The U.S. military has been updating training for the Iraq Army to help confront the threat of improvised explosive devices.

Officials said U.S. military transition teams have been revising courses to reflect new threats to Iraqi troops. They said the teams include advisers on intelligence, fire support, communications, logistics and combat tactics.

The Iraqi commanders are concerned about their own capabilities,” Maj. Gen. Carter Ham, commander of 1st Infantry Division, said. “They’re concerned about whether or not they will be fully supported by their government.”

Ham was one of three senior commanders who briefed the House Armed Services Committee last week on changes in U.S. training teams. He said training for 11-member advisory teams has become more rigorous since mid-2006 and was stressing basic skills.

Nearly 2,000 U.S. trainers were being prepared for deployment amid concerns that they could be abducted or killed during their stay with Iraq Army units. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group has called for a 20,000-member training force for the Iraq Army and police, something officials said would be virtually impossible.

“You don’t know who they’re going to be embedded with,” Rep. Solomon Ortiz, a Texas Democrat, said. “They could turn against our own soldiers.”

Officials said the U.S. military has updated techniques on foiling IED attacks as well as counter-sniper training. They said the trainers have also adopted procedures developed by combat teams deployed in Iraq.

In 2007, Ham said, the 1st Infantry Division plans to train another 6,000 officers and noncommissioned officers. He said a major challenge would be the recruitment of Iraqi translators.

“Of course, it’s quite a different culture than our own,” Ham said. “And in preparing our officers and noncommissioned officers for that environment, we have repeatedly added additional training to make sure that they are prepared to understand the nature of tribal construct, to understand the influence of Islam through all of Iraqi life.”

Lt. Gen. James Lovelace, the U.S. Army deputy chief of staff for operations, said the deployment of American trainers would not ensure Iraqi self-sufficiency. Lovelace said a key factor would be political support from Baghdad.

“I’d say the key factor for the Iraqi security forces would be the full support of their government,” Lovelace said. “If they’ve got that, that will be the key move forward. There is clear recognition that this is a different kind of fight, and increasingly inside Iraq [there is an] effort to make sure the leaders understand the nature of the conflict in which they find themselves.”

U.S. Bolsters Naval Presence In Gulf

The United States has bolstered its naval presence in the Persian Gulf.    

The U.S. Navy has deployed the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower for maritime security missions in the Gulf. The Eisenhower, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, entered the Gulf on Monday to also support the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

Eisenhower, the flagship of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, was accompanied by the USS Anzio, a guided-missile cruiser. Eisenhower could support as many as 100 fighter-jets.

Officials said the navy has been moving warships from the Red Sea and Indian Ocean toward the Gulf. They said the redeployment was meant to bolster the Western presence in the region amid Iran’s military buildup.    

The U.S. Fifth Fleet said the strike group departed Norfolk, Va. on Oct. 3.

The navy said the group began operating alongside coalition maritime forces on Oct. 30.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to serve and make a difference, whether it is flying in support of multinational troops operating in Iraq, or training alongside coalition and regional navies, or conducting maritime security operations in the Gulf,” Rear Adm. Al Myers, commander of the Eisenhower Strike Group, said.

U.S. Military Approves

Aid To Egypt

The United States has approved the continuation of a program to refurbish artillery platforms for the Egyptian Army.

Officials said the Defense Department has agreed to provide spare parts to maintain Egypt’s artillery vehicle refurbishment program. The program was meant to modernize Egypt’s fleet of U.S.-origin 155 mm howitzers for the army.

Under the program, BAE would refurbish 201 M109A2/A3 self-propelled howitzers for the Egyptian Army. All of the work would take place in the United States.

On Friday, the Pentagon awarded a $16.2 million contract to BAE Systems Land and Armaments for spare parts for the Egyptian program. Under the contract, BAE, based in York, would maintain its supply of parts for the vehicle refurbishment program.

