Saturday, September 09, 2006


Iraq accuses Iran of abducting soldiers

Security, Regional politics
Iraqi border guards accused Iran on Friday of shelling their territory near the town of Mandali and taking six soldiers following a clash on the border northeast of Baghdad. Iran's state news agency, IRNA said the soldiers were detained for crossing into the Iranian province of Ilam. They said an investigationw as under way.The Iraqi senior officer said teh clashes were sparked by the discovery by an Iraqi patrol of an Iranian outpost inside Iraq. A senior official at the Iraqi Defence Ministry in Baghdad said the incident was still being investigated but a formal statement from Baghdad was expected. Relations are now warm between Tehran and fellow Shias dominating Iraq's elected government following many years of hostility during Saddam's rule.
The activities of security forces on either side of the border, including efforts to counter smuggling, have occasionally led to brief detentions of troops, however. Kurdish groups in Iraq have accused Iran in recent weeks of shelling border areas, targeting anti-Iranian Kurdish fighters. Mandali is south of the main concentrations of Kurds living along the Iranian border.


al-Maliki to visit Iran on Monday

Regional politics
A spokesman for the Iraqi government said the talks would focus on “security and political relations besides developing and promoting bilateral relations.” Iran has been accused of smuggling weapons and expertise to Shia militias in Iraq, but Tehran has denied this.


No Saddam - al-Qaeda pre-war link reports says

According to two newly declassified reports released on Friday by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Saddam Hussein had no links with al-Qaeda - in contradiction to what Bush and other administration officials claimed at the time. The reports were based on a previously undisclosed October 2005 CIA assessment.
Democrats said the data showed that top administration officials, including Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, misled the public to drum up support for war in Iraq by alleging a link between Saddam and the militant network. Bush asserted as recently as an August 21 news conference that Saddam had links with Zarqawi. The CIA report's assessment was similar to the conclusion reached by the bipartisan 9/11 commission, which found in 2004 there had been no "collaborative relationship" between Saddam and al Qaeda.


Editorial - fuel crisis has improved

Editorial: Fuel Crisis: From Temporary Fixes to Strategic Vision (Al-Adala, Sep, 4 2006, By Hamdi Hassan) The media have produced many articles about the fuel crisis, and this pressured the government and oil ministry to work hard to resolve the problem in two days. Now there are no long petrol queues, and no black marketeers on the streets. We want to thank all those who had a hand in stopping a problem that Iraqis had endured for months. We would have preferred it if the solution had been the fruit of a strategic plan rather than being forced by media pressure. We hope the oil ministry will provide a supply of oil products that exceeds the need, so that prices stabilise and there is no black market. The success needs to be sustained, and the oil ministry must put in place a permanent plan to eliminate the possibility of further crises.
(Al-Adala is issued daily by the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq - SCIRI.)


Shia politicians call for autonomy during religious festival

During the Shia religious Shaaban festival in Karbala, prominent Shia leaders like Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the powerful Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) repeated calls for an autonomous Shia region in central and southern Iraq made up of nine provinces. "Look at the example of federalism in Kurdistan, it is evidence of the success of this system.""We support it strongly because it would keep dictatorship from happening again -- all are entitled to enjoy federalism," he said.
The issue is to be debated in parliament on Sunday with the first reading of a draft law presented by the main Shia bloc. Sunnis have called for the debate to be delayed while they press their own demands for amendments to the constitution. Shia politicians insist a fully federal system will not lead to Iraq breaking up, but rather take some of the heat out of a bitter sectarian conflict which has pushed the country to the brink of civil war.
In Karbala, south of Baghdad, officials oversaw the departure of the tens of thousands of pilgrims, providing scores of trucks to transport them back to homes around the country, Governor Aqil al-Khazali said. Authorities said 7,000 police, along with 2,000 Iraqi soldiers and 1,800 Interior Ministry commandos were securing the city, while Interior Ministry special forces were guarding its entrance. The U.S.-led coalition was providing air support for the security measures, Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Samir Abdullah said Friday. The coalition said it would "be on hand for support if needed," but could not reveal further details for security reasons. He added that the heavy security measures that ensured a peaceful conclusion to the ceremony would remain in place for now.


Another day of violence

Despite tight security controls in Karbala for the Shia Shaaban religios festival, bomb attacks and murders continued across the country on Saturday. In Baghdad two civilians were killed in a bomb attack targetting a US patrol in the city centre. The police force was targetted again as a suicide bomber tried to ram his vehicle into a police station in Waziriyah, northern Baghdad. Police and civilians were killed. An employee of the state-owned newspaper al-Sabah was shot dead.
In Kirkuk, in the north, two blasts killed four people and wounded 16. The second device wad detonated as a police patrol arrived at the scene of the first blast. In Tikrit, one civilian was found shot dead. South of Baghdad, five bodies were discovered in Suwayrah, a town which has become a dumping ground for victims of sectarian killings. They had been shot dead. Following the killing of several prominent tribal leaders in the Sunni north and west, Ibrahim al-Khalaf, leader of the Bugara tribe and a city councilman was shot dead in Hawija, near Kirkuk. He had announced support of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's project for national reconciliation.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Karbala pilgrims killed

