Saturday, November 11, 2006


U.K. forces: Iran supplying weapons to insurgency

Iran is sustaining the insurgency against British and American forces in Iraq by supplying terrorists with weapons and cash, senior military figures have claimed. Members of the 1st Queen’s Dragoon Guards on a ‘rural patrol’ in Teeb Valley, Maysan Province. British forces are enduring daily bombardments of mortar bombs and rockets at their bases in Basra. The weapons are believed to be sponsored, funded and smuggled from Iran whose border is just over 10 miles from the southern Iraq capital.
Military sources have disclosed that there is "very, very strong intelligence" that elements inside Iran have continued to fund and support the gun-running. There is still no "concrete evidence", in part, it is claimed, because Iranian weapons are designed to be untraceable. In Basra, Iranian trucks could be seen going through customs with little hindrance from the Department of Border Enforcement.
Lt Col Simon Browne, the commanding officer of 2 Bn The Royal Anglians, who finished their tour of Iraq this week, said: "I'm sure there is outside influence here and it is from Iran. "It is clear the insurgents are getting resupply from somewhere. I would believe it comes from Iran, or at least comes from Iranian sources." While hundreds of rounds have landed on his troops, it would be nearly impossible to definitively prove that they had been manufactured in Iran because the country's arms industry has been "past masters" at hiding its fingerprints on weapons, according to an arms source who has connections with Teheran.
To try to prevent the influx of weapons, the British have put out long-range patrols along the 300-mile border in Maysan province in an attempt to catch smugglers. But the porous border, which includes thousands of miles of waterways where the Marsh Arabs live, has yet to yield a weapons cache that would point the finger at Iran's mullahs. Senior military commanders said they would not be surprised if Iran wanted to influence Iraq as it is a predominantly Shia state with strong ties to the new Baghdad government. American generals are particularly keen to stop the smuggling, which they say is responsible for providing insurgents with infrared triggers and new explosives that are capable of penetrating thick armour.


Blair to push U.S. for Iran, Syria talks

International politics, Security
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is to push the US administration next week to begin talks with Syria and Iran as a way of breaking the deadlock in Iraq and the Middle East, The Guardian said Saturday. Blair will give evidence via videolink next week to the bipartisan committee headed by the former US secretary of state James Baker, which is seen as the means through which President George W. Bush could change course on Iraq. The newspaper, citing unnamed British officials, said Blair will not call for the withdrawal of coalition troops, but is persuaded that Bush is open to a change of strategy in Iraq, which is gripped by spiralling violence. The same sources forecast that the Baker panel will call for an acceleration of the "Iraq-isation" of the police and army as well as advocate greater political co-operation within Iraq.
The Guardian said British officials believe that the White House is "open to the principle" of dialogue with Syria, while new Defence Secretary Robert Gates -- a member of the panel -- is persuaded of re-opening contacts with Iran. Earlier this month, Blair sent his most senior foreign policy advisor, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, to Damascus, to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other senior figures. Blair's official spokesman said London hoped Syria would play a "constructive role" in the push for peace in the wider region and cease its support for radical groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah. Neither Syria nor Iran wanted to see the break-up of Iraq nor the spread of sectarian violence, he added.


Interior minister offers ransom for arrest of insurgents

Security, Insurgency, Politics
Interior minister, Mr. Jawad Al-Bolani, decided to grant three million Iraqi Dinars (US$ 2,000) to any person who can arrest a terrorist group which has carried out an operation against Iraqi civilians. The decision had been issued during the minister's meeting with some interior ministry officials and officers of the national police. The assistant of the interior minister under-secretary, General Ahmad Kalaf Al-Jobori, will hold an expanded meeting with Iraqi army and police leaders and the Anbar deliverance council to discuss means of supporting the security forces and the civilians in their battle against terrorism.
COMMENT: It appears there is some development politically in tackling the worsening security situation if the Interior Ministry is to hold talks with the Iraqi army and police leaders and tribal heads to create a stronger support network. The question is whether they will be able to agree, and if they achieve that, if and how long it takes them to implement a plan. COMMENT ENDS.


Anbar tribes build police station

Tribal, Insurgency
The Tribal Forces of Saving Anbar Council have taken steps to open a police station in Ramadi. An authorized source said that the station will be opened after tribes joining the council to save that province from terrorists and followers of al-Qaeda. An old police station building has been chosen as the location following reconstruction. All the tribes of the province have joined the council to restore peace and order in it.
COMMENT: It is a positive sign if the Anbar tribes have united against the insurgents as there has been sporadic inter-tribal fighting for a while. United, the tribes have a lot of strength and power and may be the only hope for Al-Anbar. However, one cannot overlook the possibility of the tribes falling out again and the risk of insurgent elements breaking the fragile unity. COMMENT ENDS.


Trade show opens in Sulaymaniyah

The Kurdistan International Fair held by the Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce opened in Sulaymaniyah city under the motto "The current and future dimensions of the investment in Kurdistan region and Iraq." The Chamber held a conference on Nov 10, at the family al-Qassar Club in Sulaymaniyah, atteneded by the Head of the investment Board in Kurdistan, Mr. Harish Mohram, Dana Ahmed Majeed the governor of Sulaymaniyah, a number of parties and governmental officials, and representatives of the companies participating in the fair.


Al-Qaeda in Iraq: 12,000 fighters mobilised

A 22:24 minute audio speech attributed to the Emir of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, and titled: “There is No Judgment, but that of Allah,” was issued by the Ministry of Information of the Islamic State of Iraq on Friday, November 10, 2006. Within his message, Muhajir speaks in the regard of recent events, including the establishment of the Islamic State, American elections in which the Democratic Party gained power within Congress, and the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as the U.S. Secretary of Defense. These events, he believes, are portents of the victory of the Mujahideen, but on this he does not dwell. Rather, he speaks at greater length to the Mujahideen, specifically calling for the first time to those in Ansar al-Sunnah, the Islamic Army in Iraq, and the Mujahideen Army for their unity with the Islamic State, and continuity of jihad until they grab hold of the White House.
The subject of unity pervades the remainder of Abu Hamza al-Muhajir’s speech, as he himself makes a bid to foster agreement amongst the Mujahideen by pledging loyalty to the Emir of the Believers, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. All that had been established thus far by al-Qaeda in Iraq and its 12,000 Mujahideen are assigned to the direct orders of al-Baghdadi, including an additional 10,000 Mujahideen who await financial support before engaging in jihad. He also calls upon Muslims in enemy security forces to repent, indicating those under the regime of King Abdullah II of Jordan, and makes overtures to other Iraqi insurgency groups to join under one banner.


U.S. eyeing possible Iraq exit by 2008

U.S., Security, Politics
The United States won't rush to quit Iraq in the wake of Tuesday's mid-term elections, but it is possible Washington may soon adopt a new strategy of "phased troop withdrawals" leading to an exit before the 2008 presidential elections. Robert Gates, the former CIA director, who was selected on Wednesday to succeed Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defence, discussed just such a scenario 18 months ago during a seminar at the Panetta Institute at California State University in Monterey.
During a round-table discussion with Leon Panetta, chief of staff to former President Bill Clinton, and Sandy Berger, former national security advisor, Mr. Gates expressed his hope for a relatively rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops. "We all hope that it will be quick," he said. "That in a year or two, this government in Iraq will be secure enough that they will be able to invite us to leave and we can do so, leaving behind us a government that can survive and that will be very different from what preceded it."
But Mr. Gates qualified his comments, noting it sometimes takes time to accomplish your goals.
Yesterday, during a speech in London, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett warned against a precipitous withdrawal, saying there is a risk violence could escalate dramatically. "We are at a critical junction in which the fate of that country hangs in the balance," she said. "There is a very real risk of even greater instability and bloodshed than we've already seen."
In the meantime, hopes for a shift in U.S. policy hang on the bipartisan Iraq Study Group set up last year under the leadership of former U.S. secretary of state James Baker. Mr. Gates was an advisor to Mr. Baker's group and spent the last six months helping draw up recommendations that are expected to focus on some sort of phased withdrawal of U.S. troops, a regional peace conference with Iraq's neighbours, including Iran and Syria, and a form of federalism that carves Iraq up along sectarian lines.


