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

Friday, February 29, 2008

News & Views 02/29/08

Photo: Iraqi Christians attend mass at a church in Mosul, 370 kms north of Baghdad in 2007. A Chaldean Catholic archbishop was kidnapped by gunmen in Iraq's restive northern city of Mosul on Friday after a shootout that killed his three companions, a local Iraqi army commander said. (AFP/File/Mujahed Mohammed)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Friday: 7 Iraqis Killed, 4 Wounded; Christian Archbishop Abducted

Thursday: 13 Iraqis, 5 Arabs Killed; 12 Iraqis Wounded

Iraq: a displacement crisis

Together with tens of thousands more displaced by ongoing military operations, and more than one million by the abuses of the former regime of Saddam Hussein, this leads to a total of nearly 1.9 million people currently estimated to be displaced within Iraq. In addition, some 2 million Iraqis fled to neighbouring countries as of March 2007. Four years after the toppling of the former regime, a new wave of violence and human rights abuses has left large numbers of people dead and caused mass population displacement at an unprecedented scale. Sectarian and generalised violence has been acute in mixed areas, particularly in Baghdad and neighbouring Diyala but other provinces have also been affected. Military operations are causing repeated displacement in Anbar province in the west.

IRAQ: Occupation Strangles Farmers

New plant diseases, attacks by occupation forces and escalating fuel prices are strangling farmers in Diyala province. Prior to the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003, farmers in Baquba, the capital city of Diyala province 40 km northeast of Baghdad, struggled with plant diseases they believed were caused by bombs dropped during the U.S.-led war against Iraq in 1991. Trees were infested with white fruit fly, aphids and plant louse, and there was a shortage of water for irrigation. The directorate-general of agriculture used helicopters to spread insecticide. After the invasion, the situation has worsened. Helicopter spraying seems unthinkable. "With helicopters large distances can be sprayed in one stroke," Aboud Ibrahim, a 55-year-old local farmer told IPS. "In the case of white fruit fly, when a farmer sprays the insecticide, the disease can move back to his farm again from the neighbouring farm within six hours. This is why simultaneous treatment of all farms is so efficient." Helicopters now mean something else. "Helicopters and fighters of the coalition forces attack farmers who work at night on their farms," said a local farmer who did not want to be named. "Due to the water quotas, farmers are forced to water their farms even at night. Some farmers have been shot in firing by coalition forces. Farmers would rather neglect their farms than risk death."

Nine Million Visitors Flock to Karbala

"The number of people who visited Karbala has touched nine million," Major General Raed Shakir Jawdat said. Akhil al-Khazali, the governor of Karbala, said it was a "record" turnout. Around 50,000 Iraqi policemen and soldiers have been deployed in and around Karbala to thwart any possible insurgent attacks as throngs of visitors converge. "The security plan put in place has worked the way we expected," said Jawdat.

Gunmen kidnap Iraqi Chaldean Catholic archbishop

Gunmen kidnapped the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul on Friday in the northern Iraqi city and killed his driver and two guards, police said. In Rome, Pope Benedict deplored the kidnapping of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho as a "despicable" crime and urged the gunmen to free the prelate. Provincial police spokesman Brigadier-General Khaled Abdul Sattar said Rahho was kidnapped in the al-Nour district in eastern Mosul when he left a church.

From Missing Links blog:

Haroun Muhammad, in his regular op-ed in Al-Quds al-Arabi, says the Ahmedinejad visit to Baghdad really puts the cap on a strategy of collaboration between America and Iran with respect to controlling Iraq. He cites the fact that the Americans continue, in their day-to-day activities, to regard the Iran-oriented Shiite parties as their natural allies; he reviews statements of Wayne White and others to the effect the Americans deliberately opened the Iran-Iraq border following the 2003 invasion; and he talks about covert Iranian activities since then targeting in particular those who fought in the Iran-Iraq war; and so on.

Iraqis react
Reflections on the decision to execute 'Chemical Ali'

- He deserves to be punished, but I think people are more concerned with getting better basic services, than who is going to be the next dead body.

- He did a bad thing but he was a human being as well. So let's hope it's handled better than the way they executed Saddam Hussein, that was very bad.

- I am against the death penalty. This man is a criminal - even before Anfal - and he should pay for what he did. But whether he's executed or not, I don't think it will make much difference. The sort of hatred that led him to do what he did still exists. There are still people who believe in exterminating others for ethnic or religious reasons.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Local police units stop work in key Iraqi province

Thousands of members of neighborhood police units have stopped work in one of Iraq's most dangerous provinces, Iraqi and U.S. military officials said on Friday. The mainly Sunni Arab units, widely known as concerned local citizens, or "CLCs," said they had disbanded altogether which would represent a major blow to U.S. and Iraqi efforts to pacify Diyala province. Violence across Iraq is down 60 percent since June, due mainly to an extra 30,000 U.S. troops and the growth of the CLC units, which sprang up in western Anbar province in late 2006. The U.S. military said the units in ethnically and religiously mixed Diyala had stopped work over pay and a disagreement with the provincial police chief.

IRAQ: Tensions Rise Between Sahwa and Govt Forces

U.S. backed Sahwa forces threaten to destabilise U.S.-backed Iraqi government forces in Iraq's volatile Diyala province. The 'Awakening Councils', known locally as the Sahwa, have left their centres in cities and districts around the capital of Diyala province, located 40 km northeast of Baghdad. After seeing better security and stability brought about by the Sahwa, most of whom are former resistance fighters, residents are concerned what their absence will now mean. The Sahwa are protesting against kidnappings, rape, and killing of Sunnis by the Shia-controlled police in Baquba. On the other hand, Shia politicians of Diyala, like those in Baghdad, have always shown their resentment against the fighters of the Sahwa. They often accuse the fighters of being "terrorists". Many residents see this as more of the sectarian view of the predominantly Shia government of Baghdad that does not want to share power with Sunni groups. According to the U.S. military, 82 percent of the 80,000-strong Sahwa are Sunni.

'Chemical Ali' Execution OK'd in Iraq

Iraq's presidential council has endorsed the execution within a month of Saddam Hussein's cousin, known as "Chemical Ali," for his role in the 1980s scorched-earth campaign against Kurds, officials said Friday. But it spared the life of two other officials amid Sunni protests that they were only following orders. The approval by Iraq's President Jalal Talabani and two vice presidents was the final step clearing the way for Ali Hassan al-Majid's execution by hanging. It could now be carried out at any time, a government adviser and a prosecutor said. Al-Majid was one of three former Saddam officials sentenced to death in June after being convicted by an Iraqi court of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for their part in the Operation Anfal crackdown that killed nearly 200,000 Kurdish civilians and guerrillas.

Iraqi president welcomes Turkish withdrawal from northern Iraq

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on Friday welcomed Turkey's decision to withdraw from northern Iraq, noting that the decision asserts the Turkish government's credibility. "The pullout underlines the correctness of the self-control policy in dealing with the recent crisis," Talabani said in a statement received by Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq (VOI). "President Talabani looks forward to accept the invitation of Turkish Abdullah Gul to visit Turkey to discuss means of boosting bilateral relations in political, economic, cultural and security fields for the good of the two people," read the statement.

Where Are You?

