Saturday, September 23, 2006


More Iraqi troops needed in Baghdad

The U.S. needs roughly 3,000 more Iraqi forces to join the battle in Baghdad, but requests for the troops have not been met because Iraqi soldiers are reluctant to leave their home regions, the commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad said Friday. Maj. Gen. James Thurman told reporters that while the U.S. has 15,000 troops in Baghdad, there are only about 9,000 Iraqi soldiers there - a fraction of the 128,000 Iraqi Army troops that the U.S. says are now trained and equipped.
Iraqi soldiers generally join battalions in their geographic regions, and Thurman said that "due to the distance, (they) did not want to travel into Baghdad." He said the Iraqi minister of defense is working on the problem, and "I'm confident that they're going to meet that requirement here within the next few weeks, but it's going to take a little time." Soldiers also expressed concerns that they would face uncomfortable sectarian confrontations.
Another problem is that the Iraqi army is not considered to be very mobile and lacks the armoured transport vehicles or planes that would allow it to quickly deploy large groups of soldiers. There are a total of 302,000 Iraqi security forces, which include the army, national and local police. Currently there are 12,000 national police and 22,000 local police serving in Baghdad, Thurman said.


Sunni insurgent leader captured

The U.S. and Iraqi forces say they have captured a leader of the insurgent group known as Ansar al-Sunnah. Muntasir Hamoud Ileiwi al-Jubouri and two of his aides were arrested in Al-Taeyh, about 50 miles northeast of Baghdad, said Brig. Qassim al-Mussawi, spokesman for the General Command of the Armed Forces at the prime minister's military office. He did not say when the arrest was made. The group are believed to be behind the 2004 attack on a U.S. military mess hall that killed 22 people. They have claimed responsibility for numerous suicide attacks and executions. Ansar al-Sunna is part of the Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organisation of insurgent groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq.
COMMENT: Ansar al-Sunnah (Followers of the Tradition) is an Iraqi Jihadist group, dedicated to the establishment of an Islamic state based on Shari’ah in Iraq, which they aim to achieve by the defeat of coalition forces and foreign occupation. They believe that jihad in Iraq has become obligatory for Muslims. The group’s membership is varied, and is comprised of operatives from the Kurdish terrorist organisation Ansar al-Islam, foreign al-Qaeda operatives, and Iraqi Sunnis. Targets have included coalition military personnel, members of the Iraqi National Guard, new Iraqi governmental institutions, and Kurdish political establishments. COMMENT ENDS.


Car bomb kills many in Sadr city

In one of the deadliest attacks in weeks, 26 people were killed in the eastern Baghdad Shia stronghold of Sadr city by a bomb hidden in a barrel near a kerosene tanker where scores of people were lining up to buy fuel. The blast wounded another 29 people. This latest deadly attack came on Saturday, the first day of fasting for the month of Ramadan for Sunni muslims. The attack comes a few days after the U.S. military warned that the violence would increase over the fasting period.
Jamaat Jund al-Sahaba (Soldiers of the Prophet's Companions) claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement posted on the internet that the bombing was in retaliation for the "crimes" of the Mahdi Army, the authenticity of the statement could not be immediately confirmed. Jamaat Jund al-Sahaba has claimed responsibility for earlier attacks against Shias. Police spokesman Colonel Sa'd Abd al-Sada said the bomb was hidden in a small barrel near a kerosene tanker where scores of people were waiting to purchase fuel. He said that when the bomb went off, it exploded the kerosene tanker.
The attacks follows an assault on Sunni homes and mosques on Friday in the northern Hurriyah district where a Shia brigade openly threatened Sunni Muslims last week. Ahead of the attacks a previously unknown group calling itself Brigade of Two Sadrs Shula threw leaflets in the streets threatening to kill 10 Sunnis for every Shia death in Baghdad. In a separate incident, police found the bodies of nine men from the al-Duleimi Sunni tribe, blindfolded with their hands and legs bound.
COMMENT: This attack is likely to be a response for the attacks on the Sunni mosques and families yesterday and today's assault will probably lead to reprisal killings of Sunnis - likley to be by the Shia Mahdi militia - who police Sadr city and are the militant wing of Al Sadr's organisation. Soldiers of the Prophet’s Companions is a Sunni extremist organisation that is responsible for two high-profile attacks on Shia targets, including the bombing of a mosque during funeral services in Mosul, Iraq. The group has major grievances with Shia Muslims, who they believe to have a disproportionate amount of power in the newly-created Iraqi government and security force. They seek to defend Sunnis from what they see as a corruption of true Islamic doctrine. In a statement issued following one of their attacks, the group expressed their hostility towards the Badr Corps, a Shia militia that serves the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq Party, the al-Da’wah Party, a Shia political party, and the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a prominent Shia cleric. A secondary goal of the Soldiers of the Prophet’s Companions is to expel the “Jews and Crusaders” from Muslim territory. COMMENT ENDS.

