Friday, July 13, 2007


KBR awarded $8.5 mn. Basrah oil platforms contract

(AP) - The U.S. Navy on Wednesday awarded an $8.5 million contract boost to KBR Inc. for additional services for personnel at two Iraqi oil platforms. The company, formerly a division of Halliburton Co. (nyse: HAL - news - people ), which was once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, will provide upgrades for personnel at two oil platforms: the Al Bas Basra Oil Terminal and the Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal.
Additional funds for this phase of the contract brings the total value to $13.5 million. The entire contract is worth up to $500 million, which includes four-year extension options, the Navy said. The Houston-based company will perform the work in waters off the coast of Iraq through November 2007. Shares of KBR (nyse:
KBR - news - people ) rose 25 cents to $31.60 in after-hours trading, after shares rose 42 cents to $31.35.

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World Bank opens a branch in Iraq

(Al Sumaria) - The World Bank opened a branch in Baghdad. This step was backed by the International Monetary Fund, USA and Britain. The World Bank Officials in Iraq will exert efforts in order to organize economic workshops in collaboration with the government. These workshops will be aiming to help the government to use its resources in the profit of the people.

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Al Hakim calls for Sunnis to support Maliki

(Gulf News) - The leader of Iraq's largest Shiite political party said he will stand by Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and urged Sunnis not to abandon the political process, promising serious efforts to solve any problem angering them. Abdul Aziz Al Hakim's written comments were received by the Associated Press yesterday in response to questions sent to him last week. The leader of the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq is in Iran for cancer treatment. Al Maliki's coalition has been weakened by a Sunni boycott and wrangling over political benchmarks that the United States is pushing the Prime Minister to pass.

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Arabs in Kirkuk reject draft oil law

(Azzaman) - Iraqi Arabs in the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk have thrown their weight behind groups opposing the new draft oil law. The Arab Consultative Council in Kirkuk, an umbrella group for Arabs in the area, said the draft in its current shape puts “narrow regional interests” above national interests. In a statement, the council urged the parliament to turn down the draft unless it is substantially revised.
The government has passed the draft to the parliament after approving it, sparking a torrent of criticism from various political factions. The opponents of the draft say the draft in its current shape is bound to create further divisions and disparity among the country’s ethnic groups and sects. They want the central government and not Iraqi autonomous regions to have the biggest say in exploring, extracting, refining and selling of crude as well as the distribution of its royalties.
The draft gives regions, such the one currently under the control of Iraq Kurdish factions and their militias, the right to sign oil deals and keep a certain portion of oil proceeds to themselves. The council’s statement is the first indication of the troubles the draft law is going to cause if turned into law.

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Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Peshmerga clash near border

(AP) -- Iranian artillery shelled near Iraqi Kurd villages Thursday as Iranian troops clashed with Kurdish guerrillas making an incursion across the border, officials in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan said. It was the third day of shelling in two areas along the border in northern Iraq, said Jabbar Yawer, spokesman for the Kurdistan protection forces, or Peshmerga. Residents of the areas said the bombardment had not caused casualties but had killed farm animals and started a fire on a mountain.
Iranian shelling in the Peshdar region, 60 miles northwest of Sulaimaniyah, hit areas as far as 18 miles from the border, said the regional governor, Hussein Ahmed. He said many of the area's 1,000 families had fled for protection. The other region hit by shelling lay farther north, near the Hajji Umran border crossing, 65 miles north of the city of Irbil, Yawer said. He said the shelling began with an incursion by Kurdish guerrillas into Iran on Tuesday that sparked clashes with Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
"We are not with either side, and we will not allow the lands of Iraqi Kurdistan to become a battlefield in which civilians in Kurdish villages are the victims," he said. The Free Life Party is a breakaway faction of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, also known as PKK, which is dominated by Turkish Kurds but also had Iranian Kurd branches. Its fighters have sparked Iranian shelling into Iraq several times over the past two years, most recently in June.
Turkey has increasingly threatened to take action in northern Iraq, complaining that the Kurdistan government and U.S. forces are not doing enough to stop PKK fighters carrying out attacks on Turkish soil.

