Iraq 'failing to tackle death squads'
- Iraq 'failing to tackle death squads'
Peter Beaumont in Baghdad
Friday September 29, 2006
Senior US officials have accused the new Iraqi
government - which they previously championed - of
failing to deal with the scourge of sectarian death
squads, which are dragging the country into civil war.
Fresh figures published yesterday show that more than
250,000 Iraqis have been displaced by the sectarian
violence since February. The details emerged in a week
which, say US officials, has seen the highest number
of suicide bombings recorded - half of them aimed at
As thousands of Iraqi and US troops continued to
conduct cordon-and-search operations across the
capital, a senior US officer for the first time
publicly questioned prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's
tactics for quelling the sectarian violence.
"We have to fix this militia issue. We can't have
armed militias competing with Iraq's security forces.
But I have to trust the prime minister to decide when
it is that we do that," said Lieutenant General Peter
Chiarelli, the second-highest-ranking American
military official in Baghdad.
His comments echoed those of Major General James
Thurman, commander of US military forces in Baghdad,
who said last week he believed the question of
militias was "a problem that the [Iraqi] government
must deal with immediately".
Other senior US officials have begun warning that if
the Iraqi government does not take a lead in disarming
the militias, the US military might have to do so.
Despite a massive military effort in Baghdad to clear
no-go areas of militants, much of the effort has
focused on strongholds of Sunni fighters, and has so
far had no impact on the slaughter. Instead, a record
7,000 Iraqis have died in the last two months alone.
To add to US gloom it was revealed yesterday that the
Bush administration is spending $2bn (£1bn) a week on
the campaign in Iraq.
The latest political crisis has come as Iraq faces an
escalating security crisis on three fronts: from the
nationalist-inspired resistance to the US-led
occupation, from al-Qaida and other jihadist groups
which are behind most of the suicide attacks, and from
a sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni.
The lack of progress on disarming the militia death
squads has been a source of growing tension between
the US military and the Iraqi government. That
frustration has focused in particular on an agreement
between Mr Maliki's government and Jaish al-Mahdi, the
militia of the Shia Sadr organisation, whose members
are blamed for widespread sectarian murders.
Under the understanding, US forces have been
instructed not to conduct aggressive military
operations in Sadr City, Jaish al-Mahdi's stronghold,
leading to accusations that a safe haven has been
created for death squads.
Anecdotal evidence has emerged that within Sadr City,
clerics and secretive sharia committees have been
involved in "legitimising" the killings of Sunnis
suspected of being involved in anti-Shia terror. It is
said they are at times presiding over kangaroo courts
According to US officers interviewed by the Guardian,
the decision not to confront the major source of the
death squads was supported initially by the US because
of fears of a full-scale battle with the militia in
"We are talking Berlin in '45 or Stalingrad," said one
officer. "That is the conundrum. There is an
unwillingness to tackle the problem head-on, but also
a recognition that if we don't tackle the militias,
death squad activities can only grow."
Instead, a decision was reached to try to bring
political pressure to bear on the Sadr organisation,
whose parliamentary bloc is crucial in supporting Mr
Maliki's government, to bring its militia - illegal
under the Iraqi constitution - into line. But with
growing doubts over how much the Sadr organisation's
leader, the firebrand preacher Moqtada al-Sadr,
actually controls the factions within Jaish al-Mahdi,
concerns are now growing about the wisdom of that
"There are fractures politically inside Sadr's
movement, many of whom don't find him to be
sufficiently radical now that he has taken a political
course of action," said a senior coalition
intelligence official who spoke to reporters in
Sources close to Mr Maliki, defended the policy of
political engagement with Jaish al-Mahdi and blamed
Iraqi politicians with an interest in seeing Mr
Maliki's government fail for fuelling the sense of
In a separate development a tape emerged yesterday
from al-Qaida's leader in Iraq which said that 4,000
foreign insurgents had been killed since the US-led
invasion in 2003. The man, who identified himself as
Abu Hamza al-Muhajir - also known as Abu Ayyub
al-Masri - called for chemical and nuclear weapons
experts to join the insurgency by targeting large US
bases in Iraq.
