Alive in Baghdad Reports from Scene of Controversial Controlled Blast
07/29/2008 4:58 PM ET
Las fall, Alive in Baghdad visited a clinic in Baghdad's eastern Adhamiya district, where the controlled detonation of several explosives-laden vehicles caused property damage in the area, including the destruction of a recently built medical clinic to serve area residents. One local speaks with notes of skepticism over the intentions of the pro-US Sahwa forces involved in the affair, as well as criticizing the actions of Coalition forces that day. Another resident laments the loss of the medical clinic.
Iraq, Baghdad - Neighborhoods in Baghdad such as Hay Al-Jama’a and Ameriyah had some stability and security side after the Sahwa took control of those neighborhoods, others were not that lucky and still face problems with security. There have been many rumors circulating about the Sahwa Councils, in particular, many Iraqis have begun to believe that some of the Sahwa members were previously members of Al-Qa’eda. These rumors have begun to increase suspicions about the Sahwa and Iraqi civilians have begun wondering whether they are really trying to help make neighborhoods safer or are just working for money.
The US military were has blown up some house in neighborhoods such as Hay Al-Jama’a, a house sitting next to Baghdad Highway was blown up by the Sahwa and US forces. One neighbor living next to the destroyed house, who requested to remain anonymous, told Alive in Baghdad that the owner of this house were traveling abroad to Amman, Jordan and the house was destroyed without his knowledge. There were also rumors that this particular house was being used by Al-Qa’eda, although neighbors have said they were unsubstantiated. Another blast took place in Baghdad Al-Jadeeda, when US military blew up a building that belonged to a merchant who was traveling in Syria when his building was demolished, this according to a neighbor who asked to be known only by his first name, Abbas.
Neighborhoods like Adhamiya face similar doubts about the Sahwa Councils as well. Although Adhamiya residents overall seemed to be generally happy about the appearance of the Sahwa and the re-establishment of security, there have been some mistakes. In Adhamiya the Sahwa found some suspicious cars in a parking lot next to an important medical clinic in Adhamiya. This clinic served much of Adhamiya and provided treatment to many patients with chronic diseases. According to the caretaker of the parking lot, some members of the Sahwa came to take the cars, which are believed to have been left by members of Al-Qa’eda. He asked them to check the cars first to see whether they belonged to someone, and after searching the cars they found many of the cars wired with bombs or storing weapons. When the Sahwa and US troops demolished the cars, there was an accident with destroyed much of the clinic as well as two generators belonging to local residents. Alive in Baghdad spoke with the caretaker of the lot and the director of the clinic to get their perspective on the impact of the Sahwa in Adhamiya.
Tribal Leaders "Ready to Fight" as Officials Bar "Popular Committees" from Ops
07/28/2008 6:02 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
As US and Iraqi forces prepare for an anticipated security crackdown in Iraq's Diyala province, Iraqi officials have announced that only uniformed troops will participate in the fighting in what is termed the last major stronghold of the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization.
However, on Sunday, tribal leaders have offered to participate in the armed operations in the restive province northeast of Baghdad, at a conference attended by representatives of high-level security and political officials.
An official security source in Diyala Province announced that 56,000 Iraqi troops will participate in the planned security operations in the province, while ruling out the participation of "unofficial parties" in the fighting, Eye Iraq reports in Arabic.
"The operational administration will be vested in the ground forces commander as well as the commanders of the Interior and Defense ministries," the source said, Eye Iraq reports in Arabic.
Intensive measures will be taken during the operations including the forbidding of the so-called "Popular Committees" to participate in the operations and forbidding any bearing of arms in public. Joint forces will arrest anyone carrying weapons in the streets, without distinction to their affiliation, the source said.
Diyala's "Popular Committees" are locally organized armed groups, often recruited on a tribal basis, that have cooperated with US forces in the province in exchange for payment or influence. Many are former members of the insurgency that fought with US forces in the past.
All checkpoints established by the popular committees will also be disbanded, the source added, Eye Iraq writes.
However, al-Malaf Press reports in Arabic that tribal leaders in the province convened on Sunday afternoon in a conference to announce their readiness to participate in the upcoming security operations, but according to official Iraqi pronouncements, only uniformed Iraqi troops will participate in the fighting, with the support and oversight of Coalition troops. At the conference in Ba'qouba, which was attended by representatives of the Iraqi security apparatus and of the Iraqi prime minister, tribal leaders said they were prepared to play a similar role to their fellow tribesmen in Maysan and Basra provinces during recent crackdowns there.
Along with the question of the participation of tribal forces and the "popular committees," it is unknown what, if any, role the Kurdish militia and security forces that operate in Diyala Province under the command of the two major Kurdish parties, might play in the upcoming operations.
Aswat al-Iraq reported last week in Arabic that Kurdish Asayish intelligence forces operating in Diyala Province found an arms cache in a village in the Khanqin district. The weapons dump included anti-aircraft weapons, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and artillery shells.
The Khanqin area, and other parts of northern Diyala Province, are disputed between the Iraqi Kurdistan autonomous regional government and the central Baghdad government.
Iraqi police found four unidentified bodies in southeastern Mosul. Preliminary investigations show that the victims, whose bodies were recovered in the Sumer district on Sunday, had been subjected to intense torture including chemical burns to the body.
First Lt. Ahmad Khalaf of the Sumer district police said, "Our patrol found four corpses, of unknown identity, at 10:30 a.m. Sunday morning. After an inspection of the victims' bodies, it was found that they had experienced intensive torture and high-intensity chemical burns. The victims were killed by gunfire to the head and chest areas."
The officer continued, "Unfortunately we did not find any documents or anything that would provide evidence as to the identities of the four victims. Photos of the victims were placed at the medical justice facility in an attempt to learn their identities via their surviving families."
Meanwhile, an IED detonated in the Yarmouk area, west of Mosul, Sunday morning, which led to material damage to windows of houses neighboring the blast site. No human casualties were reported in the explosion.
A source in the Iraqi Interior Ministry, speaking anonymously, said "An IED that had been sown at the shoulder on the main road exploded Yarmouk district exploded Sunday," explaining that "The device had been planted to target an Iraqi Army patrol that was near the site" of the blast.
"Praise be to God, this explosion did not cause any human losses," the source added.
KIRKUK – A deadly IED blast in Kirkuk city was triggered when a civilian car pulled off the main road and accidentally struck a box of what appeared to be common trash that detonated on the unsuspecting civilians inside the car and nearby, according to an eyewitness account.
The blast, which occurred Sunday morning in the Tas'in district of southwest Kirkuk city, killed one person and wounded three with critical injuries.
An eyewitness in the Tas'in district, speaking anonymously, said, "A Toyota Super car stopped near the main road in the Tas'in area. The driver was not aware of a box of rubbish on the roadside. The car accidentally drove on top of this box, which led to a strong explosion."
The blast ignited the vehicle and broke windows of nearby houses, the witness said.
"The car's driver was killed immediately, and two others who were in the same car were wounded. A third person who happened to be near the site of the blast was also injured," he added.
The blast may have exploded in error, the witness speculated. "There were No National Guard or Police patrols were in the area at the time of the blast, nor any other security forces," he said. Iraqi and American forces are frequent targets of roadside bombing attacks.
An Iraqi police force arrived at the site of the explosion less than 15 minutes after the blast, and shut the road in order to investigate the circumstances of the event, the witness added.
Danger Remains; Calls on Kurdistan Region to Take Further Measures
07/25/2008 6:20 PM ET
Na'ima Hasan al-Qasir, the representative of the World Health Organization in Iraq.
The representative of the World Health Organization in Iraq told reporters on Friday that there were no new recorded cases of cholera in the country in the last six months, although she warned that the summer months could be particularly dangerous for the disease and called for vigilance and government action.
Na'ima Hasan al-Qasir told Newsmatique that "Some of the media channels reported lately, and very dangerously, that cholera has begun to spread, while the expert observations in Iraq confirm the lack of recording any new cases over last six-month period," the agency reports in Arabic.
The WHO representative said that the body has increased its efforts to support local officials and health organizations, and maintains a system of observation and recording in cooperation with Iraqi health authorities. The WHO established an office in Iraq earlier this month.
The danger of outbreaks remains present, she said, particularly in the case of summer drought. "There is a relationship between the scarcity of water and the spread of diseases, because drought can lead to dangerous practices on the part of residents," she said, Newsmatique writes.
She called on Iraqi officials in the autonomous Kurdistan region to "take more measures, among them distribution of potable water" and to make families aware of the issue of personal and alimentary cleanliness.
Al-Qasir said earlier this month that, "The fear of cholera and typhoid is our immediate and urgent priority," AFP reported.
Much of the recent outbreak of cholera in Iraq was centered in the northern Kurdish provinces, although cases were recorded across the country.
Al-Qasir added that "Taking all these measures to combat the spread of outbreaks is not only a responsibility of the Ministry of Health," but also "the ministries of municipal affairs, environment, finance, education and others have a role in this."
The WHO official also warned Iraqi citizens against taking antibiotics except when advised by a doctor, Newsmatique writes.
Measures Include Ban on Luggage and Communications Devices
07/24/2008 8:09 PM ET
Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty Images.
Baghdad, Sept. 2005: Funeral services in front of the Imam al-Kadhim shrine for victims of the August 31 stampede.
Iraqi commanders in Baghdad have announced intensive security measures in the capital for an upcoming Shi'a Muslim holiday in which throngs of pilgrims are expected to visit a major shrine on the western banks of the Tigris.
Each year Shi'a Muslims observe the anniversary of the martyrdom in the year 799 of Imam Musa bin Ja'far al-Kadhim according to its date on the Islamic lunar calendar, which falls this year on July 28 in the Western reckoning. The observation includes the pilgrimage of thousands of faithful through Baghdad to a major shrine site in the Kadhimiya district, where the Imam and his grandson are buried.
In a statement issued by Baghdad commanders on Thursday, Iraqi commanders have forbidden carrying weapons of all kinds during the visitation period, and have required that children be escorted by adults, according to a report in Arabic by Eye Iraq media.
Iraqis are also warned to refuse foods and drinks from unknown people. It is a common practice during the various annual Shi'a pilgrimages to offer food to passing pilgrims, but in recent years such hospitality stations have been the sites of deadly bombing attacks.
One restriction announced in the statement that is sure to be even more disruptive is the order forbidding the carrying of all types of luggage and communication devices -- a tall order for pilgrims coming from outside the capital.
Iraqi command also asked citizens to travel along the streets that have been secured by the Iraqi security forces during the pilgrimage, and to refrain from chanting provocative slogans, and warned against sowing panic among citizens.
Iraq's various Shi'a factions, intense rivals for political ascendancy, often have their own characteristic slogans.
Baghdad command also warned of the necessity to "inform security forces of suspicious persons and strange objects," and demanded that citizens travel to Kadhimiya at different times, in order to avoid the occurrence of heavy crowds, as well as to preserve the peace and to cooperate with the security forces in case of any emergency.
A pilgrimage to Kadhimiya in August 2005 erupted in a stampede on a bridge across the Tigris River, reportedly on the rumor that a bombing attack was imminent. As many as 1,000 or more people were crushed, suffocated, or drowned in the Tigris in that panic.
Iraq "Unlikely" to Compete in Beijing because of "Political Interference"
07/24/2008 5:28 PM ET
IOC Executive Committee.
Below is the full text of the statement issued by the International Olympic Committee on Thursday, in which the organization blames Iraqi government actions for the expected absence of Iraqi athletes from this summer's Beijing games. For background on the bureaucratic dispute inside Iraqi sports that is the apparent cause of Iraq's inability to compete in the 2008 Olympiad, and its effect on Iraqi athletes, see this video report.
24 July 2008
Despite the best efforts of the International Olympic Committee, it seems very unlikely that any Iraqi athlete will compete at the Beijing Olympic Games.
The IOC would like to see Iraq’s athletes in Beijing, and is disappointed they have been so ill-served by their own government’s actions. The deadline for taking up places for Beijing for all sports except athletics has now passed and as a result we must now reallocate a number of Iraq’s qualified or invited quota places.
The IOC’s executive board temporarily suspended the Iraqi National Olympic Committee on 4th June 2008, after the Iraqi Government dismissed the legitimate NOC and installed a new committee, chaired by its own Minister of Sport, which the IOC does not recognise.
The Olympic Charter forbids political interference in the Olympic Movement. Rule 28(9) of the Charter provides for the suspension of an NOC in the event that: “any governmental body...causes the activity of the NOC . . . to be hampered.”
The Iraqi government was invited to come to Lausanne to discuss possible remedies, but did not positively respond to the IOC’s invitation.
Over the last five years, the IOC and the wider Olympic family have provided funding and training opportunities to support the Iraqi NOC and more than 50 Iraqi athletes and coaches. The Iraqi government’s actions have destroyed this progress.
The IOC will continue to search for ways to help Iraqi athletes and support the role of sports in a safe and peaceful Iraq.
In Wake of Controversial Raid, 'Alwan Says New Agreement Limits MNF Actions
07/24/2008 4:27 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
The governor of Dhi Qar province said Thursday that an agreement had been reached on the terms of coordination with the forces of the Multinational Coalition working in the province.
The announced agreement comes after a recent dispute in which American forces conducted an airborne raid to arrest a suspect wanted by the MNF without the knowledge of the local authorities.
Gov. Aziz Kadhim 'Alwan, in a press conference following a reported meeting with Col. Philip Battaglia, MNF commander in the province, said that "The affirmation of the importance of joint cooperation between the governorate and the Multinational Forces, and of field coordination to avoid what shook the security and stability of the city"
The agreement was reached "so as not to repeat what happened in the al-Thawra district, one of the suburbs of Nasrirya city," the governor added.
US forces, on the tenth of July, conducted a controversial airborne raid in the al-Thawra area of Nasiriya in which a civilian was killed and two wounded.
US forces said after the event that the raid had targeted the house of a wanted man, suspected of providing funding to the armed groups known as so-called Special Groups.
This provoked a fierce response from local officials, who denounced the operation and said it had been launched without their knowledge.
"Local authorities will not permit what happened to be repeated," the governor told reporters, adding that, "Coordination in the security field as well as in various other fields, including the contribution of the Multinational Forces to reconstruction" were part of the new agreement.
Dhi Qar province was handed over to Iraqi security control in 2006, while the presence of MNF troops in the governorate is limited to a support and tracking role.
