Thursday, December 07, 2006


Unexpectedly huge demand for ISG report

Within hours of the report's release in book form Wednesday, it had jumped into the top 25 on Anne Messitte of Vintage Books said the study was already in a second printing, although she declined to give exact numbers. "We are continuing to receive orders all the time and will work to keep up with demand," said Messitte, executive vice president and publisher of Vintage, a paperback imprint of Random House Inc.
Vintage announced Wednesday that a portion of the proceeds from the book would be given to the National Military Family Association, a nonprofit organization that assists members of the military and their families. The 160-page Iraq report, less than a third the length of the 9-11 report investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was posted Wednesday on the Web sites of the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the James Baker Institute. According to the Institute of Peace, more than 300,000 copies of the report were downloaded from its Web site in the first three hours.


Kurdistan Democratic Party – Iran has split

The minority wing of the Kurdistan Democratic Party – Iran (KDPI) has announced their separation from the main KDPI on Tuesday. The KDPI has spilt into the wing of Mustafa Hijri as a majority and the wing of Mala Abdualla Hasanzada as the minority. The KDPI has had internal problems which was emerged during their thirteenth conference and continues until today, when the wing led by Mala Abdualla Hasanzada announced their split from the party. Hasanzada is the former secretary general of the party while Mustafa Hiji is the current one.

COMMENT: The Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) was founded after World War II, as a splinter of an Association for the Resurrection of Kurdistan, the party was practically liquidated when a Kurdish rebellion was crushed in 1966-67. It was reinstituted after 1973, when Dr. Abd ar-Rahman Qasemlu was elected the party’s Secretary- General. At present, the party is led by its Secretary-General, Moustapha Hedjri.
The KDPI is the largest and best organized of the Kurdish opposition groups, and seeks autonomy for the Kurds in Iran. It operates from its bases in Iraq against the Islamic regime. In the early 1980s a measure of autonomy in the Kurdish areas of western Iran was achieved following clashes between KDPI guerrillas and Revolutionary Guards. In the 1990s armed clashes have continued between KDPI and government forces, including bombing attacks against Iranian Kurds, both in western Iran and inside Iraqi territory.
Attempts made outside the country by the KDPI to negotiate a settlement on Kurdish autonomy with the Government of Iran resulted in the assassination of the KDPI’s previous leadership. On 18 September 1992, the Iranian Kurdish leader, Sadik Sharafkindi and three others were assassinated in a restaurant in Berlin, where Mr. Sharafkindi had gone to hold secret autonomy talks with Iranian government representatives. A previous attempt in 1989 also ended with the assassination of then-KDPI leader Abdul Rahman Qassemlou in Vienna. COMMENT ENDS.


KRG talks with Baghdad unsuccessful

A senior Kurdish delegation has ended talks in Baghdad on contentious issues but the parties have apparently failed to solve any one of them. The Kurdish delegation was headed by Nejervan Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq. Barazani held meetings with senior central government officials including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. “My talks with officials from the central government have reached no final results,” he said.
One Key issue includes the fate of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk which Kurds want to add to their semi-independent enclave now comprising the provinces of Arbil, Sulaimaniya and Dahouk. There are also differences on how to dive oil revenues and the Kurds’ share of the country’s oil wealth. Iraqi officials declined to speak about differences, saying the meetings were an opportunity to exchange ideas on how to make use of the Kurdish experiment in reinstating relative stability in their areas.


Iraqis: ISG report won't change much

Politics, Security
Iraqi citizens said Thursday that a U.S. advisory's group recommendation that Washington move toward military disengagement offered little hope of an improvement in their lives anytime soon. The Iraqi government said that the Iraq Study Group's recommendation was in line with its own plans to stop the rampant violence in the country, but cautioned that there was no "magic wand" to solve Iraq's problems.
"The situation is grave, very grave in fact, and cannot be tolerated," Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said Wednesday on the pan Arab satellite TV channel Al-Arabiya. "Absolute dependence on foreign troops is not possible. The focus must be on boosting the Iraqi security forces." But he warned that improving the battlefield capabilities of the Iraqi armed forces would not be "the magic wand that brings a solution in one day." The bipartisan blue-ribbon panel said all U.S. combat brigades "not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq" by the first quarter of 2008, but it said "could," not "should" or "must." On the streets of Baghdad on Wednesday, skepticism seemed widespread.


