Saturday, March 17, 2007
(Quds Press) Five Resistance groups reportedly form unified command and common organization, in opposition to call to join al-Qa'idah. In a dispatch posted on Thursday, Quds Press reported that a source close to the Resistance organization the Islamic Army in Iraq, one of the largest Resistance groups, said that five major Resistance groups had agreed to unite their armed efforts and political positions.
The source told Quds Press that leaders of the Islamic Army, the Army of the Mujahideen, the Army of the Rashideen, the 1920 Revolution Brigades, and the Islamic Resistance Front (Jami') held meetings over three consecutive days to reach agreement on uniting their efforts in resisting the occupation and its stooges and uniting their political positions. The groups will also take one common name and chose a general commander, according to the source.
The source told Quds Press that the organizations will announce the conclusion of their discussions, the new name for the group and the name of their commander in a joint communiqué. He said that all the groups had agreed to set up a united front organization and a united Shura (Consultative) Council.
The move comes two days after a voice message issued by the Amir of the group known as the Islamic State of Iraq – a prominent member in which is the al-Qa'idah organization – in which he called on all the Iraqi Resistance groups to join the "Islamic State of Iraq and take oaths of allegiance to him.
Labels: Islamic Army in Iraq, Islamic Resistance Front, JAMI, the 1920 Revolution Brigades, the Army of the Mujahideen, the Army of the Rashideen
(Iraq Directory) Iraqi Oil Minister, Hussein Shahrastani, said on Thursday that Iraq has not yet begun negotiations with the major international oil companies on the development of its energy sector; although, these companies are still waiting impatiently. Shahrastani said, "We are not negotiating with any major oil companies at the moment and we are awaiting the parliamentary approval to the new oil law which is likely to take place before the end of May".
The minister added that almost all international oil companies had interest in working in Iraq, "We have memorandums of understanding with almost each of these companies; they are preparing themselves, but there are no negotiations on the development of any particular field". The new law provides for the establishment of an Iraqi National Oil Company, which will be responsible for the main oil fields, the newly discovered and the productive. Major international oil companies are focusing on these fields such as West Qurna, Majnoon and Bin-Omar.
During the time of the late President Saddam Hussein, a consortium of Russian companies led by “LUKoil” signed an agreement to develop the West Qurna field, but Iraq canceled that agreement in 2002. Iraq is also reviewing an agreement to develop Al-Ahdab field signed with the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation and the Chinese company NORINCO for weapons manufacture. The French company Total, also, signed by initials some deals to develop the fields of Majnoon and Bin-Omar.
Labels: Bin-Omar, Hussain al-Shahrastani, Iraqi National Oil Company, LUKoil, Majnoon, NORINCO, Total, West Qurna
(Iraq Directory) An official in Kurdistan region announced on Monday that a conference on trade and investment between the region and the United Arab Emirates will be held in Dubai on Wednesday for two days. The Minister of Planning in the government of the region, Othman Shwani, told the reporters that the conference "will be held on 14th and 15th of March in Dubai, for the purpose of encouraging foreign companies to participate in investments in Iraq's Kurdistan".
He continued that "the conference which will include the fields of investment, trade and the reconstruction process in Kurdistan, will involve about 500 American companies and Emirates, as well as 157 Kurdistani companies from Arbil, Sulaymaniyah, Dahuk and Kirkuk". He confirmed that the conference will be held "in cooperation and coordination between government of the Kurdistan and the American officials in Iraq". The Minister of Planning said "we will devote part of the conference to exchange experiences and learn from the successful experience of the Emirate of Dubai and to encourage companies working there to come to Kurdistan".
Labels: Dubai, Kurdistan, Othman Shwani, trade conference, UAE
(BI-ME) - ConocoPhillips said this week it is talking with Iraq's Oil Ministry about possible projects, while continuing to work on plans to develop an Iraqi oil field in partnership with Russia's OAO Lukoil. Chairman and Chief Executive James Mulva said the US-based company is continuing to look at development plans for Iraq's West Qurna field with Lukoil, in which ConocoPhillips holds close to a 20% stake. Lukoil's West Qurna deal initially dates to the Saddam Hussein era, and Mulva said he hopes it is re-affirmed.
West Qurna is one of Iraq's largest oil fields, loacated North of Rumaila field, West of Basra. West Qurna is believed to hold 11 to 15 billion barrels of recoverable reserve and have production potential of 0.8 to 1.0 million barrel per day, equivalent to upwards of US$47 million per day or US$17.3 billion per year.
"We've also done a lot of study and training, working directly with employees and members of the ministry within Iraq to see what ConocoPhillips can do ourselves," he said in an interview after making a morning presentation to analysts in New York.
The company would require that several issues be resolved before it operates in the country, Mulva said. At the top of the list is a new petroleum law defining what role international oil companies would have in developing Iraq's resources. "We are waiting for the new petroleum law to be passed," Mulva said. "There's good progress in that regard, and hopefully it will be completed in time." When asked what he meant by "in time," Mulva said weeks to several months.
Passage of the law, Mulva said, will give the number three US oil company a clearer picture of what opportunities it can pursue within Iraq. Another requirement for ConocoPhillips, Mulva said, is improved security in Iraq. "For security reasons, we haven't had our employees in Iraq," Mulva said. The company would need positive assessments from the government and security firms for that to change, he said.
Labels: ConocoPhillips, James Mulva, LUKoil, West Qurna
(Al Sharqiyah TV) - Iraqi security sources said that hundreds of Al-Mahdi Army members continue to receive training in the Kermanshah area in western Iran with the participation of a group of Al-Mahdi Army commanders who left Iraq for Iran six weeks ago. The sources said that the Iranian Revolution Guards Intelligence Unit and Al-Quds Operations Command asked Al-Mahdi Army to establish a command-in-waiting that would include new elements that are not publicly known, while maintaining the central command of Al-Mahdi Army militia.
The command-in-waiting will include young elements and other elements that are not wanted by Iraqi and US forces. The sources have mentioned the names of some commanders who have great influence within Al-Mahdi Army. The sources also mentioned the names of the publicly-known personalities in the Sadr Trend who are active in Iraq. Government sources repeatedly declined to give official information on the movement of Al-Mahdi Army in Iraq and Iran, thus making it difficult to verify the information coming from government and non-government sources at the same time.
The Iraqi government had in the past received a report on a training operation held in two Lebanese areas; namely, in Hirmil and Al-Nabi Shit, but Hezbollah denied any link to such training operations. The secret report presented to the Iraqi government by an Iraqi security agency said that the rumours about the training of Al-Mahdi Army in Lebanon led to discharging Hezbollah official Nawwaf al-Musawi, who was replaced by Hasan al-Rahal to coordinate the training operations in Lebanon.
Labels: Hezbollah, Iran, Kermanshah, Mahdi Army, Quds Force
(VOI) – The oil ministry announced an "official" increase in the prices of oil derivatives as of Friday as prescribed by the World Bank in return for writing off Iraq's remaining debts, a ministry spokesman said. The increase "came after the last meeting between the Iraqi delegation led by Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahrestani and the World Bank on reducing Iraq's debts," Aasem Jihad told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) on Friday by telephone.
The World Bank "proposed equalizing prices of oil derivatives to international levels (750-800 Iraqi dinars per liter of fuel) in return for slashing debts by 80 percent," he said. The current price for a liter of fuel in Iraq is 250 dinars." The Iraqi delegation, however, insisted that the country's economy and the citizens cannot stand such an increase and managed to convince the World Bank (officials) to have no more than 15 percent increase in prices," added Jihad.
Labels: Hussain al-Shahristani, oil derivatives, World Bank
(VOI) – Mullah Ali Abdul-Aziz, the supreme leader of the Kurdish Islamic Movement, passed away in London on Saturday at the age of 73, a movement official said. "Mullah Ali died of a prostrate disease," Kamel al-Haj Ali, a member of the political bureau of the movement in Iraq's Kurdistan region, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
"The movement has started preparations to bring his body to the homeland," the movement official said. The Kurdish Islamic Movement was founded in 1978 and proclaimed itself in 1984 under the assumed name Islamic League. Mullah Ali Abdul-Aziz became supreme leader of the movement in May 1999, succeeding the late Sheikh Othman Abdul-Aziz. The movement has no representatives in the Iraqi or Kurdish parliaments.
Labels: Kurdish Islamic Movement, Mullah Ali Abdul-Aziz
Tax slashed on import of raw goods
(Azzaman) The Tax Department has slashed the tax on materials for the domestic industry by 50%. The department’s head Saib Abdulsattar said the reduction covers raw materials whether produced locally or imported from abroad. He said it includes all kinds of materials for the country’s industry.
The move is part of the government’s effort to boost the domestic industry which is passing through difficult times due to cheap imports. The 50% drop in tax is expected to lower prices of local products and help Iraqi industrialist to compete with import goods.
Abdulsattar said helping the industry compete with imported products was one aim of the tax reduction. “The other target is to help entrepreneurs and private industrialist to rehabilitate and operate their factories and projects which have been idle in the past four years,” he said.
Labels: import tax, raw materials, tax reduction
Al-Sadr accused of murdering Shia cleric
(Azzaman) The widow of the slain Shiite Cleric Sayyed Abdul Majeed al-Khoei accused the firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr of ordering the murder of her husband. “They brought my husband who was wounded and bleeding and in chains at the doorstep of Moqtada for negotiations. “When they (the assailants) asked Moqtada what they should do with him, he said: ‘I do not know him. Do to him what you want,” she said.
