Saturday, September 16, 2006
Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged Iraqis Saturday to cast aside their sectarian, ethnic and political differences and embrace his national reconciliation plan. The appeal came as Iraqi security forces announced they will dig trenches around Baghdad in an attempt to prevent insurgents and explosive-laden cars from entering the city of six million.
"There is a plan in progress for a security belt around Baghdad that includes trenches and other obstacles for channeling exit from and entry to the city through checkpoints controlled by Iraqi forces. This is a cooperative effort between the Iraqi government and the Coalition," said Lt Col. Barry Johnson, a spokesman for Multinational Forces in Iraq on Saturday.
Brig. Abdul-Kareem Khalaf said the trench plan would restrict vehicle and pedestrian traffic to just 28 entry points, all with guarded checkpoints. Similar checkpoints are set up now on some central routes through Baghdad, including the highway to the airport, but they need hundreds of soldiers to man them. In the last four days, security forces recovered nearly 150 bodies, most of them from Baghdad.
He said the plan was inspired by the Battle of Khandaq — Arabic for Battle of the Trench — in 627, during which Prophet Muhammad protected the city of Medina from an army by digging trenches.
Thousands of Iraqi and British forces will start a security crackdown in Basrah in a bid to rid it of death squads and to stop mortar attacks on residential areas, Iraqi authorities announced Thursday. Authorities in the mainly Shiite city of Basrah openly acknowledge that the local police force has been infiltrated by militia, and that corruption is widespread.
Hammadi said the security operation, which will include both Iraqi and the mainly British forces deployed in southern Iraq, would take place over the next few months and would include all sectors of the city. Hammadi said the plan aimed to stabilise the situation in Basrah to the point where Iraqi forces could take over the handling of security from coalition troops. The handover of security control to Iraqi forces is a key element of any eventual drawdown of international troops
The violence has been mostly between Shiite groups battling each other for power as well as attacking Sunni Arabs in the city. In an effort to tackle the police problem, authorities were also trying to find new recruits, the deputy minister said, although the force is already over-staffed. The selection process for another 200 policemen will be stringent and will include people from all backgrounds, including Sunnis and Christians, al-Tahir said.
COMMENT: Sunni insurgency in its various forms has had relatively little influence in the south. Instability in the south comes mostly from violence created by Shia factions such as Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army - rival to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and its militant arm, the Badr Corps; the Fadheela Party militias, agents of Iran and outlaw tribes. COMMENT ENDS.
A delegation of Kurdish traders is in Egypt for talks on how to expand trade and economic relations. The delegation, headed by Abullah Mohammed of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, has held talks with Egyptian industry and trade officials. “Several agreements have been signed to boost economic cooperation,” Mohammed was reported as saying.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have fled to the region. The influx is reported to have led to shortages in housing and increased pressure on the region’s already strapped resources. Mohammed said the Kurdish region was peaceful and the authorities were keen to boost economic ties with Egypt. “We are ready to offer all the facilities to Egyptian importers and exporters to invest in the region which is currently large-scale reconstruction,” he said.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri said Friday it won a ship order from the Iraqi Navy for the construction of four patrol vessels. The contract is worth over $101 million and the ships will be delivered by the first half of 2009 at three-month intervals the company said in a statement.
Fincantieri will also provide logistical support to the Iraqi Navy and training to operate the vessels. The ships will be modeled on those the company has already built for the Italian coast guard and the Maltese armed forces. Iraq's fledgling navy has said it plans to acquire 21 new boats over the next two years as it prepares to take over the security of offshore oil terminals, the main gateway for the country's petroleum exports.
(Al-Bayyna) After meeting with Iraqi Kurdistan President Massood Barzani, President Jalal Talbani said that there would be a committee formed to present parliament with a project for a new flag for Iraq. The two presidents also discussed the issue of federalism, the budget of the Kurdistan region and the power and fuel crises. (Al-Bayyna is a weekly paper issued by the Hezbollah movement in Iraq.)
(Al-Mashriq) Arab League envoy to Baghdad Mukhtar Lumani on September 13 discussed sectarian issues with Sheikh Ahmed Abdul Ghafoor al-Samarrai, leader of the Sunni Endowment, and Sheikh Salih al-Haideri, head of the Shia Endowment. He urged them to work together to help stop violence in Ramadan and diffuse rising sectarianism. (Al-Mashriq is published daily by Al-Mashriq Institution for Media and Cultural Investments.)
(Baghdad) The national league of Iraqi tribal leaders said now is not the right time to talk about federalism due to poor security and instability in Iraq. They suggested a future public referendum on the issue. (Baghdad is a daily newspaper issued by the Iraqi National Accord.)
The Christian Science Monitor reports that Iraq's economy has hit an all time low since the start of the war. Some estimate unemployment at 60 per cent (the CIA shows a 30 per cent rate for 2005), and prices for foodstuffs and basic goods have doubled, and in some cases tripled, since 2003.
