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http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/651/re6.htm Al-Ahram Weekly 14 - 20 August 2003 Issue No. 651 Transition from tyranny to freedom? With the situation deteriorating drastically on all levels in Iraq, the question of freedom is getting more vague, reports Jihan Al-Alaily from Baghdad ----------------------------------------------------- The top US civil administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, rejected in his most recent press conference criticism by some journalists that Iraq was a country descending into "chaos". The observation came after a bloody week that saw a car bomb attack on the Jordanian Embassy which left at least 17 dead, the worst civil unrest in Basra since the fall of the regime on 9 April, electricity, fuel and water shortages and a continuing dozen attacks a day against coalition forces. Bremer downplayed the fighting, insisting that most of the country is at peace, with trouble spots in "small areas" and by "small groups of bitter end people." "The problem we have here are these people who are trained killers from the Saddam regime, basically fighting history...they will either be killed or they will be captured," he added. An uneasy calm has returned to Basra after British forces disbursed some 25 million litres of gasoline to petrol stations, supervised their distribution and restored electricity to some parts of the city. Water shortage, persisting power cuts in the searing temperatures of over 50 degrees and long cues at empty petrol stations drove the angry residents to hurl rocks and bricks at British troops. The 60 year old Nors Mhibs, who had been waiting for hours at a petrol station warned, "I have six sons, I have six guns and I have an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade). I can make trouble any time," reported the Associated Press. The riots had left at least two Iraqis and a Nepalese security guard dead. Analysts saw the riots in Basra as the first expression of Shi'ite violence against the coalition forces. Shi'ites constitute around 60 per cent of Iraqis and are believed to have largely refrained from taking part in the ongoing four-month-old guerrilla warfare waged against the occupation in Baghdad and in what has come to be described as the "Sunni triangle" north and west of the capital city. The speed with which some basic services were restored in Basra were seen as a necessary step by the coalition forces to keep the Shi'ites out of the fight. Ambassador Bremer described the attack on the Jordan Embassy in Baghdad as evidence of a continuing "terrorist threat in Iraq". He refused to speculate on who was behind the attack saying that it could have been the work of Iraqis or "foreign terrorists" still operating in Iraq. The top US administrator reaffirmed that the threat did involve "a couple of hundred terrorists" from Ansar Al-Islam, the militant Sunni group, whose members might have slipped back from Iran into Iraq after the war. Ansar Al-Islam, which the US believes to have had long standing affiliations with Al-Qa'eda, was largely subdued after a joint US-Kurdish assault in March and April against their bases in Kurdish controlled northern Iraq. Iraqi police with the help of the FBI are still conducting their investigations into the attack which the UN was quick to condemn last Thursday as a "terrorist and heinous act". It is too early to say whether the car bombing was an isolated act or the beginning of what the top UN official in Baghdad, Mr Sergio Vieira de Mello called "new terror that must not be allowed to take root in this country". Coalition forces have been attacked daily by rocket propelled grenades (RPGs), improvised explosive devices and small arms. Since the death of Saddam's two sons in late July, US forces have stepped up aggressive searches for loyalists of the old regime, foreign infiltrators and Muslim extremists. Many innocent Iraqis lost their lives after being hit by random fire from US soldiers retaliating to attacks, and other civilians have been injured in what they have described as "blanketed sweeps" of areas where a designated target is thought to be located. The 60-year-old Um Khedr received two bullet wounds as she was trying desperately to protect her son Khedr who was later arrested. US soldiers broke into their home in a dawn raid that involved two tanks and 20 soldiers. After the humiliating episode in which Khedr was pushed to the ground, beaten up and hand-cuffed, he was released after being investigated. The soldiers, who later apologised to Khedr, realised that they had made a mistake. Their wanted target, a senior officer from the former regime's security apparatus used to live in the house next door to Khedr's home in the Ammeriya district of Baghdad. Mr Bremer described the deaths of innocent civilians as "regrettable" in what he outlined as combat operations. Coalition forces, he added, "have apologised and made amends" in cases where military investigations concluded that the death of a civilian was accidental. Recurring incidents like this leave Iraqis with a sense of utmost indignity and grief, and sometimes a desire for revenge. In Iraqi eyes this cannot be perceived as a leap "from this very dark black night of tyranny to the bright light of freedom", which Mr Bremer repeatedly argued was the purpose of the war before a crowd of wary journalists. __________________________________ Do you Yahoo!? Yahoo! SiteBuilder - Free, easy-to-use web site design software http://sitebuilder.yahoo.com _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk