Thursday, June 22, 2006

War on Terror - Global Tensions Increase

Bush holds a 32% approval rating for his War on Terror
It has been two weeks since the US forces killed the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq. But the violence has continued unabated. Despite encouragements from US generals that the Iraqi people might celebrate Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s demise, there is little the average Iraqi can feel comfortable about in a country that sees atrocities and violence from all sides. And there are continued allegations that US troops have engaged in ‘cold-blooded murder’ during their ‘occupation’.
And the murders and abductions, by insurgents, of Iraqi citizens also continue. All this despite a crackdown by US and Iraqi forces in and around Baghdad to quell the insurgency. A curfew briefly called a halt to the violence but no sooner than the restrictions were lifted than the bombings and killings restarted. Major General William Caldwell, the Multinational Forces spokesman, said the operation had uncovered a ‘kidnapping ring’ and freed 8 kidnap victims. He added that the Iraqi forces had been a significant help in the fight against the insurgency. “They’re obviously very familiar with their own country and their own city”, he said. But besides dozens of checkpoints, bombings and shoot-outs saw the death of at least 2 Iraqis in Baghdad, and at least 11 were killed in the Baquba area of the country. A short unannounced visit by George W Bush did little other than to bolster morale amongst US forces. Meanwhile it was announced that Abu al-Masari had relaced Zarqawi. He is believed to be responsible for many suicide attacks.

The efforts to crush the increased violence in Afghanistan continued over the week with several operations resulting in the capture and killing of many Taleban fighters.

Meanwhile a bi-partisan group has criticised the effectiveness of the US led War on Terror. Speaking on CNN, Larry Korb, from the Center for American Progress, said that many Americans feel the US government was “not doing well” in its effort against the rise in terrorism. Many foreign policy experts expressed the opinion that within a decade the US mainland would see a “London or Madrid style attack”. A combined ABC / Washington Post poll suggested that only 32% of Americans approved of Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq. Many cited the war in Iraq, reliance on Middle East fuel and the “abuses at camps such as Guantanamo Bay” as making America “less safe”. Bush said he was a little jet-lagged after his return from Iraq, but he said he was resolute in his efforts to see the job done. He also turned to the contentious issue of camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After much international criticism he said that he too wished to see the closure of the camp, but that there were many dangerous terrorists at the camp who needed to be tried and convicted before this could happen. Three prisoners committed suicide at the camp at the weekend and one official described the actions as a “PR stunt” and an “act of war against America”. There are currently more than 450 prisoners remaining at the prison camp and the Supreme Court is likely to rule later this month whether or not the men detained would receive a fair trial in a military court. Speaking in the Rose Garden, Bush said, “My message to the Iraqis is that we’re going to help you succeed, my message to the enemy is don’t count on us leaving before we succeed, and my message to the troops is we support you 100%, keep doing what you’re doing”. Prime Minister al-Maliki said he sought talks with insurgents, except those who had killed Iraqi citizens. There are also concerns for increased terrorist activity in eastern Turkmenistan. In the SCO Summit Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit] coverage on CCTV 9 the debate surrounded a lack of agreement between China and US over terror suspects held by the US. China wants the return of the suspects so that they can be dealt with in their own country. Closer ties with Hamad Karzai’s Afghan government were also being built on. Karzai has meanwhile criticised the US led war against the Taleban insurgency [BBC]. “I have systematically, consistently and on a daily basis warned the international community of what was developing in Afghanistan... and of a change in approach by the international community in this regard”, he said on Wednesday.

In Indonesia the believed spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, Abu Bakar Bashir was released this week. He is accused by many of being responsible for inspiring the Bali terrorist attacks which killed more than 200 in 2002.

Wednesday saw the murder of another of Saddam Hussein’s defence lawyers. He was abducted and found dead in a Baghdad suburb [BBC]. Khamees al-Ubaidi was one of the chief defence lawyers in the ongoing trial. In Mosul 16 people were found dead. And two US soldiers abducted on Friday last week [16th June] were found dead early this week. Both were said to have been tortured. In a press conference on Tuesday a coalition spokesman said that over 8,000 troops had been deployed in operations to find the men and that there had been successes. Several insurgents had been killed and 78 detained since Friday. Two further US troops are listed as missing in action and eleven other US citizen are also listed as missing. Referring to the most recent abduction, Major General Caldwell said, “Our resolve will continue until the final disposition and take the appropriate action against those who perpetrated this event” [BBC]. He also spoke of coalition successes in dispatching two high profile insurgent leaders. One man, Mansur Sulayman Mansur Khalif [al-Mahsadani] aka Sheikh Mansur, a 35 year old had previously been captured but was later realeased in autumn 2004 when he is said to have joined al-Qaeda in Iraq. He is said to be responsible for shooting down coalition aircraft in 2006.

Japan’s PM Koisumi said in a press conference that the time was ready for Japan to pull out most of its troops from the country. Many of Japan’s citizens have criticised Koisumi’s decision to deploy troops in Iraq. The country’s constitution forbids the use of Japan’s armed forces in anything other than the defence of Japan itself, many feeling that the Prime Minister has stretched the spirit of the constitution.

During a one day visit to Vienna’s EU-US Summit, George Bush reiterated his concerns over Iran’s nuclear policy. North Korea’s nuclear ambition was highlighted and the President said, “It should make people nervous when non-transparent regimes that announce that they have nuclear weapons fire missiles”. Concerns over a possible long-range missile test have increased concerns in South Korea and Japan. Tensions were said to be high in Japan especially as previous missile tests have breached Japanese airspace before crashing into the sea. The new missile is believed to have a range of over 4,000 km. Britain is meanwhile debating the upgrade of its nuclear deterrent. More than £25 billion has been pledged towards an upgraded nuclear defence system [BBC].

Iraq also dominated the EU-US Summit with the US President reiterating his position regards the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

Further abductions in Baghdad occurred on Wednesday. Insurgents arrived at a factory and forced up to 80 workers into buses before taking them off to unknown locations. The incident happened at around 15:00 local time [11:00 GMT] [BBC].

Also Wednesday, an insurgent website declared that a terrorist killed in Saudi Arabia in 2004, was to have been the 20th hijacker during the 9/11 terror plot [CNN]. The video, released on Tuesday, shows clips of Fawaz al-Nashmi -- also known as Turki bin Fhaid al-Mutairi. It follows by a few days another Web posting from the group that claims al-Nashmi was the man chosen by Osama bin Laden to be the 20th hijacker.
CBS reported on Wednesday that 8 US troops may face trial for ‘premeditated murder’. It is alleged that an Iraqi man who was pulled from his home and shot while U.S. troops hunted for insurgents. They could face the death penalty if convicted. The case is separate from the alleged killing by other Marines of 24 Iraqi civilians in the western Iraqi city of Haditha last November. A pair of investigations related to that case are still under way, and no criminal charges have yet been filed. And in another article CBS suggested the insurgency was thriving after Zarqawi’s death. Posted by Picasa

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