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

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

News & Views 10/31/07

Photo: A man grieves over the coffin of a relative, a victim of sectarian violence, in Kirkuk, 290 kilometers (180 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2007. Tensions are rising in Kirkuk in advance of a proposed referendum on whether the oil-rich city will join the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, largely governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government. (AP Photo/Emad Matti)


Help Mustafa

The situation in Mosul is getting worse, this week I heard about so many murders, for people I know or people I heard about..
The strange thing which's happening now is, the terrorists kill the target with his relatives too, like his father, brothers, brothers-in-law, and nephews !!!
And the other strange thing, when someone take an injured person to the hospital the policemen arrest him!! because he may be involved and question them, my friend saw a man full of blood, he was injured in the head and chest dragging himself and no one helped him.
Last night, I stayed awake, I am suffering from insomnia, there are a lot of things I think about, and most of the days I don't sleep immediately I spend an hour or two laying till I sleep, I walked towards the window and was watching the neighborhood, it was dark (the electricity was off), empty, and scary, like a ghost city, and I started to remember how crowded my neighborhood and it's street were, I am glad I didn’t forget that, anyway I came back to my bed and there was sound of far shelling, after an hour or two, mortars erupted from the neighborhood , and we heard 3 near by explosions..

Just Whining

I had to look for a car to drive me to and fro college daily, I finally found one, and a classmate with a nearby house is coming with me.. Yesterday was the first day he was supposed to come and drive me to the university. I woke up at 6:40, he was supposed to come at about 7:30 when the roads to the university aren't very crowded. I got dressed and had my breakfast and decided to go online till it's time.. There was an explosion, then shooting. I left the computer.
Dad went out and checked, the driver will have to use another road to get to our house, the street was blocked.
I went outside waiting, it was time and they weren't there.. Helicopters were hovering above the house..
I called my classmate many times but the signal was very weak. When it finally rang she picked up and told me there were Americans searching the cars and she has to hang up.. At 7:45 she called saying they can't reach the house. Dad drove me to college, we had to drive over about 4 pavements, going through wreckage and severely damaged roads.
I arrived to college at time.. my classmate about 20 minutes later, another classmate in the same neighborhood arrived 2 hours later.
I spent the rest of the day sighing, and the road back hearing all the bad stories of death and killings I could stand to hear from my classmate.

That's not what I call home.. We're really strangers in our country.. oh well, excuse me, I don't think "our" should be used anymore.. I'm not sure whose country it is, but it's not mine for sure.

A classmate's brother was injured with a shrapnel and died on the first day of Eid. She came to college wearing black. We gave her our condolences. She started crying, my friend started crying with her.. We would've all started crying if it wasn't for that new lecturer who shouted at us for not going into the lab at time.. we all hate him now.
She's the second classmate who lost her brother this year.

Iraq News Source

The mainstream U.S. media continues its effective news blackout on Iraq security developments, with the remaining scant coverage devoted to partisan "Iraq policy" debate on the domestic front. And in this case, no news means good news for the average American, which explains why I often receive emails from ideologues asking me why I am not acknowledging that the "tide has turned" or that "we are winning" in Iraq. So, while I've not had much time lately to update the blog, and since virtually all Iraqi bloggers have left Iraq anyway, I'll point out a local Iraqi wire agency that is increasingly posting dispatches in English. Of course most of the content is still in Arabic, but at least you'll get a much better picture of the security situation in Iraq from what is available than what you get from American news outlets: Voices of Iraq.