The country, still largely controlled and secured by the United States. is largely ignored by their Arab counterparts. Ahmadinejad will be the first regional head of state to visit Iraq. Abdul Kareem al Samarai, a Sunni cleric, had this to say during his Friday sermon. "I have a message to the Arab leaders, where are you? Where are your ambassadors?" he asked.

Iraq urges Iranian firms to help ‘modernize’ Baghdad

Baghdad Mayor Saber al-Aisawi has asked Iranian firms’ help to upgrade level of municipal services in the capital. The mayor has signed a joint agreement with Tehran under which Iranian firms are to start developing the city, home to more than six million people. Iranian firms are to enter into joint cooperation deals with Iraqi counterparts “to construct roads, bridges, tunnels and help with garbage collection,” said Aisawi. The deal is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars. Tehran Mayor Mohammed Baqer was in Baghdad last week and has promised to send in teams of engineers and technicians to reconstruct the war-torn capital.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Turkish Military Officials Say Some Troops Leaving Northern Iraq

The Turkish military says all its troops have withdrawn from northern Iraq after a weeklong assault on Kurdish rebels. In a statement, the military claimed its Iraq operation targeted some 300 rebels and killed 240 of them. As Dorian Jones reports for the VOA from Istanbul, in the last few days international pressure, especially from the United States, has been increasing on Turkey to end the operation. …. The withdrawal comes after international pressure increased on Turkey to end the incursion. On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met with Turkey's political leadership and called for an early end to the operation.

US: PKK Must Still be Dealt With

The White House on Friday called Turkey's just-completed ground incursion in Iraq "targeted and relatively short" but warned of possible future strikes against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. "There is one thing that remains clear, and that is the United States, Turkey, and Iraq all will continue to view the PKK as a terrorist organization that needs to be dealt with," said spokesman Gordon Johndroe. His comments came after Turkey pulled troops out of Iraq after a campaign, launched late on February 21, against the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said: "We welcome this move. We have always maintained that there are other ways to end PKK terrorism."

US wary of Iran's growing activity in Iraq

U.S. military officials are voicing increasing concern that Iranian-backed Shiite militants are stepping up their activities in Iraq, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prepares to make a historic visit to Baghdad that is expected to reinforce Iran's expanding influence. The U.S. military refers to the shadowy, cell-like structures operated by Shiite extremists as Special Groups and says their precise relationship with Iran's government isn't clear. The U.S. military is certain, however, that they receive arms, training and funding from the Quds Force, the elite and secretive foreign-operations wing of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps. "We don't assess necessarily that the central government of Iran is behind this but we are certain there are elements, including the Quds Force, who continue to train, finance and equip these people," said senior military spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith. [Americans have said so much over the last six years that has been proven false time and time again. – dancewater]

UK hostage families plead with Iraqi kidnappers

The families of five British men held hostage in Iraq since last May pleaded with their kidnappers on Friday to release them. The Britons -- a computer instructor and his four bodyguards -- were seized by a Shi'ite militant group from inside an Iraqi Finance Ministry building in a raid in Baghdad. In a televised appeal to the kidnappers, the stepmother of hostage Peter Moore said: "Please, show the world your true humanity and let our loved ones go."

Iraq Rewards Trump Risks for Job Seekers

Must be willing to relocate to Iraq. For many around the world, that is the sound of opportunity knocking. The war in Iraq - nearing the fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion - has focused attention on some modern twists to life in the field, from soldier-bloggers to base coffee shops serving up lattes. But few are as profound as the rise in military outsourcing.

Despite Antiwar Rhetoric, Clinton-Obama Plans Would Keep US Mercenaries, Troops in Iraq for Years to Come

Jeremy Scahill reports Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama will not “rule out” using private military companies like Blackwater Worldwide in Iraq. Obama also has no plans to sign on to legislation that seeks to ban the use of these forces in US war zones by January 2009. Despite their antiwar rhetoric, both Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton have adopted the congressional Democratic position that would leave open the option of keeping tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq for many years.

Egypt to strengthen relations with Iraq

The Egyptian foreign minister said his country will send a team to Baghdad to examine the possibility of resuming official diplomatic relations with Iraq. Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said Egypt intends to re-establish diplomatic offices in Baghdad, the Egyptian Middle East News Agency said Thursday. Egypt pulled back its diplomatic presence in Iraq when its diplomat in Baghdad, Ihab el-Sherif, was killed in 2005. "Egypt will soon send a security delegation to Baghdad to explore the security, organizational and administrative requirements needed for the resumption of an official Egyptian diplomatic presence in Iraq," MENA reported the minister saying.

COMMENTARY

It is McCain Who Is Naive on Iraq

For all the talk of Sen. Barack Obama's delicate treatment by the news media and his airy rhetoric, it is Sen. John McCain who is getting the free pass on Iraq. It isn't just McCain's "I will not surrender" stump line or his relentless support for the surge and its success. It is McCain's promise of "victory" in Iraq -- military victory -- that goes without examination. I've said before that whether Obama will be able to withdraw troops as president depends on his "convincing" the national security establishment and the military leadership of the wisdom of his vision, and that the benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks. The timetable will be governed by logistical reality and the degree of risk Obama is willing to assume. McCain, on the other hand, is promising something that many in the military doubt is possible. More important, he is asserting that the United States can deliver something in Iraq -- that is, surrender on the part of the terrorists -- that is completely outside of its power. Victory is dependent on what the Iraqi government and the Iraqis themselves do.

Eeenee Meenee Mynee Mo...

And so the point Im making is, if YOU don’t know about MY country’s politics, why SHOULD I, be interested in yours? I only said that to get on his nerves and make him regret talking to me in the first place. Well, no, no, you should care, he said. I shook my head, look, be it Obama, McCain, or Clinton, they are ALL the same for me. Be it a black man, a white woman, or a yellow transvestite, I don’t care. I honestly don’t cuz at the end of the day, none of them can fix whats broken. And Iraq IS broken. If they pull the troops, we are doomed, if they keep the troops we are doomed. Solution is not in their hands anymore. It used to be one day, but they missed that train. They either missed the train, or they skipped the train, Im still debating that with myself.

The solution is with none other than the Iraqis themselves. Surge or no surge, it stopped making a difference. Kinda like making chocolate mouse. Key ingredient is using COLD CREAM. If you use room temperature cream instead, no matter how much you beat it, it will never end up as fluffy as the cold cream, hence you end up with something other than mousse, more like a pudding. So no, Im not gonna lose any sleep over the elections. He sipped his green bean coffee, shook his head and walked away. Yaaaaaaaay, finally... And by the way that’s not just MY opinion, ask any “ordinary” Iraqi working with me about the US elections, they will simply tell you they don’t really care. All they want is for their Iraq to become whole again. Bush Senior, messed us up. Bill Clinton, messed us up. Bush Junior F’ed us up. I wander whose turn is it next. Eenee Meenee Mynee Mo…

Audio: The Three Trillion Dollar War

One week after President Bush rejected charges the war in Iraq has hurt the US economy, a new book puts a conservative estimate of the war’s cost at $3 trillion so far. In their first national broadcast interview upon their book’s publication, Nobel laureate and former chief World Bank economist, Joseph Stiglitz, and co-author Linda Bilmes of Harvard University say the Bush administration has repeatedly low-balled the cost of the war—and even kept a second set of records hidden from the American public.