According to al-Malaf Press, Col. Battaglia told the media that the MNF is prepared to coordinate with the official of the province in increasing stability and security, and emphasized the importance of the support of the Iraqi security forces. Battaglia also cited cooperation in developing the fighting capacity and establishing security, and also referred to avoiding a repetition of the event in al-Thawra, the agency writes, noting that he reportedly explained that Multinational Forces centered in Dhi Qar were not a party to the controversial raid.
It was an American force that came from another area outside the province that launched the controversial raid, Battaglia said, according to the al-Malaf Press report.
In other news, the Nasiriya governor issued a statement in Arabic on Wednesday denying reports in some Iraqi media outlets that US forces raided the Dhi Qar provincial government building in Nasiriya. The governor said that such reports misinterpreted ordinary security preparations for the visit of an American commander to the building on July 21.
The statement, obtained by IraqSlogger alleged that those behind the reports of the American raid were seeking to spread the impression of instability in Dhi Qar to undermine the local government's efforts to attract investors.
MOSUL -- Gunmen kidnapped three female employees in the Iraqi Finance Ministry in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Thursday, according to an eyewitness to the attack.
An eyewitness, who preferred not to reveal his name, said "A number of gunmen stopped a small bus carrying three female employees of the finance ministry Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m." in the al-Nour district of eastern Mosul.
"The gunmen removed the employees from the bus under threat of arms and took them in an unknown direction," the witness said. The bus driver departed once the armed men left the small Kia bus behind.
"We alerted the Iraqi Police with the details, and we do not know the fate of these three employees," the eyewitness said.
Meanwhile, an IED exploded Thursday in the northern city targeting an Iraqi police column.
Three officers were wounded, none critically, in the blast in the northeastern al-Zahra district.
A source in the Iraqi Interior Ministry, speaking anonymously, said, "An explosive device detonated this morning targeting a patrol of the Iraqi Police. The device had been planted on the side of the main road in the al-Zahra district."
While the blast caused "material damages to patrol cars" the source said, he described the injuries to the three patrolmen as "slight."
The source added that "Preliminary investigations indicate that the IED was homemade, using explosive materials, crude wiring and a simple detonation device."
Silenced Sniper Fire Kills Teen as He Was Driving in South of Province
07/23/2008 6:32 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
The son of an Iraqi journalist was killed Wednesday by bullets from an unknown sniper in southern Kirkuk Province, Aswat al-Iraq reports in Arabic.
Col. 'Amid Sarhad Qadir, the director of district policing in the province told the agency that "Gunmen opened fire on the Arkan, the son of the journalist Ali Taha today near the al-Rabi' Bridge in southern Kirkuk Province, killing him."
The victim was killed by a sniper using a silencer when he was driving his car in the area, the officer said, without providing further details, Aswat al-Iraq writes.
Ali Taha is the editor in chief of the Sawt al-Qura newspaper, a weekly independent publication published in Kirkuk, Aswat al-Iraq qrites.
Just two days before, an Iraqi journalist was murdered in Kirkuk when unmnown gunmen opened fire on Suran Mama Hama in the Shorja area of the Kirkuk city center.
Historical Structures Fall Prey to Rampant Commercial Development, Some Say
07/23/2008 3:56 PM ET
Upper-floor balconies, a traditional feature of Bagdadi residential architecture, are visible in this photo of neglected historic homes.
In the face of unregulated reconstruction and a shortage of dedicated commercial space, the Iraqi capital is in danger of losing its architectural heritage and historic urban fabric, according to some observers and residents who spoke with an Iraqi news agency about their concerns for the capital's traditional residences. It is not only damages due to urban warfare and the poor security situation that threaten Baghdad's historic areas, Newsmatique writes in Arabic, but also the lack of urban planning policies to protect the older areas of the capital. According to some residents, who decry the gradual erosion of the city's architectural heritage, there are even more sinister forces at play.
Reporter Ammar al-Shara has the byline from Baghdad, writing for Newsmatique that in addition to its celebrated markets and libraries, the traditional architecture of the Iraqi capital is known for its balconies that emerge from the upper stories and overlook the narrow alleyways of the city's historic residential quarters. Eulogized in poetry, the traditional residential architectural forms of the Iraqi capital are visible in areas such as Adhamiya, Battawin, al-Murraba, al-Haydarkhana, the Hamada market and others, he writes. Upon entering any of these areas, the author writes, visitors can hear the echoes of traditional Iraqi music, the scents of smell the tea with cardamom; while young girls peep down to pedestrians below.
“One cannot estimate the value of historical areas by figuring out the construction cost of these buildings. The value is in the age" of the buildings themselves, Iraqi architect Shoruq al-Abaiji told Newsmatique, saying that the design of the buildings reflects the time in which they were erected.
She added that Iraq's "precious and irreplaceable architectural heritage" is under threat because “traditional houses are neglected and are exposed to damage" and unregulated renovation. She called for a law that protects these areas from damage and misuse, to protect Baghdad's architecture by blocking changes to the structures in the historical districts.
Al-Abaiji told Newsmatique that she sees a pervasive negligence among Iraqi society regarding the traditional houses decorated with their signature balconies as they are slowly converted into what she describes as "commercial venues, car body shops, and warehouses for building materials." In tandem with the preservation of the historic districts, she called for the planning of new commercial areas to relieve development pressures on the older quarters. Entrepreneurs running new shops and storage facilities in historical districts lack alternatives for commercial and industrial activity which would allow them to start their business away from the historical areas, she explained.
The architect also expressed fears over calls to rebuild Baghdad "to look like Dubai" without regard, in her words, to the historical areas, especially in the city center. "This will lead to a complete loss of Baghdad's heritage," she told Newsmatique.
Iraqi MP Maisun al-Dumluji, affiliated with the secular Iraqi List of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, told Newsmatique of what she described as the urgency of initiating an immediate campaign by the civil society organizations to raise awareness regarding the historical residences of Baghdad, in order to preserve the heritage of Iraqi civilization.
"The ancient houses in the capital were one of the biggest centers to attract tourists in the past," she said, adding, "Not to mention, they represent what remains of Baghdad, the ancient city that was erected at the beginning of the last century."
Al-Dumluji continued: “The damage that affected the ancient heritage residences is due to the long term of ignorance and because of transferring some of the houses into commercial shops and storage facilities, creating a distorted architectural picture of the city of Baghdad."
MP Mufid al-Jaza'iri, the chairman of the Education, Media, Tourism and Archaeology Committee in the Iraqi Parliament told Newsmatique that Baghdad's traditional residences "represent an important architecture heritage to the Iraqi people.” The MP, affiliated with the Iraqi Communist Party, believes that, “To preserve this heritage means to continue the relationship between the past, the present and the future of society. The disappearance of this heritage, which represents the past in all forms, will lead to deprivation in the understanding of the real identity (of Iraq) and loss of (connection to Iraqi) civilization, that consequently will affect the education of this society."
Al-Jaza'iri added that “sometimes, neglect of the maintenance of the heritage sites happens on purpose, and sometimes it occurs spontaneously, in reflection of the security situation in Iraq.” Al-Jaza'iri indicated that, in his view, the idea of redeveloping Baghdad should not include tearing down traditional residences or changing its architecture "without regard to its past civilization and heritage."
Newsmatique writes that some residents of the historic districts of Kadhimiya, al-Fashla, al-Shawaka, and Haifa Street areas, among others, expressed frustration over the damages that have occurred to historic residences in the district. Some homes buildings have been transferred to commercial uses and even to offices and facilities for political parties.
Saleh al-Asadi, a 75-year-old resident of Kadhimiya told Newsmatique that, “These homes started to disappear from Kadhimiya area because some of them have been torn down and others transformed into commercial shops or storage facilities. . . . just a few of them remain intact."
The septuagenarian continued, "From decades ago and until today, the Iraqi government has not taken interest in the historical houses and cafes that represent old Baghdad. The previous officials did not appreciate the city's heritage, and the present officials just want development and to build places of worship," he said, referring to the governing coalition dominated by Shi'a religious parties.
The Kadhimiya resident added that "Some (officials) even consider these houses to represent a period of time that is over and want to get rid of all their characteristics."
He lamented current zoning and planning policies, which he said were leading to the erosion of Baghdad's historic urban fabric. “The government is canceling all the liens that occurred to its departments and buildings which are occupied by poor people, to let them be able to stay, their but the government has not tried to turn back al-Rashid Street to its original state” insisting that the historical district, a center of literary gatherings and café society in the 1950s and 1960s, "is now turned into complexes of commercial shops and storage facilities that ruined everything nice in this street which existed during the previous regime.”
The Kadhimiya resident told Newsmatique of his suspicions that some parties in government are planning to ruin the heritage of Baghdad in order to create a new capital altogether.
Lack of commercial space
Jabar Sa'ad, 60, owns a storage facility for construction materials in al-Rashid Street. He told Newsmatique that “the use of the old places for a business is normal and will not hurt anyone." He insisted that the owners of the shops and storage facilities are taking care of the heritage areas especially the look of the buildings and they did not allow the government to tear them down for the purpose of building big commercial compounds.”
Sa'ad said that he is willing to leave his historic home, which he is using as a storage facility as well, if he could find an alternative storage facility in an appropriate location, but under the condition that the government must take care of these buildings guaranteeing that they can be restored as cafes and cultural sites.
Maha Marwan, 33 is a graduate of al-Mustansrirya University's arts faculty in eastern Baghdad. She told Newsmatique that she believes that there is a “premeditated strategy to demolish any building that represent the history of Baghdad and to turn into a city without memories or civilization.”
She alleged that foreign powers are involved in the destruction of Baghdad's architectural features. “There are some countries that are trying to use the current situation in Iraq to destroy the history and the heritage of the residences, and touristic features as they have desire for revenge" against Iraq.
Some religious parties are financed by neighboring countries who consider that the existence of the heritage is dangerous to them, and from here they start to neglect taking care of the traditional homes.
Maha Marwan told Newsmatique that she would like the Iraqi Government to explain its positions regarding the issue of traditional architecture, because, as she says, "history and the future generations will not be merciful towards the politicians if the heritage of their country is demolished."
Dispute in Babil Province over Electricity Provision, Official Access to Plants
07/23/2008 1:32 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
In an ongoing dispute over access to Iraqi electrical infrastructure, elected officials in Iraq's Babil province, south of Baghdad, are preparing to stage a protest on Thursday against the Electricity Ministry, demanding the dismissal of Iraq's minister of electricity and his referral, along with the minister of defense, to the justice system, according to a report in Arabic.
Al-Malaf Press writes that the Electricity Ministry issued a decision earlier blocking members of the local government from entering several electricity transmission stations in the Abu Gharaq area of Babil Province, threatening any official who enters into electrical plants with arrest. Abu Gharaq is located about five miles northwest of Hilla city, the provincial capital.
According to sources close to the governor of the province, Salim al-Muslimawi, and to the head o fthe provincial council, Ali Qadam Wisaq, the protest will be staged Thursday, with banners being prepared with slogans to demand the sacking of the electricity minister, Dr. Karim Wahid, and his referral to the Iraqi justice system.
Similar demands are to be raised with regards to the Iraqi minister of defense, because of the deployment of Iraqi Army units to surround the electricity station at Abu Gharaq to prevent the entry of local officials.
The crisis was touched off when the Babil governor visited the Abu Gharaq station two weeks ago and threatened those working there workers there with arrest unless they improved the situation of electricity provision in the province, al-Malaf Press writes. This move is apparently what prompted directors of electricity production and distribution in the Middle Euphrates area to seek the intervention of the ministry to prevent the enactment of legal procedures against them by Babil's governor or provincial council.
The demonstration will convene in front of the electricity distribution headquarters for the Middle Euphrates region. Political parties and non-governmental organizations will participate in the protest, the agency writes, citing its unidentified sources close to the local government.
The provincial council issued a statement on Tuesday calling for public demonstrations, as well as for the dismissal of the electricity minister and his referral, along with the minister of defense, Abd al-Qadir al-'Ubaydi, to the Iraqi courts, in response to what the statement called "arbitrary procedures" that the two ministers allegedly took against local officials in Babil. The provincial council's statement demanded the formation of a parliamentary investigative committee to probe the matter, as well as demanding that the electricity ministry distribute power to the province "in a just way" and according to stated policies. al-Malaf Press writes.
Members of the provincial council also accused local power directors of "milsleading" the electricity administration with biased information on the condition of electricity in the province. The provincial council in Babil and its governor have raised other legal complaints in the past, alleging that the electricity ministry has manipulated the power supply to Babil province.
The news agency notes that over a month ago, Ra'd al-Haris, a senior official in the electricity ministry, acknowledged in a press conference in Babil that was attended by members of the local governments in four Middle Euphrates provinces, that the central control center of the local electrical system is outside the ministry's grasp, and that elements that he described as "terrorists" are actually in control of it. The official's announcement shocked those attending the conference, al-Malaf Press writes, over the ministry's admitted inability to control its electricity center at that time and its apparent inability to impose order on the system.
Meanwhile, al-Malaf Press cites unidentified "citizens" in Babil province who reportedly said that the direct intervention of the local government into the technical aspects of electricity provision would be "a useless affair," since only specialists with the requisite expertise can operate the system. These "citizens" instead emphasized that the role of the local governments should be restricted to pressures to improve the supply of electricity in their provinces through administrative, as opposed to technical, measures.
The same "citizens" added that they believed that a demonstration on the issue of electricity would also undermine confidence in the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who seeks to reassure Iraqis that the crisis of electricity in the country is on its way to resolution.
Allies See Political Motivations; Officials Fear Arrest as Crackdown Looms
07/22/2008 8:57 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
The head of a municipal council in Iraq's Diyala Province has turned himself in to Iraqi authorities in response to the recent announcement of an arrest warrant for him and other Iraqi officials issued over a year ago. Allies of the local official, affiliated with the Iraqi Islamic Party, are calling the warrant politically motivated and improperly obtained.
An official source in the Diyala Provincial Council said that Ra'd Abd Jasim al-Tamimi, the head of the municipal council of the Muqdadiya district, located 15 miles northeast of Ba'qouba, has submitted himself to the security forces after a warrant was issued for his arrest, Newsmatique writes in Arabic.
