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 25, 2007

News & Views 08/25/07

Photo: A man grieves after a relative was killed during clashes between U.S. forces and suspected insurgents in Baghdad's Shula district, August 24, 2007. (Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters)


PHOTOS: Iraqis Overwhelm One-day Medical Clinic

Photos taken in Ghazaliya neighborhood in Baghdad.

Number of Iraqis Held by U.S. Is Swelling

The number of detainees held by the American-led military coalition in Iraq has swelled by 50 percent under the troop increase ordered by President Bush, with the inmate population growing from 16,000 in February to 24,500 today, according to American military officers in Iraq. Nearly 85 percent of the detainees in custody are Sunni Arabs, the minority faction in Iraq that ruled the country under the government of Saddam Hussein, with the other detainees being Shiite Muslims, the officers say. Of the Sunni detainees, about 1,800 claim allegiance to a group that calls itself Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, military officers said. Another 6,000 identify themselves as takfiris, meaning Muslims who believe some other Muslims are not true believers. Such extremists view Shiite Muslims as heretics. Those statistics would seem to indicate that the main inspiration of the hard-core Sunni insurgency is no longer a desire to restore the old order - a movement that drew from former Baath party members and security officials who served under Hussein - and has become religious and ideological.

But military officers say a large number Iraqi detainees say money is a significant reason they planted roadside bombs or shot at coalition and Iraqi forces. "Interestingly, we've found that the vast majority are not inspired by jihad or hate for the coalition or Iraqi government - the vast majority are inspired by money," said Capt. John Fleming of the Navy, who is spokesman for coalition detainee operations in Iraq. "The primary motivator is economic - they're angry men because they don't have jobs," he said. "The detainee population is overwhelmingly illiterate and unemployed. Extremists have been very successful at spreading their ideology to economically strapped Iraqis with little to no formal education." According to statistics supplied by the headquarters of Task Force 134, the American military unit in command of detention operations in Iraq, there are about 280 detainees from countries other than Iraq. Of those, 55 are identified as Egyptian, 53 as Syrian, 37 as Saudi, 28 as Jordanian and 24 as Sudanese.

237 gunmen killed, 300 arrested in security operations in Diala since June 19th

A total 237 gunmen were killed and 300 wanted others arrested in security operations Arrowhead Ripper and Lightning Hammer in Diala province, 57 km north of Baghdad, since June 19, an Iraqi security official said on Friday. "Seven-thousand soldiers took part in these operations in addition to 3,821 recruits enlisted in 35 security training centers all over the province," Maj. General Abdul-Kareem al-Rubaie, the Diala chief of operations, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "We're intensifying security efforts in the areas that witnessed major military operations this week and where all armed activities were eliminated thanks to the successful Operation Lightning Hammer," said Rubaie.

Iraqi, U.S. forces besiege mosque in southern Baghdad

A joint force of U.S. and Iraqi personnel besieged a mosque in al-Zaafaraniyah district in southern Baghdad on Friday night to hunt down for gunmen, a police source said. "Joint Iraqi and U.S. forces besieged the al-Saadreen mosque in al-Zaafaraniyah district and tried to enter into it to hunt for gunmen, but they could not," the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "The forces besieged the mosque and prevented anyone from approaching," he also said, noting that local residents gathered and staged a peaceful demonstration, calling the forces to withdraw. Local residents said that intermittent clashes flared up between the forces and a number of gunmen, who were in the mosque, adding no further details.

Iraqi trial rekindles Shiite anger toward U.S.

It was one of the bloodiest episodes in the long, brutal rule of Saddam Hussein: With Iraqi troops fleeing Kuwait ahead of advancing U.S. troops in 1991, Shiite Muslim rebels took control of cities in Iraq's south and advanced on Baghdad. Then, with Shiite rebels just 60 miles from the capital, Saddam's forces retaliated. In the next months, tens of thousands of Shiites were rounded up and executed, their bodies pushed into mass graves with bulldozers, like dirt. This week, 15 former officials of Saddam's regime, including the notorious "Chemical Ali," Ali Hassan al Majid, went on trial for the mass killings, reopening old wounds in the now dominant Shiite community. But the anger wasn't aimed at just the former officials, who include some of the most notorious Saddam henchmen. It was also aimed at the United States for what Shiites still remember as a betrayal.

