Sunday, November 11, 2007


Concerns and doubts over collapse of Mosul dam

(VOI) – The controversial issue of the Mosul Dam has come up to the surface again after reports warned of a possible imminent collapse threatening to flood about half a million Iraqis amidst arguments among government and political circles in this regard. Some believe that reports about this dam was sheer media hype that rests on no authentic geological data while others think the stakes were high about the dam collapse now that there were no accurate scientific measures adopted to provide maintenance services. The Washington Post's last week report said that the Iraqi government rejected the findings of a U.S. oversight panel that the dam, near the northern city of Mosul, was on the verge of a collapse that could cause flooding along the Tigris River "all the way to Baghdad. "The possible collapse, the U.S. paper said, could unleash four billion cubic meters of water at one shot, which might kill thousands and submerge two of Iraq's largest cities by nearly 20 meters.
Riad al-Mufti, the former director for planning and follow-up of the Mosul Dam, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) that he believed there was no clear danger as far as a collapse of the dam was concerned. "The body of the dam can never tumble down except if struck with an atomic bomb or a powerful tremor. The dam body and foundations have no problem," Mufti affirmed. He pointed out that the continuous cement stuffing being applied at present in the dam base was part of its designing since it was first built on January 25, 1981 until its completion in 1986. "There was a tunnel designed inside the dam especially for stuffing works," he said. However, Mufti added, there was a problem regarding stuffing works, which were neglected during the 1990s, due to lack of state assistance and inefficiency of technical staff then. An executive engineer working in Mosul Dam told VOI on condition of anonymity that there were special drills inside the dam used to reach the spaces and pump a special kind of cement inside them. Experts, however, said the geological nature of the terrain where the dam was built was unsuitable, being composed of salty rocks that melt under pressure. They believe that if the gaps formed in the rocks are not filled with a special kind of cement, there would be more threats posed to the dam. A geologist who had worked on the Mosul Dam project told VOI the amount of water that would flood from the dam if it collapsed is estimated by 660,000 cubic meters per second while the Tigris River water course can not stand discharging more than 3,500 cubic meters per second. "No one can predict when the dam might fall down. It could be today, tomorrow or in 30 years," he said. Built between 1980 and 1984 by a joint German-Italian corporation, the 113 meter high dam's life span was estimated to reach 80 years.
Replying to the Washington Post report on the dam, Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh, the official spokesman for the Iraqi government, said in a statement that his government has placed the dam under constant monitoring with all precautions and maintenance works provided. "Iraqi teams have been working round the clock to inject the dam base with concrete and fill in the gaps that resulted from the erosion of some rocks," Dabbagh said. Ninewa Governor Dreid Kashmoula said the filling works stopped for a "short while" after the U.S. invaded Iraq. "The danger in the Mosul dam has been present since day one of its construction, due to the non-solidness of the terrain on which the dam stands," Kashmoula said during a press conference in Mosul, 405 km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.



KRG to announce two more oil deals

Oil, Kurdistan
(UPI) -- Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government will announce two more oil deals in coming days as it develops its oil sector with state-owned and private oil firms. There has been no response yet from Baghdad after the KRG’s announcement last Tuesday of another six production-sharing contracts it has signed. The KRG’s semiautonomous region in Iraq’s north has the geological makeup for major oil and natural gas deposits but has 0.5 percent of Iraq’s proven oil reserves.
Baghdad has called the KRG’s oil deals illegal, saying it needs to wait for a national oil law to be approved. That law is being held up for lack of agreement as to whether the federal government or regions and provinces have the authority to sign deals, among other reasons. KRG Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami told United Press International in a telephone interview two additional oil deals, including at least one with “a Western company,” will be announced “in just a few days, maybe a week.” According to a KRG map of exploration blocks, it has 28 either open or pending contracts.
The KRG has signed deals with a number of smaller, more risk-taking firms, including Hunt Oil of Dallas. Larger firms fear blacklisting from Baghdad, which will likely have the say-so on the majority of Iraq’s oil deals. But Tuesday’s announcement of deals by the KRG shows the applicants for its deals are getting weightier. A subsidiary of MOL Hungarian Oil and Gas was part of two production-sharing contracts. India’s largest private oil company, Reliance Energy, and Central Europe powerhouse OMV, an Austrian firm, each signed two production-sharing contracts.
The KRG also awarded four “strategic blocks” to the Kurdistan Exploration and Production Co. and gave the discovered but not developed Khurmala oil field to the Kurdistan National Oil Co. Both KEPCO -- which will concentrate on exploration and production -- and KNOC -- an operator of discovered fields -- were newly formed under the KRG’s oil law but would send revenues to Baghdad to redistribute. Hawrami said the companies “answer to the Council of Ministers in Kurdistan and is monitored and regulated by the Ministry of Natural Resources in Kurdistan, and is recognized by the Parliament in Kurdistan.” KNOC will also build a 50,000 barrels per day refinery.

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Iraq - Iran pipeline may be built

(UPI) -- Iraq and Iran may be moving ahead on a cross-river oil pipeline, a move the Iraq ministry has talked about but was further down the road. Media reports are carrying the word of a source in Iraq’s South Oil Co. that the pipeline construction has started. The South Oil Co. is a state-owned entity producing and transporting oil from Basra and surrounding areas, where 80 percent of Iraq’s oil reserves are located.
The Kuwait News Agency reports the construction of the pipeline between ports in Basra and the Abaadan port in Iran, crossing the Shatt al-Arab river. The pipeline capacity would be 200,000 barrels per day, and provide another route for Iraq exports and allowing an increase in production, the Al Mashriq newspaper reports.
Iraq produces just over 2 million barrels per day right now, but with 115 billion barrels of proven reserves, it could handle much more. Iraq and Iran had apparently signed a deal on the pipeline, though details are not known. Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani has confirmed it as one of many options to increase production and exports of the oil.

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Iraq, the Surge, Partition, and the War: Public Opinion by City and Region

Center for Strategic & International Studies
The attached report was prepared with the aid of Gary Langer and the ABC polling unit. It provides a detailed analysis of a recent poll of Iraqi public opinion on the war, sectarian cleansing, the Iraqi government, US forces and the surge, and many of the other issues that show the state of Iraq hearts and minds. It also shows the differences in such public opinion by sect, ethnicity, governorate, and major city where the sample of public opinion was large enough to provide a valid picture that could be broken out into such detail.
The results should be reviewed in detail. Polls do not provide some simply punch line insights, they rather provide a mosaic of the various attitudes Iraqis have towards key issues. Unless they are reviewed in detail, picking out one trend or result can be more misleading than helpful. This is particularly true of the results in this analysis. Some are consistent with the results of previous polls over a period of several years. Some reflect the initial impact of changes in US strategy and the surge at a time when the degree of added security in Baghdad and the impact of the tribal awakening in Anbar was less apparent to most Iraqis than it is today.The reader should also remember that the results in this report do reflect “hearts and minds” on a broad level. Decision makers often act on their own, very different perceptions. Violence and extremism are also generally driven by the views and actions of small minorities. Broad popular support for violence is rare, but this can have limited impact in a nation where minorities are willing to kill and use extreme violence with or without popular support.
That said, the results do provide important insights in several areas. They make it clear that Iraqis do not support breaking up the country, or separation and strong federalism at the expensive of national unity. They show that perceptions of violence are not eased by sectarian and ethnic divisions and are high in most areas with a dominant Arab Sunni or Arab Shi’ite population and leadership. They also indicate that Iraqis will tolerate a US and Coalition presence only as long as it is necessary to put an end to violence and until Iraqi forces are ready to take over the job. At the same time, they show a sharp decline in popular confidence in both the national and local governments, and the perception that violence and sectarian cleansing continue to rise. This is a warning that Iraq patience in the central government’s failures to move forward in accommodation and providing effective services is wearing thin, and that the Iraqi “clock” in demanding much more rapid progress may not be all that different from the American one.

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Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction From SIGIR Observations

October 30, 2007 Quarterly Report to Congress
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction From SIGIR Observations
Although the overall security environment has improved recently, contractors, journalists, and Iraq’s citizens continue to live and work in an environment that is, in many places, still quite dangerous:
+ The Department of Labor (DoL) reported 72 new death claims this quarter for civilian contractors working on U.S.-funded projects in Iraq. Since Iraq reconstruction began, 1,073 death claims have been filed with the DoL. Reported deaths in this category were about 22% above the quarterly average.
+ DoS reported that three U.S. civilians died in Iraq this quarter. Since the beginning of the U.S. reconstruction effort, 235 U.S. civilian workers have died in Iraq. Non-military U.S. citizen deaths reported this quarter were 78% below the quarterly average.
+ This quarter, 2 journalists were killed in Iraq; 119 Iraqi and other journalists have been killed since March 2003, and 41 media support workers have been killed in Iraq since hostilities began, including 2 this quarter.
+ Violence continued to force Iraqis to migrate. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that one of every seven Iraqis has been displaced by the conflict in Iraq. The UNHCR noted that large numbers of Iraqis continue to flee the country, and admission into Syria and Jordan became subject to visa approval this quarter. Internal migration is also limited by provincial restrictions on admission of internally displaced persons (IDPs).

