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Daily Column
US Papers Mon: "Surge" Misses its Benchmarks
Democrats Debate Iraq; Meet the Interrogators; Sweden or Bust
By GREG HOADLEY 06/04/2007 01:57 AM ET

June opened for US forces in Iraq in a furiously bloody way, as at least 15 US soldiers were killed in the first three days of the month.

The Times prints the day's must-read with a scooped three-month official assessment of the "surge" that concludes that the security plan has not proceeded as planned.

Meanwhile, the crowded Democratic field debated Iraq policy yesterday, and the Monitor profiles a young Iraqi who traveled across Europe to Sweden -- in a pitch-dark shipping container.

14 US soldiers were announced killed yesterday, 13 from IEDs, bringing the total for the first three days of June to 15, Richard Oppel Jr. and Khalid Hassan report in the Times. If US soldiers continue to be killed at that rate throughout the month, June would outpace May’s totals. 31 bodies were recovered in the capital. A Christian priest was assassinated in Mosul, and a director of the Iraqi Central Bank was shot dead along with his brother in Baghdad’s 'Amil district. The Times reports several attacks in Diyala Province, including a suicide car bomb that killed nine, and a bus shooting at a fake checkpoint that killed three. Nine bodies were recovered in Ba'quba, in handcuffs and bearing gunshot wounds. Also in Diyala, US forces at Forward Operating Base Warhorse, near Ba'quba, survived a chemical attack, which a Los Angeles Times reporter said released a cloud of chlorine 200 yards from the base. Soldiers complained of respiratory irritation but there were no casualties reported. US forces reported killing four and arresting six who were setting up rockets to attack the Green Zone, strafing the men with helicopter-mounted guns before ground forces moved in to arrest the remainder. The US arrested 10 Mahdi Army fighters in Numaniya, near Kut, where two corpses were also recovered showing signs of torture. Fighting erupted between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi police in Diwaniya, leaving three dead.

US forces provided air cover for Iraqi forces in the yesterday’s Diwaniya fighting, Joshua Partlow writes in his report in the Post, which he also leads with the US recently announced deaths of over a dozen US soldiers. A Sadrist spokesperson in Diwaniya said that Iraqi forces had violated a truce by attempting to arrest a senior Mahdi Army leader, Kifah al-Kuraiti, without a warrant. Al-Kuriati was wounded in the raid, the Sadrist spokesman, Haider Nateq, said. According to a US military statement, Iraqi special forces exchanged gunfire in Baghdad with “insurgents” in an attempt to arrest a militia leader wanted for kidnapping and IED activity. The US statement gave no further details on the identity of the suspect, the militia group, or the location of the raid. In Falluja, US forces said they killed at least seven members of al-Qa'ida in Iraq on Saturday, arresting eight more, and breaking up a bomb-making workshop.

USAT’s César G. Soriano also leads his Iraq news roundup with US casualties, making June’s total at 16. "They keep changing their tactics," he said. "For a while, they were using cellphone trigger mechanisms. They (pushed) it until we had good solutions. The enemy is adaptive," said US Spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Sunday that Iraqi forces would not be capable of operating without US support until the end of 2008. Soriano reports that Saleh al-Mutlak, leader of the 11-seat National Dialogue Front has called upon “moderates” to withdraw from the Iraqi Parliament, saying "The situation in Iraq is unbearable, the government is incompetent and parliament is just a cover for a political process imposed on us." Mutlak has made such statements before. Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish region, said that Turkey launched shells into northern Iraq, in an attack on “Kurdish rebels.”

The escalation and redeployment of US forces, better known by its slick euphemism “surge,” has not met its targets at the three-month mark, according to an assessment completed by the US military last month. David Cloud and Damien Cave submit the day’s most important read, based on the one-page document obtained by the Times. US commanders have divided Baghdad into 457 neighborhoods, and the report concludes that US and Iraqi forces control only 146 of the areas, while in the remaining 311 zones, operations have not begun, or US and Iraqi forces still face “resistance.” The original plan held that Baghdad would be subdued by July, when the focus of operations was to switch to reconstruction, but now this goal has been pushed back to September. Senior officers point out that violence is unabated in mixed regions in western Baghdad, among other areas. American commanders cited the infiltration of the Iraqi security forces by sectarian militiamen as an impediment to locking down parts of the city, as well as absentee rates among Iraqi forces. US troops will number 30,000 in the capital by the time the last extra battalion deploys, and Iraqi forces in the capital number at approximately 52,000 between the various branches. Cloud and Cave turn to Baghdad’s al-Rashid district, which includes such notorious areas as al-'Amil, Bayya’, Al-Jihad, and al-Furat. Sectarian violence in al-Rashid has worsened. After a major clearing operation involving over 2,000 soldiers last month, the area has been re-infiltrated, US commanders say, and violence and ethnic cleansing spiral in the area. Worth a full read.

