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Archive: January 2007
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Life Goes On
In Return, There Would Be Reforms
01/30/2007 5:13 PM ET
Iraqdirectory reports that the Iraqi Minister of Finance, Baqer Jabr Al-Zubaydi, described the budget of 2007 as ambitious and is seeking to resolve the problems of the country in the area of security, investment and unemployment, and expressed his hope that it will to contribute to increased economic growth to 8 or 10 percent. The minister said in a press interview that oil resources forms 93% of the budget, while the rest will be secured from taxes and fees. He referred to the allocation of more than ten billion dollars for investment eight billion for security, in addition to about seven billion dollars to support the Ministry of Oil.

He pointed out that the latter amount came from the sale of oil derivatives to citizens, in addition to three billion dollars, for the implementation of projects and building new refinaries.

As for the role of the budget in raising the value of the dinar against the dollar, Azzubeidi said that a decision was made to raise the value of the dinar against the dollar in the budget, and the rate was determined purely by 1260 dinar, hoping to return to its normal state like the Gulf currency, as befits a country rich in oil and other wealth, and hoping to decrease the rate of the dollar to 1000 dinar during the three or four years.

Worry Of Spillover Between Shia and Sunni Conflict
01/24/2007 2:45 PM ET
Plagued by sectarian violence imported from the Gulf during the 1980s, Pakistan is on guard for any spillover from the conflict between Sunnis and Shi'ites gripping Iraq.

An excerpt from Reuters: "The coming days mark an anxious period for the country's Shi'ite minority as they mourn the death of one their sect's heroes in the Islamic festival of Moharram. So far, there has been no reaction to events in Iraq, but Pakistani leaders view what's happening there with trepidation.

"The Islamic world is heading towards a crisis," Musharraf told university students earlier this month, at a time when the world was aghast over Shi'ite guards taunting Iraq's Sunni former ruler, Saddam Hussein, at the gallows. "If we don't get our act together, there will be a sectarian catastrophe in the Islamic world," said Musharraf. Sunni sectarian extremists have already forged links with Al Qaeda following Musharraf's alliance with the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Osama bin Laden's henchmen directed Pakistani Sunni militants to carry out assassination attempts on Musharraf and his Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in 2003 and 2004.

In-Depth Report
From Iraq Combat To Civilian Hospitals In US And Europe
01/24/2007 1:40 PM ET
Steve Silberman
The February issue of Wired magazine discusses an alarming epidemic of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the US combat-support hospitals in Iraq that has spread into civilian hospitals in the US and Europe. Steve Silberman, a contributing editor at Wired Magazine, writes a story on the first in-depth media investigation of an epidemic of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the US military healthcare system during the Iraq war.

He writes: "Since Operation Iraqi Freedom began, more than 700 US soldiers have been infected or colonized with an organism called Acinetobacter baumannii that targets highly vulnerable patients in hospitals -- including the elderly, newborns, people with depressed immune systems, and wounded soldiers themselves. (A number of British and Canadian soldiers, as well as numerous Iraqi civilians, have also been infected.) For a long time, government officials have claimed that the source of this bacteria is the Iraqi soil, blown into soldiers' wounds by IED attacks. Interviews with current and former military medical staff, and the Defense Department's own internal reports, however, reveal that the primary source of these infections is bacterial contamination of healthcare facilities along the heroic "evacuation chain" that transports wounded soldiers home from war. This bacteria has already spread into civilian hospitals in the US and Europe, where several civilians have died. A chilling example of bacterial evolution at work, demonstrating the need for developing new types of antibiotics. "For an aspiring superbug, war is anything but hell."

Baghdad Buzz
Did Shia or Sunni Militias Kill Americans in Karbala?
By NIR ROSEN 01/21/2007 6:47 PM ET
On the afternoon of Saturday the 20th of January, Karbala was shaken by the sounds of fourteen explosions. Although the Mahdi Army, the Shia militia controlled by Muqtada al Sadr was blamed for the attack on Americans as they were meeting with local officials in the city, Mahdi Army officials have insisted to IraqSlogger sources that this is not true. They have strict orders not to attack Americans even in self defense. Rumors circulating in Karbala are that three to seven sports utility vehicles full of Sunni militiamen attacked the American vehicles. It is believed that the Sunni militiamen had fake identification papers issued by the Multi-National Forces and no checkpoint could stop them because they thought they were Americans. It is even claimed that they had some English speakers with them. They were said to have fled to Hilla following the attack.
Thwarts Insurgent Sniper Fire, US Soldiers Laugh it Off
01/21/2007 09:40 AM ET

Bulletproof Glass Saves Soldiers Life - video powered by Metacafe

Hat tip to Arlen Parsa for alerting us to this video.

Baghdad Buzz
Says US Is Trying to Provoke Confrontation
01/20/2007 12:28 PM ET
Reuters reports that Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's political movement accused Washington today of trying to provoke a confrontation by arresting of one of its key figures.

Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, a spokesman for Sadr, was among at least three people arrested by US and Iraqi troops in a midnight raid on Sadr City, a stronghold of Sadr's Mehdi Army militia in northeast Baghdad where US forces rarely venture.

Sadr's movement is a member of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shiite bloc in the government, but Maliki has been criticised by Washington and leaders of the once-dominant Sunni Arab minority for failing to disarm his Mehdi Army.