Quote of the day: We may be a nation that goes shopping after the terrorists strike, we may have more to fear from obesity than Osama bin Laden, but suddenly it’s an election year and we, or at least the media, are preoccupied with threats to our security that have the complexity of comic-book bad guys. – Robert Koehler

War News for Friday, February 29, 2008

Baghdad:
#1: Around 7:40 a.m., a roadside bomb targeted a police commando’s patrol at the Meshtal intersection near New Baghdad neighborhood (east Baghdad).Two policemen were injured in that incident.

#2: Police found two dead bodies in Baghdad. One was found in Dora in southern Baghdad(Karkh bank)while the second one was found in Utafiyah in northern Baghdad(Risafa bank).


Diyala Prv:
#1: Thousands of members of neighbourhood police units have stopped work in one of Iraq's most dangerous provinces, Iraqi and U.S. military officials said on Friday. The mainly Sunni Arab units, widely known as concerned local citizens, or "CLCs", said they had disbanded altogether which would represent a major blow to U.S. and Iraqi efforts to pacify Diyala province.

#2: Around 10 a.m., a bomb house exploded when the Iraqi army raided it at Abu Khamees village (10 km south of Baquba) .One Iraqi soldier was killed in that explosion.

#3: The Iraqi army found two dead bodies of two former Iraqi officers in Al-Guba village (6km north of Baquba).

Baquba:
#1: The commander of the popular committees in Diala province survived an attempt on his life in central Baaquba district on Friday morning, an official source said. "An armed group attacked on Friday a headquarters of the popular committees in al-Tahrir neighborhood, central Baaquba, targeting commander Sabah Bashir, who survived unscathed," the source, who did not want to be named, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq

#2: An Iraqi army soldier was injured on Friday during a security operation in south of Baaquba, an official security source said. "A force from the 5th division of the Iraqi army waged a crackdown operation in Abu Khamis village in Bahraz district, south of Baaquba," the source, requested anonymity, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq (VOI). "The forces came under armed group fire attack, during which one soldier was wounded," he added.


Kut:
#1: Two bodies were salvaged from the Tigris River in north of Kut, a police source said on Friday."Policemen salvaged two bodies from the Tigris River," Captain Saleh al-Ubeidi told Aswat al-Iraq – voices of Iraq


Hawija:
#1: In the morning, police found Ahmed Khalaf’s body, the Hawija council member, who was kidnapped few days ago by gunmen .Police arrested four suspected to be involved in that kidnap and murder.


Kirkuk:
#1: In the morning, police found a female dead body whose name is Sameea Sofi near the Zab Bridge (west of Kirkukk).


Mosul:
#1: Gunmen kidnapped the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul on Friday from the northern Iraqi city and killed his driver and two companions, police said. "He was kidnapped in the al-Nour district in eastern Mosul when he left a church. Gunmen opened fire on the car, killed the other three and kidnapped the archbishop," a Mosul police official said.

#2: A man and his son were killed in a roadside bomb explosion in Mosul on Friday, the official spokesman for the Ninewa operations said. "An improvised explosive device went off targeting a U.S. vehicle patrol near al-Dhubat district, eastern Mosul, killing a passing man and his 11-year-old son," Brig. Khalid Abdul Sattar told Aswat al-Iraq-Voices of Iraq

#3: Police patrols found two bodies of a prosecutor and a lawyer handcuffed and riddled with bullets in Al-Qahira district, northern Mosul." Brig. Khalid Abdul Sattar told Aswat al-Iraq-Voices of Iraq (VOI).The security official identified "the prosecutor as Abd Jassim Hanash al-Janabi and the lawyer as Hamad Sultan al-Louizi". "They were abducted by unknown gunmen near al-Maaridh area, eastern Mosul, on Friday morning", he added.


Kurdistan:
General Staff said in a statement Turkish troops involved in the ground operation against PKK in northern Iraq has returned their bases at home after the "reaching all the initial goals".

#1: Zebari told Turkey’s CNN-Turk television that Turkish soldiers started withdrawing from northern Iraq early Friday. "All the Turkish troops have withdrawn and gone back to the Turkish side of the international border. We welcome this, we think this is the right thing for Turkey to do," he said. Reuters reported that Turkish troops have fully withdrawn from the key Zap valley of northern Iraq where they have been battling PKK separatists, citing a Turkish military source. TV channels and agencies report different news about the issue. Some says there is a limited portion and the troops who have completed their missions have returned home, while the other reports indicate a full withdrawal of Turkish soldiers. The troops have already begun returning home and many empty military vehicles were seen passing through the Turkish border town of Cukurca, heading towards northern Iraq.

A senior Turkish military source said some troops had returned to bases in Turkey after completing their mission against Kurdish PKK rebels, but that no full withdrawal had begun. A US official in Baghdad also said some troops had left, but that it was too early to call it a withdrawal.

#2: Turkish warplanes bombed positions of the separatists PKK in northern Iraq overnight, but the situation was quiet on the ground Friday morning

#3: it added. NTV also said the operation in a key base of PKK in Zap valley has ended and troops were returned home.



Afghanistan:
#1: Taliban militants blew up a telecom tower in southern Afghanistan on Friday following a warning to phone companies to shut down the towers at night or face attack. Insurgents carried out the threat, destroying a tower along the main highway in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, said Niaz Mohammad Serhadi, the top government official in Zhari.

#2: A roadside bomb blew up a Pakistani police vehicle in a northwestern town on Friday killing three people including a senior officer, police said. "The device targeted the police van, killing three people and critically wounding two," said Hamza Mehsud chief of police in Bannu district in the North West Frontier Province.


On the home front:
#1: A U.S. Marine who had been arrested over an alleged rape of a teenage girl in southern Japan has been released, Kyodo News agency reported. Staff Sgt. Tyrone Luther Hadnott, 38, was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old girl on the southern island of Okinawa, triggering a nationwide furor over American troop-related crimes in Japan. Public broadcaster NHK said Hadnott was released after the girl's family dropped her criminal complaint against him. Police said that Hadnott admitted to investigators that he forced the girl down and kissed her, but that he denied raping her.

#2: A former SAS soldier has been served with a High Court order after making claims about the UK's involvement in the rendition of hundreds of Iraqis and Afghanistan captured by US and British special forces, it was reported Friday. According to the Guardian newspaper, Ben Griffin has been gagged with the threat of jail if he makes further disclosures about how people were allegedly seized and tortured and ended up in secret prisons in breach of the Geneva conventions and international law. It comes after Griffin, who left the British Army in protest after serving in Iraq, accused the UK government of being "deeply involved" in the process, in which US forces have transported terror suspects for interrogation, since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.


Casualty Reports:

Lance Corporal Robert Reid was on patrol in an armoured vehicle with three colleagues near their base in Basra when it came under attack and has been left blind in one eye following a roadside bomb attack in southern Iraq. The 24-year-old, of Galashiels, Selkirkshire, suffered multiple injuries in the ensuing gun battle.

A recreational dodgeball game turned serious at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan, when an airman suffered a heart attack. Airman 1st Class James Garrett, 19, collapsed Monday during the game. Doctors at Manas found that Garrett showed signs of sudden cardiac arrest, but he was stabilized. Garrett was flown to Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center, Germany, on Tuesday for further care.