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Al Qaida’s Base Of Operations Taken Over In Diyala

(Badr Newspaper) - 12 JUL - MNF spokesman, COL Kevin Bergner, said that Iraqi and American joint forces have taken over the media center of Al Qaida near Samarra. Bergner said yesterday that the joint forces took over the media center for Al Qaida which was called Al Furqan Media Institute. He added, “We found training manuals which were used to train Arab fighters in sniping techniques and video tapes which taught insurgents on how to conduct operations against the Iraqi forces.”
During a press conference, a map was presented which showed areas controlled by Al Qaida. He pointed out, “The media center included a professional studio and a center for burning CDs. The center used to produce 162 CDs every eight hours. We also found a message which explained how to approach the media to benefit Al Qaida. The joint forces arrested 11 Al Qaida princes, or emirs, in addition to seven others who were bringing foreign fighters and money into Iraq. Also, we arrested members of a car bomb cell and five other prince’s assistants.”
Bergner pointed out that the IP forces of Anbar were able to arrest a foreign fighter who entered Anbar using Syria. The foreign fighter said that he refused to detonate two truck bombs on Ramadi’s main bridge. Later, he was arrested by the IPs. Bergner further stated that clashes with Al Qaida lasted for two days in Ramadi, and that 35 Al Qaida members were killed and three others were arrested. One of the arrested members was carrying a message from Al Qaida to Anbar’s citizens warning them not to reject Al Qaida.

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KRG rejects latest draft oil law

(Arabian Business) - Meaningful debate of Iraq's draft oil law could be stifled by news that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will not accept the version currently before parliament. Last week there was confusion about the draft that had been forwarded by Iraq's cabinet legal committee. Now it has become clear, in the words of the KRG's minister of natural resources Ashti Hawrami, "that the law has been changed fundamentally, therefore it cannot be accepted by the KRG."
According to Eamad Mazouri, the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) general representative in the UAE, Baghdad had said the changes to the draft were only linguistic. "According to Hawrami, Baghdad was supposed to send [the KRG] the draft law along with annexes, including the one defining the distribution of revenues and a contract sample," said Mazouri. "However [the KRG] only received a revised version of the draft law and one annex concerning the distribution of oil revenues."
In a conference at the Kurdistan parliament, attended by both Iraqi and Kurdish MPs, the federal government speaker Ali Al-Dabahg claimed that the changes are not binding, since the whole draft law will need to be voted on in the Iraqi parliament. "The KRG will continue to insist on Kurdistan's rights in this law, as well as any other law that is against the current constitution [or] trying to diminish Kurds' legitimate rights," said Mazouri.

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AMSI reports explosion at tribal lerder's house targeting recruits

Security, Tribal
(Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq) - Massive explosions rip through meeting near al-Fallujah Wednesday afternoon where collaborationist tribal leader was calling for volunteers to serve US occupation. In a dispatch posted at 9:58pm Baghdad time Wednesday night, the Association of Muslim Scholars of Iraq (AMSI) reported that a massive explosion blew apart the home of the shaykh of the al-Jamilat tribe in the town of al-Karmah, 14km east of al-Fallujah (which is 60km west of Baghdad) on Wednesday afternoon. The attack came as the Shaykh was calling on his fellow tribesmen to volunteer to join the American run puppet army and police in order to support the occupation against the Iraqi Resistance.
The AMSI reported a source in the puppet police in al-Karmah as saying: “it is believed that four people wearing explosive belts blew themselves up at the diwan meeting of Shaykh Mushhin al-Khalaf, a leader of the al-Jamilat tribe in al-Karmah at 5pm local time Wednesday afternoon, killing 21 people and wounding 46, most of those in extremely grave condition. The wounded were transported to al-Fallujah General Hospital for treatment.
Isma‘il Ahmad Khalaf, a relative of Shaykh Mushhin reported: “two people wearing explosive belts entered the house and the diwan of Shaykh al-Khalaf, a shaykh of the al-Jamilat tribe, and blew themselves up with the explosive belts, killing many.”
A medical source at al-Fallujah General Hospital said that ambulances and police cars transported 21 bodies and 46 wounded people, most of those in critical condition, to the hospital. He expected the number of dead eventually to rise.

