Friday, June 29, 2007


DynCorp to team up on LOGCAP IV contract

(BUSINESS WIRE) - The U.S. Army Sustainment Command has selected DynCorp International as one of three providers of logistics support to the U.S. Army under the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) IV contract. The LOGCAP IV contract has a term of up to 10 years and a potential annual value to DynCorp International of $5 billion in gross revenue.
Under this contract, DynCorp International will support U.S. forces worldwide with immediate focus on those deployed in the Middle East. DynCorp International holds several important logistics and contingency contracts for the U.S. military, and was the sole holder of the LOGCAP II contract from 1997-2002. Dyncorp International is teamed with CH2M Hill and Agility Defense and Government Services (formerly PWC Logistics) for LOGCAP IV.

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Shia politicians doubt Maliki's support base in an already splintered coalition

(Gulf News) - Shiite politicians have been doubting the Iraqi prime minister's support base among the Shiite political parties and whether the Shiite bloc will eventually topple him. Information released by an official in Moqtada Al Sadr's faction, revealed that Nouri Al Maliki poses a threat to the group. Haidar Hussain, a leader in Al Sadr's military wing, the Mahdi Army, told Gulf News: "We are certain that all American and British military campaigns are conducted with Al Maliki's knowledge and support.
"We thought the opposite, that is why leader Moqtada Al Sadr sent him a letter advising him to step down as long as he cannot stand against America's dominance on security and military resolutions in Iraq."
Gazi Al Darraji, an Iraqi analyst, told Gulf News: "Since the kidnapping of five Britons from the Iraqi Finance Ministry a month ago, the relationship between Al Maliki and Al Sadr is not well because the kidnapping is considered a serious blow to Al Maliki's power."
Karbala, the second holiest city in Iraq, was home to a Shiite religious front opposed to Al Maliki's government. The front figures include Shiite clergymen Mohammad Al Yacoubi, Mahmoud Al Hasani and Mohammad Al Baghdadi, who called for Al Maliki to leave office. The Shiite opposition against the Iraqi prime minister comes along with other pressures on him to quit heading the Iraqi Ministers' council.
Buthaina Al Haydari, an Iraqi political researcher at Baghdad University, told Gulf News: "I believe that Al Maliki tried to please both Americans and Al Sadr, and that is impossible to achieve because two of them are fighting fierce rounds in Najaf, Diwaniyah, Nasiriyah and Al Sadr neighbourhood in Baghdad. Besides, some demands from Washington clashed with Al Maliki's opinions ... especially on the national reconciliation and dissolving of militia."
There are also rumours about differences between Al Maliki and Adel Abdul Mahdi, a member of the Shiite coalition. Discord sprang between the two after Abdul Mahdi hinted in a coalition meeting that Al Maliki's survival may end the unity of the Shiite coalition and it may withdraw the paper of selecting the new Prime Minister.
A source in Dawa Party, which Al Maliki belongs to, told Gulf News: "Abdul Mahdi went to the religious authorities in Najaf and asked them to put pressure on Al Maliki to step out and that is the reason for the discord between them."

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UNESCO adds Samarra to World Heritage Sites list

(AFP) - The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced the latest additions to its list of World Heritage Sites on Thursday, singling out the Iraqi shrine city of Samarra as a new site that is also a site in danger.
Ever since the US-led war in Iraq broke out in 2003, the shrine city has been repeatedly targeting by bombings. It was once a powerful Islamic capital and ruled over the provinces of the Abbasid Empire, which extended from Tunisia to Central Asia in the ninth century.
Last week, Iraq signed a multi-million-dollar deal with UNESCO to rebuild a revered Shiite mosque in the city. The mosque was all but destroyed by two attacks, most recently on June 13. The first bombing, in 2006, destroyed the shrine's golden dome and sparked reprisals that have claimed tens of thousands of lives. The follow-up attack earlier this month destroyed the shrine's two gold-covered minarets.
In addition to the site in Samarra, a silver mine on a Japanese island, rock carvings in Namibia and the iconic Sydney Opera House were added to the UN body's register of places that hold global cultural significance. There are 830 sites on the list already.

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U.S. General - political conflict will undermine Iraqi security

Security, Politics
(Voices of Iraq) - Political conflict between the Iraqi government's leaders will have a negative effect on the security situation in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, a U.S. general said on Thursday. "Some Iraqi political forces have political agendas and are carrying out armed operations using their militias under a political cover, which adds to the complexity of the security situation," Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, the spokesperson for the U.S. Army Central Command, said in a press conference held on Thursday in the Green Zone.
Other external political disputes are also affecting the deteriorating situation in Iraq, he indicated. Brooks said that "terrorist operations" targeting the Multi-National Forces (MNF) in Iraq have recently been on the rise compared to attacks against Iraqi security forces, which he said aim to undermine U.S. policy in Iraq and rally international public opinion behind troop withdrawal plans.
"The law-imposing plan is continuing. Iraqi and U.S. forces have managed to purge 35% of Baghdad neighborhoods of terrorist groups," Brig. Gen. Brooks said. U.S. and Iraqi forces have imposed a security crackdown on the Iraqi capital since mid-February 2007 as part of a plan to put an end to violence and curb militia groups.
According to Brooks, joint U.S.-Iraqi forces are currently controlling 40% of Baghdad's areas, including al-Ghazaliya neighborhood, al-Khadraa district in Karkh and al-Shab neighborhood in Baghdad's eastern side of Rasafa. Brooks did not provide a timetable for obtaining full control of Baghdad.
"The law-imposing security plan in Baghdad has seen dazzling success that citizens have not noticed because of the violent operations that target them," Brooks explained, adding that U.S. forces will continue erecting concrete barriers around some of Baghdad's neighborhoods and markets to block car bombs from reaching their targets.

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Iraqi govt allocates $168 mn. for Al Anbar reconstruction

(Iraq Directory) - Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih reports the government has allocated 210,000,000,000 (US$ 168 million) IQD to support reconstruction in the province of Al-Anbar, after its extensive destruction by terrorist and military operations.
During a meeting held in the Cabinet on Wednesday attended by a number of ministers and the Governor of Al-Anbar, as well as the United States ambassador, that "77,000,000,000 IQD of the total is allocated for economic investment projects, and the remaining 135,000,000,000 IQD is budgeted for developing the regions."

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Iranian bank opens first branch in Baghdad

(Payvand) - Bank Melli Iran (BMI) inaugurated its first branch in the Iraqi capital Baghdad Monday. The cultural attaché of Iranian Embassy in Iraq told MNA that Iran's Ambassador Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, representatives of Iranian Foreign Ministry and Central Bank of Iran (CBI), and governors of local banks were present in the opening ceremony. Seyyed Khalil Sadati said the BMI branch is the first foreign bank that was inaugurated in Baghdad after the overthrow of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

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Looming crisis in Syria as Iraqi refugee influx continues

(IRIN) -- With up to 2,000 Iraqi refugees arriving each day, adding to the 1.5 million - equivalent to around 8 percent of the Syrian population - who have flooded into Syria since the start of the US-led war on Iraq in 2003, economists and refugee experts warn of a looming social and economic crisis. Tens of thousands of Iraqi families are now living in and around Damascus pushing up demand for already limited goods and services. Observers warn pressures will soon become unbearable as Iraqis use up their savings and become more reliant on the Syrian welfare system.
"When the Iraqis first came, Syrians were happy to help them but now that is no longer the case," said Ammar Qurabi of the National Organization for Human Rights (NOHR) which has monitored the effects of Iraqi refugees on Syria. "Now most people hate the refugees and are angry because food and houses are expensive and there is no work because Iraqis take the easy jobs."
According to government figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics, inflation will reach 8 percent in 2007, slightly down from 9.2 percent in 2006. However, with reliability of official figures on the economy a significant issue in Syria, some Damascus-based economists estimate the real figure for this year's inflation could be as high as 30 percent.
The highest inflation has been felt in the real estate market, with the tens of thousands of extra Iraqi families buying and renting properties across Damascus and raising prices by up to 300 percent. A study by NOHR estimated that the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of Damascus had risen from 8,000 Syrian pounds (US$160) in 2005 to 20,000 Syrian pounds (US$400) today. In a country where an average state wage in the bloated public sector economy remains little more than $120, many Syrians are forced to do two jobs, and still struggle to pay rent.
The booming real estate market had raised cement prices to $200 a tonne by March, a 300 percent increase on three years ago, stunting the country's building boom. Figures from the Syrian Consulting Bureau for Development and Investment (SCB), compiled from the state-run press, found that since the Iraqi influx began in early 2005 the demand for bread in Damascus - home to the majority of the refugees - has increased by 35 percent, electricity by 27 percent, water by 20 percent and kerosene by 17 percent. There are an estimated 75,000 Iraqi children registered in Syrian schools, with many class sizes doubled to 60 students and schools working double shifts to cope.
The effect of the refugees has not only been negative. The increase in demand for consumer goods and real estate spurred by the influx of Iraqis has boosted domestic consumption, contributing towards the increase in the government's expected GDP growth to seven percent from 5.6 percent in 2006. According to Sukkar, the Iraqis have "brought in money, invested in real estate, and opened shops, something that - on the positive side - has increased spending in the economy".