Capt Nick Binnington, 30, suffered a horrific leg wounds from a Taliban ambush attack after it was revealed a rocket propelled grenade attack in occupied Afghanistan had left him on the emergency operating table with a shard of metal lodged in his right thigh. He was deployed in Afghanistan for six months last year as a forward air controller guiding in all allied airpower. He was injured in a Taliban ambush north east of Garesh and had to be flown back to the UK to be operated on.

Victoria Scuola-Brandt, 56, was injured during mortar attacks in Balad, Iraq. But the disabled veteran said she is constantly reliving the shelling in her mind and thinks often about her military brothers and sisters still serving in Iraq. For Scuola-Brandt the mortar attack in January 2006 remains a vivid nightmare. At the time, she was a first sergeant with the Army Reserve and was working in an area that was attacked about five times a day. "I was running for cover, and I injured my feet," she recalled. She said what affected her more was seeing a fellow first sergeant go blind. Scuola-Brandt was flown to Landstuhl, Germany, and then to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. She eventually was sent to Fort Bliss, Texas, where she received a medical discharge on Oct. 25, 2006.

Spc. Chuck Naylor, 22, was in an Afghanistan hospital, his ears still ringing from an explosion that hit his convoy of South Glens Falls, were injured when a suicide bomber destroyed a truck. It was unclear Thursday if the men were in the truck at the time. The force of the blast knocked the men to the ground, giving Naylor a concussion.

Sgt. Jeff Dorvee, 25, both of South Glens Falls, were injured when a suicide bomber destroyed a truck. It was unclear Thursday if the men were in the truck at the time. The force of the blast knocked the men to the ground. Dorvee lost hearing in his right ear. It was not known Thursday if the damage is permanent.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

News & Views 02/28/08

Photo: Shiites chanted anti-American slogans in Sadr City on Friday. (Shehad Ahmed/European Pressphoto Agency) [No date given for this photo. – dancewater]

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Thursday: 7 Iraqis, 5 Arabs Killed; 10 Iraqis Wounded

Wednesday: 18 Iraqis Killed, 16 Wounded

US Troops Kill Iraqi Man With Broken Arm

Hundreds of journalists see off chief

Hundreds of Iraqi journalists paid their respects to the head of the press syndicate Shihab al-Temimi from the syndicate’s building in al-Wazieriya neighborhood in central Baghdad.

Audio: Poorest in Iraq Unable to Seek Refuge Listen Now

Sectarian violence has forced millions of Iraqis from their homes. An estimated 2.5 million cannot afford to cross the border and flee from one troubled region to the next. Aid workers say the internally displaced are not getting the help they desperately need.

Falluja women, painful stories of struggle

The number of women in Falluja that were widowed after 2003 is at least 5000. These figures imply that since April 2003 until February 2008, 86 women a month (almost 3 women a day) were widowed, according to a recent survey conducted by the Employment Center in the city in coordination with Falluja’s City Council. "My husband was a taxi driver, and due to an IED explosion, he lost his two legs, and his car was totally devastated; thus we lost all our sources of living in that incident," Um Waleed told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI), adding "It was my turn to be responsible for my family's living; the situation was rigid, but I did not step aside watching. In addition to having four kids going to school, I joined afternoon classes at the Falluja Education Institute where I earned the degree that enabled me to work as a school teacher."

…..From his side, Ali Ghazal, head of follow-up and coordination department at Al-Kher Charity Association in Falluja, told VOI "After the occupation, battles and violence created a vast amount of widowed women that live in the city under very bad conditions," adding "for this reason, we formed Al-Kher Charity Association to provide any possible assistance to widowed women in Falluja. Our role does not exceed delivering and distributing aids, such as foodstuff, clothes, and others, supplied by other humanitarian organizations to widowed women in Falluja."

Video: This Is Baghdad

We started at the top, taking in the view from some of the highest rooftops in the city. Baghdad sprawls over so many miles, and the Tigris River flows so crookedly, it’s quite difficult for a newcomer to get oriented. After the rooftop vistas, we chatted with people in a variety of neighborhoods. Almost all were friendly and willing to talk on camera.

‘Not Again’: Fleeing My Home

The American invasion came as a last chance to start again, even if late. But as they say, better late than never. I thought we could compensate for the lost decade of our lives. But all the dreams were shattered again when we had to leave our home in north Baghdad earlier this year. While I was driving out I was crying inside. I left my room, my library, books that I had bought through the years. This collection was so dear to me. I left my videotapes, hundreds of selected movies, home movies, even documentaries and news from TV bulletins of major events that I was keen on taping as an archive. The family photos were still there in their frames on the tables when we left, I took a glance at them and went out. A turmoil of mixed feelings of relief and deep anguish was burning inside. I knew my mother was feeling the same. I looked in my mother’s face, and saw the same look, the same frustration, and the same tears. My father had died a year ago, and my mother was older and lonely, her ability to fight destiny was less than before.

Seven million Shiites commemorate Imam Hussein killing

Dressed in black and green stripes and carrying colourful banners, at least seven million Shiite Muslims, including the Iraqi vice president, commemorated Thursday the killing of Imam Hussein, the grandson of prophet Mohammed, in the southern city of Karbala, Iraqi officials and media reports said. Millions of Iraqi Shiites along with at least 60,000 Shiite pilgrims from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Lebanon, Pakistan, India and Iran carried food and water and walked for hundreds of kilometres to Karbala, following centuries-old rituals, in the hope that walking would earn them more rewards and blessings from God.

Success

When he said it, our Iraqi staff chuckled. Yes the unidentified bodies in Baghdad have dropped, but violence has crept back up slightly, this month and the last, in the capital. The first day of February at least 99 people died in coordinated bombings here and when Shiites walked to Karbala, at least 40 died in a bombing at a roadside tent that offered refreshments to the pious walking to Karbala. One of our Shiite Iraqi staffers asked if Maliki would go to Adil, a restive Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad where Sunni insurgents still operate and Shiites know they are not welcome. Maybe he can check out Hurriyah where Sunni residents have not returned. They were run out of the neighborhood in 2006 and some men were burned alive. Maybe he can ask the more than 88,000 mostly Sunni contractors that work with the U.S. to fight Al Qaida how they feel about the reconciliation effort. Many of them are former insurgents, very few have been absorbed into the government. People complain now that many act as warlords, in each neighborhood the law is in their hands.

3 women arrested for distributing poisonous food

Security forces captured three women for distributing poisonous food in Iraq's holy Shiite city of Karbala, the police chief said on Thursday, noting that 30 other persons were arrested for their suspected involvement in several thefts in the city. Police forces arrested three women while they were distributing food, which was found poisonous after lab testing," Major General Raed Shakir Jawdat told Aswat al-Iraq, Voices of Iraq, (VOI). Jawdat did not elaborate on the poisonous substance in the food, but said it was "very poisonous." The arrested women have been subject to interrogation to disclose the body they are working for, according to the police chief.

School Opening Sign of Progress

"The children are the future of Iraq," he said. "It's a symbol of peace that we can get the schools back up. Inside the school are rooms full of new desks, blackboards and other furniture, which has been enhanced with new overhead lighting, freshly painted walls and colorful murals featuring Arabic and English alphabets, which symbolizes how far the institution has come in just a few short months.

