Combat Operations in Fallujah

A woman gestures toward the wreckage of a car destroyed in a car bomb explosion in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, Iraq, Wednesday, April 29, 2009.
A woman gestures toward the wreckage of a car destroyed in a car bomb explosion in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, Iraq, Wednesday, April 29, 2009.

Indicative of the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq, on May 1 the US military reported the death of a Naval petty officer who was killed “on April 30 while conducting combat operations in Fallujah, Iraq.” The Department of Defense report went on to explain that the sailor “was deployed with an East Coast based Navy SEAL team.” That same day, the military announced the deaths of two marines “killed while conducting combat operations against enemy forces here April 30.” The dateline for the latter press release is “AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq.” Apparently, all is not well in Fallujah and al-Anbar province. The US military, having met the fiercest resistance throughout their occupation of Iraq in these areas, is once again conducting combat operations there.

The fact that the US military has largely hung the Sahwa out to dry, exposing the 100,000 strong Sunni militia to the ire of the Maliki government for ongoing assassinations and detentions, has taken the lid off the volcano that the Sahwa were keeping from erupting. Let us remember – it was the Sahwa who kept al-Qaeda in Iraq in check, not the US military or the Iraqi military. As members of the Sahwa continue to leave their security posts due to lack of pay and being targeted by the Iraqi government, they are returning to the resistance from which most of them had emerged to join the militia.

Let us also be clear about the fact that the Sahwa allied themselves with the US military so as to protect themselves from the Shia-dominated sectarian government of Prime Minister Maliki.

I asked a good friend of mine in Baghdad to interview a Sahwa leader in the Adhamiya district of Baghdad a few days ago. The leader asked to be identified as Abu Ahmed. He is 40 years old, married, has four children, and had this to say, “I would like to say that the Iraqi Government, and especially Mr. Maliki, are continuing to target us. They have been doing this from the beginning, and they continue to do this against the Sahwa. The reason is because we are Sunni and the Iraqi government are a sectarian government.”

Abu Ahmed said he and his fellow Sahwa members support the immediate withdrawal of all occupation forces “and then we can change our government by ourselves and build a nationalist government to replace this current sectarian government.”

He then added, succinctly, “Our purpose is to end the occupation, end al-Qaeda, and make a new Iraq that is safe.”

Fate, as if to underscore his point, found rivers of blood filling the streets of Baghdad the very next day. Simultaneous bombings in largely Shiite districts of the capital city killed more than 51 people. After the bombings, residents of the areas threw shoes and stones at Iraqi soldiers who arrived at the scene, blaming the soldiers for failing to protect them. A resident, in the aftermath of the bombings, expressed his rage to a reporter while Iraqi soldiers continued shooting at innocent people, “Is that what we deserve, on top of the bombs, that they shoot at people? Is this Maliki’s government? Instead of helping us evacuate the wounded, they started shooting at us. This is Maliki’s government. Can you hear the shooting? They’re shooting at people. People are lying underneath cars.”

At the end of the day, over 70 Iraqis had died, with at least 116 wounded. Underscoring the sectarian nature of the government, Baghdad security spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta told reporters, “This series of bombings was supposed to be carried out on the 28th, the birthday of Saddam Hussein,” referencing the former dictator executed in December 2006.

Meanwhile, that same day, roadside bombs targeted US patrols in two areas of Baghdad.

My Iraqi journalist friend in Baghdad, who interviewed Abu Ahmed, commented on the aftermath of the bombings that day, “The Iraqi situation is getting so much worse Mr. Dahr. So many car bombs explode in Baghdad now – it is daily. All the streets are closed today so the police and army can search every car, checking everything, and we can’t move or work in this situation at all. And yet, the bombings continue nonstop.”

As the calendar turned to May, April was the deadliest month since September for US troops, with at least 18 dead, doubling the previous month’s total. April also found the most troops killed in combat in a month so far this year. April was also the deadliest month for Iraqis in over a year.

In a move strengthening US/Iraqi relations, Brig. Gen. Peter Bayer, the chief of staff for the US military’s daily operations in Iraq, said that a US military raid in Kut that killed a man and woman, which had ignited tempers across the country and caused Prime Minister Maliki to demand the responsible soldiers to be handed over to Iraqi authorities, told reporters the raid was “lawful and legal,” and responded to the question of whether American soldiers would appear in Iraqi courts with, “No. Absolutely not.”

So much for Iraqi sovereignty.

On May 2, two more soldiers were killed in the northern city of Mosul, while US forces were attacked with roadside bombs in both Basra and Fallujah. Clearly, resistance against the occupation is once again nationwide, spanning from Iraq’s northernmost and southernmost cities. Now that the British are pulling out of their area of control in Southern Iraq, US troops are filling the void – hence, the attack in Basra. Expect these to increase rapidly, particularly in light of events such as the Kut raid.

The signs of Iraqi government attacks against Sahwa members show no sign of abating either, as that day gunmen attacked a Sahwa checkpoint in Yusufiya, injuring a Sahwa fighter. Meanwhile, Iran was shelling northern Iraq – lobbing artillery shells into suspected Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) locations there. The PJAK are supported by the US, as they have been conducting covert destabilization operations in Iran for months now. The northwestern area of Iraq that borders Turkey was not without violence either. There, Turkish forces launched an airstrike just hours after ten Turkish soldiers were killed in what was believed to be a Kurdish rebel strike in Turkey. Turkish airstrikes in northern Iraq are, however, nothing new. They’ve been a weekly or bi-monthly occurrence for several months running now.

The meat grinder that is the US occupation of Iraq is picking up speed once again. Attacks against both Iraqi civilians and US soldiers are increasing dramatically. At the time of this writing, five soldiers have been killed in the last four days, over a dozen innocent Iraqis have been slaughtered, and over a dozen have been wounded. Iraqi government attacks on the Sahwa continue, al-Qaeda is now operating largely at will, and attacks on US forces are now happening all over Iraq – including in Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Iraq.

Combat operations in Fallujah. A recent UN report documenting ongoing US torturing of Iraqis in military detention facilities in Iraq. Roadside bomb attacks against US forces spanning the entire geography of the country. Iraqis being slaughtered in numbers not seen since George W. Bush still had eight months left in his second term.

What has changed in Iraq?