Friday, September 22, 2006


U.S. military - Shia militias earning $500,000 a day

Shia militias behind widespread sectarian killings in Baghdad are earning at least £500,000 a day through criminal enterprises, the US military believes. This enables them to buy loyalty by funding social welfare programmes, purchase weapons and pay salaries to militiamen. Although it was known that the Shia militias were closely linked with crime, this is the first time that the scale of the their financial resources has been detailed. Lt Col William Brown, an intelligence officer whose job is to monitor the militias in east Baghdad, estimated that Shia groups raised at least $1 million (£530,000) a day through organised crime. The money came "especially from kidnappings, extortion, black marketeering and blackmail".
Lt Col Brown said that of particular concern was the control of many petrol stations by members of the Mahdi army, the militia of Moqtada al-Sadr, whose political allies control the ministry of transport. The Mahdi army is the largest and most powerful of the Shia militias in Baghdad, with an estimated 10,000 members.
The US military is monitoring 20 militias operating in the city. They have recently grown stronger as they provide security to residents at a time of rising religious violence. At the same time they are accused of conducting many tit-for-tat sectarian killings.
American officials said that trying to prevent militia killings was hampered not only by the cash available to them but also because a number of them had recently fragmented into smaller, rival groups. Sadr's control over his militiamen seems to be weakening, with reports of a number of his followers operating independently.
American concern has focused on one of his former lieutenants known by the nom de guerre Abu Dereh (Father of the Shield). Abu Dereh is accused of abducting scores of Sunnis and depositing their bodies at al-Sada, a rubbish tip near the Baghdad Shia slum of Sadr City. His preferred method of murder is by crushing skulls with cinder blocks.


Shias disagree on federalism

Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI, one of the major Shia parties in the UIA bloc, continues to support the draft legislation his party put forward. "Federalism does not mean splitting the country. It is a hope for the future of Iraq, and it is a demand by the masses," he said recently in Najaf. The Sadrist bloc and the Dawa party – both part of the UIA, have criticised the move. Meanwhile, Hakim has commissioned his son, Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Shahid al-Mihrab Institute, a SCIRI establishment that promotes Islam in southern Iraq, to mobilise popular support for the federalism project.
Although Shias are generally considered to favour greater autonomy for the south, differences are emerging among the various Shia groupings. This infighting makes it more and more difficult for the Shia majority in parliament to arrive at consensus decisions.
Over the past two months, Ammar al-Hakim has visited many southern provinces as well as the Kurdistan region. His trip started in Najaf, a SCIRI stronghold where much of the population and also Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's most senior Shia cleric, support the plan for federalism. In Karbala, another Shia stronghold, people were less enthusiastic and some accused SCIRI of populism. In Nasiriya, al-Hakim also met with opposition, facing a crowd that chanted, "No to federalism, yes to Muqtada al-Sadr."
However, leading Sunni Arab politicians believe that southern federalism will damage rather than help the rest of the country. Leaders such as Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni who rejected Iraq's new constitution in part over its recognition of the principle of federalism, have pledged to campaign for a "unified Iraq". Adnan al-Dulaimi, a senior member of the Sunni Accord bloc, considers federalism a "threat that could divide Iraq. We reject it and we will hold on to the unity of Iraq".
Article 118 of the Iraqi constitution, approved in a referendum in October 2005, authorises parliament to determine the procedures for creating federal regions. It's an article that al-Dulaimi thinks should be reviewed and possibly amended.
In his rejection of federalism he distinguishes between the Kurdish north where "federalism is acceptable because of historical, geographic and ethnic factors", and the rest of the country where it would mainly be "on a sectarian basis". To him, the solution in central and southern Iraq could be "to give more authority to the provinces", in other words to decentralise power to the current governorates without incorporating them into big autonomous regions.


Al Fadila warns of civil war

The head of Al Fadila party in the Iraqi parliament, Nadim Al Jabiri, warned of a wider civil war in Iraq as well as infighting among Shiites, if parts of the Iraqi Shiite coalition headed by Abdul Aziz Al Hakim insists on establishing a Federal South and Middle Province in Iraq.
The stands within the coalition are divided between the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and Badr Organisation which backs the establishment of this province. The forces opposing federalism within the coalition are the Al Sadr movement, Al Fadila party and political independent individuals.
There was also some talk about Abdul Aziz Al Hakim asking Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani to convince other Shiite groups to accept the federal project adopted by Al Hakim.


