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

Friday, March 28, 2008

News & Views 03/28/08

Photo: Mahdi army fighters loyal to the cleric Moktada al-Sadr dancing in the streets of Basra during break in fighting on Friday. Atef Hassan/Reuters

REPORTS – LIFE IN IRAQ

Friday: 101 Iraqis, 1 US Soldier Killed, 190 Iraqis Wounded

Thursday: 225 Iraqis, 4 Americans Killed; 538 Iraqis Hurt

Clashes Kill 44 in Iraq's Kut

Coalition Jets Drop Bombs in Basra

30 killed, 52 wounded in Nassiriya until Friday night

The death toll from the clashes erupted in the city of Nassiriya has risen to 30 dead, including four cops, 16 civilians and 10 gunmen, and 52 wounded, including 19 policemen, 26 civilians and 7 gunmen, the media spokesman for the Thi-Qar police said on Friday. "These figures represent casualties of the clashes from last night until Friday night," Radi al-Rekabi told Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq (VOI). "A total of 13 gunmen have so far been arrested," he noted.

IRAQ: Casualties of war

Three Iraqi children are among seven civilians killed in a recent U.S. air strike, the latest such mistake to occur on the battlefield. A military statement said Wednesday's incident in Tikrit, about 80 miles north of Baghdad, also left three women and a man dead. It added that five people it identified as "terrorists" also were killed. …Nobody knows how many Iraqi civilians or U.S.-allied security forces have been killed in such friendly fire incidents, which have been reported widely in the Los Angeles Times. The teenage son of a Times staff member was killed last April, and earlier this month we told the tale of Batul Abdul Hussein, whose son, an Iraqi police officer, was killed when U.S. forces mistook his patrol for insurgents.

From Missing Links blog:

AlHayat says an attack by US planes in Hilla probably killed around 60 people, described as armed, quoting Iraqi security people who said that is what the Americans told them. The attack was called in by Iraqi forces, following Sadrist attacks on Supreme Council, Badr, and Dawa offices in that city, but the attacks were apparently in other areas, and a Sadrist official said the victims were retreating. The Iraqis said they couldn't confirm the numbers because Mahdi Army people had evacuated dead and wounded.

…..[The Iraqi security source] added that this fighting began after the fall of the Kafal (sp?) district in northern Hilla at the hands of armed people, and their overrunning offices of the Supreme Council and the Badr Organization, and of the Dawa Party, in that district, and their destruction, following by blowing up of a police vehicle, leacing to two killed and 12 wounded... The source said the fighting continued for five hours, which led the Iraqi forces to call for air support from the multinational forces, which bombed the districts of Nadr Atthalath and Thaura and Muhayzam, which are centers for Sadr followers in Hilla.

85 minutes of violence in Iraq

A look at an 85-minute period in Iraq on Thursday as violence raged over the government's crackdown against Shiite Muslim militiamen, in which more than 125 people have died.

MOT to send emergency foodstuff to Basra

Iraqi Ministry of Trade (MOT) formed on Friday an operations room to follow up sending foodstuff to Basra in the coming few days. The move aims at providing Basra residents with necessary foodstuff during the military operations flared up in their city. "Sending the humanitarian aid will start in the coming few days to all areas in Basra," said the director of MOT's media office in a statement received by Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).

Aid groups fear worsening of humanitarian crisis in Iraq

The United Nations Children's Fund, the Red Cross and the International Organisation for Migration expressed concern Friday about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Iraq after recent military operations. "The population was not expecting this, they didn't build up any food stocks. There is also a problem of access to medical care. "We've heard reports of medical transport and ambulances being targeted and attacked," said Red Cross spokeswoman Carla Haddad. The humanitarian organisation launched an appeal "for all parties involved in the conflict to protect civilians from any acts of violence and ensure their access to medical services". UNICEF described access to drinking water as "particularly critical". "We estimate that the population has water reserves for just two days," said UNICEF spokeswoman Veronique Taveau.