"Those who fought Saddam and threw him out of Kuwait for his criminal acts — killing people, looting possessions and destroying the country of Kuwait and Iraq . . . within a minute, they became his supporters and stood beside him to kill the Iraqi people," said Imam Saleh al Haidiri in a sermon Friday at the Khilani mosque in central Baghdad. "And he killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in the most hideous ways." Ibrahim Jaafer, 48, a merchant, also linked the United States to the wanton killings, which claimed his father and two brothers, whose bodies were pushed into a common grave. Jaafer fled and lived in Iran until the U.S. toppled Saddam in 2003. But there's little gratitude. "Saddam is an agent for the Americans," Jaafer said. "It's known that America, Saddam and the Takfiris (Sunni extremists) are on the same side." [This Iraqi man puts the Sunni extremists as partners to the USA, while several Iraqi bloggers think Iran is a partner to the USA – to the point where they think talk about attacking Iran is just a diversion, not something that could actually happen. – dancewater]

Shi’ites Protest Deaths in Raid

But residents said the U.S. helicopter attack caught many in the Shiite community controlled by Muqtada al-Sadr's Al Mahdi Army asleep on their roofs. Hospital officials reported two women's bodies among those brought to two area morgues, and an al-Sadr spokesman said four women were among the dead. Angry relatives and neighbors of the killed and injured vowed retribution as they carried the victims' coffins through the streets. Al-Sadr, whom U.S. military leaders accuse of directing death squads and a campaign of harassment against U.S. troops in Iraq, denounced the air attacks and called on supporters to stage protests across the country. The U.S. assault "resulted in killing 20 civilians including women, children and elderly and injuring tens more, some in critical condition," charged Nassar Rubeii, head of the al-Sadr parliamentary bloc. He said he held the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki responsible, and blamed bloodshed in Iraq on the U.S. presence.


Allawi's bloc quits Maliki government

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National List (INL) withdrew "finally" from Nouri al-Maliki's government, a leading INL member announced on Friday. "The INL will officially notify the head of government of its decision soon," Iyad Jamal al-Din told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) by telephone, adding that the decision was taken "after the government insisted on ignoring the demands made in February 2007." The INL, which has five portfolios in the government of Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki, announced on August 7, 2007 that it would suspend its participation in the government, and threatened to "withdraw entirely from the government if its demands continued to be ignored."



Is the surge working? That is, even if you ignore the lack of political progress, are we even making tactical progress? Since violence in Iraq tends to be seasonal, the only reasonable comparison is one between summer 2006 and summer 2007, so I went to the latest Brookings Iraq Index to check out the most recent numbers. No figures are available for August, and the surge wasn't completely up and running until June, so the best comparison is between June/July 2006 and June/July 2007. I'm not pretending this is conclusive or anything, but the news sure doesn't look very good. The two tables below tell the story.

A new intelligence report paints a bleak picture of Iraq

A new assessment of Iraq by U.S. intelligence agencies provides little evidence that the American troop "surge" has accomplished its goals and predicts that the U.S.-backed government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will become "more precarious" in the months ahead. A declassified summary of the report released Thursday said that violence remains high, warns that U.S. alliances with former Sunni Muslim insurgents could undercut the central government and says that political compromises are "unlikely to emerge" in the next 12 months. Perhaps most strikingly, U.S. intelligence analysts concluded that factions and political players in and outside Iraq already are maneuvering in expectation of a drawdown of U.S. troops - moves that could later heighten sectarian bloodshed.

Iranians attack Kurdish rebels in Iraq

Iranian soldiers crossed into Iraq on Thursday and attacked several small villages in the northeastern Kurdish region, local officials said. U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said he couldn't confirm the attacks, but five Kurdish officials said that troops had infiltrated Iraqi territory and fired on villages. The Iranian military regularly exchanges artillery and rocket fire with Kurdish rebels who've taken refuge across the border, but Iraqi Kurdish officials worried that Iran's willingness to cross the border raises the possibility of a broader confrontation that would draw the Iraqi government and U.S. forces into an unwanted showdown. One Kurdish legislator said that if reports of the attacks were true, then Iraq must "stand firmly" against future Iranian encroachments. Gen. Jabbar Yawr, a spokesman for the Kurdish militia, said Iranian troops have been lobbing artillery at Iraq from across the border since Aug. 16, though Thursday was the first time that Iranian troops crossed the border. He said that a statement issued by the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan, a branch of the Kurdistan Workers Party, which is also known as the PKK, claimed credit for the recent assassination of an Iranian intelligence official. Yawr said the Iranian raid was in retaliation. The United States has declared the PKK to be an international terrorist group.

