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Archive: December 2007
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RUMOR MILL
Unconfirmed Rumor Links Pro-US Local Fighters to Expulsion of Families
12/20/2007 09:00 AM ET
A member of the pro-US fighting force known as the Awakening force in Dora November 17, 2007 in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images.
A member of the pro-US fighting force known as the "Awakening" force in Dora November 17, 2007 in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, Iraq.

Several Iraqi families in an area of southern Baghdad have fled the area after receiving threats, which locals say originated from a group of fighters assembled with American support in order to impose control on the district.

In the district of of Dora, at least five families departed the district on Tuesday after receiving threats from gunmen. The families included Sunni and Shi'a residents, locals tell IraqSlogger, adding that in several cases the gunmen presented their threats in person, warning the families to leave.

An unconfirmed rumor traveling in the district holds that the armed men behind recent wave of forced migration were members of the locally organized "Dora Awakening" forces, known in Arabic as Sahwat al-Dora, a pro-US predominantly Sunni paramilitary force that has fought against al-Qa'ida in Iraq and related groups in the area.

IraqSlogger cannot confirm this rumor at this time.

Full Text
Retired General's "After Action Report" Lauds Surge Success, Slams Rumsfeld
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 12/19/2007 5:35 PM ET
Retired U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey
Chip Somodevilla/Getty
Retired U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey

Writing "after-action reports" doesn't stop once a soldier retires from the action, as Gen. Barry McCaffrey proves with a detailed and thoughtful memo reflecting on what he learned during his recent trip to Iraq.

Much of what McCaffrey writes echoes the current dominant view of Iraq--violence has dropped, AQI has been de-fanged, the central government acts ineptly on its good days though somehow the economy slowly spurts back to life, and everything remains dismal for the 4 million displaced Iraqis.

His account overwhelmingly cites the dedication, intellect, drive, fearlessness, and leadership of the US military, though McCaffrey, whose penchant for straight talk can sometimes give his former military colleagues heartburn, slips in a number of eye-opening remarks.

While the surge has had a limited lifespan from its initial conception, which those opposed to the war considered a mask for the surreptitious intent to accelerate the conflict, McCaffrey says, "We are now forced to begin an immediate drawdown because of the inadequate resources of the worldwide US Army." He later elaborates:

"Our recruiting campaign is bringing into the Army thousands of new soldiers (perhaps 10% of the annual input) who should not be in uniform....We are losing our combat experienced mid-career NCOs and Captains at an excessive rate....The US Army at 400,000 troops is too small to carry out the current military strategy. The active duty US Army needs to be 800,000 strong to guarantee US national security."

The additional boots on the ground allotted by the surge will be sorely missed, as McCaffrey writes of the responsibilities troops have been assuming: "The US company and battalion commanders now operate as the de facto low-level government of the Iraqi state...schools, health, roads, police, education, governance."

After many pages of deadly serious assessment, Iraq-watchers who celebrated the retirement of Donald Rumsfeld will be rewarded with a good belly laugh at the harsh treatment the retired general reserves for the former SecDef towards the end of his report:

The leadership of Secretary Bob Gates in DOD has produced a dramatic transformation of our national security effort which under the Rumsfeld leadership was characterized by: a failing under-resourced counter-insurgency strategy; illegal DOD orders on the abuse of human rights; disrespect for the media and the Congress and the other departments of government; massive self-denial on wartime intelligence; and an internal civilian-imposed integrity problem in the Armed Forces---that punished candor, de-centralized operations, and commanders initiative.

Admiral Mullen as CJCS and Admiral Fallon as CENTCOM Commander bring hard-nosed realism and integrity of decision-making to an open and collaborative process which re-emerged as Mr. Rumsfeld left office. (Mr. Rumsfeld was an American patriot, of great personal talent, energy, experience, bureaucratic cleverness, and charisma---who operated with personal arrogance, intimidation and disrespect for the military, lack of forthright candor, avoidance of personal responsibility, and fundamental bad judgment.)

