Friday, December 01, 2006


Leap in civilian deaths in November

The number of Iraqi civilians killed in violence appears to have leapt by 44 percent in November from an already record level the previous month, data from Iraqi Interior Ministry officials showed on Friday. The increase, to 1,850 deaths, was closely matched by a 45 percent leap in the number of civilian deaths tallied by Reuters from individual incident reports provided by Iraqi officials. The ministry figure is more than three times the equivalent in January, before this year's surge in sectarian killing.


Al-Sadr - Al-Dhari alliance rumoured

The next few weeks are "very crucial" for Iraq's seven-month-old government led by belligerent Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, who could soon be shunned by his own Shiite allies, diplomatic and political sources said on Thursday. Al Maliki, under pressure from the United States and Arab countries to stem the rising sectarian violence, yesterday received renewed support from US President George Bush during their breakfast meeting in Amman. But according to one diplomat, Al Maliki has been given "one last chance" by Bush to stop the chaos that threatens to tear Iraq apart.
The next few weeks are "very crucial" for Al Maliki because the Sunni-Shiite divide is widening, leading to an intensified sectarian attacks, following the recent arrest warrant against a leading anti-US Sunni politician Hareth Al Dhari, an aide to a senior Iraqi official said. Al Dhari, leader of the hardline Muslim Scholars Association (MSA), is being accused of inciting sectarianism and supporting and financing the Sunni-led insurgency. The case caused further resentment among Iraqi Sunnis who accused the Shiite-led Al Maliki government of bias.
Attacks against the US and Iraqi forces are also expected to "increase dramatically" if the newly-talked about alliance between the MSA and the movement of Shiite radical cleric Moqtada Al Sadr movement is realised, the Iraqi aide told Gulf News on condition of anonymity.
The 30-strong Sadr bloc has suspended its support of Al Maliki's ruling coalition and withdrawn six ministers from the cabinet in protest at his meeting with Bush. Al Sadr is "building an anti-US parliamentary alliance to demand the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq," one of his party's lawmakers told AFP on Thursday. But the Iraqi aide said talks have been "going on for a while" between Al Sadr and Al Dhari to "form a united front to force an American withdrawal and this is understandably very worrying for Al Maliki and Washington." It would be the first time the majority Shiites turn their guns off the Americans. "It is a scenario nobody really wants to think about," said the Iraqi aide.
Bush declared support for Al Maliki after a critical White House memo was leaked to the press in which national security adviser Stephen Hadley questioned Al Maliki's ability to control the turmoil and criticised him for not curbing Shiite militias. An Arab diplomat told Gulf News that the Hadley memo "reflects the opinion of many in the US administration and the Arab world as well as some of even Al Maliki's own allies".
He said the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution (SCIR), the largest Shiite party and key partner in the ruling coalition, has already begun promoting its second man, current vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi to replace Al Maliki. The US-educated Abdul Mahdi lost the post of prime minister to Al Maliki by one vote in an internal coalition voting last May. He has been touring the region lately to win Arab support. The diplomat revealed that Abdul Mahdi also visited Washington last week to confer with US leaders on the future of American forces in his country.
"The Americans told him they would not mind him replacing Al Maliki as long as he gets the approval of the Sunnis," the diplomat said. The SCIRI leader and Iraq's current strongman Abdul Aziz Al Hakim is currently in Jordan and on Wednesday met King Abdullah II. But the real aim of the visit, according to the diplomat, is to meet the MSA leader Al Dhari. "Al Hakim hopes to sell his man to the Sunnis and the Jordanians in return for more Sunni political role in running Iraq," the diplomat said. The move is also meant to abort the "worst case scenario: Al Dhari-Al Sadr alliance".


Refugees International: Iraqi refugee crisis in Middle East

A recent survey of the region by Refugees International documented the human costs of displacement and the lack of adequate international response. The UN estimates that 2.3 million Iraqis have fled violence in their country; 1.8 million have fled to surrounding countries, mainly Jordan and Syria, while some 500,000 have vacated their homes for safer areas within Iraq. An estimated 40,000 people are leaving Iraq every month for Syria alone, while other countries through out the Middle East, including Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran and Turkey are also seeing increased flows.
Most Iraqis are determined to be resettled to Europe or North America, and few consider return to Iraq an option. With no legal work options in their current host countries, Iraqis are already exploring the use of false documents to migrate to Western nations. The International Community must develop a coherent response to the surging displacement. Neighboring countries are being overwhelmed by the massive influx of Iraqi refugees.
Syria and Jordan are rapidly becoming overwhelmed by the numbers of Iraqis seeking refuge in their urban centers. Jordan, Lebanon and Syria consider Iraqis as "guests" rather than refugees fleeing violence. None of these countries allows Iraqis to work. Although Syria is maintaining its "open door policy" in the name of pan-Arabism, it has started imposing restrictions on Iraqi refugees, such as charges for healthcare that used to be free.
In Jordan, Iraqis have to pay for the most basic services, and live in constant fear of deportation. The Jordanian government, concerned about the risk of instability, has shut its border to young men, forcing families to separate. It is also becoming increasingly difficult for Iraqis in Jordan to renew their visas to be able to remain in country.
Given its central role in Iraq, the US must lead an international initiative to support Middle Eastern countries hosting Iraqi civilians. The US should recognize and support the constructive role Syria is playing in hosting Iraqi refugees and help it keep its borders open. UNHCR does not have enough resources to assist Iraqi refugees in the Middle East.


1,600 U.S. troops moved to Baghdad

The U.S. military plans to move at least three more battalions of soldiers into Baghdad in an attempt to restore security in the Iraqi capital, a senior Pentagon official said. An Army official said about 1,600 troops will be involved. Some of the troops are already in the Baghdad area and will be moved into the city. Other troops will be moved from areas where it is relatively more peaceful -- such as northern Iraq where there are Stryker battalions -- the Pentagon official said. The Pentagon official said the troops will not include Marines based in Sunni-dominated Anbar province, where there has been fighting along the Euphrates River corridor between troops and insurgents. The troop shifts won't require an increase in total forces in the country, the official said.


Security developments

In Samawa heavy clashes erupted between Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and police forces on Thursday, wounding seven people mostly civilians, eyewitnesses said. Officials at al-Shaheed al-Sadr (Martyr Sadr) office said intensive efforts were being exerted to halt the clashes and withdraw Mahdi Army fighters from the streets of Samawa.“We will hold an urgent meeting with Samawa seniors and we are working towards a seize-fire and pulling Mahdi Army force from the streets,” Sheikh Ahmad al-Asadi, of al-Shaheed al-Sadr office in Samawa, told Muthanna TV.Asadi blamed the clashes that broke suddenly this morning to “recent actions by security men in detaining and arresting a number of innocent people without a good reason or an excuse.” He did not elaborate.The office of al-Shaheed al-Sadr on Wednesday called for staging a civil strike to protest Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s visit to Amman to meet U.S. President George Bush.Mahdi Army has also paraded several thousands of its fighters in central Samawa two days ago in a show of force.
In Basra gunmen on Thursday shot dead a prominent official at the Sunni Endowment in Basra along with four bodyguards and wounded two other guards, the Islamic Party in Basra said.“Unknown gunmen opened fire at dawn on the motorcade of Sheikh Nasser Katami, assistant director of the Sunni Endowment in Basra, in al-Najibiya district in northern Basra, killing him instantly along with four of his bodyguards,” Sheikh Abdul-Karim Jarrad told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) by telephone.
Near Ba'quba gunmen kidnapped more than 14 Iraqi civilians at a fake checkpoint a security source said. “Unknown gunmen set up a fake checkpoint on the main road between Katoun and Ba’quba, Diala province, kidnapped more than 14 civilians who traveling on the road and took them to an unknown destination.” The source, who declined to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). Ba’quba lies 57 km east of Baghdad.


World Bank extends $100 million loan for Iraq's education system

The World Bank agreed to extend a $100 million loan to Iraq to help boost education there, the first loan to Iraq in over 30 years. “The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors today approved the first loan to Iraq in over thirty years. The $100 million Third Emergency Education Project (TEEP) will help the Government of Iraq alleviate school overcrowding and lay the groundwork for educational reform,” the bank said in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday.
Since 2003, Iraqi authorities have successfully maintained a functioning school system. Nevertheless, the educational system faces challenges caused by massive backlogs in school construction and maintenance, human resource development, and policy and system development, the World Bank said. “School overcrowding is a main contributor to low school enrollment rates,” said commented Peter Buckland, the project’s Task Team Leader. “There are twice as many teachers as classrooms and nearly 20 percent of primary and secondary schools operate in double or even triple shifts,” he added.
The TEEP will finance the construction and furnishing of about 82 new primary and secondary schools in 15 governorates, directly benefiting about 57,000 students. The project will also introduce new design standards for schools, help the Iraqi authorities formulate and introduce a national program for school construction and maintenance, and finance a comprehensive program to support educational system reform. The Iraqi ministry or education will implement the project and it will contract Iraqi construction companies using internationally accepted competitive procurement procedures. The US$100 million credit will be provided by the International Development Association (IDA), an arm of the World Bank that provides financing on concessional terms to eligible countries. The credit has 35 years maturity including 10 years grace period.