Muslim Scholars Association: Govt should be overthrown

A spokesman for the Muslim Scholars Association, Dr. Bashar al-Faydi, said during an interview on Al-Jazeera television on December 5 that Iraq is in a deep crisis caused by sectarian practices by Iraq's Shi'a-led government. He went on to say that the government in Baghdad must be overthrown because it has committed "horrors and crimes against the Iraqi people." Al-Faydi also said the main reason why SCIRI leader al-Hakim has rejected a proposal to convene an international conference on Iraq is because a conference would weaken his influence in Iran. "We in Iraq find that there is a big regional influence for a country like Iran, and that Mr. Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim is taking part in granting such an influence.... He fears internationalizing the Iraqi question because he knows an internationalization of the Iraqi question will destroy his influence in a country like Iran, and will also destroy his freedom and conduct," al-Faydi said.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Bush gives no guarantee on following up ISG report

A top US panel urged President George W. Bush to act to halt a "grave and deteriorating" crisis in Iraq by holding talks with Iran and Syria and starting to withdraw US combat forces. As violence in Iraq left dozens more dead, Bush said he would take the report by the Iraq Study Group "very seriously" but gave no guarantees he would follow any of the 79 recommendations.
"The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating," warned the report, "The Way Forward", written by a panel of five Republicans and five Democrats. "There is no magic formula to solve the problems of Iraq." It said if Iraq continues get worse, its government could collapse and ignite a "humanitarian catastrophe" prompting neighboring countries to intervene and hand a propaganda victory to Al-Qaeda.
The panel called on the Bush administration to launch an "immediate" diplomatic offensive to help end the sectarian strife that has left tens of thousands dead in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003. It said there should be "exhaustive and substantive" talks with Iran and Syria, arch-foes which the US administration has accused of destabilizing the Middle East.
The group also called on Bush to launch a major effort to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The Iraq Study Group proposed a major drawdown of US troops in Iraq. "By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq." A US rapid reaction force could be retained and US forces would remain embedded with Iraqi units.
The White House pointed out however the report did not include a detailed timetable for a retreat. The report said the United States must step up action -- including the threatened reduction of political, military and economic support -- to make the Iraqi government improve security. "To give the Iraqi government a chance to succeed, United States policy must be focused more broadly than on military strategy alone or on Iraq alone," Baker said, calling on US officials to seek the "active and constructive engagement of all governments that have an interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq -- including all of Iraq's neighhors." Bush said: "This report gives a very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq. It is a report that brings some really very interesting proposals, and we will take every proposal seriously, and we will act in a timely fashion."
Bush's top war ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was to arrive in Washington later Wednesday for White House talks.
There was no immediate official reaction to the Iraq report from the Baghdad government. But lawmakers spoke out against any threatened reduction in support. Bassim Ridha, a top advisor to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said the White House has to support Baghdad "all the way. If they do not support the government then it will look as if they do not do what they preach," Ridha said. Haidar al-Ibadi, a member of Maliki's Dawa party and close associate to the prime minister, said "we were told there would not be pressure as such. "In our dialogue with the US administration, we said that we would work together."
But the Palestinian authority welcomed the report's recommendation for efforts to revive the Middle East peace process. Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, told AFP: "This report analyzed things well. Resolving the Palestinian problem will open the way toward resolving all of the problems in the Middle East," he said. "All solutions must begin in Palestine."
The full report can be found here:


