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 27, 2007

News & Views 08/27/07

Photo: Tens of thousands of Shiite pilgrims gather in Karbala on 26 August 2007, at the Imam Hussein shrine ahead of celebrations marking the anniversary of the birth of Mohammed al-Mahdi, the 12th Imam of Shiite Islam. Shiite pilgrims toting green flags arrived in their thousands by foot, vehicle and donkey cart from across Iraq in the shrine city of Karbala, the eve of a major religious ceremony.(AFP/Mohammed Sawaf)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

US surge sees 600,000 more Iraqis abandon home

The scale of the human disaster in the Iraq war has become clearer from statistics collected by two humanitarian groups that reveal the number of Iraqis who have fled the fighting has more than doubled since the US military build-up began in February. The Iraqi Red Crescent Organisation said the total number of internally displaced has jumped from 499,000 to 1.1 million since extra US forces arrived with the aim of making the country more secure. The UN-run International Organisation for Migration says the numbers fleeing fighting in Baghdad grew by a factor of 20 in the same period.

These damning statistics reveal that despite much- trumpeted security improvements in certain areas, the level of murderous violence has not declined. The studies reveal that the number of Iraqis fleeing their homes ­ not intending to return ­ is far higher than before the US surge. The flight is especially marked in religiously mixed areas of central Iraq, with Shia refugees heading south and Sunnis towards the west and north of the country. Calling it the worst human displacement in Iraq's modern history, a report by the UN migration office suggests that the fierce fighting that has followed the arrival of new US troops is partly responsible.

People flee Baghdad district as gunmen impose Shariah law

Residents of Dora District in Baghdad have been fleeing after gunmen imposed a strict interpretation of Islamic Shariah law there. "We have reports of more than 300 families fleeing the area over the past two weeks and this number is increasing daily," Fatah Ahmed, vice-president of the Iraq Aid Association (IAA), said. The gunmen are particularly stringent when it comes to Christian families, who are forced to convert to Islam or pay huge taxes. "We have left the area because we were being forced to live under strict Islamic laws. Men have to wear long beards and women veils, and the latter are not allowed to leave their homes without their husbands. Girls have been told they are forbidden to go to school after the summer vacation," said Haki Salam, 54, a resident of Dora who is now living as a displaced person on the outskirts of the capital. "I was participating in a local association to help the district but it was closed and the manager killed by the Shia militia. Those who refuse to follow the strict [Islamic] law risk either having one of their relatives kidnapped or being murdered inside their own home," he said.

one more wounded family

It should be my day off. I should have some joy with my family but the shooting woke me up. I heard my mother saying "they brought the body at last". Yes, they brought the body of our neighbor's young man. A father of three kids. One more young innocent man who was killed by gunmen in Doura neighborhood, one of the hot spots of Baghdad. and now what do we have?

we have one more widow.

we have three more orphens

one more dead innocent man.

one more victory for bad peopel

one more defeat for the good people.

A dream

Yesterday, a friend of mine phoned me as we hadn’t seen each other for about twenty four months . He asked me how was life and I asked him the same question mentioned the nice time we spent together when we were members of the Iraqi teachers’ group in the USA a long time ago. Looking at the bunch of photos I took there took me back to those lovely and joyful days when all things went as planned and the healthy environment surrounded us. I just asked him of the reason of having no news of him for ages. He simply said he was displaced as soon as he came from the states and went to Syria, but he couldn’t stand living there and came back to Iraq again. I felt sorry for his bad story sharing him his sorrow telling him of my sad story too as I had my father in the American’s prison for more than two months for no sensible reason. But on the other hand, nice American people just like those who received and welcomed us to get knowledge and new methods of teaching made efforts to bring him back to his family. And they luckily did so. Thus, we felt sorry for each other hoping to have an end to this misery with a dream to visit the USA again.

In Memory of Anwar

Anwar Abbas Lafta, a CBS translator and a friend, was killed by gunmen who stole him from his home. His body was found in the morgue last night among so many others. I remember talking to him about this. I asked him if he was ever scared that someone would come for him. “No, everybody knows me here,” he said. ‘Everybody knows what I do.” I was shocked when he told me he didn’t hide his job from his friends and his neighbors. Iraqis who work with foreign journalists are often accused of being spies. Sometimes they’re just kidnapped just for the money they make. He didn’t hide his job as a U.S. military translator prior to his position at CBS either, he said. “They’ll find out anyway, why lie?” he once told me. He had a way of convincing people that they needed to tell their story, he gained their respect easily. He spoke fast and loud, in a way that made you think, this guy must know what he’s talking about. It’s probably why he was able to get people to talk on camera in Iraq, not a small feat in a nation rife with fear.

Occupation 101

Your tanks rolling on pavements where people are meant to be walking, destroying the pavements and the lamp posts on their way and running over a couple of civilians. That is OCCUPATION.

Your guns shooting innocent civilians at checkpoints just because one of your shits is having a bad day. That is OCCUPATION.

Your jets roaming the skies day and night and bombarding neighborhoods and villages and killing children, women and men. That is OCCUPATION.

Your especially designed prisons filled with innocent "local" detainees, for years without trial. That is OCCUPATION.

Every single street, building, school, office, in rubbles and ruins. That is OCCUPATION.

No water, no electricity, no food, no functional hospitals...That is OCCUPATION.

Arbitrary arrests, arbitrary killings, daily house searches, ransacking, pillaging from the "locals". That is OCCUPATION.

Raping women, girls, boys, men. Torturing them, spitting on them, humiliating them, insulting them, castrating them, sodomizing them, burning them, pissing on them.
That is OCCUPATION.

Destroying houses of worship, burning Holy Books, and drawing crucifixes on the walls, pissing and shitting inside, and shooting the elders. That is OCCUPATION.

Having 1 million widows dressed in black, orphaned children eating from garbage dumps, 70% unemployed, villages where famine is rampant, 4 million "locals" with their homes and belongings destroyed and now living in squalor, begging the streets.
That is OCCUPATION.

Yazidis, fearing extermination, flee their areas

The tiny pre-Islamic Iraqi sect known as Yazidis is in danger of extinction. The nearly half a million Yazidis in Iraq are currently the target of deadly attacks by both Sunni and Shiite Muslim groups, forcing most of them to flee their areas. The deadliest attack took place on August 14 when four suicide-bombers blew themselves up in two villages, killing more than 500 Yazidis and injuring hundreds more. The bombing has been described as genocide and the most devastating this peaceful community has been subjected to in modern history. The two villages are located almost on the fringes of what Iraqi Kurds call now ‘Kurdistan’ where Kurdish militias are in control. The bombing has sent a signal to this hitherto secretive community that there is no safe haven for them in the country.

Violence hits Salahuddin Province

Violence has returned to the relatively quiet Province of Salahudin and the past week saw some of the worst deadly attacks since the 2003 U.S. invasion. Attacks of fuel tankers have soared with at least 11 drivers kidnapped. Fuel tankers are being increasingly used by Qaeda in Iraq in suicide bombing operations. One such attack this month wiped out two villages in northern Iraq, killing more than 500 members of a pre-Islamic sect known as Yazidis. Unidentified gunmen now use silencer weapons to assassinate government and police officials. On Monday, the commander of the province’s police operations was gunned down prompting the authorities to slap a tight curfew on the city of Tikreet, the provincial capital. The commander, Brigadier Othman Jaijan, was killed as he left his home. He was known for his tough tactics to hunt down insurgents and terrorists attacking civilians in the city. Roadside bombs are making a comeback in Tikreet targeting police patrols and army units in the city. Two policemen were killed and several others wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in the central of Tikreet. Two police vehicles were also destroyed. Most devastating has been last week’s suicide bombing attack on the city’s police headquarters in which 20 people, mainly police officers, were killed and 40 wounded. The building was smashed.

Photos of the air assault on Diyala (Found via Roads to Iraq website)

Depleted uranium threatens thousands of lives in Basra

Radiation levels in selected regions of Iraq's southern province of Basra warn of imminent danger to thousands of local residents who might be more prone to cancer and birth deformities, according to Khajak Vartanian, an environmental radiation measurement specialist from the province. "Basra has experienced an unprecedented rise in solid cancer cases during the past four years: 62 cases per 100,000 persons compared to 35 in 1997," Vartanian explained. Exposure to military depleted uranium (DU) pollution has not only increased solid cancer cases in the province, but caused severe birth deformities in newborn babies, he added. "Other cases of renal failure, skin disease, allergy, infertility and recurrent miscarriages were also attributed to DU pollution," he indicated, adding that most of the reported cases were close to the contaminated sites. According to Vartanian, the problem began during the second Gulf War in 1991 when the U.S.-led coalition forces used depleted uranium weapons to bomb Iraqi military sites and economic infrastructure. During the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, depleted uranium shells and ammunition were also used against Iraqi military targets in Basra, which were close to residential areas. Totaling the number of radiation sites in Basra by 2004 as 100, the environment researcher accused local and central governments of negligence in dealing with the problem. In 2004 the Iraqi government allowed residents and traders to sell iron waste from the battlefield, which added to the increasing incidences of cancer in the province. When asked about the highly contaminated sites in Basra, Vartanian said that most reported cases were from neighborhoods close to radiation sites, particularly from the neighborhoods of al-Zubair, Abu Khaseeb, al-Qarna and other overcrowded districts.