Demand for Saddam's return to power

Some 3,000 people demonstrated in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown on Friday, demanding his return to power, organisers said. The crowd gathered before a mosque in Tikrit at the behest of two religious organisations, the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) and the Tikrit Shura Council.
COMMENT: The Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) is a group of Sunni Muslim religious leaders in Iraq. It is also known as the Ulema Council - Ulema is the community of legal scholars of Islam and the Sharia. It has many activities on the political, social, economic, and religious levels. Even though it has an Islamist face and name, the association still has strong Baathist ideology as all the founding members were former mosque preachers, who under Saddam were appointed by the state in reward for the allegiance and commitment to the dictator state. The Ulema Council had called for calm among its followers in the face of provocations from some Shias. They also accuse neighbouring Shia-dominated Iran of trying to fuel growing religious tensions in the country by reaching out to Moqtada al-Sadr. Sunni clerics in the Muslim Ulema Council became increasingly vocal and teamed up with some influential Shias to oppose the occupation. COMMENT ENDS.


Civilian deaths higher than previous estimates

Nearly 7 ,000 civilians were killed in Iraq in the past two months, according to a United Nations report just released -- a record high that is far greater than initial estimates had suggested. As United States generals in Baghdad warned that the violence could worsen in the run-up to Ramadan next Monday, the UN spoke of a "grave sectarian crisis" gripping the country.With known Iraqi deaths running at more than 100 a day because of sectarian murders, al-Qaeda and nationalist insurgent attacks, and fatalities inflicted by the multinational forces, the UN said its total was likely to be "on the low side" because of the difficulties of collecting accurate figures.
In particular, it said that no deaths were reported from the violent region covering Ramadi and Fallujah.The report from the UN assistance mission in Iraq's (UNAMI) human rights office reported evidence of torture, unlawful detentions, the growth of sectarian militias and death squads, and a rise in "honour killings" of women. The increasing incidence of discovery of the bodies of women and teenage girls, shot in the chest rather than in the head, has been attributed to the establishment by both extremist Sunnis and Shias of secretive sharia committees, which locals say carry out killings.


Russia reduces Iraq's debt

Russia will sign an agreement formalizing its forgiveness of the bulk of Iraq's multibillion-dollar debt within a few months, news agencies quoted the finance minister as saying Sunday.
Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, speaking in Singapore after a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart, said officials were working out details of the agreement, ITAR-Tass and Interfax reported.
When the Paris Club of creditor nations agreed in 2004 to write off 80 per cent of Iraq's debts, President Vladimir Putin said Russia had gone a step further by forgiving some 90 per cent of what Iraq owed, reducing its debt to Moscow to about US$1 billion (euro800 million).
Kudrin also said that once the deal is signed, Iraq will owe about US$1 billion, according to the reports. Putin, who is seeking to improve ties and restore Russia's influence in the world, has agreed to drastically reduce the debt owed to Moscow by several Mideast nations, much of it left over from the Soviet era. The decision to write off Iraqi debt was seen in part as an effort to improve Russian companies' chances of winning contracts in Iraq in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion it strongly opposed


Insurgents use kidnapees as suicide bombers

According to the Defense Ministry in Iraq, insurgents are kidnapping drivers, rigging their vehicles with explosives without their knowledge and blowing them up. The drivers are threatened to go down a certain route, followed by the kidnappers who then detonate the car from a distance. There was no comment on whether the insurgent have resorted to this tactic due to a shortage of volunteers.
Suicide car bombs are responsible for 7 per cent of the total Iraqi deaths this year — down considerably from 25 per cent of the overall deaths in the last eight months of 2005, according to an Associated Press count. The Washington-based Brookings Institution claims there have been 343 suicide car bombings since the fall of Saddam Hussein to Sept. 17.
COMMENT: This may explain why the insurgents have been able to sustain a high and consistent level of attacks, whereas in the past there have been spikes of violence for a few days and then a lull while the insurgents regroup and consolidate. COMMENT ENDS.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Fibre-optic cable to link Iran to Iraq

Iran’s communications network will be linked to Iraq’s via the fibre-optic terminals at Iran’s western border. Following agreements reached between the Iranian and Iraqi authorities, it was decided that a fibre-optic network will be installed at the communications terminals of the Iranian border cities of Mehran, Khosravi, Parviz-Khan and Sumar to connect the nation with Iraq, the Persian service of Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) said on Wednesday.
Iran has almost finished its part of the project and its fibre-optic network is already connected to the Iranian border city of Mehran but the Iraqi side of the project has not been completed yet, the report quoted a provincial official as saying.
Referring to the problems facing the project development he cited the rugged mountainous terrain of the region as an issue that the Telecommunication Company of Ilam Province wiould struggle with. However, he added, in order to establish communications between the two nations - particularly for the Iranian pilgrims traveling through the province to visit the Shia holy sites in Iraq - the province’s telecommunications company is determined to set up services covering all the roads of the region.


