The world press on the Ramadan bombings

Sgt. Scott Blow in the Asia Times: "Nobody knows who the enemy is here until they shoot at you."

Published October 28, 2003 6:27PM (EST)

United Kingdom, Michael Howard in the Guardian

The audacious attack on the Rashid hotel shows the "growing confidence, sophistication and creativity of anti-coalition militants in Iraq", an adviser on security matters to the U.S.-led administration said yesterday.

"This attack was well-planned and executed. It seems that these guys, most of them former regime loyalists, are now networking with each other and perhaps outside agents, passing weapons and know-how," said the adviser. "They are operating in small groups, but you don't have to be big to be effective"...

The ability of the Iraqi resistance to strike at will at the heart of the U.S.-led administration in Baghdad is causing deep unease among American military commanders in Iraq, and political embarrassment for Bush administration officials who have repeatedly claimed that the coalition is winning the war against the guerrillas.

The barrage of rockets that slammed into the hotel was fired from a launcher positioned on a mobile generator. The attackers had fled the scene after being approached by Iraqi guards, who could do nothing to prevent the rockets from launching.

"It seems they have learned to attach fuses to timers, so that rockets fire long after they run away," the security adviser said.

The array of weapons and devices used in the attacks on coalition targets, which number up to 35 a day, should come as no surprise, the adviser said. "The Iraqi army did not disarm, they just took off their uniforms and went home, along with their weapons."

Hong Kong, Nir Rosen in Asia Times

Sergeant Scott Blow, a 27-year-old from Denver, is confounded by the same problems all the men of the 3rd ACR [Armored Cavalry Regiment] face. "Nobody knows who the enemy is here until they shoot at you. Any time you kick down a door you don't know what to expect." For a conventional force accustomed to expect to fight an obvious enemy, the challenges are not merely intellectual.

On June 7, Bandit Troop's Sergeant Michael Dooley was standing at a checkpoint when a car approached containing three men. Two of them called out that their friend was injured and needed attention. When Dooley approached the vehicle to assist, he was shot in the face and killed immediately. The car sped off, but soldiers shot at it and later found it abandoned containing rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), hand grenades, flares and C4 explosive.

The men on Tiger Base are curious what the Iraqis think of them, and baffled by the hostility the daily attacks make so obvious. "They hate us," soldiers often say of their new neighbors in Iraq. Sergeant Reginald Abram, 24, from San Diego, exclaims, "These people are pretty persistent. If they killed three of my buddies for shooting at them I'd be like, damn, maybe it's time to find a new hobby. But it's not difficult to understand why somebody might pick up an AK-47 against us. Maybe we killed his father in the first Gulf War, maybe in this Gulf War, maybe he's just a dick."

Captain Chris Alfeiri also expresses sympathy. "I wonder how I would feel if someone was breaking down my door," he says, "or if it was my grandfather who didn't understand instructions at a checkpoint and panicked and was shot by the foreign force."

United Arab Emirates, Editorial in the Gulf News

The Americans have changed their minds and agreed that a security force in Iraq manned by Iraqis is welcome ... The American welcome to the development of an Iraqi security force is an important breakthrough. It is vital the Americans learn to trust Iraqis, since in the end they will have to hand the country back for Iraqis to administer Iraq. The American decision to disband the Iraqi army was a mistake, particularly since the army largely did not fight the Americans. The further decision to ask all former party members to leave the civil service compounded the error.

In a country which has been run by the Baath Party for decades, it was not possible to refuse to give government employment to any who were members of the party without causing the collapse of the system that Iraq has witnessed in the past few months.

It is understandable that a fervent Saddam loyalist should not be allowed to continue in a position of influence, but it is not right to turn out the thousands of experienced government workers who were simply doing their work within the system.

The governing council has outlined a plan for taking to trial senior Baath Party members, Saddam loyalists, and those who committed crimes under the regime's orders. This legal process should be the limit of the proceedings against those who worked for the former regime. It is time to rebuild the system, under completely new Iraqi political leadership, but including all Iraqis with skills to contribute.

Qatar, Lawrence Smallman in Al-Jazeera

Tikrit is a two-hour drive from Baghdad ... but despite the large number of U.S. forces here, it is likely the ousted president is in this part of the Salah al-Din province...

With the lack of security and resentment felt in Tikrit, many ordinary Iraqis say tribal strength and importance is on the rise -- as is their ability to protect and hide.

Dakhil is the Arab word for a man on the run who pleads for tribal protection. Once given, a tribesman would rather die than give up any information. The shame of handing over a fugitive would be worse than death.

The $25 million dead-or-alive reward is highly unlikely to achieve results...

Before driving out of town, I stopped to drink tea while watching schoolchildren and young men wave pictures of Saddam Hussein at American soldiers.

I was sitting next to a Saddam in-law -- who cannot be named. He was happy to tell what he thought of Saddam and Iraq's occupation.

"When I see the Americans here, I feel like my throat is being squeezed," he said.

He straightens his shimagh, or headdress, and looks at a Humvee with two soldiers in it, not 200m away.

"I'm sure if Americans had Iraqi troops patrolling their streets, searching their houses, stopping their cars and pointing guns at their women and children -- they would be the first to resist.

"Who is this Bremer? What on earth is he doing in Baghdad? By what right does he make decisions for our country and our people?