No supplies
Basra residents describe conditions after days of fighting

This morning was really terrible. The Mehdi Army have occupied a primary school near where we live in the Janina district. There are lots of houses between us and the school, but we could hear the gunbattle. It's a bit quieter now. My brother rang a cousin this morning who lives in a Mehdi Army stronghold, called Amin Dakhlee. Until now the Iraqi army had just surrounded it - and other areas - without going in. But our cousin said the Iraqi army actually went in this morning and took it from the militants. I think this is the first area they've done this to. We welcome what the Iraqi army is doing, the militias have had too much power. We weren't aware that [Iraqi prime minister] Maliki had extended the deadline for them to hand in their weapons. If the authorities give the militias more time - hopefully they will run out of ammunition. I am actually surprised how much ammunition they have. There's been constant firing and it's not over yet. The water supply is back, but here in Basra we tend to buy bottled water and not drink it straight from the tap. [So, if the regular people do not support the Medhi army, as this article states, then who exactly is joining up with them to fight the Iraqi army? - dancewater]

Classified memo from US Maj. Gen. Kelly confirms Fallujah Gulag

I spent the entire day inspecting the Fallujah city jail. I found the conditions there to be exactly (unbelivable over crowding, total lack of anything approaching even minimal levels of hygiene for human beings, no food, little water, no ventilation) to those described in the recent (18 February) FOX news article by Michael Totten entitled the "Dungeon of Fallujah". When queried the iraqis and marines present throughout my inspection as to why these conditions existed, three conditions were universaly cited as problems in Fallujah as well as the rest of Anbar. First, there is zero support from the government for any of the jails in Anbar. No funds, food or medical support has been provided from any ministry. Second, the police that run Anbar's jails are the same personnel responsable for investigating crimes. These jailer/investigators are undermanned and more often than not spend most of their time out begging and scavenging for food than investigating crimes. (It is unlikely the prisoners will eat today). Third, Anbar lacks trained Iraqi correctional officers (ICOS) to run the jails in Anbar. The development and employment of trained ICOS would enable the IP to focus on criminal investigation rather then jail supervision. I believe the Iraqi police are doing the best they can, and they literally begged me on humanitarian, moral and religious grounds to help them help the prisoners by somehow moving the government to action.

Brave woman sprinter leads Iraqi Olympics charge

Iraqi sprinter Dana Abdul-Razzaq has dodged bullets to pursue her love of running, her determination to succeed pushing her to become Iraq's only female athlete at the Beijing Olympics. Few athletes will have faced the obstacles 21-year-old Abdul-Razzaq has overcome to reach Beijing, from a sniper's bullets to a paucity of adequate training facilities and religious and cultural opposition to female athletes. "I love running, I have the persistence to keep practicing and I have ambition despite all the problems that I face," she told Reuters at Baghdad's crumbling Shaab stadium. Last October, Abdul-Razzaq was training with coach Yousif Abdul-Rahman at central Baghdad's Jadriya oval track before the Arab Games when a sniper opened fire nearby.

REPORTS – IRAQI MILITIAS, POLITICIANS, POWER BROKERS

Stalled assault on Basra exposes Iraqi government's shaky authority

The Iraqi army's offensive against the Shia militia of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Basra is failing to make significant headway despite a pledge by the Iraqi PM to fight "to the end". Instead of being a show of strength, the government's stalled assault is demonstrating its shaky authority over much of Baghdad and southern Iraq. As the situation spins out of Mr Maliki's control, saboteurs blew up one of the two main oil export pipelines near Basra, cutting by a third crude exports from the oilfields around the city. The international price of oil jumped immediately by $1 a barrel before falling back.

In Baghdad, tens of thousands of supporters of Mr Sadr, whose base of support is the Shia poor, marched through the streets shouting slogans demanding that Mr Maliki's government be overthrown. "We demand the downfall of the Maliki government," said one of the marchers, Hussein Abu Ali. "It does not represent the people. It represents Bush and Cheney." [They got that right. – dancewater]

Iraqi police in Basra shed their uniforms, kept their rifles and switched sides

Abu Iman barely flinched when the Iraqi Government ordered his unit of special police to move against al-Mahdi Army fighters in Basra. His response, while swift, was not what British and US military trainers who have spent the past five years schooling the Iraqi security forces would have hoped for. He and 15 of his comrades took off their uniforms, kept their government-issued rifles and went over to the other side without a second thought. Such turncoats are the thread that could unravel the British Army’s policy in southern Iraq. The military hoped that local forces would be able to combat extremists and allow the Army to withdraw gradually from the battle-scarred and untamed oil city that has fallen under the sway of Islamic fundamentalists, oil smugglers and petty tribal warlords. But if the British taught the police to shoot straight, they failed to instil a sense of unwavering loyalty to the State.

