Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What does it tell you that even Der Spiegel thinks the war is not lost?
The Iraq war came within a hair of returning to Ramadi in early July. The attackers had already gathered four kilometers (about 2.5 miles) south of the city, on the banks of the Nasr canal. Between 40 and 50 men dressed in light uniforms were armed like soldiers and prepared to commit a series of suicide bombings. They had already strapped explosive vests to their bodies and loaded thousands of kilograms of explosives, missiles and grenades onto two old Mercedes trucks. But their plan was foiled when Iraqis intent on preserving peace in Ramadi betrayed them to the Americans.

Army Units of the 1st Battalion of the 77th United States Armored Regiment -- nicknamed the "Steel Tigers" and sent from an American base in Schweinfurt, Germany -- approached from the north and south. But the enemy was strong and they quickly realized that in order to defeat it, they needed air support. Before long, Apache combat helicopters, F-18 Hornet and AV-8 Harrier jets approached, the explosions from their guns lighting up the night sky on June 30.

The "Battle of Donkey Island," named after the wild donkeys native to the region, lasted 23 hours. The Americans forced the enemy to engage in trench warfare in the rough brush, eventually trapping them in the vast riverside landscape. It wasn't until later, after the soldiers lost two of their own and killed 35 terrorists, that they realized the scope of the disaster they had foiled.

Three of the captured attackers, who claimed to be members of al-Qaida in Iraq, revealed their plan to plunge Ramadi into chaos once again by staging multiple attacks in broad daylight. By unleashing a devastating series of suicide attacks on the city, they hoped to destroy the delicate peace in Ramadi and bring the war back to its markets, squares, streets and residential neighborhoods.

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