Iraq: April 13, 2003


Will they or wont they? Its become a daily routine. On April 8 Turkish officials gave signals that Turkish troops would enter Kurdish zones in northern Iraq en masse. April 10, Turkey agreed to send 15 officers into Kurdish areas as observers. April 12 Turkeys Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said that at the moment there was no need to send Turk troops into the Kurd areas of Iraq, but that the Turkish Army was prepared for such an operation. Turkey had said it was prepared to intervene in the Kurd areas if Iraqi Kurds seized Kirkuk and Mosul and occupied the oil fields. These two acts would be "red lines" that Turkey would not allow. However, Iraqi Kurd pesh merga fighters have occupied both towns. However, US Special Forces and elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade have been with the Kurds. The US forces are acting as minders. Turkey is walking a very fine line, between Turkish fears of a blossoming Kurd state backed by oil revenues, and a desire to mend fences with the US (which remains Turkeys most important ally). The Turkish military observers give provide Turkey with on-the-ground liaison and should increase Turkish confidence. They also serve as reminders to the Iraqi Kurds that Turkey is watching. The situation could deteriorate over night, but at the moment, every one is walking the line. (Austin Bay)

Iran has opened its border for humanitarian aid workers, and immediately personnel and supplies moved into Iraq.

Calls for volunteers in Baghdad has brought out public spirited Iraqis to clear dead bodies, keep order and restore city services. Dozens of police officers and firefighters have reported in, with many more to follow. The same methods have been used in Mosul and Kirkuk, and were pioneered by the British in Basra. 

A further complication in Mosul is fighting between Arab and Kurdish residents. There are a lot of guns in the city, and the Kurdish militias are believed to have given more weapons to local Kurds before the militias withdrew. This fighting has left at least twenty dead and over 200 wounded so far. 

In southern Iraq, armed Shia radicals are trying to expel Shia moderate clergy by force. This is a delicate situation, as Shias in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala are hostile to coalition troops that get too close to the larger mosques. But this is where the armed Shia radicals are hanging out. The Shia radicals were expected to be a political force in post Saddam Iraq, but it was hoped the Shia radicals would not use Saddam's methods. It appears they are.

In western Iraq, the tribes the populate the area have asked coalition troops (except Special Forces that are already there)to stay out until the tribes can negotiate who gets what power with Saddam gone. 

One American carrier battle group has left the Persian Gulf, and three others are expected to leave shortly. All of these ships have been at sea for over six months.

An increasing number of tips from Iraqis has led to the discovery of hidden Iraqi rockets, warplanes and other weapons. 

In the torture chambers of the Iraqi secret police, holding cells contained prisoner graffiti in Arabic, Hebrew and Chinese. 

Iraqi officers report that American attacks destroyed the military communications system, making it difficult for Saddam and his generals to send frequent orders. The officers also reported that there was no enthusiasm among the Republican Guard for street fighting in Baghdad. This was mainly because many families of Republican Guard members lived in the city and would be a great risk if there was a lot of street fighting. The officers were also not ordered to shoot deserters, and had no stomach for that sort of thing anyway. As a result, as the coalition bombing continued, more and more troops simply deserted. 

At least one regiment of U.S. Marines are moving close to Tikrit, and are not encountering any resistance. Aerial reconnaissance, and a foray by some journalists, indicated that the city's defenses are haphazard at best. Over the past week or so, anything that looked like defenses has been bombed. 

Anti-Saddam militias have formed, without assistance from the coalition, and are negotiating with the Fedayeen groups (which contain Iraqis and a lot of foreigners) to get them to surrender. Coalition units have established cooperative relationships with some of the militias, at least for the moment. 




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