From Missing Links blog:

Al-Hayat notes that some of the Sunni areas on the Sadr City to Karbala route have set up rest and welcome areas for the Shiite pilgrims, taking advantage of improved security conditions compared to last year, and hoping to contribute to a restoration of traditional relationships. The journalist says the Shiites have altered their route this year to include passage through some of the Sunni areas where there have been continual problems in recent years, and he adds: “But some of these areas surprised everyone, and set up, on the model of the Shiite areas, "tent and pavillion" areas offering water and drinks to the visitors, for instance in the Sunni Askan neighborhood in the Dora district, which was until a few months ago under the control of AlQaeda.”

Kurdish Students Demonstrate Against Turkish Offensive

Hundreds of Kurdish students, denouncing the military offensive launched by the Turkish army against Kurdish guerrillas inside Iraq' Kurdistan region, took to the streets in Arbil on Wednesday. Raising placards calling to "stop the bloodshed," demonstrating students, mostly Kurds from Turkey, Iran, and Syria studying at the College of Arts University of Salahuddin, condemned the Turkish reaction towards Kurdistan's Workers party (PKK) and the Turkish advance into Kurdistan region. "Turkey wants to undermine the gains of Kurds and Kurdistan," Nizar Hussein, a student, told Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI).

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Parliamentary committee in Kurdistan to assess Turkish invasion damage

A parliamentary investigation committee will head for Kurdistan soon to assess damages and losses due to the Turkish military operations in northern Iraq, said a lawmaker on Thursday. Safieya Souheil told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI) that she is a member of the committee along with MP Methal al-Alusi. ‘The committee will assess all violations resulting from the Turkish invasion from material and humanitarian aspects and will present a report to the parliament within this context,” she also said. The MP said she will file a lawsuit in the European Court of Human Rights against these violations.

U.S.backed Sunni militia may ‘disintegrate’ as Qaeda mounts deadly attacks

Pressure is mounting on the so-called ‘Awakening Councils’ from inside the government and their avowed enemy al-Qaeda. These councils include tens of thousands of tribal Sunni fighters who the U.S. has created, armed and financed. Their leaders say they have become targets of deadly attacks by Qaeda as well as Shiite militias which Iran arms and supports. Many in the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki openly oppose the formation of Sunni militias and are denying them financial benefits and recognition. The government has balked at plans to have the militias integrated into the Iraqi security forces despite mounting U.S. pressure.

Falluja Awakening Council infiltrated by al-Qaeda

The Falluja Awakening Council fighters are being infiltrated by al-Qaeda elements, the chief of local police said on Wednesday. “Police forces and the Awakening Council fighters came under several armed attacks during the past two months because of the security infiltrations inside the council’s fighters,” he explained. He called on the Awakening Councils to coordinate with Iraqi security forces, mainly in providing them with accurate information on their new fighters.

Sunni Forces Losing Patience With U.S.

U.S.-backed Sunni volunteer forces, which have played a vital role in reducing violence in Iraq, are increasingly frustrated with the American military and the Iraqi government over what they see as a lack of recognition of their growing political clout and insufficient U.S. support. Since Feb. 8, thousands of fighters in restive Diyala province have left their posts in order to pressure the government and its American backers to replace the province's Shiite police chief. On Wednesday, their leaders warned that they would disband completely if their demands were not met. In Babil province, south of Baghdad, fighters have refused to man their checkpoints after U.S. soldiers killed several comrades in mid-February in circumstances that remain in dispute.

Sadr anger over Iraq law setback

A spokesman for the bloc, Nassar Rubaie, denounced the council's decision as a form of dictatorship. He said his group was considering calling for sit-ins and a general strike in protest. The presidency council has not said which of its three members objected to the law. However, Sadrist politicians have blamed the decision on one of the vice-presidents, Adel Abdulmahdi, who is a senior figure in a rival Shia party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. The draft law would have paved the way for provincial elections. Its rejection is being seen as setback in the process of reconciling Iraqi factions.

Iraqi Kurds OK Force if Turks Go Near Civilians

Lawmakers in northern Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdish region authorized their military Tuesday to intervene if Turkish forces pursuing anti-government rebels bring their battle into civilian areas. The move heightened fears that the conflict could draw in Iraqi Kurdish forces and destabilize the one region of Iraq that has been relatively peaceful since the U.S. invasion in March 2003. Tensions also were growing between the Iraqi government in Baghdad and Turkey, which sent thousands of ground troops over the northern border into Iraqi Kurdistan last week.

IRAQ: Mahdi Army ceasefire announcement boosts peace, security

The security situation in Iraq is set to improve further after powerful Shia political leader Muqtada al-Sadr announced a six-month extension to his militia's unilateral ceasefire on 22 February, analysts said. This bodes well for the economy, ordinary civilians, some two million internally displaced persons, and over two million refugees living abroad, who may now begin to trickle back home. Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army was formed in the turbulent months following the US-led invasion in 2003, and launched two major uprisings against US-led forces in 2004. "This step has multiple advantages for al-Sadr. It enables him to present himself as a political figure interested in reducing violence for all Iraqis, and as a more popular alternative to other Shia rivals," said Abdul-Hadi Nasser Joda who lectures in international law at the University of Basra.

Maliki hails unity as Shiites crowd Iraq shrine city

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki hailed success in national reconciliation on Thursday as he joined millions of Shiite Muslims at a holy ceremony in the shrine city of Karbala. "The terrorists wanted to tear apart Iraq... destroy its unity. They wanted sectarian strife and a civil war but with your hands you banished the spectre of civil war," Maliki said. He was speaking to a vast crowd of pilgrims gathered at the Imam Hussein shrine -- one of the most sacred for Shiites -- where the faithful beat their chests and chanted in trance-like unison for Arbaeen. Officials said a record 10 million people converged on the city for the ceremony which marks the anniversary of the 40th day after the seventh century slaying in Karbala of the revered Imam Hussein. ……Despite the fear of such bloodshed, the Shiite faithful thronged Karbala."I came to Karbala with my family and children after walking for 12 days. We were not afraid of terrorists," said Fawziyah Kadhim, 50, from the southern city of Basra.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Will an extended Turkish offensive further destabilize Iraq?

[Simple answers to simple questions: YES – dancewater]

Turkey: Iraq Invasion May Last a Year

US: Turkey Acting 'Responsibly' in Iraq Attack

Kidnapped Briton in Iraqi video

AN armed group holding five Britons captive in Iraq demanded British forces release nine Iraqi prisoners in exchange for their freedom in a videotape aired by the Al-Arabiya news channel overnight.