Security, Religion
In Musayyib, about 40 miles south of Baghdad on Friday, three mortar rounds landed on a procession of pilgrims heading to Karbala for Saturday's Shaaban ceremony, killing at least three and wounding 22, four of whom were critically injured, Musayyib police said.
Up to three million people are expected in Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad. Many walk to the city from across Iraq, and several attacks have already occurred against processions heading to the city. The city's governor, Aqil al-Khazali, said two people who police had arrested had revealed that there might be an attempt to target the Shiite shrine during Saturday's ceremony.


Govt orders Al Arabiya to shut down

The Arabic satellite network Al Arabiya was ordered by thge Iraqi government on Thursday to shut down its Baghdad operations for one month. The other pan-Arab satellite network, Al Jazeera, had its office in the capital closed two years ago. Al Arabiya could not immediately confirm the order, apparently issued by Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki's Cabinet. Officials at the headquarters said they have not yet been informed of a ban.
In July, al-Maliki warned television stations against broadcasting footage that could undermine the country's stability. A statement by the prime minister's office cited news reports that 'capitalise on the footage of victims of terrorist attacks.' He called on media outlets to "respect the dignity of human beings and not to fall in the trap set up by terrorist groups who want to petrify the Iraqi people." The statement said television stations should uphold the code of media ethics or else the government will take legal action against them.

COMMENT: While freedom of the press should be acknowledged, al-Maliki is beginning to face up to the insurgents in less conventional ways. The insurgents are not only waging a ground war, but also a very media-driven psychological war, and they are winning. Al Arabiya is well known for its ability to break fast-moving news stories and for the occasional airing of video statements from militant groups. By closing down one insurgent 'mouth piece', al-Maliki is making the psychological media war a little harder.
A poll by the US State Department in seven Iraqi cities in October 2003 found that among Iraqis with satellite dishes, 37 per cent named al-Arabiya as their preferred news source, followed by al-Jazeera, 26 per cent.
Al-Arabiya was launched in March 2003 with an investment of $300m by the Saudi-controlled pan-Arab satellite TV pioneer MBC, Lebanon's Hariri Group, and other investors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the Gulf states. It was set up as an all-news channel to compete directly with Qatar-based al-Jazeera TV. MBC's Saudi ownership leads many in the Arab world to consider the channel biased. COMMENT ENDS.


Office for abductions in US embassy in Baghdad

The White House has revealed the US embassy in Baghdad houses a formal "Office of Hostage Affairs" to handle abductions of American citizens and other nationals. In an official document the White House said, "The United States, through the Office of Hostage Affairs in Embassy Baghdad, is addressing the scourge of kidnapping in Iraq, a key source of terrorist financing."
The US embassy in Baghdad makes no mention of such an office on its Internet site, and a search of the US State Department Internet site does not turn up any mention of such an office anywhere else. US officials have long referred to joint efforts by US government agencies to rescue hostages taken in Iraq, but Thursday's release was believed to be the first reference to a formal office to handle such issues in Baghdad.The White House and the US State Department declined to say whether the office was the only one of its kind in operation, or to confirm that it had not ever been discussed publicly before.


First British trade mission to Kurdistan a success

British Expertise, the leading trade association that this week became the first British trade mission to visit the Kurdistan Region, said more UK companies were likely to follow in its footsteps. The companies represented in the delegation were Black and Veatch engineering and construction; Control Risks security consultants; Crown Agents public sector modernization; HLSP healthcare consultants; Perenco petroleum exploration and production; Scott Wilson infrastructure consultants; and Mott MacDonald management and development consultants.


Ministry spokesman - displaced people returning home

(Al-Sabah al-Jadeed) Thirty per cent of people who were forced to flee their homes have returned - and in August there was no displacement at all, according to a source in the ministry of migrants and displacement. The returnees had taken advantge of the reconciliation plans, the strong security measures and the influence of tribal leaders, said ministry spokesman Mahdi al-Haideri. Haideri anticipates that more families will return to their homes with the beginning of the new academic year.
(Al-Sabah al-Jadeed is an independent daily paper.)
COMMENT: With the current lack of control of the security situation it seems unlikley that so many would return home. It could be more likely an attempt by the government to persuade the public that security is improving. COMMENT ENDS.


Baghdad - 1,500 killed in August

According to Hakim al-Zamily, director general at the health ministry, the Baghdad morgue received 1,584 bodies of people killed in violent attacks. The ministry reported 1,850 killings in the war-torn capital in July.
The health ministry figures contradict Thursday's statement by the US-led forces chief spokesman Major General William Caldwell that August's "murder rate in Baghdad dropped 52 per cent from the daily rate for July." However, another coalition spokesman said on Friday that the US military figure for murders does not include those killed in Baghdad's daily suicide bombings and mortar attacks in crowded civilian areas.
On June 14, US and Iraqi forces launched "Operation Together Forward", a massive security operation in the capital, in a bid to quell the violence. Despite the push, the number of violent deaths in July was the highest since the US-led invasion of March 2003.


