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Foreign fighters in unstable Fallujah
UPI ^ | 5/3/04 | Mitchell Prothero

Posted on 05/04/2004 6:32:29 AM PDT by Valin

FALLUJAH, Iraq, May 3 (UPI) -- While U.S. Marine commanders are hopeful that patrols of local fighters will bring peace to Fallujah, -- a city wracked by anti-coalition activity since the arrival of U.S. forces a year ago -- a situation of even greater concern appears to be lurking; an entire neighborhood seems to be completely under the control of foreign Islamic fighters, mostly from Syria.

An Iraqi employee of United Press International entered Fallujah on Saturday with a source who serves as a mid-level official in the Army of Mohammed, the umbrella group of Iraqi resistance opposing the U.S. occupation. The source had agreed to help arrange a tour of the city and interviews with civilians and resistance fighters by a UPI reporter for the following day.

They entered the city using a route that passed a new Fallujah Protective Army checkpoint, which waved them into the center of the city without even a cursory search. After the local guide liaised with Iraqi fighters in Fallujah, the pair was given permission to travel to the city and was supplied with three armed guards from the Army of Mohammed while they attempted to identify damaged parts of the city and arrange interviews. Upon their arrival in the Golan neighborhood in the northern portion of the city, where much of the fighting has taken place, a group of fighters speaking with Syrian accents approached and ordered the resistance fighters to leave and took the two men into custody.

"First, a guy came up to me speaking like a Syrian and told me to put out my cigarette," the UPI employee, Osama Mansour said." When our guards told him that we were with them, he told them to leave and go back to their base. And they did. Then his men searched our car and found business cards and a picture of (Shiite Cleric Moqtada) Sadr."

"I knew right they must be (fundamentalists) because of how they acted when they thought I was Shiite," Osama said. "And they broke the (music) cassettes they found in the car and put me in handcuffs, claiming that I was a Kufr (non-believer) and a spy."

While Osama was handcuffed and locked in a closet, the guide he was working with was taken to another room, and both were then subject to semi-professional interrogation.

"They would ask me questions and then take them to (the guide) and come back and question me on parts of my story," he said.

"They found the (business) cards (of the UPI reporter) and asked me why I worked for Kufr. When I said that we just wanted to interview them to tell the truth, he told me to shut up," Osama said. "They called their leader, who interviewed me, and they all spoke with Syrian accents. They were not Iraqi."

"After they found the picture of Sadr and a letter from Sadr's office giving us permission to travel in the south, they asked me if I was Shiite or Sunni. I told them 'Hey I'm a Muslim, there is no Shiite and Sunni.' They respected that but told me that the Shiite were worse than Kufr, who just don't believe. They said the Shiite disagreed with (the Prophet Mohammed) and should all be killed."

Osama said at least 10 Syrians were in the compound he was held in and estimates that far more were hidden in various fortifications around the area.

But after three hours of questioning and searches, the men returned all of the equipment taken from the car and drove the two men out of the neighborhood.

"If your name wasn't Osama, we would have killed you," said one of the fighters as they left, making an obvious reference to al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Meanwhile, U.S. military officials named a former general with anti-Baathist credentials to head a newly formed Iraqi military unit intended to help pacify the restive Sunni city of Fallujah after an outcry against the pro-Saddam Hussein background of the first choice.

While it's not clear if U.S. officials even offered the job of heading the newly formed Fallujah Protective Army to Gen. Jasim Mohamed Saleh -- who once headed Republican Guard units and served as governor of the local province -- the original plan appears to have put Saleh in charge.

But after questions arose about his long history as a key player in the former regime, U.S. officials quickly disputed that the job had been offered and named Gen. Mohammed Latif to head the FPA, while speculating that Saleh would have a role in the unit.

