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

Thursday, August 23, 2007

News & Views 08/23/07

Photo: Bodies of villagers who were killed by al Qaeda fighters are transported by a police vehicle into a hospital morgue in Baquba, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad, August 23, 2007. Al Qaeda fighters kidnapped 15 Iraqi women and children after rival Sunni Arab militants repelled their attack on two villages in a fierce battle on Thursday in which 32 people were killed, police said. (Helmiy al-Azawi/Reuters)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Militias seizing control of grid, starving Baghdad of electricity

Armed groups increasingly control the antiquated switching stations that channel electricity around Iraq, the electricity minister said Wednesday. That is dividing the national grid into fiefs that, he said, often refuse to share electricity generated locally with Baghdad and other power-starved areas in the center of Iraq. The development adds to existing electricity problems in Baghdad, which has been struggling to provide power for more than a few hours a day because insurgents regularly blow up the towers that carry power lines into the city. The government lost the ability to control the grid centrally after the American-led invasion in 2003, when looters destroyed electrical dispatch centers, the minister, Karim Wahid, said in a news briefing attended also by United States military officials. The briefing had been intended, in part, to highlight successes in the American-financed reconstruction program here. But it took an unexpected turn when Wahid, a highly respected technocrat and longtime ministry official, began taking questions from Arab and Western journalists. Because of the lack of functioning dispatch centers, Wahid said, ministry officials have been trying to control the flow of electricity from huge power plants in the south, north and west by calling local officials there and ordering them to physically flip switches. But the officials refuse to follow those orders when the armed groups threaten their lives, he said, and the often isolated stations are abandoned at night and easily manipulated by whatever group controls the area. This kind of manipulation can cause the entire system to collapse and bring nationwide blackouts, sometimes seriously damaging the generating plants that the United States has paid millions of dollars to repair. Such a collapse took place just last week, the State Department reported in a recent assessment, which said the provinces' failure to share electricity resulted in a "massive loss of power" on Aug. 14 at 5 p.m.

Women, children taken in fierce Iraq Qaeda battle

Al Qaeda fighters kidnapped 15 Iraqi women and children after rival Sunni Arab militants repelled their attack on two villages in a fierce battle on Thursday in which 32 people were killed, police said. The fighting, rare on such a large scale, underscored the growing split between Sunni Arab militant groups and al Qaeda that U.S. forces have sought to exploit as they try to quell sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands.

…..Brigadier-General Ali Delayan, the police chief of Baquba, told Reuters that 22 residents had been killed in the fighting along with 10 al Qaeda fighters. Several wounded residents said villagers were loyal to the Sunni Arab insurgent group, the 1920 Revolution Brigade. Delayan said the attackers had escaped with eight women and seven children as hostages.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraqi soldiers threaten to kill Sunni leader

Iraqi soldiers have threatened to kill one of Iraq's senior Sunni Arab political leaders this week, his political bloc said on Thursday. The Accordance Front, the biggest Sunni Arab bloc in parliament, said soldiers from the 30th Brigade of the Iraqi Army's 5th Division arrived at the offices of the Front's leader, Adnan al-Dulaimi, in western Baghdad on Wednesday. The Front, which triggered a crisis this month by withdrawing its six ministers from Iraq's Shi'ite-led government, said in a statement that the soldiers had first threatened Dulaimi's security guards. It quoted their commander, identified only as Colonel Raheem, as saying: "We will cut off the head of Adnan al-Dulaimi and your heads, and we will blow up this office and your houses." No comment was available from either the Iraqi military or the Defence Ministry.

Fmr Bush Iraq Envoy Helping Undermine Maliki

Republican lobbyists with close ties to the Bush administration are aiding and supporting the efforts of an Iraqi opposition leader who is calling for the ouster of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The anti-Maliki crusader is former Iraqi interim prime minister Ayad Allawi, and the Washington firm retained to spearhead U.S.-focused efforts on his behalf is the Republican powerhouse group of Barbour, Griffith, and Rogers (BGR).

…..On its Web site, BGR describes itself as a "privately-owned Republican firm," and its founders and top executives include recently-departed Bush administration veterans, one-time Republican party leaders, and major Bush campaign contributors. Allawi is not new to the world of Washington lobbyists. In 2004, while interim Iraqi prime minister, Allawi spent nearly $400,000 with the Washington lobbying firm of Theros and Theros. Allawi's relationship with BGR apparently is relatively new, however, because official Justice Department and Senate lobbyist tracking records provide no indication of the BGR-Allawi relationship.

Tribes Attack Mahdi Army in Baghdad

A brief truce between rural Sunni tribes and Shi'a militants in and around Baghdad’s lawless southwestern zone broke down on Tuesday, Slogger sources report, as tribal forces aligned with Sunni extremists launched an attack on urban strongholds of the Shi'a Mahdi Army. The al-Qa'ida-aligned tribesmen attacked the Shi'a district of al-Shurta al-Khamisa, with support from al-Qa'ida fighters. Members of the al-Quryan and al-Zoba' tribes moved in on al-Shurta district from the rural Radhwaniya area, outside the city, southwest of Bahgdad International Airport. The attack shattered a two-month truce between the warring militants. The Sunni tribes and their rival Shi'a militiamen had observed a cease-fire in the southwestern Baghad areas of al-Shurta, and al-Suwaib, which border the rural areas just outside the city’s urban zone that have been a stronghold of Sunni extremist groups. Residents report that over fifteen people were killed during the attack, among them civilians.

