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Archive: August 2007
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UNDER FIRE
US Embassy Assesses Ministry Problems, Maliki's "Hostility" to Investigations
08/31/2007 11:08 AM ET
Baghdad, IRAQ: Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki chairs a meeting of the Iraqi Cabinet in Baghdad, 03 July 2007.
Khalid Mohammed/AFP/Getty
Baghdad, IRAQ: Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki chairs a meeting of the Iraqi Cabinet in Baghdad, 03 July 2007.

Corruption in the Iraqi government is "the norm in many ministries," according to a report prepared by the US embassy in Baghdad, based on the work of the Commission for Public Integrity (CPI), an independent Iraqi institution, and other anticorruption agencies within the Iraqi government.

David Corn of the Nation procured a copy of the study, labeled "SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED/Not for distribution to personnel outside of the US Embassy in Baghdad," which describes a fairly bleak moral landscape in the Iraqi ministries, and a prime minister who is either unable or unwilling to impose or enforce standards of ethical practice, transparency, and accountability in government operations.

According to the report, Maliki's office exacerbates the problem: "The Prime Minister's Office has demonstrated an open hostility" to independent corruption investigations. His government has withheld resources from the CPI, the report says, and "there have been a number of identified cases where government and political pressure has been applied to change the outcome of investigations and prosecutions in favor of members of the Shia Alliance"-which includes Maliki's Dawa party.

A separate "Secret and Confidential" memo obtained by The Nation described how Maliki's office forbid the CPI from forwarding any case to the courts involving the president, the prime minister, or any current or past ministers without Maliki's permission. According to the U.S. embassy report, the government was so hostile towards the anticorruption investigations, the CPI link on the official Iraqi government website led visitors to porn for awhile.

From the looks of the Embassy's assessment of the pervasive level of corruption in Iraq's ministries, Maliki would have a massive problem to confront, if he ever wanted to.

Ministry of the Interior

"Seen by Iraqis as untouchable by the anticorruption enforcement infrastructure of Iraq."

"Groups within MOI function similarly to a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) in the classic sense. MOI is a 'legal enterprise' which has been co-opted by organized criminals who act through the 'legal enterprise' to commit crimes such as kidnapping, extortion, bribery, etc."

"Currently 426 investigations are hung up awaiting responses for documents belonging to MOI which routinely are ignored."

"CPI investigators assigned to MOI investigations have unanimously expressed their fear of being assassinated should they aggressively pursue their duties at MOI."

Ministry of Defense

"Corruption investigations in Ministry of Defense are judged to be ineffectual."

Officials express a "shocking lack of concern" about the theft of $850 million from the defense procurement budget.

"In some cases....American advisors working for US have interceded to remove suspects from investigations or custody."

Ministry of Trade

"Widely recognized as a troubled ministry"

Ministry of Health

"Is a sore point; corruption is actually affecting its ability to deliver services and threatens the support of the government."

Ministry of Oil

"CPI and the are completely ill-equipped to handle oil theft cases," which leaves criminal groups unhindered in stealing oil "for the benefit of militias/insurgents, corrupt public officials and foreign buyers."

Ministry of Education

"Anticorruption cases concerning the Ministry of Education have been particularly ineffective...."

Ministry of Water Resources

"Effectively out of the anticorruption fight with little to no apparent effort in trying to combat fraud."

Ministry of Labor & Social Affairs

"Hostile to the prosecution of corruption cases."

Ministry of Transportation

"Militia support from has effectively made corruption in the Ministry of Transportation wholesale according to investigators and immune from prosecution."

BATTLE ZONE
Explosion Hit Near Kashmoulah Convoy Causing No Injuries
08/30/2007 11:58 AM ET
Mosul, Aug 30, (VOI)- Ninewa Governor and his aide survived unharmed on Thursday an attempt on their lives as an explosive charge detonated near their motorcade in Mosul, an official source from Ninewa police said.

"An explosive charge detonated, today at 2:00 pm, near the motorcade of Ninewa Governor Duraid Kashmoulah and his deputy Khisrou Koran in central Mosul," the source, who asked not to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

The source who gave no further details said "the explosion left no casualties."

Meanwhile, the same source told VOI "the Ninewa governorate building came under mortar attack, today at 2:00 pm, but the mortars missed the building and fell onto al-Jumhuriyah street, wounding three civilians."

The source added that the governorate building was expected to host a meeting to be attended by Ninewa Governor, Interior Minister Deputy Idin Khalid and Iraqi army ground troops Commander Abdul Aziz Jasim.

Over the last three weeks, two governors were killed in southern Iraq with explosive charge blasts, while the Governor of Salah al-Din province, central Iraq, survived an attempt on his life when two charges detonated near his motorcade three days ago.

Mosul, capital city of Ninewa province, is 405 km north of Baghdad.

The Latest
Iraqi Security Forces Close Bridges, Permit Entry But Not Exit
08/30/2007 08:55 AM ET
An Iraqi soldier keeps watch at a checkpoint near Sadr City, east of Baghdad, 30 August 2007.
Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi soldier keeps watch at a checkpoint near Sadr City, east of Baghdad, 30 August 2007.

Baghdad, Aug 30, (VOI)- Iraqi security forces have besieged Sadr City in eastern Baghdad and sealed off the city's main outlets, eyewitnesses said.

"Iraqi security forces closed bridges over al-Jaish Canal, which represent the main outlets to Sadr City, and banned anyone from leaving without specified reasons, however they are allowing entry into the city," an eyewitness told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

"Last night was calm and the city witnessed no clashes or unrest, so residents were surprised at today's siege," another eyewitness said.

The siege came one day after the decision taken by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to freeze al-Mahdi Army for six months.

The decision was taken after recent speculation and accusations against al-Mahdi Army of being involved in the violent acts in the city of Karbala, where scores were killed and injured.

Sadr City is the stronghold of al-Mahdi Army. Al-Sadr decided to freeze the Mahdi Army and called for what he described, in a statement, as "an impartial investigation into the incidents."

The city of Karbala, 108 km southwest of Baghdad, has been the scene of fierce clashes on Monday and Tuesday when gunmen clashed with police forces. The clashes left 35 dead and up to 130 wounded, according to recent statements from the defense ministry.

The clashes took place in Karbala while the Shiite city was receiving hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims heading for the shrines of imams al-Hussein and al-Abbas as a prelude to celebrating the birth anniversary of Imam al-Mahdi on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Photo Gallery
Surprise Visit to Iraq and Syria in Her Role as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador
08/28/2007 9:19 PM ET
Iraq, August 28: UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets an elderly Iraqi woman in a wheelchair, one of 1,300 refugees trapped at the makeshift Al Waleed camp in Iraq, unable to enter Syria. Jolie is on a two-day visit to Iraq and Syria.
UNHCR photo by Morris Bernard via AFP/Getty Images
Iraq, August 28: UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie meets an elderly Iraqi woman in a wheelchair, one of 1,300 refugees trapped at the makeshift Al Waleed camp in Iraq, unable to enter Syria. Jolie is on a two-day visit to Iraq and Syria.

UNHCR photo by Morris Bernard via AFP/Getty Images

Angelina Jolie chatting with Red Crescent volunteers taking care of refugee children while their parents wait to register as refugees at a UNHCR registration center in Damascus 27 August 2007.
UNHCR photo by Morris Bernard via AFP/Getty Images
Angelina Jolie chatting with Red Crescent volunteers taking care of refugee children while their parents wait to register as refugees at a UNHCR registration center in Damascus 27 August 2007.

Here is the UNHCR's account of Angelina's time in Iraq and Syria:
DAMASCUS, Syria, August 28 (UNHCR) – UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie has visited Iraq and Syria to see first-hand the plight of hundreds of thousands of families uprooted by the conflict in Iraq.

The UN refugee agency estimates more than 4. 2 million Iraqis have left their homes – 2 million to neighbouring states and another 2.2 million displaced inside Iraq.

Yesterday in Damascus, Jolie visited a UNHCR registration centre and spent hours talking to Iraqi refugees in their homes. Today, she crossed into Iraq to visit 1,200 refugees trapped in a makeshift camp at the border, unable to flee Iraq, and later watched scores of Iraqis crossing into Syria at a border checkpoint.

As a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Jolie said she would leave politics to others while focusing on the region's huge humanitarian needs.

"I have come to Syria and Iraq to help draw attention to this humanitarian crisis and to urge governments to increase their support for UNHCR and its partners," Jolie said. "My sole purpose in both countries is to highlight the humanitarian plight of those uprooted by the war in Iraq."

After talking with some of the stranded refugees at Iraq's Al Waleed camp on Tuesday, Jolie said: "it is absolutely essential that the ongoing debate about Iraq's future includes plans for addressing the enormous humanitarian consequences these people face."

While in Iraq, she separated from UNHCR to visit privately with US troops and other Multi-National Forces based in the area.

Jolie arrived in Syria on Monday. In Damascus, she met some of the thousands of Iraqi refugees registering with UNHCR, nearly one-quarter of whom are victims of violence and torture. Tens of thousands are without jobs, and many young people are in danger of losing out on an education and a future. She recognized Syria for its open borders and generosity to Iraqis.

In late July, UNHCR and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) launched a joint US$129 million education appeal aimed at getting 155,000 young Iraqi refugees throughout the Middle East back into school. The United States announced Tuesday that it will contribute US$30 million to the appeal.

TURF WAR
Local Security Forces Met Resistance When Asking Kurdish Rebels to Leave
08/28/2007 1:14 PM ET
Sulaimaniya, Aug 28, (VOI)- Fierce clashes erupted on Tuesday between police forces and fighters of the Iranian PJAK (Kurdistan Free Life Party) based on the mountainous area near the Iraqi borders with Iran, during which a policeman was injured, a police source in Bachwin district in eastern Sulaimaniya said.