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Iraqi leaders insist progress is being made despite negative White House report

(AP) - Iraqi leaders insisted they were making military and political progress, defending their efforts after the Bush administration gave the Baghdad government a spotty report card on a series of benchmarks aimed at bringing stability to the war-torn nation. War critics in the U.S. Congress have seized on the assessment as proof that President Bush's strategy in Iraq is failing, and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted Thursday to withdraw U.S. troops by spring 2008 despite a veto threat from Bush.
A top adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rankled at the assessment, saying Bush supporters and opponents in Washington "will both blame Iraqis" for the shortcomings. Sami al-Askari said the government was serious in passing a series of political reforms aimed at bringing national unity and drawing greater Sunni Arab support for the political process. "From now until the end of the year, draft laws related to national reconciliation will be finished," al-Askari told U.S.-funded Alhurra television late Thursday.
But the reforms have been held up for months by political wrangling between Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish members of al-Maliki's coalition. Sunnis and Kurds have deep differences over a draft law to equitably share control of the oil industry and its profits, one of the centerpiece reforms, and no compromise is in sight. The even tougher benchmark of amending the constitution, which many Sunni Arabs see as the most important of the reforms, remains on the back burner, relegated to a parliament committee. Sunnis want to water down the constitution's provisions on federalism, but Kurds and Shiites want only limited changes.
At the same time, al-Maliki's administration has been severely weakened by a Sunni Arab boycott of his Cabinet and parliament over separate political disputes. Talks to overcome the walkout, and negotiations over forming a new, more streamlined Cabinet, have so far brought no results. President Jalal Talabani said there were "positive developments on the political level," particularly in the effort to reshape the Cabinet to establish "a front of moderate forces committed to the political process and democracy in Iraq."
He also said the military offensives being waged by U.S. troops in and around Baghdad were making progress. "A successful campaign is on to eliminate terrorists and so far large areas of Diyala and Anbar have been cleared," Talabani said Thursday evening, referring to provinces north and west of the capital. The U.S. offensives have brought a relative easing in attacks in the capital in recent weeks, though it remains far from calm, with occasional car bombs and police still reporting 20 to 30 bodies a day found dumped in the city, apparent victims of sectarian slayings.

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White House gives mixed progress report on Iraq benchmarks

(AP) - The White House gave a mixed progress report Thursday on 18 so-called benchmarks for political, military and economic reforms in Iraq. What follows is a look at obstacles confronting some of these U.S.-set goals. The grade in each case is from the Bush administration, and The Associated Press takes a closer look at the realities on the ground.
GOAL: Legislation on ways to restore political, government and military positions to selected members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party.
PROGRESS: Unsatisfactory, according to the Bush administration.
REALITY CHECK: Some draft plans have been discussed among Iraqi parliament members, but there's been no clear action on any proposal.
GOAL: An oil law to share wealth in "an equitable manner" among Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and other Iraqi groups.
PROGRESS: Unsatisfactory.
REALITY CHECK: The draft law is bogged down due to wide differences between Sunnis and Kurds on local control of oil fields. No firm compromise is in sight.
GOAL: Allowing Iraqi military and police to operate independently and with "evenhanded enforcement."
PROGRESS: Unsatisfactory.
REALITY CHECK: Many complications exist. U.S. commanders say Iraqi forces are not at full strength and training is slowed by problems including desertions and equipment shortages. U.S. estimates say Iraq's security forces could be months _ or even years _ away from operating effectively without American reinforcements. The troubles are particularly acute in the national police.
GOAL: Reducing the level of sectarian violence and eliminating militia control of security forces.
PROGRESS: Unsatisfactory, but with some components of progress.
REALITY CHECK: Militias still hold influence over the Shiite-led security forces. Overall violence showed some declines following the launch of a Baghdad security crackdown in February, but bloodshed is climbing again, according to figures compiled by the AP. In July, civilian deaths jumped backed up to levels of violence not seen since December, with an average of at least 75 Iraqis being killed each day.
GOAL: Provide three trained and ready Iraqi brigades to support operations in Baghdad.
PROGRESS: Satisfactory.
REALITY CHECK: The units are in place, but not at full strength. Kurdish forces show the best capabilities so far. Others lag behind.
GOAL: Review the 2005 constitution and recommend amendments to meet Sunni aspirations.
PROGRESS: Satisfactory.
REALITY CHECK: The review committee has been formed and has held meetings, but asked for more time to finish work. Kurds and Shiites want very limited changes.
GOAL: Establishing all of the planned U.S.-Iraq joint security stations in neighborhoods across Baghdad as a way to gain better contact with residents.
PROGRESS: Satisfactory.
REALITY CHECK: Most of the planned stations have been set up, but some have come under attack and questions remain about the effectiveness of the civilian outreach.
GOAL: Ensuring that the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature are protected.
PROGRESS: Satisfactory.
REALITY CHECK: Efforts are stalled as tensions remain very high between Sunni parties and the Shiite-led government. Feuding between Shiite parties also has increased.
GOAL: Laws to begin disarming militias and demanding loyalty to the central government.
PROGRESS: Too early to assess.
REALITY CHECK: Such reforms are extremely difficult to achieve and directly challenge Iraqi cultural and tribal traditions.

