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

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

News & Views 01/22/08

Photo: Iraqi police and family members inspect six dead bodies brought to the morgue in Baqouba, some 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008. Five kilometers (three miles) south of Baqouba, gunmen broke into a house at 4:30 p.m. and killed six men in a single family who were cooperating with the Iraqi army, an army official said. The men had given information on al-Qaida movements to local Awakening Council members, the official said. The attack took place in al-Abara village, an al-Qaida stronghold until Awakening Council members chased out the militants a few months ago. (AP Photo)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Monday: 4 GIs, 40 Iraqis Killed; 42 Iraqis Wounded

Tuesday: 1 US Soldier, 31 Iraqis Killed; 41 Iraqis Wounded

IRAQ: Population hit by acute power outage, shortage of petroleum products

Iraqis are once again facing days of power outages and queues hundreds of metres in length at petrol stations in parts of the capital, Baghdad, as well as in some of the country’s provinces. Suffering civilians find themselves caught in a vicious circle of political finger-pointing and sabotage attacks. The Iraqi electricity ministry has blamed the oil ministry for not providing sufficient fuel to run its generators. The oil ministry has blamed the electricity ministry for failing to provide its refineries with an uninterrupted power supply. "Oil and gas pumping from Kirkuk fields to our northern and southern plants over the past two weeks has stopped and furthermore the decision on 4 January by Turkish power provider Kartet to stop exporting electricity to Iraq is also to blame," Aziz Sultan, electricity ministry spokesman, said. He added that sabotage attacks by militants had hampered efforts to distribute electricity. "Three bombs over the past two weeks have targeted the power lines that connect northern provinces with each other and with Baghdad," he said. In a statement Kartet said that it had stopped supplying electricity to Iraq because Iraq had stopped supplying it with refined fuel for its power station near the border. The oil ministry has stated that it cannot produce fuel without power and has called on the electricity ministry to continue providing uninterrupted electricity to its oil and gas fields.

Falluja radio: when music is louder than bullets

Iraq's once restless city of Falluja has recently witnessed a relative calm that helped much headway with the city's services to be made, most significantly the inauguration of Falluja FM Radio. Abdul Majid Dahham al-Kubeisi, the radio's director, told Aswat al-Iraq, Voices of Iraq, (VOI) that Falluja FM Radio is affiliated with the Iraqi Media Network and broadcasts four hours a day on wave 99.5 FM from the network's local building. "The fledgling radio station has well-equipped studios and staff," al-Kubeisi indicated, noting that transmission is now focusing on songs, public services, and the Holy Quran. Badri Taama, a 52-year-old announcer in the station, said that Falluja's media men and residents have high expectations for the radio. "We seek to convey the residents' trouble and problems to officials and work out convenient solutions for them," Taama said. "The only thing hindering the station from operating more effectively is the limited broadcasting hours (8:00 a.m.-noon), which causes us to lose a large portion of our audience due to frequent power cuts during this period of the day," Taama added.

Iraqi doctor/journalist takes camera into Baghdad hospital

At Ball State University in Indiana a 30-year-old Iraqi doctor named Omer Salih Mahdi is just starting his second semester of journalism school. But he comes better prepared than most to make the shift from a hospital in Baghdad to the classrooms of Muncie: He has already filmed and directed an International Emmy Award-winning documentary, "Baghdad Hospital: Inside the Red Zone," to be shown on HBO beginning Tuesday. For several weeks in June and July 2006, Mahdi took a hand-held video camera into Al Yarmouk Hospital in Baghdad and rode with an ambulance crew. Going where Westerners could not safely travel, Mahdi brought back a raw portrait of his Iraqi colleagues persevering, treating an endless flow of victims despite a lack of equipment and supplies, low pay and constant threat from militias. "All that we see in the news is the explosion scenes," Mahdi said in a recent telephone interview, explaining why he made the film. "Nobody knows what happened after that." What happened, as captured by Mahdi, is gripping. A screaming 6-year- old is held down while doctors insert an adult-size chest tube without anesthesia; an ambulance patient wails for the return of Saddam Hussein; Sunni and Shiite ambulance drivers work easily side by side, even as they go about the grim task of retrieving victims of sectarian violence racking the city.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Bickering stalls Iraq's budget in parliament

Iraqi lawmakers have refused to pass the 2008 budget because of rows over funding, including how much money to give the autonomous Kurdistan region, in the latest sign of the country's deep political divisions. Officials said on Tuesday that failure to pass the $48 billion budget would hold up vital spending at a time when Washington is urging the government to jumpstart the economy to take advantage of sharp falls in violence. "All projects at the ministries will be delayed, especially investment projects," Planning Minister Ali Baban told Reuters. Parliamentary speaker Mahmoud Mashhadani called the heads of Iraq's main political blocs to a meeting in his office late on Monday after lawmakers failed to sign off on the budget in recent days, his office said on Tuesday. Mashhadani urged parliament to pass the budget when it next sits on Thursday "to provide for the fundamental needs of the Iraqi people", his office said in a statement.

