Global Policy Forum

Siege Tactics and Attacks



Picture Credit: True North Perspective

The US-led Multinational Force in Iraq has conducted a number of attacks on population centers, resulting in many civilian casualties and massive destruction of the urban physical infrastructure. In addition to the two major offensives on Fallujah in 2004, there have also been assaults on other cities and towns including al-Qaim, Tal Afar, Samarra, Najaf and Ramadi, considered by occupation forces as "insurgent strongholds."

Attacking forces typically seal off the entire urban area, using siege tactics that are explicitly prohibited under the Geneva Conventions (1949). Such tactics include cutting off water, food and electricity, forcing residents to flee. Those who remain are exposed to heavy air and ground bombardment and "free fire zone" risks. Seizure of medical facilities and interference with provision of medical assistance have also been common in these assaults.

GPF Perspectives

GPF Report on Iraq: Attacks on Cities (June 2007)

US Coalition forces have attacked and destroyed a number of important Iraqi cities, on grounds that they were  insurgent strongholds. The attacks have resulted in the massive displacement of people, large civilian casualties, and colossal destruction of the urban physical infrastructure. In addition to Falluja, there have been assaults on a dozen other cities including al-Qaim, Tal Afar, Samarra , Haditha, and Ramadi. The attacks include intensive air and ground bombardment and cutting-off electricity, water, food and medicines. The attacks have left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and in displacement camps.


2008 | 2007 | Archived Articles


The Good News in Iraq - Don't Count on It (June 29, 2008)

The US army claims that Iraq is becoming a safe and stable country. According to the Pentagon, violence has dropped at least 40 percent since February 2007. But civilians still die in large numbers and people lack electricity, portable water and hospital care. This article argues that the casualties are decreasing because millions of Iraqis have fled the country. Against this background, speaking of  success or  good news in Iraq seems obscene. (TomDispatch)

Embarrassed US Starts to Disown Basra Operation (March 31, 2008)

After violent attacks on the city of Basra, the US media claimed that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were the only key players in the conflict. The Bush administration attempted to distance itself from the situation by accusing Nouri al-Maliki of carrying out the attacks without consulting the US government. However,  no significant Iraqi military action can be planned without a range of military support functions being undertaken by the US command. US government officials admitted providing support for the raid up until the conflict began and denied involvement only after realizing the extent of the disaster. (Inter Press Service)

More Bombing Creates New Enemies (February 8, 2008)

According to this Inter Press Service article, recurring attacks on Iraqi villages reflect the failure of US military and foreign policy in Iraq. Soon after encouraging Iraqi residents to return to the area, the US military bombarded the Latifiya district, south of Baghdad, using bombers, F-16 jets and Apache helicopters. Fleeing civilians were also attacked from the air. The US rationalized the bombing by claiming it  suspected militant hide-outs, storehouses and defensive positions in the area.

Return to Fallujah (January 28, 2008)

This Independent article takes a look at the city of Fallujah since the 2004 US attack, which left it in a miserable condition. While the city lacks electricity, clean water and operational healthcare facilities, projects such as the Business Development Centre receive priority funding from the US. Far from seeing occupying forces as a source of assistance, residents of Fallujah claim the US  provides nothing and brings only destruction.

US Bombs Iraqi Insurgent Hideouts (January 11, 2008)

US aircrafts dropped 40,000 pounds of bombs in the southern region of Iraq in one of the largest air strikes in recent months. This unprovoked attack supposedly targeted  insurgents in the Diyala province, but an attack of this size and scale ultimately increases the civilian mortality rate and uproots innocent Iraqis. From thousands of miles in the air, military personnel can hardly confirm the identity of these  insurgents. (New York Times)



Chris Floyd for Glenn Greenwald: Rain of Terror in the US Air War in Iraq (October 23, 2007)

Since January 2007 and the beginning of General David Petraeus' and President George Bush's  surge strategy the number of air strikes in Iraq has increased fivefold. The US military claims that the bombings are aimed at al-Qaeda and insurgents. Witnesses say that  al-Qaeda is not the target and instead the approximate 1,140 strikes and untold attacks by helicopter gun ships have claimed the lives, homes and livelihoods of innocent civilians. One witness in Iraq said that people sympathize with al-Qaeda because the US does not value the lives of Iraqis. (Salon)

UN Challenges US on Illegal Air Strikes in Iraq (October 23, 2007)

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) calls on the US to investigate and make public the deaths of Iraqi civilians caused by US air strikes and raid operations. During interviews of Iraqi civilians, officials and journalists, UNAMI gathered information on the deaths of 88 civilians from US air strikes from March to June 2007. The US claims the air strikes target terrorists and not civilians. However, according to the UNAMI report, the number of strikes is on the rise and about 15 to 20 percent of all bombs miss their target by at least 40 feet. (Online Journal)