Dyncorp receives contract extension

Security, Contractors
The United States Department of State has awarded DynCorp International a nine-month extension of its task order to support the training of police officers in Iraq. This extension is valued at more than $318 million and will expire on May 31, 2007. The Company has provided this service since April 2004 under the Department of State's international Civilian Police Program.


Mass execution at Abu Ghraib

In the first mass execution since Saddam was in power, the Iraqi government announced that 27 terror suspects and criminals had been hung on Wednesday. Prime Minister Nouri al-maliki made the announcement during the security handover yesterday from the Americans to the Iraqis. "This is the message I have for the terrorists," he said of the hanged prisoners, "we will see that you get great punishment wherever you are. There is nothing for you but prison and punishment."
Hundreds of convicted prisoners are believed to be on death row in Iraq as the authorities have struggled to control the insurgency and the number of detained prisoners in Iraq means that many of the country's prisons, including Abu Ghraib, are suffering from severe overcrowding.
COMMENT: Mass executions are unliley to end there as al-Maliki attemps to take control of the violence by sending out a strong message to all criminals and anti-Iraqi forces. While the message may have some effect on criminals, it is unlikley to influence terrorists. COMMENT ENDS.


Govt allows entrepreneurs to import fuel

Following new regulations enforced on Monday Iraqi and foreign entrepreneurs will have the right to import fuel to Iraq. Under new regulations, turned into law on Monday, Iraqi entrepreneurs will have the right to import fuel and compete with government-owned fuel distribution network. Iraq is currently facing a severe petrol, kerosene and cooking gas shortage. Taxes on these businesses will be waived for two years. The government has decided to increase expenditure on oil imports to US$ 800 million a month. Most of the country’s fuel imports come from Iran, Turkey, Syria and Kuwait. A litre of petrol or gasoline has soared to more than $1 dollar at a time the official price is set at nearly 17 cents.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


New al-Qaeda tape released

In a portion of an audiotape broadcast on al Jazeera Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, al-Qaeda's new leader in Iraq threatened the country's Sunni politicians. He said they were treacherous and warned of more attacks against U.S.-led forces there, "You (Sunni politicians) have lied to yourself and betrayed your nation ... You claimed you will enter the political process to ease the hardship of the Sunnis, but you were their hardship," he said.
Muhajir called on Muslims to unite and asked each insurgent to kill one American in the next 15 days, saying victory was near. Muhajir, allegedly Egyptian and also believed to use the name Abu Ayyub al-Masri, told Shia Muslims to 'repent' or face the swords of the mujahideen holy fighters.
U.S. officials had no immediate comment on the tape. They said there was no reason to doubt its authenticity but cautioned that official verification could pose an extra challenge for intelligence analysts because of a dearth of earlier recordings by Muhajir.


Shia pilgrims head for Karbala

Despite the violence, hundreds of Shia pilgrims are heading to Karbala to observe the Shia religious festival of Shaaban which is on Saturday. Karbala regional authorities have enforced a vehicle ban from early Thursday and police and army reinforcements are on standby. Shaaban is a celebration of the birth of the Mahdi, the 12 and last Imam in Shia Islam. The Imam disappeared in the 9th century and is expected to return eventually.


Parliament speaker's nephew kidnapped

Security, Politics
Iraqi parliament Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani's nephew was kidnapped on Wednesday night in northern Baghdad, a police source said. The abduction occurred at about 10:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) when the car of Ahmad, al-Mashhadani's nephew, was intercepted by unidentified gunmen in a district north of Baghdad, the source said on condition of anonymity.

COMMENT: The abduction could be of relevance because if it is not purely criminal for financial gain, then it could be to gain political leverage. al-Mashhadani is a Sunni and has a high profile. He has been out-spoken on several sensitive issues such as warning that politicians have just months to sort out their differences or the country will plunge into civil war. He has also dug his heels in with the main Shia Alliance bloc who said on Thursday they had completed a draft proposal to create autonomous regions. They tried to force a vote on the matter until al-Mashhadani cut them off, saying he had not received the proposal. The Sunnis are against federalism because they will lose out on oil revenue. COMMENT ENDS.


Talabani calls on insurgents to join reconcilliation plan

(Al-Mada) President Jalal Talabani has called on illegal armed forces, other than the Saddamis and Takfiris, to join the political process. He revealed that some groups had begun negotiations with him, Prime Minister Maliki and multilateral forces to join the reconciliation plan. Talabani urged insurgents to put their disagreements aside and take part in the rebuilding of Iraq, promising that there would be a schedule for the withdrawal of foreign forces once the Iraqi security forces are able to deal with the situation in the country. He maintained that when terror is over, there would be no need for foreign forces.


