DAY TWENTY-ONE - UPDATE
Liberation or Occupation ?
LATEST The main Iraqi Shi'ite opposition group said on Wednesday it would boycott a political meeting the United States is trying to arrange in southern Iraq next week because of the U.S. military presence. "We are not going to take part in this meeting in Nassiriya. We think this is part of General Garner's rule of Iraq and we are not going to be part of that project at all," said Hamid al-Bayati, the London representative of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).
Stage One Ends Leaving Trail of Enigmas :While sharing the joy of the people of Baghdad in their newfound freedom, official US spokesmen have rightly pointed out that the war is not over. Saddam’s statue may have been toppled but several hundred revelers in the streets of Baghdad do not mark the end of the fighting or even the complete stamping out of the regime in the country.
Stage One has been completed with great success, but at least two more stages lie ahead before the coalition’s military mission is accomplished:
A Iraqi forces still remain to be subdued in these areas: the south, centering on the Faw Peninsula and around al Amarna; the center, in the Iron Triangle formed by Tikrit, Al Ramadi and Samarra; the north, in the oil regions and cities of Mosul and Kirkuk; and the west, in the strategic Iraqi-Syria border region of Al Qaim. In other words, half of Iraq – like half of Baghdad – is still in Iraqi hands. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer stressed that even finding the elusive Saddam Hussein would not end the war; his regime must be rooted out in every corner of the country.
B. An interim US-Iraqi administration must be installed without delay to activate the country’s infrastructure and impose civic order. The twilight phase between the Saddam regime and the new order is a dangerous and confusing period that plays enigmatic tricks with the facts of the situation. Half-truths and riddles are already creeping in:
1. Iraqi forces began putting up resistance to the US Marines 1st Expeditionary Force attacking the Diyala River bridges early Wednesday, April 9. Suddenly at around 11 am, the Iraqi fighters vanished as one man. Clearly, someone had ordered them to give way without blowing up the bridges, a repetition of what has happened more than once since the war began. The Marines were thus able to go forward unopposed until they reached Baghdad’s town center.
2. The Diyala River defenders were not the only Iraqi fighters to become invisible. Where is the Iraqi army’s 25th Division? Where are all Saddam’s ministers, his generals? How come that, after 21 days of warfare, the coalition has not exhibited a single Iraqi army commander taken captive?
3. Why has not a single senior officer in charge of weapons of mass destruction been caught – or come over? Why has no large-scale frontal battle been fought?
4. Why did the American commanders refrain from placing Baghdad under curfew Wednesday night? – both to stop the looting and prevent the bloody settling of scores widely expected in the days to come between victims and their oppressors, members of the defeated regime and its opponents, Shiites and Sunnis, or even criminal gangs exploiting the in-between days of havoc for to occupy turf. (Saddam opened up the prisons four months before the war and put several thousand convicts in uniform.)
5. Why did American forces fire on the Russian embassy convoy leaving Baghdad for Moscow by way of Damascus on Sunday, April 6? According to DEBKAfile’s sources, the convoy led by Ambassador Vladimir Titorenko was deliberately attacked. Yet Wednesday, April 9, the ambassador was back at his post in Baghdad, in time to witness the way Baghdad citizens welcomed US Marines. Suddenly the Kremlin’s evacuation order was rescinded. His rapid return could only have been accomplished by a special flight. The question is what – or who - was the Russian convoy conveying under diplomatic cover out of Baghdad that was important enough for an ambassadorial escort all the way to Moscow? As soon as the “package” was delivered, Titorenko turned round and returned.
6. Why did the CIA pick up Saddam Hussein’s family dentist with his records Wednesday night in Baghdad? Which living or dead member of the ruling family did they want to identify? The agency is going to great lengths to prove the Iraqi dictator was present in the building in the al Mansour district of Baghdad that was bombed Monday in the belief that it concealed a command bunker. The rumor mill is working overtime on Saddam’s fate, speculation ranging from his death or injury in Monday’s raid to him being hidden in the Russian embassy, in Syria or in Russia. The pressure is building up on the CIA to prevent Saddam and his sons from performing a vanishing act on the same lines as Osama bin Laden.