The bottom line is clear: Our vital interests in Afghanistan are limited and military victory is not the key to achieving them. On the contrary, waging a lengthy counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan may well do more to aid Taliban recruiting than to dismantle the group, help spread conflict further into Pakistan, unify radical groups that might otherwise be quarreling amongst themselves, threaten the long-term health of the U.S. economy, and prevent the U.S. government from turning its full attention to other pressing problems. -- Afghanistan Study Group

Monday, December 31, 2007

News & Views 12/31/07

Photo: Taken from Nur al-Cubicle blog. Saddam is dead, the people rejoice! I'm sure this is what Fox News is reporting. However, the reality is that Saddam's tomb in Aouja has become a Sunni place of veneration as this photo from L'Orient-Le Jour shows... children and tribal leaders recite verses from the Koran. In the Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah in Baghdad, portraits of Saddam were plastered on every residence and shop. However, there was a celebration, as one might expect, in Shi'a-controlled Najaf.

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Monday: 35 Iraqis Killed, 21 Wounded

Iraq's Kurd villagers see no hope after air strikes

Air strikes on mountain villages around the town of Sankasar in northern Iraq on December 16 destroyed much of Rasheed's modest home as the family slept, injuring her 16-year-old daughter so severely that she had to have her leg amputated above the knee. "We lost everything, even my daughter's leg. Isn't this terrorism from Turkey?" she said angrily. "I have no hope of going back to my demolished home, all my livestock are dead and the future of my children is uncertain. How are they going to study here when I'm living in a small room like this?" The family will have to survive the rest of the bitter winter in a small mud-brick room belonging to relatives in Sankasar, about 160 km (100 miles) north of the city of Sulaimaniya.

Iraq PM offers money to families fleeing Turkish bombings

"The prime minister has ordered the formation of a committee that will visit these families and pay each of them a million dinars," a statement said, adding that the aid will be given in coordination with the Iraqi Red Crescent. It did not say how many families have been displaced by the Turkish bombings in northern Iraq's Kurdish region. In the past few weeks, Turkish warplanes have regularly bombed areas inside Iraq along the border with Turkey in an attempt to flush out rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) who have their bases in the region.

Abuse awaits many foreign workers flocking to Kurdish north of Iraq

Thousands of foreign workers have come to the Kurdish area in the last three years, taking menial jobs that there are too few Kurds to fill. The recruiting and importing process leaves them vulnerable to a range of crimes, from financial exploitation to sexual abuse and slavery.

A report on Sadr City, and the changes it has seen (PDF)

Supporters pay homage to Hussein

Hundreds of people, including many children, chanted slogans praising former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on Sunday as they tossed flowers onto his tomb one year after he was executed.

At least 134 journalists were killed in 2007, most in Iraq

The group says most were killed in Iraq, which has become the most dangerous place for journalists since the start of the US-led war there. The report from the International Federation of Journalists says the Middle East is by far the deadliest region with 68 killings. That's followed by Somalia with eight killings, Pakistan with seven, Mexico and Sri Lanka with six each, and the Philippines with five. The Brussels-based organization says that in addition to the 134 killings in 2007, 37 media workers died accidentally on the job, bringing the total number of deaths for the year to 171. The numbers represent a slight decrease from 2006, when at least 177 deaths were reported worldwide.

The worst, and saddest, job in Baghdad

It must be a candidate for the worst job in Iraq. It falls to Baghdad's street sweepers, who use their bare hands, to pick up the fingertips and scraps of flesh spattered around every bomb site in the Iraqi capital. They do it without gloves, in all but the coldest weeks of winter. The past year was one that delivered several $8 bonuses to Baghdad's municipal cleaners, albeit not as many as in previous years. It is a welcome sum when your salary is only $6 a day. Less so when you earn it by picking up parts of your fellow Iraqis who were unfortunate enough to be blown apart on your street-sweeping route. Anything within your six-hour shift counts as part of the job. For two of Baghdad's municipal street-cleaners, Imad al-Hashemi and Laith Mahdi Latif, the bonuses are something they can live without in 2008.

Iraqis Hope to Cure War Wounds With Movies

As the second movie festival ended here Saturday without interruption of violence, Iraqi cinematographic artists hoped that they could help cure the wounds of war with their works. The movie festival which came in a violent time "represents a great defiance of the entire negative circumstances in the country, particularly in Baghdad," Aziz Kareem, a well-known Iraqi artist, told Xinhua. The 2007 movie festival screened 63 movies from around the world. The movie "Abu Ghraib and Kilo-160" by Iraqi director Jamal al-Nfas was awarded the silver prize on the day. The documentary recorded a tragic story that 14 members of the Iraqi taekwondo team was kidnapped in May last year in western Iraq. The bodies of 13 of them were found one year later.

Difficult mission

One week ago, we started work of the end year story that we share the work together. Sunni journalist took the Sunni neighborhoods and Shiite journalist took the Shiite neighborhoods. I was excite to do this story. I had to visit one family in each of mine neighborhood, I mean the Shiite majority neighborhood. But when I started my trip to do my job I faced so many difficulties not because the fears of the militias or terrorist.The difficulty was that most people feel afraid from the journalist and they deal with them as spies who work to serve the interest of their enemies. Some times, people refuse to cooperate and wonder about the benefit they will gain if they talk to a journalist. “If we talk,will that change our miserable reality?” that what Iraqis always ask about.

Basra's pottery industry threatened with extinction

Pottery, one of the traditional and oldest industries in the world, is currently at a low ebb in Iraq, a country well-known for its handicrafts and handmade product manufacturers. Umm Salem, a 70-year-old woman, said that she searched heaven and earth for a pottery shop in Basra's neighborhoods to buy a water pot. "All pottery shops in the area have changed their trade," said the old woman. "I had no option but to ask one of my acquaintances in Baghdad to buy me Habb al-Maa, (a large clay pot used to keep water cool for thirsty passers-by)," the woman noted. "Time has changed and goods and household appliances have developed, but Bistouka, Habb al-Maa and al-Kous will remain part of our tradition and our reminder of the near past when they were our only means of drinking cold water," Umm Salem told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

Spinsterhood spread threatens society ideals

"Don't blame me if I got mad at my wife for she gave birth to a daughter," said Sajid , a street cleaner who previously lived in the countryside adding, "in our village a female is looked upon scornfully and often regarded as a creature that might bring shame to the family!" The once disappeared idea of "shame" to have a female child among the family seemed nowadays back to the Iraqi society due, among other things, to the high rate of sprinters among women in Iraq. Mrs. Lamees Omar, a retired teacher, struck a comparison between the Iraqi society's view to women in 1960s and at present. "When I was at college some 45 years ago, the society used to advocate the emancipation of women and to back the idea of women sharing men work, but now I see the opposite," the old teacher said.

