The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Sunday, September 30, 2007

News of the Day for Sunday, September 30, 2007

In this still video image from ABC News released on Friday, Sept. 28, 2007, a Blackwater Security convoy, center, escorts a U. S. State Department official in western Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2007 just before a car bomb explodes, ABC News reported. The subsequent shootout left at least 11 Iraqis dead. (AP Photo/ABC News) I posted this image for the sake of the caption, which is a powerful illustration of the complicity of the U.S. corporate media in pro-war propaganda. The caption, of course, is false: this is the cover story Blackwater initially told. It has now been established that the car bomb exploded before the convoy departed, and several blocks away. According to the accounts of Iraqi witnesses, there was no "subsequent shootout," only unprovoked firing by Blackwater mercenaries at nearby civilians. -- C See "Update," below, at bottom of "Other News of the Day


Security Incidents

Baghdad

One MND-Baghdad soldier killed, one injured by IED and small arms attack in Baghdad on Saturday. No further details given.

Four bodies found in various places on Saturday.

Suspected al Qaeda militant attacked a farm, killing the owner and wounding three of his relatives south of Baghdad, police said.

Near Baquba

Police find seven bodies in the village of al-Uhaymer, apparently dead for some time. No further details given.

Muqdadiya

Iraqi forces kill 3, blow up a weapons factory, according to an anonymous source.

Diwyaniya

Police find the body of an Iraqi soldier who was kidnapped on Saturday.

Mosul

Unknown attackers assassinate Momtaz Mahmoud Ibrahim of VP Tareq al-Hashimi Iraqi Islamic Party, and three of his bodyguards.

Gunmen kill imams of two mosques in separate incidents on Saturday, bringing the total killed that day to three.

Two women and one man killed in drive-by shooting.

Hawija (south of Baghdad)

Roadside bomb injures two police officers.

Basra

Police Maj. Maj. Abad Kazhem survives an assassination attempt.

Body Count Announcements

(Maybe this should be a regular feature, now that the U.S. has started doing body counts after all. --C)

Iraqi defense ministry says 40 militants killed during operations in northern provinces. Also, U.S. says 2 insurgents killed and 21 people detained in operations in various cities.


Other News of the Day

Iraqi VP Adel Abdul Mehdi meets in Amman with King Abdullah. Little of substance is announced publicly from the meeting. King Abdullah then flies to Kuwait to discuss Iraq and Palestine, also to hold out the tin cup.

Amman (DPA) - King Abdullah II of Jordan left Sunday for Kuwait for talks with Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah on latest efforts to push forward the Middle East peace process and the situation in Iraq, officials said.

The monarch is also expected to press for increasing Kuwaiti aid to the Hashemite Kingdom to help cope with a growing oil bill and an aggravating public budget deficit as a result of soaring crude prices on the world market.

Kuwait, along with Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, volunteered on the eve of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 to supply Jordan with its energy needs amounting to 100,000 barrels of crude per day. But the three oil-rich countries stopped their oil gift early in 2005.


A body called the Arab Interim Parliament, which was founded in late 2005 to represent all the Arab government and give advisory opinions on matters referred to it by the Arab League, condemns the U.S. Senate resolution calling for the partition of Iraq.

CAIRO, Sept 30 (KUNA) -- The Arab Interim Parliament (AIP) on Sunday warned of repercussions of the recent US Senate resolution to partition Iraq into Kurdish and Shiite and Sunnite entities.

AIP Chairman Mohammad Al-Saqr expressed in a statment strong condemnation of the "flagrant resolution that contradicts international laws and resolutions of the United Nations and the Arab League that have all affirmed territorial sanctity of Iraq. "Iraq has been united for thousands of years and only the Iraqis can take decisions regarding their domestic affairs." "This decision will pave way for further divisions, tension and violence in the region," Al-Saqr warned.

He appealed to Arab, foreign parliaments and international organizations to "confront this decision with firmness.


Iraq's Sunni VP Tariq al-Hashimi also joins the chorus of condemnation of the Senate resolution from within Iraq, although he fears it may become reality. No surprise, however, Kurdish leaders, who have long sought independence, welcome the resolution. (Thanks a lot Sen. Biden, this has really made things a lot easier. -- C) An overview from DPA:

Baghdad - Iraq's Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashimi rejected on Sunday a US Senate 'non-binding' resolution calling for the division of Iraq along ethnic lines. 'Time has come, though it may be too late, for Iraqis to reconsider their views, make decisions and stand behind a national plan that deepens common grounds; otherwise; this resolution will be their only option whether they like or not,' Al-Hashimi said. Al-Hashimi was speaking to journalists in Basra after his meetings with tribal chiefs.

The US Senate, last Wednesday, approved, with 75 votes for and 23 against, a draft resolution envisaging the division of Iraq into three Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni entities, with a federal government in Baghdad undertaking border security and the management of oil profits.

Al-Hashimi, who heads the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, said the resolution should not be underestimated although it was non-binding. 'Often countries are dismembered and peoples are divided by non- binding resolutions, pledges or statements made here and there,' al- Hashimi said.

The Senate resolution was rejected by many Iraqi politicians. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki described the US resolution as 'disastrous,' saying that Iraqis were eager to maintain unity, and that the US Congress should not interfere in Iraq's internal matters and its future.

Earlier, representatives of Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani called on political and religious groups not to respond to 'any project encompassing a division of Iraq on a sectarian or religious basis.'

In statements to the Middle East News Agency, Iraq's ambassador to the US, Samir al-Sumaidae, had dismissed the resolution as 'provocative,' adding that federalism did not mean division.

A preacher, Sheikh Abdul-Hadi al-Karbalaa, told hundreds of Shiite worshippers in a Friday sermon at Imam Hussein mosque in Karbala that the resolution would lead to more struggles and the spread of unrest even in some neighbouring countries.

Meanwhile, the Association of Muslim Scholars, the largest Sunni organization in Iraq, condemned the proposed resolution, labelling anyone who backed it 'a traitor of the nation and faith.'

'The Congress' suggestion for the establishment of federal entities under the pretext of halting sectarian violence is not shocking because it was one of the objectives behind the (US) invasion of Iraq,' the association's statement read.

However, despite the rejection of the resolution by Shiites and Sunnis, the spokesman of the Kurdish autonomous region said Saturday that his government welcomed the draft resolution. 'The decision is in harmony with the foundations of the Iraqi constitution,' a statement from the Kurdish regional government said.


And, a move is underway in the Iraqi parliament to legislate against the Senate resolution. Information from KUNA:

Eight Iraqi parliamentary blocs representing different ideological and political tendencies called Sunday for probing the recent act of the US Senate on splitting Iraq at an extraordinary parliament session.

The session has to reach a decision on preventing the implementation of the US act under any pretext, said a joint statement issued here by the eight political forces.
The forces are the Sadrist Trend, the Iraqi Accord Front, the United Iraqi Alliance, the National Dialogue Front, the Virtue Party, the Iraqi National List, the Turkmen Front and the Arab Front.

The statement, read at the premises of the Iraqi House of Representatives here by the Iraqi National List MP Ezzat Al-Shabanderi, reacted to the move sponsored by US Democrat senator Josef Baden [sic].

Baden followed an erroneous reading and impractical assessments of the current situation, the history and the future of Iraq, according to the statement. "His act constitutes a grave precedence that could define the nature of the future relationship between Iraq and the United States," it underlined. "The US Senate seems to be planning for a long-term occupation of Iraq. "The act runs counter to all rules and norms of the international relations and infringes on the rights of the Iraqi nation to self-determination. "The act, worse still, came at a time when the Iraqi sectarian violence was escalating and the Iraq national texture was dissolving," according to the statement.