Iraqi leader extends date for militias to disarm

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki today extended a deadline for militiamen battling government troops to disarm as fighters showed no signs of ending a standoff with Iraqi forces.

Iraq MPs call urgent meeting to halt violence

IRAQI politicians were holding an emergency session yesterday in an attempt to end violence in the oil city of Basra after an army crackdown on Shiite militia sparked fighting across the south and mass protests in Baghdad. Authorities have imposed a three-day curfew in the capital to contain the violence, in which more than 130 people have been killed since the Government launched the offensive on Tuesday against fighters loyal to the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Iraqi, Kurdish presidents support Maliki's security campaign

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and his Kurdish counterpart Massoud Barazani announced on Friday that they support efforts exerted by al-Maliki's government to impose the law, calling for holding an urgent meeting of the political forces represented in the parliament to solve all pending issues. "Iraq's Kurdistan region is ready to host this meeting," according to a statement released by the Iraqi presidency and received by Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq (VOI).

REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ

U.S. armor forces join offensive in Baghdad against Sadr militia

U.S. forces in armored vehicles battled Mahdi Army fighters Thursday in Sadr City, the vast Shiite stronghold in eastern Baghdad, as an offensive to quell party-backed militias entered its third day. Iraqi army and police units appeared to be largely holding to the outskirts of the area as American troops took the lead in the fighting. Four U.S. Stryker armored vehicles were seen in Sadr City by a Washington Post correspondent, one of them engaging Mahdi Army militiamen with heavy fire. The din of American weapons, along with the Mahdi Army’s AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, was heard through much of the day. U.S. helicopters and drones buzzed overhead. The clashes suggested that American forces were being drawn more deeply into a broad offensive that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, launched in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, saying death squads, criminal gangs and rogue militias were the targets. The Mahdi Army of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite rival of Maliki, appeared to have taken the brunt of the attacks; fighting spread to many southern cities and parts of Baghdad.

Bush calls Iraq battle "defining moment;" militia holding on

The United States stepped up its direct support for the Iraqi government offensive against Shiite Muslim militias Friday by using U.S. aircraft to bomb two targets in the oil hub of Basra, the British military said. The U.S. military also continued its air strikes in Baghdad's Shiite Sadr City neighborhood, which is largely under the control of the Mahdi Army militia of firebrand cleric Muqtada al Sadr, and Kadhemiyah neighborhood, an area also dominated by the Mahdi Army, according to residents. The expanded U.S. air support came as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki climbed down from his previous ultimatum that Shiite militias must disarm by Friday. In a new statement, Maliki gave the gunmen until April 8 to turn in their weapons for financial rewards. [Our president is such an idiot, and a psychopath besides. – dancewater]

More evidence: Bush: Iraq is returning to normal

Britain sits on sidelines as Iraq's Basra burns

Britain ruled out deploying any troops to the Iraqi city of Basra on Friday, despite days of intense battles on the streets and signs Iraq's forces cannot cope with a growing militant uprising. U.S. war planes dropped bombs on rebel areas in an effort to help the Iraqi army regain control of the city, but Britain said its 4,100 heavily armed troops, based at an airport a few kilometres (miles) from the centre, would not join in. "This is an Iraqi-led operation and it's one that we have wanted to see since they took responsibility for security in Basra," said a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence. "It's going to take time, but it shows the Iraqi government's political will in taking on the militants."

Iran cleric calls on Iraqis to end their fighting

A hardline Iranian cleric called on Friday for the Iraqi government and a Muslim Shi'ite militia to stop fighting and strike a deal. Ayatollah Ahmad Janati made his appeal in a sermon broadcast on state radio on the fourth day of a crackdown launched by U.S.-backed Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, himself a Shi'ite, against a Shi'ite militia in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. The fighting has exposed a deep rift within Iraq's majority Shi'ites and put pressure on Maliki, whose forces have failed to dislodge fighters loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr from Basra. "To the armed popular forces who have come to Basra and pulled a gun on this or that person, I say, oh brother, if you have something to say come sit with the government, the government is popular and so are you," Janati said. Janati, head of the powerful Guardian Council constitutional watchdog, did not mention Sadr or his Mehdi Army by name.

Rockets and Mortars Hammer Green Zone

Baghdad's Green zone is coming under more rocket and mortar fire today, and the U.S. Embassy says one American government employee has been killed. And the State Department is instructing all personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad not to leave reinforced structures due to the incoming insurgent fire. It's now killed two American government workers this week. It's the latest in a week of barrages against heavily fortified area in central Baghdad.