"Police forces clashed on early Tuesday with PJAK fighters, during which a policeman was injured, in Bachwin district on borders with Iran," General Ramadan Abu Bakr told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

PJAK (Partiya Jiyana Azada Kurdistanê in Kurdish or Kurdistan Free Life Party) is an Iranian Kurdish military opposition group founded in 2004, said to be linked to the PKK. PJAK, although being a newly established organization, continuously launches militant operations against Iranian army forces.

"We asked PJAK fighters to leave the region to avoid the Iranian shelling, in accordance to the locals' requests." the general highlighted.

Iran has been shelling border areas in Qalaat Diza, 135 km northwest of Sulaimaniya, Haj Omran, 147 km northeast of Arbil, and Bachwin district for three weeks now under the pretext of tracking down PJAK fighters, Iranian Kurds who oppose the Iranian government.

Turkey, on the other hand, was shelling border areas in the northern Iraq province of Duhuk also under the pretext of fighting members of imprisoned leader Abdullah Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Bachwin lies 105 km east of Sulaimaniya, which is located 364 km northeast of Baghdad.

U.S. Military
R & R Time: US Mil Buying Gaming, Entertainment Systems for US Forces in Iraq
08/27/2007 9:51 PM ET
Here's our favorite Iraq-related post of the day on the Federal Business Opportunities Web site:

Sources Sought, Blue Ray DVD, XBOX, WII, PS3, Karaoke

General Information

Document Type: Sources Sought Notice
Solicitation Number: CJSOTF
Posted Date: Aug 26, 2007
Original Response Date: Aug 29, 2007
Current Response Date: Aug 29, 2007
Original Archive Date: Sep 13, 2007
Current Archive Date: Sep 13, 2007
Classification Code: 78 -- Recreational & athletic equipment
Naics Code: 451220 -- Prerecorded Tape, Compact Disc, and Record Stores

Contracting Office Address

Department of the Air Force, Air Force Materiel Command, 96th Contracting Squadron (Eglin AFB), 96th Contracting Squadron 205 West D Ave., Suite 541, Eglin AFB, FL, 32542-6862, UNITED STATES

Description

NOTE: If interested, respond to the following e-mail address only: cjsotfapj4commodities@cjsotfap.iraq.soccent.centcom.mil

This is a sources sought notice. This requirement will consist of various blue ray dvd's, a blue ray dvd player, various gaming system games, and a multi format karaoke machine w/ CDG karaoke cd's.

A list of items will be provided upon request.

Note that shipping will be to Iraq, FOB destination, via USPS, Fed Ex, or DHL.

Point of Contact

Kenneth Whelchel, Contract Specialist, Phone 850-882-0326, Fax 850-882-1680, Email ken.whelchel@eglin.af.mil

Place of Performance

Address: CJSOTF-AP SUPCEN C/O RICHARDSON CAMP SYVERSON BALAD, IRAQ 09391 Postal Code: 09391 Country: UNITED STATES

Only on Slogger
"All Hell Is Breaking Loose" - Iraqis Cause Mayhem at Yoga, Meditation Retreat
08/27/2007 7:16 PM ET
A reliable tipster shared this amusing story with us today:
Do you remember Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the Indian guru who visited Baghdad on a peace mission last May?

Well, he has some kind of youth festival taking place right now at his ashram in south India.

He convinced the government of Iraq to send a delegation and, according to my man on the inside, all hell is breaking loose.

First the Iraqis stormed out of a press conference when they found out Israelis were there.

Then the Iraqis refused to take part in meditation or any exercises, refused to wake up at 5am, demanded to eat meat, and tried to hit on all the women there.

The final straw came when everyone was asked to join together to chant OM, and the Sadris in the delegation started shouting "Allah Akhbar."

The Iraqi delegation has now decided to leave early and go to Delhi.

This earlier Reuters story about the India gathering has none of those colorful details.

TURF WAR
Shammari Reports Ceasefire, Warns of New Kidnapping Campaign
08/27/2007 11:55 AM ET
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - JULY 12: A former Sunni insurgent now working with U.S. forces stands at an American firebase July 12, 2007.
Chris Hondros/Getty
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - JULY 12: A former Sunni insurgent now working with U.S. forces stands at an American firebase July 12, 2007.

Evolving loyalties in Anbar province have provided the US with marked successes in the fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq, as local tribes and militias rebelled against the extreme tactics and radical conservatism of AQ's brand of Islam and joined with American forces to combat the group.

But a representative of the Islamic Army of Iraq (IAI), which openly broke ranks with Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in April 2007, now says that the two groups have signed a ceasefire, and warns that the appearance of recent success is about to be reversed.

In an interview with the Sunday Times of London, IAI representative Ibrahim al-Shammari expressed resentment that the US claimed the division of IAI and AQI represented a victory for the US.

“We’ve had big problems with Al-Qaeda ever since they began targeting and killing our men,” he said. “Eventually we had to fight back, but we found American troops were exploiting the situation by spreading rumours that exacerbated the conflict.”

“Bush foolishly announced to the world that all the Sunnis in Iraq were fighting Al-Qaeda so he could claim to have achieved a great victory,” Shammari said. “It’s nonsense.”

Though IAI militants may have participated in anti-AQI operations in Anbar, the Islamic Army refused to participate as a whole unless the US accepted the “Islamic resistance” as the legitimate representative of the Iraqi people and agreed to set a clear timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.

Shammari admits Al Qaeda in Iraq has lost support, explaining, "They tyrannised people and killed and assaulted tribal leaders," but still he says IAI has signed a ceasefire with the group and agreed to separate areas of influence where AQI and IAI could operate independently without interfering with each other.

IAI is considering undertaking a new campaign of taking foreigners hostage to mark their resurgence of militancy. “Every foreigner in Iraq is a potential target for us no matter what his nationality or religion,” Shammari said. “If he is proven to be a spy, he will be punished and an Islamic court will determine his fate.”

The purpose of taking hostages would not be to kill them, he added. “We want western governments to listen to the Iraqi people and stop supporting the occupation by sending their citizens to Iraq.”

The Latest
Spokesman Says Brits to Remain in Basra at Present, to Leave by End of Year
08/25/2007 12:08 PM ET
BASRA, IRAQ: A British military helicopter lands at the former palace of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in Basra, now used as headquarters for the British troops in charge of southern Iraq.
Antonio Scorza/AFP/Getty
BASRA, IRAQ: A British military helicopter lands at the former palace of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in Basra, now used as headquarters for the British troops in charge of southern Iraq.

Basra, Aug 25, (VOI) – The Multi-National Force (MNF) spokesman denied on Saturday a decision that British forces in Basra would be withdrawn soon, adding British forces would soon hand over the base in the former presidential palaces and joint coordination center to the Iraqi police.

"There is no decision or program to pull British forces out of Basra at present," Maj. Matthew Bird told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

He pointed out that withdrawal of "500 British troops in Basra will take place by the end of this year," adding "the cut in the number of British soldiers in Basra has nothing to do with any emergency circumstances or changes in the British policy in Iraq. It was a plan approved during the time of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in February 2007."

British newspaper The Guardian had quoted military sources on Friday as having said that British soldiers would withdraw from the Iraqi city of Basra in two weeks' time.

"Handing over those two camps should not be viewed as withdrawal of British forces from Basra. Rather, it should be considered a significant step to help Iraqi forces take over security responsibilities," said Bird.

The British forces in Basra have two bases in the city's international airport, 25 km northwest of the city, and former presidential palaces, where the British and U.S. consulates are located.

Both bases come under constant daily attacks with Katyusha missiles and mortar shells by unidentified armed groups.

The British forces in Basra, 590 km south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, keep 5,500 troops within the Multi-National Force in Iraq after withdrawing 1,600 soldiers during the past few months.

Britain is the United States' prime ally in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The Latest
Guardian: Decision Already Made to Remove UK Forces From Basra Palace HQ
08/24/2007 4:38 PM ET
BASRA, IRAQ: A British military helicopter lands at the former palace of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in Basra, now used as headquarters for the British troops in charge of southern Iraq.
Antonio Scorza/AFP/Getty
BASRA, IRAQ: A British military helicopter lands at the former palace of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in Basra, now used as headquarters for the British troops in charge of southern Iraq.

The former palace of Saddam Hussein in Basra has served as command headquarters for British forces throughout the war, and their long-anticipated withdrawal would remove the last of their presence from the southern Iraqi city. Now the UK Guardian reports British forces are preparing to withdraw troops from Basra Palace within two weeks, and possibly as soon as early next week.

"All indications are it shouldn't be far away," Major Mike Shearer, the army's spokesman in Basra, told the Guardian when asked about the handover of the Basra palace. Off the record, defense officials said a decision has already been made and the 500 British troops based there are on the verge of leaving. The honor of announcing the handover will be left to the Iraqis.

The Guardian reports British troops have made it clear they believe their presence at the palace carries huge risks but serves no useful purpose. MP Kevan Jones recently returned from a visit to Basra, describing the delivery of supplies to the British garrison at the Basra palace as "nightly suicide missions". As Jones described it: "We have a force surrounded like cowboys and Indians in the Basra palace."

As the British have pulled back in Basra, re-focusing efforts on training Iraqi forces, attacks on UK troops have continued unabated, though intra-Shia fighting has been on the upswing as different factions struggle for local dominance. Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr looks to use the British withdrawal as a propaganda victory, recently claiming credit for the Mahdi Army "teaching" the British a lesson.

The Latest
INL Pulls Out, but Communist Minister Stays Behind
08/24/2007 09:11 AM ET
Cairo, EGYPT: Iyad Allawi, member of Iraqi parliament and head of the Iraqi National list, speaks during a press conference after his meeting with Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa in Cairo 18 March 2007.
Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty
Cairo, EGYPT: Iyad Allawi, member of Iraqi parliament and head of the Iraqi National list, speaks during a press conference after his meeting with Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa in Cairo 18 March 2007.

Baghdad, Aug 24, (VOI) – Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National List (INL) withdrew "finally" from Nouri al-Maliki's government, a leading INL member announced on Friday.