Khoei was murdered only days after returning to Iraq from exile in London. He was hacked to death by a mob at the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf. Khoei came from a distinguished family of Shiite Muslim clergy who promoted dialogue among Iraq’s various faiths.
Khoei’s widow said she had witnesses hearing a Sadr aide shouting: “Kill him.” Sadr is a suspect along with two dozen people in the murder. The case was put before an Iraqi court who issued sentences but the court rulings are said to have been shelved to avoid further violence.
Khoei who was brought up in Najaf was reported to have a plan to rebuild the city and eyewitnesses quoted him as telling his killers: “I have come to bring your disparate factions together. I love you and want to unite you. Why do you want to kill me?” His wife said the last phrase Khoei uttered was: “Those whom I loved killed me.”
She said she and her family were adamant to pursue the court case until the killers were brought to justice. “The Iraqi government and U.S. troops would like to overlook the case and have been postponing it indefinitely, saying that Iraq’s current condition do not warrant a trial,” she said.
Labels: Moqtada Al-Sadr, Najaf, Shiite Cleric Sayyed Abdul Majeed al-Khoei
(Al Jazeera) More than a thousand unarmed protesters demanded the removal of a US military base in Baghdad's Sadr City on Friday in the first sign of Shia opposition to a new security plan. A large crowd of Shia-led worshippers unfurled banners demanding the base be abandoned while chanting: "No, no to America. No, no to Israel. No, no to Satan."
There have been fears that US and Iraqi forces would face violent opposition as they tried to gain control of the vast Sadr City district- a stronghold of the Moqtada al-Sadr's al-Mahdi armed fighters. Instead, al-Sadr's black-clad fighters melted away as the plan went into effect last month. Sadr himself was not present - the US military believes he has gone to ground in Iraq's Shia neighbour Iran - but supporters carried his portrait and read out a statement he had apparently sent to them.
COMMENT: It is likely the protests were triggered by the attack on the mayor of Sadr City, Rahim al-Darraji, who has been cooperative with the U.S. in Operation Imposing Law and statements released by al-Sadr to stand up to the U.S. Although Sunnis are obvious suspects to have carried out the attack, it could also have been conducted by Shia militia men against the stand that al-Darraji has taken with the U.S. COMMENT ENDS.
Labels: Moqtada Al-Sadr, Operation Fardh al-Qanoon, Rahim al-Darraji, Sadr City
(Reuters) - Two suicide truck bombers driving tanks filled with chlorine killed at least eight people and 85 were made ill on Friday in the western Iraqi town of Falluja, hospital sources said on Saturday. The first attack was at the entrance of Amiriyat Falluja, a large housing complex south of Falluja, that killed six people including policemen and making 79 ill, including 27 children.
The second bomber targeted a tribal leader opposed to al Qaeda nearby when he blew up his tanker outside the man's home, killing two people and making six ill because of exposure to the chemical. Militants have used chlorine as a weapon in the past. At least two bombings involving chlorine killed eight people in February.
The U.S. military said they discovered an al Qaeda car bomb factory last month near Falluja that was constructing bombs with chlorine. The gas causes severe burns when breathed in and can even cause death.
Two separate bomb blasts killed two policemen and wounded four others in Iraq on Saturday, as the United Nations urged the world to help rebuild the country's war-shattered economy. A policeman from a special task force was killed and four wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in the mainly Shiite provincial capital of Hilla, south of Baghdad, police Lieutenant Kadhim al-Aaraji said. A civilian was also wounded.
Aaraji said the bombers targeted Brigadier General Abbas al-Juburi, commander of the task force, as his convoy was passing in Hilla's southern district of Ndir. The brigadier escaped the attack. A similar blast targeting another police patrol in the main northern city of Mosul killed one policeman and wounded another, said police chief Brigadier General Abdel Karim Khalaf al-Juburi.
Labels: Brigadier General Abbas al-Juburi, chlorine bombs, Fallujah, Hilla, Mosul
(BBC) - Iraq's vice-president has spelled out the details of a five-year reconstruction plan at a key UN conference on the country's future. Adel Abdul-Mahdi outlined annual growth targets and a series of pledges on security, the rule of law, protecting human rights and tackling corruption. International pledges for the plan are expected next month.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged members to back the plan and not let Iraq face its problems alone.
Representatives from almost 90 countries were attending the meeting on the International Compact with Iraq, a partnership between Baghdad and donors launched last July.
Mr Abdul-Mahdi, one of two Iraqi vice-presidents, vowed to adopt legislation to share oil wealth among the regions and a scheme to give amnesty to militants who renounced violence. The plan projects economic growth of 15.4% in 2007, compared to 3% last year. It also targets 3.5m barrels a day of crude oil by 2011 - doubling the annual crude export revenue to about $50bn.
Mr Ban said the five-year plan should be seen as "a tool for unlocking Iraq's own potential". He said: "The challenges ahead are immense. I am sure you will all agree that we cannot leave Iraq on its own to cope with them. The UN plans a meeting no later than the end of April for the international response to supporting the compact.
Labels: Adel Abdul-Mahdi, Iraq Compact, reconstruction, U.N.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Caritas Internationalis and Caritas Iraq say that malnutrition rates have risen in Iraq from 19 percent before the US-led invasion to a national average of 28 percent four years later. Caritas says that rising hunger has been caused by high levels of insecurity, collapsed healthcare and other infrastructure, increased polarisation between different sects and tribes, and rising poverty.
Over 11 percent of newborn babies are born underweight in Iraq today, compared with a figure of 4 percent in 2003. Before March 2003, Iraq already had significant infant mortality due to malnutrition because of the international sanctions regime. Caritas Iraq has been running a series of Well Baby Clinics throughout the country. Currently it provides supplementary food for 8000 children up to 8 years and new mothers. The Caritas clinics help the most vulnerable, and the health crisis they face is much worse than the national average.
Labels: Caritas Internationalis, Caritas Iraq, children, malnutrition
(Reuters) - Ten prisoners who were being held at a British-run detention facility in Iraq escaped after they swapped clothes and changed places with a group of men posing as visitors, the British military said on Friday. "This is a very regrettable situation and we are taking it very seriously," Major David Gell, a spokesman for the British military, said of the escape, which happened earlier in the week near the southern city of Basra.
He said the 10 impostors, who were part of a group of visitors at the centre, were being held at the Shaibah detention facility for questioning. Gell would not give further details on the case but said the escaped prisoners "posed a threat to the security of Iraq and to Multinational Forces in Iraq."
Labels: Basra, Shaibah detention facility
(Reuters) Caritas Internationalis and Caritas Iraq say that malnutrition rates have risen in Iraq from 19 percent before the US-led invasion to a national average of 28 percent four years later. Caritas says that rising hunger has been caused by high levels of insecurity, collapsed healthcare and other infrastructure, increased polarisation between different sects and tribes, and rising poverty.
Over 11 percent of newborn babies are born underweight in Iraq today, compared with a figure of 4 percent in 2003. Before March 2003, Iraq already had significant infant mortality due to malnutrition because of the international sanctions regime. Caritas Iraq has been running a series of Well Baby Clinics throughout the country. Currently it provides supplementary food for 8000 children up to 8 years and new mothers. The Caritas clinics help the most vulnerable, and the health crisis they face is much worse than the national average.
Labels: Caritas Internationalis, children, Iraq, malnutrition
(Reuters) - Radical Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr urged his followers on Friday to oppose occupying troops, raising the pressure on U.S.-backed Iraqi forces conducting a security crackdown in Baghdad. In a possible setback for the crackdown, the mayor of Sadr City, a Shi'ite militia stronghold in the capital, was wounded when gunmen opened fire on his car on Thursday.
Sheikh Raheem al-Darruji has been a key figure in facilitating recent joint operations in Sadr City, long a no-go area for U.S. forces and a bastion of the Mehdi Army, a militia loyal to the fiercely anti-American Sadr. A statement from Sadr that was read out at prayers in Sadr City on Friday repeated his longheld opposition to the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, and appeared to respond to recent statements by U.S. military officials who have said people in Sadr City were cooperating with them.
"I'm confident that you consider them (U.S. forces) your enemies," said the statement carrying Sadr's seal which was issued by his office in the holy city of Najaf as well as being read out to thousands of worshippers in Sadr City. "I call upon you all to raise your voices all together and shout with one voice 'No, No, America'," the statement said.
Sadr City was viewed as a test of the Shi'ite-led Iraqi government's will to deal as firmly with Shi'ite militias as it does with Sunni Arab insurgents. U.S. commanders say they have met little resistance since launching operations 10 days ago. Sadr's statement denounced U.S. forces as occupiers but did not mention Iraqi security forces. Sadr's political movement has expressed its support for the Baghdad plan as long as operations are conducted by Iraqi forces.
A Mehdi Army official said thousands of people demonstrated after prayers on Friday to reject the establishment of a joint U.S.-Iraqi security station in Sadr City. Television pictures showed at least hundreds of people. Major General Joseph Fil, commander of U.S. troops in Baghdad, said on Thursday Sadr did appear to have instructed his followers to work with Iraqi security forces, if not with Americans. "I don't know that we have his support now," he said.
