Saturday, November 25, 2006


Bush - Maliki meeting likely to go ahead despite Sadr threat

President Bush is sticking to his plan to hold a summit in Jordan next week with the head of Iraq, despite threats from radical Shiites to boycott parliament if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki goes. In Baghdad, followers of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr warned they would suspend their membership in the Iraqi parliament and cabinet if al-Maliki kept his appointment with Bush in Amman on Wednesday and Thursday. That put al-Maliki in a difficult position because he needs the support of both Bush and al-Sadr.
The al-Sadr bloc in parliament and government is the backbone of al-Maliki's political support, and its withdrawal, if only temporarily, would be a severe blow to the prime minister's already shaky hold on power. A senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the two leaders' meeting, said the president does not expect that al-Sadr's threat to withdraw from the Iraqi government will prompt al-Maliki to cancel his meeting with Bush.
His meeting with al-Maliki next week comes as a special high-level commission, headed by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, is mulling recommendations for possible changes in U.S. policy in Iraq. It is expected to make its findings known sometime next month.Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros said Friday that al-Maliki's government remains steadfast despite the violence. "The government of Iraq is intent on restoring order and maintaining security throughout Baghdad," Ballesteros said.
Defense analyst Dan Goure, with the northern Virginia-based Lexington Group, said the spiraling violence may mean that the Bush administration will have to take a hard line with al-Maliki. "We've been trying to bring along a stable Iraqi government and that may not be possible," Goure said. Instead, he said, the U.S. may need to impose order, and "it may be that that order may have to be one that favors certain groups." He said Bush may have to tell Maliki next week that either he suppresses the violence or the U.S. will withdraw support for him.


Talabani delays Iran visit

Politics, Region, Security
President Jalal Talabani said on Friday he has postponed a scheduled trip to Iran until Baghdad's airport is reopened. He had been due to leave for Tehran on Saturday to meet his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to discuss the situation in Iraq. Speaking to reporters after a meeting with the country's top officials, Talabani said he would fly as soon as the airport opens. The government closed the airport until further notice on Thursday night after several explosions killed and wounded hundreds of people in Baghdad's eastern neighbourhood of Sadr City.
The bombings set off tit-for-tat Shiite reprisals in Baghdad with militiamen targeting Sunni mosques in which security sources said many were feared killed. President Bashar Assad of Syria was supposed to join Talabani and their Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this weekend but reports from Tehran said Syria appears to be staying away from the summit. "The Tehran visit is still on but the airport is closed. As soon as the airport opens we will leave to Tehran," Talabani said. "The airport will be closed tomorrow but if it opens after tomorrow we will go," the president said.
COMMENT: Talabani is stalling. If he really wanted to, despite security concerns, he could fly to Iran. Possibly the delay is in order to wait for the outcome on the Syrian talks. COMMENT ENDS.


Iraq - Syrian talks to take place before talks with Iran

Politics, Security, Region
There will be an Iraqi-Syrian meeting before any talks to include Iran and Iraqi Sunnis want to be a part of the Iraqi-Iranian dialogue. Labeed Abawi, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry Under Secretary said a summit meeting between Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad will be held soon. He told Gulf News that the bilateral meeting with Syria must be held before any trilateral summit to include Iraq, Syria and Iran.
"In the Iraqi government's opinion, any trilateral summit will not hold any significance before our issues and dossiers are resolved with Syria, in a practical and tangible manner," he added. "Iraqi key officials do not want to hold a trilateral summit presently, because if that happens, the meeting will not solve any problems. We need a vision in Baghdad to solve our problems first, through establishing a work team, similar to our programme with the Syrians, to be followed by a summit," Abawi said.
Official sources in Iraq mentioned that a high ranking security delegation is to visit Damascus soon to lay down active mechanisms to monitor the joint borders and to pursue armed elements trying to cross the border to Iraq illegally. The official sources close to the Iraqi Prime Minister's office said there is a Syrian presidential decree to pressurise all Baathists and former regime officials to take part in the National Reconciliation process, laid down by Nouri Al Maliki, Iraqi Prime Minister, which is facing many bumps and escalating sectarian violence. Hassan Al Sari, the Iraqi Minister of State who is also Chairman of the Hez-bollah Movement in Iraq emphasised that all military relations between Iraqi opposition groups and Iran were severed after the downfall of the Baathist regime in 2003.
Al Sari said Iran was just a friendly neighbouring country and the Iraqi government wants good relations with its neighbours, based on mutual non-interference in internal affairs. Al Sari added that Iran backs the political process in Iraq and this is an important matter for all Iraqis.
Ala'a Maki, a leader in the Iraqi Islamic Party (the largest component in the Sunni Conciliation Front ) said that any talk about an Iranian positive participation in Iraqi issues is simply unrealistic. He also told Gulf News that the Iraqi Sunni groups want Arab Sunnis to take part in talks with Iran, and that Iran refrains from backing armed Shiite militias.
COMMENT: Recently historically, Syrian and Iraqi politics (the Baath regime) have been closer than that of Iran. Therefore it is more natural that Iraq turns to Syria first, despite previous disagreements from the Saddam era. Iran is known to be supplying training, money and weapons to Shia militias in Iraq and possibly insurgent groups too, thus contributing to the escalation of violence and chaos in Iraq, and destabilisation of the political process. The timing of the attacks on Sadr City and the Ministry of Health (both Sadr strongholds) were no coincidence. They were a last effort by Sunni insurgents to derail successful talks under the U.S. occupation between Iraq and her neighbours. The objective was achieved. COMMENT ENDS.


Retaliation violence spirals out of control

Revenge-seeking militiamen seized six Sunnis as they left Friday prayers and burned them alive with kerosene in a savage new twist to the brutality shaking the Iraqi capital a day after suspected Sunni insurgents killed 215 people in Baghdad's main Shiite district. Iraqi soldiers at a nearby army post failed to intervene in Friday's assault by suspected members of the Shiite Mahdi Army militia or subsequent attacks that killed at least 19 other Sunnis, including women and children, in the same neighborhood, the volatile Hurriyah district in northwest Baghdad, said police Capt. Jamil Hussein.
But burning victims alive introduced a new method of brutality that was likely to be reciprocated by the other sect as the Shiites and Sunnis continue killing one another in unprecedented numbers. The gruesome attack, which came despite a curfew in Baghdad, capped a day in which at least 87 people were killed or found dead in sectarian violence across Iraq. A source from Baghdad’s Kindi Hospital stated that up to 500 people may have been killed in the bombings and the following violence Thursday and that there are still corpses on the streets in many parts of the capital.
In Hurriyah, the rampaging militiamen also burned and blew up four mosques and torched several homes in the district, Hussein said. Residents of the troubled district claim the Mahdi Army has begun kidnapping and holding Sunni hostages to use in ritual slaughter at the funerals of Shiite victims of Baghdad's raging sectarian war. President Jalal Talabani emerged from lengthy meetings with other Iraqi leaders late Friday and said the defense minister, Abdul-Qader al-Obaidi, indicated that the Hurriyah neighborhood had been quiet throughout the day.
But Imad al-Hasimi, a Sunni elder in Hurriyah, confirmed Hussein's account of the immolations. He told Al-Arabiya television he saw people who were drenched in kerosene and then set afire, burning to death before his eyes. Two workers at Kazamiyah Hospital also confirmed that bodies from the clashes and immolation had been taken to the morgue at their facility. They refused to be identified by name, saying they feared retribution.
Also, militia gunmen raided a Sunni mosque in the Amil section of west Baghdad, killing two guards, according to police 1st Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razaq. The few remaining Sunni families in Amil woke up to find signs painted on their doors saying, "All Sunnis should leave. This is a final warning," and "The house should not be leased or sold." Some posters on Iraqi message boards are warning that militiamen in Sadr City are preparing for a wide-scale assault on several Sunni districts, similar to the one that followed the February shrine bombing, as soon as the curfew is lifted.
And in Baqouba, 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, Sunni insurgents blew up the dome of the important Shiite mosque of leading cleric Abdul-Karm al-Madani. Gunmen have overnight raided two homes in a mostly Shiite village in strife-torn Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, dragged out 21 males and shot them execution style. The youngest victim was 12. Police said the gunmen arrived in five cars late Friday and took the men to nearby fields and executed them. Like Baghdad, the mixed Diyala province is torn by sectarian strife, largely taking the form of attacks by Al-Qaeda affiliated insurgents on Shiite villagers. Attacks against several Sunni mosques were also reported from Basrah and Zubair. Both the headquarters of the Association of Muslim Scholars and the Islamic Party in Basrah were targeted with rocket-propelled grenades.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Sadr asks al-Dari to issue fatwa to Sunnis to stop killing Shias

Politics, Security
A day after seeing his Baghdad power base devastated by explosions, radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on Iraq's most prominent Sunni religious leader to tell his followers to stop killing Shi'ites. Sadr, who on Thursday blamed Sunni Islamist al Qaeda militants and Saddam Hussein loyalists for the blasts which killed 202 people, made the call during a Friday sermon in Kufa, just outside the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad.
It was directed at Harith al-Dari, the head of Iraq's influential Muslim Clerics Association, an umbrella group for Sunni religious leaders, who is wanted by Iraqi authorities on suspicion of links to terrorism charges. Dari, who lives abroad, denies the accusations. Sadr said Dari must issue religious rulings, or fatwas, to fellow minority Sunnis, who form the backbone of a three-year- old insurgency, forbidding the killing of Shi'ites or membership of al Qaeda.
"He has to release a fatwa prohibiting the killing of Shi'ites so as to preserve Muslim blood and must prohibit membership of al Qaeda or any other organisation that has made (Shi'ites) their enemies," he told chanting supporters. Dari should also order Sunnis to support the rebuilding of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, whose destruction in February, blamed on al Qaeda, sparked a vicious cycle of sectarian revenge killings that shows no signs of abating. "If Harith al-Dari issues these fatwas I will oppose his arrest warrant," Sadr said.