"The INL will officially notify the head of government of its decision soon," Iyad Jamal al-Din told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) by telephone, adding that the decision was taken "after the government insisted on ignoring the demands made in February 2007."

The INL, which has five portfolios in the government of Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki, announced on August 7, 2007 that it would suspend its participation in the government, and threatened to "withdraw entirely from the government if its demands continued to be ignored."

The INL, which had 25 out of the total 275 seats in the Iraqi parliament, forwarded 14 demands to the government, including reconsidering the law on terrorism, filtering the army and police of "disloyal elements" and suspending the debaathification law pending an enactment of a new law.

The INL portfolios included justice, communications, science and technology, human rights and a minister of state.

"The minister of science and technology, who belongs to the Communist Party, one of the parties inside the INL, has declined to quit the government, while the others agreed," Jamal al-Din said.

Smackdown
Bush Softens Earlier Comments by Signalling Support for Iraq Leader
08/22/2007 10:02 AM ET
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki hit back at the recent criticism from US leaders on Wednesday, telling a press conference in Damascus that the statements are "irresponsible," and suggesting Iraq could find its friends elsewhere.

Later on Wednesday, President Bush tried to reverse the strain of antagonism by telling the audience at his VFW speech: "Prime Minister Maliki is a good guy, a good man, with a difficult job and I support him."

The barrage of criticism began on Monday with the return of Senators John Warner (R-VA) and Carl Levin (D-MI) from a two-day visit to Iraq. Both expressed a sense of pessimism in the capabilities of the Iraqi government, but Levin took it a step further by calling for Maliki to step down.

Then on Tuesday, Ambassador Ryan Crocker called the political progress in Iraq "extremely disappointing" and warned that US support did not come with a "blank check," while President Bush also expressed his "frustration" with Maliki's faltering leadership failing to unite the warring factions of his government.

Responding to a question about the U.S. criticism on Wednesday, Maliki said: "The Iraqi government was elected by the Iraqi people and nobody (has the right to) put timetables ... on it," referring to benchmarks set by Washington for his government to achieve political reconciliation.

"Maybe this person who made a statement yesterday is upset by the nature of our visit to Syria," Maliki said, without clarifying whether he meant Crocker or Bush.

"These statements do not concern us a lot. What concerns us is our democratic experiment and adhering to the constitution. We will find many around the world who will support us in our endeavour."

Stay Tuned
Iraqi Police Chief Reports "Some" Taken Into Custody, Declines to Elaborate
08/21/2007 5:33 PM ET
Samawa, Aug 21, (VOI)- A number of those who allegedly killed the Governor of Muthanna province Muhammad Ali al-Hassani were arrested on Tuesday, the chief of the Muthanna police department said.

"Security forces managed to arrest some of the armed group that gunned down the governor of Muthanna on Monday," Brigadier Kadhem al-Jayashi said, noting that the forces still hunting down the rest of the perpetrators.

The policeman refused to unveil the number of the arrested gunmen or their names, asserting that the "details would be announced in the next two days."

A police source told VOI earlier that security forces arrested one of those who allegedly took part in the assassination of the governor near to the scene.

"The man confessed of perpetrating the attack with other gunmen," the source also said. Muthanna Governor Muhammad al-Hassani was killed when an explosive device went off near his motorcade while exiting the city of al-Rumeitha on Monday morning.

Hassani, who occupied the post of Muthanna governor after the fall of the former regime in 2003, was a member in Badr Organization, once the military wing of Shiite leader Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim's Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC).

The assassination comes 10 days after another targeted the Diwaniyah governor, Khalil Jalil Hamza, who was also an SIIC member, in a similar explosive device attack on his motorcade that killed him instantly.

Samawa, the capital of Muthanna province, lies 280 km south of Baghdad.

Quotables
UK's Top Police Adviser Admits Iraq Security Forces Guilty of Sectarian Violence
08/21/2007 12:52 PM ET
Basra, IRAQ: An Iraqi policeman stands guard at a border crossing points between Iran and Iraq near the southern Iraqi city of Basra.
Essam al-Sudani/AFP/Getty
Basra, IRAQ: An Iraqi policeman stands guard at a border crossing points between Iran and Iraq near the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

Some Iraqi police officers in Basra are doing double-duty as members of Shi'ite militias, according to the UK's top police adviser, Mike Colbourne.

Colbourne told BBC's The World at One that in spite of an anti-militia drive by the new provincial director of police, Major General Jaleel Khalaf Shuwail, a number of officers were still linked to violence.

He added: "The corruption that we are talking about does range from financial corruption through to serious offences such as murder, kidnap.

"There are a number of Iraqi police service officers who are clearly aligned to militias.

"I think it is fair to say that there is sectarian violence that is being committed by both police officers and other Iraqi security forces officers.

"That is just the truth of the situation as it is at the moment.

"We know that there are bad apples and there are a significant number of both serving, but also those who have been sacked and retired, officers who continue to agitate and continue to be involved in violence."

The Latest
Claims 'Occupier' Trying to Drive Wedge Between Shia Groups
08/21/2007 10:34 AM ET
NAJAF, IRAQ - AUGUST 9: Iraqi Shiite Muslim radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gives a press conference at the shrine of Imam Ali, on August 9, 2004 in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq.
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad/AFP/Getty
NAJAF, IRAQ - AUGUST 9: Iraqi Shiite Muslim radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gives a press conference at the shrine of Imam Ali, on August 9, 2004 in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq.

Moqtada al-Sadr released a statement late Monday praising resistance against foreign forces, but condemning the recent attacks against two SIIC governors of Iraqi provinces.

"The cruel deeds that have been done in Diwaniyah and Samawah are part of occupation plots that aim to create a climate of pretexts for them to stay in Iraq," al-Sadr said, claiming the acts were intended to create a rift between the SIIC and the Sadrists.

His office in the Shiite holy city of Najaf also issued a condemnation of the incident, and denial of involvement.

"We don't have any relation with these acts or have any involvement, we condemn such acts that aim at destabilizing the situation in the center and southern Iraq," al-Sadr's spokesman Ahmed al-Shibani said Tueday.

Sadr called for the government to form committees of political and social authorities under religious supervision in each of Iraq's 18 provinces "so that these events would not repeated in the south or in any part of Iraq."

Al-Sadr also renewed his demand for a timetable to be set for the withdrawal of the U.S.-led troops. “Finally, I renew our demand for the occupier to get out of Iraq and to set a timetable for that approved by the Iraqi people. No one has the right to extend their stay,” his statement said.

As expected, Sadr claimed credit for pushing British forces, which are readying themselves for withdrawal, from Iraqi territory. “We heard and you heard too, of the intention of British troops to withdraw from our beloved southern Iraq. Congratulations are due to us, to you and to the honest resistance,” he said.

The cleric had been quoted making similar statements in a recent interview with UK's Independent, but Sadr's office on Tuesday issued a denial that the cleric had ever spoken to the journalist.

"The interview published by the paper was fabricated and groundless. His Eminence (Sadr) has never granted this paper any interviews," Sheikh Ahmed al-Shibani, the official spokesman for al-Sadr's office in Najaf, told VOI by telephone.

Smackdown
Mostly Former Officials, Family, Accused of Backing Armed Groups
08/21/2007 09:58 AM ET
Amman, JORDAN: Raghad Saddam Hussein, the daughter of executed ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, attends a protest held against her father's execution in the Jordanian capital Amman, 01 January 2007.
Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty
Amman, JORDAN: Raghad Saddam Hussein, the daughter of executed ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, attends a protest held against her father's execution in the Jordanian capital Amman, 01 January 2007.
Baghdad, Aug 21, (VOI) – The Iraqi government has released a new list of wanted persons, mostly senior officials from former president Saddam Hussein's regime, who are accused of backing armed groups in the country, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior said on Tuesday.

"All those on the list are accused of financing and backing armed groups, which are seeking to undermine Iraq's security," director of the ministry's National Command Center staff, Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

"Those who live in exile outside Iraq will be pursued by Interpol, delivered to the Iraqi security apparatus and brought to court," Maj. Gen. Khalaf indicated.

"The suspects include former officials Izzat Ibrahim Khalil al-Dori, the former deputy chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council; Younis al-Ahmad, a senior Baath Party leader; Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti, the former head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS); Mahmoud Diyab al-Ahmed, the former minister of interior; Ahmed Mahmoud al-Ahmed, his son; Ayman and Amr al-Sabaawi, Saddam's step nephews and others," Khalaf explained.

The list also included former Iraqi officials, who topped the Pentagon’s list of 55 wanted persons in 2003, he added.

Interpol on Saturday issued an arrest warrant against Saddam’s deputy Izzat al-Dori upon a request from the Iraqi government. A statement published on Interpol's official website called on anyone who has information about al-Dori's whereabouts to report to the local police station in their city.

The U.S. forces had accused him of financing Iraqi insurgents and offered a $10 million reward for information on his whereabouts.

Born in al-Dor town near Baghdad's northwestern city of Tikrit, the former Iraqi leader's hometown, al-Dori was the deputy commander-in-chief of the armed forces and held a senior post in the committee responsible for northern Iraq when chemical weapons were allegedly used to kill thousands of Kurds in 1988.

Interpol on Friday issued an arrest warrant for Saddam's 38-year old daughter, Raghad, on charges of terrorism and crimes against innocent people.

Raghad lives in exile outside Iraq, with her children in the Jordanian capital Amman, hosted by the Hashemite royal family. The last time she was seen publicly was during a popular rally at the professional syndicates compound in Amman to protest the execution of her father on December 31, 2006.

Investigation
Philippines Government Investigating Contractors for Possible Labor Trafficking
By DAVID PHINNEY 08/20/2007 2:39 PM ET
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - AUGUST 31: Cranes litter the skyline as construction workers continue work on the new United States Embassy compound in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone on August 31, 2006 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Daniel Berehulak/AFP/Getty
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - AUGUST 31: Cranes litter the skyline as construction workers continue work on the new United States Embassy compound in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone on August 31, 2006 in Baghdad, Iraq.

