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

Friday, November 30, 2007

News & Views 11/30/07

Photo: Iraqi displaced families attend a demonstration calling on Iraqi President Jalal Talibani to put a stop to evictions of Arab families from temporary government housing in central Baghdad. Some 80 displaced families living in governmental properties in Baghdad, which belonged to the regime of executed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, demonstrated. (AFP/Ali Yussef)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

PHOTOS: Signs of Success in Iraq

PHOTOS: Much Work to Be Done

Palestinian refugee children die in Iraq

Two sick Palestinian refugee children waiting for resettlement from Iraq died in the last two weeks, one of them in Al Waleed refugee camp at the Iraq-Syria border and the other one in Baghdad. Another refugee, a 50-year-old man, also waiting to be resettled, died earlier this month in Al Waleed refugee camp. So far seven people have died there, including three young children, since Palestinian refugees started to arrive at the border in March 2006 fleeing violent attacks against them. A 3-year-old Palestinian boy died a few days ago in Ramadi hospital and was buried in Al Waleed, where the family had been living since fleeing Baghdad in September last year. He had been suffering from rickets, a bone disease caused by lack of vitamins and minerals. He also suffered from pneumonia. Another Palestinian child whose resettlement approval was pending, a 14-year-old suffering from Hodgkin's disease, died in Baghdad last week.

Iraqis' Quality of Life Etched by Slow Gains, Many Setbacks

This war-battered city, according to U.S. statistics, now receives an average of 11.9 hours of electricity a day, far more than earlier this year. But don't tell that to Ghaida al-Banna. For three straight days this week, the 50-year-old housewife's home in the once ritzy Mansour neighborhood received no power at all. Barely any water came out when she turned on the faucet. One thing Banna's area does have in abundance is uncollected garbage, piled into giant, malodorous heaps dotting the street. As violence continues to dip across Iraq, U.S. officials say they will increasingly shift their barometers of success from security to basic services -- electricity, gasoline, water and sanitation -- that reflect whether life for Iraqis is returning to normal. But according to interviews with more than two dozen people in neighborhoods throughout Baghdad, the effort to boost services has been uneven, marked by gradual successes and frequent setbacks. In some neighborhoods, residents have seen government workers spruce up their parks or provide a few more hours of electricity, while residents of other districts report conditions continually deteriorating. The quality of life for Iraqis is expected to be at the center of an assessment Congress will receive in March from U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, according to U.S. diplomats and military officers. Yet officials are still struggling to determine how best to measure the normalcy of Iraqi life, a notion harder to quantify than attacks or corpses.

Iraqi civilian killings drop sharply in November

The number of civilians killed in violence throughout Iraq fell this month to the lowest level in nearly two years, according to government statistics obtained by Reuters on Friday. The data showed 538 civilians were killed in November, down 29 percent from October. The statistics are compiled by the health, interior and defence ministries, and represent the best Iraqi count of the bloodshed. They confirm a sharp fall in violence in the 10 months since U.S. forces launched a "surge" of 30,000 additional troops and a new tactic of moving from large bases into small neighbourhood positions to reduce violence. The number of civilians killed in violence in October was 758. The November figure is nearly 75 percent down from the almost 2,000 deaths per month at the beginning of this year. The last time the government recorded fewer than 600 civilians killed in Iraq was in February 2006, the same month an attack on a Shi'ite shrine triggered huge sectarian violence.

Iraqis Find New Challenges Upon Return

One woman returned from Syria to find her neighborhood a maze of checkpoints and her house gutted by fire. Another woman's home was spared, but it's now in the shadow of 10-foot blast walls encircling the streets. Baghdad appears to be breaking free of the daily carnage and roving sectarian death squads that forced hundreds of thousands of families to flee the country. They are now trickling back to a city and a life they barely recognize. Thousands of Iraqis have returned to Baghdad in recent weeks after a sharp decline in violence. But many of the homecomings have been bewildering as the former refugees adjust to the realities of war's wake: destroyed and looted buildings, restricted movements and few places where Sunnis and Shiites still live together.

….. "The situation is still tense," said a Shiite woman on Friday who returned from Syria three weeks ago. The woman - who identified herself only as Umm Bassam - fled with her family six months ago after her husband escaped a kidnapping by Sunni insurgents. She decided to come back to Baghdad, but left her husband in Syria with their two children. She was dismayed to find their neighborhood, Sadiyah in southwestern Baghdad, has become filled with checkpoints. Their house was charred, apparently by Sunni insurgents as security forces approached.

McCarthyism Comes to Iraq: Dententions of Those Accused of "Iran Connection" on the Rise

Detentions have become commonplace in Iraq, but now more than ever before people are being detained after being accused of membership in "militias supported by Iran." Hundreds of our men were detained and accused of being militiamen supported by Iran," Mahmood Allawi, a 50-year-old lawyer from Diwaniyah, 160-kilomtres south of Baghdad, told IPS. "We are Arab Shiite and Iran is as much an enemy to us as America! It is Iran that we fear most after our leaders were killed by the so-called 'Iranian supported' militias," Allawi said. There has been a spike in abductions being carried out by U.S. and Iraqi forces in Diwaniyah, capital of Iraq's Al-Qadisiyah province and home to a population of roughly 400,000. On Nov. 13, the International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that 60,000 people are currently detained in Iraq. U.S. officials claim that the military has been actively fighting against members of the Mehdi Army militia of anti-occupation cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

People here told a different story to IPS. "If they mean the Mehdi Army then they know them well because they worked together for about two years now," Abdul Kazem Hussein, a former Iraqi officer who fled to Baghdad from Diwaniyah recently told IPS. Hussein claimed that the U.S. military had been using members of the Mehdi Army to carry out attacks on Sunnis in Baghdad, as well as areas south of Baghdad, like Diwaniyah. "But they are detaining hundreds of people who have always been afraid of being drilled to death by Mehdi Army murderers," Hussein explained, alluding to a practice used by Mehdi Army members of using electric drills to torture Sunni men they capture.

Aid shrinks as Iraq's internal refugee tally grows

And as the number of the internally displaced is growing, aid workers say the conditions they are living in is growing worse. They say it is becoming especially tough for children 12 and under, who make up 65 percent of the total number of internally displaced Iraqis. Aid agencies say the situation is getting harsher because of dwindling aid from international agencies and an overwhelmed central government in Baghdad. Hussein and his family have been living with 2,000 other people in the camp for more than a year now. "Up to this point, the central government has done nothing for these people, only [nongovernmental organizations] help them sometimes, and all that has been spent on the camp is from our budget," says Ahmed Duaibel, spokesman for the Najaf government. "Our pleas to Baghdad have fallen on deaf ears." And help from other quarters is also less forthcoming. As of last Friday, a United Nations fund for emergency relief for Iraqi children and refugees had only $33.8 million in it. The UN says it must have $98.9 million to meet the needs, including those of the internally displaced. Kasra Mofarah, who heads the Jordan-based NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq (NCCI), an umbrella group of 280 nongovernmental organizations working in Iraq, says he is now seeing donor fatigue after years of contributors sinking billions of dollars into the country's reconstruction with little results. Plus, many fear lack of accountability, he says.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Crackdown on Iraq Sunni leader after bombs found

Iraqi security forces arrested dozens of people, including the son of a leading Sunni Arab politician, in a pre-dawn raid on Friday after a car rigged with explosives was found near the lawmaker's office. The incident threatened to increase political tension across Iraq's sectarian divide at a time when violence has been falling dramatically in the country. The Shi'ite-led government said Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the Accordance Front, the main Sunni Arab bloc, could be stripped of the immunity from prosecution he holds as a member of parliament if he was found to have links to car bombs. "No one is above the law. Dr Adnan al-Dulaimi has immunity, but this does not exempt him from questioning and accountability," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said. "The case is very serious and the accusations against him are very serious. He has to prove his innocence. He will be called for questioning. If the charges against him are proven, his immunity will definitely be lifted." Seven people were arrested on Thursday at Dulaimi's office and 29, including Dulaimi's son Mekki, were seized in a raid early on Friday at Dulaimi's house, said Brigadier General Qassim Moussawi, security spokesman for Baghdad.

