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

Saturday, January 26, 2008

News & Views 01/26/08

Photo: Mourners carry the coffin of Sheikh Yasir Khadim al-Mudhafer, during a funeral in Najaf, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, January 26, 2008. Gunmen killed al-Mudhafer, a sheikh loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, outside his house on Friday in Najaf, a Najaf governorate spokesman said. REUTERS/Ali Abu Shish (IRAQ)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Friday: 1 US Soldier, 55 Iraqis Killed, 4 Iraqis Wounded

Orphans Face Uncertain Future

Five-year-old Layla Mohammad clings to one memory: her mother combing Layla’s hair, styling it like the popular Lebanese singer, Nancy. A year and a half ago, a bomb ripped through a market in Sadr City in Baghdad, killing Layla’s mother, father and two-year-old brother. "After her parents died, Layla became afraid of markets and crowded places. She thinks that someone will blow himself up," said her grandmother Bardia Hassun. Hassun said her late son was the breadwinner of the family, supporting four of his sisters and his mother in addition to his wife and children. Layla and her grandmother are now reduced to begging, the latter concerned that she won’t have enough money to send her granddaughter to school next year. "When Layla became an orphan, we also became orphans," said Hassun. "We have no one to take care of us." ….There are currently 19 orphanages housing about 420 children in Iraq. "The extended families are usually taking care of the orphans, even if they can't provide them a suitable environment in terms of food, clothing and education," he said.

Rescuing Citadel: a Ray of Hope for Iraq

Towering above the modern streets and buildings of Irbil, the citadel's narrow alleyways and dusty courtyards stand almost deserted. Its mud-brick houses, built atop layers of ancient civilizations stretching back through millennia, are crumbling. Irbil's citadel, claimed to be one of the longest continuously inhabited urban areas on Earth with a history of more than 8,000 years, is in danger. Its slopes are eroding and its buildings are collapsing. But authorities in northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region have a plan to rescue it. They hope to turn the citadel, and the vast archaeological wealth buried within the mound on which it stands, into a world-renowned tourist site complete with hotels, coffee houses, art galleries — and a vibrant, permanent living community. The planned reconstruction is a beacon of hope for Iraq's rich cultural heritage, and highlights the vast differences between the relatively tranquil Kurdish region in the north, and the violence in other parts of the country.

is that all???

Yes we changed the flag and all our problems were solved in a second. Now we shall not care about the electricity problem because our flag will lighten our dark night, it will warm our frozen souls, we will not even think about the thousands of the displaced families because the new flag will be their houses and it will feed their angry hungry stomachs. Now, we will be able to reconstruct our destroyed country because we will build skyscrapers, hospitals and schools made of the Iraqi flags.

Al-Maidan square- a tale of Baghdad's times

Al-Maidan square, which is a real tale of Baghdad city various eras, stands nowadays neglected and feared as it has become home to criminals and outlaws. At the beginning of Al-Rasheed – the oldest street in Baghdad city, Al-Maidan square is located near to the old compound of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, from one side, and Al-Jumhoriya street, on the other side. These days, many people seek to go to Al-Maidan square, because it is still considered as an important commercial center, but in spite of all this, and like other cultural places in the Iraqi capital – Baghdad, Al-Maidan square is ignored, forgotten, and it gets no services. An old resident of Baghdad, Abdul-Baqi Al-Robaee told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI) "Al-Maidan square was a very important place in Baghdad, because in the past, the Iraqi Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs, in addition to the Baghdad Drinking Water Management, were all at the edges of this square that was also a place were prominent figures, tribal Sheikhs, and even foreigners used to meet."