Heated debate as parliament discusses federalism

Officials in the dominant Shia Alliance bloc said on Wednesday they had completed a draft of their proposal for a mechanism by which provinces could form autonomous regions. Shia lawmakers tried to force discussion and a vote on their proposal during Thursday's sometimes rowdy session, but the speaker of parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni, angrily cut them off, saying he had not received the proposal. After he adjourned the session, he was due to meet leaders of the political blocs to discuss scheduling the federalism issue, a source in the parliamentary administration said. But Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the powerful Shia leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), has been forcing the pace, calling in recent days for Shias to form their own region in the south and for a vote on the issue.
Sunnis, concentrated in Iraq's resource-poor central and western provinces, are opposed to such a move, fearing it would seal their political doom by giving Shias in the south and Kurds in the north an unfair share of Iraq's oil.
Under the constitution, provincial administrations will be given a strong level of autonomy, including the right to form regional governments involving several provinces which will be allowed to set up their own security structures.


Iraqi police targets of bombs

As the Americans plan to hand over security to the Iraqis, taking one more step towards independence, five bomb attacks targeting police patrols in Baghdad killed at least 18 people and wounded 57. A suicide car bomb targeting a police patrol outside a gas station near the Elouya Hospital in central Baghdad killed 10 people, including four policemen, and wounded 21, police said. Earlier, a bomb hidden under a parked car near al-Nidaa Mosque in northern Baghdad exploded as a police patrol passed by, killing three civilians and wounding 20, police Lt. Thair Mahmoud said. Another suicide car bomb in Taiyran Square in the centre of the city killed two civilians and two police special forces members, and wounded 13 people, police said. In western Baghdad, a roadside bombing in Qahtan Square near Yarmouk hospital wounded four people, including a policeman, Mahmoud said. Elsewhere, in the upscale district of Mansour, a roadside bomb explosion killed a man and injured his daughter and another person, police said.
COMMENT: The attacks were most likley carried out by foriegn and Iraqi Islamic militants or Saddam's supporters, both with the aim of destabilising the country further, proving that the security forces cannot handle the situation, frightening future recruits and showing the public that the politicians have no control of the situation. COMMENT ENDS.


U.S. to hand over security forces to Iraq

American forces are scheduled to hand over control of the 130,000 strong Iraqi security forces to the Iraqis on Thursday. The ceremony was supposed to take place last Saturday but was put on hold as the two sides could not agree on wording in the document. PM al-Maliki expects the forces to be in control of most of the country by the end of the year.
COMMENT: While the handover may hasten the withdrawal of American troops, it is unlikely that the Iraqi security forces are fully prepared to take over control. Most are ill equipped and inadequately trained. Questions have also arisen as to whether sectarian loyalties will remain stronger than the obligation to serve the country and her people as a whole. COMMENT ENDS.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Khanaqin demands to join Kurdish region

Members of the city council of Khanaqin demanded Tuesday that their city be separated from control of the Diyala governorate capital Baquba and be allowed to join the Kurdish region. Sameer Mohammad Nour, the head of the Khanaqin city council, urged the Iraqi parliament to issue a decree to adjoin the city to the Kurdish region. He said "this plea has the approval of all 19 city council members including 14 Kurds, 3 Turkomen and 2 Arabs."
Khanaqin is a Kurdish city outside the Kurdish autonomous region in north-eastern Iraq in the Diyala governorate. Khanaqin is the second largest oil-city in Kurdistan. A dialect of the Kurdish language is spoken there. Under Saddam Hussein's Arabisation policy Sunni Arabs were settled in the city.

COMMENT: It is possible that violence could escalate from the Turkomen and Arab population who may not want to become part of the Kurdish region, as with the same minorities in Kirkuk. However, it is interesting to mote that the minorities in the council voted for the move. Khanaqin is essentially Kurdish, so it would easily blend into the Kurdish region, as well as boosting oil revenue. Most of Khanaqin have wanted this for a while and may be flagging it up now as the issue of Kurdistan becoming independant is flaring up. COMMENT ENDS.


Deputy PM flies to Iran

Regional politics
On Tuesday Barham Saleh,Iraq's deputy prime minister left for Iran for a four-day vist. He headed a delegation that included the minister of state for foreign affairs, and the ministers of trade, planning and finance. His office said the trip was organised to prepare a visit by Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. There was no information on when al-Maliki might be travelling to Iran.


Allawi supports Barzani on flag removal

On Tuesday Iyad Allawi, a secular Shia and leader of the Iraqi National Accord (INA), supported Kurdistan's President Barzani's removal of the Iraqi flag - also regarded as the Baath flag. Allawi asked all political parties in Iraq to understand and sympathize with the removal of the Baath's flag in Kurdistan. He also requested the Iraqi parliament take on the removal of the Baath's flag urgently and discuss a potential new design that would represents all Iraqis. Article 12: of the Iraqi constitution states "The flag, national anthem, and emblem of Iraq shall be fixed by law in a way that represents the components of the Iraqi people".
Allawi was Prime Minister of Iraq's Interim Government from June 1, 2004 until April 7, 2005 when Ibrahim al-Jaafari took over the post. Allawi brought together many groups, including Secular Sunni groups, secular Shia groups and the Iraqi communist party Under one electoral list, the Iraqi national list for the January 05 elections.