IOM: humanitarian crisis looming

More than 1,000 Iraqis a day are being displaced by the sectarian violence that began last Feb. 22 with the bombing of the Shiite Askariya shrine in Samarra, according to a report released this week by the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration, a U.N.-associated group. This increasing movement of Iraqi families, caused by the lack of security and growth of armed militias and criminal gangs, is adding to the already-chaotic governmental situation in Baghdad, according to a series of U.N., U.S. and non-governmental reports released in the past weeks.
When families who fled from Baghdad to Qadssiya, a fairly safe district 200 miles south of the capital, were questioned by the IOM about why they left their homes, "almost all said it was due to direct threats to their lives ... letters, anonymous calls, graffiti on their homes or in their neighborhoods." All were Shiites.
The internal refugees are creating a growing humanitarian crisis that, the IOM report says, will primarily affect single women, children, and the sick and elderly as winter approaches. Security fears appear well-founded; a report Wednesday by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq said the number of Iraqi civilians killed in October reached 3,709, a new monthly high. Many residents, especially professionals, are fleeing the country in larger numbers. The U.N.'s High Commissioner for Refugees said earlier this month that up to 2,000 Iraqis a day are going to Syria and an additional 1,000 a day to Jordan. Overall, the High Commissioner estimates that since the war began in 2003, 1.6 million Iraqis had been displaced internally and up to 1.8 million are living outside the country.


Sadrists threaten to pull out of government if Maliki - Bush meeting goes ahead

Politics, Security
The political group of radical Shia cleric Moqtada Al Sadr on Friday threatened to pull out of Iraq’s national unity government if Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki goes through with a scheduled meeting with US President George W. Bush in Jordan next week. “We will withdraw from the government and parliament if the prime minister meets Bush in Jordan,” a statement from the group said, adding that it would also withdraw if the security situation did not improve.
Bush and Maliki are due in Jordan on November 29 for talks on the situation in Iraq. The group, which has 30 MPs in the 275-member parliament, is a key supporter of Maliki’s Shia-led government and was key to his appointment as prime minister over the choices of other Shia parties. The group demanded that the government “specify the nature of its relations with the occupation forces” and once again demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of US-led troops from Iraq.
It said the Shia bastion of Sadr City, the impoverished district where many Sadr followers are based, faces deadly insurgent attacks as well as repeated raids by US forces. “This is a sign of an alliance between Saddamists, takfiris (Sunni extremists) and the occupation forces,” the statement said. The group also called on political leaders to refrain from making provocative speeches.


Women increasingly targeted in violence

Women are increasingly the victims of violence in Iraq, as direct targets of assassinations and as widows left without support after the deaths of their husbands, an Iraqi women's activist said Wednesday. "Many women activists have been murdered, many women university professors. Many women physicians have been killed, women in the police forces, reporters and journalists," Rajaa al-Khuzai, president of the Iraqi National Council of Women, told a news conference in Vienna. "We are losing an average 100 Iraqi men every day ... so I think we have an additional 3,000 widows every month... and all of them are young and have no support for them and their families," she added.
Al-Khuzai, a trained gynaecologist, was one of the first women in Iraq's interim Governing Council and was a member of the drafting committee for the new Iraqi constitution. She then set up the Iraqi Widows Organisation, which promotes women's rights and provides material and other support to mostly young widows, often with children. "We need to train and educate these young women ... by educating women we are educating all Iraqis," she said, adding her organisation could help secure the future of Iraq. "If we want to see stability in the region we have to highlight the role of the women ... women who will make the change on the ground," said Edit Schlaffer, chairwoman of the Vienna-based Women Without Borders, which organised the talk.

But now "women are very easy targets", especially high-profile women such as herself, Al-Khuzai added. "We never wander in the streets unless we have many bodyguards. I started with six, then I increased to 12, and then to 20 and then 30," she said. "We almost imprison ourselves, communicating by email." Al-Khuzai founded the Iraqi Widows Organisation in January 2004 and with support from the World Bank, started handing out 200-dollar microcredits to young widows. "So far we have supported about 2,000 widows but we have a long, long waiting list and this waiting list is getting longer every day," she said.


Baathists and Islamic groups increasingly fighting for control

With Baghdad shaken by daily outbreaks of sectarian violence, in Iraq's western al-Anbar province, groups of former Iraqi Baathists are battling armed Islamist groups for control of this largely desert region near the Syrian border. This increasingly bloody conflict may signal the start of a new phase in the country's three-year old war. Amid increasing bloodshed in Iraq, many Sunnis are looking to end the violence. Local people say that the conflict within Iraq's Sunni minority has potential to detabilise the region long after the US military has gone home.
The former Baathist fighters are believed to be relatively secular while their opponents share al-Qaeda's dream of establishing an Islamic caliphate in Iraq which will then be a launchpad for carrying out attacks around the Middle East. The ex-Baathists' offensive has been so successful, local people say, that Iraqi groups working with al-Qaeda have been forced to divert their attacks away from the Americans to focus on fighting the al-Awda party, as the new secular Sunni movement is called.
In early November, this growing conflict took a new turn when masked gunmen linked to al-Qaeda distributed flyers and posters throughout al-Anbar province threatening to execute anyone from Al-Awda. "The Baath secular party will find no quarter in the new principality of the Islamic State of Iraq" read leaflets distributed in al-Anbar province by groups allied with al-Qaeda. Since then, several high-ranking officials from the former Iraqi army have been found murdered throughout Anbar province.
Hiyt residents told Al Jazeera that Yassin was known to have recruited fighters for the Jaysh Mohammed (Mohammed's Army). The Jaysh Mohammed is one of the largest Sunni insurgent groups and in the past it has claimed numerous attacks against US forces in Baghdad and Anbar. The assassination of Yassin may suggest that al-Qaeda and its allies fear that the Jaysh Mohammed may be close to joining the al-Awda neo-Baathist alliance.
In the past year, the Jaysh Mohammed has already clashed several times with another group, Al-Tawheed wa Al-Jihad, a mainly Iraqi group which is affiliated with al-Qaeda in Iraq. Sheikh Abdel Sattar Abu Risha of Ramadi has called on Sunnis to resist Al-Qaeda. The increasingly heavy fighting between the rival armed groups in Hiyt and other urban centres in Anbar has led many Sunnis to believe that a new war between secularist and Islamist factions could be beginning. Although both groups are in principle opposed to the US presence in Iraq and the Shia-led government in Baghdad, Anbar residents say an rapprochment between the two is unlikely.


U.S. military: Insurgent groups establish training camps in Diyala

Sunni Arab militant groups suspected of ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq have established training camps east of Baghdad that are turning out well-disciplined units willing to fight American forces in set-piece battles, American military commanders said Thursday.
American soldiers fought such units in a pitched battle last week in the village of Turki, 25 miles south of this Iraqi Army base in volatile Diyala Province, near the Iranian border. At least 72 insurgents and two American officers were killed in more than 40 hours of fighting. American commanders said they called in 12 hours of airstrikes while soldiers shot their way through a reed-strewn network of canals in extremely close combat.
Officers said that in this battle, unlike the vast majority of engagements in Diyala, insurgents stood and fought, even deploying a platoon-sized unit that showed remarkable discipline and that one captain said was in “perfect military formation.” Insurgents throughout Iraq usually avoid direct confrontation with the Americans, preferring to use hit-and-run tactics and melting away at the sight of American armored vehicles.
Lt. Col. Andrew Poppas, commander of the Fifth Squadron, 73rd Cavalry, a unit of the 82nd Airborne Division, said in an interview that the fighters at Turki “were disciplined and well-trained, with well-aimed shots. We hadn’t seen anything like this in years,” he said.
The insurgents had built a labyrinthine network of trenches in the farmland, with sleeping areas and significant weapons caches. Two anti-aircraft guns had been hidden away. Sectarian violence is rampant in Diyala, where Sunni Arab and Shiite militants are vying for control.