More than 100 Filipino workers voluntarily left Iraq last week after Philippine officials began an investigation of possible labor trafficking by US-funded contractors and subcontractors.

The Philippines imposed a ban on its citizens entering Iraq for work in 2004 for safety concerns although 10,000 to 20,000 Filipinos are estimated to be working in Iraq under US-funded military support and construction contracts despite the restriction.

The Filipino workers that left Iraq were repatriated to Dubai and Kuwait on August 16 and were destined to return to the Philippines, according to the Philippine news network ABS-CBN. All are believed to have been employed by First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting, a company that has reaped up to $2 billion in US contracts to build the sprawling 102-acre embassy in the Green Zone and provide services to more than a dozen US military camps.

A US Congressional hearing in July focusing on the contractor building the $592-million US embassy in Baghdad sparked the labor probe in the Philippines after witnesses testified that low-paid migrant workers in Kuwait were given boarding passes for Dubai and then flown directly to Baghdad. American Rory Mayberry testified to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that several Filipino workers were "forcibly taken" to Baghdad to construct the US embassy in Baghdad.

A second witness, former embassy construction manager John Owens, said he also boarded a separate plane in 2006 when workers were handed Dubai boarding passes and then flown to Baghdad. He also reported foreign workers were packed in trailers, lacked shoes and gloves, and were required to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week on the embassy project.

“Conditions there were deplorable, beyond what even a working man should tolerate," Owens said in his testimony.

Although no First Kuwaiti representative appeared at the Congressional oversight hearing, a written statement from the company denied the allegations that workers had been smuggled or forced to work in Iraq. The company also ran advertisements August 12 in five leading Kuwait newspapers that publicly rejected any wrongdoing.

“The workers willingly agreed to work in Iraq before their departure and before they arrived at the site of the embassy,” the firm said.

Since then, First Kuwaiti has admitted to Philippine officials that it sent a total of 867 Filipino workers to Iraq despite the existing ban. However, the company continues to deny that any workers were tricked about their final destination, according to The Manila Mail. In addition to working at the embassy project, those Philippine workers are employed at numerous US military camps in Iraq.

High-level Philippines officials, including Special Envoy to the Middle East Roy Cimatu, Ambassador to Kuwait Ricardo Endaya and Charge d'Affairs to Iraq Wilfredo Cuyugan, were able to convince the 100 repatriated Filipinos to return to the Philippines. ABS-CBN reports that some Filipinos working on the US embassy project refused to leave because of their need for work.

Endaya told ABS-CBN that First Kuwaiti had sent several Filipino workers to work in Baghdad under the pretense that they were going to Kuwait in addition to illegally employing others.

“At least 867 Filipino workers have been recruited (by FKTC) and are now working in big projects in 17 worksites all over Iraq despite the government’s deployment ban,” Endaya said.

The Philippine Department of Labor and Employment has also suspended the operating licenses of two recruitment agencies involved in the illegal deployment of Filipino workers to Iraq. The agencies are GFI Manpower International Specialists Inc. and Great Provider Services Exporters Inc.

The Philippine investigators said they are now planning to meet with US officials about the situation.

“Hopefully we will be able to finish our mission at the earliest possible time... and institute some corrective measures on our policy and our procedures to implement the deployment ban to Iraq," Cimatu said. Cimatu was also scheduled to talk to officials of Kuwait-based First Kuwaiti, the firm allegedly involved in forcibly taking Filipinos to Iraq.

Endaya told ABS-CBN earlier last week that complaints of exploitation of Filipino workers in Iraq were not new to him and that he had asked that the Philippines blacklist First Kuwaiti in 2004 because of its employment practices. Instead, the government placed the company on a “watch list.”

Mayberry told Congress in July that 51 Filipinos on his flight to Baghdad in March 2006 were issued tickets to Dubai and believed they were going to work in the United Arab Emirates. Since then, the Philippine investigation has been operating on information from First Kuwaiti that only 11 workers on Mayberry’s flight were Filipinos while the rest were of other nationalities. Of the 11, six had already returned to the Philippines while five are still working in Iraq.

Roy Cimatu, the Philippines' special envoy to the Middle East, told ABS-CBN television that he had just visited Iraq, where he confirmed that only 11 Filipinos were on the flight in question.

"We were able to interview the Filipinos who were on the plane," he said from Dubai. "All of them were unanimous that they knew they were going to Iraq, that it's voluntary on their part."

Cimatu said four of the 11 Filipinos still work for First Kuwaiti, four have moved to different companies in Iraq, while three others have returned to the Philippines.

Mayberry told Iraqslogger that he continues to stick by his original account that he traveled with 51 Filipino workers and questions whether or not the investigators are aware that First Kuwaiti uses a number of different planes to transport its laborers into Iraq. Mayberry, who lives in Oregon, also said that he has never been contacted by the Philippine government.

David Phinney is a freelance journalist based in Washington, DC. He can be contacted at phinneydavid@yahoo.com.
Rebuilding
Strategically-Important Hwy 1 Span Near Taji Should Be Completed Within Days
08/17/2007 12:40 PM ET
US soldiers are working around the clock in twelve-hour shifts to rebuild the strategically important bridge in Taji that was hit by a suicide bomber in an oil tanker truck on Tuesday. Officials expect that at the current rate, the bridge could be back in operational condition in a few days.

Spc. Jeffrey Lorsung, a 20-year-old from Oregon and a member of the 502nd Multi Role Bridge Company of the 92nd Engineer Battalion, told Stars and Stripes the explosion Tuesday not only completely snapped the southbound lane of the bridge, but was powerful enough to shift the neighboring northbound lane 10 feet. Several cars plunged into the canal waters below, and a reported eight civilians died in the attack.

The bridge is on the critical transportation route, Highway 1, between Baghdad and Mosul. Al Qaeda in Iraq were suspected to be behind the destruction of the bridge, which was likely chosen in attempt to disrupt US supply convoys that rely on it for transporting critical necessities to Army bases north of Baghdad.

Military officials at Camp Taji told S&S that while there may be shortfalls in some nonessential supplies in the short term, military operations would not suffer. They also reported that the military is considering closing the bridge to civilian traffic after the reconstruction is complete.

Stay Tuned
Raghad Saddam Hussein al-Majid Wanted on Charges of Terrorism
08/17/2007 08:55 AM ET
Amman, JORDAN: Raghad Saddam Hussein, the daughter of executed ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, attends a protest held against her father's execution in the Jordanian capital Amman, 01 January 2007.
Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty
Amman, JORDAN: Raghad Saddam Hussein, the daughter of executed ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, attends a protest held against her father's execution in the Jordanian capital Amman, 01 January 2007.
Baghdad, Aug 17, (VOI) – Interpol issued an arrest warrant against Raghad, former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's daughter, upon a request from the Iraqi government.

"Raghad Saddam Hussein al-Majid, 38, is wanted by the Iraqi government on several charges of terrorism and crimes against innocent people," according to a statement published on Interpol's official web site and received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

The site called on anyone who has information about Raghad's whereabouts to report to the local police station in their city.

Raghad lives in exile outside Iraq, with her children in the Jordanian capital Amman, hosted by the Hashemite royal family.

The last time she was seen publicly was during a popular rally at the professional syndicates compound in Amman to protest the execution of her father on December 31, 2006.

Photo Gallery
08/16/2007 3:02 PM ET
FORT STEWART, GA - AUGUST 16: Rhyan Stinson of Fullerton, California, is hugged by Michael Moody, Sr. as they grieve for their family members during a memorial service August 16, 2007 on Warrior's Walk in Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Stephen Morton/Getty
FORT STEWART, GA - AUGUST 16: Rhyan Stinson of Fullerton, California, is hugged by Michael Moody, Sr. as they grieve for their family members during a memorial service August 16, 2007 on Warrior's Walk in Fort Stewart, Georgia.

The 3rd Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, has the only living memorial in the Army, having eastern red bud trees for its fallen soldiers. The post plants one tree for each soldier who has died since the division first raced into Baghdad in 2003, and suffered its first fatalities. The 11 soldiers honored today brings the total number of trees on Warriors Walk to 359.
FORT STEWART, GA - AUGUST 16: Soldiers with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division wait for a memorial service to begin August 16, 2007 behind a section of eastern red bud trees on Warrior's Walk in Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Stephen Morton/Getty
FORT STEWART, GA - AUGUST 16: Soldiers with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division wait for a memorial service to begin August 16, 2007 behind a section of eastern red bud trees on Warrior's Walk in Fort Stewart, Georgia.

FORT STEWART, GA - AUGUST 16: Sara Salazar kisses the granite marker that serves as a memorial for her grandson, U.S. Army Pfc. Bruce Salazar, Jr. of Modesto California, during a memorial service August 16, 2007 on Warrior's Walk in Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Stephen Morton/Getty
FORT STEWART, GA - AUGUST 16: Sara Salazar kisses the granite marker that serves as a memorial for her grandson, U.S. Army Pfc. Bruce Salazar, Jr. of Modesto California, during a memorial service August 16, 2007 on Warrior's Walk in Fort Stewart, Georgia.

FORT STEWART, GA - AUGUST 16: An honor guard removes the cover from the stone marker for U.S. Army Spc. Carter Gamble of Columbus, Georgia, during a memorial service August 16, 2007 on Warrior's Walk in Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Stephen Morton/Getty
FORT STEWART, GA - AUGUST 16: An honor guard removes the cover from the stone marker for U.S. Army Spc. Carter Gamble of Columbus, Georgia, during a memorial service August 16, 2007 on Warrior's Walk in Fort Stewart, Georgia.

