IRAQ: US escalates assault on Ramadi


Doug Lorimer

"Fears of an imminent offensive by the US troops massed around the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi intensified Saturday, with residents pouring out of the city to escape what they describe as a mounting humanitarian crisis", the June 11 Los Angeles Times reported.

US troops had "cordoned off" the city of 400,000, located 110 kilometres west of Baghdad, by June 10, residents and Iraqi officials told the LA Times. US air strikes on residential areas were escalating, and US troops took to the streets on June 10 with loudspeakers to warn civilians of a fierce impending attack, Ramadi police Captain Tahseen Dulaimi said.

"US military officials refused to confirm or deny reports that a Ramadi offensive was underway", the LA Times reported.

"The situation is catastrophic", said Sheik Fassal Gaood, the former governor of Anbar province, whose capital is Ramadi. Correspondents in Ramadi for Islam Memo, a Saudi Arabia-based Islamist website, reported on June 6 that the US military had cut off all electricity to the city as well as drinking water, and had closed all the petrol stations.

"Residents have been particularly unnerved by the recent arrival of 1500 US troops sent to reinforce the US troops already stationed in the city", the LA Times reported, adding: "Street battles between [US] troops and insurgents have been raging for months, but the troops' deployment left residents bracing for a mass offensive to take the town back from insurgents.

"The fearful city is haunted by memories of the battles that raged in nearby Fallujah in 2004. Determined to purge that city of insurgents, US Marine and Army units lined up to the north and pushed south through to the heart of Fallujah ... By the time the sweep was over, the town was largely destroyed."

The Iraqi NGO Monitoring Net of Human Rights in Iraq (MHRI) estimates that 4000-6000 Iraqi civilians were killed during the November 2004 US assault on Fallujah.

Islam Memo reported on June 9 that giant loudspeakers, set up by the US military in the centre of Ramadi, had announced: "To all armed men, your emir has died, and there is no need anymore for you to fight. Therefore, drop your weapons and surrender to the American and Iraqi forces and we promise that we shall not harm you." The announcement was met by repeated volleys of mortars and rocket-propelled grenades from Iraqi resistance fighters.

The "emir" being referred to is presumably Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of the Tawhid wal Jihad group, often referred to as "al Qaeda in Iraq". Zarqawi was killed by the US occupation forces in an attack on his headquarters in the village of Hibhib, 60 kilometres north of Baghdad, on June 7.

Over the last two years the US military has waged a major propaganda campaign both within Iraq and internationally to portray the Jordanian-born Zarqawi as the leader of the Iraqi insurgency.

The April 10 Washington Post reported that the "US military is conducting a propaganda campaign to magnify the role of the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, according to internal military documents and officers familiar with the program. The effort has raised his profile in a way that some military intelligence officials believe may have overstated his importance and helped the Bush administration tie the war to the organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks."

In an article published in the June 8 New York Daily News, former White House counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke pointed out that Zarqawi "had several hundred insurgents, almost all foreigners — whereas US military estimates of the insurgency range between 20,000 and 40,000, almost all Iraqis".

Clarke explained: "There are more than a dozen Iraqi insurgent groups, all larger than Zarqawi's band. Yet Zarqawi was the only name of an insurgent leader ever mentioned by President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. For obvious reasons, Zarqawi's own publicity machine played along ...

"Zarqawi eluded capture for more than three years, and his ability to survive for that long, while launching many successful attacks, demonstrates the lack of Iraqi popular support for the [US-led] coalition. That lack of support was underlined by a Pentagon document released this week showing that only 26% of Iraqis recently polled indicated that they were better off now than they were under Saddam Hussein."

The June 12 New York Times reported that in a recent analysis of the Iraqi resistance, Nawaf Obaid, a security consultant to the Saudi Arabian government, wrote that of "the approximately 77,000 active members of the insurgency, around 60,000 (roughly 78%), are former members of the military, the Baath party, and the Fedayeen". The Fedayeen was a Baathist paramilitary organisation.

From Green Left Weekly, June 21 2006.
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