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

Monday, August 20, 2007

News & Views 08/20/07

Photo: Residents look at a mortar shell lying on the ground after an attack in a village near the town of Qal'at Dizah, 325 km (200 miles) north of Baghdad, August 19, 2007. Frightened villagers hid in caves in Iraq's mountainous northeast while others fled on Monday, saying four days of intermittent shelling by the Iranian military had destroyed farms and killed livestock. There has so far been no comment so far from Tehran or Baghdad about the shelling. Picture taken August 19, 2007.



Photos of Demonstration in Sadr City

Caught Between the U.S. and Al-Qaeda

The major U.S. military operation in Baquba city north of Baghdad has ended, but it has left continuing suffering for residents in its wake. The U.S. military launched Operation Arrowhead Ripper in Baquba, 50 km northeast of Baghdad, on Jun. 18. Baquba is the capital city of Iraq's Diyala province. The stated goal of the operation was to eradicate al-Qaeda from the city and other areas in the province. The region has seen some of the highest number of attacks on U.S. troops. Shortly after launching the operation, the U.S. military admitted that nearly 80 percent of al-Qaeda militants had fled the area. Residents had been looking for an end to raids and abductions by criminal gangs and sectarian death squads, but the U.S. military operation brought no relief. "People here feel afraid because the coalition forces always push al-Qaeda out of the cities, but unfortunately they return when the troops retreat," resident Mohammed Hulail told IPS. "So the coalition forces can provide no solution."

A Baquba city official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS that al-Qaeda militants had already returned to parts of the city. "We are now sure that Iraqi police and army cannot defeat al-Qaeda who are well fortified in the streets and buildings." Residents have learnt to fear enemies on all sides. "People are the victims of this war because they are in the middle point between the American forces and the fighters of al-Qaeda," Jabbar Ibrahim, a secondary school teacher in the city told IPS. "The fighters of al-Qaeda came to control the city, but when the U.S. troops came to fight them, they ran away, leaving civilians to face the shells and the bombs." Many residents complain of indiscriminate arrests through the U.S. forces' search for al-Qaeda suspects. "Arrests are sometimes made wrongly; simple people who have nothing to do with fighting and violence were arrested, and those who were the real fighters ran away," a resident who declined to give his name told IPS. The Iraqi Islamic Party has accused the Multi-National Forces operating in the area of killing many people in Baquba in the early weeks of the operation. "The operations led by the U.S. forces in western Baquba led to the death of more than 350 people, most of whom are still under the rubble," the party said in a statement. Many residents in this city of 300,000 say that operation Arrowhead Ripper has made living conditions worse. "We spent 12 days without water, electricity and food," Hamid Shaaban, a 51-year-old retired city official told IPS, "And U.S. forces were of little help."

Survivors of bombs left to die in rubble

A SENIOR official in the Iraqi region that suffered the country’s worst suicide attacks suggested this weekend that any remaining survivors trapped beneath rubble would be left to die. Colonel Najim Abdullah, the governor of Tal Afar, said there were insufficient resources to continue searching for people among the ruins of Qahtaniya and Adnaniya, two villages devastated by multiple truck bombings last Tuesday. Up to 200 people are still thought to be unaccounted for, taking the death toll past 500. The victims were mainly members of the Yazidi minority sect, which has made its home around the Sinjar mountains, close to the border with Syria. “We do not have the real potential to tackle the problem,” said Abdullah. “If we are not even able to provide residents with ration cards, how can we save them now under the rubble?” The bombings, which the American army has blamed on Al-Qaeda, brought carnage to an area that had previously escaped the worst of Iraq’s violence, and highlighted the precarious position of the country’s religious minorities. The Yazidis are one of Iraq’s most ancient and mysterious sects. Mainly ethnic Kurds, their religion blends elements of Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Zoroastrianism. They worship Malak Taus, the Peacock Angel, one of seven archangels who ruled the universe after it was created by God, and do not believe in evil, sin or hell. Wednesday is their holy day.

City in a Time Warp

War is pushing Baghdad out of the 21st century and back to a bygone age of ferrymen, midwives, donkey drivers and shepherds. Now, with his former livelihood in ashes and his college degree in Arabic languages all but useless, he makes ends meet the same way his father did nearly half a century ago—as a boatman on the Tigris River. The boat itself is the very one that his father operated when Ritha was just a baby. Now it's Ritha who ferries passengers back and forth across the river, past the ruins of bridges that used to be heavy with traffic. Corpses drift with the current, many of them bound and blindfolded, and the sight of them horrifies the 43-year-old book lover. But every time insurgents blow up another bridge, his ferry business gets busier.