Mortars becoming the weapon of choice

Mortars are quickly becoming the weapon of choice as Sunnis and Shiites fight it out in Baghdad. As the physical separation between Sunni and Shiite grows, the mortars cut that gap, allowing sectarian fighters to fire into a district from a distance. Mortars can be quickly pulled from the trunk of a car and fired over several miles, causing death and destruction without the dangers of close-quarters combat or the sacrifice of a suicide bomber.
Across the Tigris River, in the Kazimiyah neighborhood - site of the most important Shiite shrine in Baghdad - retaliatory mortar rounds have struck daily. Other Shiite strongholds in eastern Baghdad, the Shaab neighborhood and Sadr City, are regularly bombarded as is the dangerous Sunni stronghold of Dora, in south Baghdad. Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdel-Karim Khalaf - a Shiite as is his boss, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani - sought to blame the mortar campaign solely on Sunni insurgents, claiming it was the work of Saddam Hussein loyalists and extremists of al-Qaida in Iraq. Sunnis in Azamiyah blame the Shiites.
Khaled al-Waleed said mortar attacks on the neighborhood started after Shiite militias were pushed back in recent bids to invade the district. He claimed that the mortars falling on the neighborhood are fired from the Shiite neighborhoods of Oteifiyah, Qahira and Ur. The exchange of mortar fire began in earnest this month when four mortar rounds poured down near Azamiyah's Abu Hanifa Mosque, killing at least five people. The next day three more people were killed in rocket and mortar attacks in the same neighborhood. Two other civilians were killed by mortars in Dora.
Mortars also fell on both Sunni Azamiyah and Shiite Kazimiyah over the following days. The Sunni-operated Baghdad Television urged the Shiite-dominated government to intervene. On Tuesday, in apparent retaliation for mortar attacks on Sunni areas, a suicide bomber struck a coffee shop in Kazimiyah, killing 21 people and wounding 25. The next day, a pair of mortar rounds slammed into a field in the Shiite district of Sadr City, killing eight soccer players and fans. Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared Wednesday night that both neighborhoods were being targeted by "Saddamist" and Sunni extremists firing from Taji, 10 miles north of the capital.


Some insurgent groups accept Saddam verdict

Insurgency, Saddam Hussein
A leading Iraqi insurgent figure said on November 9 that a collective of four insurgent groups has accepted the death sentence handed down by the Iraqi Special Tribunal to former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, dpa reported the same day. Abd al-Rahman al-Ansari said four groups -- including the Islamic Army in Iraq and Muhammad's -- do not object to the execution of Hussein. However, he said, "those who have committed and are still committing crimes against the people of Iraq must be punished." Al-Ansari also demanded that all cases of murder, torture, and forced transfers of Iraqis by multinational forces be investigated, and he called on Iraqis to reject sectarian violence in order to expedite the withdrawal of occupation forces.

Friday, November 10, 2006


First European airline launches scheduled flights to Arbil

Austrian Airlines will start regular flights to the northern Iraqi town of Arbil as of December 11, Austria's national carrier said in a statement on Thursday. Flights to Arbil, Iraq's fourth largest city with one million inhabitants are scheduled twice a week, Monday and Friday. Austrian, the first European airline to launch scheduled flights to Iraq regards the Kurdish city as a "safe gate" into the country. The fast-growing city was close to both the Turkish and Iranian borders, and provided easy access to Mosul, Kirkuk and other cities in the oil-rich region, Austrian Airlines said. Austrian Airlines had announced plans for flights to Arbil in January, but cancelled these plans again after just one month. Austrian Airlines regards this new destination as another "milestone" in its company focus on Eastern Europe and the Middle and Far East, Josef Burger, a member of the airline's board, said in a statement.


Who is the Mahdi army?

Security, Politics, Analysis
Whatever policy adjustments U.S. President George W. Bush may make in Iraq, stopping sectarian death squads that kill hundreds of people a week is likely to remain central to Washington's support for the Iraqi government. Yet senior figures in that government believe it may already be too late for the political leadership to curb one of the biggest of the Shi'ite Islamist militias, the Mehdi Army -- largely because it has fragmented and spun out of the control of its notional leader, young cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. "We have a problem with the Mehdi Army. That is why Moqtada is trying to clean it out," Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told Reuters two weeks ago as he defended his ally's efforts to hold rogue warlords to account and explained why he was resisting U.S. pressure to crack down more heavily on Sadr's followers. "But," Maliki conceded, "I think he's started late."
Maliki, who owed his appointment as prime minister to Sadr's support, has told Washington that Sunni insurgents are the main threat and Shi'ite militias can be reined in by their leaders. But one senior Shi'ite politician, speaking privately, said some elements were beyond them: "I doubt Moqtada can succeed because it's too late now. I'm not sure he's in control." He described some nominal Mehdi Army factions as criminal warlords and some as agents of Iran or Syria, a charge endorsed by sources close to Sadr, as well as U.S. officials.
Sadr has publicly forsworn violence against fellow Iraqis and said he wants nothing to do with gunmen operating in his name who roam Baghdad, targeting minority Sunnis, driving some from their homes in a form of ethnic cleansing and trying to impose harsh interpretations of Islamic law on Shi'ite areas. He also dissociated himself from fighting between Mehdi Army groups in southern Iraq and rival Shi'ites, which include the Badr movement as well as uniformed police and army units, and he has demanded the arrest of dozens of nominal followers.
A source in the upper reaches of Sadr's political movement said: "The people he wants to get out are the criminals ... They have given the Mehdi Army and the Sadr movement a bad name." The Sadrist source insisted: "There are no splits among the Mehdi Army or the Sadrists. There is only a minority, a very small minority, who are influenced by countries like Syria and Iran. But they do not represent the Mehdi Army." "The word Mehdi Army for us now is confusing. Who is the Mehdi Army?" Maliki said. "Some Sunnis now even operate under the name of Mehdi Army, dressing in black, and there are Baathists doing it too, and foreign intelligence agents." "There are three parts to the Mehdi Army," a senior Shi'ite said. "One is run by Syria under the guise of Arab nationalism, one is run by Iran, and then there are also the criminals." U.S. commanders and intelligence officers in Iraq say they are unsure how far Sadr is in control and how far his public repudiation of sectarian killings is genuine.


Reconstruction to begin in Basra

Head of the Reconstruction and Development Committee in the City Council of Basra, said last Monday, that the Council approved the allocation of 243 projects to local firms and contractors to begin implementation. Ghali Najim, head of the Committee, said in a statement that "the total cost of the allocated projects is 164 billion Iraqi dinars (US$ 112 mn) and all of them are within the budget of developing regions for the year 2006."
Najim explained that "the allocated projects cover the sectors of: water, sanitation, higher education, health, roads and bridges, education, municipal, water resources and communications, in addition to 14 projects in the field of electricity." He pointed out that there are other projects will be transferred after being studied by the supervisory commission. The budget allocated by the Iraqi government to the province of Basra (southern Iraq) within the regions' budget of this year was about 258 billion Iraqi dinars (US$ 176 mn) to implement service projects in the province.


Iraqi media round-up

Ba'ath Party Warning Over Saddam Sentence
(Azzaman) The banned Ba'ath Party in Iraqi threatened that it would attack the Green Zone in Baghdad if the death sentence against ousted president Saddam Husein was implemented. The Ba'ath party said that if Saddam was executed, it would reject all negotiations - and instead focus on supporting the "resistance". The party added that it would do its best to attack the Green Zone and destroy the American embassy. Iraqi officials have not responded to the statement. (London-based Azzaman is issued daily by Saad al-Bazaz.)