Kurdish Islamism on the rise in Kurdistan

These days one of the issues that policy makers in Washington and European capitals have been concerned about is rising Kurdish Islamism in northern Iraq. In the context of the U.S. policy makers' search for an effective exit strategy from Iraq, the Kurdish region of northern Iraq has come to the forefront as one of the options where the United States might consider redeploying troops. Unlike the situation prior to the initiation of the war on Iraq, however, the U.S. policy makers seem to have concerns about Kurdish Islamists gaining ground in this region. They are trying to weigh the power of Barzani and Talabani vis-a-vis the Islamist Kurds.
According to The New Anatolian, reliable sources have said that Islamism in northern Iraq, just like among the Turkish Kurds, is on the rise. There are three important reasons for the rise of Islam among the Kurds. The first concerns corruption in the region. Several observers told us that many of the Kurds who are not content with Barzani and Talabani's ways of administering the region are in search of alternative political parties. At this stage, because there is no alternative secular political party, if the corruption continues unabated, which is very likely, the Kurdish Islamists will emerge as the most powerful alternative to Barzani and Talabani.
The second reason is not specific to the Kurdish region in Iraq, but is also common to all Middle Eastern societies. Despite the fact the globalization process is intensely influencing the people in the region, the state structures in this region still act like the state structures of the early 20th century, which, in turn, creates a gap, filled only by the Islamists. In northern Iraq, because the state structure is newly being formed and it is formed based on a nationalist ideology, which is the ideology of the modern age, the state structure of the Kurdish region is not able to function to meet the needs of the populations that are, at least, aware of the developments in postmodern societies. The third reason concerns the troubled issue of identity. Along with other Islamists, the Kurdish Islamists, too, have been experiencing the bitterness of a "wounded identity."
COMMENT: There are two main Islamic parties in Kurdistan, the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Islamic Union. Last year the KIU were allegedly attacked by the PUK and KDP. Their following has increased because people feel KDP and PUK are not doing enough, not fulfilling promises and are corrupt.
Islamic Movement of Kurdistan - established by Ali Bapir in May 2001. Bapir is a former member of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan. The group reportedly receives funding from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. It has been linked to the terrorist group Ansar Al-Islam, but released a statement on 11 October 2004 in "Komal" denying that any such links existed. Bapir was interviewed in "Komal" in January 2003. He said: " Our policy is that we enter into fraternity and cooperation with all Islamic groups. We seek such fraternal relations with Islamic parties and organizations, Islamist figures, and groups that follow a Salafi tradition or a Sufi or a scientific tradition. In the Islamic Group, we believe that the group must be open-minded and seek fraternity with all those who call or act for Islam. If we see a mistake, we will try to correct it through dialogue and by creating a fraternal atmosphere."
Kurdistan Islamic Union - describes itself as "an Islamic reformative political party that strives to solve all political, social, economic and cultural matters of the people in Kurdistan from an Islamic perspective which can achieve the rights, general freedom, and social justice. The party secretary is Salah al-Din Baha al-Din, who also held a seat on the Iraqi Governing Council. The group draws a strong base of support from the student population and is reportedly on good terms with Kurdistan Democratic Party head Barzani and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan chief Talabani. However, Baha al-Din told "Hawlati" in May 2004 that he doesn't believe the KDP and PUK are serious about unifying their administrations in northern Iraq. The group is closely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. COMMENT ENDS.


UK troops could hand over Basrah to Iraqis early 2007

British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said on Wednesday that British forces could transfer control of the southern Iraqi city of Al-Basrah to the Iraqi government early next year. Beckett told parliament that there was "confidence" that Iraqi forces are ready to assume responsibility for security in the city. She said the process of transferring responsibility was "well under way," adding that Al-Najaf, another southern city, is set to be transferred next month. The Times has learnt that the military have been working on an option to withdraw half the British troops from Iraq by the middle of next year, cutting numbers from 7,200 to between 3,000 and 4,000.


Baghdad locked down after Sadr City bombings

Security, Politics
As funeral processions began on Friday following deadly car bomb attacks on Thursday in Sadr City, a Shi'ite stronghold, which killed 160 in the bloodiest single attack of the war, the death toll from the blasts rose to 202. Meanwhile in the northern city of Talafar a car bomb killed at a least 22 people. Tal Afar, close to the Syrian border, is mostly home to Turkish-speaking ethnic Turkmen who are divided between Shia and Sunni Muslim believers.
Also on Friday morning, three mortar rounds exploded near the Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad. The mosque is one of the most important religious sites for Sunni Muslims in Iraq. A guard was wounded. Baghdad is under an indefinite curfew and its airport has been closed. Announcing the curfew, the authorities said Baghdad's seven million residents and vehicles must stay off the streets until further notice. The Iraqi authorities have also closed Basra's air and sea ports in the south.
In a show of unity, leaders of Iraq's Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities held a joint news conference in which they appealed for calm. Iraq's most prominent Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, "urged people not to react illegally and maintain self-restraint and calm," one of his officials said. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has appealed for restraint. "We denounce sectarian practices that aim to destroy the unity of the nation," Mr Maliki said in a television broadcast on Thursday.
"It's an extravagant attack specifically designed to trigger retaliation," said Toby Dodge, an Iraq expert at Queen Mary, University of London, likening it to the bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra in Febuary that sparked a surge in bloodshed. Iraqi and U.S. leaders accuse al Qaeda and diehard followers of deposed president Saddam Hussein of seeking to provoke a Shi'ite backlash in order to profit from ensuing chaos.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Norwegian Schtat Oil considers Kurdistan

Kurdistan, Oil
A prominent official of the Norwegian Oil Company Schtat Oil said that the company is holding talks, on the development of oil fields, with government officials in Iraq and the northern region, which is dominated by Kurds, but it is waiting for the achieve of more stability before starting work there. Peter Milbai, Head of excavation and production works in the Company, said: "we have held discussions with various levels of government officials in Iraq," including officials of the Kurdish regional government. He added, "The Kurdish area is of great potential, but the company is concerned about the security situation in Iraq and is anticipating evolution of the political process there".
The escalation of sectarian violence in Iraq made it difficult for international companies to protect their workers; however, the disturbance in the northern region is less than in other parts of Iraq. Schtat Oil has no works in Iraq; however, many big international companies are seeking investment in the Iraqi oil sector, but are waiting for politicians to put a new investment law, determining their work there. The small Norwegian company, DNO, was the first to start exploration in Iraq after the invasion, led by the United States on the country in March 2003. DNO intends to start production early next year under a profit participation agreement with the Kurdish regional government. The Iraqi central government questioned in the validity of the agreement in the context of competing with regional governments on oil revenues and the authority to sign deals.


Iraqi media round-up

World Bank in Erbil
(Kurdistani Nwe) - The World Bank has opened a representative office in Erbil, after spending several months conducting research in Iraqi Kurdistan. Osman Shwani, the regional planning minister, told Kurdistani Nwe that officials held extensive meetings with a World Bank delegation, who expressed a willingness to provide aid to the region in a number of different fields. (Kurdistani Nwe is political daily issued by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan)
Collaborators investigated
(Hawlati) - A judge from the Kurdistan parliament is expected to head a committee set up by Kurdistan president Masoud Barzani to investigate the files of those suspected of spying for - and collaborating with - the Baathist regime. The PUK, KDP and other local parties will have representatives on the committee. A source told Hawlati that it wants its representatives on the committee to be members of the KDP's intelligence. (Hawlati is and independent newspaper issued weekly in Sulaimaniyah)
Iraq and Syria to form security committees
(Al-Sabah al-Jadeed) - Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a press statement that the Syrian delegation headed by Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Mu'allim, that recently visited Iraq agreed with Iraq to form security committees to control the borders between the two countries and exchange information. The Iraqi side also discussed financial and economic issues with the Syrian delegation. (Al-Sabah al-Jadeed is an independent daily paper.)
Hundreds of insurgents killed this year
(Azzaman) - Multi-national forces' spokesman General William Caldwell said in a press conference that his troops, together with Iraqi and tribal forces, have dealt a heavy blow to al-Qaeda. But he admitted that the insurgent group had not lost its operational power and "the war continues against it ". He also said that US and Iraqi forces had over the last ten months killed 425 foreign insurgents and arrested 676, the largest number being Syrians and Egyptians. Caldwell said most had infiltrated across Syria's borders. (London-based Azzaman is issued daily by Saad al-Bazaz.)
New border fence
(Asharq al-Awsat) - Iraq and Kuwait have signed an agreement that allows Kuwait to finish building an iron fence along their border and obliges it to pay compensation to Iraqi farmers harmed by the project, officials from the two countries have confirmed. Khalid al-Jarallah, the Kuwaiti deputy foreign minister, told reporters after he had met with his Iraqi counterpart that "we have signed an agreement that allows Kuwait to finish building the security fence". (London-based Asharq al-Awsat, a pro-Saudi is issued daily.)


PKK: U.S. not actively helping PJAK

Kurdistan, Security, Politics
The United States government is in contact with Kurds struggling against Iran, a top rebel leader of the anti-Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) told AFP in an interview. Cemil "Cuma" Bayik, one of the main leaders and a founder of the movement that has struggled for Kurdish self-determination for the past 30 years, said the US was in touch with the Party for Freedom in Life in Kurdistan (PJAK) in Iran, but that it was not helping actively.
Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed recently in the New Yorker magazine that American forces were supporting the PJAK movement as part of their strategy to destabilize the Tehran government. "I have to say that American authorities want to have contact with PJAK, and as a matter of fact they do have contact with PJAK," Bayik said late Wednesday in an exclusive interview at his headquarters deep in Iraq's remote Qandil mountains on the Iranian border. "But to say that the United States is supporting the PJAK is not right," he added. "PJAK is until now continuing their struggle just with the support of the Kurdish people and the PKK." The allegations of US support for the PJAK sparked uproar in the Turkish media, forcing the American ambassador in Ankara to issue a denial.
The PKK, which in September declared a unilateral ceasefire in its struggle with Turkey, is labeled a terrorist organization by the US and Europe, which both refuse to have contact with it. "If the United States is interested in PJAK, then it has to be interested in the PKK as well," Bayik said. "The PKK is the one who formed PJAK, who established PJAK and supports PJAK."