Double bombing in Baghdad kills six

Six Iraqis were killed and 46 more wounded in a pair of bombings at a bus stop in Baghdad during at 7:40 am (0340 GMT). The attacks took place as commuters were waiting at a bus stop in the capital's largely Shia northeastern neighbourhood of Al-Qahera. A car bomb was first set off targeting civilians, followed by a roadside bomb 200 metres (yards) away from the first site, in a common insurgent tactic used to inflict maximum casualties.

COMMENT: The attack may have been of a sectarian nature carried out by Sunnis, however, it is more likely is was carried out by insurgents as the tactic has been used by them before, particularly targetting ambulances as they rush to the state of devastation. The insurgents achieve three aims by attacks like this: 1. Insecurity and instability. 2. Extremist Salafi Sunnis believe Shias are infidels and should die. 3. By only targetting a mainly Shia area they fuel the sectarian debate. COMMENT ENDS.


Talabani says UK troops to leave by end of 2007

Iraq's president forecast on Tuesday that British troops could go home by the end of next year but, on another day of killings, Britain's visiting foreign minister cautioned against leaving a "security vacuum." Beckett stressed London had no date in mind for troops pulling out and said the 2007 timeframe was Talabani's personal opinion. After meeting Iraq's top leadership, she said she found general support for the continued presence of 150,000 mainly U.S. forces until 300,000 Iraqi troops and police are ready. British troops control a swathe of Shi'ite southern Iraq that has largely escaped the violence in the Sunni-dominated and ethnically mixed provinces in central Iraq, but which has witnessed a surge in violence in recent weeks. A top British commander said last month Britain planned to halve its force by the middle of next year. British forces handed over control of one province to the Iraqi army in July and are due to transfer power over a second this month. Meanwhile, Britain will deploy 360 extra troops to Iraq later this year to reinforce its 7,200-strong force in the restive southern city of Basra, a military spokesman said.


Islamic insurgents praise Amman attack

Regional, Security, Insurgency
The Mujahedeen Shura Council in Iraq, an umbrella organization for several Islamic militant groups including al-Qaeda in Iraq, praised the gun attack on tourists in Amman on Monday in an internet statement. The council did not claim they had carried out the attack and encouraged young Muslims to follow in the attacker's footsteps. A Jordanian government spokesman, Nasser Judeh, said investigations showed that the gunman, Nabeel Ahmed Issa Jaourah, a Palestinian refugee who has Jordanian nationality, 38, was not linked to any (terror) organisation, domestic or foreign. It is believed his motives were revenge for the killing of members of his family in 1980 in an Israeli strike on Lebanon.
Two of the wounded tourists — one British and the other Australian — were released from Prince Hamza Hospital on Tuesday. A 28-year-old woman from New Zealand, who underwent surgery, was expected to be hospitalised for several days. There was no immediate information on the condition of the two other wounded tourists and the police officer.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Iraqi parliament to discuss federalism

When the Iraqi parliament reconvened on Tuesday after a month's recess one of the top issues on the agenda was whether to break the country up into semi-independent regions which would be more or less autonomous but would unltimately answer to a strong central government in Baghdad. Abbas al-Bayati, spokesman for the largest Shia bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), which holds 128 seats out of the 275, noted that under Iraq's new constitution, the issue of federalism must be put forth before September 16.

COMMENT: The Sunnis strongly oppose federalism because they would lose out on the oil revenue generated from the south and north. The Shias support the plan which would give them control of the south and parts of central Iraq, areas where they also have holy shrines. The Kurds have been fighting for independence for decades and would welcome the plan but the oil-rich city of Kirkuk would be a contentious issue as it is currently not part of Kurdistan, but the Kurds believe it should be. However, the Turkomans, Sunni Arabs and Christians who make up part of Kirkuk's population strongly oppose becoming part of Kurdistan. COMMENTS ENDS.


Kurds to have national anthem

In the ongoing row over Massoud Barzani, President of Kurdistan, raising the Kurdish flag instead of the Iraqi one, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has now said that a national anthem for the region will be introduced. Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki ordered Iraqi flags to be raised across the country and told the Kurds to fly the Iraqi flag until a symbol that everyone in Iraq could agree on was designed. Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish President of Iraq, supported Barzani's decision but asked him to wait for the new design.

