Saturday, November 04, 2006


U.S. allegedly considering 'salvation government'

As conditions in Iraq get out of control, the Whitehouse is said to be considering all 'options' in a bid to contain the situation. A top option for the U.S. administration, well-placed Iraqi officials say, is the formation of a new 'salvation government' that may include senior army officers who were active under the former regime. The U.S. is reported to be preparing the ground for the formation of such government and would like to have it seen as being a purely Iraqi option.
Analysts say the government, if formed, stands little chance of success as it will indicate yet another glaring signal of 'flagrant U.S. intervention' in Iraq affairs. The analysts say the move to both the average Iraqis and the various resistance groups would be seen as a last attempt by the U.S. to turn things around. "The rebels will certainly intensify their attacks and adopt new tactics to take violence and armed struggle to levels unseen before," one analyst says. Even pro-U.S. elements are skeptical of the move because in their eyes it aims at securing U.S. presence and preserving the safety of its troops rather than Iraq 's strategic interests.
It is not clear whether a salvation government consisting of former army generals will be palatable to the current coalition government administered by pro-U.S. Shiite and Kurdish factions. The presence of these generals in the government should be a matter of concern to both groups. It may appease some Sunnis, but it may also send the wrong signal to both the Kurds and Shiites.
But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki seems to be happy with the measure. The analysts say Washington has promised to have him reinstated as premier in the new government and grant him wider powers. Maliki has repeatedly complained of the constraints placed on his authority. In theory, he is commander-in-chief but in practice he has little authority on the deployment of Iraqi troops, their training and armament. Maliki says the army is ill-equipped and he does not have enough guns for all his police officers. He said under such conditions it is almost impossible for him to deliver on promises to have all the militias disbanded as "some of them are much better equipped than Iraqi troops.
COMMENT: It is plausible that the U.S. is considering a 'salvation government' following certain events over the past few days. It was rumoured on Thursday that al-Maliki is considering a cabinet reshuffle of key posts such as the security and oil ministries. Prior to that Iraqi and Jordanian newspapers reported that U.S. officials met with Iraqi officials and 12 armed groups in Amman last week to discuss the formation of a new party. On Saturday there was talk of U.S. support shifting to the Sunnis from the Shias. However, the 'salvation government' will never be accepted as an 'all-Iraqi' solution and the U.S. intervention will cause friction. It is also unlikely that the Shias and Kurds will accept and work with former regime elements. COMMENT ENDS.


Tactics - the motorcycle, a growing weapon of choice

Car bombs are the weapon of choice but recently the gunmen are resorting to motorcycles as their speed and size makes it easy for them to bypass checkpoints and sneak into cordoned off areas. The use of motorcycles is not limited to attacks against U.S. or government troops. Criminals and thugs are using them to kill, rob, steal and assassinate rivals. There is no shortage of motorcycles as is the case with almost anything the gunmen need to execute their dirty plans.
In the absence of strict border controls, everything can enter Iraq and there more motorcycle shows in Baghdad than anytime before. Motorcyclists do not have to obtain a driving license or a registration as do most drivers in Iraq. And even if the authorities want to impose such restrictions they lack the means to do so. “The gunmen have resorted to motorcycles following government measures to block certain headquarters with concrete slabs. They find it easy to drive through,” said Marwan Ahmad from Adhamiya.
Sameer Amer says motorcyclists have been attacking targets in residential areas “but the police always fail to catch them.” Iraqi police or U.S. troops do not use motorcycles in their operations and the gunmen’s large-scale use of them has given them an edge in fighting, said Amer. Amer says motorcycles are widely used in breaking into super markets and shops in the area of Amiriya in Baghdad. Motorcycles are even employed widely in the restive district of Doura, one of the violent areas in Baghdad.
Khatab Ahmad said: “Most of the military operations and assassinations taking place in Doura are carried out by gunmen using motorcycles.” Ahmad Abbas, a police officer, says there has been “a marked surge” in operations using motorcycles as bombs. “They are easy to get and their impact when booby-trapped can be as lethal as that of a car-bomb,” said Abbas. You can get a motorcycle for about 25,000 dinars (about 17 U.S. dollars), rendering them within reach of many in Iraq.
There are not exact figures on the number of motorcycles in Iraq, but, according to Ihsan Abdullah, a motorcycle dealer, there are more motorcycles than cars in the country. “Motorcycles have dramatically increased in number in the past three years,” Abdullah said. He said traffic jams and closure of streets and districts particularly in Baghdad have made the motorcycle one of the most attractive means of transport. “But I am afraid nearly 30 per cent of all the motorcycles in Iraq have been used in terrorist operations,” says Hassoun Bader, another motorcycle dealer.


