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Lack of Details Given By Officials Facilitates Public Misunderstanding
By DANIEL W. SMITH 07/01/2009 12:39 PM ET
As GIs Become Scarcer in Iraq's Cities, the Nation's Own Security is Out in Full Force
Photo: Daniel W. Smith
As GIs Become Scarcer in Iraq's Cities, the Nation's Own Security is Out in Full Force

BAGHDAD - As celebrations are thrown and omnipresent Iraqi security vehicles are decorated with chains of colorful plastic flowers, much the Iraqi public is being given a false impression. The government, individual politicians, and much of the media is telling them that the days of seeing American military convoys in the streets of their cities is over. It is being said, again and again, that all US forces are completely vacating Iraq’s cities.

More than 130,000 troops still remain in Iraq, and thousands remain in Baghdad alone. The numbers within the cities has certainly decreased in past months, but it is the nature of their activities which is the real change afoot, as well as a geographical shift to “belts” around the cities, and to large bases in rural districts across the country. They are now referred to as a stabilizing force, acting in a supportive roll, or called “advisers”, rather than “combat troops”.

Television stations, newspapers, and web sites in Iraq are often perpetuating the idea that US patrols will no longer be occurring at all, or only if requested by the government of Iraq. On Tuesday night, lawmaker Abbas al-Bayati was shown on Al-Sumaria channel, saying definitively that US military vehicles, “Will only be allowed between midnight and 5:00 AM,” in the cities, and that they “must always" be accompanied by Iraqi security forces.

The feeling among many Iraqi officers seems to be that GIs will be waiting on the borders for any and all requests for help and support, to jump in and do whatever is asked of them. American officers tell a very different story. Person after person on the street, when asked whether they expected to see US convoys at all in Baghdad, said “No.” Several members of the Army and the National Police said the same.

At Baghdad’s Camp Victory on Tuesday, while celebrations were going on elsewhere in the city, Gen. Ray Odierno spoke at a press conference to Western media organizations. He said, “We will not conduct unilateral raids. We will not conduct unilateral operations. They will all be joint in nature, both inside and outside of the cities. We’ve been doing that now for months. Will there be re-supply convoys? Yes. In most cases, we’d like them to be escorted by Iraqis - and in most cases, I think they will – but they don’t have to be.”

He was clear about the fact that US soldiers were permitted to “defend themselves”, though exactly what that means is not clear. For example, if attacked, will they be able to pursue attackers into neighborhoods and houses, or just fire back and withdraw? Aside from re-supply convoys, there is also the issue of US convoys providing security for US personnel, such as reconstruction teams.

In the past few weeks, US military spokesmen have flatly refused to give any numbers of how many GIs will remain in the cities, or even how many bases will remain in Iraq.

In a press briefing last Wednesday, Brig. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza said that, “Over 150 US bases have been closed down in Iraq,” but when asked how many were to remain, he refused to answer, saying “Numbers aren’t important,” (after which, he mentioned the 150 which had been closed two more times). Requests by Iraqslogger for the number of remaining functional US bases in Iraq were declined by military press officers via e-mail.

Just nine days prior, on June 15, Gen. Odierno said, “We had approximately 460 bases (in September of last year); we are now down to about 320.”

Sometime during those nine days, a decision was apparently made to stop giving all numbers out, in preparation for the media coverage of the transition. Since then, the media have had to fight harder than usual to get enough of a grasp at what is happening to report on it clearly. The lack of clear information has made inaccurate characterization of the rules governing US forces very easy.

A common experience when interviewing an Iraqi politician is that the mantra of “They will withdraw from all the cities,” is repeated. Whenever specifics are asked, such as “How many troops will remain?” or “What about the Green Zone?”, the initial statement is often just repeated word-for-word. The MNF-I press desk responded to e-mailed questions about US soldiers remaining in the Green Zone only with, “Troops in the IZ are advisers.”

Notably, state-run channel Al-Iraqiya has been less specific about the actual rules and regulations than other stations who report that the cities will be empty of GIs (presumably because they know it isn't true), but has given the same general impression in as bombastic a style as possible. Footage of American humvees sandwiched in between proud Iraqi escort vehicles can be seen, and there is a feeling that GIs are being chased out with their tails between their legs.

Much of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s popularity and political clout hinges strongly upon his reputation for improving security. As national elections approach, he is now cultivating a persona of a strong nationalist who is throwing the Americans out of Iraq’s cities.