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German hostage released after five months

(RFE/RL) - Hannelore Marianne Krause, a 61-year-old German woman held hostage for more than five months in Iraq, was released on July 10, international media reported on July 11. Krause said her son is still being held hostage, and pleaded with the German government meet the demands of her son's captors. "I ask Germany to pull its troops out of Afghanistan. If it fails to do so, then my son will be slaughtered," Krause said in an interview with Al-Arabiyah satellite television on July 11.
Krause and her son, Sinan, were abducted on February 6 by an armed group calling itself the Arrows of Righteousness. The group released a video of Krause and her son on April 4 and indicated that the two were abducted partly because she worked for the Austrian Embassy in Baghdad. The group contends that Austria is "hostile to Islam and Muslims" and its forces kill children in Afghanistan.

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U.S. investigation concludes Iraqi police assisted attack on soldiers in Karbala

(Reuters, USA Today) - A U.S. media report says a U.S. Army investigation has concluded that Iraqi police assisted insurgents in an attack in the Iraqi city of Karbala in January that killed five U.S. soldiers. "USA Today" said the information was contained in an investigative file made available to the newspaper and authenticated by the army. During the attack, insurgents posing as Americans entered a government compound in Karbala, killed a U.S. soldier, and drove away with four others whom they shot and killed later.
Full story, Washington Post, 22 January 2007
U.S. links Iran to Karbala attack, BBC, 2 July 2007

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UNHCR doubles funding appeal for Iraq as 2,000 flee each day

(Reuters) - The United Nations refugee agency on Thursday doubled its funding appeal for Iraq this year to $123 million, saying humanitarian needs continued to mushroom as an estimated 2,000 people flee violence each day. Most of the revised appeal, up from $60 million in January, will be used to provide shelter, food, health care, education and other emergency services to Iraqis who cross into neighbouring countries.
Syria and Jordan are already struggling to host 2 million Iraqis who fled before and since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, while another 2 million people are uprooted within Iraq, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). "Massive displacement of Iraqis externally and internally continues unabated, causing a great deal of suffering and uncertainty," Radhouane Nouicer, director of UNHCR's Middle East and North Africa bureau, told a news briefing.
The agency had received $67 million towards its initial appeal, including $17 million from the United States, and was seeking more from both new and traditional donors. "At least one Iraqi in seven is displaced and UNHCR estimates the number of those newly displaced at 2,000 per day," the UNHCR said in an appeal document sent to donors. "Thousands of Iraqis approaching UNHCR are the victims of torture, sexual and gender-based violence, car bombings, or other violent attacks and are in urgent need of medical care.
"Many Iraqi children had been out of school for two to three years, raising the prospect of "potential emergence of a generation of uneducated Iraqi youth", the UNHCR warned. As part of its protection strategy, the UNHCR has set a target of resettling 20,000 of the most vulnerable Iraqi refugees to third countries this year.

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Largest known attack on Green Zone kills three

(Al Mashriq Newspaper) - 12 JUL - The US Embassy in Baghdad announced that the Attack that occurred the day before yesterday and targeted the Green Zone in central Baghdad killed three people including one US soldier and a foreign citizen. Yesterday, a US Embassy statement said that on Tuesday, the International Green Zone was exposed to indirect fire.
The statement added that the attack killed one US soldier, an Iraqi citizen, and an unidentified third country national. The statement clarified that the attack also wounded 18 people, including five Americans, two of whom are members of the US armed forces and three contractors. On Tuesday, IPs announced that the Green Zone was attacked by 40 mortar shells. This attack is considered to be the largest attack that has targeted the Green Zone.