Al-Tamimi, who has held his position for over 14 months, submitted himself Monday evening to the Greater Crimes Branch of the local police after his name appeared in a judicial order for his arrest, the source said. The warrant had been issued in 2007, Newsmatique writes.
Speaking anonymously, the source added that "al-Tamimi comes among a list of 41 wanted individuals" in the 2007 arrest list that "includes figures and officials in the local security agencies who were earlier accused of supporting armed groups," according to what the source told Newsmatique.
The source clarified that, "The arrest warrant was issued over a year ago in Muqdadiya district, but was not implemented because of the deteriorating in the security conditions that the area was experiencing at the time.
The source added that the arrest order also includes the deputy governor of Diyala Province, 'Ouf Rahmi, also a member of the Islamic Party cadre, as well as the names of officers in the security forces, including Col. Amir al-Ta'i, the director of joint security coordination, who turned himself into the security agencies some days ago, Newsmatique writes, after the arrest warrant appeared.
The source also added that "The director of the office of the deputy governor of Diyala Province, Nihad al-Jubouri, and another officer of the rank of major also submitted themselves Monday to the same police center on the appearance of their names in the arrest warrant.
Meanwhile, Husayn al-Zubaydi, the head of the security committee in the Diyala Provincial Council and a prominent member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, told Newsmatique Tuesday evening that the arrest warrant was published after the confessions of the suspect Hashim al-Mahdawi, a major in the Iraqi police and commander of one of the special SWAT units in Muqdadiya.
Al-Zubaydi protested the warrants allegedly issued on evidence of al-Mahdawi's confessions, saying that the police major had become "a detainee and a witness at the same time," which he described as being against Iraqi law.
The provincial councilman indicated that al-Mahdawi's comfessions included the accessions of several figures, officials, and police officers, whom Mahdawi said were responsible for acts of armed violence, which al-Zubaydi also said was "a distortion of the truth."
Al-Zubaydi continued to allege that "al-Mahdawi claimed that he was subjected to intense torture and there are medical reports, according to the Multinational Forces, that confirm his statement that he was coerced to confess," Newsmatique writes, explaining that the provincial councilman and member of the Islamic Party claims that the arrest warrants in question were issued on the basis of those confessions, allegedly obtained by improper means.
Zubaidi told the news agency that he believed that "These names are published for one reason, which is that there are political motivations behind them."
Col. 'Amir al-Ta'i whose name appeared on the warrant was released two days ago, and yesterday the head of the municipal council Ra'd 'Abd Jasim al-Tamimi and two officers turned themselves in, and there are neutral efforts to settle the matter by legal and judicial means."
A security source, seeking anonymity, told Newsmatique that "there is fear on the part of many local figures, even security (figures) because one of the items expected in an anticipated security crackdown in Diyala Province includes the implementation of outstanding arrest warrants, many of which have not been announced publicly.
Diyala Province, located northeast of Baghdad, is considered one of the most dangerous areas remaining in Iraq, and counted as one of the largest strongholds of Iraqi armed groups, including the al-Qa'ida in Iraq organization. The area has seen an escalation in acts of violence over the last two years, and is currently anticipating a security crackdown by Iraqi forces.
Investigation: Profs Salaries Stolen from Inside the Faculty of Administration
07/22/2008 7:57 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Mosul University has opened an investigation into the case of the theft of 55 million Iraqi dinars of University funds from its Faculty of Administration and Economics.
An official source in the university administration told al-Malaf Press that the Faculty was subject to the theft of 55 million Iraqi Dinars, the agency writes in Arabic.
The sum is the equivalent of US$48,000 on the currency markets, but with much more relative purchasing power in Iraq than that sum would have in the U.S.
Unknown thieves removed the money from accounts inside the dean's office, the source told al-Malaf Press.
The University has opened an investigation into employees of the college with the relevant agencies are to determine the circumstances of the theft, and to discover the perpetrators and their accomplices, the agency writes.
The money was held in a fund to pay professors' salaries, but was stolen before it could be distributed.
The source also told the agency that this is the second such breach at the Mosul University College of Administration and Economics, referring to the theft of a group of new modern electricity equipment six years ago, al-Malaf Press writes.
The source added that the president of Mosul University, Abi Sa'id al-Diwaji had said that "The principal reason for the theft is negligence and administrative corruption on the part of employees in the Faculty of Administration and Economics."
23-Year-Old Correspondent Had Received Death Threats: CPJ
07/22/2008 7:15 PM ET
Soran Mama Hama, the Kirkuk-based journalist who was slain on Monday.
Below is full text of the statement issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists announcing the death of Soran Mama Hama, a 23-year-old journalist who was gunned down in front of his home on Monday in Kirkuk. The press freedom watchdog notes that the victim's reporting was critical of local officials and raised allegations of security forces involvement in corruption in the province.
New York, July 22, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the murder of Iraqi reporter Soran Mama Hama, who was shot by unidentified gunmen in front of his home in Kirkuk on Monday night, according to news reports and CPJ interviews.
Mama Hama, 23, a reporter with the Sulaymania-based Livin magazine, had received threatening messages before the slaying, local journalists told CPJ today. Mama Hama had written articles critical of local authorities, those journalists said.
His last article in Livin recounted the prevalence of prostitution in Kirkuk and the alleged complicity of police and security officials. In the article, which was reviewed by CPJ, Mama Hama claimed that he had collected the names of “police brigadiers, many lieutenants, colonels, and many police and security officers” who were clients.
Ahmed Mira, Livin’s editor-in-chief, told CPJ that the slaying was designed to “silence the free voices in Kirkuk.” He called the murder “a very dangerous” development for the region’s media.
Kirkuk Police Brig. Jamal Tahir told CPJ that the department had launched an investigation. He called it a “serious situation” that will get “special attention.”
“The killing of Soran Mama Hama again shows the terrible risks faced by journalists working in Iraq,” CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney said. “His murder seems intended to silence critical reporting in a region where independent journalism is trying to establish a foothold. We call on the authorities do everything in their power to track down Mama Hama’s killers and bring them to justice.”
The shooting occurred at around 9 p.m. in the Shorija neighborhood, which is considered a relatively safe area. Initial accounts varied as to how many times Mama Hama was shot. Local journalists said the gunmen were driving a BMW.
At least 129 other journalists have been killed in Iraq in relation to their work since the U.S. invasion of March 2003, but Kirkuk is not considered among the most dangerous spots for the press. CPJ research shows three other journalists have died in the area since 2003.
The Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate, which has begun issuing periodic reports on threats against the press, noted earlier this month that Mama Hama had received a threatening message from an unknown person on May 15. Latif Fatih Faraj, head of the syndicate’s Kirkuk chapter, called Mama Hama “a courageous and adventurous journalist.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit www.cpj.org.
Al-Lami Denies Allegations, Says Acusers Seek to Undermine Syndicate's Work
07/21/2008 8:28 PM ET
Mu'ayad al-Lami, the newly elected head of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate.
The newly elected president of Iraq's most prominent professional organization for journalists has denied allegations that he received support from Islamic parties represented in the political process to bolster his candidacy for the post.
Mu'ayad al-Lami, in an interview in Arabic with the Newsmatique agency, said that "some of the figures that failed to obtain positions in the Syndicate's recent elections are trying to fling accusations against the new president and his alleged acquisition of support from the Islamic parties."
"This comes in the context of a campaign by these parties to stop the work of the new Syndicate governing council," he said.
Al-Lami's remarks came in response to reports of a press conference on Sunday attended by several pro-government media figures in which allegations were launched against the legitimacy of his position as the new head of the Syndicate after elections on Friday.
As IraqSlogger reported earlier, al-Lami, the union's former general secretary was elected to the position of Syndicate chief, and two vice presidents were chosen for the organization.
Al-Lami added that reports that the Iranian embassy in Iraq supported his candidacy are untrue, confirming that "a delegation from the Iranian embassy carried out a perfunctory visit to the headquarters of the Journalists' Syndicate," but that "there was no discussion of providing financial support to the Syndicate," dismissing allegations that the Syndicate provides intelligence to the Iranian embassy as "ridiculous."
Al-Lami added that the accusations that were launched against him and against the Syndicate are part of a campaign to, in his words, "turn the street against the new governing council of the Syndicate," adding that the Syndicate "is ready to turn a new leaf and work with all Iraqi journalists."
Other journalists have accused al-Lami of making phone calls threatening them with death, which he said "these accusations are not based in reality and I have not contacted any journalist on his private phone."
In a press conference Monday at the headquarters of the Syndicate in Baghdad's Waziriya district, east of the Tigris, al-Lami demanded that Iraqi president Jalal al-Talabani announce a clear position supporting the results of Friday's internal elections.
Fakhri Karim, a close Talabani advisor and head of the al-Mada media group, earlier accused the victors in the recent elections of links to the deposed Iraqi regime, and of cooperating with Saddam Hussein's son 'Uday when he held the presidency of the syndicate.
Karim was present for Sunday's press conference of dissidents within the Syndicate who oppose the newly elected council.
A member of the Syndicate, Dr. Nadhim al-Ruba'i called for figures and parties that doubt the results of the elections to "resort to the Iraqi courts rather than unjustified remarks and insults" about members of the new governing council, Newsmatique reports.
Al-Ruba'i said that the governing council was ready to accept the decision of the Iraqi courts if they should rule on the matter.
He demanded the parties that did not triumph in the Syndicate elections to "open a new page" to cooperate with the new governing council "with the goal of supporting Iraqi journalists and defending their rights."
Sana al-Niqash, another member of the Syndicate, told Newsmatique that she rejected the idea that the new governing council lacked legitimacy, defending what she called the "professionalism" of the recent elections.
"The campaign that some media figures are conducting against the new council comes because of their failure in the recent Syndicate elections, and their lack of representation in the new council."
"Parties that do not believe in the Syndicate have the right to form media organizations to defend the rights of Iraqi journalists," she said, "rather than undermining the legitimacy of the Syndicate and its new council."
One Soldier Dies, One Wounded in Assault on Center Set Aside to Aid in Vote Prep
07/21/2008 7:24 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
The date and conduct of the anticipated provincial and local elections are still subject to political wrangling, but an electoral center set aside by the local government in Iraq's northern Ninewa province has already come under attack by an armed group.
One soldier was killed and another wounded in the assault on Sunday evening in the al-Quds district of eastern Mosul city, according to an unnamed security source.
The source in Ninewa Province told the Eye Iraq agency that "Unknown gunmen attacked with light arms one of the electoral centers in the al-Quds district . . . .which was set aside by the local government to praepare for the provincial council elections."
The source added that the wounded soldier was moved to the hospital for treatment.
The local government in Ninewa province has set aside various schools and other buildings in the province to be elections centers to prepare for the anticipated elections, which may be held this fall, or which may in fact be postponed.
The sites are under the protection of Iraqi army and police forces, Eye Iraq writes.
Pro-Government Figures Allege Fraud, Ties to Former Regime after New Elections
07/21/2008 4:21 PM ET
Fakhri Karim of the al-Mada group.
A dispute has broken out in the ranks of Iraqi journalists as a number of pro-government Iraqi media figures have protested the results of recent elections for the leadership of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate, the main professional association for Iraqi correspondents and media workers.
In a press conference on Sunday, several pro-government Iraqi editors issued an ultimatum for the dissolution of the newly elected governing council, claiming that the body's representatives "lack legitimacy" and came to their offices by fraudulent means, as well as accusing the Syndicate's leadership of ties to the Iraq's former Ba'thist regime and to neighboring states, according to a report in Arabic by Newsmatique.
The dissident media representatives gave the council one week to dissolve itself, beginning from Sunday, July 20, and also demanded that the Syndicate not issue identification cards "during the coming period which will decide the legitimacy of the Syndicate."
Mu'ayad al-Lami, the newly elected head of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate.
The journalists union held its internal voting last Friday, which resulted in the election of general secretary Mu'ayad al-Lami to the position of president of the organization, and Ghazi Shari' and 'Imad Abd al-Amir to the positions of vice president of the Syndicate. Al-Lami acted as head of the organization after the assassination of his predecessor, the veteran Iraqi journalist Shihab al-Tamimi in February.
Fakhri Karim, a media advisor to Iraqi President Jalal al-Talabani, and the owner of the al-Mada Group, an Iraqi media organization that includes a daily newspaper and television programming, told Newsmatique that "the results of the Journalists Syndicate elections led to the control of parties tied to the regime of Saddam Hussein over the Syndicate, which were working with his son 'Uday during his tenure as president of the syndicate," he said.
'Uday Hussein, appointed by his father to head the Syndicate during Iraq's Ba'thist regime, was killed in a firefight with US forces in July 2003.
Karim, speaking at the conference, said that "Iraqi media outlets wanted to choose a governing committee for the Syndicate that represents the true face of the Iraqi media, which excels in professionalism and is able to devend the rights of Iraqi journalists, but this did not happen," according to Karim.
The Iraqi media mogul stressed the need to "put aside slogans, and to work with professionalism to arrive at the reasons that led to the control of some parties linked to the former regime over the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate."
Karim called for Iraqi journalists and media representatives to act to convince government and legislative authorities of the illegitimacy of the leadership of the parties that currently control the Syndicate, and the necessity to dissolve the current council of the Syndicate."
Iraqi journalist Saif al-Khayat.
Meanwhile, Iraqi journalist Sayf al-Khayat alleged that "The Iraqi Journalists Syndicate undertakes intelligence information gathering on the account of some neighboring countries,"
Al-Khayat, in an interview with Newsmatique, said that "It is incumbent on the Iraqi government to apply the Anti-Terrorism Law to the Syndicate and its governing council, which cooperates with neighboring countries to gather information on independent Iraqi figures and conditions in the country."
Khayat, who has been embroiled in a bitter feud with the Syndicate leadership, did not name any particular states in his allegations. He demanded that the Iraqi government conduct an investigation into what he called the "fraud" in the recent elections.
Khayat added that the current leadership of the Syndicate "claims that it is supported by some Islamic and political factions in the Iraqi Parliament" and called for investigations into these claims.
Falah Mash'al, editor in chief of al-Sabah.
For his part, Falah Mash'al, the editor in chief of the semi-official al-Sabah newspaper, said that "The governing council of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate is not legitimate and was elected in murky circumstances."
Mash'al told Newsmatique that "the council does not represent the Iraqi media and its election was conducted under conditions of fraud." He demanded that "the council be dissolved and new elections be held."