Clash in Southeast Turkey Leaves 12 Dead

A clash between troops and Kurdish rebels near Turkey's southeast border with Iraq left 10 rebels and two soldiers dead, the military said Saturday. The fighting erupted Friday near Uludere, a town in Sirnak province, when the troops called for the rebels to surrender but were met with gunfire, the military said in a statement on its Web site. It was the number of casualties in a single clash in recent months. The rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, have been fighting for autonomy in southeast Turkey since 1984. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people. Kurdish rebels have killed about 80 soldiers since January, most in roadside bomb attacks on military vehicles. Turkey has threatened to invade northern Iraq to eradicate rebel bases there if U.S. or Iraqi forces do not crack down on the PKK.

What's in a name? U.S. rebrands Iraq ex-insurgents

U.S. forces have rebranded one of the main insurgent groups in Iraq and now use the term "concerned local nationals" to refer to a group that once claimed responsibility for killing scores of Americans. The updated vocabulary for referring to the 1920 Revolution Brigade, described by a U.S. commander on Saturday, is a sign of the abrupt change in tactics that has seen U.S. forces cooperate with former Sunni Arab enemies. The 1920 Revolution Brigade was one of the main anti-American Sunni Arab insurgent groups in Iraq in the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and has claimed responsibility for killing scores of U.S. troops in ambushes and bomb attacks. But for the past several months its members have cooperated with U.S. forces to help drive the strict al Qaeda Islamists out of Sunni Arab areas, part of a new U.S. tactic of cooperating with former Sunni Arab foes against al Qaeda. Colonel David Sutherland, the U.S. commander in Diyala Province, said his men prefer not to call the group by its name.

……Sutherland said the 1920 Revolution Brigade name was now being used widely to refer to local pro-government militia and not anti-American insurgents. [Are these people idiots or what? – dancewater]

Troops Confront Waste In Iraq Reconstruction

Maj. Craig Whiteside's anger grew as he walked through the sprawling school where U.S. military commanders had invested money and hope. Portions of the workshop's ceiling were cracked or curved. The cafeteria floor had a gaping hole and concrete chunks. The auditorium was unfinished, with cracked floors and poorly painted walls peppered with holes. Whiteside blamed the school director for not monitoring the renovation. The director retorted that the military should have had better oversight. The contract shows the Iraqi contractor was paid $679,000. The story of the Vo-Tech Iskandariyah Industrial School illustrates the challenges of rebuilding Iraq. It also raises questions about how the military is managing hundreds of millions of dollars to fund such reconstruction, part of the effort to stabilize the country.


U.S. Use of Radiological Weapons Calls for an International Tribunal

In 1991 the US military introduced a new weapon that the people of the world–with hindsight–will probably come to view as symbolic of America’s failed leadership after the Cold War. The introduced weapon was a new kind of munition: shells and bullets made from depleted uranium (DU). It turned out to be extremely effective in the first Gulf War against the forces of Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, the DU weapons also proved nearly as dangerous to our own troops and to Iraqi civilians. The military alliance cobbled together by George Bush Sr. won a decisive victory in that war. But since its conclusion at least 13,000 American veterans have died from DU-related causes, far more than the 148 who died in combat; and of the nearly 700,000 who served in the war at least 250,000 are now (in 2007) permanently disabled; a percentage far higher than in any previous war.[1] Despite this, Pentagon generals continue to insist that DU munitions pose no danger, and remain committed to their use. Even as I write, the Department of Defense (DoD) moves ahead with research that could lead to the deployment of DU weapons in space.[2] Yet, a UN Sub-Committee has declared DU weapons illegal, and last November the European Union (EU) issued its fourth call for a DU moratorium. More and more frequently, one hears the charge that America’s use of these weapons in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia was a war crime. In 2004, for example, a citizen’s tribunal in Japan convicted George W. Bush in absentia for crimes against humanity.[3] Is America headed for a showdown with the world over depleted uranium?