Iraqi parliament chooses temporary post-Saddam flag

Iraq's parliament adopted a new, temporary national flag on Tuesday in a move long demanded by the country's Kurdish minority who say the Saddam Hussein-era banner is a reminder of the cruelty of his rule. There was rare unity among members of parliament over the emotional issue, which represents a symbolic break with the past. A previous attempt to change the flag, by the interim government in 2004, was universally rejected by Iraqis. The debate over a post-Saddam flag was given urgency by a planned pan-Arab meeting of politicians in Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdistan region on March 10. Kurdish officials had refused to fly the current flag, which is banned in Kurdistan. The new flag will fly for only one year, while debate will continue on what the final flag should look like.

From Missing Links Blog: "They (the government) responded to ideas with force"

Asharq al-Awsat, in a report this morning on ceremonies of mourning for the victims of the violence in Basra and Nasiriya, highlights this: “The armed groups said they are followers of Ahmad al-Hasan and not of the Army of Heaven as has been reported in some media. ...And a spokesman for the group of Ahman al-Hasan, called al-Yemani, whose armed people fought with security officers in the two provinces, said day before yesterday in a tape broadcast on the Iraqi satellite station Al-Sharqiya although admitting that it cut parts of it: "There is no connection between it [the Ahmad Hasan al-Yemani group] and the Army of Heaven, although the government is trying to link it to them. The responsibility for all of the bloodshed lies with ... because they countered ideas with force.”

Shiite cult Soldiers of Heaven re-emerges in Iraq

A shadowy messianic Shiite cult which saw many of its followers either killed or arrested in clashes a year ago has re- emerged in southern Iraq where over the weekend it engaged in a fresh round of violence. The Soldiers of Heaven sect on Friday launched simultaneous attacks in the cities of Basra and Nasiriyah, targeting police as well as worshippers participating in the Shiite religious ceremony of Ashura. Over 70 people were killed, including senior police and army officers, more than 100 were wounded and 300 arrested over the last days.

Anbar fault lines - Teenage suicide attack highlights Iraq's tangle of tribal loyalties

It was by all accounts an inside job. As members of the Issawi tribe gathered for a celebration, a teenaged boy arrived with a box of sweets and detonated an explosives belt. At least four people were killed, including a leading member of the local Awakening Council - a Sunni group in Anbar province which has joined forces with the Americans to fight al-Qaeda militants. The suicide attack, in a village near Falluja on Sunday, was one of a string of recent attacks in Sunni areas. But what was noteworthy about this one was that it revealed the depth of disunity among tribesmen the Americans are relying on in their efforts to keep Anbar stable.

From Roads to Iraq blog: Iraqi Resistance political Council joined by other resistance group announced today a military campaign for the support of Gaza.

The Zion-crusaders continue their aggression s on our Arab nation from east to west using the same weapons and the barbaric methods of bombing, destroying houses, killing civilians, blockading cities and all causes of life, demonstrating the their false slogans of justice and human rights. They are besieging Gaza, they are bombing Arab Jabour repeatedly. To our people in Gaza: Despite our wounds, the mujahideen who sacrifice their blood in Iraq defending their religion, land and country would never forget their brothers in Gaza, it is the same enemy and the same victim. On this occasion: We launch a military campaign called “campaign in support of Gaza”, by increasing the attacks on the Zionists-allies and the enemies of humanity, the Americans. We call on all nations and peoples to move and lift this injustice on the innocent people in Gaza. Signatories: 1. All groups led by Jihad and Reform Front. Islamic Army in Iraq, Mujahedeen Army, Ansar Al Sunna, 2. Hamas- Iraq, 3. Iraqi Resistance Islamic Front (Jaami)

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Iraq bombing dampens hopes for new armored vehicle

The U.S. Army is counting on the new Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle to reduce casualties, but after the first bomb fatality, questions have been raised on the vehicle's design.

Iraq War: 1,760 Days and Counting

If the American public remains as passive and as easily bamboozled as it has been during the past seven years, the Iraq war will continue, maybe even for a hundred years, says Robert Higgs.

IRAQI REFUGEES

US admits efforts to take in at-risk Iraqi refugees fall short

A total of 821 Iraqis -- translators, interpreters and family members -- were admitted to the United States from September 2006 to September last year, said State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos. An extra 39 Iraqis were admitted under the special immigration visa program in October 2007, the start of the new fiscal year, he told AFP. He had no figures for November or December or the first half of January. Gallegos conceded the number falls far short of the rate needed to meet the goal of 12,000 for fiscal year 2008, which ends in September.