Italy hands over control of Dhi Qar province

Italy today handed military control of the southern province of Dhi Qar to Iraqi police and military forces during a ceremony in Nassiryah, continuing a withdrawal promised by Prime Minister Romano Prodi. ``We've met our objective, and the mission is accomplished,'' Italian Defense Minister Arturo Parisi said today in a televised speech made during the ceremony. ``We're pulling out our military contingent, but it doesn't mean we're turning our backs on Iraq.''
Romania also has a battalion of about 402 soldiers in Dhi Qar out of a total of 628 in the country. Romania last month said it would withdraw some of its troops from Iraq as the government takes over military control


Iraq's neighbours hold security meeting

Region, Security
Interior ministers of Iraq’s neighbouring countries convened for their third meeting in Jeddah on Wednesday, chaired by Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif bin Abdulaziz. Ministers from Jordan, Iran, Bahrain, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Kuwait and Egypt attended the gathering which concluded with a mutual consensus to increase security on the borders by clamping down on forged passports and illegal activities, including smuggling in and out of Iraq.
The Saudi Minister also emphasised the importance of fighting terrorism by exposing the activities of terrorist cells that threaten the stability and security of Iraq. It was agreed that a secretariat will be established in Baghdad to hold regular meetings. Its foundation and development will be supervised over by the Iraqi interior ministry which will be in charge of the preparation and follow-up on the progress of meetings and of any proposed outcomes and decisions.


China supports U.N. role in Iraq

China supported the idea of the United Nations playing an important role in the reconstruction of Iraq, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said Monday at a meeting in New York. Li said China supported the International Compact with Iraq and hoped that the relevant mechanisms would be widely representative and inclusive and would give full play to the leading role of the United Nations. "It is China's consistent position that the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Iraq should be upheld and that the Iraqi issue should be resolved through political means so that Iraq will be governed by the Iraqi people," he concluded.


Kurdish and Turkish companies come together

Fifty Turkish and Kurdish companies, calling themselves the Karsazan Group, held a press conference on Tuesday in Arbil to discuss their investment and commercial activities in the Kurdistan rgeion. The head of the Karsazan Group, Qasim Argun, said that the aim of the group was to regroup all the Turkish companies working in the Kurdistan Region and to encourage the use and development of modern technology in the region.


Kurds hold meeting for foreign oil industry

Kurdistan, Economy
Dr. Ashti Hawrami, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Minister for Natural Resources, held a briefing Thursday in London on petroleum exploration and development in the Kurdistan Region to an audience of more than 60 oil industry representatives, analysts and journalists. The Kurdish government recently published a draft Petroleum Act for the Kurdistan Region.
Dr. Hawrami said, “We are confident that the draft Petroleum Act is inclusive of all of Iraq, and is fair, clear and investor-friendly. It creates a win-win situation for all of Iraq. If it is passed by the Kurdistan National Assembly, it will bring inward investment that will benefit the people of both the Kurdistan Region and all of Iraq.” He added that comments and feedback from Kurdistan and abroad, oil companies, NGOs and the wider investment community had been incorporated into the draft act
Dr. Khalid Salih, the KRG’s Official Spokesman and former constitutional advisor, told the participants that Iraq’s constitution, which is the basis for the Kurdistan Region’s draft Petroleum Act, gives priority to regional laws. Officials from Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN), Eni SpA (E), BHP Billiton (BHP) and Statoil SA (STO) were among those at the briefing. International companies such as Norway's DNO are currently drilling for oil in Kurdistan.


Turkey pledges support to Kurds

Regional politics
The Turkish foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, told a American Turkish society in New York that in the event of civil war in Iraq, Turkey would protect Iraqi Kurds. "The core of the problem is that if Iraq was divided, there would definitely be a civil war and neighboring countries definitely would be involved in this," Gul said. He warned that Iraqi instability could break the country into autonomous Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish regions. He said Turkey supports a gradual withdrawal of U.S.-led forces from Iraq, underscoring the importance of Iraqi security forces attaining national and border security.


SCIRI runs neighbourhood watch schemes

Politics, Security
The main party in the Shia United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) has reportedly started neighborhood-watch groups in the holy city of Al-Najaf according to The Times newspaper. SCIRI head Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim proposed the establishment of neighborhood-watch groups last month, but was quickly attacked by Sunni parties, who said his plan was an attempt to legitimise the operations of militias, which have been banned by the government.
Members of the neighborhood-watch group told the daily that over 150 people have signed up for the watch, and are working in 10-member squads, patrolling the neighborhoods and reporting suspicious people to SCIRI's armed wing, the Badr Corps. Members are paid $50 per month, while the squad's leader is paid $100 per month. Members said the groups began patrolling some three weeks ago. The daily reported that a second neighborhood-watch group has been established in the nearby holy city of Al-Kufah.