VIDEO: The Real Story of the So-Called “Shi’ite Uprising” in 1991

What exactly happened in 1991? was it a real Shiite uprising? or the Iranian Revolution Guards tried to stage a coup in Iraq? The exact details will remain different, all what we can do is: to compare the three different versions of the story and conclude the exact events. The official story: Iraq’s archenemy Iran, directed their Revolutionary Guards [the US occupation forces in Iraq recently accused them of destabilising Iraq], the Iranian intelligence, and their agents in the Iraqi southern governorates in conjunction with the “mob”, aided by “troublemakers”, making advantage of resentment feelings, anger and sadness among the public after the withdrawal of the Iraqi army from Kuwait. The “rebellions” set the country in a chaos, killings, looting, and burning public and official institutions.The government practiced its duty given to it by the constitution to protect and defend the country

British Uncover Operation in Basra: Agents Provocateurs?

Fascinating. No really, the ‘evolution’ of state disinformation has probably never been better displayed than in the case of the two (more than likely) SAS soldiers who were ‘liberated’ after being arrested by the Iraqi police on 19 September by a phalanx of tanks and helicopter gunships that stormed the police station where the two undercover soldiers were being held after they allegedly failed to stop at an Iraqi police roadblock and subsequently opened fire on the Iraqi police, killing one and wounding another. The car they were travelling in was loaded with weapons including allegedly, assault rifles, a light machine gun, an anti-tank weapon, radio gear and a medical kit (’standard’ SAS issue according to the BBC). According to at least two reports, the car they were traveling in (A Toyota Cressida) was “booby-trapped”. Subsequent accounts vary according to the source but according to the initial story broadcast on the BBC (19/9/05), the two men wore traditional Arab dress but then this changed to “civilian dress” (BBC TV News).

Former Collaborator Discloses Details of US-ordered Assassinations

An Iraqi who asked not to be identified had disclosed some of the US activities such as assassinations and bombings in markets that aim at sparking sectarian fighting among Iraqis so as to facilitate the partition of the country. He pointed out that he that he worked with the US occupation troops for about two and a half years and then was able to flee from them to an area outside Baghdad where, he hopes, the Americans will not be able to get to him. The former Iraqi collaborator recalled: “I was a soldier in the Iraqi army in the war of 1991 and during the withdrawal from Kuwait I decided to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia along with dozens of others like me. That was how began the process whereby I was recruited into the American forces, for there were US military committees that chose a number of Iraqis who were willing to volunteer to join them and be transported to America. I was one of those,” he said. The former collaborator went on: “In 1992 I was taken to America, specifically to an island where most of the establishments were military. I was with a number of other Iraqis, one of them the former governor of an-Najaf, ‘Adnan adh-Dharfi. We received military training and intense courses in English and in how to carry out tasks like assassination,” he recounted. [Truth? Fiction? I don’t know. – dancewater]


Number of Internal Refugees Soars in Iraq

The number of Iraqis who have fled their homes and become refugees within their own country has soared since the American troop increase began in February, according to new data collected in Iraq by two major humanitarian groups. The rapidly accelerating dislocation of Iraqi citizens has taken place despite the troop increase, and in some cases as a direct result of it, surveys with thousands of the Iraqis have shown. Statistics collected by one of the two groups, the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, indicate that the number of internally displaced Iraqis has more than doubled, from 499,000 to 1.1 million, since the start of the troop "surge." Those figures are broadly consistent with data compiled independently by an office within the United Nations that specializes in tracking wide-scale dislocations. That office, called the International Organization for Migration, found that in recent months the rate of displacement within Baghdad itself, where the surge is focused, has increased by as much as a factor of 20, although part of that rise could have been a result of new efforts to find displaced Iraqis in the capital.

Qadisiyyah Province Closed to IDPs

People are leaving Karama camp in the southern province of al-Qadisiyyah because of the terrible conditions there, and urgent supplies are needed to rectify the situation. The camp, 15km to the west of Diwaniyah, the provincial capital, currently has 129 residents. It was previously a children's camp until its formal conversion into a centre to accommodate internally displaced persons (IDPs). "In May 2007, Karama was reportedly home to 250 persons; of these, 21 families, or 129 individuals, remain. Those still at the site are extremely poor, and lack sufficient resources to relocate," a UN Refugee Agency press release said. The items needed include, water, electricity, sanitation equipment, food and non-food items. Basic health services are also needed. Jaffer Abbas, a spokesperson for the locally based Iraqi Peace Organisation (IPO), said at least 90 percent of the camp's residents were suffering from one kind of disease or another.