Civilian casualties drop dramatically in Iraq

Violent civilian deaths in Iraq in December were down 75 percent from a year ago, new figures released on Monday showed as Iraqis partied in the streets of some parts of the capital Baghdad to bring in the New Year. A year ago, the scenes of unrestrained revelry would have been unthinkable in a country racked by savage sectarian violence that by the most conservative estimates has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced some 4 million. According to figures compiled by the interior, health and defense ministries, 481 civilians died violently in Iraq in December, a 75 percent drop from the 1,930 who were killed in December 2006, when the country was on the brink of civil war.

In a safer Baghdad, Iraqis party for 2008

On New Year's Eve Ridaa al-Azzawi squeezed into his pointy snakeskin boots, his tight black sweater and his snazzy corduroy flared jeans, hustled down to a Baghdad hotel ballroom and partied for peace. 2008 arrived in a less-violent Baghdad, and residents said it was the first real party they had seen in years. At the stroke of midnight, exuberant locals fired into the air with automatic rifles, sending red tracer fire streaking over the city, as fireworks lit up the sky. While the city is still far from peaceful and many of the festive gatherings had a tentative feel, many said it was a happier occasion than they could have dared to hope just a few months ago. "The security has changed and it took us by surprise. We're very happy. Especially us young people," said al-Azzawi, a 22-year-old student taking a break from dancing to a traditional Iraqi band in the ballroom of the Palestine Hotel.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Salah al-Din Awakening Council calls on Bin Laden to stop “targeting Iraqis”

The Sunni Salah al-Din Awakening council on Sunday called al-Qaeda leader Osma Bin Laden to order his followers to stop targeting and killing Iraqis instead of warning against joining the tribal organizations. “Osama Bin Laden should order al-Qaeda members to stop targeting and killing Iraqi and apologize to the Iraqis for all the horrific crimes committed by the organization members," Salah al-Din awakening council said in a statement issued on Sunday and received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). [Earlier this month, the head of the Salah el-Din awakening council was arrested by Iraqi forces for blackmail and other crimes. Hat tip to Road from Iraq blog for pointing that out. – dancewater]

Iraqis Authorize Big Jump in Forces

Buried in the latest Defense Department quarterly report on Iraq is the disclosure that the Baghdad government is now responsible for setting the size of its security forces, and that it has authorized a level of 550,000 military and police forces -- an increase of more than 40 percent over the level that the U.S.-led coalition reported just three months ago. "While previous reports have listed numbers authorized by the Coalition and provided estimates of numbers on the payroll, the GoI [Government of Iraq] is now responsible for determining requirements and counting personnel," the Pentagon reported this month. "Therefore, reporting will now reflect GoI statistics." The new numbers show a jump of more than 150,000 from three months ago, when the coalition put the previously authorized number of military and police at 389,000. According to the Pentagon report, that jump under the Iraqi statistics mainly represents police who "have never been trained, as rapid hiring over the past two years outstripped academy training capacity." Eight Iraqi provinces have requested more than 45,000 new police slots; the Ministry of Interior has approved hiring 12,000, with orders pending for the rest. But, as the Pentagon report notes, "police force expansions continue on an un-programmed basis" and "increases in provincial police authorizations occur in an ad-hoc fashion."

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Iraq Attacks Fall 60 Percent, Petraeus Says

The top American military commander in Iraq said Saturday that violent attacks in the country had fallen by 60 percent since June, but cautioned that security gains were “tenuous” and “fragile,” requiring political and economic progress to cement them. The commander, Gen. Petraeus, said the “principal threat” to security remained al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown insurgent group that American intelligence officials say is foreign led. Speaking to reporters in an end-of-year briefing at the American Embassy in Baghdad, General Petraeus said that coalition-force casualties were down “substantially,” and that civilian casualties had fallen “dramatically.” “The level of attacks for about the last 11 weeks or so has been one not seen consistently since the late spring and summer of 2005,” he said. “The number of high-profile attacks, that is car bombs, suicide car bombs and suicide vest attacks, is also down, also roughly 60 percent” since their height in March.

US Prepares Another 'Large-Scale' Offensive in Iraq

The Multi-National Force and the Iraqi army and police are preparing to launch a large-scale offensive to crack down on al-Qaeda Organization north of Baghdad in two weeks' time, a high-ranking U.S. army official said on Sunday. "In 2008, joint U.S.-Iraqi forces would stage large-scale operation to crack down on al-Qaeda organization in Diala river basin, Mosul and along the area the network was operating," Admiral Gregory Smith, the U.S. army communications officer, said in a press conference held in Baghdad. The official declined to give further information about the size of troops launching the offensive for secrecy reasons. Smith pointed out that security operations "led to the capture of three al-Qaeda operatives in southern Baghdad districts and the uncovering of two large weapons caches containing bombs, hand grenades and material used to make explosive devices." He added that Iraqi courts convicted the so-called Mohamed Issa Al-Matyuti, who is accused of bombing areas inhabited by Iraq's ethnic religious Yazidi minority in Mosul, not detailing the verdicts handed down by the court. The Iraqi Red Crescent chief said the death toll of the bombing that took place in al-Qahtaniya and al-Jazira in northern Iraq's Sinjar district amounted to 520.

HISTORY

Third drug company says it faces Iraq 'kickbacks' probe

A third pharmaceutical giant said Sunday it is being investigated by Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) over alleged breaches of the United Nations oil-for-food programme in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Eli Lilly and Company Limited said it had been asked to hand over documents to the SFO, a day after British peer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca announced they had received similar requests. An Eli Lilly spokeswoman said the company would comply with the demand which was made in mid-December. "We are compiling these documents and they will be sent to the SFO in the new year," she said. Eli Lilly and Company Limited is the British affiliate of United States-based Eli Lilly and Company, headquartered in Indianapolis. The oil-for-food programme, which allowed Baghdad to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian items, ran from 1996 to 2003, the year in which US-led forces invaded Iraq. Paul Volcker, the former US Federal Reserve chairman, said in a 2005 report that Saddam's regime demanded kickbacks from foreign companies under the scheme, and accused more than 2,000 companies of involvement.

IRAQI REFUGEES

Iraqi refugees turn to sex trade in Syria

The band blasts out Iraqi songs into the early hours as the watching youths join the dancing or summon girls to sit with them -- there is little pretence about what gets transacted at this neon-lit nightspot half an hour's drive north of Damascus. The dancers, some in their early teens, do not want to talk, but one said she had no other way to support her family. "My father was killed in Baghdad and our money is finished," muttered the dark-haired girl in a black and silver dress. The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR calls it "survival sex," a desperate way to cope for Iraqi refugees whose savings have run out since they escaped the violence at home.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project

COMMENTARY

Not one step forward

Declaring him "man of the year", many US media sources are already hailing General David Petraeus, the US Iraq "surge strategist", a hero for making victory in Iraq look possible again. But nearly five years into the US occupation of Iraq, the country is still wracked by killing, sectarian militias, a stagnated economy and deadlocked national reconciliation. As difficulties and setbacks continue, Iraq today is far from being the tranquil democracy the United States promised on launching its March 2003 invasion. Officials of both the Bush administration and the government in Iraq say violence has been cut in half in recent months.

