The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Saturday, August 18, 2007

News & Views 08/18/07

Photo: A child injured by a roadside bomb lies in a hospital in Kirkuk, 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2007. A series of bombs struck a commercial area in a span of three hours on Friday night in the northern city of Kirkuk, killing at least four people and wounding 38, police said Saturday. (AP Photo/Yahya Ahmed)


REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Scenes of Baghdad Through a Humvee Window

Iraq's minorities face a rising threat

As the possibility that the death toll from Tuesday's bombings against Yazidis, a Kurdish-speaking sect in northwestern Iraq, might top 400, rescue efforts continued in the Sinjar area northwest of Mosul. The bombings are likely to constitute the single deadliest attack of the war – an act that drives home the plight of minority groups that, ethnic minority leaders charge, are facing possible genocide. "The rescue efforts are still ongoing. There are bodies under the rubble. So far, we have at least 400 people killed," says Brig. Gen. Abdel-Karim Khalaf, the spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

……The disparities may result from the fact that the dead and wounded were taken to at least six different hospitals in Nineveh and the neighboring semiautonomous Kurdish region, which declared Thursday as a day of mourning. The attacks involved four trucks packed with between two to five tons of explosives, according to Iraqi officials, and leveled entire sections of the villages of Qahtaniyah, Al-Jazeera, and Tal Uzair in the Sinjar area northwest of Mosul and about 20 miles from Syria. "More than half of our village has been destroyed, and the rest of the homes are not suitable," said an elderly man on local television, standing amid the devastation of Qahtaniyah, which looked more like the aftermath of an earthquake. "Families are now wandering in the wilderness. We ask the central government for help and compensation." The strike occurred in one of the most remote and most impoverished parts of the country and targeted an insular ancient community that was battling for survival in an increasingly hostile land. Most were sheepherders or made pickles and arrak, a local alcoholic drink.

ICRC provides Iraqi hospitals with emergency assistance after blasts

The ICRC is currently dispatching surgical and medical supplies to Telaafar General Hospital which is receiving an influx of casualties resulting from the four explosions that rocked the Sinjar district in the north west of Iraq late on Tuesday evening. Similar supplies for the treatment of over 400 wounded have also been dispatched to Sinjar General Hospital and Dohuk Emergency Hospital. [You can make a donation to help them, if you wish. Click the link to the story. – dancewater]

Medical crisis in Iraq as doctors and nurses flee

The humanitarian disaster in Iraq is being compounded by a mass exodus of their medical staff fleeing chronic violence and lawlessness. A report by Oxfam International shows the lack of doctors and nurses is fracturing a health system on the brink of collapse. The research revealed that many hospitals, and medical teaching facilities in Baghdad have lost up to 80 per cent of their teaching staff. The dossier says Iraq is suffering from an appalling and largely hidden humanitarian crisis, away from the daily bombings, with millions of people in desperate need of help. Medical staff received a large pay rise in the aftermath of the war with average salaries rising from as little as $25 (£12.50) a month to $ 300. But the lack of security and the ever-present threat of kidnappings and bomb attacks have persuaded an increasing number to seek safety abroad.

Between the Two Rivers, Lack of Water Kills

Iraq, with its famous Tigris and Euphrates rivers that run the length of the country, is now unable to provide drinking water to most of its people. "The two rivers are still there, great as they always were, and flowing all through the year," chief engineer Ahmad Salman of the Baghdad Water Authority told IPS. "Yet Iraqis are thirsty, and we are ashamed of being engineers in the service. We have simply failed to provide our people with half of the drinking water they need." Much of the country is suffering severe lack of water, and the small quantities supplied are not good for human use. "I analysed the water supplied by the water authority, and the result was shocking," Dr Ibrahim Ali, a laboratory owner in Baghdad told IPS. "It is definitely not good for human consumption, and every time we analyse it we find something new that might, in time, cause death."
The doctor added, "Various kinds of bacterial pollution and germs we are finding can be as dangerous as biological weapons." Iraqi hospitals are full of people with illnesses due to the unsafe water. Doctors at several hospitals confirmed to IPS that water is one of the worst causes of diseases, especially among children, and that some of children had died of water-borne diseases compounded by a severe lack of medicines. These problems are exacerbated during the summer when both the quantity and quality of water are at their lowest.