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Al-Sadr delays Samarra shrine march

(Al Jazeera) - Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia cleric, has postponed his followers' march toward a bombed Shia shrine north of Baghdad. "Muqtada al-Sadr has decided to postpone the march to Samarra for several reasons, including the government's inability to secure the route and many officials' appeals for a postponement," Sheikh Asad Al-Nassiri, an aide to the cleric, said on Friday. He made the announcement during a Friday sermon in nearby Kufa.
Earlier on Friday, the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni bloc in Iraq's parliament called on al-Sadr to cancel the march, saying it was too dangerous. Al-Sadr had called for his followers to march to the Askariya shrine in Samarra known for its shimmering golden dome destroyed by suspected al-Qaeda bombers in February 2006.
After a second attack toppled the mosque complex's minarets earlier this month, the cleric called for Shias to march to the shrine on July 5. The statement by the Sunni bloc, which holds 44 seats in the 275-member legislature, came a day after the Iraqi cabinet and the defence ministry both made similar pleas, saying the road to the mosque was not yet secure.
"We call on our Shia brothers and those in the al-Sadr movement to postpone their planned visit in July to the Askariya shrine, which was the target of two terrorist criminal attacks that aimed to divide Iraqis," the statement said.

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Bomb damages pipeline

Oil, Security
(AP) - A bomb exploded Friday under an oil pipeline south of Baghdad, spilling crude oil and sparking a huge fire, Iraqi police said. The explosives were planted under a pipeline in the al-Mowehlah area of Haswa, a town 30 miles south of the Iraqi capital, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.
The pipeline transmits crude oil from Iraq's southern oil fields to the Dora refinery in Baghdad. The blast ignited a huge fire around 5 a.m., the officer said. By midday, firefighters were still struggling to extinguish the flames, which were fueled by a continuing leak of oil from the pipeline, he said. Workers were also looking for a way to temporarily cut off the oil flow until a repair can be made, the officer added.

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Sunni politicians condemn arrest warrant for Culture Minister

(RFE/RL) - The Sunni-led Iraqi People's Conference issued a statement on June 27 condemning the arrest warrant issued against Iraqi Culture Minister As'ad Kamal al-Hashimi on terrorism charges, "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" reported the same day. "The [Iraqi] government is stupidly playing with fire in continuing a policy of lies meant to exclude Sunni officials and politicians," the statement said.
The Iraqi People's Conference "threatens to expose those high-ranking officials, ministers, members of parliament, and even Shi'ite religious figures who are involved with crimes of extermination against the Sunni people, such as killings, kidnappings, and forced relocations."
Muhannad al-Issawi, a spokesman for People's Conference head Adnan al-Dulaymi, who is also the leader of the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni political bloc, told AP the same day that the arrest warrant is "a political matter, not a legal one" and warned that the issue "aims to marginalize the Sunnis." The arrest warrant, issued on June 26, alleges that al-Hashimi ordered the killing of Sunni lawmaker Mithal al-Alusi's two sons in Baghdad in 2005.

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Turkey's FM warns that Ankara will move ahead with a crossborder attack on N. Iraq

Kurdistan, Turkey
(RFE/RL) - Turkey's foreign minister has warned that Ankara will carry out "detailed" plans for a crossborder attack in northern Iraq to neutralize Kurdish rebels if U.S. or Iraqi forces don't do the job. The "Radikal" newspaper today quoted Abdullah Gul as saying his government "knows these plans and agrees with them." Washington, a NATO ally which like Ankara regards the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as a terrorist group, has urged Turkey not to enter northern Iraq.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007


LOGCAP IV awarded to Fluor, DynCorp and KBR

(Washington Post) - The Army awarded a contract worth up to $150 billion to feed, house and provide other services to U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait, spreading among three companies work that recently had been linked to a single, controversial contractor: Halliburton.
Fluor Intercontinental of Greenville, S.C., DynCorp International of Fort Worth and KBR of Houston were chosen from among a half-dozen competitors. Each company's part of the contract is worth up to $5 billion a year and can be extended for up to nine more years. The contract award was a particular victory for KBR, Halliburton's former contracting arm, after the firm was accused of misdeeds under the past contract, one contracting expert said.
"This is potentially the biggest battlefield services contract that any company is going to win for the remainder of this decade," Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a defense research organization in Arlington.
Known as the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or LOGCAP IV, the contract is considered one of the biggest deals in the contracting services industry. It has ballooned in value from $2 billion when it was first awarded in 1992 to $23 billion under the most recent LOGCAP III contract.
Two of the new winners have a history with the contract. KBR won the initial LOGCAP contract when support services were needed mainly in
Bosnia. DynCorp won it in 1997 to do work in East Timor and the Philippines. And in 2001, it was again awarded to KBR to provide services in Afghanistan, Kuwait and, after the 2003 invasion, Iraq. Since then, the contract has come under scrutiny by members of Congress, and critics have alleged that KBR had an advantage in winning the 2001 contract because Vice President Cheney had been Halliburton's chief executive.
There have been other allegations of overcharging and poor record-keeping by KBR and lax oversight by the government. Government auditors turned up more than $1 billion in questionable costs.
As of the end of May, KBR -- the largest single contractor in Iraq -- had been paid $19.7 billion for its work under the contract.
About 50,000 contractors work for KBR directly or as subcontractors to deliver services, and 500 government employees provide oversight of the logistics contract, according to Army officials.
Last year, the Army decided to award the logistics contract to more than one company after concerns were raised about a lack of competition in giving such a large contract to one company. Under the new contract, the three companies will have to compete for each individual task order.

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Iranian business delegation visits Kurdistan

(Noozz) - An Iranian business delegation including representatives of 52 companies has arrived in Arbil, Kurdistan, said Kurdistan Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Dara Jalil Khayat, according to the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
The Chamber has organised an introductory session between the delegation and a group of Kurdish traders and investors. Khayat added the Iranian delegation will visit Kurdish trade organizations as well as construction and investment projects currently under development in the Kurdistan Region.
"The visit was arranged to establish a networking bridge between Iranian and Kurdish companies and to offer opportunities in the Kurdistan Region to Iranian investors," said Khasro Maroufi, the Chamber's coordinator.
Maroufi added the delegation includes 52 companies of different fields including industry, building materials, machinery, oil, electricity, water and pharmaceuticals.

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Versar awarded $200,000 contract for training in Iraq

Reconstruction contracts
(Iraq Updates) - Versar, Inc. announced today it was awarded a $200,000 contract by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division to provide construction quality assurance training in Iraq to an audience of American, Third Country National and Iraqi engineers that oversee construction projects throughout the country.
This training will be performed in Iraq by Versar's growing international subsidiary, VIAP, Inc. It will add to the U.S Government's focus and commitment to improving the quality of construction and developing the national capacity of the Iraqi engineering and construction management professions, according to the company announcement.
Versar President and CEO Dr. Ted Prociv said: "Versar is proud of our continuing partnership with the U.S. government, and the offering of targeted training programs to assist emerging governments with their reconstruction and capacity development process. This reflects the company's superb reputation for construction management and professional services."

