozens of Iraqisincluding seven suspected of launching a rocket attack on a U.S. military base near Tikrit, detained dozens of others, and destroyed a dye factory and other buildings in Baghdad.
What you are seeing…are stepped up offensive operations to push terrorists out of their lairs, said Army spokesperson Lt. Col. George Krivo. The town of Uja near Tikrit is one focus of such operations. U.S. forces have completely ringed it with razor wire.
The same week Paul Bremer, the U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, was summoned to the White House for talks. Following the visit, the Bush administration announced that Washington will pursue the formation of a provisional government in Iraq by next summer, which is supposed to take more responsibility for running the country than the current U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. That step would be the occasion for attempting to paint up the U.S. occupation as a military presence, which would remain there by invitation for years.
After these announcements, and suggestions a week earlier by U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld that Washington may reduce the number of its troops in Iraq by next May, several reports in the U.S. media alleged that these moves amounted to an exit strategy by the Bush administration. One such article in the November 16 New York Times, for example, was titled: Americas Gamble: A Quick Exit Plan for Iraq.
U.S. government officials, however, made it clear they have no intention of directing the countrys affairs in any way other than through large numbers of troops, regardless of the form. There is no decision to pull out early, said Rumsfeld while visiting troops at the Anderson Air Force Base in Guam, on his way to Tokyo, November 14. Indeed, quite to the contrary. The president has made the statement that well stay there as long as is necessary to see that the country is put on a path towards the key things that he outlined.
Rumsfeld may have been referring to the November 6 speech by U.S. president George Bush to the National Endowment for Democracy, in which Bush invoked freedom and democracy to rationalize U.S. imperialisms designs on the Middle East. After a meeting with Italys president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, at the White House the same day, Bush emphasized that Washington will maintain its military strength in Iraq regardless of the rising number of casualties by U.S. and allied troops. We will stay there until the job is done, he told reporters. The meeting followed the deaths of 19 Italian carabinieri, or paramilitary police, and at least 12 others in a November 12 suicide bombing in Nasiriyah, 185 miles southeast of Baghdad.
In a November 11 Veterans Day speech, Bush claimed the violence against the occupiers is concentrated in an area known as the Baathist triangle, the home area of Saddam Hussein and most of his associates.
Nearly 70 U.S. and allied troops were killed the first half of November. This included 17 GIs who died when two U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters collided in midair November 15 and crashed into a residential neighborhood in the northern city of Mosulthe deadliest single incident for U.S. forces since the March 20 invasion of Iraq. Reuters quoted a U.S. officer at the scene saying that a rocket-propelled grenade had hit one of the helicopters. Total U.S. casualties in Iraq as of mid-November topped 410. Of these, 139 died during the U.S.-led invasion and 271 since Bush declared major combat over on May 1.
The Mosul incident took place as U.S. airpower has been hurled back into the balance as a major part of combat operations. On November 13, Air Force F-16 jets dropped satellite-guided bombs on a building at Husayba, near the border with Syria. U.S. officers said that it was a munitions storage area and a staging post for attacks. Washington has repeatedly claimed that opponents of the occupation are infiltrating into Iraq from Syria and Iran.
The same week, the Pentagon dispatched 200-300 officers and other personnel to the Qatar headquarters of its Central Command (Centcom) to join 100 staff already there. According to a November 14 BBC News report, The Pentagon is playing down the move but it will help U.S. troops respond quicker to developments in Iraq. The Pentagon built and outfitted the Qatar Centcom station during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq. The base includes barracks for up to 10,000 soldiers and some 40 acres of warehouses for military vehicles and equipment. Centcom, which has its central headquarters in Tampa, Florida, is responsible for U.S. military operations in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, south and central Asia, and the northern Red Sea.
Rome whips up patriotic fervor
The deaths of the 19 Italian troops became a political weapon for Rome in its drive to build support for the U.S.-led occupation and its own military intervention. Italys prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was helped by the opposition parties. An article in the November 14 Independent, a British daily, reported that in the wake of the Nasiriyah bombing, the center-left opposition discovered restraint, declining to make political capital out of the tragedy…. Rather than a raucous demand for withdrawal, a snap opinion poll for La Republica newspaper, carried out after the massacre, indicated that most Italians were in favor of staying in Iraq.