Turkey Deports Iraqi Kurds
(Al-Sabah Al-Jadeed) A security source in the border town of Zakho, in northern Duhok province, said that Turkey deported 115 people from Iraqi Kurdistan who had entered the country illegally. The were handed over to Iraqi Kurdish officials at the Ibraheem Khaleel border point. The illegal immigrants were mostly from Sulaimaniyah, Erbil and Duhok provinces and had paid smugglers around four to seven thousand US dollars to take them to Europe. The Turkish authorities returned 120 illegal immigrants to Iraqi Kurdistan on October 20. Iraqi Kurdish authorities are looking to tighten border security. According to border police in Zakho, 600 people have been arrested trying to enter Turkey illegally. Most of those who try to leave Iraqi Kurdistan are between 20 to30 years old. (Al-Sabah al-Jadeed is an independent daily paper.)

Iraqi Foreign Minister Criticises Neighbours
(Asharq al-Awsat) Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari has accsued a number of neighbouring countries of interfering in Iraqi affairs. Zebari warned that his country has options to consider in dealing with these countries. This came in a detailed statement to Asharq al-Awsat in Paris where he was accompanying Iraqi president Jalal Talabani on an official visit. (London-based Asharq al-Awsat, a pro-Saudi independent paper, is issued daily.)
Hundreds of Arab doctors settle in Iraqi Kurdish City
(Hawlati) Al-Sulaymaniyah Health Department Director Dr. Shirko Abdullah said on November 8 that approximately 150 Arab doctors have fled southern and central Iraq due to the poor security situation and resettled in Al-Sulaymaniyah Governorate since the fall of the former regime in March 2003. The Kurdish regional government's Human Rights Ministry and the UN have said that approximately 50,000 people have fled to Al-Sulaymaniyah to escape violence elsewhere since 2003. Abdullah said that local officials have assisted the doctors by helping them set up clinics and finding them positions at public hospitals. (Hawlati is a Kurdish daily newspaper).
Suspected terrorists arrested in northern Iraq
(Kurdistani Nuwe) Brigadier General Sarhad Qadir, the police chief of the Kirkuk municipality, said on November 8 that 21 suspected terrorists were arrested in the village of Yarimja in southern Kirkuk. He also said that police seized four vehicles and seized 17 AK-47s and a cache of explosives. In a separate incident, Kurdish officials said security forces have arrested five people suspected of having links to Al-Qaeda and the Thawrat Al-Ishrin extremist group.


Violence continues as Rumsfeld resigns

Three U.S. soldiers were killed and dozens of Iraqi civilians were victims of bombs, sectarian gunmen and mortars over the past 24 hours. On Thursday in Baghdad alone, six car bombs and four roadside bombs killed 18 people and wounded dozens more, and police found the bodies of 26 people shot dead, some of them tortured. Mortars killed another three and wounded 30. The attacks took place in markets in Baghdad's Shia neighbourhood. The first was a car bomb in Qahira district which killed seven people, injured 27 and destroyed seven cars. In another attack, nine people were killed and 27 injured when a bomber drove an explosives-rigged vehicle into crowds gathered in a commercial complex in the centre of Baghdad. Baghdad was under a regular curfew on Friday to avoid violence on the Muslim day of prayer.
The deaths came the day after Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, resigned. Many Iraqis cheered his departure blaming him for policy failures and scandals they say spawned the daily sectarian violence that has destroyed their nation more than three years after the US invasion. Hamid al-Mutlaq, a Sunni politician and senior leader of the Sunni Arab National Dialogue Front, hailed Rumsfeld's departure as evidence of the downfall of those who created an "evil project" in Iraq.
More than 1,200 Iraqis were killed in October. With at least 66 killed on Wednesday alone, the death toll looks likely to exceed that in November. As a result, the United Nations has increased its daily death toll estimate to 100 a day. Dr Abdul-Razaq al-Obaidi, a director of Baghdad's main mortuary, said that up to 60 bodies were arriving each day. Many have gone unclaimed and are buried in a public cemetery after photographs are taken for later identification.


Mixed Iraqi reaction on possible U.S. troop reduction

An expected phased reduction in US troops in Iraq after the resignation of US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld left Iraqis split yesterday on whether a withdrawal would be in their best interest. While a majority of Iraqis want to see the departure of Washington's 150,000 troops, according to a recent poll, many fear an early pullout would worsen an already bleak situation as rival groups may vie for control and violence escalates.
Abu Abdullah, a member of the Sunni minority from the northern city of Mosul, said his sect, fighting in an anti-US rebellion, needs US protection from Shiite militants. US officials say violence between the country's rival Shiite and Sunni sects has become more of a threat to Iraq's stability than the Sunni insurgency in central Iraq. Others argue that the presence of US troops has not stopped daily killings and their absence may reduce violence. Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has openly criticised the US military for not providing him more say over his own forces. He has resisted US and Sunni pressure to disarm Shiite militias linked to parties in his coalition while insisting on the need to focus fighting against Saddam Hussain's Sunni Baath supporters and Sunni Al Qaida militants.
COMMENT: A U.S. troop withdrawal would be detrimental at this moment in time because the Iraqi military is not complete or ready, nor does it have the resources of the U.S. military. If the U.S. troops were to withdraw to bases and concentrate on support - be less in the public eye - that might ease the tensions caused by their presence. While there are undoubtably Shias and Sunnis who would welcome a U.S. departure, a strong united leadership needs to be in place as does an organised security force, both of which are unlikley to happen in the near furture. COMMENT ENDS.


BAE wins $7.8 mn Iraq contract

BAE Systems has received a $7.8 million Foreign Military Sales contract modification to manufacture 20 additional Iraqi Light Armored Vehicles (ILAVs) from the U.S. Army Tank-automotive and Armaments Command. The total value of the indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract could reach $445.4 million and 1,050 vehicles, if all options are exercised. Work on the contract is ongoing with deliveries scheduled to continue through May 2007. The first ILAVs were delivered to Iraq 90 days after the contract was awarded.


Mubarak warns against Saddam's execution

Saddam Hussein
Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, has become the first Arab leader to warn against carrying out the execution of Saddam Hussein. Mubarak was quoted as telling editors of state-run Egyptian newspapers on Thursday that hanging the former Iraqi leader would lead to more sectarian strife in Iraq. He said: "Carrying out this verdict will explode violence like waterfalls in Iraq. "The verdict will transform [Iraq] into blood pools and lead to a deepening of the sectarian and ethnic conflicts."
The strong comment by Mubarak, a regional heavyweight and a top US ally, came amid mixed reactions among Arabs on Saddam's death sentence. Leaders in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, another regional powerhouse and US ally, have remained largely quiet about Saddam since his sentencing. The presidents of Israel, Libya and Syria have also avoided commenting on the verdict. Iran and Kuwait have supported it.


150,000 Iraqis killed in the war

Iraq's health minister estimated 150,000 civilians have been killed in the war, about three times previously accepted estimates. Previous estimates of Iraq deaths held that 45,000 - 50,000 have been killed in the nearly 44-month-old conflict, according to partial figures from Iraqi institutions and media reports. No official count has ever been available. Health Minister Ali al-Shemari gave his new estimate of 150,000 to reporters during a visit to Vienna, Austria. He later told The Associated Press that he based the figure on an estimate of 100 bodies per day brought to morgues and hospitals, though such a calculation would come out closer to 130,000 in total.
"It is an estimate," al-Shemari said. He blamed Sunni insurgents, Wahhabis - Sunni religious extremists - and criminal gangs for the deaths. Hassan Salem, of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or SCIRI, said the 150,000 figure included civilians, police and the bodies of people who were abducted, later found dead and collected at morgues run by the Health Ministry. SCIRI is Iraq's largest Shiite political organization and holds the largest number of seats in parliament.
COMMENT: All figures released of Iraqi civilian deaths can only be estimates. It is probable that the figure is higher as many people do not take bodies to hospitals or morgues because they are too frightened of the security risks. COMMENT ENDS.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Maliki refuses to disband militias