Abdul Mahdi Mtiri, a member of the Sadrists' political committee, said Iraqi officials had promised Darraji would be released. “We don't know how serious this promise is because so far he has not been released,” Mtiri said.

Saddam's Half Brother's Hanging Videotaped
01/15/2007 8:17 PM ET
The BBC's Andrew North reports that he has seen a video tape of the double hanging in which the two Saddam era aides were dispatched. The silent video shows Saddam;s half brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar dressed in orange jump suits being prepared for hanging, the actual hanging and then one of the nooses flipping up. The end of the video shows the severed head of Barzan still in the hangman's hood and Al Bandar swinging above.

IraqSlogger is not posting the video.

Baghdad Buzz
UN Insider Says Saddam Killed on Maliki Child Wedding Day
By NIR ROSEN 01/15/2007 07:45 AM ET
A United Nations source has confirmed what at first seemed like an impossible rumor, that Saddam's execution may have been a wedding present from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki to his daughter. Other sources maintain it was his son who was married on the day of Saddam's execution. It is also possible that this wedding would have been innocuous or coincidental as Shias cannot get married for the next two months because of their holiness, hence many marry on Eid. Readers with information that confirms or contradicts this story are requested to send it
Says Single Women Can Understand War
01/14/2007 10:00 AM ET
Condoleezza Rice let out a heavy sigh when asked whether as a single woman with no children she had difficulty appreciating the ramifications of war. It's a topic that has inflamed the Internet and talk radio in the U.S. since a Democratic senator challenged the secretary of state's personal stake in the Iraq war.

AP diplomatic correspondent Anne Gearan writes from Jerusalem: "No," Rice answered when asked if her status hinders her understanding of the sacrifices involved. "I also think that being a single woman does not in any way make me incapable of understanding not just those sacrifices but also that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice."

This After Insurgents Claim Firing Chem Weapons at US Base
01/12/2007 1:47 PM ET
A follow up to reports yesterday that insurgents fired chemical attacks on a U.S. military base near Samara:

From LTC Christopher Garver, CPIC director in Baghdad: "We have conducted tests and have not found any evidence of a chemical agent being fired at any of our Forward Operating Bases."

Yesterday's Iraqslogger posting on the topic:

From the MEMRI Blog: The Salahaldin Al-Ayoubi Brigades, the military wing of JAMI, the Iraqi Resistance Islamic Front, announced via Islamist Web sites that on January 10, 2007 it fired four missiles loaded with chemicals at a U.S. base near Samara, Iraq. The organization posted a film showing militants wearing gas masks and filling the missiles with a liquid which the organization claims are chemicals. At left are images from the film. No word yet from the U.S. military about this alleged attack or the video.

Click here for the one-minute video.

Video Alleged to Show Chemical Weapons Fired at US Base
01/11/2007 6:02 PM ET
From the MEMRI Blog: The Salahaldin Al-Ayoubi Brigades, the military wing of JAMI, the Iraqi Resistance Islamic Front, announced via Islamist Web sites that on January 10, 2007 it fired four missiles loaded with chemicals at a U.S. base near Samara, Iraq. The organization posted a film showing militants wearing gas masks and filling the missiles with a liquid which the organization claims are chemicals. At left are images from the film. No word yet from the U.S. military about this alleged attack or the video.

Click here for the one-minute video.

Opinions From Ordinary Iraqis
01/11/2007 2:54 PM ET
The BBC says that the Iraqis are split on Bush's last strategy in Iraq. The viewpoints on the troop surge in Iraq depend on whether you are a Sunni or a Shia, reports Clive Myrie from Baghdad.

A small excerpt: If you are a Shia in Iraq, you probably think it is a disaster. Ask Haythem Zalzala, a pharmacist with impeccable English. He runs a chemist shop in the Karada area of central Baghdad and he summed up the view of many here. "Nobody's thinking properly about making things better in Iraq. I think it's very wrong to send more soldiers to Iraq. It'll just create more problems, not solve anything.

If you are a Sunni in Iraq, the presence of US troops might actually be comforting. Shia death squads have menaced Sunni communities and US troops provide the kind of security that Iraqi forces - so far- have not.

Well, whatever the Iraqis think, it is a done deal. President Bush believes his so-called "troop surge" can change things on the ground for the better.

Daily Column
The Scoop From Key Arabic-Language Web Sites
By ZEYAD KASIM 01/10/2007 11:25 AM ET
Sheikh Bashar Al-Faidhi, the spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq, accused Iraqi police forces of “abducting” two convoys of Sunni pilgrims, including four imams, who were returning from Saudi Arabia after they crossed the Iraqi border. Faidhi, who described the incident as a “sectarian ambush,” said that Sheikh Khalid Al-Dosseri, Sheikh Sa’eed Azzawi, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Eisawi and Sheikh Ayad Al-Jubouri were taken away by Iraqi police forces after they boarded their bus and read their names from a scrap of paper they were carrying, claiming the four imams were wanted. Both the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office and the head of the Iraqi pilgrims delegation had denied that the incident ever took place and stated that all Iraqi pilgrim convoys safely returned to their destinations, accompanied by Iraqi security forces. The Shi’ite Tariq Karbala website had mentioned that Iraqi security forces arrested Arab “terrorists” who entered the Iraqi border with the Association of Muslim Scholars on their return from the pilgrimage in Mecca. The website also made a strong verbal attack against the Association, describing it as “terrorist” and its officials as “slaves for the rat of Al-Ouja.” The Sunni fundamentalist website Islam Memo, on the other hand, reported that King Abdullah II of Jordan in response permitted Iraqi pilgrims to return to Iraq through Jordanian territory, instead of crossing the border with Saudi Arabia from the south and passing the Shi’ite governorates of Karbala and Najaf.

