Thursday, September 13, 2007

Key ally killed as Bush prepares keynote speech

The 6th anniversary of 9/11 brought with it not only the annual memorial services [BBC], but a controversial but much awaited report on the progress in Iraq. The day also saw the return of what was purported to be another video of Osama bin Laden. First came the report from General David Petraeus, dubbed as being an expert in counterinsurgency by President Bush, and his assessment on whether there had been any achievement in the last few months. But before he delivered his report Chairman Mr Lantos, a Democrat, issued a savage attack on the current strategy in Iraq. The “cost of this war will pass to our grand children and beyond”, he said, “It is time to go and go now”. Republican, Duncan Hunter, who is running for President, stood in defence of Gen David Petraeus. He then went on to berate the Democrats for an article on depicting the General as “General Betrayus” which he called scandalous. Then came the voice of silence from General Petraeus. The General was unable to deliver his address because his microphone did not work. He attempted to use the microphone adjacent to him, but that too had failed. The speaker then called for a recess leaving the BBC, Sky News, CNN and al Jazeera a large space to fill with analysis of a speech that hadn’t yet been delivered. When he finally did get to deliver his assessment, he was interrupted but this time by anti-war protesters who heckled from the rear of the room. His report was generally upbeat. He said the insurgency had diminished and that fewer civilians had died in the last few months [Full text PDF]. But he has not increased the confidence of Americans with the way the war is progressing [BBC]. Iraqi government officials were more supportive however. Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie praised the US' "enormous sacrifice" and predicted a reduced combat role for US troops [BBC]. But the feeling at home was one of disinterest, and of being under whelmed by the whole affair [BBC].

President Bush will make his first major public address since the Petraeus report on Friday at 01:00 GMT [CNN]. In it he is expected to praise the efforts made by General Petraeus. However he has little to celebate as his ratings drop and each day brings more US casualties. Today one of his few key allies amongst the Iraqi people was killed by an IED. The Sunni, Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Reesha, was assassinated as his convoy travelled through Anbar province. His bodyguards were also killed in the roadside bomb blast. A White House spokesman said, “Despite the loss, he ignited a movement that will outlive”. But CNN’s Michael Ware described him as a “largely irrelevant tribe leader”. The sheik had met George Bush ten days ago during the President’s surprise visit to the country. The BBC’s Hugh Sykes described the loss as a “severe blow to the Anbar Awakening” The Anbar Awking was the name given to a recently formed alliance of Sunni Arab tribes that rose up against al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Also in Iraq today more evidence pointing at Iranian involvement in the conflict. An Iranian built missile landed on US base. It was some 15 times larger than previous missiles with a 15 kg warhead. There is also increased use of Iranian RPG-29s in the country, weapons that make tanks and armoured vehicles more vulnerable to attack.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad continues to deny any involvement in supplying arms. Speaking on Channel Four News he told John Snow he had not sold arms to insurgents [Full text].”The nation of Iraq is a courageous nation, a great nation that is against occupations and will not tolerate occupation. The Iraqi people do no need the Iranians in order to defend themselves they are able to defend themselves,” the Iranian leader said. Grinning through much of the 20 minute Live interview, the President also denied having aspirations for building a nuclear weapon. “We don't need a bomb, we are fundamentally opposed to the bomb for various reasons. The main reason is we are ideologically against bombs and politically it is not beneficial,” the Iranian president responded.

The debate on the War on Terror and the War in Iraq is played out in a series of films to be played at the London Film Festival. Many are highly critical of the war and some are scathing of US actions. Nick Broomfield's Battle for Haditha and Brian De Palma's Redacted both deal with reported real-life atrocities involving US marines in Iraq [BBC]

The atrocities are occurring on all sides and many of the victims are the young and innocent. But there was a little good news today for one small child who was horribly injured in an attack by masked gunmen in Baghdad. According to his father, Youssif was grabbed outside their home on January 15, doused in gasoline and set on fire. The story broadcast on CNN [CNN in August [23/08/07], spawned an outpouring of sympathy from viewers with donations of money and offers of medical help. This week, only a few weeks since the story aired, Youssif arrived in Los Angeles where he is set to receive treatment from the Grossman Burn Center. Dr Peter Grossman, a plastic surgeon and director of the facility told CNN that the boy would endure up to 8 operations over several months. But he added the surgery involved would not completely eliminate the injuries. He said Youssif would however, ‘look better and function better’ adding that he was ‘a child who deserves a chance in life’ [CNN]. Many children will not as be as fortunate as Youssif in receiving professional medical treatment. Thousands of children have been maimed or killed in the conflict, and most will suffer their injuries without help from sympathetic viewers, most of whom never have their stories reported. Some lucky ones get to be treated at a US army field hospital in Balad. For some there is a glimmer of hope for the future.

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