"What right do Americans have to put the soles of their boots on the back of Iraqi necks when they make arrests? ... But let them continue, for every day they act like this -- more will come to take part in fighting them."

"Saddam is safe because nobody -- even those who hate him -- would ever think to hand him in. The vast majority here would rather have him back than continue with this occupation -- ask anyone you like, and you'll see"...

Until he is caught, many Iraqis will always be looking over their shoulders, wondering if a man who controlled their lives for more than 20 years may still have some final part to play.

United Kingdom, Patrick Cockburn in the Independent

Hostility towards the occupation has increased sharply over the last few months in both Sunni and Shiite Muslim districts. An opinion poll carried out by Iraq's Centre for Research and Strategic Studies, a think tank set up by Iraqi professors after the fall of Baghdad, shows that only 15 percent of Iraqis see the invading coalition as 'liberating forces'. This compares to 43 percent who broadly welcomed the coalition six months ago in a poll by the same organization.

The number of Iraqis who see the U.S.-led coalition as 'occupying powers' has risen from 46 percent to 67 percent over the same period. One wealthy Shiite businessman said: "It used to be the Sunni who opposed the occupation but now I notice that my Shiite friends are also becoming hostile to it." This is a significant development since Shiites are at least 55 percent of the population. The only Iraqi community which still supports the invasion is the Kurds.

The rejection of the occupation by most Iraqis has not yet turned to armed resistance, except in Sunni districts north and west of Baghdad, but guerrillas are likely to find an increasingly sympathetic environment in which to make attacks. The battering by rockets of the al-Rashid, the most visible sign of the U.S. presence in Iraq, may also increase a feeling among Iraqis who do work with the coalition that they are not necessarily betting on a winner.

Nigeria, Lanre Towry-Coker in the Vanguard

Kudos must be given to Arnold Schwarzenegger. As a cult hero turned governor, he's really made it big. So big, in fact, that he could easily be the president of a country, bearing in mind that California has the world's fifth largest economy. He is, therefore, now a bigger player than France, were California to be in the European Union and not in the U.S.

Therefore, I suggest sending him to Iraq.

President Bush's problems there mean that he should send the "terminator" to go in instead -- or better still, promise that the next episode of "Terminator" will be filmed in Baghdad with Saddam playing the lead role as the bad guy. Bush also has the opportunity to send Arnie to explain exactly what U.S. policy is in Iraq -- and since Arnie can't speak English anyway, anything he says will be greeted with loud cheers!

Finally, the U.S. has somebody who can compete with bin Laden's video tapes. And Arnie's tapes even have special effects.

Switzerland, Anna Nelson in Swiss Info

Monday's blast is the first time the Red Cross has been targeted by suicide bombers in its 140-year history and has served as a stark reminder that neutrality does not guarantee protection.

"We always believed that we were protected by the humanitarian work we do," Nada Doumani, the ICRC's spokeswoman in Baghdad, told reporters. "We thought that people knew us ... and that we were different from the rest."

The Geneva-based organization has been operating in Iraq since 1980, providing humanitarian assistance in the country and monitoring compliance with the Geneva Conventions.

It was also the only aid agency to remain active in Iraq throughout the United States-led war against Saddam Hussein and has since declined protection from the occupying forces in an effort to maintain its neutral stance.

But when asked whether the ICRC had relied too heavily for protection on its reputation for not taking sides, ICRC spokesman Florian Westphal said that the organization had no choice.

"We've been doing our humanitarian work throughout the past 20 years in Iraq, irrespective of who was in power, who was winning or who was losing, and we really have acted as an independent organisation all along," Westphal told swissinfo.

"As anywhere else in the world, that has got to be our main security guarantee. Humanitarian aid cannot be imposed by force of arms," he added...

So far, it's unclear whether Monday's blast will force the organization to pull out of Iraq altogether.

But regardless of what decision is taken, Westphal says the Iraqi people are the ones who lose out when such attacks are carried out.

"We feel that the real victims with these attacks are Iraqis," he said.

"If we are forced to alter our activities because of the security situation, the people who need our help, who are Iraqis, will suffer," he added.

Saudi Arabia, Khaled Al-Maeena in the Arab News

Today is the first of Ramadan...

Indeed, the month of Ramadan should be used to reflect and to question whether we Muslims are really on the true path...

Let us also remember, on this day and in all the days ahead, that our faith demands that our concerns go beyond our own selves and families...

Yesterday's rocket attack on Baghdad's Rashid hotel shows the near anarchical situation prevailing in Iraq ... Palestine is going through one of the worst crises in its tragic history.

Our heart goes out to all those who suffer on account of their faith, occupation or simply because they find themselves on the wrong side of a border or are pawns in a game played by big powers for geopolitical objectives.

Let the families of those who lost their near and dear ones in terrorist attacks in the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Bali and elsewhere have the fortitude to bear their suffering with dignity. But it is not enough to pray for the victims of terrorist fury. We should make a determined effort to eradicate the menace of terrorism from the face of the Earth. Nothing we do or say should even remotely encourage the purveyors of hatred...

Let us once again pray that this Ramadan that all Muslims will make a sincere effort to come closer together and closer to Allah through fasting, prayers, zakah and charity. And, through hard work, let us make this a better world for us and our children...

We know that all major battles in Islamic history were fought and won during the month of Ramadan. There are still battles to be fought and won -- against poverty, intolerance, prejudice, racism and terror.

By Compiled by Laura McClure

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