The Iraqi parliamentary blocs called for holding an extraordinary session by the House of Representatives to work out a bill preventing any split of Iraq and revoking Baden's act, the statement added.


A shadowy group of wealthy conservatives, with close ties to the Bush administration, vows to raise $200 million to promote the Iraq war and confrontation with Iran. (I don't know about you, but I'm not remaining calm. -- C) Excerpt:

By Don Van Natta, Jr. The New York Times -- Freedom’s Watch, a deep-pocketed conservative group led by two former senior White House officials, made an audacious debut in late August when it began a $15 million advertising campaign designed to maintain Congressional support for President Bush’s troop increase in Iraq.

Founded this summer by a dozen wealthy conservatives, the nonprofit group is set apart from most advocacy groups by the immense wealth of its core group of benefactors, its intention to far outspend its rivals and its ambition to pursue a wide-ranging agenda. Its next target: Iran policy.

Next month, Freedom’s Watch will sponsor a private forum of 20 experts on radical Islam that is expected to make the case that Iran poses a direct threat to the security of the United States, according to several benefactors of the group.

snip

“If Hitler’s warnings were heeded when he wrote ‘Mein Kampf,’ he could have been stopped,” said Bradley Blakeman, 49, the president of Freedom’s Watch and a former deputy assistant to Mr. Bush. “Ahmadinejad is giving all the same kind of warning signs to us, and the region — he wants the destruction of the United States and the destruction of Israel.”

With a forceful message and a roster of wealthy benefactors, Freedom’s Watch has quickly emerged from the crowded field of nonprofit advocacy groups as a conservative answer to the nine-year-old liberal MoveOn.org, which vehemently opposes the Iraq war.

The idea for Freedom’s Watch was hatched in March at the winter meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Manalapan, Fla., where Vice President Dick Cheney was the keynote speaker, according to participants. Next week, the group is moving into a 10,000-square-foot office in the Chinatown section of Washington, with plans to employ as many as 50 people by early next year.

One benefactor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the group was hoping to raise as much as $200 million by November 2008. Raising big money “will be easy,” the benefactor said, adding that several of the founders each wrote a check for $1 million. Mr. Blakeman would not confirm or deny whether any donor gave $1 million, or more, to the organization.

Since the group is organized as a tax-exempt organization, it does not have to reveal its donors and it can not engage in certain types of partisan activities that directly support political candidates. It denies coordinating its activities with the White House, although many of its donors and organizers are well connected to the administration, including Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary.


UPDATE: After I published, Newsweek posted this story. They've done quite a bit of respectable reporting on Iraq lately. Newsweek is owned by the Washington Post, BTW. ABC, which published the falsehoods at the top of this posting, is owned by Disney. An extensive evidence file assembled by the Iraqi National Police after the controversial Blackwater shooting suggests that the private contractors opened fire unprovoked from the ground and the sky. Excerpt:

By Kevin Peraino Sept. 30, 2007 - Since the fatal Sept. 16 Blackwater shooting in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square, officials from the private security company have insisted that their guards were responding to fire from “armed enemies.” Yet an extensive evidence file put together by the Iraqi National Police and obtained by NEWSWEEK—including documents, maps, sworn witness statements, and police video footage—appears to contradict the contractors’ version of events. A confidential incident report, which has been provided by Iraqi National Police investigators to American military and civilian officials, concludes that the Blackwater vehicles “opened fire crazily and randomly, without any reason.”

A 9-minute police video made in the moments after the shooting shows helicopters similar to those used by Blackwater still hovering over the wreckage of charred, smoking and bullet-pocked cars. (For an edited clip of the video, click here.) The graphic images include footage of burned human remains, and show the street littered with brass bullet casings. They also show what appears to be a police officer waving a pistol at the scene; the footage was captured by a different police officer, who had run over from the nearby Iraqi National Police headquarters. (Portions of the video have been previously broadcast; it was recorded without sound.)

Iraqi National Police investigators also believe that Blackwater's helicopters fired on the cars from above, according to confidential police documents and interviews with senior police officials. A memo written on Sept. 17 by the lead Iraqi police investigator states that shortly after the shooting began, “helicopters opened fire from the air toward the cars and civilians.” Gen. Hussein Al-Awadi, the commander of the Iraqi National Police, told NEWSWEEK that the trajectory of some of the bullet wounds could only have been caused by fire from the air. “If anyone moved—whenever they saw someone leaving—either the convoy or the chopper shot him,” says Ali Kalaf Salman, an undercover Iraqi National Police officer who was working as a traffic cop at the scene.


In-Depth Reporting, Commentary and Analysis

The Whores of War. Neil Mackay of Scotland's Sunday Herald tells the repellent tale of Blackwater Security, which is owned by a billionaire "Christian" fundamentalist with close ties to the Bush administration. Excerpt:

The company, based near the Great Dismal Swamp in North Carolina, was co-founded by Erik Prince, a billionaire right-wing fundamentalist. At its HQ, Blackwater has trained more than 20,000 mercenaries to operate as freelancers in wars around the world. Prince is a big bankroller of the Republican Party - giving a total of around $275,550 - and was a young intern in the White House of George Bush Sr. Under George Bush Jr, Blackwater received lucrative no-bid contracts for work in Iraq, Afghanistan and New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. His firm has pulled down contracts worth at least $320 million in Iraq alone.

Jeremy Scahill, who wrote the book Blackwater: The Rise Of The World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, says when Bush was re-elected in 2004, one company boss sent this email to staff: "Bush Wins, Four More Years!! Hooyah!!"

One Blackwater employment policy is to hire ex-administration big-hitters into key positions. It hired Cofer Black, a former State Department co-ordinator for counter-terrorism and former head of the CIA's counter-terrorism centre, as vice-chairman. Robert Richer, a former CIA divisional head, joined Blackwater as vice-president of intelligence in 2005.

Scahill says the firm is "the front line in what the Bush administration views as the necessary revolution in military affairs" - privatisation of as many roles as possible. Senator John Warner, former head of the Senate armed services committee, once called Blackwater the "silent partner in the global war on terror".

Scahill went on to call Prince a "neo-crusader, a Christian supremacist, who has been given hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts this is a man who espouses Christian supremacy, and he has been allowed to create a private army to defend Christendom around the world. He refers to Blackwater as the FedEx of the Pentagon. He says if you really want a package to get somewhere, do you go with the postal service or do you go with FedEx? This is how these people view themselves."


Poli-Sci prof Janine Wedel decries the growing use of mercenaries on principle. Excerpt:

The Shadow Army

IF THERE is a quagmire in Iraq, it was created more than a decade ago when the United States instituted a flawed system governing the use of contractors to perform governmental functions. Now, despite Iraqi fury at Blackwater USA, some of whose employees are accused of fatally shooting Iraqis, Washington is so reliant on the firm that it dare not order it from the field.

The heavy dependence on private contractors in the military is relatively recent. In the Gulf War only 9,200 contractors supported 540,000 military personnel. The estimated 180,000 US-funded contractors now in Iraq (of which about 21,000 are Americans) outnumber the 160,000 US troops.

All too often this private army has been unmanageable and unaccountable, its interests dangerously divergent from those of the US and the Iraqi governments. The troubles exposed by the Blackwater debacle provide a glimpse into a much larger, systemic problem that pervades military, intelligence, and homeland security efforts alike.