Bodies of 40 torture victims found in Baghdad
Staff and agencies
Thursday September 28, 2006
The bodies of 40 men have been found dumped in the
streets of Baghdad over the past 24 hours, Iraqi
police said today.
The men - who all appeared to be victims of sectarian
death squads - showed signs of having been tortured.
They had been shot and had their hands and feet were
Police Lieutenant Thayer Mahmoud said the bodies had
been left in several neighbourhoods in eastern and
western areas of the city.
They were discovered hours after Major General William
Caldwell, the US military spokesman in Iraq, admitted
that murders and executions were now the main cause of
civilian deaths in Baghdad.
He said there had been an increase in violence with
the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which
began on Monday.
"We are seeing an increase in attacks, as
anticipated," Maj Gen Caldwell said. "This has been a
tough week." He added that operations against death
squads - blamed for much of the violence - had been
There had been 14 operations in the past week,
resulting in the capture or killing of two squad
leaders and 42 members, he said.
Yesterday, the bodies of 15 people found in various
areas outside Baghdad were delivered to the morgue in
Kut, 100 miles south-east of the Iraqi capital.
Most showed signs of torture, and had their hands and
legs bound. Five had been beheaded.
Elsewhere in Baghdad, US troops killed eight people,
including four women, in a raid on a house in the
north-east of the city overnight.
US military officials said the building was the home
of a suspected terrorist. They said troops had come
under heavy fire in the raid, but relatives of the
victims disputed the claims and said they had nothing
to do with any terrorist group.
Manal Jassim, who lost her parents and other relatives
in the attack, told Associated Press Television News:
"This is an ugly criminal act by the US soldiers
against Iraqi citizens."
The Association of Muslim Scholars, Iraq's major Sunni
clerical organisation, condemned the raid as a
A poll carried out by the US state department,
obtained by the Washington Post, found three-quarters
of Baghdad residents would feel safer if the US and
other foreign forces left Iraq, with 65% favouring an
Iraq war was terrorism 'recruiting sergeant'
· Study for MoD criticises Afghanistan involvement
· Pakistan army said to be indirectly aiding Taliban
Thursday September 28, 2006
The Iraq war has acted as a "recruiting sergeant" for
extremists in the Muslim world, according to a paper
prepared for a Ministry of Defence thinktank, which
also said the British government sent troops into
Afghanistan "with its eyes closed".
The paper, which describes the west as being "in a
fix" and includes a savage attack on Pakistan's
intelligence service, the ISI, was written by an
officer attached to the Defence Academy, according to
BBC2's Newsnight programme. Its release provoked a
furious response from the Pakistani president, Pervez
Musharraf, who has been touring the US.
The MoD was quick to play down the significance of the
report. However, the study reflects what the MoD,
military commanders, and the Foreign Office, have been
saying in private. What is embarrassing is the timing
of the leak, a day after Tony Blair's defence of
Britain's military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The research paper blamed the ISI for indirectly
supporting terrorism and extremism.
It adds: "The war in Iraq ... has acted as a
recruiting sergeant for extremists across the Muslim
world ... Iraq has served to radicalise an already
disillusioned youth and al-Qaida has given them the
will, intent, purpose and ideology to act."
On Afghanistan, the paper said Britain went in "with
its eyes closed". It claims that a secret deal to
extricate UK troops from Iraq so they could focus on
Afghanistan failed when British military leaders were
The paper also accuses the Pakistan army of indirectly
supporting the Taliban by backing Pakistan's religious
General Musharraf told Newsnight: "I totally, 200%,
reject it. I reject it from anybody - MoD or anyone
who tells me to dismantle ISI. ISI is a disciplined
force, breaking the back of al-Qaida. Getting
[arresting] 680 people would not have been possible if
our ISI was not doing an excellent job."
The BBC claimed the author of the academic paper,
based on research carried out in Pakistan less than
three months ago, was "linked" to MI6.
