Sunday, April 22, 2007

Weekly attack on Diwaniyah VIII/07

April 20 Rocket attack on Echo base (Iraqslogger), thats Friday so think post sermon hate.
April 21 Reports of Polish convoy 30 km from Diwaniyah hit by IED, one Polish solider killed and three wounded.

That second news is grievous, but the indirect fire attacks inDiwaniyah proper have finally tailed off. MNF(I) reveals two reasons why indirect fire attacks on Echo are down post Black Eagle - the US 1-14 Cav Regiment. First, they patrol likely firing sites (a basic tactic MND(CS) has not carried out in many months since they apparently lost control of Diwaniyah city last summer). Second, a US mortar subunit has set up shop at Camp Echo to deliver counter battery fire, illum and HE missions. Counter battery is critical, because any Muj delivering fire to Echo is likely to be in a hurry before the return fire drops in his lap . Furthermore, since patrols are looking for him the in the likely times and places, he will be nervious setting up, unlike in the recent past when he had time to take coffee and a smoke between shots. Why on earth it took nearly a year and US forces to conduct such fairly basic self defence measures is a question that should be put closely to MND(CS) past and current Polish leadership, but the chances of General Lamla and predecessors being put to the question are probably sadly remote.

How big has the indirect fire threat been before the US took charge? Compare these two photo series from MND(CS) PIO :

Salvadorean change of contingent 16 February - soft hats and bdus for all.

Lithuanian and Ukrainian soldiers recieve medals 20 April, helmets and full armor for the Polish , Ukrainians and Salvadoreans. Only the Lithuanians make light of danger and forgoe the armor.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Daily Weekly attack on Diwaniyah VII/07

Happy news at last, after last weeks daily hate there have been a mere two attacks in the last week (the Lv MoD homepage is not responding so no details). Of course two attacks in one week would have been big news last year.

Furthermore, according to this article, after being al-Sadr's bitch and personal static mortar range for about six months, MND(CS) will finally change policy and be more proactive. Disturbingly, Iraqslogger reports that Black Eagle only occurred after local tribes demanded action. Of course, the current relative calm is helped greatly by the fact that there are regular US troops (stryker/cavalry) still in the streets of Diwaniyah (pictured below by Reuters dodgy stringer Imad al-Khozai). With any luck they will remain there a while, or at least until summer when we are due to withdraw.

Update : details available

April 12
when several rockets were fired towards the base in the evening with no serious damage (Latvian MoD)
April 17 Camp Echo (aka Echo base, aka FOB Echo) came under mortar attack (Iraqslogger)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Wire services and news in Diwaniyah

Now Reuters is clueless, we knew that, but I begin to wonder if the MSM isn't deliberately excising coverage of the Coalition of the Willing (among other sins). Case in point : Operation Black Eagle in Diwaniyah. The first photo has had plenty of exposure on internet news stories, the second is pretty much unseen. Perhaps the composition is worse. Maybe the intended US audiences aren't too interested in foreigners anyway. But maybe left leaning media outlets want to minimise the Coalition of the Willing? Try to find examples of coalition soldiers doing much of anything in Iraq in the MSM, there is very very little except for fatalities which the MSM reports with alacrity. Now compare these two photos [1] [2] :

A U.S. military convoy drives through Diwaniyah, 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, April 6, 2007. Iraqi forces backed by American soldiers swept into a troubled, predominantly Shiite city south of Baghdad before dawn Friday, and the U.S. military said as many as six militia fighters had been killed. (AP Photo/Jalal Mudhar)

AP via Yahoo! News - Apr 06 11:09 AM

A soldier from the multi-national forces stands guard while U.S. armoured vehicles patrol a street in Diwaniya, 180 km (112 miles) south of Baghdad, April 6, 2007. Iraqi and U.S. troops on Friday moved into the southern city of Diwaniya, a stronghold of Shi'ite militia loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, in an operation to curb the militia's increasing influence. REUTERS/Imad al-Khozai (IRAQ)

Reuters via Yahoo! News - Apr 06 10:50 AM
That slippery Diwaniyah shifts 50km depending on which wire service you believe. I guess it depends how you measure it, maybe one is road miles and the other crow miles.

The multinational soldier is Latvian, again the unique Latvian digital desert cam, and see the flag on the sleeve pocket. A closer view would reveal "LATVIA" written above the flag. Photographer "Imad" obviously has trouble with reading and/or geography since he was the one who photographed the "Bolivian" soldier in Diwaniyah the following day.

Those two photographs were either taken seconds apart by one camera, or more or less simultaneously from two places. They are from two different wire services, with supposedly two different photographers, and both spell "Diwaniya-/-h" differently. So two local stringers were standing shoulder to shoulder like good friends shooting away? Unless .... nah, couldn't possibly be that the wire services are being taken for a ride?

Are there any more examples? How about these photos [1] [2]?

An Iraqi soldier patrols the deserted streets in Diwaniyah, 130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, April 9, 2007. American troops continued operations in Diwaniyah on Monday, detaining four guards at the office of a Shiite political party and scouring two neighborhoods in the city's northern and eastern sections, police said. At least 24 suspects were detained and one civilian was killed, police said. U.S. officials had no immediate comment. (AP Photo/Jalal Mudhar)
AP via Yahoo! News - Apr 09 8:57 AM

An Iraqi soldier searches for snipers in a street in Diwaniya, 180 km (112 miles) south of Baghdad, April 7, 2007. U.S. forces launched an air strike in the volatile Iraqi city of Diwaniya on Saturday amid sporadic gunbattles between Shi'ite militiamen and U.S. and Iraqi forces seeking to return the city to government control. (Imad al-Khozai/Reuters)
Reuters via Yahoo! News - Apr 07 3:33 PM
But that appears to be the same guy, in an similar pose, in stories filed two days apart. Look at the face, arms bands, silver watch, webbing, the position and pattern of the cam on the vest relative to the webbing is identical. That is the same guy. He is "patrolling" in the first and "searching for snipers" in the second, doing neither very convincingly. Weird huh? Either its a remarkable coincidence or it is staged and/or mislabelled and mis-dated.