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Besieged Fallujah cut off

(IPS) - Strict curfew and tight security measures have brought difficult living conditions and heightened tempers to residents of Fallujah. The siege in this city located 60km west of Baghdad has entered its second month. There is little sign of any international attention to the plight of the city. Fallujah, which is largely sympathetic to the Iraqi resistance, was assaulted twice by the U.S. military in 2004. The second attack in November destroyed roughly three-quarters of the city of 350,000 residents. Now, Fallujah faces assault of another kind by way of a strict curfew where people are closed in from all sides.
Many people who had earlier supported the Iraqi police that works with the U.S. military, now oppose it. "We gave full support to the police force despite opposition from others to forming this force," a community leader in the city who asked to be referred to as Ahmed told IPS. "Others told us this force would only serve the occupation forces, but we accused them of being against stability and order. Unfortunately, they appeared to be absolutely right."
Cars have not been permitted to move on the streets of Fallujah for nearly a month now. A ban was also enforced on bicycles, but residents were later granted permission to use them. On May 21 U.S. and Iraqi forces imposed a security crackdown on the city following continuing attacks. Local non-governmental organisations such as the Iraqi Aid Association (IAA) have told reporters that the U.S. military is not allowing them access to the city. "We have supplies but it is impossible to reach the families. They are afraid to leave their homes to look for food, and children are getting sick with diarrhoea caused by the dirty water they are drinking," IAA spokesman Fatah Ahmed told reporters. "We have information that pregnant women are delivering their babies at home as the curfew is preventing them from reaching hospital."
Medical services are inaccessible to most because the hospital is located on the other side of the Euphrates River from the rest of the city. Extra security checkpoints have severely hampered movement within the city, and most businesses have closed. A year ago the local police cut mobile phone services. The curfew is also restricting residents' ability to go out and find much needed supplies in the markets. Residents told IPS that there is on average only two hours electricity in 24 hours. Residents say they are up against killing prices. "Now they are killing us with a new weapon," a young man with a mask covering his face told IPS. "A jar of gas costs 20 dollars and a kilo of tomatoes costs 1.50 dollar, and people cannot go to work."
"U.S. snipers on rooftops are enjoying themselves watching us walk around to find a bite of food for our families," 55-year-old Hajji Mahmood told IPS. "They laugh at us and call us names. They should know Fallujah is still the same city that kicked them away three years ago." Life seems completely paralysed with little sign of movement under a blazing sun, with temperatures up to 45 degrees. "We are sweating to death because some of us went to those damned elections," said a 40-year-old lawyer, speaking with IPS on condition of anonymity, referring to the Jan. 30, 2005 elections. "The wise men told us not to, but we believed those crooks of the Islamic Party who promised to make things better," he said.
Many people in the city accuse the Islamic Party supportive of the U.S. of leading the 'security plan' in al-Anbar province where Fallujah is located. A local political analyst offered his views to IPS via the Internet, on condition of anonymity. "I find it rather strange that to control a city under the flag of providing citizens with peace and prosperity, you deprive them of all signs of life," he said. "Arab, Muslim and all international community leaders should be ashamed of themselves for not even talking about this crime. "Nonetheless, U.S. leaders are just buying more time towards more failure that they hope will magically turn into success. I am hopeless of any peace in Iraq as long as the democrats sold their fight cheap to the Bush administration."
Lt-Col Azize Abdel-Kader, a Defence Ministry official who coordinates security operations in al-Anbar said the curfew -- which runs from 6 pm until 8 am -- was necessary to maintain security. "It is a temporary curfew and we hope it can soon end," he told reporters in Baghdad last week. "We are looking into ways to let aid agencies enter Fallujah but it is too dangerous for the time being."

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Name of Kurdistan Peshmerga Forces Changed

(PUK Media) - Jabar Yawer, the official spokesman for the Kurdistan Region Guard Forces, held a news conference at the Peshmerga Forces Ministry office in Erbil, the Capital of Kurdistan Region, on Sunday. During the conference, Yawer declared that after a visit of the delegation of KRG chaired by PM Nechirvan Barzani to Baghdad and their meeting with the officials of Iraqi Federal Government, UK and US Embassies, it has been decided to transfer the tasks of Kurdistan Peshmerga Forces to Kurdistan Region Guard Forces.
Yawar also stated that after a delegation of the Iraqi Federal Government visited Kurdistan Region and after their meeting with the military officials of Kurdistan and on attendance of a Multi-National Forces' delegation they reached an agreement on several points including organizing and cooperation between Kurdistan Region Guard Forces and the Iraqi Army Forces, their number ,and their condition, allocating a budget to the Kurdistan Region Guard Forces by the Iraqi Government .
The agreement was signed by the President of Kurdistan Region and by the Iraqi PM in Baghdad. "After the agreement Kurdistan Region Guard Forces will not be a part of the Iraqi Army, but would only belong to the Kurdistan Region and will be under the supervision of Ministry of Peshmerga Forces. The General Commander of Kurdistan Region Guard Forces will be the President of Kurdistan Region.
The Deputy Commanderof Kurdistan Region Guard Forces will be the deputy of Kurdistan Region's President," Yawar added. "We also agreed that the Multi-National Forces, as they train the Iraqi Army Forces, will train the Kurdistan Region Guard Forces. The recruitment in the Kurdistan Region Guard Forces, like the system in Iraqi Army Forces, to be voluntary and after this agreement the condition of the Kurdistan Region Guard Forces will be better than before," Yawer said as well.

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New risk management company to operate in MENA

(AME Info FZ LLC) - GlobalOptions Group, Inc. (OTCBB: GLOI), a leading provider of domestic and international risk management services, today announced that its James Lee Witt Associates unit has formed a multi-year agreement with Kuwait-based Investors Group Holdings K.S.C.C. (IGH).
It will jointly provide emergency planning, crisis management, business continuity planning, training and exercises, and continuity of government services to governments and corporations throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
James Lee Witt, CEO, Mark Merritt, Senior Vice President and Partner, and James Jones, Director of Business Continuity Planning for James Lee Witt Associates, met with Mr. Sami Al-Bader, Chairman and Managing Director of International Investment Group (KSE: IIG), a subsidiary of IGH, in Kuwait last week to establish the MENA team. Under the agreement, GlobalOptions Group's James Lee Witt Associates unit will provide subject matter expertise to clients in the region, and IIG will provide the logistical support necessary for them to carry out client activities.
'James Lee Witt is an acknowledged leader and highly respected emergency management expert, and IIG is pleased to be representing their unique products and services in the MENA region,' commented Mr. Al-Bader. 'JLWA's proven experience is unrivaled and IIG believes that this relationship will bring superior disaster management and planning services to the region.'
With IIG's assistance, JLWA will expand their client base in the MENA region with a particular focus on the Gulf Cooperation Council states (GCC) comprised of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman. Additionally, JLWA and IIG will extend their scope of services to governments and businesses in Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

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Govt plans to employ three million

(Al-Sabaah) - The Government is working out an economic plan to employ three million unemployed to end the unemployment problem in the country. Vice President Dr. Adel Abdulmahdi informed Grand Ayatollah Mr. Ali Sistani about a new national front which includes four main political parties and efforts which aim to widen it, an MP close to the Prime Minister said that Mr. Maliki hopes to make a comprehensive reshuffle soon and he considers a suggestion to decrease the number of ministries to twenty.

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Report - evidence some Iraqi Security Forces are committing sectarian violence

(CNN) -- U.S. trainers have been unable to develop an indigenous Iraqi force fully capable of taking over security for the country, according to a congressional report released Wednesday. Training Iraqi forces is key to the administration's plan to "stand down" American forces as the Iraqis "stand up." The $19 billion effort has produced "mixed results," particularly with the Iraqi Police Services, according to the report from the House Armed Service Committee's oversight subcommittee.
"The bottom line is that after three months of studying the U.S. effort to develop the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), we cannot assess the operational capability of these forces," the report said. "We are actually left with more questions than answers."
The report says the Department of Defense "cannot report in detail how many of the 346,500 Iraqi military and police personnel that the Coalition trained are operational today."
The report includes 42 recommendations -- most for the Department of Defense and most requiring better reporting on the training effort -- but the subcommittee does not have legislative authority. The full Armed Services Committee must step in for any of the recommendations to take effect.

The report says "there is strong evidence that some [Iraqi Security Forces] are independently committing sectarian violence and other illegal activity;" adding that "the Iraqi Ministries of Defense and Interior are not capable of accounting for, supporting, or fully controlling their forces in the field."
The report was signed by 16 members of the bipartisan subcommittee.
The report also said that the subcommittee experienced difficulties getting information, documents and witnesses from the Department of Defense. "Congress must continue its constitutionally mandated role of oversight, whether or not the Department of Defense wants to participate," Meehan said in remarks included in the report. "The Congress and the American people would be better served if the Department didn't continue its current strategy of obfuscation, delay and denial."

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of congressmen on Wednesday called on the president to reconvene the Iraq Study Group to provide a new assessment of the war in Iraq. The White House should act "as quickly as possible" to bring the Iraq Study Group back, said Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Virginia, who originally crafted the legislation that created the group in March 2006. The 10 members of the Iraq Study Group -- evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats -- spent nearly nine months gathering information and talking to experts about possible strategies for Iraq.

