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Daily Column
Iraqi Politicians Are More Quiet Than Usual, Iraqi Arrested in Shooting of MP
By DANIEL W. SMITH 06/18/2009 03:00 AM ET
Not a huge harvest today, but some stories of interest. See how Iran’s contested election doesn’t play out in Iraq, how the investigation into a major assassination last week is going, and how Iraq and Afghanistan are faring.

From Baghdad
World news is abuzz with Iranian post-election mayhem, but Gina Chon of the Wall Street Journal covers the relative silence coming from politicians right next door in Iraq, one of the countries that stand to be most affected by the outcome. President Jalal Talabani congratulated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his victory (see details below), but, as Chon points out, “other politicians, including Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, who spent years of exile in Iran, have remained noticeably silent on the contested victory. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of Iraq's largest Shia party, also spent years in Iran and is there now, receiving treatment for cancer. He hailed Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after the election, but pointedly left out any mention of Mr. Ahmadinejad.”

The two countries’ checkered existence is looked at, and this is seen as a major reason for the silence. "This was an unfair election," said one official who declined to be named, "but we can't say that publicly because we can't afford to affect our relationship with Iran."

The rest of today’s coverage is in the New York Times. Campbell Robertson and Abeer Mohammed start us off with the announcement of the arrest on Wednesday of a suspect, called the “mastermind” of Friday’s assassination of key Sunni political leader Harith al-Obaidi. It is a sensitive topic, and the Iraqi government is doing all it can to appear “on the case”.
General Jawad identified the suspect as Ahmed Abid Uwaid al-Luhaibi, a member of the Awakening, a government-backed Sunni paramilitary force. The general said Mr. Luhaibi was also an assistant commander in the Islamic State of Iraq, a Sunni jihadist group.

Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, confirmed the arrest but said it was too early to say what role Mr. Luhaibi might have played in the killing.
Multimedia
An “Op-Ed Chart” is offered in the Times by Jason Campbell, Michael O’Hanlon and Jeremy Shapiro of the Brookings Institution and graphic designer Amy Unikewicz, measuring “The States of Iraq and Afghanistan. They begin their introduction with the following...
“Going forward, we will not blindly stay the course,” President Obama said in unveiling his new Afghanistan strategy this spring. “Instead, we will set clear metrics to measure progress.” Unfortunately, finding useful metrics for assessing counterinsurgencies is not easy. Getting the force size right is key to a successful counterinsurgency, but there is no exact formula — even when you get the numbers right the troops may fail because of poor training, difficult terrain or shifting politics.
They ask how actual progress is then to be measured. they provide a chart with information on both countries in odd-numbered years, starting with 2003, measuring foreign/domestic troop levels, troop/civilian deaths, number of phone customers, electricity output, per capita income, etc. As always, charts like this can put things in perspective, but what is chosen to be included makes all the difference.

Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, USA Today, no original Iraq coverage.

Comments on the US Papers roundup are welcome at ds@iraqslogger.com.


RUMOR MILL
Rumors in War-Torn Province Say Nurses, Families Involved in Illicit Trade
03/26/2009 6:08 PM ET
Rumors are circulating in the Iraqi province of Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, of a clandestine market in newborn children, mediated by nurses or by people posing as nurses in the delivery wards.

A doctor in the provincial capital of Ba'qouba told Slogger that rumors are circulating in the hospitals that nurses in the natal wards have been overheard attempting to persuade new mothers to sell their children in exchange for large amounts of cash. The specific amount is unspecified in the rumors.

One rumored conversation concerned a nurse in Ba'qouba who reportedly offered a new mother the opportunity to sell her newborn son into the hands of an unnamed wealthy family who could not procreate due to fertility problems.

Other rumors also implicate hospital nurses in the rumored trade in newborn children, whereby some nurses are said to have stolen new babies to sell away, telling the families that the babies had not survived. Babies born after midnight are said to be particularly vulnerable due to relaxed security in the hospitals in the late hours.

IraqSlogger sources in Diyala Provice could not confirm these rumors at this time, but note that the circulating accounts appear in tandem with hard economic times and unstable security situation in the war-torn province – which may be fertile ground for a trade in newborn children, but also fertile ground for urban legends about such a trade.

Exclusive
16 Smugglers Arrested This Year: Source; 270 IEDs Siezed West of City
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/24/2009 6:32 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

No fewer than sixteen smugglers trading in pilfered Iraqi antiquities have been arrested in Kirkuk province in the first three months of this year, a security source in the northern governorate familiar with the illegal trade told IraqSlogger this week.

The most recent such arrest came last Thursday when Iraqi police forces raided a house in the Rahim Awa area in the north of Kirkuk city. The 8:00 p.m. raid led to the arrest of the alleged antiquities smuggler as well as the recovery of several illegally traded archaeological pieces from inside the residence. The police source told Slogger that they believe the detained suspect planned to smuggle the items outside the country.

The police source added that Kirkuk Province has seen heavy trafficking in Iraqi antiquities due to its location on the road to neighboring Sulaymaniya province, which the source said was a key exit point of smuggled antiquities to neighboring countries.

Also on Thursday, Iraqi police discovered a cache of 270 homemade bombs, along with explosives, wires and detonators in the Rishad district west of Kirkuk city. Locals say that while the Rashad district features a heavily deployed presence of Iraqi security troops and locally organized Sahwa forces, militant cells continue to operate clandestinely.

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

Exclusive
Romanian Forces Withdraw; Black Market for Explosives; Farmers Seek Fuel Relief
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/19/2009 9:01 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

The buzz from the southern Iraqi city of Nasriya, as reported by IraqSlogger sources:

At least 500 marsh-dwelling families have emigrated from their native areas in Dhi Qar province due to a shortage of water in the marshlands, according to the mayor (qa’im maqam) of the al-Jbaysh area in eastern Dhi Qar Province. Low rainfall levels and damming upriver have contributed to a deterioration in the marshland ecosystems, the official said, adding that the marshes contained much of Iraq’s fishstocks.