Sadrists issue fatwa to unveiled school girls

Security, Religion
Followers of Moqtada al-Sadr have issued a fatwa concerning school girls, according to an Assyrian priest in Baghdad. The fatwa requires all girls to wear the veil while attending school. In an unusual twist of logic, the fatwa implies that failure to wear the veil would be tantamount on the girls' part to complicity in the death of the Imam Husayn ibn Ali (killed in 680 A.D. in Karbala in a battle with the army of the Caliphate.) The priest indicated the fatwa was at least for the New Baghdad neighborhood, where many Christians live, and that he feared for the safety of the Christian girls in the area.
The fatwa appears to be an attempt by Sadr and his followers to establish a Taliban style Islamic theocracy in Iraq. According to an article in the Middle East Journal, "Muqtada called on May 2 [2003] for strict Islamic law to be applied to Iraq's Christians, as well, including the prohibition on bars and on allowing women to appear unveiled. This ruling appears to be a restatement of one of his father's fatwas, but this time the al-Sadr family had the authority to make it stick in some parts of Iraq. In contrast, Grand Ayatollah Sistani issued a statement saying that the Najaf establishment had not called for forcible veiling."


Al-Qaeda in Iraq lashes out at Iraqi Sunni politicians

Insurgency, Politics
Al-Qaida in Iraq on Thursday denounced Iraqi Sunni politicians who met recently with Jordan's King Abdullah II, calling them and the monarch "traitors." The statement, posted on an Islamic militant Web site, did not mention a summit Thursday between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Bush. Both leaders met separately with King Abdullah before their talks in Amman, Jordan.
Instead, al-Qaida in Iraq - the country's most feared Sunni Muslim militant group - lashed out at a string of Iraqi Sunni Arab politicians who held talks with Abdullah ahead of the summit. "The traitors of Jordan's meetings, whether they know it or not, have entered today in a pact with Satan to fight the men of God," al-Qaida in Iraq said in its statement. The authenticity of the statement could not be confirmed. It was posted on a Web forum often used to issue militant statements and was signed by the "Islamic state in Iraq," the so-called Islamic government that the group declared earlier this year and that now issues all its messages.
Al-Qaida has long demonized the U.S.-allied Jordanian monarch and in the past has targeted Iraqi Sunnis it sees as cooperating with the Shiite-led Iraqi government or the United States. The statement called on "the lions and free men of Jordan" to prepare themselves to confront the king. Abdullah met earlier this week in Amman with Harith al-Dhari, head of the influential Association of Muslim Scholars, a hardline Sunni Arab group known to have links to some factions within Iraq's 3-year-old Sunni-led insurgency. The king also met with Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and Iraq's most powerful Shiite politician, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim.


Iraqi security forces to take over June 2007

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Thursday Iraqi forces should be ready to take over responsibility for security in the country from international forces in June next year. Al-Maliki made his remarks in an interview with the U.S. television network ABC today, according to a transcript released in advance of the broadcast. Al-Maliki returned to Baghdad earlier in the day after meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush in Jordan.
After the talks, Bush praised al-Maliki as a "strong leader" and said the discussions had focused on increasing training for Iraq's security forces, as well as a number of other issues. The Iraqi premier today also urged Shi'ite lawmakers and cabinet ministers loyal to the powerful Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to end their boycott of the government. The bloc of 30 lawmakers and five cabinet ministers -- a key al-Maliki ally -- launched the boycott to protest al-Maliki's meeting with Bush.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


HIV/AIDS incidence up since start of war

Iraq has traditionally had one of the lowest incidences of HIV/AIDS in the Middle East. This started to slowly change after the US-led invasion in 2003 brought hundreds of foreigners into the country, opening the doors for the spread of the virus, health workers say. The Baghdad-based AIDS Research Centre said that new cases are appearing monthly and with the current chaos in the public health services, patients might suffer severely with the lack of appropriate medicines.
Nearly 100 Iraqis with AIDS have registered with the centre but authorities believe that about twice this number exist who have not registered. Um Khalid (not her real name) caught the virus from her husband, who frequently had sexual relations with sex workers. After discovering his disease, he left his wife with three young children and travelled abroad.
"I am one of the many victims of HIV in Iraq. My husband betrayed me. At least if he had used condoms with the prostitute, I would not be sick today. This is a common problem in Iraq because men here believe they are immune to the disease. I worry for the hundreds of young men who think like this and will be the next victims of the prostitutes who contaminate my country."
"I don't worry if I die because it will be my destiny. But I just think about my children who will become orphans without anyone to take care of them. My [extended] family has abandoned us, saying that my disease could be passed on to other family members and [they believe] my children are sick for sure. I know it is hard in a Muslim country like Iraq to speak about condoms and sexual relations out of marriage, but it is the reality in the country and the government should do more to prevent young people having the same destiny that I now have."


Two groups join Islamic State of Iraq

Two insurgency groups in Iraq, the Tawhid Knights Brigade [Saraya Fursan al-Tawhid] and Creed of Abraham Brigade [Saraya Millat al-Ibrahim], were announced yesterday, Wednesday, November 29, 2006, to having joined the ranks of the Islamic State of Iraq. According to the statement, they pledged loyalty to the Emir of the Believers, Abu Omar al-Baghdad. Also, the Islamic State of Iraq issued another message claiming responsibility for a suicide car bombing in al-Mosul yesterday, purportedly destroying two vehicles and killing and injuring “at least” twenty “apostate”.
The Islamic State of Iraq and its Ministry of Information was established to protect the Sunni Iraqi people and defend Islam, by the Pact of the Scented People. It is composed of a variety of insurgency groups, including the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq, Conquering Army [Jeish al-Fatiheen], Army Squad of the Prophet Muhammad [Jund al-Sahaba], Brigades of al-Tawhid Wal Sunnah, and Sunni tribes. It claims a presence in the governorates of Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, Ninawa, and parts of Babel and Wasit, and is head by the Emir of the Believers, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.


Bush agrees to fast security handover

Politics, Security
President Bush said Thursday the United States will speed a turnover of security responsibility to Iraqi forces but assured Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that Washington is not looking for a "graceful exit" from a war well into its fourth violent year. With Bush hoping to strengthen his Iraqi counterpart's fragile government, the tensions that flared when their opening session was abruptly cancelled Wednesday evening were not apparent when they appeared before reporters after breakfast Thursday. There were no immediate answers for mending the Shiite-Sunni divide that is fueling sectarian bloodshed in Iraq or taming the stubborn insurgency against the U.S. presence. The leaders emerged from their breakfast and formal session with few specific ideas, particularly on Bush's repeated pledge to move more quickly to transfer authority for Iraq's security to al-Maliki's government. There was no explanation from either side of how that would happen, beyond support for the long-standing goals of speeding the U.S. military's effort to train Iraqi security forces and to give more military authority over Iraq to al-Maliki. A senior al-Maliki aide who attended Thursday's talks said the Iraqi leader presented Bush a blueprint for the equipping and training of Iraqi security forces. The aide, who spoke anonymously because of the sensitive nature of the information, declined to give details.
Thursday's meetings were supposed to be Bush's second set of strategy sessions in the Jordanian capital. But the first meeting between Bush and al-Maliki, scheduled for Wednesday night along with Jordan's king, was scrubbed. Accounts varied as to why, but it followed the leak of a classified White House memo critical of al-Maliki and a boycott of the Iraqi leader's government in Baghdad. Bush said al-Maliki "discussed with me his political situation," but he declined to step publicly into delicate internal Iraqi matters. Privately, Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repeatedly pressed the Iraqi prime minister to disband a heavily armed Shiite militia loyal to al-Sadr and blamed for much of the country's sectarian violence, according to the senior al-Maliki aide. The official quoted al-Maliki as telling Bush that controlling the group "is not a big problem and we will find a solution for it." Al-Sadr is a key al-Maliki political backer and the prime minister has regularly sidestepped U.S. demands to deal with the Mahdi Army.
Before the cameras, Al-Maliki sent the protesting forces at home a message. "Those who participate in this government need to bear responsibilities, and foremost upon those responsibilities is the protection of this government, the protection of the constitution, the protection of the law, not breaking the law," he said. But al-Maliki's insistence on not attending the three-way meeting with Bush and Jordan's king was a troubling sign of possible U.S. difficulties ahead in the effort to calm Iraq. The Bush administration is believed to be pushing its Sunni allies in the region — meeting host Jordan as well as Saudi Arabia — to persuade Sunni insurgent sympathizers in Iraq to reconcile with the Shiite factions that are close to the Iraqi leader.
Al-Maliki's refusal to meet with Bush while Jordan's king was in attendance showed a level of mistrust toward his Sunni-dominated neighbors that could bode ill for the U.S. strategy. Bush, meanwhile, continued to reject drawing Shiite-led Iran into helping Iraq in its struggle for peace. Al-Maliki, though, seemed open to the possibility of Tehran, as well as Damascus, getting involved. The two agreed that Iraq should not be partitioned along sectarian lines into semi-regions for the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites, Bush said.


Al-Hakim warns Sunnis will lose a civil war

Politics, Security
Iraq's Sunnis would be the "biggest losers" if the country was engulfed by civil war, a top Iraqi Shiite leader, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, warned Wednesday after talks with Jordan's king, the palace said. "We are proud of our Arab roots but if a civil war were to take place, the biggest losers will be our brothers in the Sunni community," Hakim said during the meeting with King Abdullah II, it said in a statement. Hakim heads the powerful Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a religious party that is a pillar of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's ruling coalition.