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Govt loses control of Basra to militias, Iranian influence

Oil, Security
(Azzaman) - As U.S. troops battle to retake Baghdad and surrounding areas, the government is reported to have lost its control of Basra where almost all of the country’s oil exports originate. The city, according to well-placed sources, is under the hegemony of militias who do not run its streets only but have imposed levies and taxes on oil output.
“It may be too late for Prime Minister Nouri al-Naliki to restore control of Basra,” one source working for Iraqi intelligence said. The sources, who all spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, point to the growing Iranian influence in Basra and most of southern Iraq.
The loss of Basra to Shiite militias is a blow to current U.S. military operations mainly directed against Sunni rebels and elements of al-Qaeda group in the country. The four-month long operations in which tens of thousands of U.S. marines are involved have foundered due to tough resistance from various Iraqi groups particularly those linked to al-Qaeda.
British troops in Basra are almost powerless as their previous military tactics to retake control of the city have all but backfired. Attacks on British troops have increased significantly recently. Roadside bombs target British armored convoys and their barracks come under frequent mortar attacks.
The sources said Basra was in the midst of “huge chaos” with the political factions and their militias dividing the city into zones of influence. Senior Iraqi officials, refusing to be named, said Maliki was concerned about latest developments in Basra and other southern cities.
The decline of government control in these areas comes as Iraqi and U.S. troops are engaged in fierce fighting with Sunni resistance and armed groups across the central part of the country. The officials said Maliki intends to deploy two army battalions and a commando police force in the city to strengthen the provincial government there. But according to intelligence reports it will take a much bigger force to take on the heavily armed militias in the city.
Control of border points is no longer under the control of government troops and so are the city ports through which a sizeable portion of the country’s imports comes. The Oil Ministry’s supervision and administration of oil fields, terminals and a major refinery is only symbolic with militias in actual control of Basra’s oil industry.

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al-Sadr vows Samarra march to proceed despite warnings

(AP) - Radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr vowed Thursday to go ahead with a planned march to a devastated shrine in central Iraq but insisted the goal was not to confront Sunnis who live along the way. Instead, al-Sadr said the march was aimed at bringing Shiites and Sunnis closer together and breaking down the barriers imposed by the Americans and Sunni religious extremists.
The march is set for July 5 to the Askariya shrine in Samarra, which was bombed for a second time June 13. Sunni organizations and government officials have urged al-Sadr to cancel the march, fearing it will escalate sectarian violence that already has claimed thousands of lives. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office issued a statement Thursday calling on people not to go to the central city because securing the road between Baghdad and Samarra will take "some time."
"As we appreciate the people's feelings to go to Samarra in a peaceful march, we declare that securing the road to the city has not been completed according to commanders in the area," the statement said. Some Sunnis also fear that the march will bring thousands of Shiites to Samarra in a bid to change the demographics of the predominantly Sunni city. Al-Sadr insisted that his marchers will return to their homes as soon as the march is over.
"We call upon all Iraqis, whether tribesmen, dignitaries or officials to show the good will and cooperate in order for this march to be successful and to be a turning point in improving the fractured relations," al-Sadr said. Since his return from Iran last month, al-Sadr has been trying to show himself as a unifying figure for Iraqis rather than a divisive Shiite leader. His posters can be seen in some streets of Baghdad with a caption reading: "I am not a Shiite and not a Sunni. I am Iraqi."
Al-Sadr called Iraqis of all sects and ethnic groups to take part in the march, which is to mark the birthday of Islam's Prophet Muhammad's daughter, Fatima. "We hope that this year will be good for Iraqis when they get closer to each other by breaking all the barriers that were placed by the occupiers and takfiris," al-Sadr said.
Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia launched two uprising against U.S. troops in 2004 and is widely blamed for much of the sectarian violence against Sunnis. An aide said thousands of gunmen will guard the demonstrators, who are expected to come from the predominantly Shiite south and Baghdad's eastern slum of Sadr City.
He said that the government has sent al-Sadr intelligence reports warning that Sunni insurgents are planning attacks against the Shiite demonstrators. Samarra, located 60 miles north of Baghdad, is an area where al-Qaida's Iraq branch is known to be active. The shrine is revered by Shiites even though the city is mostly Sunni.

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Jordan to hold conference on Iraqi refugees in July

(RFE/RL) - A Jordanian Foreign Ministry official said on June 26 that the Hashemite kingdom will host a conference of countries sheltering Iraqi refugees sometime in July, AFP reported. "Regional countries, mainly Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, as well as the United Nations, will take part in the conference that will discuss ways of helping these states cope with burdens caused by Iraqi refugees," the unidentified official said.
The decision on holding the conference was made during a meeting between Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdallah Khatib and his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari, in Amman on June 26. Jordan has repeatedly warned the international community that the influx of Iraqi refugees has created a huge strain on its economy. The Jordanian Interior Ministry says the approximately 750,000 Iraqi refugees are costing Jordan an estimated $1 billion a year.

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25 killed in car bomb attack in Bayaa

(Reuters) - A car bomb killed 25 people on Thursday at a busy intersection in Baghdad where minibuses pick up and drop off passengers, while 20 beheaded bodies were found on a river bank south of the capital, Iraqi police said. Another car bomb in Baghdad targeting motorists queuing for petrol killed five people, police said. Mortar bombs also killed four people in two separate neighborhoods in the city.
In the southern city of Basra, a roadside bomb killed three British soldiers and seriously wounded another in the early hours of Thursday, the British military said. The latest attacks underscore the strength of militants in Iraq despite the arrival of 28,000 additional U.S. troops. The unrelenting violence is pushing Iraq to the brink of all-out civil war between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs.
The deadliest car bomb in Baghdad exploded in the Shi'ite district of Bayaa. The blast, which went off during the morning rush hour, wounded 40 people and destroyed dozens of vehicles. The Bayaa area in southwest Baghdad has been a frequent target of car bombs blamed on Sunni Islamist al Qaeda.
In the Sunni Arab town of Salman Pak south of Baghdad, locals made the gruesome discovery of 20 beheaded men on the bank of the River Tigris, police said. All the victims were wearing civilian clothes and had their hands and legs bound, police said, adding some of the heads were missing. Iraqi police had cordoned off the area while U.S. forces had also been summoned.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007


U.S. siege on al-Azamiyah lifted

(Voices of Iraq) - U.S. forces lifted a five-day siege from al-Aazamiya, northern Baghdad, local residents said on Tuesday. "U.S. forces removed barricades from the outlets to the neighborhood and allowed residents to go to work after a siege that lasted for five days following Thursday's bombing of a U.S. vehicle and an attack on an Iraqi army checkpoint," an eyewitness told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
Another eyewitness told VOI, "technicians and workers started fixing water pipes damaged in the bombings and clashes last week and now the electricity is back." U.S. forces had asked residents of al-Aazamiya via microphone to report any armed groups in the area and were allowing only pedestrians in or out.

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Iranian firm wins Iraq power deal

(AME Info FZ LLC) - Iran's Saneer Company has been appointed head contractor for the construction of a gas-fired power plant in Iraq, the Tehran Times reported. The Sadr plant will have two units each with 157MW capacity. An official said $150m will initially be invested in the project.

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Islamic State of Iraq claims Mansour Hotel blast

(Associated Press) - An Al-Qaida front group in Iraq claimed on Tuesday responsibility for the suicide bombing at Baghdad's Mansour hotel which killed 13 and wounded 27 people at a gathering of U.S.-allied tribal sheiks. In a statement on a Web site commonly used by the militants, the Islamic State of Iraq said that Monday's bombing was a "quick response" for an Iraqi police raid on a Sunni family house in the Anbar province in which the policemen detained the father and raped his daughters.
"The ministry of interior followed the heads of infidels and apostasy who brought those disgraceful police to the land of Muslims to make disaster and destruction," said the statement. Its authenticity could not be independently verified. The Monday hotel blast undermined efforts to forge a front against al-Qaida extremists in Iraq. Four of the tribal chiefs were among the 13 victims, police said.
After the noontime explosion, which also devastated the ground-floor lobby of the high-rise Mansour, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki quickly vowed renewed support for Anbar province's tribal leaders. The statement also identified the suicide bomber who had slipped past security checkpoints to detonate his suicide belt in the hotel lobby as "a lion of the Islamic State of Iraq's martyrs brigade, brother Abu Othman al-Duliemi."
"God accept him and let heaven be his final destination," the statement said. It also claimed the group had set up a special operation "to track down and follow up anyone allied with the crusaders or al-Maliki government." Crusaders is a term militants use for U.S. troops in Iraq.
The statement also urged other "sons of the Islamic state of Iraq" to cooperate with the group and to come forward with information about those allied with the "crusaders or the infidel government." The Islamic State of Iraq is an umbrella group of several insurgent groups, including al-Qaida in Iraq. Both have been blamed for some of the deadliest bombings in the country's conflict.

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KRG to merge ministries

Politics, Kurdistan
(Voices of Iraq) - A member of the Kurdish parliament from the Kurdistan Islamic Union described on Tuesday the decision taken by the government to merge between the ministries to decrease their number as "a positive step".
Speaking to the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI), Mohammad Farag said "the Kurdish government's decision to merge ministries was a positive step. We support this but on condition that this would not harm citizens' interests. The decision has many positive sides and will decrease the government's spending," the parliamentarian said. The Kurdish government consists of 42 ministers. Kurdish Prime Minister Negervan al-Barazani unveiled on Monday a plan to merge a number of ministries.