…."It is another weapon that the Americans are killing us with," 62-year-old Abu Mahmood, a carpenter from Baghdad told IPS. "No water means diseases that lead to slow, but certain death. They did it to us at the time of sanctions and now it is their chance to do it again without firing bullets and making scandals."

Under Curfew, Diwaniya to Elect New Governor

The southern Iraqi city of Diwaniya is under indefinite curfew as the local provincial council prepares to vote Friday to replace the assassinated governor of Qadisiya governorate. The deputy governor of Qadisiya announced that a curfew would be imposed on the city from 7:00 p.m. Thursday evening “until further notice,” against the backdrop of Friday’s vote in the 41-seat provincial council that will choose a new governor to replace the former governor who died earlier this week in a roadside attack bomb attack as they returned from a funeral in a nearby town. Qadisiya province opened nominations for the position of governor after the death of Khalil Jalil Hamza, the former governor, along with the director of the provincial police forces, General Khalid Hussein in a roadside explosion targeting their vehicles on Saturday.

…..Security forces in the province have arrested the an officer holding the rank of colonel who worlks as director of protection of vital installations on the suspicion of involvement in Saturday’s roadside bomb attack on the convoy of the former governor and provincial police chief, al-Malaf Press reports in Arabic. Local police forces had arrested Col. Mohammad Abu 'Atra, who was allegedly observed in an unauthorized place near the site of the attack shortly before the explosion. The source, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that the investigative committee, formed on the prime minister's orders and directed by an expert in criminal investigations, had interrogated Abu 'Atra, and the source did not clarify if the committee had directed specific charges against him or not. The source did confirm that the investigation was ongoing and with “tens” of suspects, who had been arrested by Iraqi security forces and by the American and Iraqi militaries.

Images show Iraq prisoners kept in wire cages

Iraq's Sunni Arab vice president promised better treatment for detainees on Saturday and released pictures from inside a Baghdad prison camp that showed hundreds of inmates packed into tented wire-mesh cages. The rare video pictures from inside an Iraqi prison were released by the office of Sunni Arab Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who visited the Rusafa prison compound in eastern Baghdad with his Shi'ite counterpart. The footage showed row upon row of outdoor tents made of wire mesh and covered with white plastic sheeting, each about the size of a basketball court and housing dozens of inmates. Prisoners, some stripped to their waists, pressed up against the mesh walls and shouted their innocence. Some chanted Saddam-era Iraqi nationalist slogans. "I have been jailed for two years and have never been put before a judge or court!" shouted one prisoner. "We are not asking for food or water. Just free us. We have committed no crimes!" said another.

Families urge government to reveal fate of loved ones

Thousands of Iraqi families know nothing about their loved ones languishing in U.S. or Iraqi jails. The number of Iraqi detainees is estimated at 40,000 and most of them have been incarcerated for long periods of time without trial. U.S. troops have their own jails spread across the country. Many Iraqis say the invaders’ main success story since landing in Baghdad has been the construction of jails. Hundreds of people gather every day at the Detainee Department, an office directly linked to the office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. They submit to the officials there names of their beloved ones arrested by U.S. or Iraqi forces. But the answers they get are discouraging. “The name is not in the lists of detainees we have,” one official would say following a quick computer search. ‘Reported missing’ is common in Iraq as the right to take people from homes and streets is not only a privilege U.S. and Iraqi troops enjoy. The so-called ‘private guards’ or foreign mercenaries, a force estimated at 40,000 strong, also have the right to capture and detain Iraqis without trial. This is in addition to scores of gangs active in major Iraqi cities that use kidnapping and ransom as a means to amass riches. Insurgent groups resort to abduction regularly and usually they ask for massive money – a means they use to finance their operations.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Oil Flows in Basra Power Vacuum

Political parties and their militias are fighting for power over the Basra government, the oil sector it controls, and the oil and fuels smuggling that bring in extra funds. The southern area, where much of Iraq’s oil wealth is located and nearly all its oil exports are sent to market, has been under the purview of British troops, who have allowed various factions to become the power base and their armed outfits to flourish. Now the British are leaving, and the intra-Shiite fighting that bloodied the streets and complicated provincial politics will explode. Even if U.S. troops, already stretched thin, are sent to mediate, the situation will likely not be calmed -- it will likely be inflamed. “It’s fundamentally related to the battle over oil,” said Reidar Visser, editor of the Iraq Web site historiae.org and an Iraq expert at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. “It’s understandable, of course, given the size of the Basra reserves.”