Earlier this month, Iraq's planning minister, Ali Baban, said the rise in the consumer price index (CPI), the basket of goods and services used to measure inflation, increased by nearly 70 per cent in July compared with 12 months earlier. In July 2005, the CPI rose by 30 per cent. Significant US reconstruction spending was deflected to security: Of more than $12 billion spent through the middle of this year, at least $4 billion went to security. The average monthly wage in Iraq now is less than $200.
Jordanian Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit on Wednesday met with Iraqi Minister of Finance Bayan Jabr Soulag, who is currently visiting Jordan as part of a regional tour. During the meeting, attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Ziad Fariz, both sides discussed bilateral relations and measures to increase cooperation in the financial, economic and investment sectors.
U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said on Thursday that attacks on Iraq's oil facilities and other public facilities have decreased, however, he said the attacks were still having a severe effect on the country's economy and power generation. Attacks on such facilities fell to an average of two per week in the latest quarter, compared to five weekly during the previous three months, Bolton told the U.N. Security Council in a status report on Iraq.
Insurgent and sectarian tensions had increased, spurring more killings, kidnappings and attacks on civilians and driving more people from their homes, he said. "The insurgency remains potent and viable, although its visibility has been overshadowed by the increase in sectarian violence it has sought to foment," he said. In the U.S. drive to gradually turn security over to Iraqi forces, more than 115,000 Iraqi soldiers, 118,000 police and 65,000 other Interior Ministry forces had been trained, Bolton said.
Following a pledge Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made to disarm militias and bring them into the political process, Iraqi politicians wonder how and when he will honour the pledge. In a statement relased yesterday, Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the Sunni Iraqi Accord Front, called for the government to disarm militias and warned that the practices of well-known armed militias have pushed the country to the brink of civil war. He denounced ongoing crimes committed by militias in Diyala, where villages and mosques in the area came under attack while security bodies kept their suspicious silence. He added that the militias are well known to the government.
COMMENT: It is likely Dulaimi is referring to the Mahdi Militia (MM), the militant arm of the Office of Moqtada al-Sadr (OMS) which is part of the largest Shia bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA). The MM has been accused of sectarian killings which al-Sadr denies. He is possibly also referring to the Badr Corps, the Iranian-trained militant wing of the Shia Supreme Council for Islamic Revoltion in Iraq (SCIRI) - also part of the UIA, led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. The Badr Corps has infiltrated the mainly Shia Ministry of Interior and is also suspected of sectarian killings. Both militias have infiltrated security services in the south and vie for power. COMMENT ENDS.
During a visit to Washington Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih said he hopes America will continue to support Iraq during the transition. The deputy prime minister says Iraq's National Security Council has set a number of benchmarks to be achieved through political compromise between September 2006 and March 2007, including the establishment of a Constitutional Review Committee, passage of an investment law and a law on equitable sharing of income from oil revenues, and the establishment of a mechanism to disarm private militias and bring them into the political process.
Salih also called on Iraq's neighbour, Syria, to cooperate with Iraq on security by clamping down on the presence and activity of former regime leaders who are presently in Syria, as well as terrorists crossing the border into Iraq. Salih also said Iraqi government officials are cooperating with tribal leaders in Anbar to create an environment that would be more hostile to extremists and terrorists.
Shia parties belonging to the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) bloc agreed during a September 13 meeting to postpone presenting to parliament a draft legislation to establish mechanisms for forming regional governments, Al-Sharqiyah television reported the same day. Two parties in the bloc, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Islamic Al-Da'wah Party, attempted twice in recent days to propose a draft law on federalism.
Their attempts were shot down by smaller parties in the bloc, including supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Islamic Virtue Party (Al-Fadilah). The latter party's spokesman, Sabah al-Sa'di, told Al-Sharqiyah that UIA members concluded that more time is needed to present a viable draft law to parliament. Al-Sadr supporters and the Islamic Virtue Party are strongly opposed to the SCIRI-Al-Da'wah proposal and have said in recent days that they intend to present an alternative draft law to parliament.
COMMENT: Al-Sadr wants to wait for the Americans to leave before a draft law for federalism is drawn up. The UIA cannot agree among themselves and until they can compromise, not much is likely to happen with the draft law. One of the reasons they are not united is that each party has their own agenda and is vying for leadership of the Shia federal state, should it happen. COMMENT ENDS.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Sunni leaders in al-Anbar have urged the American military to arm tribes against al-Qaeda, which is viewed as the most powerful force in the area. They believe this to be the solution to controlling the violent western province. In-fighting between insurgents and tribes has been a problem in the area since early 2005. Ayad al-Samarrai, the No 2 official in the Islamic Party, the largest Iraqi Sunni party, says the Americans are not taking the people's efforts to make peace seriously.