Politics, Security
In the final days before Tuesday's midterm election, President Bush dispatched two top officials to Iraq in a bid to pressure al-Maliki to quickly disband Shiite militia groups and death squads that have killed thousands of Sunni Muslims. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte was rebuffed by al-Maliki, however, when he demanded the Iraqi leader disband militias and wipe out death squads this year. A top aide to al-Maliki, who refused to allow use of his name because of the sensitive nature of the information, told The Associated Press the prime minister flatly refused and said the task could not be taken up until next year.
Al-Maliki's refusal to act against the militias has caused deepening anger among Sunni politicians who took enormous risks in joining the political process. Sunni lawmaker Salim Abdullah said the Iraqi Accordance Front bloc had sent messages to other political groups warning that if there is no balance and the militias are not dissolved "we will withdraw from the government. We are under political pressure, and if these demands are not met we will abandon politics," Abdullah said. "And this will leave us with only one alternative, which is carrying arms, and then it will be civil war. And we are against the civil war."
In an interview with the BBC, al-Maliki strongly denied any suggestion that he favoured Shia militia groups, but made it clear that he did not consider the Mehdi Army, a major Shia military grouping, to be a militia. The leaders of the Mehdi Army are his political allies. Mr Maliki gave no sign that he was planning any important concessions to the Sunni population, though his officials have said that the American-imposed ban on former Baathists taking official positions will be lifted.


Hit list of key Shia figures resurfaces

Security, Politics
Armed groups in Iraq aim to assassinate key Shiite political and religious figures, sources have said. "We had expected the armed groups to intensify their activities by assassinating prominent political figures, since the Iraqi parliament approved the federal law and after the death sentence verdict for Saddam Hussain. This is not new to us, but we do believe that efforts to achieve these assassinations have reached high levels of concentration and targeting" said Hadi Al Amiri, Chairman of the Badr Organisation (the disintegrated military wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq). Some Iraqi newspapers have warned that armed groups may plan to assassinate Al Hakim to wipe out the South and Middle Federal Province plan in the Iraqi Shiite south. Measures to confront any plan to assassinate political and religious figures, were taken in Najaf.
COMMENT: This was reported on Oct. 20: The disbanded Iraqi Ba'th Party issued, on September 5, 2006, a hit list of Iraqi political, judicial and military figures, referred to as criminals, collaborators and renegades, targeted for punishment (assassination). The document, shaped as a flyer was issued by the Dhe Qar Directorate of Operation "Special Operations," and addressed to the commanders of the special units, informing them that the order was approved by the secretary-general of the party and the acting commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The reference is to Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who was Saddam Hussein's vice president and remains on the most wanted list in Iraq, with a reward of $20 million for his capture. Fifty names are listed on the original hit list of those targeted for assassination, including President Talabani, ex-PM Iyad Allawi, KRG President Barzani, VP of Iraq and head of the Islamic Party Tariq al-Hashemi and high-ranking judges and prosecutors in Saddam's trial. COMMENT ENDS.


Sunnis threaten to abandon political process

The main Sunni bloc in Iraq's Parliament threatened Wednesday to abandon the political process and take up arms if the government continues to ignore its calls to dismantle militias. Salim Abdullah, spokesman for the National Accordance Front, a bloc of three Sunni parties holding 44 seats in Parliament, told AFP his group had delivered a message to the government two weeks ago about dissolving the militias. A number of Sunni politicians reiterated Abdullah's concern.
COMMENT: This threat isn't new and was also delivered on Oct. 10 following the death of the brother of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, the country's most prominent Sunni Arab politician and member of the National Accordance Front. "The clock is starting to strike after today's events," Khalaf al-Alayan, a Sunni parliament member told The Associated Press. "They (Shiite militias) consider Sunnis terrorists who must be killed. If the zero hour is coming, we will take the decisions needed to defend ourselves." COMMENT ENDS.


New political party rumoured

Al-Sharq al-Awsat has learned from informed sources that a group of politicians working in the government, men of religion, and political organizations have agreed to hold a unified conference to establish an Iraqi national gathering away from other [political] groupings. The conference, the sources noted, would undertake the task of solving the aggravating Iraqi problems and putting an end to the US interference in decision-making.
The sources said that the Supporters of the [Islamic] Call Organization in Iraq [Munazzamat Ansar al-Da'wah Fil Iraq] has launched extensive efforts and received the consent of many personalities to join. These include Parliament Speaker Mahmud al-Mashhadani; members of the Iraqi List, chiefly Rida al-Basri; and prominent figures from the Al-Sadr Movement, Al-Fadilah [Virtue] Party, and other parties. The Supporters of the Islamic Call Organization yesterday issued a statement, in which it said that this grouping "will be detached from the [prevailing] inclinations and will adopt an Iraqi solution to the aggravating problems with national unity as its basis so that the solution will not be a US solution, which would dissipate everything to safeguard its [US] interests, as is clear from the progress of events".
Abbas al-Bayyati, an Iraqi Parliament member representing the Unified Iraqi [Coalition] list, told Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that the upcoming reconciliation conference does not exclude any party or movement, involved or not involved in the political process, through an emphasis on freedom, democracy, and equality. He added that the [Arab Socialist] Ba'th Party, as an organization and a political front, "is constitutionally banned; however, persons who had earlier served in the party and are now using other political fronts or acting on their own are concerned with participation".
COMMENT: This could be a new development to rival a planned new party announced on Nov. 2 or it may be the same expanded. Based on the names mentioned, this party would have Shia (al-Sadr, Al-Fadilah), secular (Iraqi List) and Sunni (Mahmud al-Mashhadani - allegedly has affiliations to Sunni insurgent groups Ansar al-Islam and Jaish Ansar al-Sunna) elements. The announcement made on Nov. 2 by the Nasirite Vanguard Socialist Party said that 'Iraqi pan-Arab, Nasirist, national, and Islamic forces will soon announce the formation of a new political front' whose members believe in "the Arabism and independence of Iraq, reject sectarianism and ethnic distribution, and support the unity of Iraq's territory and people,". The front is allegedly backed by the Islamic Army in Iraq and other resistance groups. So the ideologies are the same. The three elements mentioned have at least one thing in common, they want a united Iraq. COMMENT ENDS.


Human Rights Group: unabated assassinations of Baathists

Security, Politics
Assassinating former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party is going on unabated particularly in southern Iraq, according to an independent group monitoring human rights in Iraq. “The number of Baathists killed since the start of 2006 has reached 1,556 people and none of the cases has been investigated,” the group, Freedom Monitoring Commission, said in a statement faxed to Azzaman. It said the killings took place in southern Iraq, and particularly in the cities of Nasiriya, Diwaniya, Amara, Basra, Samawa, Kut, Hilla, Karbala, Najafa and Hindiya.
There were more than one million full-fledged members of the Baath party and millions of supporters. Displaying public loyalty and registering as party members or supporters was the only way to get a government job in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Follwoing the U.S. invasion, Baathists and their families in many places in Iraq were evicted from their homes and many were kidnapped or killed.
The process called De-Baathification has been fiercely implemented by the successive post-invasion governments. And the militias belonging to political factions some of them part of the current ruling coalition have taken the law into their hands through their death squads which pick the Baathists as their main targets. Many analysts blame the current chaos, violence and lawlessness in Iraq to U.S. decisions to scrap the whole structure of government that functioned under Saddam Hussein and which solely relied on Baathists.
The head of the so-called Supreme National council for De-Baathification, Ali al-Lamy, said early in the week that he was working on a plan to reinstate former Baathists in their positions. Many of the former Baath Party officials, particularly those who served in the armed forces and security organs, are from the Sunni minority, which now bears the brunt of resistance to U.S. occupation troops.