COMMENT: This latest action comes at a time when Barzani is threatening with independence for Kurdistan. This will not only cause further friction between the Kurds and Sunni and Shia Arabs, but also minorities such as the Turkomen. The Kurds have fought for independence for decades, they will not give up now. If Kurdistan gets independence, the Shias are likely to push harder for a federal state in the south with increased fighting between Shia factions for supremacy. In addition, the Sunni Arabs will react badly as they will stand to lose revenue from the oil-rich north and south. Politically, it could be detremental with the different ethnic and religious groups falling out just as they are approaching a delicate balance. Talabani will be put in a particularly difficult position as he is Kurdish but also the Iraqi President. COMMENT ENDS.


Al-Qaeda denies deputy was arrested

In a statement on Monday, the Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organisation of Sunni extremist groups that includes al-Qaeda in Iraq, denied that the group's second-in-command had been arrested and added that their leadership is strong. However, they did not deny that the man the Iraqi government claimed was Al-Qaeda in Iraq's deputy, Hamed Jumaa Farid al-Saeedi had been arrested, nor did they say what position he held. Hamed Jumaa Farid al-Saeedi, also known as Abu Humam or Abu Rana, was captured by Iraq's police on Sunday. Following his capture on Sunday, Iraqi government security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie described al-Saeedi as "the second most important al-Qaeda figure in Iraq, just next to Abu Ayyub al-Masri," and added that al-Qaeda in Iraq's leadership had been dealt a severe blow.


U.S. - Iraqi security handover in next few days

The handover of security from the U.S. to Iraq is likely to go ahead at the end of this week or next week according to an Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh. he said both sides have now agreed on key issues. Under the timetable, every two weeks command of Iraqi units meeting certain criteria would be transferred until, by April 1, Iraqi troops in even the Sunni strongholds of Ramadi and Falluja would no longer be under US command, Mr Dabbagh said. In parallel with this, control of security is being handed over province by province to Iraqi leaders, a process Mr Dabbagh said would largely be complete this year, requiring US forces then to receive approval for any movements across the country. The handover was to be signed at a ceremony last Saturday but fell through due to both sides disagreeing on key issues.
COMMENT: The handover will enable the coalition to begin withdrawing, however it is unlikely that the Iraqi security forces are ready to deal with the violence and instability. The problem lies not only with insurgents, but with criminal elements and Saddam loyalists. There is a possibility that the tribes will rise up and Shia militias are fighting eachother for supremacy, particularly in the south. Add to this the instability in the north with Kurdistan wanting succession and the Sunnis, Christians and Turkmen in Kirkuk opposing that move. COMMENT ENDS.


Iraq to provide Jordan with oil

Iraq will start to provide Jordan with 10,000 barrels of crude oil within 10 days at preferential rates. The oil will be transported by trucks to Jordan and treated at Jordanian refineries. Iraq struck a deal in mid-August with Jordan to provide its oil-parched neighbor with 10-30 percent of its daily oil needs of around 100,000 barrels. Part of the deal will eventually involve laying a new pipeline across the desert between the two neighbors. Before the U.S.-led invasion Jordan depended on Iraq for all its oil requirements.


UK Foreign Secretary goes to Iraq

Politics, Security
The Bristish Foreign Secretary is visting Iraq for teh first time since she took up her post. She will be meeting with PM al-Maliki as well as other politicians to discuss the political process, security and the country's economy.
COMMENT: The Brits want to get out of Iraq to enable them to focus on Afghanistan. They do not have the resources to hand that the Americans do, and are over-stretched. COMMENT ENDS.


Iraq state of emergency extended

When the Iraqi parliament reconvened on Tuesday it voted to extend the country's state of emergency another 30 days. The measure has been in place for almost two years and grants security forces greater powers. It affects the entire country apart from the autonomous Kurdish region in the north. Of the 275-member parliament 180 deputies present voted 161-19 in favor of extending the measure.

Monday, September 04, 2006


Basra sets up free trade zone

A free trade zone to do business with Iran has been set up in Basra. The provincial council in Basra has separate trade agreements with Iran. Provincial delegations travel to Iran and sign deals. They only notify the Baghdad government about their moves. It is estimated that Iran is currently Iraq's biggest trade partner worth approximately $3 billion in trade exchange. To assist the transport of its goods, Iran is constructing a highway linking the new zone to the provincial center, the city of Basra.


Tribal leaders threaten to lead uprising

On Saturday a coalition of 300 Iraqi tribal leaders met in Ramal, a village southwest of Kirkuk, and demanded the release of Saddam Hussein. Mainly Sunni Arabs, the chiefs said they planned to hold rallies in Sunni cities throughout the country to insist that Saddam be freed and that the charges against him and his co-defendants dropped. "If the demand is not carried out, we will lead a general, sweeping and popular uprising," said Shaikh Wassfy Al Assy, brother of the chief of the 1.5 million strong Obaidi tribe.

