U.S. forces in Iraq to strike relentlessly
Petraeus takes command of U.S. troops
Iraqi govt closes borders with Iran, Syria
AFP/Getty Images/Dave Furst
U.S. troops from 5-20 Infantry Regiment engage in firefight February 10 in Baghdads Adamiyah neighborhood. The regiment and troops of the 82nd Airborne, which arrived recently as part of Washingtons escalation of the war, have set up a new outpost there.
BY SAM MANUEL
WASHINGTON, February 14Gen. David Petraeus called on U.S. troops to defeat those who oppose the new Iraq and to strike them relentlessly. He made the remarks in a February 10 letter to U.S. soldiers, issued the same day Petraeus took command of the U.S. forces in the country.
Three days later, the Iraqi government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced a range of new security measures. These include a crackdown on militias in Baghdad and the temporary closure of the countrys borders with Iran and Syria.
Just before leaving for Baghdad, and after his unanimous and swift confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Petraeus had set up shop in the Washington office of Rep. Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky. From there the general lobbied members of Congress to support the deployment of 21,500 more troops to Iraq, a decision announced January 10 by U.S. president George Bush.
Meanwhile, the tit-for-tat struggle for governmental power between competing factions of the Iraqi bourgeoisie continues to claim dozens of lives daily. Some 67 Iraqi civilians were reportedly killed and 155 wounded when bombs exploded February 12 in Baghdads central Shorja market. The bombings came as the Maliki administration marked the first anniversary of the bombing of a Shiite mosque in Samarra. The bloodletting between Shiite- and Sunni-run militias has substantially escalated since that bombing.
Petraeus has been lauded by supporters and critics of the White House escalation of the war. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, has dubbed the troop escalation the Petraeus Doctrine.
Crackdown in Baghdad
Iraqi Lt. Gen. Abboud Gambar announced on TV February 13 that the countrys borders with Iran and Syria would be closed for 72 hours and that a 9:00 p.m.-6:00 a.m. curfew in Baghdad would start an hour early. Washington and Baghdad have charged that weapons and armed groups fighting U.S. and Iraqi government forces enter the country through Iran and Syria.
Tens of thousands of Iraqis who have occupied abandoned homes in Baghdad have been given 15 days to show proof of ownership or permission to live in the home in order to avoid eviction. Many are Shiites who moved into homes abandoned by Sunnis driven out by Shiite-led militias. Almost 10 formerly mixed neighborhoods in Baghdad are now almost entirely Shiite.
Gambar also announced expanded use of searches and interrogations, including breaking into homes and cars deemed dangerous, opening mail, and tapping phones. All convoys would be subject to searches.
U.S. and Iraqi government troops stormed Iraqs health ministry February 8 and arrested the countrys deputy health minister, Hakim al-Zamili. A U.S. military statement accused Zamili of being a senior official in Muqtada al-Sadrs Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia, and of allowing use of ambulances and hospitals to carry out kidnappings and killings. The health ministry is one of six controlled by supporters of al-Sadr, who, U.S. officials say, has fled Iraq to Iran. Al-Sadrs aides would not confirm his departure, according to press reports. Maliki depends on al-Sadrs support in the Shiite governing bloc.
In an indication of the tensions between the Maliki administration and the occupying U.S. forces, the Iraqi premier and his governments vice presidents did not attend the ceremony installing Petraeus. Maliki sent instead a low-level delegation consisting of his security adviser and defense and interior ministers.
Broad congressional support for aims of war
Last week, Republicans in the Senate blocked the vote on a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop escalation after Democrats would not allow votes on other resolutions supporting the White House plan. Among those opposing the vote was Republican John Warner, one of its principal cosponsors, and Independent Democrat Joseph Lieberman.
The Republicans were pressing for a vote on a resolution by John McCain, a presidential hopeful of their party. McCains proposal supports the escalation and sets benchmarks on progress towards the Iraqi government taking control of security. Another resolution by Sen. Judd Gregg, Republican from New Hampshire, promises not to cut funds for the Iraq war. Many prominent Democrats have backed such proposals too.
Carl Levin, chairman of the Senates Armed Services Committee, said a vote on cutting funds for deploying more troops to Iraq is not necessary. We dont want to withhold funds from the troops in the field, he said.
A nonbinding resolution Democrats introduced February 12 in the House of Representatives opposing the dispatch of more troops to Iraq makes a similar point. Congress and the American people will continue to support and protect the members of the United States Armed Forces who are serving or who have served bravely and honorably in Iraq, it says.
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