“When the Americans attack an area, they disarm the locals and keep them weak but the terrorists have already fled. When the Americans leave, the terrorists return and the people do not have any weapons to protect themselves,” said Samarrai.
Samarrai said that leaders from al-Anbar had made several proposals to the Americans, including arming the tribes to fight al-Qaeda, providing teams of bodyguards for tribal leaders, clerics and politicians who opposed al-Qaeda and making an intense recruitment push to build an indigenous army and police force. Mr Samarrai predicted that extremist groups such as al-Qaeda would be defeated in a few months if the Americans acted on any of the al-Anbar proposals. Many leaders in al-Anbar believed that the Americans wanted the chaos to continue and were deliberately helping al-Qaeda, he said.
According to Samarrai, the general populace has turned against al-Qaeda because the group has killed too many innocent people. However, he said the people do not have the strength to drive al-Qaeda out and are frightened. The gunmen have enforced their own version of Islamic law, banning alcohol and Western music and requiring women to wear veils on the street, according to a local doctor.
According to Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration, 170,000 people were displaced in the months following the bombing of the sacred Shia mosque in Samarra in February. However, the ministry said on Sunday that some 40,000 Iraqis have returned in the past month because security is improving.
An increased security presence has given many displaced people the confidence to believe that the killings will soon be reduced. Increased patrolling and more checkpoints in sensitive areas are restoring hope to the country's war-weary citizens.
"We know that security is bad in Iraq but the situation has somehow improved. We could see that when we returned without any trouble to our house in a shi'ite neighbourhood from where we were forced to flee three months ago," said Sarmad Omar, 46, a sunni who returned to his home in Baghdad three days ago.
However, two Baghdad neighbourhoods demonstrate that the sectarian problem is far from over. No displaced people have returned to the Sadr City district of the capital, a shi'ite stronghold, and to the Baghdad Ijidida area, a Sunni stronghold.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has published a final draft of the petroleum law for Kurdistan. The revisions in the draft published generally reflect the KRG's effort to describe in greater detail an appropriate co-operative arrangement on petroleum licensing, operation, and revenue sharing between the KRG and the federal government of Iraq. The revisions in the draft reflect, for the most part, the KRG's effort to describe in greater detail an appropriate co-operative arrangement on petroleum licencing, operation, and revenue sharing between the KRG and the federal government of Iraq.
The matters will be the subject of a KRG-convened conference in London in the near future.
Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab who is the speaker of the Iraqi parliament said Tuesday that the plan for a federal Iraq is politically dead. Mashhadani said that legislation to implement federalism, would likely be postponed indefinitely after a meeting of political leaders on Wednesday.
"If federalism is to be applied now, it will lead to the secession of the south and the establishment of an Islamist extremist state in the centre of the country," said Mashhadani who is the third-ranking official in the government. He predicted the outcome of Wednesday's meeting of political leaders would be to agree on the principle and then postpone the topic for four years."
In the Shia holy city of Najaf on Tuesday, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolutuion in Iraq (SCIRI) issued a full defense of federalism, which he described as a basic constitutional right of all Iraqis. Analysts say Hakim hopes to become the leader of the Shia region, which would comprise about nine of Iraq's 18 provinces. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most revered Shia cleric in Iraq, had ordered Shia politicians to back off from the plan in order to prevent bitter infighting.
Mashhadani said the country is not prepared for federalism because its government is not strong enough to provide security and services, and because of troubled relationships with some neighboring countries.
(Al-Ittihad) President Jalal Talabani on September 11 met a high-ranking delegation of Sunni clerics including Sheikh Jamal al-Din al-Dabban, Sheikh Rafi al-Ani and Sheikh Jamal al-Badri. He told the clerics that Iraq badly needs cooperation between the various bodies within the country. He stressed the importance of national reconciliation to spread peace and stability and collaboration with the Shia religious leadership to stop the terrorist bloodshed.
(Al-Ittihad is published daily by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.)
COMMENT: The Sunni clerics wield a lot of power and both they and their followers are often linked to dissident forces. They also wield power within the tribes, who are one of the keys to taking steps towards stability. If they would come to the political table and start negotiations it could be condusive to national reconciliation. COMMENT ENDS.
UN, Security, Politics
(Al-Taakhi) The Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan has invited Iraq, its neighbours, permanent members of the Security Council and donor countries to meet in New York on September 18 to discuss Iraq’s future. Annan urged the international community and the Iraqi government to make the welfare and the security of the Iraqi people top priorities. He said that a continuation of the current violence would lead to the collapse of the government and a potential civil war that would affect the whole region.
(Al-Taakhi is issued daily by the Kurdistan Democratic Party)
In his latest Iraq report which U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan presented to the U.N. Security Council Tuesday, he warned that Iraq runs the risk of civil war. His report was partially based on government figures showing an avergae of 100 deaths a day and 14,00 people injured every month.
