Defense Department Report, April 15: Iraq Operational Update


Thursday April 15, 2004

Myers: Other Nations Must Help Iraq Succeed as Free State

The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff says the international community must give the Iraqi people every chance to succeed as a free state and it is inappropriate for neighboring countries to promote "their own self-interest" there.

Air Force General Richard Myers told reporters at the Pentagon monitoring his April 15 briefing from Baghdad, where he has been meeting with coalition forces from Poland and Italy as well as officials with the Coalition Provisional Authority, that the United States "will continue to maintain a strategic partnership with the Iraqi Governing Council" and with "emerging provincial leaders."

"We look forward to a free and democratic Iraq joining the family of free and peace-loving nations," he said.

Myers acknowledged that an array of challenges has been experienced in Iraq in recent days, and he said a requirement for additional military manpower will be met.

He said U.S. Marines are obeying a cease-fire in Fallujah as political negotiations are pursued, but he noted that insurgents are still firing on them. Those negotiations cannot continue indefinitely, however, Myers said. While waiting to see the results of the negotiations, he warned, "we have to be prepared ... that there may be further military action in Fallujah," where former regime elements and some foreign fighters are conducting offensive operations.

U.S. Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq, joined Myers in updating reporters. The insurgents, he said, "are attacking the democratic institutions of the country. They're attacking the religious, the political and the security structures of this country in an effort to take it back toward an oppressive era."

The illegal militia associated with Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has attacked innocent Iraqi women and children as well as coalition forces, Myers said. The chairman also said al-Sadr's appeal does not represent a religious uprising or a popular resistance against the coalition.

Instead, Myers said, it represents "a few hundred people in various cities trying to, through fear and terror, have their way with the local populace... governates...police and so on." He also said al-Sadr "is being marginalized more ... every day by his own actions."

The two U.S. military officers were asked if al-Sadr is being sought because of allegations that he was involved in the assassination of another Muslim cleric last year or because he is running a private militia. Sanchez said "the real trigger" was his militia's attack against Iraqi institutions such as the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps in Najaf and the occupation of police stations and government buildings there.

Myers said al-Sadr's followers were not worried about killing innocent Iraqi civilians when they fired mortars into Najaf.

While warfare is always cruel, Myers said, no military campaign has been run in a more humane way than that of coalition forces in Iraq since March 19, 2003, through the present. Italian, Polish, American and other coalition forces "often put themselves in harm's way rather than putting innocent civilians in harm's way," he said. Coalition forces are very compassionate, he said, and they are always thinking -- unlike al-Sadr's militiamen -- "how to avoid hurting any innocent civilians."


(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:


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