More tribes agree to fight al-Qaeda

Members of al-Ghazalat tribe inhabiting areas south of Baghdad and close to the religious city of Najaf have vowed to battle al-Qaeda fighters in their areas. The promise came after the kidnapping of four shepherds from the same tribe of whom no trace has been found for weeks. Qaeda is active south of Baghdad and routinely attacks highways and convoys and abduction is one of its strategic tactics to punish opponents and collect money through ransom to finance its operations. A Ghazalat have raised a force of 300 armed men but other tribes are said to have promised more men and have asked the government for supplies and weapons. Sheikh Jawad al-Ghazali, the tribe’s chief, joined by other tribal elders, attended rally in Najaf announcing the formation of “a new tribal front to fight Qaeda in southern Iraq.” Reports say more tribes have come together in central Iraq to drive Qaeda from their areas. U.S. troops furnish these tribes with weapons. But Qaeda’s influence and popularity, particularly among Sunni Iraqis, is reported to be growing and the group has recently intensified its attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces, mounting more deadly car bombings than ever before. The apparently intrepid Qaeda in Iraq has even dared to assassinate powerful Sunni tribal leaders for coordinating with the U.S. against it – the thing which even former leader Saddam Hussein would have thought twice before doing.

Mobile Phone Auction Nets Iraqi Govt $3.75B

MTC Atheer, Asiacell and Korek Telecom won the three licenses in the auction for mobile phone in Iraq, which was held on Friday morning in the Jordanian capital Amman, the Iraqi government said. “The three companies won the auction after presenting their final bids which hit $1.25 billion each and 18 percent of their annual profits,” the spokesman for the Iraqi government Ali al-Dabagh said in a statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The three companies will set up three networks of mobile phones in the country.

Key member of Sadr's Mahdi Army arrested

U.S. and Iraqi forces arrested a leading member of Jaysh al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr on Tuesday, the U.S. army said in a statement on Friday.
"Soldiers from the 8th Iraqi Army, with U.S. Special Forces as advisers, conducted a raid in eastern Najaf Aug. 14 and detained a former battalion commander of the rogue Jaysh al-Mahdi militia who is currently suspected of leading an independent Shi’a extremist group," read the U.S. army statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "The former commander’s Jaysh al-Mahdi cell is suspected of conducting aggressive insurgent attacks using explosively formed penetrators throughout southern Iraq during late 2005 and early 2006. After leaving Jaysh al-Mahdi, he allegedly formed an independent cell of more than 150 Shi’a extremists that is believed to have conducted attacks on Iraqi and Coalition Forces," the statement noted. The statement added that the cell is "also believed to have taken part in the August 2006 battle in Diwaniyah, fighting against Coalition Forces."

Extremists Demand Cars – And Maybe Girls

In Baghdad’s western al-Jami'a district, Sunni militants controlling the district have issued a decree that every family in the area owning two or more cars should donate one car to the mujahidin, residents told IraqSlogger. Meanwhile, locals observed the tactics of the powerful Mahdi Army as it ambushes US forces in Bahgdad's streets, and children in the impoverished Sadr City now use their old soccer field to scavenge scrap metal from exploded ordinance. Around the Iraqi capital, exclusive eyewitnesses to the turbulent events of the Baghdad summer told Slogger what they've seen in recent days. In al-Jami'a, in addition to the demand that resients cede their extra vehicles to the militants, there are also rumors that single women in the predominantly Sunni district will be forced to marry a “mujahid,” that is one of the extremist Sunni militants that have taken control of the area.