Faced with growing violence and insecurity, the Iraqi Government has focused its political efforts on promoting national reconciliation and dialogue, Mr. Annan says in his report which covers the period from 2 June until 2 September, and while he notes “significant achievements” in the political transition process, he points out “there can ultimately be no military solutions to the many challenges” the country faces.
Annan notes in particular the growing threat of militia activities, urging the Government to do “everything possible to progressively foster an environment conducive to the demobilisation, disarming and reintegration” of these forces. He also welcomed the Security Council’s decision last month to extend UNAMI’s mandate for another year.
In response to an intelligence report released in August by a senior Marine intelligence officer, Col. Devlin, Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, the commanding general of coalition forces in Al Anbar province said Tuesday that he had enough troops for his mission - training and recruiting Iraqi forces - but not enough to defeat the battle with the insurgency, which includes al-Qaida, Sunni Arab nationalists, remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime and competing local tribes.
Col. Devlin said the political and security situation in Anbar had deteriorated so much that only more aid and another 10,000 to 15,000 troops could turn things around. The Bush administration has said that American commanders in Iraq have never asked for more troops and would get them if they did. Privately, however, many U.S. officers say their troops are stretched too thin, not only in Anbar but also in Baghdad and elsewhere. Some critics have suggested that Anbar be written off and the 30,000 coalition troops in the province moved to Baghdad or Mosul.
During the second day of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's official visit to Iran, the Iranian President Supreme Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Wednesday that America withdrawing from Iraq would end the violence and instability. He did admit that some of the instability was due to former regime elements, which al-Maliki agreed with. No public mention was made of outside interference with Iraqi affairs between the two leaders.
In Baghdad, however, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said al-Maliki underlined that Iraq wants good relations with Iran, but also that "we don't want interference in our internal affairs." Al-Dabbagh suggested money was flowing from elements in Iran to groups in Iraq, which he did not identify.
COMMENT: Historically, Iran has had close links and still does with elements of Iraq's majority Shia government which Iran protected during Saddam's era. Certain Shia militias, which are connected to parts of the Shia government and have been blamed for secatraian killings, have allegedly received support from Iran, a majority Shia country. COMMENT ENDS.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Following a succesful trade mission from the UK, a South Korean commercial delegation visted Kurdistan and spoke with the region's Minister of Trade about potential investment opportunities.
A source from the Iraqi Businessmen Association (IBA) said that three delegations will be visiting India to participate in three economic events in India in September. The source added that one event, organised by the Indian Commercial Organisation, will take place on Sept. 14 and another, New Delhi's fair for jewelry and watches, will take place on Sept. 12 and 16.
In a meeting with the French Ambassador in Baghdad, the Iraqi Minister of Trade said that Iraq insists on making a new start on economic and commercial relations and on joining France in rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq. The Ambassador said that France will offer training courses to 50 Iraqi employees in IT and developed programs in the fields of economy and commerce.
Following PM Nouri al-Maliki's official visit to Iran, political opinions are divided on relations between the two countries. The Kurds seem in favour of the Shia religious leadership, who believe that the relationship with Iran is strategic and beneficial to Iraq. Kurdish leader Mahmoud Othman said, "Iraqi politicians in power do not want to get involved in the settlement of scores between Washington and Tehran. What is important is Iraq's interest,"
The Shias, however, have several points of view. Hassan Sari, a Shia, member of SCIRI and Minister of State in the Iraqi government said, "We used to get support from Iran while we struggled against Saddam Hussain's regime, which is not something we need today. We are now seeking good neighbourhood relations, mutual respect and non-interference, which is the case with all neighbouring countries." He denied any Iranian role in supporting some Shia armed groups. The United States, however, accuses Shia leader Moqtada Al Sadr of being the arm of Iranian influence and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) in Iraq. An American security report revealed a few days ago that IRGC is training members of Al Sadr's army and supplying them with weapons.
The American stand mostly accuses Iran of direct interference in the political and security situation in Iraq. Sunni leadership appear closer to the American stance regarding Iran. Mohsin Abdul Hamid, Head of the Consultative Council of the Islamic Iraqi Party, said "We told the Iranians about our fears but they denied being involved in Iraq."
There is contradiction within the Iraqi government too. Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, Shia and leader of al'Dawa, wants the best relations with Iran in the security, political and economic fields, while his Defence Ministry and General Intelligence appear closer to the American stand.
The toughest challenge facing Al Maliki is his ability to handle Mujahideen Khalk Organisation (MKO), which is a crucial issue in determining the strength of Iraq-Iran relations.