…..While one can agree that there has been relative calm in the last few weeks in Baghdad, there seems no guarantee that the situation cannot be reversed at short notice. One cannot judge whether the surge strategy has succeeded by solely looking at violence levels in Baghdad, especially when entire neighbourhoods have been turned into isolated and walled-in sectarian islands by the US military. Rather than generating feelings of loyalty to the central government, the plan created pockets of shaky stability.

As Iraqis See It

When it comes to covering the war in Iraq, McClatchy Newspapers has always done things a bit differently. The third-largest newspaper company in the US, it owns thirty-one daily papers, including The Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee, The Kansas City Star, and The Charlotte Observer. (It became the owner of some of these papers after buying Knight Ridder newspapers in 2006.) McClatchy has a large bureau in Washington, but without a paper either in the capital or in New York, it operates outside the glare of the nation's political and media elite, and this has freed it to follow its own path. In the months leading up to the Iraq war, when most news organizations were dutifully relaying the Bush administration's claims about the threat posed by Iraq, Knight Ridder/McClatchy ran several stories questioning their accuracy. Since the invasion, the company has run a lean but resourceful operation in Baghdad. All three of its bureau chiefs have been young Arab-American women with some fluency in Arabic. At home in the cultures of both the West and the Middle East, they have been adept at interpreting each to the other.

2007 Was Worst Year of Iraq Occupation

Sectarian killings have decreased in recent months, but still continue. Bodies continue to be dumped on the streets of Baghdad daily. One reason for a decrease in the level of violence is that most of Baghdad has essentially been divided along sectarian lines. Entire neighbourhoods are now surrounded by concrete blast walls several metres high, with strict security checkpoints. Normal life has all but vanished. The Iraqi Red Crescent estimates that eight out of ten refugees are from Baghdad. By the end of 2007, attacks against occupation forces decreased substantially, but still number more than 2,000 monthly. Iraqi infrastructure, like supply of potable water and electricity are improving, but remain below pre-invasion levels. Similarly with jobs and oil exports. nemployment, according to the Iraqi government, ranges between 60-70 percent. An Oxfam International report released in July says 70 percent of Iraqis lack access to safe drinking water, and 43 percent live on less than a dollar a day. The report also states that eight million Iraqis are in need of emergency assistance. "Iraqis are suffering from a growing lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, healthcare, education, and employment," the report says. "Of the four million Iraqis who are dependent on food assistance, only 60 percent currently have access to rations through the government-run Public Distribution System (PDS), down from 96 percent in 2004."

RESISTANCE

Candlelight service for Iraqi children in Minneapolis

A candlelight service will be held tonight in Minneapolis to commemorate the children of Iraq and other child victims of war. A coalition of church and social justice groups is holding the service. It begins at 6:30 p.m. at St. Joan of Arc Church in south Minneapolis. Minnesotans who have visited Iraq will report on the conditions of Iraqi children before the war. Tonight's service is the tenth annual such event.

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.

Quote of the day: Its only few hours left until we say goodbye 2007 and hello 2008. I have big hopes and wishes but my biggest wish is that all the politicians all over the world realize that the we are all the same (the citizens and the politicians who rule the countries in the oppressed countries especially in my wounded Iraq) and we all having the same feelings and needs. Happy New Year Everyone. ~ Laith at Inside Iraq blog at McClatchy News

War News for Monday, December 31, 2007

MNF-Iraq is reporting the death of a Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldier from non-combat related injuries in Iraq on Sunday, December 30th. No other details were released and the incident is under investigation.

The Canadian DND is reporting the death of a Canadian soldier in an IED attack against his Armoured Vehicle 20 km West of Kandahar city, in the Zharey District, Afghanistan on Sunday, December 30th. Four other Canadian soldiers were also injured. Here's the NATO statement.


Security incidents:

Baghdad:
#1: In the capital, a mortar round wounded three civilians when it landed on a house in Baghdad's western neighborhood of Amariyah Monday, a Baghdad police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release information to the media. The intended target was believed to have been a nearby Awakening Council headquarters.

#2: Iraqi soldiers killed 12 gunmen and detained 29 others during the last 24 hours across Iraq, the Defence Ministry said.

#3: Around 9 a.m. U.S. military found and detonated a roadside bomb near a checkpoint in Karrada.

#4: Around 10:30 a.m. a roadside bomb targeted a police convoy in Zafaraniyah near Al Kubaisi mosque, injuring three police men.

#5: Police found two bodies in Baghdad, one in Shaab and in Abu Desheer.

#6: A fire broke out on Monday night in the interior ministry without knowing the reasons behind it, a police source said.


Diyala Prv:
Khalis:
#1: In the town of Khalis, 50 miles north of Baghdad, gunmen traded fire with police and Awakening Council members, leaving one council member and one policeman dead and wounding three policemen, a police officer said.

#2: six mortar rounds landed near an Iraqi Army checkpoint near the town, wounding two soldiers, the officer said.

Mandali:
#1: a roadside bomb targeting a patrol near the Iranian border killed two Iraqi soldiers and injured another four, police said. The attack occurred shortly after dawn in the frontier town of Mandali, about 30 miles from the Iranian border in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad, a police officer said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to release information to the media.

Baquba:
#1: A woman wearing a suicide bomb vest wounded two policemen and five civilians including a child when she attacked a police station in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.


Musaib:
#1: A truck bomb targeted an awakening council check point in Al Musaib, north of Babil province, killing one and injuring three other members of the group, Iraqi police said.


Maysan Prv:
#1: Gunmen killed three teachers in Maysan province in southern Iraq on Sunday, the Education Ministry said.


Basra:
#1: The police chief of Iraq's second-largest city, Basra, has survived a roadside bomb attack, the first attempt on his life since British forces handed the city to Iraqi control on December 18, police said. Abdul-Jalil Khalaf had already survived six assassination attempts since he was placed in control of Basra's police force in June, with orders to battle the Shi'ite militias who held sway in the city's streets. One of Khalaf's bodyguards was wounded when two bombs exploded near the police chief's convoy in the northern part of the city, police said. Khalaf himself was not hurt.


Mishada:
#1: A suicide bomber drove a truck rigged with explosives into a checkpoint manned by members of a U.S.-backed security volunteer group in a town north of Baghdad on Monday, killing at least 12 people, police and a member of the volunteer group said. Another three people were missing following the explosion in the town of Mishada, 20 miles north of the capital, on part of the main highway linking Baghdad to northern Iraq, according to a police officer and Adil al-Mishhadani, a member of the volunteer group.


