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New Police Training Center; Blocs File Electoral Complaints
By SLOGGER NETWORK 03/05/2009 7:29 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

Iraqi customs officials arrested three weapons smugglers attempting to enter the country from the border with Saudi Arabia in Iraq’s southern Najaf Province on Wednesday. The men were carrying Iraqi identification and tried to enter Iraq by with Nissan pickup trucks loaded with pistols, machine guns and ammunition. An officer in the customs force explained that the three men are not considered “terrorists” by Iraqi security forces but instead are considered to be smugglers who move frequently between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Sources in Najaf Province familiar with the cross-border trade tell IraqSlogger that Najaf province is an important entry point for smuggled weapons into the country.

Fuel price spike

Najaf province saw a spike this week in the prices of cooking gas, a butane-based fuel widely used in food preparation. As'ad Muhammad, a fuel distribution official in Najaf told Slogger that the shortage began on Monday when the central government distributors did not make the usual fuel delivery to Najaf. A new shipment arriving on Wednesday eased the crunch, Muhammad said.

New police training center

A new police training center opened in the in the northern part of Najaf Province of Najaf province on Monday in a ceremony attended by representatives of the Interior Ministry in Baghdad. Interior Ministry officials said that the new 10-acre center, located in the al-Zarka sector, can accommodate 1,600 students for training in computers, investigation techniques, canine operations and forensic medicine, saying the new facility is state-of-the-art and specified to the latest international standards.

Elections complaints

Two electoral blocs in Najaf filed formal complaints with Iraq’s Independent Higher Elections Commission (IHEC) on Wednesday, sources in the provincial capital told IraqSlogger. The “Najaf Loyalty” bloc and the Fatah al-Shaykh list both alleged that forgery had been rampant at Iraqi elections centers in the January 31 polls that selected new provincial governments in 14 of Iraq’s 18 governorates, including Najaf. A source in the Fatah al-Shaykh group told Slogger that the complaints did not focus on any specific party but on the integrity of the elections process as a whole.

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

The Latest
Interior Ministries Agree to Exchange Expertise after Iraqi Delegation
02/20/2009 7:02 PM ET
Iraqi recruits hold their nationa flag as during a graduation ceremony for more than 945 Iraqi Police (IP) students, including three women, from the Sons of Iraq Sunni militia at the Al-Furat Iraqi Police training centre in southern Baghdad on January 14,
Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP.
Iraqi recruits hold their nationa flag as during a graduation ceremony for more than 945 Iraqi Police (IP) students, including three women, from the Sons of Iraq Sunni militia at the Al-Furat Iraqi Police training centre in southern Baghdad on January 14,

The interior minister of the United Arab Emirates has agreed to the request of an Iraqi police delegation that visited the Emirates recently to send a number of Iraqi officers and police officials to train civil police in the UAE.

The general secretary of the UAE interior minister’s office Gen. Nasir al-Kharibani al-Na'imi indicated in press remarks that the office of Interior Minister Shaykh Sayf bin Zayid Al Nahyan would intensify its relations and cooperation between the Emirati ministry and its Iraqi counterpart.

The Emirati official described the move as part of a broader Emirati strategy of developing security ties with regional countries, according to a report in Arabic on a website affiliated with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdish political party led by Iraqi President Jalal al-Talibani.

Gen. al-Na'imi recently received an Iraqi Interior Ministry delegation in the UAE that traveled with the goal of developing exchange of information and security expertise between the two states.

read it here
US Withdrawal Timeframe Raises Questions of Iraqi Forces Readiness
02/20/2009 6:00 PM ET

Here are the first few paragraphs of the executive summary of an updated version of the Center for Strategic and International Studies paper entitled "How Soon Is Safe? Iraqi Force Development and Conditions-Based U.S. Withdrawals," authored by Anthony Cordesman and Adam Mausner.

The US and Iraq now face a transition period that may well be as challenging as defeating Al Qa‘ida in Iraq, the other elements of the insurgency, and the threat from militias like the Mahdi Army. Iraq has made progress in political accommodation and in improving security. No one, however, can yet be certain that Iraq will achieve a enough political accommodation to deal with its remaining internal problems, whether there will be a new surge of civil violence, or whether Iraq will face problems with its neighbors.