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Islamic Army of Iraq attacks Al-Qaeda base

Security, Insurgency, Tribal
(BBC) - A Sunni faction has killed 18 al-Qaeda militants in an attack on a compound near the Iraqi city of Samarra, police have said. Another 16 al-Qaeda members were said to have been captured in the attack. The Sunni Islamic Army of Iraq - once part of the insurgency against US-led forces - said its fighters attacked the compound east of the city.
The faction is one of several Sunni former insurgent groups that have now turned against al-Qaeda. On Friday, five Sunni Arab tribal leaders had been killed in a suicide attack in Diyala province, north-east of Baghdad. The BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad says the Islamic Army of Iraq is apparently planning to use those captured in an exchange of prisoners.
A total of 15 fighters from the Islamic Army were also killed in the attack, police sources told Reuters news agency. Analysts say that while the Islamic Army shares with the US military a common enemy in al-Qaeda, it does not support the coalition forces or their continued presence in Iraq. No US or Iraqi security forces are thought to have been involved in the fighting.
Our correspondent says many of the Sunni tribes that used to provide safe havens for the militants are actively combating al-Qaeda. Much of the violence in the troubled areas north of Baghdad reflect that struggle within the Sunni community, he says. On Friday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives belt in the house of Sunni anti-al-Qaeda tribal leader Sheikh Faez al-Obeidi, killing him and four of his relatives. Those killed were members of the Diyala Salvation Council.
Sheikh Abu Risha, a key US ally in Anbar, was killed in September. Ten others were wounded in the blast, which happened near the town of Khalis. Diyala province, home to a mixture of Sunnis and Shias, has become a key battleground in the struggle to drive al-Qaeda from Iraq. The battle has spread there from Anbar province, once a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency. Many in the Sunni community say they dislike the austere form of Islam that al-Qaeda practises.

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Iraqi Minister Council removes legal immunity from foreign private security firms

Republic of Iraq, Ministry of Interior, Ministry Agency of information and National Investigations
General Dept of the Technical Affairs, Headquarters of Registration and Assessment of Private Security Companies
Letter No: 937, Date: Nov 1, 2007
To: All PSC
Sub: Removing the legal immunity
According to the directions of the Minister Council regarding moving the legal immunity
from all the foreign private security companies and deal with it according to Iraqi law.
Please notify that in all your future missions and give the direction to all your staff. For
your information all the Iraqi security departments were informed about it .The MNF
confirming taking the legal actions against any violator in the future. Including signing
your passports from the traveling and Jinsseya directorate to make your residence in Iraq
legal .And the violator will face legal punishment from the Iraqi law.
The Director of Registration and Assessment of PSC office
Copy to: To be informed and to take the appropriate actions …..With
respect PSCAI, PSC.

In the Name of the People - The Presidency Council
Based on what was submitted by the Council of Ministers and ratified by the Council of
Representatives and in accordance with the provisions of Article 138 (Fifth) of the
Constitution, the Presidency Council has decided in its session held on / / / to promulgate
the following law.
No. ( ) of 2007
The Law of subjecting Non-Iraqi Security Companies and its Contractors to the
Provisions of the Iraqi law

Article 1:
Non-Iraqi security companies and its non-Iraqi employees and contractors shall be
subject to the Iraqi legislations and the jurisdiction of the Iraqi judiciary in all civil and
criminal cases. All immunities granted to them in accordance with any valid legislation
shall be canceled.
Article 2:
The categories mentioned in Article 1 of this law shall be subject to the Iraqi legislations
including those related to the residency, granting visas, possessing and carrying weapons,
paying taxes, fees and customs, registering companies and granting them license to work
in the Iraqi territories.
Article 3:
The vehicles, ships, airplanes belonging to the categories mentioned in Article 1 of this
law shall be subject to the procedures of registration, licensing, checking and inspection
stipulated in the Iraqi legislations.
Article 4:
This law shall be deemed as an amendment for the Dissolved CPA Order No17 of 2004.
Article 5:
This Law shall enter into force on the date of its publishing in the Official Gazette.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007


Our apologies for intermittent posts. Posts will resume on the 24th of October.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


U.S. commanders to begin drawdown of troops in Diyala

(AP) -- Commanders in Iraq have decided to begin the drawdown of U.S. forces in volatile Diyala province, marking a turning point in the U.S. military mission, The Associated Press has learned. Instead of replacing the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division, which is returning to its home base at Fort Hood, Texas, in December, soldiers from another brigade in Salahuddin province next door will expand into Diyala, thereby broadening its area of responsibility, several officials said Tuesday.
In this way, the number of Army ground combat brigades in Iraq will fall from 20 to 19. This reflects President Bush's bid to begin reducing the American military force and shifting its role away from fighting the insurgency toward more support functions like training and advising Iraqi security forces.
The December move, which has not yet been announced by the Pentagon, was described to the AP by Col. Stephen Twitty, commander of the 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry, in a telephone interview Tuesday. It was confirmed by three other officials in Iraq, including Lt. Col. Michael Donnelly, chief spokesman for the commanding general of U.S. forces in northern Iraq, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon.
The idea is to avoid vacating a contested area, like Diyala, which is northeast of Baghdad, while beginning Bush's announced reduction of at least 21,500 troops, of which 17,000 were sent to the Baghdad area last spring. The shift in Diyala in December could be a model for follow-on reductions next year, with a redrawing of the U.S. lines of responsibility so that a departing brigade has its battle space consumed by a remaining brigade. At the same time, Iraqi security forces would assume greater responsibility.
Diyala province is a battered landscape of warring tribes, fertile valleys and pockets of al-Qaida fighters. The sectarian and tribal chasms are wide. Commanders cited signs of substantial progress in the months since thousands of U.S. and Iraqi forces stormed the provincial capital of Baqouba in June.
The unit leaving in December, the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry, has been in Iraq since October 2006. When it leaves, the 4th Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, now in Salahuddin province, will add Diyala to its area of responsibility.Donnelly said that even though the number of combat brigades in Iraq will drop by one with the departure of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry, the total number of soldiers in northern Iraq will remain almost constant. That is because later in December a unit arriving from Fort Hood - the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment - has substantially more soldiers than the unit it will replace.

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PKK leader says the group will defend itself from Turkey

(Al Jazeera) - The head of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) military operations in northern Iraq has told Al Jazeera that the group will confront Turkish forces if they are attacked. Murat Karayilan gave his statement a day before Turkey's parliament was to meet to decide whether to sanction military operations against PKK bases inside Iraq.
"If Turkey is going to use violence against our movement, our leader and our people, then we will respond," Karayilan said on Tuesday. Iraq's government said on Wednesday that it will send a delegation to Turkey to show that it is committed to stopping PKK fighters operating in Iraq. Karayilan said Turkey was using the threat of military action against the PKK to put pressure on Iraqi Kurdistan. Ankara has been angered by a series of recent attacks by the PKK inside Turkey in which dozens of soldiers and civilians have been killed.
He was speaking from his camp in the Qandil mountains straddling the Iraq-Turkey border.
On Tuesday, Tareq al-Hashemi, Iraq's deputy president, arrived in Ankara for talks with Turkish leaders. Al-Hashemi appealed to Turkey for more time to tackle Kurdish separatist fighters rebels based in northern Iraq, Anatolia news agency reported on Wednesday. "Give us time to join forces with Turkey to tackle this problem, which harms the national security of both countries," Anatolia quoted Hashemi as saying. "If the Iraqi government fails to meet its responsibilities, Turkey will be justified in doing what is necessary to protect its security interests."
James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Baghdad, said that whatever Baghdad says, the final decision rests with Kurdish political leaders as the embattled central Iraqi government has little authority in the Kurdish north of the country.
Karayilan said PKK fighters were not crossing the border to carry out attacks on Turkish territory. "It is not true that we are crossing the border. We have fighters everywhere. It is not necessary to send them from here. "Their [Turkey's] aim is to attack Iraqi Kurds."
The PKK leader in Iraq said Turkey was also hoping to put pressure on the US after a congressional panel said last week that mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I was genocide - a charge Turkey denies. Turkey blames the PKK for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since the group launched its armed struggle for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.

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Shiite tribal leaders say Islamism on the rise in southern Iraq

Religion ,Politics, Tribal
(Reuters) - Shi'ite Islamist political parties are imposing strict Islamic rules in the oil-producing southern provinces of Iraq and using their armed wings to create a state of fear, a group of tribal Shi'ite leaders said. The four tribal leaders approached Reuters on condition of anonymity, fearing assassination if their names or even their home provinces were made public.
"Fear rules the streets now," said one of the sheikhs. "We cannot speak our minds, people are not allowed to oppose them. They would immediately disappear or get killed. The evidence of that is I am talking about it but cannot use my name." The fear is not unfounded -- two provincial governors and a police chief were blown up by roadside bombs in August, apparent victims of infighting between the Shi'ite parties for political dominance in the region, source of most of Iraq's oil wealth.
Aides to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the reclusive religious leader of Iraq's Shi'ites, have also been killed. The sheikhs said the conservative religious attitudes meant only religious music was now allowed to be played in public places and dancing was forbidden, as was drinking alcohol. Women were also harassed for wearing clothing deemed inappropriate.
Photographs of secular political leaders like former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi could not be displayed in shops and other public areas. Street committees that were set up to protect neighbourhoods from al Qaeda attacks were being misused to spy on residents and report infractions to the militias and the police, they said.
"The people of the south are religious, we are believers, but at the same time we like to live our lives and we like freedom," said one sheikh.
The Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) and the movement of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are the dominant political forces in the Shi'ite provinces. Both have links to neighbouring Iran and believe Iraq should be governed according to Islamic principles. SIIC controls most of the governors in the south, and its armed wing, the Badr Organisation, has many members in the police force. Sadr's powerful Mehdi Army militia has fought fierce battles with police loyal to the Badr Organisation.
SIIC and the Sadrists saw their rise to power cemented by the December 2005 elections which brought the Islamist Shi'ite Alliance to power. The Sadrists have since pulled out of the Alliance and the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, leader of the smaller Islamist Dawa party. The growing strength of the parties in the south has weakened some secular tribal leaders and excluded them from power structures, a source of patronage and revenues.
"Some say the Shi'ites are lucky because they are now ruling Iraq, but that is wrong. It is the Islamist Shi'ites who are ruling Iraq. Their victory was a curse for us," said one sheikh. The sheikhs blamed Washington for giving Shi'ite Islamists a free hand in the south. U.S. forces are concentrated to the north, focused mainly on Sunni Islamist al Qaeda and other Sunni Arab militants and so-called rogue Mehdi Army groups.
Washington has thrown its weight behind Baghdad's Islamist- led government despite misgivings about its failure to push ahead with national reconciliation and the close ties between some parties and Iran, the United States' long-time foe. SIIC and the Sadrists are seen by the sheikhs as importing a conservative brand of Shi'ism from neighbouring Iran, which U.S. officials accuse of arming Shi'ite militias to use as proxies to enforce their influence in the south.
"We are suffering from two occupations -- America and Iran. We have told American officials this and we have met some of them, but they are not listening to us," one sheikh complained. Some tribes were talking about taking up arms against the Islamist parties, but the tribal leaders said they feared this would unleash a bloodbath that would destabilise the south. "The tribes do not want violence ... but at the same time we want to see a change that preserves the rights of all Iraqis, so that we are really free," said one sheikh.