And the top officer for the U.S. Marines in the area used a weekend press conference to dispute reports that the Marines would withdraw from Fallujah and turn local security over to the new unit. The initial reports to that effect came from embedded reporters and eyewitness accounts of Marines pulling back from their positions in Fallujah and turning over several checkpoints to the FPA.

"We have chosen not to commingle U.S. and Iraqi units, and that has prompted some realignment of Marine forces," Lt. Gen. James Conway, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said Saturday. "In fact, we have assigned the Iraqi battalion to our least-engaged sector until they can get their feet on deck, absorb the weapons and equipment we are passing their way, and prepare for the next phase of the operation."

Conway said the decision to incorporate local fighters -- some of whom undoubtedly had recently been fighting the U.S. forces -- stemmed from a need to co-opt Iraqis frustrated by the occupation from the most committed anti-coalition fighters.

"It got at what was essentially at that point our operational objective, which was to separate out the hard-core insurgents and freedom fighters from the other citizens of the city that may well have taken up weapons against us, based upon the fact that they thought they were defending their city, based upon the call of the imams and those types of things," Conway said.

Copyright © 2001-2004 United Press International


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: fallujah; fedayeen; iraq; islam; islamofascists; marines; southwestasia; syria

1 posted on 05/04/2004 6:32:30 AM PDT by Valin
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To: Valin
Belmont Club
http://belmontclub.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Behind Enemy Lines
This report from Mitchell Prothero describes what an Iraqi UPI reporter saw in the 'Golan'. Hat tip: Reader WG

While U.S. Marine commanders are hopeful that patrols of local fighters will bring peace to Fallujah, -- a city wracked by anti-coalition activity since the arrival of U.S. forces a year ago -- a situation of even greater concern appears to be lurking; an entire neighborhood seems to be completely under the control of foreign Islamic fighters, mostly from Syria.

An Iraqi employee of United Press International entered Fallujah on Saturday with a source who serves as a mid-level official in the Army of Mohammed, the umbrella group of Iraqi resistance opposing the U.S. occupation. The source had agreed to help arrange a tour of the city and interviews with civilians and resistance fighters by a UPI reporter for the following day.

They entered the city using a route that passed a new Fallujah Protective Army checkpoint, which waved them into the center of the city without even a cursory search. After the local guide liaised with Iraqi fighters in Fallujah, the pair was given permission to travel to the city and was supplied with three armed guards from the Army of Mohammed while they attempted to identify damaged parts of the city and arrange interviews. Upon their arrival in the Golan neighborhood in the northern portion of the city, where much of the fighting has taken place, a group of fighters speaking with Syrian accents approached and ordered the resistance fighters to leave and took the two men into custody. ...

Osama (the UPI reporter) said at least 10 Syrians were in the compound he was held in and estimates that far more were hidden in various fortifications around the area.

This report strongly suggests that 1) a large pocket of the enemy is still inside or contained in Fallujah; 2) this pocket may be called the 'Golan' and is in the nothern section of the city; 3) there may be large numbers of Syrian fighters in the 'Golan'. It is implies that the Fallujah brigade is not very careful in discharging its duties or is complicit to some degree with the enemy. The report continues:

And the top officer for the U.S. Marines in the area used a weekend press conference to dispute reports that the Marines would withdraw from Fallujah and turn local security over to the new unit. The initial reports to that effect came from embedded reporters and eyewitness accounts of Marines pulling back from their positions in Fallujah and turning over several checkpoints to the FPA.

"We have chosen not to commingle U.S. and Iraqi units, and that has prompted some realignment of Marine forces," Lt. Gen. James Conway, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, said Saturday. "In fact, we have assigned the Iraqi battalion to our least-engaged sector until they can get their feet on deck, absorb the weapons and equipment we are passing their way, and prepare for the next phase of the operation."

