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U.S. Military to Review How It Informs Iraqi Officials of Raids

By Christine Hauser
THE NEW YORK TIMES

The way American officials inform the Iraqi government about raids by coalition forces will be reviewed, a spokesman for the U.S. military command in Iraq said Thursday, after the country’s prime minister criticized an American-backed operation against a Shiite militia enclave.

The American military also said in a statement that one sailor and four Marines were killed by enemy fire in Anbar province. The American spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, said Thursday during a news conference televised live from Baghdad that American forces were using an “aggressive offensive approach” in the city of Ramadi in Anbar province.

Cooperation between American and Iraqi forces can be a sensitive balancing act, and it has political overtones for the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Maliki complained on Wednesday that the Iraqi government should have been informed about the raid into a Shiite enclave in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad, and should have a role in such operations.

His remarks indicated that Maliki finds himself having to navigate between the frustrated Shiites who form his political base and the American government that wields power in Iraq.

American authorities have an interest in showing that Iraqi officials and forces are taking a lead in running the political and military affairs of the country. The Bush administration says that it intends to train Iraqi forces sufficiently for them to take over security and allow the eventual withdrawal of American troops. But American forces have kept control in some areas in part because they do not believe that the Iraqi forces are up to the job yet.

On the protocol of apprising Iraqi officials of military operations, Caldwell said that this was an issue of “tremendous sensitivity.” Each day, he said, American and Iraqi forces are conducting raids all over the country.

He said the raid into Sadr City early on Wednesday was conducted by Iraq forces and backed by “coalition advisers.” It was aimed at two targets.

One was approved in advance by the government of Iraq. But at one point during the operation, the troops involved received information about the possible location of an American soldier of Iraqi descent who has been missing since Monday. Based on that information, Iraqi forces involved in the raid entered a mosque to search. They found nothing.

The prime minister was apparently not notified of this element of the raid, Caldwell said.

“U.S. coalition forces and the government of Iraq security element will go back and review our procedures to understand why the prime minister, as he states, had not been personally notified,” he said.

“It’s their country — it’s a sovereign nation,” Caldwell said. “Our protocol is such that, if we feel it’s of a real sensitive nature, something that you would notify a senior person about, then we are going to notify them.”

In the raid on Wednesday, Iraqi forces and American advisers entered the far northern tip of the Sadr City district, an area dominated by a Shiite guerilla leader known as Abu Dera, and came under fire. Air support was called in, and American aircraft fired high-caliber guns at militiamen, a military official said. Three people were detained.