Iraqis forced to flee homes

About 50,000 Iraqis are leaving their homes each month and hundreds of thousands more may soon follow, fearing prolonged instability in the country, according to a report by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Many of those displaced are being helped by host families, local communities and religious groups, not necessarily major international aid organisations. "The enormous scale of the needs, the ongoing violence and the difficulties in reaching the displaced make it a problem that is practically beyond the capacity of humanitarian agencies," Ron Redmond, a spokesman for UNHCR said.
At least 1.6 million are what the UN calls internally displaced within Iraq and 1.8 million have fled to neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iran, according to the UNHCR. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) appealed on Friday for $20 million to allow it to keep distributing food, water and other supplies to those uprooted by the conflict, and to the families and communities who are hosting them. The UNHCR has received only 60 per cent of the $29 million it requested to help displaced Iraqis and some 50,000 Palestinian, Iranian and Syrian refugees living in Iraq. The agency is reassessing its financing needs for Iraq and met donor governments this week to discuss an increase in aid. No pledges have yet been announced.
COMMENT: If the violence continues the figure of internally displaced people (IDPs) will increase. Those who can't afford to get out of Iraq will flee to quieter places such as Iraqi Kurdistan, placing an enormous burden on the area's resources and possibly triggering additional violence. Iraq's economy will also suffer further because it will be unable to support the financial needs of the IDPs. Even if the international community pledges aid, the logistics will be practically impossible due to the violence. COMMENT ENDS.


Baghdad: 80 bodies found in 24 hours

Iraqi police have found more than 80 bodies of torture victims in Baghdad since Thursday, the latest victims of violence in the city. The bodies were found throughout the capital between 6am on Thursday and 6pm on Friday. All were dressed in civilian clothes and had been bound at the wrists and ankles, Mohammed Khayon, a Baghdad police lieutenant, said. They also showed signs of torture. Khayon said the police had no solid information on the victims' identities or their killers. South of Baghdad, in the town of Kut, police found 13 more bodies on Friday, pulling seven from the Tigris river, while nine more violent deaths were reported across Iraq.
COMMENT: The bodies are likely to be mainly victims of sectarian violence, probably Sunni and Shia, and some possibly following the recent mass kidnappings during the past week. But without ID it is hard to establish facts. As the killings continue to mount up, the government appears to have less control over the security situation than ever, particularly when the different factions within the government itself cannot agree. COMMENT ENDS.


Saddam's verdict - curfew imposed, defense asks for more time

Legal, Security
In anticipation of the verdict in Saddam Hussein's trial on Sunday, Iraqi authorities have imposed a 12-hour curfew which covers both vehicles and pedestrians and will run from 6 a.m. Sunday to 6 p.m., said a close aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and an Interior Ministry general. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. The Baghdad International Airport will also be closed. Beyond Baghdad, the curfew will apply to Salahuddin province, which includes Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, the Sunni insurgent hotbeds of Diyala and Anbar provinces and the cities of Mosul and Kirkuk.
Baghdad was placed under a heavy security clampdown on Saturday, with additional road blocks, stepped-up patrols and all leave canceled for Iraqi troops.
Defense lawyers called Friday for judges to postpone their verdict the trial and allow them to present final arguments in defense of the deposed president.The 10-member defense team wrote that it would be premature to deliver the verdict on Sunday "because the court did not receive the final defense statements yet." The letter asked the judge for permission to "read the defense final statements and for the court to set another date for the defense argument in not less than 60 days' time."