Introduction – Special Report: Iraqi Electricity Crisis

Iraq’s electricity system has been in shambles for nearly two decades, and power continues to be the country’s largest reconstruction challenge. It is also the common complaint that links all of Iraq. Despite the widespread violence, bombs and shootings do not affect every province - but the lack of electricity is a burden every Iraqi must bear. In the hour or so it took to write this report, for example, the power blacked out and returned five times in the Sulaimaniyah neighbourhood where IWPR is based. For outsiders, electricity may seem a trivial concern compared with the rest of Iraq’s problems. But the reality is that there is a lot of talk about megawatts, kilovolts and amperes among ordinary people, most of whom have no professional background in electricity but have become experts nonetheless. Power is a primary issue for Iraqis, one that the United States and Iraq’s national and local governments recognise is integral to the development of the country. Electricity has, in many ways, become Iraq’s most valued resource.

Baghdad Suffers Worst Cuts

Baghdad in the first week in October averaged six hours of electricity per day, half as much as the rest of the country, according to the United States State Department. The capital’s residents have become almost entirely dependent on expensive private generators to light their homes and run basic appliances such as refrigerators. Iraq’s electricity grid nearly collapsed this summer and the shortages were the worst since the summer of 2003, reported the ministry of electricity, and some Baghdad neighbourhoods have had only a few hours of power a day. The capital’s power supply is “woefully inadequate”, US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker told American lawmakers in September. Baghdad had 16 to 24 hours of power daily in March 2003. Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein directed the lion’s share of the country’s electricity supply to the capital, leaving other areas short. US and Iraqi authorities have tried to repair the power systems and equalise electricity distribution in Iraq. But as demand has increased for electricity, violence, corruption and mismanagement have hindered years of efforts to improve the power supply - particularly in the capital - and have weakened Iraqi confidence in their government. “Every year, the ministry announces emergency plans and projects … but the power doesn’t improve,” said Ziyad Mahmood Ahmed, a 35-year-old civil servant from Baghdad’s Dora district. “On the contrary, electricity was even bad in winter this year. There are areas in Baghdad that had power cuts for more than ten days.”

Kurds Struggle to Generate Own Supplies

The authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan have sought to deal with their power shortages by striking its own electricity provision deals, but locals have seen little benefit from them. In the north of Iraq, buildings are going up and oil wells are being drilled, while tens of thousands of Iraqi families escaping violence in the south have fled to Kurdish areas to set up businesses or find work. But Iraqi Kurdistan’s infrastructure cannot provide for the region’s four million population, never mind cope with the additional pressure of new businesses and residents. Electricity shortages are the main source of public dissatisfaction with the authorities in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah. The third Iraqi Kurdish province, Duhok, receives power from neighbouring Turkey and cuts are rare. Electricity supplies in Iraqi Kurdistan have been irregular ever since it broke away from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to become a semi-autonomous region 16 years ago, leaving it cut off from the country’s power grid. Nearly two decades later, the KRG has made little headway in improving the electricity supply despite its high level of autonomy. The local authorities have promised for years that power provision will get better, but fed up residents say they will only believe it when they see it.

Scams Enrage Karbala Residents

Officials and local militia groups in the southern province of Karbala are siphoning off the province’s dwindling power supply, leaving residents to rely on private generators, say local people. “There are some terrorists who set off bombs, and there some are terrorists who steal, like those officials [who keep electricity for themselves],” said Ali Jafar, a 55-year-old resident of the Shia city’s al-Malimeen neighbourhood. The Iraqi government estimates it is only supplying about half the electricity to service the needs of the public and businesses across the country, which are demanding more power than ever before. In Karbala, the power runs for about two hours for every four hours of blackouts. Karbala governor Aqil Mamoud al-Khazali told IWPR that the province receives about one-third of the power it actually needs. Khazali estimated that Karbala province requires 250 megawatts per day, but receives no more than 70 megawatts for its 500,000 population, which has been swollen by an influx of people displaced by violence in other parts of the country.

AUDIO: Homeward Bound – War News Radio

This week on War News Radio, in response to a December referendum on who will control the oil-rich city, the current Iraqi government is moving Kurds back to Kirkuk, and moving Arabs back to where they came from. And, shopping for food can be a dangerous errand for families in Baghdad. We hear about some of the ways Iraqis have found to shop safely. And, in Iraq 101, we learn about the origins of the PKK, the militant Kurdish group that’s pushing tensions with Turkey past the boiling point. Finally, in our A Day in the Life series, we hear the story of an Iraqi journalist. Listen now.