This is a categorical denial that the USMC has left Fallujah. General Conway's claim to have turned over "several checkpoints" to the Fallujah Brigade is consistent with the UPI reporters firsthand observation. Conway's assertion that the USMC is still in the city receives implicit support from the fact that the Syrian fighters were still "hidden in fortifications around the area" -- i.e. the 'Golan', something they would not do unless the USMC were present, seeing as they would have little to fear from the Fallujah Brigade in its present condition. The last part of the UPI report is interesting:

Conway said the decision to incorporate local fighters -- some of whom undoubtedly had recently been fighting the U.S. forces -- stemmed from a need to co-opt Iraqis frustrated by the occupation from the most committed anti-coalition fighters.

"It got at what was essentially at that point our operational objective, which was to separate out the hard-core insurgents and freedom fighters from the other citizens of the city that may well have taken up weapons against us, based upon the fact that they thought they were defending their city, based upon the call of the imams and those types of things," Conway said.

Taken at its face value, Conway's statement implies that the USMC appreciates that the enemy consists of an alliance -- something also corroborated by the UPI reporter, who speaks of the "Army of Mohammed", described an "umbrella group" -- and that the explicit goal of the Marines is to drive a wedge between the hard-core and peripheral elements. In General Conway's words: "to separate out the hard-core insurgents and freedom fighters from the other citizens of the city that may well have taken up weapons against us, based upon the fact that they thought they were defending their city".

To recapitulate, the main points are:

the enemy is probably still in the city
the enemy may consist, in part, of Syrian fighters
the USMC is probably still bottling them up otherwise how to account for the enemy containment, and is therefore present in the city, contrary to press reports
the USMC is attempting to drive a wedge, as per General Conway, between the hard core and the peripheral enemy elements


Comments
Although this information is too limited to make wide-ranging predictions, we may use it to adjust a posteriori our degree of belief in the following propositions.

the USMC has 'capitulated' to the enemy, turned tail and run. I think this proposition, driven by recent press reports, is less likely based on the UPI reporter's observations.
the US command is clueless as to how to respond to the current crisis. The Marines may be wrong in their appreciation of the enemy, but they are clearly working on the basis of a plan. Whether it will succeed or not remains to be seen.
an assault on the 'Golan' is imminent. I this likelihood is diminished by the new information. The enemy is dug in and commingled with the population. The whole point of the Fallujah Brigade seems to separate out the hard core Jihadis from the local population so as to widen the range of Marine military options. Such is the intent. Only time will tell if the plan will work.
None of the information provided by the UPI report bears on the wider, strategic decisions of the war. It says next to nothing about Sunni versus Shia, CPA versus Iraqi Governing Council or the role of Iran. However, it does suggest that there may be a Syrian hand in the recent fighting, or in the words of US officials, Syria has "not been helpful".

It's tempting to compare USMC attempts in Fallujah to drive a wedge between the "hard core" and their supporters to negotiations in Najaf between the US and community leaders as reported by the Associated Press. Suggestions that the US is trying to isolate Sadr have been augmented by reports in the Scotsman about a mysterious militia called "Thulfiqar Army" which has recently been killing off Sadr's men. Twenty of Sadr's men have been killed in recent open fighting with US troops. Stay tuned.


posted by wretchard | Permalink: 7:15 AM Zulu
2 posted on 05/04/2004 6:33:55 AM PDT by Valin (Hating people is like burning down your house to kill a rat)
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To: Valin
What?  Fedayeen in Faluja?  Ridiculous.  I know for a fact that the entire city of Faluja is unified in their new and undying hatred for the U.S. and our occupation forces.  They want us out and it's all BOOOSH's fault.
 
Katie Couric wouldn't have lied to me.  I'm gonna vote for Kerry.

Owl_Eagle

”Guns Before Butter.”