US Weighs Sunni Help With Shiite Fears

An Iraqi military chief delivered a sharp warning to an American commander: Beware of your new alliances with former Sunni insurgents. The U.S. officer, Lt. Col. Wilson A. Shoffner, had his own message to pass on. Iraq's Shiite-dominated leadership, he said, must learn to live with the outreach to Sunni tribes, whose help is considered crucial in recent blows against extremists such as al-Qaida in Iraq. The exchange this week at a joint U.S.-Iraqi base - witnessed by The Associated Press - highlights one of the deepest ruptures in strategic outlook between Washington and Baghdad. The Pentagon sees the Sunni tribal militias - known as Awakening Councils and other names - as vital partners to weaken the Sunni-led insurgency. On Tuesday, Sunni sheiks in north-central Iraq pledged 6,000 fresh fighters to join tens of thousands of others. But the Iraqi government, which is under heavy Shiite influence, is hesitant to incorporate the Sunni recruits into the regular security forces and worries they could easily slip back to the rebel side.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

US to launch program to employ military-age men in Iraq

The United States is launching a program to promote stability in a restive Iraqi province by employing more men of military age, US officials said Friday in a video hook-up from Baghdad. The US Agency for International Development will next month launch the program in Salah ad Din province, which includes Tikrit, the home town of the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, USAID representative Dave Bailey said. Some 20 million dollars in funds have been made available for the so-called community stabilization program to improve vocational skills and promote business in key cities in the province, Bailey told reporters via satellite. Bailey said USAID was working with the US military to decide how best to spend the money in "order to employ military age individuals as well as provide them, again, immediate jobs as well as vocational skills training." [This sounded promising until I reached the “USAID” part. – dancewater]

State Department official Iraq update is really compilation of plagiarized major media articles

Kind of pathetic when the official report from the US State Department on what's "really" happening in Iraq is actually just a bunch of plagiarized paragraphs from the major media in the US.

Iraq's numbers don't add up, U.S. says

As U.S. forces begin to scale back in Iraq, the military is becoming increasingly reliant on Iraqi forces to report a wide array of crucial statistics, from the number of attacks on the local infrastructure to how many Iraqi civilians have been killed or wounded. And just as Iraqi forces have had a mixed record in fighting insurgents, they have been spotty at providing data from the regions where they have taken command. Iraqi officials have been reporting far higher civilian death totals than those reported by U.S. forces, and aides to American commanders now acknowledge that the U.S. military probably had been undercounting such casualties. Strategists for Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander here, said they were beginning to incorporate Iraqi tallies into their own, but underscored that though the totals might be different, the trends in both Iraqi and American numbers show dramatic decreases in civilian deaths since the summer. Also troubling to the United States is the frequent failure of Iraqi forces to report data on incidents occurring in the regions where they take the lead in providing security. In sectors handed over to Iraqi army and police forces, U.S. planners have seen a sharp decrease in overall data, severely hampering their ability to determine whether their military plan is succeeding.

U.S. wages covert war on Iraq-Iran border

While the PKK has been in the international spotlight in recent weeks, with Turkey mounting cross-border raids and threatening to launch an invasion of Iraq, not so much attention has been given to the Iranian offshoot, the PJAK. The group has been waging an insurgency against Tehran since 2004, which recently has escalated. A guerrilla leader told the New York Times last month that PJAK fighters had killed at least 150 Iranian soldiers and officials in Iran since August. Iran accuses Washington of backing the group, and while the US denies this, local and foreign intelligence sources say the accusation is most likely true. According to a former US Special Forces (SF) commando currently based in Iraq who spoke on condition of anonymity, Special Forces troops are currently operating inside Iran, working with insurgent forces like the PJAK. “That’s what the SF does,” he said. “They train and build up indigenous anti-government forces.”

“The primary function of the Special Forces is to stand up guerrilla forces or counter-guerrilla forces,” said another former SF soldier, retired Major Mark Smith. While he was not specifically aware of SF teams training the PJAK, he said it would not be surprising if they were. And “they would be training in an obscure border area or in a location denied to anyone not directly involved”, he said. He added that SF teams in Iran would be conducting strategic reconnaissance of possible nuclear and biological weapons sites, army headquarters, and significant individuals. “If they’re not doing these things in Iran, then they are remiss in their duties at the upper echelons of their command,” he said. [This is pure evil to go into other countries and inspire natives to violence against their own governments and their own people. I am sure many of them (both trainers and trainees) are just doing it for the money. – dancewater]

HISTORY

Iraq : Looking Back : 'Internationally Sponsored Genocide'

Editors have a mantra, do not look back, move on, write what is current. But sometimes looking back is vital. Those who ignore even the recent past are doomed to understand nothing, sink deeper into quagmires - and bleat again : 'Why do they hate us' ? Looking through material for the book that has been far too long in the making, I found a copy of a letter which I sent to a prominent (UK) Member of Parliament. It is dated November 1993 and clarifies for ever why the invaders were never going to be greeted with 'sweets and flowers'. Near exactly fourteen years ago - three years and three months in to the embargo - I wrote:

Meridian Hotel, Baghdad, 4th November 1993.

As you know, when I was here in April/May 1992, I thought things could get no worse. Yet in July this year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations note in a Report: '..with deep regret', all the: 'pre-famine indicators being in place'. Further that an appreciable proportion of the population now had less calorific intake than the most famine stricken parts of Africa. That was July. This is apocalypse. This is an internationally sponsored genocide. Food prices have risen in real terms, one thousand percent. Some most basic of staples have risen eleven hundred times. This morning a breakfast for three, of three black coffees, two orange juices and an omelet cost, what would have been, in 1989, the equivalent of one thousand three hundred US dollars. With US dollars, one can buy stacks of black market Iraqi Dinars, an inches high wad for fifty dollars, chillingly redolent of Germany after the first world war. Most Iraqi people have no dollars.

'"In the foyer of the Rashid Hotel, is one of the most magnificent display of wondrous artifacts one could ever hope to see: jewelry, paintings, superb, rare antique boxes, chandeliers, crystal, exquisite family treasures, handed down over generations, many also collected from around the globe. They are the belongings of the middle class, for sale in the hope they will be sold for hard currency to the rare visitor. Living for a few more weeks. The poor have no antiques. "A friend, a multi-lingual, much traveled novelist and editor, whose great grandfather's statue graces an area of Baghdad, boils rose petals for a face cleaner, concocts a mixture of boracic and herbs for deodorant and uses an ancient clay for hair conditioner. She and her family, as many Iraqis, now clean their teeth with husks from a plant, a method from a bygone age. Tooth paste and tooth brushes are vetoed. Her last novel is trapped in her computer, for want of a minor, embargoed spare part. If she could release it, it would be anyway useless, there is no paper to print it on. Paper is also vetoed by the U.N., Sanctions Committee.