After the celebrations have wound down and the plastic flowers have added to the roadside garbage, one wonders how Iraqis will react to seeing “full spectrum” operations (including unilateral combat missions) continue outside city borders, and to seeing American Humvees and MRAPs drive through their neighborhoods.

Comments on are welcome at dwsmithemail@yahoo.com

A US Patrol Drives Past a Small Baghdad Shop
Photo: Daniel W. Smith
A US Patrol Drives Past a Small Baghdad Shop

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Doctor in Anbar Province Was Married to Provincial Council Member
06/29/2009 9:39 PM ET
A “sticky bomb” in Anbar Province has killed a doctor and prominent local leader in the Iraqi Islamic Party in the province, according to a report in Arabic on an Iraqi news website.

INA news writes that the device killed Dr. Khamis Matar al-Dulaimi outside his house, citing its local sources.

INA adds that the victim was a surgeon in Ramadi General Hospital, and leader in the Anbar Province branch of the Iraqi Islamic Party was killed in an explosion of an adhesive device that had been attached to his vehicle as he left his house in the city center headed for work at the hospital. Dulaimi was married to a member of the Anbar Provincial Council, Dr. Fatima al-Rawi, INA adds.

The blast also reportedly injured one of the doctor’s family members who transferred to the hospital for treatment.

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Qadisiya Province Home to Camp Echo
06/29/2009 8:20 PM ET
As American combat forces prepare to draw back from Iraq's urban centers under the terms of the US-Iraqi security agreement, the governor of Iraq’s al-Qadisiya province has announced that security forces in the southern governorate are ready to take the security file from the American forces.

Governor Salim Husayn Alwan announced that security forces in the southern province where violence has flared occasionally are “completely prepared” to take the security responsibility for the province after the withdrawal of American troops, al-Malaf Press writes in Arabic.

Speaking in a press conference that he convened in the provincial administration building in Diwaniya, the governorate capital, the governor added that he had taken several field tours of security installations in the province to observe preparations for the transfer of security responsibility.

The governor confirmed that under the US-Iraqi security agreement, Camp Echo in the province will be vacated by foreign combat forces and will be host to US reconstruction teams working in the province.

Security and intelligence measures are in place to contend with any attempts to interfere with the security handover, the governor added.

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NNN: Dhi Qar Authorities Will Apologize for Legal Action over Report
06/26/2009 09:04 AM ET

The head of the Dhi Qar provincial branch of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate has told NNN that local authorities have pledged to work to drop charges brought against the local online news agency and to present an official apology to NNN for the legal action.

On its website, Nasiriya News Net writes in Arabic that Kadhim al-'Ubaydi spoke with the agency on Friday, telling NNN that he and other members of the local journalists’ union met with the director of Nasiriya municipal services, Hasan Da'doush, who confirmed that the local administration “holds journalists in high esteem and respect, especially Nasiriya News Net and those working for it.”

The local official reportedly told al-'Ubaydi that the legal charges, brought recently against NNN after it published citizens’ negative views of the quality of municipal services, were not linked to the municipal administration but were instead brought at the behest of some local officials working in a personal and private capacity, adding that the charges will be withdrawn and an apology presented to the Internet news outlet and the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate.

The charges drew the condemnation of local media activists as well as national media watchdog organizations, as Slogger reported earlier.

Al-'Ubaydi added that he had met with one of the local civil engineering officials who were involved in instigated the charges against NNN. That official Sharif Mutshar, reportedly told the Dhi Qar press syndicate leader that he planned to travel to the local court on Sunday to withdraw the legal charges.

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JFO: Nasiriya News Net Faces Fines for Reporting on Poor Services
06/25/2009 7:36 PM ET
An Iraqi news website based in the southern city of Nasiriya is facing legal charges and a fine of 2 million Iraqi dinars after it published a report featuring citizens criticizing the quality of local services, an Iraqi media watchdog writes in Arabic.

In a statement released today, the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) condemns the legal charges that it says were brought by the municipality of Nasiriya against the website Nasiriya News Net (NNN), after it published a story on its website citing local residents who complained over the lack of municipal services in the city.

The NNN site administrators told JFO that engineers in Nasiriya municipality brought legal complaints before a court in the city demanding that NNN pay two million Iraqi dinars (about 2,000 US dollars) after publishing citizens’ complaints over the condition of public services, the Iraqi press freedom advocacy group writes.

NNN administration told JFO that the network received an official letter from the court informing it of the charges and fines.

Nasiriya News Net is an Iraqi news website founded in 2003 based in the city of Nasiriya, the capital of Dhi Qar province.

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