COMMENT: This is a very real and serious threat for two reasons. Firstly, the likelihood of Saddam being released is very small. Secondly, there are over 150 tribes in Iraq and some of them are very large and wield a lot of power. Many Iraqis are still loyal to their tribes first and foremost. Many of the Sunni branches of tribes were used by Saddam in the military and special security organisations and were pro-regime and are still loyal to him. Some of the tribes have armed 'wings' who could easily cause extensive damage. The tribes are one of the keys to Iraq's future and security. It took a while to get the tribal leaders to come to the drawing board but they finally agreed to meetings earlier this year when they committed numbers of their young men to join government security forces in their areas. That will fall apart if the tribes carry out their threat, leaving the Iraqi security forces even more depleted. COMMENT ENDS.


al-Maliki tells Barzani to await new flag design

Following Kurdistan’s President’s action of lowering the Iraqi flag and replacing it with the Kurdish flag, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has issued an order that Iraq’s national flag shall continue to fly until Iraq’s parliament meets on Tuesday after a recess, when a new symbol can be decided on with which the whole country can agree. Barzani refused this, saying, “when a dictatorial regime is abolished, all that is related to it should also be abolished." Iraq’s Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, supported Barzani’s opposition to the Iraqi flag but called for patience until a new one is adopted.


Mass arrests terrorist arrests

The Iraqi government has stated that Iraqi security forces killed 14 "terrorists" and arrested almost 200 suspects, in a follow-up to their earlier capture of an alleged top-level Al-Qaeda leader. The operation was carried out along the Euphrates valley south of Baghdad where there are many suspected insurgent hide-outs.


Gunmen injure tourists in Amman

Two gunmen, including at least one Iraqi, chanting 'Allahu Akbar', fired at a group of foreign tourists in the Jordanian capital Amman on Monday, wounding five, a security source and a witness said. The incident occured near the Roman amphitheater in the central area of the capital. Unconfirmed reports claim the tourists were from Holland, New Zealand and England. There was no immediate confirmation of the possible death and extent of injuries. So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Al Qaeda in Iraq set off bombs against three hotels in Amman last year injuring and killing dozens of people.


Australians send more troops to Iraq

The Australian government will be deploying an additional 37 soldiers to Tallil, Al Muthanna province, in southern Iraq, 40 kms southwest of the city of An Nasiriyah. They will be sent to Tallil to support the operational battle group, along with more armoured vehicles. The Australian troops are providing support to Iraqi security forces in Al Muthanna. In July 13, 2006 British, Australian and Japanese forces handed over security responsibility for Muthanna province to Iraqi forces in the first such transfer of an entire province.


Kuwait threatens to return fire on Iraqi border

Security, Politics
The Kuwaiti Interior Ministry has ordered to fire back if "Iraqi insurgents" attack again at the Kuwait-Iraq border. The order followed an alleged ambush by Iraqi insurgents on a Kuwaiti border police patrol last Friday. Kuwait also lodged a complaint with the Iraqi charge d’affaires regarding recurring violations and attacks at border areas. Last summer, hundreds of Iraqis staged demonstrations against a metal barrier built by Kuwait along the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border. Kuwait and Iraq resumed diplomatic relations and reopened their border after the 2003 U.S.-led war on Iraq.

COMMENT: This incident could be very damaging. Kuwait only recently reopened its borders with Iraq and resumed diplomatic relations. Alleged attacks by insurgents on border posts are very difficult for Iraq to control and are likely to increase if the insurgents feel they can destabilise the relationship between the two countries. COMMENT ENDS.


Al-Maliki denies visit to Iran

Following an announcement that the Iraqi PM will be visiting Iran next week by Iranian TV, the Iraqi prime minister's office has issued a statment denying the visit. This would have been the second visit by an Iraqi prime Minister since the fall of Saddam Hussein to Iran. al-Maliki's predecessor Ibrahim al-Jaafari visted Iran in July 2005.
The Shia Prime Minister lived in Iran during the 1980's to escape persecution of his Dawa party by Saddam Hussein. Iran has become a close ally of the Shia led Iraqi government.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Sunni group claims responsibility for Shia killings

An Iraqi Sunni Muslim militant group claimed responsibility on Sunday for a series of attacks against Shias in Baghdad on Thursday in which 50 people were killed. In a statement posted on the Internet, Jamaat Jund al-Sahaba (Soldiers of the Prophet's Companions) said the attacks were in retaliation against what it said were killings of Sunni Muslims by Shia militias. The authenticity of the statement could not be verified. The same group claimed responsibility in August for a suicide bombing that killed at least 35 people and wounded 120 near the Imam Ali shrine in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf.


Pakistani and Indian pilgrims killed

Fourteen Pakistani and Indian pilgrims have been ambushed and killed on their way to Iraq's Shia holy city of Karbala, Iraqi officials say. The pilgrims were pulled off a bus they were travelling on and seperated from other passengers. An official from the morgue in Karbala said the pilgrims bore marks of torture. It is not clear what the motive was, however, many Shia pilgrims have been killed in the last few months. The ambush took place at a service station in the desrt about 160 km (100 miles) west of Ramadi, which has alledgedly been the scene of many killings. Pakistan has condemned the attack, and urged its citizens to avoid travelling to Iraq.
COMMENT: It is likely that this attack could be one of the reasons behind Sistani's meeting with al-Maliki on security. The murder of these foreign Shia pilgrims is likely to result in outrage among Shias in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and India and may result in reprisal attacks on Sunnis. COMMENT ENDS.


