President George W. Bush, as their commander in chief, has told American military leaders in Washington and Baghdad very firmly that the Marine siege force surrounding Fallujah may not storm the city. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s reported this in its April 16 issue. Nonetheless, millions of television viewers were treated almost every night this week to live, green-lit flickering images of heavy explosions on the skyline of Fallujah, caused by American air strikes. By demonstrating graphically that heavy fighting was already in progress in the beleaguered Sunni hotbed city, US commanders were telling the public that it would not matter too much if they were allowed to go all the way.
What TV viewers were really watching was static combat, exchanges of heavy fire between US Marines and Iraqi guerrilla positions. The bright flashes and thumps came from the 105mm howitzers fired by Spectre AC-130U gunship as well as helicopters. But the Marines stayed put, in obedience to the president.
According to our sources, the generals have been warning Bush that every day that goes by without storming the city not only aggravates the Fallujah predicament but leaves the enemy free to laugh off the American siege by taking advantage of three different points of entry and egress: the Euphrates River that runs through the town and creates a delta at its heart. The undergrowth on its banks is dense enough to conceal the smuggling of fighting men, arms, ammunition, food and medical supplies. Available too is the road to Ar Ramadi, through which Sunni and Shiite reinforcements as well as al Qaeda elements entering from Iran can reach Fallujah in defiance of the US siege. The third route from the north carries Arab fighting strength and al Qaeda men in from Syria.
In the meantime, Iraqi insurgents can study at first hand how the American Marines operate and store this intelligence up for use against them in the inevitable final showdown.
US military intelligence have come to the conclusion that Osama bin Laden‘s top man in Iraq Musab Zarqawi and his deputy, Mohammed Khalaifa, have gained entry to Fallujah and are making short trips in and out of the Sunni city, either together or turn and turn about. US experts assert that the heavy aerial pounding and three-week siege have not prevented the two terrorist chieftains from using Fallujah as their base for engineering a campaign of terror in Iraq like the speedboat strike against Basra’s oil terminals, and even reaching across the border into neighboring countries.
The US army has not revealed that Iraqi prisoners, key aides to former high-profile figures of the old regime, have been captured in Fallujah leading the town’s resistance. One is Samar Thamed, who was bureau chief of Saddam Hussein’s cousin, the missing Ali Majid, who became known as “Chemical Ali.” A large group of former Iraqi intelligence officers who held command positions in various parts of the Sunni town has also fallen into American hands.
The lesson drawn by the Israeli military command is frequently cited by US generals, namely, until Israeli forces stormed Nablus, Ramallah, Jenin, Hebron, Bethlehem and Tulkiarm, those Palestinian cities of the West Bank served terrorist leaders as safe havens and bases of operations – in exactly the same way as Fallujah is serving Zarqawi and Khalaifa.
Before Israel raided those towns, Palestinian suicide terror surged again and again. But ever since Israeli forces pulled Palestinian terrorist chiefs out, imprisoning or killing them, and established a military and intelligence presence in their strongholds, its intelligence and armed forces have been able to hold down the level of Palestinian terror, thwarting between 80 and 90 percent of attempted strikes.
American military leaders maintain that sending the Marines into Fallujah would wipe out al Qaeda’s guerrilla and terror center in Iraq and furnish them with the means of foiling terrorist attacks.
While listening to his military advisers, President Bush turns to one mediation option after another to fend off a general offensive.
The heavy US bombardment over the Jolan district of northern Fallujah Tuesday night, April 27, that knocked over ten houses and damaged many more, was based on intelligence received that a large ammunition dump belonging to the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr was situated in that area.
No one asks any more how a Sadr ammunition store comes to be situated in the heart of a Sunni stronghold. Its presence there attests to the forward planning of the combined, well-synchronized anti-US offensive that erupted in early April and made this month the bloodiest of the Iraq War.
In an attempt to turn the tables, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Iraq report that the Americans invited a large Shiite delegation from Najef to Fallujah this week for another attempt to mediate a truce. The delegation was put together by Najef’s most obscure ayatollah, Mohammed Taki Mudrassi, whose great asset is that he is the closest to Iran of any Iraqi cleric.
President Bush is clearly willing to sup with the Iranian devil to extinguish the fire in Fallujah.
The guerrilla representatives talking to the Najef team are led by the head of the Fallujah council of religious scholars, Sheikh Daari. But they are proceeding at a crawl because the Sunni sheikh takes his time to come back with answers and they are mostly vague, indicating that the responses he collects from the various Iraqi factions and their supporters have very little in common.
The American side, in attempt to force the pace, announced Thursday, April 29, that the Marines would on the morrow turn the town over to a 1,100-strong Fallujah Protective Army – FPA, under the command of a general who served Saddam. The new name was meant to label the new force as indigenous rather than US-appointed. However, before the day was over, a fresh round of shooting erupted between the US marines and the Iraqi guerrillas.