The Japanese government, meanwhile, announced that it had suspended plans to deploy up to 1,000 troops in Iraq by the end of this year. Reaffirming Tokyos pledge of $5 billion in grants and loans for the occupation, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said that his administration would be closely watching the situation.
Japanese government officials reaffirmed their decision during Rumsfelds November 14-16 visit to Tokyo. The previous day, while visiting U.S. troops at the Andersen Air Force base on the U.S. colony of Guam in the Pacific, Rumsfeld said the fortified island plays a big part in the ongoing reconfiguration of the U.S. armed forces. Over the past year, U.S. firepower on Guam has been boosted with the arrival of two attack submarines and a fleet of nuclear-capable B-52 and B-1 bombersall within striking distance of north Korea.
For most of the post-World War II period, said Rumsfeld, the U.S. military was built around a large force structure in Europe that was pretty much a static defense to defend against the Soviet Union, which doesnt exist today. In the changed situation, he said, the U.S. warmakers aim to develop a dynamic capability of being able to move with some agility in hours and days rather than weeks and months and years. Guam is a valuable part of that footprint, he said, in a region with nearly 60 percent of the worlds population [and]…six of the largest militaries on the face of the earth.
The government of south Korea, Rumsfelds next port of call after Japan, has said that it will send 3,000 troops to Iraq early next year, in addition to the 700 noncombat soldiers they have already stationed there.
Reviewing the military contributions by U.S. and British allies, the Wall Street Journal reported November 14 that about 128,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq, along with about 25,000 soldiers from about 30 other countries. But outside of Britain and Poland, which police large sectors of Iraq, most of the other donating countries dont have the military capacity to operate a divisional command.
White House summons Bremer
Developments in Iraq were paralleled by a flurry of activity in Washington, as Paul Bremer was summoned to the White House. According to the November 11 International Herald Tribune, one U.S. official spoke of growing friction between Mr. Bremer and Washington, particularly over Mr. Bremers resistance to accelerating the transfer of control from Americans to Iraqis.
Bremer emerged from the talks with the announcement that his elaborate blueprint for drawing up an Iraqi constitution and organizing elections had been scrapped.
As part of the new strategy, the Washington Post reported, the United States is prepared to endorse some form of elections before a new constitution is writtenreversing the order outlined in Bremers seven-point planto ensure that a new governing body would have the legitimacy that the current 24-member [Iraqi Governing Council], handpicked by the Untied States, lacks.
The hollow-sounding pledges of Iraqification became the occasion for a round of declarations of concern by capitalist politicians and editorial writers over the possible depletion or even withdrawal of U.S. troopsa step not proposed by a single government official.
While backing Bushs lofty vision of creating an exemplary democracy in Iraq, a November 13 New York Times editorial said that the Bush administration is in such a rush to bring American troops home that it has lost interest in laying the foundations for a stable democracy. The Times also called for Washington to transfer political authority to a newly created United Nations administration…. Creating a UN administration for Iraq could also help attract more international peacekeeping troops to relieve Americas overstrained forces.
An article in the same issue of the Times quoted expressions of concern from Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and Sen. Joseph Biden and Rep. Rahm Emanuelboth Democrats. It looks like theyre laying the groundwork for a premature departure, Emanuel stated.To announce withdrawals when the number of attacks and deaths of American military are going up is not reasonable or logical, McCain said.
Speaking November 11 on CBS TVs Early Show, Rumsfeld responded to questions similar to those which McCain had raised earlier. Every single [U.S.] military leader in Iraq answers that question yes; we do have a sufficient number of U.S. forces, he said. The total number of security forces in Iraq is going up every day
Needless to say, if at any moment the military commanders indicated that they needed more U.S. troops, I would certainly recommend it to the president and we would increase the number of troops…. But the advice were getting is just the opposite.
A couple of days later, Centcom commander John Abizaid boasted at a Pentagon news briefing that there is no military threat in Iraq that can drive us out. We have the best-equipped, best-trained army in the world in position in the toughest areas that we have to deal with.
Abizaid also gave a hard-nosed assessment of the U.S.-assembled and trained Iraqi security forces, including soldiers, militia, and police. We are not having problems recruiting these forces, he said, but they are not as well trained as American and coalition forces yet. We are training them. The police, in particular, need an awful lot of work.
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