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Turkey to give troops go-ahead to enter northern Iraq

(Reuters) - Turkey will defy international pressure on Wednesday and grant its troops permission to enter northern Iraq to crush Kurdish separatist rebels based there. Turkey's prime minister has sought to play down expectations of an imminent attack, but the parliamentary vote will effectively give the army a free hand to act as and when it sees fit.
Washington, Ankara's NATO ally, says it understands Turkey's desire to tackle rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), but fears a major incursion would wreck stability in the most peaceful part of Iraq and potentially in the wider region. Turkey's stance has helped drive global oil prices to $88 a barrel, a new record, and has hit its lira currency as investors weigh the economic risks of any major military operation.
Parliamentary approval would create the legal basis for military action. By law, Turkey's parliament must approve the deployment of Turkish troops abroad. Parliament is expected to approve the request from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's cabinet by a large majority after an open debate, starting at 1200 GMT. "Passage of this motion does not mean an immediate incursion will follow, but we will act at the right time and under the right conditions," Erdogan told his ruling AK Party on Tuesday.
"This is about self-defense," he said in televised remarks.
Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi lobbied Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul in Ankara on Tuesday to refrain from military action and to seek a diplomatic solution. Erdogan is under public pressure to hit PKK camps in northern Iraq after a series of deadly rebel attacks on Turkish troops. Markets are closely following the incursion debate.
Turkish opposition parties strongly back the plan for military action, with only the small pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) expressing concern about the implications. Ankara blames the PKK, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, for the deaths of more than 30,000 people since the group launched its armed struggle for an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey in 1984.
Turkey conducted large military operations in northern Iraq against the PKK in the 1990s but failed to wipe out the rebels. Some analysts say that despite its tough rhetoric Turkey may limit itself to aerial bombardment of rebel targets and small forays across the border while avoiding a major incursion.

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Erbil suggests talks with Turkey, turns down Iraqi Army in place of Peshmerga

(Gulf News) - An Iraqi Kurdish minister has rejected Turkey's demands to send Iraqi troops from Baghdad to the north of the country over rebel activities. Amid increasing tension between Ankara and Baghdad over Kurdish rebel activities, Mohammad Ehsan told Gulf News: "The government of Kurdistan firmly opposes sending Iraqi forces from Baghdad to borders with Turkey as the Turkish government wants."
Ankara accuses Kurd held northern province of Iraq of offering refuge to Turkish Kurd rebels. "This is an internal issue and concerning the sovereignty of Iraq, and only the Iraqi government and its Kurdish regional counterpart will handle it," he added.

Sources in the Iraqi army told Gulf News that recent meeting between Iraqi Defence Minister Abdul Qader Mohammad Jasem and the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad focused on the Turkish government's request of sending Iraqi troops to the border to take the place of Kurdish Peshmerga elements which are accused by Ankara of sympathising with Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) elements.
Mohammad Ehsan said the government in Arbil supports talks between Turkey and the PKK leadership. PKK is listed as a terrorist group. "Dialogue is the right way to solve the PKK problem and not by using excessive military power," the Kurdish minister said.
The minister said that Ankara had informed the United States and the Iraqi government that it would not entertain any representatives of Kurdistan government to attend the Turkish-Iraqi talks. The talks are aimed at resolving the military escalation along common borders between the two countries. "Arbil is more than excited to talk directly with Turkey to find a vital solution to the PKK crisis," the minister said.
"I believe the goal of Turkish government is to escalate the situation on the Iraqi border under the pretext of eliminating the hostile activities by PKK elements," Aaron Kamiran, an Iraqi political analyst, told Gulf News.
"The goal is political because launching a Turkish military operation in the region would not achieve any results because of the difficult and mountainous terrain. Hence the Turks want to send Iraqi and non-Kurdish troops to the border and they will raise problems between Arbil and Baghdad, especially with Arbil's insistence on rejecting the Turkish proposal."
He added: "What is important for Turks is to make sure that Iraq Kurdistan region will not be an independent entity or a confederate state in the future. Besides the non-Kurdish forces in the region may pose a guarantee for Turkey in this region, especially since normalisation situations in Kirkuk is implemented hastily".

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Sadrists reject SIIC suggestion of soft partition

(Al Jazeera) - The Muqtada al-Sadr bloc has rejected a suggestion made by another Iraqi Shia politician that the country should be split into regions based on sect and ethnicity. Ammar Hakim, son of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), said that dividing the country is "an Iraqi interest, wish and decision". Responding to his comments, Sadr's spokesman in Najaf said on Sunday that his group’s opposition to federalism "is firm and has not been changed".
Sheikh Saleh al-Obeidi, Sadr's spokesman, said: "After the US Congress voted to divide Iraq, it is clear that insisting on applying federalism in the current tragic Iraqi situation is a flirtation with the [non-binding] US Congress resolution [calling for a transfer of power to three self-governing regions - or Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds]. "The SIIC is one of the largest parties in the Iraqi parliament and a key supporter of Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister.

On October 6, Sadr and al-Hakim agreed their respective militias stop attacking each other. Meanwhile, political differences still remain and al-Hakim has argued in the past for uniting the nine Shia-majority provinces in southern Iraq. The US Congress resolution, sponsored by Senator Joseph Biden, was dismissed by Maliki, who called it an infringement on Iraqi sovereignty even though it was backed by the government in the northern Kurdish region.
However, the principle of federalism is included in the Iraqi constitution. But Sunni Arabs, who form an estimated 20 per cent of the population and are largely located in central, resource-poor parts of the country, are also against federalism, fearing it would deprive them of oil wealth.

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Turkish parliament may approve sending troops into n. Iraq

(Al Jazeera) - Turkish government has agreed to ask parliament to approve sending troops into northern Iraq in pursuit of Kurdish separatist fighters. The motion, which is expected to be approved by MPs on Wednesday, would provide the legal basis for cross-border military action against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) during the next year. "Our wish is that we will not have to use this motion ... but the most painful reality of our country, our region, is the reality of terror," Cemil Cicek, government spokesman, said after a cabinet meeting on Monday.
He stressed that Turkey's sole target, if its troops entered northern Iraq, would be the estimated 3,000 PKK fighters believed to be in the region. The government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, twice acquired similar authorisations from parliament in 2003, but did not act on them. In response, Baghdad urged Turkey to be "patient" and not to resort to military action. "The Iraqi government calls on the Turkish government to pursue a diplomatic solution and not a military solution to solve the [problem] of terrorist attacks which our dear neighbour Turkey has witnessed from the PKK," Ali al-Dabbagh, Iraqi government spokesman, said.
Ahead of the cabinet's decision, a senior Turkish general said that it was too early to discuss the timing or size of a possible incursion."If this duty is assigned to us, we will look at the scale on which it will be carried out. It is not possible to say this right now," General Ergin Saygun, deputy chief of the general staff, said. Ankara says the PKK uses bases in northern Iraq to launch attacks inside Turkey, the latest of which killed 15 soldiers last week. Saygun dismissed suggestions that Nato's second-biggest army had only a limited window of opportunity to attack before winter conditions made such a move impossible.
"The season would be taken into consideration, and other needs as well .... But we cannot say that we'll go to Iraq if it doesn't snow or we won't go if it does," he said. Duran Kalkan, a senior commander in the PKK, said that the Turkish military would suffer a serious blow if it launched such an offensive. According to the pro-Kurdish Firat news agency, he said that Turkey would "be bogged down in a quagmire" in northern Iraq. Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel Hamid in northern Iraq said on Monday that the situation along the border was quite calm. "There was a night of intense shelling along the border on Saturday but for the last 24 hours it has been calm," she said.
"We all have an interest in a stable Iraq and a desire to see the PKK brought to justice" Gordon Johndroe, White House spokesman"We have been travelling backwards and forwards along the border and we have seen some minimal troops movements on the other side. "US officials said last week that there are about 60,000 Turkish troops along the country's southern border with Iraq, but the US military has not seen activity to suggest an imminent offensive.
On Monday, the US repeated its call for the Turkish military to refrain from crossing the border. "We all have an interest in a stable Iraq and a desire to see the PKK brought to justice," Gordon Johndroe, White House spokesman, said. "But we urge the Turks to continue their discussions with us and the Iraqis and to show restraint from any potentially destabilising actions."'
However, Erdogan had already said that international pressure would not deter Ankara. "The cost has already been calculated," he said. Ankara has also long complained that Washington has not done enough on its own or through the Iraqi government to crack down on the Kurdish separatists. The PKK, which is labelled as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, began an independence struggle in Turkey in 1984 that has left more than 37,000 people dead. Turkey and Iraq last month signed an accord pledging to combat the group, but failed to agree on a clause allowing Turkish troops to carry out "hot pursuit" operations against rebels fleeing into Iraqi territory, as they did regularly in the 1990s.