FORT STEWART, GA - AUGUST 16: Soldiers with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division salute during a memorial service August 16, 2007 on Warrior's Walk in Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Stephen Morton/Getty
FORT STEWART, GA - AUGUST 16: Soldiers with the Army's 3rd Infantry Division salute during a memorial service August 16, 2007 on Warrior's Walk in Fort Stewart, Georgia.

FORT STEWART, GA - AUGUST 16: Margaret Ruiz (L) grieve for her son, U.S. Army Pfc. Bruce Salazar, Jr. of Modesto, California,. along with his aunt Dolores Ruiz, right, during a memorial service August 16, 2007 on Warrior's Walk in Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Stephen Morton/Getty
FORT STEWART, GA - AUGUST 16: Margaret Ruiz (L) grieve for her son, U.S. Army Pfc. Bruce Salazar, Jr. of Modesto, California,. along with his aunt Dolores Ruiz, right, during a memorial service August 16, 2007 on Warrior's Walk in Fort Stewart, Georgia.

FORT STEWART, GA - AUGUST 16: Leon McGee (C) hugs his sister Julie McGee (R) and Sylvia McGee as he grieves for U.S. Army Sgt. Thomas McGee during a memorial service August 16, 2007 on Warrior's Walk in Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Stephen Morton/Getty
FORT STEWART, GA - AUGUST 16: Leon McGee (C) hugs his sister Julie McGee (R) and Sylvia McGee as he grieves for U.S. Army Sgt. Thomas McGee during a memorial service August 16, 2007 on Warrior's Walk in Fort Stewart, Georgia.

Stay Tuned
Admin Officials Say General Will Likely Turn Over Areas to Iraqi Control
08/15/2007 12:37 PM ET
RAMADI, IRAQ - JULY 07: (FRANCE OUT) Gen. David Petraeus watches a slide at a briefing about the security situation in Ramadi and Anbar province July 7, 2007 at Camp Ramadi in Ramadi, Iraq.
Chris Hondros/Getty
RAMADI, IRAQ - JULY 07: (FRANCE OUT) Gen. David Petraeus watches a slide at a briefing about the security situation in Ramadi and Anbar province July 7, 2007 at Camp Ramadi in Ramadi, Iraq.

Administration officials expect Gen. David Petraeus to tell Congress next month that the Iraqi army is ready to assume control in some stabilized areas of the country, allowing for a re-positioning of US troops, though not necessarily a reduction in their numbers, according to Julian Barnes and Peter Spiegel of the LA Times.

The expected recommendation would authorize U.S. commanders to withdraw troops from places that have become less violent and turn over security responsibilities to Iraqi forces.

But it does not necessarily follow that Petraeus would call for reducing the overall number of troops in the country. Instead, he could move them to another hot spot, or use them to create a reserve force to counter any rise in violence.

"That is the form of the recommendation we are anticipating him to come back with," a senior administration official said. But referring to the redeployment options, the official added, "I just don't know which of those categories he is going to be in."

SURGE CREEP
Army General Assumes 158K Will Still Be In Iraq, Raising Questions About Funding
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 08/15/2007 10:28 AM ET
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - AUGUST 11: Spec. Rafael Mendez of Providence, Rhode Island, a member of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne, mans a lookout on a combat outpost base August 11, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Spencer Platt/AFP/Getty
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - AUGUST 11: Spec. Rafael Mendez of Providence, Rhode Island, a member of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne, mans a lookout on a combat outpost base August 11, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq.

Though Petraeus's much-anticipated appearance before Congress is a month away, comments by the Army's vice chief of staff seem to indicate that at least one top military commander believes the US will sustain the current "surge" in troop levels through June 2008.

Discussing the extension of deployments to 15 months in an interview Tuesday, Gen. Richard Cody told the AP that it would take until at least June to shrink the average back to 12 months while maintaining the 158,000 troops now deployed in the region.

“It’s going to take a while to get off the 15 months,” he said.

A number of military leaders have expressed a wish for more time to press on with the additional manpower, but this is the first one who appears to mention it as a foregone conclusion.

The US military may want more time to work on stabilizing the situation and preparing Iraqi security forces to assume control, but the Pentagon can expect to face a disagreeable, if not outright hostile, Democrat-led Congress next month.

That raises the issue of how exactly the Pentagon would pay for continuation of the surge. President Bush's budgetary request in the supplemental spending bill passed in late May included a funding estimate to cover the surge of additional troops only through the end of FY2007.

According to a CRS report released last month, the Pentagon's FY2008 budget estimate would "presumably be inadequate" to maintain the surge troop levels past the end of September, unless additional funding is requested or "DOD shifted funds from procurement to military personnel and operations."

CRS points out that military appropriations allots funding for types of expenses--such as personnel costs--rather than for specific operations, advising that, "Unless Congress enacts specific restrictions, the president can use currently available DOD funds to conduct military operations including the deployment of additional troops."

The report also outlines different Constitutionally-sound measures Congress could adopt to affect military operations and troop levels in Iraq--all involving restrictions on funding, or how funds can be used.

The Dems have been agitating to establish a plan for the draw down of US forces since they took control in January, and recent months have seen even senior Republicans turning against Bush's Iraq policy. A sense that the "DC clock" is running out of time pervades Capitol Hill, and many legislators look at September 15th as the end of patience.

With Petraeus expected to push for a sustainment of the surge, Hill-watchers can anticipate a more aggressive attempt by Democrats--and probably a handful of Republicans--to exercise the power of the purse.

UNDER FIRE
Italy Exposes Iraq's Secret Deal for 105,000 Russian-Made Weapons
08/14/2007 4:46 PM ET
In a development that should cloud further discussions over what country's government has been supplying weapons to Shiite militias, Italian anti-mafia investigators have busted up an arms deal negotiated through an intermediary for Iraq's interior ministry.

Most intriguing, the US military apparently had no knowledge of the pending $40 million sale that would have supplied 105,000 Russian-made weapons to the ministry.

"Iraqi officials did not make MNSTC-I aware that they were making purchases," Lt. Col. Daniel Williams of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq (MNSTC-I), which oversees arming and training of the Iraqi police and army, told the AP.

According to AP's reporting:

Investigators say the prospect of an Iraq deal was raised last November, when an Iraqi-owned trading firm e-mailed Massimo Bettinotti, 39, owner of the Malta-based MIR Ltd., about whether MIR could supply 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles and 10,000 machine guns "to the Iraqi Interior Ministry," adding that "this deal is approved by America and Iraq."

The go-between - the Al-Handal General Trading Co. in Dubai - apparently had communicated with Bettinotti earlier about buying night visors and had been told MIR could also procure weapons.

Al-Handal has figured in questionable dealings before, having been identified by U.S. investigators three years ago as a "front company" in Iraq's Oil-for-Food scandal.

Al-Handal denied any impropriety in the Italian arms deal, as did an anonymous interior ministry official, who explained the unconventional back channel purchase by explaining that the government "doesn't ask the supplier how these weapons are obtained."

The official contended that "most" of the weapons were ordered for police in Anbar province, though the Pentagon records indicate it has already issued almost 170,000 AK-47s to the ministry for the 161,000-strong police force across the country.

UNDER FIRE
Sunnis Claim Unconstitutional, Shiites Say IAF Tries to Discredit Investigations
08/14/2007 3:34 PM ET
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - JULY 25: Iraq's Vice President and a member of the Iraqi Accordance Front Party Tareq Al-Hashemi speaks, during a news conference on July 25, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Mahmoud Raouf Mahmoud/Getty Images
BAGHDAD, IRAQ - JULY 25: Iraq's Vice President and a member of the Iraqi Accordance Front Party Tareq Al-Hashemi speaks, during a news conference on July 25, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq.
Baghdad, Aug 14, (VOI) – Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi's recent statements where he expressed doubts about the "legitimacy" of the Iraqi Ministry of National Security have sparked a dispute between the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF) and the Shiite Unified Iraqi Coalition (UIC) over the powers of the ministry.

In an exclusive statement to the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI), a senior official from the ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described IAF member al-Hashemi's statements as a reaction to the ministry's success in providing evidence "condemning" a number of Iraqi politicians.

"The campaign aims to undermine the ministry's credibility in an attempt to cast doubt on the findings of its investigation. It is part of a larger campaign against (Prime Minister) Nouri al-Maliki's government and the timing of the objection to the ministry's performance (as allegedly implied in al-Hashemi's statements) explains everything," he said.

An IAF spokesman, Saleem Abdullah al-Juburi, told VOI earlier that his front "has repeatedly called for dissolving the Ministry of National Security."

Denying any link between the ministry's investigative activities and the front's demands for its dissolution, al-Juburi said that the establishment of a ministry for national security is a "breach of the Iraqi constitution," which was supported and voted upon by the majority of the Iraqi people.

The IAF, the third largest parliamentary bloc, holds 44 seats in the 275-member parliament and includes three main Sunni Arab parties, while the UIC includes seven Shiite blocs with 113 seats.

The ministry was established by former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's government in 2004 and was then headed by Qassim Daoud. Shirwan al-Waili, a member of the Shiite Daawa Islamic Party, is the current Minister of State for National Security.

The Iraqi vice president, who is also the head of the Iraqi Islamic Party, one of the main components of the IAF, called, in a statement published on the party's website, for ending the ministry, which he said is a "shame" on Iraq. "We do not want the security apparatus and the Iraqi Intelligence Agency to pursue Iraqis as during former regimes," the statement read.

Al-Hashemi further added that the ministry does not have the right to open offices in Iraqi provinces because it is a "state ministry."

Meanwhile, MP Diyaa al-Din al-Fayyad from the UIC said that the statement was made after the ministry rejected a request by the front to review its security files. Stating that the ministry's investigative activities should be "wrapped in secrecy," al-Fayyad explained that the front's request was turned down because it "may hinder the ministry's performance."