Egypt: American Part Of Al-Qaida Network

Egypt has accused a U.S. national of being part of an al-Qaida network that recruited Muslims to fight the U.S. military in Iraq.     

The Egyptian Interior Ministry has released details of an American arrested along with 11 other Western nationals in Cairo. The ministry has released most of the suspects but has denied U.S. embassy officials access to the detained American.

“They were seeking to recruit others, teach them destructive beliefs, urging them toward holy war, and traveling to Iraq to carry out operations via other countries in the region,” the ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The ministry said members the al-Qaida cell operated under the cover of being Islamic students. Officials said the American, identified as Warren Grey, studied in al-Azhar University, regarded as the seat of Sunni Islam.    

Officials said Grey was believed to have been a member of Tawhid W’al Jihad, which became the al-Qaida network in Iraq headed by the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The Islamic suspects in Egypt were also alleged to be connected to Omar Abdullah Hamra, a Tawhid leader killed by Syrian troops in November as he sought to cross from Syria into Lebanon.

 Grey was also being investigated for links to al-Qaida’s Ayman al-Zawahiri. The U.S. State Department has sought cooperation with Egypt in the investigation.

“Our expectation is that he will be released and that he will be able to leave Egypt,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Egyptian authorities were also holding a French national. Two other French nationals and eight Belgians have been released.

Turkey IDs Al-Qaida Network Leader

Turkey has identified the leader of the al-Qaida network.

Officials said the al-Qaida leader was an attorney based in Istanbul with links to other insurgency groups in Turkey. They said the 25-year-old attorney, Malek Charahili, confessed to being the leader of al-Qaida in Turkey.

On Friday, the semi-official Anatolian news agency said the al-Qaida chief was one of 10 suspected insurgents captured during raids in late November in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. The agency said police found materials used to assemble bombs as well as a compact disc designed to explode when inserted into a computer.

This was the first time Turkish authorities had seen such a device, officials said. They said authorities also found maps of an oil refinery owned by the Tupras group in a suspected al-Qaida safe house.

Two of the suspects arrested with the al-Qaida chief were said to have also been members of the Great Islamic Eastern Warriors Front, known by its Turkish acronym IBDA-C. The group as well as al-Qaida claimed joint responsibility for two bombings in Istanbul in 2003 in which more than 60 people were killed.

Turkey’s NTV television said the raids of al-Qaida strongholds took place during the visit of Pope Benedict and capped a year-long investigation.

Al-Qaida Sends Agents Into Lebanon

Al-Qaida was said to have sent 150 operatives from Iraq to Lebanon.

The al Qaida-aligned Fatah Al Islam sent 150 Arab fighters from Iraq into Lebanon. Fatah Al Islam was said to have broken off from the Syrian-aligned Fatah Intifada.

“These 150 fighters have infiltrated from Iraq into Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon,” Fatah chief Sultain Abu Al Einan said. “It is a fundamentalist movement with an ideology close to al-Qaida and financed by [Osama] bin Laden.”

Syrian authorities have arrested 10 members of Fatah Intifada. Abu al-Einan said they included the head of the group, Abu Khaled al-Amli.

This was the second assertion in two weeks that al-Qaida operatives have been sent to Lebanon. On Nov. 29, a PLO official, Khaled Aref, said al-Qaida ordered 200 Palestinians and other nationals to build a network in Lebanon. The fighters were said to have resettled in Naher Al Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon and Ein Hilwe in the south.

Two members of Fatah al-Islam – a Saudi and a Syrian – were said to have been arrested by Lebanese authorities. The Lebanese newspaper al-Mustaqbel said the Fatah al-Islam operatives were sent by Syrian President Bashar Assad to assassinate 36 Lebanese figures who opposed the regime in Damascus.

Kuwait Signs Intel Sharing Accord

With Nato

Kuwait has signed an agreement for an intelligence exchange with NATO.