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Towers and ditches to protect Karbala

(Azzaman) - To protect the city of Karbala, the authorities are erecting guard towers and digging a ditch deep in the desert west of the religious city. The authorities believe most of the recent attacks targeting Karbala, where two of the most holy Shiite saints are buried, have been carried out by infiltrators who sneak into the city from the desert.
Aqeel al-Qhazaali, Karbala’s governor, said two police battalions will be stationed at the ditch to protect the city from violent attacks. The towers will be built several kilometers away from the ditch and close to the desert separating Karbala from the rebellious Province of Anbar. “These guard towers will extend across the whole of the desert area bordering the Province of Anbar,” said Rahman Mashawi, Karbala’s police force spokesman. He said the towers, once in place, will make it easier “to detect infiltrators and capture them.”
Mashawi did not say how many towers the province will eventually build but added all of them will be manned by police forces 24 hours a day. He said there will be foot patrols across the desert as well as an efficient communication system linking the various security personnel in the area. The security measures, he said, will be further intensified during Shiite religious occasions in which hundreds of thousands of pilgrims flock to the city.

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Anbar tribes and politicians blame al-Maliki's govt for death of tribal leaders

Tribal, Security
(Azzaman) - There is fury and anger in the rebellious Province of Anbar where tribes and politicians blame the government of Nouri al-Maliki for the killing of five of the province’s most senior tribal chiefs. Five sheiks were among 12 people killed when an explosion ripped through the conference hall where they were to meet to explore ways of reinstating stability in the violent province.
The government blamed a suicide bomber but the power of the explosion and the collapse of the ceiling as well as tight security at one of Baghdad’s most fortified and guarded hotels gives the government’s version little credence. The Sunni sheiks had traveled to Baghdad to attend a conference at the hotel Mansour Melia to meet with Shiite counterparts on ways to stem al-Qaeda influence in Iraq.
The early afternoon attack was of a force which experts say was impossible to have been caused by a suicide bomber. Maliki had publicly criticized attempts to arm the tribes in their struggle against al-Qaeda elements in their areas. Anbar is an al-Qaeda hotbed where the group is almost in total control of large swathes of the country’s largest province.
Repeated U.S. military offensives have failed to dislodge the group whose fighters have inflicted heavy losses on U.S. troops and armor. Maliki’s government and U.S. officials have blamed al-Qaeda but the group which usually brags about its operations has yet to issue a statement on the explosion. The bombing is a severe blow to U.S. efforts and its emerging alliance between Sunni tribal leaders and the country’s Shiite majority.

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Ayatollah Khamenei accuses U.S. of damaging Iran-Iraq relations

Iran, U.S. Iraq
(AP) -- Iran's supreme leader accused the United States of damaging relations between Iran and Iraq and charged that American and Israeli agents were behind the Iraqi insurgency, state-run Iranian television said Tuesday. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told visiting Iraqi President Jalal Talabani that "Americans have been opposing improvement in relations between Iran and Iraq and they are trying to damage the relations ... but the two countries should resist the damage," the report said.
Khamenei, who has final say in Iran's state affairs, also blamed U.S. and Israeli intelligence services for the violent insurgency that wracks neighboring Iraq, the report said. It quoted Talabani as saying Iraq would pursue better ties with Iran. Deputy Iranian Foreign Minister Mehdi Mostafavi earlier said a new round of U.S.-Iran talks on Iraqi security would be discussed during Talabani's visit.
Since the first round of talks in Baghdad in May last month, tensions have risen between Iran and the United States over Tehran's detention of four Iranian-American scholars and activists charged with endangering national security. Iran already had been angered by the January detention of five Iranian officials by U.S. troops in Iraq and warned that Washington would "regret" the move.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said this month, however, that Iran would respond to an invitation for continued talks with the U.S. "with a positive point of view." Iran considers U.S. troops in Iraq a threat to Iran's security and has demanded they leave. Washington accuses Iran of arming and financing Shiite Muslim militias fighting American and Iraqi troops.

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Chemical Ali to be hanged in Kurdistan

(AP) -- Saddam Hussein's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," and two other regime officials will probably be hanged in Kurdistan if the appeals court upholds their death sentences, an Iraqi official said Tuesday. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not supposed to release the information to the media, said no final decision had been taken but the executions would probably take place in either Irbil or Halabja.
Also sentenced to death were Sultan Hashim Ahmad al-Tai, the former defense minister who led the Iraqi delegation at the cease-fire talks that ended the 1991 Gulf War, and Hussein Rashid Mohammed, a former deputy director of operations for the Iraqi armed forces. They were convicted Sunday of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for their roles in "Operation Anfal," a 1987-88 crackdown on Iranian-backed Kurdish rebels during the final years of the Iran-Iraq war.
The prosecution said up to 180,000 Kurds - including women and children - died in chemical weapons attacks, artillery barrages and mass deportations. Two other defendants were sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the crackdown and one was acquitted for lack of evidence.
Death sentences are automatically appealed, and the appellate court faces no time limit in reviewing cases. If the sentences are upheld, executions are supposed to take place within 30 days. Saddam was among the defendants when the trial began Aug. 21. But he was hanged in Baghdad on Dec. 30 for his part in the deaths of more than 140 Shiite Muslims in Dujail. Iraq's government is dominated by Shiites and Kurds.

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Head of Turkish army reaffirms N. Iraq incursion

Kurdistan, Turkey
(Reuters) - The head of Turkey's powerful armed forces reaffirmed on Wednesday his view that a cross-border operation into northern Iraq was needed to crush Kurdish rebels based there. His comments pile more pressure on Turkey's government to allow a military operation, just weeks before parliamentary polls in which security and terrorism issues will loom large.
The staunchly secular military dislikes the Islamist-rooted ruling AK Party and political analysts say the generals are trying to portray it as weak on terrorism. AK, which denies any Islamist agenda, is widely expected to win re-election in July.
"I have said (in April) that we need a cross-border operation and that this would bring benefits. I repeat this view now," General Yasar Buyukanit told a news conference shown live on Turkish television. But he stressed the need to act within the law in tackling the security threat.
Turkey's parliament, now in recess ahead of the July 22 elections, would have to reconvene to authorize any serious cross-border military operation. "We have to conduct our fight on a legal basis. We cannot go beyond the laws," he said in Isparta, southwest Turkey. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told Reuters last week that Ankara would take military action if necessary.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007


UNESCO to help Iraq rebuild al-Askari shrine

(Reuters) - The United Nations has agreed to help Iraq rebuild the al-Askari shrine in the city of Samarra that was badly damaged in separate attacks last year and earlier this month, UNESCO said on Tuesday. A memorandum of understanding was signed in Jordan on Sunday, UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said. A spokesman said $8.4 million had been budgeted for the work, of which $3 million would come from the Iraqi government with the rest coming from UN funds.
The al-Askari Mosque, also known as the Golden Mosque, one of the four major Shi'ite shrines in Iraq, was badly damaged on June 13 in an attack which destroyed two minarets that had survived an earlier attack on Feb. 22, 2006. The bombing of the mosque last year, which wrecked the shrine's famous golden dome but did not damage the minarets, was a turning point for Iraq, unleashing sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands of people.
Two of the 12 revered Shi'ite imams are buried in the Samarra shrine -- Imam Ali al-Hadi, who died in 868 and his son, the 11th imam, Hasan al-Askari, who died in 874. Reconstruction work, expected to take 10 months, would begin "as soon as security conditions are guaranteed", the UNESCO statement said. No reconstruction of the shrine has taken place, partly because of disagreements between Shi'ites and Sunnis over how the work will be carried out. The Iraqi government blamed al Qaeda for the 2006 attack.