McCaffrey concludes with a summary of his views on "the end game" in Iraq:

It is too late to decide on the Iraqi exit strategy with the current Administration. However, the Secretary of Defense and CENTCOM can set the next Administration up for success by getting down to 12 + Brigade Combat teams before January of 2009 ---and by massively resourcing the creation of an adequate Iraqi Security Force.

We also need to make the case to Congress that significant US financial resources are needed to get the Iraqi economy going. ($3 billion per year for five years.) The nation-building process is the key to a successful US Military withdrawal---and will save enormous money and grief in the long run to avoid a failed Iraqi state.

Clearly we must continue the current sensible approach by Secretary of State Rice to open dialog with Syria, Turkey, and the Iranians---and to focus Arab attention with Saudi leadership on a US diplomatic offensive to mitigate the confrontation between Israel and the Arab states. We must also build a coalition to mitigate the dangers of a nuclear armed Iran.

The dysfunctional central government of Iraq, the warring Shia/Sunni/Kurdish factions, and the unworkable Iraqi constitution will only be put right by the Iraqis in their own time---and in their own way. It is entirely credible that a functioning Iraqi state will slowly emerge from the bottom up...with a small US military and diplomatic presence holding together in loose fashion the central government. The US must also hold at bay Iraq’s neighbors from the desperate mischief they might cause that could lead to all out Civil War with regional involvement.

A successful withdrawal from Iraq with the emergence of a responsible unified Iraqi nation is vitally important to the security of the American people and the Mid-East. We are clearly no longer on a downward spiral. However, the ultimate outcome is still quite seriously in doubt.

Read Gen McCaffrey's full after action report here: McCaffreyAAR1207.pdf

Stay Tuned
KRG Looking for Every Reason to Marginalize Baghdad's Power
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 12/14/2007 11:29 AM ET
IBRAHIM AL-KHALIL, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 7: Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga stand guard on the Iraqi-Turkish border at the Ibrahim al-Khalil crossing, about 300 miles northwest of Baghdad, Iraq.
Wathiq Khuzaie/AFP/Getty
IBRAHIM AL-KHALIL, IRAQ - NOVEMBER 7: Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga stand guard on the Iraqi-Turkish border at the Ibrahim al-Khalil crossing, about 300 miles northwest of Baghdad, Iraq.

Despite Kurdish President Massoud Barzani's surprising public statement this week indicating that he does not wish for an independent Kurdistan, the regional government is continuing efforts to make Arbil its own locus of power.

Ongoing intransigence regarding the KRG's right to independently negotiate deals with oil and gas companies continues to trouble Maliki's regime. KRG prime minister Nechirvan Barzani traveled to Baghdad for discussions this week, though has given no indication that Baghdad's displeasure will hamper Kurdish ambitions.

That simmering angst may get a shot of anger when Baghdad learns that Kurdish officials are pressing the US for a cooperative strategic agreement separately from the one already signed by President Maliki.

Two weeks ago, the White House and the Maliki government released a joint declaration of "principles" for "friendship and cooperation"--the first step towards a strategic agreement that would most likely include long-term basing arrangements.

Omar Fatah, deputy prime minister of the KRG, arrived back in Kurdistan this week after a short visit to the US, saying that he delivered the message that the KRG wants a "strategic agreement with the Americans" similar to the one Washington signed with Baghdad last month.

"We expressed our pleasure about the agreement between Washington and Baghdad, " said Fatah, adding Iraqi Kurds want their own deal. "We want an agreement that would see that Kurds are not oppressed again," he said, referring to atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein's regime.

Having US troops based in Kurdistan would be an insurance policy against Turkish invasion and would assuage Kurdish fears of the prospect of a strong central government.