Islamic Army in Iraq urges Sunnis to fight Shias

Insurgency, Security
An Iraqi militant group urged its Sunni followers to fight Shiite Muslims in a “battle of destiny,” a statement posted on the internet said on Thursday. “Baghdad is your (Sunni) city. Do not leave it for the strangers who intend to expel you; it is a battle of destiny now, to be or not to be,” the Islamic Army in Iraq said in a statement posted on a main Islamist website. The group has previously claimed responsibility for attacks on US troops and the kidnapping of foreigners.
Powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr has urged Sunnis to stop killing his followers, while Sunni leaders call on Shiites to dissolve “Death Squads” blamed for killings of Sunnis. The Islamic Army in Iraq said, “They (Shiites) have sold themselves to Iran and Persian interests and it is an honour to fight until Judgement Day to stop the enemies of our jihad.” “If we cede jihad the result will be surrendering and handing our lives, families and homes to them (Shiites). We become frightened inside our homes and wait until Death Squads pierce our bodies,” it added.


F-16 pilot still missing, DNA testing ongoing

The Pentagon on Wednesday identified a U.S. airman who is missing but presumed dead after his F-16 crashed near Baghdad on Monday. Maj. Troy L. Gilbert is listed as "duty status whereabouts unknown," but the military believes he was unable to eject and died in the crash. It was several hours before U.S. forces could secure the crash site about 12 miles northwest of Baghdad. They found the wreckage of the plane, an intact canopy and a tangled parachute harness. There was no sign of Gilbert.
"Immediately after the crash, we had fighters overhead as well as surveillance assets," said Brig. Gen. Stephen Hoog of the U.S. Air Force. "Those assets did observe insurgents in the vicinity of the crash site." If Gilbert had ejected, it would have automatically activated an emergency beacon with his position. The military said no beacon was activated. At the time of the crash, Gilbert was actively supporting coalition ground combat operations, Central Command said. The "whereabouts unknown" status of Gilbert is an interim designation that will remain until the DNA testing is complete, Central Command said.


Baquba out of control of security forces

Fierce clashes are taking place in the city of Baquba, the capital of Diyala Province. U.S. troops are reported to have deployed helicopter gunships and tanks to help contain attacks by rebels. Life has come to a standstill in the restive city, northeast of Baghdad, and most parts of the province. Both U.S. and Iraqi troops are said to have failed in attempts to restore order. Conditions are reported to have worsened following the withdrawal of Iraqi police forces present in the city.
One provincial source told the newspaper that U.S. invasion troops were “vetting” the police due to massive infiltration by sectarian factions. The source said “hundreds” of police officers deployed in the province have resigned when rebels intensified attacks on their stations, patrols and check points. “There are now no police officers in Baquba. Iraqi army and U.S. troops are trying to replace them,” the source said. The rebels have barricaded themselves at the main entrances, ambushing advancing U.S. troops. An ambush inside the city’s old quarter led to the wounding of two U.S. marines, one of them seriously, residents said. Two Iraqis were killed in the ambush, they added. A statement released by the U.S. military on Thursday said that Iraqi soldiers found 28 bodies in a mass grave south of Baquba.


Al-Maliki calls for Sadrists to end boycott

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on al-Sadr lawmakers and Cabinet ministers Thursday to end their boycott of the parliament and government. "I hope they reconsider their decision because it doesn't constitute a positive development in the political process," al-Maliki said at a news conference on his return to Baghdad from a two-day visit to neighboring Jordan, where he met with President Bush and King Abdullah II. The Sadrists, who have 30 lawmakers and five Cabinet ministers, said Wednesday that their boycott was called to protest al-Maliki's meeting with Bush.


Sadrists demand better security and amenities

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki must improve security and provide more reliable electricity and other basic services before Shiite politicians end a boycott of the government launched to protest the premier's summit with President Bush, a top legislator said Thursday. The boycott by ministers and lawmakers loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is not affecting many vital ministries, and one striking official said work continues at his ministry even with him gone.
But the boycott has driven home the fragility of the Iraqi government, and one of its leaders said in a telephone interview that to end it there must be an increase in the number of well-trained Iraqi security forces. Baha al-Aaraji also said the government must provide more electricity, gas and other basic services, especially in southern provinces that are less violent than central and northern Iraq. In Baghdad and other cities, residents often have no electricity or water supplies for much of the day. Al-Aaraji would not answer further questions.
The boycott doesn't affect top ministries in al-Maliki's government such as foreign, defense, oil, finance, interior, justice or trade. The boycotting Shiite Cabinet members include the ministers of agriculture, health, transport and public works. Liwa Smeism, one of the boycotting Cabinet ministers, said Thursday that the Shiite boycott wouldn't stop all work at government offices such as his Ministry of State of Tourism and Archaeological Affairs. "We are protesting, not closing the ministries. The undersecretaries and other officials are running them. If my decision is needed at my ministry, my staff can call me up at home," he said in a telephone interview.
Smeism said the participating ministers are "suspending our participation in the Cabinet meetings until we get new directions from our leaders of the boycott." Like, al-Aaraji, Smeism declined to comment on the decision by al-Maliki and King Abdullah II of Jordan to abruptly back out of a meeting with Bush in Amman on Wednesday night. In announcing the boycott Wednesday, the 30 lawmakers and five Cabinet ministers said their action was necessary because the summit in Jordan constituted a "provocation to the feelings of the Iraqi people and a violation of their constitutional rights." The Sadrists had threatened to quit the government and parliament if al-Maliki went ahead with the summit. But by downgrading their protest to a suspension of membership, they left open a return to their jobs.


South Korea to pull out troops end of 2007

South Korea says it plans to pull its troops out of Iraq by the end of next year. The decision, which is subject to parliamentary approval, was announced by the ruling Uri Party. South Korea has been one of the largest contributors of international forces in Iraq, with 2,300 troops there. The announcement comes days after two other U.S. allies -- Britain and Poland -- said they would reduce the number of their troops in Iraq.
According to Global Security, countries currently supporting operations in Iraq include the U.S. - 152,000, the U.K. with 1,300 troops in theatre, South Korea ~2,300, Australia ~850, Poland - 900, Romania - 865, Denmark - 550, El Salvador - 380, Georgia - 850, Azerbaijan - 150, Bulgaria ~150, Latvia - 136, Albania - 120, Slovakia - 103, Czech Republic - 100, Mongolia - 100, Lithuania ~50, Armenia - 46, Bosnia & Herzegovina - 37, Estonia - 34, Macedonia - 33, Kazakhstan - 29, Moldova - 12, and Fiji - 150 (UNAMI).


ISG recommends gradual U.S. troop pullback

Politics, Security
The co-chairman of a bipartisan panel reviewing U.S. policy options for Iraq says the group has reached a consensus agreement. Former U.S. Congressman Lee Hamilton (Democrat) said the Iraq Study Group would not release its conclusions until December 6. But "The New York Times," quoting people familiar with the deliberations, said the panel would recommend U.S. troops gradually pull back.
The newspaper said the panel's report did not state whether U.S. combat troops should be brought home or pulled back to bases in Iraq or neighboring countries. It also said the panel would stop short of setting a specific timetable for withdrawal. The panel, headed by Hamilton and former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, has spent months examining alternatives for U.S. policy in Iraq, with some of its members reportedly favoring engaging with Syria and Iran.


Bush praises Maliki

Politics, Security, Region
U.S. President George W. Bush today praised Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as a "strong leader" following talks in Amman, Jordan. "He is a strong leader who wants a free and democratic Iraq to succeed," Bush said. "The United States is determined to help him achieve that goal. We believe the success of Prime Minister al-Maliki's government is critical to the success in Iraq," Bush added. "His government was chosen by the Iraqi people through free elections in which nearly 12 million people defied terrorists to cast their ballots." Speaking at a joint news conference, Bush said al-Maliki agreed that any partition of Iraq would only increase violence. Bush said they also agreed on the importance of speeding up training of Iraqi forces.
Both Bush and al-Maliki said they had discussed ways to accelerate the handover of Iraqi security responsibility from U.S. forces to Iraq. Al-Maliki was asked to comment on his recent trip to Iran and on proposals to involve Tehran and Damascus in talks on stabilizing Iraq. "We are ready to cooperate with everybody who believes and wants to cooperate with the national unity government, especially our neighbors," al-Maliki told journalists. "Iraq is for Iraqis, and its borders should be secure so that nobody can interfere in our internal affairs." The two leaders were to have met in Amman on the evening of November 29, but that meeting was called off for reasons that are still unclear.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Islamic State of Iraq claims responsibility for downing F-16

The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for downing the American F-16 fighter jet in the northwest of Baghdad on Monday, November 27, 2006, in a communiqué issued today. According to the message, the operation was executed in cooperation with the Mujahideen Army [Jaish al-Mujahideen], and involved the downing of four Black Hawk helicopters and another copter in the region of al-Karma. The Islamic State indicates that this was within the directives of the Emir of the Believers, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, to increase attacks upon the enemy and target their aircraft.
The Islamic State of Iraq and its Ministry of Information was established to protect the Sunni Iraqi people and defend Islam, by the Pact of the Scented People. It is composed of a variety of insurgency groups, including the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq, Conquering Army [Jeish al-Fatiheen], Army Squad of the Prophet Muhammad [Jund al-Sahaba], Brigades of al-Tawhid Wal Sunnah, and Sunni tribes. It claims a presence in the governorates of Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, Ninawa, and parts of Babel and Wasit, and is head by the Emir of the Believers, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.


