Friday, August 03, 2007
"I just think in some ways we probably all underestimated the depth of the mistrust and how difficult it would be for these guys to come together on legislation, which, let's face it, is not just some kind of secondary thing," Gates said aboard his plane en route to Washington.
"The kinds of legislation they're talking about establish the framework of Iraq for the future, so it's almost like our constitutional convention. . . . And the difficulty in coming to grips with those we may all have underestimated six or eight months ago," when the Bush administration began implementing its policy of a U.S. troop buildup. Gates' assessment was the frankest by an administration official since the troop buildup began, and it came in the midst of heated debate in Washington about what the U.S. should do in Iraq in the face of an Iraqi government that hasn't met the benchmarks that Congress established in May.
While Gates was in the region, six Sunni Muslim ministers resigned from the Iraqi Cabinet, saying that Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, a Shiite, has done nothing to meet their demands, including disbanding Shiite militias. Gates called the resignations "discouraging." The bad news continued Thursday, as Sunni Vice President Tariq al Hashemi, the only Iraqi Accordance Front member who remains in Maliki's government, told McClatchy Newspapers that he also is on the verge of resigning.
Hashemi said he'd told U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker on Wednesday that the Iraqi government needed a "political shock" to stop it from continuing to marginalize the Sunnis. He said that without a change, Crocker and Army Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, would be forced to issue a negative report on Iraq to Congress in September.
"We need these major political moves to tell everybody that what is happening is in no way tolerable," Hashemi said. "Nobody on earth or in Iraq is happy with the performance of the government."
Gates spoke at the end of a rare joint Middle East tour with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, during which both warned of the growing regional threat from Shiite Iran, urged Sunni Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia to throw their support behind the Maliki government and promised U.S. support for Israel and the Palestinians in establishing a Palestinian state.
Iraq's Sunni Arab neighbors expressed strong fears about the aftermath should U.S. troops pull out, but were reluctant to support the Maliki government, which Sunni politicians in Iraq accuse of turning a blind eye to Shiite militias' attacks on Sunnis.
The reason, according to Bapir, is that "the Shiites' situation is not good and other parties may be suspect of this alliance." The Council of Political Parties of Kurdistan consists of six members, but it still doesn't contain any Turkmen or Kaldo-Assyrian parties. A member of Kurdistan Parliament, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that due to internal problems, the Turkmen and Kaldo-Assyrians have failed to elect their representatives for the council.
Dr. Fuad Hussein, head of Kurdistan Region's Presidency Office, stated that there is a plan to invite the Iraqi Islamic Party in case any new alliance is established. Meanwhile, Mohammed Faraj, a member of the political bureau of Kurdistan Islamic Union, whose party is a member of the Council of Political Parties, showed his unawareness about the content of the plan and said that they haven't seen the project yet.
A few months ago, Massoud Barzani, regional president of Kurdistan, headed a delegation to Baghdad, where he met with some parties that participate in the Iraqi government alongside Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi President. According to Hussein, the history of the issue dates back to that series of meetings and that has resumed.
"For the purpose of establishing this alliance, until now negotiations have been made with the Supreme Council of the Iraqi Revolution, Da'wa Party," Dr. Hussein said. "There are efforts to negotiate with the Islamic Party of Iraq." Stating that these plans have yet to be implemented, Dr. Hussein refuted that the former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari's recent visit to Kurdistan was for that purpose. Jaafari, who is head of the Da'wa Party, visited Kurdistan Region in mid-July and met the political leadership of the region.
During his post as the Prime Minster of Iraq, Ibrahim Jaafari was accused of hindering the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, which is about normalizing the situations in Kirkuk and other Arabized areas of the country and organizing a referendum at the end of this year. Allegedly, this very reason made the Kurds turn their backs on Jaffari.
Kurds attach a great importance to Article 140, since they hope the oil-rich city of Kirkuk again becomes part of Kurdistan Region. The referendum would be to decide whether people of Kirkuk are willing to be part of Kurdistan or not.
"This airbase needed to be drastically changed from a base that historically had been a site of destruction and disaster brought upon the Kurds, to a civil service establishment," Horami said. Now, nearly 30,000 people travel to and from Kurdistan monthly via the airport, which has also positively influenced business in the region. Immediately after it opened, construction and investment increased tremendously.
"Kurdistan was a closed zone before. Because of the neighbor's policy toward the region, some people, especially investors, were not ready to incur difficulties in order to do business in Kurdistan," he said. Due to the relative safety of Kurdistan, particularly the firm security measures taken at the airport, many other people around Iraq choose to travel via Erbil International Airport. Travelers sometimes get annoyed when passing through the check points, though. "We assure those people that the measures are for their own safety; we ask them to be more patient."
The airport, which accommodates travel to and from Baghdad, neighboring countries, and a number of European countries, is receiving more passengers than it expected to. They are building a new, longer runway and a bigger terminal building with modern standards, Horami said. The KRG has dedicated $350 million(USD) to the airport, most of it to be spent on a new project designed by the Scott Wilson group (a British company) and executed by Macul (a Turkish company).
The new landing strip currently under construction will be one of the biggest in the world, 4.8 kilometers long and 90 meters wide. Horami announced that the project would be finished at the end of 2007 and will then be able to accommodate the world's biggest planes, such as a Boeing 777 or an Airbus A380. The project's terminal will be wide enough to receive 3 million passengers annually.