Attacks on U.S. troops increasing

Major General William Caldwell says attacks are increasing on American troops in Iraq, mainly in the form of car bombs and suicide car bombers. This follows an announcement by made Abu Hamzad al-Muhajir, the new leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, earlier this month that every insurgent should kill one American in the next 15 days. The statement was on an audio tape aired on Al-Jazeera earlier this month.
Meanwhile, a UN report says at least 6,599 civilians died in Iraq over July and August, or nearly 800 more than in the previous two months. The report said the July total of 3,590 deaths was unprecedented, while the August figure, though lower, was also among the worst yet. It also mentions that hundreds of bodies bearing signs of torture and execution style killings continue to appear throughout the country.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Federalism debate delayed

Iraq's senior politicians from all parties were to meet today to discuss the draft legislation for a law to create a federal state put forward by the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution In Iraq (SCIRI), however, the debate was delayed again.
Following another day of violence in which 50 people were killed, with the U.N. and neighbouring countries warning that Iraq could slide into civil war and US commanders expecting an increase in violence by Al Qaeda and other militant groups ahead of the start of Ramadan, politicians turned on the Interior and Defence ministers, demanding to know what they are doing to control the situation.
'There is no evidence that shows that the Minister of Defence or the Minister of Interior are doing anything to stop this toll,' said Haider Al Abaadi, a member of the Shi'ite bloc that has a majority in the 275-seat chamber, suggesting fissures in the ruling coalition as Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki fails to halt violence.


Senior U.S. and Iraqi officials doubt al-Maliki

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been in the post for four months and Iraqis say they see no improvement in security, economics or basic infrastructure. al-Maliki's pledge to disarm militias and bring them into the fold has still not been honoured to-date. American and Iraqi senior officials are beginning to question if the Shiite is strong enough to lead the country and hold it together. Many see disarming the militias as a key step to controlling the security situation. Army officers say they are still waiting for the order to disarm them. The Shia militias are suspected of sectarian killings, which they deny.

COMMENT: Al-Maliki has failed to control the main Shia militias, the Badr Corps and the Mahdi militia because they are the militant arms of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution In Iraq (SCIRI) and al-Sadr's organisation, both influential powers in the main Shia political bloc, the UIA. Al-Maliki cannot afford to lose their support. Many Sunnis consider him to be to close to Iran and Shia politicians like Abdul Aziz al-Hakim - leader of SCIRI - are against parts of al-Maliki's reconciliation project such as bringing Baathists and militant Sunnis to the political table. COMMENT ENDS.


Americans: new weapons from Iran appearing in Iraq

The commander of the U.S. forces in the Middle East, General John Abizaid, said a new armour-piercing rocket-propelled grenade believed to be from Iran has shown up in Iraq. He said the weapon, an RPG-29, has a dual warhead and has proved effective against most types of armoured vehicles, adding that it may be a "hint of things to come."
"The first time we saw it was not in Iraq. We saw it in Lebanon. So to me it indicates, number one, an Iranian connection," he told defense reporters. He said only a single RPG-29 has turned up in Iraq so far, and it was unclear how it was smuggled into the country. But he said it was the latest in a number of new and more sophisticated weapons that appear to be moving onto the region's battlefields from Iran.
"There are clearly links between Lebanese Hezbollah training people in Iran to operate in Lebanon, and also training people in Iran that are Shia splinter groups that could operate against us in Iraq," he said.
COMMENT: The U.S. and the U.K. have long suspected Iran of supplying training, funding and weapons to anti-Iraqi forces to fuel the instability, particularly in the south. Iran denies this. It is possible Iran believes that if America is tied up in Iraq, her focus will not shift to Iran. Historically Iran has provided protection to Shia politicians persecuted under Saddam and has also trained militias such as the Badr Corps, SCIRI's militant wing. COMMENT ENDS.


U.S. won't cut down on troops until mid-2007

Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the U.S. Central Command, announced on Tuesday that the U.S. military will keep its current troop levels in Iraq until mid-2007 due to rising sectarian violence. He added that during the period the Pentagon may send more troops or extend deployments of other units if needed. Late last year, news reports said Pentagon officials hoped to reduce troop levels to about 100,000 by the end of this year. In August, the Pentagon increased troop levels to 147,000 from 127,000 in late June.