BODY COUNT
Confusion Over the Official Number Held Raises Suspicion
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 08/13/2007 5:27 PM ET
BAQUBA, IRAQ: Iraqi Sunni militiamen guard suspected Al-Qaeda militants who were arrested in the restive city of Baquba, in the Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, 11 July 2007.
AFP/Getty
BAQUBA, IRAQ: Iraqi Sunni militiamen guard suspected Al-Qaeda militants who were arrested in the restive city of Baquba, in the Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, 11 July 2007.

An Iraqi official who heads the government committee tasked with inspecting detention facilities announced shocking figures this weekend, estimating the number of detainees held in US and Iraqi-run prisons at 67,000. The admission sparked the Iraqi government to release official numbers on Monday more in line with previous estimates.

According to Monday's announcement, US and Iraqi prisons house a total of 42,000 detainees, precisely distributed between the two commands. "21,000 detainees are being held so far in the Multi-National forces' detention centres and there are 21,000 others in Iraqi interior, justice and defense ministries' jails," Brigadier-General Abdul Karim Khalaf told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

However, Jasim Bahadeli, who leads an Iraqi government committee that inspects detention facilities, said this weekend that 36,000 detainees were held at US-run facilities, and 31,000 at Iraqi ones.

Bahadeli has been outspoken on the appalling conditions detainees are forced to endure, often for months without charge, but his criticisms are often dismissed as the unfortunate by-product of a justice system whose development is lagging.

If Bahadeli's estimate of detainees is accurate, the implication that Iraq and US forces could be holding 20,000 more prisoners than they admit is damning. While his numbers may well be exaggerated, the figure the Iraqi government announced Monday is almost certainly underestimated.

Back in late March, the UN estimated the number of detainees held in Iraqi-run prisons was just under 20,000, which represented an influx of 3,500 since late January.

If Khalaf is correct in his current assessment, that would mean Iraq only increased its prison population by an additional 1,500 during the peak summer months of the surge. Considering that there have been no big prisoner releases or progress in processing the innocents swept up in operations, the officially announced figures do not seem credible.

Regarding US-run prisons, The Washington Post reported in mid-May that the US military said it had control over 19,500 detainees in its facilities, which represented an increase of about 3,000 since the beginning of the security plan in mid-February. If those figures and the latest estimate are both correct, then the US has witnessed a significant decline in the number of suspects arrested during the past three months, as compared to the previous three-month period.

Life Goes On
Sayed Nour Boosts Missan Production, Authorities Planning 50 More Wells
08/13/2007 09:59 AM ET
RUMAILA, IRAQ: An Iraqi oil worker walks by as flames rise from the burning of excess natural gas trapped with the oil at an oil field in the southern Iraq, 21 July 2007.
Essam al-Sudani/AFP/Getty
RUMAILA, IRAQ: An Iraqi oil worker walks by as flames rise from the burning of excess natural gas trapped with the oil at an oil field in the southern Iraq, 21 July 2007.

Missan, Aug 12, (VOI) – The Missan oilfields authority finished on Sunday the rehabilitation of the Sayed Nour oilfield in eastern Amara and is planning to drill 50 new wells in the province, a media source from the authority said.

"The rehabilitation of Sayed Nour oilfield, (10 km) eastern Amara, will immensely contribute to sustaining the overall production capacity of al-Bazarkan oil complex, which already reaches 120,000 barrels per day (bpd)," the source, who preferred not to have his name mentioned, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

The rejuvenated oilfield is composed of five wells with a production capacity of 15,000 bpd for each, he said, noting work on this field also comprises the construction of a pumping station with a capacity of 20,000 bpd of crude oil.

The Missan oilfields authority embarked on Saturday on a plan to drill 50 new oil wells within the fields of al-Bazarkan (60 km southeast of Amara), al-Hilfaya (40 km west of Amara) and al-Fakka (120 km southeast of Amara), said the source.

"Work on these fields will take more than two years. These wells are expected to yield a capacity of 2,000 bpd for each," he said.

The Missan oilfields authority is affiliated to the South Oil Company, the largest oil producing entity in Iraq. The company also owns all oilfields in central and southern Iraq and boasts a reserve of more than 65%.

Missan province, 390 km south of Baghdad and its capital city is al-Amara, is home to five large oilfields in Iraq: al-Bazarkan (12 wells), Abu Gharb (14 wells), al-Fakka (12 wells), al-Amara (three wells) and al-Hilfaya (three wells).

U.S. Military
Says Platoon Leader Told Him to "Finish Off" Injured Suspect
08/09/2007 11:49 AM ET
A soldier accused of the pre-meditated murder of a detainee near Kirkuk in June claims his platoon leader ordered him to "finish off" the injured man, but says the shots he fired were deliberately aimed to miss him.

Sgt. 1st Class Trey A. Corrales of San Antonio, Texas and Spc. Christopher P. Shore of Winder, Georgia were arrested in mid-July on charges of pre-meditated murder. If convicted, they could face the death penalty.

According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution:

The lawyer for a Georgia soldier charged with the premeditated murder of an detainee in Iraq said Wednesday that the detainee had already been shot when a platoon sergeant then ordered Army Spc. Christopher P. Shore to shoot and "finish him off."

The attorney, Michael Waddington, of Augusta, said there were no witnesses to the incident but that Shore says he was standing four feet away from the detainee when he fired his weapon twice. Shore says he intentionally did not hit the man.

Waddington said Shore and four other soldiers reported the incident within hours to their company commander. "Why would he turn himself in if he did it?" Waddington said....

According to the attorney, other soldiers were already in the area searching the houses when Shore's platoon arrived. The soldiers fired a rocket, a smaller version of an anti-tank missile, into the target house. As they tested four men inside the house for explosives, one ran outside.

From inside, Shore heard shots being fired, Waddington said. Shore stepped outside and saw Corrales standing before the bleeding suspect on the ground. That is when Corrales allegedly ordered Shore to "finish him off."

The US military will not comment on the ongoing investigation, but the charges filed against Corrales report that he shot the detainee first and then ordered Shore to do so as well.

The two men are currently awaiting an Article 32 hearing, which will decide if the case goes to court martial.

The Coalition
Brown Planning to Withdraw, but Waiting for September Report
08/08/2007 12:28 PM ET
WASHINGTON - JULY 30: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaks to reporters after meeting U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in her offices at the U.S. Capitol July 30, 2007, in Washington D.C.
Jonathan Ernst/Getty
WASHINGTON - JULY 30: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown speaks to reporters after meeting U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in her offices at the U.S. Capitol July 30, 2007, in Washington D.C.

The British government expects President Bush to announce the beginning of a troop drawdown after Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker report to Congress on the surge's progress next month.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown reportedly hopes that anticipated turn of events will allow him to announce a withdrawal of the remaining 5,000 British troops without embarrassing his American allies, according to the UK Guardian. "We do believe we are nearly there," a British official told the newspaper.

It is unknown if the Prime Minister discussed the prospect of British withdrawal in his visit to Washington last week, but one of his top foreign policy advisers made the rounds of DC's Iraq experts, inquiring how the US would respond to such an announcement. Simon McDonald's discussions raised the expectation that such a move could be imminent.

The Guardian reports that President Bush did express worry about the political consequences of losing British troops.

One British official said: "If the difference is between the British leaving at the end of the year or staying through to next year or the year after, it is a safe assumption that President Bush would prefer them to stay as long as the Americans are there."

U.S. Military
Army Considering Order for Northrop Grunman's UAV
08/08/2007 10:20 AM ET
A RQ-8A Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) System prepares to land aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Nashville.
Kurt Lengfield/US Navy
A RQ-8A Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (VTUAV) System prepares to land aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Nashville.

The Army is considering placing an order for Northrop Grunman's MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical takeoff and landing Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicle.

The Fire Scout has the capability of hovering 20,000 over a battlefield for as long as eight hours, sending infared and optical imagery back to the command center.

The Navy has nine Fire Scouts currently on contract, and received delivery of its first one in November 2006, which completed test flights successfully. All nine are expected to be delivered by the end of 2008.

According to Military.com, the Navy is on track to field the Fire Scout in the anti-mine, anti-sub and intelligence gathering configurations in 2009 aboard Littoral Combat Ships. Northrop Grumman is also working on ways to arm the drone with anti-ship munitions, including a variation of the brilliant anti-armor munition, which can orbit autonomously in search of a target after launch.

Joe Emerson, Northrop Grumman's FCS drone program manager, told Military.com that the Army wants its FCS-capable Fire Scout to have aerial mine detection capability and tactical signals intelligence hardware.

An Iraq deployment in the near term, however, would include infrared sensors and electro-optical cameras to give commanders a birds-eye view of the battlefield. The main sticking point for the Army version remains which flight control system the service wants to use for the drone, Ludwig added.

"They still have to decide what they want in it," he said.

Iran Factor
Discussions "Frank and Serious" at Inaugural Gathering
08/06/2007 1:59 PM ET
Iranian foreign ministry pointman on Iraq, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, speaks during a press conference at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, 06 August 2007.
Sabah Arar/AFP/Getty
Iranian foreign ministry pointman on Iraq, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, speaks during a press conference at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, 06 August 2007.

US and Iranian representatives met in Baghdad Monday for the first meeting of the joint security committee recently established to provide a venue for more regular discourse on Iraq's security.

Following the four-hour meeting, US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Iranian Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi met for two hours to review the discussion of the committee. The two ambassadors agreed to establish the panel on July 24 during the second round of US-Iranian talks.

The US, Iranian, and Iraqi representatives reportedly sat at three separate conference tables during the meeting, which took place at an Iraqi government office inside the Green Zone. All sides must have agreed to report the discussions as "frank and serious."

US embassy spokesman Philip Reeker said the discussion was "frank and serious, and focused as agreed on security problems in Iraq"--words specifically echoed by the head of the Iranian expert team, Amir Abdollahian.

Both sides also exchanged the standard accusations, with US official accusing Tehran of training and funding Shi'ite militias, and the Iranian delegation blaming Iraq's security problems on American policy decisions.

