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More Money Promised, Iraqi Army Goes Door-to-Door Taking Residents' Information
By DANIEL W. SMITH 05/30/2009 03:39 AM ET
Photo: Daniel W. Smith


Rumor of US/Iran Agreement

A rumor is going around that Iran is poised to take advantage of a secret deal just made between US and Iranian officials.

The agreement is said to be that the US military will fully withdraw from Sadr City and, in return, Iran will stop activities of “special groups,” small, fragmented cells which Iran is thought to support. Both sides are said to agree to allow the Iraqi Army, now with a huge visible presence throughout all the districts within Sadr City, known as “The City” or al-Medina to many in Baghdad. Elements of the Mahdi Army are said to be included in the deal as well.

This comes one month before US troops are set to largely withdraw from most Iraqi cities anyway, and as American military spokesman have been saying that special groups’ activities are at lower levels than for most of the past year. In al-Medina, though, special groups are seen as a frightening and well-organized force in the huge district, responsible for multiple recent assassinations. Iran is seen as currently having more pull in Sadr City than current incarnations of the Mahdi Army.

Part of the plan, verbalized by those with connections to special groups, are that the bargain will not be adhered to by Iran, after US forces pull out.

A new group said to be operating within Sadr City is the Iranian-backed “Itellat,” thought to have been created by Iranian intelligence. People within the area say that Itellat is making itself known, offering $20,000 USD to anyone who “destroys an American Humvee”, and provides video footage to prove they were responsible.

Residents who spoke to Iraqslogger who believe the story say that many others have been made ill-at-ease by such claims. Though there is a certain amount of expected general anti-Iranian comments which are publicly acceptable to make, people have mostly decided, out of fear, to remain silent, informing neither the US or Iraqi Armies.


Sadr City Rebuilding Funds

According to a statement by the Council of Ministers on Thursday, the body mandated nearly $800 million in funds from Iraq’s budget mostly for rehabilitation of Sadr City, as well as some other parts of Eastern Baghdad. It is said to be part of a ten-year plan to spend $10 billion on Sadr City, much of which has remained woefully devoid of basic services for years, despite other such promises of government money to be spent there. In July of 2008, $100 million was said to be “already allocated,” though most projects, promised in glowing terms, were never implemented.


House to House Search/Information Gathering

On Friday morning, Iraqi Army troops cordoned off almost all of Sadr City’s Sector 25 for several hours, blocking all traffic in and out. They stated to residents that they were acting on intelligence that those responsible for recent rockets fired at the Green Zone were living in the district. They had names of those they were looking for, and went door-to-door, asking for them.

What caught people’s attention most was that they also asked for all residents’ ID cards, in each of the houses, and demanded detailed information of the occupants of each house. In a country with much hesitation to give up such information to anyone, especially government security forces, this caused great concern. Additional family members’ names and inventory of weapons in each house was taken as well.


Members of Iraqslogger’s network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report, but choose to remain anonymous, for security reasons.
RUMOR MILL
A Crackdown on Unqualified Cops; Bribes as High as $2,000?
By SLOGGER NETWORK 05/27/2009 4:53 PM ET

The Iraqi interior minister traveled to the province of Maysan to review the security forces in the southern province and survey the security situation, local security sources told slogger. Jawad al-Boulani met several high-level officials including the governor of the province as well as the commander of provincial police forces. While the minister attended the opening of a police station where he discussed the future of Iraqi security forces after any potential US withdrawal of its forces from Iraq, an anonymous source in the Maysan police told Slogger that the minister’s visit also had a less well-publicized purpose: to investigate allegations of financial corruption surrounding an officer in Maysan command. The source told Slogger that Lt. Col. Fadhil al-Bahadli has racked up an administrative deficit estimated at about a billion Iraqi dinars (about $863,000 in US currency).

The officer was found with gunshot wounds in the abdomen after news of the deficit broke, local sources say, adding that the officer was transferred to the hospital amid heavy security. Some rumors circulating in the province suggest that the officer attempted suicide after the deficit had been discovered, while others relay that the young man’s father attacked him after discovering the embezzlement.