Sami Moubayed in Al Hayat discusses the impact of Iraqi refugees on Syria. This is a major consequence of the invasion which we hear little about in the U.S. By the way, you may find the English language home page of this Lebanese newspape worth a bookmark. C Excerpt:

DAMASCUS - For the most part of nearly three decades, interaction between Syrians and Iraqis was minimal--to say the least--restricted to political fugitives from each country residing in Baghdad and Damascus. Anyone who is someone in Iraq today was a resident of the Syrian capital--Nouri al-Maliki, Jalal Talabani, Massoud al-Barzani, and Ibrahim al-Jaafari. But, neither country had an embassy in the other's capital, there were no formal visits, no cultural exchanges, and no telephone lines linking the two. Syrians wanting a travel permit would get the words "All Arab countries except Iraq" stamped on their passports. The same was done by authorities in Baghdad. Restrictions were briefly lifted in the late 1970s, when the two countries teamed up to oppose Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat's peace deal with Israel, and Iraqis poured into Syria for tourism, education and business.

Today, there are nearly 1.5 million Iraqis in Syria, but contrary to the case three decades ago, they are mostly refugees. They began arriving after the American invasion of March 2003 and are currently entering at a rate of 2000 a day. They now account for about 11% of Syria's 18 million residents. Syria-living up to its Arab nationalist history and convictions-is the only Arab country to allow Iraqis to come freely, obtain temporary residency permits, and own property on its territory.

Within Syria, the Iraqis have had a substantial impact. The affluent minority have caused real estate prices to skyrocket and contributed to growth of over 5%, but collectively the Iraqis have been a drain on the economy that has strained to provide them with basic services like clean drinking water, sanitation, medical care and education. Public schools in Syria are stretched to the limit--and so are government resources. Difficulties in obtaining proper school documentation from Iraq has resulted in many Iraqi students turning into school drop-outs in Syria, and resorting to odd jobs on the streets. Despite that, the Syrians have promised to try and accommodate 100,000 Iraqi children at state-run schools, in addition to the 40,000 Iraqi college students enrolled at Syrian universities.

The rising number of Iraqi prostitutes has led the government to make it difficult for Iraqi women aged 15-40 to enter Syria unless accompanied by a male relative. According to Hana Ibrahim, the founder of Women's Will (an Iraqi NGO), 50,000 Iraqi women have turned to the sex business around the Arab world due to the unbearable conditions of their lives as refugees. Crime-which is very low in Syria-has also risen in recent years in the wild and uncontrolled neighborhoods of the Iraqis, nicknamed Little Falluja.


Quote of the Day

I think it [the invasion of Iraq] was unquestionably worth doing, Charlie.

...

We needed to go over there, basically, um, and um, uh, take out a very big state right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble, and there was only one way to do it.

...


What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, um and basically saying, "Which part of this sentence don't you understand?"

You don't think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we're just gonna to let it grow?

Well Suck. On. This.

Okay.

That Charlie was what this war was about. We could've hit Saudi Arabia, it was part of that bubble. We coulda hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.


New York Times Middle East "expert" Thomas L. Friedman, May 30, 2003, via Atrios.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

News & Views 09/29/07

Photo: Iraqi men stand in front of three coffins during a funeral of victims after a U.S. air strike in the Sihha district in Dora southern Baghdad, Iraq, early Friday, Sept. 28, 2007. Iraqi police and witnesses said U.S. troops backed by helicopter gun ships raided an apartment building in a primarily Sunni neighborhood in southern Baghdad on killing at list 10 civilians and wounding 12. The U.S. military said it was checking into the report. (AP Photo/Loay Hameed)

To our Muslim readers: Ramadan Mubarak

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Security May Trump Ethnicity In Kirkuk

A staunch Arab nationalist, Ismail Hadidi once dreaded the possibility that his ethnically diverse city would be swallowed up by the neighboring semiautonomous Kurdish region and cut off from the Baghdad government. But the provincial councilman is also a practical man. And when he compares the chaos and violence in the Iraqi capital with the prosperity and peace next door in the three-province Kurdistan Regional Government area, teaming up with the Kurds doesn't seem like such a bad idea. He's even considering buying some property in the Kurdish enclave. "The people of Kirkuk were afraid of this," said Hadidi, a Sunni Arab tribal leader. "But given the situation, I believe most people will move toward being part of Kurdistan, because what the people want above all is security." Uncertainty clouds Iraq's future, but not so much here. The Kurdish region's exploding economic and political power has begun to shape northern Iraq's reality.

Leaving

Afrah talked about her kindness, Ghania would hide away her favorite foods for her or pick up clothes or trinkets from the market that reminded her of her daughter. Ghania is gone, killed at the back of a bus by what witnesses said were bullets from Blackwater security guards on Sept. 16 in Nisour square. While they protected Americans Iraqis died, witnesses said. No one has come to this tiny home in Hurriyah to ask this family what happened. No investigators from the Ministry of Interior or the U.S. Embassy or the joint U.S. and Iraqi commission. No one has asked them about compensation or what this has done to their family. Ghania died while she held her 27-year-old daughter in her arms in the back of a bus, protecting her from the bullets. Her family lives in a tiny two-bedroom home where instead of doors, sheets of cloth conceal the rooms from each other and the home from the street. Her poor husband can't think about anything but his loving wife. They spent 40 years together and at night when everyone has gone home he sees her in front of him. No one else can put up with his stubborn personality, she love him, she alone. He tries to stop his mind and goes to the street in the dead of night and chain-smokes. But his love and need for her has grown since her death. Nothing will be enough to compensate this 67-year-old for his loss. For Afrah, the image of her mother's body in the back of a pick up truck with two other bodies is engrained in her mind. She wakes up and sleeps with it in her mind. When her mother died she kissed her and turned to God, "We belong to God and we return to God," she prayed. But I see the pain in Afrah's tears.

Short Stories

I don’t know how to express my feelings when Leila my boss and I visited the man who lost his wife in the incident of Al Nosoor Square 13 days ago. I saw him fighting his tears and he didn’t allow them to run away from his eyes. I could feel the difficulty he faced when he was talking. I could feel that he wanted to choose the best words to show his love to the woman who lived almost 40 years with him. When my boss asked him about the love story that ended with their marriage, he was speechless and he told her addressing us all“its like your love and your love and your love”. I wished I can do something for him but I couldn’t. He asked m e for one thing. He said “you can bring me a copy for the newspaper that publishes my story, otherwise, I would feel that you cheated me”. I apologized and said that I cant do that because the agency I work for is in the USA but I promised him to bring him a copy fro the story from the internet. The man accepted both my apology and offer. Yesterday, I got a copy from the net and I went to his house. His son saw was out. I told him that I want to see his father. I saw the man. He looked even weaker than three days ago. He lost part of his life. The visit was very short. I said “well sir, I just want to give you this and I gave him the copy of the story. I saw sad smile on his face. A smile said “Thank you for bringing the story of the death of my love”


REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraq rejects call for federalism

Iraq's Shi'ite vice president yesterday rejected a US Senate resolution pushing the Baghdad government to give more control to Iraq's ethnically divided regions. He insisted federalism was an internal Iraqi matter. The Arab League also firmly rejected the US plan and lambasted Washington for destroying Iraq and turning it into the main base for Al Qaeda.