Charges against Marine in Haditha case dropped

US condemns killing of Kurds by Syrian forces

The United States condemned the killing of three Kurds March 20 by Syrian security forces following cultural celebrations in the northeastern city of Qamishli. 'We call upon the Syrian government to refrain from using violent measures to repress Kurdish civilians and to open a full, independent investigation of the incident,' State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday. The Syrian Human Rights Monitor said the violence began after a group of youths celebrating the Kurdish new year Nayroz began arguing with police, who responded by firing into the crowd, killing three and wounding five people. [So, it is okay when Turkey does it, but not when Syria does it? Do I have that correct? – dancewater]

Man charged as Iraqi agent over U.S Congress trip

An Iraqi-American who helped organize a controversial U.S. congressional trip to Baghdad in 2002 was charged on Wednesday with working for ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government, which paid for the visit, the Justice Department said. The indictment against Muthanna al-Hanooti said Iraq's foreign intelligence service funneled $34,000 through the Islamic charity Life for Relief and Development to pay delegation expenses.

Iran Protests US Fingerprinting of Pilgrims in Iraq

Iran has strongly protested the recent arbitrary act of the US forces on fingerprinting Iranian pilgrims and imposing restrictions on them. The Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini on Thursday stressed that restrictions imposed on Iranian pilgrims at Iran's border crossings with Iraq should stop immediately. "Travel by Iranian pilgrims to Iraq's holy sites takes place in accordance with an agreement between the two countries and is fully coordinated by the two sides' officials. There is no need for interference by others," Hosseini said. The move by the occupiers is aimed at damaging relations between the two neighboring countries, he added.

IRAQI REFUGEES

JORDAN: Cost of health care a major hurdle for Iraqi refugees

The high cost of drugs and medical care in Jordan is a major problem for impoverished Iraqi asylum-seekers, according to a survey by the International Medical Corps (IMC) and the US Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) released on 26 March.

"Iraq Is Not a Suitable Place To Live as a Human"

Waleed Arshad says he's never going back to Baghdad. He lives with his wife and two children on the outskirts of Damascus in a small apartment at the top of a winding, uneven set of concrete steps. The tiny rooms are separated by nylon curtains. Arshad's oil paintings are the only decoration on the peeling walls. His art supported him in Baghdad, but it finally drove him out of the city for good, he says. Arshad was happy when American tanks rolled past his family home in the Dura neighborhood of Baghdad in the spring of 2003. "Art was a lie during Saddam's time," he says. Arshad decided to work with the Americans and signed on in November 2003. A graduate of Baghdad's Institute of Fine Arts, his first endeavor as an artist in post-Saddam Iraq was painting Arabic-language signs that read, "Halt, do not come closer than 100 meters. Deadly force will be used." He hated the job.

Join the Iraq Action Days

On April 14 - 16, Refugees International will be participating in the Iraq Action Days, where we'll be teaming up with concerned citizens to urge Congress to respond to one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our time. The Action Days kick off with a forum of experts, including Refugees International's president Ken Bacon, government officials, Iraqi refugees and aid groups. Then, we'll take YOU to meet with Congress and tell them how they should help Iraqi refugees (don't worry we'll prepare you first!). Help Iraqi Refugees: Register for the Iraq Action Days.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

IRAQI REFUGEES NEED YOUR HELP

COMMENTARY

The Lies in Your Head, More Powerful Than All Facts

Any honest person over the age of eight realizes that this pattern has been repeated an endless number of times. A minimally decent person is horrified by that realization. How many times can we read about the capture or death of the second or third most important person in Al Qaeda -- twenty? thirty? -- before we understand that this is only another lie of the war machine? How many times can we hear about the "last throes" of the terrorists, before we grasp that something much more fundamental is grievously wrong with our actions? I rarely noted the "last throes" argument, since it was so obviously false -- but I did title one post, from July 2006, "Last Throes -- Part, 5,729."