….. The collapse of municipal water services has revived the profession of well-digging, especially in the Green Zone, where foreign diplomats are reluctant to give up their flush toilets and showers. Donkey and horse carts are increasingly common on the capital's streets; the animals are cheaper than trucks and less likely to be held up in searches for hidden explosives. (A few years ago, after insurgents launched a rocket attack on the Palestine Hotel from a donkey cart, U.S. military investigators were able to follow the singed and ornery critter home, where they detained its owner.) On the lawns of mansions whose former owners are dead or in exile, shepherds now pasture flocks of sheep and goats, a sight that might be idyllic if not for the inescapable din of a city at war.

…. Midwives are another basic necessity now back from oblivion. The 1980s and '90s were lean times for their profession, thanks to the rise of medical facilities in Baghdad. "Hospitals were everywhere, and pregnant women were keen to give birth in hospitals for fear of the lack of sanitary conditions [at home]," recalls a 58-year-old midwife who for safety asks to be identified only as Umm Ahmad—"mother of Ahmad." She was trained by her grandmothers and delivered her first patient's baby in 1970. These days, however, not even maternity wards are reliably safe from in surgents and death squads. "My job is flourishing again, after being forgotten for many long years," says Umm Ahmad. Before the 2003 invasion she was delivering only one or two babies a week. Now she gets one a day, and sometimes more. The at-home birthing business is so hot that amateurs are crowding in. Back in the Saddam era, midwives were required to have licenses from the Ministry of Health, and many of them had nursing-school diplomas. "We would give them lectures once a week, train them and give them gloves, scissors and other medical equipment," says Dr. Eman Atra, an obstetrician who worked with midwives before the war. "We would not issue a birth certificate for [deliveries by] nonregistered midwives." But now, she says, the profession is effectively unregulated: "I cannot control an unregistered midwife or refuse to issue a birth certificate for the kids she helps deliver. I fear she might send someone to kill me." (Maternity wards are far from empty even now, partly because so many expectant mothers are choosing to have Caesarian sections. It's one way to cut the risk of going into labor at night, when curfews and trigger-happy security personnel can make the streets even more dangerous than usual.)

US troops kill 8 Sadr's supporters

US troops have killed 8 people loyal to Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who is an outspoken critic of the occupation of Iraq by the US. The US military on Monday confirmed the incident without providing further details. An official in Sadr's Baghdad office said that residents of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad protested against the attack, calling on President Jalal Talabani and Premier Nouri al-Maliki to halt the violation of human rights by US forces.

US raid kills 10, injures 12 in Iraq

US forces have killed ten Iraqi civilians and wounded twelve others in a dawn raid, near Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, police officials say. US helicopters raided the town of al-Bu Abdi, 35 kilometers north of Baquba, on Monday destroying several houses, independent Voices of Iraq news agency reported citing a police source.

United States detain nearly 800 juveniles in Iraq

US troops are holding nearly 800 children and teenagers on a Baghdad base, boys who are largely illiterate and picked up for allegedly planting bombs and now the focus of a multi-million-dollar education project. Dressed in orange jumpsuits reminiscent of the uniforms of terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, the youngsters aged 10 to 17 attend a US-run school seven days a week, eight hours a day, in order to mend their ways. Equipped with four football pitches, 18 classrooms and a library, the school is stocked with television sets, DVDs, Harry Potter in Arabic, text books, white boards, rows of desks and chairs, and hot lunches. Running around barefoot on the stony sports field, trousers rolled to their knees and kicking a ball around, they shriek with delight as American soldiers stand watch from a guard tower next to giant blast walls. Inside, soldiers stand with pepper spray ready, sunglasses clamped round their heads, keeping watch as civilian Iraqi teachers try to instil basic grammar and arithmetic into teenagers who can barely read or write. “Where are the mountains in Iraq?” asks the teacher in a geography class for around 30 largely enthusiastic boys aged 11 to 13. One boy scrapes back his chair on the concrete floor. “North of Baghdad,” he chirps, plopping down pleased with himself in a line of pubescent boys proudly sporting downy fluff on their upper lips. The number of overall security detainees in Iraq has skyrocketed in the six months since General David Petraeus flooded the nation with thousands more soldiers, to lift the total to 165,000 American troops, designed to quell the sectarian conflict and insurgency.