Alive in Baghdad: Tribal Leaders on Funding, Operations, Future of Their Force
07/21/2008 1:26 PM ET
Leaders of the locally organized pro-US paramilitary groups known in Arabic as Sahwa in a strategic town just north of Baghdad spoke with Alive in Baghdad, giving their perspective on the genesis and operations of their organization in Taji, which they say have reduced the incidence of armed attacks in their area. Located in Salah al-Din Province just outside Baghdad, Taji is also home to a major US military installation.
The segment closes with one leader's exhortation to the current Iraqi government to deepen its ties with the Sahwa of Iraq, rather than with Iran or the United States.
The video journal introduces this week's report as follows:
Iraq, Baghdad / Taji – Another neighborhood in the north of Baghdad named Taji is suffering from weak security since the beginning of 2004. Taji was a very dangerous area and overrun by militias. Further, one of the largest joint US/Iraqi military bases in Iraq is in Taji. Because of this there have been many attacks on the convoys coming in and out, attacks on the trucks and drivers delivering supplies to the Taji base.
Lots of raids and firefights were happening in Taji in order to control the security situation. Until late 2007, if you will ask a cab driver to take you to Taji they would refuse because it's too dangerous for them. If they were Shi'a they may reasonably be afraid of being kidnapped by one of the Sunni militias and found dead a few days later.
The Iraqi Ministry of I established more than 100 police checkpoints in the area of Taji along with checkpoints from the Iraqi National Guard in order to control militias and unknown groups. Another well known problem in the area of Taji were the gangs. It is very common in Iraq that if you are driving a modern car and you are driving in a dangerous area such as that around Taji, there is a high possibility that you will return home on foot, if you were lucky and not killed.
Tribes in Taji such as Al-Tammimi decided to fight Al-Qa'eda and all groups that were related to them. Sheikh Nadeem Hatem Sultan Al-Tammimi, the head of Al-Tammimi tribe in Taji, asked all the sons of the Al-Tammimi tribe to fight Al-Qaeda and to join Al-Sahwa Council in order to restore security in the area. One of the first things this tribe did was to establish checkpoints to search the cars coming in and out of the area around Taji. These new checkpoints were established because there were doubts about the checkpoints belonging to the Iraqi MOI. There were many rumors about the MOI checkpoints not interfering with the work of Al-Qa'eda or stopping cars that were laden with guns or explosives.
Shops and some schools were closed due to the lack of security, students were killed as well as headmasters and teachers. Many families living there decided to stop sending their children to school in Taji in order to keep them alive. Families became especially worried after 50 students were killed on a road near Taji that lead to the area around the Taji military base. Even for students coming from colleges like Baghdad University or others used to be stopped at fake checkpoints and asked for their identity to know if they were Sunni or Shi'a. If they were found to be Shi'a they might be taken to an unknown area and killed the next day, something that happened many times from 2006 to 2007.
Tells CBS News Iraq Conflict a Mistake, War of Convenience, US Scaledown Vital
07/20/2008 2:30 PM ET
Here is a partial transcript of the 10-minute-long Lara Logan interview:
Obama: "For at least a year now, I have called for two additional brigades, perhaps three," he said. "I think it's very important that we unify command more effectively to coordinate our military activities. But military alone is not going to be enough.
"The Afghan government needs to do more. But we have to understand that the situation is precarious and urgent here in Afghanistan. And I believe this has to be our central focus, the central front, on our battle against terrorism."
Logan: "Why does it have to be the central focus? What is so critical to U.S. interests here?"
Obama: "This is where they can plan attacks. They have sanctuary here. They are gathering huge amounts of money as a consequence of the drug trade in the region. And so that global network is centered in this area. And I think one of the biggest mistakes we've made strategically after 9/11 was to fail to finish the job here, focus our attention here. We got distracted by Iraq.
"And despite what the Bush Administration has argued, I don't think there's any doubt that we were distracted from our efforts not only to hunt down al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but also to rebuild this country so that people have confidence that we were to here to stay over the long haul, that we were going to rebuild roads, provide electricity, improve the quality of life for people. And now we have a chance, I think, to correct some of those areas.
"There's starting to be a broad consensus that it's time for us to withdraw some of our combat troops out of Iraq, deploy them here in Afghanistan. And I think we have to seize that opportunity. Now's the time for us to do it.
"I think what's important for us to do is to begin planning for those brigades now. If we wait until the next administration, it could be a year before we get those additional troops on the ground here in Afghanistan. And I think that would be a mistake. I think the situation is getting urgent enough that we've got to start doing something now.
"The United States has to take a regional approach to the problem. Just as we can't be myopic and focus only on Iraq, we also can't think that we can solve the security problems here in Afghanistan without engaging the Pakistan government."
Logan: "And how do you compel Pakistan to act?"
Obama: "Well, you know, I think that the U.S. government provides an awful lot of aid to Pakistan, provides a lot of military support to Pakistan. And to send a clear message to Pakistan that this is important, to them as well as to us, I think that message has not been sent."
Logan: "Under what circumstances would you authorize unilateral U.S. action against targets inside tribal areas?"
Obama: "What I've said is that if we had actionable intelligence against high-value al-Qaeda targets, and the Pakistani government was unwilling to go after those targets, that we should. My hope is that it doesn't come to that - that in fact, the Pakistan government would recognize that if we had Osama bin Laden in our sights that we should fire or we should capture him."
Logan: "Isn't that the case now? I mean, do you really think that if U.S. forces had Osama bin Laden in their sights and the Pakistanis said 'No,' that they wouldn't fire or wouldn't go after him?"
Obama: "I think actually this is current doctrine. There was some dispute when I said this last August. Both the administration and some of my opponents suggested, 'Well, you know, you shouldn't go around saying that.' But I don't think there's any doubt that that should be our policy."
Logan: "But is the current policy."
Obama: "I believe it is the current policy."
Logan: "So there's no change, then?"
Obama: "I don't think there's going to be a change there. I think that in order for us to be successful, it's not going to be enough just to engage in the occasional shot fired. We've got training camps that are growing and multiplying."
Logan: "Would you take out all those training camps?"
Obama: "Well, I think that what we would like to see the Pakistani government take out those training camps."
Logan: "And if they won't?"
Obama: "Well, I think that we've got to work with them so they will."
Logan: "Would you consider unilateral U.S. action?"
Obama: "I will push Pakistan very hard to make sure that we go after those training camps. I think it's absolutely vital to the security interests for both the United States and Pakistan."
Logan: "You do have a situation seven years on into this war where Osama bin Laden and all his lieutenants and all the leaders of the Taliban, they're still there. They're inside Pakistan."
Obama: "It's a huge problem. First of all, if we hadn't taken our eye off the ball, we might've caught them before they got into Pakistan and were able to reconstitute themselves. So we made a strategic error. And it's one that we're going to pay for, and unfortunately the people in Afghanistan have paid for it as well.
"But we now have an opportunity to correct that problem. One of the, if you look at what's happening right now in Iraq, Prime Minister al-Maliki has indicated he wants a timetable full withdraw. That is the view of the vast majority of Iraqis as well. We've seen a quelling of the violence. We haven't seen as much political progress as needs to be made. But we're starting to see some efforts on the part of the various factions to deal with some of the issues that are out there.
Logan: "Token efforts at best."
Obama: "They are token efforts at best. But if we have a timetable and they suddenly see an urgency behind the fact that the American troops are going to be leaving and that they need to get their act together, then this is the perfect moment for us to say, 'We are going to shift our resources. We're going to get a couple of more brigades here into Afghanistan. We're going to be willing to increase our foreign aid to Pakistan.' In exchange, we're going to expect that Pakistan takes much more seriously going after al-Qaeda and Taliban base camps on their side of the borders."
Logan: "What would be a 'mission accomplished' for you in Afghanistan?
Obama: "Well, a 'mission accomplished' would be that we had stabilized Afghanistan, that the Afghan people are experiencing rising standards of living, that we have made sure that we are disabling al-Qaeda and the Taliban so that they can longer attack Afghanistan, they can no longer engage in attacks against targets of Pakistan, and they can't target the United States or its allies."
Logan "Losing is not an option?"
Obama: "Losing is not an option when it comes to al-Qaeda. And it never has been. And that's why the fact that we engaged in a war of choice when were not yet finished with that task was such a mistake."
Logan: "Do you believe the war on terror can't be won if Osama bin Laden is still alive and if he's still out there?"
Obama: "I think there would be enormous symbolic value in us capturing or killing bin Laden, because I think he's still a rallying point for Islamic extremists. But I don't think that by itself is sufficient. I think that we are going to have to be vigilante in dismantling these terrorist networks."
Logan: "Okay, last question: There is a perception that you lack experience in world affairs."
Logan: "Is this trip partly aimed at overcoming that concern, that, you know, there are doubts among some Americans that you could lead the country at war as commander in chief from day one?"
Obama: "You know, the interesting thing is that the people who are very experienced in foreign affairs, I don't think have those thoughts. The troops that I've been meeting with over the last several days, they don't seem to have those doubts. The objective of this trip was to have substantive discussions with people like President Karzai or Prime Minister Maliki or President Sarkozy or others who I expect to be dealing with over the next eight to ten years.
"It's important for me to have a relationship with them early, that I start listening to them now, getting a sense of what their interests and concerns are, because one of the shifts in foreign policy that I want to execute as president is giving the world a clear message that America intends to continue to show leadership, but our style of leadership is going to be less unilateral, that we're going to see our role as building partnerships around the world that are of mutual interest to the parties involved. And I think this gives me a head start in that process."
Hariri Meets Sistani, Seeking Closer Saudi-Iraqi Relations, Sources Say
07/18/2008 6:59 PM ET
Lebanese MP Sa'ad Hariri meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at the Iraqi PM's offices on Thursday.
Saudi leaders have sent a message of diplomatic rapprochement to Iraqi religious and political officials via a prominent Lebanese Sunni politician during his recent visit to Iraq, according to a report in Arabic in the Iraqi media.
Speculation has swirled in the Arabic-language press that the Lebanese member of parliament, Sa'ad al-Hariri, may have been acting on Saudi behalf during his recent visit to the country.
"High-level sources" in the governing United Iraqi Alliance said that the chief aim of a visit of a recent visit by Sa'ad al-Hariri, a prominent pro-Saudi Lebanese politician, to Iraq was to convey a message from Saudi Arabia to the high-ranking Shi'a cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, al-Malaf Press writes.
The Lebanese MP and son of the late former Lebanese Prime Minister and business mogul Rafiq al-Hariri leads the Future movement in Lebanon, widely recognized for close associations with Saudi interests in the country.
The Iraqi sources in the predominantly Shi'a governing bloc, speaking anonymously, told al-Malaf Press that Hariri conveyed a message of good wishes and the desire of the Saudis to improve relations with the government of Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq.
Relations between the two neighboring countries have been strained, in part due to Saudi misgivings over the close relations between the governing Iraqi parties and the Iranian Islamic Republic, a rival to the Saudis in the region, and to the Arab regimes unwillingness to bestow legitimacy to the government installed after the US-led invasion deposed the earlier rulers of Iraq.
Although Hariri denied that he was acting as an intermediary between the Saudi and Iraqi regimes, al-Malaf Press writes that its own analysts have concluded that that "all signs point to" Hariri playing such a role, especially given that the Lebanese MP visited Najaf city, the center of the Iraqi Shi'a clerical establishment, and met with Ali al-Sistani.
The meeting, which lasted an hour, according to As'ad Abu Kalal, the governor of Najaf province, was "a remarkable step," al-Malaf Press writes.
Contemporaneous with Hariri's visit and meeting with al-Sistani, politicians close ot the Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki seemed more open and tolerant of dialogue with the Saudi kingdom, al-Malaf Press adds.
The MP 'Ali al-'Allaq al-Qiyadi, of al-Maliki's Islamic Da'wa Party, told the Lebanese al-Mustaqbal newspaper, associated with Hariri's Future party, cited a positive role for Saudi Arabia in supporting Iraq and cancelling its debts, and in opening an embassy in Baghdad
"Lebanon and Iraq are Arab, and there is no difference between Sunni and Shi'a," Hariri said at a press conference organized by the Najaf governor, convened in the offices of an organization affiliated with the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council, one of the chief Shi'a parties backing the al-Maliki government.
At the media gathering, the Lebanese MP denied playing any role as an intermediary between the Saudis and Iraqis.
"I'm here to say that I am Sa'ad al-Hariri, Lebanese, Arab, Muslim, and I want Arab unity, and what I can offer I will offer to unite the Arabs with each other. Lebanon needs Iraq as Iraq needs Lebanon, and Iraq is in need of an Arab role, and Lebanon the same."
Other Arab states have lately been expanding relations with the Iraqi regime. On Thursday, Kuwait named its first ambassador to Iraq since the 1990 Iraqi invasion across its borders. The United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Bahrain have also recently named ambassadors to Iraq.
Tribal-Based Organization to Contest Upcoming Local Elections
07/18/2008 4:11 PM ET
Tribally based forces in a city in Iraq's western Euphrates Valley are preparing to enter the political arena, according to remarks by an official in the Sahwa organization, as the pro-US forces are known.
Col. Tahsin Ali Salih al-Rishawi of the Sahwa in Hit city in Anbar Province, has disclosed that the Sahwa office is preparing to enter the political process, by way of participating in the anticipated local and provincial elections, Newsmatique reports in Arabic.
Al-Rishawi told the agency that "the (Sahwa) office, which includes a few thousand volunteers, is working to find representatives for it in the municipal council of Hit city through the elections that will be conducted in this coming October."
Sahwa elements in Anbar province and other predominantly Sunni Arab areas of Iraq have begun preparing to contest the upcoming elections, introducing a new political trend into the Iraqi Sunni community.
The official also hinted at ongoing dispute with the Iraqi central government over the demand that members of the Sahwa be folded into Iraq's official security agencies.
"The number of affiliates of the Hit Sahwa reached 3,312 volunteers, as of the 11th of this month," al-Rishawi told Newsmatique.
Al-Rishawi added that he expects "this number" to be enrolled into Iraq's official security agencies, "according to the assurances of the Iraqi government to include members of the Sahwa offices in the Interior and Defense ministries."