Arabs flood safest city in Iraq

Rich and poor, educated and illiterate, Arabs are fleeing the killing fields of Iraq to settle among and take charity from Kurds so brutally repressed by the former regime. On a dirty stretch of disused land in the mountain city of Sulaimaniyah next to a bypass, scores of families are eeking out an impoverished existence on aid handouts, living like sardines under canvas or in makeshift shacks. Thaer Mahjoub Aziz, a father of nine and former farmer who sends his children to beg for food, slammed Iraq's Shiite-dominated government for ignoring Iraqis displaced within the country while refugees abroad got all the headlines. "They're always speaking about reconciliation. But what reconciliation? They did nothing, not even for us homeless people. They only care about themselves. "They spoke about the people in Syria and Jordan but not about the people displaced inside Iraq," he thunders, furiously waving his monthly ration card, saying that he and none of the other families can collect their food here. He has shacked up in the mud with a ragtail bunch from Diyala, a province engulfed with fighting, bombings and execution-style shootings, mostly farmers who left behind land, livestock and homes to live in penury. Children patter around barefoot in torn clothes. One girl plays hopscotch in the muck. One mother is pregnant, destined to give birth -- like other women in the camp -- alone without help.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project

Help a Hospital in Basra


Prison in Terre Haute, Indiana Exclusively for Muslims and Arabs

AT PRECISELY 7 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 11, 2006, 17 federal prisoners across the country were taken out of their cells, held in isolation for two days, then bused to the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Terre Haute, Indiana. Here the government quietly began implementing the first stages of a secret new program, the Communications Management Unit (CMU). A completely self-contained unit housing almost exclusively Arab and/or Muslim inmates, it eventually will hold approximately 85 prisoners. Special new rules set out in a “CMU Institutional Supplement” dated Nov. 30, 2006 include severe restrictions on prisoner communication. Contact with family and friends is limited; outgoing and incoming mail is monitored and copied, with a one- to two- week delivery delay; and no contact visits are allowed. Instead of 300 minutes of phone time a month, prisoners may receive only one 15-minute call a week, which the warden has the power to reduce to just three minutes a month. Unlike the usual weekly or biweekly all-day contact visits, visits in the CMU are for two hours, just twice a month, and are restricted to non-contact only. Calls and visits must be conducted in English unless prior arrangement is made.

Those who blow whistle on contractor fraud in Iraq face penalties

One after another, the men and women who have stepped forward to report corruption in the massive effort to rebuild Iraq have been vilified, fired and demoted. Or worse. For daring to report illegal arms sales, Navy veteran Donald Vance says he was imprisoned by the American military in a security compound outside Baghdad and subjected to harsh interrogation methods. There were times, huddled on the floor in solitary confinement with that head-banging music blaring dawn to dusk and interrogators yelling the same questions over and over, that Vance began to wish he had just kept his mouth shut. He had thought he was doing a good and noble thing when he started telling the FBI about the guns and the land mines and the rocket-launchers - all of them being sold for cash, no receipts necessary, he said. He told a federal agent the buyers were Iraqi insurgents, American soldiers, State Department workers, and Iraqi embassy and ministry employees. The seller, he claimed, was the Iraqi-owned company he worked for, Shield Group Security Co. ''It was a Wal-Mart for guns,'' he says. ''It was all illegal and everyone knew it.''


US Labor Demonstrates at Iraqi Embassy in DC

The Maliki government in Iraq continues to enforce Saddam Hussein's 1987 law that banned all trade unions in public enterprises (80% of the economy). A rally protesting the suppression of workers' rights in that country was held on Aug. 16, 2007, sponsored by the AFL-CIO, Solidarity Center, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Labor Council, with participation by USLAW. The event was held in front of the Republic of Iraq Embassy, at 3421 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., in Washington, DC.

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

March for Peace Across America

Music: “Illegal Attacks” by Ian Brown

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: "There is another way for the bloodshed to stop," Bush said, "and that is for the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside and then comply with the United Nations' resolutions and rejoin the family of peace-loving nations." (1991)