Romanians withdraw

Coalition forces have announced that Romanian troops have begun to withdraw from Dhi Qar Province. The Romanians numbering about 350, were stationed primarily in Dhi Qar and Wasit provinces in southern Iraq, but are due to withdraw by the end of June. Iraqi forces will take possession of the Romanian-staffed installations in the province, according to Coalition statements, although a smaller contingent of Romanian troops may be allowed to remain in the country after the withdrawal deadline of July 1 as part of an agreement negotiated between the government of Iraq and the Romanian forces.

Clandestine explosives market

A source in the provincial security committee told Slogger that a clandestine market has developed in Nasriya city for the powerful C4 explosive. Iraqi forces discovered the operations after interrogating a gang of weapons and contraband smugglers, the security source said. C4 explosive is used in the manufacture of many of the car bombs and IEDs that plague other provinces of the country.

Fuel prices

Fuel prices are a hot topic in the southern governorate, residents say. Last week, local farmers and truck drivers requested that the local government reduce the local state-set price for auto and diesel fuels, citing the global drop in petroleum prices. Although fuels in the province are available at subsidized rates well below the rates on global markets, the machine-dependent groups say that the high cost of fuel is pinching their profitability in hard times. Members of IraqSlogger’s network of Iraqi staff contributed to this report but choose to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Exclusive
Dramatic Fluctuations in Black-Market Fuel Prices since Mid-December
02/03/2009 6:07 PM ET
Auto fuel (ID/liter)
13-Dec 30-Jan Percent change
Baghdad al-Jadida 700 600 -14.3%
Sadr City 650 650
Harthiya 700 700
'Amil 700 800 14.3%
Sha'b 800 800
Ghazaliya 700 800 14.3%
Mansour 800 800
Kadhimiya 700 700
Karrada 700 700

Sources in nine different areas around the Iraqi capital report dramatic and contradictory shifts in black-market prices for key household fuels from mid-December, with some commodities showing drops in their reported price in mid-December by as much as 50 percent in some areas of the city, while other commodities have doubled in price over the same period.

The most remarkable shifts in prices in the informal market for household energy, to which Iraqis often turn when key fuels are unavailable on the officially regulated markets, were reported for the commodity of cooking gas. A canister of the butane mix doubled in price in Sadr City and in the central commercial areas of Mansour and Karrada, with all other monitored areas reporting hikes of between 50 and 80 percent.

Meanwhile, against this spike in cooking gas prices, the street price for kerosene, used in home heating, is down since mid-December by as much as 50 percent in Sadr City, Mansour, and Karrada, and drops ranging from 33 to 44 percent were reported in the rest of the nine districts where Slogger sources report regularly on the prices of staple commodities.

Against these two divergent city-wide trends, sources in southwestern Baghdad's al-'Amil district and in the western Ghazaliya area reported hikes of 14.3 percent in auto fuel for the same time period, while Baghdad al-Jadida residents said that black-market retailers of auto fuel had lowered their price in the same time period by the same percentage. All other districts report stable black-market gasoline prices for the reported period.

Finally, against these fluctuations in the three above commodities, prices for several other household staples, including diesel fuel, Marlboro cigarettes, and two widely consumed breads all remained stable from mid-December.

Click here for a map of the nine districts mentioned in this report.


Cooking gas (ID/cylinder)

13-Dec 30-Jan Percent change
Baghdad al-Jadida 10000 16000 60.0%
Sadr City 8000 16000 100.0%
Harthiya 10000 16000 60.0%
'Amil 12000 18000 50.0%
Sha'b 10000 16000 60.0%
Ghazaliya 10000 16000 60.0%
Mansour 10000 20000 100.0%
Kadhimiya 10000 18000 80.0%
Karrada 10000 20000 100.0%

Diesel fuel (ID/liter)
13-Dec 30-Jan
Baghdad al-Jadida 900 900
Sadr City 700 700
Harthiya 800 800
'Amil 750 750
Sha'b 800 800
Ghazaliya 800 800
Mansour 800 800
Kadhimiya 800 800
Karrada 800 800

Kerosene (ID/liter)
13-Dec 30-Jan Percent change
Baghdad al-Jadida 800 500 -37.5%
Sadr City 800 400 -50.0%
Harthiya 800 500 -37.5%
'Amil 900 600 -33.3%
Sha'b 800 500 -37.5%
Ghazaliya 800 500 -37.5%
Mansour 1000 500 -50.0%
Kadhimiya 900 500 -44.4%
Karrada 1000 500 -50.0%

Marlboros (ID/carton)
13-Dec 30-Jan
Baghdad al-Jadida 20000 20000
Sadr City 18000 18000
Harthiya 20000 20000
'Amil 18000 18000
Sha'b 18000 18000
Ghazaliya 18000 18000
Mansour 20000 20000
Kadhimiya 18000 18000
Karrada 20000 20000

Khubuz bread (ID/piece)
13-Dec 30-Jan
Baghdad al-Jadida 175 175
Sadr City 100 100
Harthiya 175 175
'Amil 175 175
Sha'b 150 150
Ghazaliya 200 200
Mansour 175 175
Kadhimiya 175 175
Karrada 175 175

Samoun bread (ID/piece)
13-Dec 30-Jan
Baghdad al-Jadida 125 125
Sadr City 100 100
Harthiya 125 125
'Amil 100 100
Sha'b 100 100
Ghazaliya 100 100
Mansour 125 125
Kadhimiya 125 125
Karrada 125 125

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