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Oil prices hit new high as fears grow over Kurdish-Turkish conflict

Oil, Region
(The Guardian) - Oil prices burst through $86 a barrel to reach new highs yesterday on the back of growing energy demand forecasts and fears that escalating conflict between Turkey and Kurds in northern Iraq could hit supplies in the Mediterranean. Crude ended at a record level on Friday but has since gone on to hit even greater peaks of $86.13 as the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) said demand for its products would average 31.43m barrels a day in the fourth quarter of 2007, up 100,000 barrels a day on previous estimates.
"It now appears more likely that the US economy could weather the financial crisis without a sharp downturn in economic activity," said a report by Opec economists at the group's Vienna headquarters. Soaring oil prices helped push gold to a 28-year high yesterday as investors were attracted to precious metals because of global uncertainty and the falling dollar. Platinum also swept to record highs on concerns about supply as demand remains strong.
Expectations of higher oil demand have also fed into Opec's first quarter estimates with the organisation predicting there would be 120,000 more barrels needed a day than had been anticipated.
The new forecasts come amid rising fears that Turkey will take unilateral action against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. "The main risk to supplies is currently on an escalation of the Turkish army, Kurdish militia conflict, where we believe the risk for disruptions to the Mediterranean supplies would be real," said Olivier Jakob of Petromix in Switzerland.
The market is already jumpy because last week the International Energy Agency, adviser to 26 industrialised nations such as Britain and the US, predicted that demand would surge by 2.1m barrels a day during 2008. Opec insists "the current supply and demand forecasts predict that the market will be fundamentally balanced over the coming quarters".

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U.S., Iraqi officials debate Blackwater's expulsion from Iraq

US and Iraqi officials are negotiating Baghdad's demand that security company Blackwater USA be expelled from the country within six months, and American diplomats appear to be working on how to fill the security gap if the company is phased out. The talks about Blackwater's future in Iraq flow from recommendations in an Iraqi government report on the incident Sept. 16 when, Iraqi officials determined, Blackwater guards opened fire without provocation in Baghdad's Nisoor Square and killed 17 Iraqi citizens.
The Iraqi investigators issued five recommendations to the government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, which has since sent them to the US Embassy as demands for action.
Point No. 2 in the report says: "The Iraqi government should demand that the United States stops using the services of Blackwater in Iraq within six months and replace it with a new, more disciplined organization that would be answerable to Iraqi laws." Sami Al Askari, a top aide to Al Maliki, said that point in the Iraqi list of demands was nonnegotiable.
"I believe the government has been clear. There have been attacks on the lives of Iraqi citizens on the part of that company (Blackwater). It must be expelled. The governmenthas given six months for its expulsion and it's left to the US Embassy to determine with Blackwater when to terminate the contract. The American administration must find another company," he told AP.
In talks between American diplomats and the Al Maliki government, Al Askari said, the US side was not "insisting on Blackwater staying." He was the only Iraqi or American official who would allow use of his name, others said information they gave was too sensitive. In an interview to be broadcast Monday on PBS, television presenter Charlie Rose asked Blackwater chief Erik Prince about the issue."We'll do what we're told and, you know, make the transition as smooth as possible," Prince said.

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Shiite leader in visit to Al Anbar

(Gulf News) - In a major reconciliatory gesture, a leader from Iraq's largest Shiite party has paid a rare visit to the Sunni Anbar province, delivering a message of unity to tribal shaikhs who have staged a US-backed revolt against Al Qaida militants. The leader of parliament's largest Sunni Arab bloc, Adnan Al Dulaimi, welcomed Ammar Al Hakim's visit to Anbar on Sunday as a "good initiative", saying Shiite-Sunni reconciliation was a goal cherished by his once-dominant Sunni Arab minority.
"This is what we hope, and we pray to Allah for," Al Dulaimi, whose three-party alliance has 44 of parliament's 275 seats, said yesterday. "We pray to God to make our Shiite brothers ... give us our due rights and not monopolise power." Al Hakim's visit to Anbar was the latest sign that key Iraqi politicians may be working toward reconciliation independently of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's government, which has faced criticism for doing little to bring together Iraq's Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis.
Sunni Arab Vice-President Tariq Al Hashemi visited Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite cleric, last month at Najaf south of Baghdad. The visit amounted to an unprecedented Sunni Arab endorsement of Al Sistani's role as the nation's guardian. Al Hashemi's Iraqi Islamic Party also has been distancing itself from militant Sunni Arab groups and has in recent months forged closer ties with Al Hakim's Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the country's largest Shiite party, and the two major Kurdish parties.
Al Hakim, son and heir apparent of Iraq's top Shiite politician, struck a note of national unity in Anbar. "Iraq does not belong to the Sunnis or the Shiites alone; nor does it belong to the Arabs or the Kurds and Turkomen," Al Hakim told his hosts in the provincial capital Ramadi, about 115km west of Baghdad. "Today, we must stand up and declare that Iraq is for all Iraqis." He stood next to the leader of the Anbar movement, Ahmad Abu Risha.

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Friday, October 12, 2007


Petraeus concerned over tension with Turkey

(AP) -- The top U.S. commander in Iraq warned Thursday that Turkey's threatened incursion into Kurdish regions in the north of the country could harm the flow of supplies for U.S. troops and damage the Kurdish economy. Iraqi Kurdistan, a haven of relative calm, could suddenly become another fault line if Turkey makes good on threats to cross the northern border in pursuit of Turkish Kurdish militants.
"We are concerned about that," Gen. David Petraeus told two U.S. reporters in a dusty courtyard in Jadidah, a Shiite town about 25 miles north of Baghdad. The Turkish government is preparing to ask parliament to authorize a cross-border operation. Approval would allow the military to launch an operation immediately or wait to see if the United States and its Iraqi allies decide to crack down on the rebels.
"A lot our supplies come through Turkey. ... To maintain that commercial exchange is hugely important through the border crossing at Habur Gate. And we hope that will continue," Petraeus said. A Turkish incursion could open an delicate new front in Iraq just as U.S. forces were seeing major gains against both Shiite and Sunni extremists in the largely Arab sections of the county south of the Kurdish region.
Beyond that, about 70 percent of U.S. air cargo headed for Iraq transits Turkey, as does about one-third of the fuel used by the U.S. military in Iraq. U.S. bases also get water and other supplies by land from Turkish truckers who cross into the northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Iraq's Kurdish region also is heavily dependent on trade with Turkey, which provides the region with electricity and oil products. Annual trade at Habur gate, the main border crossing, is more than $10 billion.
Petraeus said the United States, which lists the PKK as a terrorist organization, understood Ankara's concerns about the activities of the militant group. "The violence that has been undertaken by the PKK is an enormous challenge. It's really a strategic issue. So we are again very understanding of the concern they (the Turks) have over these terrorists who are up in the very, very high mountains that straddle the border there," Petraeus said
On Thursday, Turkey ordered its ambassador in Washington to return to Turkey for consultations, an extreme sign of diplomatic displeasure.

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U.N. says PSC shootings could amount to war crimes

(AP) -- U.N. officials in Iraq stepped up pressure on the United States on Thursday to prosecute any unjustified killings of Iraqi civilians by private security contractors, saying such killings could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity if "done in cold blood." While Americans are unlikely to face such charges, the words served as a harsh rebuke as outrage spreads over what many Iraqis perceive as overly aggressive behavior of the heavily armed foreigners protecting U.S. government-funded work.
"For us, it's a human rights issue," said Ivana Vuco, a human rights officer with the U.N. Assistance Mission to Iraq, or UNAMI. "We will monitor the allegations of killings by security contractors and look into whether or not crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed." The warnings followed two high-profile cases of shooting incidents involving private contractors on the streets of Baghdad.
Arikat spoke as UNAMI released its quarterly human rights report, which warns that increasing reliance on heavily armed teams in Iraq risks eroding the distinction between civilians and combatants. It notes several reports of "killings carried out by privately hired contractors with security-related functions in support of U.S. government authorities."
It is unclear how far the United Nations could go in pressing the issue of war crimes or even calls for prosecution under U.S. law. The U.N.'s influence in Iraq plummeted after it was forced to withdraw most of its staff from the country following two bombings in 2003, including one that struck its Baghdad headquarters and killed a top U.N. envoy and 21 other workers. The mission returned in 2004 with a limited staff, but its role here remains highly sensitive.
But the world body is still viewed by most Iraqis as a more neutral party, and Thursday's warnings likely were meant to invoke that position of moral authority. Vuco said international humanitarian rights law applies equally to contractors who work for the mostly Western firms providing security to diplomats and aid groups as it does to other parties in a conflict.

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Major insurgent groups announce formation of political council

Insurgency, Politics
(AP) -- Six main Iraqi insurgent groups announced the formation of a "political council" aimed at "liberating" Iraq from U.S. occupation in a video aired Thursday on Al-Jazeera television. The council appeared to be a new attempt to assert the leadership of the groups, which have moved to distance themselves from another coalition of insurgent factions led by al-Qaida in Iraq. In the video aired on Al-Jazeera, a man identified as the council's spokesman - wearing traditional Iraqi garb, with his face blacked out - announced the council's formation and a "political program to liberate Iraq."
He said the program was based on two principles. "First, the occupation is an oppression and aggression, rejected by Islamic Sharia law and tradition. Resistance of occupation is a right guaranteed by all religions and laws," he said. "Second, the armed resistance ... is the legitimate representative of Iraq. It is the one that bears responsibility for the leadership of the people to achieve its legitimate hope."
The groups forming the council include the Islamic Army of Iraq, the Mujahideen Army, Ansar al-Sunna, the Fatiheen Army, the Islamic Front for the Iraqi Resistance (Jami) and the Islamic Movement of Hamas-Iraq. The step could be a bid by the insurgents for a more cohesive political voice at a time of considerable rearrangement among Sunni insurgent groups and Iraq's Sunni Arab minority.
Splinter factions of two insurgent groups, the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Mujahideen Army, have cooperated with U.S. forces in fighting insurgents allied to al-Qaida in Iraq. Earlier this year, other groups - the Islamic Army of Iraq, the main faction of the Mujahideen Army, a branch of Ansar al-Sunna and the Fatiheen Army - formed a coalition called the Jihad and Reform Front opposed to al-Qaida in Iraq, though they have continued attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces.