The Kurdish Regional Government has made no secret of their ambition for an agreement with the US that could include some basing rights, as KRG spokesman in the US Qubad Talabani told me this past summer, "We are interested in a long term strategic cooperative agreement with the U.S. - one that will allay our fears of being abandoned, while also serving U.S. interests as it pursues this war on terror."

US military sources indicate the leadership has its eyes on Kurdish land to base a long-term presence of American troops, something which the Kurdish government would welcome, though perhaps not so eagerly if the terms of the agreement were negotiated between Baghdad and the US.

Strategic security agreements are generally negotiated between two-nation states--not a state and a region--but Kurdistan is looking for every means available to assert its independence, without actually declaring it. The challenge for the US will be to carefully pursue its own interests without upsetting either party, or encouraging regional independence so much that it establishes the seeds for future armed conflict within Iraq.

Perhaps Kurdish leaders have resigned themselves to remaining a part of the Iraqi nation (or perhaps not), but regardless of their long-term ambitions, it's clear now that the KRG is seeking any way to marginalize the central authorities in Baghdad. Whether it be in the realm of natural resources, managing security affairs, or negotiating a bi-lateral agreement, Kurdistan wants to be sure Baghdad understands who runs northern Iraq.

PETROL POLITICS
KRG President's Comments Work to Ease Baghdad's Fears of Unilateralism
12/12/2007 4:42 PM ET
President of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, Massud Barzani (L) looks at Iraq's President Jalal Talabani (R) during a joint press conference in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil, 21 October 2007.
Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty
President of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, Massud Barzani (L) looks at Iraq's President Jalal Talabani (R) during a joint press conference in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Arbil, 21 October 2007.

Kurdistan's prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, has been making the rounds with a high-level KRG delegation in Baghdad this week. Little news has been reported regarding the discussions he has had with officials from the central government, though the main topic needing attention concerns the tensions growing recently after Kurdish officials announced they had begun to unilaterally negotiate oil exploration deals.

Baghdad fears the move reflects Kurdish leader's long-term goal for total independence--pervasive anxieties that continue to stall the KRG's push for the Article 140 referendum on Kirkuk.

If the public comments President Barzani has been making this week align with the message his prime minister has been delivering to Baghdad, the KRG is working to reassure the central government that it has no ambition for independence, but still plans to stand firm on Article 140 and the dozen recently signed oil deals.

Turkey's daily Today's Zaman reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani reassured reporters Tuesday that Iraq's Kurds did not seek independence by continuing to press for a referendum on status of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

"Some neighboring countries say Kurds will set up an independent state if Article 140 is implemented," Barzani told a conference in Arbil. "But there is no such thing. I am an Iraqi. I am an Iraqi citizen of Kurdish origin," he went on.

London-based Iraqi satellite network Alsumeria carried additional comments by President Barzani clarifying the his views on the intent of Article 140:

“Article 140 article of the constitution does not refer to the expulsion or the deportation of anyone from Kirkuk, but it is rather a means to restore rights to the people, and to eradicate the inhuman policy which the ousted regime described as the Arabisation of Kurdistan. Its implementation also does not mean detaching Kirkuk from Iraq or making it inaccessible to any of the minorities living there. It means normalizing the situation”, Barazani said.

Even as Barzani rejected the idea that his government is working to move Kurdistan towards greater independence--which would include Kirkuk within its borders--he insisted the KRG had the right to unilaterally negotiate deals with oil companies.

Alsumria reports that Barzani described signing oil and gas investment deals as KRG’s constitutional right, rejecting the notion that it infringes upon the central government's authority, which he claimed consists of managing extractions from existing fields in partnership with the oil- and gas-producing regions and provinces.

Barazani agreed that revenues from oil and gas produced in Iraq, including the Kurdistan region, should be distributed equally across the country according to the population distribution.

