April 19, 2007
By ANNE FLAHERTY
WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday the war in Iraq is “lost,” triggering an angry backlash by Republicans who said the top Democrat had turned his back on the troops.
The bleak assessment was the sharpest yet from Reid, who has vowed to send President Bush legislation calling for combat to end next year. Reid said he told Bush on Wednesday that he thought the war could not be won through military force and only through political, economic and diplomatic means.
“I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense and — you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows — (know) this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday,” said Reid, D-Nev.
Republicans pounced on the comment as evidence, they said, that Democrats do not support the troops.
“I can’t begin to imagine how our troops in the field, who are risking their lives every day, are going to react when they get back to base and hear that the Democrat leader of the United States Senate has declared the war is lost,” said Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
The exchange came as the House headed toward a vote Thursday on whether to demand that troops leave Iraq next year. Last month, the House passed legislation that funded the war in Iraq but ordered combat missions to end by September 2008. The Senate passed similar, less-sweeping legislation that would set a nonbinding goal of bringing combat troops home by March 31, 2008.
Bush said he would veto either measure and warned that troops are being harmed by Congress’ failure to deliver the funds quickly.
The Pentagon says it has enough money to pay for the Iraq war through June. The Army is taking “prudent measures” aimed at ensuring that delays in the bill financing the war do not harm troop readiness, according to instructions sent to Army commanders and budget officials April 14.
While $70 billion that Congress provided in September for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has mostly run out, the Army has told department officials to slow the purchase of nonessential repair parts and other supplies, restrict the use of government charge cards, and limit travel.
The Army also will delay contracts for facilities repair and environmental restoration, according to instructions from Army Comptroller Nelson Ford. He said the accounting moves are similar to those enacted last year when the Republican-led Congress did not deliver a war funding bill to Bush until mid-June.
More stringent steps would be taken in May, such as a hiring freeze and firing temporary employees, but exceptions are made for any war-related activities or anything that “would result immediately in the degradation of readiness standards” for troops in Iraq or those slated for deployment.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino called the Democrat’s stance “disturbing” and all but dared Reid to cut off funding for the war.
“If this is his true feeling, then it makes one wonder if he has the courage of his convictions and therefore will decide to defund the war,” she said.
Reid has left that possibility open. The majority leader supports separate legislation that would cut off funding for combat missions after March 2008. The proposal would allow money spent on such efforts as counterterrorism efforts and training Iraqi security forces.
Reid and other Democrats were initially reluctant to discuss such draconian measures to end the war, but no longer.
“I’m not sure much is impossible legislatively,” Reid said Thursday. “The American people have indicated . . . that they are fed up with what’s going on.”
By MAAMOUN YOUSSEF
April 19, 2007
CAIRO, Egypt – A Sunni insurgent coalition posted Web videos on Thursday naming the head of al-Qaida in Iraq as “minister of war” and showing the execution of 20 men it said were members of the Iraqi military and security forces.
The announcement unveiling an “Islamic Cabinet” for Iraq appeared to have multiple aims. One was to present the Islamic State of Iraq coalition as a “legitimate” alternative to the U.S.-backed, Shiite-led administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — and to demonstrate that it was growing in power despite the U.S. military push against insurgents.
It also likely sought to establish the coalition’s dominance among insurgents after an embarrassing public dispute with other Iraqi Sunni militants.
The Islamic State of Iraq is a coalition of eight insurgent groups, the most powerful of them al-Qaida in Iraq. It was first announced in October, claiming to hold territory in the Sunni-dominated areas of western and central Iraq.
In the Cabinet announcement video, a man identified as a spokesman for the group appeared, with his face obscured, speaking from behind a desk with a flat-screen computer.
“It is the duty at our present stage to form this Cabinet, the first Islamic Cabinet, which has faith in God,” said the spokesman, wearing robes and a red headdress.
He denounced Iraq’s rulers for the past decades — including Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party and the present government — saying they “spread corruption and ruined the country and its people, until God helped the mujahideen (holy warriors) bring torture upon them.”
“Now the Islamic State emerges as a state for Islam and the mujahideen,” he said.
He then listed a 10-member “Cabinet,” including Abu Hamza al-Muhajer as “war minister.” Al-Muhajer is the name announced as the successor of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq who was killed in the summer of 2006. The U.S. military and Iraqi government have identified him by another pseudonym, Abu Ayyub al-Masri.
The names listed by the spokesman were all pseudonyms and their real names were not known — though the pseudonyms included the names of some major Sunni Arab tribes.
The Islamic state is led by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who holds the title of “emir (prince) of the faithful.”
Sheik Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Falahi was named as the emir’s “first minister,” the spokesman said. Other positions included ministers of information, “prisoners and martyrs,” agriculture and health.
The video came on the heels of a rare public dispute between the coalition and other insurgent groups.
In past week, another Sunni insurgent group, the Islamic Army in Iraq, has issued statements accusing al-Qaida of killing its members and trying to force others to join its ranks. Al-Baghdadi tried to patch up the dispute by issuing a Web audiotape this week calling for unity and promising to punish any of his group’s members who kill other insurgents.
Al-Qaida in Iraq is blamed for some of the deadliest suicide bombings against Shiite civilians, as well as numerous attacks on U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers and police. The U.S. military has blamed it for a devastating bombing Wednesday in Baghdad’s Sadriyah market.
The message came after hours after another video from the group showing a masked gunmen walking down a row of men, blindfolded and bound, shooting each in the back of the head.
The video purported to show 20 Iraqi police and soldiers that the Islamic State in Iraq claimed six days earlier to have kidnapped northwest of Baghdad. It had threatened to kill them after 48 hours unless the government freed female prisoners and handed over police accused of rapes in the northern town of Tal Afar.
The Iraqi government has denied that 20 police and soldiers were kidnapped. Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said Thursday that the men in the video could not be identified and said the insurgents may have dressed up civilians to kill them.
“We checked with our commands then and all the troops were accounted for,” Khalaf told The Associated Press. “They are immoral criminals. They have used all criminal methods and we don’t rule out that they executed civilians who they dressed in military uniforms.”