Iran to help with Iraqi electricity reconstruction

The head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, here Tuesday said his country would reap benefits by availing of Iran's experience in the field of electricity. Al-Hakim's remarks were made during a meeting with the visiting Iranian Minister of Energy Parviz Fattah, who heads an economic delegation on an official visit here. The main problem in Iraq now is the lack of security, he said, and urged the Iraqi government and nation to help restore security to the country torn by violence. He added that Iran is a friend and neighbor of Iraq and can play a very constructive role in efforts to rebuild and develop the country as well as establish security.
The SCIRI head called on the Iranian government to provide assistance to Iraq in various fields, including in supplying energy which his country badly needs. Fattah, for his part, outlined Iran's strategy for providing technical assistance to Iraq in the form of energy supplies, saying "our strategy is to send specialized Iranian engineers to Iraq to construct power plants there." He said construction would be completed within 24 months. The minister also expressed Iran's full readiness to construct transmission lines to transfer electricity and power to areas where they are needed at the earliest. He said that Iran was also ready to clear up mines in areas where power plants or transmission lines would be constructed.


Iraq reconciliation conference to be held next week

Politics, Security
Iraq is to hold a twice-postponed national reconciliation conference next week in the latest move to stem the sectarian violence engulfing the country, it emerged today. The prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, who has come under intense pressure from the US to step up efforts to halt civil strife, will be attending the conference, as will intermediaries from Ba'athist insurgent groups, the Times reported.
The conference is expected to bring together leading politicians from the majority Shia Muslim community as well as from the Sunni, Kurd and even Christian minorities in an attempt to halt the country's slide into anarchy. The powerful Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, who supports the prime minister, is backing the conference and Mr Maliki's call for an end to the violence.
But the two main Shia groups, Mr Sadr's Mahdi army and the Badr organisation of Ali Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, are locked in a power struggle for leadership of the Shias.
Reports say the goal is to prepare the ground for a follow-up conference outside Iraq with insurgent leaders themselves. As part of the national reconciliation programme, Mr Maliki is said to be considering a general amnesty for all Iraqis willing to lay down their arms and renounce violence.
COMMENT: It will be interesting to see if the conference goes ahead this time. It may do as levels of violence soar by the day, the U.S. puts pressure on Maliki's government and appears to be siding with the Sunnis, a threat to the current Shia power house, divided as it may be. However, it seems unlikely that the Shia politicians will ever agree to talks with Sunni insurgents or fully reintegrating Baathists. Also, if the meeting does go ahead, it is questionable whether the three sides will be able to agree on anything, particularly with the growing sectarian divide in parliament and endless recriminations. COMMENT ENDS.


Al-Sharqiya employees arrested

Politics, Security, Media
A militia group linked to the government is leading a campaign of intimidation and murder against reporters and employees of Azzaman and its sister media outlets. On Monday, al-Shariqiya, the television network which is part of Azzaman Group, lost its star comedian who made Iraqis laugh at their corrupt politicians, the U.S. occupiers as well as the insurgents.
This murderous militia group is targeting Azzaman and its sister outlets as part of a campaign to forced them to leave the country. Azzaman has lost numerous reporters and employees amid threats from government officials to close its television down. The newspaper has reliable information that the comedian, whose program Caricature was watched by millions of Iraqis, was under surveillance for several days by these militias. This militia group is spreading a reign of terror not only in Baghdad but in many other places in the country and now has orders from its leaders to silence Azzaman.
A day before Hassan was assassinated armed men from the same militia faction attacked twosenior officials in al-Sharqiya with the aiming of having them kidnapped. The attempt failed when these officials’ bodyguards confronted the kidnappers and forced them to flee. They attacked Hashem on his way to work and wanted to kidnap him. He initially managed to flee, but the gunmen opened fire on him. Four bullets pierced his body and he died instantly.
Azzaman and al-Sharqiya are under threat. The group wrote to the minister of interior on November 14 asking for protection making it clear that the threats were serious. The ministry took no measures at all and instead it sent a police force to al-Sharqiya office in Baghdad. The force encircled the building and asked the employees to surrender. No explanation was given for the move which resulted in the arrest of several employees. Al-Sharqiya, which is now the most watched television in Iraq, vows not to yield to intimidation and the killing of Hassan will spur it to stick to its independence and editorial stance no matter what.
COMMENT: Parliament recently asked al-Maliki to close down both Azzaman and Al-Sharqiya, possibly partially due to satirical political content. Azzamman is Iraq’s most read newspaper. Al-Shariqiya is the most viewed television network in the country. It describes itself as "the first private, national media project that does not represent any political, ethnic or sectarian group". It Al-Sharqiya is a channel with an Iraqi flavour. Al-Sharqiya does not air religious programming and does not carry the calls for prayers or Friday sermons.
Al-Sharqiya beams from outside Iraq but uses terrestrial broadcasting to reach as many Iraqi households as possible. Its offices are spread across the country. Azzaman has several editions inside Iraq as it is now being printed in both Baghdad and Basra.Its international edition is printed in London, Bahrain and North Africa. Al Sharqiya ("The Eastern One") is Iraq's first privately owned satellite channel. It is owned by the London-based Iraqi media tycoon Saad Bazzaz. The station was launched in March 2004 and began regular transmission on 4 May 2004. COMMENT ENDS.


Al-Da'wah supports issue of al-Dari warrant

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Al-Da'wah Party released a statement on November 19 supporting the November 17 arrest warrant issued by the Iraqi Interior Ministry for Muslim Scholars Association leader Harith al-Dari, "Al-Bayan" reported on November 20. The statement said that the arrest order is justified and falls within the legal framework that all Iraqis are subject to, "regardless of their position or loyalty, particularly when it comes to an influential political leader." In addition, the statement said, "the government is obliged to eliminate any stimulating factors that may foment sedition or provoke internecine fighting among the sons of one people without taking into consideration any other criterion but the country's higher interest and the rule of law." Al-Dari was accused of "inciting terrorism" after he described insurgent attacks on U.S. forces as "legitimate resistance".


World Bank invited to open office in Irbil

Kurdistan, Finance
The World Bank has been invited to open an office in the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil, according to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's website on November 20. According to informed sources, the World Bank has carried out a needs assessment in the region in an attempt to provide aid to the Kurdish regional government as part of its Iraq aid program. Furthermore, Kurdish officials have called on the bank to deal directly with local authorities, without consulting with the central government. The Kurdish regional minister for planning, Uthman Isma'il Husayn Shwani, said that he has had direct discussions with World Bank representatives who have expressed their desire to cooperate with the regional government. "We have asked the World Bank delegation to help us with empowerment programs for the regional government functionaries and the establishment of development sectors in the field of water and electricity. We also called for the opening of a World Bank office in Irbil," he said.


Sadr City, Health Ministry attacked

Up to six car bombs killed 133 people in a Shi'ite militia stronghold in Baghdad on Thursday, in one of most devastating such attacks since the U.S. invasion. A further 201 people were wounded, police said, and the Health Minister said the toll could rise. "Many of the dead have been reduced to scattered body parts and are not counted yet," Ali al-Shemari told Reuters.
The blasts, which were followed by a mortar barrage aimed at a nearby Sunni enclave, came at the same time as gunmen mounted a bold daylight raid on the Shi'ite-run Health Ministry. Six parked vehicles each packed with as much as half a metric ton of explosives, as well as mortars landing in the area, devastated streets and a crowded market in the sprawling Sadr City slum in east Baghdad, Major General Jihad al-Jabori of the Interior Ministry told Iraqiya state television.
Five people were wounded at the Health Ministry, about 5 km (3 miles) from Sadr City, an Interior Ministry source said, when about 30 guerrillas fired mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns into the compound in one of the biggest public shows of force by militants in the city since the U.S. invasion in 2003.
Shortly afterwards, a dozen mortar rounds hit Aadhamiya, a Sunni enclave in mainly Shi'ite east Baghdad. The Interior Ministry said it was not aware of casualties in the attack. The Health Ministry is run by followers of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Mehdi Army militia is accused by many Sunnis of being behind some of the worst death squad violence in the capital, in which hundreds of people a week are being kidnapped and tortured and their bodies dumped around the city.
COMMENT: It is likely the attack on Sadr City and the Health Ministry , which is run by Sadrists, was a retaliation attack for the kidnappings and killings of Sunnis abducted from the Higher Ministry of Education last week. Today's killings are likely to lead to further sectarian violence and retaliation by the Mahdi Army and possibly its rogue elements. Not only is it likely to raise levels of violence but will also hamper the political process as politicians on both sides will continue to allocate blame which will increase the ever widening political chasm. COMMENT ENDS.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


18,000 displaced in Kurdistan by flooding

Flooding in Kurdish areas in Iraq has killed at least 20 people, made 3,000 families homeless and caused large mudslides. Mazin Abdullah Salom of the International Red Crescent Society told the U.N. Integrated Regional Information Network on Tuesday that thousands of houses have been destroyed in Dahuk, Arbil and Sulaimaniyah. He said at least 18,000 people have been displaced. Haji Kemeran Ali, a farmer, and seven members of his family now share a small tent. "We told both the central and regional governments many times that we are vulnerable in these houses and demanded for their urgent help," he said. Aid workers say that much of the infrastructure, including bridges and schools, has been demolished, livestock killed and fruit trees destroyed.