The Iraq News Network reported that Saudi authorities arrested the director of foreign relations of the Martyr Al-Sadr Bureau, Sheikh Hassan Al-Zargani, for no reason while he was visiting Medina after the pilgrimage rituals in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Sadrist MP Bahaa’ Al-A’raji said that Iraqi officials had contacted Saudi authorities to secure Zargani’s release.

Several Sunni websites, such as the Islam Memo and Truth Minbar, are posting detailed guidelines for defending Sunni districts against what they described as an “imminent assault by militias.” The websites claim that a major battle for the control of Baghdad, which is disguised by the Iraqi government as a new security plan, is in the works and that Shi’ite militias are making preparations and recruiting new fighters in order to drive out the remaining Sunnis in Baghdad from their neighborhoods, especially east of Baghdad.

In a related development, The Haqq Agency reports that fliers distributed in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, signed by the Islamic State of Iraq, mentioned the preparation of 5,000 suicide bombers to participate in the “decisive” battle for Baghdad and to confront the “Safavid Shi’ite militias.”

An IT engineer working for the governmental Al-Sabah newspaper was abducted by unknown gunmen as he left the newspaper’s headquarters in Waziriya, north of Baghdad, sources from the newspaper said Wednesday. According to the sources, engineer Aqeel Adnan Majeed had not received any prior threats and is not a member of any political party. Al-Sabah newspaper was founded two months after the American-led invasion by the Coalition Provisional Authority and is now part of the governmental Iraqi Media Network. Its headquarters is in Baghdad at Qudhat Square in Waziriya, just north of the volatile Sunni majority Adhamiya district.

Stay Tuned
Propaganda Saluting Iraqi Army "Heroes"; Full Report Soon
01/10/2007 07:39 AM ET

Says "As Freedom-Loving People" We Owe the Iraqis Our Best
01/09/2007 5:08 PM ET
Badger 6 is a milblog "from the front lines on the war from Islamofascism." It is written by an army officer commanding an engineering company. His most recent post titled Surge, is below:

It seems appropriate, given the current news, to comment on the proposed “surge” of troops into Iraq. I would like to report being on the ground gives one great insight into the situation across theatre. Obviously that is not true, one cannot be fully informed about every action in detail and one cannot be present in all places. The lowest ranking service member is the expert on the small piece of ground they occupy, or at least they should be; conversely the highest ranking person in theatre is the expert on what is going on across the theatre, with the same caveat, they should be.

So this is my perspective, a Captain, a Company Commander supporting “land owners” spread out across western Iraq. Someone who has troops on the roads and in the towns of my area. We see things and we evaluate what is going on first hand.

Add in my more generalized interest in all things military and national security related, that I have spent time reading and thinking about to my military experience and one sees what my picture is based on. One might think that all military officers have this deep abiding interest in the issues of our day, but in fact that is not true. I don’t know why. Some just seem to like the job. That works for them and that is fine too.

Here in western Iraq, Al Anbar Province, we function as a “shaping operation” for the main effort in Baghdad. Our job is to set the conditions in this area to support that main effort. Team Badger’s role in this effort is to make sure the roads are clear and passable by Coalition Forces. We do that well in conjunction with landowners.

So what would more troops do for us in Al Anbar? Enhancing the presence of Coalition Troops simply acts as a terrain denial tactic. If Coalition Forces are present , then AIF (anti-Iraqi Forces) cannot be present. AIF rarely attempts to engage us in a force-on-force meeting engagement. Rather they use stealth and concealment to attack us. Their goal is not to just kill and injure Coalition Forces, it runs much deeper than that. Their goal is to make the locals feel unsafe, to attack Coalition morale by making Soldiers believe they are safe no where, and to undermine the will at home to support Coalition efforts.

The presence of more Coalition Forces in this sector will help defeat these goals of the AIF. More Coalition Forces mean that roads will have more presence, more observation, more deterrent effects. The AIF knows that if we see him emplacing an IED the most likely occurrence will be to hasten his appointment with paradise. Though the suicide bomber has entered the popular consciousness as the prototypical jihadist, in fact most of them either have enough doubts about their eternal reward or the understand they are more effective fighters alive and not dead, and thus they do not readily seek death. The presence of more Coalition Troops will either neutralize their ability to engage in their nefarious activities, or it will force them into direct confrontations with Coalition Forces; battles they will surely lose.

This is what I see as a Commander on the ground here in western Iraq.

So what about outside western Iraq? What are the implications there?

Here is where I depart from my on the ground analysis and stray a little bit outside my lane.

What is the nature of the violence in Baghdad? What can more troops do for the Coalition and the GOI (Government of Iraq)? What are the potential downsides?

The nature of the violence in Baghdad runs along sectarian lines, but also has the presence of the chaos seeking troublemaker we see out here in the west. Recent reports indicate Iran is backing both Sunni and Shia militia. Why would they do that? Remember although Iran has a religious commonality with a large portion of the Iraqi population, Iran is also Persian and not Arab. There is equal conflict historically between those ethnic groups as there is between Shia and Sunni. In fact the conflict between Arab and Persian pre-dates the founding of Islam. Iran benefits from the chaos is this country and benefits from the seeing the United States and her coalition partners tied down in the conflict.