Officials said the agreement would regulate the sharing of classified information between the sheikdom and the Western alliance. They said this was the first NATO accord with a Gulf Cooperation Council state.

“This is a security pact to maintain confidentiality in the exchange of information between NATO and Kuwait,” Kuwait National Security Agency director Thamer Ali Al Sabah said. “It’s basically for exchange of security information and maintaining its confidentiality.”

The accord, signed on Tuesday at the opening of a NATO conference in Kuwait, was said to be similar to agreements by the Western alliance with partners in Eastern Europe. Officials said the accord would be limited to security, defense and counter-insurgency.

“The Middle East has some trouble spots, such as Iran, Iraq, the Arab-Israeli conflict and most definitely terrorism,” Al Sabah said. “NATO should look on this [agreement with Kuwait] positively and work on the security of our region.”

Officials said Kuwait has sought to obtain NATO expertise in intelligence, counter-insurgency, military exercises and instruction. They said the Western alliance could be bolstered by information provided by Kuwait on threats in the northern Gulf.

“We face the same threats — terrorism, nuclear proliferation and failed states,” NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said. “We all have a vital strategic interest in a stable Iraq and a stable broader Middle East region. We all share a common interest in energy security, whether we are suppliers or consumers.”

The latest contract was expected to last one year. The BAE project began in 2002 and has been overseen by the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command.

BAE said the refurbishment includes the overhaul of the engine, transmission and main armament to “like new” condition. The company said the project was meant to extend the service life of the artillery systems.

Executives said deliveries of the refurbished platforms have begun. They said Egypt would receive the overhauled howitzers through the end of 2007.

GCC Wants To Match Iran’s Nuke Program

The Gulf Cooperation Council has decided to match Iran’s nuclear program.

GCC leaders intend to study the feasibility of a nuclear energy program that would include all six member states. Gulf Arab leaders said any nuclear program would be peaceful.

“The higher committee ordered a GCC-wide study to be carried out to create a joint program in nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, according to international standards and arrangements,” a GCC communique said on Sunday.

[On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert included Israel in a list of nations that possess nuclear weapons. Later, Olmert aides said the prime minister, in an interview with German television, did not confirm reports of Israeli nuclear weapons, rather cited the Jewish state as being one of several responsible nations, including the United States.]

Arab diplomats said the GCC decision was meant to challenge Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran, denying full access to the International Atomic Energy Agency, has also insisted that its nuclear program was civilian.

“There is absolutely no need for a nuclear energy program in these oil-rich states,” a diplomat said. “But it puts Iran on notice that the GCC will be able to rapidly build a program that could lead to a nuclear weapons option.”

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia said it would not pursue a nuclear energy program, rather focus on research. But over the last few months, Riyadh, host of the GCC meeting, has warned that a nuclear Iran would spur Saudi efforts.

“Possessing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes has economic and scientific significance,” the Saudi Council of Ministers said on Monday.

 [On Monday, Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Turki al-Faisal, told the Bush administration that he was leaving his post. Turki left Washington after 15 months in his post. No formal announcement was issued.]

Saudi Arabia was believed to be the only GCC state conducting nuclear research. In 2003, Riyadh was said to have signed an accord with Pakistan for nuclear cooperation. On Tuesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Shawkat Aziz arrived in Saudi Arabia with a delegation to discuss cooperation.

“We are announcing our intention to pursue the ownership of nuclear technology for peaceful [purposes],” Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said. “It is not a threat. It is an announcement so that there will be no misinterpretation for what we are doing. We are not doing this secretly. We are doing it openly.”

The most advanced Arab country in nuclear efforts was said to be Algeria. Egypt and Morocco have prepared to launch a nuclear power program.    

“The countries of the region have the right to nuclear energy technology for peaceful purposes,” GCC chief Abdul Rahman al-Attiya said.

The Middle East Newsline contributed to this report.

©The Bulletin 2006


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David Bedein
David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: and A new site,, will be launched very soon.