Another meeting of the committee of experts is expected, though a date has not yet been set. Iran has been angling for a ministerial-level meeting between US and Iranian representatives, but US officials have said significant progress on bilateral issues must be made before that would occur.

IRAQ PARLIAMENT
Fourth Largest Bloc Threatening to Withdraw From Government
08/06/2007 10:30 AM ET
Cairo, EGYPT: Iyad Allawi, member of Iraqi parliament and head of the Iraqi National list, speaks during a press conference after his meeting with Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa in Cairo 18 March 2007.
Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty
Cairo, EGYPT: Iyad Allawi, member of Iraqi parliament and head of the Iraqi National list, speaks during a press conference after his meeting with Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa in Cairo 18 March 2007.

Baghdad, Aug 6, (VOI) – Iyad Allawi, leader of the Iraqi National List, asked the five INL ministers not to attend the cabinet meetings and to boycott Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as "a first step to withdraw from the Iraqi government" in protest against its policies, an INL official said.

"Allawi's calls came in response to the Iraqi premier's failure to fulfill the pledges he had taken upon himself for the INL five months ago," Osama al-Nejefi, an INL member of the Iraqi parliament, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

Nejefi did not reveal the INL's demands but said "they have to do with political and security reforms." He noted that the INL ministers will settle for doing the necessary works of their ministries from their offices without having to attend any cabinet meetings to avoid causing delays in citizens' interests."

The INL is the largest fourth bloc in the Iraqi parliament with 24 out of a total 275 seats. The largest bloc is the Shiite Unified Iraqi Coalition (UIC) with 115 seats, followed by the Kurdistan Coalition (KC) with 55 and the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF) with 44.

The five portfolios of the INL ministers are justice, communications, human rights, science and a state ministry.

Maliki's government is facing a quandary after the INL's decision, preceded by the IAF's decision to a week ago to withdraw its five ministers and Depurty Premier Sallam al-Zawbaie from the government allegedly due to its failure to deliver on its promises for requested reforms.

The Sadrist bloc, or Iraqis loyal to Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, had withdrawn its six ministers from the government for the latter's failure to come up with a timetable for the U.S. forces' pullout from Iraq.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani paid a visit on Sunday to Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi, a leading IAF member, and agreed to convene a meeting on Monday to discuss the Sunni front's demands for the Maliki government.

A statement issued by Hashimi's office after the meeting indicated that Talabani conveyed to his deputy the outcome of a meeting held on Sunday morning between the Iraqi president and Premier Maliki, which was attended by Vice Premier Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

Maliki had said on Sunday that "efforts were going on to dissuade the IAF from its decision to withdraw from the government."

"We agreed on doing everything we can to have the brothers in the IAF back to their roles and work in accordance with agreements during the talks to reconsider the policies and mend what we can," Maliki said in statements after his meeting with Talabani.
Baghdad Journal
Some Areas Without Fresh Water for Nearly a Week
08/03/2007 2:48 PM ET
An Iraqi (R) sprays water from a tank bearing the image of firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on believers as they perfom the weekly Friday prayers under the heat of the sun.
WISSAM AL-OKAILI/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi (R) sprays water from a tank bearing the image of firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on believers as they perfom the weekly Friday prayers under the heat of the sun.

With temperatures in Iraq edging close to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, there could not be a more dangerously inconvenient time for Baghdad's decrepit infrastructure to fail on the delivery of water.

Residents and city officials said large sections in the west of the capital had been virtually dry for six days because the already strained electricity grid cannot provide sufficient power to run water purification and pumping stations, according to the AP.

Adel al-Ardawi, a spokesman for the Baghdad city government, said that even with sufficient electricity "it would take 24 hours for the water mains to refill so we can begin pumping to residents. And even then the water won't be clean for a time."

Noah Miller, spokesman for the U.S. reconstruction program in Baghdad, said that water treatment plants were working "as far as we know."

"It could be a host of issues. . . . And one of those may be leaky trunk lines. If there's not enough pressure to cancel out that leakage, that's when the water could fail to reach the household," Miller said.

IRAQ PARLIAMENT
Sunny Party a Part of IAF Bloc That Withdrew From Government This Week
08/03/2007 09:47 AM ET
Baghdad, Aug 3, (VOI) – A joint U.S.-Iraqi force raided the headquarters of Khalaf al-Ilyan's Sunni National Dialogue Council (NDC) on Thursday and ransacked its contents, an NDC media source said on Friday.

"The raiding force deliberately smashed the furniture and doors of the building, located in the al-Jamea neighborhood, western Baghdad," the source, who preferred to remain anonymous, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

The source said none of the members present were arrested and nothing was seized, adding that the reason behind the raid was "the NDC's stand vis-à-vis the Iraqi government." No explanation was available from the Iraqi or U.S. forces.

The NDC is one of the three components forming the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF), which has 44 out of the total 275 seats in the Iraqi parliament, but on Wednesday its five ministers and Deputy Prime Minister Sallam al-Zawbaie quit the Iraqi government. The other two components are Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi's Iraqi Islamic Party and Adnan al-Dulaimi's Congress of the People of Iraq.
The Latest
Intense Security; Team Captain Refuses to Return Home for Safety Reasons
08/03/2007 09:24 AM ET
Baghdad, Aug 3, (VOI) – Tight security measures are being taken at Baghdad International Airport ahead of the arrival of the national football team that won the 14th Asian Nations Cup for the first time in the history of the tournament, an Iraqi police source said.

"The Iraqi team will arrive on Friday afternoon from the Jordanian capital Amman, and an Iraqi governmental delegation will receive the team in the heavily-fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad," the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

"The team will be escorted under heavy guard to the al-Rashid Hotel inside the Green Zone," the source added.

The source, in a phone call with VOI, said the national team will visit the cabinet and will be received by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Iraqis in Dubai and Amman were jubilating in the street to celebrate the Iraqi team's win after defeating arch-rival Saudi Arabia 1/0 with a header from striker Younes Mahmoud in the final match hosted in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Sunday.

The Asian tournament this year was played in four nations: Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.

PETROL POLITICS
Regional Initiative Nears Passage, Despite Delay in Baghdad
By BEN LANDO 08/02/2007 7:05 PM ET
WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- The Iraqi Kurdistan oil minister says progress on a regional oil law shows "democracy at work," but final approval will be next week at the earliest.

The Kurdistan Regional Government is moving forward on its own law governing exploration, development and production of its oil and natural gas reserves while the federal government is stuck on its law.

Less than a third of Iraq's vast oil and gas reserves are located in the KRG area, which is less violent than the rest of Iraq and experienced actual economic growth.

Oil and oil products are needed commodities in Iraq, where the country suffers from a fuels shortage. Oil exports last year brought in more than 93 percent of the federal budget.

KRG Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami said progress was made on Tuesday and Wednesday, the first days of debate in the regional Parliament. He said the first 14 of the 62 articles in the law have been approved.

"The reason for the slow progress is because all the members have read the draft and they want to actively participate in the debate," Hawrami told UPI.

"I am witnessing a great constructive, civilized debate and friendly atmosphere," he said. "I am enjoying seeing a young but fast maturing democracy at work."

"On one article," he added, "23 members rose and spoke today. I think it will go faster over the next few days, but we will be into next week before the job is done."

Last week the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of two major blocs in the KRG Parliament and the party of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, walked out of a session. Officials said it was because they wanted more time to read the law and were refused. Sources told UPI there may be a growing rift between the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, with the former wanting to wait for progress in Baghdad and the KDP insisting on moving the region forward.

In Baghdad, political parties were already at odds with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government. The oil law is more of a lightning rod amid coalition defections and boycotts. There are two main issues: how much control the federal government will have over the oil versus the region/local governments, and the extent foreign companies will have access to the oil.

Ben Lando is UPI's energy correspondent. (energy@upi.com) This article was re-printed by permission.

© Copyright 2007 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Latest
Philippines Examining Testimony of Forced Labor by Baghdad Embassy Contractor
By DAVID PHINNEY 08/02/2007 5:12 PM ET
MANILA, PHILIPPINES: Filipinos applying for work in Iraq crowd outside a Manila recruitment agency in July 2004.
ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty
MANILA, PHILIPPINES: Filipinos applying for work in Iraq crowd outside a Manila recruitment agency in July 2004.

The Philippines government has launched an investigation as a result of last week's Congressional hearing into allegations of labor trafficking and smuggling made against First Kuwaiti, the contractor building the $592-million US embassy project in Baghdad.

Two Americans who worked at the embassy site in 2006 testified to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform during the July 26 hearing. Both related similar personal accounts of boarding a plane in Kuwait with First Kuwaiti-contracted laborers, all of whom were issued boarding passes for Dubai before they flew directly to Baghdad.

Philippine Department of Foreign affairs spokesman Claro Cristobal said his government is taking the testimony "very, very seriously as it cuts to the heart of what we do for our migrant workers."

“This particular issue is so serious because the very lives of our migrant workers -- not just their comfort or their living conditions -- but their very lives are at the core of what this issue is about,” he said.

Earlier this week in Manila, Sen. Manuel Roxas II said there are currently an estimated 10,000 Filipino workers in Iraq who should not be there because of the continuing ban on deployment of Filipinos to the war-torn country.

Cristobal said the investigation by the Department of Labor and Employment would look into every aspect of the employment of Filipino workers in Iraq.

“The Philippines shall investigate fully the circumstances around the issue, verify each and every element in the situation for the purpose of making sure that our migrant workers don’t fall prey to what may amount to trafficking,” he said.

The Philippines also issued a note to the Kuwaiti embassy in Manila on Thursday reminding it of the standing ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers to Iraq.

The Philippines imposed a ban on its nationals from working in Iraq in 2004 after Iraqi militants took Filipino truck driver Angelo de la Cruz hostage. Dela Cruz was released after the Philippine government agreed to pull its peacekeeping troops out of Iraq. Since 2005, Philippine passports have been stamped with the mark, "Not Valid for Travel to Iraq." India and Nepal have imposed similar travel restrictions to Iraq for its migrant workers.