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State Dept. may limit or phase out use of private security guards in Iraq

(AP) -- The State Department may phase out or limit the use of private security guards in Iraq, which could mean canceling Blackwater USA's contract or awarding it to another company in line with an Iraqi government demand, The Associated Press has learned. Such steps would be difficult given U.S. reliance on Blackwater and other contractors, but they are among options being studied during a comprehensive review of security in Iraq, two senior officials said.
Condoleezza Rice to order the top-to-bottom review from a commission headed by Patrick Kennedy, one of the State Department's most experienced management officials. Kennedy has been told to concentrate on several key issues, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the review is still under way. Among them:
-Changes to the rules of engagement under which State Department security contractors operate, particularly for approaching suspicious vehicles, which is at the crux of the Sept. 16 incident. Blackwater insists its guards were fired upon, although Iraqi witnesses and the Iraqi government maintain the guards opened fire with no provocation when a vehicle got too close.
-Whether Blackwater's secretive corporate culture, reputed to have encouraged a "cowboy-like mentality," has led to its employees being more likely to violate or stretch the existing rules than those of the two other private security firms, Dyncorp and Triple Canopy, the State Department uses in Iraq.
-Whether it's feasible to eliminate or drastically curtail the use of private foreign contractors to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq. And, if so, how to replace them.
Rice is eager for changes and has already accepted and implemented initial steps Kennedy urged in a preliminary report last week. They included improving government oversight of Blackwater by having federal agents accompany convoys and installing video cameras in their vehicles. Officials in the tight-knit world of security operatives in Baghdad said Blackwater was preparing a reorganization and possible downsizing. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity. The company, based in Moyock, N.C., does not speak publicly about its operations or plans. Calls and e-mail messages left with Blackwater on Wednesday were not returned.
A top aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told the AP that Washington was considering the findings of the Iraqi government's report into the incident and calls for reform. "But so far there has been no concrete answer from the U.S. Embassy showing it was definitely going to drop Blackwater," the aide said. The aide said the al-Maliki government told the U.S. Embassy, "We will draft and pass laws that would lift the immunity on these security companies to stop their reckless behavior."
Kennedy has been in Iraq for nearly two weeks with one of three outside experts Rice named to the commission, Eric Boswell, a former diplomat and intelligence official. The other two, retired Army Gen. George Joulwan and former Ambassador Stapleton Roy, were being briefed on the mission at the State Department on Wednesday before heading to Baghdad.
The officials said Kennedy's team was not expected to recommend eliminating all private contractors because it would have a profound impact on how U.S. diplomats work in Iraq. The State Department's own Bureau of Diplomatic Security lacks both the manpower and equipment, notably helicopters, to do the job, they said.
Blackwater is now the biggest of the three firms working for the department in Iraq with about 1,000 employees and handles protection in and around Baghdad, the most dangerous areas of the country. It has been paid as much as $1 billion for its work in Iraq. Dyncorp and Triple Canopy, which work in the north and south, are far smaller and face resource constraints.
Under the terms of the department's Worldwide Personal Protective Security contract, which covers privately contracted guards for diplomats in Iraq, Blackwater, Dyncorp and Triple Canopy are the only three companies eligible to bid on specific task orders there. If Blackwater goes, the slack would almost certainly have to be picked up by one or more other companies, which may require certifying other firms to bid, including non-U.S. ones, the officials said.
Of interest to the department is the possibility of forming Iraqi companies with Iraqi employees to protect U.S. diplomats as local guards do for embassy staff in other countries, they said. That would bring the guards fully under the jurisdiction of Iraqi law but is not a short-term option given inadequate training facilities. The Pentagon has been reluctant to provide security for diplomats but another alternative might be joint State-Defense department patrols. Yet another would be hiring Blackwater and other private guards as temporary U.S. government employees, the officials said.

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U.S. pledges to release 50 detainees a day

(AP) -- Sixty prisoners, 10 of them youths, raised their hands Wednesday and swore to live a peaceful life. In return, U.S. authorities set them free. As a gesture of good will, the U.S. military has pledged to release more than 50 detainees a day - about 10 more than average - during Ramadan, which ends this week. It is traditional in Muslim countries to pardon some prisoners or shorten their terms during the holy month.
More than 25,000 Iraqis still in American custody haven't been so lucky. The security crackdown in Baghdad has raised the rolls in U.S.-run detention centers to 10,000 more detainees compared to this time last year, worsening already serious backlogs in the court system. Several men being released Wednesday interrupted the judge's speech to complain that they had been held for months, even years, without cause.
According to U.S. military figures, the average age of inmates is 35 to 37 for adults and 15 to 17 for youths. About 85 percent are Sunni, 14 percent are Shiite and 1 percent are neither. Most remain in custody for about a year.
Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, deputy commander of detainee operations, said prisoners in U.S. custody include some 860 youths, meaning they are under 17 years old, and 280 foreigners, including Egyptians, Syrians, Iranians and Saudi Arabians. "Ultimately, we want all detainees who are no longer a peril to Iraqi and coalition forces to be released," Stone said, adding that about 60 people are detained each day across Iraq.
Most detainees are held in limbo where few are ever charged with a specific crime or given a chance before any court or tribunal to argue for their freedom. Of those who receive a proper trial, about 50 percent will be acquitted, the military says.
All prisoners get their cases evaluated within the first three months they are in custody. Then, each case is reviewed every six months. At those proceedings, the review board can release someone for hardship reasons, at the request of the Iraqi or U.S. government or when it determines the detainee is no longer a security threat, Bill said.
The so-called pledge program, which began in July, requires the detainees to take an oath to renounce violence, then they are fingerprinted and they face a fine if they are against accused of wrongdoing, Bill said. About 1,500 detainees have been released under the program. The judge told the new program is a test "we don't want to fail. This is going to prove you were not criminals, not terrorists."

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Turkish parliament may approve govt request on Iraq campaign

(AP) - Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that Turkey would not be deterred by the possible consequences of invading Iraq if it decides to stage a cross-border offensive against Kurdish rebels.
"If such an option is chosen, whatever its price, it will be paid," Erdogan told reporters in response to a question about international repercussions of such a decision, which would strain ties with the United States and Iraq. "There could be pros and cons of such a decision, but what is important is our country's interests."
A Turkish soldier was killed by a mine Thursday night on Mt. Gabar in southeastern Sirnak province, where 13 soldiers have been ambushed and killed over the past week, local authorities said. "We are making necessary preparations to be ready in case we decide on a cross-border operations since we don't have patience to lose more time," Erdogan said, adding that Turkey lost 30 people in rebel attacks over the past two weeks.
Erdogan said Turkey has long been seeking the cooperation of Iraq and the United States but there has been no crackdown on the rebel group of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, in Iraq. "If there are terrorists sheltering and attacking Turkey from Iraqi soil and if they don't do anything then we should do something," Erdogan said.
The Turkish parliament was expected to approve a government request to authorize an Iraq campaign as early as next week, after a holiday ending the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. But that does not mean a risky incursion will follow at once. Turkey might give diplomacy, and perhaps economic pressure, more time to work even as public enthusiasm for a military mission mounts.

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SIIC leader returns from Tehran

(RFE/RL) - Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), met with leading members of his party on October 10, following his return from cancer treatment in Tehran, the party's website reported on October 11. Al-Hakim reportedly addressed a number of issues at the meeting, including the latest political and security developments and the need to consolidate national unity. The report said those in attendance expressed their happiness over their leader's return after making a "full recovery" from cancer.

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Turkish companies pull out of Iraqi Kurdistan

(Al-Zaman) - Turkish companies doing business in northern Iraq have begun to pull out of the Kurdistan region in anticipation of a Turkish military incursion, the Iraqi newspaper "Al-Zaman" reported on October 10. Ahmad Ajar, head of an association of Turkish businessmen based in Irbil, said many Turkish companies have ended their contracts and are pulling Turkish staff from the region. "Al-Zaman" reports that Turkish investments in Iraqi Kurdistan are valued at $5 billion. Meanwhile, the Kurdistan regional government has said that it is mobilizing its peshmerga forces to confront any military incursion, which they view as a violation of Iraq's sovereignty. If the Turkish military launches a wide-scale incursion into northern Iraq, it would likely do so after the three-day Eid Al-Fitr holiday, which runs from October 14-16, marking the end of Ramadan.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Political, Military, and Economic Dynamics in Iraq: A Graphic Overview

(Center for Strategic and International Studies) - The attached briefing provides an overview of some of the key charts and maps reporting on the Iraq War. It will be steadily updated over time.
This link will also be stored under 'Links' - 'Documents' (on the left-hand side of the page) for future reference.

