Fallujah-Style Offensive Underway In Baqubah


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Fallujah-Style Offensive
Underway In Baqubah
By Peter Symonds
26 June, 2007
World Socialist Web

A huge US offensive codenamed ³Operation Arrowhead Ripper² is underway in the 
Iraqi city of Baqubah, as part of extensive American operations aimed at 
suppressing insurgent groups in Baghdad and areas to the north and south of the 
capital. US troops, backed by armoured vehicles, artillery, helicopter gunships 
and warplanes, have sealed off the city of 300,000. The action recalls the 
murderous November 2004 assault on Fallujah in which much of the population fled
and large sections of the town were levelled.

The number of US deaths has risen sharply as troops have been ordered into more 
aggressive actions throughout Iraq. A further 10 soldiers were killed on 
Saturday‹seven in three separate roadside bombings in Baghdad and Tikrit. 
Another soldier was killed by small arms fire and two more died of noncombatant 
causes. A total of 32 have died in the past six days and 80 so far this month. 
Top US generals are warning of continuing high casualty rates.

No reports have been released of Iraqi civilian casualties, which are certain to
be far higher. In a bid to prevent anti-occupation militia leaders fleeing 
Baqubah, the US military cordoned off the city, trapping the entire population. 
At least 8,000 American troops backed by 2,000 Iraqi soldiers and police are 
systematically sweeping through Baqubah, arbitrarily detaining suspects, 
destroying pockets of resistance and levelling any building regarded as a 
potential threat.

Media reports, largely from journalists embedded with US troops, have attempted 
to portray the operation as a humanitarian mission to liberate the population 
from ³Al Qaeda². While the designation of all anti-occupation fighters as Al 
Qaeda extremists suits the Bush administration¹s propaganda purposes at home, it
bears no relation to reality. Sunni extremists last year proclaimed Baqubah the 
capital of the ³Islamic State of Iraq² but the group known as ³Al Qaeda in 
Mesopotamia² is just one of a number of Sunni insurgent outfits involved.

Reflecting the sentiments in the US military hierarchy, embedded reporter 
Michael Yon could barely contain his glee over the Baqubah operation. ³People 
are trying to escape the fighting, but we made this mistake in places like Tal 
Afar and Fallujah where our people attacked and left huge escape routes. This 
time, the number one priority is to trap and destroy Al Qaeda,² he wrote on his 
blog on Friday, adding: ³At the going rate, Al Qaeda in Baqubah will soon have 
two choices: Surrender, or die.²

US forces are turning Baqubah, the capital of Diyala province to the north-east 
of Baghdad, into a giant prison camp. As the operation got underway last week, 
leaflets were dropped on the city ordering all residents to remain inside their 
homes. The New York Times reported that the military intended to ³fingerprint 
and take biometric data from every resident who seems to be a potential 
fighter². Under conditions where survey after survey has revealed that the 
majority of the Iraqi population is hostile to the US occupation and supportive 
of armed insurgents, that means everyone is suspect.

According to Stars and Stripes on June 22, US troops were ordered last Tuesday 
to detain all Iraqi men they encountered. A US company from the First Battalion,
23rd Infantry Regiment detained four teenage boys, cuffing their hands with 
plastic flex and took them away for interrogation. The father of the two of the 
boys pleaded with the troops to tell him what would happen with them. He begged 
the soldiers not to hand his sons over to Iraqi soldiers or police, fearing that
Shiite militiamen who dominate the security forces might kill them.

Embedded journalists dutifully repeated official propaganda that the operation 
was about winning ³hearts and minds² and ³bonding² the Iraqi forces with the 
local population. But it was difficult to disguise the widely felt distrust, 
fear, resentment and hostility to Iraqi and American troops alike. The New York 
Times on Friday reported a conversation between a US captain and a resident 
which ³soon turned into a debate on the Americans¹ conduct in Iraq². While he 
had no sympathy for Al Qaeda, the 50-year-old Iraqi angrily criticised US troops
for gunning down a man for no reason, a claim the captain denied. He also made 
clear that he regarded the Iraqi forces as even worse‹little more than Shiite 
militia in uniform.