Iraqis protest at US raids

More than 15 Iraqi political factions issued a statement on Saturday announcing that they would hold general strike and mourning for three days to protest US occupation forces' raids on neighborhood Showle, western Baghdad. The political factions threatened if their demands not be responded, they would also suspend the district council. Witnesses said more than 20 Iraqi civilians were killed, including children and women, and at last 25 others wounded in the US shelling targeting AL Showle neighborhood on Thursday.
The Director of the Office of the Martyr al-Sadr in Al Showle neighborhood, Sheikh Mazen Sa'idi said, "If we did not receive any response to our demands, we will begin civil disobedience."
For his part, the representative of Iraqi Communist Party, ALI Ehsan, told Al-Alam Channel that all the political and security affaires should be carried out by the Iraqi government not by US occupation forces.

Children doing battle in Iraq

Child fighters, once a rare presence on Iraq's battlefields, are playing a significant and growing role in kidnappings, killings and roadside bombings in the country, U.S. military officials say. Boys, some as young as 11, now outnumber foreign fighters at U.S. detention camps in Iraq. Since March, their numbers have risen to 800 from 100, said Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone, the commander of detainee operations. The Times reported last month that only 130 non-Iraqi fighters were in U.S. custody in Iraq. ……Stone said some children have told interrogators that their parents encouraged them to do the militants' dirty work because the extremists have deep pockets. Insurgents typically pay the boys $200 to $300 to plant a bomb, enough to support a family for two or three months, say their Iraqi instructors at a U.S. rehabilitation center. About 85% of the child detainees are Sunni and the majority live in Sunni Arab-dominated regions in the country's west and north. In these deeply impoverished, violence-torn communities, the men with money and influence are the ones with the most powerful arsenals. These are the children's role models. The rise of child fighters will eventually make the Iraq conflict more gruesome, said Peter W. Singer, a Brookings Institution expert on child fighters.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraq Sunni Arabs won't rejoin cabinet despite deal

Earlier on Monday, a Sunni leader said that a new political accord between Iraq's main leaders would not be enough to lure minority Sunni Arabs back into the government. Five political leaders announced the deal late on Sunday, agreeing measures to readmit former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to public life and the release of many detainees. "What happened yesterday is a good achievement in the current confused political situation. It is an achievement that deserves to be supported," Tareq al-Hashemi, the Sunni Arab vice president who signed the accord, told reporters. Hashemi, of the Sunni Accordance Front, signed the deal along with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, and three other leading Shi'ite and Kurdish political leaders. But he said the Front, which groups three parties, would not change its Aug. 1 decision to quit the cabinet. "Our previous experience with the government has not been encouraging, and we will not go back just because of promises, unless there are real and tangible reforms," he said.

Iraqi Leaders Reach Accord On Prisoners, Ex-Baathists

Iraq's top five political leaders announced an agreement Sunday night to release thousands of prisoners being held without charge and to reform the law that has kept thousands of members of Saddam Hussein's political party out of government jobs. The agreement was publicized after several days of meetings between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite; President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd; Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni; Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, a Shiite; and Massoud Barzani, president of the semiautonomous Kurdish region. The announcement clears the way for the fractious Iraqi government to ease restrictions on former Baath Party members, one of the political initiatives President Bush considers key to Iraq's success. The agreement, reached not quite two weeks before Bush is to receive a progress report on Iraq, could face a stiff battle in Iraq's divided parliament.

US 'friendly fire' strike kills four Iraqi Kurdish policemen

A US air strike on two Kurdish police outposts on Sunday killed four policemen and wounded eight others in the restive province of Diyala in what seems to be a case of "friendly fire," officials said. "Four policemen have been killed and eight wounded when two US helicopters and two planes carried out an air strike this morning against two police outposts north of Baquba," Jabbar Yawar, spokesman for the Kurdish peshmerga militia told AFP.