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UNHCR head warns of disaster as Iraqi governorates refuse entry to internal refugees

(BBC) - A growing number of Iraqi provinces are refusing entry to internal refugees, the UN refugee agency has warned. The head of the UNHCR Iraq Support Unit told the BBC up to 11 governors were restricting access because they lacked resources to look after the refugees. Andrew Harper warned that, with no imminent end to the displacement, Iraq was becoming a "pressure cooker".
The UNHCR says there are 2.2m internal refugees in Iraq, though the Iraqi government says there are half that. In addition, the UNHCR estimates that 2.2m Iraqis have fled to neighbouring states, particularly Syria and Jordan, since the US-led invasion in 2003. Mr Harper told the BBC that Iraqi authorities were increasingly overwhelmed by the internal refugee problem - caused not only by violence, but also by social and health problems such as cholera outbreaks. The possibility for Iraqis to find safety and find is becoming increasingly restricted
He said local authorities did not have the resources to cope, and that the governors of at least 11 provinces - out of 18 in the country - had reacted by blocking internal migrants from entering their territory, or denying them food and education if they do get in. "We are seeing an increasing number of governorates closing their borders or restricting entry to new arrivals," he said.
"And so we have a pressure cooker building up inside Iraq - there is no imminent end to the displacement," he added. "The possibility for Iraqis to find safety is becoming increasingly restricted. So, where they can move is becoming over-populated and intense."
Syria: 1,400,000
Jordan: 750,000
Gulf states: 200,000
Egypt: 100,000
Iran: 54,000
Lebanon: 40,000
Turkey: 10,000
Internally displaced: 2,250,000
Source: UNHCR
Alarming humanitarian crisis
Mr Harper said the UNHCR had raised the problem with the Iraqi central government, but was told that local authorities had been urged not to turn away Iraqis fleeing other parts of the country. The millions of refugees fleeing the violence and turmoil in the country, Mr Harper said, were the biggest challenge facing the UNHCR and the international community. He said the figures were increasing on average by up to 100,000 every month.
In Diyala province, aid workers have said they have been unable to reach thousands of families, including displaced refugees, because of the security situation. The huge displacement of people is cementing the fragmentation of the country, says the BBC's Arab affairs analyst Magdi Abdelhadi, with local authorities ignoring Baghdad by refusing to shelter refugees. That will make national reconciliation even more difficult to achieve, he says.
There are also fears that the ramshackle refugee camps that today dot the Iraqi landscape are a breeding ground for violence, our correspondent adds. Mr Harper's warning comes at a time when Iraq's neighbours have more or less closed their borders to refugees, saying they can no longer cope with the strain.

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Iraqi Defense Minister meets with KRG to discuss creation of Peshmerga platoons

(Stratfor) - Iraqi Defense Minister Abd al-Qadir al-Ubaydi met with the Kurdistan Regional Government on Oct. 9 to discuss the creation of two new peshmerga platoons to increase security in the country, Peyamner News Agency reported, citing the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's Web site.

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Polish embassy in Baghdad to relocate

(Stratfor) - The Polish Embassy in Iraq has temporarily moved to a building in Baghdad's Green Zone due to safety considerations, the Polish Foreign Ministry said Oct. 9. The embassy will officially move to its new location in the Green Zone in approximately a month. A car bomb killed two people and wounded five near Poland's embassy in Baghdad on Monday. A bomb targeted the convoy of the Polish ambassador to Iraq in Baghdad last Wednesday, killing an Iraqi civilian and injuring the diplomat and at least three others. The ambassador, Gen. Edward Pietrzyk, was rushed to the US military hospital in Baghdad in stable condition. Poland has had a strong presence in the US-led coalition, and its military commands the Multi-National Division-Central South region.

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Cash payment or a life in Britain for Iraqi interpreters

(The Times) - Hundreds of Iraqis who risked their lives working for the British will be given a choice of a cash payment or the chance to live in Britain, David Miliband said yesterday. In a written ministerial statement, the Foreign Secretary fleshed out details of the assistance announced by Gordon Brown on Monday to help Iraqis who have served as interpreters and in other sensitive jobs since the invasion of Iraq.
The policy U-turn followed a two-month campaign by The Times to highlight the plight of Iraqi interpreters, who have been persecuted by insurgents for “collaborating” with Britain. Although details have not been finalised, the plan will probably cost millions of pounds and aid several hundred Iraqis and their families. The offer falls short of a comprehensive deal for all the estimated 20,000 Iraqis who have worked for the British since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. This summer the Danes airlifted all their former Iraqi employees and their families for resettlement in Denmark.
The main beneficiaries of the British scheme will be existing Iraqi staff who have worked for the Ministry of Defence, the British diplomatic missions in Iraq, the Department for International Development or the British Council for at least 12 months up to August 8, when the review was ordered. They will be offered a one-off cash payment worth between six and twelve months’ salary, depending on length of service.
There are currently 500 Iraqis employed by the British in Iraq, mostly working for the Army in Basra. Of those, 280 have worked for 12 months. Their salaries range from £130 to £600 a month. The top payment would be in the order of £7,000. The money would be used to help an employee and his dependants if he were made redundant or forced to resign under pressure. It is intended to help a family relocate to a safer area of Iraq or elsewhere in the region.
Iraqis will also be offered the option of applying to move to Britain. Ministers have created an entirely new “exceptional leave to remain” category for those still in Iraq wishing to come to the UK. They will be allowed to settle in Britain, though it has not yet been agreed for how long. In reality, once they are in the country they will be allowed to remain for good.
The second route is for those already outside Iraq who meet the criteria of having worked for the Government. They will register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and apply for the Gateway programme that brings a few hundred refugees into the UK each year. They will have to satisfy the Commissioner that there is little prospect of their being resettled in Iraq and may then join the scheme, which has 300 places in 2008 and a further 300 in 2009. On arrival in the UK they will be granted asylum.
The same choice of cash or resettlement is also open for interpreters, translators and other professionals formerly employed by the British in Iraq. To qualify they need to have been employed for one year after January 1, 2005. Before then, it is considered to have been safe to have worked for the British in southern Iraq. Mr Miliband also made provision to help a “limited number of contracted staff”, who worked in sensitive roles such as advisers. He said: “Locally engaged Iraqi staff working for our Armed Forces and civilian missions in Iraq have made an invaluable contribution.”The offer is weighted deliberately in favour of Iraqis taking the cash rather than choosing to resettle in Britain. To do that a former employee would first have to flee the country, as millions of Iraqis have done to Jordan or Syria. They would then need to register with the UNHCR as refugees, a process that can take months to complete.

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U.S. lands Iraq 700,000 ton wheat deal

(ABC News) - The United States has cemented its position as Iraq's biggest wheat supplier, after locking in an export deal for 700,000 tonnes. Australia used to dominate the Iraq trade, but has struggled to sell any wheat there since the Oil-for-Food scandal involving AWB. Grain trader Brett Stevenson says it will be hard for Australia to regain any of the market."We would have every right to put our hand up as a government level and say we want to participate, the only problem with that is, is that the organisation that cause a major disfunction over there is still operating and still has a single desk over the 2007 crop," he says."And we're still entertaining a single desk for ongoing crops, and I just think while that's the case we're going to struggle."

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Anbar Tribal Sheikhs Will Announce Political Front; Abu Risha Contacts Insurgent Groups To Strengthen His Power

(Mashriq Newspaper) - 9 OCT - Anbar’s tribal sheikhs are ready to announce a political front. Meanwhile, a leader from an insurgent group has confirmed that Ahmed Abu Risha has contacted insurgent groups to support his power. Sheikh Ali Al Hatim, Anbar’s Tribal Council Chief, said that he will meet with the Anbar Awakening Council Chief, Ahmed Abu Risha and Sheikh Hamid Al Hayis, who was ousted from the council during Sheikh Abd Al Sattar Abu Risha’s regime. The goal of this meeting is to form a political front that has one opinion which all can agree on. Al Hatim said, “We will not allow anyone to make any decision alone or to say he represents the council which is led by Abu Risha.”
Some people close to Abu Risha have said that relations between Abu Risha and Al Hayis are bad because Al Hayis met with the Iraqi government in Baghdad, but Al Hatim said, “The relations between Al Hayis and Abu Risha are good and there is no disagreement between them.” Al Hatim added, “We do not accept Al Hayis to represent our positions in his meetings with the government or with other sides.” He confirmed, “We have our opinion about the meeting between Jalal Al Din Saghier and Al Hayis.” Al Hatim continued, “We do not have problems with SICI, but everyone knows that the relationships between the Sunni and Shiite sides are tense. Meetings such as these will increase the tension between these groups. The reports that claim Sheikh Al Hayis and I are working against Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha are incorrect. There is no tension between Abu Risha and Al Hayis.”
Al Hayis met with Sheikh Jalal Al Din Al Saghier, the Shiite Alliance and SICI member to discuss the problem of Anbar. During this meeting Al Hayis said, “Sheikh Abd Al Sattar Abu Risha played a large role in improving the opinion of Sunnis in Iraq.”
An anonymous leader from an insurgent group in Anbar said, “Al Hayis is not working for Anbar’s interest.” He confirmed, “Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha is a good politician, but sometimes he flatters people. Some Sunni politicians are trying to take credit for our achievements.” He added, “We demand that Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha follow the style of his brother Sheikh Abd Al Sattar Abu Risha.” He added “Al Hayis has visited Iran many times; therefore he must want to support any Iranian project in Iraq. Abu Risha has contacted the resistance leaders and that is important to us.”
In related news, Sunni Accord Front, Omar Abd Al Sattar said, “The Accord Front, Awakening Council, and the Tribal Council are working together with the Abu Risha family to serve Anbar Province.”