Iraq PM rejects U.S. Congress call for federalism

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Friday a U.S. Senate resolution calling for the creation of separate Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish federal regions in Iraq would be a disaster for his country.

59 Iraqi troops held in raid

Iraqi and U.S. special forces have arrested at least 59 army officers and enlisted men accused in killings, bombings and kidnappings in the latest case linking elements of the Iraqi army to sectarian militias and criminal gangs, authorities announced Wednesday. The U.S.-Iraqi raid Tuesday on the Defense Ministry's military academy in the east Baghdad neighborhood of Rustamiya provided the latest evidence of the Iraqi army's continuing struggle to weed out lawless elements. Authorities said the academic dean was the ringleader of a criminal gang on campus. The group was wanted in connection with killings, bombings and kidnappings, including the slaying two years ago of the school's director, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. The present director, kidnapped several weeks ago, was freed Tuesday. "The individuals detained had allegedly used security personnel to murder, kidnap and conduct attacks using improvised explosive devices and EFPs," or explosively formed penetrators, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner said.


REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Turkey, Iraq sign terrorism deal amid border row

Turkey and Iraq signed an anti-terrorism deal on Friday targeting Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq, but failed to agree on a plan that would have let Turkish troops chase militants across their shared border. Ankara claims the right under international law to send its troops across the mountainous frontier in "hot pursuit" of guerrillas of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), but Iraqi Kurds opposed any concession by Baghdad on this issue. "We could not reach agreement on the article concerning improvement of border security cooperation. Our negotiations on this issue will continue," Turkish Interior Minister Besir Atalay said after the signing ceremony. An estimated 3,000 PKK guerrillas use northern Iraq as a springboard from which to attack security and civilian targets inside Turkish territory.


HISTORY

Report Says Hussein Was Open To Exile Before 2003 Invasion

Less than a month before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein signaled that he was willing to go into exile as long as he could take with him $1 billion and information on weapons of mass destruction, according to a report of a Feb. 22, 2003, meeting between President Bush and his Spanish counterpart published by a Spanish newspaper yesterday. The meeting at Bush's Texas ranch was a planning session for a final diplomatic push at the United Nations. The White House was preparing to introduce a tough new Security Council resolution to pressure Hussein, but most council members saw it as a ploy to gain their authorization for war. Spain's prime minister at the time, Jose Maria Aznar, expressed hope that war might be avoided - or at least supported by a U.N. majority - and Bush said that outcome would be "the best solution for us" and "would also save us $50 billion," referring to the initial U.S. estimate of what the Iraq war would cost. But Bush made it clear in the meeting that he expected to "be in Baghdad at the end of March." "It's like Chinese water torture," he said of the U.N. negotiations. "We've got to put an end to it."

IRAQI REFUGEES

Senator Kennedy's Statement on the Passage of the Iraqi Refugee Amendment

Last night the Senate acted and stood up to help Iraqi refugees. I want to thank Senators Levin and Senators McCain for adopting my amendment, the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007, cosponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators: Senators Smith, Levin, Hagel, Biden, Brownback, Lieberman, Leahy, Snowe, Durbin, Voinovich, Feinstein, Collins, Obama, Dole, Menendez, Mikulski, and Clinton. The need is especially urgent for those whose work for the United States has put them in danger. Because they supported us, insurgents have repeatedly threatened to kill them. Many have lost their homes, their property, and their livelihoods. They face ongoing threats every single day. Some have fled the country and are waiting in refugee camps, and others are in hiding. All of them hope that the United States will not forget their sacrifices. Still others have tried to flee, only to be stopped at the border, trapped in a country that cannot protect them, abandoned by a country—our country—that they believed would set them free. Others continue their work, living in fear of the day that the insurgents punish them for working with Americans.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project

COMMENTARY

division after liberation

Four years ago the USA invaded Iraq on the pretext to liberate people of Iraq, at that time we believed them although we weren't occupied country but we were happy because we used to consider Saddam and his followers occupiers who exhausted Iraqi's fortunes to their own benefit and deprive Iraqi people from their rights. Now we realize that in spite of everything we were happier with our former occupier, at least we were a unified country, suffer as ONE body, live together and love each other. We weren't hearing of dividing or separating even though Kurdistan enjoyed autonomy but we knew that Kurdistan is an indivisible part of Iraq. No one dare to think of separating it.

Today the liberator plans to divide the country into three Petty Countries?. Why? Because they can't protect it as one piece, they must divide it to control it? I wonder how Saddam governed it as one piece. How we supported each other in sorrow and in joy? What happened now? What make us separate our neighborhoods from each other?? This Sunni neighborhood and this Shiite neighborhood.. These belong to Saudi and those belong to Iran - why?? We used to belong to Iraq all of us. Who will gain benefit from this division? Certainly not Iraqi people. Iraq today is occupied and divided country, occupied according to UN decision and divided according to US' decision. They took decision to divide Iraq into three areas Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd. I wondering - they liberated us ????? Or they bought us?????? Oh God if they bought us that mean we are slaves now. When they talk and decide as if Iraq is private property not sovereign state.

Quote of the day: The first step in a fascist movement is the combination under an energetic leader of a number of men who possess more than the average share of leisure, brutality, and stupidity. The next step is to fascinate fools and muzzle the intelligent, by emotional excitement on the one hand and terrorism on the other. (Bertrand Russell: Freedom, Harcourt Brace, 1940)

War News for Saturday, September 29, 2007

MNF-Iraq is reporting the death of a Task Force Lightning Soldier by enemy gunfire in Diyala province, Saturday, September, 29th, 2007.

MNF-Iraq is reporting the death of a Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldier in a small arms fire attack in a southern neighborhood of Baghdad on Saturday, September 29th., 2007.



Security incidents:


Baghdad:
#1: In central Baghdad, gunmen opened fire at an Iraqi checkpoint, killing one civilian and wounding four others, police said.

#2: The Iraqi army and gunmen clashed in Amin square in central Baghdad wounding four civilians, police said.

#3: U.S. forces killed one gunman and detained eight others on Saturday during operations across Iraq.

#4: A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed during a small arms fire attack while conducting combat operations in a southern section of the Iraqi capital Sept. 29.

#5: Gunmen opened fire targeting civilians in Mansour neighborhood west Baghdad around 2,00 pm killing a civilian and injuring another.

#6: A civilian was killed and 4 wounded when a mortar shell hit Abo Desheer neighborhood south Baghdad around 4,00 pm.

#7: 2 civilians were killed and 8 others wounded when an IED exploded targeting an American convoy in New Baghdad east Baghdad around 5,00 pm

#8: Police found 4 unidentified bodies in Baghdad today. All the bodies were found in Karkh, the western side of Baghdad in the following neighborhoods (1 body in Mansour, 1 body in Hurriyah, 1 body in Bayaa and 1 body Amil.)


Diyala Prv:
#1: A Task Force Lightning Soldier was killed by enemy gunfire in Diyala province, Saturday.


Jbela:
#1: Policemen defused several bombs in hand-held torches after one detonated wounding four people in Jbela, 65 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.


Hilla:
#1: Gunmen killed a man in southern Hilla on Friday, police said.

#2: Gunmen shot a member of the disbanded Ba'ath party on Friday south of Hilla, 100 km (62 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.