Iraq calls for water treaty to avert crisis

Iraq on Thursday called for a water treaty with neighbours that share the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, saying a deal was needed to avoid a crisis. The two great rivers converge in Iraq and are its main water resource. Both flow south from Turkey, the Euphrates first winding through Syria while the Tigris passes straight into northern Iraq. "The problem is growing and we need an agreement. There is speculation that the next regional war will be about water, but more conflict does not achieve anything," Water Resources Minister Abdul Latif Rasheed told Reuters in the Syrian capital. "Iraq could fall into crisis, especially if we don't have more information from our neighbours and an idea of the state of their projects and if we end up without a fair share of the water," he said. Rasheed said the looming danger came from Turkey, which has been damming the Euphrates and is expected to add the most land under cultivation, further worsening water quality downstream.

Iraq's Maliki inks Syrian border pact

The delegation of visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and their Syrian counterparts signed an agreement Tuesday to bolster security along the two countries' porous 466-mile border, which US military officials say is the crossing point for most of the foreign fighters in Iraq. "This agreement is very important because it will mark a permanent and cooperative effort to secure our border," Mr. Maliki said Wednesday morning in Damascus. The pact marks the first formalized security deal between the two countries, which have shared long-standing suspicions of each other since the rule of Saddam Hussein. It also comes at a time when both Baghdad and Washington are looking for help across the Middle East to ease the relentless violence in Iraq. Last month, Iran agreed to join a security subcommittee with their US and Iraqi counterparts.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

US soldiers arrest Iraqi policemen after bomb attack

Nine Iraqi policemen in Baghdad have been detained by U.S. forces on suspicion of involvement in a roadside bomb attack near a police checkpoint, the U.S. military said on Thursday. The policemen were detained during a security sweep in Baghdad's notoriously dangerous southern Rashid district on Tuesday and were being held for questioning, the military said. The Iraqi police are widely viewed as deeply infiltrated by Shi'ite militias, which are blamed for attacks on U.S. troops and members of Iraq's minority Sunni Arab community.

Syria presses Iraq on U.S. troop pullout

The presence of foreign troops has "brought radical forces and inflamed the cycle of violence," Syria's official news agency SANA quoted [Syrian Prime Minister Naji] Ottri as saying. Ottri said Syria supports efforts by neighboring countries to increase security, but Damascus believes that "putting a timetable for troop withdrawal will enhance possibilities of reconciliation among Iraqi people," according to SANA. Ottri's comments echoed remarks by Iranian officials during al-Maliki's visit to their country this month. The Iranian and Syrian remarks together illustrate the competing pressures on the Iraqi government from the United States on one hand and Washington's two Mideast rivals on the other.

COMMENTARY

Vietnam Rejects Bush’s Iraq Comparison

"Doesn't he realize that if the US had stayed in Vietnam longer, they would have killed more people?" said Vu Huy Trieu of Hanoi, a veteran who fought against US troops in Vietnam. "Nobody regrets that the Vietnam war wasn't prolonged except Bush." Vietnam's official government spokesman offered a more measured response. "With regard to the American war in Vietnam, everyone knows that we fought to defend our country and that this was a righteous war of the Vietnamese people," said foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung. "And we all know that the war caused tremendous suffering and losses to the Vietnamese people." Mr Dung said Vietnam hoped that the Iraq conflict would be resolved "very soon, in an orderly way, and that the Iraqi people will do their best to rebuild their country".

…………The US could not have overcome the will of the Vietnamese people no matter how many bombs it dropped, said Mr Trieu. "Does he think the US could have won if they had stayed longer?" Mr Trieu asked. "No way." The only way to restore order in Iraq was for the US to leave, said Trinh Xuan Thang, a Hanoi university student. "Bush sent troops to invade Iraq and created all the problems there," he said, adding, "Suicide bombing was unheard of before." If the US withdrew, he said, the violence might escalate in the short term but the situation would eventually stabilise. "Let the Iraqis determine their fate by themselves," Mr Thang said. "They don't need American troops there."

The Iraqis Don’t Deserve Us

There you have it. We overthrew Saddam's Sunni minority and the Iraqis elected the Shias into power, and all those old Iranian acolytes who had grown up under the Islamic Revolution in exile from the Iraq-Iran war - Jaafari was a senior member of the Islamic Dawaa party which was enthusiastically seizing Western hostages in Beirut in the 1980s and trying to blow up our friend the Emir of Kuwait - were voted into power. So blame the Iranians for their "interference" in Iraq when Iran's own creatures had been voted into power. And now, get rid of Maliki. Chap doesn't know how to unify his own people, for God's sake. No interference, of course. It's up to the Iraqis, or at least, it's up to the Iraqis who live under American protection in the green zone. The word in the Middle East - where the "plot" (al-moammarer) has the power of reality - is that Maliki's cosy trips to Tehran and Damascus these past two weeks have been the final straw for the fantasists in Washington. Because Iran and Syria are part of the axis of evil or the cradle of evil or whatever nonsense Bush and his cohorts and the Israelis dream up, take a look at the $30bn in arms heading to Israel in the next decade in the cause of "peace".

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project

RESISTANCE

Iraq Oil Law – two petitions to sign at this link, already signed by prominent Iraqi and American activists.

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 time will come when a politician who has willfully made war and promoted international dissension will be as sure of the dock and much surer of the noose than a private homicide. It is not reasonable that those who gamble with men's lives should not stake their own.” - H.G. Wells

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