The key to political settlement in Iraq is security. More troops will provide that security. How can I be so sure? Because that is what they do. Infantry, Armor, Field Artillery, and Military Police units can all increase the level of security, merely by their presence on the streets of Baghdad.

It has been suggested that more United States troops merely equals more United States targets. Well obviously the simple answer is to acknowledge that the more troops that are here will in fact provide more people for the enemy to attack. It takes no great insight to see that to be theoretically true. That however, is the obvious substituting for analysis. It makes it sound as if US troops merely sit around waiting for people to take a shot at them. More US troops also make it so that there are fewer places for the enemy to hide because they come here to do a job, that is securing their sector, not merely acting as targets for the enemy. More presence equals more security for the Coalition to finish the mission and for the GOI to work out its challenges.

Of course the GOI might not get its act together with more security and of course some of those surging troops may get killed. But nothing here is preordained; the out come can still be influenced, and security is the element required to allow other thoughtful decision to be made. It is not merely a matter of pride and the ability of the United States to influence world events, it is not just about honoring our obligation to the fallen and seeing the mission through to the end. It is about seeing that radical Islam is defeated.

So when the President talks on Wednesday about “surging” I would remind you that such a course of action has been formulated by some thoughtful people like SEN McCain who want us to succeed and understand what is at stake here. Our world is so interconnected today we cannot afford to have nations are regions we rely on in chaos. We owe it to ourselves and freedom loving people everywhere to give this mission our best efforts.

Lifesaving Intelligence and Medical Support Help
01/09/2007 3:54 PM ET
In Leatherneck, the marine's magazine, R. R. Keene writes in "The War on Terror" about lifesaving intelligence and medical support that back the efforts of the Marines at the tip of the spear in Iraq.
Injured GIs Decide to Stay in Iraq
01/08/2007 2:31 PM ET
The Associated Press runs a story on the number of GI's who decide to stay in Iraq, saying that nearly 18,000 military personnel have been wounded in Iraq, but a majority of them have stayed or returned.
Daily Column
Shia Web Sites Hit as Sadr Recruits for "Major Battle"
By ZEYAD KASIM 01/08/2007 09:05 AM ET

A Saudi hacker who goes by the name “sNiper hEx” has declared cyber war against Shi’ite Web sites, prompted by the execution of Saddam Hussein, according to - a website that tracks electronic attacks on the Internet. Posters on several Iraqi message boards are distributing screenshots of hacked Shi’ite websites, such as the Al Al-Rasoul, Al-Sarh Al-Husseini and Top Shi’a, among others. sNiper hEx was notorious for his denial of service attacks against Israeli websites during the late 90s, but now he has turned his attention to the Shia, who he describes as “Shia dogs, Safavid Persians, the sons of Mut’a (temporary marriage) and fire worshippers.” Upon successfully breaching a website, he posts an image of Saddam and the following tribute:
“Do not be distressed for the treachery of time,
Dogs have often danced around the bodies of lions,
Do not think they have risen above him,
Dogs are dogs and lions are lions.”

Al-Basrah Net posts more claims of people sighting Saddam’s face in the moon, but this time they produce an impressively photoshopped image of the moon, supposedly taken from Mosul, with a smiling Saddam in a beret.

Islam Memo reported that the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party branch in Palestine has formed a military wing in the Gaza strip named the Martyr Saddam Brigades, according to an official in the Arab Liberation Front.

The Sunni Endowments Board denied yesterday appointing a representative to attend Saddam Hussein’s execution. “The Board had no prior knowledge of the execution, and it was not asked to appoint a delegate to attend,” said the statement. “Even if there was such a request, the Board would not have appointed a Sunni cleric to attend because they are above taking part in such a farce.” The Board also asked authorities to identify the Sunni cleric who was mentioned in media reports if there was one.

Iraqi police confirmed that 15 bodies, which were found in Karkh, west of Baghdad, were hanged on lampposts in the Fahhama area near the Sheikh Ma’rouf Cemetery. There were several eyewitness reports that 27 Shi’ite civilians were ambushed and killed by Sunni insurgents in this violent area of Baghdad, which often witnesses armed clashes and mortar bombings between Sunni and Shi’ite gunmen from the nearby Sunni neighborhoods of Sheikh Ali, Mahhalat Al-Dhahab, Alawi Al-Hilla, Douriyeen and the Shi’ite neighborhoods of Rahmaniya, Ji’aifar and Shalchiya. Several Sunni websites had reported that the gunmen were residents of the area acting in self-defense against Shi’ite militias. The Haqq Agency said that Sunni residents complained that Iraqi Army patrols in the district are taunting them through their loudspeakers with obscenities, to the effect that “the Mahdi Army will come and do so and so to your sisters and mothers.”

Several people posting on the Iraqi Rabita website have published the names of alleged Shi’ite ‘Allasa (snitches in Iraqi slang) in a mixed neighborhood of the Ghazaliya district, near the Mushajjar Street. Two of the alleged informers are storeowners and a third is a food rations provider. Others claimed that Mahdi Army militiamen are slowly taking over blocks in the neighborhood and are waging a campaign to cleanse it from Sunni families. These kinds of messages and details are very widespread on Iraqi forums, both Sunni and Shia, and some commentators often publish car registration numbers and other details to narrow down “suspects.”

