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, February 25, 2008

News & Views 02/25/08

Photo: Iraqi police commandos patrol the area of the Malwiya minaret in the restive city of Samarra, north of Baghdad. At least 16 people were killed across Iraq on Monday, including soldiers and four pilgrims, a day after a suicide bomber killed 48 Shiite pilgrims in an attack which US officials blamed on Al-Qaeda. (AFP)

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Sunday: 2 US Soldiers, 75 Iraqis Killed

Monday: 26 Iraqis Killed, 31 Wounded

Blast Kills at Least 63 Shiite Pilgrims in Iraq

Mass grave of women found in Diala

A mass grave containing eight unidentified women was found in al-Khalis district, Diala, on Monday, a security source said. "The mass grave was found in the Harujah village, al-Khalis district, 15 km south of Baaquba," the source, who requested anonymity, told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).

The new invasion of Iraq

A new crisis has exploded in Iraq after Turkish troops, supported by attack planes and Cobra helicopters, yesterday launched a major ground offensive into Iraqi Kurdistan. The invading Turkish soldiers are in pursuit of Kurdish guerrillas hiding in the mountains. They are seeking to destroy the camps of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) along the border between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. "Thousands of troops have crossed the border and thousands more are waiting at the border to join them if necessary," said a Turkish military source.

Families: Loved ones abused, forgotten in Kurdish prisons

A picture of a young bearded man hangs in Rabia Fatah's living room, and when she looks at it, she shakes with sobs. Her son, Dana Ahmed Abdul Rahman, has been in prison for a year and a half. She doesn't know why. She doesn't know when he'll be released. All she has is the photo — and memories of her first visit with him, 50 days after he was hauled away in the middle of the night by the Asayish, the U.S.-backed Kurdish government's security intelligence agency. "They'd tortured him," Fatah, 60, said, fingering her black dress spotted with blue and white flowers. "His face was as black as my dress."

The Enduring Trap In Iraq

Bush is undermining the very type of democracy he claims to be bringing to Iraq by trying to seal the deal on the "enduring presence" agreement without seeking approval from the United States Congress. Iraqis have suffered since the invasion. They have been occupied by 180,000 foreign troops along with another 180,000 contractors. Over a million Iraqis have been injured and disabled in this war; hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died. Four million Iraqis have been displaced. Millions of Iraqi children have been traumatized with the continuing occupation manifested with the sounds of guns, bombing, and the deaths of their friends and neighbors. And citizens live in daily fear from aerial attacks with 47,500 pounds of explosives have been dropped over the past five years. Thousands of Iraqi neighborhoods have been ethnically cleansed.

Update: Renovation of 2 Orphanages in Duhok, Iraq

Ausama has promised to keep us regularly updated about the developments they have been able to make to the orphanages and thus the lives of the orphaned children. All of us at Mideast Youth have been delighted to be able to work with, and aid such a worthy cause. And we only hope that with your continued support we will be able to take on and help many more desperate causes.

Iraq's Missing Humanitarian Aid

One Thursday morning in April 2003, Dr. Said Hakki woke up in his Tampa, Florida, home and drove to the hospital where he had worked for years to perform a routine prostate surgery. After scrubbing out, he drove to the airport, caught a flight to Washington, D.C and then another to Baghdad, the hometown he hadn't seen in 20 years. "It went back centuries - not decades," Dr. Hakki says of his first impressions. Now the president of the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization, the country's largest aid group, he bemoans the lack of humanitarian assistance in Iraq. "I used to treat patients from Iran, from Saudi Arabia and from Kuwait - but now we send our patients [there]. It's ironic. It's a lot worse than when I left." When Dr. Hakki returned to Iraq in 2003, the major hurdles facing him and other aid workers were those of the organizational and infrastructure kind, not bombings and beheadings.

Turkish Army Says Rebel Death Toll in Northern Iraq at 112

Kurdish Rebels Say Kill 47 Turkish Troops in Northern Iraq

IRAQ: Turkish offensive displaces villagers, damages bridges

An ongoing Turkish military offensive into Iraq targeting Turkish-Kurdish separatist rebels has forced at least 12 Kurdish families to flee their homes and has destroyed four bridges, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) said on 24 February. "We have not built any camps yet as all these [displaced] families have ended up with relatives but we are closely monitoring developments on the ground. Civilians are scared because they don't know how far the Turkish army will go into Iraq," Dr Saad Haqi, head of IRCS, told IRIN. "Our teams are ready for any major displacement that could happen as a result of this incursion and are ready to launch aid operations in any area. We are able to assist 2,000 families in each Iraqi province," Haqi added. The IRCS has set up an operation room in northern Iraq to investigate and issue reports on any damage sustained to infrastructure and property.