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RFE/RL report: "Iraqi Insurgent Media: The War Of Images And Ideas"

Report, Insurgency
(RFE/RL) -- The greatest strengths of the Iraqi Sunni-based insurgency's media strategy -- decentralization and flexibility -- are also its greatest weaknesses, according to a report officially released today by RFE/RL.
The book-length report, "Iraqi Insurgent Media: The War Of Images And Ideas" by RFE/RL regional analysts
Daniel Kimmage and Kathleen Ridolfo, provides an in-depth analysis of the media efforts of Sunni insurgents, who are responsible for the majority of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq.
The popularity of online Iraqi Sunni insurgent media, the authors contend, reflects a genuine demand for their message in the Arab world.
Kimmage and Ridolfo argue that the loss of coordination and message control that results from decentralization has revealed fundamental disagreements about Iraq's present and future between nationalist and global jihadist groups in Iraq and that these disagreements are ripe for exploitation by those interested in a liberal and democratic Iraq.
The report also finds that anti-Shi'ite hate speech is an increasingly prominent part of the insurgent message. With sectarian killings on the rise in Iraq, the tenor of invective points to the possibility of even greater bloodshed. A wealth of evidence shows that hate speech paved the way for genocide in Rwanda in 1994, for example.
Iraq's Sunni insurgency has developed a sophisticated media campaign to deliver its message over the Internet through daily press releases, weekly and monthly magazines, books, video clips, full-length films, countless websites, and even television stations. Part of the target audience for insurgent media projects are mainstream Arabic-language media, which often amplify the insurgent message to a mass audience.
The popularity of online Iraqi Sunni insurgent media, the authors contend, reflects a genuine demand for their message in the Arab world. A response, no matter how lavishly funded and cleverly produced, will not eliminate this demand. The authors argue that efforts to counter insurgent media should not focus on producing better propaganda than the insurgents, or trying to eliminate the demand for the insurgent message, but rather on exploiting the vulnerabilities of the insurgent media network.
(pdf format):

The entire report
Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four Part Five

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Purge of Biased Shias from Iraqi Police Force

(AP) - More than a third of Iraq's national police battalion commanders are now Sunni after a purge of Shiites who had a sectarian bias, a U.S. general said Monday. Despite improvements, he predicted it will still be years before Iraqi forces are capable of securing the country by themselves. Speaking to Pentagon reporters from Iraq, Army Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard said he had been saddened to see the destruction in one province where the number of U.S. forces had been reduced too soon.
"We cannot be in a hurry to withdraw our coalition forces," he said, using Diyala province north of Baghdad as an example. Pittard this week ends his tour as day-to-day head of the effort to train Iraqi army soldiers, police, national police, border guards and other security workers. "The growth of the Iraqi security forces over the past couple of years has really been quite dramatic in many ways," he said by video conference. Among improvements: Iraqi officials have recruited Sunnis to the national police command, a group that a year ago was almost entirely Shia. The national police have been known for their ties to Shiite militia.
Pittard said that since October, officials had removed seven of nine brigade commanders — five because of sectarian bias. One of two division commanders is now Sunni, as are four of nine brigade commanders and 9 or 10 of the 27 battalion commanders, he said. But he warned against being "in a hurry" to hand over responsibility for Iraq security to local soldiers and police — a handover U.S. officials have said is key to bringing American forces home.

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Latest ICG report - Where is Iraq heading? Lessons from Basra

(International Crisis Group) - The British experience in Basra, far from being a model to be replicated in the rest of Iraq, is an example of what to avoid.
Where Is Iraq Heading? Lessons from Basra,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the city's descent into chaos under British occupation, offering important lessons for Baghdad and the nation as a whole. Coalition forces there already implemented a security plan in many ways similar to the current "surge" in the capital and its environs. As in Baghdad, one of the putative goals was to pave the way for a takeover by Iraqi forces. Today, however, Basra is controlled by militias which are even more powerful than before.
“With renewed violence and instability, Basra illustrates the pitfalls of a transitional process that, instead of building legitimate institutions, has led to collapse of the state apparatus”, says Crisis Group Senior Analyst Peter Harling. “Fierce intra-Shiite fighting also disproves the notion of an Iraq neatly partitioned between three homogenous communities”.
Basra’s political arena is in the hands of actors engaged in bloody competition for resources, undermining what is left of governorate institutions and coercively enforcing their rule. The local population has no choice but to seek protection from one of the dominant camps. Periods of stability do not reflect greater governing authority so much as they do a momentary -- and fragile -- balance of interests or of terror between rival militias. Inevitably, cycles of brutal retaliatory violence re-emerge.
As the U.S. prosecutes its security plan in Baghdad and other parts of the country, the lessons from Basra are clear. First, the answer to Iraq’s horrific violence cannot be a military surge that aims to bolster the existing political structure and treats the dominant political parties as partners. Secondly, violence is not solely the result of al-Qaeda-type terrorism or sectarian hostility, however costly both evidently are. Thirdly, violence has become a routine means of social interaction utilised by political actors doubling as militiamen who seek to increase their share of power and resources.
The Basra experience suggests the most likely outcome in Iraq is its untidy break-up into myriad fiefdoms, superficially held together by the presence of coalition forces. If this is to be avoided, the priority should be to confront the power structure whose establishment was supported in the wake of the 2003 invasion, as well as the parties that now dominate it, by insisting on genuine political compromises and a more inclusive system of governance.
“It is high time that Washington and London acknowledge that their so-called Iraqi partners, far from building a new state, are tirelessly working to tear it down”, says Robert Malley, Crisis Group’s Middle East Program Director.

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KRG Prime Minister may not run another term

Kurdistan, Politics
(KurdishMedia) - Nechirvan Barzani, the KRG Prime Minister, stated that he may not stay in his post as the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Prime Minister. Mr Barzani was responding to the questions by journalists during a press conference in Arbil, the capital of southern Kurdistan, on Monday. Mr Barzani stated that the post of the prime minister would go to an individual from the PUK, led by Jalal Talabani, from next year. However, Mr Barzani did not elaborate on his next post or whether he would stay in the administration or not.

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KRG loses $1 mn. after U.S. company withdraws from a project

(Voices of Iraq) - A foreign organization caused a one million U.S. dollar loss to Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) after withdrawing from a project to build a village, which was assigned to it in 2004, a source from Duhuk's municipal council said on Sunday. "As a result of the withdrawal of Mission East, a U.S. organization, from a project to build Bosla village, the KRG suffered a huge financial loss of $1 million dollars, including construction materials and workers' fees," Hamid Ahmed Saleh from the council told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
"Without notifying or coordinating with the local administration, the organization agreed with a number of residents to built 300 residential houses in Bosla village… Due to the insufficiency of its budget, the organization asked the administration for help," Saleh explained. "After studying the project, the number of residential houses was reduced to 150. Local residents rejected this reduction, which led the organization to leave the project, causing massive losses to the regional government," Saleh indicated. When asked about damages from the organization, Saleh said that the organization "apologized for this unintended mistake," noting that the regional government did not sue it for compensation.

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Tribal leaders killed in Monday's blast named

Security, Tribal
(Voices of Iraq) - Iraqi police sources unveiled on Monday the names of the tribal chiefs who were killed in the suicide bomb attack that targeted al-Mansour hotel in central Baghdad. "The names of (five) tribal chiefs who were killed in the blast are: Sheikh Fesal al-Kaaood, one of al-Bounamr tribe's sheikhs, Sheikh Tareq al-Essafi of al-Bouasaf tribe, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Fahdawi of al-Bofahd, Sheikh Hussein al-Shaalan al-Khezaai of Khuzaa tribe and Sheikh Aziz al-Yaseri of al-Bouyasser tribe," a police source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
"A number of tribal chiefs were wounded in the attack, including Sheikh Ali Khaliefa, Sheikh Ryah al-Elwani and Sheikh Daham al-Ubeidi," the source added. A police source said earlier that the death toll from the suicide bomb attack had risen to 12 dead, including six tribal chiefs. The official al-Iraqi satellite television also said that Poet Rahim al-Maliki, a program producer and presenter for the TV channel, was among them.
"The bomber was wearing an explosive belt and blew himself up inside a hall where leaders of clans from the Sunni province of Anbar were meeting," a police source said. A spokesman for the U.S. army said that "preliminary reports assert the killing of six tribal chiefs." Eyewitness said that Iraqi army forces arrived at the scene and arrested the hotel security guards, including policemen.
U.S. and Iraqi forces cordoned off the entire area. The Iraqi parliament strongly denounced the attack on the Anbar tribal chiefs, describing it as a criminal act. The hotel is located in central Baghdad on the western bank of the Tigris River.

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Maysan Sheikhs refuse to arm their tribes

Tribal, Security
(Al-Sabaah) - The Sheikhs of Mayssan province have rejected the resolution of theUS forces to arm tribes' local citizens in the province. In a statement released by NANA, the Secretary-general of the Islamic Movement in Mayssan province, Hassan Ali Maz'al said that a tribal conference which had been held in Amara, attended by political and national figures in Amara, reached several important recommendations, the most important being that arms must be in the hand of the government only.

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Association of Muslim Scholars urges al-Sadr to cancel Shia march

Politics, Religion, Security
(AP) - An influential Sunni clerical organization urged Shiite Muslims on Monday to cancel a march toward a destroyed shrine in an Iraqi central city, warning that such a move will further enflame sectarian hatred. The statement by the Association of Muslim Scholars was in response to a call by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for his followers to march July 5 to Samarra's Askariya shrine, which was bombed for a second time June 13.
Such a march by Shiites in predominantly Sunni area could lead to more sectarian violence between the two Muslim sects. Thousands of Sunnis and Shiites have been killed in sectarian killings in the past two years.
"We want you to be aware that this step in this current situation is not suitable and its risks are clear to everyone," the Sunni association said in the statement. "The goals behind this movement are very dangerous. There are some parties who want to make use of your feelings of love for these shrines to have their ambitions of tearing Iraq's unity and provoking a nonstop sectarian dispute among its people."
"The citizens of Samarra will consider this huge march in their city as an invasion on their areas, and the parts who pushed you might attack you as well, and the blame would be fall on Samarra's people," the statement said. "We appeal you to forsake this demonstration now for the sake of your country, your unity and Islam," The letter said.
An aide to al-Sadr, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that the cleric is insisting on the march despite efforts by the government to talk him out of it. The aide said thousands of gunmen will guard the demonstrators, who are expected to come from the predominantly Shiite south and Baghdad's eastern slum of Sadr City. He said that the government has sent al-Sadr intelligence reports warning that insurgents are planning attacks against the Shiite demonstrators.
July 5 is the Islamic calendar anniversary of the birth of the mother of Imam Hussein, a major Shiite saint. Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, is an area where al-Qaida is known to be active. The Askariya shrine is revered by Shiites even though the city is mostly Sunni.