Saudi to intervene in Iraq if U.S. pulls out

Politics, Security, Region
Using money, weapons or its oil power, Saudi Arabia will intervene to prevent Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias from massacring Iraqi Sunni Muslims once the United States begins pulling out of Iraq, a security adviser to the Saudi government said on Wednesday. Nawaf Obaid, writing in The Washington Post, said the Saudi leadership was preparing to revise its Iraq policy to deal with the aftermath of a possible U.S. pullout, and is considering options including flooding the oil market to crash prices and thus limit Iran's ability to finance Shi'ite militias in Iraq.
"To be sure, Saudi engagement in Iraq carries great risks -- it could spark a regional war. So be it: The consequences of inaction are far worse," Obaid said. The article said the opinions expressed were Obaid's own and not those of the Saudi government. "To turn a blind eye to the massacre of Iraqi Sunnis would be to abandon the principles upon which the kingdom was founded. It would undermine Saudi Arabia's credibility in the Sunni world and would be a capitulation to Iran's militarist actions in the region," he said.
Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer and exporter and a close U.S. ally, fears Shi'ite Iran has been gaining influence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq toppled Saddam Hussein's government. Vice President Dick Cheney held talks with Saudi King Abdullah in Riyadh on Saturday. Details were not disclosed. Obaid said Cheney's visit "underlines the pre-eminence of Saudi Arabia in the region and its importance to U.S. strategy in Iraq." He said if the United States begins withdrawing from Iraq, "one of the first consequences will be massive Saudi intervention to stop Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias from butchering Iraqi Sunnis."
Obaid listed three options being considered by the Saudi government:
- providing "Sunni military leaders (primarily ex-Baathist members of the former Iraqi officer corps, who make up the backbone of the insurgency) with the same types of assistance," including funding and arms.
- establishing new Sunni brigades to combat the Iranian-backed militias;
- or the Saudi king "may decide to strangle Iranian funding of the militias through oil policy. If Saudi Arabia boosted production and cut the price of oil in half ... it would be devastating to Iran ... The result would be to limit Tehran's ability to continue funneling hundreds of millions each year to Shi'ite militias in Iraq and elsewhere."


Some Arab governments feel al-Maliki has been too tolerant of Shia militias

Politics, Region, Security
From the perspective of Arab governments, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been too tolerant of Shiite militias and unable to control his war-ravaged country, Arab officials said. "Most Sunni Muslim Arab countries believe that Maliki (a Shiite) and members of his government are tolerant of, and even connive with, Shiite militias, especially the Mehdi Army" of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, one official who declined to be identified told AFP in a telephone interview Wednesday.
Arab intelligence reports implicate Maliki government members in the activities of the Mehdi Army and the Badr Brigade, the former armed wing of the powerful Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, another non-Jordanian official said. "The Maliki government is ignoring the security violations of these militias," the official said, hours before Jordan's King Abdullah II was due to host a crucial summit between Maliki and US President George W. Bush in Amman.
The king, speaking on behalf of moderate Arab governments and allies of Washington, will tell Bush that the Iraqi crisis "cannot be solved as long the Iraqi government remains tolerant of the militias", a Jordanian official said. The monarch has held a series of meetings with Iraqi Sunni and Shiite political and religious leaders in the run-up to his talks with Bush and Maliki, to explore ways of containing the violence in Iraq.
According to the Jordanian official, the Sunni-led Arab countries are also concerned by Shiite "Iran's growing influence in Iraq and the lack of independent Iraqi security institutions". The Arab countries also believe that Iran "is spending a lot of money to push Sunni Muslims to convert to Shiism", the official said, adding this phenomenon has been seen even in Sunni-dominated Jordan.


Int report: Al-Anbar out of U.S., Iraqi security forces control

U.S. forces can neither crush the insurgency in western Iraq nor counter the rising popularity of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network in the area, the Washington Post reported Tuesday, citing a secret Marine Corps intelligence report.
The five-page report, written in August, focuses on the largely Sunni Iraqi province of Al-Anbar. As of mid-November the problems remained the same, a senior U.S. intelligence official told the Post. "The fundamental questions of lack of control, growth of the insurgency and criminality" remain the same, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. According to the report, "the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point" that U.S. and Iraqi troops "are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar," the Post reported.
The secret report was written by Marine Colonel Peter Devlin, asenior military intelligence officer with the Marine Expeditionary Force in the region. According to the Post, it did not appear to have been shared with Iraq's military. The report describes Al-Qaeda in Iraq as the "dominate organization of influence" in the province, more important than local authorities, the Iraqi government and U.S. troops "in itsability to control the day-to-day life of the average Sunni."


Annan proposes international conference on Iraq

Security, Politics, Region
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today proposed an international conference among Iraqi political parties and said again the country's neighbours, Syria and Iran, needed to be involved. Mr Annan had a telephone conference with the 10-member, US bipartisan Iraq Study Group yesterday, searching for a new policy in Iraq, and told reporters afterwards that Iraq was close to a civil war unless the situation could be reversed.
"The security in Iraq today is a major constraint," Mr Annan said in answer to reporters' questions. "If one were to work out an arrangement where one can get the Iraqi political parties together, somewhere outside Iraq as we did in Afghanistan, the United Nations can play the role it normally plays." In December 2001, the UN organised a conference in Bonn, Germany, that established a political process for Afghanistan after US and allied Afghan forces ousted the Taliban rulers for harbouring Osama bin Laden.
But Mr Annan said: "I think we need to work slowly to get there. And of course the Iraqi leaders will have to understand that they need to come together to make compromises to resolve their differences." At the same time he said the Iraqis could not do it alone in light of the "the bitterness and the level of violence" so "the international community has to help them do it." Mr Annan said he had not dealt with Syria and Iran on Iraq but only on Lebanon in the past months. But he said that both countries should be part of the solution.


Hezbollah denies training Mahdi Army

The Lebanese group Hezbollah denied yesterday that it was training fighters from the Mehdi Army, an Iraqi Shiite militia blamed in sectarian killings in the war-torn country. The New York Times on Monday quoted a senior US intelligence official who said the Iranian-backed Hezbollah had been providing training for the Mehdi Army. The anonymous official told the Times that 1,000 to 2,000 Shiite fighters had been trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon and in Iran. Hussain Rahhal, Hezbollah's media chief, called the report baseless, saying it was part of a US intelligence campaign circulated by the American media to vilify the group. "These accusations are hollow and worthless. They reflect the American occupation's impasse in Iraq, where it is trying to blame others for its defeat," Rahhal told The Associated Press.


UIA MP calls for unification of political blocs

Dr. Nadeem aj-Jabiri, MP in the United Iraqi Alliance said that the political process is in dire need to adopt a national project, discard proportions and the blocs that are based on sectarian, national and racial bases to stop the bloodshed. In a dialogue with as-Sabah, aj-Jabiri added that the Iraqi government and the parliament will not be able to shoulder the responsibility because the adopting of proportions mechanism, referring that the expected change at the ministries declared by Nouri al-Maliki will not benefit as long as it depends on the same mechanism. He pointed out that the reconciliation project is a step on the right path, indicating that this project is aiming firstly to specify the sides concerned in reconciliations through a bold step adopted by the government.


Former VP urges Baathists to reject contact with the U.S. or Iraqi govt

Former Iraqi Vice-President Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri has urged his followers from the Ba'th Party to reject any contacts with the Americans or the current Iraqi government. This call came in a letter, which was posted on the website of the Iraqi News Agency, and which coincides with an expected meeting that will bring together US President George Bush, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and armed political groups, including the Ba'th Party, in the Jordanian capital, Amman, with the aim of ending violence.


Sadrists - will boycott parliament if al-Maliki meets Bush

Security, Politics
Fierce fighting between coalition forces and insurgents shut down an Iraqi city on Wednesday as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki arrived in Jordan for a summit with President Bush aimed at halting escalating sectarian violence and paving the way for a reduction of U.S. troops. As al-Maliki arrived in Jordan, some of the prime minister's key Shiite backers - politicians loyal to the anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr - said they would carry out their threat to suspend their cooperation with Parliament because of the summit.
The political bloc whose members are known as Sadrists is a mainstay of support for al-Maliki. "We are sticking to our position. ... The boycott is still valid," Falih Hassan, a Sadrist legislator, said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Bush is a criminal who killed a lot of Iraqis and we do not want him to interfere in Iraq's affairs. The Iraqi government should negotiate with the U.N. Security Council, not with the leader of the country that is occupying Iraq."