If you have not read this yet, read the whole thing: Baghdad Year Zero

Looking at the honey billboard, I was also reminded of the most common explanation for what has gone wrong in Iraq, a complaint echoed by everyone from John Kerry to Pat Buchanan: Iraq is mired in blood and deprivation because George W. Bush didn't have “a postwar plan.” The only problem with this theory is that it isn't true. The Bush Administration did have a plan for what it would do after the war; put simply, it was to lay out as much honey as possible, then sit back and wait for the flies. The honey theory of Iraqi reconstruction stems from the most cherished belief of the war's ideological architects: that greed is good. Not good just for them and their friends but good for humanity, and certainly good for Iraqis. Greed creates profit, which creates growth, which creates jobs and products and services and everything else anyone could possibly need or want. The role of good government, then, is to create the optimal conditions for corporations to pursue their bottomless greed, so that they in turn can meet the needs of the society. The problem is that governments, even neoconservative governments, rarely get the chance to prove their sacred theory right: despite their enormous ideological advances, even George Bush's Republicans are, in their own minds, perennially sabotaged by meddling Democrats, intractable unions, and alarmist environmentalists.

Iraq was going to change all that. In one place on Earth, the theory would finally be put into practice in its most perfect and uncompromised form. A country of 25 million would not be rebuilt as it was before the war; it would be erased, disappeared. In its place would spring forth a gleaming showroom for laissez-faire economics, a utopia such as the world had never seen. Every policy that liberates multinational corporations to pursue their quest for profit would be put into place: a shrunken state, a flexible workforce, open borders, minimal taxes, no tariffs, no ownership restrictions. The people of Iraq would, of course, have to endure some short-term pain: assets, previously owned by the state, would have to be given up to create new opportunities for growth and investment. Jobs would have to be lost and, as foreign products flooded across the border, local businesses and family farms would, unfortunately, be unable to compete. But to the authors of this plan, these would be small prices to pay for the economic boom that would surely explode once the proper conditions were in place, a boom so powerful the country would practically rebuild itself.

COMMENTARY

Iraq: Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

Truth, also, is a casualty when governments and generals cherry-pick figures to support a partisan purpose. There is a deep irony that a US administration so loath to use statistics to gauge the success or failure of post-war Iraq is now "cooking the books" at will. Indeed, many are now arguing that Iraq has turned the corner. Iraqi officials claim 46,000 Iraqi refugees have recently returned as one of the statistics of success. Yet, the United Nations disputes both the numbers and the reasons for the return, claiming a survey found that "46% were leaving because they could not afford to stay; 25% said they fell victim to a stricter Syrian visa policy; and only 14% said they were returning because they had heard about improved security." Furthermore, as Michael Boyle pointed out in a more hopeful look at Iraq, the sectarian cleansing is such that refugees are returning to homogeneous neighborhoods. The UNHCR went further, warning Iraqis that they do "not believe that the time has come to promote, organize or encourage returns," given the volatile and unpredictable security situation in Iraq. Such a discrepancy and the politicizing of statistics should not come as a shock. With the legacy of Vietnam never far from the minds of decision-makers, it was decided from the off that the US "doesn't do body counts" and would, instead, prefer a combination of pure belligerence in the face of disaster, combined with Orwellian rhetoric from the steadily more erratic Donald Rumsfeld. Responding to the 2003 looting of Baghdad, Rumsfeld explained that "Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." And when asked about whether the increasing violence was evidence of the war going badly, Rumsfeld reasoned in 2005 that "Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war."

The Myths of Military Progress

Making occupation and calling it peace. Killing fewer and calling it progress. Rotating troops and calling it a withdrawal. Setting up new death squads and calling them allies. Lowering standards and calling it opening new opportunities. All of the above phenomena seem to be part of the current campaign by Washington in Iraq. There are fewer GI deaths in the country now because they don't leave the bases. Why? Because their latest allies-tribesmen paid in cold cash to kill for DC-are doing the killing and taking the hits. Indeed, some of the most fatal of those hits come from US air strikes that "mistakenly" bomb the men involved in killing the US bogeyman Al Queda in Mesopotamia, which may or may not be a phantom reality. Meanwhile, these tribesmen learn US military methods and locations while stockpiling US-supplied weaponry for some future war on their Shi'a opposites or perhaps even the same US forces they currently align themselves with.

The politicians here in the US, meanwhile, continue their cynical dealing in human life by refusing to insist on a genuine withdrawal timetable even as they steal billions from their country men and women to fight their wars and try to maintain the empire. False arguments erupt over withdrawal bills that aren't withdrawal bills because the White House insists that it has complete control over the war and its conduct while the opposition in Congress writes legislation that has more holes than a hooker's torn fishnets. Despite the impotence of the legislation, they fail to pass even that and end up giving the White house every penny it originally asked for. Wait until the election, says the opposition. Things will change then. If previous elections are any indication, the only thing that will change are the faces in the White House. Troops will remain in Iraq and the occupation/war will continue its haphazard road to control of the oilfields. Or, it will result in the defeat of Washington's plans for the region, no matter which politician sits in the Oval Office.

Terror is a Tactic

Nir Rosen: Shiite militias have been fighting the Americans on and off since 2004 but there's been a steady increase in the past couple of years. That's not just because the Americans saw the Mahdi army as one of the main obstacles to fulfilling their objectives in Iraq, but also because Iraq's Shiites---especially the Mahdi army---are very skeptical of US motives. They view the Americans as the main obstacle to achieving their goals in Iraq. Ever since Zalmay Khalilzad took over as ambassador; Iraq's Shiites have worried that the Americans would turn on them and throw their support behind the Sunnis. That's easy to understand given that Khalilzad's mandate was to get the Sunnis on board for the constitutional referendum. (Khalilzad is also a Sunni himself) But, yes, to answer your question; we could see a "Phase 2" if the Americans try to stay in Iraq longer or, of course, if the US attacks Iran. Then you'll see more Shiite attacks on the Americans.

A more plausible reading of US policy: Maliki "under control", leading Iraq to US-protectorate status

There are a number of left-over questions relating to the last year or so of Iraqi political history, among them: (1) Why exactly did Khalilzad and the US end up supporting Maliki for prime minister in spring 2006 in spite of Maliki's well-known Iranian connections; and (2) what was the meaning of all the subsequent newspaper leakage from Washington citing complaints about Maliki's "weakness" and "incompetence" and so on; not to mention (3) why did the US swing to the Sunnis take the form it did (arming Sunni tribes) rather than any effective Sunnification at the level of the Green Zone government. These are of course part of the Big Question: Whether the American policy has actually been to help dismember the country--including via the Maliki administration--or whether on the other hand there is still any sense in clinging to the idea that US policy "really" aimed at keeping the country together, but was plagued by mistakes and failures.

An important missing hypothesis in this question comes as part of a commentary by Haroun Mohammad in his regular op-ed in Al-Quds al-Arabi this morning (Friday November 30, it's on page 19 if you have to go to the archives for the pdf), his immediate topic being the agreement in principle signed by Maliki recently committing to long-term US military "support" for the Iraqi government, something this writer says will in effect turn Iraq into an "American protectorate" by the time Bush is ready to pack his bags for home. The agreement was the result of a 20-minute phone conversation between Bush and Maliki, no prior studies, no negotiations, no consultations, no nothing. Just like that. What this shows, says Haroun Mohammad, is something important about the personality of Maliki, which is not only devoid of any kind of Iraq-national component, but is really devoid of anything else either, except for doing what he is told to do, in this case by the Americans.

Quotes of the day: The hypothesis outlined here--namely that Maliki is and has always been "under control"--would require a different reading, putting more emphasis on the idea that in fact the dismemberment of the country, which Maliki has done so much to promote, is part of the American strategy, not an index of its failure. – from Missing Links blog

War News for Friday, November 30, 2007

The DoD is reporting a new death previously unreported by CENTCOM. Marine Corporal Allen Roberts died in a vehicle accident near Al Asad, Iraq on Wednesday, November 28th. No other details were released.

The DoD is reporting a new death previously unreported by CENTCOM. Sgt. 1st Class John J. Tobiason died in an undisclosed incident that is currently under investigation on Wednesday, November 28th. The military has released no further details on his death. According to the Hays Daily News his sister said he had stepped outside of a tent and that shots were fired. She said expected a final report on his death to be issued in a day or two.

