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The Latest
Report: Teachers in Villages Near Mosul Ordered to Drop Arabic in Instruction
06/24/2009 7:18 PM ET
Google Earth image/IraqSlogger.com.

As a dispute continues between two rival ethnic and political factions over forming the provincial government in the northern Iraqi province of Ninewa, a report has emerged from a Kurdish-militia controlled town near Mosul that teachers there have been ordered to stop using the Arabic language in their instruction.

A dispute has continued between the predominantly Arab al-Hadba’ list, which won the largest share of the votes in the January 31 provincial elections, and the Kurdish Ninewa Brotherhood List, which has demanded high-level government positions in exchange for ending a boycott of the provincial government.

Meanwhile, in an apparent move to increase the pressure on the newly elected governing bloc, Khasrou Goran, the former vice-governor of the province and head of the Ninewa Branch of the Kurdistan Party has reportedly ordered teachers in the Ba'shiqa area, outside of Mosul, to stop using the Arabic language in their instruction. Ba'shiqa is a majority-Yezidi town under control of the Pesh Merga militia, the paramilitary forces loyal to the main Kurdish parties, al-Iraq News writes in Arabic.

Meanwhile, the al-Hadba’ affiliated governor of the province, Athil al-Najifi, has said his bloc views the dispute with the Brotherhood List as concerning the assertion of provincial government control over all the provincial territory, demanding a Pesh Merga withdrawal from the areas of Ninewa Province that it controls, while the Kurdish Brotherhood List has deflected criticism of Pesh Merga deployment in disputed areas of Ninewa Province and demanded the positions of vice-governor and vice-president of the provincial council to end its boycott of the local government.

Daily Column
US Accused of Bribing and Murdering Iraqi Journalists During Military Operations
By AMER MOHSEN 06/21/2009 5:01 PM ET
Az-Zaman
Az-Zaman
Days before the finalizing of US withdrawal from Iraqi urban centers, a massive explosion hit the town of Taza in northern Iraq leaving over 70 dead and hundreds of wounded. Al-Jazeera quoted sources in the Iraqi police who said that a truck loaded with “tons of explosives” was detonated near a Shi'a mosque in the Turkoman-majority town, which is close to the city of Kirkuk. The blast was so powerful, reports say, that over 30 homes were demolished in its vicinity. The news channel linked the attack to a recent speech by Premier Maliki describing the planned US withdrawal as “a glorious victory” and a prelude to the liberation of Iraq from foreign occupation. The Premier had also warned Iraqis that attacks will multiply following the US withdrawal at the end of the month, calling upon citizens “not to squander the security gains” that he said were achieved in the recent period.

Also in al-Jazeera, the news channel revealed that the US may have bribed Iraqi and foreign journalists to refrain from publishing certain pictures and footage during the first and second battles of Falluja. The source of these reports (first published in a Qatari newspaper) is an officer in the Iraqi Army who refused to release his identity, but said that he serves in the 7th Division of the Iraqi Army. The source claimed that the US paid bribes to journalists to refrain from publishing documentations showing dead and wounded US soldiers, as well as attacks (such as the shooting down of helicopters,) adding that some journalists willingly presented this material to US officers who would place a “value” on the items depending on their “importance and content.”

Furthermore, the unnamed officer accused the US Army of executing journalists who refused to ply to US orders during the Falluja battles in 2004. The news channel pointed out that several Iraqi journalists have been missing since the Falluja fighting and whose families accuse the US Army of being responsible for their sons’ disappearance.

In other news, pan-Arab al-Hayat reports that the popular referendum over the US-Iraqi security treaty (which regulates and legalizes US military presence in the country) will probably be postponed, despite official assurances to the contrary. According to the treaty, the referendum should be held by the end of the next month, but numerous delays in legislating the referendum, as well as budgetary constraints, seem likely to prevent a timely holding of the plebiscite – the paper claims.

Al-Hayat quoted an Iraqi MP who said that the chairmanship of the Parliament has rejected a law proposal to hold the referendum that was presented by Parliamentarians, preferring to wait for a law project formulated by the Prime Ministership, “which means that more time will be wasted,” the MP exclaimed. Parliamentary sources are saying that the Elections’ Commission (which is charged with the technical aspects of the referendum) said that it will need at least 60 days to finalize the preparations after the law has been passed, which makes it nearly impossible to hold the referendum on time.