MKO is a rebellious Iranian group currently based at Ashraf Camp in Diyala province, under the supervision of the American forces. Closure of the Ashraf Camp and deportation of MKO members from Iraq is Iran's prerequisite for any security agreement with Baghdad. On the other hand, Iran is accused of supporting the call to establish the southern and middle Shia region in Iraq.
On Tuesday some parliamentarians tried to get a resolution going to demand the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The resolution was sponsored by supporters of radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and some Sunni Arabs. 104 signatures were gathered in the 275-member parliament before it was shelved by being sent to a committee for review. That committee will need at least six months to examine the resolution and present its findings to parliament. If it were to be approved, such a resolution would be binding on the government.
Debate on the bill put forward by the Shia alliance for establishing autonomous regions in southern Iraq was postponed until Sept. 19.
COMMENT: It is worth bearing in mind that at any one time there are at least 80 members of parliament who fail to turn up. COMMENT ENDS.
Iraq and Iran plan to develop oil fields which straddle the border of the two countries. Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani told Reuters in an interview that an agreement between Iraq and Iran will be signed in a few months after technicians mark out the common oilfields. Once the agreement is signed, an oil pipeline will be built which will carry Iraqi crude oil to Iran's southern refineries. The oil minister said Iran would pay the market price and that Iranian companies could build the pipeline in nine months.
Shahristani said Iraq would also forge similar deals involving oilfields straddling borders with Syria and Kuwait.
Iraq’s state oil marketer SOMO will hold talks with customers in November or December to discuss contracts for the first half of 2007 following the creation of a hydrocarbon law, which will set oil policy, and is likely to be passed by the end of the year. After the law passes the National Oil Company will be formed immediately. This should enable a new investment code which is what oil multinationals are waiting for before they start investing in Iraq.
On Tuesday Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made his first official visit to Iran where he met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Al-Maliki asked for Iran's help in cracking down on al-Qaida militants infiltrating his country and seeking new deals to help Iraq's troubled oil industry.
The two coutnries enjoy increasingly strong ties that include new oil cooperation. Iraq has already turned to Iran for help with a chronic shortage of petroleum goods, reaching a deal last month to import Iranian gasoline, kerosene and cooking fuel. Iraqi officials said al-Maliki's visit and other recent exchanges could improve the cooperation.
The United States, an enemy of Iran, has repeatedly accused Tehran of interfering in Iraqi politics and allowing insurgents to cross the porous 1,000-mile border. Iran denies the claims.
"All our assistance to the Iraqi people will be to establish complete security" in Iraq, Ahmadinejad told a joint press conference, according to the state-run news agency. "Iran and Iraq enjoy historical relations. These relations go beyond neighbourly ties. Our relations will remain excellent," he said. Al-Maliki said his visit would be "a turning point in the expansion of relations between Iran and Iraq that enjoy historical and ancient ties."
Asked about allegations that Iran was interfering in Iraq, al-Maliki said, "There is no obstacle in the way of implementing agreements between Iran and Iraq. We consider Iraq's progress, independence and territorial integrity as our own," Ahmadinejad said. He added that Iran hoped "unwanted guests will leave the region," a reference to U.S. forces in Iraq. Al-Maliki said "Iraq is willing to expand its relations with Iran in the area of political and economic arenas especially energy and water."
Police said on Wednesday that 60 bodies had been found scattered across Baghdad. Most of the bodies were found in the predominantly Sunni western part of the town and others in the mainly Shia area east of the Tigris. Most of the bodies had been bound, tortured and shot. Police have not been able to identify any of the bodies, let alone whether they are Shia or Sunni, but this is a large number of bodies to be found in a 24-hour period. Police have been unable to explain the seemingly sudden increase in sectarian killings.
A roadside bomb exploded during rush hour on Wednesday near the national sports stadium in the eastern Shaab distriuct of Baghdad, killing at least 10 people and wounding 33, officials say. There were reports of a second blast.
On Monday evening gunmen attacked the only Shia mosque in Bani Saad, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, killing seven people and wounding three, police said Tuesday. The gunmen planted explosives round the mosque, damaging the structure. Also on Monday, army recruits were targetted when a minibus carrying new army recruits was blown up by a suicide car bomber in Baghdad, killing 14 people. Recruiting and training Iraqis to join the security services is seen as key to restoring stability in the war torn country and allowing US-led forces eventually to leave and so they become a key target.