The Greenwich Times is reporting the death of a soldier previously unreported by CENTCOM. U.S. Army Ranger Gabrielle Costello died in action in Iraq on Sunday, November 25th.

The Danish Ministry of Defense is reporting the deaths of two Danish ISAF soldiers in a hostile fire attack in the Upper Gereshk Valley, Helmand Province, Afghanistan on Thursday, November 29th. No other details were released.


Security incidents:

Baghdad:
#1: Iraqi security forces arrested dozens of people, including the son of a leading Sunni Arab politician, in a pre-dawn raid on Friday after a car rigged with explosives was found near the lawmaker's office. The incident threatened to increase political tension across Iraq's sectarian divide at a time when violence has been falling dramatically in the country. The Shi'ite-led government said Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the Accordance Front, the main Sunni Arab bloc, could be stripped of the immunity from prosecution he holds as a member of parliament if he was found to have links to car bombs.

Five U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi civilian were injured trying to detonate the explosives near the compound of Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the biggest Sunni bloc in parliament, the U.S. military said.

#2: Around 2 p.m. two mortar shells slammed into Abu Desheer neighborhood, injuring 2 civilians.

Five mortar shells landed on a number of houses in Abu Dasher district in al-Doura neighborhood in southern Baghdad, injuring three civilians," the source, who asked to be unnamed, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq

#3: Police found three bodies in Baghdad, one in Sadr, one in Jamia, one in Doura


Diyala Prv:
Khalis:
#1: Unidentified gunmen on Friday hijacked five taxis on the road between Baghdad and Kirkuk and killed five Iraqi army soldiers onboard, a police source said. "Unknown armed men set up a fake checkpoint in al-Tahwiela region near Khalis, north of Baaquba, where they hijacked five taxis carrying passengers from Baghdad to Kirkuk and took them to unknown place," the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) under condition of anonymity. "The gunmen, suspected of being al-Qaeda elements, killed five Iraqi soldiers, who were among the passengers," he explained.

Al Qaeda killed five people and abducted 30 traveling in five SUVs around Al Khalis. The five killed at the scene were members of Iraqi military and police, Iraqi police said.

Hibhib:
#1: Three mortar shells slammed into Hibhib town west of Baqouba, killing three residents and injuring two others

Baquba:
#1: An American soldier was killed Friday when a bomb exploded during military operations near the city of Baquoba 55 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.


Basra:
#1: the British base at the Basra international airport came under indirect fir attack without leaving casualties, a British military spokesman said.


Dhuluwiya:
#1: One Iraqi police captain was killed and two other policemen were wounded when a suspected al Qaeda member blew himself up as they entered his home to arrest him in the town of Dhuluwiya, 70 km north of Baghdad, police said.


Al Shirqat:
#1: A car bomb targeted local police vehicle in Al Shirqat south of Mosul yesterday, killing 4 policemen.


Kirkuk:
#1: One mortar bomb wounded two children when it landed on a residential area, near Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

#2: Unidentified gunmen in a speeding car shot and killed a restaurant owner, police said.


Mosul:
#1: Unidentified gunmen blew up a fuel station in eastern Mosul but no casualties were reported, an official source from Ninewa police said on Friday. "The station was closed when the gunmen entered and blew it up with TNT," the source, who declined to have his name mentioned, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq

Thursday, November 29, 2007

News & Views 11/29/07

Photo: Residents grieve as they walk into a hospital morgue to claim the bodies of their two relatives killed by gunmen in Kirkuk, north of Baghdad, November 29, 2007. (Slahaldeen Rasheed/Reuters)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Where to find progress in Iraq

My Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) is in Dhi Qar Province in southern Iraq. It's a dusty, sparsely populated backwater as far from Baghdad as you can get. It is inhabited by "marsh Arabs," Bedouin tribesmen, and simple peasants, who eke out a subsistence living from the harsh landscape and live in simple one-story structures of adobe bricks, with old cars parked in front. Village boys commonly herd family livestock through the flat, dusty plains. Dhi Qar's story is much different from that of Baghdad. Almost 100 percent Shiite Muslim, its inhabitants participated in two abortive "uprisings" called by Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Now instead of calling for uprisings, Mr. Sadr has ordered his Jaish al Mahdi militia to stand down, and violence has dramatically declined. Governance and security there have been in the hands of Iraqis for more than a year. The governor and popularly elected provincial council make policy, construct a provincial budget, and implement development plans, while the Iraqi Army and police maintain order. US Army forces are seldom seen in Dhi Qar, while my PRT pursues projects in the area virtually unmolested.

Returning Iraq refugees begin picking up the pieces

"If I had any chance to go to another country I would leave tomorrow," he said. "But not to Syria. We were not treated well there." Abu Zainad, a 37-year-old Shiite who was driven out of his home in Baghdad's mainly Sunni western neighbourhood of Al-Jihad five months ago with his wife and three young children, also vows never to go back to Syria. "Life was very difficult. We suffered severe shortages," said Zainad, who before he left for Syria worked as a civil servant during the day and ran a farm supply store in the evenings. On leaving Iraq, he rented a small apartment in the city of Hims in western Syria and began looking for work -- in vain. "We suffered far more than the people who stayed behind (in Iraq)," Zainad said. To survive, they sold his wife's gold jewellery and the entire contents of his farm supply store back in Baghdad. When they heard that there had been a drop in violence in Iraq, they decided to pack in their life in exile and return home, joining what the United Nations has described as a "flow" of returning refugees. Zainad arrived home a week ago to find it had been cared for by his neighbours and that violence in his area had subsided. "We are very, very happy to be home," said Zainad, adding that he now was trying to raise the cash to restock his farm supply store. Though he feels safer in Baghdad he is still wary of venturing out on to its dangerous streets. "Security in Baghdad is a relative term," he said.

Iraqi children: Squeezed to survive

Wherever you go in Baghdad's vegetable markets, you find yourself surrounded by scores of children trying to sell you plastic bags and other things to earn a living. Exploring the world of peddlers can be an adventure, especially when it comes to child peddlers. Muhammad Abbas, an 8-year-old boy who receives people at a Baghdad local market with a big smile that encourages them to buy his goods, said that he likes school and is making progress. "I am in the third grade. My father and mother are educated. My dad dropped out of school in the sixth grade and mom in the fifth." When asked about whether he would love to continue his education, the poor child answered, "Yes, why not?!" Another boy approached the scene wheeling his noisy wooden cart and inquired about what we wanted from his colleague. We then knew that child peddlers had adopted a group defense strategy against strangers. A few minutes later, we were surrounded by a dozen boys who competed to tell their stories. ……Jassim, a 13-year-old boy with eyes full of tears and heart filled with pain, refused to tell his story, while another child volunteered to speak on his behalf. "Jassim's father was a builder. He fell off a scaffold and broke his back. He is now crippled and stays at home all the time. After the accident, his mother went out to sell vegetables to provide for her children and she was killed in an explosive charge attack that ripped though the market," the boy said.

Tribal sit-in protest over security conditions in Diala

More than 100 chieftains from Diala staged a sit-in in a hotel in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, protesting the deteriorating security situation in their province, informed sources said on Thursday. "Tribal leaders started their sit-in on Thursday morning in Dananir Hall in central Baghdad's al-Rasheed Hotel, following talks with the government over improvising security conditions in Diala," a spokesman for the protestors, Sheikh Awwad Najm al-Rubaie, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). "The protestors attended a Baghdad-based conference on Thursday under the auspices of the prime minister's advisor for tribal affairs, Sheikh Fawwaz al-Jarba, which did not yield positive results due to the government's refusal to respond to the chieftains' demands," al-Rubaie indicated. Al-Rubaie, who is also a leading member of the Diala Salvation Council, an anti-Qaeda armed tribal body working in coordination with the Iraqi government, explained that protestors demanded the government to restrict the possession of arms to security personnel and to cancel the popular committees which have been established in the province. The popular committees are armed Sunni militias comprising the 1920 Revolution Brigades, the Iraqi Hamas and Salah al-Din groups that turned against al-Qaeda and are fighting it in Diala with encouragement and support from the U.S. forces and the Iraqi government.