RUMOR MILL
Rumors of Connection between MP and New Flyers Denouncing Hashemi
12/11/2007 3:10 PM ET
A picture dated 24 June 2007 shows Iraqi Sunni Minister of Culture Asaad Kamal al-Hashemi attending a ceremony in Baghdad to honour journalists who were killed in acts of violence in Iraq.
Sabah Arar/AFP.
A picture dated 24 June 2007 shows Iraqi Sunni Minister of Culture Asaad Kamal al-Hashemi attending a ceremony in Baghdad to honour journalists who were killed in acts of violence in Iraq.

New posters featuring the likeness of a government minister who skipped out on an arrest warrant have mysteriously appeared in many Baghdad areas, Slogger sources report.

Posters featuring an image of As'ad al-Hashemi, the former minister of culture for whom the Iraqi government issued an arrest order over the summer, have appeared in such areas as Kadhimiya, Karrada, Baghdad al-Jadida, Palestine Street, and Sa'adoun Street, eyewitnesses tell Slogger.

The ex-minister's image is accompanied by the words, "So that the criminals won't escape from the hand of justice," locals report.

The posters describe the minister as a fugitive from justice, and offer a reward for anyone who can provide information

The group responsible for the posters is unknown, locals say.

A picture dated 24 June 2007 shows Mithal Alussi an independent Iraqi lawmaker attending a ceremony in Baghdad, to honour journalists who were killed in acts of violence in Iraq.
Sabah Arar/AFP.
A picture dated 24 June 2007 shows Mithal Alussi an independent Iraqi lawmaker attending a ceremony in Baghdad, to honour journalists who were killed in acts of violence in Iraq.
Rumors circulating in the capital about the origins of the posters point to the office of an Iraqi MP, whose sons were killed in the attack in connection with which Hashemi's arrest warrant was issued in June.

Unconfirmed Baghdad buzz suggests that the office of Mithal al-Alusi, of the al-Umma Party, may have initiated the poster campaign.

The Iraqi government said in June that Hashemi's guards told Iraqi interrogators that they had committed a February 2005 shooting attack on al-Alusi, which his two sons dead. The guards also reportedly said that Hashemi had masterminded the attack.

In the aftermath of the arrest warrant, Hashemi's political bloc initiated a boycott of the Iraqi parliament, although it has since rejoined the proceedings.

PETROL POLITICS
Titans of Industry Discussing "Technical-Support Contracts" with Oil Ministry
By BEN LANDO 12/06/2007 5:20 PM ET
WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Big Oil's big dreams are close to coming true as Iraq's Oil Ministry prepares deals for the country's largest oil fields with terms that aren't necessarily what companies were hoping for but considered a foot in the door of the world's most promising oil sector.

Iraq's proven oil reserves are only smaller than those in Saudi Arabia and Iran -- and the country is only about 30 percent explored.

Iraq produces about 2.4 million barrels per day, a recent increase from the 2 million bpd post-invasion average, but far below what its reserves could handle. Its oil sector is suffering from decades of Saddam Hussein-era mismanagement, U.N. sanctions and the effects of the current war.

The decision of how to develop a resource that provides for nearly the entire federal budget is political and controversial. To each side's alarm, the national government will rely on a Saddam-era law and Iraq's Kurdish region is signing deals on its own.

Details of negotiations between the ministry and international oil majors are being kept quiet, though media are picking up on pieces of deal-making.

MarketWatch reports executives from BP and Shell were to meet with Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani following Wednesday's meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Abu Dhabi. The global energy information firm Platts reports top ministry and company officials are to meet in Amman this week.

Shahristani himself dropped hints to United Press International in a recent interview. He said he's moving forward with oil deals despite the lack of a new national oil law, a draft of which has been stalled in negotiations for more than a year.

"This has nothing to do with the national oil law. There is no timeline. Whenever we finish our discussions we'll just sign the contracts," he told UPI on the sidelines of the OPEC heads of state summit last month.

"This is basically technical-support contracts," he said, adding the contracts will not be the result of a bidding process. "Selected companies will offer us technical support that we need to develop our producing fields."

Develop producing fields? "Yes, only."