Diwaniya:
#1: A body was found with gunshot wounds on Friday in southern Diwaniya, 180 km (112 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

#2: The Multi-National Forces' Echo base was rocketed in the predominantly Shiite city of Diwaniya, a police source said on Saturday. "The Polish forces' Echo base was attacked, today at dawn, with 12 Katyusha rockets," the source, who asked not to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The source who could not say if there were casualties among the Polish soldiers added "Polish forces' helicopters flew over the area following the attack." This is the second attack on the base in as many days.

#3: A U.S. soldier was killed on Saturday when mortars fell near a vehicle patrol in Dalouiya, north of Baghdad, an Iraqi police source said. "A U.S. soldier was killed, this afternoon, when three mortar shells fell near a U.S. vehicle patrol near the police department in Dalouiya district," the source, who requested anonymity, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The source added "the U.S. forces fired back toward the nearby farms, setting some orchards ablaze." "A U.S. copter was seen landing near Dalouiya police department to remove the soldier's body," the source added.


Jurf al-Sakhar:
#1: Insurgents militants attacked Sunni Arab tribes working with U.S. forces on Friday in Jurf al-Sakhar, 85 km (53 miles) south of Baghdad, wounding six, police said.

The spokesman of Babil province police Capt. Mothanna Ahmed said that 6 members of the awakening council of the north of Babil province were injured when they were attacked by gunmen in Jurf Al Sakar area north of Babil today morning.


Samarra:
#1: Late Friday, the U.S. military handed over nine decomposing bodies to a hospital in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad, according to a police official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information. The young men were insurgents killed by U.S. forces, he said, adding that U.S. military officials told the hospital to expect at least 15 more bodies in the coming days. The U.S. military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Hawija:
#1: Hawija police chief's assistant died from wounds after roadside bomb targeted his patrol in Hawija, 70 km (43 miles) southwest of Kirkuk city, police said.


Mosul:
#1: Three Iraqi soldiers and three civilians died Saturday when a suicide truck bomber detonated his explosives as Iraqi forces chased the speeding vehicle near Mosul, an army officer said. Acting on a tip, a team of Iraqi soldiers tried to intercept the suicide driver as he was heading west from Mazra village toward Mosul..About 9 a.m., the soldiers fired on the pickup and thought they hit the driver, the officer said on condition of anonymity because he feared reprisal. But as the Iraqi Humvee neared the truck, the driver detonated his explosive payload. In addition to the six dead, 17 people near the blast were wounded.

#2: Also Saturday, drive-by gunmen killed a Sunni sheik near his home in Mosul's Mithaq neighborhood, said police spokesman Abdul Karim al-Jbouri. Sheik Ghanim Qassim was a mosque preacher and member of Mosul's edict commission, a religious rule-making body.

#3: Al-Jbouri also said a 50-year-old journalist visiting his brother in the Bab al-Baidh neighborhood in central Mosul was killed about 9:30 a.m. when he was caught in a mortar attack. Abdul-Khaliq Nasir, who worked for Um al-Rabyain, a local newspaper, until it ceased operations about six months ago because of security concerns

#4: "Unknown gunmen shot and killed Sheikh Azhar Ahmed Hussein, Imam of al-Sahabah mosque, in 17 Tammouz neighborhood, western Mosul," Brigadier Abdul Karim al-Juburi told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
#5: A half an hour later, an armed group attacked and killed Sheikh Salim Shit Mohammed, Imam of Mahmoud al-Sadeq mosque, in al-Tahrir neighborhood, southeastern Mosul, Brigadier al-Juburi also said.


Hamdaniya:
#1: A car bomb targeting a police patrol killed at least four policemen and wounded 16 civilians in Hamdaniya, 30 km (20 miles) east of the northern city of Mosul, police said.



Afghanistan:
#1: A suicide bomber wearing an Afghan army uniform set off a huge explosion Saturday while trying to board a military bus in the capital, killing 30 people, most of them soldiers, officials said. The Taliban claimed responsibility. The blast, which also injured 30 people

#2: Four Red Cross employees who had been kidnapped earlier this week were freed in good health Saturday, Afghan officials said

#3: An ISAF servicemember was killed today during combat operations in eastern Afghanistan.

Friday, September 28, 2007

War News for Friday, September 28, 2007

MNF-Iraq is reporting the death of a Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldier in a small arms fire attack in an eastern neighborhood of Baghdad on Tuesday, September 25th.

The DoD announced today the death of a sailor, Petty Officer Second Class Charles Luke Milam, 26, of Littleton, Colo., who died September 25, while conducting combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. We believe this is the same death reported by the Combined Joint Task Force-82 in an earlier announcement. Milam was a hospital corpsman assigned to 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Two Danish soldiers have been killed in southern Afghanistan following a Taliban attack on a Nato base on Wednesday, September 26th. The attack took place in the in the Upper Geresk Valley, Helmand province. The Danish Defence Ministry has confirmed and identified the deaths, previously announced by NATO-ISAF:
Private Mikkel Keil Søerensen, 24;
Private Thørbjoern Ole Reese, 22;
The two Danes, both from the Royal Life Guards, had been under a nominal British command. No further details are available at this time.

The DoD announced today the death of a soldier on Tuesday, September 25th. Pfc. Christopher F. Pfeifer, 21, of Spalding, Nebraska, died Sept. 25 in San Antonio, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire on August 17 near Kamu, Afghanistan. This is a new death, not previously reported. Pfeifer was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Schweinfurt, Germany.

The DoD announced today the death of a soldier on Wednesday, September 26th. Pfc. Mathew D. Taylor, 21, of Cameron Park, California, died September 26th in San Antonio of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle July 23rd in Sarobi District, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy. This is a new death, not previously reported.


Security incidents:

Baghdad:
#1: A US air raid has killed at least 10 people, including women and children, in a building in a mainly Sunni area of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said Friday. The raid targeted a building in the Al-Saha neighbourhood in southwestern Baghdad where families were sleeping, the Iraqi officials said. An official at Baghdad's Al-Yarmuk hospital said 13 people -- seven men, two women and four children -- were killed and 10 men and a women were wounded. He said all the casualties were civilians.

#2: A U.S. Apache helicopter came under "enemy" fire that forced the aircraft to land near a military base in southern Baghdad, the U.S. army said. "A Task Force Marne AH-64 Apache helicopter hit by small arms landed at a nearby Coalition base Sept. 26 south of Baghdad," the U.S. army said in a statement on Thursday received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "A team of two Apaches were responding to ground troops in contact with enemy forces when one was hit and conducted a hard landing after disrupting the attack," the statement read.

#3: Around 11 a.m. a mortar shell slammed in Al Ubaidi neighborhood. Two civilians were injured.

#4: Police found 9 unidentified dead bodies in the following neighborhoods in Baghdad: (6) were found in west Baghdad ( Karkh bank) ; 2 in Doura , 2 in Hurriyah , 1 in Bayaa and 1 in Amil. While (3) were found in east Baghdad ( Risafa bank) ; 2 in Sadr city and 1 in Ur.


Diyala Prv:
#1: four civilians were killed and nine others wounded when gunmen clad in Iraqi army uniforms opened fire on a cafe in the central Saadiya region of Diyala province. The gunmen managed to escape, the source added.

#2: The Iraqi army killed 30 suspected al Qaeda insurgents in a village southwest of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad. One of those killed was a foreign fighter and a large cache of weapons was discovered, an Iraqi officer said.


Khalis:
#1: Security forces found four unidentified bodies in al-Khalis district on Friday morning, an official security source from Diala said. "The four bodies, which were found in the neighborhood of Abu Tamr, al-Khalis district, (15 km) north of Baaquba, showed signs of having been shot in the head and other parts," the source, who declined to have his name mentioned, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq


Diwaniya:
#1: A roadside bomb wounded two civilians on Thursday in the town of Ifach, 33 km (20 miles) east of Diwaniya in southern Iraq, police said.