Defence lawyer arrested in Saddam trial

Saddam Hussein
A lawyer working for the defence team of the ousted Iraqi president has been ejected from the court for talking to the prosecution in too familiar a manner. Mohamed Oreibi al-Khalifah, the chief judge, clashed with Badie Aref over the manner in which he addressed the court on Wednesday. Aref is defending Farhan al-Juburi, the former head of military intelligence in northern Iraq, and began the session with a statement in which he referred to the prosecutor as "brother". Iraqis regularly use the term when talking to each other, but the judge took offence and Aref was arrested.
Oreibi, who objected to the informality of the term, said: "I warned your colleagues yesterday twice to respect the court and its officials." Aref insisted that the information he wanted to give was more important than the form of address and then used the word "brothers" again to refer to the prosecutors. The judge then ordered him to be removed. Aref protested and Oreibi said: "You are arrested for 24 hours for violating professional conduct."
In evidence given on Tuesday, a US forensics expert took the stand to tell in detail how he unearthed the remains of 27 people from a mass grave in northern Iraq. Clyde Snow was the first such expert to testify in the trial, which prosecutors have previously said would rely heavily on forensic evidence to show how thousands of Kurds were killed during the Anfal - or Spoils of War - campaign in 1988.


Bush heads for Amman to meet al-Maliki, King Abdullah II

Security, Politics, Region
The US president is to travel to Jordan for a crucial summit aimed at finding ways to tackle the fighting in Iraq. George Bush is to have a brief three-way meeting on Wednesday with Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, and Jordan's King Abdullah II upon his arrival in Amman, the Jordanian capital, early in the evening. The Jordanian monarch and Bush will meet again with delegations from both countries "over a working dinner", an official said. On Thursday morning, Bush and al-Maliki will have breakfast talks and are then expected to hold a joint news conference. King Abdullah II plans to use his time with Bush to urge a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
On Tuesday, Bush said he would not pull US troops out of Iraq until their mission had been completed and sidestepped questions over whether there was now civil war in the country.
However, ABC television on Tuesday reported Pentagon officials as saying the US military was considering withdrawing its soldiers from Anbar province. US forces have suffered high casualty rates in heavy fighting in the province. General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, was quoted on the ABC website as saying the US "is considering turning Anbar over to Iraqi security forces and moving US troops from there into Baghdad". ABC said another option, opposed by senior military figures, was to increase the number of soldiers in Iraq for a short-term period. There are currently about 139,000 US troops in Iraq. A Pentagon spokeswoman could not confirm the report.
Meanwhile, the Iraq Study Group, an independent commission on Iraq policy, could not reach a consensus on how many or how long US soldiers should remain in Iraq. The group will meet for a third day of debate on Wednesday. They are having difficulties reaching agreement on what the appropriate level of US soldiers should be in Iraq, whether there should be a phased withdrawal, and if so, under what time-frame, an official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the panel's deliberations are private, said. A second official said the commission was unlikely to propose a timetable for withdrawing US soldiers from Iraq but that some members seemed to favour setting a date for only an initial withdrawal, an idea that has been pushed by many congressional Democrats.


UNSC extends MNFI mandate

The UN Security Council has unanimously extended the mandate of the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq until the end of next year. The council was responding to a request from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton welcomed the vote a day ahead of planned talks in Jordan between al-Maliki and U.S. President George W. Bush on how to bring violence under control.
"The Security Council remains strongly of the view that we need to see stability in Iraq and continued progress toward democracy," he said. "And the fact that it was a unanimous vote shows that all the countries want to contribute to it, and I think the explanation vote by France made it clear we all share the same objective. I think that's something that neighboring countries need to take into account." The resolution stated the mandate of the 160,000-strong force would be terminated earlier if requested by the government of Iraq.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


'Islamic State of Iraq' issues threat to Shias

Speaking to the recent escalation of conflict between the Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims in Iraq, and particularly the attacks targeting Sunnis in areas of Baghdad, the Islamic State of Iraq issued a statement today, Monday, November 27, 2006. The group dismisses calls for unity, which are brokered and supported by Sunni representatives in the Iraq government, presenting a brief exposition on the historical Shi’ite-Sunni divide and reasons why there cannot be any “combined interests” between the two groups. Rather, recommended for the survival of the Sunnis in Iraq is for their joining the ranks of the Mujahideen and participate in Jihad, and support the Islamic State, which was founded for their defense.
The message states: “The soldiers of the Islamic State of Iraq are determined - with Allah’s help - to purify the city of all the symbols and the heads of the hating Safawis and their militias and their criminal gangs. They have only from us the cutting sword”. To the burning of mosques and homes of the Sunni people, and attacks in Hurriya, al-Azamiyah, al-A’adl, and al-Ghazaliyah, the group threatens that the Shi’ites will “pay its price multiple times”.
The Islamic State of Iraq and its Ministry of Information was established to protect the Sunni Iraqi people and defend Islam, by the Pact of the Scented People. It is composed of a variety of insurgency groups, including the Mujahideen Shura Council in Iraq, Conquering Army [Jeish al-Fatiheen], Army Squad of the Prophet Muhammad [Jund al-Sahaba], Brigades of al-Tawhid Wal Sunnah, and Sunni tribes. It claims a presence in the governorates of Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, Ninawa, and parts of Babel and Wasit, and is head by the Emir of the Believers, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.


Iran blames U.S. for Iraq's violence

Politics, Security, Region
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's highest authority, has told the Iraqi president that the US is reponsible for Iraq's unrest and said Iran is ready to help restore security. He said: "The first step to resolve insecurity in Iraq is the withdrawal of the occupiers and handing over the security issues to the Iraqi government." He also told Jalal Talabani: "US agents in the region are the middle men for implementing American policies and creating an insecure Iraq."
The US, however, has said that fighting in Iraq has been fuelled by Iranian weapons exports and its backing for Shia muslim groups. Khamenei said: "Supporting terrorist groups in Iraq and igniting insecurity ... will be very dangerous for America's agents and also the region."


U.S. intelligence official says Hezbollah has trained Mahdi Army

A senior American intelligence official said Monday that the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah had been training members of the Mahdi Army, the Iraqi Shiite militia led by Moktada al-Sadr. The official said that 1,000 to 2,000 fighters from the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias had been trained by Hezbollah in Lebanon. A small number of Hezbollah operatives have also visited Iraq to help with training, the official said.
Iran has facilitated the link between Hezbollah and the Shiite militias in Iraq, the official said. Syrian officials have also cooperated, though there is debate about whether it has the blessing of the senior leaders in Syria. The intelligence official spoke on condition of anonymity under rules set by his agency, and discussed Iran's role in response to questions from a reporter.
The interview occurred at a time of intense debate over whether the United States should enlist Iran's help in stabilizing Iraq. The Iraq Study Group, directed by James A. Baker III, a former Republican secretary of state, and Lee H. Hamilton, a former Democratic lawmaker, is expected to call for direct talks with Tehran. The claim about Hezbollah's role in training Shiite militias could strengthen the hand of those in the Bush administration who oppose a major new diplomatic involvement with Iran.
The new American account is consistent with a claim made in Iraq this summer by a mid-level Mahdi commander, who said his militia had sent 300 fighters to Lebanon, ostensibly to fight alongside Hezbollah. "They are the best-trained fighters in the Mahdi Army," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The specific assertions about Iran's role went beyond those made publicly by senior American officials, though Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, did tell Congress this month that "the Iranian hand is stoking violence" in Iraq.
The American intelligence on Hezbollah was based on human sources, electronic means and interviews with detainees captured in Iraq. American officials say the Iranians have also provided direct support to Shiite militias in Iraq, including explosives and trigger devices for roadside bombs, and training for several thousand fighters, mostly in Iran. The training is carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, they say.


State of emergency extended

Parliament voted unanimously Tuesday to extend Iraq's state of emergency for 30 more days, and suspected Sunni insurgents set off bombs that killed eight people and wounded 40 across the country. Lawmakers decided to continue the state of emergency that allows for a nighttime curfew and gives the government extra powers to make arrests without warrants and launch police and military operations.
The measures, in place everywhere except for the northern autonomous Kurdish region, have been renewed every month since they were first authorized in November 2004. Sectarian violence has worsened, and two car bombs exploded Tuesday near a hospital morgue in Baghdad, killing three civilians and one policeman and wounding 19 civilians, a police officer said on condition of anonymity to protect his security.


U.S. - increase in violence in Iraq, but not civil war

The U.S. military today predicted an increase in sectarian violence in Iraq. However, U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell said the fighting did not meet the U.S. military's definition of civil war. The general's comments come amid a recent upsurge in sectarian fighting that has led some to say Iraq is already in a state of civil war and prompted Iraq's parliament on November 28 to vote unanimously to extend a state of emergency in the country for another 30 days.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on November 27 became the latest person to warn that Iraq is almost in a state of civil war. He said urgent steps need to be taken to avoid civil war. The White House said afterward that sectarian violence in Iraq had entered "a new phase." But State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said it did not amount to civil war.
"We're concerned about the level of sectarian violence and other types of violence that are ongoing in Iraq," McCormack said. "I know that there's been a lot of talk about Iraq and civil war, especially today. It's not our view and, more importantly, it's not the view of [Iraqi] Prime Minister [Nuri] al-Maliki. And I think that he would be in the best position to judge such things that are occurring on the ground in Iraq rather than us sitting here in New York or Washington." In Tehran, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said during a visit by his Iraqi counterpart that Iran would do what it could to help stabilize Iraq.