$9 billion unaccounted for

Corruption is the "second Iraqi insurgency," according to US auditors of stalled reconstruction efforts in the war-torn country. The Special Inspector-General for Iraq Reconstruction (Sigir) estimates that more than $4 billion gushes from government coffers annually. Sigir spokesman Jim Mitchell told Gulf News from Washington, "If you could wave a magic wand and solve the insurgency you would still be left with corruption. And for things to get moving, this must be sorted out.'' A US government report estimates that about $100 million a year is finding its way to insurgents. "When trucks are carrying oil by road because pipelines have been blown up or in disrepair, it is difficult to think that smuggling and selling oil on the black market is not taking place," Mitchell said.
The corruption is a legacy of both Saddam's rule and American lack of oversight, incompetence and fraud. Sigir had earlier discovered a massive black hole in state finances where nearly $9 billion could not be accounted for. The money was flown in to Iraq in US military transport planes, unloaded by machinery, and handed over in bundles to ministries by the Coalition Provisional Authority headed by Paul Bremer. The cash was meant to be a quick fix to stimulate the Iraqi economy. "It was given to ministries to pay delayed salaries, and get them functioning properly again," Mitchell said. Much of this money is unaccounted for.


Disagreement in parliament over foreign security providers

Politics, Security
Last week, Reuters reported that the Iraqi Parliament Speaker, Mahmoud al Mashhadani had stated that a specialized security committee would reach a deal with a South African security company to protect the Iraqi President and members of the Iraqi parliament. The statement was met by criticism from parliament members, who preferred that government authorities should be entitled with "protecting the people's representatives".
Media figure and spokesperson for Mahmoud al Mashhadani, Mohannad Abdul Jabbar, told Asharq Al Awsat, "The Iraqi Parliament Speaker announced the new security measure following a failed assassination attempt on his life. There are some technical security aspects that are unrelated to the parliament speaker and are left to the security commission which includes; the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense and Deputy Parliament Speaker Khalid al Attiyah." He pointed out that, "The parliament speaker and even members of parliament do not have detailed information on this subject."
Abdul Jabbar explained, "All that we know is that there are talks for an agreement with a foreign company from South Africa, exclusively to protect the parliamentary building. Concerned authorities are to be entitled with signing contracts and similar issues. "
Abdul Jabbar continued, "The protection of the Green Zone in general, which includes the parliament buildings, is the responsibility of security forces from various nationalities. Within the Green Zone, some areas are protected by Nepali, Indian, Romanian, or Ukrainian security companies." He pointed out that, "The entrances and exits of the building are currently protected by Nepalese forces; however protecting the building from inside is the responsibility of the Iraqi government."
Abdul Jabbar explained that the reason that foreign companies are assigned the task of protecting parliament is "to prevent any infiltration of terrorist elements or proponents of certain parties. The representatives of these companies deal with individuals equally in terms of the accuracy of inspections that are carried out and checking entry passes etc." He pointed out that, "If the task was assigned to an Iraqi body, it may be the case that representatives would be biased. Foreign companies are impartial and protect all parties."
Asharq Al Awsat spoke to the Commander of the Interior Ministry, Major General Mohammed Nema who said that, "The protection of state officials is the responsibility of the government. Either the state allocates a security team to protect every official or the official would choose the team himself. The state pays the salaries of these guards as long as the government is the sole decision-maker as to the number of guards assigned to each government official." He added, "The state allocates a number of individuals to protect any minister and the Ministry of Defense pays their salaries. If they wanted to appoint an additional number of guards, then it is the ministry's responsibility to provide funding. If a minister were to leave the ministry for any reason, the number allocated to protect him would be reduced."
Major General Nema elaborated, "Such matters are out of one’s control, especially with regard to the number of protection personnel. Concerning members of parliament, the government pays every member a monthly sum estimated at approximately 13 million Iraqi Dinars (US $9000). From this amount, the member of parliament is to allocate the monthly salary of his security team as well as the maintenance of cars allocated to him. He is free to give them the amount he decides as a monthly salary." He pointed out that there are some deputies or ministers who are financially supported by their parties, thus they appoint a larger security team for themselves. He adds, "I have a 12-member security team that accompanies me whenever I go out."


