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A slight change in the Arab world because of the Battle of Fallujah


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November 17, 2004 --

IN April, al-Jazeera won the First Battle of Fallujah with lurid anti-American lies. This time around, the Middle- Eastern media continued to mill propaganda, but the fury was missing as Fallujah fell.

What happened?

military fought smarter, employing overwhelming force to finish the big job quickly. After one week of combat, only a few small terrorist gangs remain active in Fallujah — and they're being hunted down. Our forces wrapped up major combat operations before terrorist sympathizers in the media could have much effect.

But something even more important than martial skill was in play: We heard only pro-forma condemnations of our actions.

There was no outpouring of rage in the Arab world. Iraq's Shi'as remained quiet. The terrorists' attempts to shift the fight to other Iraqi cities didn't find much of an echo. Even Sunni Arabs complained of the threat posed to their homes — they didn't want their cities turned into little Fallujahs.

Terror has begun to defeat itself.

A significant shift of perception has begun in the Middle East. Even last spring, any attacks that tweaked America's nose or prevented civil progress in Iraq were cheered from Cairo to Karachi (in Europe, too). Then the terrorists began to make mistakes, as terrorists inevitably do.

The wave of videotaped beheadings appealed to the ultra-extremists in the Islamic world, but the great majority of Muslims were revolted. Not only were the ceremonial executions repugnant on a visceral level, they added to the growing global perception of Islam as a faith gone mad. The beheadings, which soon attracted copy-cats among the worst fanatics, brought shame on a great religion.

Meanwhile, the Middle East's political leaders, who had gloated over every blow against the occupation of Iraq, began to see events from a different angle. The daylight attacks on Iraqi politicians and professionals, on policemen and military recruits, sent chills through the leadership cliques of states where popular discontent is barely contained.

As the terrorists shifted their strikes to focus on unarmed Iraqis and the country's infrastructure, the Saudi royal family, Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and even Syria's Baby Assad began to grasp that the madness in Iraq might be a preview of their own national futures. If terrorists triumphed, the Americans could go home. But the Arabs are home already. A victory for terror would replicate itself across the region, creating chaos.

Syria still abets insurgent activity in Iraq, but is having second thoughts about support for Islamic terrorism. Damascus has begun to realize that governments can't really exploit terrorists, but that terrorists are cynical and sly about using governments. Non-Arab Iran continues to strive against the pacification of Iraq — but this time Iraq's Shi'as did not take up arms as some factions did last spring.

The story of the Second Battle of Fallujah is the story of Arthur Conan Doyle's "dog that didn't bark." Pandering to their factions, a few Iraqi politicians condemned the assault on the city. Inevitably, Kofi Annan extended the United Nation's seal of approval to the terrorists once again. But there was no intercontinental outcry to rival last spring's campaign to "save" Fallujah.

With their repeated slaughters of the innocent, their suicide bombing campaign against civilian and government targets, their assassinations of doctors, engineers and educators, and their un-Islamic practice of ceremonial human sacrifice (celebrated on videotape), the terrorists have begun to divide themselves from decent Muslims everywhere, as well as from Arab leaders who tacitly condoned their past activities.

The terrorists are losing the battle for hearts and minds, as well as the struggle for the future of Islam. That doesn't mean that the United States will suddenly be loved in the Middle East, only that terrorists will have ever more difficulty finding a refuge or new sources of support.

The struggle will be long. Blows against America will still be cheered. Al-Jazeera and the BBC will continue to broadcast lies. But more and more Muslims will recognize that "Islamic" terror violates the fundamental teachings of Mohammed.

Tactically, the terrorists' worst enemy is still the American soldier. Strategically, the forces of terror have begun to defeat themselves.

Ralph Peters is the author of "Beyond Baghdad: Postmodern War and Peace."

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Iraqis Angry, Distraught at Aid Worker's Murder

Top Stories - Reuters

By Mussab al-Khairalla

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqis reacted with anger and disbelief Wednesday to news that British-Iraqi aid worker Margaret Hassan, who worked in Iraq (news - web sites) for decades before being kidnapped a month ago, had been killed by her captors.