U.S. pilot missing from crash

A U.S. F-16 fighter jet crashed in the western Iraqi city of Al-Fallujah, Al-Jazeera satellite television reported on November 27. The station also showed footage of what it said was the wreckage of the plane, but not images of the dead pilot's body. In a statement, the U.S. military acknowledged the crash, saying the jet was "engaged in support of coalition ground combat operations" and crashed about 30 kilometers northwest of Baghdad on November 27. It is not known whether the plane was downed by enemy fire or if it crashed due to mechanical problems. However, Iraqi journalist Muthanna Shakir told Al-Jazeera that local residents saw the plane being shot down. "We got credible news saying...the warplane was downed over arable lands. Witnesses confirmed that the plane was fired on by gunmen's rockets when it was flying at low altitude," he said.
According to the U.S. military, an investigation by the U.S. Central Command Air Forces has begun into the accident. The single-seat jet was in direct support of extensive coalition ground combat operations when it crashed in an uninhabited field. Coalition reconnaissance assets and fighter aircraft were overhead when the crash occurred and confirmed that insurgents were in the vicinity of the crash site immediately following the crash. Ground forces secured the crash scene Monday as soon as the extensive ground combat operations in the area had ceased. The primary concerns of USCENTAF in responding to this incident have been the safety of Coalition forces and the recovery of the pilot. The U.S. military said on Tuesday the pilot was not found at the crash site and his status could not be confirmed at that time.


Peshmerga leader wants U.S. base in Kurdistan

The deputy commander of the Kurdish peshmerga, Mustafa Sayyid Qadir, said on November 27 that the Kurdish regional government wants the U.S. military to establish a permanent base in northern Iraq, the Kurdish monthly "Levin" reported in its November issue. However, he stressed that the base would not be used to confront Iran, as many people have alleged, but would "give more insurance to the protection of democracy in Iraq" and protect the Kurdish region "from any intervention that we might face". Qadir said a final decision has not been made nor has a location for the base been identified.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Oil storage tanks set ablaze in attack

Oil, Security
A mortar attack set ablaze oil storage tanks in northern Iraq on Monday, police said, and a source at the state North Oil Company said output from the region could be reduced for some time. There were no casualties in the attack on the oil facility at Arafa in the north of the city of Kirkuk, police said. The blast is another blow to Iraq's oil industry, crushed by decades of sanctions and war. The northern oilfields, clustered around Kirkuk, used to pump a third of Iraq's three million barrels per day oil output before the 2003 U.S. led invasion.
Since 2003 production has sagged to around two million bpd. Pipeline exports from Kirkuk to the Turkish port of Ceyhan are intermittent at best and Iraq's main refinery of Baiji, which runs on Kirkuk oil, is a target for insurgents. Pipelines from the Kirkuk fields first run south to Baiji and then northwestwards to Ceyhan and world markets. The North Oil Company official said the link to Turkey was unaffected. The North Oil Company official said pipeline exports to Turkey were running at 250,000-350,000 barrels per day when the line was functioning.


Media banned from parliament

Politics, Media
Iraq's parliament will bar the media from future sessions and began on Monday by refusing access to reporters and then cutting off television coverage as a debate on mounting sectarian violence became heated. Spokesmen for the government and parliament said it was part of efforts, newly agreed by Iraq's National Security Council, to stop political leaders contradicting each other in public and prevent media coverage that was deemed to inflame conflicts. "If there is any tension in the state, then the media should be kept out because it may increase tension," speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani told lawmakers in a televised session after dozens of journalists were barred from the building by security guards.
When one lawmaker rose to object, Mashhadani, from the Sunni minority, ordered the cameras turned off, effectively shutting off public access to a legislature whose election was held up by the United States as a beacon for democracy in the Middle East. No transcript is published and journalists and members of the public have always been barred from the chamber itself. President Jalal Talabani, an ethnic Kurd, blamed the media on Friday for inciting violence -- apparently referring to conflicting accounts from Iraqi officials of apparent reprisal attacks by gunmen on a Sunni neighbourhood in Baghdad that day.
After reporters were left standing outside the Saddam Hussein-era convention centre in Baghdad's Green Zone which houses parliament, Mohammed Abu Bakr, a parliament spokesman, told Reuters that he could not say when they could return. An official in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's media office said: "This is one of the decisions of the National Security Council to make sure people speak with one voice to the media." He declined to say whether further measures were planned to prevent the media reporting on political disagreements. In a "four-point plan" produced by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki last month to improve security in Baghdad, point No. 3 was to increase "supervision" of the media. Little evidence of the implementation of the plan has yet been seen.


Al-Mashhadani calls for Peshmarga guards

Politics, Security
Iraqi Speaker Mahmud al-Mashhadani recommended entrusting peshmargas with guarding members of the Iraqi Council of Representatives. Al-Mashhadani made his recommendation during the council's in camera session that discussed the members' safety, today 23 November 06. Al-Mashhadani's proposal comes following an unsuccessful assassination attempt against him in which his convoy was targeted by explosive devises.
Iraqi Council of Representatives' Member Azad Chalak told PUKmedia that Al-Mashhadani made the recommendation to entrust peshmargas with guarding council members during today's session. He added that nobody had voted against the proposal. Chalak added that the council decided to vote on a bill for preventing the guards of the council members from entering the parliament carrying guns. On Al-Mashhadani's proposal, Minister of Region for Peshmerga Affairs Shaykh Ja'far Shaykh Mustafa told the PUKmedia that guarding council members was a patriotic mission; we were ready to discuss it.


U.S.-backed Sunni militias rumoured

Security, Tribal
Reports of the setting up of U.S.-backed Sunni militias have brought new uncertainty to deepening chaos within Iraq.Some Sunni leaders from the troubled al-Anbar province west of Baghdad recently met away from their tribes to set up new militias, according to local reports. These new armed groups have received early praise from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. officials. The United States had earlier called for the disarming of all militias for the sake of social peace and reconciliation, but that policy has clearly changed. The occupation forces now back both Shia and Sunni militias in different areas of the country. These new groups are drawing strong condemnation from other Sunni tribal chiefs.
The controversial move appears to have brought widespread condemnation also from academics, Iraqi military leaders, and even Shia politicians. "It is a new way of making millions of dollars," a professor at al-Anbar University in Ramadi told IPS. Some of these group leaders have distanced themselves from the new militias. Sheikh Hamid Muhanna, chief of the large tribe al-Bu Alwan appeared on al-Jazeera denying the creation of such militia. He said he and the other sheikhs are in control of their tribes, and those who met al-Maliki speak for themselves only.
The new militias are riding the back of what is controversially referred to as federalism, under which each group appears headed its own way. Thafir al-Ani, official spokesman for al-Tawafuq, a major Sunni parliamentary group, resigned as chairman of a constitution committee last week. "I would have had to take part in dividing Iraq under the flag of federalism, which would have put a mark in my history as one of those who established the dividing of my country," he said. The solutions being put forth are all driven by personal and sectarian interests, and fail to consider what is best for the country, Maki al-Nazzal, political analyst from Fallujah told IPS.


Al Qaeda attacks tribe near Ramadi

Security, Insurgency, Tribal
Al Qaeda-linked insurgents attacked a tribe allied to the Iraqi government and US forces in the restive western province of Al Anbar, prompting US air and artillery support, the military reported Sunday. The insurgents attacked the Abu Soda tribe in Sofiya, near the provincial capital of Ramadi, with mortars and small arms, burning homes, in apparent revenge for their support of the Iraqi government. Some 25 tribes in Al Anbar formed an alliance, the "Anbar Awakening," in September and pledged to fight Al Qaeda militants in the insurgency-plagued province by forming their own paramilitary units and sending recruits to the local police force. "Al Qaeda has decided to attack the tribes due to their support," said Sheikh Abdel Sittar Baziya, head of the Abu Risha tribe and a founder of the movement. "The terrorists have gone to a neighboring tribe and have brought fighters to attack the Abu Soda," he said in the military's statement.
Following up reports of the attack, US forces hit the Al Qaeda attackers with artillery fire and air strikes. According to Sheikh Jassim of the Abu Soda tribe, 15 members of his tribe and 45 insurgents were killed in figures that were briefly flashed on state television Saturday night. The US military could not confirm the figures. Al Anbar has long seen the fiercest resistance to the US occupation of Iraq and the insurgency there has claimed a lion's share of US casualties in the past three-and-a-half years. In recent months, however, US military officials there have seen a turning point with a number of the desert province's powerful tribes turning against the Al Qaeda-influenced insurgency and funneling men into the Iraqi security forces. Insurgents have struck back by assassinating tribal leaders and blowing up recruiting centers.