Meanwhile, Az-Zaman reports that the chair of the Da'wa bloc in the Parliament, Qasim al-Sahlani, was killed in a car accident on the road between Basra and Nasiriya. This makes al-Sahlani the second Parliamentary leader to die in as many weeks, after the assassination of the IAF chair, Harith al-'Ubaidi, early in the month.

Also in Az-Zaman, the paper reports that Syria has accepted to raise Iraq’s share of the Euphrates water beyond the 58% that are allotted to Iraq, a measure that was deemed necessary to save Iraq’s agricultural season, which is threatened by excessive droughts. Water security is likely to be one of Iraq’s main concerns in the coming decades, a problem that is intensified by the fact that the country has to share its main water sources (the Tigris and the Euphrates) with Turkey and Syria.

Lastly, Iraqis were greatly disappointed after their football team, which is playing in the Confederations’ Cup in South Africa, failed to qualify to the second round after tying with the New Zealand team – which is considered the weakest team in the group, having lost by wide margins in previous matches. Iraq needed to win by two goals to guarantee qualification, and sport analysts are blaming the players for not putting in the needed effort during the games. The news channel quoted a member in the Committee to Support the Iraqi National Team who exclaimed that Iraq’s stars, Yunis Mahmud, Nash’at Akram and Hawwar Muhammad, score frequently with their clubs but were unable to score a single goal in three matches during the high-profile competition.

The Latest
Body Will Vet Hopefuls, Announce Names in Press Conference
06/19/2009 7:44 PM ET
Names of candidates for upcoming legislative elections in Kurdistan have been submitted to Iraq’s electoral watchdog in Baghdad for review, according to a report in Arabic on an Iraqi Kurdish website.

Iraq’s Independent High Elections Commission (IHEC) has received the list of candidates vying for seats in the Kurdistan Parliament in next’s month’s polls, according to a report on PUK Media, a media organ of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of Iraqi President Jalal al-Talibani.

The IHEC will vet the candidates to ensure that they meet the qualifications for the office, said Hamdiya al-Husayni, a member of the IHEC executive council.

Names of candidates are to be announced on Saturday in a press conference in Baghdad, al-Husayni added.

Elections for the regional parliament and president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region are slated for July 25.

Daily Column
Sectarian Rhetoric Fuels Election Concerns, Contract Oversight Blasted Again
By DANIEL W. SMITH 06/10/2009 02:00 AM ET
Today, the news is mostly political. In Iraq, elections are said to be affecting both plans for a US/Iraq security agreement referendum and relations between parties. On the US side, politicians are holding up a war-spending bill, and more contracting oversight complaints.

From Baghdad
In the New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin reports that the Iraqi government is pressing ahead with plans to hold a national referendum on the Iraqi-American security agreement, a stipulation which was included by parliament as part of negotiations which led to it being passed. Rubin writes that, if put to a popular vote, it is likely to lose, forcing US troops to leave Iraq as early as next summer. Since elections are coming up, Prime Minister al-Maliki, and anyone else with an Iraqi constituency that isn’t Kurdish.
If the Iraqi people vote down the security pact, the American military would have to withdraw all troops within a year from the date of the vote, which could be held as soon as this summer. American diplomats are quietly lobbying the government not to hold the referendum, but so far Iraqi politicians have decided to go ahead with it to avoid appearing to be in the pocket of the Americans in an election year.

Perhaps in deference to American concerns, the cabinet issued a statement on Tuesday saying that it wished to delay the vote for six months so that it could be held at the same time as the national elections in January “in order to save money and time.”
Senior lawmakers are indicating that it won’t be delayed.

The Wall Street Journal’s Gina Chon writes of political developments in relations between Iraqi parties as elections approach, and U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill’s part in the whole thing. According to Hill, there are positive signs of late, but that “the latest heated rhetoric is a reminder of the nation's fragile situation.” Political squabbling continues, but is it part of healthy development, or does it risk deterioration of the system?
Although the U.S. military drawdown will reduce its footprint in Iraq, America still plays a critical role as a mediator to solve problems among Iraqis. That need shows how far the war-torn country has to go in moving away from sectarian and ethnic agendas and achieving political stability.

Mr. Hill, who arrived in Iraq in April, said his experience as lead negotiator for the U.S. in talks with North Korea and helping broker peace talks in Bosnia and Kosovo gives him some understanding of Iraq's factionalism.
"Often in transitional political circumstances, there's a tremendous premium on people's personalities," he said.

Chon also writes of the U.S. role as broker between rival groups (such as the Sahwa) and provincial/city councils who feel their voices aren’t being heard in Baghdad.