The Sahwa in the city contacted the Interior Ministry with the names of those belonging to the Sahwa offices, at the (ministry's) request, he said.
"Those who are asking to be included are suffering from unemployment at the present time, and the orders to appoint them have been delayed because of the recent events in the south of Iraq".
The Hit Sahwa official added that "The office is linked to the Office of the Sahwa of Iraq, headquartered in Ramadi, and is supported by Shaykh Ahmad Abu Risha."
The Sahwa office "coordinates in a continuous way with the security agencies in Hit, such as the police, emergency response forces, and the anti-terrorism office."
Al-Rishawi described the role of the Sahwa office as "including tracking terrorist elements and criminals, and informs the security agencies about them."
The Sahwa of Hit, located 110 miles west of Baghdad, was founded on November 9, 2007, Newsmatique writes, and is directed by 22 affiliates who coordinate their operations through political, security, intelligence, and tribal offices in the city.
The office is linked to Shaykh Ahmad Abu Risha who took control of the Sahwa of Iraq following the assassination of his brother Abd al-Sattar Abu Risha, who is credited with founding the Sahwa councils in Iraq on September 13, 2007.
Residents of the Dora district of southern Baghdad are fearful after the explosion of two sound bombs over the weekend near a children's kindergarten.
The blasts, which did not lead to any casualties, but frightened residents and children, occurred in the Abu Tayyara Street area.
Locals do not know who is responsible for the sound bomb attack. Some suggest that the blasts were intended to demonstrate the further capacity of armed groups to strike, in order to discourage Dora's displaced Shi'a Muslim residents from returning to the area.
Meanwhile, Iraqi Interior Ministry commandos in the southern district have begun withdrawing from their positions, residents of Dora tell IraqSlogger. The commando forces until recently maintinaed a very visible presence in main commercial streets, in front of shops and at the entrances to market areas, residents explain, but have quietly redeployed.
A source inside the commando forces told IraqSlogger that Iraqi Army troops will take control of the area soon, without specifying the exact schedule.
Reconstruction efforts by Iraqi forces are also underway in parts of Dora, adding electrical wires and streetlights. One cleanup crew in the southern district found an empty house last week which residents say belonged to a displaced Shi'a family that had been forced to flee. The crew found torture tools and weapons in the abandoned structure, and immediately informed the local council, which took control of the structure.
Iraqi Interior Ministry forces have intervened in southwestern Baghdad in an effort to facilitate the provision of electricity to areas nearby, residents say.
In the areas of Shurta, Risala, and Suwayb, Interior Ministry commandos have asked the operators of private generators, who supply electricity to residents separately from the public grid, to lower the price of electricity and run the generators for two hours more each day. In return, the Interior Ministry forces supply the operators with diesel fuel at a discounted price, locals explain.
Rather than charging the going rate of 12,000 Iraqi dinars per ampere, the operators who receive the discounted fuel from the ministry forces are required to cap their prices at 10,000 ID/Amp, and increase operations from six to eight hours each day.
Also in southwest Baghdad, Iraqi police arrested a wanted man in the Radhwaniya area on Sunday, security sources said. The suspect, wanted on charges of forced displacement of residents, also confessed to the location of two weapons caches, one in the Radhwaniya area, and one in nearby Rashid.
Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.
Hayis Refuses; Rivalry between Sahwa and Islamic Party Smolders
07/17/2008 3:04 PM ET
Governor Ma'moun Sami Rashid greets Iraqi Vice President Adel Abd al-Mahdi during the VP's visit to Anbar Province in September 2007.
A dispute appears to be emerging between rival factions in Iraq's western Anbar province over the date of an anticipated security handover.
Ma'moun Sami Rashid, the governor of Anbar Province announced his desire to postpone the transfer of the security file from Coalition forces to the local authoirites until after the provincial elections in the province, expected in October, al-Malaf Press reports in Arabic.
The security file was scheduled to be handed over from the US forces during the last month, but was postponed due to poor weather, according to official statements, and has not been rescheduled.
Rashid, affiliated with the Islamic Party, said that he sees that he prefers that security responsibilities remain in the hands of the US forces until after the elections, the agency writes. Rashid's remarks came at a meeting that included the governor, members of the provincial council, and a number of tribal leaders.
In that meeting, Rashid said Abd al-Salam al-'Ani, head of the provincial council, and some the tribal leaders had called for the postponement of the security file.
Tribal leaders were said to have met with National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie, telling him that submitting the security file to the provincial administration before the elections means submitting it to the Islamic Party, which controls the local Anbar goverment. "Whoever controls security in the province will control the elections," the tribal leaders were said to have told al-Rubaie.
However, this call to postpone the security handover met with the refusal of other parties in the province, al-Malaf Press writes. The head of the Anbar Salvation council, Shaykh Hamid al-Hayis, called for dispatch in handing over the security file.
In a press conference, Hayis said that he calls for the Iraqi government to accelerate the security file handover so that there may be "complete movement of Iraqi forces, and under Iraqi command."
The local government of the Islamic Party and the pro-US tribal organizations in Anbar Province, known to Iraqis as Sahwa ("awakening"), or salvation councils, have been locked in a power struggle in the province for the last several months.
As Registration Gets Underway for October Elections, How Will Iraqis Respond?
07/16/2008 7:33 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
The director of the elections commission in Salah al-Din province said that "the popular response to the registration of names in the electoral centers was weak on the first day that the centers opened," according to a report in Arabic on an Iraqi news website.
Dr. Hatim Hadhal suggested that that "the weakness of the voter response to registration might be because of a lack of knowledge on the part of citizens after the centers opened for registration of voters for the upcoming elections expected for October," al-Iraq News reports in Arabic.
The electoral commission in Salah al-Din opened 19 centers of Wednesday throughout the province to register voters names over the next month. Registration closes in the middle of August, the news site writes.
Each center contains 12 people overseeing the registration of new voter's names and correction of earlier names, and striking the names of the decdeased from the registry of the commission, and proving the new addresses of the voters, Hadhal explained.
Special instructions were sent to the local bureau of the Iraqi Minsitry of Migration and Displacement, he said, to register the names of the displaced people who have not entered their names into the list, so we can include them in the registry of voters.
Salah al-Din province contains more than 9,000 displaced families from all the provinces of the country, according to Ministry of Migration statistics, Hadhal said.
The provincial elections director called for those displaced Iraqis in the province who have not yet entered their names in the rolls to do so at the ministry offices in order to be registered as voters.
It bears noting that the 2005 elections were marked by a widespread boycott among Iraqi Sunni Arabs, which analysts say led to that community's skepticism of the legitimacy of the electoral results and the post-2005 Iraqi government. While no boycott has been formally announced among Iraqi Sunnis, an unenthusiastic turnout in predominantly Sunni areas, such as Salah al-Din, might also have consequences for the results of the poll.
Iraqi MPs are discussiong the electoral laws for the anticipated provincial elections in Parliament to specify the mechanism that will be conducted for the electoral procedure.
As reported elsewhere, Iraqi Kurdish MPs walked out of the parliamentary session in protest of the rules for the electoral process, which may affect the outcome of the vote in Kirkuk province. The Kurdish walkout prompted Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani to cancel the session.
Misinformation and Worry Spread as Ba'qouba Awaits Crackdown
07/15/2008 6:32 PM ET
An Iraqi woman (C) weeps while waiting for a relative to be released from a prison in Baquba, on July 9, 2008.
Anticipated security operations have become fodder for rumors in Ba'qouba, the provincial capital of Diyala Province, where residents complain of mixed signals and poor information from the Iraqi security services. The Iraqi government has promised a military crackdown in Diyala Province, similar to operations mounted earlier in the year in Basra, Ninewa, and Maysan provinces.
Yet according to a series of interviews with Diyala locals published in Arabic by Iraq al-Aan, mixed expectations await the operations in the troubled province.
While some residents doubt that the operations will occur at all, others look hopefully to the possibility of ending the deterioration in the security situation in the notoriously dangerous governorate, all the while voicing fears of what may transpire at the hands of the arriving Iraqi troops.
Ba'qouba residents are stockpiling food and fuel in anticipation of shortages that may accompany military operations, but no one appears certain of when -- or if -- the campaign will be launched.
Uncertainty is the watchword: Iraq al-Aan writes that it's not uncommon to encounter Ba'qouba residents who claim that the campaign will start the next day, saying they "got a call from a relative in a security ministry who confirmed that the operation will launch tomorrow," with the exhortation to "hurry home and to secure the house, and to stock up on water, tea and bread."Yet others may say, "It won't come tomorrow; my neighbor is an officer in the security forces who said that we need two more days before we come to liberate you from what you are facing."
The news agency writes that still others in Diyala Province, north and east of Baghdad, claim that the entire matter is "mere talk and rumors," and adopting the position that "there will not be a security plan in Diyala," alleging that announcements of coming operations are only a ploy to calm the province's residents on the part of Iraq's political leadership.
The 75-year-old Abu Ahmad, who worked as a photographer for 35 years, now likes to sit in the cafes of Ba'qouba and chat. When questioned about the rumors of upcoming operations, he looks back to his younger days as a journalist: "I liked in those days to know the rumors because they pointed to the people's dreams." He adds, "Say what you like; everything is subject to verification."
The retired photographer continues, "Yesterday we heard a thousand stories on the military operations that will be implemented in Diyala. . . Before, they closed the roads and the residential areas, and the drums of war were beating. Everyone was told to get ready, and (suddenly) the Army changes its story, and so on it goes."
Abu Ahmad adds, "We are simple people, and we believe much of what we are told in the media."
On the rumors that circulate in the cafes of the provincial capital, the pensioner says, "If you sit a little, you will hear a lot." One of his companions says that the Multinational Forces posess a "modern device" that can "discover the history of every person, and what he did in the past." The device "attaches to the head of the person in question, and by this method the MNF will discover criminals," according to the rumor.
Abu Sa'id is a guard in one of Ba'qouba's factories. He dismisses talk of coming operations as mere rumors, to which the people of the province add more "frills." The 66-year-old explains, "I was an officer in the former Iraqi Army, and I believe that whoever wants to confront an enemy does not announce it aloud."
Abu Khalil al-Mas'oudi, 67, is another retired officer from the disbanded Iraqi Army. He says, "I am following the news very closely, and I started to grow concerned over these operations. I don't believe that they will happen, because we don't see anyone here who will fight them. The militants have fled."
Al-Mas'oudi says, "it is said in the rumors that the roads will be cut off for a month, and there will be no entry or exit to Ba'qouba for that time, that special forces will come, and that the operations will cause a shortage of water, fuel, and food, and that mobile phone service will be cut off. We've heard all this over the last two days."
Umm Ikhlas, 45, a housewife, says "I heard that Ba'qouba will be closed, so now I'm going to (Baghdad). I'm afraid of the military operations because what I've heard about them is scary and makes me want to leave the province."
Karim Dawud al-'Ani, 66, says "Officials should reassure people that the military operations won't target innocent people, and that they come to rebuild (the area), and to arrest the criminals only, because there is a fear in people's hearts."
Al-'Ani explains his theory as to the origin of some of the rumors of Ba'qouba: "I believe that behind the matter the armed groups have started to influence the hearts of the citizens to fear the military operations"
The retired teacher adds that he "heard that the forces that will come will be composed of militias, and despite that this is not true, there are simple people here who will believe it, and this prevents the citizens from cooperating with the security forces."
Jasim Khalil Muhsin, who works in a humanitarian organization, agrees. "The military operations are not being publicized in the appropriate media channels," he alleges. "That is, the security agencies must indicate that the security forces will come for the sake of fighting militants and to rebuild Diyala, and not to kill innocents or throw them in prison. This is the fear that the security agencies in Diyala should dispel."
Security sources in Diayla Province confirm that preparations are underway to receive military detachments that will participate in the security plan for the province, when it occurs, Iraq al-Aan writes.
RI: US, UN Should Do More for Stateless Palestinians Fleeing Iraq
07/15/2008 2:13 PM ET
A Palestinian refugee child from Iraq in a desert camp on the Iraqi-Syrian border, 2006.
A refugee advocacy organization has expressed "deep concern" over a recent decision to resettle refugees from Iraq who have been stranded at a desert camp on the Iraqi-Syrian border in the Sudanese capital, calling instead for the 3,000 refugees to be resettled elsewhere, with US and UN leadership.
In a statement released Monday, Refugees International (RI) questions a decision by the UN Refugee Agency, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and the government of Sudan to relocate 3,000 stateless Palestinians who have been stranded at camps on the border, unable to enter neighboring countries without recognized passports, and yet unable to return to Iraq for fear of the violence that has targeted their communities on the part of Iraqi militias.
Many of the Palestinians from Iraq are fearful to travel to Sudan, RI says, citing human rights concerns. RI calls for more Palestinians from Iraq to be allowed to enter the United States, saying that only nine were received in fiscal year 2008.
Below is full text of the Refugees International statement:
Relocation of Palestinian Refugees to Sudan is Not a Lasting Solution
Refugees International Urges U.S. to Resettle Vulnerable Palestinian Refugees from Syria-Iraq Border
Washington DC -- Refugees International (RI) called on the U.S. government today to urgently resettle 3,000 Palestinian refugees from the Syria-Iraqi border in response to announcements that the vulnerable population would be relocated to Sudan.
RI expressed deep concern over the decision taken by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Sudan to relocate this population to pre-fabricated housing in a Khartoum neighborhood, with no path to citizenship. As the three parties prepare to start processing the refugees, Refugees International called for the UN, the U.S., and other resettlement countries to ensure a voluntary, dignified process that allows this vulnerable population to find a permanent, stable home.
"Relocating Palestinian refugees to Sudan does not offer this population a real choice for a permanent, stable home, and simply moves them from one marginalized situation to another," said Kristele Younes, Senior Advocate with Refugees International. "Most of these people are afraid to go to Sudan, especially now that charges were filed against the Sudanese president by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, but they do not feel they have any other options. They are forced to choose between being stranded in the desert or living in a country without citizenship and with the ongoing threat of expulsion and dispossession."
Approximately 34,000 stateless Palestinians have lived in Iraq since 2003. Since the beginning of U.S. military operations in Iraq, many suffered persecution at the hands of the Iraqi government and other armed groups. More than 3,000 fled to the Syrian-Iraqi border, where they live in makeshift tents in the desert with limited access to basic services. Syria refuses to allow them to enter its territory and only a few have been resettled, mostly to Sweden and Chile. Failure to act on the part of the U.S. government and other resettlement countries led UNHCR to sign a tripartite agreement with the PLO and the Government of Sudan that called for the relocation of this population to a neighborhood of Khartoum.