Iraqi city in the grip of militias

Amid warnings that southern Iraq could erupt into civil war when British troops withdraw, Basra's chief of police has publicly admitted that his forces have been unable to clamp down on growing militia warfare in the city. In recent months, rival Shia factions have been battling for control of the city which is considered the second largest in the country and home to Iraq's only port. This makes the Basra a vital outlet to the Gulf for marine transportation of oil and fuel products – a lucrative prize for any political faction looking to consolidate its power in Baghdad.

Iraq dismisses Mosul Dam warnings

The Iraqi government has dismissed a US warning that Iraq's largest dam is at imminent risk of collapse and is threatening the lives of thousands. Spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said US claims that Mosul Dam, in the country's north, was the most dangerous in the world were inaccurate and "totally untrue". Mr Dabbagh said it was under constant observation and regularly maintained. In May, the US told Iraq a catastrophic collapse could unleash a 20m (65ft) wave on Mosul, a city of 1.7 million. The warning was published on Tuesday in a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), which said that the dam's foundations could give away at any moment. SIGIR found that a $27m (£13m) US-funded reconstruction project, recently begun to help shore up the dam, had made little or no progress.

The Hakim-Sadr pact: A new era in Shiite politics?

The recent “pact of honor” made by two of Iraq’s most influential Shiite clerics, Moqtada al-Sadr and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim—aimed at preventing violence and helping to maintain the “Islamic and national interest” of Iraq—appears to signal a significant shift toward stability in Iraq. The two leaders have pledged to enhance relations between their respective groups, merging media and cultural projects, and to refrain from launching negative propaganda against each other (Fars News Agency, October 6). Yet, more importantly, the pact calls for promotion of the legal-political order of post-Baathist Iraq, a major move that could give new life to Nuri al-Maliki’s government and curtail potential violence in the south. As the first official agreement between these two prominent leaders, the forged pact can also be recognized as a huge step in improving intra-Shiite relations. Not since the formation of the United Iraqi Alliance, which brought together a number of Shiite political parties under the spiritual leadership of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in 2003, has Shiite politics seen such a unified front.


Turkey battles Kurd rebels, considers sanctions against Iraq

The Turkish army Wednesday said it killed 15 Kurdish separatists near the Iraqi border as Washington announced it was providing Ankara with intelligence on the rebels holed up in northern Iraq. The latest fighting in the Cudi mountains of Sirnak province came as the cabinet discussed possible economic sanctions against Iraq's autonomous Kurdish administration which Ankara accuses of tolerating the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels in its territory. Three soldiers were also killed in the clashes since Monday that saw Cobra helicopters and artillery pound PKK positions in the rugged hills, an army statement said. Troops were also chasing rebels in the eastern province of Bingol and the southern province of Hatay, near the border with Syria, after skirmishes a day earlier, the military said, without mentioning any casualties. Turkey has massed up to 100,000 troops along its border with Iraq, according to media reports, as it threatens military strikes on PKK bases in northern Iraq where, it says, the rebels enjoy safe haven and obtain weapons for attacks on Turkish soil.

U.S. giving Turkey intelligence on PKK in Iraq

Washington is giving Turkey intelligence on Kurdish rebels hiding in Iraq and helping Ankara gain the "actionable" intelligence the Pentagon says is needed before any military strike, a Pentagon spokesman said on Wednesday. "We are assisting the Turks in their efforts to combat the PKK by supplying them with intelligence, lots of intelligence," said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell. "The key for any sort of military response from the Turks or anyone else is having actionable intelligence and that's a pretty high standard, and we are making efforts to help them get actionable intelligence," he told reporters. "Actionable" intelligence refers to information that can be acted upon, such as information that pinpoints the location of a target for a military strike. Washington has urged Ankara to show restraint after attacks by rebels from Turkey's outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), hiding in northern Iraq. Turkey, which has NATO's second biggest army, has deployed as many as 100,000 troops on the Iraqi border and warned it will launch a major incursion into northern Iraq against the PKK unless U.S. and Iraqi forces clamp down on the group.