Top Sunni party attends crisis talks

Iraq's top Sunni party, the 'Iraqi Accord Front' has said that it will attend a political leaders meeting to end Iraq's political standoff. "The Accord will participate in the meeting that will supposedly discuss points of differences and review the political process," the Accord's spokesman Saleem Abdullah al-Jaburi told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The meeting is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
Premier Nuri al-Maliki's Shia-led cabinet has been in turmoil since the Accordance Front and Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's movement pulled out their ministers from the cabinet.

Kut local council goes on open-ended strike

The Kut local council in Wassit province will go on a strike as of Saturday in protest against a raid by an Iraqi security force working with U.S. forces, the council chief said. "All 21 members of the council demand the local administration and security authorities in the province to set up a fact-finding committee to investigate the raid and its motives," Hamid Khuzaim told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). He said an Iraqi security force "acting upon orders from the U.S. forces unjustifiably raided the municipal council building and the Kut mayorship on Thursday." "There was no search warrant issued by a government body, which makes us protest such an act and demand a probe into this raid that provoked members of the council and caused panic," said Khuzaim.

Iraqi Sunni leader promises improved prison conditions

Iraq's Sunni vice president promised better treatment and a review for the inmates crowding the country's prison system in a video released Saturday showing a boisterous welcome from prisoners jammed inside tarp-covered cages. In the visit Wednesday to the crowded eastern Baghdad prison, Tariq al-Hashemi said his moderate Sunni party was working to improve prison conditions and to free the innocent, though the party itself has not taken part in the Cabinet since Aug. 1. A Sunni political alliance, the Accordance Front, which includes al-Hashemi's Iraqi Islamic Party has pulled its five ministers out of the government, saying Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki failed to respond to a set of demands, including the release of security detainees held without charges. Rights groups also have complained about random detentions and overcrowding in Iraq's prisons. Most of the inmates are believed to be Sunnis accused of participating in the insurgency, but critics say many are innocent and have been held for long periods without charge. The video's release appeared timed to boost al-Hashemi's profile at a time when al-Maliki is trying desperately to shore up his crumbling government.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Dividing Iraq

In a report to be released next week, the Fund for Peace calls for the "managed" break-up of Iraq into three separate states with their own governments and representatives to the United Nations, but continued economic cooperation in a larger entity modeled on the European Union. Prospects of Iraqi leaders being able to establish a multiethnic democracy are now "fanciful," the nonpartisan Washington think tank says in its report titled "A Way Out: The Union of Iraqi States." Based on data tracked monthly since before the U.S. invasion in 2003, the report authored by Fund president Pauline Baker concludes that Iraq is now "near total collapse." "While there may be pockets of improvement from the 'surge,' these are transitory and limited achievements that are about four years too late . . . Rather than fight fragmentation, it would be better to manage the trend with a view toward establishing an entirely new political order," the report concludes.

Soldiers Won't Stop Work Until Bridge Rebuilt

US soldiers are working around the clock in twelve-hour shifts to rebuild the strategically important bridge in Taji that was hit by a suicide bomber in an oil tanker truck on Tuesday. Officials expect that at the current rate, the bridge could be back in operational condition in a few days. Spc. Jeffrey Lorsung, a 20-year-old from Oregon and a member of the 502nd Multi Role Bridge Company of the 92nd Engineer Battalion, told Stars and Stripes the explosion Tuesday not only completely snapped the southbound lane of the bridge, but was powerful enough to shift the neighboring northbound lane 10 feet. Several cars plunged into the canal waters below, and a reported eight civilians died in the attack. The bridge is on the critical transportation route, Highway 1, between Baghdad and Mosul. Al Qaeda in Iraq were suspected to be behind the destruction of the bridge, which was likely chosen in attempt to disrupt US supply convoys that rely on it for transporting critical necessities to Army bases north of Baghdad. Military officials at Camp Taji told S&S that while there may be shortfalls in some nonessential supplies in the short term, military operations would not suffer. They also reported that the military is considering closing the bridge to civilian traffic after the reconstruction is complete.

Iran willing to help Iraqi casualties

The Islamic Republic of Iran has sent a letter to the Iraqi government to announce its readiness to help the wounded of the Mosul blasts. An official from the Iranian Embassy in Iraq expressed Iran's deepest sympathy for the victims and their families and declared his country's willingness to transfer the wounded to Iran for medical supervision, IRNA reported Thursday. "Iran comprehends the Iraqis' suffering from terrorist actions and is always ready to send humanitarian aids to Iraq," the official said on the condition of anonymity. The official added that Iran is prepared to provide clinical facilities to the Iraqis wounded in Tuesday's blasts in Sinjar district of northern Mosul.