According Rory Mayberry, an emergency medical technician under contract to First Kuwaiti, his March 2006 flight carried 51 Filipino workers who believed they were going to Dubai to work in hotels. Mayberry said the workers had no idea that they were being flown directly to Baghdad until after the plane left Kuwait.

First Kuwaiti human resource manager Adel Jabbour dismissed Mayberry’s claim while meeting with a team of diplomats from the Philippines this week in Kuwait. Jabbour is reported to have shown the officials a First Kuwaiti deployment list for workers dated March 22, 2006, with Mayberry’s name that includes 11 Filipinos, 24 Pakistanis and four Indians – not the 51 Filipinos Mayberry claims to have traveled with. Jabbour also said the plane only carried 40 passengers, according to the Philippine news network ABS-CBN.

Ricardo Endaya, Philippine ambassador to Kuwait, told Jabbour that: “We want all those Filipinos who were forcibly taken to be allowed to go home think this is very important.”

"We want to know their conditions," he added.

John Owens, the American labor foreman for the embassy project who spoke to Congress last week, related a story similar to Mayberry’s during his own testimony:

When flying from Kuwait to Baghdad, I saw a bunch of workers with tickets to Dubai. Mine was the only one that said Baghdad. When I asked the First Kuwaiti manager, he said -- “Shhh, don’t say anything. If Kuwaiti customs knows they’re going to Iraq, they won’t let them on the plane.” When we landed, these workers were taken away in busses. There was nobody manning the customs station at the airport in Baghdad -- I just walked through on my way back to the Green Zone.


Meanwhile, the Philippines labor attaché Leopoldo de Jesus has ordered an investigation of all manpower recruitment agencies deploying workers to First Kuwaiti. He identified these agencies as Great Provider, GFI, MMS and Yanghwa. He said that these agencies have job orders from Middle East-based contractors, and that workers are told that they will be assigned in Kuwait.

David Phinney is a freelance journalist based in Washington, DC. He can be contacted at phinneydavid@yahoo.com.

The Latest
Expanded Mandate Would Have UN Assist Reintegration of Former Insurgents
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 08/02/2007 4:04 PM ET
UN Security Council chambers in New York
Spencer Platt/AFP/Getty
UN Security Council chambers in New York

UNAMI looks poised to expand its mission in Iraq, as a draft resolution being circulated among Security Council members has received favorable responses, with many diplomats saying its passage next week was likely.

If the resolution goes through as planned, the international body may be tasked with helping to reintegrate former insurgents back into civilian life, an expansion of UNAMI's mandate that could give hope to Iraqi national reconciliation.

The Russian delegation signaled its assent to the draft on Thursday, which makes the measure's approval by the Security Council near-certain, according to Reuters. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters, "I think it's overall a good draft. Some work, of course, may be required, but I don't see any basic problems."

U.S. mission spokesman Benjamin Chang said experts would discuss the draft on Friday. "I think there'll be some editing to be done, but so far we've had positive responses," he said.

UNAMI's current mandate is set to expire on August 10. The draft resolution, first reported by The Associated Press, would extend the mission's mandate for a year.

Some of the new resolution echoes UNAMI's original mandate, such as the order to promote human rights and judicial and legal reforms "in order to strengthen the rule of law" and to assist the government "on initial planning for a comprehensive census."

The new version authorizes the U.N. to "advise, support and assist" in the review of the Iraqi constitution, which carries on their original role of promoting "national dialogue and consensus-building" in the drafting of the document. But UNAMI's new task will be to also advise, support and assist "the development of processes to resolve disputed internal boundaries," by which we can assume UNAMI's new expansion might include sending staff to Kirkuk.

The mission would also "advise, support and assist the people and government of Iraq on advancing an inclusive national dialogue and political reconciliation," which sounds nice but will mean litter in practical consequences.

More importantly, the draft resolution would authorize UNAMI to facilitate "regional dialogue, including on issues of border security, energy and refugees." With this task, UNAMI will face a tough job playing the go-between circling the DC-Tehran- Damascus circuit, but every new opening for discourse raises the chance of a breakthrough in the current diplomatic stalemate.

Finally, in a clear sign that the US and UK have their eyes on the post-conflict scenario, the new mandate would authorize the U.N. mission to help plan, fund and implement reintegration programs for former combatants.

If the Security Council wants the UN to get involved in re-conditioning former combatants to civilian life, they should be anticipating the release of thousands of 'suspected insurgents' from prison.

In early June, an aide to Prime Minister Maliki announced that the Iraqi government was planning a general amnesty as part of their national reconciliation program, though nothing has since happened.

One of the Sunni Accord Front's eleven demands for Maliki included amnesty for all prisoners held in US and Iraqi prisons, and the bloc's pullout from the government underscores how the issue is (one of many) blocking progress on the political front. No one wants to see murderers and thugs run free, but as Ambassador Ryan Crocker said back in June, "As part of a political reconciliation process, amnesty can be very important."

It remains to be seen what form the proposed UNAMI reintegration program would take, or how effective it could be, but the expanded mandate will give hope that the UN can help cushion the return of the thousands of prisoners who will, and should, be released for the sake of Iraqi reconciliation.

IRAQ PARLIAMENT
Blocs Choose to Protect Interests at Cost of Cooperation
08/02/2007 12:31 PM ET
Baghdad, Aug 2, (VOI) – Iraqi politicians demonstrated their concerns about the implications of the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front's (IAF) withdrawal from the government for the future of the Iraqi political process.

Stressing the Iraqi political process's need for reform, MP Maisoon al-Damlouji from the Iraqi National List told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI), "The political process, which is based on a sectarian quota system, is about to fall. We have to handle the situation before reaching the point of no return."

Urging Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to listen to the IAF's demands, al-Damlouji said that constructive dialogue at the current time is necessary for discussing all unresolved issues. "The IAF, the National List, the Sadrist movement, al-Fadila Party and the National Dialogue Front (NDF) are equally dissatisfied with the current situation... The Iraqi prime minister must listen to what we are saying before it is too late," al-Damlouji indicated.

The mostly secular Iraqi National List, led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, holds 24 seats in the Iraqi parliament.

Khalaf al-Alian, a leading IAF member, described the current Iraqi political process as a "failure" and indicated that the departure of his front, along with the Sadrist movement, from the government is a clear sign that al-Maliki's government is becoming increasingly unpopular in the Iraqi street. According to al-Alian, al-Maliki has two choices: to form a government of independent technocrats or to step down in favor of a more qualified person.

Meanwhile, MP Ali al-Alaq from the Shiite Unified Iraqi Coalition (UIC), the largest parliamentary bloc with 111 seats, told VOI that the IAF's decision does not necessarily indicate retrogression in the political process, which he is said is "working fine."

Displaying pessimism about the future of the Iraqi political process, Hadi Aliwa, a political analyst, held the Iraqi government and parliamentary blocs responsible for the "failure" to reach political consensus. "Each bloc is working on its own. Several regional and international factors, the most important of which is the U.S. occupation, are affecting the political process," Aliwa explained.

Iraqi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Rafi al-Isawi announced during a press conference on Wednesday the withdrawal of the IAF from the government and the resignation of its five ministers, in addition to Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie. The IAF had given the government one week to fulfill its 11-point demands, including a general amnesty for all detainees in U.S. and Iraqi prisons, a consistent commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a halt to raids and attempts to integrate militia into the Iraqi armed forces.

Two months ago the IAF suspended its participation in parliamentary sessions in protest against a vote to give its speaker, IAF member Dr. Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a long vacation and an arrest warrant issued against the culture minister Asaad al-Hashemi, who is also a front member, for his suspected involvement in the killing of a politician's sons in 2004. The IAF, the third largest parliamentary bloc with 44 seats in the 275-member parliament, includes three main Sunni parties: the Iraqi Islamic Party, the Iraqi People's Congress and the Iraqi National Dialogue Council.
IRAQ PARLIAMENT
Secular Group 4th Largest Bloc in Parliament With 25 Seats
08/02/2007 12:10 PM ET
Baghdad, Aug 2, (VOI) - A member in the Iraqi National List (INL) said on Thursday that his bloc is considering withdrawing from the Iraqi government, stressing that the withdrawal, if it happens, will be an outcome of the front's stance, not another bloc’s position.

"A withdrawal decision of the (INL) ministers has not been made yet," Osama al-Negefi, an INL MP, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) by telephone.

"We have reservations about the government's performance and we presented a memorandum regarding this three months ago... in which we asked to reform the political process," he said, noting that the withdrawal option is open if demands are not met.

The Iraqi National List is a secular bloc and the fourth largest bloc with 25 seats out of the 275-member parliament. The parliamentary bloc has four portfolios within al-Maliki's government.

Negefi stressed that if the bloc withdraws from the government this will be an outcome of their position, not that of the Iraqi Accordance Front.

The Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF) announced on Wednesday its withdrawal from the government and the resignation of five ministers in addition to Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie.

The IAF had 44 seats in the parliament and it is the third largest bloc after the Unified Iraqi Coalition (UIC) and the Kurdistan Coalition (KC).

"The memorandum presented by the INL has 14 points, and we said that the political process had deviated from its right track and the security file was in the hands of a group belonging to certain parties," al-Negefi said.

"The memorandum also included (demands concerning) the participation of some parties not included in the political process, the national reconciliation project and the detainees file," the legislator noted.

MP from the same bloc, Mayson al-Demlougi, said that their demands were ignored by al-Maliki's government, saying "we feel marginalized."

She urged the premier to listen carefully to the demands of other blocs, which have reservations about the government's performance, warning of grave consequences if the current government keeps on ignoring blocs' demands.

Head of the INL, Iyad Allawi, described in a televised interview on Wednesday, after the withdrawal of the IAF, the current government as "a sectarian government," considering the withdrawal of the IAF as "a collapse of the political process," highlighting that his front is considering making a similar step.

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