New judge throws Saddam out of court

The new judge presiding over Saddam's trial threw him out after Saddam complained about the judge's new appointment. Mohammed al-Oriebi al-Khalifah, a Shiite who was deputy presiding judge, took over as chief judge following the government's sacking of his predecessor Abdullah al-Ameri who had said Saddam was "not a dictator".
The defence lawyers walked out of the trial on Wednesday citing interference from the government, saying they would not return until they can do their job without further intervention.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Salahuddin handed over to Iraqi army

US-led coalition forces in Iraq handed over operational control of the central Salahuddin province to the Iraqi army's fourth division on Monday. The handover marked the second divisional transfer of power to Iraqi control since September 7. Earlier, coalition forces had handed over control of Iraq's armed forces command to the government. The country's 10 military divisions include around 130,000 troops, and despite the transfer of operational control, most still remain under American control.
In a news conference in Baghdad on Monday, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabagh said that Iraqi forces will take over security responsibility for the southern Dhi Qar province on Thursday. In July, British troops had handed control of southern Muthana province to Iraq.
COMMENT: Samarra is in Salahuddin and has been a consistent centre of the insurgent activity. In February they attacked the Askariyah Shrine in Samarra leading to reprisal sectarian killings. Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, and a strong support base of former regime elements is also in Salahuddin. It is questionable whether an Iraqi army division is ready to control the province. COMMENT ENDS.


Peace agreement signed in Diwaniyah

Security, Politics
Representatives of political parties and forces in Al-Diwaniyah, the centre of Al-Qadisiyah Governorate in southern Iraq, have signed an agreement to end armed manifestations and normalise the situation following security troubles for over one month.
Ni'mah Fa'al, head of the committee formed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to resolve the deteriorating security situation in the governorate, said the agreement was signed by the representatives of all the parties and the Al-Sadr office in Al-Diwaniyah.
COMMENT: On paper, this development looks good. For months al-Sadr's militia - or possibly a rogue element of it - has clashed with security forces. If the agreement works, it could be implemented in other areas with a similar political make-up in the south. However, at the moment it is a very delicate balance and it won't take much to stir up the violence again. COMMENT ENDS.


Iraq Finance Minister vows to tackle inflation

Iraq's finance minister on Monday vowed to take effective action against inflation, while appealing for technical and financial support to rebuild the country. Briefing fellow financial leaders attending the annual meeting of the World Bank and IMF, Iraqi Finance Minister Bayan Jabr said his government was determined to clean up corruption and curb inflation, which was recently reported at a rate of 70 per cent.
Jabr and Iraqi central bank governor Sinan Al-Shabibi described to their counterparts from the United States and some two dozen other countries how they plan to finance the country's economic reconstruction.
International donors have pressed Iraq for a hydrocarbons law that would outline ownership and foreign investment in Iraq's oil reserves and a reduction of government subsidies.
Iraq presented its strategy for building up its economy in a meeting Monday at U.N. headquarters. Attendees included supporters of the International Compact on Iraq, which was launched in July by the Iraqi government and the United Nations, with support from the U.S. and Britain.
Since 2004, Iraq has already resolved debts from the former regime with the Paris Club of country creditors and some other nations, and has also settled commercial creditors' debts, Jabr said. He said his government hopes by December to sign an international donors' agreement.


PKK banned by Iraqi government

Security, Politics
The Iraqi government has decided to end the presence of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Iraq, to close all of its offices and prevent it from carrying out any activities. This came in a statement issued by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office today, in which it said that this decision came as many countries consider the PKK a terrorist organization. The statement pointed out that the Iraqi constitution does not allow the existence of terrorist organizations on Iraqi territory.
COMMENT: The PKK, also known as KADEK and Kongra-Gel, is an armed militant group, whose stated aim is to create an independent Kurdish state in a territory (sometimes referred to as Kurdistan) that consists of parts of south-eastern Turkey, north-eastern Iraq, north-eastern Syria and north-western Iran. Its ideological foundation is revolutionary Marxism-Leninism and Kurdish Nationalism. It is an ethnic secessionist organisation that uses force and the threat of force against both civilian and military targets for the purpose of achieving its political goal. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organisation internationally by several states and organisations, including the USA and the EU. In August, the U.S. State Dept. announced the appointment of Retired U.S. Air Force General Joseph W. Ralston, a former NATO supreme allied commander, as U.S. special envoy for countering the PKK. COMMENT ENDS.


Annan says Iraq is on the brink of civil war

Politics, Security
Speaking to a conference on Iraq, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said that, if current trends persist, there is a "grave danger" that the Iraqi state will break down, "possibly in the midst of full-scale civil war."Annan called for urgent action to prevent such a scenario.
Following Annan's address, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani gave an impassioned defense of his government's strategy for combatting terrorism and sectarian violence, disbanding rival militias and reforming government security services.
He also pledged to create a credible national unity government and institute wide-ranging economic reforms including guarantees for foreign investors, a sound national oil law and transparency on how money is distributed and spent, according to a senior US official who attended the closed-door talks. Alos speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York was Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul who warned that a federal system in Iraq could break up the country and threaten the stability of the region.