#2: A kidnapped policeman was found dead in the western section of the city of Diwaniya on Friday, a police source said. "An armed group kidnapped a policeman, called Nouras, from the Diwaniya police department while on his way back home in al-Nahda neighborhood and took him to unknown place," the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) on condition of anonymity. "After 30 minutes his body was found in a room in al-Askari neighborhood in western Diwaniya," he added.


Basra:
#1: The British base at Basra International Airport, 25 km northwest of the city, came under an attack with Katyusha rockets during the early hours of Friday, eyewitnesses said. "More than 10 Katyushas were fired in the direction of the British base at dawn on Friday," a witness from a residential compound in the airport environs told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq


Mosul:
#1: Gunmen killed a former Iraqi army officer near his home in central Mosul on Thursday, police said.

#2: A roadside bomb killed one man and wounded another in central Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, on Thursday. Police said the men may have been trying to plant the bomb when it detonated.

#3: Gunmen killed David Shamoun, a 28 Iraqi Christian worked with a Turkish company and a college student, in the market area in Qaraqush area southeast of Mosul yesterday. The deceased was shot 9 bullets before they fled the place.

#4: A truck bomb wounded 20 people and destroyed an overpass in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. A second car bomb nearby was detonated safely.


Kurdistan:
#1: Iranian forces resumed shelling several border villages in the Kurdish autonomous region, a Kurdish official source said Friday. A Kurdish official in Sulamyanyah, 350 kilometres north of Baghdad, said: 'The bombings, restarted Thursday, forced a large number of Kurds to leave their villages after they had returned to them when the bombings stopped lately.'


Al Anbar Prv:
#1: Policemen killed three insurgents and arrested two others who attacked a police patrol and killed one policeman in Ramadi, 110 km (70 miles) west of Baghdad, on Thursday, police said.



Afghanistan:
#1: A bomb blew up as a Pakistani security convoy was passing near a northwestern town on Friday killing one member of the force and wounding 19, police said. It was the lastest in a wave of attacks on the security forces by Islamist militants, most in the northwest of the country near the border with Afghanistan. The convoy was travelling from Wana, the main town in the South Waziristan region, and was passing through Tank in North West Frontier Province when the bomb blew up, police said.

#2: A roadside bombing killed five Afghans including two policemen in the southern Helmand province on Friday afternoon, a local official Abdul Manas said. The explosion occurred at a bazaar in Gereshk district when some policemen were passing by, said Manas, who is district chief. The killed were two policemen, two children and another civilian, he said, adding two other policemen were injured.

#3: A Macedonian citizen was among four Red Cross workers kidnapped by Taliban guerillas in Afghanistan, an official of the humanitarian organization confirmed to Balkan Insight on Friday.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

News & Views 09/27/07

Photo: A car at a traffic circle in central Baghdad where a shoot-out on Sept. 16, with private security company Blackwater, left 9 Iraqis dead and 15 injured. Hussein Kadhim/MCT

To our Muslim readers: Ramadan Mubarak

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Stress gnawing at mental health of Iraqis

He lost two sons to car bombs. She lost her husband to a death squad. Both are depressed, weepy, anxious, filled with rage and in denial. The mental scars of the war in Iraq run deep and jagged. Compounding the problem, says Dr. Shalan al-Abbudi, director of Baghdad's Ibn-Rushd psychiatric hospital, is the flight from the country of psychiatrists -- those best equipped to help shell-shocked Iraqis deal with their mental demons. "A year ago I had 14 psychiatrists, today I have four. They are all leaving Iraq," Abbudi told AFP in his small office in the hospital, crowded daily with outpatients desperate for relief from images of horror that haunt them often in the day, always at night. He and his ever diminishing team make sure every person who turns up at his hospital in Baghdad's central Karrada district gets help. "We get 80 to 100 patients a day," said the doctor, as the queue outside his door grew ever longer -- many women, fewer men, a handful of children. "When they arrive here, they are really desperate. They have first been to their local imams and spiritual guides, some even to charlatans. They come here as a last resort," said the doctor.

Assessing the Surge: A Survey of Baghdad Neighborhoods [From 09/06/07]

To study the ground-level effects of the American troop buildup, reporters and video journalists for The New York Times visited Baghdad's neighborhoods, interviewing residents, Americans on patrol and Iraqi officials. To explore the videos and written reports, select a neighborhood below.

IRAQ: Khitam Bahir, Iraq, “I no longer recognise my insurgent son”

“I no longer recognise my son since he turned into an insurgent. He used to be a very popular, easy-going and modern person but now he has changed completely. He has decided to fight US-troops, even if he is killed. I’m desperate because I didn’t raise my son to be a fighter. At home we gave him love and tenderness, good food, education, health care. His siblings always considered him the most lovely person in our family. He left home in November and is living with other fighters but I don’t know where. Sometimes he drops me a line, saying that he is happy and has helped in an attack. It just breaks my heart and makes me cry.”

Thousands of Iraqis paid to leave Kirkuk

Thousands of Iraqis have accepted financial compensation to leave the northern city of Kirkuk, which leaders of the autonomous Kurdish region are seeking to control, a minister said Thursday. Around 2,000 Arabs living there had agreed to return to their home provinces under an initiative launched by the committee in charge of overseeing relations in Kirkuk, Environment Minister Nermeen Othman said. "The supreme committee... finished approving 2,000 applications submitted by Arab residents in Kirkuk who want to receive compensation of 15,000 dollars to return to their original residence places," Othman said. According to Othman, herself a Kurd, a budget of 200 million dollars has been allocated by the Iraqi government to pay the compensation packages of those willing to leave the city.

Arvand-Rood pollution threatens Iraq

"The river is facing a very dangerous state of contamination, with sewage being drained directly into the Euphrates and Tigris, as well as industrial waste and products," said Malik Hassan, an official with the University of Basra. Pointing out that the lack of dredging operations had allowed the waste materials to become poisonous, Hassan said: "The corrosion of munitions and the interaction of industrial and microbial pollution from hospital waste are producing poisons which can be active for decades and get into peoples' bodies." "All this could increase cancer among the people who live nearby and who depend on the river for their lives. It could also lead to an increase in waterborne diseases such as cholera," added the official. "Now only 20 percent of the palm and other trees remain as most have been damaged by these waste materials. We have also seen a significant decrease in the number of fish," he noted.

Trucks must unload cargo before entering Iraq

Foreign trucks on way to cross Iraqi borders must unload their cargo before being loaded once again into Iraqi vehicles, according to a new government ruling. The decision makes it compulsory for custom officials and border guards at the country’s border crossings to force all incoming trucks to empty their cargo for inspection. “Through this measure we will be able to uncover the trucks hiding weapons, explosive and even humans,” said Lt. Gen. Muhsen Lazem, commander of Iraqi border forces. Lazem said the country’s crossings with its neighbors are being electronically monitored now and passengers finger-printed as they cross into Iraqi territory. The government blames the raging anti-U.S. insurgency on what it describes as ‘foreign fighters’ who reportedly sneak into the country for attacks and suicide bombings. Lazem said his troops have captured “a great number of forgers and people wanted by the authorities” particularly at the Waleed crossing with Syria.