Weapons Left By US Troops "Used as Bait to Kill Iraqis" (October 4, 2007)

The US military is accused of using an arbitrary strategy to catch  enemy combatants by placing weapons and equipment on the ground and targeting Iraqis who pick them up. The tactic came to light during a murder trial involving three US soldiers accused of killing civilians and then placing incriminating evidence on the bodies to justify the killings. While the US military denies authorizing the murder of Iraqis and placing  drop weapons to lure insurgents, military sources confirm that  baits are often used as part of counter insurgency operations. (Independent)

Two Different Accounts of Deadly Airstrike in Baghdad (September 29, 2007)

At least seven Iraqis were killed by a US military airstrike in the district of Abu Dshir in Baghdad. According to Iraqi witnesses, residents gathering for a traditional Ramadan game came under fire from US helicopters. The US military claims that the aircraft was aiming at Mahdi Army fighters, the militia loyal to cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. However, witnesses suggest that the militia is complying with a ceasefire called by Sadr in August 2007 and that the US military is lying. While a US military spokesperson reports that  collateral damage was not observed residents attend funerals of those killed. (New York Times)

Iraq Caught Between the US and Al-Qaeda (August 20, 2007)

Citizens of the city of Baquba are victims of a US operation aimed at eradicating al-Qaeda militants in the city. The US military says eighty percent of the militants left the city shortly after the operation began, leaving the population to bear its impact. The operation killed over 350 Iraqis and US troops arrested many more. It also left Baquba without water, electricity and food during sweltering heat. (Inter Press Service)

Air Force Quietly Building Iraq Presence (July 14, 2007)

With little media attention - and parallel to the US troop surge - the Air Force and the Navy have reinforced their aircraft and other weaponry in Iraq, in terms of both technology and quantity. According to some conservative estimates, Air Force and Navy attack planes dropped five times more bombs in the first half of 2007 than during the same period in 2006. The escalation of the US military campaign, both in the air and on the ground, has led to a sharp increase in Iraqi civilian casualties. (Associated Press)

"Accidents" of War (July 9, 2007)

Air power -- given the civilian casualties that invariably follow in its wake -- is intensely counterproductive in a guerrilla war, argues this TomDispatch article. The author claims that the US military has always favored airstrikes as a principal tactic and frequently uses them in Iraq and Afghanistan because they appear more distant and less barbaric than  the atrocity of the car bomb or  the beheading. He argues that Washington will likely increase airstrikes in the future, despite the civilian casualties they incur, which devastate Afghanis and Iraqis and further provoke suicide attacks and Improvised Explosive Devices.

Military-Induced Displacement (July 2007)

Extensive US-led military operations such as aerial bombing have led to massive destruction of homes and sometimes entire communities in Iraq. Consequently, several hundred thousand Iraqis have fled their residences. Temporary displacement could develop into a long-term phenomenon as ongoing violence and a lack of compensation for losses prevent civilians from returning to their homes. (Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre)

Fallujah Security Crackdown Preventing Access for Aid Workers (June 19, 2007)

US and Iraqi forces are imposing a third major siege on the city of Falluja. As in April and November 2004, a Coalition-imposed curfew prevents residents from leaving their homes to get food and supplies, and the US and Iraqi military bars NGOs from delivering urgently needed humanitarian assistance. Cutting off water, food, electricity and medical aid inflicts collective punishment on Iraqi civilians, a crime under international law. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

US Doubles Air Attacks in Iraq (June 5, 2007)

In the first four months of 2007 alone, the US Air Force has dropped more bombs and missiles than in the whole year 2006, official figures show. The number of Iraqi civilian casualties from US airstrikes has risen sharply, with an average of more than 50 a month, according to conservative estimates. Yet, such casualties are "pale in comparison" with civilian casualties from ground combat, said a US Air Force commander. (Associated Press)

Curfew Begins to Choke Samarra (May 22, 2007)

This Inter Press Service article reports that the US and Iraqi governments have employed siege tactics in the city of Samarra in response to a suicide car bomb that killed a dozen police officers. Local residents said that forces sealed off the urban area and cut the water and electricity supply, leaving Iraqis in a desperate situation. According to a doctor at Samarra's main hospital, at least ten civilians - including seven babies - died due to a lack of fuel for the generators needed to run incubators and life-saving equipment.