American troops went into Baqubah in mid-March but only managed to ³pacify² two 
eastern neighbourhoods. The latest offensive, which began last Tuesday, is 
focussed on west Baqubah. ³In Khatoon, the southernmost section of the 
operations area, the US military conducted earth-shaking bombing runs and 
house-to-house searches for two days, punctuated by occasional gunfights,² the 
Los Angeles Times explained.

Operational commander Brigadier-General Mick Bednarek told the media on weekend:
³It is house to house, block to block, street to street, sewer to sewer‹and it¹s
also cars, vans‹we¹re searching every one of them.² He claimed that US forces 
controlled about 60 percent of the city and had killed 60 to 100 fighters. 
Bednarek said troops had trapped about 50 to 100 insurgents and were ³closing 
the noose² but predicted it could be weeks before Iraqi military and police 
secured the area.

Colonel Steve Townsend, commander of the 3rd Stryker Brigade, identified three 
districts of the city as a problem and said the military proposed to erect 
concrete barriers and checkpoints around those areas. Speaking to Reuters, 
Command Sergeant Major Jeff Huggins bluntly declared: ³We are enveloping the 
enemy in a kill sack.² As in Fallujah, the US military intends to use its vastly
superior firepower to level any source of armed resistance. Early on Friday, US 
helicopter gunships slaughtered 17 ³Al Qaeda suspects² on the outskirts of the 
nearby town of Khalis.

A recent report from Fallujah provided a glimpse of what a ³pacified² Baqubah 
will be like. Much of the city remains in ruins. Little compensation or 
assistance has been provided to the residents, who are again under martial law, 
including a curfew from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. Muhammed Aydan, a 42-year-old father, 
told the IRIN news agency: ³We are living like prisoners, lacking assistance at 
all levels. Aid support, which last year was always here, can¹t be seen anymore.
We depend solely on ourselves, drinking dirty water even though we know our 
children are getting sick from it. Power supply is less than two hours a day in 
some areas of Fallujah and sometimes we have to go three days without a shower 
to save water.²

In Baqubah, residents are already complaining of receiving no water or 
electricity since the start of Operation Arrowhead Ripper. Insisting that 
Baqubah is a Sunni insurgent stronghold, the Shiite-dominated government in 
Baghdad has provided little in the way of assistance and services to the city on
the pretext that it would fall into the hands of Al Qaeda.

It is already clear that the offensive in Baqubah is not going to be the final 
showdown with anti-occupation insurgents that the American military had hoped it
would be. Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno told the press last Friday that US 
intelligence estimated that 80 percent of the top Al Qaeda leaders had fled the 
city before fighting had even begun. Amid recriminations as to who was 
responsible, Odierno declared: ³Frankly, I think they knew an operation was 
coming in Baqubah. They watched the news. They understood we had a surge. They 
understood Baqubah was designated as a problem area.²

Baqubah is just the most prominent of a series of targets aimed at so-called Al 
Qaeda strongholds that have been used as staging areas for attacks in Baghdad. 
In what it terms ³the Battle of the Baghdad belts,² the US military is 
conducting operations in other areas of Diyala to the north of the capital, the 
Arab Jabour area in the south, various safe havens to the west and northwest and
in the Baghdad districts of Adhamiya, Rashid and Mansour. Odierno claimed on 
Friday that the new operations had been successful in seizing more than 700 
detainees, killing 160 insurgents and uncovering hundreds of weapons caches and 

What Odierno is describing is not the suppression of isolated groups of 
insurgents, but a colonial-style war of repression against a hostile population.
As they rampage through cities like Baqubah, the US troops are creating fresh 
reserves of hostility and opposition to the illegitimate American occupation of 
the country.

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