Labels: Mahdi Army, Moqtada Al-Sadr, Sadr City, Sheikh Raheem al-Darruji, U.S.
(IRIN) - Iraqis fleeing sectarian violence in their country will soon have to get visas from the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad before arriving at the kingdom's borders, a senior government official told IRIN. No date has been set for the implementation of the move and it is not intended to curb the number of Iraqis entering the kingdom, said the official on condition of anonymity.
"We want to make it easier for them so they are not refused entry at the borders," he said.The new procedures are expected to affect at least 500 asylum seekers daily, according to officials from the Jordanian Ministry of the Interior. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that there are up to 750,000 Iraqi refugees in Jordan and up to one million in Syria. There has been much speculation recently on the capability and will of these countries - which also host hundreds of thousands of Palestinian asylum seekers - to allow more fleeing Iraqis in.
Economists and members of Jordan's parliament have said they resent the Iraqi refugees. They allege that the prices of basic commodities as well as housing have tripled over the past three years because of the Iraqis.
Jordanian officials have repeatedly asked the international community to lend a hand to the cash-strapped nation in order to be able to meet the demands of the growing number of Iraqis it hosts.Government spokesmen Nasser Judeh hinted on Monday that Jordan would impose new rules to control the flow of Iraqis, but did not specifically mention the visa regulations.
Labels: Jordan, refugees, visas
(US News) The findings of a new Pentagon study–"Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq"–are sobering: The conflict, it concludes, has clearly morphed from a Sunni-led insurgency fighting foreign occupation "to a struggle for the division of political and economic influence among sectarian groups and organized criminal activity.
In other words, "some elements of the situation in Iraq are properly descriptive of a civil war." Most of the daily, convulsive conflicts are characterized by a sectarian competition for power and influence, "principally," the report notes, "through murders, executions, and high-profile bombings." But the report emphasizes that the violence remains relatively localized–at least among the country's 18 provinces. While four provinces, among them Baghdad, Anbar, and Diyala, are home to 37 percent of the population, they account for some 80 percent of the country's attacks (chart on Page 15 of the report).
The report includes cautions that it was undertaken before the current Baghdad security plan had a chance to gain steam and should be viewed as a baseline from which to measure future progress. According to an Iraqi military spokesman, since the start of the plan on February 14, violent incidents in the capital are down from 1,440 between January and February to some 265 since then. Those figures most likely do not include unidentified bodies of those found murdered in Baghdad, which some estimates indicate may add another 200 people to the month's death toll.
Residents report that market squares are coming back to life under recent U.S. efforts to close the areas to traffic even as Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the chief spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, cautioned that February had seen "an all-time high" for car bombs and reiterated calls for patience.
According to the report, judges who don't succumb to the myriad threats against them often fear handing down guilty verdicts against defendants with ties to insurgent groups or militias. In the local courts, the report adds, "judges often decline to investigate or try cases related to the insurgency and terrorism." What's more, the Iraqi prison system remains overcrowded, and correctional services are "increasingly infiltrated by criminal organizations and militias."
The economy, too, is crippling Iraq's ability to recover, according to the report. Inflation in 2006 averaged 50 percent. And while estimates of unemployment range from 13.4 percent to as high as 60 percent, a January 2007 survey by the U.S. military's Multi-National Division-Baghdad found that only 16 percent of the city's residents say that their current income meets their basic needs. And the daily power situation remains dismal. While demand is up 20 percent over 2005–more residents have televisions today, for example–the number of daily hours of power in Baghdad was 6.6 in the last quarter of 2006 (and less–6.3 hours–in December), falling more than five hours short of the target goals of 12 hours, according to the report.
As a result, many Iraqis are simply voting with their feet. There remains a steady stream of refugees fleeing the country–as many as 9,000 each month. Little surprise, given that two thirds of Iraqis say that conditions for peace and stability are worsening, according to the report. The population is roughly split on whether the government is moving in the right or the wrong direction to quell the violence. That remains both the war's specter, officials say, and its beacon of hope.
Labels: Al Qaeda in Iraq, Pentagon report
(Al-Sharq al-Awsat) Rida Jawad Taqiy, the official in charge of political relations in the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution [in Iraq, SCIRI], led by Abd-al-Aziz al-Hakim, has expressed the belief that "Iraq is now moving in the right direction, but it is facing many obstacles, first of which is the security issue. The current Iraqi Government is implementing a comprehensive plan to control security in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, since the situation has become very tense, and deterioration is at its peak."
In an interview with Al-Sharq al-Awsat in London, Taqiy denied that "the SCIRI has considered nominating Adil Abd-al-Mahdi for the post of prime minister, instead of Nuri al-Maliki." He noted that "all our efforts are now focused on supporting this government, which enjoys great popular support."
The leading member of the SCIRI admitted that there are "other obstacles besides the security issue; namely, the economic issue. There are also plans to tackle the economic issue. By this, I mean the economic issue, in its services and investment parts, as well as the reconstruction in Iraq. These two issues are linked to the political process, its development, and integration."
We told Taqiy that there are numerous objections by many political forces about the achievements he mentioned, especially with regard to rigging the elections and questioning their fairness. Also, the government is not a national unity government. The parties that participate in this government say that it is a Shi'i government. The most recent of these parties was the Iraqi List, which has threatened to withdraw from the government.
There are also many objections to the constitution, and there are demands to re-draft many of its paragraphs. In response to us, Taqiy said: "The elections won the recognition of the United Nations and the organizations that participated in the elections as observers. However, the elections were not perfect under an Iraqi situation, in which people had not been accustomed to any democratic experience over the past decades."
He added: "Concerning the national unity government, a national unity government, which includes the blocs that won and those that did not win in the elections, was formed for the first time in Iraq. By democratic standards, these [defeated] blocs do not have the right to participate in the government. However, all political forces, including the UIC, insisted on the participation of these blocs.
Labels: Rida Jawad Taqiy, SCIRI, Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq
Hundreds of professors flee or get killed
(Azzaman) Since the 2003 U.S. invasion 196 university professors have been killed and more than 100 abducted, said Minister of Higher Education Abduldhiyab al-Aujaili. He said the ministry has almost lost hope for the return of those who had been abducted and the violence targeting Iraqi universities has terrorized faculty members. “Houses of hundreds of professors have been stormed and hundreds of them have been arrested though later most of them were released,” he said. The rising violence has forced ‘thousands’ of Iraqi professors to flee the country, he said.
Labels: Minister of Higher Education Abduldhiyab al-Aujaili
Iraqi general in charge of Baghdad security plan fired
(Azzaman) The Iraqi general who commanded the joint U.S.-Iraqi military operation to subdue Baghdad has been fired. Lt. General Abdoud Qanbar Hashem was forced to retire at a lower rank. His name was included in a list of 1,189 former army officers who were put on pension.
General Qanbar was a senior officer in the former army under former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. But Prime Minister Nouri Maliki first employed him as head of his office and then promoted him to the rank of Lt. General to lead the troops deployed to impose law and order in Baghdad.
There were reports that U.S. commanders were not pleased with Qanbar at the head of the operation. It is not clear whether the decision to put Qanbar on pension has anything to do with the pace of progress in the operation. The operation is still on but it seems it has so far made little success. The decision to place Qanbar on pension was signed by the head of the prime minister’s office, which means that it had the blessing of Maliki himself.
Labels: al-Maliki, Lt. General Abdoud Qanbar Hashem, Operation Fardh al-Qanoon
Politics, Security, Kurdistan
(AP) - Kurdish rebels say they have enough weapons to defend themselves against Turkish raids on their bases in northern Iraq but remain open to a political settlement with Turkey that recognizes Kurdish national identity. Turkey is pressing Iraq and its American ally to crack down on
rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, who launch attacks on Turkey from bases in northern Iraq. During an interview last week with the a PKK mountain stronghold, a spokesman for the PKK insisted that the rebels have the weapons to resist any Turkish incursion. Rustam Jawdat said that the PKK was open to a deal - but on its terms. "We want to solve the problem with Turkey peacefully. We have simple weapons. If we have guarantees to recognize Kurdish national identity, we would not need to carry weapons," he said. The interview occurred in a PKK base in the rugged mountains of northern Iraq. Access to the camp was on foot, and the fighters would not allow photographs of the area for security.
Jawdat indicated the rebels are more confident now because they believed Kurdish politicians would put pressure on the United States, and by extension Turkey, to avoid any armed incursion.
On Thursday, Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, said in Washington that the U.S. is addressing Turkish complaints about PKK activity. "As the snows melt in the mountain passes along the Turkish-Iraqi border in several weeks, we will see if the PKK renews its attacks and how the Turkish government chooses to respond," Ralston said.
Jawdat said the PKK was willing to work with the Americans and Europeans to resolve the conflict with Turkey. "America and the European Union should know that we will not give up our weapons as long as (the Turks) do not accept our rights and do not recognize our national identity," Jawdat said. "It is impossible to get the right of self-determination in the Middle East without using armed struggle."
Labels: Gen. Joseph Ralston, Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK, Rustam Jawdat, Turkey
(AP) - Nearly 100 Strykers, armored troop carriers with 50-caliber machine guns, were called north from Baghdad into Diyala and its capital Baqouba— yet again — to rout Sunni insurgents, many who recently fled the month-old Baghdad security operation. The fighters have renewed their campaign of bombings and killings just 35 miles northeast of the capital as the war enters its fifth year. Diyala province is quickly becoming as dangerous as Anbar province, the Sunni insurgent bastion west of Baghdad.