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Accord Front Announces It Has Expelled Parliament Member Abd Al Nasir Al Janabi

(Al Mashriq Newspaper) - 12 JUL - Yesterday, the Iraqi Accord Front decided to expel Parliament Abd Al Nasir AL Janabi who previously announced his resignation from the Parliament and that he was joining insurgent groups. Accord Front Parliament member, Omr Abid Al Sattar, confirmed to a press agency that they have expelled Abd Al Nasir Al Janabi from the Accord Front. They have also informed the Parliament that they need to replace him. Abd Al Sattar said, “Parliament member, Abd Al Nasir Al Janabi does not represent the Accord Front any more after the Front announced its decision to expel him. Now, the Accord Front is working on replacing him. The National Dialogue Front Council, which is led by Khalaf Al Aliyan, has also dismissed Al Janabi.”
Abd Al Sattar described Al Janabi as a troublemaker. Al Janabi, who now lives outside Iraq, has been accused by PM Nuri Al Maliki, as being behind the activities of insurgent groups that have been involved in killing and kidnapping civilians on the highway between Baghdad and Bail Province. General, Abd Al Karim Khalaf, Iraqi MOI spokesman, has confirmed that the MOI will pursue Al Janabi because he announced that he is joining the armed resistance. Khalaf said, “We have a file about Al Janabi and is involved in number of killings. He is wanted based on the Anti-Terrorism Law, Article #4.” He further stated that an arrest warrant will be issued for Al Janabi.

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Al Mutlak: I Will Agree To Participate In The Mujahadin Khalq’s Next Conference

(Al Mashriq Newspaper) - 12 JUL - The chief of the National Dialogue Front, Salih Al Mutlak, has rejects the government’s threats of charging anyone that contacts the Mujahadin Khalq (MEK) organization. He said that he will respond to the first invitation that he receives from the Khalq to participate in of their activities inside our outside Iraq.
He described the Iraqi government’s decision to forbid contact with the Iranian organization “as a part of its general policy of being loyal to Iran.” He also discussed the international protection of the Khalq organization as political refugees. He added that the Iranian government is more dangerous to Iraq than the Mujahadin Khalq, which has always followed Iraq’s rule during their presence in Iraq.
COMMENT: The Mujaheddin-e Khalq (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

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Truck Carrying 200 Suicide Belts And Explosives Confiscated At Walid Border Checkpoint Between Iraq And Syria

(Al Mashriq Newspaper) - 12 JUL - A high level security source said that on Wednesday morning Iraqi security forces stopped a truck which was carrying 200 suicide belts and explosives that was coming from Syria. The MOI Naitonal Command Center Director, General Abd Al Karim Khalaf, told the French Press, “The security forces stopped that was carrying 200 suicide belts and explosives while it was trying to enter Iraq using Walid Checkpoint coming from Syria. The truck was being driven by an Iraqi who was arrested by MOI Intelligence at the checkpoint.”
It is worthy to mention that the large province of Anbar has many borders, including with Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Anbar also borders the two Iraqi provinces of Karbala and Najaf. On June 11th, Najaf’s security forces announced that a Syrian truck was confiscated that was also carrying high explosives and had also entered Iraq using Walid Checkpoint. This truck was confiscated on Al Ikhidhir Highway near Karbala.
Al Khalaf added, “The Syrian truck entered Iraq using the ruse of carrying car parts. After inspecting the truck, it was discovered that the truck was carrying high explosives and 200 suicide belts. The driver was arrested.” It is well-known that the Iraqi authorities are constantly calling on the neighboring countries to stop the infiltration of weapons and fighters into Iraq.

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$300 mn. stolen from Iraqi bank

(Reuters) - Thieves have stolen nearly $300 million from a bank in Baghdad, police and a bank official said Thursday, in what is probably one of the biggest thefts in Iraq since the 2003 war to topple Saddam Hussein. Police said the thieves were three guards who worked at the private Dar Es Salaam bank in Baghdad's Karrada district.
They said that when bank employees arrived for work on Wednesday they found the front door open and the money gone. The guards, who normally slept at the bank, had also disappeared, they said. An official at the bank said about $300 million in U.S. dollars had been stolen, as well as 220 million Iraqi dinars ($176,000). He declined to give further details.
Police said the Interior Ministry and the Finance Ministry had set up a committee to investigate the theft. It was not immediately clear why the bank had so much cash on hand, but Karrada is a key commercial district in Baghdad. Ever since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, most transactions have been conducted in cash because of limited facilities to transfer money through banks or other financial institutions. Huge amounts of money were looted from Iraq's banks during the invasion.