Arrest warrant for journalist who claimed family massacre

The Iraqi Ministry of Interior on Thursday issued an arrest warrant for a journalist who claimed that his 11-member family had been slain by unknown gunmen in Baghdad a few days ago. "The issue has been referred to court," an official ministerial spokesman, Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI), in reference to Diaa al-Kawwaz, an Iraqi journalist who claimed that his family had been liquidated and pointed the finger at the security apparatus. "Al-Kawwaz will be sued by the Iraqi court for making false allegations against our security forces," Khalaf added.


REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraqi lawmakers protest U.S. guards

Dozens of Iraqi lawmakers walked out of parliament Wednesday to protest what they view as overly aggressive and humiliating treatment by U.S. soldiers as representatives enter Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, where the legislature is located. "I and many of my colleagues who live outside the Green Zone face a lot of problems," said Feryad Rawandozi, a high-ranking official with the Kurdish parliamentary bloc. U.S. soldiers "are very arrogant and impolite when they talk to us, especially with those who don't speak English."

Iraq MPs block Maliki nominees for cabinet posts

Iraqi legislators thwarted Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's attempts to get approval for nominees to fill two vacant cabinet posts on Thursday, indicating deep political divisions remain despite falling sectarian violence. Legislators from several parties boycotted the session, ensuring parliament did not have a quorum to vote on nominations for the justice and communications portfolios. Infighting has paralysed both the cabinet and parliament this year, derailing efforts to get major laws passed that the United States considers important to help reconcile majority Shi'ites and minority Sunni Arabs. "Those two ministerial nominations were imposed without political consensus and consulting other parliament blocs," Noureddin al-Hayyali, a member of the main Sunni Arab bloc, the Accordance Front, told Reuters.

U.S. sponsorship of Sunni groups worries Iraq's government

The American campaign to turn Sunni Muslims against Islamic extremists is growing so quickly that Iraq's Shiite Muslim leaders fear that it's out of control and threatens to create a potent armed force that will turn against the government one day. The United States, which credits much of the drop in violence to the campaign, is enrolling hundreds of people daily in "concerned local citizens" groups. More than 5,000 have been sworn in in the last eight days, for a total of 77,542 as of Tuesday. As many as 10 groups were created in the past week, bringing the total number to 192, according to the American military. U.S. officials said they were screening new members — who generally are paid $300 a month to patrol their neighborhoods — and were subjecting them to tough security measures. More than 60,000 have had fingerprints and DNA taken and had retinal scans, American officials said, steps that will allow them to be identified later, should they turn against the government. The officials said they planned to cap membership in the groups at 100,000. But that hasn't calmed mounting concerns among aides to Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, who charge that some of the groups include "terrorists" who attack Shiite residents in their neighborhoods. Some of the new "concerned citizens" are occupying houses that terrified Shiite families abandoned, they said. It also hasn't quieted criticism that the program is trading long-term Iraqi stability for short-term security gains.

….."Those who fear are the ones who have militias blatantly operating from within the official institutions and law enforcement agencies and outside them," said Omar Abdul Sattar, a leading member of the Iraqi Accordance Front, the largest Sunni group in parliament. Dr. Safa Hussein, Maliki's deputy national security adviser and the head of a committee tasked with reconciling Iraq's rival factions, said the government was increasingly concerned about what would take place once the United States no longer was supervising the "concerned citizens" groups closely. "We have tens of thousands of people who are carrying weapons on a contract basis, and when their contracts are finished where will they go?" he asked. "The Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense can't absorb them all, and the problem is they are growing very rapidly and the Iraqi government doesn't have any control over that."

Hot debate in Iraqi parliament on banning Kurdistan oil contracts

Iraqi parliament's session on Thursday saw hot debates on oil minister's decision to ban production sharing contracts concluded by Iraq's Kurdistan government with some foreign companies. Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahrstani announced, on Saturday in an interview with Radio Monte Carlo, the cancellation of the oil contracts singed by Iraq's Kurdistan government with foreign companies, blaming it for "impeding reaching an agreeable draft on oil and gas law." Legislators from the Kurdistan alliance, second largest parliamentary bloc, criticized in today's session al-Shahrstani's decision to ban these oil contracts, noting that "the revenues of these contracts will streamline in the Federal Treasury." "The oil minister has made no progress for its ministry and further sought strength from Iraq's neighbor countries on the issue of Kurdistan's oil contracts," lawmaker Saadi al-Barazanchi from the Kurdistan alliance told the session in reference to al-Shahrstani's statement that "Kurdistan region would not be able to transport its oil exports via Iran, Turkey and Syria." Kurdistan region government signed 15 production sharing contracts with 20 foreign companies despite that Baghdad government opposed these contracts before the parliament would have been passed the oil draft into law.


REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Hey, they think they will: US to control growth of Iraq neighborhood patrols

The U.S. military will carefully manage the growth of neighborhood police units credited with helping to curb violence in Iraq, aiming ultimately to move many into public work roles, a spokesman said on Thursday. Rear Admiral Gregory Smith said about 50,000 Iraqis had been trained and were manning "concerned local citizens" checkpoints in their own communities and being paid by the U.S. military. Smith said the program would be allowed to grow by another 10-15 percent, although there was no absolute cap on the number. "It's a general guidance, not a final ceiling," he said. "We have been looking at making certain that we have a measured approach as we move into 2008," Smith said in a telephone interview.

Listen up or those death squads will start again: Top US official urges political progress in Iraq

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte has said Iraq's leaders need to build on security gains by making more political progress, especially in passing key laws to boost national reconciliation. With violence sharply down in Iraq, attention has focused on whether the Shi'ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki can reach an accommodation with former foes. Negroponte told a news conference in the Kurdish north of Iraq late on Wednesday the U.S. government welcomed what he called a marked improvement in security in the country. ….The key laws Washington wants passed include measures to reform a law banning former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party holding office, agreeing how to equitably share Iraq's oil wealth and setting a date for provincial elections.

Lying again: US not seeking permanent Iraq bases: White House


IRAQI REFUGEES

IRAQ-JORDAN: New chance of education for Iraqi asylum seekers

Thousands of Iraqi asylum-seekers who were denied education as a result of the turmoil in their own country will now have a chance to finish their studies: Jordan's government has decided to launch new education projects for asylum seekers, according to officials and activists. "The Ministry of Education has prepared all legal documents to allow thousands of Iraqis who cannot study in regular schools to do home schooling that can be officially recognised," said Mohammad Ekour, director of students’ affairs at the Ministry of Education. According to the programme, to be officially announced in the coming few weeks, students will be able study in their homes and sit for final examinations in public schools. "Any student, including Iraqis, can study at home until they sit the high school examination," said Ekour, noting that the project will be implemented in early 2008.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project


COMMENTARY

The spineless Democrats will let him go on deciding: Bush isn't the only decider

Despite the show at Annapolis, this week's main diplomatic initiative has concerned Iraq, not Israel. Without any fanfare, the Bush administration and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki announced that the United States and Iraq will begin negotiating a long-term agreement that will set the terms of Washington's Iraq policy for "coming generations." President Bush is again in legacy mode. His White House "czar" on Iraq, Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, explained that the administration intends to reach a final agreement between the two countries by July 31, 2008. In describing the negotiations, he made a remarkable suggestion: Only the Iraqi parliament, not the U.S. Congress, needs to formally approve the agreement. Lute's suggestion does not even pass the laugh test. American presidents do have unilateral authority to make foreign agreements on minor matters. But the Constitution requires congressional approval before the nation can commit itself to the sweeping political, economic and military relationship contemplated by the "declaration of principles" signed by Bush and Maliki to kick off the negotiations.