Security summit to be held in Bahrain

Security, International
Governments from the Persian Gulf region and key external powers are finalising plans to discuss some of the region's most pressing security concerns next month at the 2006 IISS Manama Dialogue, which will take place in Manama, Bahrain from 8-10 December. The summit will be opened formally by the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Bahrain, His Highness Sheikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who will deliver the Keynote Address on Friday 8 December. On Saturday 9 December, the US National Security Adviser, Stephen Hadley, will make a key statement on US security strategy in the Persian Gulf. Delegation leaders from the other participating countries will also deliver official policy statements throughout the course of the weekend.
The Manama Dialogue will bring together all elements of the national security establishments from over 20 nations, including the countries of the region - Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Yemen - with the major outside powers, Australia, China, France, Germany, Japan, India, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States to advance bilateral and multilateral diplomacy. All national delegations will be led by either foreign ministers, defence ministers, or national security advisers, accompanied by other senior security officials closely involved in managing security challenges.


UIA, KA and KIU disagree over election bill

Disagreements are growing between the Kurdistan Alliance [KA], the Kurdistan Islamic Union [KIU] blocs and the United Iraqi Alliance [UIA] bloc over the election high commission's bill. The KIU leader, Dr Muhammad Ahmad, has told Chawder: "The election high commission's bill is expected to be endorsed by the Iraqi parliament next week. Disagreements are growing between the KA and KIU on one side and the UIA on another side."
Ahmad said: "On one hand, the UIA is demanding to be granted supervision authority over entire Iraq and that this should be included in the commission's manifesto. On the other, we, KIU and the KA, demand the formation of commissions for regions".
In another development, regarding reactions to the arrest of the head of the Muslim Scholars' Association [MSA] Harith Al-Dari, the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan [IMK] had condemned the arrest [warrant] in a statement issued on 16 November. The IMK considered the action to be unfair and asked for quashing the arrest warrant. Ihsan Mala Ali said in a statement that the warrant was for damagin Al-Dari's personality and described the arrest as a red-line.
The KIU bloc leader Muhammad Ahmad told Chawder that Al-Dari was an extremist and attributed the recent violence to him. Ahmad said that the decision on Al-Dari's arrest would escalate violence. He added that the KIU may issue a statement on the issue. The Islamic Group of Kurdistan Politburo member, Muhammad Hakim has said that the Iraqi government's decision was not timely and expected more violence. Hakim added that it was better for the Kurdish leadership to distance itself from this decision.


SCIRI, Sunni Accordance Front clash in parliament

Sectarian tensions that are pushing Iraq to the brink of civil war erupted in Parliament yesterday when two prominent figures from Shiite and Sunni Arab parties traded angry accusations of inciting violence. In an unusually heated exchange in Parliament shown on live television, Jalal Al-Deen Al-Saghir of the Shiite Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) clashed with outspoken Sunni Arab politician Adnan Al-Dulaimi.
Saghir complained that Shiites living in two mainly Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad, Adil and Jamiaa, were enduring violence that was driving them to seek the protection of militias and “opening the door to those who want revenge. What has happened will open the gates of hell,” Saghir said. “People will lose faith in this institution (Parliament) and then there will be no choice but to turn to the militias.”
“We all demand militias be disbanded, but where is the serious desire to root out the causes that push people to carry weapons?” Saghir said. “We make speeches, but in practice we find people here in parliament who incite (violence).” Saghir did not identify anyone in the chamber, but his comments sparked an angry reaction from Dulaimi, head of the Sunni Accordance Front, the largest Sunni bloc in Parliament. “Everything Sheikh Jalal (Saghir) says is not true,” Dulaimi said. “Sheikh Jalal is one of the sources of sectarian strife. He shouldn’t talk like this. This is a conspiracy against us.” A furious Dulaimi said he was treated with disrespect “like Iranians and Jews.”


Iran's exprots to Iraq climb 19 per cent in 7 months

Iran's exports to Iran have climbed 19 per cent in the first seven months of the current Iranian year (started March 21), a report said yesterday. According to a report released by the Public Relations Department of Iran's Customs Office, the goods exported over the period weighed 1.439 million tons and had a value of US$700 million. "Ten major items, including mineral water, various detergents or washing liquids, biscuits, water coolers, pistacchios, fresh or dried tomatoes, apples and home appliances accounted for 28 per cent of the value of the exported goods," the report said. Iraq was Iran's third largest export market in the period. "Iraq accounted for 6.9 per cent of the total weight and eight per cent of the total value of Iranian exported goods in the period." Meanwhile the value of Iraq's exports to Iran was US$817,000 in the period.


Fear of violence keeps ministers at home

Politics, Security
Many Iraqi ministers are staying away from work, fearing attacks from militias or insurgents. Violence has exacerbated in Baghdad with street battles reported daily in several parts of the city. Despite the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops, residents say there is no street in Baghdad where one can feel safe.
Gunmen have already kidnapped a deputy minister and attacked the convoy of another, killing two bodyguards. Some ministers are reported to have delegated their duties to lower ranking officials, preferring to spend their time traveling outside Iraq. Others simply stay at home, fearing for their live.
A director-general in one of the ministries said the minister has been away for more than a month and “no one in the ministry knows about his whereabouts.” The official spoke only on condition that his name and the name of the ministry he belonged remain secret. The so-called strategic ministries along with the prime minister’s and the president’s offices are situated inside the heavily protected Green Zone. Key Iraqi officials even sleep there. But others with houses in Baghdad need to travel to the Green Zone where their offices are situated. Now they fear kidnapping or assassination whether staying at home or on their way to work.


Sunni parliament speaker targeted in car bomb attempt

Politics, Security
Iraq's largest Sunni-Arab political party on Wednesday condemned a car bomb attack inside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone that apparently attempted to kill Iraq's controversial speaker of parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani. The small bomb exploded Tuesday afternoon at the back of an armored car in the motorcade of the Sunni speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, as it was driving into a parking lot near the Green Zone's convention center, where al-Mashhadani and other Iraqi legislators were meeting, a parliamentary aide said.
The slightly wounded American security guard driver got out of the vehicle and found other explosive devices planted beneath it, the aide said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "We strongly condemn this act," Ammar Wajih, the chief spokesman for the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni-Arab part in Iraq, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "To plant a bomb in a heavily guarded place near the parliament building is a big security breach because few authorized persons can enter this area. The aim of this act is to hamper the political process." Mashhadani, a hard-line Sunni Arab nationalist reviled by many Shiites, was the fourth high-ranking Iraqi government official to be targeted by assailants in recent days.
Last summer, Shiite and Kurdish parties organized an unsuccessful bid to oust al-Mashhadani as parliament speaker after his comments about the insurgency and regional self-rule angered and embarrassed key political groups. He called the U.S. occupation of Iraq "the work of butchers." Al-Mashhadani had been angered by low attendance among Iraqi Accordance Front lawmakers that prevented the 275-seat body from making the quorum of 138 of the 275 lawmakers.
COMMENT: The disbanded Iraqi Ba'th Party issued, on September 5, 2006, a hit list of Iraqi political, judicial and military figures. Mashhadani's name was on the list. In the last few days several other politicians have been targeted, mainly from the Ministry of Health - widely believed to be associated with al-Sadr, as well as Minister of State Mohammed Abbas Auraibi. Most of the ministers have been Shias. It is possible that the Iraqi ba'th Party are carrying out their threat. COMMENT ENDS.


AMS leader al-Dhari calls for dismissal of government

The leader of the Muslim Scholars Association, Harith al-Dari, called on November 19 for the dismissal of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government and a reassessment of the political process in Iraq, "Al-Ghadd" reported the same day. Al-Dari called for the formation of an Iraqi unity government that would serve all Iraqis, and he accused al-Maliki's government of perpetrating sectarian attacks against Sunni Arabs. "We will not remain silent over the organized sectarian killings that parties known to al-Maliki's government are carrying out today against Sunnis all over Iraq under the full cover of the U.S. occupation forces," he said. He also said there are "certain groups" who are trying to divide Iraq and strip it of its national and Arab identity. The Interior Ministry issued an arrest warrant for al-Dari on November 17 on charges of "inciting terrorism"


Bush to meet al-Maliki in Jordan next week

Security, Politics
U.S. President George W. Bush will meet Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Jordan next week as pressure builds on both leaders for decisive action to halt a slide into chaos many fear could destabilize the region.
The meeting, in a much safer venue than Baghdad, will follow a weekend visit to Iran by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and this week's landmark visit to Iraq by Syria's foreign minister.
They will be the first lengthy talks between Bush and Maliki since Bush pledged a new approach on Iraq after his Democratic opponents took control of Congress. They will come a month after the two spoke to ease tension after indications of irritation on both sides about how much the other was doing to halt violence.
They agreed to draw up plans for accelerating the training of Iraqi forces and the transfer of responsibility. Maliki said Iraqis could take charge in six months, half the U.S. estimate.
A joint statement on the November 29-30 Amman summit said: "We will focus our discussions on current developments in Iraq, progress made to date in the deliberations of a high-level joint committee on transferring security responsibility and the role of the region in supporting Iraq."
With Bush's allies urging him to reach out on Iraq to U.S. adversaries in Tehran and Damascus, Washington reacted coolly to the flurry of regional diplomacy seen with Syria restoring full relations with Iraq and Talabani announcing his trip to Iran.
Some analysts say anti-American Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose country is accused by Washington of backing Shi'ite militias in Iraq, may have pushed the talks to upstage Bush. Ahmadinejad also invited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, although Iraqi officials said a three-way summit is unlikely. Next month Bush is expected to receive recommendations on Iraq from a bipartisan Iraq Study Group. The Pentagon is conducting its own review of the approach on Iraq. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said Maliki has "obviously been developing his own ideas on the way forward".
In Baghdad, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, on a first such visit since U.S. troops overthrew Saddam Hussein, signed an accord to restore diplomatic relations in which he also accepted the U.S. troop presence in Iraq. Previously he had insisted that a timetable should be set for their withdrawal.