Meanwhile, Maysan police officials are attempting a crackdown on policemen who had been employed under false pretenses.

Security sources told Slogger that the number of people added to the payroll without qualifications in the province numbered in the hundreds, adding that typical bribes paid to well-placed officers to hire unqualified staff range between $1,000 and $2,000.

RUMOR MILL
Squeezing Sunni Bloc in Diyala to Roll Back Pressure in Baghdad?
By SLOGGER NETWORK 05/25/2009 7:02 PM ET
Sources in Diyala Province told Slogger that a rumor is circulating that the detention of a prominent Sunni Arab political leader in the governorate last week may be linked to corruption allegations regarding a prominent Da'wa official in Baghdad.

The arrest last week of provincial council member Abd al-Jabbar Ali al-Khazraji, known also as Abu Mujahid, has sparked protests among supporters of the Tawafuq Front, the Sunni Arab bloc which the detained leader leads in the province.

The rumor circulating among Tawafuq supporters suggests that security forces loyal to the Da'wa Party of Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki arrested the Tawafuq leader in order to apply pressure on his party in a corruption case in Baghdad.

Falah al-Sudani, the Da'wa-affiliated trade minister, formally resigned his post on Monday in context of a brewing corruption scandal and apparent cabinet reshuffle. Tawafuq leaders in Parliament have pressed for formal procedures to be brought against the former minister.

The rumor in Diyala Province suggests that the arrest in Diyala Province could be a Da'wa strategy for pressing the Tawafuq Front to ease off its demands to prosecute the Da'wa former minister.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm this rumor at this time.

Only on Slogger
Driver Unwitting Accomplice in Bid to Move Sectarian Writing into Salah al-Din
By SLOGGER NETWORK 05/19/2009 7:37 PM ET
Iraqi security forces uncovered an apparent attempt to smuggle banned sectarian literature into Iraq, according to an account relayed to IraqSlogger by a truck driver in the northern province of Salah al-Din.

The driver told Slogger that he had been engaged to haul a shipment said to contain perishable vegetables and pharmaceutical materials from Abu Ghraib in Anbar Province to Samarra in Salah al-Din Province near Baghdad last week. The driver explained that he had been informed that the cargo had been brought to Anbar Province over the western Iraqi border, from either Syria or Jordan.

The driver said that he hauled the materials to Samarra, as instructed, adding that while the cargo was being unloaded into a cold storage facility, one of the workers opened a box out of curiosity, and found that the boxes did not contain medicines but instead extremist sectarian literature denigrating Shi'a Muslims and urging Sunni Muslims to use violence against the Shi'a.

The worker notified the security forces, who arrested the driver, he said. After investigations satisfied the Iraqi forces that the driver had no link to the literature that he had unknowingly hauled to Samarra, he was released.

The driver also explained that, in his experience, shipments said to contain perishable medicines would have cleared the border control on the Iraqi frontier more quickly with less inspection, saying that in his view this explained why the unknown extremists behind the apparent attempt to bring the literature into Iraq had apparently chosen to disguise the literature as pharmaceutical materials.

Exclusive
Shadowy "Special Groups", not the Mahdi Army, are Spoken of in Whispers
By DANIEL W. SMITH 05/16/2009 10:44 PM ET
An Iraqi Army Vehicle Guards a Government Building in Sadr City
Photo: Daniel W. Smith
An Iraqi Army Vehicle Guards a Government Building in Sadr City


BAGHDAD – On Thursday, a corpse was found in the street in Sadr City. According to an Iraqslogger source, the body was identified as that of a young man who had been abducted twelve days earlier, and that it bore signs of torture. The young man was rumored to have “worked for the Americans,” but it was not clear in what capacity he may have done so.

Despite much improved safety from past years, there is great fear among residents of Sadr City. The return of the Mahdi Army is often written of, in reference to this area, a bastion of support for Muqtada al-Sadr, but people who live in Sadr City speak quietly of another threat. Shadowy “special groups,” underground mafia-like groups are seen as the cause of much violence within the huge slum.