With the companies who are helping to, who have been studying them, who have been doing this work? "Yes. Exactly. That's right."

How many fields? "We will not be announcing anything until we sign the contracts."

Super giants? "They are the super giants, yes."

Super giant fields are those with at least 5 billion barrels in reserves, and in Iraq include the Kirkuk, Majnoon, Rumaila North and South, West Qurna and Zubair fields. Reserves of the Nahr Umr and East Baghdad fields may also reach 5 billion barrels, and there are many large producing fields rumored to be on the negotiating table.

The world's largest oil companies are keen on entering Iraq, as their own booked reserves decline and a growing bulk of global reserves are under nationalized systems.

Oil company officials met with U.S. officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, prior to the war and since, to discuss contracts for Iraq's oil. Former top officials of the companies were tasked by the U.S.-led occupation with advising the Oil Ministry.

"This means that it is pay-off time for the majors that have been running training courses for Oil Ministry personnel, reservoir surveys, drawn up work-plans and given general advice during the past years," said Samuel Ciszuk, Middle East energy analyst for Global Insight. "It is clever."

He said forgoing bidding allows the ministry to move quickly, as well as prove wrong critics, such as the Iraqi Kurds.

According to insiders to whom UPI talked recently as well as media reports, Shell, which produced a technical study of Kirkuk in 2005, wants a deal for the field. BP wants one for Rumaila, which it studied last year. Shell and BHP Billiton are angling for the Missan field in the south. ExxonMobil is interested in the southern Zubair field while the Sabha and Luhais fields are being targeted by Dome and Anadarko Petroleum.

ConocoPhillips is talking with the ministry about the West Qurna oil field, officials with Russian major Lukoil told Dow Jones Newswires. Lukoil, of which Conoco is a 20 percent shareholder, had a deal with Saddam Hussein for West Qurna in the 1990s, but it was cancelled prior to the war.

Chevron and Total have teamed up in a bid for the Majnoon field.

Less than 1 percent of Iraq's proven reserves are located in the area controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government, but limited successful exploration and geological formations have the KRG excited with prospects.

Bolstered by contempt for central control and the sluggish pace of the oil law, the KRG has passed its own regional oil law and signed more than 20 exploration and production deals with international oil firms.

Shahristani has called the KRG deals "illegal" and a dispute is slowly brewing in Baghdad. None of the major companies has signed with the KRG, fearing being blacklisted by Baghdad from the rest of Iraq's bounty.

Shahristani, growing impatient himself, has started his negotiations, though the KRG claims the Saddam-era law is illegitimate. Washington, which maintains an emphasis on approving a new oil law, has given Shahristani its blessing.

Iraq's oil sector was fully nationalized in 1972 and power was concentrated in the hands of the Iraqi National Oil Company. INOC is temporarily defunct, and its role has been incorporated into the ministry.

The ministry can sign the service contract deals on its own, though it may need to get Cabinet approval first.

But if it were to sign any risk or concession contracts, such as production-sharing contracts like the KRG, it would need parliamentary approval under the Saddam-era law.

And while service contracts would be highly profitable for companies, Big Oil wants risk contracts. Such deals are usually long term, covering its exploration costs and guaranteeing a profit if oil is found, and allowing them to put the reserves it discovers on the books, a boon in Wall Street's eyes.

Aside from security -- which if it stays bad would make the deals costlier for Iraq -- there's relatively little risk in exploring for crude in Iraq. Historically it has been easy to find, inexpensive to produce and top quality.

Supporters of the popular nationalized structure in Iraq -- led by the powerful oil unions -- and campaigners who fear the ultimate end to the war is the heist of Iraq's oil wealth are against risk contracts.

Hassan Jumaa Awad, president of the umbrella Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions, told UPI in London last week that service contracts bringing new technology and training will suffice.

"National expertise and resources," he said, "are capable of enhancing production in the oil industry."