Irish-born Hassan, 59, moved to Iraq more than 30 years ago after marrying an Iraqi engineer. She learned Arabic and became a pillar of support in local communities, often helping the needy in the face of opposition during Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s regime.

Those who knew her, worked with her or were helped by her described Hassan as a formidable woman who went about her work with determination. She helped the disabled, the orphaned and those without water or sanitation calmly and efficiently.

One of the hospitals she regularly supported was a spinal cord clinic in Baghdad run by Qayder al-Chalabi, who said her loss was a huge blow to all Iraqis.

The killers "made a very big mistake. This was the wrong person," he told Reuters Wednesday.

"I cannot imagine that these things could happen to her because she was a very humanitarian person. She felt our suffering, she understood the suffering of the Iraqi people.

"We need to admire and remember her. We must have a ceremony every year to remember her," he said, adding that he believed a statue should be erected in her honor.

Hassan was kidnapped Oct. 19 as she was being driven to work in Baghdad, where she was the director of the local operation of aid organization Care International.

A video released to Arabic news channel Al Jazeera showed a hooded figure shooting a blindfolded woman in the head.

Hassan's husband and British foreign office officials have said they believe the video tape is "probably genuine" and her family has said they believe Margaret Hassan is dead.


Militant Islamists have waged a campaign of kidnappings and killings to try to force U.S.-led troops and foreigners to leave Iraq. More than 120 foreigners have been kidnapped in Iraq since April and more than three dozen have been killed.

If confirmed, Hassan would be the first foreign woman killed.

Several foreigners are still believed to be held, including at least one other woman, Polish-Iraqi Teresa Borcz Khalifa. Others include two American men and two French journalists.

"These people are savage beasts," said a man working close to the now shuttered Care offices in Baghdad. He would not give his name for fear of reprisals.

"The whole idea of kidnapping is completely wrong. If people want to resist the occupation they can fight American troops, not kill Iraqis or innocent foreigners," he said.

A campaign to gather information on Hassan's whereabouts was recently launched in Baghdad, with a picture of Hassan holding a sick Iraqi child posted on billboards around the city.

The billboards read: "Margaret Hassan is truly a daughter of Iraq ... She is against the occupation."

"She came to help us and give us prosperity," said Hashim Hassan, a 41-year-old security guard at a surgery. "These terrorists are outsiders ruining Iraq's image. Iraqis would not destroy their own country."

Unemployed Yusuf Ali, 35, said attacking or kidnapping aid workers was a development that would only harm the nation.

"The enemies of Iraq are attacking power stations, oil pipelines and kidnapping foreigners and aid workers at a time when we need them most. Aid workers would be flowing into Falluja right now if they didn't fear decapitation," he said.

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31 Iraqi police officers reported kidnapped

Officers abducted as they returned from training in JordanMSNBC News Services

Updated: 11:05 a.m. ET Nov. 17, 2004BAGHDAD, Iraq - Thirty-one Iraqi policemen have been kidnapped in western Iraq while returning from training in Jordan, Iraqi authorities said Wednesday.


Word of the abduction came as U.S. forces continued to battle with pockets of resistance in the Sunni Triangle city of Fallujah and amid a handful of attacks in other parts of the country that left at least nine people dead.

A police spokesman in Karbala, who spoke with the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said that the police officers were ambushed Sunday in the town of Rutba near the Jordanian border.

"There was an attack on a hotel occupied by policemen coming back from training in Jordan," he said.

The spokesman cited a Karbala policeman who returned from Rutba as saying that an armed group had kidnapped the policemen, many of whom were from Diyala province.

Police are frequent targets

Insurgents seeking to topple Iraq's interim government have frequently targeted Iraqi police and national guard troops, killing hundreds of them in bombings and shootings.

On numerous occasions they have intercepted their victims on their way to or from training.

Last month, nine Iraqi policemen returning from a training course in Jordan were ambushed and killed near the insurgent hotbed town of Latifiyah, 35 miles south of Karbala, as their bus was returning to Karbala.

Later in October, 43 Iraqi army recruits and their civilian drivers are shot dead execution-style northeast of Baghdad.