U.S. support perceived to be shifting from Shias to Sunnis

Iraq's ruling Shiites have voiced growing concern that the United States is subtly shifting support to Sunni Arabs, the bulwark of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, in a bid to salvage 43-months of democracy building in Iraq and damp down violence. The perceived re-energized bid to draw the Sunni insurgency into Iraq's political process marks, in the eyes of anxious Shiites, a worrisome and major alteration of American policy in a period that has seen growing strains in the U.S.-Iraqi relationship.
The United States had relied heavily on the majority Shiite sect in its effort to construct a constitutional democracy to replace the Baath Party dictatorship that was wiped out when Saddam was chased from the Iraqi capital in the 2003 invasion. U.S. dependence on the Shiites grew exponentially, starting in late summer of that year, when disaffected Sunnis, aided by a growing number of foreign fighters and al-Qaida terrorists. Together, they launched the insurgency that is largely responsible for the climbing U.S. death toll, helping set in motion the current chaos and sectarian violence gripping Baghdad and much of central Iraq.
Al-Maliki's government, Khalilzad said, should persuade armed Sunni armed groups to lay down their arms and join the political process. In this regard, he said, Washington had secured the help of Sunni-led Arab countries. Khalilzad's conciliatory approach toward the Sunnis was coupled with tough talk on the need to disband Shiite militias. In response to the American shift, the politicians say, Shiite leaders are seeking greater control over Iraq's armed forces, asserting independence from Washington and balking at meeting U.S. demands to put Shiite militias out of business.
The United States has for decades maintained strong ties with moderate, Sunni-led Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. Those time-tested alliances were meant in part to ward off the influence of Iran, which is run by a fundamentalist Shiite theocracy that is deeply hostile to Washington.
COMMENT: The shift in support is feasible for several reasons. The predominantly Shia government has failed to tackle the militias, to compromise with disaffected Sunnis and bring them to the political table, and to improve the security situation in the country. The move could also be to place the U.S. in a stronger position to tackle Iran and may expedite their exit startegy from Iraq, which they have realised the current Shia powers will not. COMMENT ENDS.


Dulaymi accuses Maliki's government of double standards

During an interview with Al-Jazeera television on November 2, Adnan al-Dulaymi, the head of the Sunni-led Iraqi Accordance Front, accused Prime Minister al-Maliki's governmentof of pursuing double standards and not defending the Sunni Arab population, while steadfastly protecting the Shi'a. He said the government silently watches as death squads are allowed to commit the most heinous crimes against the Sunni people. "We hear daily about a new crisis and a new tragedy that befalls our Sunni brethren throughout Iraq. The Iraqi government behaves as if it were not a government for all Iraqis; it behaves as if it were a government for a single party," he said.
COMMENT: Maliki has been side-stepping the issue of cracking down on the militias because he relies on their political allies (al-Sadr and SCIRI) for support, but the sectarian strife is also a tit-for-tat war with retribution killings by Sunnis. There is little support from the security forces as they are also infiltrated by the militias. Significantly though, Dulaymi's public statement illustrates the ever widening chasm in the government which will only help fuel public sectarian resentment. COMMENT ENDS.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Iraqis find donkeys carrying explosives on Iranian border

Iraqi security forces patrolling near the Iranian border found six donkeys carrying dozens of high-explosive anti-tank mines, the U.S. military said in a statement on Thursday. The military said two men fled the scene in the religiously-mixed Diyala province where the insurgency is active. It was not clear from the statement where the donkeys, a common form of transport in the region, had come from. U.S. officials have often accused Iran of arming militant groups in Iraq. The statement said Iraqi forces seized 53 Russian- and Italian-made anti-tank landmines and one anti-tank projectile. "The donkeys were later released unharmed into the local area," the military said.
COMMENT: The U.S. and the British have long accused Iran of smuggling weapons into Iraq, which Iran denies. COMMENT ENDS.