UN report: 3,709 civilian Iraqi deaths in October

Iraqi deaths hit a new high in October and more than 2 million people have fled their homes since the U.S. invasion to escape violence that is segregating the country on sectarian lines, a U.N. report said on Wednesday. October's civilian death toll of 3,709 was up from 3,345 in September, according to U.N. figures based on Health Ministry data. July's death toll of 3,590 had been the highest to date. The report said the deteriorating security situation increased poverty and generated "unparalleled" population movement, with 418,392 people displaced within Iraq due to sectarian violence since the February bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra, which triggered a surge in violence.
It said in addition to those displaced in Iraq, nearly 100,000 people were fleeing to Syria and Jordan every month, taking the total number estimated to have sought refuge abroad since the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003 to 1.6 million. Baghdad was the epicentre of the violence, accounting for nearly 5,000 of all the deaths in September and October, with most of the bodies bearing signs of torture and gunshot wounds. In its bimonthly human rights report, the United Nations said sectarian attacks were the main source of violence, fuelled by insurgent attacks and militias as well as criminal groups.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


'Iraqi Resistance' allegedly behind Health Minister abduction

According to the Free Arab Voice, the Iraqi resistance kidnapped the Minister of Health and he supplied information to them which facilitated the attacks on several ministers on Monday. In a dispatch posted at 7:55pm Makkah time Monday night, Mafkarat al-Islam reported that it had obtained details of the abduction of the deputy puppet "Minister of Health" 'Ammar as-Saffar from his home in Baghdad on Sunday evening, by men wearing uniforms of puppet security agencies.
Mafkarat al-Islam reported a source in the Iraqi puppet security apparatus, who asked not to be identified, as saying that at 5:45pm local time Sunday evening four white cars with tinted windows driven by men wearing official black uniforms pulled up by the deputy puppet "Minister’s" house, as did two "Monica" vehicles (Toyota Landcruisers) belonging to the puppet "Iraqi Interior Ministry" driven by men wearing the uniform of the Iraqi puppet "Special Forces."
Upon arriving at the house, the men in the vehicles got out, raised the iron roadblock and asked the seven guards, who were equipped with modern arms, to tell the deputy puppet "Minister" that an important person was urgently waiting for him in the so-called "Green Zone" where the American occupation has its headquarters in Baghdad. When the puppet "Deputy Minister" as-Saffar came out in casual attire, he was asked respectfully to get into one of the cars. He told the men that he had to change first, however. The men told him that the matter was urgent and there was no need for him to change clothes. This caused the puppet "Deputy Minister" to question their identity and also their identity papers, which indicated that they were with the puppet "Personal Guards Department."
The men then pushed as-Saffar forcibly into one of the cars. One of the bodyguards at the home moved to open fire on the men, but they shot him on the spot. The other guards ran for cover and began firing at the kidnappers from a distance but by that time the cars had driven off at "insane speed" and had reached the far end of al-Maghrib Street.
The correspondent for Mafkarat al-Islam reported that this account of the abduction of the puppet "Deputy Minister" strongly suggested that it was the Iraqi Resistance that had kidnapped as-Saffar in a hitherto unprecedented highly sophisticated operation. This supposition appeared to be confirmed by the spate of attacks on puppet regime officials that swept occupied Baghdad on Monday. Targeted for attack on Monday were the puppet "Minister for the Tribes," Muhammad al-'Uraybi; the puppet "Deputy Administrative Minister of Health," Hakim az-Zamili; a "General Director" in the puppet "Ministry of Trade," Amir Ahmad; and a high ranking officer in the 2nd Division of the Iraqi puppet army.
It would appear, the Mafkarat al-Islam correspondent said, that as-Saffar had provided useful information to his captors about other top officials in the puppet regime, facilitating the Monday attacks. The Iraqi Resistance was seen behind a spate of attacks on puppet regime officials in Baghdad on Monday. An ambush and attempt to abduct the puppet "Minister for the Tribes," Muhammad al-'Uraybi took place on Muhammad al-Qasim Road in Baghdad. The puppet "Minister" miraculously escaped, fleeing to an American camp together with his bodyguards.


Al-Hakim meets with Talabani and PUK leaders

Al-Sayyid Abd-al-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq [SCIRI] and leader of the Unified Iraqi Coalition, received President Jalal Talabani and several Patriotic Union of Kurdistan [PUK] leaders at his private office in Baghdad last Wednesday [15 November 2006].
The meeting was attended by First Vice-President Adil Abd-al-Mahdi, Shaykh Humam Hammudi, and a number of coalition members. The two sides discussed the effective solutions to the crises faced in Iraq, chiefly the deterioration of security in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad. The two sides underlined the need to activate and strengthen the national unity government and to support efforts aimed at rendering the national reconciliation plan successful. They stressed the importance of cooperation, consultation and continuing to hold such meetings given their significance at the current stage in order to bring the Iraqi ship to safe shores.
Al-Hakim said that the federal system of government distributes the revenues of the wealth existing in all areas of Iraq and uses them for the benefit of all Iraqis, not for the benefit of the residents of the area in which this wealth exists. Al-Hakim noted that it was Al-Sayyid Baqir al-Hakim who had made the decision to turn the Badr Corps from a military establishment into a political organization and that that was before the integration decision. He noted that there is no need for weapons at present. As regards the federal system of government, al-Hakim said that the revenues of the wealth in all areas of Iraq will be used for the benefit of all Iraqis, not the benefit of the residents of the areas in which this wealth exists.


Anbar Tribal council criticises al-Dhari

Security, Politics, Tribal
Sunni Arab sheiks from volatile Anbar Province denounced a powerful Sunni cleric on Saturday, calling him "a thug" for supporting the terrorist group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and urging the Iraqi government to issue an arrest warrant against him.
The sheiks, the founders of a group called the Anbar Salvation Council, which they formed in September to resist foreign militants in Iraq, were reacting to statements that the cleric, Harith al-Dhari, had made in interviews last week in which he criticized Sunni tribal leaders who had recently decided to take a stand against Al Qaeda. Mr. Dhari leads the Muslim Scholars Association, a group of conservative clerics that is outspoken in its criticism of the American occupation and the Iraqi government. In the interviews last week, he accused the Anbar council of trying to cozy up to the Iraqi government in return for money.
"We, on behalf of the Anbar tribes council, say to Harith al-Dhari: If there is a thug, it is you; if there is a killer and a kidnapper, it is you," said Sheik Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, leader of the Rishawi tribe. Sheik Rishawi spoke at a news conference at the Mansour Hotel in Baghdad.
Mr. Dhari's statements have touched off outrage in the highest ranks of the Iraqi government. President Jalal Talabani said last Tuesday that Mr. Dhari was stirring up sectarian strife and that he was trying to enlist the aid of Sunni-led countries in the region to foment violence here. Mr. Dhari is in Amman, Jordan, and has been traveling widely across the Middle East.