Al-Maliki to send envoys to neighbouring countries for help

Politics, Security, Region
Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, says he will be sending envoys to neighbouring countries to seek help in improving security in Iraq and will call for a conference of regional states on the issue. Al-Maliki made his announcement hours after 30 people were killed around Baghdad, including 14 Shia employees ambushed on a road north of the capital. "We will send envoys to neighbouring countries to encourage the governments of those countries to reinforce security and stability," he said. Al-Maliki, under pressure from his Washington backers to rein in sectarian violence that is pushing Iraq to the brink of civil war, also said Iraqi politicians would meet in mid-December to try to reconcile rival communities.
The ambushed employees were from the Shia Endowment, a foundation that oversees religious sites and mosques. Salah Abdul Razzaq, a spokesman for the organisation, said: "It's clear that this crime is aimed at stoking sectarian strife among Iraqis. The terrorists are trying to portray these crimes as a sectarian conflict."
Al-Maliki, a Shia who has failed to ease violence since he took office seven months ago, did not which neighbouring countries he was sending envoys to. Washington and many of Iraq's Sunni-ruled neighbouring states such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia are suspicious of non-Arab, Shia Iran's growing influence in Iraq, where Shia came to power after Saddam Hussein, the former president and a Sunni, was overthrown. "We are aiming to have this conference in Iraq because it will be a sign of support to Iraq, but it is not decided yet. We have formed the delegations which will be sent," al-Maliki said. "After talking with the governments, we will decide whether the conference will be for neighbouring countries, or beyond, a regional or international conference."


Saddam Hussein refuses to attend Kurdish genocide hearings

Saddam Hussein
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has told the chief judge in his Kurdish genocide trial that he no longer wants to attend the hearings and is ready to face the consequences. In a handwritten statement made available to The Associated Press, Hussein cites what he claims are repeated "insults" by chief judge Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa and prosecutors trying him in connection with the Anfal campaign in 1987-88.


Sunni leader supports proposed U.N. peace conference

Politics, U.N., Security
Follwoing the rejection by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) leader Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's initiative to hold an international conference on Iraq in an attempt to end the sectarian violence, Salih al-Mutlaq, the Sunni leader of the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, announced his support on December 4 for an international conference on Iraq as proposed by UN Secretary-General Annan, the Jordan-based "Al-Arab al-Yawm" reported the same day. Speaking at a news conference in Amman, al-Mutlaq said that the invitation to convene the conference "came late, but it is better than never."
He rejected SCIRI leader al-Hakim's objections to an international conference, accusing the Shi'ite leader of colluding with Iran. "What does Iran and al-Hakim want in expressing this objection? Has not the number of victims satisfied them yet?" al-Mutlaq said. Meanwhile, Muslim Scholars Association leader Harith al-Dari on December 4 urged Arab states and the international community to work seriously toward saving Iraq from disaster, Al-Arabiyah satellite television reported the same day. Furthermore, he accused the Iraqi government of fomenting the violence in Iraq. "It has become known to people everywhere that the political process brought to Iraq by the occupation, starting with the Governing Council and ending with the present government, is only a process for devastating, destroying, and dividing Iraq and its people," al-Dari said.


Iraqi consulate to open in Iranian city

The Iranian cabinet has granted permission for the opening of an Iraqi consulate in the northwestern city of Mashhad, Fars News Agency reported. Mashhad is an important pilgrimage site for Shi'a, because the tomb of the Eighth Imam, Imam Reza, is located there. The custodian of the shrine, the Astaneh Qods Razavi, is a wealthy conglomerate that in addition to earning revenues from the pilgrimage traffic, owns agricultural lands, factories, and real estate. The cabinet also approved the temporary transfer of an Iraqi consulate from the southwestern city of Khorramshahr to Ahvaz.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


Arabic press

The following is a summary translation of three articles published today by the London-based Arabic newspaper, Al-Quds Al-Arabi. Al-Jazeerah Editor has felt compelled to publish this summary to attract attention of officials, editors, journalists, and readers everywhere, particularly in the United States, to the fact that that they have not been informed by corporate media about what is really going on in Iraq.