Abu Ghraib prison handed back to Iraqis

Coalition forces transferred operations of Abu Ghraib to the Iraqi Justice Ministry on Friday,
said Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim. The prison is now empty. Detainees at Abu Ghraib were moved to a new $60 million detention facility that has been built as part of Camp Cropper, near Baghdad International Airport.


Kurdistan lowers Iraqi flag

Kurdistan president Massoud Barzani ordered the Iraqi national flag to be replaced with the Kurdish one in Kurdistan. A spokesman for the Kurdistan government said, “We consider that this flag represents the ideology of the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein, and this regime has collapsed." Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki's office issued a statement that not only defended the Iraqi national flag but implied that the Kurds' own banner was illegitimate.

COMMENT: Al-Maliki's response is likely to be taken as an insult and a challenge and will only inflame the situation. Barzani's action will be disturbing for any patriot in Iraq and indicates that the Kurds are likely to step up the pressure to become independent. This in turn means they will continue to push for inclusion of the oil-rich Kirkuk in Kurdistan. This will probably lead to further tension from the Turkomans and Sunni Arabs in Kirkuk. COMMENT ENDS.


Bush and Pentagon contradict on Iraq civil war scenario

While President Bush denied on Saturday that Iraq was sliding into civil war, the Pentagon delivered a report the day before stating that civil war was a possibility in Iraq. His statement appears to widen the gap between the political message coming from a White House concerned about upcoming mid-term elections and a military establishment fearful of getting caught in another Vietnam. Bush said the war conflict in Iraq was an integral part of the war on terror. The Pentagon report showed Iraqi casualties had soared by more than 50 per cent in recent months.


US and Iraq in deadlock over security handover

A ceremony was delayed on Saturday to transfer control of Iraq's army from General George Casey, the US commander, to the Iraqi defence ministry. An Iraqi defence ministry source said the dispute was over the wording of a document in which the Iraqis want total control and the freedom to make independent decisions.

COMMENT: Whereas the handover may lead to less American combat involvement, it raises other problems. Iraq has no air force or navy. The bulk force is made up of several land divisions, most of which are poorly armed and trained. There are also fears that the army, already divided along sectarian lines, may get involved in the current sectarian strife. Many Muslim Sunnis, who make up the core of the insurgency, have frequently complained of army units taking sides in the fight.COMMENT ENDS.


American appears in new Al-Qaeda tape

Adam Yehiye Gadahn, a 28-year-old American who the FBI believes attended al-Qaeda training camps in Pakistan and served as an al-Qaeda translator has appeared in a 48-minute video released on the internet together with al-Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri. The tape calls for American soldiers and civilians, Christians, Jews, Buddhists and atheists to convert to Islam and switch sides. This is the second tape Gadahn has appeared in.


Deputy al-Qaeda leader arrested

Iraqi forces have arrested the second most senior operative in al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the group now suffers from a "serious leadership crisis," according to Mouwaffak al-Rubaie, the national security adviser.
Hamed Jumaa Farid al-Saeedi, known as Abu Humam or Abu Rana, was arrested a few days ago, Mouwaffak al-Rubaie said, adding that his arrest also led to the capture or death of 11 other top al-Qaida in Iraq figures and nine lower-level members.
He was the second most important al-Qaida in Iraq leader after Abu Ayyub al-Masri, al-Rubaie said. Al-Masri succeeded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike north of Baghdad on June 7.

COMMENT: al-Qaeda in Iraq operates in an assymetrical manner, it is unlikely that they have a hierarchy similar to Western militaries, and more probable that they operate in small splinter groups with a common objective. It is plausible that the group were prepared for such eventualities and had contingency plans in place. COMMENT ENDS.


PM al-Maliki meets with al-Sistani

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has travelled to Najaf to meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most influential Shia cleric. Security issues will be discussed following al-Sistani's office quoting a warning from the cleric that 'other groups' will take security into their own hands if it is not brought under control.
COMMENT: This is highly significant as to-date Sistani has demanded that the Shias do not respond to attacks with violence. Although some Shia militias have broken Sistani's previously issued fatwa on not resorting to violence, the majority of Shias have complied with his edict. If al-Maliki is unable to come to an agreement with Sistani, or to control the security situation (unlikely) then Sistani is likely to give his blessing to Iranian backed Shia militias to fight back (which they are doing already - both against Sunnis and amongst themselves) and the sectarian violence will escalate. Noteworthy is that the Sunni-led Mujahedin Shura Council called on Sunni Muslims to fight Shias in an August 31 Internet statement, Reuters reported. COMMENT ENDS.

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