Al-Anbar's tribes fight alongside Americans to drive out al-Qaeda

Security, Tribes
A power struggle is taking place in the Sunni triangle, with tribal leaders and coalition forces aligning against a common enemy Sheikh Abd Sittar Bezea Ftikhan, a Sunni tribal leader on whose unlikely shoulders rest American hopes of reclaiming Ramadi and defeating al-Qaeda in Iraq. Ramadi, a city of 400,000 inhabitants that al-Qaeda and its Iraqi allies have controlled since mid-2004 and would like to make the capital of their cherished Islamic caliphate.
A power struggle has erupted: al-Qaeda’s reign of terror is being challenged. Sheikh Sittar and many of his fellow tribal leaders have cast their lot with the once-reviled US military. They are persuading hundreds of their followers to sign up for the previously defunct Iraqi police. American troops are moving into a city that was, until recently, a virtual no-go area. A battle is raging for the allegiance of Ramadi’s battered and terrified citizens and the outcome could have far-reaching consequences.
Ramadi has been the insurgency’s stronghold for the past two years. It is the conduit for weapons and foreign fighters arriving from Syria and Saudi Arabia. To reclaim it would deal a severe blow to the insurgency throughout the Sunni triangle and counter mounting criticism of the war back in America. It’s very hostile,” said First Lieutenant Matthew McGraw, the US platoon leader. “We get attacked every day.” But not all the fighting is between al-Qaeda and US or Iraqi troops. There are many factions battling for control in Ramadi — al-Qaeda, hardline nationalists, Islamic radicals, former Baathists and the tribal leaders — and that is the background to Sheikh Sittar’s unlikely alliance with the Americans. As one US officer put it, the sheikhs are only “pro-American in the sense that they are fighting the same enemy”.
As al-Qaeda’s fighters tightened their grip on Ramadi, they became increasingly repressive and challenged the tribal leaders’ power. Soon they were kidnapping and beheading innocent people as part of a campaign of extortion and intimidation. During the late summer he began enlisting his fellow sheikhs in a movement called the Sahawat or Awakening, whose goal is to drive al-Qaeda from Anbar province. The US military wooed the sheikhs and agreed that their chosen instrument should be the police force, which was practically defunct thanks to al-Qaeda death threats against anyone who dared to sign up. In June there were only 35 recruits; in July Sheikh Sittar sent 300 members of his 30,000-strong Resha tribe for training.
Last month a record 409 new recruits were dispatched to the police academy in Jordan, and 1,300 are now signed up, many of them former Baathists. The US and Iraqi armies have armed and protected them against al-Qaeda attacks, and as fear of al-Qaeda has dissipated, so the process has accelerated. The beauty of the police is that they serve — unlike the Iraqi army — in their own communities. They know exactly who the enemies are.
Inside the heavily fortified Abu Faraj police station, just north of Ramadi, the recruits all said that they had been too frightened to join before. Colonel MacFarland, who arrived in Ramadi fresh from pacifying the much smaller town of Tall’Afar near the Syrian border, has abandoned his predecessor’s policy of merely surrounding the city. He has instead adopted an aggressive “inkblot” strategy of seizing and securing key points within it then radiating outwards. Helped by the flood of new recruits he has already established a chain of 19 COPs and police stations designed to curtail the terrorists’ freedom of movement within Ramadi. Previously, he said, the US military “controlled” just one road into the city and had to fight its way up and down that.
Colonel MacFarland and his officers say that they are already seeing dividends. They claim to have killed 750 terrorists since June, that the number of foreign fighters has fallen from more than 1,000 to the “low hundreds” and that US and Iraqi forces now control 70 per cent of the city. They recently found the graves of 200 foreign fighters in a former park. When they recaptured Ramadi’s general hospital they found it occupied by only four wounded insurgents.
They say that the number of attacks has fallen from 20 to 15 a day, that the number of IEDs has fallen from about ten a day to three and that al-Qaeda can no longer stage mass attacks on Iraqi police or army posts. The US installed a mayor last week whose brief is to get Ramadi’s administration back up and running. Colonel MacFarland estimates that 70 per cent of Ramadi’s population now openly backs the security forces, and says that his priority is to get the telephones working so that people can provide tips about weapons caches without fear of reprisals.
There is no way of corroborating such claims in a city that is still so dangerous and inaccessible. There is no guarantee that the new police force will not eventually disintegrate into armed militias loyal to the sheikhs. But for once the insurgents are bleating. Harith al-Dhari, head of the hardline Muslim Scholars Association, denounced Sheikh Sittar’s tribal leaders last week as “thieves and hijackers” fighting the “honourable resistance”.


Defense Dept: kidnappers of security contractors linked to al-Sadr

On November 17 a senior Defense Department official told ABC News that Shiite militiamen tied to anti-American cleric Moqtada al Sadr were behind the abduction of four American security contractors and an Austrian co-worker seized in a brazen attack on a supply convoy near the southern Iraqi city of Basra. Throughout the day, statements from Iraqi officials — later discounted — led to reports that some of the hostages had been released or found dead. However, their employer, Crescent Security Group, said there had been no claim of responsibility, no demand for ransom and no communication of any kind from the hijackers.
Despite the confusion, new details emerged about the incident Thursday that took place 20 kilometers north of the Iraqi city of Safwan, located near the border with Kuwait. A senior defense official said it was believed that the gunmen who ambushed the convoy were wearing newly issued Iraqi police uniforms that are supposed to be tightly controlled, hard to duplicate and were issued only last month. Only a month ago, the coalition began distributing the digitally altered blue camouflage uniforms to National Police Brigades. The uniforms are also tied to the mass kidnapping earlier this week in Baghdad at the Education Ministry.
The ambushed convoy was made up of 43 trailer trucks and six security vehicles operated by the Crescent Security Group, a Kuwait-based private security firm. The trucks were empty as they traveled north to an Italian base near Nasiriyah, where they were to pick up materials to be returned to Kuwait. According to ABC news The Crescent Security spokesman said two of their Western employees and an unknown number of Iraqi guards were not taken by the gunmen but had their cell phones taken. They were found by a military quick reaction force that arrived on the scene shortly after the ambush. The Crescent spokesman said the employees are now back in Kuwait. The spokesman refused to discuss if any of the employees had been injured but said there were no indications that a gun battle took place.


Al-Anbar tribes join to drive out Al-Qaeda

Politics, Tribal, Security
Sheikh Sattar Abu Rishah, the head of the Al-Anbar Salvation Council, said on November 17 that several groups linked to Al-Qaeda have been driven out of Al-Anbar Governorate, the London-based "Al-Hayat" reported the same day. According to Abu Rishah, forces loyal to the council have driven out numerous Al-Qaeda-linked groups in several cities in the governorate, who have in turn fled to Samarra and cities south of Baghdad. He also said that approximately 100 Iraqis belonging to Al-Qaeda in Iraq have been captured along with more than 35 Arab fighters, most of them Syrian. The Al-Anbar Salvation Council is a coalition of several tribes set up to cleanse the governorate of Al-Qaeda elements.

COMMENT: This could be a result of tribal and political talks between the U.S. and the Sunnis, it could also be the fact that the Sunni tribes in al-Anbar have had enough of the insurgents running their towns - mainly Ramadi - and killing innocent people. It is possible that a political deal between the Sunnis and the Americans has been reached behind the scenes as the majority Shia government of al-Maliki is not furthering U.S. interests. Although most Sunnis want the U.S. out, they seem to have realised that joining forces against the insurgents such as Al-Qaeda in Iraq increases their power. However, this could all change in a heartbeat, the tribes of al-Anbar have alternately been fighting and supporting the resistance. COMMENT ENDS.

Monday, November 20, 2006


NATO discusses deploying troops to N. Iraq

Security, NATO, Region
Two former senior US officials suggested on Monday deploying NATO forces in northern Iraq to forestall the risk of a Turkish invasion. In a policy paper issued before a summit of the 26-nation alliance in Riga next week, Richard Holbrooke and Ronald Asmus said NATO members had an interest in doing everything possible to maintain Iraq’s unity and prevent a full-scale civil war.
‘Already today in Turkey there are voices openly calling for an invasion of northern Iraq to deal with the constant raids into southeastern Turkey by the terrorist organisation known as the PKK,’ they wrote in a study published by the German Marshall Fund transatlantic think-tank. ‘The best way to reduce that risk would be for NATO to deploy troops to northern Iraq.’ Holbrooke served as US ambassador to the United Nations and Asmus was deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs in the Clinton administration.
Such a deployment seems highly unlikely in view of the deep rifts in transatlantic relations caused by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which have prevented NATO doing more than small-scale military training in Baghdad. ‘This has neither been discussed nor considered formally or informally in NATO,’ NATO spokesman James Appathurai said. France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg opposed any NATO support for the invasion and have since resisted moves to involve the alliance more deeply. Holbrooke and Asmus contend that a NATO presence as part of a deal with the Iraqi Kurdish regional leadership to rein in Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas would help prevent Turkish military intervention.


U.S. reviews options in Iraq

A Pentagon review of Iraq has come up with three options — injecting more troops into Iraq, shrinking the force but staying longer or pulling out, The Washington Post reported Monday. The newspaper quoted senior defense officials as dubbing the three alternatives "Go big, go long and go home." The secret military study was commissioned by Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and comes as political and military leaders struggle with how to conduct a war that is increasingly unpopular, both in the United States and in occupied Iraq.
The postelection debate over Iraq is intensifying as members of Congress from both parties pose remedies and the Bush administration hunts for answers. Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York proposed a military draft, which the administration has repeatedly said it doesn't need. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said more troops should be sent in and that the soldiers there now are "fighting and dying for a failed policy." Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said troop withdrawals must begin within four to six months.
"I believe the consequences of failure are catastrophic," said McCain. "It will spread to the region. You will see Iran more emboldened. Eventually, you could see Iran pose a greater threat to the state of Israel." Taking the opposite tack, newly empowered Democrats pressed their case for a phased withdrawal of American forces. They hope a blue-ribbon advisory panel led by Bush family friend and former Secretary of State James Baker and former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, would propose a way ahead for Iraq, while making clear the U.S. military mission shouldn't last indefinitely.


Nortel awarded US$20 million contract

Nortel (TSX:NT) has won a US$20-million contract to build a new fibre optic network for Iraq Telecommunications & Post Corporation. The 5,000-kilometre network will deliver high bandwidth data, video and multimedia services in 35 cities throughout Iraq, the Iraqi corporation said in a statement. The new network will link to another one that Toronto-based Nortel built between Baghdad and Basra in 2004 as part of the USAID-funded Iraq Reconstruction Program.