Balad:
#1: Five people were killed including two al Qaeda militants during clashes on Sunday between militants and residents of a village near Balad, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.


Samarra:
#1: (see Balad) A similar attack, in which three villagers were killed, was launched against a village near the city of Samarra, 120 kilometres (70 miles) north of Baghdad, an Iraqi security official said. "Clashes erupted between residents and Al-Qaeda operatives who attacked Tal al-Thahab village. Three villagers and two of the attackers were killed," the official said.


Baiji:
#1: Four militants were killed and 10 detained in a joint US-Iraqi military operation on Monday in the northern Iraqi town of Bayji.

#2: Meanwhile a policemen died from a head injury sustained during a fire-fight, said local authorities.


Northern Iraq:
#1: A land mine explosion hit a convoy of Turkish trucks in northern Iraq on Saturday, killing one driver and leaving five others injured, Turkey’s TV channels reported. Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Bilman confirmed the convoy, transporting construction material from Turkey to neighboring Iraq, ran into a land mine, but said Turkish authorities were still trying to clarify the casualties. The incident occurred early on Saturday on a road linking the northern Iraqi cities of Duhok and Mosul.


Kirkuk:
#1: A roadside bomb wounded two policemen when it struck their patrol in central Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

#2: An explosive charge went off on Monday near an Iraqi army vehicle patrol in southern Kirkuk, wounding an Iraqi colonel, said a police source." A colonel was injured on Monday afternoon in a roadside bomb explosion near an army vehicle patrol in Wahed Hozayran region in southern Kirkuk," the source, who asked not to be named, told the independent news agency voices of Iraq

#3: Two civilians were killed on Monday by unknown gunmen in southwest of Kirkuk, a police source said."Unidentified gunmen opened fire on two civilians in al-Rashad district, southwest of Kirkuk, killing them instantly," the source, who asked not to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq


Mosul:
#1: A detainee died Dec. 29 of natural causes while under escorted movement for routine questioning. The Soldier providing security escort and medics on site attempted CPR and other life-saving measures. However, the detainee was pronounced dead at 10:56 p.m. by an attending physician at Diamondback Combat Support Hospital. An investigation is pending to determine the cause of death..



Afghanistan:
#1: Another Canadian soldier has been killed in Afghanistan. Jonathan Dion was killed when the vehicle he was riding in struck a roadside bomb west of Kandahar.

#2: Sixteen policemen were killed when their post in the southern province of Kandahar - a hotbed of Taliban activities - was attacked by Islamic rebels on Saturday, the interior ministry said.

#3: Two other police officers were killed on Monday in a roadside bomb blast in Musa Qala, a town in southern Helmand province, which was captured from the Taliban by Afghan and NATO forces this month, a district chief said.

#4: Similar bomb attacks killed five Afghan soldiers - one of them in eastern Paktia on Monday and four others in southern Uruzgan a day earlier, the defence ministry said in a statement.

#5: Two other soldiers died in a road accident Sunday in the southern province of Zabul, which is also hit by the Taliban insurgency.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

News of the Day for Sunday, December 30, 2007

Iraqi soldiers check a car at a checkpoint in Baghdad. Saddam Hussein loyalists gathered at the ousted dictator's graveside for the first anniversary of his execution, with security tight in the regions of Iraq where he drew his most fervent support.
(AFP/Ali Yussef)





Reported Security Incidents

Baghdad

Two bodies found dumped.

Bomb attached to a firefighter's personal vehicle injures two bystanders in Al Shaab neighborhood.

Sulaiman Bek (Salah al-Din Province)

Gunmen set up a fake checkpoint, stop a convoy of trucks delivering food to Mosul, and kidnap 11 drivers. Aswat al-Iraq gives the total number kidnapped as 13, does not suggest that the victims were truck drivers.

Khalis

Gunmen attack village of al-Ujaimi, injuring three civilians. VoI attributes the attack to the Islamic State of Iraq.

Near Baquba

U.S. forces, acting on a tip from civilians, find 3 bodies killed about a month ago. According to the tipster, the find is part of a mass grave containing about 20 bodies, but this has yet to be confirmed. The tipster blames al-Qaeda in Iraq. Reuters tells a slightly different story, says that 2 of the bodies had in fact been found days earlier.

Northern Babel Province

U.S. and Iraqi forces in an "air drop" operation (apparently meaning they were flown in by helicopter) arrest 30 individuals.

Mosul

Gunmen attack a police patrol, kill three officers, torch their vehicle.

Other News of the Day

News of the Weird -- AP: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki flew to London Saturday for what one of his advisers described as a regularly scheduled medical checkup. Yassin Majeed said al-Maliki had delayed a previous trip because the "security situation did not allow it." He added that although the visit was private, "he might meet British officials." l-Maliki told Iraqiyah TV at Baghdad airport that he had for some time wanted to have a checkup and "it became convenient now." (Okay, I realize there is a shortage of physicians in Iraq right now but you would think the Prime Minister could find a doctor if he wanted one. There is also a basically unlimited supply of U.S. military docs who would be happy to give him a checkup if he were to ask nicely. How would people interpret it if George W. Bush decided to fly to London for a physical? This is quite odd, to say the least. What is most odd is that it seems to have inspired no discernible reaction from anyone but me. -- C)

Iraqi forces on alert for one-year anniversary of the execution of Saddam Hussein. Excerpt from AP story:

By SINAN SALAHEDDIN and HAMID AHMED, Associated Press Writers

Iraqi security forces were on high alert Sunday around Baghdad and in the Sunni heartland north of the capital as the country marked the one-year anniversary of Saddam Hussein's execution. Iraq army Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said security forces were "ready and prepared for any emergencies that might happen."

In Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, hundreds of people and school children visited his burial site to pay homage and lay flowers. Some gave fiery speeches while others just stood quietly by the tomb, located in a large mausoleum in the Tigris River village of Ouja - the small hamlet just outside Tikrit where Saddam was born.

Children chanted "with our blood, with our souls, we sacrifice for you Saddam," Associated Press Television News footage showed. The tomb was covered in Iraqi flags and flowers and flanked by large pictures of a smiling Saddam.


Gen. Petraeus recycles the same news conference he's been giving for the past few weeks, news media treat it as breaking news. Excerpt:

BAGHDAD: The top U.S. military commander in Iraq said that violent attacks in the country had fallen by 60 percent since June but cautioned that security gains were "tenuous" and "fragile," requiring political and economic progress to cement them.

The commander, General David Petraeus, said the "principal threat" to security remained Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown insurgent group that U.S. intelligence officials say is foreign-led.

Speaking to reporters Saturday in an end-of-year briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Petraeus said that coalition-force casualties were down "substantially," and that civilian casualties had fallen "dramatically."