Security worries ahead of Saddam's verdict

Iraq's defense minister on Friday canceled leave for all army officers, apparently fearing violence after Sunday's expected announcement of a verdict in the trial of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi was heard issuing the order in videotaped footage of a meeting between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and senior military and security officials, in which al-Maliki upbraided them for failing to stop the capital's unbridled violence.
"All vacations will be canceled and all those who are on vacation must return," al-Obeidi said, adding that reserve soldiers would be called up within 12 hours. On the video released by al-Maliki's office, the prime minister could also be heard discussing a curfew for Sunday, although it wasn't clear whether any such order had been issued. Those measures underscore fears that the verdict could unleash further violence in Iraq.
Many of Saddam's fellow Sunni Arabs, along with some Shiites and Kurds, are predicting a firestorm if the Iraqi High Tribunal convicts and then sentences the ex-president to death, as it is widely expected to do. On the other hand, most Shiites, including al-Maliki, have called for a death sentence, and are likely to be enraged if he escapes the gallows. Al-Maliki said last month he expects "this criminal tyrant will be executed," saying that would likely break the will of Saddam followers in the insurgency.
COMMENT: Many Sunnis, who were the ruling elite and made up the majority of the army under Saddam, want him back, if he is executed they may perceive him as a hero. On the other hand, most Kurds and Shias, who were oppressed by him are hoping that he receives the death sentence and will likely be enraged if he doesn't. These factors may increase the sectarian divide and fuel the violence. Most politicians, both in Iraq and internationally, want the trial over and done with. The legitimacy of the trial has been questioned, while Saddam has used it as his mouthpiece, reminding Iraq's population that he succeeded where the Americans have failed, both with security and reconstruction which has caused people to question whether things really were quite so bad under his rule. As long as he can speak to the Iraqi people through the trial he is a threat to the current government and security, as well as the success of the U.S. alliance. COMMENT ENDS.


China, Japan to renegotiate oil deals with Iraq

Oil, Commerce
China and Japan have staked their claim to develop Iraq's vast oil reserves with Tokyo offering billions of dollars in loans and Beijing agreeing to renegotiate a deal signed with Saddam, Iraq's oil minister said Wednesday. Hussain al-Shahristani was briefing reporters after a tour of Asia that took in the world's second biggest oil consumer China and its third biggest Japan -- both heavily dependent on imports and keen to secure future energy supplies. The Baghdad government is working towards its first foreign oilfield development contract and is readying a legal framework.
"The Japanese said they were willing to provide soft loans with maturity of up to 40 years for any amount of money we need to develop the oil industry -- to develop the refineries, exports and production," Shahristani said."Right now there is a Japanese loan of $3.5 billion. More than one billion will be spent to develop the Basra refinery. Also on building a floating port and an export pipeline." Shahristani said Japanese firms were interested in oilfields in southern Nassiriya.
He said Iraq and China had formed a committee to look again at China's contract, signed with Saddam Hussein, to develop the 90,000 barrels per day Ahdab oilfield in south central Iraq.The committee, made up of three or four people from each side, will review the articles of the contract to "serve Iraq's interests", Shahristani said. It will meet in November. Ahdab, with an estimated development cost of $700 million, was awarded to China National Petroleum Corp and Chinese state arms manufacturer Norinco by Saddam. The deal was frozen by international sanctions and then Saddam's overthrow. Shahristani said all oil contracts signed under Saddam would be reviewed by a national committee because the ministry wanted to make sure contracts were to Iraq's benefit.


Iraq's first trade show to be held next year in Bahrain

Bahrain has been chosen by Iraq to host its first overseas trade show next year, centring round its $100 billion rebuilding programme. Gulf Iraqi Expo (GIX) will be held from March 24 to 26 at the Bahrain International Exhibition Centre. The expo is being organised by the Iraqi Ministry of Trade - State Company for Iraqi Fairs and I-vision for PR and Media, in association with Bahrain-based Magnum Events and Exhibitions Management (MEEM), a division of Magnum Holdings Group.
It is the first overseas trade show organised by the Iraqi government, said Iraqi Ambassador to Bahrain Ghassan Muhsen Hussain. Mr Hussain said his government had allocated a rebuilding budget of more than $33bn for next year, in addition to more than $18bn in international donations. More than 12,000 attendees from Iraq and the Gulf region, with more than 900 brand names, will meet 300 decision-makers from the Iraqi government, representing 28 Iraqi ministries are expected to attend. "It will cover all governmental and private sectors in Iraq and more than 1,250 businesspeople will be able to directly interact and achieve business agreements," Mr Hussain said.