The dishonesty only begins with reports such as those provided by Yon; the more important, and the much more dangerous, dishonesty occurs with the use that is made of them. People like Ledeen and Reynolds say, in effect: "This man is there! Since he is there, he must know the truth much better than most of us who are not there. We therefore should give much more weight to what he says. We should believe him!" And what we should believe is that victory is right around the corner. We are expected to disregard the monumental fact that this particular corner is one in an infinite series of such corners. [You turn a lot of corners when you are lost in a maze. – dancewater]

From A Tiny Revolution blog:

U.S. troops currently operate in Iraq under a UN Security Council mandate. The mandate has been renewed annually since 2004. It gives coalition troops the legal authority to use force there. A majority of the Iraqi parliament wants the US to leave Iraq, and for several years has been trying to prevent the mandate from being renewed unless it includes a specific timeframe for us to depart. The executive branch of the Iraqi government (ie, Prime Minister Maliki and friends) wants the US to stay indefinitely. That's because we want to stay, and Maliki is our puppet. Maliki therefore successfully got the UN to renew the mandate at the end of 2007, even though the Iraqi parliament opposed it and, under the Iraqi constitution, must approve all treaties. Maliki is exactly like Bush in this way; the legislative branch tries to assert its constitutional rights, and Maliki tells them: fuck you.

The mandate is now set to expire again at the end of this year. It would be near-impossible for Maliki and Bush to get another year's extension, because the Iraqi parliament has now gotten its act together. And even if it could be extended, it's undesirable from the administration's perspective, because it doesn't tie the hands of the next president. Thus, Bush is attempting to create a bilateral "agreement" with Iraq via Maliki. It won't be called a treaty, because as noted that would require the Iraqi parliament to approve it; even worse, under the US constitution, it would require the two-thirds approval of the US Senate. So what the administration tried to do was quietly institute this accord between itself and Maliki (essentially between itself and itself), and write it so it was a treaty in all but name, giving the US the right to "protect" the Iraqi government from foreign and domestic threats. However, Congress has actually been doing its job and pushing back on this—holding hearings, asking questions—and the administration has been somewhat stymied. That's where Ackerman picks up the story.

The fight for Basra - it's about oil and power

The rivalries between the Shiite government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the Mahdi Army are not just about differing ideologies or handing out lucrative posts in state and administration. First and foremost, they are about dividing the legal and illegal profits stemming from the oil business in the southern city of Basra. If reports from Basra are to be believed, more or less all Shiite parties are involved in illicit oil dealing. Information is passed on only in secret, because of fears of the militias' vengeance. 'When an oil delivery leaves Basra, the (Iraq's governing) Dawa and SICI parties divert about a third of the oil, secretly sell it and pocket the profit,' a Basra man close to the Sadrists said. 'All of that has nothing to do with politics. The structures are more like the Italian Mafia,' he said. The Sadrists and the members of the Shiite Fadhila party, whose members are very well connected around Basra, are now accused of oil smuggling by al-Maliki's Dawa party and his main coalition partner, the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq (SICI). [Hey, just like the USA! – dancewater]

Noam Chomsky: Why Don't We Ask What's Best For the Iraqis? [VIDEO]

Video: As Chomsky bluntly states, aggressors have no rights. Our occupation is criminal. What Americans want for Iraq is irrelevant.

NPR News: National Pentagon Radio?

While the Iraqi government continued its large-scale military assault in Basra, the NPR reporter's voice from Iraq was unequivocal on the morning of March 27: "There is no doubt that this operation needed to happen." Such flat-out statements, uttered with journalistic tones and without attribution, are routine for the U.S. media establishment. In the War Made Easy documentary film, I put it this way: "If you're pro-war, you're objective. But if you're antiwar, you're biased. And often, a news anchor will get no flak at all for making statements that are supportive of a war and wouldn't dream of making a statement that's against a war." So it goes at NPR News, where – on Morning Edition as well as the evening program All Things Considered – the sense and sensibilities tend to be neatly aligned with the outlooks of official Washington. The critical aspects of reporting largely amount to complaints about policy shortcomings that are tactical; the underlying and shared assumptions are imperial. Washington's prerogatives are evident when the media window on the world is tinted red-white-and-blue.

Quote of the day: In fact, the prevailing informed opinion of Iraqis both inside and outside their country is that the presence of occupation forces is the greatest single factor contributing to the incitement and proliferation of factional and sectarian violence. More than 80 per cent of Iraqis want the occupation to end, sooner rather than later; they are tired of seeing their country divided and shattered under an ineffectual puppet government. Among the remaining 20 percent are politicians exploiting the American occupation to enlarge their own wealth and power. ~ Mohamed Elmasry

0 comments: