We’ve got a new Baghdad Bob and his name is Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta.
General Atta addressed the media on Saturday and was channeling Kevin Bacon from Animal House when he urged everyone to remain calm, everything was under control.
Iraq’s military claimed Saturday that it had regained key northern territories from extremist Sunni Muslim militants and asserted it remained strong and capable against the radicals who have suddenly destabilized the country, a military spokesman said.
Most of Salaheddin province has beenreturned to the control of Iraqi military, and security forces also took back territory on the edges of Nineveh province, Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta said.
But his account conflicted with security officials in Baghdad and Samarra who told CNN that 60% to 70% of Salaheddin province remains in control of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, the extreme Sunni group. It also controls an oil refinery in Baiji, officials said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush into the Persian Gulf from the North Arabian Sea.
The order gives U.S. President Barack Obama “additional flexibility should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement Saturday.
As world concern grows about whether the extremists will march through the northern provinces to take over Baghdad, Atta asserted Saturday that Iraqi troops along with volunteer fighters now control several towns north of the capital: Ishaqi, Balad and al Dulwayiha.
“We emphasize that the circulation and incitement of rumors should be prohibited. This is the means which terrorists use to weaken the morale of soldiers and civilians,” said Atta, who also accused the media of false reporting.
Atta said the capital was safe Saturday.
“The security situation in Baghdad is completely stable.” Atta said. “The situation in Samarra is completely stable, and the troops are prepared for any terrorist plans.”
But conflicting reports emerged Saturday concerning security in the town of al-Dhuluiya, in Salaheddin province, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of the Iraqi capital.
Government officials and state TV said Saturday that Iraqi security forces had taken control of the town, but security officials in nearby Samarra and witnesses there told CNN that the town is still under ISIS control.
Samarra is significant to Iraq’s Shiites for its al-Askari shrine, and the Sunnis of ISIS have threatened to destroy any shrine they deem un-Islamic.
You can hardly blame them for lying. In addition to an army ready to flee when pressed, tens of thousands of new, green, raw recruits who appear to be long on enthusiasm and patriotic fervor but a little short in the training department, have entered the ranks. Basically, they are targets for ISIS guns and will no doubt die heroically.
But these ISIS fighters have been blooded against the Syrian army and Hezbollah for the last two years and aren’t intimidated even if they’re severely outnumbered as they were in Mosul. While it is difficult to get confirmation about what progress either side is making, the terrorists aren’t going in front of the media bragging about how well they’re doing.
Meanwhile, somewhere in the UAE where he lives with his family, Baghdad Bob is no doubt allowing himself a smile if he hears General Atta making a fool of himself before the world press.