’I feel that we will die’: Civilians fearful as Turks move into Iraq

Some residents of this area 18 miles from the Iraq-Turkey border thought they’d escaped to a safe haven, having abandoned homes closer to the border to avoid skirmishes between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and Turkish troops. But with the Turks mounting their first confirmed ground operation in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, some say they are fearful of getting caught in the deadly crossfire.

Refugee Voices: Iranian Refugees in Arbil, Iraq

Not far from Arbil city center is a scattered speckling of UN-blue gates, tarps, and barrels. Kawa Settlement, which presently houses the residents of the now-closed camp of Al-Tash, is home to about 230 Iranian Kurdish refugee families (totaling 1,350 individuals) who fled their homes in Iran between 1979 and 1988. Women in the settlement are generally housewives, while men work in construction and the local markets. In Al-Tash many of the school-age youngsters were also employed on construction sites, but in Kawa all of the children between ages of 6 and 12 attend school, and about 90 percent of those over age 12 do as well.

Iraq’s Public Health Crisis

The state of public health in Iraq is abysmal. Endemic disease, psychological trauma and food insecurity threaten the vast majority of the population. … Oxfam International has also reported a dramatic increase in malnutrition among Iraqi children — a fact obscured by the high levels of violence. It is estimated that 28% of Iraqi children are malnourished, compared with 19% before the 2003 invasion. In 2006, more than 11% of newborn babies were born underweight, compared with 4% in 2003. Malnutrition contributes to death from other conditions such as intestinal and respiratory infections, malaria and typhoid. The lack of food affects not only children. It is estimated that four million Iraqis — 15% of the total population — cannot regularly buy enough to eat and are now dependent on food assistance.

Divorce cases are increasing

Maysaa's woe is a sample of divorce cases are increasing in Iraq as an outcome of traditional reasons, such as arranged marriages, and other causes that are newly introduced to the Iraqi society after the dramatic changes that took place in Iraq during the last five years. Inaccurate Civil Affairs records in the country imply that divorce cases in 2007 increased by 20% when compared to 2006. Civil servant sociologist at Karkh civil affairs court in Al-Mansour district (Baghdad – capital city of Iraq), Inaam Sahib, told VOI, "Most divorce cases are between young married couples; those who have been forced by their parents to get married, or because they perceived marriage as a shot-gun wedding, not as a mutual perennial relationship to produce a family." But those aren't the only reasons for divorce cases. "There are other parameters that lead to divorce, such as the financial situation of the husband, especially if he is unable to fulfill his wife's requirements in that concern," Sahib told VOI, adding "along with conventional reasons for divorce that we have in Iraq, we have other newly emerged causes, represented by sectarianism." She explained, "We are currently processing some divorce cases of married couples that lived together for years disregarding their different sects, but they are now demanding divorce based solely on sectarian motivations."

US troops detain Shiite news editor

U.S. troops detained the news editor of a prominent Shiite-run television station and his son in a raid aimed at disrupting Iranian-backed militia groups, the military said Monday. Hafidh al-Beshara, the news editor and manager of political programming for Al-Forat TV, and his son were taken into custody after American forces, acting on a tip, stormed their house in Baghdad. Al-Forat is operated by Iraq's largest Shiite political party.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Sadrists failing to honor freeze to be disowned – spokesman

Members of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army failing to honor Sadr's decision to freeze the militia's activities would be disowned, a spokesman for Sadr said on Monday. "Those not committed to the freeze decision are in fact declaring mutiny and would be disowned," Salah al-Ubaidi said in statements to Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI), adding "there would be mechanisms and steps to follow the freeze decision." On his views regarding the government's position on the Sadrist bloc, Ubaidi said "the government is showing positive stands manifested in statements and media reactions, but it does not have the same positive attitude on the ground."

MP urges complaint against Turkey in UNSC

Independent legislator Safiya al-Suhail urged the Iraqi government on Sunday to lodge a complaint against Turkey with the UN Security Council over its military operations in northern Iraq. "I demand the Iraqi state with all its institutions call for an urgent UNSC meeting and present an official complaint against Turkey," Suhail said in statements to Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI). She called on Turkey to "solve its internal problems inside its territories via democratic means and dialogue."

Qaeda given a week to surrender in Falluja

Police forces in the once violent city of Falluja have given Qaeda operatives in the city a week to hand in their weapons or face “harsh punishment. Lt. Col. Abdulaziz al-Mohammadi issued the warning as he and his forces ready themselves to handle the city’s security on their own. U.S. troops had to wage massive military operations to wrench the city from Qaeda which had turned it into one of its most formidable strongholds in the country. But there was no way for the U.S. to have full control over Falluja with Qaeda fighters returning to the city once the attacking troops withdrew. Relative stability only returned to Falluja when its tribal chieftains agreed to join tribal militia forces the U.S. finances and trains in predominantly Sunni areas.