Iraqi NGOs sign pledge rejecting violence

Security, Politics
Iraqi non-governmental organisations (NGOs) concluded a two-day conference for civil-society institutions on national reconciliation on Sunday. Attendees reportedly signed a code of honour that included a pledge to reject violence and undertake efforts to support the reconciliation process. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki addressed the September 16 session of the conference, telling participants that they constitute an integral part of the country's national fabric.


Regional meeting on Iraq held in Saudi

Security, Regional
Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani has left for Jeddah to meet with the interior ministers of the seven states bordering Iraq for a three-day conference, international media reported on September 18. The meeting, hosted by Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayif bin Abd al-Aziz al-Sa'ud, will focus on regional security and is expected to result in the signing of a security cooperation agreement between Iraq and its neighbours. The agreement, which has been in the works for months, will include provisions aimed at securing borders and preventing cross-border weapons smuggling and border crossings, both by insurgents and would-be pilgrims. The conference between Iraq and its neighbours is the third of its kind; Turkey hosted the 2005 Iraq neighbours conference, while Iran hosted the previous year's conference.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Iraqi news round-up

Barzani Talks Federalism With Kurdistan Alliance
(Kurdistani Nwe) The president of Kurdistan region Massoud Barzani has met with members of Kurdistan Alliance bloc of the Iraqi National Assembly. Barzani said amendments to the constitution should not come at the expense of the Kurdish people. He also emphasised that he believes in a federal and democratic Iraq. (Kurdistani Nwe is a political daily issued by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.)

Civil Society Aids Reconciliation
(Al-Bayan) About 1,700 Iraqi civil society activists have affirmed their support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s national dialogue and reconciliation plan. At the end of their two-day conference, they formed six committees to educate the population about the PM’s plan and signed an agreement to work for the unity of Iraq and confront terror and extremism.
(Al-Bayan is issued four times weekly by the Islamic Dawa Party, chaired by Ibrahim al-Jafari, former prime minister.)


Sunni party rejects bill on federalism

A day before a planned informal meeting to discuss the draft legislation on a law to allow federalism, Iraq’s second largest Sunni Arab party yesterday rejected the plan and said it would instead divide the country. All political leaders from all parties in parliament are expected to meet over the the bill proposed by the largest Shia bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) to pave the way for a law to create a federal Iraq. Saleh Al Mutlaq’s National Dialogue Front is the second largest Sunni Arab grouping in the 275-seat parliament, with 11 deputies. The idea of federalism is enshrined in the Iraqi constitution, but before it can be implemented in practice the mechanics have to be legislated and also approved in a referendum.
COMMENT: Even if the meeting goes ahead on Tuesday, it is likely to be boycotted by parties such as Allawi's secular Iraqi National Accord, other Sunni parties and Shia parties such as Al Fadheela and that of al-Sadr's. Even if they attend, some Shia parties are unlikely to support the UIA as they do not want to give them the power to lead the south, the secularists believe in a united Iraq, as do the Sunnis, who are also concerned about losing access to revenue from the oil-rich north and south if the country is carved up. COMMENT ENDS.


Sunni tribes in Al-Anbar to fight al-Qaeda

Security, Tribal
Sheikh Sattar al-Buzayi summoned around 30 tribal chiefs from across the province last week for a war council at his fortified home in Ramadi to discuss the formation of local security forces to fight al-Qaeda.
A young man who calls himself Abu Farouq, a senior al-Qaeda figure in northern Ramadi, said his fighters want an Islamic caliphate in Anbar. Sheikhs like Buzayi are their enemy. "We have the right to kill all infidels, like the police and army and all those who support them," he told Reuters. "This tribal system is un-Islamic. We are proud to kill tribal leaders who are helping the Americans."
Anbar residents say the towns of Khalidiya and Haditha are effectively controlled by al-Qaeda, who run Islamic courts, force women to wear an Afghan-style burqa and regularly dump bodies of those they call "traitors" and "spies" on the streets. But there are also towns like Qaim on the Syrian border where tribesmen have taken matters into their own hands and thrown the al-Qaeda militants out. Others want to emulate them.


Flag row flares up in Mosul

In the northern city of Mosul which has a mixed Arab and Kurdish population, many of the Arab inhabitants have raised Iraqi flags in defiance of Barzani's lowering of the Iraqi flag. the flag issue has led to an increase in sectarian and ethnic strife in Mosul. Many are now wearing pins bearing the Iraqi flag and members of the police force have said they will leave the force and take up arms against anyone trying to remove the Iraqi flag which represents the last remaining symbol of the unity of the Iraqi people to the Arabs. However, Barzani, Kurdistan's president says, "The present flag is not the flag of Iraq, but of the Baath party and chemical strikes."


