He’s apparently still alive, or at least was on Wednesday, when he showed up at the Imam al Adham mosque, according to residents of the area. He opened the sunroof of his limousine, climbed onto the roof of the car and allowed his dutiful subjects to kiss his feet, the residents said.
It’s impossible to know what to believe in the chaos that has developed in Baghdad after the collapse of Saddam’s government. But the U.S. took this report seriously enough that it dispatched Marines to the mosque, where a fierce firefight developed that left one Marine dead and 20 injured. If Saddam was inside, he successfully slipped away.
Civil chaos in Iraq
The U.S. seems to have miscalculated the level of civil unrest that would arise in the vacuum left by the departure of Saddam’s regime. Looting has hit every major city. Government buildings have been sacked, banks robbed. In some cities, roving gangs of thieves are breaking into businesses and homes. Another problem is payback – getting even with former members of a hated government.
Heavy fighting along the Iraq border with Syria
You may never have heard of Qaim, which is a town on the Euphrates River close to the Syrian border, but one of the longest battles of the war is being fought there. The fighting between U.S. Special Forces and British commandos on one side and Iraqi Special Republican Guards on the other is now in its third week.
So what’s so special about Qaim? It was a uranium separation facility for Iraq’s budding nuclear program before the Gulf War. The plant was heavily bombed then.
But the tenacity with which the site is being defended now leads U.S. commanders to believe it may be a site for SCUD missiles or other prohibited weapons (Iraq launched SCUDs against Israel from this area in 1990).
Halliburton subsidiary gets a contract worth up to $7 billion
Kellog Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, where Vice President Dick Cheney hung his hat before being elected with President Bush, has been given a no-bid contract worth a maximum of $7 billion over two years for oil field services in Iraq. Profit is supposed to be capped at 7 percent.
This analysis suggests that the oil fields, which are in a sorry state, may need $2.5 billion in work to get Iraqi production back to the level that existed before the Gulf War. It also suggests that the U.S. has consistently overestimated the likely revenue available from the Iraqi fields.
The European Union has announced it will investigate bidding practices for Iraq projects to ensure that they don’t violate World Trade Organization standards or discriminate against European companies. The French, Germans and Russians didn’t want to go to Iraq a month ago, but they’re certainly eager now.