Security improves in Iraq despite attacks: US general

Security in Iraq is improving despite a wave of car bombings that include the worst single attack since the US-led invasion in 2003, the number-two leader of US forces in Iraq said Friday. General Raymond Odierno said that the US "surge" troop hike launched in January is "beginning to pay off" despite the massive attack in northern Iraq which killed more than 400. Four suicide bombers packed two tonnes of explosives into their trucks and attacked members of the ancient Yazidi religious sect in the deadliest incident since the war began. "Despite this attack, security across Iraq is generally improving," said Odierno, speaking via teleconference from Iraq. "Yes, we continue to face setbacks here in Iraq," Odierno acknowledged, "but overall we continue to make steady progress." "Al-Qaeda is forced to undertake its spectacular events in more remote parts of the country, rather than in the capital. And we no longer see the cycle of sectarian revenge that plagued Iraq last year," he said. [I can only surmise that he is a total idiot – or the real plan is to get Iraqis to kill Iraqis until none are left. – dancewater]


COMMENTARY

Puppets on a String

But this desk of mine was getting really out of control...like everything else. So here I am sorting it out, or trying to... And I fall on a tiny piece of paper, and on it was one of my lousy drawings. And it was called “Puppet on a string”. Meanwhile, the TV was blasting. And on,came the news : “Maliki is forming a new alliance to save the government." A new alliance ? Save it ? From whom? I smiled...I knew it all along...
Maliki declared today that a new alliance is formed. An alliance of 4 parties.

- The Dawa party of which he is a member. Other members of the Dawa party are: Al Jaafari and Muqtada al Sadr and his drill boys.
- The other party is the Supreme Islamic Revolutionary Council of Iran - sorry meant Iraq. The SIRCI headed by his “eminence” (hahaha) Adbel Aziz Al Hakeem.
- The third party is the Jalal Talabani party, our buffoon /mossad agent/ president, of the Kurdish Patriotic Front and
- The fourth is none other than the other mossad agent/crook, M.Barazani of the Kurdish Democratic Party.

So our new government is made of Shias loyal to Iran and Kurds loyal to Iran and Israel...and both are loyal to America. Oh wow...what a novelty! Absent are: the Sunni Alliance and the butcher of Falluja, Allawi. Ladies and Gentlemen, please meet Israel and Iran in Baghdad. And who said that enemies can’t be lovers?

The losses and benefits of a U.S. withdrawal

What will the Americans lose if they withdraw from Iraq? This question is more practical than the rhetorical one politicians have normally asked in their political ramblings, namely what will the Americans gain from staying in Iraq? The presence of American soldiers on Iraqi territory is not without a heavy price. Nonetheless the current U.S. administration is not yet convinced that in the case of Iraq diplomacy, economic incentives and intelligence may give a result better than the deployment of troops. There are numerous countries where the U.S. has no troops but exercises almost complete hegemony. One wonders why the U.S. persists on paying such a high price by stationing troops in Arab and Muslim countries, increasing their populations’ hatred of America. But let us suppose the U.S. suddenly decides to take its troops home. Of course the Americans will lose – if they have not already – their credibility and prestige. The Americans may say their withdrawal will pave the way for al-Qaeda to rule Iraq. But this anti-U.S. group had no foothold in the country when Marines landed in Baghdad. Many Iraqis now think that a U.S. withdrawal will spell the end of Qaeda in Iraq. Such a retreat will increase Iraqi hopes that the terrorism that came to their country on the heels of the invaders will most probably accompany them when they leave.