COMMENT: Sectarian killings appear to be on the increase. This could be related to the federalism debate. Another key factor could be that when the Grand Ayatollah Sistani - the spiritual leader of the Shias - issued a fatwa or religious edict against Shias taking revenge on Sunnis, most Shias complied for a long time, however, their patience is running out now and some Shias are beginning to disobey Sistani. The 60 bodies bear the hallmarks of sectarian killings, but it is possible that in reality most Shias and Sunnis get on well, however there are core minorities (including militias) on both sides exacting revenge. Some of the Shia militias have links with Iran and it would suit Iran's interests to see Iraq destabilised. The 'sectarian warfare' however, could also be yet another destabilising factor for the anti-Iraqi forces to utilise by making killings look sectarian and thus convincing people that the insurgency is not the main problem, but sectarian strife bordering on civil war. COMMENT ENDS.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The Iraq Security, Technology & Communications Summit will bring together ministers, deputies and director generals from the Iraqi Ministries of Defence, Interior, Communications, Science & Technology, along with Iraq’s National Security Council, to discuss the future security of Iraq with local and international companies. The event is being held in the UAE from 12-13 September 2006.
Each ministry has a set of priority assignments and will be using the event to determine the best partners and suppliers to implement key contracts and projects. Many of the world’s leading companies will be present at the event, including Boeing, General Dynamics, Nortel, Microsoft, GE, Halliburton, MCI, Motorola, Armor Group and General Motors. Representatives from each ministry will also be giving presentations on their most pressing needs and the most important contracts that require immediate fulfilment.
(Al-Adala) The interior ministers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq are to meet in Jeddah on September 18 to discuss regional security concerns. Saudi Arabia’s Prince Naif Bin Abdul Aziz will chair the meeting which will focus on the situation in Iraq. On the agenda will be ways to stop terrorists infiltrating Iraq and using its neighbours as a training base.
(Al-Adala is issued daily by the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.)
The parliament of Kurdistan on Monday reinstated capital punishment in the autonomous Iraqi province, a source in Kurdistan National Assembly said. “Kurdistan parliament held a session on Monday… where a report by the legal committee and the human rights committee on capital punishment was read and it was agreed to reinstated the capital punishment in Kurdistan,” the source, who declined to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
After the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the fall of President Saddam Hussein, the U.S. administrator, L. Paul Bremer, suspended capital punishment.The capital punishment, however, was reinstated in Iraq in August 2004.
Shia cleric and politician Moqtada al-Sadr remains opposed to the plan of a federal Iraq, despite a meeting Sunday night in Najaf between Sadr and his intermittent rival Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the prominent Shia political party that is leading the push for federalism.
"We stand to benefit from federalism because the Sadr movement enjoys wide support of the majority of the people in the centre and the south," said Nouri, the Sadr aide. "But we will not accept that, because national interest is above any other interest."
COMMENT: The dispute between al-Sadr's bloc and SCIRI illustrates how splintered the Shia bloc is and how new chasms appear on an almost daily basis. It seems unlikley that there will ever be a Shia federal south if the Shias cannot begin by agreeing amongst themselves. This is unlikely as they haven't maanged to do that since Iraq's transitional government was formed. COMMENT ENDS.
Speaking from Najaf, Mustafa Yaqoubi, a top deputy of Shia Muslim leader Moqtada al-Sadr quietly sketched out his vision of the Iraq to come, after the Americans withdraw. First, "there will be a civil war," said the aide, "the rising violence and rivalries under the American occupation make a shaking-out all but inevitable once foreign forces go. No matter the number of people who would lose their lives, it is better than now," he added. "It would be better than the Americans staying."
When the tumult ends, the Sadr aide said, Iraq's Shia majority will finally be able to claim its due, long resisted by the Americans -- freedom to usher in a Shia religious government that Yaqoubi said would be moderate and perhaps comparable in some ways to Iran's. No matter when the Americans withdraw, "the first year of transition, it will be worse," Yaqoubi warned. "After that, it will gradually improve."
Yaqoubi speaks as one of two or three longtime intimates of Sadr, the young heir of a revered Shia clerical family. Sadr's rough-edged, strongly anti-American street movement of poor, largely uneducated Shiites has burgeoned into one of the strongest political and armed forces in Iraq.
Despite their ascendancy now, Yaqoubi said, Iraq's Shiites owe no gratitude to the Americans. "The Americans are not saving us from Saddam for the sake of the Iraqi people," he said. "They gave Saddam clearance in the 1990s to strike at the Shia people. It was in their own interest to get rid of Saddam." According to Yaqoubi, the Americans brought the armed resistance on themselves by staying after the invasion and by ignoring Iraqi protests.
Yaqoubi said the U.S. failure to meet even the simplest security needs of Iraq was to blame for much of the current instability. As a result, he said, "when the Americans pull out, there will be a civil war. They are using that now, as an excuse for staying."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki travelled to Iran on Tuesday to deliver a blunt message to fellow Shia Islamists in Tehran that they should not interfere in Iraq's affairs. Maliki's spokesman told Reuters Iraqis no longer wanted to suffer for "messages between the United States and Iran."
Maliki would meet both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on his first official visit, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Monday Baghdad saw Khamenei playing a key role in relations with Iraq and stressed security would top the agenda.