Let Iraq weigh in on Blackwater

Specifically, the U.S. government should take four steps: First, establish a process by which Iraqis can formally request the prosecution -- in U.S. courts and under U.S. law -- of U.S. contractors accused of crimes in Iraq. This would increase accountability by ensuring direct, high-visibility communication with U.S. prosecutors. Second, give the Iraqi Ministries of Interior and Justice a reasonable opportunity to promptly investigate alleged contractor misconduct and question suspects. Third, create a standing joint commission of Iraqi and U.S. representatives, to discuss pending allegations and prosecutions and coordinate with the FBI and Iraqi Ministries of Interior and Justice. Fourth, provide the Iraqi government with a timely written explanation if U.S. officials decline to act on an Iraqi request to prosecute a U.S. contractor. The Department of Justice does not traditionally publicize decisions not to prosecute, but in Iraq, we have a unique need to show we take Iraqi concerns seriously. It is unrealistic at this juncture to assume Iraqi courts could deal fairly with a foreigner caught in the middle of multiple sectarian civil wars. The best solution for now is to provide a responsive legal structure under which the U.S. can retain jurisdiction and Iraqis can investigate and present their allegations. That way, we can assure fair treatment of Americans charged with criminal conduct, increase our perceived legitimacy, and demonstrate our respect for Iraqi lives.

Wish it were true: Editorial: Congress must oppose Bush's Iraq power grab

The Bush presidency has been one long effort to increase the power of the presidency at the expense of Congress and the judiciary, to the detriment of checks and balances in our constitutional system. Now comes along the mother of all power grabs. On Monday, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed a U.S.-Iraq Declaration of Principles for a "long-term bilateral relationship," an attempt to lock in Bush's policies for a permanent U.S. presence in Iraq. While the Bush administration describes these principles as a nonbinding "mutual statement of intent," they are the first step toward formal negotiation of a "strategic framework agreement" by July 2008, according to Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the assistant to the president for Iraq and Afghanistan. Lute made it clear that the Bush administration has no intention of consulting with Congress: "We don't anticipate now that these negotiations will lead to the status of a formal treaty which would then bring us to formal negotiations or formal inputs from the Congress." If Congress doesn't raise a ruckus over this, Americans should question why we have a Congress and a system of checks and balances at all.

Quotes of the day: The White House said on Thursday that the US government is not seeking permanent military bases in Iraq. – I guess it all depends on what the definition of “is” is. - dancewater

War News for Thursday, November 29, 2007

MNF-Iraq is reporting the death of a Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldier from small-arms fire in an western neighborhood of Baghdad on Wednesday, November 28th.


Security incidents:

Baghdad:
#1: The roadside bomb hit a public bus on Thursday morning, injuring six passengers on the main Palestine road in north-east Baghdad, police sources told the Voices of Iraq news agency.

Security officials also reported that a bomb exploded inside a bus in Baghdad’s central Palestine Street, killing one person and wounding five.

#2: Small-arms fire killed one Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldier in a western section of the Iraqi capital Nov. 28.

#3: A roadside bomb near a minibus wounded five people near a hospital in central Baghdad, police said.

#4: U.S. helicopters killed three gunmen when they attacked a U.S. convoy on Tuesday, southeast of Baghdad, the military said.

#5: Iraqi soldiers killed one gunman and detained 47 other suspects in different areas of Iraq in the past 24 hours, the Defence Ministry said.

#6: Police found ( 6 ) unidentified dead bodies in the following neighborhoods in Baghdad: ( 4 ) were found in west Baghdad ( Karkh bank) ; 2 in Doura , 1 in Saidiyah and 1 Toubchi . While ( 2 ) were found in east bank ( Risafa bank ) ; 1 in Sinak( Bab Al-Sharji ) and 1 in Palestine street.


Diyala Prv::
#1: Unknown gunmen positioned a fake checkpoint on the main road near Albo Shahen village, 45 km northeast of Baaquba, and kidnapped 14 civilians after intercepted their mini-bus," the source, who asked not to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq

Khan Bani Saad:
#1: US forces killed two and detained five militants in the village of Khan Bani Saad, north of Baghdad, in an early morning raid targeting a Shiite militant suspected of involvement in smuggling bombs from Iran into Iraq.

Baquba:
#1: Twelve people were killed and 25 wounded in a Katyusha rocket attack in al-Salam village near the city of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

Mortars hit Al-Salam area ( Anbakiyah and Shahin villages ) killing 12 people and injuring 25 others

#2: Gunmen opened fire on the general brigadier ( Hamid Ibrahim) the head of Hibhib police at Hidayda area in Baquba injuring two of his guards.

#3: Mortars hit Al-Salam police station in Baquba injuring two policemen

Kanaan:
#1: A roadside bomb exploded at Kinaan area in Baquba injuring two people.

Muqdadiyah:
#1: Mortars hit Al-Jazeera village in Al-Muqdadiyah ( 45 km north east Baquba) injuring two people .


Tikrit:
#1: In another attack, the home of another district council head in the city was badly damaged by a bomb.

Gunmen killed the mayor of a district in central Tikrit, 175 km (125 miles) north of Baghdad, on Wednesday, police said.


Hawija:
#1: Around 2.30 p.m., gunmen opened fire on Hawijah district mayor ( Amar Mohammad Al-Hamadani ) as he was in a convoy on the way home in Hawijah ( west of Kirkuk). He was injured and one of his guards was killed .


Kirkuk:
#1: In the northern city of Kirkuk, the head of a district council was killed by armed men outside his home, a police officer, Badr Hamid, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

#2: Gunmen killed two men in a drive-by shooting on Wednesday in Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

#3: Wednesday night , a roadside targeted a patrol for the Iraqi army near Kharbat Aziz on Kirkuk- Biji road ( west Kirkuk) injuring two ( one officer and another soldier ) with some damage to the vehicle.

#4: Around 4.30 of Wednesday afternoon, a roadside targeted an Iraqi army patrol near ( Salih Abid) of Riadh ( west of Kirkuk ) injuring one injuring one of the officers .

#5: Around 2 p.m., a roadside bomb targeted an Iraqi guards’ convoy on the border between Iraq and Iran near Bamo village killing two ( one officer and a soldier ) with full destroy to their car.


Mosul:
#1: A car bomb wounded two policemen in eastern Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.



Afghanistan:
#1: The school principal, Fazel Mir, was shot to death Wednesday morning in Khost province, said Wazir Pacha, spokesman for the provincial police.

#2: In Ghazni province, meanwhile, Taliban insurgents ambushed police Wednesday in Khogyani district, and the ensuing clash killed one policeman and four suspected militants, said deputy provincial police chief Mohammad Zaman.

#3: Also Wednesday, militants in Paktia province attacked trucks carrying supplies for foreign troops, killing one driver, said Din Mohammad Darwesh, spokesman for the provincial governor.

#4: In neighboring Paktika province, a roadside bomb hit Afghan troops on Wednesday, leaving one soldier dead and three wounded, Darwesh said.

#5: The five soldiers died when a bomb hit their pickup truck about 20 miles from Miran Shah, the main town in the troubled North Waziristan border region, officials said. Four more soldiers were wounded in the blast, Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad said on Dawn News television. He provided no other details.