An MoD spokeswoman said last night: "The academic
research notes quoted in no way represent the views of
the MoD or the government. To represent it as such is
deeply irresponsible and the author is furious that
his notes have been wilfully misrepresented in this
manner. He suspects they have been released to the BBC
precisely in the hope they would cause damage to our
relations with Pakistan.
"Pakistan is a key ally in our efforts to combat
international terrorism and her security forces have
made considerable sacrifices in tackling al-Qaida and
the Taliban. We are working closely with Pakistan to
tackle the root causes of terrorism and extremism."
It is not the first time during his current tour that
Gen Musharraf - who is also promoting his memoirs- has
attracted controversy. This week, while in the US to
meet President George Bush, he told an American
television programme that former US deputy secretary
of state Richard Armitage had told his intelligence
chief that Pakistan would be bombed "back to the stone
age" if it failed to help the US track down and punish
those responsible for the September 11 attacks.
The US government was quick to deny the allegation,
which some claimed would damage Pakistan's
Asad Durrani, former head of the ISI, told the Reuters
news agency: "Such remarks may well sell your book,
but it creates more controversies."
The Pakistan connection
Western governments and their intelligence services
have argued that Pakistan occupies a central position
in the war on terror. The publication earlier this
year of the first official accounts by police and
security services of the events surrounding the July 7
bombings in London suggested the British bombers may
have been radicalised, at least in part, in that
Mohammed Sidique Khan, the ringleader of the London
attacks, in 2003 visited Pakistan and possibly
Afghanistan where he is believed to have had training
and met al-Qaida contacts.
Planning for the attack is thought to have begun
shortly after a return visit with the second bomber,
Shehzad Tanweer, between November 2004 and February
Pakistani officials have repeatedly insisted that the
July 7 bombers were radicalised in the UK and not in
Pakistan, in response to suggestions that they may
have received training from extremists in the country.
But the suggestion of ties between Pakistan and terror
cells in this country have continued nonetheless.
Last week the Old Bailey trial of an alleged British
al-Qaida cell was halted temporarily after one of the
defendants refused to carry on giving evidence,
claiming the Pakistani secret service had threatened
his family. Omar Khyam, 24, who is accused along with
six other men of plotting a UK bombing campaign using
fertiliser-based explosives, refused to answer
questions from his defence barrister. Earlier in the
trial he had given evidence about a training camp in
Pakistan where he claimed the ISI intelligence agency
gave lessons in handling explosives.
His comments were the latest in a number of reports
pointing to the existence of extremist groups in the
Iraq has 'shaped terrorist leaders'
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington
Published: 27 September 2006
The Iraq insurgency is "shaping a new generation of
terrorist leaders and operatives," US intelligence
chiefs have warned, as the three-and-a-half-year-old
war has turned into a "cause célèbre" for jihadists
around the world.
In a largely bleak assessment of the terrorist threat
to the US, they conclude that, in the near term at
least, the danger is likely to grow rather than
diminish. Four factors are fuelling the spread of the
movement: "entrenched grievances such as injustice and
fear of the West, the Iraq 'jihad', the slow pace of
real ... reform in many Muslim nations, and pervasive
anti-American sentiment among most Moslems - all of
which the jihadists exploit."
These are the most striking findings of the National
Intelligence Estimate on global terrorism trends,
leaked to some US newspapers at the weekend, and
declassified in part yesterday on the orders of
An NIE is the most authoritative US intelligence
document, being the distilled wisdom of all 16 US
intelligence agencies. This one, however, made public
six weeks before mid-term elections, is especially
Helmand governor escapes as suicide bomber kills 18
By Kim Sengupta
Published: 27 September 2006
The governor of Helmand, a key British ally in
Afghanistan, was the target of a suicide bomb attack
yesterday which killed 18 people.
The bomb was detonated at the front gate of the home
and office of Mohammed Daoud Safi in the provincial
capital, Lashkar Gar. Nine soldiers and nine
civilians, including pilgrims seeking paperwork to
travel to Mecca for the haj, were among those dead.