20,000 detainees to be released under general pardon law- source

The general pardon law introduced by the Iraqi government as part of national reconciliation efforts will include nearly 20,000 detainees in Iraqi custody, an official spokesman for the Supreme Judicial Council said on Saturday. …… The law does not include those convicted by the Supreme Criminal Court or those charged with terrorism, kidnap, murder, rape, incest, or the smuggling of antiquities, Birqordar indicated. The parliament returned the law to the government to make slight changes to it before a final vote is taken, the spokesman added.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Iraq bans "Al-Mehdi Loyalists'' militia

Blaming the bloody incidents that took place in Basra and al-Naseriya, south Iraq, last week, on the so-called "Ansar" Al-Mehdi (Al-Mehdi Loyalists), the Iraqi government declared ban on the Shiite militia Friday afternoon. The majority of followers of the militia are simple people who were misled by a neighboring country, Government Spokesman Ali Al-Dabbagh said without naming that country. He made the remarks in a joint press conference with Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal and director of operations of the ministry Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf. The government will not target religious groups as long as they do not use weapons, Al-Dabbagh said, noting that the Iraqi Constitution ensured the freedom of belief. Al-Mehdi Loyalists is a banned militia and all its followers will be arrested, the spokesman reasserted. The militia is different from the Heaven Soldiers group which cropped up during Al-Zarkah incidents last year, but there are contacts between leaders of both militias he revealed.

Messianic cults in Iraq, an increase in numbers and expansion

Analysts of the situation in Iraq recognize that extremist violent Shiite groups, such as the Soldiers of Heaven and Ansar Ahmad Al-Yamani (Supporters of Ahmed Al-Yamani), began appearing in Iraq after April of 2003. Shiite literature indicates that Al-Yamani was the individual who lay the ground for the appearance of Imam Al-Mahdi Al-Montadhar (The 12th Imam of the Imami Shiites). Sources explain that the organization of Ahmad al-Yamani is a Shiite group that calls itself Ansar Al-Mahdi (Supporters of Al-Mahdi), headed by Ahmad Bin Al-Hassan who refers to himself as Al-Yamani. In spite of the different names, these movements have mutual points of similarity. They are all Shiite, refuse to accept any political or religious clergy other than their leaders, they all have extremist beliefs that reject the current situation in Iraq, and they adopt violent approaches as means of changing the situation. In addition, they all try to recruit young, ignorant, socially neglected Shiites that have strong ties to the Shiite religious communities. A few days ago, heavy clashes erupted in the two southern Shiite cities of Basra and Nassiriya (590 km and 380 km respectively, south of Baghdad), between Iraqi armed forces and gunmen belonging to Ansar Ahmad Al-Yamani group.

Kurdish Frustration With Maliki Grows

Tensions are building between Kurdish leaders and Arab prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government in Bagahdad, threatening to divide two of Iraq’s strongest political allies. Kurdish leaders accuse Maliki’s government of not acting on issues most important to the Kurds, such as resolving a dispute over ownership of Kirkuk province and the funding of Kurdish forces known as the Peshmerga. At the same time, the Iraqi Kurdish government has forged ahead with signing private oil contracts without the approval of the central government, irking Baghdad and reigniting debates about how much power Iraq’s regional governments should hold. The Kurdish Alliance, the second-largest political bloc in the country, holds 53 of Baghdad parliament’s 275 seats and are members of Maliki’s Shia-led government. The recent tensions have damaged one of the strongest alliances in Iraq’s severely fractured political landscape. The political disputes have simmered since last summer, escalating over the past few weeks. While Kurdish leaders insist they won’t pull out of Maliki’s government, they are growing increasingly vocal with their demands. “I wouldn’t call it a crisis, but there are ups and downs and mistrust between the two sides,” said Qassim Dawd, an Iraqi parliament MP from the Maliki’s United Iraqi Alliance list.

Iraq ratifies Kyoto Protocol on climate change

"The presidential council ratified in its session on January 23 a law according to which the Republic of Iraq will join the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol," the statement said. The Kyoto Protocol legally commits industrialised countries which have signed and ratified it to trim their output of six carbon gases seen as being responsible for global warming.

Some Sunni Muslims won't salute Iraq's new flag

Officials in Iraq's mostly Sunni Muslim Anbar province are refusing to raise Iraq's new national flag, which the parliament approved earlier this week. "The new flag is done for a foreign agenda and we won't raise it," said Ali Hatem al Suleiman, a leading member of the U.S.-backed Anbar Awakening Council, "If they want to force us to raise it, we will leave the yard for them to fight al Qaida."