Iran seeks to expand its influence, and Turkey will not tolerate a sanctuary for hostile Kurdish movements like the PKK. Arab support for Iraq remains weak, and Iraq‘s Arab neighbors fear both Shi‘ite and Iranian dominance of Iraq as well as a "Shi‘ite crescent" that includes Syria and Lebanon.

Much will depend on the capabilities of Iraqi security forces (ISF) and their ability to deal with internal conflicts and external pressures. A combination of US politics, Iraq‘s internal politics, and outside pressure from nations like Iran is reducing the timeframe of US withdrawal. Iraqi politics reflect the fact that public opinion generally sees the US as an occupation force and wants US and other Coalition forces to leave as soon as possible. Iraq's Kurds are the only group in Iraq where polls have shown showed a consistent desire for the US to stay.

As a result, the recent debate over the US-Iraqi status of force agreement focused on the timing and conditions for US withdrawal, increasing Iraqi jurisdiction over US military personnel and contractors, basing rights, and limiting US ability to conduct operations without Iraqi approval. The Security Agreement and Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that have emerged from these negotiations paid far less attention to the need to create effective Iraqi security forces, despite the fact that speeding the rate of US withdrawal inevitably reduces the timeframe for developing Iraqi forces that can stand on their own.

Download the full report here: 090217_isf.no.graph.pdf, or scroll through the document below.

Daily Column
Gaza Coverage Cools Down, Al-Maliki in Samarra
By DANIEL W. SMITH 01/22/2009 8:47 PM ET
Over the past few days, the coverage of Gaza on Iraqi evening news has decreased, but tonight with the election undeniably in full swing, the focus turned a corner and was almost all domestic. Except for some not-so-veiled campaigning, coverage didn’t vary as much as it sometimes does.

Government officials, from Qasim Atta to Ali al-Dabbagh were busy assuring the population (perhaps a bit too much) that Iraq’s security forces would be more than up to the task of keeping the peace in Iraq, in the event of an overnight Obama US troop withdrawal.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was shown giving a big speech in Samarra, where he said that he decreed that roads be opened, and declared that he was committed to rebuilding the golden dome which sectarianism brought down. He also met with Serbia’s defense minister, to discuss their assistance in arming and training the Iraqi Army.

It was widely reported that American soldiers killed two members of the Iraqi police in northeast Baghdad. A few channels said that only one had been killed, and the other wounded.

Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi announced that there are still civilians who do not know how to properly fill in election ballots. He suggested that citizens who do know, teach those who don’t.

The Sadrists announce that they are supporting two independent parties in the south of Iraq, and are directing their sizable constituency in the region to vote for them. The parties are called - for lack of a better translation – “The Integrity and Rebuilding List”, and “The Free List”.

The biggest stand-alone was Al-Rafadain which covered the death of Harith Sulayman al-Dhari’s wife, and little else. Al-Dhari, the leader of the Association of Muslim Scholars, received condolences from, among others, “Brother Mohmar Khadafi.”

Yousif al-Timimi contributed heavily to this report.

The Latest
New Technologies Mean New Crime Methods, Top Provincial Cop Says
11/14/2008 3:12 PM ET
Google Earth Image/IraqSlogger.com.

The director of Karbala Police said Friday that all police employees have been enrolled in required "training and education sessions" at the local police academy in order to "raise the professional standards" of its forces.

Col. Ali Jasim Muhammad, who took over the post this fall, said that new scientific developments have created previously unknown methods for committing crimes, leading to new needs for police training in high-tech methods, al-Malaf Press writes in Arabic.

Karbala has installed electronic checkpoints to discover wanted men as well as sonar and other high-tech devices, he said, and checkpoints at the city's entrances are equipped with sophisticated equipment to discover explosives.

Muhammad said that the security situation in Karbala was "good and stable," which he added was evidenced by the continuing numbers of pilgrims that the city's Shi'a holy sites were receiving.

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