The Association of Muslim Scholars released a press statement condemning the attacks by what it described as “terrorist militias belonging to a well-known, sectarian movement” against the Janabat neighborhood, a Sunni enclave in the Shia majority Amil district, south of Baghdad, and the detention of ten people in Haifa Street, central Baghdad, following clashes between insurgents and Iraqi and American troops, which the Association claimed was an act of self-defense by residents against attacking Shi’ite militias. The statement also referred sarcastically to the reaction of governmental officials to the Association’s last statement, in which it warned from an imminent assault by militias against several Sunni districts in Baghdad. “They illogically accused the Association of inciting discord in the country,” said the statement, “but they have not responded to the parties behind these militias, and they have not accused them of inciting discord, despite their numerous atrocities against the Iraqi people and their blatant attempts to incite discord.”

The Sunni fundamentalist Islam Memo website posts a photo of copies of the Quran covered with feces, claiming that they were desecrated by Shi’ite militias that attacked the Al-Ashra Al-Mubashareen Mosque several days ago. According to eyewitnesses, the website says, the militias stormed into the mosque, killed its guards, and after it plundered its furniture, kicked copies of the Quran to toilets and covered them with fecal matter.

Several Iraqi websites have claimed that Muqtada Al-Sadr gave orders to Mahdi Army operatives in Sadr City to recruit males between the ages of 18 and 45 from all families in the district. These claims coincide with expectations of a “major battle” by militias for the control or “liberation” of Baghdad, as it was described by these websites. Eyewitness accounts from Baghdad have confirmed these rumors.

Deplores Saddam Hanging & Says Goal Is to Win Hearts, Minds
01/07/2007 2:48 PM ET
The Irish Examiner runs a story in which British Chancellor Gordon Brown acknowledges "mistakes made in Iraq."

He said that the mistakes had been made in the handling of Iraq following the 2003 war, and did not rule out a future inquiry into what went wrong. Speaking on BBC1’s Sunday AM, the Chancellor condemned the manner in which former dictator Saddam Hussein was put to death as “deplorable” and “completely unacceptable”.

He said that, in the war on terror, more emphasis should be placed on the battle for hearts and minds in the Muslim world, rather than the military action which has dominated the joint US and UK response to September 11. Mr Brown gave a strong hint that he would not support any increase in British troop numbers in Iraq if president George Bush announces a “surge” of as many as 20,000 US soldiers as expected next week.

"UK personnel in the south of Iraq should continue their move away from combat and towards greater involvement in reconstruction operations and thousands of them can be expected to have left the country by the end of this year," he said.

Were Hoping For A Revival in Tea Exports to Iraq
01/05/2007 5:01 PM ET
The Economic Times of India reports that: "In Kochi, Saddam’s execution and the civil strife in Iraq have thrown a spanner in the works of the Indian tea industry. With Iraq emerging as the largest buyer of Indian tea in 2006 as per the figures till September, the tea industry was banking on the troubled country for a revival in the fortunes of tea exports."

The article continues: "Exporters say that Iraq, which is buying Indian tea under the food-for-oil programme, has not floated a fresh tender since Saddam’s execution. They feel that given the present circumstances, it may take some time for Iraq to keep up last year’s momentum. Indian exporters did not participate in the last tender, which came some days before the execution, as they had experienced some problems in the previous purchases. “Iraqi buyers had deducted some percentage from shippers citing reasons of quality difference. They had even delayed payment. Consequently few participated in the last tender,’’ says a leading exporter Krishnakumar J Shah."

The Tea Board chairman was expected to go to Iraq to sort out the problem. But it now looks like his visit would be postponed."

Iraq’s purchase of Indian tea, mostly the Orthodox variety, touched 30.1 million kg for the January-September period of 2006. In the same period of the previous year, Iraq had bought 19 million kg. Of the increased offtake in 2006, 18.4 million kg has been from South India."

It has broken the hegemony of Russia and CIS as the largest buyer of Indian tea in the process. Till end September 2006, the combined purchase of these countries totaled 27.2 million kg."

Since Iraq has kept up its purchase till December, it is likely to be the top buyer of tea from India for the whole of 2006. With Pakistan and Egypt also active in the scene, Indian tea exports hopes to touch the magical figure of 200 million kg in 2006, something which it has not done for the last few years."

Baghdad Buzz
Iraqi Official's Bodyguard Allegedly Gunned Down
01/05/2007 1:47 PM ET
Details are sketchy, but the Iraq contractor community is abuzz with word that an American private security contractor has been whisked out of Iraq after shooting an Iraqi bodyguard on Christmas eve in what contractors say was an alcohol-related incident.

Contractors who asked not to be identified say the contractor was involved in an argument with an Iraqi official's Iraqi bodyguard, 10 shots were fired, and the Iraqi bodyguard later died.

First word of the incident came in an anonymous e-mail sent to a number of media outlets.

The identity and whereabouts of the contractor are not known. According to one source he is now back in the US.

Iraqi National Security Advisor: "Where Was Humiliation?"
01/04/2007 5:17 PM ET
The English Al Jazeera site reports that the Iraqi National Security Advisor said that Saddam was not taunted during his execution.

Mowaffaq al-Rubaie, asked in an interview on CNN, said: "Where was the humiliation? The shouting of the crowd?" He insisted that there was nothing improper in executioners and officials dancing around Saddam's body after he had been killed, saying it was Iraqi tradition. "This is the tradition of the Iraqis - when they do something, they dance around the body and they express their feelings," al-Rubaie said.