HISTORY

Texan oilman pleads guilty in oil-for-food case

Texas oilman David Chalmers and two companies he owns pleaded guilty on Friday to paying millions of dollars in secret kickbacks to Iraq in connection with the United Nations oil-for-food program. Chalmers, 53, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, just weeks before he was due to go on trial with Texas oil tycoon Oscar Wyatt. Earlier on Friday, Ludmil Dionissiev, a Bulgarian oil trader based in Houston, pleaded guilty to smuggling. Prosecutors said Dionissiev, 61, worked with Chalmers to buy Iraqi oil for Chalmers' companies -- Bayoil USA Inc and Bayoil Supply and Trading Ltd. The $67 billion oil-for-food program began in 1996 and ended in 2003 to ease the impact of sanctions imposed on Saddam Hussein's government after it invaded Kuwait in 1990. The charges against Chalmers and his co-defendants stemmed from Iraq's requirement from 2000 to 2003 that recipients of oil should pay a secret surcharge, in violation of U.N. sanctions and U.S. law, to front companies and bank accounts controlled by the Iraqi government.

And this comes as no surprise from Wikipedia: Chalmers was a leading contributor to Republican political coffers prior to his indictment, according to FEC disclosure documents.


Mass grave of Kurdish women, children uncovered in southern Iraq

A mass grave of 150 women and an unspecified number of children dating back to the late 1980s was recently found in the residential district of al-Hussein in central Amara. The area, used as a cemetery, which covers an area of 50 donums (69400 square meters), also contains bodies of newly born babies - "martyrs" - from the May 1941 Revolution and strangers, according to Missan province's Human Rights Office. Hashim Jaafar al-Mousawi, who guards the cemetery, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) that it was only him and his mother who knew that the cemetery also contained bodies of Kurdish women and children who were buried together in the late 1980s.
"In 1987 security elements under the former regime brought Kurdish families from the Kurdistan region to Amara. It was reported that Saddam killed the men (in their hometowns) and brought the women and children (to Amara) to punish them for their continued opposition to his regime," the guard said. "Afterwards an estimated 150 women, in addition to an unspecified number of children, were killed and buried in this mass grave," he added.

…..According to a report released by the Iraqi government's High Committee on Mass Graves, 240 mass graves have been discovered in Iraq so far, mostly in Iraq's central, southern and central Euphrates provinces. Half of the graves found in Samawa, the capital city of Iraq's southern province of Muthanna, contained bodies of Kurdish citizens who were allegedly forced out of their hometowns in northern Iraq and exterminated, the report said. When asked about the reason why he did not reveal the grave after the collapse of the former regime in 2003, al-Mousawi said that he did not want the grave to be used for "propaganda purposes," adding, "But the time has come."

IRAQI REFUGEES

Iraqi Red Crescent Report on IDPs

Since Samarra' events on 22 March 2006, there has been a population movement (internal displacement) all over Iraq, which is intensifying an already unstable situation. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that 1.8 million Iraqi citizens were displaced to neighboring countries mainly to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Egypt. By 31 July 2007, there were 1,128,086 Internally Displaced People (IDP), of which 38.7% were children (less than 12 years), 31.9% were women and 29.4% were men. After declaring the new security plan (February 2007), the Iraqi

Government decided to apply part of this plan for the return of refugees and IDP who were forcefully displaced. The UNHCR expects that 40,000-50,000 people will be displaced each month even if this security plan succeeds to solve the displacement problem. Currently, the number of displaced people is increasing at an average of 80,000- 100,000 each month.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project

RESISTANCE

Iraqi Embassy protest over union busting

U.S. labor leaders rallying outside the Iraqi Embassy in Washington pressed the prime minister to uphold workers' rights as oil workers are targeted in Basra. Iraq's Oil Ministry has called the oil unions illegal and barred its departments and companies from any dealings with them. Dozens rallied in front of the embassy Thursday as a letter from AFL-CIO President John Sweeney to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was presented to the embassy, demanding the government recognize the rights of workers. "It is crucial that workers in Iraq have these basic rights recognized," said AFL-CIO International Department Director Barbara Shailor. The unions have demanded improved working conditions for months, as well as a voice in negotiations over an oil law they fear, if passed, would give foreign and private companies too much access to Iraq's oil.

Iraq Moratorium Day – September 21 and every third Friday thereafter ~ "I hereby make a commitment that on Friday, September 21, 2007, and the third Friday of every subsequent month I will break my daily routine and take some action, by myself or with others, to end the War in Iraq."

Quote of the day: A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history. -- Mohandas K. Gandhi

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