By day's end, one soldier was dead, 12 wounded and two Strykers destroyed. The Americans said dozens of insurgents were killed but gave no specific number. It was a bloody first day for the 2nd Infantry Division's 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment — the crack Stryker battalion dispatched from Baghdad's northern suburbs. "They threw everything at us — RPGs, mortars — and a guy even tossed a grenade just in front of my vehicle," said Capt. Huber Parsons, the 28-year-old commander of the 5-20's Attack company. "But the most devastating was the IEDs," the Coral Gables, Fla., native said. He was talking about improvised explosive devices — roadside bombs.
One Stryker was lost in a particularly sophisticated ambush. Struck head-on by an IED, the rubber-tired armored vehicle was swallowed up in the bomb crater. Insurgents emerged from hiding, firing RPGs in unison.
The Stryker crew was trapped. One U.S. soldier was killed. All nine other crew members were wounded, though six later returned to duty. The other Stryker was destroyed when a roadside bomb exploded as the armored vehicle drove over it. The nine-man squad got out alive, three with injuries.
Violence has risen dramatically in Diyala since the Feb. 14 launch of the Baghdad security operation. Insurgents have slowly been taking control for months, however. Attacks on American forces in the province have shot up 70 percent since July, according to military figures. The Stryker group sent to fight the insurgents was hand-picked by Gen. Ray Odierno, the second in command of all U.S. forces in Iraq. It marked the opening of a new front in the Baghdad security operation. The Stryker group came to Baqouba on Tuesday full of optimism about pacifying Diyala, as they did earlier in parts of Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul. Confidence faded Wednesday in the hail of insurgent fire and news of casualties among comrades.
COMMENT: On March 8th, the Islamic State of Iraq posted an internet video profiling different kinds of armored vehicle used by U.S. forces and showed successful attacks against each type. The Stryker was not among these and the aggressive attack indicates the insurgents were testing its capacities as well as trying to destroy the moral of the troops on their first day. It appears they were successful on both counts. COMMENT ENDS.
Labels: Baqouba, Diyala, IED, Islamic State of Iraq, Stryker
(AFP) - A new international conference on Iraq that will see US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sit alongside her Iranian and Syrian counterparts could be held as early as April 1, a senior US official said Thursday. A location for the meeting has not yet been made public, but the United States has said it would prefer to gather in Istanbul.
A first meeting dubbed an Iraq neighbors conference but which also included diplomats from other Arab states and the five permanent UN Security Council members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the US -- was held March 10 in Baghdad. Those talks focused on efforts to stabilize the US-backed Baghdad government and end sectarian and insurgent violence that Washington has said it fueled by Iran and Syria.
During the meeting the US ambassador to Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, held direct talks with senior Iranian officials in the highest level contact between the two states in more than four years. The April meeting is due to include the foreign ministers of the same countries plus Japan and Canada.
Labels: Condoleezza Rice, Iran, security talks, Syria, Turkey
Thursday, March 15, 2007
(UPI) Syria wants to increase imports of Iraqi oil by rebuilding a pipeline, as well as become a main export route for Iraq to other markets. Abdallah al-Dardari, Syria's deputy prime minister for economic affairs, said it wants to be Iraq's main exporter via its Mediterranean terminal at Banias and also use the oil to fuel three new refineries, upstreamonline.com reports. "Linking the two oil and gas networks is in our mutual interest," Dardari said. "We are studying with the Iraqi side how Syria could become an important link to deliver Iraqi output to the world and to the Syrian market."
A pipeline pumped between 100,000 and 200,000 barrels per day of oil from Kirkuk, Iraq, to Banias in the two years before the 2003 invasion. U.S. fighters bombed the pipeline. Iraq's oil ministry said it plans to rebuild it, but wants the security situation to improve first. The minister also said Syria needs to do more to stop insurgents from crossing into Iraq from Syria. "Syria is the closest point for Iraq on the Mediterranean and it's in Iraq's interest to export crude efficiently," Dardari said. "We also have a stake in earning transit fees and using Iraqi crude to operate a group of refineries we plan to develop."
Labels: Abdallah al-Dardari, Banias, oil pipelines, Syria
(SITE) In one of several communiqués issued by Ansar al-Sunnah on Wednesday, March 14, 2007, claiming attacks on Iraqi security forces, the group states they captured a senior Iraqi military officer, providing several of his identification cards. The officer, Jamal Rashed Muhammad Ali, indicated by Ansar al-Sunnah to be a general and his ID to be a director of the Air Force, was captured following an ambush setup in the Karkh section of Baghdad.
A date is not given for this operation. According to the message, Rashed is currently being interrogated, and is one of those who responded to the appeal of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to participate in the “war against the Mujahideen.” Additionally, addressing a message to every officer of every rank in the former Iraqi army, Ansar al-Sunnah asks them to consider what happened to Rashed as proof that Maliki cannot protect them.
Labels: abduction, Ansar al-Sunnah, Jamal Rashed Muhammad Ali
(AP) A suicide car bomber apparently targeting a senior city official struck an Iraqi military checkpoint Thursday in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad, killing at least eight people, officials said. The blast came a day after the U.S. military said stopping car bombings had become the main focus of a major security sweep to halt the sectarian violence in the capital. Karradah, a major commercial district, has been hit by bombings several times in recent months, including a suicide car bombing on Jan. 25 that killed 30 people.
In the city of Iskandariyah, 30 miles south of Baghdad, a bomb in a parked car exploded as a bus packed with workers passed by, killing at least four and wounding 24, police said. The Baghdad blast, which occurred just after 3 p.m., tore through a popular square in the predominantly Shiite area of Karradah, sending a huge plume of black smoke rising above the flags atop the nearby French Embassy. Officials said eight people were killed and 25 were wounded.
The driver detonated the explosives as a convoy carrying the head of the city council, Sabir al-Issawi, was passing the checkpoint on Kahramanah Square, the council chief's deputy told the AP. The mayor was unhurt, but three of his bodyguards were wounded, Naeem al-Qabi said. The bombing in Iskandariyah occurred about 7:30 a.m. as the bus was carrying employees of a state-owned car company to work. It shattered the facades of nearby houses, leaving piles of concrete rubble along the street. A ball of crumpled metal over a tire was all that was left of the car that exploded.
The government, meanwhile, announced that it had decided to hold a minute of silence in all Iraqi cities on Friday morning to commemorate the anniversary of the 1988 chemical weapons attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja in northern Iraq, according to state TV. Saddam had ordered the attack as part of a scorched-earth campaign to crush a Kurdish rebellion in the north, seen as aiding the Iranian enemy.
Labels: blast, Halabja, Iskandariyah, Karrada, Sabir al-Issawi
(AP) The top official in Baghdad's main Shiite district of Sadr City was seriously wounded Thursday when gunmen ambushed his convoy in eastern Baghdad, killing two of his bodyguards, according to police and a local official. Rahim al-Darraji has been involved in negotiations with U.S. and Iraqi government officials seeking to persuade the Shiite militias that dominate the sprawling slum to pull their fighters off the streets ahead of a security crackdown to stop the sectarian warfare in Baghdad.
His convoy was attacked in a drive-by shooting in the mostly Shiite area of Habibiyah. The efforts by Shiite political parties to avoid a showdown with U.S. troops have seen some success, with a decline in execution-style killings, random shootings and rocket attacks. U.S. and Iraqi troops have been carrying raids in the neighborhood against commanders and members of the Mahdi Army militia that is loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, but they have met with little resistance.
Sadr City has been targeted by a large number of explosions that killed hundreds of people in the past months, including Nov. 23 bombings in which 215 people died. The Mahdi Army had been almost in full charge of security in the area, checking cars and suspicious people, and some have blamed the drop in their presence for car bombings that have continued despite the crackdown.
Labels: Rahim al-Darraji, Sadr City, U.S.
(AP Worldstream) Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi will update U.N. member states and other potential donors Friday on the war-torn country's plan for economic development and ask for international support, the United Nations said. Abdul-Mahdi, one of two vice-presidents, will be promoting a five-year plan known as the Iraq Compact to ensure the government has funds to survive and enact key political and economic reforms. The compact was set up shortly after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki took office in June 2006 to "consolidate peace and pursue political, economic and social development."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who convened the meeting, "looks forward to the participation of the broader international community ... to help put Iraq on a credible path towards sustainable development and economic prosperity," his spokeswoman Michele Montas said Wednesday. Delegations from more than 40 countries plan to attend the meeting, she said. Abdul-Mahdi met Wednesday in Washington with U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt, who will lead the U.S. delegation to the meeting.
Kimmitt said in a statement issued after the meeting that he congratulated the vice-president on Iraq's economic progress and lauded the creation of the Iraq Compact as "an ambitious framework for transformation of the Iraqi economy." Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N. special adviser for the compact and the Iraqi delegation, which also includes Planning Minister Ali Baban, will co-chair Friday's meeting. The U.S. Treasury said all parties have agreed to a ministerial meeting in the near future to formally sign the compact.