"We must not allow this vulnerable population to be used as pawns in a greater political game," said Younes. "The U.S. government should acknowledge the vulnerability of this stateless population and resettle them here. It is appalling that Sudan, a country infamous for its violations of international humanitarian law, has stepped in to protect these people when the U.S. would not."
To resettle this vulnerable population expeditiously, Refugees International urged the U.S. State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration to create a special category to process refugee applications. Any process should be held without prejudice to the Palestinians' right to return to their homeland. In FY 2008, the U.S. thus far resettled a total of 35,243 refugees. Only nine were Palestinian from Iraq.
Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises. Since November 2006, Refugees International has been calling for the resettlement of this vulnerable population. In the last two years, the organization has conducted five missions to the Middle East to identify the problems facing Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people. Read our most recent recommendations at: www.refugeesinternational.org/iraq.
See all of IraqSlogger's coverage of refugee issues here.
Iraqi police captured a man identified as a commander in the Islamic Army in Iraq armed organization in Salah al-Din province, in a raid conducted in cooperation with the Iraqi National Guard.
The raid took place after a firefight broke out in the city of Tuz Khormatu that followed from fresh deployment of Iraqi forces on Monday to conduct search operations.
Iraqi forces surrouneded the area and deployed a number of checkpoints in on roads leading to Tuz Khurmatu, security sources said.
The detainee is known by the name Abd al-Rahman al-Khaliqi, police sources said. Iraqi forces at one checkpoint captured the Islamic Army leader who was traveling in a vehicle whose occupants clashed with Iraqi forces.
According to a police source in the area, who requested anonymity, the arrest operation was staged after armed confrontations between gunmen in the same car and the Iraqi police after the vehicle's driver refused to stop at a checkpoint on the main road in the Tuz Khurmatu area.
Iraqi Olympian describes challenges to his training regime.
In addition to the challenge of training in a country with a shattered athletic infrastructure and ongoing security concerns, aspiring Iraqi olympians may not even realize their dream of attending the upcoming Beijing Olympics, due to ongoing infighting between the Saddam-era Iraqi Olympic Committee and the post-2003 Ministry of Youth and Culture,
Iraqi sports may have emerged from the era when Saddam Hussein's son Uday tortured athletes for poor performance, but the challenges facing Iraqi competitors threaten to destroy Iraq's olympic hopes altogether, according to a video report released by Journeyman pictures.
The 15-minute video, which can be viewed below, profiles Iraqi athletes as they train for the Beijing games, all the while wondering if they will even be able to attend. Their olympic hopes hang in the balance as the new Iraqi government and the Iraqi Olympic Committee face off in a stalemate that threatens to block Iraq from sending its delegation to China this summer.
Some Iraqi athletes may be allowed to compete as individuals even if Iraq is barred from sending a national delegation, but the effect on morale for these young competitors is considerable.
Full Lockdown; Local Police Cite Intel on al-Qa'ida Cells
07/14/2008 4:00 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
A full curfew has been imposed in the city of Falluja, in Anbar Province west of Baghdad, according to an Iraqi media report in Arabic.
An official source in the Falluja Police command told Eye Iraq Media on Monday that the curfew, which was announced Monday, includes "vehicles, carts, and pedestrians," and that all entry and exit points to the city have been closed.
The curfew is to remain in effect until further notice.
The associate director of Falluja Police, Col. Dawoud al-Mar'awi, said that the security measure "comes after an urgent cable from Anbar police command" regarding intelligence information about alleged al-Qa'ida in Iraq cells in the city.
"These cells are responsible for the attacks that Falluja has witnessed against the policemen of the city," he said.
The curfew is imposed to allow "raiding and inspection operations in all areas of Falluja and the Saqlawiya area by a joint force of the Anbar Police and Falluja Police," al-Mar'awi said. Saqlawiya is located 20 km west of Falluja.
More than 30 people have died in attacks in Falluja in recent weeks, Eye Iraq notes.
MOSUL -- A car bomb exploded this morning near an Iraqi police checkpoint in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, killing two policemen and wounding a third.
The explosion in the al-'Arabi district led to the death of two policemen and critically wounded another, an Iraqi security official said.
An Interior Ministry official in Mosul, speaking anonymously, said that a car by the make of Daewoo exploded near an Iraqi police checkpoint in the al-'Arabi district at 10:15 Monday morning, after policemen asked the driver to stop.
"When the driver did not comply to the order, (police) opened fire on the car," the official said, adding that "The driver then exploded himself near one of the vehicles belonging to the checkpoint."
The wounded policeman was transported to the military hospital in Mosul, the official said.
Iraqi security forces in Babil Province prevented members of the Sadrist Current from staging a planned demonstration in the city of Hilla to protest against the US-Iraqi security agreement currently under negotiation.
Muqtada al-Sadr, the young Shi'a cleric whom most Sadrists follow, issued a statement weeks ago calling for weekly demonstrations after Friday prayers to oppose the reported security agreement on the grounds that it would permit a continued presence of US forces in Iraq.
Ahmad al-Mas'oudi, an Iraqi member of parliament affiliated with the Sadrist Current said in remarks to al-Malaf Press that "Security forces and the police in Babil Province prevented demonstrators representing the Sadrist Line from coming out into the streets today after Friday prayers to denounce the Iraqi-American security agreement and to demand the departure of the Occupation forces," the agency writes in Arabic.
"The Sadrist office in Babil obtained all the appropriate permissions to organize the demonstration," the Sadrist MP said, adding that "Security forces even went so far as to fire gunshots into the air" to block Sadrist supporters from demonstrating.
Transfer of Southern Province to Iraqi Forces Was Postponed Last Month
07/11/2008 2:43 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
The security handover of a southern Iraqi province to local control is slated for next week, according to a report in Arabic on an Iraqi news site.
On Wednesday, Coalition forces will turn over the security file for Diwaniya (Qadisiya) province to Iraqi forces, according to Col. Sattar Ali Matar, the director of criminal interrogations in the southern governorate, Eye Iraq writes.
The handover will be accompanied by a military review of the local security forces, the Iraqi officer also said.
Aswat al-Iraq reported earlier that the Diwaniya provincial council decided on Tuesday to bar local companies from contracting with the US-led Multinational Coalition forces without the approval of the local government, according to provincial governor Hamid al-Khadri.
The move was an assertion of the provincial government's "right to choose the priorities" of reconstruction projects, the governor said, as well as part of what he said was a campaign against waste of reconstruction funds.
Residents Saw Roadside Bomb Planted Minutes before Exploding on US Convoy
07/10/2008 6:37 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
A roadside bomb blast that appeared to kill at least one American soldier on Tuesday was planted by a teenager only 20 minutes before the targeted US convoy passed, according to eyewitnesses in western Baghdad.
Residents of the Amiriya area told IraqSlogger that an IED that exploded Tuesday on a passing US convoy on the district’s main road appeared to kill at least one American solder and injure at least five more.
Eyewitnesses say that an Iraqi teenager was seen planting the device in the ground only 20 minutes before it exploded on the passing American troops. The witnesses did not recognize the boy, but estimated his age at approximately 15 years.
The MNF announced the death of an as-yet unidentified soldier in an IED attack on his vehicle “west of Baghdad” on Tuesday, but it is not certain if the MNF and IraqSlogger’s sources are reporting the same event or two different attacks. The MNF did not release any other statements on its website regarding fatal IED attacks in western Baghdad on Tuesday.
Sahwa Leader Slams Islamic Party, Accusing It of Fraud and Corruption
07/10/2008 4:21 PM ET
Hamid al-Hayis, leader of the Anbar Salvation Council in May 2007.
In provocative remarks to an Iraqi news agency, a leader of a pro-US armed tribal organization in Anbar Province has announced the formation of a new electoral bloc, and lashed out at a rival Iraqi Sunni Arab political party in harsh terms, accusing the Iraqi Islamic Party of fraud and corruption.
Hamid Hayis, the head of the Anbar Support and Salvation Council, has announced the formation of the “Anbar Democratic Bloc” to participate in the upcoming provincial elections, slated for the fall, and to contest 2009’s general elections for the Iraqi Parliament, al-Malaf Press writes in Arabic.
In addition to contesting the upcoming votes, Hayis told the agency that “The Anbar Salvation Council will focus on observing the coming elections for the provincial councils or the (2009) Parliamentary elections and will work to disclose the plot of the Islamic Party, and its intention and effort to forge the elections.”
The Islamic Party, led by Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi controls the elected government in Anbar Province as a result of the 2005 elections, which were boycotted by many in the predominantly Sunni Arab province. The Islamic Party and the Sahwa groups, as the pro-US tribal forces that have fought against al-Qa'ida and related groups are known to Iraqis, have been locked in a bitter struggle for power in Anbar province for months. Hayis is a leader of one of the two major Sahwa factions in Anbar Province.
Hayis accused the Islamic Party of seeking to “exclude learned and educated cadres” from local government in order to “consolidate the single-party concept, which we will not allow.”
He continued to declare that the Islamic Party has “lost its footing in Anbar, and lost its electoral base, because since the beginning it has not been on the side of the citizen in Anbar, and has worked in its personal and partisan interest.”
Hayis added that “The Islamic party has ended and is bankrupt, and it fears the announcement of its party’s demise in front of some of its supporters outside Anbar and its loss of its fundamental base which it depended on in the previous elections.”
The tribal leader continued to accuse the Islamic Party of political corruption and electoral fraud, saying that “The elections for the Anbar Province council will see a major (effort at) forgery on the part of the Islamic Party. We in the Anbar Salvation Council know that the Islamic Party would not have stayed in place except by forgery for the sake of saving face,” and to obtain a number of special positions in the province.
The provincial electoral commission in the province “belongs to it completely and rules in its favor, and those who work in the commission belong to the Islamic Party,” he said.
JFO Protests Series of Violations, Praises Troops Foiling of Murder Attempt
07/09/2008 7:24 PM ET
Iraqi police in Falluja, November 2007.
Journalists working in the city of Falluja told an Iraqi media rights advocacy organization of "harsh measures" implemented by the local police to prevent media workers from arriving to the site of a bomb attack on Wednesday morning, according to the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO).
The JFO has released a series of statements in the last few days highlighting a series of alleged violations against journalists in Iraq, including death threats and improper detentions, as well as one statement praising the intervention of Iraqi troops to foil an assassination attempt against a correspondent.
Sa'id Muhammad Khalifa, a reporter for the New York Times in Falluja told the JFO that he and several of his colleagues were headed for the city center to cover a double-bombing that targeted the government building at 6:30 a.m. when members of the Iraqi National Police prevented them from approaching the attack site, the agency writes in Arabic in a statement released Wednesday.
The Times reporter added that police implemented security measures to restrict access at the site of the bomb blast, but that he and other reporters were prevented from entering Falluja Hosptial to interview and photograph the wounded, one of whom was a member of the press corps working for the "Baghdad" satellite channel, JFO writes.
A heavy police presence prevented them from entering despite confirming that they were in fact members of the press who had come to follow the condition of their colleague and the other wounded, JFO adds, citing the NYT reporter.
"Policemen uttered foul language and then pushed me and my colleague, a correspondent for the AP, and then confiscated our personal cameras, though they returned them after the intervention of a police officer who tried to calm matters," Sa'id told the JFO.
JFO closes its most recent statement with a demand that the Interior Ministry of Iraq intervene to train its staff on the importance of cooperating with journalists and to respect the dignity of the profession and its practitioners, as well as to allow access to media workers to sites of important news events.
In a separate statement, the JFO earlier praised Iraqi security forces for repelling an assassination attempt on an Iraqi journalist in Baghdad on Sunday evening. Unknown gunmen opened fire on Saif al-Khayyat, a correspondent for the US-funded al-Hurra satellite channel, JFO writes, but the attack was foiled by the intervention of soldiers from a nearby Iraqi Army checkpoint.
In another separate releases, the media watchdog also criticized guards of Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who allegedly threatened a reporter for the al-Hurriya satellite channel with death on Sunday, according to the al-Hurriya correspondent, Adnan al-Jaf. Al-Jaf told the JFO that he and other correspondents of other agencies were attempting to cover a Hashemi press conference in the Kirkuk provincial administration building, when they discovered that the logos of their channels had been replaced with those of other Arab satellite channels. When al-Jaf protested the move Hashemi's bodyguards allegedly pushed him and other correspondents out of the building and made explicit threat against his life.
Finally, yet another statement, issued Monday, JFO writes that Iraqi police detained four journalists for ten hours on Sunday in the Abu Ghraib area while they were trying to cover a press conference of tribal leaders. Iraqi Army troops confiscated the four correspondent's equipment.
The four detainees, who were later released, work for the NINA news agency, al-Malaf Press, al-Sada Newspaper and al-Anbar News Agency, JFO writes in Arabic.
Iraq's "Planning Time Horizons" Would End US Combat Presence, Advisor Says
07/09/2008 5:51 PM ET
Iraqi National Security Advisor Muwaffak al-Rubaie shakes hands with American Gen. David Petraeus in Taji in June.
The Iraqi government is developing "planning time horizons" for the end of the US combat presence in the country, the Iraqi national security advisor told IraqSlogger.
In exclusive remarks, Dr. Mowaffak al-Rubaie told Slogger that Iraqi officials are developing projections for when the "requirement for US combat operations in Iraq" might draw to a close.
Al-Rubaie did not specify any particular dates in his comments, but referred to the expiration of the current United Nations mandate for the Coalition presence in Iraq at the end of the year.
"Iraq is developing planning time horizons for the end of the requirement for US combat operations in Iraq and for the presence of US combat brigades in Iraq," the national security advisor said in an email message.
The issue of timetables for the US and international military presence in Iraq has risen to prominence in the ongoing discussions between the Iraqi and American governments over the possible conclusion of a "status of forces" agreement between the two states, which would set the terms for the continuing American armed presence in Iraqi territory.
Iraqi government officials have demanded that any agreement include a schedule that would govern the US presence in the country, but al-Rubaie's remarks apparently confirm that the Iraqi side is developing a timetable of its own.