UN Challenges US on Illegal Air Strikes in Iraq

Just as U.S. air operations over Iraq have reached their highest level since the destruction of Fallujah in November 2004, with as many as 70 close air support missions flown on many days since October 1, a new Human Rights Report published by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq has challenged the United States to stop killing civilians in illegal air strikes.
The Human Rights Report for the second quarter of 2007 was long overdue, and was finally published on October 11. The report explains that it was modified following discussions with U.S. and Iraqi occupation authorities, and this appears to account for the long delay in its publication. The report makes it clear that U.S. air strikes in densely populated civilian areas are violations of international human rights law. A footnote to the section on "MNF military operations and the killing of civilians" explains, "Customary international humanitarian law demands that, as much as possible, military objectives must not be located within areas densely populated by civilians. The presence of individual combatants among a great number of civilians does not alter the civilian character of an area." UNAMI demands "that all credible allegations of unlawful killings by MNF (Multi National Force) forces be thoroughly, promptly and impartially investigated, and appropriate action taken against military personnel found to have used excessive or indiscriminate force" and adds that, "The initiation of investigation into such incidents, as well as their findings, should be made public." The UNAMI report provides the following details of 88 Iraqi civilians killed by air strikes, 15 civilians killed "in the context of raid and search operations" by U.S. ground forces and several incidents of torture and extra-judicial execution by members of Iraqi auxiliary forces under overall U.S. command. UNAMI investigated these incidents because a relative, a journalist or a local official brought each one to its attention. Without doubt, the U.S. Department of Defense is aware of many more killings of civilians by air strikes and ground operations, hence UNAMI's urgent demand for full public disclosure and investigation of all such killings.


Why did we invade Iraq anyway?

Lately, even Democratic candidates for president have been weighing in on why the U.S. must maintain a long-term, powerful military presence in Iraq. Hillary Clinton, for example, used phrases like protecting our “vital national security interests” and preventing Iraq from becoming a “petri dish for insurgents,” in a major policy statement. Barack Obama, in his most important speech on the subject, talked of “maintaining our influence” and allowing “our troops to strike directly at al Qaeda.” These arguments, like the constantly migrating justifications for invading Iraq, serially articulated by the Bush administration, manage to be vaguely plausible (with an emphasis on the “vaguely”) and also strangely inconsistent (with an emphasis on the “inconsistent”).

That these justifications for invading, or remaining, are unsatisfying is hardly surprising, given the reluctance of American politicians to mention the approximately $10-$30 trillion of oil lurking just beneath the surface of the Iraq “debate” — and not much further beneath the surface of Iraqi soil. Obama, for example, did not mention oil at all in his speech, while Clinton mentioned it twice in passing. President Bush and his top officials and spokespeople have been just as reticent on the subject.

Why then did the U.S. invade Iraq? Why is occupying Iraq so “vital” to those “national security interests” of ours? None of this makes sense if you don’t have the patience to drill a little beneath the surface – and into the past; if you don’t take into account that, as former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz once put it, Iraq “floats on a sea of oil”; and if you don’t consider the decades-long U.S. campaign to control, in some fashion, Middle East energy reservoirs. If not, then you can’t understand the incredible tenaciousness with which George W. Bush and his top officials have pursued their Iraqi dreams or why — now that those dreams are clearly so many nightmares — even the Democrats can’t give up the ghost.

Quote of the day: “We're going to be on the ground in Iraq as soldiers and citizens for years. We're going to be running a colony almost." -- Paul Bremer to Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce Meeting, February 23, 2003


Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.