The mostly secular Iraqi National Slate, led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, holds 24 seats in the Iraqi parliament. Khalaf al-Alian, a leading IAF member, described the current Iraqi political process as a "failure" and indicated that the departure of his front, along with the Sadrist movement, from the government is a clear sign that al-Maliki's government is becoming increasingly unpopular in the Iraqi street. According to al-Alian, al-Maliki has two choices: to form a government of independent technocrats or to step down in favor of a more qualified person.
Meanwhile, MP Ali al-Alaq from the Shiite Unified Iraqi Coalition (UIC), the largest parliamentary bloc with 111 seats, told VOI that the IAF's decision does not necessarily indicate retrogression in the political process, which he is said is "working fine."
Displaying pessimism about the future of the Iraqi political process, Hadi Aliwa, a political analyst, held the Iraqi government and parliamentary blocs responsible for the "failure" to reach political consensus. "Each bloc is working on its own. Several regional and international factors, the most important of which is the U.S. occupation, are affecting the political process," Aliwa explained.
"We have reservations about the government's performance and we presented a memorandum regarding this three months ago… in which we asked to reform the political process," he said, noting that the withdrawal option is open if demands are not met. The Iraqi National List is a secular bloc and the fourth largest bloc with 25 seats out of the 275-member parliament. The parliamentary bloc has four portfolios within al-Maliki's government.
He stressed that if the bloc withdraws from the government this will be an outcome of their position, not that of the Iraqi Accordance Front. The Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF) announced on Wednesday its withdrawal from the government and the resignation of five ministers in addition to Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie. The IAF had 44 seats in the parliament and it is the third largest bloc after the Unified Iraqi Coalition (UIC) and the Kurdistan Coalition (KC).
"The memorandum presented by the INL has 14 points, and we said that the political process had deviated from its right track and the security file was in the hands of a group belonging to certain parties," al-Negefi said. "The memorandum also included (demands concerning) the participation of some parties not included in the political process, the national reconciliation project and the detainees file," the legislator noted.
MP from the same bloc, Mayson al-Demlougi, said that their demands were ignored by al-Maliki's government, saying "we feel marginalized." She urged the premier to listen carefully to the demands of other blocs, which have reservations about the government's performance, warning of grave consequences if the current government keeps on ignoring blocs' demands.
Head of the INL, Iyad Allawi, described in a televised interview on Wednesday, after the withdrawal of the IAF, the current government as "a sectarian government," considering the withdrawal of the IAF as "a collapse of the political process," highlighting that his front is considering making a similar step.
Former regime security personnel to attend conference
The move comes as the government has asked all these members, whether inside or outside Iraq, to fill in special forms in order to have them rehabilitated. Those living abroad can do so by completing these forms electronically, he said. Naseri said the government was serious to give everyone the opportunity of returning to work or getting a decent pension.
“Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has ordered that no member of the entities which were disbanded, regardless of their position and function, should be be excluded. “The authorities should swiftly process their application to return to work or their desire to retire, Naseri said, quoting Maliki. “This decision is a gain for the Iraqi family and those covered will have all their privileges and salaries given to them retroactively,” he said.
“I call on the personnel of the former intelligence to organize a special conference to discuss the best ways to solve their problems. I guarantee that all will get their full rights. “We need them to work with us to rebuild the country. Intelligence and security are the basic pillars of a secure society,” he said. Asked whether Maliki’s ruling covers even members of “coercive organs”, Nasseri said he was not happy with term and whether a person or institution was oppressive it was for the courts to decide.
The disbanding of former institutions such as the army, the police, security, intelligence and information is believed to be one of the main reasons behind the upsurge in violence and anti-government and U.S. rebellion. Analysts say the government should have taken such a decision long time ago since hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have suffered hugely from the decision to disband the armed forces and security organs.
The trips had been expected as Iraq seeks help from its neighbors in trying to end its rampant violence. Al-Maliki is likely to focus on persuading Turkey not to stage an incursion into the Kurdish north. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who invited al-Maliki last month, warned the Turkish military would act if the United States and Iraqi leaders failed to stem the Kurdish guerrillas operating from bases in northern Iraq.
The trip to Iran will be al-Maliki's second since taking office in May 2006. He has appealed to the close ally of his Shiite-led government for help in calming violence and developing Iraq's troubled oil industry. Iraq also needs to balance its relationships with Iran and the United States. Al-Maliki's Dawa Party is closely allied with Iran as are other Shiite parties in his government. The prime minister lived in Iran for part of his long exile during Saddam Hussein's rule. But Washington has accused Iran of fueling the violence in Iraq by training Shiite extremists and providing weapons for anti-U.S. activity. Iran denies the allegations.
The Iraqi government has said it wants good relations with Iran while insisting there should be no interference in its internal affairs. The U.S. and Iranian ambassadors to Iraq held rare talks in Baghdad on July 24 and agreed to set up a security subcommittee to carry forward talks on restoring stability in Iraq.
Britain circulated the resolution to the other Security Council members on Wednesday and council experts went over the text. The experts were expected to meet again on Friday. Russia signalled its assent on Thursday, making approval by the Security Council almost certain. Vitaly Churkin, Russia's UN ambassador, said on Thursday that "it's overall a good draft ... I don't see any basic problems."