A somewhat different spin from Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, who plays bad cop. Excerpt:

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Despite a drop in violence across Iraq, there is still no place in the country that is safe from attack by extremists, the US military warned on Sunday.

"We have made no projections of peace at hand. We realise that security is very fragile and that at any moment any attack could occur at any place in Iraq," military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith told a news conference in Baghdad.

"There is no place in Iraq today that is safe from terrorism," Smith added.

"We still have car bombs, we still have suicide attacks. Taking the fight to Al-Qaeda in Iraq is still very serious. Al-Qaeda in Iraq is still very much determined to use car bombs and other means of destruction against innocents."


Houston Chronicle's Gregory Katz reports that many Iraqi refugees are returning from abroad, not so much because the situation there is better as because they can't make a decent life as refugees. Note that "many" is a relative term. We are talking about 25,000 people out of more than 2 million. Excerpt:

"A lot of people are going back now," said Emab Abas Naser, the Iraqi Airways manager in Cairo. "The security in Iraq has improved. The situation is much more stable now."

The enthusiasm at Iraqi Airways can be infectious, but many of the estimated 150,000 Iraqi refugees in Egypt are skeptical that it is safe to return. Leaders of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees agree that it is too soon for a mass movement back to Iraq because of the volatile conditions there.

The refugees in Egypt represent a second phase of the exodus from Iraq amid the warfare between U.S. troops and insurgents, street battles between Sunni and Shiite Muslim militias and waves of murders, kidnappings and death threats against those who supported the American invasion.

More than 4.4 million Iraqis have abandoned their homes, according to United Nations figures, including some 2.2 million displaced inside Iraq and another 2.2 million who fled to other countries.

At first, many refugees found shelter in Jordan or Syria. Now, some have moved on to Egypt, where the cost of living is low, or Lebanon, where sectarian tensions simmer. Others have paid smugglers for passage to Western Europe and even Australia. United Nations refugee officials say the Iraqis in Egypt can get temporary permission to stay but do not have easy access to jobs, health care or schools. They live on the margins of society.


The increasingly irrelevant Osama bin Laden issues new threats and exhortations. Juan Cole posts a summary in English, along with a smack down. Excerpt:

Bin Laden sounds increasingly desperate, appearing to realize that the Iraqi Sunnis have turned against the Salafi Jihadis who often admire him. The Palestinians have worked hard to keep al-Qaeda out of Palestine, and Israeli security has forestalled effective al-Qaeda attacks in Israel. That is a hard target, not like the US in 2001, and he is likely to be shown up as an ineffective braggart if he starts taking on the hardy Israelis. In fact, he seems beside himself with frustration that the Arab League has offered full recognition to Israel for a return to 1967 borders. Bin Laden continues the stupid policy of attacking the Shiites, both Hizbullah in Lebanon and those of Iraq, thus dividing the Muslims. Muslim publics have increasing turned critical of tactics like suicide bombings. And Bin Laden's own popularity has been plummeting among most Muslims. Fawaz Gerges has written about how a lot of al-Qaeda members are furious at him and Ayman al-Zawahiri for bringing the full wrath of a superpower down on them, scattering them from Qandahar, forcing them to live as fugitives, and virtually destroying the organization.


Quote of the Day

The US has had real operational successes on the ground in Iraq this year, but there is little sign yet of Iraq being pacified. Local warlords in Sunni areas have switched from attacking US forces to working with them, but they might easily switch back tomorrow. As with the British in Basra, the Americans lack long-term allies that can stand on their own feet without US assistance.

This is one of the dangers of the continuing US presence. The longer it goes on, the more the government of Iraq becomes incapable of existing without US support. The government in the Green Zone is a hothouse plant that would wither and die without the American military presence. Although prime minister Nouri al-Maliki complains about the way in which the US controls the Iraqi army, he makes little practical effort to move out of the Green Zone or establish his practical independence. The US may say that it will leave when the Iraqi government can stand on its own two feet, but the continuing occupation makes sure that day does not come.


Patrick Cockburn

Saturday, December 29, 2007

War News for Saturday, December 29, 2007

The DoD is confirming the death of Sgt. Benjamin B. Portell and is announcing a new death previously unreported by CENTCOM. Capt. Rowdy J. Inman died from small arms fire in Mosul on Wednesday, December 25th.


Security incidents:

Baghdad:
#1: U.S. forces killed three insurgents and detained 34 other suspects during operations targeting al Qaeda in central and northern Iraq, the U.S. military said.

#2: Two policemen were killed inside their car when gunmen attacked them near Al Shaab stadium in Zayuna east Baghdad around 7,00 am.


Hilla:
#1: Police said they found the decomposed body of a man dumped in an orchard in the city of Hilla, 100 km (60 miles) south of Baghdad.


Samawa:
#1: The corpse of a policeman was found three days after his kidnapping by unidentified gunmen in the city of al-Samawa, a security source in Muthanna police said on Saturday." Policeman Abdul-Amir Jassem Muhammad, 52, was found killed in the area of al-Aridiyat, (35 km) northnern Samawa, on Friday," the source, who declined to have his name mentioned, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq


Tikrit:
#1: Gunmen opened fire targeting Ali al-Samarra’i the director of Tikrit pass port office downtown Tikrit city today afternoon. Al Samarra’i was injured seriously while one of his guards was killed in the incident.


Sulaiman Pak:
#1: Gunmen killed one person and wounded two others when they shot at a civilian car on Friday in the town of Sulaiman Pek, 160 km (100 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.


Kirkuk:
#1: A child was killed and two wounded, including one soldier, by a roadside bomb near an Iraqi army checkpoint in Kirkuk on Friday, police said.

#2: A roadside bomb wounded two people when it exploded in a village near the city of Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.


Mosul:
#1: A car bomb wounded seven people on Friday in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, police said.

#2: Nineveh police spokesman, Brigadier-General Saeed Ahmed, was wounded when gunmen opened fire at them as he was conducting a television interview outdoors in the city of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. One of his bodyguards was killed and a second was wounded in the attack.


Tal Afar:
#1: Police killed five insurgents and detained five others in a clash in the town of Tal Afar, about 420 km (360 miles) northwest of Baghdad, the town's police chief Ibrahim al-Jubouri told Reuters.


Casualty Reports:

Army Spc. Brian Gorham, 23, of Woodburn, suffered second- and third-degree burns to his face, legs, arms and hands, said his father, Toney Gorham. He was serving with the 173rd Airborne Brigade based in Vicenza, Italy, his father said. He had been in Afghanistan for six months before the Dec. 13 incident. Brian Gorham is being treated in an intensive care unit in San Antonio, his father said. He recently had his first set of skin grafts on his arms and legs and looks better, but "he's still got a long way to go," Toney Gorham said.