Word of the abduction came as U.S. forces continued to battle pockets of resistance in Fallujah, including some fighters believed to have sneaked back into the city despite a U.S. cordon.

Meanwhile, a U.S. military official said Wednesday that investigators looking into the videotaped killing by a U.S. Marine of a wounded and apparently unarmed man in a Fallujah mosque were trying to determine whether other wounded Iraqis in the mosque were similarly killed.

The U.S. military declared Fallujah completely occupied but not subdued on Saturday after a nearly weeklong battle. But on Wednesday, gunfire and explosions continued to ring out in the one-time rebel stronghold.

“Even as we start Fallujah’s reconstruction, the fighting is continuing, as you can hear,†Capt. Alex Henegar, a civil affairs officer attached to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, told reporters Wednesday as heavy gunfire and grenade explosions sounded in the city's northern Jolan neighborhood.

Insurgents sneaking back into Fallujah?

Henegar, 30, of Lookout Mountain, Ga., said some insurgents battling U.S. forces were believed to have sneaked back into the city, crossing the narrow Euphrates River, where thick papyrus reeds line both banks.


• Insurgent strongholds

Where Iraq is out of control

Marine officers say that while all roads to Fallujah have been blocked, insurgents may still sneak in via old paths and across Euphrates River channels the American and Iraqi government forces don’t know.

“Our western flank is of particular concern,†said Henegar of the area delineated by the river, oxbows and marshes.

Marines say the heavy house-to-house combat that began Nov. 9 after a night of heavy airstrikes moved quickly east-west across the northern half of the city, but that the wilier rebels hid from the massive tank and troop assault only to emerge days later.

After sweeping through northern Fallujah, the Marines then turned their attack southward, leaving some pockets of resistance in their rear.

In other violence on Wednesday:

A car bomb exploded near a U.S. convoy Wednesday in Beiji, 155 miles north of the capital. Witnesses said five Iraqis were killed in the blast and dozens other wounded, but there was no immediate word of casualties among U.S. troops. Beiji is the site of Iraq’s largest oil refinery and a major power station.

Two Turkish truck drivers were killed and their vehicles destroyed in a rocket attack on a civilian convoy near Samarra.

South of Baghdad, a roadside bomb detonated near an Iraqi National Guard convoy in the insurgent hotspot of Iskandariyah, killing two guardsmen and wounding three others, police and hospital officials said.

Truck driver freed near Baghdad

Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces, backed by U.S. Marines, freed a captive Iraqi truck driver during a raid south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

The Monday raid took place near Mahmoudiya, about 25 miles south of Baghdad, as the joint force swept through several buildings in search of militants in the area, a military statement said.

The rescued hostage, who was not identified, was taken to a nearby U.S. base, where he received medical treatment before being released.

The rescue came as insurgents apparently escalated their kidnap and killing campaign by executing British aid worker Margaret Hassan. British and Irish leaders on Wednesday condemned the apparent slaying of Hassan, who would be the first foreign woman killed in the wave of kidnappings that have beset Iraq.

Hassan’s family in London said Tuesday they believe she was the blindfolded woman shown being shot in the head by a hooded militant on a video obtained earlier in the day but not aired by Al-Jazeera television.

Mosul is calmer

in other news Wednesday, the U.S. military said that Mosul appeared calmer after operations to restore control in the western part of the city, with only a handful of isolated attacks with small arms fire.

“It’s been quiet overnight. We’ll continue with operations to clear out the last remaining pockets of the insurgency,†said Capt. Angela Bowman, with Task Force Olympia.

Troops met “very little resistance†Tuesday in securing several of the dozen or so police stations that had been captured by insurgents, the U.S. military command said. Loud explosions and gunfire rang out Tuesday as U.S. warplanes and helicopters circled over Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city with more than 1 million residents.

Mortar shells hit two areas near the main government building in the city center, killing three civilians and wounding 25, hospital officials said. One American soldier was wounded when a car bomb exploded near a U.S. convoy in western Mosul, the military said.

lets get this city and get our troops out safe

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