Sadr City residents protest human rights violations

Residents of Sadr City, eastern Baghdad, staged a sit-in on Monday in protest against "human rights violations" by U.S. forces against civilians in the city, a media source from Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr's office said. "The residents will stage a peaceful march starting from Sadr's office, which will end at the municipal council building near the entrance to the city, to protest recent human rights violations by U.S. forces," the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). He said, "thousands of local residents will participate in this demonstration to demand the president and prime minister to work towards stopping such violations, raids and random arrests against the Sadr City people." No comment from the U.S. forces on the protest was avaliable.


Our great Prime Minister repeats always a sentence as if he wants us to believe him because he knows very well that no one ever believe anything he says. He always keeps saying Iraq is a sovereign country”. Well, let me tell you few things about this great sovereignty. When I come to the office everyday, I pass through Sadoon Streetor the beating heart of Baghdad as we used to call it. It was once the most beautiful street in Baghdad. There are many cinemas and cafes where couples used to meet. We used to buy the Swiss watches. Now, we can see nothing but the blast walls that killed the street. A big part of the street is controlled by a foreign side. People say different things, some of them talks about US security companies while others talk about foreign intelligence agencies. Anyway whoever controls Sadoon Street, its not the Iraqi government which means that our Prime Minister doesn’t tell the truth which means that we are not really sovereign country. When a government can’t control a street, its not a government, its only a groups of puppets. When a government can’t provide the minimum level of security, its just a shadow, when a government take the instruction from other places than its country, its just a shadow. Its time to get ride of all the Iraqi puppets in the Green Zone and start searching for real Iraqi in others places no matter north or south , Sunnis or Shiite or even from any minority . the most important thing is to find real men who serve Iraq not the puppet in the white house.

Kurds flee homes as Iran shells villages in Iraq

Iraqi Kurdish officials expressed deepening concern yesterday at an upsurge in fierce clashes between Kurdish guerrillas and Iranian forces in the remote border area of north-east Iraq, where Tehran has recently deployed thousands of Revolutionary Guards. Jabar Yawar, a deputy minister in the Kurdistan regional government, said four days of intermittent shelling by Iranian forces had hit mountain villages high up on the Iraqi side of the border, wounding two women, destroying livestock and property, and displacing about 1,000 people from their homes. Mr Yawer said there had also been intense fighting on the Iraqi border between Iranian forces and guerrillas of the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), an armed Iranian Kurdish group that is stepping up its campaign for Kurdish rights against the theocratic regime in Tehran.

Second Iraqi governor killed as Shiite rifts deepen

Bombers killed an Iraqi provincial governor on Monday -- the second assassinated in two weeks -- amid mounting tension between rival Shiite armed factions in Iraq's southern cities. Brigadier General Kadhim al-Jayashi, chief of police in the city of Samawa, said the governor of the southern Iraqi province of Muthanna, Mohammed Ali al-Hassani, was killed by a roadside bomb on his way to work. "Police leaders have imposed a curfew on Samawa after the assassination," he told AFP. "We have formed a committee to investigate." Hassani is the second Shiite governor to be killed within a fortnight, amid growing signs of conflict between rival political and militia factions within the country's majority community.

Conflict blamed for increase in number of sterile men

Youssef Obeidi, 32, last week left Karada Hospital’s family planning clinic with news that he will not be able to have children unless he undergoes lengthy treatment to reverse his sterility. Doctors told him that in war conditions, there is a higher chance men can become sterile. “For three years I have been blaming my wife because she couldn’t get pregnant. But after a long examination in this clinic, a doctor said that she was fine and in perfect condition to become a mother. For this reason, I had to have myself checked,” Obeidi said. “Initially I refused [to be tested] because in our Arab society it is a disgrace for any man to be sterile. But later my desire to become a father overcame this and I went to the clinic, where I learnt that I couldn’t become a father because the low speed of my sperms cannot fertilize an ovule,” he added. According to Dr Muhammad Bashier, manager of the family planning clinic in Karada Hospital, Baghdad, the number of sterile men in Iraq has increased dramatically over the past four years as a result of stress, depression and exposure to radiation and possibly chemicals.

Roadside Justice in Tarmiya

Eyewitnesses in the city of Tarmiya observed a public execution of an alleged member of al-Qaeda. Three cars stopped suddenly in the side of the road on Thursday and a man was snatched from one of the vehicles. According to the eyewitnesses in the small city about 15 miles north of Baghdad on the Tigris River, the men filing out of the automobiles formed an impromptu "court" and the presiding "judge" ordered that the apprehended man be executed on the crime of "treason," with no further explanations handed down. The masked gunmen ordered a young man, identified as a new recruit, to execute the handcuffed man. The victim’s body fell slack as the volunteer fired his pistol. The group sped off, leaving the corpse by the roadside. The whole operation lasted no more than 10 minutes, the eyewitnesses said. Sources could not identify the affiliation of the hit squad.


