Iraq: April 14, 2003


About twenty U.S. tanks entered the central square of Tikrit, while overhead, several Apache gunships moved around. There was no significant resistance and local civilians cooperated with American troops, pointing out where remaining troops and weapons were. Many of the local civilians are pro-Saddam, who has, for decades, showered economic benefits on his home town. U.S. Marines are dealing with opposition as they encounter it. There was some stiff opposition on the outskirts of Tikrit, but after destroying five Iraqi tanks and killing fifteen Iraqi troops, the Marines were able to advance without any interference. 

The U.S. has warned Syria to stop it's support for Saddam Hussein and his henchmen or face grave consequences. Many of the foreign fighters encountered in Iraq are Syrians, Special Forces watching the Syrian border have seen many fighters and much military equipment crossing into Iraq. The U.S. also believes that Iraq has moved its chemical weapons to Syria. Special Forces also discovered an illegal oil pipeline into Syria, which apparently sent over a billion dollars worth of Iraqi oil a year. This would explain some of the Syrian support for Saddam, who had long been a bitter enemy of the Syrians. Back in the 1960s, Syria and Iraq were run by the same Baath party, but then there was a political dispute that left the two Baath parties bitter enemies for decades.

Thousands of senior Iraqi officials have been seen headed for the Syrian border and many appear to have made it across. U.S. Special Forces and coalition commandos are trying to catch some of these fugitives. But the tribes in the area have been smuggling people and goods over the border for centuries and Saddam's cronies have plenty of cash. So far, about half a dozen senior Saddam aides have been caught near the Syrian border. 

The northern oil city of Kirkuk is thought to have a population that is one third Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen. It used to have more Kurds, until Saddam began forcing out Kurds and replacing them with Arab migrants from the south. Armed militias representing each of the three groups are skirmishing, although there's something of a war going on between the Kurds and Arabs. Many of the Kurds sent packing in the last decade have returned, with weapons, to reclaim their property and expel the Arabs who took it. But some radical Turkmen are insisting that Kirkuk is a majority Turkmen city and are trying to generate enthusiasm for an armed effort to put Turkmen in charge. The radicals are not having much success getting the majority of armed Turkmen behind this idea, but there is some skirmishing with Kurds over it. 

Civilian casualties for the war were between 484 and 856 dead and between 4.411 and 6,606 wounded. Civilian losses after a major bombing campaign have never been so low. Sixty years ago, dropping that many bombs would have caused a hundred times more civilian injuries.

In southern Iraq, tribal leaders calmed down a dispute between radical and mainstream Shia factions. The radicals want to replace the more moderate (and popular) Shia religious leader with someone more favorably disposed towards an Islamic Republic. 

Sporadic fighting continues in Baghdad, with small armed groups continuing to attack American troops. The response is pretty prompt and violent, which is keeping the American casualty rate much lower than the first three weeks of the war. 




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