Mr Daoud, seen as President Hamid Karzai's main
emissary in the war-torn south, was inside the
building but escaped unhurt. He was instrumental in
the deployment of British forces in the Taliban
stronghold of Sangin Valley, appealing for help after
an upsurge of Islamist activity in the area.
The bomber approached Mr Daoud's compound on foot and
blew himself up after being challenged by a sentry.
Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, who claims to be a spokesman for
the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, claimed
Ghulam Muhiddin, Mr Daoud's spokesman, insisted that
"innocent civilians and Afghan soldiers" - not the
governor - were the bomber's targets. However, the
attack came 48 hours after the murder of Safia Amajan,
a prominent women's rights activist in Kandahar. The
governor of Paktia province was assassinated this
month. Twenty-one died in Lashkar Gar in late August
when a suicide bomber tried to kill a former police
chief, and last week 19 construction workers were
killed in Kandahar.
* A bomb attack against a Nato patrol just south of
the Afghan capital killed an Italian soldier and a
child. The bomb planted under a bridge detonated when
a military convoy passed by, Kabul police said. Chief
Cpl Major Giorgio Langella was killed in the blast,
and five Italian soldiers were wounded, two seriously.
Kurds and Arabs vie for control of Mosul
By Patrick Cockburn in Mosul, northern Iraq
Published: 27 September 2006
Across northern Iraq people are voting with their
feet. In and around Mosul, the third-largest Iraqi
city, some 70,000 Kurds have fled their homes so far
this year. Many have run away after receiving an
envelope with a bullet inside and a note telling them
to get out in 72 hours. Others became refugees because
they feared that a war between Arabs and Kurds for
control of the region was not far off.
"There is no solution except the division of the
province," said Khasro Goran, the powerful Kurdish
deputy governor of Mosul. He believes that all the
Kurds in the province want to join the Kurdistan
Regional Government (KRG), which under the federal
constitution is almost an independent state.
Violence in Mosul, a city of 1.75 million people, is
not as bad as in Baghdad or Diyala province, claims Mr
Goran, who is also head of the Kurdistan Democratic
Party (KDP) in Mosul, during an interview with The
Independent inside his heavily fortified headquarters.
This is not saying a great deal, since he added that
40 to 50 people were being killed in Mosul every week.
"Two officials from the KDP working in this building
were shot dead outside their homes a few days ago,"
said Mr Goran, an urbane, highly educated man who
spent 11 years in exile in Sweden and speaks five
languages. He has been the target of eight
assassination attempts, in which several guards have
It was only possible for me to go to Mosul because Mr
Goran sent several of his bodyguards in two cars to
pick me up in the Kurdish capital, Arbil. Travelling
at high speed into Mosul, they pointed to the remains
of the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan, which had been destroyed by a large suicide
bomb in a Volvo in mid-August. The blast killed 17
men, mostly soldiers on guard. Fearing a similar
attack, the KDP had just added another concrete blast
wall to its already impressive defences.
The fate of Mosul, the largest city in Iraq in which
Sunni Arabs are in the majority, may determine how far
Iraq survives as a single country. The proportion of
Arabs to Kurds in the province and city is much
There is no doubt that the Arabs are in a majority of
around 55 per cent in the province, but they angrily
dispute the Kurdish claim to make up a third of the
2.7 million population. When an Arab MP in parliament
in Baghdad claimed this week that the Kurds made up
only 4 per cent of the population of the city, all the
Kurdish MPs staged a walk-out in a fury.
At the moment nobody wholly controls Mosul, one of the
oldest urban centres on the planet, sprawling along
both banks of the Tigris river. The 2nd Iraqi Army
Division is based in the city, and the 3rd Division is
outside, each 15,000-strong, and both of them are at
least 50 per cent Kurdish, and with Kurdish
commanders. But the Americans, fearful of the Sunni
Arab reaction, have forbidden the army to patrol too
If the Kurds have the army, the Arabs have the police.
There are 16,000 policemen in the province, and 6,000
in the city. The Kurds regard them with the greatest
suspicion. As we drove to the KDP headquarters, one of
the Kurdish bodyguards told me to "hide your notebook
and pen if we stop at a police checkpoint, because we
don't trust them". The Kurds have long accused senior
police officers of being crypto-Baathists, sympathetic
to the insurgents.