Labels: Ibrahim Gambari, Iraq Compact, Planning Minister Ali Baban, Robert Kimmitt, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, U.N., Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi
(AP) The World Food Program launched an appeal for $1.7 million to help feed tens of thousands of Iraqi refugees who are continuing to arrive in Syria and increasingly lack the resources to take care of themselves. "Up to mid-2006, many Iraqi refugees entering Syria had adequate resources to cover their needs," the agency said in a statement asking for donations. "As targeted violence continues in Iraq, the number of those fleeing and arriving unable to sustain themselves is rapidly increasing."
While the majority of refugees rely on extended family networks and savings to support themselves, the agency noted, many in the recent wave have no such support and have not even had time to sell their belongings before fleeing. Bradford added that as refugees have flooded into Syria, where they already number nearly 1 million, the competition for jobs and work permits has become increasingly stiff, forcing many Iraqis into illegal and exploitative jobs.
The agency currently provides food assistance to 7,000 people and plans to help 2,500 more each month until the end of the year. Last month, the Damascus office of the U.N. refugee agency said about 40,000 Iraqis are arriving in Syria each month, almost double the rate from only a few months ago. The refugees have placed a strain on Syria, causing a rise in the prices of housing and goods and overcrowding the country's schools. Syria's Interior Ministry said in December that the country has admitted more than 800,000 Iraqis fleeing the raging violence. An estimated 1.8 million Iraqi refugees are scattered throughout the Middle East, according to U.N. figures.
Labels: refugees, Syria, World Food Program
(VOI) An armed group stormed a Sunni mosque on Tuesday in Resala neighborhood, southern Baghdad, and killed five persons inside, an Iraqi police source said, while a statement of Iraq's people Congress asserted that casualties were seven.“An armed group driving a black car stormed this afternoon a mosque in Resala neighborhood, killing five civilians inside,” the police source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). Meanwhile, a statement issued by Iraq's People Congress, a Sunni political movement, accused the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr Mahdi army of implementing the attack, underlining that it left seven dead.
COMMENT: This fuels the unconfirmed reports of Mahdi Army activity in Baghdad, although they are said to be lying low and their leaders to be in Iran. Sightings of Mahdi Army militiamen have been reported. If these reports are correct, then the Sunni insurgents have achieved their objective of provoking Shia retaliations following recent mass casualty bombings targeting Shias. This places al-Sadr in an uncomfortable position as, even though these may be rogue elements operating without his command, it will be interpreted as him not supporting the security effort. It also places al-Maliki in an awkward position politically as it will reinforce allegations that he has not cracked down on the Mahdi Army as much as he claimed. COMMENT ENDS.
Labels: Mahdi Army, Moqtada Al-Sadr
(VOI) Iraqi oil ministry agreed to build a large oil refinery in Karbala, 110 km southwest of Baghdad, head of Karbala provincial council said on Tuesday. "The oil minister informed the provincial council during his visit to Karbala two days ago that the ministry agreed to build a large refinery in the province," Abdul-Al al-Yasseri told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
The official who did not set a date for commencing construction works in the project said "the oil ministry announced the project tender and is waiting for bids by international companies." He added, "the refinery designed capacity is 140,000 bpd." The new refinery will be set up on the highway linking Karbala to Najaf, 20 km south of Karbala while construction works are expected to continue for four years, al-Yasseri added. He said "the cost of building the refining facility is estimated at one billion U.S. dollars."
Labels: Karbala, Oil Ministry, oil refinery
Security, Politics, International
(AP) The United States is dealing with Turkish complaints about Kurdish separatists operating in northern Iraq and has not ruled out military action against the rebels, the U.S. official assigned to handle the problem says. Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, a special envoy tasked with countering the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, said Wednesday in an Associated Press interview that U.S. pressure has resulted in moves against the group's operations by Iraqi and European authorities.
Turkish officials repeatedly have accused the United States of insufficient efforts to prevent attacks into Turkey from Iraq by the PKK, which has waged a guerrilla war for autonomy since 1984 at a cost of 37,000 lives. Turkey also has threatened military incursions into Iraq against the rebels, which the United States fears would alienate Iraqi Kurds, the most pro-American ethnic group in the region.
Ralston said the United States has not yet met Turkish demands for the capture of PKK operatives and destruction of a rebel base in a mountainous area of Iraq near the Turkish and Iranian border. He said, however, that the United States would consider options against the group available to a U.S. military stretched by many challenges in Iraq.
Turkey, a crucial NATO ally, provides vital support to U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Iraq through Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey, one of the most important U.S. military assets in the region. Ralston said negotiators from the United States, Turkey and Iraq are close to a deal to close a Kurdish refugee camp in northern Iraq that Turkey says is a haven for the PKK. In late January, U.S. and Iraqi forces searched the camp, known as Makhmur, and found artillery shells they believe belonged to the PKK, Ralston said.
He said PKK fighters have held a cease-fire since October that was arranged by Masoud Barzani, leader of Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdish region, after a discussion with Ralston. Under pressure, the Iraqi government legally banned the PKK in January from operating in Iraq and closed its offices. Ralston said some of the offices had reopened under different names. Officials from Turkey, Iraq and the United Nations will meet next month to resolve a few remaining issues preventing the closure of the Makhmur refugee camp.
Labels: Gen. Joseph Ralston, Makhmur refugee camp, Massoud Barzani, PKK, Turkey, U.S.
(AP) An Iraqi court has upheld the death sentence against Saddam Hussein's former deputy for his role in the killing of 148 Shiites in 1982, a judge said Thursday. Taha Yassin Ramadan, who was Saddam's vice president when the regime was ousted by the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, will be hanged, the method of execution in Iraq, the judge Mounir Haddad said at a news conference. The decision was final.
The appeals court decision was relayed to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which will set the date for the execution, he added. Haddad, a member of the court's nine-judge panel, said the decision to uphold the death sentence was unanimous. Ramadan was sentenced to life in prison but an appeals court ruled that was too lenient and asked that the lower court reconsider. The court sentenced him to death last month. He maintained his innocence, saying his duties were limited to economic affairs, not security issues.
The decision to impose the maximum sentence against Ramadan ignored appeals from international human rights groups. Human Rights Watch and the International Center for Transitional Justice said the evidence was insufficient for such a punishment.
Labels: execution, Saddam Hussein, Taha Yassin Ramadan
(Al-Ra'y) President Jalal Talabani told the Amman-based "Al-Ra'y" in an interview published on March 13 that Iraq needs a reorganization of its political forces. "There are sectarian, nationalist, and ethnic camps in Iraq. This is not ideal. We need a national camp instead of having Sunni Arabs in a certain bloc and Shi'ite Arabs in another bloc. We need a national bloc that comprises all parties," he said.
Talabani added that the Kurdistan Coalition attempted to form an "alliance of moderates" comprising the two main Kurdish parties, the Iraqi Islamic Party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and the Iraqi National Accord, "but we did not succeed." "If we manage to unite a group of forces to form a national Iraqi front away from sectarian and nationalist blocs...that will be a great victory for Iraq," Talabani said. Asked about the withdrawal of Al-Fadilah from the Shi'ite-led United Iraqi Alliance, Talabani said it would not lead to the dismantling of the alliance, because the "Shi'a are united," though they may change from a coalition to a front in the future.
President Talabani told "Al-Ra'y" that a U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq would result in Kurdish-Shi'ite military rule in Iraq. "The Kurds and the Shi'ites are prepared and they have hundreds of thousands of armed men and they can quickly control all of Iraq. I do not want to see Kurdish-Shi'ite despotism in the Iraqi military sphere," Talabani said.
He noted that Kurds could "take control of Mosul and the Arab areas there within hours" if given the opportunity. "This, however, is not in the interest of Iraq. There must be an Iraqi force that is made up of the main entities of the Iraqi people," he added. Asked about the return of former army officers to the military, Talabani said 80,000 officers who were members of the Ba'ath Party but not Saddam Hussein supporters were returned to service. "The Saddamists do not believe in elections and ballot boxes but in coups. Therefore we should not give them a chance to carry out such coups," he said.
Labels: Iraqi Islamic Party, Jalal Talabani, Kurds, SCIRI, UIA
(RFE/RL) Abu Umar al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq, said in an audio recording posted on the Internet on March 13 that the United States is trying to come between his group and other jihadist groups. The message appears to have been recorded on February 6, because al-Baghdadi refers to an insurgent raid on a Mosul prison as happening "today".
Al-Baghdadi claimed that the current "media campaign against" his group is aimed at separating it from its "massive popular base" of support, and to distance the global jihad movement from the battlefield in favor of the nationalistic movements that are more moderate and more open. The statement referred to media reports that the United States may decide within six months to pull out of Iraq, calling U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney a "chicken" and saying the U.S. goal is now to return home with honor.
Al-Baghdadi also listed some 19 beliefs of his group in the March 13 statement, saying it wants to respond to lies written about it in the media. Among the beliefs listed are: an obligation to rule according to God's law, and a belief that secularism in all its facets and variations, such as nationalism, communism, and Ba'athism, is a clear heresy. "Therefore, we consider everyone who was involved with the political process, like the parties of [Sunni leaders Salih] al-Mutlaq, [Adnan] al-Dulaymi, [Tariq] al-Hashimi, and others to be infidels.... We also consider the [Iraqi] Islamic Party's methodology to be one of infidelity and apostasy.