Al-Rubaie, a close advisor to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki added that, "These planning time horizons will be discussed with the US authorities and included in arrangements that affirm Iraqi sovereignty and meet Iraqi requirements for US support after the end of the UN mandate for the multi-national forces at the end of December of this year."
Six More Months of US Detention for Ahmad Nouri Raziak; Charges Unknown
07/09/2008 4:36 PM ET
In what it calls a surprise decision, the AP writes that a joint US-Iraqi review panel has ordered that one of its cameramen in custody of US forces, is to be held for at least six more months.
The Combined Review and Release Board, a US-Iraqi panel that reviews prisoner detentions, has said that Ahmad Nouri Raziak is to be held for a further six months for "imperative reasons of security," the US military announced.
AP has said that in its contact with the military no details have been released about the charges Raziak faces.
Although the Iraqi Central Criminal Court reportedly did not find sufficient evidence to prosecute Raziak, the Combined Review and Release Board voted to extend the cameraman's detention. The US military's Task Force 134 told the AP that the board found "imperative reasons of security" to detain the AP staffer.
The next review of Raziak's case will be in six months' time, the Task Force spokesman told the AP.
US Forces Search Iraqi Police Vehicles; Sahwa Leader "Victim of Tribal Feud"
07/08/2008 8:28 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Baghdad witnessed yet another attack against displaced Iraqis returning to their homes, according to witnesses in the southern district of Dora.
On Monday, two members of a Shi'a family were murdered in the al-Mikanik section of the southern area of the capital just after they returned to their house earlier in the day. Masked gunmen stormed the structure and shot their two victims dead with handguns fitted with silencers. The assailants fled the scene immediately.
Dora residents tell IraqSlogger that such murders are becoming common in the predominantly Sunni Arab area as security gains in the former militant stronghold encourage Shi'a residents who left the area to attempt to return.
IraqSlogger reported earlier on what locals describe as a wave of intimidation and violence against displaced Iraqis who attempt to return to their homes.
US forces searched vehicles in Dora, including Iraqi police cars, late Friday night after an IED exploded near a major power plant, targeting a passing American military convoy. US forces surrounded the area of the blast, which took place at around 11:30 pm, eyewitnesses said.
To the west of Dora, residents of the Sunni Arab section of the Saidiya district tell IraqSlogger that anti-Shi'a slogans have appeared on the walls of structures in the area, warning Shi'a Iraqis not to return to the district. Saidiya, formerly a mixed area, experienced a wave of sectarian cleansing at the hands of armed groups in the last two years, and is now divided between predominantly Sunni and Shi'a areas. The graffiti use derogatory terms for Shi'a Muslims, such as "rafidi" ("apostate") term, commonly employed by Sunni extremists.
In the rural Duwanim area, also in the southwest of the capital, just outside the urban limits of greater Baghdad, the leader of the locally organized pro-US armed group known as Sahwa was killed on Saturday when an adhesive bomb exploded on his vehicle. The perpetrators of the attack are not known. Some locals suggest that the tribal leader, known as Karim Hamadi, died in an ongoing feud between his Ghirtan clan and the Dahamsha tribe.
Arrests of Mahdi Army leaders in Sadr City over the weekend sparked conflict and controversy between Iraqi forces and militia loyalists, according to eyewitnesses and security sources.
On Saturday, Iraqi forces raided sectors 70 and 71 of the sprawling predominantly Shi'a slum, arresting a man known as Abbas, suspected of leading a militia force in the area, security sources told Slogger. The raiding forces seized nine Kalashnikov rifles, one IED, and five pistols fitted with silencers.
Later in the day, men recognized by locals as Mahdi Army members attacked two Iraqi checkpoints in the areas, killing one soldier and wounding three. US and Iraqi forces responded, security sources told Slogger. At least six militiamen and four civilians were killed in the ensuing firefight, and the wounded included seven Mahdi Army militiamen and 13 civilians.
The next day, Iraqi forces raided the same area and arrested a further twenty suspects, security sources and eyewitnesses said.
Father and son
In nearby Urfali on Sunday, Iraqi forces arrested the father of a local Mahdi Army leader, apparently in order to pressure the wanted man to turn himself in, security sources told Slogger. Two hours later the militiaman presented himself to the Iraqi Army in the area, protesting that he did not know that he was wanted by Iraqi forces. The militiaman was taken into custody and his father promptly released.
An hour later, members of the Mahdi Army attacked an Iraqi Army checkpoint in the same area, killing one soldier and wounding two. US forces intervened, killing two militiamen, wounding four, and arresting seven, according to Iraqi security sources.
Returning from Iran
Iraqi forces arrested two men in the al-Sahafiyin area of Baladiyat district in eastern Baghdad, after obtaining information that two leaders of the Mahdi Army had just returned from Iran. The men were detained Saturday in front of their houses, security sources told IraqSlogger.
US and Iraqi forces accuse some elements of the Mahdi Army of collaborating with Iranian intelligence.
The mother of one of the detainees did not deny that her son, Imad, was a member of the Mahdi Army militia, but insisted that his "duties" with the group centered on the Sadr City area, and denied that her son had any connection to Iranian intelligence. Imad had traveled to Iran to visit a religious shrine, and was the victim of a misinterpreted coincidence, she said.
Iraqi and Iranian Shi'a routinely cross their countries' mutual border in order to make pilgrimages to religious sites located in both places.
Allegations of recruitment bias
On Sunday, eight young men from Sadr City traveled across the city to the Baghdad International Airport, in order to volunteer for Iraqi forces, which conduct recruitment activities at the facility, one of the eight men told Slogger.
One of the eight told IraqSlogger that when an Iraqi officer saw their identification cards, which gave their place of residence as Sadr City, he rejected their enrollment and escorted them off the premises, giving no reason.
IraqSlogger cannot confirm these allegations with Iraqi security officials. Sadr City residents routinely serve in the Iraqi Army and police.
Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.
Displaced by Indirect Threats from Unknown Assailants with Unclear Affiliations
07/08/2008 12:46 PM ET
From Damascus, Alive in Baghdad interviews three Iraqi women who fled to Syria after receiving threats from armed men in the Iraqi capital. One laments Iraq's shattered intellectual class and educational system, and explains that she did not know the identity or affiliation of the armed group that threatened her. In fact, the armed men who visited her school did not issue any direct threats -- although, as she tells the weekly video journal, their intentions were communicated very clearly by other means.
Explosives Siezed in West Baghdad Hospital; Weapons Caches Confiscated
07/07/2008 7:18 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
Click to enlarge.
Iraqi and American forces closed the entrances to a major thoroughfare in Eastern Baghdad over the weekend in response to a bomb that targeted a US convoy on Sunday, according to security sources. The closure of Canal Street, which bisects Eastern Baghdad along the length of the Army Canal, itself connecting the Tigris and Diyala Rivers to control flooding, exacerbated traffic jams throughout the eastern half of the capital, residents told Slogger.
US forces arrested 37 suspects on Saturday at Yarmouk Hospital on Saturday, security sources told IraqSlogger, after discovering an IED planted in a fire extinguisher on the premises. The IED contained 15 kilograms of C4 explosive. As reported elsewhere, a car bomb exploded outside Yarmouk Hospital morgue two days before, killing four and wounding 10, all civilians.
In the central Washash area, Iraqi forces found a cache of more than ten IEDs in a single house, security sources told Slogger on Saturday. Further west, Iraqi forces raided the Amiriya district the same day, seizing a cache of weapons and explosives.
The day before, the 54th Iraqi Brigade freed an abducted civilian in the western al-Jami' area.
Across the river, a guard at the Turkmen Club, a social club on Palestine Street, tipped Iraqi forces off to a weapons cache on the premises on Thursday. Raiding forces found buried weapons and arrested the head of the private club, security sources told IraqSlogger.
A car bomb that exploded near a fuel station on Saturday in the Mustansiriya area caused no injuries, because the street was empty at the time, but an IED hidden in a garbage can near al-Andalus square killed a policeman and injured two civilians, security sources said.
On Sunday a car bomb exploded in the Sha'b area, killing eight and injuring two people, and a second bomb was defused in the northeastern district the same day, Iraqi police told Slogger.
Finally, the Iraqi 24th Brigade arrested five wanted men in Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, on Friday who were linked to a weapons cache seized the same day that contained more than mortar shells and 3 IEDs. The force also arrested a suspect implicated in a series of murders along Baghdad's Haifa Street over the last years.
HAWIJA -- Unknown gunmen attacked a convoy of trucks Sunday morning carrying construction materials on the main road in Hawija, about 12 miles west of Kirkuk, killing two of the truck drivers.
The attacks began with the detonation of IED devices planted on the roadside on the second vehicle in the convoy on Sunday morning, after which gunmen fired a volley of bullets, along with launching two RPG shells on two other trucks.
Two drivers were killed in the attacks, while the others fled, an eyewitness said.
Speaking anonymously, the witness explained that the gunmen arrived in a group of cars before launching the attack.
Four trucks were destroyed in the ten-minute attack, the witness said.
"Iraqi security forces arrived to the site forty minutes after the attack and surrounded the place for three hours," he added.
The eyewitness could not confirm where the trucks appeared to be headed.
Amer Abdulraheem is a correspondent for AliveinBaghdad.org.
An Iraqi mother from Falluja holds her child, born with a defect in one of her eyes.
Birth defects in newborns have increased markedly in the last several years in the Iraqi city of Falluja, according to doctors, mothers, and humanitarian groups. This week, Journeyman Pictures files a video segment from the Anbar Province city, where parents and professionals accuse US forces of using the chemicals that have caused the reported increase during military assaults on the city.
As Journeyman also reports, inadequate treatment facilities and a lack of medical expertise, in a country where many doctors have fled for their safety, only increase the children's suffering.
Visser: The Sadrists, Bush Administration, and the Maysan Operations
07/03/2008 6:14 PM ET
Recent US-Iraqi operations in Maysan Province show that in its quest to challenge Iranian influence in Iraq, the Bush administration has identified the wrong proxies and allies of the Islamic Regime, Reider Visser of the Norwegian Institute for International Affairs writes in a recent article posted on his website, historiae.org.
Full text of the July 3 article, entitled "The Sadrists, the Bush Administration's Narrative on Iraq, and the Maysan Operations," including the images that Visser publishes along with the original argument, appears below.
Last week, on 25 June, a curious essay on Iraqi politics made its way to the op-ed pages of The New York Times. In it, Thomas L. Friedman drew up a rosy picture of how the supposed “Shiite mainstream” and “mostly secular-oriented Shiite majority” in Iraq is currently in the process of “liberating” the last remaining pockets of opposition, as Maliki’s government pursues military operations against what Friedman describes as “Mahdi Army militiamen and pro-Iranian death squads” in places like Basra, Sadr City and Amara (the provincial capital of Maysan). Friedman’s latest offering provides a crisp and eloquent summary of the Bush administration narrative on Iraq, especially concerning who are seen as true “moderates”: Maliki and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) are construed as good, Iraqi nationalist and even secular; the Sadrists are portrayed as Islamic extremist evil-doers with Iranian sympathies.
Many of the problematic assumptions of Friedman’s and the Bush administration’s reasoning have already been challenged. For example, the leaders of the principal Shiite party in the Maliki government, ISCI, continue to travel freely in and out of Iran, even for medical treatment, suggesting that they still have perfect confidence in the regime that created their party in 1982 with the sole objective of maximising Iran’s influence on the Iraqi opposition. To put it briefly, Iran is a regime known for going after its enemies; had Hakim’s policies in Iraq constituted any kind of problem then Tehran would have dealt with it.
Similarly, the contention that ISCI is more “moderate” than the Sadrist when it comes to the imposition of Islamic norms is misleading. For example, after 2003 ISCI was at the forefront of the Islamisation of Basra (often cooperating with the notorious Tharallah), and even Adil Abd al-Mahdi, ISCI’s most pro-Western figure and presumably an exponent of what Friedman sees as “secular Shiism”, is on record as saying that church and state cannot possibly be separated in Iraq. ISCI and the Sadrists may differ when it comes to what particular aspects of Islamic law they choose to highlight and seek to enforce, but there is overriding consensus on the idea of a Sharia-based society and the monopoly of the higher clergy in interpreting Islamic traditions.
As for “special groups” among the Sadrists, they appear to be just that – special groups. Had the mainline Sadrists been prepared to work with the Iranians, the movement as a whole would probably have changed its position. Instead, Sadrist leaders keep complaining about Iranian attempts to divide and rule them by implicating them in attacks on the Americans. The parliamentary contingent among the Sadrist has repeatedly shown itself committed to the political process, and it was they, along with other Shiite and Sunni forces opposed to the Maliki government, who in February pushed through the demand for early provincial elections – against the determined opposition of Friedman’s “moderates”, who fear the prospect of losing their fiefdoms in the provincial administrations.
What is the relevance of Friedman’s ideas with regard to Maysan and Amara? By reducing the Sadrists to “pro-Iranian Shiite extremists (who) tried to impose a Taliban-like order”, he completely overlooks a potentially more benign aspect of Sadrist activity in the far south, where they have governed Maysan since the spring of 2005. In the Sadrist perspective, the current targeting of high-level Sadrist officials is unjustified (the arrest of the governor himself has been reported but has also been declared untrue by his office), and they choose instead to focus their discourse on the high rating given to Maysan in reports by the Iraqi ministry of planning concerning the implementation of development projects in recent years. As Friedman appears to believe that the single objective of the Sadrist movement is to enforce Islamic law, it can be useful to take a look at some of the Sadrist development initiatives in Amara over the past years. They include plans for new university and hospital buildings, as well as a multi-storey car park in downtown Amara. If this activity is all a smokescreen for more sinister activities, then the catalogue of projects illustrated below is surely an impressive cover-up.
Image: Governorate of Maysan, via historiae.org.
Rendering of proposed Maysan University facility.
Image: Governorate of Maysan, via historiae.org.
Rendering of proposed multi-story car park for Amara city.
Image: Governorate of Maysan, via historiae.org.
Rendering of proposed hospital building.