Allawi to lead new technocrat administration?

Iyad Allawi, an ally of the United States and Britain who ran the first Iraqi government after the fall of Saddam Hussein, said that elections were no solution when the overriding problem was a security crisis caused by militias who had infiltrated the police and were killing with impunity. “Iraq was not and is not ready for elections,” Allawi said in an interview last week. Allawi is a secular Shia who leads the Iraqi National Accord party.
With sectarian violence spiralling out of control and the government of Nouri al-Maliki unable to stop it, Allawi said that various political groupings were discussing alternatives. These included the possibility that Iraq’s parliament might now be forced to override the results of last January’s elections and appoint a new administration of technocrats with free rein to confront the militias head on if necessary.
Maliki has repeatedly promised to disarm the death squads but has failed to curb the powers of the Mahdi army headed by Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shi’ite cleric, or the Badr organisation, the armed wing of one of the leading political parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Maliki depends heavily on the support of Sadr and SCIRI.
Allawi believes that if the militias refuse to halt their violence they should be wiped out. “We need to have a strong core of military and police loyal to the country with a clear cut leadership who can implement law and order in the country and take the militias out — by force if necessary, if dialogue fails,” he said. He also warned that a crackdown would require a radical overhaul of the security forces and the establishment of a new police service capable of commanding trust. The current forces lacked a strong chain of command, he said, and most of the people in them owed their allegiance to particular political leaders rather than the country as a whole.
Allawi’s comments coincided with growing speculation that the Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by James Baker, the former US secretary of state, will conclude in its report next month that stability and security are the most important objectives, rather than an American-imposed ideal of democracy. One idea circulating in Washington is to let a “strongman” impose order, allowing US forces to hand over responsibility for security to the Iraqis and begin a staged withdrawal. Iraqi politicians have held discreet meetings in recent weeks to discuss a change of government, including talks in Dubai. Allawi denied taking part but confirmed that he was aware of the Dubai talks and others in Baghdad and Amman. Some are understood to have been conducted with the knowledge of American officials. Asked whether he would be willing to lead a new government, Allawi said he had found his premiership “so lonely” — but hinted that he could be ready to “give it a final try”.


Summit to be held in Iran with Iraq, Syria

Politics, Security, Region
Iran has invited the Iraqi and Syrian presidents to Tehran for a weekend summit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, four key lawmakers told The Associated Press on Monday. The goal is to hash out ways to cooperate in curbing the runaway violence that has taken Iraq to the verge of civil war and threatens to spread through the region. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has accepted the invitation and will fly to the Iranian capital on Saturday, a close parliamentary associate said.
The Iranian diplomatic gambit appeared designed to upstage expected moves from Washington to include Syria and Iran in a wider regional effort to control violence in Iraq. More civilians have been killed in Iraq in the first 20 days of November than in any other month since the AP began tracking the figure in April 2005. The Iranian move was also a display of its increasingly muscular role in the Middle East, where it already has established deep influence over Syria and Lebanon.
"All three countries intend to hold a three-way summit among Iraq, Iran and Syria to discuss the security situation and the repercussions for stability of the region," said Ali al-Adeeb, a lawmaker of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Dawa Party and a close aide to the prime minister.
Both Iran and Syria are seen as key players in Iraq. Syria is widely believed to have done little to stop foreign fighters and al Qaeda in Iraq recruits from crossing its border to join Sunni insurgents in Iraq. It also has provided refuge for many top members of Saddam Hussein's former leadership and political corps, which is thought to have organized arms and funding for the insurgents. The Sunni insurgency, since it sprang to life in the late summer of 2003, has been responsible for the vast majority of U.S. deaths in Iraq.
Iran is deeply involved in training, funding and arming the two major Shiite militias in Iraq, where Tehran has deep historic ties to the current Shiite political leadership. Many Iraqi Shiites spent years in Iranian exile during Saddam's decades in power in Baghdad. One militia, the Badr Brigade - affiliated with the the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution In Iraq (SCIRI), was trained in Iran by the Revolutionary Guard. Al-Maliki met privately with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem on Monday during the second and final day of Moallem's visit to Iraq.


Electricity workers targeted

Insecurity is hampering repair work by electricity workers 66 of whom have so far been killed in Karkh, the western region of Baghdad. “Deterioration in security is the major hurdle preventing us from doing our job properly,” said Ghaleb Baqer, Director-General of Karkh Power Distribution Company. “We have lost 66 workers to violence and many others have suffered heavy injuries,” he said.
Power pylons and lines come under attack in Iraq where the authorities have failed to impose fees for power consumption. The national grid is unreliable and only capable of providing erratic supplies which may not continue for one hour in a day. Residents bypass meters installed by the grid. Baqer said his engineers have found “58,700 cases of violation” by residents who devise their own way of reaching the main lines of supply. Power output is said to still be less than the pre-war levels.


U.S. security contractors still missing

British and Iraqi forces raided homes in southern Iraq on Monday and arrested four suspects in the kidnapping of four American security guards and their Austrian co-worker, an official said. The raid, which began late Sunday and ended early Monday morning, took place in Zubair, a mostly Sunni-Arab enclave about 20 miles south of Basra, Capt. Tane Dunlop, the British military spokesman, told The Associated Press. Most of Britain's 7,200 soldiers in Iraq are based in the city.
Both raids failed to find any of the hostages in southern Iraq, a mostly Shiite region. The four American security guards and their Austrian co-worker have been missing since Thursday when a large convoy of trucks being escorted by their Crescent Security Group company was hijacked on a highway near Safwan, a largely Sunni Arab city of 200,000 people on the Kuwait border.
Suspected militiamen dressed in Iraqi police uniforms ambushed the convoy, taking 19 of its trucks and 14 hostages: the five security guards and nine foreign truck drivers who were later released.
Islamic Companies, a previously unknown group, claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, according to an Iranian-run Arabic-language satellite news station. It said the group released a videotaped message saying it was holding the five men and demanded the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and the release of all prisoners being held there. According to CNN, security sources in the southern Iraqi city of Basra said little is known about the Islamic Mujahedeen Battalion, a Shiite group that surfaced about six months ago and has threatened to attack security companies passing through southern Iraq from Kuwait.
U.S., British and Iraqi forces have all spent time searching for the five captives. Austrian officials have not confirmed the name of the missing Austrian, describing him only as a 25-year-old former soldier from the province of Upper Austria. Two of the American captives have been identified: Jonathon Cote, 23, a native of Getzville, N.Y., and Paul Reuben, 39, a former police officer from a suburb of Minneapolis, Minn.


Islamic Army in Iraq - no foreigners within group

Born of the US occupation of Iraq, the soldiers of the Islamic Army pride themselves on being Iraqis, and say that their main aim is to expel foreign powers from the country, Al Jazeera's Iraq correspondent reports. Three years after the invasion, the armed group is still waging its campaign against US troops. Its actions are carried out around Baghdad, but are mainly focused on the western province of Al-Anbar, an area the coalition forces are unable to control despite numerous military operations.
Branded by many as insurgents, or terrorists, the Islamic Army describes itself as a national resistance movement and guarantees that there are no foreigners within its ranks. Ibrahim al-Shamary, a spokesman for the Islamic army in Iraq, told Al Jazeera in an exclusive interview: "There are two occupations in Iraq. Iran on one side through the militias which they control and through direct involvement with the national guard and the intelligence services, that causes the killing and destruction of the Sunnis. "And then there is the American occupation which destroys the Iraqi people."
With the current chaos in Iraq, there is no shortage of recruits.New recruits train in the art of war among the palm groves on the outskirts of Baghdad. During the two-week intensive course in guerrilla warfare they learn the tactics of ambushes - and kidnappings, with the help of local residents who act out the part of the victim. They also recieve instructions on how to hit US helicopters, conduct rescue operations and carry out heavy artillery assaults."The fighters sacrifice their lives to protect the people," al-Shamary said.


Minsiter of State in bombing

Security, Politics
A roadside bomb exploded near a convoy carrying Iraq's minister of state on Monday, missing him and slightly wounding two of his bodyguards, the minister said. Minister of State Mohammed Abbas Auraibi, a member of the United Iraqi Alliance, said in a telephone interview that the bomb exploded about 9:30 a.m. as his convoy was on a highway in eastern Baghdad.


U.S. forces raid mosque in Sadr City

U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq today conducted a raid in the Shi'ite militia stronghold of Al-Sadr City, the second such raid there in two days. The U.S. military says Iraqi forces searched and "slightly damaged" a mosque in Al-Sadr City. They did not make any arrests. U.S. officials say the mosque was used by militants responsible for kidnapping, torturing, and killing Iraqi civilians and soldiers. Authorities in southern Baghdad say they found the bodies of 14 Sunni Arabs early today who were kidnapped and killed by men disguised as police. Most of the victims were taken hostage on the night of November 19. Also Monday, the bodies of 14 Sunni Arabs kidnapped from their Baghdad homes by men disguised as policemen were found in the capital, authorities said. The victims, taken hostage in the mostly Sunni southern Baghdad area of Dora Sunday night, were found lying on a street in nearby Oreij, a mixed Sunni-Shiite neighborhood of the capital, said police 1st Lt. Ahmed Hamid. Ranging in age from 20 to 45, the men had been tortured and handcuffed, Hamid said.

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