The present-day U.S. military qualifies by any measure as highly professional, much more so than its Cold War predecessor. Yet the purpose of today’s professionals is not to preserve peace but to fight unending wars in distant places. Intoxicated by a post-Cold War belief in its own omnipotence, the United States allowed itself to be drawn into a long series of armed conflicts, almost all of them yielding unintended consequences and imposing greater than anticipated costs. Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. forces have destroyed many targets and killed many people. Only rarely, however, have they succeeded in accomplishing their assigned political purposes. . . . [F]rom our present vantage point, it becomes apparent that the “Revolution of ‘89” did not initiate a new era of history. At most, the events of that year fostered various unhelpful illusions that impeded our capacity to recognize and respond to the forces of change that actually matter.

Andrew Bacevich

Thursday, September 20, 2007

News & Views 09/20/07

Photo: Hassan Jabir, 37, recovers from gunshot wounds in a hospital in Baghdad, Iraq on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007. Jabir, a lawyer, says he was in his car in the Mansour neighborhood when guards in a U.S. State Department convoy opened fire, shooting him four times. The State Department and the company in question, Blackwater USA, have said the incident began when a diplomatic convoy came under attack in Baghdad; Iraqi witnesses and officials have said the security guards opened fire first without provocation. The United States and Iraq will form a joint commission to look into allegations that private guards protecting American diplomats killed Iraqi civilians and to review the U.S. Embassy's security practices, the State Department said. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)

To our Muslim readers: Ramadan Kareem

Civilian death toll in Iraq may top 1 million


Iraq humanitarian crisis grows despite U.S. surge

Iraq's humanitarian crisis is getting worse and more Iraqis are fleeing their homes despite the the recent surge of U.S. troops, aid workers say, with donors reluctant to fund support for millions of displaced. Last week, President George W. Bush presented a relatively upbeat picture of conditions in Iraq and said forces could be cut by around 20,000 by next July. He linked the reduction to improvements on the ground particularly in Baghdad where the surge was centred and the volatile Anbar governorate. The United Nations estimates 4.2 million Iraqis have fled fighting and other violence, roughly half of them fleeing to neighbouring countries and half remaining displaced within Iraq. Most stay with host families and in inadequate accommodation such as schools or abandoned buildings but with increasing numbers in tented camps. Having taken so many, Iraq's neighbours have effectively closed their borders to new arrivals, complaining they have received little funding to help them cope with the influx. It remains one of the world's fastest-growing refugee crises, with almost twice as many of people displaced as by the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.

Officials Urge Residents to Conserve Water After Oil Spill

City officials urged Baghdad residents Thursday to conserve water and fill up their tanks in case water treatment stations have to be shut down because of an oil spill in the Tigris River. The warning was issued three days after insurgents set off a bomb under an oil pipeline near Beiji, 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad, setting off a fire and causing huge quantities of crude oil to spill into the Tigris, which flow through the capital. "We call upon people to store and economize the use of drinking water in anticipation of the worst, which is the arrival of the oil spill to water treatment stations in Baghdad," said Naeem al-Qaabi, deputy head of the Baghdad municipal administration. He estimated that it would take the oil slick about 48 hours to reach Baghdad.

Baghdad revealed as bank robbery capital of the world

The attack had been planned with military precision. Twelve men, masked and carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles stormed into the al-Sanik branch of the Bank of Baghdad, disarmed the guards, tied them up and then terrified the staff by firing into the ceiling. About $800,000 (£400,000) in US dollars and Iraqi dinars was grabbed before the gang drove away in three cars, untroubled by the many checkpoints in the area. The raid was just the latest of a long and lucrative line that sees, on average, a million dollars a month being taken at gunpoint. Bank executives have been kidnapped from their homes for ransoms as high as $6mn. Amid the bombs and gunfire, there is one "industry" is doing remarkably well – Baghdad is now the bank robbery capital of the world. Iraq holds the world record for both the first and second highest amounts taken in the history of bank robberies. Top of the league is the estimated $800m removed from the Central Bank by Saddam Hussein's son, Qusay, in the dying days of the regime as US tanks were rolling into Baghdad. In second position is the heist, just two months ago, at the Dar al-Salam Bank at Sadoun Street in central Baghdad when three guards turned on their employers and left with $282m.