The draft would extend the mission's mandate for a year and authorise it to help organise reintegration programmes for former combatants, assist the return of refugees and displaced people, and promote economic reform and the development of an effective civil service and social services for the Iraqi people.
It would also be asked to promote human rights and judicial and legal reforms "in order to strengthen the rule of law" and to assist the government "on initial planning for a comprehensive census". Kofi Annan, the former secretary-general, pulled all UN international staff out of Iraq in October 2003 after a spate of attacks on humanitarian workers and two bombings at UN headquarters in Baghdad killed dozens, including the top UN envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello.
In August 2004, Annan allowed a small U.N. contingent to return to Baghdad and imposed a ceiling of 35 international workers, which has steadily increased but remains relatively low because of the security situation.
The new mandate, if approved, would come as the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate. Besides daily violence, residents in Baghdad have had their taps run dry at the height of summer when temperatures are close to 50 degrees celsius. Residents and city officials said on Thursday that large sections in the west of the capital had been virtually dry for six days because the already strained electricity grid could not provide sufficient power to run water purification and pumping stations.
The problem highlights the larger difficulties in a capital beset by violence, crumbling infrastructure, rampant crime and too little electricity to keep cool in the sweltering weather more than four years after the US-led invasion.
Gunmen approached al-Akil and shot him dead around 10:30 p.m. Thursday, the security official said. He was the second al-Sistani aide murdered in less than two weeks, raising questions about the Shiite cleric's own safety. Sheik Abdullah Falak al-Basrawi, who also collected religious taxes for al-Sistani, was stabbed to death inside the cleric's fortified compound on July 27 or 28th, police said, and a security guard was arrested afterward.
A month earlier, yet another aide was killed in a drive-by shooting. It is unclear whether the killings are part of internal Shiite disputes or the work of Sunni insurgents opposed to the vast influence enjoyed by al-Sistani over Iraqi Shiites and politics.
Al-Sistani, who rarely leaves his compound and doesn't grant media interviews, has been the target of at least one assassination attempt since 2003. The cleric, who is in his 70s, commands the deep respect of Iraq's majority Shiites. A death other than one of natural causes could spark riots by millions of his followers and fuel more sectarian violence.
Najaf has been relatively safe compared to the violence in Baghdad or other cities in the volatile center and north of Iraq, but a series of unsolved murders in recent months have struck clerics, academics and security officials. None of the killings had an obvious motive or could be linked to tribal, personal or religious disputes.
But three players - team captain Younis Mahmoud, Nashat Akram and Hawar Mulla Mohammed - would not be with them. Mahmoud, who scored the winning goal in Iraq's 1-0 Asian Cup final win over Saudi Arabia, had said he feared for his life if he returned to Iraq to celebrate the stunning victory. Qassim said a welcome-home celebration would be held in a Baghdad hotel in the Green Zone, home to the U.S. Embassy and the Iraqi government headquarters.
"I wish the celebration would take place in al-Shaab stadium, but that is impossible for security reasons," said Mohammed Kadhom, 35, who works at the country's oil ministry. Al-Shaab is a huge, Saddam Hussein-era facility on the capital's east side. "It is sad that we can't receive our national team in a public celebration as others do, I myself fear for their safety," Kadhom said.
Vehicles were banned from Baghdad's streets for four hours coinciding with prayer services on Friday, for a regular weekly curfew on the Muslim holy day. Several rings of security around the Green Zone would prevent ordinary Iraqis from welcoming the team, which has already had celebrations in Dubai and Amman en route back from Indonesia, where the winning match was played.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
The Kurdish 2nd Brigade Commander, Anwar Hama Amin, had said on Saturday that Kurdish Peshmerga forces will be deployed in several areas of Kirkuk to protect power towers and oil installations. "Bringing the Peshmarga to the province is part of an agreement and a protocol signed between the General Commander of the armed forces, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the President of Iraqi Kurdistan region, Masoud Barazani," said Amin in a press conference held on Saturday at the military training base of K1 in Kirkuk.
NO END IN SIGHT examines the manner in which the principal errors of U.S. policy – the use of insufficient troop levels, allowing the looting of Baghdad, the purging of professionals from the Iraqi government, and the disbanding of the Iraqi military – largely created the insurgency and chaos that engulf Iraq today. How did a group of men with little or no military experience, knowledge of the Arab world or personal experience in Iraq come to make such flagrantly debilitating decisions? NO END IN SIGHT dissects the people, issues and facts behind the Bush Administration’s decisions and their consequences on the ground to provide a powerful look into how arrogance and ignorance turned a military victory into a seemingly endless and deepening nightmare of a war. NO END SIGHT alternates between U.S. policy decisions and Iraqi consequences, systematically dissecting the Bush Administration’s decisions. The consequences of those decisions now include 3,000 American deaths and 20,000 American wounded, Iraq on the brink of civil war, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, the strengthening of Iran, the weakening of the U.S. military, and economic costs of over $2 trillion. It marks the first time Americans will be allowed inside the White House, Pentagon, and Baghdad’s Green Zone to understand for themselves what has become the disintegration of Iraq.
"Danish ground forces handed their missions to the British army so as to start pulling out the rest of their troops from Basra," Major Matthew Bird told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "Four Danish helicopters arrived at the Basra international airport, northwest of Basra, while 50 Danish soldiers left to back the choppers," he added.