Baghdad curfew lifted

Baghdad authorities on Monday lifted a three-day curfew imposed on the city after the worst bombing since the U.S. invasion, but nerves were on edge amid fears of further violence. Traffic was light in Baghdad as many residents apparently stayed home, waiting to see what would happen as vehicles circulated for the first time since Thursday's car bombs. The multiple bombing in the Shi'ite militia stronghold of Sadr City killed 202 people and drew comparisons to the February bombing of a Shi'ite shrine in Samarra that was the trigger for a surge in violence.
Gunmen attacked Sunni Arab neighborhoods the following day, and rumors and accusations of more attacks have swirled despite the curfew. "I didn't send my children to school today because of these rumors. People say these militias are distributing uniforms and they are going to make fake checkpoints today in Baghdad," said Abu Marwah, a 40-year-old translator. The Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni Arab party, said tens of Sunnis had been killed during the curfew by gunmen wearing uniforms, though there was no independent confirmation.
Washington has focused its efforts on training and empowering Iraq's security forces but many Sunni Arabs suspect they are infiltrated by Shi'ite militias they hold responsible for thousands of death squad killings. Maliki has struggled to crack down on militias linked to his allies in parliament, particularly the Mehdi Army, a militia loyal to radical anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Maliki's motorcade was pelted with stones on Sunday by fellow Shi'ites in Sadr City when he paid respects to some of the victims of Thursday's bombing which was the deadliest attack since Saddam Hussein was toppled in April 2003.


U.S. company Aspect Energy eyes Kurdistan business

Adnan Mufti, the head of parliament in Kurdistan, met with U.S. Republican Congressman Bob Schaefer, a member of the delegation with Aspect Energy, with the leadership of Mrs. Leapole Einoy to the Kurdish parliament. In the meeting, with the presence of a number of Kurdish parliament members, they discussed Kurdistan's economy and politics. Aspect Energy showed interest in participating in investment projects in various fields. The company's delegation expressed their gratefulness for the opportunity to visit and work in the Kurdistan region. They cited as their reasons for doing business here the stability and safety of Kurdistan and especially the investment law, which was recently established. They also praised democracy and federalism in Kurdistan. The head of the Kurdistan parliament stressed that it was important to enforce the investment law to ensure that businessmen and foreign companies continue to invest their funds in Kurdistan.


U.S. considers other options in Iraq

Politics, Security, U.S.
Congressional leaders displayed eroding patience in the Iraqi government on Sunday, adding pressure on President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to find a faster path to peace when they meet this week. "It is not too late. The United States can still extricate itself honorably from an impending disaster in Iraq," Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a potential presidential contender in 2008, said in urging for a planned withdrawal of U.S. troops.
"If the president fails to build a bipartisan foundation for an exit strategy, America will pay a high price for this blunder - one that we will have difficulty recovering from in the years ahead," Hagel wrote in Sunday's Washington Post. "I think what we've got to do is go around the Maliki government in certain situations," said Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, another possible presidential candidate. "Let's work with other groups, and let's get regional buy-in into this."
The Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan 10-member commission led by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, is working on a set of strategies for Iraq. The New York Times reported Sunday that the commission's draft report recommends aggressive regional diplomacy, including talks with Iran and Syria. Anonymous officials who had seen the draft report told the Times it does not specify any timetables for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, although the commissioners are expected to debate the feasibility of such timetables.
Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, called Iraq the worst U.S. foreign policy decision since Vietnam. He said Democrats do not have a quick answer and any solution must be bipartisan. "It is time to tell the Iraqis that unless they're willing to disband the militias and the death squads, unless they're willing to stand up and govern their country in a responsible fashion, America is not going to stay there indefinitely," Durbin said. That theme - pressuring al-Maliki and his government - seemed to unify Republicans and Democrats.


Jordan's King warns of three Middle Eastern wars if no action is taken

Politics, Security, Region
The Middle East is on the verge of three civil wars - In Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories - unless urgent action is taken by the international community, King Abdullah of Jordan has warned. He said that "something dramatic" must come out of George Bush's meeting with Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, to stop the violence. The United States must look at the "big picture" and seek Middle Eastern solutions involving all the regional players, he told ABC's This Week programme. He said there would be another decade or two of violence if a regional peace process was not developed soon.
The US president will meet al-Maliki in Amman, the capital of Jordan, on Wednesday to discuss the way forward for Iraq. Abdullah hoped al-Maliki would have ideas for Bush on how to be "inclusive" in bringing together different groups in Iraq. In a separate interview, Iraq's security adviser, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, said that Iraq was already a regional battleground, with Islamic movements from several Arab countries funding the groups fighting the Iraqi government and the US army. He added that Iran was "helping some of the extremist Shia groups in Iraq," but said there was no evidence Iran was helping al-Qaeda or anti-government fighters in Iraq. Jordan's King Abdullah said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remained the "emotional core issue" of the Middle East.


Talabani expected to visit Iran today

Politics, Security, Region
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is expected to visit Iran today for talks with his Iranian counterpart. The visit comes as the United States is considering whether to engage Iran in helping stop violence in Iraq. On November 26, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad said Iran was ready to help the United States in Iraq, but only if it pledged to change its attitude and withdraw its troops. Talabani had been scheduled to fly to Tehran on November 25. But he postponed the visit due to a curfew in Baghdad imposed after a string of car bombs killed more than 200 people on November 23, in one of the bloodiest bouts of violence since the U.S.-led invasion three years ago.


Turkish PM to visit Iran, Syria

Region, Politics, Security
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will visit Iran and Syria to discuss Iraq, Lebanon, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Anatolia news agency quoted Erdogan on November 26 as saying he will go to Tehran on December 3 and to Damascus "speedily." Erdogan's move appears part of a growing diplomatic impulse to involve Iran and Syria in a Mideast peace process.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Mahdi Army takes TV station, issues death threats to Sunnis

Followers of the militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took over state-run television Saturday to denounce the Iraqi government, label Sunnis "terrorists" and issue what appeared to many viewers as a call to arms. The two-hour broadcast from a community gathering in the heart of the Shiite militia stronghold of Sadr City included three members of al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc, who took questions from outraged residents demanding revenge for a series of car bombings that killed some 200 people Thursday.
With Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki relegated to the sidelines, brazen Sunni-Shiite attacks continue unchecked despite a 24-hour curfew over Baghdad. Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia now controls wide swaths of the capital, his politicians are the backbone of the Cabinet, and his followers deeply entrenched in the Iraqi security forces. Sectarian violence has spun so rapidly out of control since the Sadr City blasts, however, that it's not clear whether even al-Sadr has the authority - or the will - to stop the cycle of bloodshed.
Militia leaders told supporters Saturday to prepare for a fresh wave of incursions into Sunni neighborhoods that would begin as soon as the curfew ends Monday, according to Sadr City residents. Several members of the Mahdi Army boasted they were distributing police uniforms throughout Shiite neighborhoods to allow greater freedom of movement. The government announced it would partially lift the curfew Sunday to allow for pedestrian traffic.


Syria willing to help in Iraq if given something in return

Politics, Security, Region
As the U.S. debates whether to reach out to Syria for help in calming Iraq, some close to the Syrian regime say the country would be willing to help, but only if it got something valuable in return. Damascus certainly is interested in political dialogue with the West and wants talks with Washington, many here say. But the regime of President Bashar Assad will want, in return, help on issues it cares deeply about — such as a return of the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War. The regime itself has stayed tightlipped, refusing to say what it envisions but expressing willingness to help with Iraq and broader peace deals.
But Ghazi Darwish, a writer and former deputy foreign minister, said: "Syria won't be bitten from the same hole twice," referring to a widespread Syrian feeling that it got nothing in return from the U.S. after it agreed to participate in the earlier 1991 Gulf war to push then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.
Washington is debating whether the Bush administration should engage Syrian and also Iran — two countries it regards as pariah states that work to destabilize the entire Middle East. Supporters of doing that claim Syria could use its control over Iraq's most porous border to alleviate insurrection against the U.S. occupation, and ongoing civil conflict between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq.
But it is far from certain U.S. President George W. Bush will decide to reach out, even if the influential Iraq Study Group recommends it. Last week Bush strongly endorsed his administration's past tough line with both countries, Iran and Syria. As the debate has raged, Syria has done some outreach of its own on Iraq. Its foreign minister arrived in Baghdad last week to underline his country's readiness to help stabilize Iraq. While there, he announced a full restoring of diplomatic relations.
Shortly before the Syrian foreign minister arrived, however, a Syrian suicide bomber blew himself up in Hilla, a city to the west, killing 22 Iraqis — and again underscoring how tangled Syria is in its war-wrecked neighbor. Damascus has repeatedly denied involvement in such attacks, claiming that if Syrians are involved, they are acting on their own because of outrage at the American occupation.
"We have expected Syria to show more understanding toward us... and the first (thing is) to start cooperation with us," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was quoted as telling the Syrian foreign minister, according to a statement by his office. His foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, was more specific. He told AP that Syria should help ensure scrutiny of the border, stop infiltration of insurgents and hand over to Iraq insurgency leaders who are believed to be in Syria.
Iraqi officials have long accused Syria of harboring leaders of the former Baath Party who run much of the Sunni-based insurgency. They also accuse Damascus of opening its border for infiltrators and weapons smuggled to the insurgents. Syria has never kept secret that it opposes the Americans in Iraq and the government they have installed in Baghdad. The government-run media lavishly praise the insurgents, who they call resistance fighters.


Male insurgent found dressed as a woman

US forces have killed four insurgents and detained 11, including one disguised as a woman nursing a baby, in a raid north of Baghdad, said the military. The four insurgents were killed immediately in a gunbattle that erupted when US forces arrived at the house near the restive city of Baquba, a common site for sectarian violence and killings.
US forces rounded up 11 other men in the house and confiscated a number of weapons, including a mortar, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles. "One of the terrorists was hiding in a house dressed as a woman, pretending to nurse a baby," said the statement.
Baquba, and the surrounding province of Diyala, has been the scene of some of the worst fighting and bloodiest killings in Iraq, thanks to a Sunni insurgency with links to Al-Qaeda bent on expelling the Shiite population from this mixed province. On Saturday, up to 30 insurgents were killed in clashes with US and Iraqi forces, while 21 Shiite farmers were shot dead execution style the night before.