Jordan 's cold wave eats away at Iraqis' savings

After successfully escaping the violence of their home country, many displaced Iraqis in Jordan say they have been trapped by not-so-much-better circumstances in their host country. A harsh winter and a fierce cold wave were the last to be expected to eat away at Iraqis' savings which they have kept for a rainy day. Ibrahim Hassan, who worked as an employee in Baghdad University before he was forced to leave his house in the capital, told Aswat al-Iraq, Voices of Iraq, (VOI) that he had spent most of his savings due to the high cost of living and to overcome the winter cold. Hassan, who moved with his five-member family to Jordan two years ago, said that he expects heating costs to top 1,000 Jordanian dinars (1,411 U.S. dollars) this winter.

Iraq: Trauma survey in Syria

The results of a trauma survey carried out among Iraqi refugees in Syria have been issued today. A total of 754 people were interviewed, who provided information about themselves and their families (a total of 3,553 people). The survey – undertaken as part of a wider survey of Iraqis who registered with UNHCR's office in Syria between 31 October and 25 November 2007 – showed that every single person interviewed reported experiencing at least one traumatic event (as defined by the Harvard Trauma Survey) in Iraq, prior to their arrival in Syria. One in five of those registered with UNHCR since January 2007 – more than 19,000 individuals – are registered as "victims of torture and/or violence" in Iraq. The survey was carried out for UNHCR and its partners to gain a deeper understanding of these issues. Seventy-seven percent of the Iraqi refugees who were interviewed reported being affected by air bombardments and shelling or rocket attacks. Eighty percent reported witnessing a shooting. Sixty-eight percent said they experienced interrogation or harassment by militias or other groups, including receiving death threats, while sixteen percent have been tortured. Seventy-two percent were eye witnesses to a car bombing and seventy-five percent know someone who has been killed.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project

COMMENTARY

A failure to think

The government's top foreign policy advisers were as inept as their US counterparts in failing to see that removing Saddam Hussein in 2003 was likely to lead to a nationalist insurgency by Sunnis and Shias and an Islamist government in Baghdad, run by allies of Iran, the Guardian has learned. None of Whitehall's "Arabists" warned Tony Blair of the difficulties which have plagued the occupation. The revelation undermines the British claim that it was US myopia which was to blame for the failure to foresee what would happen in postwar Iraq. [More critical, in my opinion, was the failure to have morality at all. – dancewater]

Iraq's other enemies: Disease and poverty

Maybe the surge is working. Maybe "security" is better throughout Iraq. But let that not obscure the massive public health crisis that persists throughout the country. Any talk of this war being some kind of "success" must cease before the evidence of widespread disease and want. According to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1483, both the United States and Great Britain are recognized as Iraq's occupation powers and as such are bound by The Hague and Geneva Conventions that require occupying powers to be responsible not only for maintaining order but also for responding to the medical needs of the population. In that respect, success is far away, distress near at hand. An outbreak of cholera in Iraq, which started in two northern provinces last summer, has reached Baghdad and has become Iraq's biggest cholera outbreak in recent memory. Bakhtiyar Ahmed, a UNICEF emergency health facilitator, has called the situation in Iraq "frightening and dangerous." His words underscore the unrelenting threat to the lives of people already affected by a devastated health-care system. Statistics from the World Health Organization indicate that since the cholera outbreak was first detected in Kirkuk, northern Iraq, there have been more than 3,300 cases of cholera in the country, and more than 33,000 cases of watery diarrhea - which could be a milder form of cholera. The epidemic aggravates what is, by any measure, a most serious humanitarian and public health emergency.

The 'Only Serious' Iraq Option: Staying Forever

The New York Times' Michael Gordon -- a long-time, vigorous proponent of both the Iraq War and the Surge while masquerading as a "reporter" (he was once publicly admonished for admitting his pro-Surge views) -- has an article today lambasting Democratic candidates for advocating an end to our occupation of Iraq. Citing pro-war arguments from both anonymous military officers and his standard list of pro-war Serious Experts (Michael O'Hanlon and Anthony Cordesman), Gordon argues that the Only Serious Option is to remain in Iraq for a long, long time, and any politicians who refuses to accept this is being -- for that reason alone -- irresponsible and Unserious.

Staying Innocent About Iraq

Let us recount the figures. Out of a nation of 26 million, two and a half million are refugees in Syria, Jordan, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, and Turkey. Hundreds of thousands have been killed, and more than two million forced to flee their homes within Iraq. The middle class: destroyed. American forces and mercenaries (called "contractors"), over five years turned one of the world's great cities into a free-fire zone. There is scarcely an Iraqi in all of the south who has not had a friend or family member killed by Americans. And the exact measure of our concern is this: from 2005 to the end of 2007, fewer than a thousand Iraqis have been admitted as immigrants to the United States.

Quote of the day: The writing is however on the wall: "Come what may, the war in Iraq will never be won." ~ Munir Daya

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