US Paid $42.4 Million to Wronged Iraqis Since Early 2005

The Pentagon has paid more than $40 million to Iraqis whose family members were accidentally killed or their property destroyed by coalition military action since the beginning of 2005, according to interviews and documents that provide a glimpse into the extent of continuing civilian casualties in the conflict. The condolence payments are meant to mitigate anger against the U.S. military as it works to reduce violence in Iraq. They are in keeping with a system in Iraqi Muslim culture in which a payment for damage or death eliminates the need for revenge. Though they have spent the money, military officials say they can't account for how many victims it covered

EU, U.S. talk Iraqi relations

EU officials concluded talks with Iraq on economic cooperation as U.S. officials began preparations for a status-of-forces agreement there. The fourth round of negotiations to reach a trade agreement between Iraq and the European Union kicked off with pledges of support from EU officials on reconstruction issues, Voices of Iraq reported Wednesday.
"The agreement comes as part of the EU's plan to support and assist Iraq in establishing development and political stability and its efforts towards reconstruction, and to achieve an EU-Iraq economic fusion," and EU statement read. EU officials stated the objective of the agreement was to enhance economic cooperation between Iraq and the EU "in the fields of economy, industry, agriculture, science, human rights, energy, security, transport, education, training, environment, culture, and archeology." [But mainly, OIL. – dancewater]

Audio: Bombing Probe Leads to Iraqi Psychiatric Hospital Listen Now

U.S. military officials in Baghdad say they're investigating whether the acting director of a psychiatric hospital in the Iraqi capital was involved with two female suicide bombers who killed nearly 100 people earlier this month. Fear that al-Qaida in Iraq or other insurgents are using mentally ill Iraqis as bombers swept through the al-Rashad hospital, where records show the two women had been treated. Doctors say the panicked reaction has added to their many problems.

Iranian leader's visit to Iraq may upstage U.S.

President Bush's leading nemesis in the Middle East, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, begins a two-day state visit to Iraq on Sunday, attempting to highlight Iran's role as the region's major power and upstage Bush and the U.S. military presence. Unlike Bush, who's traveled to Iraq twice unannounced and on his last visit never left an American base in Anbar province, Ahmadinejad not only announced his trip in advance but also is planning to visit two major Shiite Muslim holy sites, Karbala and Najaf, at the end of a mammoth Shiite pilgrimage that was marred by a suicide bombing. The out-of-town visits raise security questions in the face of the continuing threat from Sunni Islamist extremists. But the images of Ahmadinejad at sacred sites are certain to impress Iranians, who in two weeks will vote in parliamentary elections at a time when soaring oil prices haven't eased Iran's economic troubles.

U.S. Treasury freezes assets of four Syrians

The U.S. Treasury froze assets of four Syrians on Thursday saying they facilitated the flow of money, weapons and terrorists through Syria to al Qaeda in Iraq. "Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, Syria has become a transit station for al Qaeda foreign terrorists on their way to Iraq," Stuart Levey, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement. The four Syrians are said to be members of Abu Ghadiyah's network, the Treasury Department said.

HISTORY

Shocking new images, shocking claims

Psychologist and expert witness at Abu Ghraib trials releases new images and asks: are we too all capable of that kind of abuse? Horrific new images of abuse at Abu Ghraib have been released by an expert witness in the trial of one of the guards involved, but even more disturbing is his claim that we are all capable of such torture. A grisly slideshow of the new photographs, alongside previously released images, was put together by the psychologist Philip Zimbardo. The slideshow has been published by Wired alongside a chilling interview with Zimbardo (warning: you may find the images disturbing). He was an expert witness in the defence of Sergeant Chip Frederick, one of the most senior guards charged with torturing Iraqi prisoners. In 1971 Zimbardo conducted a notorious psychological experiment about ordinary people's capacity for cruelty. The Standford prison study had to be stopped because of the levels of abuse that volunteers, acting as guards, began to mete out against volunteers acting as prisoners.

America Loves Peace? Odd, Since We're Always at War

We've been in conflict for about half the period between World War II and the present but consider ourselves a "peace-loving" nation. Americans love to think that we're a peaceful people and that we fight wars only when we must. Unfortunately, you can count in nanoseconds how long those assertions hold up when exposed to such insidious commie dirty tricks as the application of logic or the examination of empirical history. Sure, any war can be spun as some necessity against some Very Bad Person, preferably of brown skin, slanted eyes and/or differing deity. Not only can any war be so spun, probably every war there ever was has been, at least since the days when governments had to start offering some justification or another for their little foreign adventures. But pick your barometer -- any one will work -- and you'll quickly see who the militant folks on the planet really are. For America, it turns out -- gulp -- to be that bloated, frightened meth-addict staring back at us in the mirror, not some overseas evil emperor du jour. For example, suppose you wanted to measure comparative national warlike tendencies by simply counting wars. Since World War II, the United States has messed around, in ways big and small, in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Lebanon, Grenada, Iraq, Panama, Colombia, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Afghanistan again, and Iraq again. No country in the world can begin to match this record in the last half-century.

From Our Archives 5 Years Ago Today: Fallacies and War: Misleading a Nervous America to the Wrong Conclusion

One of the favorite methods of the current administration is a false dilemma. This is when only two choices are given when, in reality, there are more options. Right after 9/11 you heard, “You are either with us or against us,” in the fight against terrorism. Actually, countries can be both against terrorism and not an ally of the U.S. More recently, many countries are showing that they are both against a pre-emptive war and against the current Iraqi regime. We are also hearing we must attack Iraq or Saddam will develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and threaten the world if we do nothing. Other options of monitoring with inspectors and containment are just flatly discounted. Are we to believe that Saddam could develop nuclear weapons while the world has him under a microscope?

'We had no idea we were not wanted'

During the Gulf war against Saddam the town's two bridges over the Euphrates were destroyed from the air, and in 1991 the town suffered a severe atrocity, when British planes dropped several bombs on the main market, killing 276 civilians. So, although the bombing that Falluja suffered in the 2003 war was less heavy, memories of earlier encounters with the British and Americans were not likely to make the city greet the 82nd Airborne Division with delight. Before they reached Falluja, US troops - and their neo-con masters in Washington - would have benefited from knowing a little of the city's nationalist history and Islamist traditions. I asked Lt Col Nantz whether he had ever considered keeping his troops on the edge of Falluja rather than occupying a school in a suburb. "No, I never considered that at all," he replied. "This is the place where you need to be engaged. We want the Iraqis to build themselves up and you can't help them do that if you're sitting outside. Our way is to be inside and help them build a police force and so on. We had no idea we weren't wanted."

IRAQI REFUGEES

Help Iraqi refugees or they may come to Europe-UN

Iraqi refugees who are running out of money in Syria may head for Europe if the international community fails to supply sufficient relief funding, the United Nations said on Thursday. "I think they will move north if things don't get better," UNHCR head of operations in Syria, Laurens Jolles, told reporters on a trip to Europe aimed in part at boosting funding from governments. The number of Iraqis seeking asylum in European Union member states doubled in 2007 from the previous year to almost 40,000. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says 1.5 million Iraqis have fled sectarian violence to neighbouring Syria and more might move towards the EU in the hope of jobs, safety and better conditions.

Release: Iraqi Refugees Find Legal Footing in Lebanon

Refugees International praised the decision by the Lebanese government to legally recognize thousands of Iraqis seeking refuge there and release hundreds of Iraqis in detention. Last week, the Lebanese government announced the new program, which will allow Iraqis a three-month grace period to find an employer to sponsor them and legalize their status in the country through a work permit. The UN Refugee Agency estimates that the decision should help about two-thirds of the adult Iraqi refugee population.