The first article is about a study conducted by the Iraqi Southern Research Center for Strategic Planning. It mentions that about 400 Iraqis are killed daily in Baghdad alone. The killing is sectarian aiming at cleansing East Baghdad from Sunnis and West Baghdad from Shi'is. Perpetrators commit their crimes using car bombs, mortars, motorbikes, bicycles, and guns. They kill in day times with protection from security forces.
In another article, there are stories about Shi'i families forced to quit their homes in Sunni areas, and Sunni families forced to quit their homes in Shi'i areas by militiamen. Despite their plight, they are better off than the ones who are killed daily to complete this ethnic cleansing campaign. About fifty families are forced daily to leave their homes from one area to another. About fifty more families are forced to leave Baghdad as a result of this campaign of ethnic cleansing. In addition, extended families and neighbors exert pressure on men to divorce their wives from another sect. Thus, many Sunni women have been divorced by their Shi'i husbands, who usually take the children in their custody. Many Shi'i women are also being divorced by their Sunni husbands, who keep children in their custody, too. The article tells some of these stories, with names of people and their locations.
A third article is about the opportunist Iraqi exiles, who were used by the Bush-Blair administrations to convince the public in the US-UK to accept the invasion and occupation of Iraq. After completing their role, they and their families are now back in the wealthy London neighborhoods. The article mentions names and locations of residence of these Iraqis who helped destroy their country. These include Iyad Allawi, Ibrahim Al-Ja'afari, Ahmed Chalabi, Adnan Pajahji, Laith Kubba, and Ali Bin Al-Hussain.
What's going on in Iraq is horrible. The truth has been shielded from the American people. The corporate media has been collaborating with Rumsfeld about how good the war was going. They portrayed the war in Iraq as if it is caused by Alqaeda non-Iraqi fighters. They disinformed the American and European people.
What's happening in Iraq now is neither a civil war, nor sectarian violence. Rather, it is ethnic cleansing blunt and ugly. It is part of a plan to partition Iraq into Shi'i, Sunni, and Kurdish mini states.


Thuraya to cut business in Iraq

Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Co., one of the leading mobile satellite operators, has been cutting business in Iraq due to the mounting security concern, the company's CEO said Tuesday. Yousuf Al Sayed, chief executive officer of the Middle East company, told Xinhua on the sidelines of the ongoing Telecom World2006 show that Iraq shared the mere seven percent of Thuraya's mobile satellite phone business so far this year.
Iraq boasted a 60-percent and a 40-percent business share of the company in 2004 and 2005 respectively, said the CEO. "We have to decrease the fund and manpower there (in Iraq) due to the worsening situation," he said. Thuraya, based in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, has a share of some 26 percent in the global mobile satellite phone market. The company, which was founded in 1997, provides mobile satellite services for over 110 nations and regions across the Middle East, Europe, Africa and Asia.


Iraqi FM: Reconciliation conference to be held soon

Security, Politics, Region
Visiting Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Tuesday that an Iraqi national reconciliation conference will be held in Baghdad soon, Egypt's news agency MENA reported. The conference, grouping all powers, including the government and the opposition factions, is aimed at ending the security deterioration in the war-torn nation, Zebari was quoted as saying. Zebari, who arrived here for a foreign ministerial meeting of Iraq's neighboring countries to be held in Cairo later on Tuesday, made the remarks after a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. According to MENA, Zebari informed Mubarak the outcome of last week's meeting in Jordan between Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and U.S. President George W. Bush and the latest developments in Iraq as well as efforts exerted to calm down Iraq's situation.
Zebari said the situation in Iraq is very difficult given the presence of the international forces and the armed groups, adding Cairo will host within the coming period several meetings by senior Iraqi officials, including President Jalal Talabani and premier Maliki. On the Iraqi-Syrian relations, Zibari said a new stage has started with the visit of Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem to Baghdad and the Iraqi flag will be hoisted on the Iraqi Embassyin Damascus soon and vice versa. Despite the assassination of the Egyptian ambassador to post-war Iraq Ihab al-Sharif after being kidnapped in July 2005, Iraq hopes Egypt to send another ambassador to Baghdad, said the Iraqi foreign minister.