US Uses Sunnis To Patrol Streets

THE United States is recruiting Sunni Arabs to protect neighbourhoods across a wide area of central Iraq. The initiative has generated deep scepticism among some members of the Shiite-led Iraqi Government, who fear the strategy could intensify already intense sectarian warfare. The US military says it is not arming the new forces, at least initially, but in some areas tribal groups bring their own weapons. At the weekend, in the ravaged Sunni neighbourhood of Ghazaliya, freshly recruited members of the local force were on display in new cargo pants and body armour during a visit by the US commander, General David Petraeus, and the US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker. Both made it clear the US saw the creation of the so-called Guardian forces as a major initiative to improve security. The effort is loosely based on successes the US has had in Anbar, the desert province where Sunni tribes have been paid to ally themselves with US-led coalition forces in fighting insurgent groups.


Contractors in Iraq Have Become U.S. Crutch

When years from now historians and government officials reexamine precedents
set by the U.S. experience in Iraq, many "firsts" are likely to pop up. One still playing out is the extraordinarily wide use of private contractors. A Congressional Research Service report published last month titled "Private Security Contractors in Iraq: Background, Legal Status, and Other Issues," puts it this way: "Iraq appears to be the first case where the U.S. government has used private contractors extensively for protecting persons and property in potentially hostile or hostile situations where host country security forces are absent or deficient." Only estimates are available for the total employment by contractors in Iraq that perform "functions once carried by the U.S. military," according to the study. Testimony at an April 2007 congressional hearing gave the impressive figure of 127,000 as the number working in Iraq under Defense Department contracts. Breakdowns don't exist, but one Pentagon official said less than 20 percent were American. CIA and the Pentagon intelligence agencies have hired contractors in Iraq, but the tasks and the funds involved are secret.

Iran "massing troops near northern Kurdish region"

Iranian troops are reportedly massing along the northeastern stretch of the Iran-Iraq border near Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, sources in Hajj Omran town in the northern Arbil province said Sunday. …..Military attacks targeting the two Kurdish groups are not uncommon. Only last Thursday, Iranian and Turkish forces shelled two northern Iraqi border cities in the autonomous region. On the same day, a group of Kurdish villages were bombed while an intense Iranian strike on the province of Sulaimaniya was also reported.

6 die as army copter crashes near northern Iraq

An Iranian army helicopter crashed in bad weather in a mountainous region near northern Iraq, killing six military personnel, Iranian media reported yesterday. Five people were injured in the crash, which happened during maneuvers involving Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards on Friday, the ISNA news agency reported. Mohammad Hadisar, governor of the northwestern city of Piranshahr, said the helicopter came down while transporting troops and equipment and blamed it on the weather and a "technical problem", ISNA said. Another Iranian news agency, Mehr, said it crashed during a military operation against the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an Iranian offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which is fighting for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey.

Another American Jerk Speaks Up: Iraqi government should be voted out


Iraq trial revives bitter memories of "US betrayal"

Fifteen former members of Saddam Hussein's regime go on trial in a U.S.-backed court on Tuesday for their role in the crushing of a Shi'ite uprising in 1991, but many Shi'ites still talk bitterly of an American betrayal. The trial is likely to revive debate over former U.S. President George Bush's decision not to invade Iraq after forcing Iraqi troops out of Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War. With no threat of invasion, Saddam was able to use his elite Republican Guard units to swiftly suppress uprisings in the Shi'ite south and Kurdish north that erupted just days after the Feb. 28 ceasefire ending the Gulf War. Bush has since argued that while he hoped a popular revolt would topple Saddam, he did not want to see the break-up of the Iraqi state and feared the collapse of the multi-national coalition, including Arab states, that he had assembled. "I just want to laugh when I hear American politicians talk about spreading democracy in the Middle East. I ask them: `Why then did you allow Saddam to kill women and children when the Iraqi people revolted against his dictatorship?" said Mohammed al-Jawahiry, 32, a doctor in the southern city of Basra.

Quote of the day: "When I tell the truth, it is not for the sake of convincing those who do not know it, but for the sake of defending those that do." ~ William Blake