Fuel crisis in the north

Fuel is in such a short supply in northern Iraq that families are scrambling for branches of trees, bushes and dung to use for both cooking and heating. “The (fuel) crisis has aggravated recently,” declared Mohammed Zibari, head of Fuel Distribution Commission in northern Iraq, which includes six provinces Mosul and Kirkuk as well as the three Kurdish provinces of Arbil Sulaimaniya and Dahouk. Zibari blamed the crisis on interruption of imports, particularly from Syria and Turkey.
He did not say why the countries had stopped supplying northern Iraq with fuel. Last year Turkey suspended fuel exports as the Ministry of Oil stopped paying Turkish traders. The commission, in preparation for the cold winder months, had signed deals with both countries for the import of liquefied gas, kerosene and gasoline in quantities which Zeibari said would have met local consumption in the six provinces.
“The neighboring countries have halted supplies despite the contracts,” Zeibari said. Iraq’s fuel import bill is estimated at more than half a billion dollars a month and still the country faces a chronic shortage. Analysts say the Oil Ministry, which also handles fuel imports and distribution, is mired in corruption and there are reports of faked contracts and forged fuel distribution deals with local contractors.


State of emergency extended

Beset by rampant sectarian violence, Iraq's parliament voted Wednesday to extend the country's state of emergency for 30 more days, as at least 66 more Iraqis were killed or found dead. Lawmakers present for a closed-door meeting attended by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki voted unanimously to extend the emergency measures, said legislators Ammar Touama and Kamal al-Saidi.
The state of emergency has been renewed every month since it was first authorized in November 2004. It allows for a nighttime curfew and gives the government extra powers to make arrests without warrants and launch police and military operations. The measures are implemented in all areas of the country apart from the autonomous Kurdish region in the north.
COMMENT: An extended state of emergency is unlikely to reduce violence, it has made little difference in the past. With Iraqi security forces infiltrated by militias and extended powers given to those forces, little protection will be given to the people and sectarian violence will continue. COMMENT ENDS.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Anbar tribes thank Maliki, pledge support

Tribes, Politics
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has received a telegram of thanks from Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Reesha, the head of the Anbar conference on efforts performed by the government to support the province's tribes against terrorist and takfiris groups in addition to enlarging legislative and executive councils in the province. The telegram hailed the prime minister's efforts to support rebuilding the province and its security forces, vowing that Anbar tribes would be a great ally for defeating terrorists and restoring security and order.


Iranian forces gather on Kurdistan's border

Security, Kurdistan
Independent reports from Kurdistan reveal that Iran has accumulated substantial armed forces on the border with Kurdistan Regional Government. No further information is available at that time of receiving the reports. In the past Iran and Turkey have attempted to destabilise the only stable region of Iraq by accumulating armed forces on their border with southern Kurdistan. The usual pretext is to pursue the PKK forces.


Violence escalates after curfew is lifted

Four people died in early morning attacks on Wednesday as violence returned to Baghdad following the lifting of a curfew that had been imposed during the sentencing of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein. A mortar shell landed near the ministry of health, which is controlled by followers of radical Shia cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, killing three people and wounding five, a security source said. At nearly the same time, a car bomb exploded near the Nida mosque in the northern Sunni stronghold neighbourhood of Adhamiyah, killing one person. The attacks came just hours after a late night suicide bombing of a Shia cafe in north Baghdad Tuesday night that killed 17 people and wounded 20. The explosions mark the first major violence in the capital since the lifting of a two-day curfew imposed during the sentencing on Sunday of Saddam to death for crimes against humanity.


Saddam demonstrators killed

Iraqi police fired at thousands of demonstrators in Baqouba protesting the sentencing of former leader Saddam Hussein to death, killing 20 people and injuring many others. The demonstrators shouted slogans and raised banners condemning the sentence. Eyewitnesses said the demonstration was peaceful and the protesters did not carry any arms. A police statement said only two people were killed and six injured.
Demonstrations denouncing the sentence took place in several other Sunni Muslim-dominated cities. In Mosul, thousands of people went into the streets despite a government-imposed curfew. But there were no reports of casualties. However, residents say conditions in the restive city of Mosul remained tense. Mosul has been the scene of mounting violence with anti-U.S. rebels practically in control of several quarters during the day and most of the city at night.


Audit finds $22.4 mn missing

The audit of 15 noncompetitive contracts paid for by US government agencies with Iraqi oil money was unable to account for $22.4 million in funds, a UN-led watchdog said on Monday. The audit by KPMG, ordered by the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB), said that in some cases Iraq did not receive goods and there were "unreconciled payments". The report also said there was no evidence that steps were taken to fix previously reported problems with corruption. The contracts varied from paying for guards for oil pipelines to training Iraqi police and military to the purchase of vehicles and food.


Former VP orders Sunni fighters to stop attacks

Security, Insurgency, Politics
Former Iraqi vice president Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, now a fugitive with a $10 million bounty on his head, has ordered Sunni fighters loyal to the former president to cease operations within the past three days, said four officials in the Iraqi government and parliament, each in a position to hear about largely secret efforts to reach accord with members of the Sunni insurgency. The officials, who said they knew about the order independently because of their contacts with members of the insurgency, said the directive was issued through couriers sometime after Saddam was sentenced on Sunday to hang for crimes against humanity. The four answered questions from The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.
The reported al-Douri order coincided as well with talks currently taking place in Jordan between Americans and insurgent groups, including Baath Party officials, according to several of Iraq's Sunni lawmakers and government officials. One Sunni lawmaker said the Baathists told U.S. officials they realized they could not take back control of government but that the fighting could not stop without their agreement. The parliament member suggested that Baathists were trying to strike a deal for amnesty or leniency.
Last month U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the United States had enlisted help from Sunni Arab powerhouses such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates in a bid to bring insurgents to the table. In addition to the U.S. talks with insurgents and Baath Party members, the al-Maliki government has dispatched independent missions to Jordan, where meetings took place in Iraq's Embassy with the Baathists "to listen to their point of view," said a senior government official with close insurgent ties. He also demanded anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information. Washington also has been pressing Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, to agree to an amnesty for insurgents.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


U.S. ambassador to Iraq to leave at year's end

Diplomatic Corps
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, will leave at the end of the year and will be replaced by Ryan Crocker, who is currently Washington's ambassador to Pakistan, two senior aides to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki disclosed Nov. 6, citing a conversation U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte had with al-Maliki during a visit to Baghdad on Nov. 3.


Flash floods kill 18 in Irbil

Flash floods caused by heavy rain killed 18 people and injured 20 in northern Iraq, a provincial governor said Monday. The heavy rains began late Sunday, mainly in five villages in the Khalifan district in the Irbil province, Gov. Nawzat Hadi said. The floods destroyed nine bridge and several houses, he said. Nine of the dead were members of one family. Three of them were children. Heavy rain and thunderstorms hit different parts of Iraq in the past two days.


Sunni Islamist websites claim Iran - Al Qaeda link

Insurgency, Iran
In early October 2006, Sunni Islamist websites affiliated with the jihad groups in Iraq posted what they claimed was a top-secret Iranian document. The document, dated May 2001, indicates contacts between top Al-Qaeda figures and the highest echelons of the Iranian intelligence apparatus, which is part of the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Evidence of Iran/Al-Qaeda cooperation had already been allegedly exposed in 2003 by the daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and by Voice of America in interviews with an officer in Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Hamid Reza Zakeri, who defected to the West. The publication of the document at this time may be part of the mounting tension between Sunni Islamists and Shi'ites in Iraq.
The document posted on Sunni websites is signed by the head of Khamenei's intelligence apparatus, Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri. It includes statements by Khamenei regarding the importance of the Iranian and Muslim struggle against the U.S. and Israel, which "constitutes the primary goal" of the Iranian regime. It also mentions the need to tighten Iran's cooperation with "the fighters of Al-Qaeda and Hizbullah," but warns that utmost caution must be taken in maintaining ties with Al-Qaeda, since such ties, if revealed, could have "irreversible negative consequences" for Iran. The document further states that, on Khamenei's orders, all cooperation with Al-Qaeda will be overseen by his office and should be carried out only through Hizbullah Operations Officer 'Imad Mughniyah and Bin Laden's deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri.