This is not to suggest that the Sadrists of Maysan are in any way faultless, or that they are generically Iraqi nationalist and therefore incapable of even thinking of cooperation with Iran. While it should never be forgotten that the Sadrists are Tehran’s historical main enemy among the Shiites of Iraq, it is also the case that activity across the border in Maysan has been quite intense since 2003, and the governorate has taken steps to facilitate such contacts. But this resumption of cross-border trade after decades of artificial isolation needs to be put into perspective. The flows of money and investments from Iran to ISCI-controlled Najaf, for example, have been far more impressive. And even if the Iranians may have been successful in their policy of dividing and ruling the Sadrists by luring individual Sadrist operatives away from the mainline movement, this does not mean that the movement as a whole has converted to a pro-Iranian policy, or that Iran necessarily has abandoned its traditional policy of using ISCI as its primary tool. Even the Maliki government’s current project of negotiating a security deal with the Americans could in theory make sense to Iran: either Maliki could arrive at a deal with a limited time framework (which would keep US forces busy in Iraq for a while as they help solidify Maliki’s grip on power and thereby isolate Tehran’s traditional enemies among the Sadrists), or Iran could win time as it waits for a new US administration more disposed to striking a “great bargain” on Iraq.
Yet another problem in Friedman’s theorising concerns his ideas about where exactly the Shiite Iraqi mainstream is located. In a remarkable development, during the past few days Sadrist websites have been filled up with reports on the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s views on the need of reaching agreement on the forthcoming provincial elections, along with guarantees with respect to his neutrality and his disapproval of the use of his likeness in election propaganda (once more the process of preparing the elections has stalled because of delays in passing the required legislation). This comes after weeks with determined attempts by ISCI to have a clause removed from the draft for the provincial elections law in which this kind of usage of religious symbolism was prohibited. ISCI went out of its way during parliamentary deliberations and even cited widespread illiteracy in Iraqi society in support of their demand that the use of religious symbols be permitted. But in a typical expression of the media tendency to automatically label the Sadrists as the more fundamentalist of the two groups, the wire reports from Iraq are already describing a rumoured decision to stay with the original ban on religious symbols as a loss for the Sadrists!
Developments in both Maysan and at the national scene once more emphasise the complex nature of politics in Iraq. They also suggest the hollowness of Thomas L. Friedman’s take on what is going on.
Municipal authorities and Iraqi forces in Sadr City are completing a program to install lampposts in the district, under the guidance of US forces, residents say, noting that the militia forces that maintain a powerful presence in the district appear to be allowing the work to proceed unhindered.
The sprawling Shi'a slum in eastern Baghdad has been historically underserved by public utilities, and was heavily damaged in recent fighting between US-Iraqi forces and local militiamen.
The lampposts are solar powered, residents explain, and therefore can are rapidly installed as stand alone pieces without the need for electrical cabling.
US forces have earlier stated that the solar-powered streetlights cost $4,000 each. More solar-powered lamps are slated for the western sections of Baghdad referred to by Coalition forces as "Muthana, Douhra (Dora), Ghazaliya," as well as the western city of Abu Ghraib and the Salah al-Din province city of Taji.
Locals explain that the solar-powered lampposts are going in throughout Sadr City, not only in the areas in the south and west that are more firmly under US-Iraqi control and walled off from the rest of Sadr City's grid by concrete barriers. US forces said that 100 of the lampposts are being installed.
Reconstruction and cleanup work has also extended to sidewalk and sewer repairs, also extending across Sadr City, according to local eyewitnesses.
Residents of the district told IraqSlogger that the Mahdi Army militia, which maintains a powerful, though recently subdued, presence in the district, have not appeared overtly to interfere with the reconstruction work in the district. The reconstruction work enjoys popular support and is conducted under the protection of Iraqi forces, residents say.
However, IraqSlogger sources close to the Mahdi Army report discontent among local militia bosses, who say that their organizations generally have not been included in the lucrative reconstruction contracts.
IraqSlogger sources in Sadr City confirm the presence of graffiti and placards with what appears to be a new Mahdi Army slogan, borrowed from the lingo of television broadcasting: "A moment of interruption . . . and we shall resume." Slogger sources in the southwestern Baghdad district of Risala also observed the same slogan, which frequently appears on Arab television before commercial or station breaks, scrawled on the walls near the scene of two attempted IED attacks against returning displaced Sunni Iraqis to the militia stronghold on the opposite side of the capital from Sadr City.
Locals also report to Slogger that over the last week three employees of the Baghdad municipality were killed in Sadr City, along with three others in nearby Baghdad al-Jadida.
Alongside the reconstruction work, raids continue in the impoverished district, targeting suspects linked to the Mahdi Army militia and so-called "Special Groups," purported to be rogue elements of the militia with ties to Iranian intelligence.
On Sunday, American forces raided the industrial Kasra wa 'Atash area near Sadr City, with the support of Iraqi forces, eyewitnesses said. The raiding force arrested four suspects and seized a weapons cache.
American forces on Tuesday stormed the Souq al-Dajjaj (Chickens' Market) in the Urfali area of Sadr City, arresting 11 wanted men.
Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.
American forces in the northeastern Baghdad district of Sha'b offering 50,000 US dollars to anyone with information about rocket launchers hidden in the area, according to residents of the district. Locals report that American military patrols are announcing the reward offer on loudspeakers in the district.
Suspected Mahdi Army elements have targeted US and Iraqi installations with rocket and mortar attacks from across eastern Baghdad. While many have landed on their targets at American bases or in the fortified Green Zone, errant shells fired from the notoriously unreliable launchers have also caused civilian casualties throughout the capital.
Also in Sha'b, residents say that a displaced man suspected of providing information to the Mahdi Army militia was shot dead on Tuesday night near an Interior Ministry checkpoint. Eyewitnesses from the area say that three armed men attacked the man near a checkpoint manned by ministry commandos. The man, who had earlier fled to the Sha'b district, was suspected in the area of providing information about Iraqi policemen in the area to the militia.
Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.
Displaced residents of the Iraqi capital face murderous attacks and intimidation in some parts of Baghdad as they return to their homes in some parts of the Iraqi capital. Four separate attacks in three different Iraqi neighborhoods over the last two days resulted in the death of two displaced families as they tried to return home, and two other households escaped lethal explosions.
On Monday an entire family was murdered in the southwestern area of al-'Amil upon their return to the area. The family, a man, wife, and unspecified number of children, were all murdered at their house from which they had been displaced. Locals say that the man, a Sunni from the al-Janat tribe, had left the area when Shi'a militia groups operating in the area forced him to flee with his family.
On the same day, a Shi'a couple and a driver was murdered in the predominantly Sunni area of Dora as they were moving the couple's belongings back to their home in the area. The couple had been displaced by Sunni extremists from their home in the al-Mikanik district of Dora, and had fled to the al-Iskan district in central Baghdad.
The couple had hired a car and driver to take them and their belongings back to their original home on news of the improving security situation, but were murdered upon their return. The driver was found beheaded, Dora residents say. Funeral services for the family will be held in the al-Iskan area, residents of that district told IraqSlogger.
Monday's murders came a day after IEDs exploded in front of two houses in the southwestern al-Risala area, each home to a Sunni family that had returned to the area. No casualties were reported in the explosions. Eyewitnesses say that a slogan that has recently appeared in graffiti and placards related to Mahdi Army activity was scrawled on the wall near the scenes of the two attacks: "A moment of interruption. . . and we shall resume."
Like al-'Amil, the Risala district is a Mahdi Army stronghold from which many residents were displaced during a deadly turf war that smoldered last year between the Shi'a militia and rival Sunni extremist gangs in southwestern Baghdad.
Recently, the advocacy organization Refugees International announced that the Iraqi government is "unprepared" to provide security and services to an influx of returning Iraqi displaced.
Click here for all of IraqSlogger's coverage of refugee issues in Iraq.
Members of IraqSlogger's network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.
Outrage in Iraqi Cyberspace over Meeting Between Iraqi Pres, Israeli DM
07/02/2008 3:40 PM ET
Iraqi President Jalal Talibani at the White House in June.
A recent handshake between Iraqi President Jalal Talibani and the former Israeli Prime Minister and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak has sparked controversy in Iraqi cyberspace, as allegations swirl of an anti-Arab conspiracy between the Israeli and Kurdish sides.
Talibani and Barak shook hands and shared a brief conversation on the sidelines of the Socialist International conference in Athens, Greece, which the Iraqi premier attended as a representative of his party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and which the Israeli DM attended as head of the Israeli Labor Party. The two were introduced by the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Talibani's office released a statement on Tuesday saying that the Iraqi president shook the Israeli official's hand in his capacity as PUK leader, not as Iraqi president. "The president's office would like to indicate that President Talabani, who responded to the request of the Palestinian president, dealt with the matter in his capacity as PUK Secretary General and SI vice president, not in his capacity as the Iraqi president," the statement noted, Aswat al-Iraq/VOI writes.
"What happened did not entail any obligations on the part of Iraq as a state and does not reflect a change in Iraq's policies supportive of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) based on Arab consensus and international legitimacy resolutions," the Iraqi presidency's statement read.
However, such distinctions do not appear to be sufficient for nationalist and opposition groups who view the president's actions as an act of treason, given that Iraq and Israel are technically at war, and among whom feelings of support for the Palestinian cause run high.
The Iraqi News Agency (INA) runs an editorial in Arabic on its website entitled "Collaborators without Borders," playing on the names of well-known international humanitarian organizations. The piece is harshly critical of what it calls the "shameful meeting" of "Talibarak" and refers to the two men as "mafia leaders," and interpreting the encounter between the two men as part of an anti-Arab conspiracy involving the Kurdish parties and the Israelis, bolstering both a Kurdish nationalist agenda to carve up Iraq and an Israeli agenda to settle the Palestinian question in its favor.
Editorially the INA is sympathetic to Arab nationalist causes, opposed to the current political regime in Iraq, and suspicious of the intentions of the Kurdish political parties with regards to Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.
"The collaborator Jalal Talibani meets the criminal Ehud Barak," writes Al-Yaqen, also supportive of the Iraqi armed resistance, in its coverage of the handshake, referring to Talibani's party's close cooperation with the foreign forces in Iraq, and the Israeli Defense Minister's roles in Israeli military campaigns in Lebanon in the 1980s and 2006 as soldier and defense minister, respectively, and most prominently as Israeli prime minister from 1999 to 2001.
"The question is not why" the Iraqi president met Barak, al-Yaqen writes in Arabic, suggesting that the anti-Arab intentions of the two parties are clear. The question, it says, is rather "how will Iraqi Arab officials deal with this event?" The same critical story is carried by the Iraqi Rabita website, also pan-Arab and Iraqi nationalist in its identity, and opposed to the post-2003 Iraqi regime.
Nahrain Net, associated with the Sadrist Current, takes a tone of shock and outrage in presenting remarks in Arabic reportedly first published in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz describing the meeting as "historic." Nahrain Net also wonders if the handshake is an indication of the possibility of direct formal relations between Israel and the Kurdistan regional government of Iraq.
The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq (AMSI), a primary voice of the Sunni Arab opposition to the post-2003 regime and the presence of foreign forces in the country, released statement number 566, condemning the meeting of the two officials. The Kurdish leadership has "entered dark pages in Iraqi history," AMSI says, adding that "Our Kurdish people do not deserve" such leaders.
AMSI's statement also denounces a recent announcement by the Iraqi foreign minister that private security contractors have been stripped of their extraterritorial immunity in the country, which AMSI calls "laughable" pretext to sign a long-term security agreement between the US and Iraq that would legitimize the presence of US forces in the country, which AMSI opposes.
While the official response, if any, of the Iraqi government has not yet been registered, the handshake, and the public backlash from opposition groups, also may serve to exacerbate ethnic tensions within Iraq, as some of the coverage in opposition sites questions not only Talibani's commitment to Iraq's interests, but that of Iraq's Kurds as a group. The vulnerable situation of stateless Palestinians living in Iraq may also be further threatened if this international incident stokes further domestic tensions in the country.
Council Raises Stakes over Demand for Dismissal of Provincial Police Chief
07/01/2008 5:52 PM ET
Photo: Iraqi Islamic Party.
Abd al-Salam al-'Ani, president of the Anbar Provincial Council.
The elected council of Iraq's westernmost province has brought a formal legal complaint against the Iraqi Interior Ministry, according to remarks by the head of the provincial council of Anbar Province as reported in Arabic.
Abd al-Salam al-'Ani, the council's president, said that the body has raised legal claims against the Iraqi Interior Ministry because it "has not responded to the decisions of the provincial council" regarding its demand for the dismissal of the commander of the provincial police forces.
Al-'Ani told Newsmatique on Tuesday that "The Anbar Provincial Council raised legal claims in the High Federal Court against the Iraqi Interior Ministry because it has not responded to the decisions of the Anbar Provincial Council to dismiss the commander of the provincial police."
Al-'Ani, affiliated with the Iraqi Islamic Party, added that the Commander of Anbar Police, Gen. Tariq Yousif al-Diyabi is still in his position, and this has a negative effect on the security situation in Anbar Province," according to the news report.
The council issued a decision a month ago to dismiss Gen. al-Diyabi because of what it called his "mis-administration and lack of qualifications to command the police apparatus in Anbar Province."
In addition to their own mutual rivalries among themselves, the Sahwa factions of Anbar province have been embroiled in an ongoing dispute with the elected officials of the western governorate, many of whom are associated with the Iraqi Islamic Party, which was one of the few Sunni Arab groupings to contest the 2005 elections.
Last week Shaykh Ali Hatim Sulayman, a leader of a faction of the pro-US tribal forces organized in Anbar known in Arabic as Sahwa, threatened "civil disobedience" in the province if the Iraqi government complied with the local council's demand to dismiss the provincial police chief.
Three-Day Recrutiment Period; Candidates Must Post a $2,500 Bond to Join Force
07/01/2008 4:11 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.
The police directorate in Kirkuk Province has announced that it is opening a recruitment session for new members of the local police forces.
In a call for volunteers, the police directorate announced it will accept candidates for possible entry into the police ranks for a period of three days beginning on Saturday, al-Malaf Press writes in Arabic.
Volunteers must meet a series of conditions: All must be Iraqi, born of two Iraqi parents, between 18 and 25 years of age. Candidates must have completed education at least to the middle-school level, according to the statement.
Volunteers "commit to a career of police work, in any place required," and must posess a clean criminal record, "not convicted of any misdemeanor or felony."
The Kirkuk Police Directorate also announced that the volunteers must be bound by a bail guarantor, certified by a notary, for a sum of three million Iraqi dinars (approx. $2,500).