IRAQ-IRAN: Shifting water border prompts talks with Iran

The absence of dredging operations in Iraq's Shat al-Arab waterway, formed by the confluence of the Euphrates and the Tigris in the southern province of Basra, has led to erosion on the Iraqi side, a specialist has told IRIN. "The absence of dredging operations, which used to be conducted on the Iraqi side of the river… has allowed silt to build up," said Malik Hassan, director of the Seas Sciences Centre affiliated to the University of Basra. Hassan said Iraq is consequently losing to Iran some 3.5 metres of its river bank annually along much of the 200km-long river which forms the border between the two countries. "Sunken ships and the remnants of munitions of the [Iraq-Iran] war have prevented technical teams from conducting dredging operations on the Iraqi side and that has led to a change in the river's course and erosion on the Iraqi side," Hassan said.

Oil export system is guesswork

Reported on Akhbar Al-Khaleej today, Iraqi oil experts say; the method adopted by the Iraqi government to measure Oil export is a guesswork instead of electronic meters, making margin to manipulate large quantities! The experts said that 85% of Iraqi oil exports to the world markets is going through two ports of a Al-Ameq and Al-Amia in Basra, delivered to the ports by 42 oil pipelines, each pipeline about 40 inch diameter extend to 52 kilometer to reach the ports. The oil pipes patrolled by the Iraqi and the British armies but because of the long distance these patrols can not cover the entire pipelines, that is why smugglers coordinating with some political and parties power or with the patrols succeeded time and again make holes in the pipes. The electronic meters are idle since in 2003 and the occupation authorities had entrusted the repairs to American companies (Halliburton / Houston) in Texas and (Parsons / Pasadena) in California and they were supposed to be repaired within one year but the Iraqi powerful parties prevented that.

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

U.S. expects 140,000 troops in Iraq after drawdown

[And god only knows how many mercenaries. – dancewater]

Oil giants poised to move into Basra

Western oil giants are poised to enter southern Iraq to tap the country's vast reserves, despite the ongoing threat of violence, according to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's business emissary to the country. Michael Wareing, who heads the new Basra Development Commission, acknowledged that there would be concerns among Iraqis about multinationals exploiting natural resources. …. "If you look at many other economies in the world, particularly the oil-rich economies, many of these places are quite challenging countries in which to do business," he said. "Frankly, if you can successfully operate in the Niger Delta, that is a very different benchmark from imagining that Basra needs to be like London or Paris."

See a map of proposed or actual permanent US bases in Iraq.

Turkish raid strains U.S.-Kurd ties

Peshmerga Gen. Muhammad Mohsen took down his American flag, folded it up, and placed it in his office corner Sunday, reflecting the growing anger in Iraq's Kurdish north with US support for Turkey's campaign against separatist rebels operating in the region. … "We think the United States is making a big mistake," says General Mohsen, who once led Iraqi Kurdish fighters alongside US forces when they entered the northern city of Mosul during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Video: Turkey releases film of Iraq incursions

COMMENTARY

Gates' good advice for Turkey ought to be applied across the Middle East

US Defense Secretary Bob Gates had something very sensible to say on Sunday, warning his NATO ally Turkey that military action alone is not a solution to the problem of Kurdistan Workers Party rebels based in neighboring Iraq. He stressed that "dialogue" was an under-used tool in the conflict, and specified that this should be an ongoing process rather than an ad-hoc one employed exclusively during crises. "These economic and political measures are really important because after a certain point people become inured to military attacks," Gates said. "If you don't blend them with these kinds of non-military initiatives then at a certain point the military efforts become less and less effective." As for the current Turkish campaign in Iraq, he said, "the shorter the better."

It is precisely this kind of blunt advice that America's allies in the volatile Middle East need to receive from the lone remaining superpower, a reminder that many issues simply cannot be made to go away by killing people. Unfortunately, however, the US government has been inured against this kind of logic for years, at least insofar as it regards Israel. [Not only that – Gates does not apply the advice to the USA. – dancewater]

Americans: 43 Percent of Your 2007 Taxes Go to War

The Calm Before the Conflagration

The United States is funding and in many cases arming the three ethnic factions in Iraq-the Kurds, the Shiites and the Sunni Arabs. These factions rule over partitioned patches of Iraqi territory and brutally purge rival ethnic groups from their midst. Iraq no longer exists as a unified state. It is a series of heavily armed fiefdoms run by thugs, gangs, militias, radical Islamists and warlords who are often paid wages of $300 a month by the U.S. military. Iraq is Yugoslavia before the storm. It is a caldron of weapons, lawlessness, hate and criminality that is destined to implode. And the current U.S. policy, born of desperation and defeat, means that when Iraq goes up, the U.S. military will have to scurry like rats for cover.

Quote of the day: With the Iraqi Security Volunteers in place, the Americans are now arming both sides in the civil war. "Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems," as U.S. strategists like to say. David Kilcullen, the counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. Petraeus, calls it "balancing competing armed interest groups." ~ from the article “The Myth of the Surge” by Nir Rosen

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