Iran agrees to help U.S. in Iraq if troops are withdrawn

Politics, International
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Sunday Iran was ready to help the United States and Britain in Iraq but only if they pledged to change their attitude and withdraw their troops. The remark comes amid growing calls for Washington to engage Iraq's neighbors, Iran and Syria, to help prevent Iraq plunging into civil war. A senior U.S. official said this month Washington was "in principle" ready to discuss Iraq with Iran but said the timing of such talks was unclear. Ahmadinejad has previously said he would talk but only if Washington changed its behavior.
"The Iranian nation is ready to help you get out of that swamp (in Iraq) on one condition ... you should pledge to correct your attitude," Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech to a parade of the Basij religious militia. "Go back and take your forces to behind your borders and serve your own nations," he added. Ahmadinejad regularly condemns the U.S. occupation of Iraq and complains about U.S. bases in the region. Washington accuses Iran of seeking to foment unrest, while Iran blames the violence on the presence of U.S. troops.
The Iranian president also criticizes what he says is a hostile U.S. and British attitude to Iran, particularly over its disputed nuclear programme. Iran has in the past called for a security pact between Iran and other regional states, but Gulf Arab countries, dominated by Sunni Muslims, have long been suspicious of Shi'ite Muslim Iran's intentions in the region.


Saddam's trial resumes Monday

Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein’s genocide trial resumes on Monday with more Kurdish witnesses testifying, as a human rights watchdog said the deposed Iraqi leader’s previous trial was fundamentally flawed. Lawyers for Saddam and six co-defendants are expected to present their witness list in the 23rd hearing of a trial that began on August 21 and was temporarily adjourned on November 8.
The seven men are accused of responsibility for the deaths of 182,000 Kurds killed when government forces swept through Iraqi Kurdistan in 1988, burning and bombing thousands of villages. Saddam and his former aides insist it was a legitimate counter-insurgency operation against Kurdish separatists at a time of war with Iran. The accused, including Saddam’s cousin Ali Hassan Al Majid, known as “Chemical Ali”, face the death penalty if convicted. However, Saddam and Majid are the only ones facing a charge of genocide.
Defence lawyers have boycotted the trial but are expected to present their list of witnesses Monday after chief judge Mohammed Al Oraibi Al Khalifah ordered them to do so in the previous session. Last week New York-based Human Rights Watch, which is tracking Saddam’s trials, described as fundamentally flawed the deposed dictator’s previous trial, in which he was sentenced to death.The Dujail verdicts are now with an appellate chamber, whose final word will come within an unspecified time. But if it upholds the trial court’s ruling, Iraqi law stipulates that Saddam must be executed within 30 days of that decision.


Al-Dhari calls for international community to stop supporting govt.

A prominent Sunni religious leader accused in Baghdad of inciting terrorism warned Saturday that Iraq ‘s escalating sectarian violence will spread throughout the Middle East unless the international community ends support for the Shiite-led Iraqi government.
"I call on the Arab states and the Arab League and the United Nations to stop this government and withdraw its support from it. Otherwise, the disaster will occur and the turmoil will happen in Iraq and other countries," said Sheik Harith al-Dhari, who heads the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq. Al-Dhari‘s comments in Cairo came as Iraq is being wracked by an upsurge in sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites, including a bombing onslaught Thursday that killed 215 people in Baghdad‘s biggest Shiite neighborhood.
Al-Dhari, who is an outspoken critic of al-Maliki‘s government and the presence of U.S.-led foreign troops, charged that the Shiite-dominated administration is using a curfew declared in Baghdad after the bombings as a way to carry out attacks on Sunnis. But he also urged Iraqis not to join in violence, which he said threatens to tear the country apart.


Iran denies organising Iraq security summit

Politics, Security, Region
Iran has denied reports that it was trying to organise a summit that would bring together its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the leaders of Iraq and Syria. Mohammed Ali Hosseini, the foreign ministry spokesman told journalists on Sunday in response to reports that Iran had planned to hold a summit Saturday with its two neighbors: "Holding such a summit was not on the agenda, as some media mentioned. Such a summit needs certain preliminaries," he said, but did not give details. "Discussions to set a date will continue, but are not related to a trilateral summit"
The reports of a meeting came at a time when the White House is under increased pressure at home to approach Iran and Syria for help in Iraq. Such a measure is believed to be one of the recommendations by a panel on Iraq led by former Secretary of State James Baker. An Iranian-Syrian-Iraqi summit would appear to fit into US hopes that Iraq's neighbors will step in to help stem the violence. Iran is believed to back Iraqi Shia militias blamed in sectarian killings that have killed thousands this year. Iran has denied the charges.
But Hosseini said Iran has already been active trying to support Iraq's security. The Islamic Republic of Iran has been participating in providing security in Iraq and the region and will continue doing so," he said but did not elaborate. "Iran will discuss security with other countries including Syria, if necessary." The spokesman confirmed that Iran has invited Syrian President Bashar Assad for an official visit to Tehran, the Iranian capital. Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi president, will visit Iran, the spokesman told journalists, but he did not say when. Syrian officials have been silent about any plans Assad might have to travel to Iran, which is Damascus' only close ally.


Report: Insurgents raising $70 - $200 mn. per year

The insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially, raising tens of millions of dollars a year from oil smuggling, kidnapping, counterfeiting, corrupt charities and other crimes that the Iraqi government and its American patrons have been largely unable to prevent, a classified United States government report has concluded.
The report, obtained by The New York Times, estimates that groups responsible for many of the insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising $70 million to $200 million a year from illegal activities. It says that $25 million to $100 million of the total comes from oil smuggling and other criminal activity involving the state-owned oil industry aided by "corrupt and complicit" Iraqi officials.
As much as $36 million a year comes from ransoms paid to save hundreds of kidnap victims in Iraq, the report said. It estimates that unnamed foreign governments -- previously identified by senior American officials as including France and Italy -- paid Iraqi kidnappers $30 million in ransom last year.
A copy of the report was made available to The Times by American officials in Iraq, who said they acted in the belief that the findings could improve American understanding of the challenges the United States faces in Iraq.
The report offers little hope that much can be done, at least soon, to choke off insurgent revenues. For one thing, it acknowledges how little the American authorities in Iraq know -- three and a half years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein -- about crucial aspects of insurgent operations. For another, it paints an almost despairing picture of the Iraqi government's ability, or willingness, to take measures the report says will be necessary to tamp down the insurgency's financing.
"If accurate," the report says, its estimates indicate that these "sources of terrorist and insurgent finance within Iraq -- independent of foreign sources -- are currently sufficient to sustain the groups' existence and operation." To this, it adds what may be its most surprising conclusion: "In fact, if recent revenue and expense estimates are correct, terrorist and insurgent groups in Iraq may have surplus funds with which to support other terrorist organizations outside of Iraq."
Some terrorism experts outside the government who were given an outline of the report by The Times, criticized it for a lack of precision and a reliance on speculation. Completed in June, the report was compiled by an interagency working group that is investigating the financing of militant groups in Iraq.
A Bush administration official confirmed the group's existence and said it is studying how money was moved into and around the country. He said the group, led by the National Security Council, drew its members from the C.I.A., the F.B.I., the Defense Intelligence Agency, the State Department, the Treasury Department, and the United States Army's Central Command, which oversees the war in Iraq. The group of about a dozen, the official said, is led by Juan Zarate, deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism.


Al-Maliki admits violence a reflection of political discord

Politics, Security
Iraq's leaders promised Sunday to track down those responsible for the war's deadliest attack by insurgents, and urged the country's Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish politicians to stop fanning sectarian violence by arguing with one another. "We promise the great martyrs that we will chase the killers and criminals, the terrorists, Saddamists and Takfiri (Sunni extremists) for viciously trying to divide you," the country's top politicians said in a statement Sunday, referring to the 215 people who died when Sunni insurgents attacked Sadr City, the capital's main Shiite district, on Thursday.
Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh read the statement on national television as Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Sunni Parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani and Kurdish President Jalal Talabani stood around him. Al-Maliki also urged his national unity government of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds to curb the sectarian violence by stopping their public disputes. "The crisis is political, and it is the politicians who must try to prevent more violence and bloodletting. The terrorist acts are a reflection of the lack of political accord," he said, after meeting with al-Mashhadani, Talabani and other members of Iraq's Political Council for National Security for a third day to discuss Iraq's crisis.
On Saturday, Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obaidi; Gen. George Casey, Iraq's top U.S. commander in Iraq, and other officials met and decided to fire Diyala's police commander, saying he was unable to stop infiltration of the force by Sunni insurgents, two officials said on condition of anonymity. One of the main challenges that U.S. and British forces face in recruiting and training Iraqi military and police forces is that soldiers and police often are attacked by insurgents and militias fighting the coalition. Militants and militias also have infiltrated some security forces to kill and kidnap in disguise.

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