Exclusive
Readying Appeal for Funds, Partners in Ambitious Program for Displaced Iraqis
By CHRISTINA DAVIDSON 12/06/2007 4:56 PM ET
Internally displaced Iraqi Shiite children stand at the entrance of their tent at an IDP camp on the outskirts of Sadr City, 05 December 2007. More than 25 Shiite families fled the village of Duailiyah in Diyala province after being attacked by AQI militants.
WISSAM AL-OKAILI/AFP/Getty
Internally displaced Iraqi Shiite children stand at the entrance of their tent at an IDP camp on the outskirts of Sadr City, 05 December 2007. More than 25 Shiite families fled the village of Duailiyah in Diyala province after being attacked by AQI militants.

The recent trickle of Iraqi refugees coming back to their home country illuminated the typically bleak media landscape with a brief flash of good news--until it became apparent that the government had no plan to handle their arrival, leaving an estimated 20% of the returned former refugees now internally displaced.

But the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization (IRCO) is working up an ambitious and forward-looking plan to ready the country to re-integrate its citizens displaced by the war's violence.

As the only humanitarian organization with an operational presence in all of Iraq's 18 provinces, the IRCO will necessarily play an integral role in ameliorating the hardship that has befallen 4+ million internally and externally displaced Iraqis. The organization has begun to outline the next step forward, and in coming weeks will be seeking the partners and funding needed to make the idea a reality.

IRCO president, Dr. Said Hakki, offered a preview of the "Neighborhood Reconstruction Program" (NRP) for the humanitarian-minded audience attending Thursday's 'Conference on Responding to Iraq's Displacement Crisis' in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Center for American Progress and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

The essence of the half-a-billion-dollar plan would be in establishing 120 reconstructed "neighborhood units" in Baghdad, each with a population of about 10,000 people. The areas chosen for development would be re-built by those able-bodied IDPs who move into them, creating jobs for the local population, and giving them a vested stake in the revitalization of the neighborhood.

The IRCO plan would also include the construction of schools and water treatment plants, and would aim to give every family a home with running water and electricity, a functioning local school providing K-6 education, job training for adults, and access to healthcare.

In contrast with the Coalition's initial attempt at reconstruction, which paid a premium for Western contractors who then flooded the country with low-cost third country national laborers, the IRCO plan is native-born and hopes to rely on Iraqi workers and leaders who are personally and intimately devoted to the revitalization of the nation.

“Let us heal them and let them stand on their feet and work," Dr. Hakki says, making it clear that the program would not simply aim to re-build battered neighborhoods, but more so to organize communities to help themselves.

The one-year goal would be to normalize 600,000 IDPs currently based in Baghdad, which would provide a model for the natural assimilation of the remaining internally and externally displaced Iraqis.

The IRCO estimates the plan would require some $500 million to enact for the first year, which it hopes to raise through direct appeals to the US and Iraqi governments, neighbors in the region, NGOs, and generous individuals. Though a half billion may be a significant initial direct investment, the seed money has the potential to help restore health to an Iraqi economy on life support.

Hakki strenuously reminded his audience Thursday that the IRCO could not single-handedly take on such a program, "Solution for this dire predicament requires a coordinated and multifaceted response both inside and outside the country," he urged. But resolving Iraq's dire humanitarian crisis is a moral imperative, he said, and with the help of international partners and NGOs, "We can do it."

Stay Tuned
Law Overriding CPA Order 17 Coming Up for Vote, Looks Likely to Pass
12/05/2007 4:36 PM ET
An Iraqi looks 24 September 2007, at a burnt car on the site where Blackwater guards who were escorting US embassy officials opened fire in a shootout which left nine civilians and a policeman dead.
Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty
An Iraqi looks 24 September 2007, at a burnt car on the site where Blackwater guards who were escorting US embassy officials opened fire in a shootout which left nine civilians and a policeman dead.