Kurdistan’s Fatal Flames

The doctor knows, just from glancing at the burns, that someone is lying to him. Srood Tawfiq, a reconstructive surgeon at Sulaimaniya Hospital in Iraq's northern Kurdish region, buttons his white lab coat and steps into the burn unit. "Busy day yesterday," he says, pulling back a curtain to reveal a sleeping 16-year-old girl with kerosene burns over 90 percent of her body. The mother of the young woman, hovering over the hospital bed, tells Tawfiq that her daughter slipped and scalded herself while carrying a portable stove. The doctor listens sympathetically. But later, out of the woman's earshot, he explains that he doubts the mother's explanation. If it were really an accident, he whispers, "you don't get this degree of burn." Outside the hospital room he pulls off his hygienic mask and shakes his head. "We never tell them that they're going to die," he says quietly. Kurdistan has long been considered the one consistently safe and relatively prosperous region of Iraq. So why, in increasing numbers, are the territory's young women showing up at local hospitals dying of suspicious burns? According to the Women's Union of Kurdistan, there were 95 such cases in the first six months of 2007, up 15 percent since last year. A December 2006 report from the Asuda women’s rights group in Sulaimaniya says that the "phenomenon is increasing at an alarming rate." Ninety-five percent of the victims are under 30, and roughly half are between 16 and 21. On the day before I stopped by the emergency hospital in Sulaimaniya, six young women were admitted with major burns, three of them telling suspicious stories. When I called Zryan Yones, the Kurdish health minister, he said that the trend among young women is more disturbing than a recent outbreak of cholera. He provided a startling statistic: since August 10, Kurdistan had had nine deaths from its cholera epidemic; in the same period, there were 25 young women dead of burns. "I have one young girl lying in our morgues every single day," he told me.

So what's going on? Most of the survivors tell doctors that the burns resulted from a "cooking accident." But surgeons told me they can tell that the vast majority are not telling the truth. Kerosene, the fuel used to cook here, is not particularly volatile; if a woman comes in with burns over the majority of her body, it is likely intentional. Women's rights advocates in Sulaimaniya believe that the majority of the burn cases are suicide attempts; the remainder are suspected to be honor killings or other murders disguised as accidents or suicide. ("Cooking accident" has long been a euphemism for dowry killing in India.) Doctors told me that it's virtually impossible to distinguish between murder and suicide based on the burns and the women's stories. Still, anecdotal evidence suggests that the trend may be aggravated by a copycat effect among Kurdistan's teenagers. One 20-year-old woman, Heshw Mohammad, who briefly considered burning herself after her father killed her boyfriend two years ago, told me that self-immolation has become a sort of fashion among teenage Kurdish women. "They imitate each other," she says.

Iraqi lawyer says Americans weren't shot at before opening fire

An Iraqi lawyer who was wounded in a shooting incident in Baghdad over the weekend that involved American security contractors is telling his side of the story. Hassan Jabir was among about a dozen people wounded in the shooting, which Iraqi police say killed at least 11 others. Jabir says nobody had been firing at the security guards from the American company Blackwater USA. He says he was stuck in traffic when he heard the Americans shout, "Go, Go, Go." Moments later, he says, bullets pierced his back. He says men, women and children were shot as they dove from their vehicles, trying to crawl to safety. Blackwater insists that its employees had come under fire from armed insurgents, and that they shot back to protect State Department employees. A U.S. official in Washington says the accounts given by witnesses are widely different. Investigators are hoping to reconcile those varying accounts. In the meantime, Blackwater's operations in Iraq have been suspended. Iraq's prime minister describes the shooting as a "crime" by Blackwater.

Village beats Qaeda attack

Suspected al-Qaeda fighters attacked a village in the restive Iraqi province of Diyala but were repelled by rival militants and security forces after a fierce battle, officials said Wednesday. Fighters linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq attacked the Sunni Arab village of Al-Shuan on the banks of the Diyala river on Tuesday, police Lieutenant Colonel Ibrahim al-Obeidi said. Members of the rival Brigades of the 1920 Revolution and Iraqi security forces clashed with the fighters and repelled the attack, another Iraqi police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity. Obeidi said the village was attacked after its 300 or so inhabitants refused to align with al-Qaeda in Iraq, the local affiliate of Osama bin Laden’s global jihadist group, in its fight against Iraqi and US security forces. The interior ministry’s director of operations Major General Abdel Karim Khalaf told AFP that he had received reports of clashes in villages in the region north of the provincial capital Baquba.

IRAQ: Lawyers accuse government of concealing information about detainees

BAGHDAD, 19 September 2007 (IRIN) - Lawyers representing families of Iraqi detainees have accused the government of concealing information about detainees, including their whereabouts. “Hundreds of Iraqis have been detained by the Iraqi police or army in the past three years and their locations and conditions are unknown,” Ayad Daraji, a lawyer representing 15 Iraqi families in Baghdad, said. “There is no evidence as to whether they are alive or not. Families aren’t allowed to visit them and this raises big questions about the detainees’ situation,” he said. The Iraqi Lawyers’ Association (ILA) this week sent a letter to parliament calling for the identification of locations where detainees are being held and accelerating their appearance in court. “In many cases, we aren’t even aware of the reason for the arrests. Families are desperate for evidence that would prove that their loved ones are alive,” Safa’a Farouk, a lawyer and spokesman for the ILA, said.