Though reports of violence in “The City” (“al-Medina” in Arabic) as Sadr City is often called, (or “al-Thawra”, its previous name, by those who strongly oppose Sadrist elements) are not widely reported, they are still common. Instead of blatant killings by those easily recognizable as militia members, there is a frightening air of mystery surrounding multiple targeted deaths of late. The rash of killing of young gay men (or those thought to be gay) has been widely reported on, but many other deaths have not. For deaths to be reported as “official”, the Sadr City council must often approve a death certificate, sometimes characterized by members of the council as done in such a way as to repress reporting such deaths in a timely fashion.

The US military describes special groups as Iranian-trained/supported cells of insurgent fighters, but within al-Medina, the perception of who is behind the groups is not always so cut-and-dry. Though this definition can apply for many, special groups seem a frightening secret force whose motives are not always clear. Residents lately often see them as capable of attacks of much more precision than Mahdi Army elements (though there is thought to be some crossover between the two).

There are only four entrances to Sadr City, and the Iraqi Army has up to four checkpoints for all of Sadr City’s 101 districts. Talk both in the streets and in Sadr City council meetings reflect the idea that this strongly suggests involvement of some Iraqi security forces with special groups, and also the existence of buildings used as torture/killing rooms within Sadr City’s borders.

On Saturday, a rocket (perhaps intended to hit a US base nearby) struck a house and killed three members of a family, including a child under two years old.


Members of Iraqslogger’s network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report, but choose to remain anonymous, for security reasons.

Only on Slogger
Local Gov't Sees $7 Mil Debts over Construction Projects
By SLOGGER NETWORK 05/15/2009 4:52 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Budget shortfalls in the Iraqi province of Salah al-Din will mean that officials will be making politically sensitive choices over construction projects to improve services and infrastructure for the coming year.

A source close to the provincial council in Tikrit told Slogger that the local government owes 8 billion Iraqi dinars (about 6.9 million US dollars) on infrastructure projects throughout the province.

With a downturn in revenue expected, the local government will be re-examining its spending commitments in the areas of spending as infrastructure development, agricultural support, education spending, and health services, which the source said has led to fears of public discontent if council members are perceived as withdrawing services from the Salah al-Din public.

Only on Slogger
Reports Circulate of Troops Beating Women in Raid; New Hospital for Amara
By SLOGGER NETWORK 05/14/2009 9:17 PM ET
A raid on a house in the southern Iraqi city of Amara on Tuesday has become a flashpoint for the mistrust of local residents with the Iraqi security forces, according to local residents.

A detachment from the Maysan Province rapid response force known as the Sa'id Sadiq forces raided a house in the al-Mu'alamin district of Amara, the provincial capital on Monday. Accounts attributed to eyewitnesses are circulating in the city, reporting that the troops beat the inhabitants of the house, including the women that were present at the time, sparking outrage among Amara’s denizens.

Anti-bomb bots

Meanwhile, Iraqi forces in the province have received high-tech robotic equipment to deactivate IEDs and unexploded ordinance, a local security source told Slogger. According to the source, the robot is the first of its kind in the province, and is outfitted with cameras and remote-controlled arms that allow its operator to defuse explosive devices from afar.

New hospitals

Finally, health officials in the province have announced that they will construct ten new hospitals in the governorate. Construction began on one 400-bed facility in central Amara on Monday, in a $150 million contract with a Turkish company. Works are due to be completed in two years’ time.

Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Exclusive
Former Military Installations in Tikrit Host Squatters from Kirkuk, Diyala
By SLOGGER NETWORK 05/13/2009 3:33 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi refugees living in former military installations near the Iraqi city of Tikrit have told IraqSlogger that they fear that government efforts to reclaim the military bases will leave thousands of displaced Iraqis in Salah al-Din Province without shelter.

Local sources say that as many as 5,000 predominantly Sunni Arab families from other nearby governorates in Iraq have made their way to Salah al-Din province since the fall of the former Iraqi regime in 2003, including Arabs from Kirkuk and Diyala Provinces.

Former military installations located between the cities of Bayji and the provincial capital of Tikrit have become the temporary home for many these families, who came to the province to live as squatters fleeing the ethnic and sectarian tensions and violence in other areas of northern Iraq.

