Saddam Hussein’s regime is gone from power. That assessment today from the White House. But that does not mean there is widespread stability in Iraq. In fact, looting continues in some cities, including Baghdad, and there could soon be a confrontation between troops still loyal to Saddam Hussein and U.S. troops in Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit. But Operation Iraqi Freedom, as it’s called, is making lots of progress, as Robert Raffaelle reports.
U.S. Marines took up positions on the streets of Mosul, after Iraqi troops formally surrendered to American forces. U.S. officials say the Iraqi army’s 5th Corps agreed to a cease-fire Friday.
Before the arrival of U.S. troops, looters smashed into several vacant buildings, taking away furniture and other valuables. Residents even stormed a local bank, and later threw money into the air.
In Kirkuk, there was more looting, while U.S. military officials met with Peshmerga forces now in control of the oil-rich city. Troops of the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade are now guarding oil refineries and factories.
Iraqi Kurdish leader Jalal Talabini said Friday that the Peshmergas will eventually leave. Barham Salih is a spokesman for Talibani’s group, The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
“Mister Talabani has issued orders for Peshmerga forces of the PUK to leave the city as soon as there are sufficient numbers of American military personnel inside the city in order for them to take control of the law and order.”
In Baghdad, huge flames raced through the sky Friday night, as several buildings were set ablaze, including at least one Iraqi government ministry building. Abu Dhabi television reported the blaze was at the Ministry of Planning.
Earlier in the day, U.S. soldiers watched from the gates of the Al-Rashid hotel, as looters ransacked the building that served as a base for journalists during the first Gulf War. In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, emphasized that efforts to restore law and order to Baghdad and other cities would take some time.
“In every country in my adult lifetime that’s had the wonderful opportunity to do that, to move from a repressed, dictatorial regime to something that’s freer, we’ve seen in that transition period there’s untidiness, and there’s no question, but that that’s not anyone’s choice.”
Secretary Rumsfeld added that U.S. troops would try to identify Iraqi civilians who could help enforce security in the streets.