Denmark had 470 soldiers working among the Multi-National troops in Iraq under British command. 250 left the country last week, before the scheduled time for withdrawal on August 10, 2007. The European country was considered one of the U.S.'s allies in its invasion in March 2003.
No comment was available from the U.S. army on the incident. "This was not the first time the movement's offices were attacked by Iraqi army and police forces," the statement also said. "Some of the movement's members were arrested two weeks ago in the city of Karbala," the statement added, noting that such measures show chaos in government's security institutions, which must protect citizens not attack them," it also said.
The movement urged the government to immediately free all captives and provide them with protection.
The NAM is one of the main components of the Iraqi National List, which has 25 seats out of the 275-seat parliament.
Massoud Barzani, speaking in an interview with U.S.-funded Alhurra television, complained that the Baghdad government was dragging its feet on holding a referendum that could put Kirkuk under control of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. "There is procrastination (by the government) and if this issue is not resolved, as I said before, all options are open. ... Frankly I am not comfortable with the behavior and the policy of the federal government on Kirkuk and clause 140," he said.
The constitutional clause calls for a referendum in Kirkuk to decide its future status by the end of the year. Before the vote, the clause says Kurds expelled from the city during Saddam Hussein's rule must be allowed to return. A census would then be held to determine which ethnic group was a majority of the population. Tens of thousands of Kurds have returned to the city since Saddam's ouster in 2003, but a census has not been conducted.
"The Kurds will never relinquish or bargain over Kirkuk, but we accepted to regain Kirkuk through constitutional and legal methods. But if we despair of those constitutional and legal methods, then we will have the right to resort to other means," Barzani warned. "If clause 140 is not implemented, then there will be a real civil war," Barzani said, promising to visit Baghdad shortly to discuss the matter with the central government.
A blueprint for Kirkuk's future was laid out in Iraq's 2005 constitution, but the city is widely viewed as a time bomb that could plunge Iraq deeper into crisis and violence. Barzani accused unidentified countries of trying to delay a resolution of the Kirkuk issue and urged the Baghdad government not to succumb to regional pressures. It was clear he was referring to Turkey, where separatist Kurdish guerrillas are fighting government forces in the southeast of the country. Al-Maliki is due to visit Turkey in early August.
Adnan al-Mufti, the speaker of the Kurdish parliament, also criticized the central government's handling of the Kirkuk issue, saying it was partly to blame for missing a July 31 deadline to produce lists of eligible voters in the city and its surrounding districts. The lists were to be compiled by a Baghdad-based government commission that includes Arabs, Kurds and Turkomen officials.
"It is not completely the fault of the federal government because we do understand that the deteriorating security situation in Kirkuk has played a role in this delay," al-Mufti said. "The census issue is only part of the article and failing to carry it on time does not mean a total failure. We should work hard and fast with the federal government because we have limited time," he told The Associated Press from Irbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Barzani told the television interviewer that Kurdish nationhood was a "reality" rather than a dream. A Kurdish homeland, he said, was a "natural right for a nation of more than 50 million people in the Middle East. Why should we be denied this right?" He ruled out, however, the use of violence to establish a Kurdish homeland, a prospect that worries Iran, Turkey and Syria because it would set a dangerous precedent for their own restive Kurdish minorities. "It's a legitimate right but it must be realized at the suitable time," Barzani said of establishing a Kurdish nation.
Politicians from the Shia-led bloc that dominates the government and the Kurdish parties that are its main allies had agreed before the formation of the national unity government in June 2006 that today would be the deadline for a "census" of the inhabitants of Kirkuk and other "disputed territories" of northern Iraq. However, the deadline appears to have passed without a census being completed, raising doubts as to whether the government is willing to follow through on its commitments.
The failure to meet the deadline "shows a lack of seriousness from all parties to implement. . . articles that were in the constitution that people had agreed and voted upon," said Falah Mustafa Bakir, head of the Kurdistan regional government's department of foreign relations. For many Kurds, the referendum is a chance to reclaim Kirkuk, which Jalal Talabani, Iraq's Kurdish president, has called the "Jerusalem of Kurdistan" - a historic capital purged of much of its non-Arab population by the regime of Saddam Hussein, the deposed leader.
But although Iraq's constitution calls for the referendum - which would ask people whether they wished to be part of the Kurdistan autonomous region - to be held no later than December 31, many Sunni and Shia Arabs strongly oppose Kirkuk ever becoming part of Kurdistan. The Article 140 process - designed to undo the "Arabisation" policies pursued by Saddam aimed at solidifying Arab control of northern oilfields - has also drawn criticism from others who fear it will feed instability.
The former regime pushed Kurds and other non-Arabs out. Arab settlers were brought in from other parts of the country, particularly the Shia south. In addition, it shuffled the borders of the region's provinces, handing away slices of Kirkuk to its neighbours in what Kurdish officials claim was an attempt at gerrymandering, ensuring the north's main oilfields were in an Arab-majority province.
To reverse this demographic engineering, Arab settlers are to be offered nearly $16,000 in compensation and land in their home provinces to leave. Kurdish officials claim 16,000 families have voluntarily signed up. Iraq's presidency council was supposed to have addressed the border issue by restoring the north's pre-Arabisation administrative boundaries. But the approval of parliament has yet to be granted.