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Allawi’s Group Demands To Postpone Implementation Of Article 140

(Al Mashriq Newspaper) - 25 JUN - The Iraqi List, which is led by Ayad Allawi, has demanded the postponement of the implementation of Article 140 regarding Kirkuk. The Iraqi List also demands that Mahmoud Al Mashahdani remain as Parliament chief. The Iraqi List stated that forming a new political front that includes political entities from the current political process will help extricate Iraq from its current situation.
The Iraqi List has presented a suggestion to postpone the implementation of Article 140. Yesterday, the Iraqi List issued a statement that said, “The current circumstances are not stable enough for the implementation of this article because of the major changes that have occurred in Kirkuk since the war. This postponement would assist in providing stability and security.” The Iraqi List’s statement also requested the formation of a political board to draft standards and criteria for implementing Article 140.
On the other hand, Iraqi List Parliament member, Aaliya Al Ubaidi said, “The Iraqi List supports Mahmoud Al Mashahdani remaining as the Parliament chief because of his patriotic and nationalistic attitude, which is aligned with the Iraqi street’s beliefs. There is a general opinion in the Iraqi List that he remains in his position. The causes behind the attempts to remove him are all political and are being attempted in order that certain laws can then be passed. If we review the original incident involving Al Mashahdani’s bodyguards, this incident was fabricated for the purpose of removing Al Mashahdani because there is no mention of removing the Parliament chief in the constitution or in the Parliament’s internal procedures. Article 12 of the Iraqi Parliament Rules stated that the Parliament chief’s resignation should only be for a very serious reason but no one has presented any such reason in this case. The incident was related to security and had nothing to do with Al Mashahdani.”
Iraqi List Parliament member, Izzat Al Shabandar stated, “The Iraqi List believes forming a new political entity is a method of extricating Iraq from its current political crisis. The Iraqi List has presented this project to the political entities for discussion. The Iraqi List does not want to announce the formation of the entity before it is guaranteed to succeed. Therefore, the formation of this entity will remain under discussion. This political entity will be able to ‘melt’ the internal problems and stand against Iraq’s enemies who want chaos in this country. This front will help relax Iraq’s neighboring countries.”
Regarding the Iraqi List’s and KDP’s shared beliefs, Shabandar clarified, “The meetings continue with the KDP have continued on an uninterrupted basis. The most recent meeting with the Kurdish personalities in the new front was to clarify viewpoints.” It is worthy to mention that the Iraqi List has held meetings with a number of parties and political entities in Cairo in order to prepare for the announcement of the new front. Some Parliament members believe these meetings were part of a coup against the current government.

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Arrest warrant issued for Sunni culture minister

Politics, Crime
(AP) - Iraqi authorities have issued an arrest warrant against the Sunni culture minister and raided his home on Tuesday after he was accused of ordering an assassination attempt against a secular Sunni politician more than two years ago, officials said.
A Sunni tribal sheik also was killed in a drive-by shooting in southwestern Baghdad, police said, the latest example in an increasingly violent internal Sunni power struggle. The attack occurred a day after a suicide bombing against a gathering of U.S.-allied tribal sheiks at a hotel in Baghdad.
Culture Minister Asad Kamal al-Hashimi, who was not home when the raid occurred, was identified by two suspected militants as the mastermind of a Feb. 8, 2005, ambush against then-parliamentary candidate Mithal al-Alusi, according to governmental spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh. Al-Alusi escaped unharmed but two of his sons were killed.
"The two who planned and carried out the killings of Mithal al-Alusi's two sons confessed that they took orders from him," al-Dabbagh said, adding that al-Hashimi was a mosque imam at the time but declining to elaborate further. Al-Hashimi was the first full Cabinet minister to face arrest, although Iraqi authorities have arrested other senior officials, including the deputy health minister who was linked to Shiite militiamen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, has promised not to let political or sectarian considerations stop him from cracking down on violence, but the arrest warrant against a prominent Sunni politician could prove another setback to efforts to bring the disaffected minority into the political process.
Al-Hashimi is not a member of parliament, but his party, the hardline Congress of the People of Iraq, condemned the arrest warrant, saying it was part of the "marginalizing policy against Sunni prominent leaders to push them away from the political process." The party warned the Shiite-dominated government to avoid "playing with fire by continuing the policy of fabricating lies to exclude Sunni politicians and officials from the Iraqi arena."

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Monday, June 25, 2007


Oil minister to honor oil contract signed with China during Saddam-era

(Al Alam News) - Iraq has revived a contract signed by the executed dictator Saddam Hussein's government allowing a Chinese oil company to develop an Iraqi oil field. Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani also said Baghdad welcomed Chinese oil company bids for any other contract in the country through a "fair and transparent bidding process" to be laid out in the new oil law under discussion in Iraq's parliament.
China National Petroleum Corporation, the country's largest oil company and the parent of listed group Petrochina, signed a deal with Iraq in 1997 to develop the al-Ahdab oil field. The field is one of the first to be offered to foreign investors since the 2003 US-led invasion. Iraq has been reluctant to revive Saddam-era contracts, but seems to have turned to China as security problems and uncertainties over Iraqi investment law have deterred other investors.
The field had an estimated pre-war capacity of 90,000 barrels a day and the 1997 contract was valued at about $1.2bn. "The contract with the previous administration is still valid--it was signed and we will honor it," al-Shahristani said. He said there were still some technical details to work out but that the two sides would begin discussing revised commercial terms and price details "within one month". It was too early to put a dollar value on the revised contract. US diplomats in Beijing said they were not aware that the deal had been revived.
The breakthrough on the contract was made during a weeklong visit to China by Jalal Talabani, Iraqi president, last month.

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PUK accused of attempting to kidnap PKK leaders for Turkey

Politics, Security
(KurdishMedia) - The Pro-PKK media and Kurdish independent sources have accused the PUK, led by Jalal Talabani the current Iraqi president, of attempting to kidnap two PKK leaders and handing them over to the Turkish authorities.
The sources state that the PUK authorities, which is part of the KRG, has organised a meeting for two of the PKK leaders, PKK co-president Murad Karialan and Cemil Bayik, with the Turkish officials under pretext of negotiating between two sides. However the PUK, the sources claim, has also arranged for the Turkish intelligence services MIT to attack the meeting and kidnap the PKK leaders.
At the same time, MIT with the help of the PUK brought a helicopter to southern Kurdistan in pieces in order to be put together and to be used in kidnapping the PKK leaders, as Turkey cannot fly over southern Kurdistan’s territory.
Neither the KRG, led by Massuad Barzani, nor the PUK have commented on the allegation. Recently the president of KRG Massuad Barzani stated that even if he orders, the peshmerga forces would not open fire of the PKK rebels. could not verify the story from its own independent sources.

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Kurdistan region to take 17 per cent of all Iraq oil revenue

(Reuters) - Kurdish officials said on Thursday they had reached agreement with the central government on equitably sharing revenues from Iraq's oilfields but that negotiations would continue on other disputed clauses. Earlier, Iraqi Oil Ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said all the areas of dispute in a landmark draft oil law had been resolved and the bill had been submitted to parliament.
The draft, crucial to regulating how wealth from Iraq's huge reserves will be shared by its sectarian and ethnic groups, was approved by the cabinet in February but faced stiff opposition from Kurds, who felt they were getting a bad deal. Most oil reserves in Iraq are in the Kurdish north and Shi'ite south.
Khalid Saleh, spokesman for the Kurdistan regional government, said agreement had been reached on Wednesday on a revenue sharing mechanism. Under the deal, the Kurdistan region will take 17 percent of all oil revenue from Iraq. The money will be deposited into a Kurdistan regional account in the central bank.
"This deal is a big victory for the political process in Iraq," Saleh told Reuters. But, he said the annexes in the draft had not yet been discussed. The Kurds say the annexes are unconstitutional because they wrest oilfields from regional governments and place them under a new state oil company.
They also cover control over discovered and undiscovered oilfields and who would have the power to negotiate contracts with international oil companies. Iraq sits on the world's third-largest oil reserves and officials have been struggling since last year to finalize the draft law, which is vital for Iraq to attract investment from foreign firms to boost its oil output and rebuild its economy.
The latest disputes broke out not long after the oil ministry in Baghdad warned regions in late April against signing contracts until the law was passed. The Kurdistan regional government has signed several agreements with foreign companies.