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

Back to Iraq: Fort Carson doctors provide care to prevent violence

“I didn’t know this many people even lived here,” Capt. Terrence Anderson, a doctor with Fort Carson’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team said between patients in Baryk. Rampant unemployment and the absence of medical care in this farming village north of Baghdad rain misery on families who live in a cluster of 60 mud-brick homes packed along a muddy road. The soldiers set up shop Thursday in three classrooms in Baryk’s small school. The medical outreach program was aimed at helping the locals while building good will for the brigade, which has its headquarters about 10 miles from the village in Camp Taji. The language barrier challenged Lt. Col. Richard Ares, the physician’s assistant, who relied on an interpreter to question patients.

HISTORY

BBC makes ten dramas out of the Iraq crisis

Kenneth Branagh will star in Newsnight-produced dramas about the Iraq war that will question the invasion.

Factfile: alleged abuse of Iraqi civilians

Five cases where British troops have been accused of abusing Iraqi civilians, four of them resulting in fatalities, led to prosecutions. Twenty-three soldiers were prosecuted but only five were convicted.

IRAQI REFUGEES

Iraqis will have to obtain visas for entry to Jordan

Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani and officials from Jordanian met Saturday to discuss a mechanism for issuing entry visas to Iraqis wishing to visit Jordan. A statement issued after the talks between al-Bolani, Jordanian Prime Minister Nader Dahabi and Interior Minister Eid al-Fayez, said Dahabi promised al-Bolani that an Iraqi company would be assigned to process applications for entry visas.

Hidden plight of Iraq’s 2m refugees

UNTIL war came to her home town in Iraq, Mona Ghunnam’s life was full and happy. She had a husband who doted on her and a playful four-year-old daughter. With her parents and four brothers nearby, she never wanted for company. Her happiness was destroyed one day in 2003 by a missile that killed her mother and father, all her brothers and her precious little girl. It left Ghunnam herself partially paralysed. Her husband, a policeman, fought to have her treated in a western hospital but could not come to terms with her injuries. He cast her out of her house and moved in a new wife. Ghunnam, a 29-year-old maths teacher, joined a despairing exodus of 750,000 Iraqi refugees to Jordan, where she slept on a pavement and then in a storeroom. Last week she sat in her latest one-room temporary home, weeping for the family she has lost and uncertain how to face the future alone. She is no longer a mother, a wife, a daughter or a sister. It is so hard for her to see a purpose to her life that she prays God will end it and relieve her of her heartache. “I cannot be happy,” she said. “There is no more happiness for me.” Ghunnam’s story reflects the sadness of more than 2m Iraqis who have fled abroad, mainly to Syria and Jordan. Many law-abid-ing citizens now find themselves living illegally because their visas have expired. They struggle to get accommodation, healthcare and an education for their children.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project

COMMENTARY

Coming To Terms With The Iraq War

Simultaneously, young children and other civilians are dying from contaminated water and malnourishment every day in Iraq as an indirect outcome from this war. At the same time, the Iraqi populous is supposed to be grateful to our troops for liberating them from the potential destruction that Saddam Hussein could have wrought had he maintained his rule? The Iraqis are pleased with the surge results? The Iraqis like the thought of turning over THEIR oil to whatever companies that Bush and his Iraq puppet government select? They like having been invaded by foreign "liberators," who destroyed their jobs, their schools, their homes, their streets, their way of life? They like offering their children for sex in order to pay for food? Would you? (One only need to type "Iraqi children sex" into a search bar to see the full magnitude of this last particular outrage.) We are not discussing Disney World or other fantasy spots to which American adults take their own children. We are not discussing relative rates of homicide in Baghdad and NYC. This conversation is about Iraq and the outcomes from US involvement there, and it is damn hard to state anything good about the situation.

Quote of the day: "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don't want to hear." (George Orwell)

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