Muhammad Mizher al-Shimary, a leader of the displaced community in Tikrit, said that his family chose to flee to Tikrit from the al-Dubis area of disputed Kirkuk Province because the area was an ethnic Arab stronghold.

Displaced Arabs settled in 17 different squatter settlements around Tikrit, al-Shimary added, explaining that the sites were lacking in basic services such as electricity, running water, health services and schools.

Ali Ahmed Meshaal, 32, told Slogger that he was responsible for a family of 20 persons, but was struggling to provide for them as an unemployed man. He said that after 2003 his family fled the Kirkuk area under pressure by Kurdish militia forces, whom he accused of encroaching on and confiscating his family’s property in Kirkuk.

Iraqi security officials recently ordered the squatters to vacate the camps, leading many to protest that they will have no alternative housing. Several of those present suggested that the move showed insensitivity to the plight of displaced Sunni Arabs in Iraq, revealing the biases of the Shi'a-Kurdish coalition that controls the federal government.

Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff in Salah al-Din contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Only on Slogger
Ring of Five in Babil Province Was Planning to Bomb Wedding Party
By SLOGGER NETWORK 05/12/2009 7:03 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Two wanted criminals who were arrested south of Baghdad on Sunday were planning reprisal attacks against local tribesmen in retaliation for that tribe's embrace of the locally organized Sahwa organizations that have operated in Iraq's predominantly Sunni Arab areas.

A source in the al-Karghul tribe told Slogger that members of the tribe, which is involved in the local Sahwa organization, provided intelligence information to Iraqi Army forces on the whereabouts of two wanted men on Sunday, which led to their arrests.

The men, Abdullah Fadhil Khdayr and Ahmad Daham Khdayr, were wanted for several crimes against civilians in the area, the source said, adding that they also revealed the location of hidden explosives and weapons, including suicide belts.

The men also confessed to belonging to a cell of five other militants, leading Iraqi forces to conduct raids against alleged members on Sunday. The suspects reportedly escaped before they could be captured.

The captured men said that the ring of militants had been planning attacks against members of the al-Karhul tribe as retaliation for that tribe’s backing of the Sahwa initiatives in the province, the scheme that saw former insurgents paid by US forces to cooperate in repressing armed groups.

One retaliation plan against local Sahwa elements involved sending a suicide bomber to detonate himself at an al-Karghul tribal wedding party, the source said.

Locals say that on Sunday evening Sahwa and Army forces showed heavy deployment near an irrigation project in the Yusufiya area. Local security sources said the deployment came after obtaining an intelligence tip that the other suspected members of the militant ring were planning an escape in that area, but did not provide further information.

Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff in Yusifiya contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Exclusive
Local Sahwa Leader Says Absences Due to Ongoing Disputes with Gov't
By SLOGGER NETWORK 05/11/2009 6:31 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

An estimated 75 percent of the locally organized irregular fighters known in Arabic as Sahwa have abandoned their positions in the Hawija area of disputed Kirkuk province, according to one Sahwa leader in the district.

Na’if al-Mulan, the local Sahwa commander, attributed the absences of what he termed "three quarters of the Hawija Sahwa forces" to an ongoing dispute with the Iraqi authorities over the status and compensation of the Sahwa forces, Slogger sources in the Hawija area report.

Hawija, a predominantly Sunni Arab area southwest of Kirkuk city, was known as a stronghold of armed groups until the Sahwa forces, many of them former insurgent fighters, took up their activity, most of them on the payroll of the American forces in Iraq. The Americans have handed the Sahwa portfolio over to the Iraqi government, but Iraq’s governing coalition of Shi'a and Kurdish parties have been slow to meet the Sahwa demands of payment for security duties performed and incorporation into Iraq’s uniformed security forces.

Sahwa checkpoints in the Hawija area have been closed due to staffing shortages, al-Mulan said.

Some residents of the Hawija area told Slogger that they feel trapped between the Iraqi government and the local Sahwa forces, fearing a security deterioration as the dispute unfolds.

