Editor's note: IraqSlogger looked into this story and discovered Az-Zaman made several mistakes in its reporting. According to the Daily Telegraph, the photos were snapped by a British Getty Images photographer who was embedded with U.S. Army forces who were on a joint patrol with Iraqi Army soldiers. The beatings by Iraqi Army soldiers happened within sight of accompanying U.S. Army forces. The incident occurred December 30 after the Iraqi soldiers discovered three insurgents in a car whose trunk was filled with bombs, says the photographer. After apprehending and handcuffing the suspects, Iraqi soldiers on multiple occasions beat the insurgents. All this was photographed, and the pictures are here.
Several Iraqi parties and officials welcomed the new American strategy announced by American president George Bush. Al-Mada quoted Iraqi president Jalal Talabani who issued a statement saying that “the Iraqi executive...will try to benefit from the new variables announced in President Bush’s strategy”. Talbani also said that “putting a stop to sectarian violence is the responsibility of Iraqis, while fighting terrorism is a shared responsibility for everyone”.
Still, the Iraqi government and the ruling parties expressed some reservations over certain points in Bush’s speech. In Az-Zaman the Iraqi Coalition (Shi`a bloc) expressed “relief” over most of the elements of the new strategy, but critiqued the conditionality of some of the terms and the threats to cut aid to the Iraqi government. According to Az-Zaman (Iraq edition) a spokesman of the Iraqi Coalition described the threats to curtail American support as “a sword wielded upon Iraqis’ necks”. In al-Mada, the spokesman for the Iraqi government, `Ali al-Dabbagh, said that “the new strategy in Iraq has taken into consideration the vision of the Iraqi government” adding that the government will ask that any ‘problematic’ element be amended.
Another issue that has received much coverage in Iraq, and that has been linked to the launching of the new American strategy, was the arrest in Arbil of six employees in the Iranian consulate in Arbil (in Al-Mada’s account, the ‘consulate’ was called the Iranian ‘liaison office’). The coalition forces had accused the arrested Iranians of having a hand in recent attacks against coalition forces. Iraqi papers reported that one of the Iranians was released yesterday. Az-Zaman quoted American military sources who said that the Iranians “were not diplomats” and that they were “linked to the Iranian revolutionary guard”. The sources added that the Iranian office “is not a consulate and has no diplomatic status”. Al-Mada reported the Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hoshiar Zibari, saying that his ministry is “communicating with the American side...to learn of what has happened in the Iranian consulate”. However, Az-Zaman quoted Zibari as saying that the Iranians were in Iraq in official capacity, and that their office “is a liaison office, and not a consulate”, but that a request was placed to turn it into an official Iranian consulate.
Lasty, the controversy over the control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk had acquired new dimensions with the Turkish Prime Minister weighing in on the issue and warning against the placing of Kirkuk within the territory of Iraqi Kurdistan and claiming that efforts have been made to change the demographic composition of the city.
The city of Kirkuk, where the first and one of the richest oil fields in Iraq was discovered has been a matter of heated contention between the Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen in the last few years. The city, which used to have a Turkmen majority, lies on the fault lines between the Kurdish highlands and the Arab interior, and has received waves of Kurdish emigration in the last decades. Saddam Husain applied his policies of ‘social engineering’ on the city and implanted Arab families within its bounds, while exiling much of its Kurdish inhabitants to the South. The Kurdish parties insist on placing the city within the borders of Iraqi Kurdistan, while the Turkmen insist on its being ‘historically’ Turkmen. The recent elections, however, have shown that a wide Kurdish majority currently inhabits the strategic city.
As-Sabah al-Jadeed reported that Kurdish leaders criticized the latest statements of the Turkish Prime Minister (since the invasion of Iraq, Turkey has been acting as a de facto ‘protector’ of Turkmen interests in the country). As-Sabah al-Jadeed quoted the head of Kirkuk’s governorate, Rezgar `Ali, who called on neighboring countries “not to intervene in Iraqi affairs, especially in what related to Kirkuk”. And criticized those who called for not holding referendums in the city and its area, saying that “referendums are enunciated in the 140th article of the Iraqi constitution”, which is “is held as sacred for Iraqis”.