#6: Afghan and foreign troops fought against Taliban militants and called in airstrikes in southern Afghanistan, leaving 30 fighters dead, an Afghan police chief said Thursday. The joint forces attacked militants hiding inside two compounds on Wednesday in the Zhari district of southern Kandahar province, said provincial police chief Sayed Agha Saqib. Troops detained 12 other militants, including group commanders fighting Afghan and foreign forces in the area, Saqib said. Five of the men detained were wounded during the clash.

#7: Two Danish soldiers were killed Thursday in a gunbattle with Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan, the Scandinavian country's military said. The soldiers were part of a Danish reconnaissance unit that came under fire in Gereshk Valley in Helmand Province, the Army Operational Command said. The two were evacuated by helicopter to a Danish camp where they were pronounced dead.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

News & Views 11/28/07

Photo: In this photo released by the U.S Air Force, Sunni tribal leaders sign a security pact in Hawija, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007. Nearly 6,000 Sunni Arab residents signed a security pact with American forces Wednesday in this dusty farming community U.S. officers describe as the last gateway for militants flowing northward in Iraq. (AP Photo/ U.S. Air Force, SSG Samuel Bendet)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

UN Has New Concern About Baghdad Cholera

The United Nations raised new concern Wednesday about a possible cholera outbreak in Baghdad ahead of the rainy season, saying the capital accounts for 79 percent of all new cases despite a national decline. The Iraqi Health Ministry reported that two boys in a Baghdad orphanage died of cholera this month and six other children there had been diagnosed with the disease, which was first detected Aug. 14 in the northern city of Kirkuk. The U.N. Children's Fund said 101 cases had been recorded in the capital, most in the past three weeks, making it the source of 79 percent of all new cases. It said no single source for the outbreak had been identified, but the main Shiite enclave of Sadr City was among the areas hardest hit. "While national caseloads are declining, we are increasingly concerned about a possible outbreak in Baghdad," UNICEF said in a statement. "UNICEF is working with WHO to try to limit the spread in the capital and treat the sick as Iraq's rainy season sets in." The humanitarian organization said it was providing oral rehydration salts and water purification tablets for families, as well as jerry cans at water distribution points. It also was transporting 47,552 gallons of safe water per day to Baghdad's most affected districts, including schools and other institutions. UNICEF said the recent case in the orphanage "raises concerns for all children in institutions and schools in Baghdad," and it issued an urgent appeal to "Iraq's government to clean water storage tanks in all institutions as one preventive measure.

Iraqi journalist's family 'safe'

The family of an Iraqi journalist - who he claimed had been killed by gunmen in Baghdad - have appeared on Iraqi television, apparently safe and well. Dia al-Kawwaz, who lives in Jordan, said that several members of his family were killed by Shia gunmen on Sunday. But a taped report on the US-owned al-Hurra TV showed his family, none of whom seemed distressed or injured. Mr Kawwaz' sisters denounced his actions, saying there had never been any sort of threat against them. One of his brothers-in-law suggested that he had made the story up for political reasons.

Grim View of Iraq Dangers in Survey of Journalists

In a newly released survey, American journalists in Iraq give harrowing accounts of their work, with the great majority saying that colleagues have been kidnapped or killed and that most parts of Baghdad are too dangerous for them to visit. The survey was conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, an arm of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center in Washington. Of the 111 journalists who participated, half had spent at least nine months in Iraq, and three-quarters had experience reporting on other armed conflicts. Most of the journalists were surveyed in October, one of the least deadly months in Baghdad in recent years. Almost two-thirds of the respondents said that most or all of their street reporting was done by local citizens, yet 87 percent said that it was not safe for their Iraqi reporters to openly carry notebooks, cameras or anything else that identified them as journalists. Two-thirds of respondents said they worried that their reliance on local reporters — including many with little or no background in journalism — could produce inaccurate or incomplete news reports.

FEATURE-Al Qaeda haven no more, Iraq's Falluja rebuilds

Falluja, once the heart of Iraq's bloody insurgency, is hoping to trade mortar bombs for bricks and mortar as it seeks to heal its wounds and return to normality. With a greater number of police officers on the streets, there are signs that the city is on its way to achieving it. By day, people, cars and minibuses compete on the streets as police try to direct the teeming traffic. At night, men relax outdoors on plastic chairs, smoking and talking. Driving is still banned, but people ride bicycles and children play street soccer under the glow of recently installed solar-powered street lights. The city is undertaking public works projects big and small. In the western part of the city, minaret towers are being erected above a new mosque in place of a building destroyed in an air strike.

Iraqi Government Reopens Landmark Street

The smell of grilled fish and the sound of children's laughter provided moments of joy for many Iraqis Saturday as the government reopened Abu Nawas Street, a famous riverside promenade that has been largely barricaded from the public since the U.S.-led invasion. The Iraqi government hailed the renovation of the street - named for a ninth century poet and once known for its art galleries - as a sign of improved security. But the presence of U.S. troops and armed private security guards underscored the fragility of the new signs of calm. Lt. Gen. Abboud Qanbar, the Iraqi commander for Baghdad, recalled the concrete barriers that once lined the street before a U.S.-Iraqi security operation began in mid-February to quell spiraling violence. "The reconstruction of Abu Nawas is considered one of the bright results," he said during the opening ceremonies. But he warned the fight was not over, saying "we realize that the enemy will not lay down his weapons as easily as some would think, but we are determined to defeat them."


REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraq politicians oppose US pact

Iraqi opposition groups have criticised moves towards a long-term US-Iraqi pact following the expiry of the UN mandate governing foreign troops in Iraq. On Monday US and Iraqi leaders signed a "declaration of principles" on enduring military, political and economic ties. Sunni Arab and Shia politicians said it would lead to what they described as "US interference for years to come". The Iraqi parliament will have to approve any final agreement before it can come into force. The declaration was signed separately by President George W Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki on Monday. MPs from the Shia bloc loyal to the cleric Moqtada Sadr expressed deep reservations about the agreement. The declaration of principles sets the framework for negotiations next year on a long-term bilateral relationship, including the presence of US troops and economic ties. It sets a 31 July 2008 target date to formalise US-Iraq relations, allowing for the expiration of the renewable UN mandate authorising the presence of US-led multinational forces in Iraq. The Sunni group the Association of Muslim Scholars said the Iraqi signatories of the declaration would be looked on a "collaborators with the occupier".

MNF anti-parliamentarian practices obstruct quorum ascertainment- source

Multi-National Force (MNF) practices against Iraqi parliamentarians prevented the ascertainment of the quorum in the parliament, a media source from the deputy speaker's office said on Wednesday. "Some parliamentarians walked out of the session in protest of the practices of MNF personnel assigned to protect the parliament's building," the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) by phone. The source indicated that the parliamentarians found the practices offensive and refused to return to the parliament, resulting in an absence of the quorum. Today's agenda included a second reading of the accountability and justice law, an alternative to the controversial debaathification law, and a second reading of two other bills. "Only 50 parliamentarians attended the session, which prompted the parliament to delay deliberation on the accountability law, the source indicated.


REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

U.S. Military Announces Final Plans on Sunni Patrols

The American military expects to add roughly 10,000 people to its roster of unofficial security guards who act as paid neighborhood watchdogs here, and will then cap the program, a military official said today. The guards were hired by the tens of thousands earlier this year, when American forces offered tribal sheiks money in exchange for information about terrorist and other criminal activities. About 77,000 people, who are alternately called volunteers, concerned local citizens, or members of awakening councils, have joined, the vast majority of them Sunnis. The program has been credited with helping to sharply drive down violence nationwide, but also stirred concerns among Shiites that the Sunnis would use the money and training to re-form militias. About 60,000 of the guards are paid $300 a month, while the rest are still in the process of being enrolled, according to Rear Adml. Gregory Smith, a spokesman for the multinational forces. “Our intent was not to send the message that this was a job creation program,” Admiral Smith said today. The program was expected to grow by another 10 percent to 15 percent, tops, he said. The military said it did not want the number of volunteers to exceed 100,000, a figure that is being neared. Earlier this week the Iraqi government announced that it would start paying the guards’ salaries sometime next year. [The main reason this has worked at reducing violence is because it is a job creation program. – dancewater]

6000 Sunnis Join Pact With US in Iraq

Nearly 6,000 Sunni Arab residents joined a security pact with American forces Wednesday in what U.S. officers described as a critical step in plugging the remaining escape routes for extremists flushed from former strongholds. The new alliance — called the single largest single volunteer mobilization since the war began — covers the "last gateway" for groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq seeking new havens in northern Iraq, U.S. military officials said. U.S. commanders have tried to build a ring around insurgents who fled military offensives launched earlier this year in the western Anbar province and later into Baghdad and surrounding areas. In many places, the U.S.-led battles were given key help from tribal militias — mainly Sunnis — that had turned against al-Qaida and other groups. Extremists have sought new footholds in northern areas once loyal to Saddam Hussein's Baath party as the U.S.-led gains have mounted across central regions. But their ability to strike near the capital remains.


IRAQI REFUGEES

IRAQ-SYRIA: More Iraqi refugees leaving Syria than entering

For the first time since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, figures from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Damascus suggest that more Iraqi refugees are leaving Syria to return home than are entering the country. On 27 November, the first Iraqi government-sponsored convoy of 17 coaches left Damascus for Baghdad, transporting up to 800 refugees back to Iraq. According to UNHCR estimates, 1,500 Iraqis are now returning to Iraq each day from Syria, while only 500 new refugees are arriving in Syria from Iraq each day. The Iraqi government says 45,000 refugees returned to Iraq during October alone. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is set to greet the convoy when it arrives in Baghdad later on 28 November, using it to highlight the security gains across the country that followed the US troop surge earlier this year.

….. "I'm leaving because I've heard the security situation is improving," said Ahiaf Ahmad as he waited to board his bus. "If it's good I'll come back and get my family as well." Nevertheless, a recent report by the UNHCR suggested that many refugees are returning to Iraq against their will as a result of financial and legal difficulties. "The majority of people are going back either because they're running out of savings and making ends meet has finally become impossible, or for the first time we're finding that people are not able to renew their visas, and they're getting an exit stamp in their passports," said Sybella Wilkes, spokesperson for the UNHCR in Syria. As buses departed on 27 November, some refugees expressed frustration that their life in exile had become virtually impossible. "We've received no help from anyone here," said Khadoum Mohammed, saying the soaring cost of living in Syria, where rents have more than doubled and basic commodity prices increased, had become financially unsustainable for him.

IRAQ-JORDAN: Iraq to give US$8 million to Jordan for hosting refugees

The Iraqi government will give Jordan US$8 million to help host the estimated 500,000 Iraqi refugees now living in the country. The Iraqi ambassador to Jordan, Saad Hayani, said the money was to support education and health institutions which have come under financial pressure owing to the influx of Iraqi refugees since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The money will be presented on 28 November during an official meeting between Jordanian Finance Minister Hamad al-Kassasbe and his Iraqi counterpart, Bayan Jabr Solagh. Most Iraqis in Jordan live in the main cities of Amman, Zarqa and Irbid. Jordan has recently allowed nearly 50,000 Iraqi residents to be enrolled in schools without the need to obtain permanent residency. Hayani said more financial aid would be given to Jordan in the near future, but he pointed out that the priority was to restore security and stability in Iraq to allow the estimated 4.2 million Iraqi refugees living outside Iraq - mainly in Syria and Jordan - to return home.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project


COMMENTARY

The Iraqi Miracle – From Invasion to “Partnership”

What the U.S. had in mind for Iraq was already clear in the Fall of 2001, even though it would take another year and a half to implement the attack, mercilessly known as shock and awe. By the time of the attack, many millions of U.S. citizens knew full well the real motivation behind it. Not that it mattered, or could matter. The propaganda campaign waged by the government proved too effective for the scared, at large population. Their gullibility level was pushed to record heights by the administration’s deep handbag of shifting rationalizations and calls to patriotism. In short, the population was overmatched. With some admirable exceptions, congresspersons, not known for gullibility, went along for different reasons. Ultimately not to stick their necks out. A politician’s main job is to stay elected. This is true because they are not limited to a single term. If they were limited to a single term they might be more inclined to assert their individuality. The usual argument against the single term limit is that by then they are just learning their way around. But that’s the trouble – that there is a “way around”. That means knowing who to kiss up to, who’s useful, who will deal and who will pay. Do we really think that if we had a totally new Congress nothing could get done, because nobody knows their way around? We did have an all new Congress in this country. Once. The media, again with a few admirable exceptions, took the occasion to demonstrate their compliancy. Distinguished less by gullibility than by hard-boiled cynicism, they nonetheless faithfully repeated every administration handout without challenge, indeed, without comment. Now what was it that was so clear to some from the very beginning? That a takeover of Iraq was a natural way to establish a permanent military presence in the heart of the resource-rich Middle East. This was not a departure from longstanding American foreign policy goals but merely its latest iteration. Iraq happens to harbor the second largest proven oil reserves and oil just happens to be entering its scarcity mode.

Bush Gets “Preferential Treatment” for U.S. Companies in Iraq

Bush just pulled the knee strings on his puppet in Iraq, and Nouri al-Maliki did the jig. The prime minister signed on to a deal laying the groundwork for the long-term presence of U.S. troops there. Permanent military bases, anyone? To inaugurate the pact, U.S. troops in Baghdad killed three women on a bus that was approaching a U.S. roadblock. The arrangement with the Maliki government will ultimately take the place of the U.N.-sanctioned presence of U.S. troops there, which itself is a blot on the U.N.’s record. And part of the “enduring” relationship that Bush and Maliki laid out in this pact has nothing to do with the presence of U.S. troops, but with the profits of U.S. corporations. The deal would give “preferential treatment for American investments,” AP reports, adding nonchalantly that this “could provide a huge windfall if Iraq can achieve enough stability to exploit its vast oil resources.”

Iraq and the Democrats 2008: Uh Oh!

Since 2003, the central theme of the Democrats' opposition to the war was that it was mismanaged, that the Bush administration didn't send enough troops to do the job, and that big mistakes were made. All true. But few Democrats, except for the hardy band of progressives, denounced the war for what it was: an illegal war of aggression against a country that represented no threat to the United States. Many Democrats, including the leading ones running for president, have based their opposition to the war on the notion that U.S. forces are stuck in the middle of a civil war between Iraqi factions determined to destroy each other. It's an unwinnable war, and we have to leave, they say. Far less often do we hear that the war in Iraq was a naked attempt by the United States to plant its flag at the heart of the world's oil region. Rarely do the Democrats explain - as General Wesley Clark now does, explicitly - that the war in Iraq was only the first of seven wars and regime change operations that were planned for Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Lebanon to remake the Middle East. And never, ever do the Democrats explain that a big reason for going into Iraq was to eliminate one of Israel's chief regional enemies, in a war designed by neoconservatives closely allied to the Israeli right. So what happens to the Democrats if the unwinnable war starts to look, well, winnable?

RESISTANCE

We Support the Troops Who Oppose the War

On the weekend of 13-15 March, 2008, Iraq Veterans Against the War will assemble history's largest gathering of US veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Iraqi and Afghan survivors. They will provide first hand accounts of their experiences and reveal the truth of occupation. We support Iraq Veterans Against the War and their Winter Soldier: Iraq & Afghanistan Investigation. Join us in supporting the effort to reveal truth in the way that only those who lived it can.

Please go to this website to sign the petition.

Quotes of the day: A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming. - Ralph Waldo Emerson