Bechtel pulling out of Iraq

One of the biggest US companies involved in reconstruction projects in Iraq has said it is leaving the country after three years of work there. Bechtel Corp - which has finished its last contract - says the security situation in Iraq has made it too difficult to continue operating. Cliff Mumm, Bechtel's president for infrastructure work, said the firm had not expected to be operating in a conflict situation. Fifty-two Bechtel employees have been killed and 49 wounded since 2003. The engineering giant was hired by the US government. Its services cost Washington $2.3bn (£1.2bn). Bechtel said it would not seek any more work in the country after company's last contract expired earlier this week. The San-Francisco-based firm was asked to rebuild Iraq's roads and bridges after the US-led invasion. Bechtel was also involved in building water treatment plants and hospitals and expanding Iraq's power grid. The company said it had completed all but two of nearly 100 projects in Iraq. Bechtel employed more than 40,000 workers, mostly Iraqis, at the height of its activity in the country.
COMMENT: A very odd statement to make - that Bechtel hadn't expected to operate in a conflict situation - what exactly did they expect? It is possible that more companies involved in Iraq's reconstruction will start pulling out as the security situation worsens and more of their employees are injured or killed. In the event of this, the reconstruction could grind to a halt as the Iraqis do not have the capability and resources at the moment to complete it. It will also lead to further unemployment among Iraqis which could lead to further instability and economic hardship. COMMENT ENDS.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


KRG threatens to sue Maliki's government

Politics, Kurdistan, Economy
KRG has accused the central government of the Shiite PM Nouri al-Maliki of refusing to give part of the KRG's annual budget. Kurdistan Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani will head to Baghdad in the coming days, to broker a deal with the central government on the divisive issues of oil and budget that have tarnished the relations between Baghdad and Erbil over the past few months, government sources said. Barzani is to meet with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani. The visit comes at a time when the rifts between the Iraqi and Kurdistan regional governments have grown ever wider after the US-led invasion of the country in 2003. Kurdish officials have pre-warned that if their talks with federal authorities reach a deadlock, they may sue al-Maliki's government in an International Court.
KRG has accused the central government of the Shiite PM Nouri al-Maliki of refusing to give part of the KRG's annual budget. According to agreements between Kurds and federal authorities, 17 per cent of the national budget will be allocated for the three northern provinces of Erbil, Sulaimaniya and Duhok of Kurdistan Region. However, KRG's Deputy Prime Minister Omar Fattah recently acknowledged in a parliament session that only eight per cent of the designated budget has reached the regional government's treasury. Calls for restoring the remaining budget to the KRG were intensified as Barzani recently said that the central government owes $US500 to the Kurdish government. Iraq's budget for 2006 was projected at $US33 billion when the price of oil was projected at $US26 a barrel, but for much of that period oil was sold at $US60 per barrel.
Observers believe much of the problem in Kurdish-Iraqi relations emanates from ambiguities in the text of the Iraqi constitution that has led to various and in some cases conflicting interpretations of a certain item in that document.


Cabinet reshuffle rumoured

Iraqi parliamentary sources disclosed on Wednesday the intention of the Iraqi prime minister to carry out a major cabinet reshuffle that will include key ministries. In exclusive statements to Quds Press news agency on the sidelines of the session held today by the Iraqi Council of Representatives, the sources said that there is an agreement between Nuri al-Maliki and leaders of the main blocs at the Council of Representatives to carry out a major cabinet reshuffle. The reshuffle will probably include the Interior Ministry, headed by Jawad al-Bulani; the Defence Ministry, headed by Abd-al-Qadir Muhammad Jasim; and the Education Ministry, headed by Khudayr al-Khuza'i. The reshuffle might include the Oil Ministry headed by Husayn al-Shahristani as well.