3 posted on 05/04/2004 6:46:11 AM PDT by South Hawthorne ("You white rednecks... this is what my momma taught me!"- Nathaniel Jones Former Cincinnati Resident)
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To: Owl_Eagle
Do I detect a hint of sarcasm?
4 posted on 05/04/2004 6:49:08 AM PDT by Valin (Hating people is like burning down your house to kill a rat)
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To: Valin
"After they found the picture of Sadr and a letter from Sadr's office giving us permission to travel in the south, they asked me if I was Shiite or Sunni. I told them 'Hey I'm a Muslim, there is no Shiite and Sunni.' They respected that but told me that the Shiite were worse than Kufr, who just don't believe. They said the Shiite disagreed with (the Prophet Mohammed) and should all be killed."

Now your talking Mohammed!

5 posted on 05/04/2004 7:07:18 AM PDT by crusty codger (Arrogance often covers a minimum of intelligence)
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To: Valin
I used to put sarcasm tags up, but I found that </NON SARCASM> was better for the rare occasions that I'm being serious.

Owl_Eagle

”Guns Before Butter.”

6 posted on 05/04/2004 7:14:18 AM PDT by South Hawthorne ("You white rednecks... this is what my momma taught me!"- Nathaniel Jones Former Cincinnati Resident)
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To: Owl_Eagle
They entered the city using a route that passed a new Fallujah Protective Army checkpoint, which waved them into the center of the city without even a cursory search.

This is...distrubing.
We've got a lot of work to do with these guys.
7 posted on 05/04/2004 7:20:36 AM PDT by Valin (Hating people is like burning down your house to kill a rat)
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To: Valin
The solution seems obvious to me, and has for several weeks now. Place a ring around the city and give the local population 1 week to leave town. Search and identify everyone leaving, with all males between the ages of 15 and 60 coming under intense scrutiny. After a week, go in and clean out the place, killing as many Syrians, Jordanians, and Iraquis as possible.

I am 100% behind this war, but it is becoming apparent to me that there has been a lot of mismangement. This specific situation is the result of past mismanagement - namely failure to seal the borders in the very early stages of this conflict. The same failure to seal the borders resulted in the WMDs being moved out of Iraq and buried in Syria.

Bush and his war team are going to waffle and tiptoe their way to an election loss in November if they don't get a handle on this very quickly. And our enemies know this.
8 posted on 05/04/2004 7:20:54 AM PDT by WayneM
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To: Valin
Fallujah residents have been celebrating what many see as a victory over the U.S. Marines. Masked and armed insurgents have moved freely in the city's streets, sometimes standing alongside Iraqi policemen.

U.S. officials say the Fallujah Brigade will crack down on hard-core guerrillas in the city even though the force itself will likely include some gunmen who had been involved in fighting against the Marines. - From ABC news




We should have taken this rat hole 3 weeks ago. Now the enemy is getting stronger, reinforced, and are undoubtedly going to use the arms and body armor we give the FPA against US. They are also looking for ways to use WMD type munitions against US.

This is going to cost President Bush. It is going to cost American lives all over Iraq because of the effect it will have of emboldening the enemy.

If you missed Vietnam, don't worry this is a replay.
9 posted on 05/04/2004 12:20:49 PM PDT by TomasUSMC
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To: Valin
If you want to drive a wedge between the enemy and the people. Kill a lot of them. Both sides. Then tell them that those who wish to live must leave.

Fear is the Wedge.
10 posted on 05/04/2004 12:24:08 PM PDT by TomasUSMC
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To: TomasUSMC
We have to operate in a larger political environment. Besides, we didn't go there to kill civvies.

Give the Marines time.

Be Seeing You,

Chris

11 posted on 05/04/2004 4:08:36 PM PDT by section9 (Major Motoko Kusanagi says, "John Kerry: all John F., no Kennedy..." Click on my pic!)
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To: Valin
...an entire neighborhood seems to be completely under the control of foreign Islamic fighters, mostly from Syria.

And we haven't destroyed it because...?

12 posted on 05/04/2004 4:10:57 PM PDT by Prince Charles
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To: Prince Charles
Every single building is a mosque.
13 posted on 05/04/2004 4:40:43 PM PDT by Argus
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