Candidates’ debate

In New Hampshire, the second Democratic debate opened yesterday with a lengthy discussion of Iraq, Patrick Healy writes in the Times, during which several of the eight candidates traded their most pointed barbs over the war. Ex-Sen. John Edwards attacked Sens. Clinton and Obama directly for not showing more “leadership” against the war in recent Senate debate. Obama especially responded by bringing up Edwards’ 2002 advocacy the threat of force against Iraq. Clinton copped an above-the-fray pose, saying that the differences among Dems were less stark than the those between the two parties, to which, Edwards replied that the differences in the Democratic field were important.

In the Post, Dan Balz and Anne Kornblut report that Sens. Clinton and Edwards both said they had been fully informed of all the issues before their 2002 Senate votes in favor of authorizing force -- sidestepping the question of not having read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. Edwards needled Clinton for not calling her vote a mistake, as he has done. GOP candidates will debate in New Hampshire tonight.

Covering the event for the Journal, Jackie Calmes and Christopher Cooper write that the rhubarb among the Democratic candidates “belied the unity of the party's opposition to the Bush administration.”

In other coverage:


Laura Blumenfeld profiles three interrogators, an American who admits torturing Iraqis, an Israeli who admits torturing Palestinians, and a Briton who interrogated Irish Republicans. The three describe their methods, and Blumenfeld detects some psychological scars on the part of the American and the Israeli. Not so the Brit.

Michael Fletcher recaps a few Iraq policy developments, including the debate over the “South Korea” analogy, the decision to send Meghan O’Sullivan back to Iraq, and the upcoming confirmation hearings for nominated “war czar” Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute.


From Stockholm, Karin Rives recounts the story of Hesha Nari Saleh, a 17-year-old Kurd from Mosul whose mother paid $15,000 to have smuggled from Iraq to Sweden. Hesha made the journey across Europe in a sealed shipping container. Sweden has become a destination country for Iraqi refugees, Rives writes. Last years flow of 9,000 Iraqi refugees was three times as many as in 2005. The country is “the top destination outside the Middle East for those escaping the violence in Iraq,” Rives writes. Sweden has seen a sharp rise in the influx of unaccompanied Iraqi minors, however, causing Swedish officials to scramble to keep up. Sweden provides “free housing, classes in Swedish, healthcare services, a $400 startup check, and a daily cash stipend of about $10 to those who settle here. The provisions for unaccompanied child refugees are even more extensive. They start with the state providing adult supervision and temporary guardians and, often, help with managing their own money for the first time.” The country also makes sure the refugees finish high school. New underage arrivals are housed in temporary shelters, for an average of five months (up from four in 2005), before settling them with foster families. The Stockholm shelter that Hesha has lived in for months was meant to be overnight accommodation for new arrivals. Swedish officials say that the youth often suffer psychologically, from the trauma of the past to the pressures of the present. Hesha dreams of learning Swedish, becoming a doctor, and relocating his family to Sweden, out of harm’s way in Mosul, Rives writes. See an earlier NYT story on Sweden’s unlikely status as a destination for Iraqi refugees.


From “surge” to “squirt” to “oil-spots,” liquid metaphors are prevalent in official Iraqspeak, Lionel Beehner remarks in a contributed op-ed. “By couching the conflict in language befitting a cookbook instead of a war manual, U.S. military officials are trying to make our efforts in Iraq come off as palatable for the American public, at the risk of oversimplifying. The use of metaphor, in this instance, is just a slick way of dressing up a complicated operation while admitting not only that the enemy is slippery, or liquid-like, but so is one's strategy to defeat it,” he writes. Such language is dangerous, the Council on Foreign Relations staff writer warns: “The military should tell it like it is, not dress up the war in cutesy language.”


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