Maybe Imad and Jalal are buddies, they travel together and photograph stuff. Or do they just stage together, and inaccurately mislabel the photos as required to fit the moment and the wire services bite? Or does Jalal, who seems to travel (he has photos from many different cities in Iraq) borrow unattributed (staged) shots from his buddy Imad in Diwaniyah?

Hard to say. I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation, but IMHO its just more symptoms of the disease that infects AP and Reuters (and the MSM in general). Pathetic fact checking, reliance on unaccountable crooked stringers, embedded political bias. News that's skewed even if nothing is faked.

Daily attack on Diwaniyah VI/07 and Operation Black Eagle

An operation to finally clean up Diwaniyah began on April 6th - Operation Black Eagle. Notably it appears MND(CS) is not leading, but the main work is being done by US forces - though it is claimed to be lead by the Iraqi 8th division with US and multinational support*.

Iraqslogger has a number of articles, Diwaniyah is under curfew since April 6th, the US has used air strikes, and the enemy claims to have smoked 3 HMWVVs, at least one American has been killed, and about 60 or so from the Mahdi army, IED factories have been uncovered, including for EFPs.

And how does this affect our beloved Camp Echo?

31 March During the evening Camp Echo takes unspecified incoming fire (Lv MoD)
02 April Camp Echo is mortared at 0430 in the morning (Lv MoD)
06 April Camp Echo is rocketed at about 2200.
07 April Camp Echo is mortared around 1700 (daylight!).
08 April Camp Echo is rocketed around 1300 (daylight!).
09 April Camp Echo is quiet (Easter roundup summary at Lv MoD).

The 6th was Friday, so figure the usual post-sermon evening hate, but daylight indirect attacks are rather unusual. At a guess, unable to effectively target the moving operation, the Sadrists vented at the big static target just outside town.

Will Black Eagle help to ease the attacks on Camp Echo?

Short term while the operation rolls and heavy outside security remains probably so.

Long term (>month) I have doubts. There were similar operations just six months ago (October). The locals have to take charge again sooner or later, and up to now they've been good Sadrists. The local police were useless and unable to maintain control, and will continue to be so. The Iraqis would need to import a crack police brigade or so from elsewhere to significantly change that (and Diwaniyah is not that important in the big picture). Killing off some 100 Sadrist militia in a city of 500 000, where 10% or more may be potential militia fighters changes little. The supply of weapons likewise is unchanged (though with any luck key IED makers/cells have been nailed, and that would make the whole operation worthwhile). I fear the net effect, with bodies and city center airstrikes, may just be buckets of bad will from the remaining locals.

None of this changes Camp Echo's inability to act as more than a static mortar range target, or MND(CS) inability to conduct meaningful operations.

* If there exist any photographs showing any MND(CS) soldiers outside the wire excepting the Latvians, well, I cannot find them on the english language internet. If any visitors do see any please leave a comment and a link.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Micro-ReutersGate in Diwaniyah

The trouble in Diwaniyah has finally come to a head, with forces being diverted from elsewhere to clean the militias out. But more about that elsewhere.

Reuters has bungled a photo caption, in itself a quite trivial event, but IMHO illustrative of Reuters poor quality. Reuters stringers are apparently covering the operation, and Reuters shows this picture and captions it "A soldier from Bolivia patrols a street in Diwaniya".

A soldier from Bolivia patrols a street in Diwaniya, 180 km (112 miles) south of Baghdad, April 7, 2007. U.S. forces launched an air strike in Diwaniya on Saturday as U.S. and Iraqi troops seeking to return the volatile Iraqi city to government control fought sporadic gun battles with Shi'ite militiamen.
Reuters problems with suspect stringers and negligent basic fact checking has been noted previously ("Reutergate"). Here is another example, though this may be news to Reuters :

- there are no Bolivian soldiers in Diwaniyah, mainly because
- there are no Bolivian soldiers in Iraq, mainly because
- Bolivia is not currently taking part in Operation Iraqi Freedom, mainly because
- Bolivia has never taken part in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

There are soldiers from El Salvador in Diwaniyah, part of MND(CS). Bolivia, Costa Rica whatever, I mean what's the difference, right? Course, some of us instincitively realize that the pseudo-narcostate pseudo-marxist Morales lead Bolivia is entirely unlikely to deploy to Iraq, but Reuters highly paid editors obviously needed to do some googling. Unless they think that a Bolivian born soldier serving in (for example) the US army, justifies a tagline like that. But the soldier is 100% most assuredly not from Bolivia in any way.

The soldier is Latvian, although Latvian participation in the Coalition of the Willing may also be news to Reuters. That a pale north european looking guy is patrolling in Diwaniyah may have been a clue, but the key diagnostic features are the unique Latvian large pixelled digitial desert camoflague and the custom H&K G36 (Compare the Reuters foto with these at Lv MoD).

Good morning Reuters. Try buying a clue.