"Basically they were doing their congregational prayers and supplications, and they mentioned at the end of their supplication the name of Muqtada," he said.

Seemed Unaware of Official U.N. Policy on Death Penalty
01/04/2007 4:14 PM ET
British Times Online reports that: "The new Secretary-General of the United Nations received an early reminder of the pitfalls of international diplomacy when he failed to restate the UN's opposition to the death penalty during remarks about the execution of Saddam Hussein."

Reporter Phillip Naughton with wire services, report that: Ban Ki Moon, the former South Korean Foreign Minister, received a warm welcome from staff at the UN headquarters on Manhattan's East River when he turned up for his first day at work yesterday.

But his spokeswoman was forced to issue a clarification after Mr Ban said that capital punishment should be a decision for individual member states.

The UN has an official stance opposing capital punishment and Ban’s predecessor Kofi Annan reiterated it frequently. The organisation's top envoy in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, restated it again after the former Iraqi dictator was hanged on Saturday.

Mr Ban, however, took a different approach, never mentioning the UN's ban on the death penalty in all its international tribunals, and the right to life enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the General Assembly in 1948.

"Saddam Hussein was responsible for committing heinous crimes and unspeakable atrocities against Iraqi people and we should never forget victims of his crime," Mr Ban said in response to a question about Saddam’s execution. "The issue of capital punishment is for each and every member state to decide."

It was unclear whether Mr Ban was simply unaware of UN policy or did not agree with it, but his new spokeswoman, the Haitian journalist Michele Montas, insisted that there was no change despite what she called "his own nuance

Adviser Says Disputed Photo Shows Kerry Meeting Journalists
01/04/2007 1:40 PM ET
Iraqslogger recently posted a photo of John Kerry in Iraq; it was widely described in the blogosphere as him eating alone and being snubbed by the troops, which a Kerry adviser on the trip subsequently said was not the case. Here is the explanation offered by Frank Lowenstein, Kerry's foreign policy adviser.

Lowenstein: “It’s a weird feeling seeing this photo of Sen. Kerry debated and decoded like some artifact out of the DaVinci Codes. It’s strange to me because I was there when the photo was taken. I traveled with Sen. Kerry throughout his Middle East trip. I’m his foreign policy staffer. Myself and Major McKnight were sitting right there when this photo was snapped.

Snubbed? Alone? Hardly. Sen. Kerry isn’t eating alone. In fact that photo is at an off the record breakfast meeting Senator Kerry conducted early Sunday morning with the very real Marc Santora of the New York Times Baghdad bureau and his younger colleague from the newspaper. The man shown in the green shirt across from Sen. Kerry is Marc Santora. Right after that interview was completed, Senator Kerry videotaped a message expressing his and the country’s support for the troops, to be shown on the armed services network in Iraq. Just the night before, Sen. Kerry was in that very same mess hall at a table where he ate dinner with about 10 U.S. soldiers.

Additionally, Senator Kerry spent nearly a day and half (out of two days in Iraq) outside of the Green Zone because he felt strongly that he wanted to hear from troops on the front lines. On Saturday morning, he greeted U.S. soldiers in Basra, and also met many British troops while he was there. On Saturday afternoon, he flew to FOB (Forward Operating Base) Warhorse, where he had a town hall meeting with over 100 soldiers. On Sunday morning, he was briefed by U.S. commanders at a training camp for Iraqi security forces. On Sunday evening, he traveled to another FOB where he had a long dinner in the camp mess hall with soldiers, including many from Massachusetts. These troops are nothing short of amazing, and my boss knows that with every fiber of his being. He’s a combat veteran. He’s been there.

Sen. Kerry knows that if you’re in public life, you’re going to have things you say and do taken out of context, sometimes photos even. It goes with the job. I just wanted to set the record straight about this photo not just because I was there and I know the truth, but because Sen. Kerry enjoyed his time and his conversations with the troops, and I hate to see anyone try to make some political hay out of all this or pretend this photo is something its not.”

Shiite Cleric and Militia Leader Jeered At The Gallows
01/03/2007 1:59 PM ET
Taunts at the gallows almost haulted the execution of Saddam, report wire agencies and printed in Gulf News.

Prosecutor Munkith Al Faroon, who is heard appealing for order on the explicit internet video of Saturday's hanging that has inflamed sectarian passions, said on Tuesday he threatened to leave if the jeering did not stop and that would have halted the execution as a prosecution observer must be present by law.

In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, French lawyer Emmanuel Ludot called for "a committee of inquiry to be set up under the aegis of the United Nations," arguing that the conditions of Saddam's execution were "unacceptable on matters of principle". The lawyer argued that Saddam "was until his death considered a prisoner of war and as such he should have benefited from the protections of the Geneva Conventions of 1949."

Life Goes On
Costs: Sugar, Flour, Rice, Eggs, Noodles, Chicken, Tomatoes
By ZEYAD KASIM 01/03/2007 09:31 AM ET
(1 USD = 1,336 ID)

Sugar, 50-Kilo Bag: 50,000 ID ($37.42)

Iraqi Flour, 50-Kilo Bag: 17,000 ID ($12.72)

Imported Flour, 50-Kilo Bag: 30,000 ID ($22.46) to 50,000 ID ($37.42), depends on brand and import location

American Rice, 50-Kilo Bag: 20,000 ID ($14.97)

Vietnamese Rice, 50-Kilo Bag: 10,000 ID ($7.49)

Iraqi Anbar Rice, 50-Kilo Bag: 50,000 ID ($37.42)

Tomato Paste, 850 Gram Can: 10,000 ID ($7.49)

Tea, 1KG: 600 ($.52) to 800 ID ($.60), depends on brand import location.