Inter-tribal sectarian fighting

Tribal, Security
Iraqi tribes are getting more and more involved in the sectarian strife that is tearing the country apart. Both Arab and Kurdish tribes still wield influence in the country and many thought they could play a decisive role in halting the current bloodshed. But the tribes, like other sectors of the society, find themselves drawn into the current sectarian struggle. Affiliation particularly among Arab tribal hierarchy has little to do with sectarian divisions as many major tribes have both Shiite and Sunni members. But the ferocity of the present strife and its heavy toll in casualties is setting them apart.
Mixed tribes are present in several areas in Iraq, particularly in the small towns between Baghdad and Tikrit in the north. There are reports that the tribes have divided themselves on sectarian grounds and have began fighting each other, using rocket propelled grenades and mortars. The governor Hamad al-Shakti said he was deeply concerned. “If tribes lose control of their areas and continue fighting, the situation will get completely out of control,” al-Shakti said.
The governor has had several meetings with tribal chieftains in his province for face to face meetings in which they vow not to fight each other. Recently, he convened the tribes in the volatile region north of Baghdad where Balad, Dhiloiya and Dujail are situation. This mixed region has seen a dramatic rise in violence and sectarian killings most of which is going unreported by both local and international media. A written document that forbids inter-tribe fighting was signed two weeks ago to halt fighting and sectarian killings for 20 days as a prelude for reconciliation. Only two days later, sectarian killings resumed with at least nine more people killed and 12 injured. “I urge all the tribes to put an end to the bloodshed and turn a new page of reconciliation in their relations. Only with reconciliation we can build a bright future for Iraq,” he said. As a reconciliatory gesture on his part, al-Shakti has promised to handsomely compensate all the families of the dead and those injured in his province in the hope that victims’ families and tribes would no longer ask for revenge.
COMMENT: At least three quarters of the Iraqi population of 26.7 million belong to one of 150 tribes, of which there are 2,000 clans. Many tribes are a mixture of Sunni and Shia. Approximately 30 tribes are considered the most influential. Iraq has a long tribal history and many tribal areas spill over into neighbouring countries. A statement issued by the secretariat of the “alliance of Iraqi tribes” after the meeting of representatives of some 400 tribes from across the country called for a tribal role in ending the lawlessness that Iraq has suffered since US-led coalition forces ousted president Saddam Hussein in April 2003. COMMENT ENDS.


Kroll to sell Iraq, Afghanistan operations

Kroll, the risk consulting and technology division of Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc., is looking to sell a subsidiary that provides security services in Iraq and Afghanistan. Simon Freakley, the chief executive of Kroll, said Wednesday that the company is exploring the sale of Kroll Security International because it has decided to refocus on consulting and training.
Kroll Security International currently has some 350 employees and accredited subcontractors on the ground in Iraq, he said. The size of its work force in Afghanistan was not immediately available. "Over the last six weeks, we have been speaking to high-quality companies that do this work and have expressed an interest in purchasing that subsidiary and taking over the activities," Freakley said. He added that "as we explore a transaction, our priority is that our people and clients (in Iraq and Afghanistan) are not compromised." Freakley said that KSI's staff would be maintained in both countries while negotiations were under way.


Talabani wants U.S. in Iraq for three years

Politics, Security
US troops should stay for up to three more years in Iraq to allow local authorities to build up their own security forces, the Iraqi president says. At the start of his week-long visit, Jalal Talabani, said his country was not in a civil war and accused the media of focusing only on negative stories. However, he said international terrorists were still concentrating all their efforts on Iraq which meant the country needed outside help to defeat them.
Talabani is due to meet Jacques Chirac, the French president, later on Thursday. The Iraqi president said he wanted France to be actively involved in the rebuilding of the country and to help train Iraqi forces.


Islamic Army in Iraq claims missile production

The Islamic Army in Iraq has claimed that it has produced a surface-to-surface missile. In a statement sent to, the armed group said the missile can carry a 20kg warhead as far as 20km. US media outlets reported last month that US officials and members of the Islamic Army met in Amman, Jordan, and held secret talks. The Islamic Army denied the reports and said in the statement that such talks never happened; however, the statement did not close the door on the possibilty of negotiations in the future, but demanded U.S. withdrawal from Iraq to acknowledge the Iraqi resistance as the sole legitimate representative of Iraqi people.
Mounzer Sleiman, a Washington-based military analyst, said: "The missile does not enjoy significant capabilities; however, it does deliver a serious message. "The missile will allow the resistance fighters to perform attacks miles away from the target, which is safer for them. "Also, the video shows that they depended on domestic capabilities, which implies the possibility of further enhancement to the missile and the launching technique. "Basically, if they did this, that means they will manufacture a launching battery soon."
A 6:48 minute video depicting the manufacture the rocket and its launch was issued on Tuesday, October 31, 2006. The rocket itself has painted on its exterior the name “Abeer,” written in both Arabic and English. A message with the clip indicates that this weapon is named for Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year old Iraqi girl who was raped and killed by American soldiers in Mahmoudiya in March 2006.