90 per cent of Iraq's hospitals lack adequate resources

Infrastructure - Medical
Iraq's healthcare system is continuing to deteriorate as not enough qualified staff or equipment is available, according to the Iraqi Medical Association (IMA). "Doctors are facing serious challenges, further exacerbated by poor resources offered by the government. The medical system is getting worse every day and [even] with all the efforts made by the Ministry of Health, the problems are serious. Iraqis are dying due to a lack of proper medical assistance," said Farouk Najji, a clinician and senior member of IMA. According to the Ministry of Health, the US government has spent nearly US $1 billion on Iraq's healthcare system but more than $8 billion is required over the next four years to fund the current healthcare structure.
"The money invested in healthcare is not enough, especially with the increase in emergency requirements. The number of injured people increases every day and we have observed the appearance of diseases that were under control before, such as stress, cardiologic and intestinal diseases," said Barak Ahmed, public information officer at the Ministry of Health.
The IMA says 90 percent of the nearly 180 hospitals countrywide are lacking resources.
"We cannot save lives as long as there is a lack of essential supplies. Most of the time we have a shortage of intravenous fluids, oxygen bottles and there are not enough beds to cover requirements on a daily basis," said Dr Mudhafar Yehia, a clinician at Medical City Hospital in Baghdad. In the paediatric ward, the problem is even more serious as there aren't enough needles for intravenous fluid for diarrhoea treatment, said Yehia. Yehia said that at least 20 children were reported to have died in Baghdad since August because of a shortage of needles, but the number could be much higher in small cities or towns where supplies are even scarcer.
With escalating violence in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003, doctors are increasingly the victims of attacks and kidnappings for ransom by criminal gangs or by insurgents. As a result, doctors are fleeing Iraq. Najji from the IMA said that of the 34,000 Iraqi physicians registered prior to 2003, roughly half have fled the country, and about 2,000 have been killed.
COMMENT: This problem has been snowballing for a while as doctors have been kidnapped, murdered or fled the country. Militias such as the Mahdi army have taken over some hospitals resulting in Sunni patients being too afraid to come. Iraq had an excellent medical infrastructure but common diseases that were under control then will start to spiral out of control now and people will die not only due to violence, but also lack of medical resources. With all the displaced persons there is also a risk that common infectious diseases could become epidemics. COMMENT ENDS.


Baathists could be reinstated

Thousands of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party, purged after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, could return to public life under proposals being presented to parliament, a senior official said on Tuesday. Ali Faysal al-Lami, executive director of the De-Baathification Committee set up by the United States after Saddam's 2003 overthrow, said the committee will recommend allowing most former Baath party officals to return to work. About 1.5 million of Iraq's 27 million people belonged to the Baath party — formally known as the Baath Arab Socialist Party — when Saddam was ousted. Most said they joined for professional, not ideological, reasons. The proposals to be put to parliament will reduce the number of senior ex-Baathists excluded from public life from 30,000 to just 1,500 senior officials, he said. "We are going to deliver these proposals to parliament in a few days," Lami told Reuters. The move addresses long-standing demands of Saddam's fellow minority Sunni Arabs. Critics complained too many people were affected, including vital bureaucrats and many who joined the party from necessity rather than conviction.
Ahmed al-Alwani, a Sunni member of parliament from the Accordance List, said the original de-Baathification law had been used selectively, targeting Sunni Arabs far more than Shi'ites who had also been members of the Baath Party. Lami said that if parliament approved the draft amendment, all but the 1,500 most senior former Baath Party officials would be allowed either to return to their jobs or to take retirement. Reform of the de-Baathification Committee is among a series of "benchmarks" for progress in Iraq that the U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said last month Washington was hoping to see.
COMMENT: This appears to be an olive branch from the Shias and is something the Sunnis have requested for a long time in return for containing the insurgency. It is possible the Shias are finally bowing in to pressure on this issue as they fear their position may be weakened due to direct negotiations between the U.S. and the Sunnis which have recently been reported. However, it may not be as generous as it appears because currently it is only a draft law which will take months of negotiations and amendments before it is enforced. Also, we have not heard the Sunni reaction yet. COMMENT ENDS.


Baathists threaten Green Zone

Security, Politics, Legal
Iraq's disbanded Baath party threatened to attack the heavily-protected "Green Zone" in Baghdad if the death sentence is carried out against its leader Saddam Hussein, in an Internet statement. "If president Saddam Hussein is executed ... the party will reinforce its siege against the Green Zone," which houses Iraqi government offices and the US embassy, said the party's command on its official site. It vowed to "use all possible means to destroy embassies, as well as the headquarters of intelligence and treacherous organisations".
A top official in Baghdad said Monday that Iraqi leaders have agreed a draft law to allow former Baath members back into government jobs. Ali al-Lamy, head of the Supreme National Council for De-Baathification, said the proposed reform could reverse the sacking of more than a million former Baath party activists, mainly members of Iraq's Sunni minority.


Interior Ministry employees charged with torture

Iraq's Interior Ministry said Tuesday that it has charged 57 employees, including a police general, in the alleged torture of hundreds of detainees at a prison in eastern Baghdad. Police Brig. Abdel-Karim Khalaf said the charges marked the first time officers in Iraq's post-occupation police force had been charged with torture. Those charged included 19 officers, 20 noncommissioned officers and 17 patrolmen or civilian employees, he said. All have been removed from their jobs, Khalaf said. The names of the accused were being withheld.
Torture is considered widespread among the poorly trained police force, which has suffered heavy losses at the hands of Sunni insurgents, Shiite militiamen and criminal gangs. Khalaf said the torture had been recorded at a prison in eastern Baghdad called simply Site No. 4. He declined to give details about specific abuses. "The crime is the same regardless of the kind or form of the torture," Khalaf said.
Previously, discipline over such allegations mainly was limited to dismissal and transfers, despite evidence that many policemen on the Shiite-dominated force were abetting the work of sectarian death squads blamed for killing scores of Sunnis in revenge attacks after the bombing of a major Shiite shrine in February.
COMMENT: Site 4 is allegedly the same secret detention facility that was discovered in Jadiriya by U.S. forces; the same district of Baghdad that hosts the HQ of the SCIRI and its Badr militia, so it is feasible that many, if not most, of the officers in charge of that facility were members or affiliates of the SCIRI. It is interesting that they are being brought to justice, almost too good to be true - particularly as the militias have still not been disbanded as promised. It could be a gesture to appease the Americans and Sunnis as the Shias are becoming nervous about a U.S. - Sunni 'alliance' which would result in the Shias losing the amount of power they currently have. It could also be the result of yet another chasm between the Shias and is merely revenge. COMMENT ENDS.


Saddam back in court for second trial

Saddam Hussein
A subdued Saddam Hussein returned to court Tuesday for his genocide trial, two days after judges in another trial convicted him of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to hang. Saddam showed none of the bravado of two days ago, when he shouted "Long live the people and death to their enemies!" as another court sentenced him to the gallows. Instead, the ex-president sat in stony silence as Kurdish survivors told of being duped by promises of amnesty, only to watch their friends and family being shot by Iraqi government soldiers. Saddam complained respectfully to the judge that the witnesses were not giving incriminating testimony, and that they were not being adequately cross-examined.
The Anfal trial will continue while an appeal in the Dujail case is under way. The prosecution says about 180,000 Kurds, most of them civilians, were killed in the crackdown in 1987-88. On Monday, the chief prosecutor in the Dujail case said a nine-judge appeals panel was expected to rule on Saddam's guilty verdict and death sentence by the middle of January. That could set in motion a possible execution by mid-February.
Talabani said Monday that although he opposes capital punishment, his signature is not needed to carry out Saddam's death sentence. Talabani, a Kurd, has permanently authorized Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite, to sign on his behalf. Abdul-Mahdi has said he would sign Saddam's death warrant, meaning two of three signatures were assured. Al-Hashimi, the other vice president and a Sunni, gave his word that he also would sign a Saddam death sentence as part of the deal under which he got the job April 22, according to witnesses at the meeting, which was attended by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.