Iraqi Noodles, 1KG: 800 ($.60) to 1000 ($.75) ID

Iraqi Chicken, 1KG: 2,500 ID ($1.81)

Iraqi Eggs Platter, 30 eggs: 5,000 ($3.72) to 5,500 ID ($4.06), depends on source.

Daily Column
The Scoop From Key Arabic-Language Web Sites
By ZEYAD KASIM 01/03/2007 08:34 AM ET
Aswat Al-Iraq News Agency (Voices of Iraq):

Session no. 59 of Iraqi parliament has failed to convene for the fifth time since early December as a result of failure to reach quorum, which is at least 138 members of parliament, or 50% of the 275 members. The Speaker of Parliament had decided to deduct half a million Iraqi Dinars out of the monthly compensations added to salaries of parliament members, which are a total of 17 million Iraqi Dinars ($12,000). He also threatened to publish the names of absent members in local newspapers and media outlets. Governmental sources had stated earlier that 176 members had left the country to participate in the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, even though many of them had participated once or twice in the past, and many others were living abroad with their families in Western and regional countries.

Two senior Iraqi governmental officials were responsible for filming and leaking the cell phone video of Saddam’s execution, prosecutor Munqidh Al-Far’awn, who also attended the hanging, said Tuesday. Far’awn said that all witnesses who attended the execution were thoroughly searched by U.S. troops and cell phones and cameras were confiscated. “I don’t know how and where they got the equipment to film,” he said. The Iraqi Rabita website had also posted conflicting accounts of who filmed the execution. “My brother attended the procedure of the execution of the ex-president, and he confided something to me that I want the whole world to know,” said one poster. “MPs Maryam Al-Rayis (UIA, Shi’ite) and Bahaa’ Al-A’raji (UIA, Sadrist bloc, Shi’ite) filmed the execution with their cell phones. Later she sold the footage for $20,000.” Another poster disagreed and said that NSA Muwafaq Al-Rubai’I (UIA) and MP Sami Al-Askari (UIA) were responsible for the video. reports that tribal delegations from the governorates of Anbar, Ninewa, Salah Al-Din, Kirkuk and Diyala arrived in Tikrit Wednesday to visit Saddam Hussein’s grave at his hometown of Al-Ouja. Relatives of Saddam in Tikrit stated that delegations of well-known Arab tribes also came from Basrah, Nasiriya, Karbala and other southern Iraqi governorates to pay respect for Saddam’s tribe, Al-Bu Nasir. Several Iraqi websites had also reported that a delegation representing the Shi’ite Khazraj tribe from Dujail - the town where Saddam’s assassination attempt took place in 1982, and for which he was sentenced to hang for killing 148 of the townspeople – also took part in the mourning reception at Al-Ouja, according to tribesmen who mentioned that they had covered their faces out of fear of retribution from “Iran and its militias in Iraq.”

Al-Iraq News Net posts a message claiming that Muqtada Al-Sadr was the masked executioner who placed the noose around Saddam’s neck, allegedly to avenge his father, Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq Al-Sadr, who is thought to have been assassinated by Saddam’s regime in 1991, and that the team of six masked executioners were brought by NSA Muwafaq Al-Rubai’i.

Iraqis have been circulating SMS messages in several Iraqi cities claiming that an image of Saddam in his military outfit and beret can be seen on the moon. The message spread to Iraqi exile communities in nearby countries and made its rounds on Arab message boards. Similar rumors had spread four decades ago in Iraq when Iraqi President Abdul Karim Qassim was overthrown and killed by Ba’athists in a military coup in 1963. Many of Qassim’s supporters swore, at the time, that they saw the image of the Za’eem (the leader, as he was known) on the face of the moon.

The Haqq Agency reports that American and Iraqi Army troops stormed into the Assaf Mosque at Raghiba Khatoun, the second largest mosque in the Adhamiya district after the Abu Hanifa Mosque, Wednesday night, and destroyed its furniture and air conditioning units, after beating the two guards who were inside the mosque, and then they left. Interior Ministry sources had stated earlier that 15 corpses were found near the Assaf Mosque in Adhamiya. The Agency also reports from the Sulaikh district where clashes erupted Tuesday between residents and Iraqi troops. The clashes started after noon prayers when someone attacked the Najeeb Mosque in Sulaikh with a hand grenade, wounding two guards, before he was shot and killed. Iraqi troops then opened random fire from the Sulaikh Bridge over the highway, damaging the mosque and electric power lines in the neighbourhood. The Iraqi Rabita website also reported the incident and included a cell phone photo of the man who attacked the Najeeb Mosque, lying dead in a street in Sulaikh.

The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq publishes two press releases on its website today, one condemning the closure of Al-Sharqiya TV’s Baghdad bureau by the Iraqi police and the other condemning the assassination of Sheikh Hamed Mohammed Suhail, leader of the Bani Tamim tribe in Iraq, who was kidnapped by gunmen near the Shu’la district while he was returning from a funeral reception in Agarguf near Abu Ghuraib, west of Baghdad, and was pushed off a building, according to the Nur Hospital in Shu’la. Sheikh Suhail (Shi’ite) had participated in the recent national reconciliation conference in Baghdad and was known for his moderate stance and his condemnation of sectarian violence in Iraq.