MPs: National salvation front nothing new

A number of Iraqi legislators said the proposal tabled by Dr. Saleh al-Motlak, the head of the National Dialogue Front (NDF), about forming a national salvation front in Iraq, was not new, and existed since the period that followed the December 2005 elections. Motlak, an Iraqi Sunni politician, had said on Sunday that a national salvation front would soon be declared in Iraq that includes a number of political and religious figures. Legislator Omar Abdul-Sattar, of the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front, said "there has always been a nucleus for a national Iraqi project to overcome sectarianism, this malicious sedition. With the beginning of the Iraqi parliament's second legislative term in September 2006, the project has received the kiss of life," said Mr. Abdul-Sattar. Mr. Zhafir al-Saadi, a member of the Sadrist bloc in parliament, said "some blocs have proposed to us the idea of forming a front, and we are still studying the proposal. We are still part of the Unified Iraqi Coalition, and we would join any group that serves Iraq's interests," added Saadi.
Motlak had said "in addition to the NDF, the front would include Iyad Allawi’s National Iraqi Slate, Mesha’an al-Jubouri’s Reconciliation and Liberation Front and the Sadr Movement. "Motlak earlier said that other parties and movements from outside the political process would also join in the new front. “These include the Iraqi Institutional Conference headed by the moderate Shiite Jawad al-Khalisi, tribal sides from southern and central Iraq, representatives of the Yezidis, Turkmen, anti-secessionist Kurdish movements, Christian blocs and the pan-Arab Shiite movement,” he added.


Iraqi VP says political process needs to be revised

Politics, Security
Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi said the political process on Iraq was hastily imposed on the Iraqis and it needs a revision to correct the wrong paths that surrounded the process. “The current political process was hastily imposed on the Iraqis after the (former) Iraqi state disintegrated,” Hashemi said in a statement issued by his office on Monday. “There is a need to correct the wrong paths that surrounded the political process and revise many pieces of information that were taken for granted,” said the statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
Hashemi’s comments came during a meeting with the French ambassador in Iraq John Francois Jerome who expressed his alarm at the worsening security situation in the country and said the French government was willing to play a role in developing dialogue between Iraqis sides. Hashimi said, "Iraq badly needs a strong but fair government that has national armed forces with which it can impose order and security away from sectarian and (political) allegiances and loyalties. If the bad situation continues, then the country would be drawn into a civil war,” he warned. Both Hashemi and the ambassador stressed “the necessity of putting a timetable for withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq and building a government with balanced and strong institutions,” the statement said.


30 killed in attacks in Baghdad

Thirty people have been killed in attacks in Baghdad on Tuesday. Armed men killed 14 employees of a Shia religious foundation in the Iraqi capital, while three car bombs killed 16 people in a separate attack near a petrol station in a religiously mixed area. The employees of the Shia foundation were killed when their bus was ambushed, Salah Abdul Razzaq, a spokesman for the organisation said. Interior ministry sources said the attackers first set off a car bomb and then sprayed the bus with bullets on a highway in northern Baghdad.
In the attack on the petrol station, three car bombs detonated one after the other in southwest Baghdad. The explosions occurred at 9:45am in Biyaa, a mixed Sunni Arab and Shia section of the city. The patchwork of Sunni and Shia neighbourhoods in southwest Baghdad is a frequent site of clashes between rival armed gangs. The attack in the Biyaa area is the latest in a number of multiple car bomb attacks in the Iraqi capital, including the bloodiest bombing since the US invasion two weeks ago which killed more than 200 people.


SCIRI leader calls for harsher crack down on insurgents

Politics, Security
A leading Iraqi Shi'ite politician has said the only way to avert civil war in Iraq is for U.S.-led forces to strike harder against Sunni-led insurgents. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim was speaking on December 4 in Washington at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Earlier, he met with U.S. President George W. Bush who told al-Hakim that he is not satisfied with the pace of progress in Iraq.
Al-Hakim is the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the biggest party in Iraq's Shi'ite dominated government. Minority Sunnis accuse the SCIRI's militia -- the Badr Brigades -- of targeting them. Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad and the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, General George Casey, issued a joint statement urging Iraqis "not to become pawns of those" who seek to destroy Iraq. The statement came after police found more than 50 bodies -- many showing signs of torture -- dumped at two sites in Baghdad.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Nationalist party announced by al-Mutlak