The US experience in Mosul has not been happy. During
the first year of the occupation General David
Petraeus, the US commander of the 101st Division,
tried to conciliate the many officers and officials of
Saddan Hussein's regime who came from Mosul. In the
long term the experiment failed. When US marines
stormed Fallujah in November 2004, most of the police
in Mosul resigned, and insurgents captured 30 police
stations and $40m (£21m) worth of arms almost without
firing a shot. The US was forced to call in Kurdish
peshmerga fighters to retake the city.
The US and Kurds still co-operate. The Americans are
highly reliant on Kurdish intelligence to search for
guerrillas. But they are also conscious that a recent
confidential Pentagon poll leaked to ABC television
showed that 75 per cent of Sunni Arabs in Iraq
supported armed resistance. The US forces, who used to
have four bases in the city, have now retreated to one
large base at the airport.
A final explosion may not be far away. Under article
140 of the new Iraqi constitution, there must be a
vote by the end of 2007 to decide which regions will
join the KRG. Mr Goran says that such a poll could see
all of Mosul province east of the Tigris and the
districts of Sinjar and Talafar to the west of the
river joining the KRG. "As we get closer to the
implementation of article 140, the problems will get
worse," he says.
Patrick Cockburn's The Occupation: War and Resistance
in Iraq will be published by Verso on 9 October
Intelligence report blow to Bush's war on terror
Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Wednesday September 27, 2006
George Bush yesterday suffered a blow to his argument
that the removal of Saddam Hussein had made Americans
safer after he ordered the release of an intelligence
report warning the war in Iraq had become a "cause
celebre for jihadists".
Mr Bush's decision to declassify a small portion of a
leaked National Intelligence Estimate, six weeks
before the midterm elections, was seen as an attempt
to get in front of Democratic critics, led by Bill
Clinton, who accuse the administration of not doing
enough to catch Osama bin Laden.
After five years of relative civility, the unspoken
entente cordiale between the Bush and Clinton
administrations to avoid assigning blame for the 9/11
attacks came to an abrupt end yesterday, with both
leaders and their aides fighting for their respective
legacies. But Mr Bush's "war on terror" narrative was
contradicted by the report.
"The Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of
terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist
success [in Iraq] would inspire more fighters to
continue the struggle elsewhere," it said.
"The Iraq conflict has become the 'cause celebre' for
jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US
involvement in the Muslim world. If this trend
continues, threats to US interests at home and abroad
will become more diverse, leading to increasing
The report, reflecting a consensus of 16 intelligence
agencies, acknowledged some US success in disrupting
al-Qaida. But it said these gains were outweighed by
other factors, fuelling al-Qaida's spread: anger at
corrupt Muslim regimes, anti-US sentiment, and a
decentralised leadership that made it harder to
It also predicted further attacks in Europe as
"extremist networks inside the extensive Muslim
diasporas in Europe facilitate recruitment and
The damaging assessment was expected to intensify the
struggle to apportion blame in the war on terror in
the run-up to November congressional elections.
Democrats have been energised by the row with
strategist James Carville saying the party had gained
a "spinal implant".
An informal truce between Republicans and Democrats
began unravelling this month when an ABC docu-drama
portrayed Clinton-era officials as being unconcerned
Democrats denounced the programme, forcing the network
to make changes, but Mr Clinton reserved his full
wrath for last weekend when he told Fox television he
had done more than Mr Bush to try to kill Bin Laden.
"That's the difference in me and some, including all
of the right-wingers who are attacking me now," he
said. "They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight
months to try, they did not try."
Allies on both sides have since waded in. In New York,
secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, accused the
Clinton administration of failing to leave a plan for
fighting al-Qaida. But a few blocks away from the
White House Ms Rice's Clinton-era predecessor,
Madeleine Albright, was accusing Mr Bush of adopting
damaging policies because of his strong beliefs.
"If certainties such as the war in Iraq and the axis
of evil are based on a religious belief that God is on
our side - versus we should be on God's side as
Lincoln said - then certitude creates foreign policy
problems," Ms Albright said.