Friday, December 28, 2007

News & Views 12/28/07

Photo: Iraqi Shiite followers of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gather for Eid al-Ghadeer at the Imam Ali shrine, Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq on Friday, Dec. 28, 2007. Eid al-Ghadeer is the anniversary commemorating Muhammad's last sermon at Ghadir Khumm, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Friday: 31 Iraqis Killed, 69 Wounded

11 Killed in Baghdad Market Bombing, 70 Wounded

A car bomb exploded in a busy market in central Baghdad on Friday, killing at least eleven people and wounding 70 others, security officials and medics said. The attack occurred in the Iraqi capital's Bab al-Sharji market which is popular for trading food and clothes. A medic said that the wounded were admitted to four city hospitals. The security forces sealed off the area, which is also close to the interior ministry and houses one of Baghdad's main bus stations. The Bab al-Sharji market has been a regular target of insurgents, and on Friday it was packed with shoppers on their way home after weekly prayers. Insurgents have attacked markets across Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, in a bid to inflict maximum casualties. [Insurgents? or terrorists? or black ops? Who knows? – dancewater]

Shopowners Flee Mixed Baghdad Areas

Shiite taxi driver Aly Kaabi used to fear for his life each time his Mercedes needed a spare part. The place to seek replacements was a Sunni-dominated Baghdad neighborhood ruled at the time by militants from al-Qaida in Iraq. Now, Kaabi gets his car fixed in a new industrial zone in an east Baghdad Shiite stronghold, itself a mirror image of another that has emerged in a Sunni-dominated western neighborhood. The sectarian strife that first separated Baghdad's residents is now splitting its businesses - suggesting the divisions are becoming permanent. The simple interactions that make up normal life in cities around the world - buying gas, going to a grocery store, fixing your car - are now conducted along strictly sectarian lines.

With calm in Baghdad, Iraqis hope for services, jobs

With security improved throughout much of Iraq, the constant fear of death is gone, many Iraqis say. The struggle now is how to live. Buying food is hard. Lighting, cooling or heating a house isn't easy. Fixing the car is a risk. Finding a doctor or a good teacher can be nearly impossible. "We don't hear any clashes or car bombs. Nobody wakes up to find dead bodies on their stretch of pavement anymore," said Widad Hameed, a retired schoolteacher who lives in Yarmouk, a Sunni Muslim-majority neighborhood in western Baghdad. But, Hameed said, she and her family have only one or two hours of electricity each day. Kerosene is rarely available in her neighborhood, even on the black market. Last week, she wore three sweaters, a house robe, two pairs of socks and a scarf to warm herself in the winter temperatures.

….. Two years after Iraqis swarmed to the polls to ratify a constitution and elect a new government, they're more perplexed then ever about what they can count on from the central government. Led by Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, that government largely was absent from the improved security situation. As parliamentarians bickered — often along sectarian lines — U.S. troops mobilized local leaders, usually tribal sheiks. Some were former insurgents, now paid with American or sometimes provincial money. Residents no longer waited for the central government and its military and police to protect them. They turned to their new local leaders, most of them Sunnis, and took up arms themselves in exchange for salaries from the American military. But those unelected local leaders can't provide basic services.

Wedding Party

Thursday afternoon I was invited to attend a wedding party of one of my cousins’ which is something ordinary, but the wedding party which is in Jihad neighborhood is the extraordinary one. This neighborhood is so dangerous to go to or to pass through a month ago for more than one year as a result of the sectarian violence, but things change in Baghdad including Jihad neighborhood. I really went there before the wedding party last Tuesday to cover a story of the security situation in 2007, but it took me only 30 minutes of being there having the good impression and encouragement to attend the coming party.

…..Away from all these bad things, we reached our homes with happiness on our faces on the situation we have. I just want to ask what happened during the last few months to make the situation be better than the past .If the American and the Iraqi forces have a role in this, the question will be "Why did it take more than four years to have a situation like this?" I just want to add "Do the Iraqi people deserve to live in happiness or no? And for how long?" I can’t describe my happiness in that wedding party which was so great.

100 Civilians Arrested in as-Sayyidiyah

The American occupation forces, Iraqi guard forces and internal ministry forces have arrested nearly 100 civilians in Sayyidiyah district during the raid campaign which took place on Wednesday and Thursday. Eyewitnesses confirmed that the occupation forces, the government Guards (Muthanna Brigade) and the Interior commandos launched a campaign of arrests including Sayyidiyah neighborhood areas. These forces indiscriminately arrested the people just questioning. It is noteworthy that Sayyidiyah neighborhood suffer from the government guard forces and so-called Muthanna Brigade forces which is based in Abu Ghraib. These are also operating in Sayyidiyah district because of their irresponsibility and biased attitudes towards the citizens. The people of the region demanded humanitarian and international organizations to intervene to the unjust arrest campaign to release the detainees.

Technical failure causes blackout in Baghdad

Technical failure in two power stations in Baghdad and Basra on Friday knocked out electricity across the Iraqi capital, the official spokesman for the electricity ministry said. "A technical failure suspended production units in al-Quds station for electricity production northeast of Baghdad, causing complete suspension of the production in the station, capable of producing between 350 and 450 MW of energy," Aziz Sultan told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

Iraqi judiciary Council releases 11 thousands detainees

Supreme judiciary council said its investigating committees set free scores of detainees held in Iraqi prisons. “The released detainees amounted to 11,621 detainees since imposing Baghdad’s security plan, dubbed as Fardh al-Qanoon, that started in mid February 2007,” a judiciary media source, who requested anonymity, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) on Thursday. He added “4,908 detainees were brought to special courts after pleading guilty in various cases”. He pointed out “a deal with the multi-national forces was struck to form judicial committees to visit prisons run by MNF-Iraq and get direct acquaintance with detainees’ files”. He added “27 special committees were formed under the command of a judge which set free 1,162 since imposing Baghdad’s security plan from MNF-run detention centers, while 4,908 were brought to special courts after pleading guilty in various cases”.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Contacts to form new alliance - MPs

MP from the Iraqi National List (INL) unveiled on Friday contacts made with some political blocs to form a new alliance "the Iraqi national project". "There are contacts made by the Iraqi National List with some political blocs to form a new alliance "the Iraqi national project" that gathers some political forces," Usama al-Negefi told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Iraqi Islamic Party signed last Monday a trilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the city of Sulaimaniya. The three parties said that the MoU was signed to boost ties among them and to foster Iraq's unity. "The contacts include the national dialogue front, Islamic Fadila (virtue) party, the Sadrists, the Independent Arab List as well as some independists from the Unified Iraqi Coalition (UIC)," al-Negefi explained. The INL, which is of secularist orientation, is the fifth largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament, holding 22 out of the total 275 seats. He asserted that the aim of the new alliance is "to reform the political process."

Armed group "defense minister" detained near Baghdad

Iraqi security forces detained on Friday a gunman called the defense minister of the self-named Islamic State of Iraq during a military operation south of Baghdad, the spokesman for the Baghdad security plan Fardh al-Qanoon said.