Head of the National Dialogue Front Saleh al-Matlak said today there will soon be an announcement about establishment of a National Salvation Front in Iraq to include various political and religious figures. He explained [in Amman] that the announcement comes by way of reviving a political movement that had been stalled (or words to that effect). He said this will include, besides [his own] National Dialogue Front, the Iraqi List led by Iyad Allawi, the coalition for Reconciliation and Freedom led by Mashaan Juburi, and the Sadrist movement led by Moqtada al-Sadr. It will also include groups from outside the political process including [something called] the Constituent Council led by Jawad al-Halasi, tribal elements from south and central Iraq, along with representatives of the Yazidis, and the Turkmen, Kurdish movements that oppose separation, a coalition of Christians, along with the [something called the] Arab Shiite Movement. And Matlak said the movement will be supported by religious figures of social and political weight, including al-Baghdadi, al-Jaqubi, al-Muiid, and al-Sarkhii, along with the Khalasia school.


Islamic Army in Iraq claims death of 'Shia Zarqawi'

Abu Deraa, a commander of al-Mahdi Army who in some circles has been referred to as the “Shi’ite Zarqawi,” has allegedly been killed by the Islamic Army in Iraq according to a statement issued by the group’s intelligence corps today, Friday, December 1, 2006. The Islamic Army announces that after two months of continuous surveillance, they were able to execute a successful strike in Balad, and explode the ambulance in which Abu Deraa was traveling undercover between the cities of al-Thawra and Balad.
Abu Deraa, the nom de guerre of Ismail al-Zerjawi, operated out of Sadr City, the stronghold of Sh’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s brigade, al-Mahdi Army. He gained infamy for his command of the Shi’ite death squad and brutal attacks targeting Sunni Muslims. He was also accused of the kidnapping and assassination of Saddam Hussein’s lawyer Khamis al-Obeidi.


F-16 pilot listed as KIA

An American pilot whose F-16 fighter jet went down in Iraq was listed as killed in action following DNA analysis of remains recovered at the crash site, the U.S. Air Force said Sunday. Maj. Troy L. Gilbert, 34, was supporting troops fighting in Anbar province, where many of the country's Sunni-Arab insurgent groups operate. Videotape footage obtained by Associated Press Television News after the crash appeared to show the wreckage of the F-16CG in a field and a tangled parachute nearby. Remains recovered at the crash site 20 miles north of Baghdad were identified as Gilbert's, the Air Force said. U.S. forces investigating the crash have said insurgents reached the site before American forces could. The cause of the crash is under investigation, but officials said they did not believe Gilbert was shot down.


Blair to meet Bush this week

U.S., U.K.
Tony Blair will fly to Washington this week for a summit with President George W Bush to discuss the gradual handover of Iraq, amid renewed doubts about Britain’s influence over the US, write David Cracknell and Sarah Baxter. The prime minister will travel to the White House on Wednesday for a two-day visit, with attention likely to be focused on the publication of a major review of US policy in Iraq. The report of the Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by James Baker, the former secretary of state, will suggest gradually phasing the mission of US troops in Iraq from combat to training and supporting Iraqi units.
Blair’s visit is likely to be dominated by the issue. Margaret Beckett, the foreign secretary, announced last month that British troops could pass responsibility to Iraqi forces early next year. The prime minister is also likely to face awkward questions about how much influence he has over the White House. Kendall Myers, a State Department official, said last week the special relationship between Britain and America was “totally one-sided”. A British official suggested that Blair might offer to be a “bridge” between the United States, Syria and Iran. But Bush is resisting efforts by the Iraq Study Group to pressure his administration into talks.
Britain and America are still acting in tandem. A planned British withdrawal from Basra in the spring of 2007 is to be matched in the US-run Kurdish regions. But any hardline stance by Bush against the Baker recommendations could significantly delay the eventual departure of British troops from Iraq and cause further problems for British commanders stretched for personnel in Afghanistan. If Bush insists that US forces must stay in Iraq British troops are likely to remain, at least until he leaves office at the start of 2009, simply to protect US lines of supply from Kuwait.