Iraqi family sues soldiers in Australia

An Iraqi family is seeking compensation in court from Australia's government for gunshot wounds sustained when Australian troops opened fire at a Baghdad checkpoint, a lawyer said Thursday. The al-Saadi family of five are living in the eastern Australian city of Brisbane on a special visa that enables the mother, Lamyaa, and her 11-year-old son Ahmed to get long-term hospital treatment for gunshot and shrapnel wounds they suffered in 2005, lawyer Kerrie Jackson said. Previously, Australian officials in Iraq have directly compensated some families of civilians killed or injured there. But Jackson said the lawsuit lodged Tuesday in Supreme Court of Queensland is the first claim in an Australian court against the government over the actions of Australian soldiers in Iraq.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

COMMENTARY

Noam Chomsky: Why is Iraq Missing from 2008 Presidential Race?

In a major address, Noam Chomsky says there has been little change in the conventional debate over a US invasion abroad: from Vietnam to Iraq, the two main political parties and political pundits differ only on the tactics of US goals, which are assumed to be legitimate. On the other hand, public opposition to war has also remained consistent, Chomsky says, but, whether Iraqi or American, ignored.

I'd Rather Live The Lie

There's no doubt in my mind that the US knew Saddam Hussein was just a tired, petty old geezer who just wanted to grow old and die in his private ranch, Iraq. They clearly have not a care for either Kurdish or Shia oppression and are probably cursing the day they listened to people like al-Chalabi, who explained to them that Iraqis are freedom-loving people with a clear sense of nationhood that only need to be rescued from the cruel dictator, and not a collection of sects still living in a medieval mentality where that dictator was the only force holding it together, a country where most of the population would listen to their God's representatives, the Ayatollahs, before anyone else. We all knew the stuff about WMDs were lies exacerbated as an excuse, however, fed up with living long days in backwardness, we [well, Kurds, Shias, and me with a few ignorant Sunnis who didn't know what Iraq really is] cheered for that lie because we thought Saddam was the only reason stopping us from a modern advanced country. Today, after looking the ugly truth in the eye. I'd rather curl up and die in the comforting fact that Iraq will not be a modern country because my scapegoat, Saddam is suffocating it than realize the fact that a solid "Iraq" isn't there to exist in the first place.

The true cost of war

So what did the Republicans say? "They had two reactions," Stiglitz says wearily. "One was Bush saying, 'We don't go to war on the calculations of green eye-shaded accountants or economists.' And our response was, 'No, you don't decide to fight a response to Pearl Harbour on the basis of that, but when there's a war of choice, you at least use it to make sure your timing is right, that you've done the preparation. And you really ought to do the calculations to see if there are alternative ways that are more effective at getting your objectives. The second criticism - which we admit - was that we only look at the costs, not the benefits. Now, we couldn't see any benefits. From our point of view we weren't sure what those were."

Nobel laureate estimates wars' cost at more than $3 trillion

When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in March 2003, the Bush administration predicted that the war would be self-financing and that rebuilding the nation would cost less than $2 billion. Coming up on the fifth anniversary of the invasion, a Nobel laureate now estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing America more than $3 trillion. That estimate from Noble Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz also serves as the title of his new book, "The Three Trillion Dollar War," which hits store shelves Friday.

Staying to Help in Iraq

The request is familiar to American ears: "Bring them home." But in Iraq, where I've just met with American and Iraqi leaders, the phrase carries a different meaning. It does not refer to the departure of U.S. troops, but to the return of the millions of innocent Iraqis who have been driven out of their homes and, in many cases, out of the country. In the six months since my previous visit to Iraq with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, this humanitarian crisis has not improved. However, during the last week, the United States, UNHCR and the Iraqi government have begun to work together in new and important ways. [I think this last part is wishful thinking. – dancewater] …..It seems to me that now is the moment to address the humanitarian side of this situation. Without the right support, we could miss an opportunity to do some of the good we always stated we intended to do. [Which bush administration person stated THAT? Seems to me they intended to destroy the place, and that MISSION has been ACCOMPLISHED. – dancewater]

Iraq's Kurds deserve better neighbours

"The PKK is the result of and not the reason for Turkish actions," was the curt message from the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Masoud Barzani, when a British parliamentary delegation visited him shortly before Turkish troops crossed into Iraq late on Thursday 21 February. For decades, Turkish governments have denied the rights of the country's Kurds. This more than anything has fuelled the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Addressing that issue would surely be better than infringing the sovereignty of the most successful part of Iraq. Besides, the PKK is based mainly inside Turkey, which has failed to deal with the problem for more than 24 years. Some PKK guerrillas are perched in the largely inaccessible Qandil mountains on the border between the two countries but have proved impossible to dislodge. Barzani should know: he co-operated several times with the Turks to try to do just that. Some fear al-Qaeda could take over Qandil. In fact, the Kurdistan Regional Government strongly opposes the PKK. There is obvious fellow feeling between Kurds in Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria, but the PKK's actions do the Kurds no favours. KRG ministers believe Turkey is using the PKK as a pretext to constrain Iraqi Kurdistan.

……Kurdistan is moving from a bloody past to an uncertain future. It has history in abundance: 182,000 Kurds died and 4,000 villages were razed in Saddam's genocidal Anfal campaign. Children are still being born with deformities caused by his chemical weapons. All this weighs heavily on the small, landlocked region, but there are signs of hope blowing in the wind, literally.

Quote of the day:
All war is a symptom of man's failure as a thinking animal. ~
John Steinbeck, "Once There Was A War" 1943

War News for Thursday, February 28, 2008

We condolence on the Arbaeen anniversary, marking end of a 40-day mourning period after the martyrdom anniversary of Hazrat Hussein ibn Ali (AS), the third Imam of prophet Mohammad's (SAWA) infallible household.-----May peace and fulfillment accompany you one this most holy day----E


Security incidents:

Baghdad:
#1: A civilian was wounded on Thursday in a roadside bomb blast in central Bagdad, the spokesman for Baghdad’s security plan Fardh al-Qanoon said. “An improvised explosive device went off behind the higher education ministry’s building in al-Karada region in central Baghdad, wounding a passing civilian,” General Qassem Atta told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq.

#2: The chairman of the observation and complains department in the integrity committee Mudhaffar Turki survived from an assassination attempt when gunmen using machineguns opened fire targeting his car in Zayuna neighborhood in east Baghdad on Wednesday night. Turky and another man who was with him in the car were injured in the attack and were taken to one of the hospitals of Baghdad.

#3: Two civilians were injured when an IED exploded in Sadoun neighborhood downtown Baghdad around 11:00 a.m.


Diyala Prv:
Baquba:
#1: A health facility guard was injured on Thursday in an al-Qaeda armed attack in central Baaquba, an official security source said. "An armed group belonging to al-Qaeda organization opened fire on a guard working for a health facility near al-Muallemat Institute in downtown Baaquba city, wounding him seriously," the source, who preferred to be unnamed, told Aswat al-Iraq, Voices of Iraq.

Muqdadiya:
#1: U.S. soldiers killed an Iraqi civilian who raised suspicion and failed to heed warnings to stop as he approached their foot patrol north of Baghdad, the military said Thursday. The man was wearing a bulky jacket and had his hands in his pockets Wednesday as he walked toward the troops in the area around Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, according to a statement. U.S. troops issued warnings for the man to stop, then killed him when he failed to heed them, the military said, adding no weapon was found when the man was searched. No U.S. troops were wounded in the incident, which was under investigation.