Cairo to host Iraqi conference next month - paper

A reconciliation conference tackling controversial issues and attended by Baathists and representatives of the opposition parties will be held in Cairo next month, parliamentary sources said on Friday. "Cairo conference will be an extension to conferences held in Beirut and the Dead Sea this year with the participation of figures considered affiliated with armed and Baathist factions", London-based al-Hayat quoted lawmaker Wail Abdel Latif as saying. "The conference will tackle three key issues; federalism, joining the political process and the presence of the foreign troops in Iraq," the MP said.

Iraq threatens to stop crude exports to South Korea

Iraq's Oil Ministry has threatened to cut off crude oil exports to South Korea if that country doesn't back out of an oil deal signed last month with the Kurdistan regional government.

Iraq's anti-al-Qaida Sunni militias see uncertain future

Sa'ad al-Rawi, 27, accused al-Qaida terrorists of luring young Iraqis, even children, into planting bombs and killing them later when they refused to obey any longer. "We saw al-Qaida doing terrible things. They were killing and displacing Sunnis, Shiites and Christians. We could not leave our houses and were afraid of snipers. Therefore we decided to fight them," said Rawi. The middle-class East Ghazaliyah area houses about 5,000 residents. One of the two highways surrounding it leads to the Baghdad Airport and used to be the most dangerous road in the world for the U.S. troops. Once a ghost town with bodies dumped in the streets, the neighborhood now is seeing a recovering as shops are open and people begin venturing out, with CLCs manning the checkpoints and searching vehicles seriously. The Iraqi security forces, who are predominately Shiites, guard only at the outer checkpoints.

Militias stronger than police in Basra, police chief says

The police forces charged with security in Basra are no match to the heavily armed militia groups in the southern city, Basra’s police chief said. Lt. Gen. Jaleel al-Shuwaili said the militias administered the main ports and terminals in the province of which Basra is the capital and that his forces were incapable of reinstating law and order. Running Basra’s ports, which include terminals from which most of the country’s oil is loaded for exports, has turned into the life-line for the disparate militia groups in the city. The militias are reported to have even infiltrated the city’s security forces and police, facilitating their growing smuggling activities. Shuwaili’s forces cannot take on the militias some of which are linked to powerful political factions which are partners in the ruling government.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Iraq arrests seen as break in case of 2 missing US soldiers

Seven months later, two of the soldiers have yet to be found, but yesterday the military announced a break in the case that could reveal the fate of the missing men, including one from Massachusetts. A US military statement said two people had been arrested in Ramadi, about 60 miles from the scene of the May 12 attack. Neither of the suspects was identified, but one is alleged to have used his home to hide the captured soldiers, the statement said. A weapon belonging to one of the captured men was found in the home of one of the suspects, the statement added. ……A Sunni Muslim insurgent group linked to Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attack and put out a video showing some of the soldiers' dog tags. In July, the IDs of Fouty and Jimenez were found in a house north of Baghdad. In October, weapons belonging to some of the troops were found in a house a few miles north of the attack site.

SKorean MPs vote to extend Iraq troop deployment

Bush rejects Iraq victim compensation plan

President George W Bush on Friday rejected a law that would make it easier for victims of Saddam Hussein's former regime to sue Iraq for compensation, holding up a massive, overdue spending bill for the US military.

HISTORY

Fallujah, the Information War, and US Propaganda

Now receded into distant memory for many, the battle for the Iraqi city of Fallujah, accompanied by the al Sadr uprising in the south, was a decisive turning point in the Iraq occupation. These battles demonstrated to much of the world that the occupation was deeply unpopular among many Iraqis, who were willing and able to fight the occupation to a stalemate. These battles both ended in standoffs, as the US forces felt constrained from unleashing their full military capabilities to crush the resistance. New insights into the thinking of the US military are available from a US army intelligence analysis – by the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center – of the first Fallujah battle entitled Complex Environments: Battle of Fallujah I, April 2004 that was leaked this week on the Wikileaks web site.

…. As befits a symbolic battle, the analysis makes clear that the information war was primary. The failure of the Marines' attack to retake Fallujah was caused, the authors claim, by resistance ("insurgents" in their lingo) forces' success in getting their message out to the world. "Insurgents demonstrated a keen understanding of the value of information operations. IO was one of the insurgents' most effective levers to raise political pressure for a cease-fire. They fed disinformation [sic] to television networks, posted propaganda on the Internet to recruit volunteers and solicit financial donations, and spread rumors through the street."

The report echo's the concern of American leaders about the influence of Al Jazeera and other Arab media at conveying the rebel's side of the story: "Arab satellite news channels were crucial to building political pressure to halt military operations. For example, CPA documented 34 stories on Al Jazeera that misreported or distorted battlefield events between 6 and 13 April. Between 14 and 20 April, Al Jazeera used the "excessive force" theme 11 times and allowed various anti-Coalition factions to claim that US forces were using cluster bombs against urban areas and kidnapping and torturing Iraqi children. Six negative reports by al-Arabiyah focused almost exclusively on the excessive force theme. Overall, the qualitative content of negative reports increasingly was shrill in tone, and both TV stations appeared willing to take even the most baseless claims as fact.

Papers Show Millions in UK Defense Sales to Saddam's Iraq

Foreign Office papers, just released by the National Archives in London, show that defence sales to Iraq in 1976 amounted to an estimated £70m. At this time, Saddam Hussein was the de facto leader of Iraq - taking on a more prominent role than the ageing president, Gen Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr - before formally taking power in 1979. The documents show that, in 1976 and 1977, a variety of equipment was sold to Iraq, including 20 Cymbeline mortar-locating radar - at a cost of £11m - combat support boats, and £7.4m of weapons effects simulators.

COMMENTARY

Crunch year ahead for Iraq

More so than any other since the toppling of Saddam Hussein, 2008 is set to be a make-or-break year for Iraq. [Just one more Friedman Unit! - dancewater]

Bloody year in Iraq ends with hopes of growing calm

Two statistics sum up the last year in Iraq: 2007 will end as the deadliest for American troops since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, with more than 900 dead. At the same time, December — with just 16 hostile-fire deaths as of Friday — very likely will be the month with the second fewest American deaths of the war so far. Those numbers bookend a year in which violence against U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians began a dramatic, breathtaking decline after years of steady increases. The decline in violence was across the board. The number of Iraqi civilians killed in Baghdad from bombings and explosions in December was half the number that were killed last January; the number of bodies found in the capital's streets was down by nearly 75 percent compared with the beginning of 2007.