Its creed and its path do not differ from those of the rest of the infidel and apostate methodology such as those of the parties of [Shi'ite leaders Ibrahim] al-Ja'fari and [Iyad] Allawi." Al-Baghdadi said his group considers it an obligation to fight the police and army and other security services "and to eliminate and destroy any building used" by the government. He added that the group considers non-Muslims enemies not protected under Islamic law.
Labels: Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, Islamic State of Iraq, Sunni leaders
(Al-Iraqiyah) Iraq's parliament extended the state of emergency in all parts of the country south of the Kurdistan region for another month, Al-Iraqiyah television reported on March 13. The state-run channel said the decision was made to support the Baghdad security plan.
Labels: state of emergency
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
(FreeMarketNews.com) Although the announcement that Britain is withdrawing 1,600 troops from Iraq was labeled a success by US policy makers, officials at the British Foreign Office and Ministry of Defense are in talks to hire mercenaries to take the place of the troops, according to the Scotsman. Policy makers expect an increase in demand for mercenaries to fill the gaps of troops that are redeployed elsewhere. Mercenaries will also be in high demand for security services, highway patrolling, and the training of Iraqi soldiers.
Britain has already spent an estimated $314 million on mercenaries. The US has spent much more, and it has been projected that there will be more contractors in Iraq than troops. There are about 120,000 contractors and 135,000 US troops in Iraq. Critics argue that contractors are being used to hide casualty figures and remove accountability from the military. About 800 contractors working for the US Department of Defense have been killed in Iraq and an additional 3,300 have been seriously injured, according to the Associated Press.
Labels: British Foreign Office, British troop withdrawal, contractors, mercenaries
(Reuters) Romania is likely to cut its troops in Iraq this year by around 100, from some 600 now, in line with British withdrawal plans, President Traian Basescu said on Wednesday. "We will be probably reducing our presence there by 100 soldiers in accordance with our British allies," Basescu told an annual gathering of senior politicians and army officers.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said last month that Britain would withdraw 1,600 troops from Iraq over the coming months although some soldiers would stay into 2008 as long as they were wanted. "We have a company in Basra which seems this year to have approached an end of its mission there," Basescu said. Romania, a staunch Washington ally and a NATO member since 2004, withdrew some 130 soldiers from Iraq last year.
The ruling centrist coalition is split over the presence in Iraq, with Basescu saying the force should remain until Bucharest's allies and Baghdad ask for a withdrawal. However, Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu's Liberal party has said Romania should bring its forces home. The governing coalition party says it collected one million signatures from Romanians who back its proposal. Polls show about 60 percent of the public want withdrawal.
Labels: Basra, President Traian Basescu, Romania, troop withdrawal
(Iraq Daily Business Updates) An Iraqi oil official said on Monday that Iraq reduced its official selling price for Basrah light crude oil from April loading between 20 to 30 cent a barrel by destination. The Iraqi oil marketing company (SOMO) reduced the April price to American buyers by 20 cents compared to the figure in March for the second month in to be less than $ 6.90 from West Texas crude. April's price was also reduced to European buyers by 25 cents compared with the month of March to less than $ 5.70 from deferred ships fuel. Buyers in Asia will pay less than the prices of Oman / Dubai crude by $ 2.55 for deliveries in April, down 30 cents from March. Iraq exports around 1.5 million barrels a day of crude oil from the port of Basrah.
Labels: Basrah, crude oil, foreign buyers, SOMO
(Quds Press) An Iraqi political activist and religious authority has criticized the Baghdad conference that was held on Saturday 10 March with the participation of Syria and Iran. In an exclusive statement to Quds Press, Shaykh Jawad al-Khalisi, the secretary general of the Iraqi National Constituent Conference described the state of fragmentation that the Iraqi Shi'i coalition is witnessing as normal. He said: "The coalition is defective. Its members do not form homogenous blocs. However, the sectarian congestion, the occupation's policy, and the fatwas [religious edicts] that sanction the killing of Shi'is have all contributed towards the dangerous formation of sectarian camps because they encourage sectarian fragmentation."
Al-Khalisi welcomed the position of the Al-Fadilah [virture] Party which resigned from the coalition. He urged Al-Sadr supporters to follow suit. He said: "What Al-Fadilah Party has done in terms of resigning from the Shi'i coalition is a positive and good step. I hope that the Al-Sadr Trend, which was forced into the political process, will do what Al-Fadilah Party did and work together to form a unified national entity, one that will encompass leaders from the Al-Tawafuq Front, the Iraqi List, and others away from sectarian considerations."
COMMENT: Al-Khalisi is a Shi'i cleric and former member of SCIRI (1982). He is in favour of Sunni-Shi'i alliances and is committed to the idea of an Islamic state; he has ties with the Muslim Scholars Association, a Sunni group; has been critical of the US-led presence in Iraq and urged boycott of the 2004 elections. COMMENT ENDS.
Labels: Fadhela party, Moqtada Al-Sadr, Shaykh Jawad al-Khalisi
(VOI) An Iraqi legislator from the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF) survived an attempt on his life in Diala, while a bodyguard was killed and three others were injured in the attack, a leading figure from the IAF said on Tuesday. “Parliamentarian Muzher al-Saadon, of Iraqi Accordance Front, escaped an attempt on his life when an armed group ambushed his motorcade in Muqdadiya, northeast of Diala,” spokesman for the IAF, Salim Abdullah, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
“The attack took place in al-Hasnawi district, in Muqdadiya, when a group of armed men opened fire against the lawmaker’s car, killing a bodyguard and injuring three others who were rushed to the hospital for treatment,” he added.The source did not mention whether or not the parliamentarian was wounded. The spokesman did not accuse anyone of the attack. The Iraqi Accordance Front, under Adnan al-Dulaimi, is a Sunni bloc with 44 seats out of the 275-member parliament.
COMMENT: Police anticipate that Al-Qaida organization are behind the assassination attempt as a part of its operations targeting the members of the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), the biggest Sunni Islamic party in Iraq. COMMENT ENDS.
Labels: Diyala, Iraqi Accord Front, Muqdadiya, Muzher al-Saadon
(Asharq al-Awsat) Dr. Iyad Allawi, former Iraqi Prime Minister and leader of Al-Iraqiyah National List, arrived in Riyadh yesterday a day after the arrival of Masud Barzani, president of Iraq's Kurdistan region, where he was received by King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz and held talks with him which dealt with the latest developments in the Iraqi situation.
Allawi called Nuri al-Maliki's Government the offspring of the sectarian and ethnic situation in Iraq and has several terms of reference and therefore is incapable of achieving national unity. He called on the Iraqi government to abandon its sectarian stands and sectarian quotas and to be the government for all Iraqis and for Al-Maliki to be the Prime Minister of a government for all Iraqis and not for a certain community or political party in that community.
In an interview with Asharq al-Awsat conducted with him during his visit to Kuwait, where he was accompanied by a delegation from Al-Iraqiyah List, Allawi said, "This government does not represent me as a Shiite nor the Shiites in Iraq as much as it represents the politicized Shiites. We warned before and continue to warn that political sectarianism will impede and thwart the government's work as it will impede and thwart the unity of Iraqi society."
He asserted that the "the Kurdish-Sunni-Shiite division is the most dangerous thing facing Iraq and is lethal to it." He proposed the alternative of the "Iraqi national approach that believes in pluralism and the diversity of Iraqi society and gives the rights voluntarily to all the people's sectors without sectarian or factional tyranny."
Allawi disclosed that he discussed this matter with Al-Maliki several times and presented a memorandum for enabling the government to emerge from this crisis made up of 14 points that essentially say the government should be for all the Iraqis so that there would be a ray of hope that situations in Iraq would improve; otherwise Iraq would proceed along a dangerous route if the division, estrangement, and frustration remained."
Labels: al-Maliki, Iraqi National Front, Iyad Allawi, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, Riyadh
Security, Region, Politics
(Washington Post) For three years, thousands of members of a militant group dedicated to overthrowing Iran's theocracy have lived in a sprawling compound north of Baghdad under the protection of the U.S. military. American soldiers chauffeur top leaders of the group, known as the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, or MEK, to and from their compound, where they have hosted dozens of visitors in an energetic campaign to persuade the State Department to stop designating the group as a terrorist organization.
Now the Iraqi government is intensifying its efforts to evict the 3,800 or so members of the group who live in Iraq, although U.S. officials say they are in no hurry to change their policy toward the MEK, which has been a prime source of information about Iran's nuclear program. The Iraqi government announced this week that roughly 100 members would face prosecution for human rights violations, a move MEK officials contend comes at the request of the Iranian government.
"We have documents, witnesses," Jaafar al-Moussawi, a top Iraqi prosecutor, said Monday, alleging that the MEK aided President Saddam Hussein's campaign to crush Shiite and Kurdish opposition movements at the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Moussawi said the criminal complaint would implicate MEK members in "killing, torture, [wrongful] imprisonment and displacement."
The group denied involvement in Hussein's reprisals. "These allegations are preposterous and lies made by the Iranian mullahs and repeated by their agents," it said in a statement issued this week. The case highlights the occasional discord between the U.S. and Iraqi governments on matters related to Iran. While the U.S. government has accused Iran of supplying Iraqi Shiite militias with sophisticated weapons that it says have been used to kill American troops, Iraq's Shiite-led government has expanded commercial and diplomatic ties with its majority-Shiite neighbor.