As American military leaders and State Department officials prepare to finalize the details on the new oversight guidelines for private security contractors working for the US in Iraq, the Iraqi Parliament is readying to more forward debate on a law that could strip the legal immunity granted the armed guards under the provisions set out by the CPA in 2004.

The new accord announced yesterday by Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker details new operating procedures intended to improve coordination of private security movements on the ground, but roundly ignores the accountability issue, leaving private security contractors' legal status as vague as it was on September 16, when the Blackwater shooting incident at Nissour Square laid bare the shortcomings of the current legal regime.

But where the US authorities have failed to act, for once the Iraqis are taking the lead to force greater accountability, making clear their intent to erase any confusion over foreign contractors' legal status.

"The new bill cancels private security firms' immunity and overturns a measure known as Order 17, issued by the former civil administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer," the head of the ministry's National Command Centre, Staff Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf al-Kanani, told VOI on Tuesday.

The new legislation will punish security companies and personnel if they commit crimes against Iraqi civilians in accordance with law No. 11 of 1969, al-Kanani added.

Prime Minister Maliki's cabinet and the state's Shura Council have signed off on the draft law, and it has been passed on to the Iraqi parliament for approval. Parliamentary sources indicate the measure has broad support and is likely to achieve formal ratification, after which the Presidency Council would have the final sign off to bring it into effect.

Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told Reuters that, if passed, the law would grant Iraqi security forces the authority to arrest foreign guards involved in shooting incidents.

Bolani also said that he believed Iraq would soon need fewer foreign security contractors, since violence had recently dropped, and that after 2008, Iraqi security forces would no longer need them to help guard government institutions and buildings.

The generally declining requirement for the added manpower foreign contractors bring to Iraq could become an inconvenient necessity after the law's passage, since the willingness of independent contractors and security companies to operate under the altered legal conditions remain to be seen.

Christian Berthelsen with the LA Times recently talked to four American security contractors and one company executive to determine how the legal change might affect their willingness to work in Iraq, writing in the Times Sunday:

Generally, there was a sense of resignation among the guards about the immunity repeal and a reluctant acknowledgment that it is probably necessary, because the legal protection appeared to have given some a sense of impunity -- or, at a minimum, a willingness to cut corners when it came to following rules of engagement or escalation of force. None said they believed they would receive a fair trial in an Iraqi court, but none said they would quit the business and leave the country, either.

Berthelsen reports that while the guards said they would be willing to continue working in Iraq despite the risk, the executive said his company would have to reexamine the situation in light of any changes in legal accountability.

"We have to seriously think about whether we could do business in Iraq under those conditions," the executive said. "I think under normal conditions no company would have a problem with its employees being accountable to local law. But the reason we're in Iraq is because normal conditions don't exist."

According to Berthelsen, one contractor suggested the U.S. might have to turn their private guards into government employees so they would continue to receive diplomatic immunity.

Stay Tuned
Lieutenant-Colonel Reportedly Arrested Last Month on Charges of "Terrorism"
12/03/2007 4:42 PM ET
Karbala, Dec 3, (VOI) – The former intelligence chief arrested in Karbala last month escaped from a prison in Baghdad, a police official said on Monday.

"Lt. Colonel Hashim Jalloub, the former chief of Karbala intelligence service, managed to escape from al-Rasafa prison in Baghdad on Sunday evening," Raed Shakir Jawdat, the Karbala police director, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

"Investigations are still going on and a number of officers were arrested after the incident," said Jawdat, not indicating how Jalloub escaped.

Jalloub was arrested in Karbala on charges of attempted murder of a police director in a prison in Baghdad, where he was sent to resume the investigations and then refer him to a court for trial, he added.

A source in Karbala had told VOI on November 10 that special forces arrested Lt. Colonel Hashim Jalloub, the director of internal affairs in the province, on charges of "terrorism." The source said intelligence tips have been received about Jalloub's involvement in "a network that aims at liquidating some officials and politicians in the city, including Brig. Jawdat."

The holy Shiite province of Karbala lies 130 km south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

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