The funding comes on top of $5.6 billion already approved for 6,400 mine-resistant vehicles and will be added to the Pentagon's $141.7 billion request for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the budget year beginning Oct. 1. The additional money would help pay for those vehicles and purchase an additional 1,520 of them, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England told the House Budget Committee.
Procurement of mine-resistant, ambush-protected, or MRAP, vehicles that have been saving lives in roadside bomb attacks has been a politically sensitive issue, with Republicans and Democrats alike demanding the Pentagon do more to protect troops from roadside bombs.
Congress has led the way in funding the MRAPs, the latest White House request coming only as the House is about to take up a huge Pentagon funding measure containing more than $4 billion for them. The White House requested just $400 million in its February budget.
The requests brings the budget for Pentagon operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2008 budget year to $147 billion, said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., who chairs a spending panel responsible for the Pentagon and Iraq war budgets. But that figure is likely to jump to more than $170 billion, Murtha said, citing the rapid pace of Pentagon spending in Iraq.
Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim country, has had frosty relations with the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and has not hidden its suspicions that al-Maliki does not have the interests of Iraq's Sunni minority at heart. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice thanked her Saudi host for considering diplomatic ties, calling it "an important step."
The Arab world has lagged far behind Europe in placing embassies in Baghdad. Responding to criticism from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, al-Faisal said Saudi Arabia is already doing all it can to address concerns about the flow of terrorists over its border into Iraq. "All that we can do in order to protect the border in Iraq we have been doing," he said.
The foreign minister insisted his country was supportive of the Iraqi government. "As an indication of our good intentions, we let their (soccer) team win," al-Faisal joked, referring to Iraq's soccer victory over Saudi Arabia in the final of the Asia Cup.
Among them were the release of security detainees not charged with specific crimes, the disbanding of militias and the participation of all groups represented in the government in dealing with security issues. Their resignation left only two Sunnis in the 40-member Cabinet, undermining efforts to pull together rival factions and pass reconciliation laws the U.S. considers benchmarks toward healing the country's deep war wounds.
Al-Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party issued a statement Thursday calling on the Accordance Front to "reconsider its decision." "The party expresses its concern and regret about this setback for Iraqi politics, an action taken before exploring any dialogue," the statement said. "We need to stand side by side as a national unity government and set aside all differences and cooperate, in order to answer the challenges our people are suffering," it said.
But an Accordance Front lawmaker, reacting to the Dawa statement, said Thursday that the bloc would reconsider its withdrawal only if promised "the priority of real partnership." "If we were assured by tangible and concrete promises of real change ... and the priority of real partnership, we would reconsider our stance," Salim Abdullah, a Sunni parliament member, told The Associated Press. But he added that he was not optimistic such assurances would come from al-Maliki.
Washington has been pushing al-Maliki's government to pass key laws - among them, measures to share national oil revenues and incorporate some ousted Baathists into mainstream politics. But the Sunni ministers' resignation from the Cabinet - not the parliament - foreshadowed even greater difficulty in building consensus when lawmakers return after a monthlong summer recess.
The Accordance Front has 44 of parliament's 275 seats, and those politicians will continue in the legislature. The withdrawal of its six Cabinet ministers from the 14-month-old government is the second such action by a faction of al-Maliki's coalition. Five Cabinet ministers loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr quit the government in April to protest al-Maliki's refusal to announce a timetable for the pullout of U.S. forces from Iraq.
The Accordance Front had demanded a greater say in security matters, and had accused al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led coalition of failing to consult it on key issues. "It has been obvious that the government is sticking to its arrogant stand and is still insisting on closing all the doors on any reforms necessary for saving Iraq," party spokesman Muhannad al-Issawi said today at a news conference in Baghdad.
Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih today told the Reuters news agency that the bloc's withdrawal "is probably the most serious political crisis we have faced since the passage of the constitution."
This draft resolution comes days after meetings in Washington between President George W Bush and the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. The resolution, if adopted, would give the United Nations a much more powerful advisory role in Iraq, authorising it to advise in the review of the Iraqi constitution and help settle disputed internal boundaries
The UN mission would also be asked to promote human rights and judicial and legal reforms and to assist the Iraqi government in planning for a national census. The draft resolution calls for more UN involvement in helping refugees to return and managing humanitarian aid and helping the entire national reconstruction effort. It also points out the importance of armed protection by mainly US forces for any enhanced UN team on the ground.
Former Secretary General Kofi Annan pulled all UN international staff out of Iraq after the top UN envoy, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 other people died in a huge explosion at the UN headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
To Improve The Country - Agreement To Establish A Federal Government In United Southern Iraq
They (the southern leaders) said they are doing this for: “independent Iraq”, and to return balance to the community in the south. They (the Sheikhs) want to create a southern regional government [probably similar to the northern Kurdistan government] which will the respect the original Arab tribes (of the area)…and spread justice, freedom, and equality among the people of the south.
However, we (the Tribal Sheikhs/southern leaders) want everyone to understand that this does not mean that “we” agree with the idea of “federalism” as proposed by the Occupation…We are a part of Iraq; and, we will not break off from Iraq in the future! We have decided that we will run our own affairs… by ourselves…without “foreigners” management. Tomorrow, we will publish our statement of establishment (Declaration).