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Iraqi FM signs agreement writing off Iraq's $8 bn. debt with China

(Voices of Iraq) - Iraqi Finance Minister Baqer Jabr al-Zubaidy signed an agreement with his Chinese counterpart on writing off 100 percent of Iraq's 8-billion-dollar debts due for China on the sidelines of a current visit by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to Beijing. "A big ceremony was held on the occasion attended by Talabani and Chinese President Hu Jintao at the People's Hall in China," the Iraqi finance ministry said in a statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
Zubaidy had held several meetings with the Chinese side in Baghdad on the means to settle the issue of having China writing off the Iraq's government and corporate debts. The decision makes China the 55th country to write its due debts off Iraq. China, during the last donors conference in the Spanish capital Madrid, had pledged to assist Iraqi refugees, write debts off Iraq and offer 25 million dollar in financial aid to the war-scarred country.

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Sunni Arab blocs boycott parliament as Sunni speaker is not reinstated

(AP) - Parliament's two Sunni Arab blocs boycotted the 275-seat house on Sunday because the Sunni speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, was not reinstated as they demanded. Muhannad al-Issawi, a spokesman for Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the Iraqi Accordance Front, had said that the 44-seat bloc decided in a meeting Saturday to demand that al-Mashhadani preside over Sunday's session.
"If the demand is rejected by other blocs, then the Accordance Front will suspend its participation in parliament," al-Issawi had told The Associated Press. The Accordance bloc was joined in the boycott by the National Dialogue Front.
The Shiite-dominated legislature wants al-Mashhadani to step down and has named his Shiite deputy, Khaled al-Attiya, as a temporary replacement. Many legislators viewed al-Mashhandani's erratic behavior as unbecoming and a hindrance to parliament's ability to pass key benchmark legislation as demanded by Washington.

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U.S. deal with tribal leaders to protect power grids unsuccessful

Security, Tribal
(AP) - Contracts with tribal chiefs to protect Iraq's valuable electricity grids have not paid off, according to U.S. auditors. The investigative arm of Congress updated a report originally released last month so it could provide a more accurate estimate on the number of attacks against coalition and Iraqi forces. The estimated number of attacks in April were adjusted from 4,500 to 4,900, the Government Accountability Office said in the revised report, released Friday.
Overall, the U.S. has spent about $5.1 billion to rebuild Iraq's oil and electricity sectors from the budget years 2003 through 2006. The U.S. also has spent $3.8 billion in Iraqi funds. Auditors said billions of dollars more will be needed to rebuild both sectors. Sabotage is driving much of the spending.
Iraq's Ministry of Electricity has contracted with tribal sheiks to protect the electrical transmission lines running through their areas and pays them about $60 to $100 per kilometer, according to the report. Yet the tactic is not working, auditors said. The report, citing U.S. and U.N. officials, said "some tribes that were paid to protect transmission lines also sold materials from the downed lines and extracted tariffs for access to repair the lines."
The tribes wield considerable power in parts of Iraq. They share a mixture of ancestry, geography and a strict social code that demands allegiance between members. Military commanders have credited new working relationships with tribes in driving down the number of attacks against coalition and Iraqi forces in some provinces.
The auditors said the U.S. government has developed several initiatives that will provide better protection, namely fortifying structures so that attacks cause less damage. The U.S. has trained security forces and paired them with coalition partners, but that program has had its share of problems.

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12 killed in Mansour Hotel bombing

(AP) - A suicide bomber who penetrated layers of security blew himself up in the busy lobby of a leading Baghdad hotel on Monday, killing at least 12 people, including a U.S.-allied tribal sheik, police reported. The attack, in which 21 others were wounded, was just one in a surge of five suicide and other bombings Monday that killed at least 32 people across Iraq.
In an equally deadly attack, a suicide truck bomber targeted an Iraqi police station shared with U.S. troops in Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad, killing nine people. Five American soldiers suffered minor wounds, the U.S. command said.
The bombing at the high-rise Mansour Hotel, on the west bank of the Tigris River in central Baghdad, struck at about noon as the lobby bustled with members of news media organizations headquartered at the hotel and other guests, witnesses said. A man wearing a belt of explosives walked into the lobby, approached the reception desk and detonated his bomb, police reported.
"It was a great breach of security because there are three checkpoints, one outside and two inside," said hotel worker Saif al-Rubaie, 28, who witnessed the blast and said all the casualties were Iraqis, most employees in the reception area.
Police said the dead included hotel resident Fassal al-Guood, a Ramadi tribal sheik and former governor of Anbar province who was a leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, which has partnered with U.S. and Iraqi officials to fight al-Qaida influence in Anbar. A noted Iraqi poet, Rahim al-Maliki, also was killed, said Iraqi Media Net, the government organization on whose television network al-Maliki appeared. Reports that al-Guood was a target of the bombing, possibly along with other Salvation Council sheiks, could not be confirmed.
The Mansour, which also houses the Chinese Embassy and is the Baghdad home for a number of Iraqi parliament members, is just a half-mile from the heavily fortified International Zone, where the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government offices are situated. The attack was the fifth in a string of suicide and other bombings Monday morning, from Mosul and Beiji in the north to Hillah in the south. Two were aimed at U.S. targets.

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Petraeus - Iranian trained militia responsible for kidnapping Brits

(The Times) - A group funded, trained and armed by Iran was responsible for kidnapping five British civilians in Baghdad last month, according to the commander of US forces in Iraq. General David Petraeus told The Times on teh 21st that he believed that the men, four security guards and a consultant, were alive and added that there had been repeated attempts to free them. No demands have been made for their release.
Commandos searching for the hostages have staged a series of raids on suspected terrorist hide-outs. “There have been several operations to try to rescue them, we just have not had the right intelligence,” General Petraeus said. “There is a very intensive effort ongoing to try to locate and rescue them.”
The remarks are the first official acknowledgement of secret hostage rescue efforts that the British authorities refuse to comment on. They are also likely to inflame relations with Iran further. The general said that the terrorist cell responsible had very close ties to the Iranian authorities, but he fell short of accusing Tehran of complicity.
Since the group was snatched from the Finance Ministry in Baghdad three weeks ago, Britain has sent hostage negotiators and antiterrorist experts to help in the hunt. The British Embassy in Baghdad said that staff were working hard to secure their release.
General Petraeus said that Britain and the US had suffered at the hands of the group he blamed for abducting the British hostages. He identified it as a secret cell of al-Mahdi Army. Of the cell responsible for the kidnap, he said: “They are not rank-and-file Jaish al-Mahdi. They are trained in Iran, equipped with Iranian [weapons], and advised by Iran.”

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Chemical Ali sentenced to death

(RFE/RL) - An Iraqi court has issued a death sentence to the man who has been widely known as "Chemical Ali" for masterminding the mass slaughter of ethnic Kurds in the late 1980s. The court sentenced Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, to be hanged for ordering chemical-gas strikes, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide. Al-Majid reportedly declared "Thanks be to God" after hearing the verdict. RFE/RL's Iraq Service reports a current curfew in Baghdad may mean a muted public response to the verdict.
The case relates to the series of military operations code-named Anfal (Spoils of War) that were conducted against ethnic Kurds in 1988, which prosecutors say killed up to 180,000 people. Sultan Hashim Ahmad, the commander of the Anfal campaign who reported directly to al-Majid, was also sentenced to death for his role ordering a large-scale attack against civilians and using chemical weapons and deportation against the Kurds.
Husayn Rashid al-Tikriti, former army chief of staff and secretary-general of the General Command of the Armed Forces, likewise received a death sentence after being convicted of drawing up military plans aimed at attacking the Kurdish population. Al-Tikriti reportedly interrupted the judge as his verdict was being delivered, saying, "Thank God, because we defended Iraq and we were not criminals." Five Of Six Sentenced
Two additional defendants, Farhan al-Juburi and Sabir al-Duri, received life sentences. Charges were dropped, however, against a former governor of the main northern city of Mosul, Taher al-Ani, for lack of evidence. The Amman-based defense team said it planned to appeal the sentences. Human Rights Watch has said the Anfal trial has been marred by procedural flaws. President Hussein, driven from power by the U.S.-led invasion in April 2003, was executed last December for crimes against humanity in a separate case.
COMMENT: Tensions are likely to increase around the time of the execution with protests in various forms form former regime elements such as Baathists, ex-army and supporters of the former regime. COMMENT ENDS.

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