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Monday, July 09, 2007


Iraq asks Turkey for more time to deal with PKK

(Aljazeera article) - Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister, says that Turkey has amassed thousands of troops on its border and has called on Ankara to give it more time to deal with Kurdish separatists. Turkey's army has been urging the government to send troops into Iraq to combat Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters who use the region as a base for attacks.
Zebari said: "Relations with Turkey are still good but there's a huge build up in our view. Our intelligence assessment is that there's 140,000 troops and they've been there for quite some time." Baghdad and the United States have urged Ankara to show caution, and not create another military crisis in an Iraq already wracked with conflict.
"We are trying to defuse this tension," Zebari said. "We think the best thing is to revive the security working group [and address] all legitimate Turkish concerns about the PKK, the security issue and cross-border incursions." Zebari repeated that Iraq would see any Turkish military operation on its soil as an unwelcome violation of sovereignty, and insisted that it was not opposed to taking action against the PKK at the proper time.
The foreign minister also said that Iraq's armed forces are fighting on the streets of Baghdad and had no manpower to spare for a campaign against Kurdish rebels in the northern mountains. Turkey has been asked to take part in talks with Iraq and the United States to discuss the issue. However, Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, said in June that his government had finalised a battle plan for an incursion into Iraq to pursue the PKK and that the military was waiting for the green light.

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Iranian companies pull out of Thi Qar, focus on Kurdistan

(Iraq Directory article) - Two Iranian companies abandoned obligations to implement investment projects in Thi Qar (400 km south of Baghdad) because of violence there. Deputy governor of Thi Qar Ahmed Al-Sheikh Ali said in a statement that the clashes in the province prompted the investment companies to withdraw cement plant structures and plastic pipes ready for export to Iraq from Iranian ports, and apologized for failure to implement the agreement with the province, a great loss because such projects could have provided jobs.
On the other hand an Iranian trade delegation consisting of representatives of 52 companies arrived in Irbil for coordination and expansion of cooperation between Iranian and Kurdish companies. Chairman of the Trade and Industry Chamber of Kurdistan region Dara Jaleel Khayyat said the chamber organized meetings in Kurdistan between the Iranian trade delegation and a group of traders and investors, and visited trade institutions and projects being implemented.
The coordination official in the Iranian Trade and Industry Chamber, Khosro Maarufi, expected that the visit would result in providing opportunities for Iranian investors to work in the Kurdistan region; the delegation included representatives from industry, construction materials, oil, electricity, water and medicine sectors.
It is noteworthy that Iranian companies hold annual trade fairs in Kurdistan.

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Iraqi Islamic Party denies al-Hashimi has turned against al-Maliki

(Stratfor) - The Iraqi Islamic Party denied that Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi is rallying parliamentarians to cast a vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, despite al-Hashimi's previous statements of dissatisfaction with the al-Maliki government. The party also denied reports that al-Hashimi met with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.

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Talabani says solution reached to end Sunni political boycott

(Voices of Iraq article) - Iraqi President Jalal al-Talabani said on Sunday that solutions were reached to end the Sunni Accordance boycott of the parliament and cabinet in a meeting attended by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Talabani and his two deputies.
"Solutions to end the Tawafuq (Accordance) Front's boycott were reached in today's meeting and these solutions will become effective in the next two or three days," Talabani told a news conference following the meeting. The Iraqi president added, "the proposed solutions were meant to end Tawafuk's parliamentary and cabinet boycott." Tabalani did not give further details of the solutions.
The Sunni Tawafuq Front, holding 44 seats out of the total of 275 in the Iraqi parliament, boycotted sessions of parliament and cabinet following a move by other parliamentary blocs to give House Speaker Mahmuod al-Mashhadani, a Tawafuq member, a long vacation and to demand a replacement.
Further, the Sunni front also protested an arrest warrant issued against its member, culture minister Assad al-Hashemi, on alleged charges of being behind the murder of two of the sons of the National Party member Mithal al-Alousi in 2004.