Drug use on the increase

A new opinion poll suggests that more than half of Iraqis know of the existence of illegal drugs and how to get them. Baghdad University’s Professor Arkan Saeed conducted the survey in Baghdad, questioning a random selection of 206 people. Eighty-one per cent said it was not that difficult to buy the drugs while only 18 per cent said they had no idea of their existence. Most worrying for the researcher has been the high use of illegal drugs among the 15-20 age groups.
He said 46 per cent of the youngsters in this group said they were using drugs regularly while the use declines drastically among older groups. Of the 109 males in the survey, 92 per cent said they bought various drugs and hallucination pills while only 2 per cent of the 97 females in the study said they were using them. One good sign for the researcher has been the high awareness among Iraqi drug users that addiction could be treated. Sixty four of the users said they were aware that treatment was possible if they wanted to.
The results of the poll, despite its small number of respondents, is evidence of the surge in the use of drugs in a country which before the 2003 U.S. invasion had the lowest number of drug users in the Middle East. The problem, according to researcher, is common among youngsters and if not checked, it may contaminate a large section of the society in the future. In the absence of law and order and restrictions on the dispensation of certain medicines, the number of Iraqis using hallucination pills and other forms of illegal drugs is expected to increase, Professor Saeed said.


Al-Hakim to meet Bush

An influential Shiite leader will try to persuade US President George W. Bush to engage Iran to help end the conflict in Iraq, a Shiite official said. Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), is slated to hold talks with Bush in Washington today. Speaking to Gulf News, Ammar Al Hakim, deputy leader of SCIRI, described the meeting as "a new development in the relations with the US. "The Americans are realistic partners. The talks will be aimed at trying to find solutions for this explosive situation," Al Hakim said.
Sunni participation in the political process will also be discussed, he said, adding that some powers, without directly naming Sunnis, are trying to get a bigger portion of political clout, which is more than what they got in the elections. "The Americans must understand this," he said. The Associated Press quoted aides to Al Hakim, as saying that he will press Bush to seek Iran's help to find a solution. In return Al Hakim is expected to pledge not to allow Iran to use him to promote its interests.


Iraqi govt to return $482 mn to Kurdistan

The Iraqi government has agreed on most Kurdish demands including returning USD 482 million to Kurdistan, increasing the region's stake in the national electricity network and holding a series of talks on the issue of oil investments, a Kurdish official said Sunday. The minister of works and construction in Kurdistan Emad Ahmed told reporters that following talks with a Kurdish delegation, the Iraqi government has agreed to return to the regional government the amount of USD 482 million, which was earned from differences of oil selling prices in international markets.
In regards to the extreme power shortage in Kurdistan, Ahmed said the delegation met with Iraqi deputy premier Barham Saleh and the two sides agreed to increase the region's stake in the country's electricity network and to provide skilled engineers to supervise power stations. Ahmed said the delegation would hold a series of talks with the Iraqi oil ministry and the central bank to place a new law on oil that would fulfill the demands of the Kurds regarding the crucial oil investment issue.
The oil issue has triggered disputes between Iraq's central and Kurdish governments where the former insists on controlling natural and mineral resources while the latter demands that resources in its territories remain under its control according to the Iraqi constitution. The Kurds have prepared several issues to be discussed with the central government including the northern region's stake in the federal budget, oil laws in Kurdistan and the status of Kirkuk, claimed by the Kurds.


Talabani rejects UN peace conference idea

Politics, Security
Iraq today rejected a UN idea of an international peace conference on Iraq while killings across the country continue. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said in a statement he rejects UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's idea of a conference, since there is a "political process ongoing in Iraq and there's a parliament that is the best in the region." He said Iraq has become an independent sovereign state, and it will be Iraq who decides the future of the country. On December 2, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, whose Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) runs a Shi'ite militia backed by Iran, said Annan's proposal is "illegal" and "unrealistic."


Saddam's lawyers appeal death sentence

Saddam Hussein
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's lawyers on Sunday appealed the death sentence handed down to him on November 5. Hussein and two other senior members of his regime were sentenced to death by hanging for the 1982 killings of 148 people in Al-Dujayl, north of Baghdad. Under Iraqi law, death sentences are automatically appealed before a higher court within 10 days of being handed down. But defense lawyers must file a formal appeal within 30 days. A working group of the UN Human Rights Council ruled that Hussein's detention is "arbitrary" and called on Iraq not to carry out the death sentence against him. Earlier last month, Human Rights Watch described the Hussein trial as fundamentally flawed.

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