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Iraqi govt wants Blackwater to pay $136 mn. compensation to families

(Reuters) - The Iraqi government wants US security firm Blackwater to pay $8 million in compensation to each of the families of 17 people killed in a shooting, a senior government source said yesterday. The source said the figure was roughly in line with compensation paid by the Libyan government to the families of the 270 people killed in the 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing over Scotland.
"We want them to pay $8 million [about Dh29.3m] for each family," the source said. "The same level as the compensation for the Lockerbie victims." Blackwater had been told of the demand, the source said. It was unclear what the private American firm's response was. Iraqi government spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh said on Sunday an investigation set up by Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki had found Blackwater "deliberately killed" the 17 people in the September 16 shooting in western Baghdad.
Blackwater has said its guards responded lawfully to a hostile threat against a US State Department convoy it was guarding, but Dabbagh said the investigation had also found there was no evidence they had come under fire.
The incident caused outrage among Iraqis who see security contractors like Blackwater as private armies which act with impunity. Blackwater employs about 1,000 people in Iraq. Its founder, former US Navy SEAL Erik Prince, told a Congressional hearing last week that his men had come under small-arms fire and "returned fire at threatening targets."

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Rotana Hotels to develop $55 mn. property in Erbil

(PUKmedia news) - Abu Dhabi-based Rotana Hotels said on Tuesday it would develop a $55 million five-star property in Erbil in Iraq’s Kurdish region, which has largely been spared the violence affecting the rest of the country. Rotana, which has 25 hotels across the Middle East, will compete for a growing hospitality business with the Erbil International Hotel; the city's only other five-star property, where a standard twin room costs around $300 a night.
"This is part of our strategic aim to have a property located in every key city in the Middle East," Selim el-Zyr, president of Rotana, said in a statement. The semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government is trying to encourage investors to develop Erbil's hotel infrastructure and turn the city into an entry point to Iraq for foreign businesses.
The ministry of tourism last month said three or four times the current numbers of hotels were needed. The city's international airport handled about 170,000 passengers in 2006 and the regional government is building a new airport to handle 1.5 million, according to the London-based Kurdistan Development Corporation.
Austrian Airlines became the first European carrier to resume scheduled flights to Iraq last year when it began twice-weekly services to Erbil from Vienna. Rotana's 205 room Erbil property, scheduled to open in 2009, is owned by Lebanese holding company Malia although potential investors are ‘still welcome’ according to president Jacques Sarraf.

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Head of Shiite Endowment gunned down in Baghdad

(Voices of Iraq) - Unknown gunmen assassinated the head of the Shiite Endowment in Baghdad's eastern part of Rasafa, Ibrahim Abdul Kareem, at a late hour on Monday night, an Iraqi police source said. The Shiite Endowment is a government agency that cares for Shiite mosques in Iraq. "Unidentified gunmen driving a civilian vehicle shot down Abdul Kareem while he was driving his car in al-Mashtal neighborhood in Baghdad al-Jadida," the source, who requested his name not be mentioned, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). No further information was given by the source.

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Iraqi women languish in jail without trial

(Azzaman) - A visit to a women prison in a Baghdad neighborhood has revealed that Iraqi authorities are paying lip service to human rights and rule of law. The visit by Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi found the jail over crowded with many women afflicted with contagious diseases due to lack of medicine and medical care.
“The tour has exposed a difficult and tragic situation in the whole process, starting with detention and ending with the horrific conditions of the prison,” a statement by Hashemi’s office said. The prison is in the neighborhood of Kadhimiya and is believed to hold mainly Sunni Muslim women. Many of the prisoners, the statement said, were detained because their husbands or sons were suspected of having links to forces resisting U.S. occupation.
“This means if anything that the women are taken hostages to exert pressure on their husbands who are wanted by the authorities,” the statement said. There were teenage women among the prisoners some of whom had spent several years behind bars, the statement added.
One women prisoner, Suaad Aziz, had told Hashemi that she was arrested while looking for her son who had disappeared for more than one year. “I was a principal of a school in the Amiriya district of Baghdad. They have sentenced me to death and no one has ever asked me a single question why I was here,” the statement reported Aziz as saying.
Thousands of Iraqis languish in scores of prisons in Iraq. U.S. troops have their own jails which they have constructed specifically to detain suspects. Iraqi authorities run their own prisons. There are more than 30,000 Iraqis in jails run by the U.S. and Iraqi government and most of them have been incarcerated merely on suspicion and held without trial.

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U.S., Iraqis probe civilian killings by private security company

(AP) - U.S. and Iraqi officials Wednesday were investigating yet another shooting of Iraqi civilians by a heavily armed security firm linked to U.S. government-financed work in Iraq. The bodies of Marou Awanis and Geneva Jalal, the Christian women killed in the Tuesday shooting, were taken, meanwhile, to Baghdad's Armenian Orthodox Virgin Mary Church for funeral services. Iraqi authorities blamed the women's deaths on guards working for Unity Resources Group, a security company owned by Australian partners but with headquarters in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Unity provides security services to RTI International, a group based in Research Triangle Park, N.C., that promotes governance projects in Iraq for the U.S. Agency for International Development. Both Unity and RTI acknowledged a security contract between them and both entities said RTI staffers were not present when the shooting occurred in Baghdad's Karradah district. A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said RTI was under contract by USAID but was responsible for its own security.
Michael Priddin, chief operating officer of Unity, told The Associated Press on Wednesday the firm was working with Iraqi authorities "to find out the results of the shooting incident. ...we are trying to work out a true picture of what happened." In a statement issued Tuesday night, Priddin said, "We deeply regret this incident."
Iraqi government officials, police and witnesses said guards working for Unity fired on a white Oldsmobile as it approached their convoy Tuesday afternoon, killing the two women before speeding away from the latest bloodshed blamed on the deadly mix of heavily armed protection details on Baghdad's crowded streets.
The deaths of the women — including one who used the white sedan as an unofficial taxi to raise money for her family — came a day after the Iraqi government handed U.S. officials a report demanding hefty payments and the ouster from Iraq of embattled Blackwater USA for a chaotic shooting last month that left at least 17 civilians dead.
The Tuesday killings were certain to sharpen Iraqi government demands to curb the expanding array of security firms in Iraq watching over diplomats, aid groups and others. Accounts of the incident — from company statements, witnesses and others — suggested the Unity guards opened fire as the car failed to heed warnings to stop and drifted closer to the convoy near a Unity facility in Karrahah.
Four armored SUVs — three white and one gray — were about 100 yards from a main intersection in the Shiite-controlled district at about 1:40 p.m. As the car moved into the crossroads, the Unity guards threw a smoke bomb in an apparent bid to warn the driver not to come closer, said Riyadh Majid, an Iraqi policeman who saw the shooting. Two of the Unity guards then opened fire. The woman driving the car tried to stop, but was killed along with her passenger. Two of three people in the back seat were wounded.
Priddin's Tuesday statement offered a similar account: "The first information that we have is that our security team was approached at speed by a vehicle which failed to stop despite an escalation of warnings which included hand signals and a signal flare. Finally shots were fired at the vehicle and it stopped."
Iraqi police investigators said they collected 19 spent 5.56 mm shell casings, ammunition commonly used by U.S. and NATO forces and most Western security organizations. The pavement was stained with blood and covered with shattered glass from the car windows. Majid said the convoy raced away after the shooting. Iraqi police came to collect the bodies and tow the car to the local station.
A second policeman, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution, said the guards were masked and wearing khaki uniforms. He said one of them left the vehicle and started to shoot at the car while another opened fire from the open back door of a separate SUV.
Iraqi anger has grown against the private security companies — nearly all based in the United States, Britian and other Western countries — as symbols of the lawlessness that has ravaged their country for more than four years.
Ali al-Dabbagh, Iraq's government spokesman, said: "Today's incident is part of a series of reckless actions by some security companies." Unity also has come under scrutiny before. In March 2006, the company issued an statement of sympathy after one of its guards was blamed for shooting a 72-year-old Iraqi-born Australian, Kays Juma, at a security checkpoint in Baghdad. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Juma was killed because he was in a car that failed to stop. Unity said multi-national forces and Iraqi police also were present at the checkpoint at the time.
Unity provides armed guards and security training throughout Iraq. Its heavily armed teams are Special Forces veterans from Australia, the United States, New Zealand and Britain — as well as former law enforcement officers from those countries.

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Turkey prepares for possible incursion into northern Iraq

(Al Jazeera) - Turkey is preparing for a possible incursion into northern Iraq as the government says it is willing to take all necessary measures against Kurdish separatists it suspects of hiding there. The decision by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, follows a series of deadly attacks by the rebel PKK group on Turkish security forces.
"To put an end to the terrorist organisation operating in the neighbouring country [Iraq], the order has been given to take every kind of measure, legal, economic, political, including also a cross-border operation if necessary," Erdogan's office said in a statement on Tuesday.
Kurdish rebels have killed 15 soldiers in separate attacks in the past two days. There is increasing anger in the country over the rebels' ability to find refuge in neighbouring Iraq. The military said on Sunday it had shelled an area near Iraq to try to stop PKK members from escaping across the border after an attack in the southeast province of Sirnak that killed 13 soldiers. However, residents in northern Iraq claim the Turkish shelling is landing well within their territory. Kurdish farmers displayed craters on Tuesday they said were left by artillery shells that hit close to the border.
Ankara has not confirmed any shelling of Iraqi territory. Local officials in the Iraqi Kurdish-run northern region, feared the shelling was a sign of more to come. In the city of Arbil, 350km north of Baghdad, the Kurdish governor warned Turkey on Tuesday that its troops would sustain heavy losses if they began operations in the region.
Nozad Hadi, the region's governor, said: "If the Turkish troops decided to enter into the Iraq's Kurdistan territories, their decision would be wrong and they would sustain heavy casualties and material losses." Turkey's parliament would have to authorise any large-scale military operation into Iraq, but troops could pursue rebels over the border in smaller, so-called "hot pursuit" operations without such authorisation.
The US said it supported Turkey and Iraq in their efforts to combat the PKK but warned against military incursions from Ankara. Al Jazeera's Yusuf Sharif in Ankara says Turkey is unlikely to send troops into its neighbour in the near future given that it is due to host a regional conference next month with Iraqi representatives among the attendees. Sharif also said that the government in Baghdad wants time for a recent security agreement signed with Turkey to take effect.
Yusuf Kanli from the Turkish Daily News said while there was public pressure on the Erdogan government to show it was able to deal effectively with PKK rebels it needed to differentiate between the group and the wider Kurdish issue. "You can not end this kind of terrorism through military action, there are other factors to consider such as political, and social elements that intermingle," he told Al Jazeera. "But Turkey can not in any way ignore the need to provide security for its country. They have to differentiate between PKK and the Kurdish problem."

