The US army are holding 300,000 Iraqis hostage as they lay siege to Baquba, a mainly Sunni Muslim city north east of Baghdad.
Over 10,000 troops, backed by their Iraqi allies, have surrounded Baquba in a “surge of operations” reputedly targeting “Al Qaida groups”.
The offensive is the biggest by US troops since the assault on Fallujah in November 2004 and is part of the “surge” of troops by George Bush. It is a desperate gamble to rescue the occupation from defeat.
Yet US commanders admitted that the Iraqi army would be unable to hold the city once it has been cleared.
One of the US commanders described the operation as a “kill sack”.
After cutting off all escape routes they launched repeated air strikes on civilian neighbourhoods claiming they were killing resistance fighters. But a senior commander admitted that “80 percent” of the fighters fled ahead of the assault.
An unknown number of civilians have been killed. Local emergency workers said that US troops were blocking ambulances from reaching the wounded.
The US killed a group of village guards then attempted to cover up the crime by suggesting the guards were Al Qaida supporters.
The strategy in Baquba has been dubbed “clear, hold and build”. Troops would smash their way into an area, then provide reconstruction. Yet according to a study of Basra carried out by the International Crisis Group the strategy is a dismal failure.
The group reported that in 2006 British troops “sought to root out militias and hand security over” to Iraqi security forces.
But “relentless attacks against British forces in effect had driven them off the streets into increasingly secluded compounds”.
The group concluded that “Basra’s residents and militiamen view this not as an orderly withdrawal but rather as an ignominious defeat.”