Conducting a comeback: Baghdad's music makers play on

The many tragedies that have befallen Iraq in recent years include the wholesale destruction of much of its cultural heritage. But one plucky band of musicians has continued to play through the bloodshed and the bombs. Kim Sengupta meets the world's bravest symphony orchestra. A US Apache attack helicopter roared across the sky, flying low and fast. In the distance, there was the dull thud of an explosion followed by brief machine-gun fire. Everyday noises of Baghdad. Then, suddenly, from behind a flaking white wall, the sounds of a Chopin concerto floated up in the air. The people hurrying by in the street paused, momentarily, to listen as the notes faded away. The Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra was rehearsing for a series of concerts. It was one of the first times they had got together after the summer break, which had been an eventful time for some of the ensemble, two of whom had been kidnapped and two more had fled abroad. But the orchestra plays on, part of a reawakening of art and culture in Baghdad, faltering steps in a society imploding under brutality, intolerance and death. Formed in 1959, the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra was once one of the most renowned in the Middle East, able to recruit conductors and musicians from Europe, South America and the rest of Asia.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Sistani meets Iraqi vice president

Iraq's top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Sistani has met Sunni vice president to discuss a way for unifying rival political parties. Sistani met Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who heads the Sunni Islamic Party, in the holy Shia city of Najaf in southern Iraq where he lives. Hashemi stressed he had not asked Sistani to put pressure on any Shia group to return to the Iraqi cabinet, saying the purpose of the meeting had been to discuss the new initiative, known as the Iraqi National Compact. "The meeting was profound and many issues related to the political process were discussed," Hashemi told reporters after his meeting with the highly influential Shia cleric. "I briefed his eminence on the Iraqi National Compact and he informed me he had already seen a copy and read, analyzed and expressed his remarks on the initiative."

Sunni Insurgents in New Campaign to Kill Officials

Sunni Arab extremists have begun a systematic campaign to assassinate police chiefs, police officers, other Interior Ministry officials and tribal leaders throughout Iraq, staging at least 10 attacks in 48 hours. Eight policemen have been killed, among them the police chief of Baquba, the largest city in Diyala Province. Two other police chiefs survived attacks, though one was left in critical condition, and about 30 police officers were wounded, according to reports from local security officers. "We warned the government just a few days ago that there is a new plan by terrorist groups to target senior governmental officials, and particularly Interior Ministry officials," said Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal, the deputy interior minister for information and national investigations. The Interior Ministry is dominated by Shiites. One group, the Islamic State of Iraq, took responsibility on Tuesday for the attack in Diyala, which killed at least 18 people on Monday. The group has ties to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown extremist group whose leadership has foreign ties, according to American intelligence officials.

Iraq insurgents slam U.S. help in Anbar

An Iraqi insurgent group accused Iraqis who help the U.S. military of being criminals and bandits, referring to Sunni tribes fighting al-Qaida in the western Anbar province, according to a new video posted Wednesday. In the 105-minute documentary style video that shows masked members of the Sunni insurgent group Ansar al-Sunnah interviewing fighters in Ramadi, the militants lashed out at Sheik Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the leader of the effort in Anbar who was killed in a bombing Sept. 13. "The Americans did not find a more vicious villain. He is a bandit and a thief and they used him for this purpose," one of the insurgents said. Abu Risha died 10 days after he met with President Bush during a surprise visit the U.S. leader made to highlight the turnaround in Anbar. He headed the Anbar Salvation Council, also known as the Anbar Awakening - an alliance of clans that were backing the Iraqi government and U.S. forces. Al-Qaida front group the Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for Abu Risha's killing. Ansar al-Sunnah said it and other loyal Sunnis are the ones protecting the people in the Anbar province, not the "enemy."

The Occupation and its Three Successive Governments Stood Against the Interests of the Masses

We have gathered in Altahrir square which we want to turn it to a square for liberating Iraq from the occupiers and their agents. This sit-in is the beginning of the liberation which has to be by the progressive forces and not the sectarian militia and forces of terrorism. We are here in this square as we promised to protest the infamous Iraq petroleum law which is to be passed in dark rooms after it has been drafted by the planners of American monopolist companies who want to control our wealth which is the right of the deprived people and the right of the coming generations. Hussein Alshahristani, the Iraqi oil minister, the enemy of the Iraqi working class asked his government to lodge a legal case against us because we stood against donating the rights of the Iraqis to the occupiers, the enemies of people who brought for us the democracy of terrorism, militia and mercenaries and puppets, the democracy stained with blood has claimed the lives of over a million innocent Iraqis and four million refugees inside and outside the country.

Sunnis May Stop Work With U.S. in Diyala

A U.S. effort to recruit former Sunni insurgents north of Baghdad - considered crucial to expanding the fight against extremists - is in danger of collapse because the government has been unable or unwilling to accept the volunteers into Iraqi security forces. The potential breakdown in Diyala - described by U.S. and Iraqi officials in interviews this week - underscores the challenges of copying the military-militia alliances that uprooted al-Qaida in Iraq and other factions from strongholds in Iraq's western desert. It also could threaten some of the gains of the U.S.-led security crackdown in Baghdad and surrounding areas, including the important battleground of Diyala where al-Qaida in Iraq claims the capital Baqouba as its base. In Diyala, more than 2,200 former militants have renounced the terror network and teamed with U.S. soldiers. But American officials fear the volunteers could halt cooperation if the Iraqi government continues to deny them police jobs.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

U.S. Soldier: 'I Was Ordered to Murder Unarmed Iraqi'

He breaks down while testifying that his sergeant laughed after ordering him to kill a man with his hands held up. A U.S. soldier broke down in tears Thursday as he testified that he was ordered to shoot an unarmed Iraqi man, and that his sergeant laughed and told the trooper to finish the job as the man convulsed on the ground. The military reported, meanwhile, it had opened an investigation of the deaths of five women and four children killed earlier this week in a village south of Baghdad where American forces had carried out ground and air assaults. Sgt. Evan Vela's testimony came during the court-martial of Spc. Jorge G. Sandoval, of Laredo, Texas. Sandoval is on trial for allegedly killing Iraqis and trying to cover up the deaths by planting weapons at the scene. Vela, Sandoval and Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley of Candler, N.C., are all charged in the case.

State Dept. Intercedes in Blackwater Probe

The State Department has interceded in a congressional investigation of Blackwater USA, the private security firm accused of killing Iraqi civilians last week, ordering the company not to disclose information about its Iraq operations without approval from the Bush administration, according to documents revealed Tuesday. In a letter sent to a senior Blackwater executive Thursday, a State Department contracting official ordered the company "to make no disclosure of the documents or information" about its work in Iraq without permission. The letter and other documents were released Tuesday by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), whose House committee has launched wide-ranging investigations into contractor abuses and corruption in Iraq. The State Department order and other steps it has taken to limit congressional access to information have set up a confrontation between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Waxman, who has repeatedly accused the State Department of impeding his inquiries. In his own letter to Rice on Tuesday, Waxman called her department's latest efforts to withhold information from the committee "extraordinary" and "unusual." "Congress has the constitutional prerogative to examine the impacts of corruption within the Iraqi ministries and the activities of Blackwater," Waxman wrote. "You are wrong to interfere with the committee's inquiry."