Curfew lifted, 59 bodies found

Baghdad's international airport reopened on Tuesday after a two-day curfew over the capital was lifted, airport spokesman Ahmed al-Mussawi said. The curfew, which took effect Saturday night in Baghdad and two neighboring provinces, largely prevented major violence following Sunday's sentencing of former dictator Saddam Hussein to death by hanging for crimes against humanity. Authorities lifted a ban on pedestrian traffic on Monday afternoon and raised a ban on automobiles Tuesday morning. Relentless sectarian killings also persisted despite the extraordinary security precautions. Fifty-nine bodies were discovered Sunday and Monday across Iraq, police said.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Saddam's defense team - judgement illegitimate

Saddam Hussain
A member of Saddam Hussain's defence team said the death sentence against the former Iraqi leader was "illegitimate" and accused the United States of being behind the judgment. Najeeb Al Nuaimi, the former Qatari justice minister and lawyer of the deposed Iraqi president, told Gulf News in Doha yesterday that the sentence had already been pronounced long before the trial started and he expected the appeal court to reconfirm the verdict. "The judgment is illegitimate because it was based on illegitimate procedures. The defence team was deprived from carrying out the defence proceedings, from submitting useful memos and materials and from holding a final argument before the court. This is against all legal procedures," Al Nuaimi said following his arrival to Doha from Baghdad.
"They have justified the measures with our alleged delay in presenting the court with our demands, but these are only excuses." Al Nuaimi said the defence team would appeal the sentence within 25 days. However he said he was sure the verdict would be confirmed. "The appeal court is composed of the same members that condemned Saddam to death. It has already been decided that Saddam has to be sentenced to death," he said. "The United States is manoeuvring this court and is deciding on the final verdict."


Sunni party accuses U.S. of irresponsible arrests

An Iraqi parliamentary delegation has accused the US army in Iraq of breeding extremism by carrying out an "irresponsible arrest campaign". The delegation represents the Iraqi Accordance Front, which is the biggest Sunni Arab bloc in the Iraqi parliament, occupying 44 seats in the 275 seat parliament. Adnan al-Dulaimi, the chairman of the Front, said: "There are now around 17,000 Iraqi detainees in Buka camp in the south. Most of them are innocent people. They get arrested and thrown in jail for months and years without charges and without trial, and while in prison they are approached by al-Qaeda people.
The delegation held the US army in Iraq responsible for their failure in communicating with armed groups opposed to the US presence in Iraq. Dhafir al-Ani, a member of the delegation, said: "The US army is blindly following tip-offs from Shia sectarians who just want to harm Sunni for being Sunni, and the US army is just not getting this and keeps on filling its detention centres with innocent prisoners, most of them under 25 and [who] do not enjoy [a] solid political ideology, which makes them vulnerable and easily influenced by others, mainly al-Qaeda."Al-Dulaimi slammed US officials for not fulfilling their promises to him personally and to many members of his bloc.


Basra council threatens British troops

The provincial council in Basra has lodged a strong protest against recent actions by British occupation troops in the southern city. The council’s deputy chairman, Jassem al-Abadi, described British troops’ conduct as “provocative and unjustified.” Abadi was particularly critical of British troops’ treatment of Iraqi security forces in the city. Abadi warned the troops not to repeat such practices in the future. “If they do, the masses will teach them a lesson this time,” he said. Abadi said the people of Basra were angry and furious over the troops’ practices.
He mentioned an incident in which British troops stormed the residence of a notable Basra politician, Hassan al-Qatrani, a tribal leader, in a “provocative" manner. Abadi also accused British occupation troops of attacking the headquarters of al-Fadhila party, one of the most influential factions in the city. Fadhila is powerful in Basra and its supporters and armed men are reported to be wielding immense influence in the city.


$25 mn for Najaf reconstruction

The Ministry of Finance has allocated $25 million for the reconstruction of the holy city of Najaf, Governor Asaad Sultan said. Sultan said the money is part of allocations the government has set aside “to reconstruct the war-torn cities and town in four Iraqi provinces.” Najaf, the capital of a province of the same name, was scene of pitched battles in 2004 between fighters of Mahdi Army led by the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and U.S. occupation troops. The city was heavily damaged and residents say traces of destruction still linger on. Sultan, Najaf’s governor, said the government will deposit the money in the city where the provincial council has drawn a long list of projects to be implemented.
“The Ministry of Finance is determined to open an account in the holy city of Najaf to deposit $25 million which the province’s share of the money allocated for the reconstruction of areas destroyed by wars,” the governor said. Meantime, Sultan said he visited South Korean embassy in Baghdad where he thank the ambassador for his country’s efforts in rehabilitating Najaf. South Korea is actively taking part in reconstructing the province’s health system has granted Najaf’s health department $1 million.
COMMENT:It is interesting to note that the predominantly Sunni towns of Samarra, Fallujah and Tal Afar have also been serioualy damaged, but Najaf is prioritised. Najaf is a holy city for Shias across the Middle East and therefore makes money from pilgrims who travel there. It is also the political capital for the Shias. Mr. Bayan Jaber Solagh is the Minister of Finance and is Shia, he is also a member of the SCIRI of the United Iraqi Alliance. COMMENT ENDS.


Government closes down Sunni TV stations

Politics, Media
After Saddam Hussein was sentenced to hang on Sunday, Iraqi security forces closed two Sunni Muslim television stations, Al-Zawraa and Salah Al-Din, for violating curfew and a law that bans airing material that could undermine the country's stability, Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the Interior Ministry spokesman said. He said that the stations violated a curfew imposed in three provinces by speaking to people in the streets and airing comments that were deemed to "incite violence." The owner of Al-Zawraa, legislator Mishan al-Jabouri, said later Sunday that Iraqi police raided the headquarters of the station and cordoned them off because of the channel's criticism of the verdict. Al-Jabouri, leader of the small Sunni Arab Front for Reconciliation and Liberation, had his parliamentary immunity stripped last month after he was accused of embezzling funds intended for an armed force protecting oil pipelines in northern Iraq.
COMMENT: The local channels, which are based in the volatile Salah Al-Din governorate north of Baghdad, had aired scenes from the protests in Tikrit against Saddam’s sentence, as part of the “Iraqi Street” programme, as well as interviews with protestors. Salah Al-Din channel is owned and operated by two businessmen from Tikrit and most of its programmes are entertainment. The Al-Furat channel, operated by the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Shi’ite), had called on the Interior Ministry to close the two channels for broadcasting the pro-Saddam demonstrations today. There are increasing calls from Shi’ite MPs to close the Al-Sharqiya channel, which some argue is the only remaining Iraqi channel that does not align itself with any political party or sectarian group.
The government has also prohibited the display of images of the violence in Iraq on TV stations, and has threatened media outlets and journalists with prosecution and legal action if they “criticise” Iraqi governmental officials (by reporting on corruption cases, for example). In September the Iraqi government ordered the Arabic satellite network Al-Arabiya to shut down its Baghdad operations for one month. In November 2003, the U.S.-appointed Governing Council banned Al-Arabiya from reporting from Baghdad after it aired an audio tape said to be from Saddam Hussein, who was still at large at the time. The station was allowed to resume its work shortly afterward. The Iraqi government closed the Baghdad news office of Al-Jazeera television in August 2004, accusing the station of inciting violence. The office is still closed but the station operates in the Kurdish-ruled area of the north. So much for freedom of the press, it appears the current government is returning to the habits of the old regime, a move that is likely to cause further tensions between the Shias and Sunnis. COMMENT ENDS.