Maliki: Turkey's bombardment violation of Iraq's sovereignty

Iraq's beleaguered prime minister on Sunday took a swipe at the governments of Turkey and Iran, both countries he has visited recently, and challenged their recent artillery bombardments inside Iraq in the Kurdish-dominated northern region where both the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the anti-Iranian Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK), linked to the PKK, have found refuge. "The bombardments by Iran and Turkey are violations of Iraq's sovereignty. We will not allow these violations, but this must come through diplomatic channels. We will inform our brothers in Turkey and Iran about that through the Foreign Ministry," Maliki said at a news conference held in Baghdad.


Iraqi Insurgents Taking Cut of US Rebuilding Money

Iraq's deadly insurgent groups have financed their war against U.S. troops in part with hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. rebuilding funds that they've extorted from Iraqi contractors in Anbar province. The payments, in return for the insurgents' allowing supplies to move and construction work to begin, have taken place since the earliest projects in 2003, Iraqi contractors, politicians and interpreters involved with reconstruction efforts said. A fresh round of rebuilding spurred by the U.S. military's recent alliance with some Anbar tribes - 200 new projects are scheduled - provides another opportunity for militant groups such as al Qaeda in Iraq to siphon off more U.S. money, contractors and politicians warn. ……Providing that security is the source of the extortion, Iraqi contractors say. A U.S. company with a reconstruction contract hires an Iraqi sub-contractor to haul supplies along insurgent-ridden roads. The Iraqi contractor sets his price at up to four times the going rate because he'll be forced to give 50 percent or more to gun-toting insurgents who demand cash payments in exchange for the supply convoys' safe passage.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

British retreat descends into chaos as Shia militia occupy police centre

Shia militia loyal to the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have scuppered an attempt by British forces to hand over the Basra joint police command centre to Iraqi police. Iraqi police reportedly left when the Shia fighters arrived and began emptying the facility. According to witnesses, they made off with generators, computers, furniture and even cars, saying it was war booty - and were still in the centre yesterday evening. The embarrassing episode, which comes as the British in Basra are preparing to move their remaining soldiers to the city airport as part of a planned withdrawal, once again highlights the strength of the militia in the city. It further undermines Britain's hopes of a smooth transfer and gives the impression of a rout. Mr Sadr boasted in an interview with The Independent last week that the British had "given up" and were retreating because of the Iraqi resistance. A small detachment of British soldiers working with the Iraqi police left the central Basra building on Saturday evening. However, the British military disputed the reports about the Shia militiamen turning up yesterday, saying they had been in contact with the Iraqi general in charge of security in Basra, who denied that Mr Sadr's Mehdi Army was there. The withdrawal leaves British forces with just two military bases in Iraq, Basra Palace and Basra airport, provoking speculation that the army may be preparing to accelerate its withdrawal to the fringes of the southern capital.

Retreating Brits Cut Deal With Muqtada al-Sadr for Safe Exit

The last contingent of British soldiers based in the center of this southern city will leave by Friday, says a senior Iraqi security official, adding that a deal has been struck with leaders of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army to ensure their safe departure. As they pull back to a base outside Basra, the British will leave a vital provincial capital in the throes of a turf battle between Shiite factions - one that Mr. Sadr's militia appears to be winning. "By the end of August, there will be no presence for British forces at the palace or at the joint coordination center. Both will be in the hands of the Iraqi government," says the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter. "I think it's best if they leave, because they did nothing to stop the militias, which were formed in the womb of their occupation." …….Ahead of the pullout, an agreement between British and Iraqi authorities resulted in the transfer of more than two dozen Mahdi Army prisoners from British to Iraqi custody, according to the security official. They were then released by an Iraqi court in an attempt to pacify the militias during the highly symbolic handover of the palaces to Iraqis, he said. The British did not comment on any arrangements.

Lobbyists Hired to Press Maliki, Former Premier Says

Former interim Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi, who is trying to put together a new coalition to replace the current Baghdad government headed by Nouri al-Maliki, said yesterday that a powerful Washington lobbying firm is working on his behalf, funded by an Iraqi whom he cannot identify. Allawi confirmed on CNN's "Late Edition" yesterday that Barbour Griffith & Rogers had been hired "to help us advocate our views, the views of the nationalistic Iraqis, the nonsectarian Iraqis."

RESISTANCE

Sing It Loud and Proud

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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