Baghdad's wall-building surge makes reconciliation less likely

From Baghdad to Tall Afar, our military has been busily constructing walls between and around Iraqi neighborhoods. In Baghdad, 12-foot-high walls now separate Sunni and Shiite communities. Broken by narrow checkpoints, the walls turn Baghdad into dozens of replica "green zones," dividing neighbor from neighbor and choking off normal commerce and communications. The military isn't building walls as a training exercise, of course. The walls are meant to make it harder for militias, insurgents and death squads to coordinate and reach their intended victims. With enough troops and enough concrete, the theory goes, you can keep the bad guys from operating effectively and gradually reduce the sectarian violence that has been tearing Iraq apart.

So far, it looks as if the wall-building strategy is paying dividends. Civilian deaths in Iraq are down significantly. And although 2007 has been the deadliest year of the war for U.S. troops, attacks on them have dropped sharply in recent months. After so many years of escalating violence, it's almost eerie. How do Iraqis feel about the walls springing up around their neighborhoods? Mixed, not surprisingly: relieved by the lull in violence but dismayed by the cost. "Iraq is a prison, and now I live in my own little prison," one Iraqi told the Christian Science Monitor.

Quote of the day: The US may say that it will leave when the Iraqi government can stand on its own two feet, but the continuing occupation makes sure that day does not come. ~ Patrick Cockburn

War News for Friday, December 28, 2007

WWSB ABC7 news is reporting a new death not reported by CENTCOM. Sergeant Bryan Joseph Tutten died in Iraq on Tuesday, December 25th. No other details were reported.

KEGT news is reporting a new death not reported by CENTCOM. Sgt. Benjamin Portell was killed by small arms fire in Iraq on Wednesday, December 26th. No other details were reported.


Security incidents:

Baghdad:
#1: A car bomb detonated in the middle of a busy market in central Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 11 people and wounding 64, police and hospital officials said. At least one woman and a child were killed in the blast, a police officer said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to the press. The popular market in Tayaran Square — a predominantly Shiite area that has been targeted by insurgents in the past — was full of shoppers heading home from Friday prayers

#2: U.S. forces killed five gunmen and detained 14 others during operations targeting al Qaeda in central and northern Iraq, the U.S. military said.

#3: Supreme judiciary council said its investigating committees set free scores of detainees held in Iraqi prisons. “The released detainees amounted to 11,621 detainees since imposing Baghdad’s security plan, dubbed as Fardh al-Qanoon, that started in mid February 2007,” a judiciary media source, who requested anonymity, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) on Thursday.

#4: One person was killed and another one was injured when a mortar shell hit a bus in eastern Baghdad, a source from the interior ministry said on Friday."A mortar shell hit a small bus at al-Mashtal intersection in eastern Baghdad, killing one person and injuring another one as well as causing severe material damage to the bus," the source, who requested anonymity, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq

#5: Around 5.30 p.m., an American squad defused a car bomb at Jamaa neighborhood (west Baghdad) .No casualties or damages recorded.

#6: Police found ( 3 ) unidentified dead bodies in the following neighborhoods in Baghdad: ( 2 ) were found in east Baghdad ( Risafa bank ) in Kasra neighborhood . While ( 1 ) was found in Bayaa in west Baghdad ( Karkh bank).


Diyala Prv:
Baquba:
#1: Gunmen disguised with the Iraqi army uniform attacked a house of Sunni family at Sadaa village ( 5 km north of Baquba ) .They killed two men and pushed the women out of the house. When left, women found out IEDs planted in the house .Army came and defused the IEDs .

#2: A roadside bomb exploded at Zighaniya ( 3 km north of Baquba ) killing one child and injuring another.

#3: A sniper shot a policeman dead at al-Mafraq in Baquba without any further information, police said.

Muqdadiyah:
#1: The U.S. military said it had killed four heavily armed gunmen tied to al-Qaida in Iraq in an operation Friday near Muqdadiyah in Diyala. Another was killed in a predominantly Sunni area south of Baghdad.


Kirkuk:
#1: Unknown gunmen on Friday kidnapped two civilians south of Kirkuk and took them to unknown place, a security source said.

#2: Unknown armed men opened fire on a group of citizens in Bashier village, south west of Kirkuk, killing one civilian," the source, who preferred to remain anonymous, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq


Mosul:
#1: The body of a man was found with gunshot wounds on Thursday in western Mosul 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.



Afghanistan:
#1: U.S.-led coalition troops killed several suspected Taliban insurgents inside a compound in southern Afghanistan, and detained nine other people, the coalition said in a statement Friday. While searching a compound in Qalat district of Zabul province on Thursday, "coalition forces were required to escalate force when militants demonstrated hostile intent, killing several militants," the statement said. A woman was also wounded during the operation, it said.


Casualty Reports:

Sgt. Greg Rayho, 30, an infantryman with the 3rd Stryker Brigade who led a team of four to five soldiers in Iraq, is a rare recipient of three Purple Hearts. Nearly three months after fulfilling his desire to return home with his men and the 3rd Stryker Brigade after their nearly 16-month deployment to Iraq, Rayho has spent a good deal of his leave undergoing surgery to repair teeth sheared from the bomb blast that delivered his first wound in October 2006. Another surgery is scheduled to remove the 7.62 mm bullet from an enemy AK-47 still lodged in his wrist from the second wound suffered, in May. The first was in October 2006 from Mosul. A bomb hung from a tree exploded as a Stryker vehicle, with Rayho standing in a hatch atop, drove underneath.
"I took the explosion mainly to my face and lost teeth. It was a huge concussion. The teeth were the first to go," he says. Rayho was wounded the second time in May near Sadr City, when his patrol was ambushed. A vehicle behind his was hit first, followed by a coordinated attack by snipers with improvised bombs and rocket-propelled grenades. Rayho, in the hatch, dropped down with his battle buddy to reload. He recalls seeing his buddy's face spattered with blood, then feeling his right arm go numb and realizing the blood was his. X-rays revealed a large nerve in his wrist was damaged. He had no feeling in his pinky and ring finger and up his forearm. The final wound took him out of the fight in July in Rashid while he was conducting patrols to lock down battles between Shiite and Sunni insurgents. While he was pulling concertina wire off the back of their Stryker vehicle, a deeply buried 50-pound bomb went off. Rayho and his buddy were knocked out. The vehicle commander's leg was blown off. "The concussion broke ribs and shifted my internals," Rayho says.

Jerrod Hays, 38, was criticially injured during an explosion in Qasim, Iraq, when the vehicle he riding in was attacked by IED’s or improvised explosive devices. Since the attack on Feb. 22, Hays has been in and out of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C., receiving numerous surgeries to repair his eyes, face, hands, back, and legs. Doctors were unable to save the index finger on his left hand and two or more surgeries were needed to remove shrapnel from his body.

Bobby Joseph, 26-year-old Golden Gate resident and Marine veteran of combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan had his life’s plans blown apart by the 200 pieces of shrapnel that ripped his body on Nov. 11, 2006, after a roadside bomb hit him while on foot patrol in Iraq’s Al Anbar province.