"This organization has always destabilized the security situation" in Iraq, said Mariam Rayis, a top foreign affairs adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, adding that the MEK's continued presence "could lead to deteriorating the relationship with neighboring countries." MEK leaders dispute the prosecutor's allegations. They contend that Iran has infiltrated Iraq's political leadership while also supporting militant groups in an effort to keep the United States in a quagmire in Iraq. They also say the Iranian government wants to forestall a U.S. attack on Iran.
COMMENT: The MEK is the primary opposition to the current Iranian government and acts as the focal point of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a coalition of Iranian opposition groups which claims to be the transitional parliament-in-exile with 570 members. The NCRI was headquartered in Iraq, with representative offices in other countries including a presence in Washington where it has previously received support from the US Congress. After the 9/11 attacks however, the US government actively courted cooperation from the government of Iran and further sidelined any unofficial support for the MEK.
The MEK philosophy mixes Marxism and Islam. Formed in the 1960s, the organization was expelled from Iran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and its primary support came from the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein since the late 1980s. The MEK’s history is filled with anti-Western attacks as well as terrorist attacks on the interests of the clerical regime in Iran and abroad. The MEK now advocates the overthrow of the Iranian regime and its replacement with the group’s own leadership. First designated in October 1997.
Most exiled members live in the camp at Ashraf, north of Baghdad. After Hussein was toppled, the MEK agreed to turn over its weapons to U.S. military officials. In 2004, the U.S. military granted its members the status of "protected persons" under the Geneva Conventions and has since provided security for the camp. COMMENT ENDS.
Labels: Iran, Jaafar al-Moussawi, MEK, Mujaheddin-e Khalq, U.S.
(AINA) Iraqi Assyrians wrapped up a three-day meeting in İstanbul yesterday with a statement opposing Kurdish attempts to establish control over the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk. In a statement released after the meeting, the Assyrians said Kirkuk was part of Iraq, not of the Kurdish region. "The Kurdish region is not as big as claimed (by Kurds)," said group member Barem Behram. "If you look at the history, you will see that Assyrians were populating the area that is claimed to be the Kurdish region today."
Iraqi Assyrians discussed the overall situation in Iraq during their three-day meeting at the Conrad Hotel in İstanbul. The meeting was originally planned to be held in Baghdad, but the plans had to be changed after participants from other countries were denied entry visas by Iraqi authorities. The meeting was attended by some 43 participants, 17 of whom were from Iraq. The participants included US, Australian and German citizens.
COMMENT: A referendum that was scheduled to occur in July has been postponed by the Kurds and the Turks for another two years. The referendum was expected to decide whether Kirkuk will be annexed to the semi-independent Kurdish entity in the north. It is currently administrated by Baghdad. Kirkuk's population is made up of Turkomen, Arabs, Assyrians and Kurds. The first three groups are allied in that they do not want to become part of Kurdistan and believe they have as much say in the city's future as the Kurds.
The last ethnic-breakdown census in Iraq was conducted in 1957. That count showed 178,000 Kurds, 48,000 Turkomen, 43,000 Arabs and 10,000 Assyrian-Chaldean Christians living in Kirkuk. That was before Saddam began his program to move Arabs to Kirkuk, followed by the Kurds moving back there since 2003. COMMENT ENDS.
Labels: Assyrians, Kirkuk, Kurdistan
(AP) Suicide bombers struck a market in northern Iraq and an Iraqi military checkpoint in Baghdad on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people, while an Iraqi general warned extremists that they will be "smashed under the foot of the Iraqi people" if they resist efforts to end the violence in the country.
In the worst attack, a man wearing an explosives belt strolled into an outdoor market in Tuz Khormato, 130 miles north of Baghdad, and blew himself up. The blast occurred just before noon as the market was crowded with shoppers in the city, which has a mixed population with a slight majority of Turkomen. At least eight people were killed and 25 were wounded, police said. Northern Iraq has seen a recent rise in violence that many blame on insurgents fleeing a security crackdown in the capital that began a month ago.
In western Baghdad, meanwhile, a suicide car bomber slammed into an Iraqi army checkpoint in the Sunni neighborhood of Yarmouk, killing two civilians and wounding four others, police said.
Labels: suicide bomber, Tuz Kharmatu, Yarmouk
In a sign of the persistent Sunni resentment that is behind much of the violence, the bodies of Saddam Hussein's sons and a grandson were exhumed and reburied near the ousted leader's grave in Ouja, his hometown north of Baghdad. Saddam was hanged on Dec. 30 and buried the next day in a grave chipped out of an interior floor of a building he had built for religious events.
Tribal officials said they decided to move the remains of Saddam's sons Odai, 39, and Qusai, 37, and his 14-year-old grandson Mustafa, who died July 22, 2003, in a gunbattle with U.S. troops in the northern city of Mosul, to keep all members of the family in one place. Tribal chief Ali al-Nida and three other relatives accompanied the bodies as they were transferred Tuesday in three cars from the cemetery about a mile from the building in which Saddam is buried.
The three bodies were buried in the courtyard near the graves of Saddam's half brother and former intelligence chief Barzan Ibrahim, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, who also were sent to the gallows in January for the killings of 148 Shiites in the town of Dujail in 1982. The five burial mounds were covered with Iraqi flags as people prayed next to them during the service in Ouja, near the scene of Saddam's capture by American soldiers in December 2003.
Labels: Ali al-Nida, graves, Ouja, Saddam Hussein
(AP) The U.S. military spokesman in Iraq said Wednesday that all indications showed that radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr remained in Iran. The anti-American religious leader, who heads the Mahdi Army militia, was first reported by the Americans to be absent from Iraq on Feb. 13, when the latest U.S.-Iraq security drive opened in Baghdad.
COMMENT: Unsubstantiated information has reported sighting of Mahdi Army soldiers active in Iraq. Whether these are true to Al-Sadr or rogue off-shoots of his force is not known at this time. Al-Sadr himself was reported giving a statement in Najaf last week again asking the foreign forces to leave Iraq, and at the same time encouraging restraint among the Shite pilgrims who had been bombed over the weekend. COMMENT ENDS.
Labels: Iran, Moqtada Al-Sadr
(KRG.org) The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Spokesman published an authorised English translation of the draft Federal Oil and Gas Law for Iraq on March 9th. The original Arabic draft, also published by the KRG on the same date, was prepared by the Oil and Energy Committee of the Iraq Council of Ministers on 15 February 2007. That draft was later approved by the Council. The drafts can be downloaded at the links below.
The English translation published today was prepared and authorised by the KRG. “These are the drafts recognised by the KRG”, said KRG Natural Resources Minister Dr. Ashti Hawrami. “Old and inaccurate translations of this vital draft law have been circulating in the media in recent weeks. By publishing the original Arabic and the authoritative English translation together, we hope to make the picture clearer for potential investors in Iraq.” Dr. Hawrami represents the KRG on the Oil and Energy Committee.
Allocation of fields, model contracts, and Revenue Sharing Law outstanding Pursuant to the Iraq Constitution and the draft law, the KRG will sign contracts for new fields in the Kurdistan Region. In a departure from the Iraq Constitution, the law establishes an independent advisory body, to be jointly appointed by the KRG and the Federal Government, to ensure that all contracts will meet certain minimum economic guidelines. The KRG has also voluntarily agreed that existing KRG petroleum contracts, which are explicitly validated by the Iraq Constitution, may also be reviewed by a panel of independent advisors.
Labels: Dr. Ashti Hawrami, draft oil law, KRG, Kurdistan Regional Government, Oil and Energy Committee of the Iraq Council of Ministers
(Al-Iraqiyah) Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a meeting of Iraqi governors in Baghdad on March 12 that security forces operating in the governorates should be on guard against terrorists who have fled Baghdad, Al-Iraqiyah television reported the same day. Al-Maliki asked the governors to cooperate "with all other executive agencies in their respective governorates in order to develop a plan similar to the Baghdad law enforcement plan so as to impose the law in these areas."
He also called on governors to make full use of their budgets in order to speed reconstruction efforts. In years past, the governorates did not spend all of the money allocated to them because of security conditions. Al-Maliki reportedly said the funds will be withdrawn by the federal government if they are not used.
Labels: al-Maliki, governors, Operation Fardh al-Qanoon
(Reuters) Civilian deaths and car bombs have fallen sharply in Baghdad since a U.S.-backed crackdown began a month ago, but attacks outside the capital were rising as militants change tactics, Iraqi officials said on Wednesday. In an upbeat assessment of the first 30 days of the security plan, Iraqi military spokesman Brigadier Qassim Moussawi said the number of Iraqis killed by violence in Baghdad since February 14 was 265, down from 1,440 killed in the previous month.
The number of car bombings, a favorite weapon used by suspected Sunni Arab militants fighting the Shi'ite-led government, was down to 36 from 56, Moussawi told reporters. But as thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops flow into the capital, attacks in the area surrounding Baghdad have increased, he said, without providing specific figures.
There are about 100,000 Iraqi and U.S. forces deployed in Baghdad under a plan to sweep neighborhoods and rid streets of Sunni Arab militants and Shi'ite militias. The U.S. military says the Mehdi Army Shi'ite militia is the greatest threat to security in Iraq and has conducted sweeps in the Shi'ite militia stronghold of Sadr City. So far Shi'ite militias have been lying low and many of their leading figures are believed to have fled the capital, a development that has coincided with a decline in execution-style killings.