Families Begin to Flee Baghdad Suburb as US-Led Forces Strike (May 7, 2007)

US forces have raided the Sadr City district of Baghdad, claiming the attack aimed to curb militants. However, the offensive forced at least 400 people to flee the district and head to southern provinces and displacement camps outside the capital. Most of the residents are extremely poor and are leaving their homes without enough money to support themselves. The situation is dire, as the district's hospitals suffer from a shortage of emergency medicines and security reasons prevent local NGOs from reaching those Iraqis in urgent need. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

Humanitarian Catastrophe Looms in Diwaniyah (April 11, 2007)

A humanitarian catastrophe is taking place in Diwaniyah, an Iraqi city where US troops launched an offensive to curb the Shia Mahdi Army. Police officials said that 41 people were killed and 61 were wounded in one week. Further, most of the civilians have become prisoners in their own homes, where they are running out of food. Wounded Iraqis are also facing a shortage of essential medicines and the city's hospital only has four hours of electricity a day. The US is blocking access by aid agencies and doctors, leaving Iraqis with urgent needs in a desperate situation. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

Divide and Rule: America's Plan for Baghdad (April 11, 2007)

The US is launching a new counter-insurgency strategy in Baghdad, creating enclosed neighborhoods with barricades and allowing only Iraqis with new ID cards to enter. This Independent article points out that a similar tactic was employed in the Vietnam War and the French war in Algeria, but showed little success. According to a former US officer in Vietnam who knows the plan well, the strategy is useless as the insurgents live in the same population centers as civilians and enjoy their support. This plan also restricts the Iraqis' freedom of movement while putting them inside  controlled population prisons.

The Legacy of Fallujah (April 4, 2007)

During the sieges of Fallujah in 2004, the US used chemical weapons such as white phosphorus and a napalm derivative, causing indiscriminate harm and unnecessary suffering in the civilian population. Although the use of those weapons is banned under several international treaties and the Geneva Conventions, no government or the United Nations has condemned such acts and these crimes remain unpunished. Three years after the sieges, the population of Fallujah continues to face innumerable hazards, living with daily attacks and factional violence and having no access to clean water or health care. (Guardian)

Fallujah Fears a  Genocidal Strategy (March 30, 2007)

This Inter Press Service article points out that the US and Iraqi forces are carrying out a  genocidal strategy in Fallujah, killing people seized during house-searches and patrols. According to Yasse, a resident of Fallujah,  seventeen young men were found executed after they were arrested by US troops and Fallujah police. Further, other residents reported that US forces allow Shia militias to raid Sunni neighborhoods, fueling the sectarian violence. With the deterioration of the security situation and the increase of the US backed-violence, most Iraqis now support attacks against the occupation forces.

Armed Groups Occupy Hospitals and Kidnap Doctors (February 13, 2007)

A growing number of Iraqis have been refraining from using hospitals due to fear of being shot or arrested by insurgent groups and official forces. US troops intrude into hospitals on a daily basis, placing or looking for snipers on the roof and arresting doctors. According to an Iraqi doctor,  whatever we say they arrest us and treat us, doctors, as if we are terrorists. They take us for interrogation and threaten us. So, in reality, we face danger from the insurgents as well as from the [official] troops. This constitutes a violation of the Geneva Conventions, which state that hospitals are and should remain neutral and accessible to everybody, especially civilians. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

The Najaf Massacre: Annotated (February 7, 2007)

This Foreign Policy In Focus article reports that the US media has been covering the Iraq War in a distorted manner. During the months leading up to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the New York Times inaccurately reported that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction without challenging questionable sources. Now the situation repeats itself in the January 2007 Najaf Battle. Although foreign media including Arab-language outlets said the event was a systematic massacre by US forces of Shia opponents, the US media continue to report it as a  battle between two local tribes, doing a careless coverage, with unnamed sources and inadequate research.

Bombs over Baghdad (February 7, 2007)

This TomDispatch article points out that a secret air war is taking place in Iraq. US and Coalition forces are bombing population centers and killing thousands of civilians. Although the US military has continually refused to give information on the scale of use of air power, US Air Force officials say they used more than 177 bombs in Iraq in 2006. Further, a study published in British medical journal The Lancet reveals that Coalition air strikes are responsible for 13% of deaths in Iraq and that more than 78,133 people were killed in this way since 2003.

US Air Strikes Isolate Baqubah Villagers (January 16, 2007)

The US launched air strikes against rural villages in Baqubah, claiming the offensive aimed to crush the insurgency. US officials said the attacks were successful and there were no civilian casualties. However, according to the media officer for Diyala province council, at least 14 civilians were killed and approximately 110 families were without water and food supplies as there was no prior announcement about the offensive. The Institute of Peace and Development in Iraq also reported that US troops have blocked NGOs' access to the villages, hindering them from helping those Iraqis with urgent needs. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)




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