While officially encouraging Iraq's new, warm ties to Washington's adversary, there is unease in the United States at Iranian influence over the Shia leaders brought to power in elections that followed the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein.COMMENT: It is a message that may please Maliki's sponsors in the United States, who accuse Iran of funding and training militants fighting U.S. forces in Iraq, possibly in response to mounting U.S. pressure on Tehran to halt its nuclear program. COMMENT ENDS.
Since forming a national unity government four months ago, Maliki has vowed to curb militant Shia factions, some of whom also have links with movements in Iran, as part of efforts to avert civil war with Saddam's once-dominant Sunni minority. U.S. and British officials say high-powered explosives used against their troops in the past year have been supplied through Iran, though not necessarily with government approval.
According to a senior Interior Ministry official, crime and militias operate almost freely in Basra, which has a population of three million. Lt. Gen. Abdulkhudher Mahdi, a ministry undersecretary, said the city’s security forces rarely received tips from residents on the presence of what was described as “criminals and terrorists.”
He said without cooperation from ordinary citizens, the police will not be able to “crack down on crime and defeat terror.” He claimed the Basra gangs were recieving assisstance from abroad but he said the authorities didn't know which countries were supporting the violence. He said the city’s population are not siding with anyone as they fear reprisals from criminals and terrorists.
Mahdi said thousands of families have been forced to leave their homes in the towns of Abu Khaseeb and al-Zubair which have become “theaters for kidnapping, assassination and looting.”
But he claimed that conditions have slightly improved recently and that 100 deported families have returned to their original towns.
COMMENT: The foreign support to which Mahdi refers is more than likely from Iran which has been arming and training militias such as the Fadheela Party militias and outlaw tribes. COMMENT ENDS.
Monday, September 11, 2006
A conference will be held in Arbil, Kurdistan, focusing on the Iraq reconstruction process, donors' role, and the Iraqi Market needs for the rehabilitation of Iraq. The speakers are invited from various Iraqi Economic Sectors, Ministers, and decision makers from the current business environment in Iraq , in addition to the international experts related to the same issue. The Arbil International Fair will be held from the 14-17 September, 2006.
Police in Baghdad and multinational forces will start a pilot scheme to crack down on militias posing as police in eastern Baghdad. There have been many accusations that members of the Iraqi police service are involved in kidnappings, torture and extra-judicial killings. A register of police officers, their cars and weapons is being compiled in a pilot scheme in eastern Baghdad. Every officer has been photographed, fingerprinted, and tattoos or scars recorded. The database has also checked the serial numbers of weapons assigned to individual officers against their official ID cards, along with the vehicles they are allowed to drive. Spot checks will be carried out on police officers manning check points and weapons will be confiscated and officers arrested if they cannot prove their identity. The scheme comes after claims that Shia militia members within the police, or associated with individual officers and stations, are responsible for death squad activity. Anti-Iraqi forces have also been stealing police uniforms and posing as police.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has delayed his trip to Iran as it coincided with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's trip to several Latin American states, an official at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad said on Sunday. In the meantime, the Iraqi Embassy in Tehran announced the postponement of Prime Minister Maliki's visit to Iran and said that it will take place after the return of President Ahmadinejad from his Latin American tour. President Ahmadinejad will depart for taking part in the United Nations General Assembly, New York and several Latin American states this week.
Iraq's oil minister Hussain Al Shahristani, said on Sunday at the Iraqi donor meeting in Abu Dhabi that Baghdad is considering a new crude oil pipeline for exports from Kirkuk through Turkey. He said the plan would be on the 'drawing board' for over a year. He added that another pipeline is under construction which will link Kirkuk to the Baiji oil hub and pipeline intersection before it flows into a line to the Ceyhan port in Turkey. Al Shahristani said the new Kirkuk - Baiji pipeline will be ready in a month.
Following a 19-day break, Saddam's second trial has begun. Saddam and six co-defendants face charges of genocide for the killings of tens of thousands of Kurds during the Anfal campaign, a military assault on northern Iraq in the 1980s. The offensive leveled hundreds of villages and used chemical weapons on many of them. Residents were herded into prison camps where many of the men disappeared and were executed, according to prosecutors. Saddam and his co-defendants may face the death penalty.
COMMENT: As seen previously, Saddam is likely to make the most out of public appearances in court, goading the judge and encouraging the Iraqi people to support him. He already has a strong support base and this is likely to strengthen it, particularly among the Sunnis. Mortar and rocket attacks on the International Zone, where the trial is being held, are likely as the trial resumes. Kurds and many Shias will want harsh sentancing. COMMENT ENDS.
During the U.S. and U.N. sponsored Iraq donor meeting held on Sunday in Abu Dhabi to discuss The Compact for Iraq - a five-year plan to boost Iraq's economy, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh, a Kurd, called for partnerships with international companies to boost his country's oil industry. He admitted that one of the obstacles were disputes between local officials and the central government over who would control oil proceeds. He added that he was hopeful that oil would be a "unifying force for Iraqis rather than a resource to fight over."