Curfew continues

Saddam Hussein
Baghdad remains under curfew as Saddam Hussein's appeal over his crimes against humanity conviction begins. Brigadier Abdel-Karim Khalaf said the emergency measures would likely be lifted by Tuesday morning. Baghdad airport has also been closed for the second consecutive day, and the border with Jordan has been shut to all traffic as part of the security measures. Two other provinces - Diyala and Salaheddin - are also under curfew.
There have been scattered celebrations on Monday in Shia-dominated parts of the country which are not covered by the curfew. In Hillah, 95km south of Baghdad, about 500 people marched in the streets carrying placards and shouting slogans denouncing the former president. In the mainly Sunni city of Baquba, about 250 pro-Saddam demonstrators took to the streets. They were dispersed by Iraqi soldiers for breaking the curfew in the province. Another 400 protesters marched through Samarra denouncing the verdict. The curfew was temporarily lifted in Tikrit to allow residents to shop and run errands. Angry crowds had gathered in the city on Sunday, holding aloft Saddam portraits, firing guns and chanting slogans pledging to avenge his execution.
Judges set Saddam Hussein's appeal - which is automatic under Iraqi law when the defendant has been sentenced to death - under way on Monday. Raed al-Juhi, the spokesman for the tribunal which tried the former president, said the court has 10 days to submit its ruling justifying Saddam's execution to an appeals committee. The nine-judge panel will then invite input from the prosecution. Defence lawyers have said they will also submit their arguments. Twenty days after that, the case will be sealed and the panel will retire to consider its verdict. No date has been set for their final judgement, which is binding. If the verdict is upheld, Saddam will be hanged within 30 days of its ruling.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Reactions to Saddam's verdict

For many Iraqis, the verdicts represented a moment of triumph and catharsis after decades of suffering under Mr. Hussein’s tyrannical rule. Spontaneous celebrations broke out across Iraq in spite of an around-the-clock curfew imposed on the capital and other regions. Pistols and assault rifles were fired into the air across the capital and elsewhere in a common gesture of celebration. People flooded the streets of Sadr City, a Shiite bastion of Baghdad, whooping and dancing and sounding car horns. Even some Shiite police officers joined in the celebratory gunfire. Sadr's followers did not thank Maliki's government for the verdict, but instead hailed their firebrand leader, chanting: "The one who betrayed the sayyid (Sadr) will be executed, just as the sayyid said he would be executed."
But in some predominantly Sunni Arab areas, the mood was one of anger and resentment and talk of conspiracy was rife. Many Sunnis accused foreign powers, in particular the United States, of intervening in the verdict. But there seemed to be some disagreement as to who was Washington's main accomplice in the alleged manipulation. "The sentence was pre-prepared in Washington and Tel Aviv," spat Tikrit civil servant Qusay Addai, bitterly. But in Samarra, bank clerk Shamil Ahmed fingered Israel's most bitter foe. "The trial was not just and clean. The sentence on Saddam is an American and Iranian comedy implemented by the government," he declared. Sheikh Abdel-Rahman Munshid al-Asi, a leader of the powerful Sunni Al-Obeidi tribe, branded the verdict "a crime against Iraq, its future and history". "The Iraqi government and its constituent parties will be held responsible for what will happen to Iraq," he warned. "The risks are catastrophic." "With our souls and our blood we redeem you, Saddam. Death to traitors and spies. Damn Bush and his agents. Yes, yes to the resistance. No option but to get rid of the occupier," chanted a crowd in Hawija, west of Kirkuk. Many Sunni Arabs criticized the verdicts as the product of a political charade designed to satisfy the political agendas of the Shiite-led Iraqi government and the Bush Administration.
In the northern cities of Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region, which had long resisted Saddam's rule and suffered greatly from attacks by his armed forces, people supported the verdict but asked for it not to be carried out quickly. Rights activist Berwa Ali spoke for many when she said the hanging should be put on hold until after Saddam's second trial -- for genocide against the Kurds during the notorious 1988 Anfal campaign. Iraq's Kurdish president, Jalal Talabani, an opponent of Saddam but also of the death penalty, refused to comment until the appeals procedure is complete, to avoid giving the impression of trying to influence the case.
Immediately following the verdicts, fighting broke out between gunmen and the Iraqi Army in the Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiya in northeastern Baghdad, according to an Interior Ministry official. American forces swarmed the district, however, suppressing the violence, the official reported. Fighting also erupted between supporters of Mr. Hussein and American troops near Bayji, north of Tikrit, Mr. Hussein’s birthplace and a bastion of support for the Sunni-led insurgency, according to witnesses there.
Mr. Maliki said that with the Saddam Hussein “era” now past, the door was “wide open for all to participate in the political process through reconciliation, which has been endorsed by the Iraqi people,” according to translation provided by CNN during the broadcast. The American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, hailed the verdicts as "an important milestone in the building of a free society" in Iraq.
During the course of the trial, three defense lawyers were killed by gunmen and the original chief judge resigned in protest over governmental interference. International legal experts and human rights observers have questioned the impartiality of the trial court, which was created to try top leaders of the ousted government during the 15-month period of formal American occupation following the invasion in the spring of 2003. Richard Dicker, director of the international justice program at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement today. "Unfortunately, we believe the serious shortcomings in the fairness of the proceedings undermined the legitimacy and credibility of the trial." Amnesty International questioned the fairness of the trial, and international legal experts said Saddam should be kept alive long enough to answer for other atrocities. Only then, they said, will Iraqis brutalized by years of his despotic rule see true justice done.
Critics accused President Bush of deliberately arranging the timing of the sentence, handed down two days before pivotal midterm elections in which Democrats are fighting to regain control of Congress. The White House praised the Iraqi judiciary for its independence and denied that the Bush administration had been "scheming" to arrange a pre-election verdict. Many European nations voiced their opposition to the death penalty, including France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden, and a leading Italian opposition figure called on the continent to press for Saddam's sentence to be commuted to life imprisonment.
In Pakistan, the opposition religious coalition claimed that American forces have caused more deaths in Iraq in the past 3 1/2 years than Saddam did during his 23-year rule, and insisted Bush should stand trial for war crimes. Iran, a bitter opponent of both Iraq and the U.S., praised the death sentence and said it hoped that Saddam — denounced by one lawmaker as "a vampire" — still would be tried for other crimes. Key U.S. allies — including Britain and Australia — welcomed Sunday's verdict, which had been widely expected, and said Saddam got what he deserved for crimes against humanity committed during years of brutal dictatorship. France urged Iraqis to show restraint. In Russia, the Kremlin-allied head of the international affairs committee in the State Duma, or lower house of parliament, told Ekho Moskvy radio the sentence will deepen divisions in Iraq.


Saddam given death sentence

The former President of Iraq, Saddam Hussain has been sentenced to death by hanging. The Iraqi High Tribunal ruled that he had committed crimes against humanity in ordering the massacre of 148 Shiite civilians in the town of Dujail after an attempt against his life in the early 1980s. As his sentence was read out by Chief Judge Raouf Abdul Rahman Saddam yelled "Allahu Akbar!" (God is Greatest) and "Long Live Iraq!” Two other senior aides of Saddam - his half-brother Barzan Al Tikrit and former revolutionary chief judge Awad Hamed Al Bander – were also handed down death sentences.
The court proceedings lasted just 45 minutes and were adjourned shortly after Saddam’s sentence was read out. Death by hanging is the punishment given to convicted criminals in Iraq. Saddam’s request for the more honourable option of the firing squad, which is reserved for the Iraqi military, was ignored. A verdict carrying a death sentence or a sentence of life imprisonment is automatically subject to review by a panel of appeal judges, who will decide whether or not to allow a retrial. Should the judgment stand Saddam will be executed within 30 days the chief prosecutor has said.
COMMENT: A fairly predicatable verdict, however, in this unusual and controversial trial it will be interesting to see what happens in the next 30 days when the defense can appeal against the verdict, bearing in mind that both regionally and internationally there has been criticism of whether the trial has been fair or legitamate. It is likely that attacks against the Americans and Shias will increase. Saddam still has a strong, mainly Sunni following, both inside and outside Iraq - part of which is well bank rolled. Those loyal to him will try to further destabilise the country's politics and security. COMMENT ENDS.

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