US Army: 1920 Revolutionary Battalions Has Reconciled With The Iraqi Government
Al Qaeda Members Gathering In Himrin Mountains To Avoid Operation “Arrowhead Ripper”
The “anonymous source, in a press statement”, said “Groups from the Al Qaeda organization have begun to gather in the Himrin Mountains, which are located on the ‘northeast border of Diyala Province’ with some areas of the Kurdistan region… And, these mountains also pass through parts of the Provinces of Salah Ad Din, Kirkuk (Tamim), and Mosul (Ninawa).”
The source continued, “This ‘gathering operation’ coincided with Operation Arrowhead Ripper finishing its first month. The result of this operation is that the Al Qaeda members have fled Arrowhead Ripper’s area of operations instead of facing the Security Forces… And, our information confirmed that 200-350 Al Qaeda members have reached various areas of Kirkuk and Salah Ad Din Provinces. They (these Al Qaeda) members are now gathering in order to conduct attacks in these areas.”
The source also mentioned, “The Himrin Mountains are located along the (Iranian border) and are adjacent to ‘Iranian mountains’. This area is very difficult terrain, and it has many caves. It is also near an unoccupied desert area which runs from Kirkuk to Diyala.” He added, “These areas have many different population groups; Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen living in the area. And, it is an open area which is easily used for smuggling …And, it is an area where people can easily and secretly cross into or out of Iraq. Most of the smuggling operations which occurred during the “old regime (Saddam)” used this area and, currently, this is still occurring.”
The source added, “Intelligence information indicates that most of these ‘armed groups’ (gathering in this area) belong to Al Qaeda. They are attempting to gather there, because it is a safe area for them… especially areas of the Himrin Mountains and the desert area between the town of Muqdadiya and the Mansuriyat Al Jabil and Dali Abbas area (two adjacent areas)… Muqdadiya is located 45 km northeast of Baquba; and, the Mansuriyat Al Jabil and the Dali Abbas area, both of which are located 50 km northeast of Baquba. [Therefore, there may be a large concentration of AQIQ in this 5 km long stretch of Diyala Province.] There are also gatherings occurring in semi-mountainous areas, such as: the Al Athim area, 100 km north of Baghdad.”
According to this source Operation Arrowhead Ripper “was closing in on the AQIQ members so, they fled to these open areas in which they can move freely about without being observed by Iraqi Security Forces.”
The US is trying to persuade the Turkish army against taking matters into its own hands by invading northern Iraq, where the Kurds have established an autonomous region. Washington, faced with a myriad of problems in Iraq, does not need a new front opening up in the country.
Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, would neither confirm nor deny that a covert operation was being planned. But he said yesterday: "We recognise that the PKK is a serious problem and we're working closely with both the government of Iraq and the government of Turkey to resolve this."
In the Washington Post, the veteran columnist Robert Novak, disclosed that Eric Edelman, an undersecretary of defence and former ambassador to Turkey, told selected congressmen in private last week about the planned covert operation. The administration is required by law to inform Congress of any such operations.
Novak wrote the US forces would "behead the guerrilla organisation by helping Turkey get rid of PKK leaders that they have targeted for years". The PKK has been fighting for the breakaway from Turkey of the large Kurdish population in the east of the country. Some of the members of Congress informed were alarmed by the development at a time when they are working to find ways of stabilising Iraq and withdrawing US forces.
Two weeks ago, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, threatened a military incursion inside the Iraqi Kurdish area. This followed a build-up of Turkish forces along the Iraqi border. The 250,000-strong Turkish force on the border is confronting an estimated 4,000 PKK fighters.
The Army has eliminated another British firm, Erinys Iraq, but that company is contesting the decision in sealed documents filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, said sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract review process is confidential. It was unclear yesterday whether the Army had chosen other finalists, but two other firms confirmed that they, too, are out of the running -- Control Risks of Britain and Blackwater Security Consulting of North Carolina.
The battle for the lucrative contract has drawn the attention of members of Congress who have questioned the use of private security contractors, about 20,000 of whom operate in Iraq, and whether the military should be outsourcing such critical tasks as security and intelligence to private firms. Based on a request from a member of Congress, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction is conducting its second audit of Aegis.
Meanwhile, federal lawmakers have requested that the Government Accountability Office, Congress's investigative arm, also look into the use of private security contractors in Iraq. The GAO has begun to review contractors there, building on previous reports, spokesman Paul Anderson said. "We're still early in the process."
"The Army's decision to once again remove Erinys from the bidding process is bad economics and demonstrates the fundamental flaws in this procurement," said an Erinys spokesman. "We are taking steps to ensure that our proposal is given fair treatment on a level playing field, in accordance with applicable government laws and regulations."
ArmorGroup spokesman Patrick Toyne Sewell declined to comment. ArmorGroup already is one of the largest security firms in Iraq, with more than 1,200 employees. Aegis, which also has about 1,200 contractors in Iraq, declined as well to comment on the new contract, but Kristi M. Clemens, the firm's executive vice president, touted its work on the current contract.
The Army is expected to make a final decision soon. "We are proceeding with discussions and preparation for award," said Chuck D. Martino, deputy chief of staff of the Joint Contracting Command-Iraq/Afghanistan in Baghdad.