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Allawi says National List considering withdawing from Maliki's government

(Gulf News article) - US withdrawal from Iraq must follow the building of the country's military and security capabilities and the establishment of "some sort of law and order," says former Iraqi Prime Minister Eyad Allawi. "The withdrawal [of the US forces] will not lead to stability; instead, it will be catastrophic," he told Gulf News in an exclusive interview in Amman, Jordan. He questioned the ability of the Iraqi government, "held hostage in the Green Zone", to function if US protection were to be lifted.
Allawi, leader of one of the biggest groups in the parliament, said that the United Nations and its Security Council should be given a bigger role in Iraq, in coordination with the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Conference. Allawi said his parliamentary bloc, the Iraqi National List, was seriously considering "withdrawing from the political process" in Iraq, or at least from the Nouri Al Maliki government. FOLLOW LINK FOR FULL INTERVIEW

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Oil law to plunge country into more chaos

(Azzaman) - Disappointment will be the only fruit that we are going to reap from the new oil law as we did from all other U.S.-sponsored ‘milestones’. Instead of “a gift to all the Iraqi people” as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki described the draft oil law his government approved a few days ago, there are clear signals that the bill will turn into ‘poison’ for Iraq as a nation.
It is an oppressive bill that Maliki and his ministers signed and passed to parliament for approval. Many believed the government’s assertions that it would substantially review the bill originally drafted almost a year ago and rejected outright by almost all of the country’s political hues. Iraqi oil experts, national figures, Iraqis of note, politicians and numerous factions in the government had warned that unless redrafted, the bill will definitely become a cause for infighting and eventual division of the country.
But the government paid no heed to the warnings and, according to a senior official who took part in the recent deliberations hardly any changes or revisions were made. The official, who did not wish his name be revealed, accused Maliki’s government of undermining the very national reconciliation it says it is pursuing.
“The target behind the idea of the oil law was to cement national unity and reconciliation and not undermine them. We wanted this law to bring Iraqis together and not drive them apart,” the official was quoted as saying.
We cannot tell the identity of the official but the fact that the government has not denied the statement and that the experts still see the draft as a potential danger against what has become Iraqis’ only source of livelihood, there is good reason to believe this official’s warnings.
Since the bill has not been revised to respond to strong criticism and opposition it initially generated, Maliki’s credibility and that of his government comes into question. The whole country was pleased to hear the law would be revised in a manner that will bring the disparate Iraqi groups together and send a strong signal of national reconciliation.
But apparently the government exerted no effort to rectify the imbalances in the draft law and as a result we find ourselves once again in the square of disappointment, complaining to the Almighty against those determined to steal our happiness and sell us their lies and fabrications.
There is no need to remind the government and the nation that the draft law put before the parliament is a time bomb, threatening what remains of the country’s unity as well as the rights of current and future generations.



Iraqi Sadrists to come up with ‘reconciliation initiative'

(Azzaman) - The movement led by Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr says it intends to present a new reconciliation plan to end the current political stalemate.
Differences between Iraqi political factions with representatives in the parliament have aggravated recently mainly due to the government’s passage of a controversial oil law under which foreign firms will be given the right to exploit and administer Iraqi oil fields. The law also gives a big say for Iraqi regions and governorates in oil exploration, output and export.
Sunni Scholars have issued a decree branding anyone accepting the law a traitor and Sunni members of parliament, who have already boycotted its sessions, have vowed to resist the law. The Sadr movement had withdrawn its 30 deputies but, according to Bahaa al-Aaraji, a senior Sadr aide, the deputies have decided to rejoin with the specific aim of defeating the passage of the law.
Aaraji said the movement’s leader would announce the initiative which he described as a ‘new national reconciliation plan.’ Araji gave no details of the move but Sadr had previously made such initiatives which never saw light. The movement, though opposing U.S. occupation and critical of the current government, is accused of fomenting sectarian strife and operating its own ‘death squads’.

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Islamic State in Iraq threatens to wage war against Iran

