Monday, September 12, 2005

Tal Afar, Viet Nam...I Mean Iraq

The latest battle in Iraq is in the town of Tal Afar near the border of Syria. US and Iraqi troops have been doing house-to-house searches looking for insurgents. From the description from this news report, I seem to be flashing back to news reports from Viet Nam.

Some items of flash back and items that raise my eyebrows;

Iraqi Defense Minister Sadoun al-Dulaimi said, "We are warning those who have given shelter to terrorists that they must stop, kick them out or else we will cut off their hands, heads and tongues as we did in Tal Afar,'' apparently using figurative language.

"Figurative language" won't be apparent unless there is some type of investigation.

Fighting eased Sunday, the second day of a U.S. and Iraqi sweep through the militant stronghold of Tal Afar near the Syrian border, as insurgents melted into the countryside, many escaping through a tunnel network dug under an ancient northern city.

The Viet Cong had extensive tunnel networks that were very problematic for Americans.

Al-Dulaimi kept up the drumbeat of complaints against Syria for allegedly facilitating insurgent entry into Iraq. "The Syrians have to stop sending destruction to Iraq. The terrorists have no other gateway into Iraq but Syria,'' he said.

Viet Nam had the same thing from the border of Cambodia.
Further it sounds like Iraq has the same problem as the US, a porous border. We can't slow the influx of non-Americans here in the US, what makes the Bush Administration think it can do so in Iraq?

Saturday's closure of the nearby border crossing with Syria did not affect the frontier crossing near the insurgent stronghold of Qaim which sits on the major highway into Syria and is well to the south of Rabiyah.

The answer is, they can't.

Faysal Ibrahim, the head of Syria's Customs Department at the nearby Yaaroubiya border crossing, said U.S. helicopters were seen Sunday morning about 500 yards from the Syrian border. Some 500 cargo trucks were lined up at the crossing after the closure.

500 yards? How soon before we cross into Syria, like in Viet Nam we crossed into Cambodia?

The offensive in Tal Afar is especially delicate because of the tangle of ethnic sensitivities in the region. About 90 percent of the city's population - most of which fled to the countryside before the fighting began - is Sunni Turkmen who have complained about their treatment from the Shiite-dominated government and police force put in place after the U.S. invasion in 2003.

I wonder if this 90% were the ones
al-Dulaimi threatened to "cut off their hands, heads and tongues?"

The Turkmen have a vocal ally in their Turkish brethren to the north, where Turkey's government is a vital U.S. ally and has fought against its own Kurdish insurgency for decades. Tal Afar is next to land controlled by Iraqi Kurds.

Turkey voiced disapproval of U.S. tactics when American forces ran insurgents out of Tal Afar a year ago. The Turkmen residents complained that Iraqi Kurds were fighting alongside the Americans.

U.S. and Kurdish officials denied the allegation, but the Turkish government threatened to stop cooperating with the Americans. The siege was lifted the next day and insurgents began returning when the Americans quickly pulled out, leaving behind only a skeleton force of 500 soldiers.

For those reasons, U.S. forces have stood back during the new sweep through Tal Afar, allowing Iraqi forces to break down doors in the search for insurgents.

So Tal Afar is quite an ethical mess. Iraqi Shiite soldiers after foreign Muslim insurgents in a town of Sunni Turkmen next door to a Kurdish area and Syria. Who can keep track of all that?


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