Iraqi refugee crisis - how to help:
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Labels: Ahmed Khafaji, Badr Corps, Basheer Wandi, Brig. Gen. Dana Pittard, Dawa party, Engineer Ahmed, Gen. Mahdi Gharrawi, Hussein Ali Kamal, Jawad Bolani, KDP, Mahdi Army, Ministry of Interior, SIIC
We want to prevent Saddam’s followers from returning to power and the best way is to exterminate them. Militants affiliated with Shia groups refused to give detailed information about the campaign but said their action was to guarantee the “cleansing of any remnants of Saddam Hussein’s regime”. “We want to prevent Saddam’s followers from returning to power and the best way is to exterminate them,” Abu Khalid Alawi, who said he was a senior local Shia militia member but declined to name his organisation, told IRIN.
The Iraqi government couldn’t be reached for comment but the governing council of Basra said they had started negotiations with militant leaders to get them to stop such attacks.
Al-Jaafari's campaign, the officials said, was based on his concerns that al-Maliki's policies had led Iraq into turmoil because the prime minister was doing too little to promote national reconciliation. The former prime minister also has approached Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's top Shiite cleric, proposing a "national salvation" government to replace the al-Maliki coalition. The Iranian-born al-Sistani refused to endorse the proposal, the officials said.
"Al-Jaafari is proposing a national and nonsectarian political plan to save the nation," said Faleh al-Fayadh, a Dawa party lawmaker familiar with the former prime minister's contacts. Other officials, however, said al-Jaafari had only an outside chance of replacing or ousting al-Maliki. But they said the challenge could undermine al-Maliki and further entangle efforts at meeting important legislative benchmarks sought by Washington. They spoke of the sensitive political wrangling only on condition of anonymity.
The officials would not give details of the rift between al-Maliki and al-Jaafari, saying only that it began two months ago when a Dawa party congress voted to replace al-Jaafari with al-Maliki as its leader. Al-Jaafari and other senior Dawa members are questioning the legality of that vote and the former prime minister has since boycotted all official party functions, said al-Fayadh.
The usually secretive Dawa, which is made up of two factions, has 25 of parliament's 275 seats but draws its strength from being a key faction of a large Shiite alliance. Ali al-Dabbagh, the government's spokesman, declined to comment on the rift between al-Maliki and al-Jaafari, arguing that it was a matter for the Dawa to deal with. "There should be no objections for a figure like al-Jaafari to try and put together a new political bloc provided that this will be of service to the political process," he said.
Al-Jaafari's own record in office was not any better than al-Maliki's has been so far, but al-Jaafari was widely perceived as an open-minded Islamist who is at total ease dealing with his American backers. To the Sunni Arabs he is courting now, the officials said, al-Jaafari was proposing a change in Iraq's sectarian, power-sharing formula. He wants the president's job, now held by Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, to be given to a Sunni Arab to achieve a better balance between Iraq's ethnic and religious factions and to improve ties with Arab nations.
To win the support of the Kurds, al-Jaafari is pledging the implementation of a clause in the constitution that provides for a referendum before the end of 2007 on the fate of Kirkuk, an oil-rich city in northern Iraq that the Kurds want to annex. To compensate them for the loss of the presidency, al-Jaafari is proposing that they fill the post of parliament speaker, now occupied by a Sunni Arab.
Al-Jaafari's bid to topple al-Maliki runs counter to ongoing negotiations to form what is being billed an "alliance of the moderates" that would include the country's four largest Shiite and Kurdish parties and independent Shiites. It excludes hardline Shiites and Sunni Arabs. It also comes at a time when al-Maliki is facing a threat by the largest Sunni Arab bloc to pull its ministers from his coalition unless he meets a long list of demands, which include overtures to minority Sunni Arabs, political inclusion and commitment to human rights.
Monday, July 30, 2007
He added, "Field economic studies showed that gold is found in Anbar province and red mercury, which is the most expensive among minerals, is found in south-eastern of Maysan province."
Al-Manii explained, "The western region of Iraq, being of vast desert nature, comprises ethylene phosphate and sulpfur, while copper is found in Karbala and Najaf." He continued, "The results of these studies require the provision of means of research and exploration of non-oil minerals, which are expected to be found in larger proportions than the rough estimates, for not conducting exploration and production for many years."
Al-Manii called relevant authorities and specialists to achieve strategic plans to prospect for minerals other than oil.
Security Minister says Iranians involved in violence in Iraq
Waili was referring to recent attacks on the so-called Green Zone which houses government offices, U.S. administrative quarters as well as embassy. “Militia elements and Iranian experts are pounding the Green Zone on almost daily basis,” he said. Waili is part of the Shiite coalition ruling the country which is alleged to have strong ties with Iran.
Asked about accusations that he himself was closely related to Iraq, Waili said: “I only belong to Iraq.” He said his ministry was praised by U.S. troops recently. However, he expressed disquiet at the newly formed Iraqi Intelligence Organization, saying there were many in the government who were not totally happy with its chief Mohammed al-Shahwani.
He did not elaborate but said the government was not involved in Iraqi intelligence activities as the organization is being financed and administered by the United States. On whether he had received any Iranian demands, Waili said Tehran’s only request has been the closure of camps run by Iranian exiles, Mujahideen Khalq in Iraq.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued the invitation to al-Maliki earlier this month and warned of an incursion if the United States and Iraqi leaders failed to stem the Kurdish guerrillas operating from bases in northern Iraq. Erdogan's party won a new mandate last Sunday, but it faces pressure from opposition parties that say it lacks determination to stage an incursion, a move that could seriously strain ties with Iraq and Turkey's NATO ally, the United States.