Region, Insurgency
(AP article) - The leader of an al-Qaida umbrella group in Iraq threatened to wage war against Iran unless it stops supporting Shiites in Iraq within two months, according to an audiotape released Sunday. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who leads the group Islamic State in Iraq, said his Sunni fighters have been preparing for four years to wage a battle against Shiite-dominated Iran.
"We are giving the Persians, and especially the rulers of Iran, a two month period to end all kinds of support for the Iraqi Shiite government and to stop direct and indirect intervention ... otherwise a severe war is waiting for you," he said in the 50-minute audiotape. The tape, which could not be independently verified, was posted on a Web site commonly used by insurgent groups.
Iraq's Shiite-led government is backed by the U.S. but closely allied to Iran. The United States accuses Iran of arming and financing Shiite militias in Iraq, charges Tehran denies. In the recording, al-Baghdadi also gave Sunnis and Arab countries doing business in Iran or with Iranians a two-month deadline to cease their ties.
"We advise and warn every Sunni businessman inside Iran or in Arab countries especially in the Gulf not to take partnership with any Shiite Iranian businessman, this is part of the two-month period," he said. Al-Baghdadi said his group was responsible for two suicide truck bomb attacks in May in Iraq's northern Kurdish region. He said the attacks in Irbil and Makhmur showed the "Islamic jihad," or holy war, was progressing in the Kurdish areas.
At least 14 people were killed when a suicide truck bomb struck a government building in Irbil, Kurdistan's capital, on May 9. Four days later in Makhmur, another suicide truck bomb tore through the offices of a Kurdish political party, killing 50 people.
In the recording, the Islamic State of Iraq leader did not mention Saturday's deadly truck bomb in Armili, a Shiite town north of Baghdad, which killed more than 100 people. The attack was among the deadliest this year in Iraq and reinforced suspicions that al-Qaida extremists were moving north to less protected regions beyond the U.S. security crackdown in Baghdad.
Al-Baghdadi criticized Kurdish leaders for their alliance with Shiites in Iraq's government and accused them encouraging unsavory morals. "The leaders of apostasy ... have impeded the march of Islam in Muslim Kurdistan and helped communism and secularism to spread. ... They insulted the religious scholars ... encouraged vices and women without veils," he said.

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Zebari warns of civil war if quick U.S. withdrawal

(AP article) - Iraq's foreign minister warned Monday that a quick American troop withdrawal could lead to civil war and the collapse of the Iraqi state, adding that the U.S. has a responsibility to build Iraqi forces so that they take over.
Hoshyar Zebari told reporters that the Iraqis "understand the huge pressure that will increase more and more in the United States" ahead of a September report to Congress by U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and military commander Gen. David Petraeus. The report will assess progress toward national reconciliation. Leading Republicans say if there is no sign of progress they will demand a change in Iraq policy.
"We have held discussion with members of Congress and explained to them the dangers of a quick pullout and leaving a security vacuum," Zebari, a Kurd, told reporters. "The dangers could be a civil war, dividing the country, regional wars and the collapse of the state. "In our estimation, until Iraqi forces are ready, there is a responsibility on the United States which is to stand with the (government) as the forces are being built," he said.

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Iran's ambassador meets detainees in Iraq

(RFE/RL article) - Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali-Hosseini confirmed today that the Iranian ambassador to Iraq met with five Iranians currently under detention in Baghdad. Hosseini said the ambassador spent five hours with the detained Iranians who all said they were innocent of any wrong doing and demanded to be released. The Iranian government today urged Iraq to release the detainees. The five Iranians were taken into custody by U.S. military forces in Iraq in January on suspicion the Iranians were helping Iraqi insurgents.

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Shia leaders linked to al-Sadr attack Maliki

(BBC article) - Iraqi Shia leaders linked to the radical cleric, Moqtada Sadr, have attacked their former government ally, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. They accused Mr Maliki of bowing to US demands and sanctioning US attacks on Mr Sadr's Mehdi Army militia. Mr Maliki has said the militia must purge its ranks of criminals. Dozens of people have died in recent fighting between Iraqi forces and Mehdi Army militiamen, amid signs of a growing rift between the Shia groups.
In April, six cabinet ministers loyal to Mr Sadr quit their posts in protest at the government's refusal to demand a deadline for the withdrawal of US troops. Support from Mr Sadr's bloc was critical to securing Mr Maliki's appointment as prime minister last year. The Mehdi Army militia and its allies within the fledgling Iraqi security forces have been accused of operating sectarian death squads, targeting Iraqi Sunnis.
The militia's stronghold of Sadr City, a vast slum in eastern Baghdad, was the focus of a major US military operation in late June. On Saturday, Mr Maliki said the Mehdi Army had been infiltrated by criminals and by members of the Baath Party of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Mr Sadr's supporters said Mr Maliki's comments effectively gave US forces a "green light" to attack the Mehdi Army militia.
An aide to Mr Sadr, Sheikh Ahmed al-Shaibani, told the Associated Press news agency Mr Maliki "should not forget that his government was backed" by the Sadr movement. He said Mr Maliki had tried to shore up his government with the attack on Mr Sadr's group. According to Mr Shaibani, Mr Maliki's comments indicated he was ready to implement the US agenda of "ending the Mehdi Army militarily and politically".

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