Saleh said Iraqi leaders will have reached an agreement on a long-awaited hydrocarbon law that could usher in huge investments by foreign companies in Iraq's oil sector by the end of 2006. Iraq's goal is to double the current crude production of 2.5 million barrels per day by 2010, Saleh said.
Large companies have told the U.S. government they are willing to send crews to Iraq to explore and pump oil — regardless of the violence — as long as there are legal ground rules for their participation, said U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt.
The deputy prime minister said that Iraq needs to push liberalisation and open her markets. Iraq's proven oil reserves stand at about 115 billion barrels, the world's third largest after Saudi Arabia and Iran.
COMMENT: It is likely to take time before a clear law is passed to enable foreign oil companies to operate in Iraq because there is a deadlock between the different groups in Iraq. The Kurds in the north and some Shias in the south want regional control, whereas the Sunni Muslims and most of the central Baghdad government want to retain national control. COMMENT ENDS.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), a strong, mainly Shia political alliance whose most powerful members include the Islamic Dawa Party, led by ex-prime minster Ibrahim al-Jaafari and current prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, have submitted a bill for federalism in Iraq. The bill would establish a three-way federal system by setting up a separate autonomous state in the southern region where Shias are dominant.
Two major Sunni blocs, the Iraqi accordance Front and the National Dialogue Front of Saleh al-Mutlaq said they would not take part in Sunday's parliament session unless their own calls for amending the country's constitution were examined. The Iraqi National List of the former secular Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, and the group headed by radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr joined the Sunni parties in boycotting the session.
COMMENT: The Sunnis fear they will lose oil revenue to the oil rich south and north if the country is broken up. The Iraqi National List and other secularists believe in a united Iraq. al-Sadr is interested in a strong federal Shia south, but only if he is in control. Currently he is vying for power against other Shia factions such as SCIRI and its militia, the Badr Corps, in Basra there are the Fadheela Party militias, agents of Iran and outlaw tribes, and in Kerbala there are the followers of cleric Mahmoud al-Hasani. If the bill goes through, it is unlikley to go quickly or smoothly; it has too much opposition, the Shia 'alliance' are too splintered and the steps to voting on it are littered with possible boycotts from otehr political parties and legal wrangles. COMMENT ENDS.
A trade fair on Iraqi recosntruction is being held in Cairo to encourage Arab investors to start businesses in the country. The fair was inaugurated by Amr Mosa, Arab League Secretary General and Egyptian minister of international cooperation, Faiza Abu Naja. Iraqi minister of planning, Ali Baban, was also present. More than 250 Arab entrepreneurs attended the opening session as well as 8 companies. The fair is part of Iraqi government’s efforts to lure foreign investors, particularly from Arab countries.
The Kingdom of Bahrain announced that it will host the 1st Gulf Iraqi Expo - the first trade show which will be organised by the Iraqi Ministry of Trade outside Iraq. The exhibition, which will be held from 24-26 March 2007, is supported by the Iraqi government and the government of Kurdistan and the Iraqi ministries such as the Ministry of Oil, Ministry of Transport and Communications, Ministry of Electricity, and the Ministry of Housing and Reconstruction, chambers of commerce, commercial unions, and Ireland Iraq Trade Association as well.
The exhibition will be attended by more than 12,000 visitors from Iraq and the Gulf countries who will be meeting with more than 900 companies and more than 300 of the decision-makers in the Iraqi government.
On Sunday Iraqi officials including Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh attended a donor conference in Abu Dhabi in abid to gain financial support from American, European and Arab governments. The UN and U.S.-led International Compact for Iraq talks were held in order for Iraq to ouline econmic reforms it will make in return for pledges of economic support.
Officials from the U.S., Europe, Japan, Korea and Iraq's Arab neighbours along with the U.N., World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The meetings are part of the U.S. and UN-backed International Compact for Iraq, a five-year plan to bring peace and development to the country.
Participants are working to estimate the amount of financial support Iraq needs through 2012 to rebuild its economy. The estimate includes money that Iraq can be expected to raise, primarily through oil exports. Any deficit would be made up by international donors. The most urgent reforms sought by the international donors are a hydrocarbons law that would outline ownership — and foreign investment — in Iraq's oil reserves and a reduction of government's subsidies for food and gasoline, participants said.
Sunday's meeting was in preparation for twin Sept. 18th summits on Iraq. In New York, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Secretary-General Kofi Annan are expected to discuss Baghdad's political reforms, while global finance ministers discuss economic proposals in Singapore on the sidelines of a World Bank and IMF meeting.
Speakers seemed unsure whether well-targeted international aid could wrest Iraq from its spiraling chaos.