Blair asks Syria for cooperation in Iraq

Region, Security
Tony Blair is pressing Syria to help quell sectarian bloodshed in Iraq. The Prime Minister sent his senior foreign policy adviser to meet the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, for talks aimed at gaining the country's co-operation, the British embassy in Damascus confirmed. He sent Nigel Sheinwald on the announced visit on Monday. The move comes as the United States and Britain seek ways to reduce the killing. Damascus is said to have influence with the insurgents. Downing Street rejected suggestions the overture was part of an effort by the United States and Britain aimed at pressing Iraq's neighbours to assist with security duties, allowing coalition troops to withdraw.
The US and Iraq accuse Syria of giving support to the insurgency, principally by not doing enough to stop would-be fighters from crossing from Syria into Iraq. A number of key members of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime also took refuge in Syria after his overthrow. Syria rejects allegations that it is backing the insurgency, saying US and Iraqi government forces fail to police the long Syrian-Iraqi border. The talks come as the Syrian regime is being snubbed not only by the West but by traditional Arab allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.


New political party to be formed

Abd al-Sattar al-Jumayli, secretary-general of the Nasirite Vanguard Socialist Party, told Amman-based "Al-Ghadd" that Iraqi pan-Arab, Nasirist, national, and Islamic forces will soon announce the formation of a new political front, the daily reported on October 31. Al-Jumayli said the front will be formed in light of the progress made during talks between members of the resistance and Iraqi and U.S. officials in Amman, Jordan, this week. Members of the front believe in "the Arabism and independence of Iraq, reject sectarianism and ethnic distribution, and support the unity of Iraq's territory and people," he added. The daily quoted sources as saying the front is backed by the Islamic Army in Iraq and other resistance groups. "Al-Ghadd" quoted Islamic Army leader Abd al-Rahman al-Ansari as telling Iraq's government-sponsored "Al-Sabah" that 12 armed groups took part in talks with the United States in Amman this week.


Final International Compact with Iraq meeting held

Representatives from 14 countries and seven international organizations attended the fifth and final preparatory meeting for the International Compact with Iraq in Kuwait on October 31, KUNA reported the same day. The compact aims to raise support for the rebuilding of Iraq among the international community and multilateral organizations, with participating members pledging to provide Iraq with financial, technical, and political support. The meeting was hosted by Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Muhammad Sabah al-Salim al-Sabah. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih and UN special representative to Iraq Ashraf Qazi attended the one-day session. The formal adoption of the compact is expected to be held in the next six weeks, according to the meeting's final communique. The preparatory group includes representatives from the United Nations, United States, United Kingdom, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, as well as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, European Union, Arab Development Fund, and Islamic Development Bank.


Iran, Iraq discuss bilateral ties

Region, Security, Politics
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari met with Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi-Qomi in Baghdad on October 31, according to a ministry press release. The diplomats discussed the political and security situation in Iraq and the need to strengthen bilateral relations, as well as the prospects for a normalization of Syrian-Iraqi relations. Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Mu'allim, is expected to visit Baghdad in November, according to the press release.


Iran, U.S. to hold talks on Iraq

Region, Security
During a visit to the United Kingdom, former Iranian President (1997-2005) Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami said the "ground is prepared" for his country and the United States to hold direct talks about Iraq, AFP reported, citing the U.K.'s Channel 4. Khatami said such talks could take place under the auspices of the United Nations. Washington called for direct talks on Iraqi affairs in October 2005, and Tehran initially agreed to this in March before Iranian officials subsequently said there is no need to hold the talks. Khatami went on to say that he doubts Iran is militarily active in Iraq. "The security of Iraq is quite important to us, because anything that would contribute to security in Iraq or add to the violence among the Shi'a and Sunnis and instability, the first one that would lose would be Iran, of course," he added.


Iraqi politicians argue over removal of U.S. roadblocks

Security, Politics
Shi'ite and Sunni leaders argued on Wednesday about a government order lifting U.S. checkpoints around a Baghdad militia stronghold as figures showed more than 40 Iraqi civilians died on average each day in October. American troops ended roadblocks around the Shi'ite slum district of Sadr City after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered them out. The move followed public friction with Washington before elections in which President George W. Bush's Republicans risk losing control of Congress. Bush said the decision to lift the roadblocks was made with Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, in the room.
After the roadblocks were lifted, backers of anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr celebrated in Sadr City, bastion of his Mehdi Army. An aide hailed the end of a "barbaric siege" begun to help find a kidnapped American soldier possibly being held by militiamen.
Iraq's Sunni vice president condemned the move. The once-dominant Sunni minority blames sectarian death squad violence on the Mehdi Army.

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