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Daily Column
US Papers Mon: A "New Insurgency"?
2 US Contractors Transfered to US Facility, Iraq's Unfortunate Foreign Laborers
By DANIEL W. SMITH 06/15/2009 02:00 AM ET
Possible repercussions from the assassination of a Sunni political leader are still big news, as are the two US contractors still held in Iraqi custody – sort of. Also, low-level foreign workers in Iraq are often swindled and treated like slaves.

From Baghdad
Jane Arraf of the Christian Science Monitor reports on the continuing reverberations of mistrust from Friday’s assassination of Tawafoq leader Harith al-Obaidi. Tawafoq is the leading Sunni-led political coalition, and the possibilities that Iraq’s Shi’a-led government security forces could have either been involved in, or are just unable to stop such attacks, are causing concern with many in the Sunni community.

"It is very clear that the Iraqi military forces are not ready yet," says Saleem al-Jbori, spokesman for Tuwafaq , the biggest Sunni bloc in parliament. "I expect the sectarian conflict will revive." Obviously sensing the delicacy of the killing, Tawafoq (always an extremely vocal crew) has requested lawmakers not publicly comment on the killing until the results of an investigation are in. Al-Maliki made Obaidi’s ceremony on Saturday a state funeral, and had it aired on state television. His own presence, and that of other Shi’a politicians, was quite noticeable.
Rasheed al-Aazawy, a member of parliament with Obeidi's Iraqi Islamic Party, the major player in the Tawafaq bloc, says he was heartened by the show of unity condemning his colleague's killing. But appearing to lay the groundwork for accusations casting wider blame, Mr. al-Aazawy says they do not want to jump to conclusions that insurgent groups were behind the killing.
Nada Bakri of the Washington Post writes that the two US contractors who still haven’t been released from Iraqi custody, have now been transferred to a US military facility, “at the request of Iraqi officials.” That’s about it for the new information, except that there are even more officials from both sides who continue to give conflicting accounts.
The embassy declined to elaborate on why the two men were relocated, although a spokesman said that, technically, they remain in Iraqi custody. He said their transfer conforms to a U.S.-Iraqi agreement that went into effect this year under which crimes committed by contractors would be covered by Iraqi law.

Two Iraqi officials said they were unaware of the decision. A third, in the Interior Ministry, said a U.S.-Iraqi committee was still interrogating the two and had made the decision "for the safety of the investigation and the safety of the men."
Something isn’t quite coming to the surface here, but at least their names are agreed upon - Jason Jones and Micah Milligan. Nothing else, including the charges, is very clear.

The Washington Post’s Ernesto Londoño writes an excellent report on a population whose very existence would be a surprise to many, but whose sorry numbers continue to grow. Well-paid security contractors aren’t the only foreign workers in Iraq, there is also an army of foreign low-wage workers, filling positions such as housecleaners and restaurant/hotel workers. They are all-too-often an army conscripted by fraud. Labor companies, many of which can be accurately portrayed only as human traffickers lure poor workers to Iraq, often with inaccurate claims of where and what they’ll be doing, and for how much.

Upon arriving, they often find that they are treated like slaves, and that their passports are held by either their employer or the labor company, leaving them defenseless. With One Bangladeshi worker named Mitu Ananty is featured.
The 29-year-old father of two had sold his house and borrowed the life savings of two siblings to come up with the $5,000 demanded by labor brokers. Like a growing number of struggling foreign workers, Ananty had come to regard a temporary job in Iraq as a passport out of poverty.

He soon realized he had been duped. Instead of the $400-a-month position he had been promised in northern Iraq's safe autonomous Kurdish region, Ananty, who left his wife and children behind, ended up with a job paying half that much at a steamy bakery in Baghdad.
Even in Baghdad’s current unemployment crisis, these workers are a common sight, creating the added pleasure of fielding resentment by some Iraqis. Still, the labor companies keep making promises, and the desperate workers keep showing up.

Wall Street Journal, USA Today, no original Iraq coverage.

Comments on the US Papers roundup are welcome at ds@iraqslogger.com.


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