One Hawija man told Slogger that he feared a return to the poor security situation that the city saw just two years ago when “we used to find a (decapitated) head per day” in Hawija, in his words. Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff in Hawija contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

RUMOR MILL
Rumors of Car Bombings to Come in al-Adhamiya
By DANIEL W. SMITH 05/08/2009 00:13 AM ET
Photo: Daniel W. Smith

Turkey/Sadr City
Where the government has failed again and again (and, truth be told, made some advances) Turkish officials appear poised to lend a hand in the rebuilding of Sadr City.

“Turkey?” you ask? “Isn’t that where Muqtada al-Sadr just went for some kind of pseudo/quasi state visit?”

According to a source close to the Sadr City council, officials from the Turkish Embassy in Iraq visited the council, and spoke of “investing money in Sadr City” and of financing the reconstruction (possibly to be done by both Iraqi and Turkish firms).

It came as Muqtada al-Sadr met with Turkish President Abdullah Gul and his Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed “security developments in Iraq.”

Many have mused on the reason for Turkey being chosen as the stage on which al-Sadr broke his two year shunning of the public eye (except for speeches and comments dictated by his followers). As some within his circle have said he has attained the title of a Marjam, Religious Authority, or even Grand Ayatollah (in two years???), and US force levels are dropping, something seems to be lining up, and it has everyone guessing. The Sayyid hasn’t lost his flair.

As Turkey is poised to take a pivotal roll in regional politics, al-Sadr (speculated to not mind siding with them on Kirkuk) seems to be preparing for a power-packed return to Iraq, both sides have something to gain.

As some in Sadr City are saying (and hoping), why not add the real rebuilding of Sadr City to the deal? It shores up even stronger support for al-Sadr among a constituency which is still very important, and makes him look like he can get things done - an issue on which the Iraqi government might not bear comparison favorably.

Al-Adhamiya Car Bomb Warnings
After the spike in bombings which appear to have targeted Shi’a populations in Baghdad, some in the mostly Sunni al-Adhamiya neighborhood are warning of reprisals. There was a good amount of talk last week that people from al-Adhamiya had orchestrated the twin bombings at the Imam Musa al-Khadhim shrine, just across the Tigris in the Shi’a majority district of al-Kadhimiya. Family elders in al-Adhamiya have denied involvement, but some there say that retribution is coming, and to “stay away from crowds”.

The local Sahwa units around al-Adhamiya have been seen tightening security, giving extra scrutiny to people not known to live in the area. A Sahwa member spoke of their commanders being warned by US forces of up to 20 vehicles fitted with car bombs in the neighborhood. He said they were given information about the cars, including some license plate numbers. On Thursday, several Sahwa checkpoints were comparing plate numbers with some listed on pieces of paper which had been circulated among them.

British Investors
As Prime Minister al-Maliki was in London touting the perks of investing in Iraq, a delegation of 14 British investors arrived with little fanfare at Baghdad’s Sheraton Ishtar Hotel. Apparently, he is not to be outdone by al-Sadr. More of the British investors were said to be expected by mid-May.


Members of Iraqslogger’s network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report, but choose to remain anonymous, for security reasons.
The Latest
Police Chief Announces Arrests, Killing of Christian Woman
05/03/2009 9:38 PM ET
Google Earth image/Iraqslogger

Erbil’s police chief announced on Sunday that three people were arrested for attempting to sell a child’s kidney, according to Aswat al-Iraq.

Brig. Abdulkhaleq Talaat was quick to make the point that it was not people from Erbil, and that the suspects were Arabs, not Kurds, saying “Three Arab citizens from Baghdad brought a child’s kidney to sell in Arbil last month.” No other details of the investigation or arrest were given.

Chief Talaat also spoke of the arrest of two people arrested for killing a Christian woman in Ankawa, a largely Christian district of Erbil. Two others were also reported arrested for killing the security guard of a travel agent in Erbil “for the purpose of stealing.”

Erbil, not having seen the same levels of violence as much of the rest of the country, is a region reported on mostly in political stories to do with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), who are based there.

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