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Police chief and tribal leader targeted in suicide bombing

(Al Jazeera) - Two suicide lorry bombs, separately targeting a police chief and a tribal leader, have killed at least 22 people in Baiji, about 200km north of Baghdad, police said. At least 30 people were injured when the lorries, loaded with barrels of petrol, exploded within minutes of each other at about 6am (0300 GMT) on Tuesday, police officials said.
In Baghdad, the capital, at least 12 more people were killed and 58 wounded in four separate explosions, including one which ripped through crowds in a central square, Iraqi officials and police said.Women and children were among the dead, the official said.
Many victims of Tuesday's twin attacks in Baiji were also women and children, police officials said. The first bomb went off outside the home of Colonel Saad al-Nuffous, an Iraqi police chief. The officer escaped unharmed, but his house was partially damaged, Ali al-Bijwari, a police commander, said.
Minutes later, a second bomber detonated his explosives outside the home of Thamer Ibrahim Atallah, a leader of the Salaheddin Awakening Council, a coalition of tribes established to fight al-Qaeda in the Tikrit area. Atallah escaped the attack, but the identities of the other casualties were not immediately known. US forces were deployed in the area after the blasts, al-Bijwari said.
Last Thursday, a roadside bomb near Samarra killed Sheikh Maawia Naji Jebara, the leader of the Salaheddin Awakening Council. The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the killing in a statement posted on the internet.

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Census to be carried out in Kirkuk in November

(RFE/RL) - A full census will be carried out in the contested oil-rich governorate of Kirkuk in mid-November, said Narmin Uthman, the deputy head of the Higher Commission for the Implementation of Article 140 of the constitution, Kurdish media reported on October 4. Article 140 concerns repatriation of those displaced under Saddam Hussein's regime to their original homes. As it applies to Kirkuk, the article paves the way for thousands of Kurds displaced from their homes to return to the governorate. It also requires that tens of thousands of Arab families resettled in Kirkuk under Hussein must return to their homes and villages in the south of the country.
The census, called for in the constitution, will be followed by a referendum by residents in Kirkuk to decide whether to join the Kurdistan region or remain outside it. International media reported this week that the commission has begun to compensate Arab families for leaving their homes in Kirkuk. The government is offering 20 million dinars (around $16,000) to each family that leaves Kirkuk and relocates to their original homes. The number of Arab families living in Kirkuk is not known, but estimates run between 70,000 and 135,000 families.

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Monday, October 08, 2007


Bombs explode near Polish embassy in Baghdad

A car bomb killed two people near Poland's embassy in Baghdad on Monday, five days after the Polish envoy was wounded in an attack, international agencies reported. Acting ambassador Waldemar Figaj told Reuters that four explosions hit near the embassy on Monday and described the first blast as "very, very powerful". No major damages were reported. Iraqi police said a car bomb near the embassy killed two people and wounded five. A bomb targeted the convoy of the Polish ambassador to Iraq in Baghdad last Wednesday, killing an Iraqi civilian and injuring the diplomat and at least three others. The ambassador, Gen. Edward Pietrzyk, was rushed to the US military hospital in Baghdad in stable condition. Poland has had a strong presence in the US-led coalition, and its military commands the Multi-National Division-Central South region.

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Iraqi govt releases video confessions from Shiite cult after Najaf battle in January

(Reuters) - The Iraqi government on Monday released video confessions from followers of a Shi'ite cult arrested after a major battle with U.S. and Iraqi forces in January near the holy city of Najaf. One of the confessions said the cult leader slain in the battle had met critics of the Iraqi government, including the country's first post-war prime minister Iyad Allawi.
The fierce battle in the area of Zarga, north of Najaf, left 220 militants dead, including spiritual leader Dhia al-Garrawi. Iraq said the heavily-armed group planned to assassinate top Shi'ite scholars to destabilise the country. Riyadh al-Garrawi, who was captured after the fighting, said on the video confession that his brother, Dhia, had met both Allawi and Sunni cleric Harith al-Dari outside Iraq.
Dhia al-Garrawi had proclaimed himself the Mahdi, a messiah-like figure in Islam, and had a cult following. Allawi and Dari, both of whom spend most of their time abroad, are very critical of the Iraqi government and Dari has often accused it of forcing confessions from detainees for political ends. "(Dhia) requested me to arrange an interview with Allawi and (an intermediary) arranged a meeting with Allawi in Jordan," Riyadh al-Garrawi said on the video, shown at an Interior Ministry news conference.
He said Dhia also met Sunni cleric Dari at least twice to discuss political issues, in Syria's capital Damascus and the Gulf emirate of Dubai. "He told me they debated politics and agreed they were against federalism and favoured a secular state," he said.
Usama al-Nujeyfi, a lawmaker from Allawi's bloc, called the investigation results a sham. "It's not a proper investigation, it's all politicised. Dr. Allawi is a national leader who rejects violence in all its forms," he told Reuters. Dari was not immediately available for comment on the video confession.

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U.S. military says it has detained 3 Iran-linked suspects in kidnapping of Brits

(Voices of Iraq) - The U.S. military in Iraq said on Monday it has detained three Iran-backed Shiite militia fighters believed responsible for the kidnapping of five British security contractors last May. "Coalition Forces from the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division detained three terrorists associated with the Iranian-backed Special Groups Militia during a pre-dawn raid in Sadr City on Oct 6," the U.S. army said in a statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
"The individuals detained during the raid are believed to be members of the Special Groups Militia network known for kidnapping, facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively-formed penetrators from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq into Iran for military training," it added.
"The three insurgents captured are believed to be responsible for the kidnapping of five British contractors in Baghdad on May 29," the statement noted. A group of armed men in police uniforms abducted the five Britons from the Iraqi Finance Ministry in May. Their fate is not known.

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Footballer sworn in by Iraqi Accordance Front

(Gulf News) - One of Iraq's most famous football stars was sworn in on Monday to replace a lawmaker-turned-insurgent in the largest Sunni parliament block. Ahmed Radhi, the only Iraqi player to have scored in World Cup finals, officially took the Sunni Accordance Front seat vacated by Abdul Nasser Al Janabi. Janabi had declared in June that he would leave politics to join the insurgency in Iraq.
The bloc had nominated 43-year-old Radhi last week, to "support the youth and sport in Iraq," said the Sunni bloc's spokesman, Muhanad Al Issawi. "I will join the Sport and Youth Committee in parliament, beside my political activities as lawmaker," Radhi said after his swearing-in.
Radhi was Iraq's most famous forward in mid 1980s and scored the only World Cup goal for Iraq ever in a game against Belgium in the 1986 tournament in Mexico. After the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussain, he became the manager of Al Zawra soccer club in the Iraqi premiere league. He left the job and moved to Amman, Jordan, after receiving threats and after the kidnapping of Ahmed Al Hijiya, the chairman of Iraq's National Olympic committee.

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Basra police chief steps up to militia challenge

The Iraqi government, along with political forces, are following with concern the situation in Basra province, with the withdrawal of the British military continuing in the forthcoming months until a full withdrawal is implemented. General Abdul Jalil Khalaf, Basra police chief, told Gulf News: "The task is very difficult and conditions are extremely dangerous because each party believes that it represents the law, and each element thinks of himself as a state hero. The city includes tens or even hundreds of militias and I am ready for the task."
Statistics at the University of Basra indicates that there are about 250,000 individuals involved in the armed militias and around 144 militia groups.

There are the militias of the Dawa party headed by Nouri Al Maliki, the Badr Brigades headed by Hadi Al Ameri affiliated to Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, the Mahdi Army of Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr, the Hezbollah movement militia led by Hassan Sari, Hezbollah affiliated to Abdul Kareem Al Muhamadawi, the Fadhila party militias belong to Mohammad Al Yacoubi and other small resistance militias in the south as Imam Ali rebels, Hassan and Hussain rebels and Al Ridha followers.
The oil-rich city consists of 40 to 55 private militia who specialise in oil smuggling to Iran and stealing copper wires from electric grids. Abdul Hadi, an Iraqi army officer in Basra, told Gulf News: "The most dangerous militia is the police and security forces' militias because they have weapons and work in the name of the law. These are groups that consist of between 40 to 90 members who agree to implement kidnapping and blackmail operations or condone gang activities for major financial commissions."
Basra, especially Faw and Majnoon Islands, includes the richest oil fields in the region as well as bunches of palm orchards which yield the best types of dates in the world.
Fadhil Al Jamaly, an economic researcher, told Gulf News: "The issue of oil is the essence of conflict between armed militias, whether these are affiliated to political parties or smuggling gangs. I believe fighting will break out between the outlaw armed groups because of the weakness of state security forces and also the penetration of these militias in these forces, besides seizing land and dates palms is no less important than oil for the armed groups."
Recently, the dispute settlement body in Basra reported that armed militias affiliated to political parties, gangs and powerful individuals seized thousands of houses and real estate.

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