Tahrir:
#1: In a separate incident, the military said a young Iraqi man that may have been mentally disabled was shot and wounded after he ran toward a patrol Thursday in Tahrir, another Diyala town. Maj. Daniel J. Meyers, a spokesman for the U.S. military, said the man was running toward the military patrol "possibly to avoid being kidnapped." The patrol warned the man to stop but when the man did not, he was shot, Meyers said. The military received small arms fire as it performed first aid on the man, who was later evacuated by helicopter, Meyers said. His condition was unknown.


Amara:
#1: Gunmen in two cars kidnapped a senior official of Iraq's electricity ministry after he left work in Amara, 365 km (230 miles) southeast of Baghdad, police said. The official was identified as Mutar Thamer, director of electricity distribution for Iraq's southern provinces.


Karbala:
#1: Some nine million Shiite pilgrims visited the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala for Arbaeen, one of the holiest days in the Shiite calendar that culminates on Thursday, a local police chief said. "The number of people who visited Karbala has touched nine million," Major General Raed Shakir Jawdat told AFP.

#2: Security forces captured three women for distributing poisonous food in Iraq's holy Shiite city of Karbala, the police chief said on Thursday. "Police forces arrested three women while they were distributing food, which was found poisonous after lab testing," Major General Raed Shakir Jawdat told Aswat al-Iraq, Voices of Iraq, (VOI). Jawdat did not elaborate on the poisonous substance in the food, but said it was "very poisonous. "The arrested women have been subject to interrogation to disclose the body they are working for, according to the police chief.

Kirkuk:
#1: Iraq halted exports of Kirkuk crude through its northern pipeline to Turkey on Wednesday but Iraqi officials said they expected pumping to resume by Friday morning. An engineer with the Northern Oil Company in Kirkuk blamed a technical fault in a pumping unit for the halt, while a spokesman for the Oil Ministry in Baghdad, Asim Jihad, said it was due to routine maintenance of the pipeline. The engineer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Iraq had been pumping 350,000 barrels of crude a day before Wednesday.


Mosul:
#1: A father and his son, both policemen, were killed on Thursday by unknown gunmen in eastern Mosul, an official source said. “Unidentified gunmen killed two policemen this morning while heading to work in al-Tahrir region in eastern Mosul,” the source, who requested anonymity, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq.

#2: Three bodies, shot in the head and chest, were found in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, in the past 24 hours, police said.


Kurdistan:
#1: A senior member of the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) said its forces killed 18 Turkish soldiers and wounded two on Thursday in a mountainous area in northern Iraq, media reports said. "We (the PKK) managed to kill three Turkish soldiers and wound another two when our forces set an ambush in the Dojka mountains near Zab," Ahmed Damis, a senior PKK official, told the Iraqi news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). He added that the PKK killed another 15 Turkish troops during clashes with Kurdish forces in the eastern Imadiya area. Turkish forces started to withdraw after the attack, but then hit the PKK forces with airstrikes, Damis said.

#2: Kurdish rebels surrounded about 200 Turkish soldiers in a mountain valley in northern Iraq on Thursday, a spokesman for the rebels said. Rebel spokesman Ahmad Danas said the soldiers were in a valley between two mountains about 10 kilometers from the Turkey-Iraq border when the rebels surrounded them. Heavy clashes have broken out between the two sides, he added. A Turkish helicopter in the area was hit by rebel fire, Danas said. Turkish officials were not immediately available for comment.



Kuwait:
#1: Fifteen American service members sustained "minor injuries" when three buses carrying them on a Kuwait highway collided, the U.S. military said Thursday. No Kuwaiti vehicles were involved in the Tuesday accident northwest of the capital, the military said in a brief statement without providing any further details. It said three soldiers were evacuated to a military facility at Camp Arifjan, the main U.S. military base in Kuwait, and one was taken to another medical facility at an air base.



Afghanistan:
#1: Insurgents ambushed the drug eradication force Wednesday in Marja district of Helmand province killing one police officer and wounding two, said Gen. Mohammad Hussein Andiwal, the provincial police chief. Police attacked the militants afterward, killing 25 Taliban fighters, including a senior regional militant commander, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

#2: Separately, four militants died and another was wounded Thursday when the roadside bomb they were planting on a main road in Helmand exploded prematurely, Andiwal said. Militants regularly target Afghan and foreign troops with roadside bombs, though many civilians are killed by the blasts.

#3: At least eight people were killed in a missile strike on a religious seminary and a house in Pakistan's troubled South Waziristan tribal region on Thursday. Local TV channels however, put the death toll at 12. There was no official confirmation of the attack. Most of those who died were believed to be Afghan students. "Three rockets hit the house at 2 a.m. when the students were asleep", a resident said. It was not immediately clear whether the missile was fired by coalition forces in Afghanistan or by Pakistani forces.


On the home front:

An Illinois National Guardsman is headed to federal prison after stealing more than $30,000 worth of military equipment. Federal Judge Michael McCuskey has sentenced 39-year-old Patrick S. Fitzsimmons to a month in prison and five months of home confinement. The Potomac man pleaded guilty in October to one count of stealing military equipment. Authorities say stole a sophisticated weapons sight, night-vision goggles and other gear. Fitzsimmons says he sold the goggles at a pawn shop for $200. He then tried to pawn the scope, leading the shop owner to call the FBI.

A soldier is in Christchurch Hospital after shooting himself in the thigh during a training exercise at the army's West Melton firing range, southwest of the city, this morning. He was reported to have a broken femur and was expected to undergo surgery. Lieutenant Colonel Phil McKee, commander of 3rd Land Force Group, based at the Burnham Military Camp, said the soldier, who has not been named, was treated at the scene by army medics and transferred to hospital by a Westpac rescue helicopter. A St John spokesman told NZPA paramedics who were called to the firing range at 10.12am reported the soldier had serious injuries. Lt Col McKee said the army's thoughts were with the soldier and his family. An army investigation into the incident is under way.

The Iraq war veteran and Virginia Military Institute graduated charged with last year's shooting death of a Henrico County woman last year, is due in court this morning. Wyatt Ward Hollar, 28, was indicted this month by a Richmond multijurisdictional grand jury for murder in the death of Danielle Dawn Wilson, 25, on Feb. 11, 2007. Wilson suffered a single gunshot wound through the heart in a death that was originally believed to be a suicide, according to police.

Kingsman Terry Thompson, 20, died from a drug-induced heart attack after taking the drug while home on leave from Iraq to attend his grandmother’s funeral.


Casualty Reports:

Jarrod Bonnick, 32, works as a civilian project manager for the United States Army Corps of Engineers. He spent 45-days in Iraq inspecting and working on water treatment facilities before he was wounded. "There was a convoy of four they were heading out to four treatment water sites and they were doing tests on the water to make sure it was safe for drinking," said Chris Bonnick, who helped to organize the benefit. "They accomplished everything they set out to do and the accident actually occurred on their way back to base," Bonnick finished. Bonnick's suffered from multiple fractures in the bones in his left leg. His femoral artery was severed but his life was saved.

Sergeant Grant Combs was injured while on patrol in Iraq when the Humvee he was riding in ran over an IED. Grant's father, Raymond Combs, says Grant suffered two broken heels and a broken leg. He is recovering tonight at Walter Reed Medical Center. Sergeant Combs had surgery Tuesday and will undergo another surgery Thursday. The driver of the Humvee was also injured and a lieutenant riding in the vehicle died in the explosion.