U.N. General Assembly session starts today

Politics, U.N.
The U.N.'s General Assembly 61st session begins Monday in New York and will be attended by 192 nations and addressed by 26 national leaders. Issues on the agenda include attempts to move democracy forward in the Middle East and to help strengthen democracies in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority, as well as Iran's nuclear ambitions after Tehran ignored an August 31 U.N. deadline for suspending its nuclear program.
An administration official said of Bush, "He'll have in each case -- Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority -- I think he will have very concrete suggestions about the path forward for realising his vision of freedom and the role that the international community can play in that." On Tuesday afternoon, Bush is scheduled to meet with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to discuss Iraq's progress toward democracy amid continuing violence.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Iraq to develop oil fields with neighbours

Iraqi Minister of Oil Hussein Shahristani said that Iraq will sign agreements to develop joint oil fields with Kuwait, Syria and Iran. The Minister added that these agreements will strengthen commercial relations regarding oil with these countries.


Iraq's oil minister to travel to Australia

Next Monday, Iraq's Minister of Oil, Hussein Shahristani, will travel to Australia to discuss possible potential oil investments, including rebuilding Iraq's oil infrastructure.


New Kurdistan oil agreement signed

Calibre Energy, Inc. announced Sept. 15 that it has entered into an agreement with Hawler Energy, Ltd. to participate in an Exploration and Production Sharing Agreement (EPSA) with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq, covering the Bana-Bavu structure. Calibre will have a 10 per cent participation interest. The agreement calls for an up front payment of $2 million, an additional $2.5 million work commitment and a $1 million success fee payable upon completion of the first well.The Bana-Bavu EPSA covers the northern extension of the Zagros Fold-belt and is approximately 70 kilometers north of the 17-billion-barrel Kirkuk oil field, located in the Irbil governorate, which is controlled by the KRG.


Bombs kill many in Kirkuk

Four bombs went off in the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk Sunday. A truck bomb went off outside the offices of President Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), killing at least 18 people and wounding 55, police said on Sunday. A man sitting beside the bomber opened fire on civilians before the truck slammed into the city's criminal court and exploded, said police Brigadier Sarhat Qadir. A few hours later, a car bomber rammed into a joint US-Iraqi army patrol in the south of the city, killing at least three bystanders and wounding eight others, Qadir said.
COMMENT: It is unclear who was behind these bombings which seem fairly coordinated. On the other hand, it could be several groups as the situation in Kirkuk is so complex. Although the Kurds want Kirkuk to become part of Kurdistan, Kurds were never a majority in Kirkuk and recently more Kurds have been moving in. The city's population includes Turkmen - who historically constituted up to two-thirds of the city's population - as well as Sunni Arabs, Chaldeans and Assyrians. These groups do not want to become part of Kurdistan. Sectarian killings have been rife in Kirkuk, as well as attacks on security forces and previous attacks on Talabani's family and party, the PUK. COMMENT ENDS.


Insurgents threaten Iraq's Christians with death following Pope's remarks

Religion, Security
Although Iraq's Sunnis and Shias have united against Pope Benedict XVI's remarks made earlier in the week in Germany - interpreted as an insult to the Muslim faith - Iraq's Christians are beginning to pay the price. On Friday there was an attack on a Syriac Catholic church where one man was killed. A second Assyrian Christian was stabbed to death in Baghdad yesterday.
A new insurgent group called the "Kataab Ashbal Al Islam Al Salafi," (Islamic Salafist Boy Scout Battalions) has distributed papers announcing the slaying of all Iraqi Christians in three days if the Pope does not apologize. According to the groups' website, website,, the bishop of the Syriac Catholic Church has asked the government of Iraq and the coalition forces to intervene and offer protection to native Christians.
Pope Benedict XVI said Sunday that he is very sorry about the reaction to his recent remarks about Islam, made in a speech Tuesday, which angered Muslims around the world, and added the remarks were intended to establish a "frank and sincere dialogue." Benedict sparked the controversy when, quoting from an obscure Medieval text, he cited the words of Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam's founder, as "evil and inhuman."


Iraq Arab League representative resigns

Iraq's Morrocan-born Arab League representative, Mukhtar Lamani, has resigned citing insufficient funding from the Arab League to run the Iraq office and an unclear plan of how the pan-Arab organisation will deal with the deteriorating situtaion in Iraq. Lamani has declined to comment and it is not clear if his resignation has been accepted as the league head, Amr Moussa is in New York for meetings with the United nations.
The Arab League opened its office in Baghdad in June. The facility was to help hold a conference that would bring together representatives of Iraq's ethnic and religious-based political groups. But the gathering has been postponed several times.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?