"This visit will be a security and political one as there are many important issues between the two neighboring countries like the presence of PKK in northern Iraq," al-Dabbagh said, referring to the acronym for the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party.
"The Iraqi government is keen to develop bilateral relations after the elections and is looking forward to have Turkey as an important partner to Iraq," he added. Turkey has been fighting PKK rebels since 1984 in a war that has killed tens of thousands.
It seems less a clash of personality than of policy. The Shiite Muslim prime minister has reacted most sharply to the American general's tactic of enlisting Sunni militants, presumably including past killers of Iraqi Shiites, as allies in the fight against al-Qaida here. An associate said al-Maliki once, in discussion with President Bush, even threatened to counter this by arming Shiite militias.
A tangle of issues confronts them, none with easy solutions:
- Al-Maliki, a Shiite activist who spent the Saddam Hussein years in exile, hotly objects to the recent U.S. practice of recruiting tribal groups tied to the Sunni insurgency for the fight against the Sunni extremists of al-Qaida, deemed "Enemy No. 1" by the Americans. His loud complaints have won little but a U.S. pledge to let al-Maliki's security apparatus screen the recruits.
- Aides say the Iraqi leader also has spoken bitterly about delivery delays of promised U.S. weapons and equipment for his forces.
- Petraeus, meanwhile, must deal with an Iraqi military and police force, nominally under al-Maliki's control, that often acts out of sectarian, namely Shiite, interests, and not national Iraqi interests. He faces a significant challenge in persuading al-Maliki to shed his ties to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who runs the Mahdi Army militia.
- On the political front, Crocker is grappling with the prime minister's seeming foot-dragging or ineffectiveness in pushing through an oil-industry law and other legislation seen as critical benchmarks by the U.S. government. Reporting to Congress in September, Crocker may have to explain such Iraqi inaction while U.S. troops are fighting and dying to give al-Maliki political breathing space.
First word of strained relations began leaking out with consistency earlier this month. Sami al-Askari, a key aide to al-Maliki and a member of the prime minister's Dawa Party, said the policy of incorporating one-time Sunni insurgents into the security forces shows Petraeus has a "real bias and it bothers the Shiites," whose communities have been targeted by Sunnis in Iraq's sectarian conflict.
"It is possible that we may demand his removal," al-Askari said.
A lawmaker from the al-Sadr bloc, who wouldn't allow use of his name because of the political sensitivity of the matter, said al-Maliki once told Petraeus: "I can't deal with you anymore. I will ask for someone else to replace you." Such a request isn't likely to get much of a hearing in Washington, where the Bush administration presents Petraeus as one general who can improve the Iraq situation.
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari told Newsweek magazine the Petraeus-al-Maliki relationship is "difficult." For one thing, the Americans retain control of the Iraqi military. "The prime minister cannot just pick up the phone and have Iraqi army units do what he says. Maliki needs more leverage," Zebari said.
The prime minister has complained to President Bush about the policy of arming Sunnis, said the Sadrist lawmaker. "He told Bush that if Petraeus continues doing that, he would arm Shiite militias. Bush told al-Maliki to calm down," according to this parliament member, who said he was told of the exchange by al-Maliki. In Washington, White House officials who have sat in on Bush's video conferences with al-Maliki denied that exchange took place.
"Iraqis are suffering from a growing lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, health care, education, and employment," said the report, compiled by Oxfam and the NGO Co-ordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI). The report also says two million people within the country are currently displced, while more than two million are refugees.Most of those refugees have fled to Jordan and Syria.
"Many of the figures and percentages in the report were actually derived from UN sources… so we concur with the findings" said Said Arikit, spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq. Said Arikit, a spokesman for the UN mission in Iraq, told Al Jazeera the report painted a "grim picture. Many of the figures and percentages in the report were actually derived from UN sources… so we concur with the findings," he said.
The entry of Iraqi refugees to neighbouring countries has placed a growing strain on health, education and social services in the two countries. Only 60 per cent of the four million people who depend on food assistance have access to rations from the government-run public distribution system, down from 96 per cent in 2004, the report said.
The number of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies has risen from 50 per cent to 70 per cent since 2003. The lack of effective sanitation was also highlighted by the joint report, which said 80 per cent of people in Iraq did not have safe access. The report said children were the hardest hit by the fall in living standards, stating child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 per cent before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28 percent currently.
"Despite the constraints imposed by the government of Iraq, the UN and the international donors can do more to deliver humanitarian assistance to reduce unnecessary suffering," the report said. One recommendation called for the government of Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, to decentralise the distribution of aid to local authorities, and make it easier for civil society organisations to operate.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called the victory "a lesson in how to triumph over the impossible to realize victory" and announced that each player on the Iraqi team would receive $10,000 for their achievements. Baghdad security officials had imposed an overnight vehicle curfew in order to prevent car-bomb attacks, and ordered police to arrest anyone who took part in the traditional celebratory gunfire.
The decision came after at least 50 celebrating fans were killed by car bombs in Baghdad on July 25, following Iraq's semifinal victory over South Korea. However, large crowds did gather today at some road junctions, waving flags. Members of security forces were among those firing in the air in the capital. Civilians also shot from the roofs of buildings. At least four people were reported killed by the gunfire.
The Iraqi team's success in the tournament has been a rare source of shared national celebration in a country torn apart by violence and rifts between the Sunni and Shi'ite communities.