Blackwater guards killed 16 as U.S. touted progress

On Sept. 9, the day before Army Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker told Congress that things were getting better, Batoul Mohammed Ali Hussein came to Baghdad for the day. A clerk in the Iraqi customs office in Diyala province, she was in the capital to drop off and pick up paperwork at the central office near busy al Khilani Square, not far from the fortified Green Zone, where top U.S. and Iraqi officials live and work. U.S. officials often pass through the square in heavily guarded convoys on their way to other parts of Baghdad. As Hussein walked out of the customs building, an embassy convoy of sport-utility vehicles drove through the intersection. Blackwater security guards, charged with protecting the diplomats, yelled at construction workers at an unfinished building to move back. Instead, the workers threw rocks. The guards, witnesses said, responded with gunfire, spraying the intersection with bullets. Hussein, who was on the opposite side of the street from the construction site, fell to the ground, shot in the leg. As she struggled to her feet and took a step, eyewitnesses said, a Blackwater security guard trained his weapon on her and shot her multiple times. She died on the spot, and the customs documents she'd held in her arms fluttered down the street.

Before the shooting stopped, four other people were killed in what would be the beginning of eight days of violence that Iraqi officials say bolster their argument that Blackwater should be banned from working in Iraq. During the ensuing week, as Crocker and Petraeus told Congress that the surge of more U.S. troops to Iraq was beginning to work and President Bush gave a televised address in which he said "ordinary life was beginning to return" to Baghdad, Blackwater security guards shot at least 43 people on crowded Baghdad streets. At least 16 of those people died.

Arab League official slashes U.S. Senate bill on separating Iraq

A senior official of the Arab League (AL) on Thursday slammed a non-binding bill passed Wednesday by U.S. Senate on dividing Iraq into sectarian and ethnic entities, Egypt's official MENA news agency reported. Ali al-Garoush, Director of the pan-Arab bloc's Arab Relations Department and an official in charge of the Iraqi file, called for confronting such subversive schemes firmly. The U.S. Senate passed a non-binding bill on Wednesday calling for limiting the power of Iraq's federal government and giving more control to Iraq's ethnically divided regions. The bill, passed with a vote of 75-23, advocates establishing apower-sharing agreement among ethnic factions similar to the one established in Bosnia in the 1990s, said U.S. media Wednesday. According to an earlier MENA report, the U.S. Senate bill proposes to separate Iraq into Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni entities, with a federal government in Baghdad in charge of border security and oil revenues. Garoush said he was astonished that the U.S. Senate managed to reach such a resolution, although it failed repeatedly to reach a resolution on supporting Iraq or even gradual withdrawal from Iraq. [Green Zone Government is (so far) silent on this issue. – dancewater]

'Classified' Iraq Corruption Report Posted Online

The State Department thinks the Iraqi government is larded with corrupt officials who protect their own at the expense of their country. But they don't want you to know they think that. Amid a clash with Congress over details on the problem of corruption in Iraq, the State Department classified a previously unclassified new report which details the pervasiveness of fraud, intimidation and misdirection within Iraqi ministries. However, the "Secret" stamp appears to have come down too late: a watchdog group obtained an early version of the report, stamped "Sensitive but Unclassified," and published it online. Iraqi officials' malfeasance undermines the legitimacy of the Iraqi government and hamstrings its anti-corruption efforts, according to the version of the State Department report posted by the Federation of American Scientists, the group which made the document public. "Currently, Iraq is not capable of even rudimentary enforcement of anti-corruption laws," it states.

Civilian deaths in Iraq air strike probed by U.S.

U.S. forces are investigating an air strike in southern Iraq this week which local police said killed five women and four children, a U.S. military statement said on Thursday. The U.S. attack took place on Tuesday in the village of Bahbahani, about 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad. A military spokeswoman said on Wednesday there had been two strikes targeting buildings "pointed out by locals in Bahbahani as al Qaeda in Iraq safe houses". Asked then about civilian casualties reported by local police, the spokeswoman said the U.S. military had no reports that civilians were killed. Thursday's statement said U.S. forces were "investigating the circumstances surrounding the deaths of nine civilians". It said U.S. forces had "conducted operations in the area using ground and air assets prior to the discovery of the bodies".

HISTORY

Bush threatened nations not backing Iraq war

US President George W. Bush threatened nations with retaliation if they did not vote for a UN resolution backing the Iraq war, according to a transcript published Wednesday of a conversation he had with former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar. In the transcript of a meeting on February 22, 2003 -- a month before the US-led invasion of Iraq -- published in the El Pais daily, Bush tells Aznar that nations like Mexico, Angola, Chile and Cameroon must know that the security of the United States is at stake. He says during the meeting on his ranch in Texas that Angola stood to lose financial aid while Chile could see a free trade agreement held up in the US Senate if they did not back the resolution, the left-wing paper said. The confidential transcript was prepared by Spain's ambassador to the United States at the time, Javier Ruperez, the paper said. Prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, Washington unsuccessfully lobbied the 15 members of the UN Security Council for a second resolution paving the way for military action against Iraq if Saddam Hussein failed to comply with demands to disarm. But during the meeting with Aznar, Bush made it clear the US would invade Iraq by the end of March 2003 whether or not there was a UN resolution to authorize it, El Pais reported. "We have to get rid of Saddam. There are two weeks left. In two weeks we will be ready militarily. We will be in Baghdad at the end of March," Bush said in the transcript which was translated into Spanish by the newspaper. Victory would come "without destruction", he added. The meeting between Aznar and Bush came just days aft

IRAQI REFUGEES

Refugees? What refugees?

In January, Sweden admitted 1,500 Iraqis, compared to 15 that entered the United States. In April, the respective numbers were 1,421 and 1; in May, 1,367 and 1; and in August 1,469 and 529. True, the Iraqis in Sweden are asylum-seekers, whereas those reaching these shores have refugee status conferred by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. But the numbers — representing the bulk of the Iraqis getting into a country of nine million and another of 300 million — are no less of an indictment for that. When Tobias Billstrom, the migration minister, says, “Yes, of course the United States should do more,” you can feel his indignation about to erupt like milk boiling over. He notes that given the huge population difference, Sweden’s intake of Iraqis “is the equivalent of the U.S. taking in about 500,000 refugees.” Of all the Iraq war scandals, America’s failure to do more for refugees, including thousands who put their lives at risk for the U.S., stands out for its moral bankruptcy. Last time I checked, Sweden did not invade Iraq. Its generosity shames President Bush’s fear-infused nation.

Syria morally responsible for Iraqi refugees-Iraq VP

A senior Iraqi official urged Damascus on Thursday to improve the lot of Iraqi refugees whose arrival in Syria has raised tensions between the two countries. "The refugees are the responsibility of the Iraqi government but they're also victims of regional and international circumstances everyone helped create," Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi said in Damascus. "Syria must guarantee their full rights as far as security, residency if possible, education, health and minimum living standards," Mahdi said after meeting his Syrian counterpart Farouq al-Shara. The refugee issue is a thorn in relations between Damascus and the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad. Syrian officials accused Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of ignoring the crisis during a recent visit to Syria. Syria opposed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that removed Saddam Hussein from power and brought sectarian tensions to the surface. [These ‘sectarian tensions’ were not just brought to the surface, there were many actions that the US took that promoted these sectarian tensions. – dancewater]

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project

Quote of the day: In Blackwater's only statement regarding the Sept. 16 incident, Anne Tyrell, the company's spokeswoman, denied that the dead were civilians. "The 'civilians' reportedly fired upon by Blackwater professionals were in fact armed enemies," she said in an e-mail, "and Blackwater personnel returned defensive fire." [One of the dead was an infant. This quote came from the article above. – dancewater]