Bush in 'State of Denial': Woodward
Islamonline.net & News Agencies
WASHINGTON Hemmed in by his ideological rigidities,
George W. Bush stands obstinately behind his claims
that the state in Iraq is going for the better despite
the increasing number of attacks against US troops,
says a new book by famed American writer Bob Woodward.
"The assessment by intelligence experts is that next
year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you
have the president and you have the Pentagon (saying)
'Oh, no, things are going to get better,'" Woodward
told CBS "60 Minutes" program in an interview taped
for broadcast on Sunday in advance of the release of
his new book "State of Denial," Reuters reported
Friday, September 29.
Woodward, who helped a key role in exposing the
Watergate scandal that forced former President Richard
Nixon to resign in 1974, said attacks against US-led
forces in Iraq occurred, on average, every 15 minutes.
"It's getting to the point now where there are eight,
900 attacks a week. That's more than a hundred a day.
That is four an hour attacking our forces," said
Woodward, a veteran Washington Post reporter.
Bush invaded Iraq in March 2003 on the grounds that
Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.
A recent US presidential report revealed that the
United States was "dead wrong" on Iraqs alleged WMDs
and its officials made the case for invading the
oil-rich country despite intelligence doubts and
strong voices of dissent.
Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell regretted
his UN statement making the case for the US-led Iraq
invasion, saying it was a "blot" on his record.
According to Woodward, Bush was absolutely certain he
was on the right course on Iraq, dismissing as too
pessimistic assessments from American commanders and
others about the situation there, The New York Times
"I will not withdraw even if Laura and Barney are the
only ones supporting me," the book quoted Bush,
referring to his wife and Scottish terrier, in a
meeting with key Republicans to the White House to
The book also says that the White House ignored an
urgent warning in September 2003 that thousands of
additional American troops were desperately needed to
quell "insurgency" in Iraq.
"I dont want anyone in the cabinet to say it is an
insurgency. I dont think we are there yet," the book
quoted Bush as saying in November 2003.
In the weeks before the Iraq war began, the book
recounts, President Bushs parents did not also share
his confidence that the invasion of Iraq was the right
step, the book recounts.
Former President George H. W. Bush, "is certainly
worried and is losing sleep over it; hes up at night
worried," the book quoted Mrs Barbar Bush as saying.
The book is the third that Woodward has written
chronicling the inner debates in the White House after
the Sept. 11 attacks, the invasion of Afghanistan, and
the subsequent decision to invade Iraq.
Woodward's book is based on interviews with Bushs
national security team, their deputies, and other
senior and key players in the administration
responsible for the military, the diplomacy, and the
intelligence on Iraq.
Some of those interviewed, including Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld, are identified by name, but neither
Bush nor Vice President Dick Cheney agreed to be
interviewed, the book says.
The book describes a White House riven by dysfunction
and division over the war.
It says President Bushs top advisers were often at
odds among themselves, and sometimes were barely on
The book, for instance, describes a deep fissure
between Powell and Rumsfeld.
When Powell was eased out after the 2004 elections, he
told Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of
staff, that "if I go, Don should go," referring to
Mr. Card then made a concerted effort to oust Mr.
Rumsfeld at the end of 2005, according to the book,
but was overruled by President Bush, who feared that
it would disrupt the coming Iraqi elections and
operations at the Pentagon.
American commander for the Middle East, Gen. John P.
Abizaid, is also reported to have told visitors to his
headquarters in Qatar in the fall of 2005 that
"Rumsfeld doesnt have any credibility anymore" to
make a public case for the American strategy for
victory in Iraq.
A cohort of American experts had told The New York
Times that the Bush administration's Iraq strategy has
failed and needs to be changed.
The Washington Post reported in July that many
American soldiers were growing increasingly
disillusioned about the Iraq war and their ability to
succeed against an elusive enemy.
The unpopularity of the Iraq war has many Republicans
nervous about the party's chances in the November
midterm elections in which Democrats are seeking to
retake control of the US House of Representatives and