Stateside
Robert O'Harrow Jr. of the Washington Post writes of yet another report finding fault with government oversight of lucrative contracts it handed out. The report, “At What Cost? Contingency Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan," put out by the Commission on Wartime Contracting contains the interim findings of the commission, which will issue a final report next year. It will be the subject of a hearing today of the House oversight subcommittee on national security and foreign affairs. Michael J. Thibault, co-chairman of the commission, said there is no doubt about the severity of the problems (and the cost) of the projects. "It's showing the taxpayer is reaping the reward of inadequate contract oversight," he said.
In one case, the government approved millions in spending on a dining facility in Iraq that was not needed after the decision to begin withdrawing troops from the country. In another, the government accepted a multimillion-dollar construction project in Afghanistan to house senior U.S. commanders, even though fixtures were broken, bathrooms did not work and the ceilings were unfinished.
Perry Bacon Jr., also of the Washington Post, writes that Iraqi politicians aren't the only ones who know how to squabble, amid efforts to pass a US war funding bill. Bacon calls the bill, on which voting has just been postponed, “a major legislative challenge on Capitol Hill, as members press President Obama from the left and the right on a number of fronts: the logistics of closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, the release of photos showing abuse of detainees and a proposed loan to the International Monetary Fund.” There isn’t a lot about Iraq within the story, but when passed, it will have an obvious effect on the country.

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

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


Daily Column
Sadrists not to Re-Join Shi'a I'tilaf, Kuwait-Iraq Crisis Continues
By AMER MOHSEN 06/08/2009 9:56 PM ET
Az-Zaman
Az-Zaman
In contrast with official Iraqi statements claiming that the crisis with Kuwait is on its way to resolution, al-Bayyna al-Jadeeda predicts that negotiations with Kuwait are not likely to succeed and that Iraq may resort to the International Court of Justice to demand the re-delimitation of its borders with Kuwait if the southern neighbor refuses to renegotiate the current status of the borders.

Relations between the two countries have been strained because, with Iraq’s wish to emancipate from the UN Chapter VII mandate, Kuwait remains insistent that these sanctions should remain until all war compensations are paid, the status of Kuwaiti prisoners and missing persons is determined, Kuwaiti possessions are returned, and water and land borders demarcated. Resolving all these files that date from the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the paper notes, “requires a very long period,” meaning that the Iraqi state cannot enjoy full sovereignty for years to come.

Az-Zaman reports that Kuwaiti officials have called for an urgent meeting for the Iraqi-Kuwaiti commission to discuss the thorny issues separating the two countries. The legal situation could be re-assessed, the paper claims, because of a recent US Supreme Court decision affirming that the current Iraqi government cannot be made responsible for the actions of Saddam’s regime.

The ruling came after three Americans attempted to sue the Iraqi government for being imprisoned and mistreated in Iraq in the early 1970s. The plaintiffs included a CBS correspondent and two US nationals who worked in the oil sector.

Government-owned As-Sabah, meanwhile, quotes in its front page statements by President Talabani, who attempted to soften the crisis between the two countries by calling for “a calm resolution of the controversial matters between the two countries.”

On the same front, London-based al-Hayat quoted Ayatollah Sistani, who also stressed that “solutions have to be found to tensions between Iraq and neighboring countries ... because Iraq is bound by common interest with its neighbors.”

In security news, al-Jazeera news channel says that seven Iraqis were killed when a bomb went off in a bus garage in southern Baghdad. The district of Abu Dhsheir, where this last bombing took place, has been disproportionately hit by attacks recently. Several cafes in Abu Dsheir have been targeted by bombings in the last weeks.

In political news, negotiations for the reconstitution of the Shi'a I’tilaf before the coming legislative elections are occupying the political arena. Several rounds of talks have been held between the leaderships of Maliki’s Da'wa and al-Hakeem’s SIIC without a clear resolution. Ex-Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari visited Najaf to meet with Ayatollah Sistani and advocate the rebuilding of a “reformed” I’tilaf, and according to al-Bayyna al-Jadeeda, Sadrists, who were one of the main pillars of the I’tilaf, are announcing that they will take no part in the Shi'a coalition, and that they are aiming instead at building a broad cross-sectarian alliance instead.

The daily quotes Sadrist MP Akram Tarazi who claims that talks have already been initiated with political factions to promote this prospective coalition. Tarazi, stressing the Sadrist Current’s alleged efforts to combat corruption, predicted that the coming elections will “completely change the map of the political process” and “bring new blood to the Parliament.”

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