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"Operation River Gate" Seeks to End Deadliest Period in Iraq

06 October 2005

Ramadan, usually one of the happiest holidays for Muslims, began in Iraq, with fighting between insurgents and coalition forces and more bombings.

In western Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi forces are continuing their biggest anti-insurgency offensive this year.  The primary purpose of what is called "Operation River Gate," is to subdue Sunni-led militants.  Officials believe the militants are intensifying their campaign of violence ahead of the October 15th constitutional referendum.

U.S. President George Bush, who predicted the increased violence, spoke on the U.S. strategy for dealing with insurgents.

"Part of the way the Pentagon and the folks on the ground are going to deal with it [the insurgency], is to stay on the offense, and that's what's taking place," said Mr. Bush

The violence continues.  In Hillah, a bomb blast near a Shi'ite mosque killed at least 25, and wounded 87 more.

The latest bombing follows the bloodiest month in Iraq.  According to the Washington Post, there were more Iraqis killed by bombings in September than in any other month since the start of the war in 2003: 481 killed.

Eight British soldiers were also killed by bombings this year.  A British official, speaking on condition of anonymity, accused Iran of providing technology to a Shia group in southern Iraq believed to be responsible for the bombings.  According to the source, the technology for the bombs came from Hezbollah, an Islamist extremist movement based in Lebanon.

The White House says the fight in Iraq is with an enemy whose vision of the world is twisted and violent.

"This is a sophisticated and determined enemy,” said Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman. “They are killers who have a hateful, murderous ideology that is based on evil beliefs and goals.  They have a clear strategy that seeks to exploit a religion to serve their violent, oppressive vision."

The administration is counting on Iraqis increasingly to join U.S. forces in the fight, and eventually replace them.  As Iraqi troops are judged fit to maintain security, more U.S. troops can be sent home. 

U.S. Major General David Petraeus, who was recently in Iraq, said the schedule for U.S. troops to leave Iraq is, in his words, "very conditions based."

"It's really three events: the referendum, the elections, and the formation of the government -- all will be very, very important."

More than 220,000 U.S. troops are currently deployed in Iraq.

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