The Iraq News Agency reports that an American marine killed an Iraqi soldier after they exchanged curses in Fallujah. The American soldier pulled his weapon and shot the Iraqi soldier, the agency said, adding that the American Army had admitted the incident and will start an investigation.

But The Industry Must First Be Rebuilt
01/02/2007 6:10 PM ET
The Voice Of America reports that Iraq's Kurds, Sunnis, and Shi'ites are bickering over how to distribute the nation's potentially vast oil revenue. In the meantime, energy officials are trying to rebuild the battered industry while saboteurs are busy attacking pipelines and other facilities.

The VOA reports that: "Insurgents often attack Iraq's pipelines and other key oil facilities, leaving them in flames. The damage is frustrating efforts to rebuild Iraq's crucial oil industry, which is the most important sector of the nation's economy. Iraq currently produces around two and a half million barrels of oil a day, far below its potential.

Iraq's Oil Minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, wants to change that. "Our current plan is to increase production of crude oil over the coming five years to between four and four-and-a-half million barrels per day." He says he hopes to quickly make deals with major foreign oil companies, and use their advanced technology to help Iraq reach its huge potential.

Sunni Clerics: Urge Iraqis to Foil US
01/01/2007 7:47 PM ET
AFP reports from Dubai that "Iraq's main Sunni clerics' group has blamed the United States for the execution of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and urged Iraqis to foil its plans, in a statement posted on the Internet."

The story continues, saying that the the Muslim Scholars' Association writes that "the execution of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in the manner it took place was carried out at the behest of the occupier and some of its allies in and outside" Iraq. In addition, the clerics called on Iraqis to "learn the lesson (of the execution), maintain national unity and thwart the plans of those seeking to plunge the country" into a sectarian war. The association voiced the hope that "the Iraqi people, rather than the occupier, will one day pass a just sentence on those who have caused them various forms of suffering."

01/01/2007 7:25 PM ET
Aaron Glantz of Inter-Press News Service, writes that Saddam's death leaves many unanswered questions about his role in thousands of other deaths during his rule.

The article continues, saying that: "Hussein will escape justice for gassing Kurdish civilians with chemical weapons, as well as the brutal murders of thousands of Shiites who rose up against his regime at George Bush Sr.'s urging after the 1991 Gulf War. Those killings, taken together, account for most of those buried in mass graves unearthed after the U.S. military invaded Iraq and toppled the regime in 2003."

Begins With Suicide Bomb And Ends With Saddam's Death
01/01/2007 6:52 PM ET
For those wanting to review the year in the war zones, Joseph Giordono of Stars and Stripes offers a blow-by-blow account of the major events of the year, noting that on January 5 there were more than 130 Iraqis and seven U.S. soldiers killed in suicide bomb attacks and combat; this was one of deadliest single days since the war began. The timeline ends with the December 30 execution of Saddam Hussein.
U.S. Troops: "It Closes a Chapter" And "Had To Happen"
01/01/2007 6:42 PM ET
U.S. tropps see Saddam's death as an important milestone for the Iraqi people, report Megan McCloskey and Lisa Burgess of Stars and Stripes.

Excerpt: "Most U.S. troops in Iraq asked about the hanging of Saddam Hussein were uncertain what the impact would be on coalition forces, they agreed that his death was an important milestone for the Iraqi people...Saddam's execution is a final, tangible symbol for the Iraqi people that the tyranny and terror that ruled the country for so long has ended, many of the servicemembers deployed to Camp Taqaddum said Saturday. They expressed a sense that his death was necessary for the country to move on."

A few reactions:

"It closes the chapter on 30-something years of dictatorship," said Marine Sgt. Maj. Donovan White, of the 9th Engineer Support Battalion at Camp Taqaddum in Anbar Province.

"It's a start. It had to happen," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Frank King, 56, with 656th Transportation Company, 264th Command Support Battalion.

"Now know he's done," added Sgt. 1st Class Tom Gerken, 41, also with 656th. Only with his death can the next generation grow up truly free from his grasp, he said

Dave Inspires Logistical Solution in Iraq
01/01/2007 6:32 PM ET
On Al-Rasheed army base, comedian Dave Chappelle might be surprised that his routines are helping the Iraqi army find better ways to do logistics. Stars and Stripes reporter Lisa Burgess says that Chappelle has inspired the Iraqis to organize logistics better -- all from a comedy routine in which Dave was doing a sketch involving the taste of yellow sheet cake. The Iraqis were using white paper for their "101" requisition forms -- but somehow things were not getting done correctly. But after watching Dave's routine, things were printed on yellow paper, instead of white. Now the Iraqis treat it like it's really special and are very particular about it now. Things need to be only on yellow sheets. And it seems to be working, and things are becoming organized.
Guess Which Card Saddam Was
01/01/2007 04:00 AM ET
In 2003, as Saddam's regime crumbled, US generals issued troops with special decks of cards carrying pictures of the most wanted members of his government, mostly high-ranking Baath party members or members of the Revolutionary Command Council, UK Observer's David Smith reports. Saddam Hussein, of course, was on the Ace of spades.

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