But violence has been on the rise elsewhere, including in western Anbar province, a Sunni militant stronghold where al Qaeda and local tribes are engaged in a power struggle, and in Diyala, a religiously mixed area northeast of the capital.
Labels: Al Anbar, Al Qaeda in Iraq, Baghdad, Brigadier Qassim Moussawi, civilian deaths, Diyala, Mahdi Army, tribes
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
(McClatchy Newspapers) The case of an Iraqi woman who went on Arabic satellite television last month to charge that three Iraqi policemen raped her continues to roil the country, and government officials are now debating whether to release a video that they say will show the episode was a fabrication. The Shiite Muslim-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki already has called the woman a liar and leaked information to discredit her. Officials have released her name, said she worked as a prostitute in the 1990s and accused her of bigamy.
On Monday, four Iraqi officials said that the woman, who at first was thought to be a Sunni, was a Shiite and that she was detained two days after she made her allegations. Three of the officials said the government has a taped confession from the woman in which she says she was paid by the Iraqi Islamic Party, one of Iraq's most important Sunni organizations, to fabricate the story in an effort to undermine the Baghdad security plan.
None of the officials would speak for attribution because the government is still debating what to do with the video, with some officials voicing concern that releasing it would only inflame sectarian tensions. "The whole thing was orchestrated" to undermine the government, one Iraqi official said. "They paid some broad to mess up our plans ... evil individuals would do such a thing."
The Iraqi Islamic Party denied the accusation. Party spokesman Salim Abdullah told McClatchy Newspapers that the party has evidence implicating high officials in the alleged rape and evidence that proves the woman was sexually assaulted. He added that the party would release the evidence if the criminal case turned into a political fight between the Shiite-led government and Iraq's largest Sunni party.
The debate over the rape charge, which was first aired Feb. 19 on Al-Jazeera satellite television, is a reminder of how difficult it is to separate fact from fiction in a highly charged sectarian atmosphere in which everyone is assumed to be acting only for their own benefit. American officials have declined to say publicly what they know of the case. The woman was treated at an American hospital in the Green Zone, but what that examination showed or even how she came to be in the custody of an American military patrol is not known.
Labels: Iraqi Islamic Party, rape case, Salim Abdullah
(Reuters) The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday extended Iraq's $714.7 million loan accord to Sept. 28 at the government's request and said the country faced an important juncture in its economic recovery amid increased violence. Iraq has treated the loan as precautionary finance and has not drawn down on it since its approval in December 2005.
"Despite very difficult political and security circumstances, the Iraqi authorities have taken important measures to keep their economic program on track," IMF Deputy managing Director Takatoshi Kato said in a statement. He commended the authorities for their management of the economy, including maintaining fiscal discipline, tightening monetary policy and raising domestic fuel prices.
But the IMF said inflation was high and the central bank may need to act to prevent it from becoming entrenched, while fiscal policy should keep current spending in check, including wages and pensions. Kato urged the government to increase its investment, especially in the oil sector, and to reduce supply constraints of fuel products. "To that end, actions are needed to facilitate the importing of fuel products by the private sector," Kato said. He said reforms needed to be broadened, including in the budget and financial management system. The fund praised restructuring efforts of Iraq's two largest banks but said more efforts were needed to overhaul the four other state-owned banks.
Labels: IMF, loan
Business, Reconstruction, Kurdistan
(Kurdistan Observer) The South Korean government, which has been reluctant to promote investment in Iraq because of the unstable security situation, is now starting to change its position. In late January the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy sent a trade mission, including representatives from oil companies, to Iraq to look into development possibilities.
Last Thursday, a consortium of Korean companies including the Korean National Oil Corporation, Samsung Corporation and SK Corporation, sent a geological unit to Iraq to survey some potential drilling sites, while the Ministry of Construction and Transportation signed an agreement last month to participate in a project to improve Erbil's aging water and sewage systems.
If all goes well, South Korea could enjoy another business boom in the Middle East. Early last month, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade joined with the so-called Regional Reconstruction Team (RRT) based in Erbil. By June the RRT's work should be in full-swing, including an economic development project and the Zaytun Division's regional reconstruction duties. The development projects stem from the presence of the South Korean troops in the area.
Labels: geological survey, Korean National Oil Corporation, Kurdistan, oil, Samsung Corporation, SK Corporation, South Korea
(KTV) Companies from Poland and the Netherlands are currently on a visit to Kurdistan to examine various key projects including rail links and oil refineries. Representatives of the companies met with Osman Shwani, KRG Planning Minister, to negotiate the projects. At the meeting Osman Shwani pointed out that the Kurdistan Region's Investment Law made it easier for companies to set up subsidiaries here, adding that the security and stability in the region helps encourage foreign companies to come and invest in Kurdistan.
The KRG Planning Minister urged the Polish and Dutch companies to explore all potential areas of investment and said that they would receive the ministry’s full support. The two companies said they hoped that the people of Kurdistan would be able to benefit from the proposed projects. Representatives of Bumar, a Polish company, met with Said Sofi, KRG Transport Minister. The company has come to Kurdistan to take part in the construction of various transport projects, including a tram system for Hawler and rail terminals in the cities of Hawler, Sulaymaniya and Dehuk.
Labels: Bumar, KRG, Kurdistan, Netherlands, oil refineries, Osman Shwani, Poland, rail links
(Voices of Iraq) The Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF) and former Iraqi Premier Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National Slate objected the debate of a draft law on oil and gas on the agenda of the Iraqi Parliament's session on Monday. Hussein al-Falluji, an IAF member of parliament, said "we believe that the time is not right for dealing with this issue. We should, above all, deal with security matters before debating this draft."
"Socio-political and security circumstances do not allow such a step now, as the draft would allow investment companies to re-wield power over Iraqi oil," Falluji, who belongs to the third largest parliamentary bloc, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) on Monday. In an ordinary session earlier on Monday, the Iraqi Parliament debated a draft law on investment in crude oil and delayed the second reading of a draft law on regulating frequencies, as it was correlated with the law on provinces.
The quorum for last Tuesday’s parliamentary session was not reached, prompting members to turn it into a "consultative session" in which they debated a mechanism for the Iraqi legislative house during the coming period. Iraq's parliament is composed of 275 members. The quorum necessary to convene sessions is half the members plus one (139 members).
COMMENT: One of the benchmarks al-Maliki had to commit to with the U.S. for them to maintain their presence in Iraq was to complete the oil law. This will now have to wait and will be further delayed, straining al-Maliki's relationship with the U.S. The original deadline was Dec 31. The latest is July 1. Foreign companies will also be hesitant to invest in Iraq before the law is passed. COMMENT ENDS.
Labels: draft oil law, Hussein al-Falluji, Iraqi Accordance Front, Iyad Allawi, parliament
(CNN) Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi will meet Monday with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, according to al-Hashimi's office. It is al-Hashimi's first visit to Iran. He is the head of the Iraqi Islamic Party, part of the Iraqi parliament's largest Sunni Arab political bloc. He is one of two vice presidents in Iraq. Iran, like Iraq, is majority Shiite Muslim. On Sunday, al-Hashimi met with his Iranian counterpart, Parviz Davoudi.
According to Iran's state-run news agency, IRNA, Davoudi expressed his country's support for a stable and strong Iraq to the visiting delegation. The report said the Iraqi vice president also had positive words about Tehran's role in Iraq. "Al-Hashimi, for his part, expressed gratitude to the Iranian government and nation for going the 'extra mile' to help solve Iraq's problems and for their concern for the people at this time of crisis," according to the IRNA report.
Al-Hashimi arrived in Tehran on Sunday, a day after Iraq hosted a Baghdad security conference attended by Iran and other neighboring countries as well as representatives from the United Nations and United States. Iran's role in Iraq has been criticized by the United States, which says the regime in Tehran has not done enough to stop the flow of weapons into Iraq. The U.S. military says it has evidence those weapons are ending up in the hands of Shiite insurgent groups.
On Sunday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told CNN that he was misquoted by IRNA, which reported that he praised Iran's "constructive" role in Iraq. While acknowledging that Iran has a role in Iraq's future, Zebari said, "The message I gave them yesterday [Saturday] is not to turn Iraq into a battlefield for settling scores with the United States or any other countries at our cost." He said he confronted the Iranian delegates during bilateral meetings at Saturday's conference about "intelligence that weapons, people, some support is coming across the border from the Iranian side."
Labels: Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Iran, Iraqi Islamic Party, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Parviz Davoudi, Tariq al-Hashimi
(VOI) President of Iraq's Kurdistan region Massoud al-Barzani arrived in Riyadh on Monday evening on a several days visit to Saudi Arabia, during which he will meet with King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. The Kurdish official will tackle bilateral ties, security and political developments in Iraq during his visit with Saudi officials, as a follow-up to the security conference held in Baghdad on Sauturday.
The visit is the first by Barazani in his capacity as Kurdistan region president since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003. He had visited Saudi Arabia in late 1990s as leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). "Barazani is accompanied by a high-level Kurdish delegation," head of the Kurdistan presidency office Dr. Fouad Hussein told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) on Monday. Hussein said "the visit takes place upon an official invitation to Iraqi Kurdistan region president from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia. "Barazani is scheduled during the several days visit to meet the Saudi monarch to discuss Kurdish relations with the Saudi people and the political and security scenes in Iraq in general," said Hussein.
Labels: King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz, Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, Saudi Arabia