U.S. troops in Iraq
launch brutal assault
With blessing from U.S. Congress,
Pentagon completes military escalation
Getty Images/Chris Hondros
U.S. warplanes bomb palm fields in Baghdad June 17 as a Humvee blocks the highway. The next day, 10,000 U.S. troops launched a major offensive in nearby Baquba.
BY SAM MANUEL
WASHINGTON, June 19The U.S. military unleashed a major offensive involving 10,000 U.S. troops northeast of Baghdad yesterday. The military says its objective is to destroy al-Qaeda forces and Sunni-led militias associated with the former Saddam Hussein regime around the city of Baquba, the capital of Diyala province.
Operation Arrowhead Ripper, which includes attack helicopters and armored fighting vehicles, is an indication that Washington is far from its goal of establishing a stable client regime in Baghdad. It is using military might, however, to push in that direction.
At a press conference three days earlier, Washingtons top general in Iraq, David Petraeus, said major operations against al-Qaeda and other militias would begin now that all of the 30,000 additional U.S. troops have arrived. Washington started dispatching the troops four months ago, mainly to Baghdad and Anbar province.
The military escalation was announced by U.S. president George Bush in January. It was completed after the Democratic-led Congress gave its seal of approval by passing a $100 billion bill to fund the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The latest arrivals bring the total number of U.S. troops in Iraq to about 155,000, according to Petraeus.
Destruction of al-Qaeda is the number one, bottom-line, up-front, in-your-face, task and purpose of the offensive in Baquba said Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek of the 25th Infantry Division. Residents of Baquba said heavy and continual explosions echoed around the city.
Petraeus said this new phase would build on the shaping operations of the past few months. The number of car bombings and sectarian killings has gone down, he said.
But as the new offensive opened, bombs exploded at a Shiite mosque killing at least 75 people and wounding 204. It was the latest in a series of tit-for-tat bombings of Shiite and Sunni mosques following the second bombing of the Shiite al-Askari mosque in Samara, north of Baghdad. Communal killings surged after the first bombing of that mosque a year ago. The war is led by Sunni and Shiite capitalists vying for control of the countrys oil and other resources.
Petraeus also pointed to developments in Anbar and Diyala provinces where local Sunni leaders have turned against al-Qaeda because of its methods. Such methods include executing Sunnis who al-Qaeda accuses of collaborating with occupation forces, and shaking down merchants and other Sunni businessmen to raise funds. The U.S. military has begun to provide arms and funding to Sunni militias that have agreed to fight al-Qaeda and not attack U.S. and Iraqi government troops, reported Agence France- Presse. The U.S. military says al-Qaeda has moved its major operations from Anbar to Diyala in the wake of these shifting alliances.
The day before the Baquba offensive, the U.S. military carried out air strikes in Baghdad.
In southern Iraq intense fighting between Muqtada al-Sadrs Mahdi Army, a Shiite militia, and British and Iraqi government troops continued yesterday for a second day in Nasiriyah. The U.S. military also said British and Iraqi troops killed 20 members of a Shiite militia supported by Iran during fighting in and around Amara, capital of the Maysan province.
Latif al-Timimi, an Amara provincial council member, disputed the Pentagons version of the fighting, saying 16 civilians were killed and 14 wounded. The U.S. military insisted those killed were responsible for smuggling powerful explosives from Iran and taking Iraqi fighters to Iran for training. Washington and its imperialist allies have accused Tehran of supplying such weapons and training to Shiite militias in Iraq.
In northern Iraq, Washington remains concerned that tensions between the Turkish government and the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government, which runs the semiautonomous region, could threaten stability in the most secure part of Iraq.
U.S. and Iraqi officials say that Turkish helicopters continue to enter northern Iraqi airspace in pursuit of guerillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party, a Kurdish group that has fought for decades for sovereignty in Turkey.
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