The fake peace

Two days ago and since Ramadan month started and as we Muslims say its the month of God which means peace must be everywhere, I decided to break to visit my best friend at night especially after the (peace) that my neighborhood enjoys. Don't misunderstand me when I say peace because I'm not talking about real peace that all Iraqis pray to have. The peace we have in my neighborhood is a fake one came as a result of killing and displacing all the families from a specific sect not because the US army or the Iraqi army could control the area, this is the bitter fact I hate to but I must admit.

Now, all the families in my neighborhood are from one sect including a big number of families who were displaced by the other sect from other neighborhoods of Baghdad. Anyway, I left home about 10,30 pm and I arrived my friend's home after 10 minutes or less. While I was walking, I saw some young men gathering near one of the houses and smoking Shisha, also I saw some children playing in the dark streets. When I reached my friend's house, I found him sitting with some young men near his house and this is a habit of the Iraqi men especially in Ramadan, they don't like to stay home at all and prefer to meet their friends out. We had a conversation for about an hour, he reminded me with our friends who were either killed or forced to leave the area and then he started talking about the problems that his family and the original families in his street face with the new comers and how they miss their old neighbors.

War on Iraq: What They're Saying in Anbar Province

In a survey conducted Aug. 17-24 for ABC News, the BBC and NHK, the Japanese broadcaster, among a random national sample of 2,212 Iraqis, 72 percent in Anbar expressed no confidence whatsoever in United States forces. Seventy-six percent said the United States should withdraw now -- up from 49 percent when we polled there in March, and far above the national average. Withdrawal timetable aside, every Anbar respondent in our survey opposed the presence of American forces in Iraq -- 69 percent "strongly" so. Every Anbar respondent called attacks on coalition forces "acceptable," far more than anywhere else in the country. All called the United States-led invasion wrong, including 68 percent who called it "absolutely wrong." No wonder: Anbar, in western Iraq, is almost entirely populated by Sunni Arabs, long protected by Saddam Hussein and dispossessed by his overthrow. There are critical improvements in Anbar. Most important have been remarkable advances in confidence in the Iraqi Army and police. In ABC's survey in March, not a single respondent rated local security positively -- now 38 percent do. Nonetheless, nobody surveyed in Anbar last month gave the United States any credit. Ratings of living conditions remain dismal: respondents were deeply dissatisfied with the availability of electricity and fuel, jobs, medical care and a host of other elements of daily life. And the violence, while sharply down, has hardly ended: One in four reported that car bombs or suicide attacks had occurred near them in the last six months.


MAP: Iraqis' health needs

Overload of health services, especially regarding secondary and tertiary services as well as chronic diseases. Many displaced avoid registration.

UN seeks aid to bolster health of displaced Iraqis

Five United Nations agencies appealed to donors on Tuesday for $85 million to combat illness and malnutrition among more than 2 million Iraqis who have fled war and violence in their country. The U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the World Food Programme (WFP), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the U.N. children's agency UNICEF said the funds would be used to improve access to reproductive and child health care, as well as treatment for cancer patients, trauma victims and amputees. Vaccination cover must also be reinforced in many cases, while unemployment and economic woes among the displaced had caused rising malnutrition, the agencies said in a statement released in Geneva. "The health needs of more than 2 million displaced Iraqis should not be ignored. Many are survivors of violence and have serious medical conditions," they said, stressing that Iraqis streaming into Syria, Jordan and other countries over the past year had "put an enormous strain" on host governments. "The burden on their health systems has become overwhelming and requires immediate and urgent support from the international community," their statement read. The $85 million would cover health assistance until the end of next year.

Cholera surfaces in Baghdad

Iraqi health officials confirmed the first cases of cholera in Baghdad on Thursday, in a sign that an epidemic that has infected approximately 7,000 people in northern Iraq is spreading south through the country's decrepit and unsanitary water system. The World Health Organization and the Iraqi Red Crescent Society said they had confirmed at least one case of cholera in Baghdad, though the Iraqi Ministry of Health did not confirm it. Hospital sources said there could be at least two other confirmed infections, connected to a death in Kut and one in Tikrit. Officials said there was a further possible outbreak in Diyala, north of Baghdad, and in Kut, southeast of Baghdad. The World Health Organization has already reported an outbreak of the disease in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Sulaimaniya, and 10 people are known to have died. But the disease is now moving from the north into more unstable areas of the country where it could be even harder to treat and contain. "It is already endemic in some parts of Iraq, but when it is growing and moving, that's when it becomes an epidemic," said Naeema al-Gasseer, the World Health Organization representative for Iraq. The organization said there was laboratory confirmation of the disease in a 25-year-old woman living in Baghdad.

Introduction- Health Care in Iraq

The daily toll of violence-related fatalities in Iraq has dominated the headlines around the world, but the fate of those injured in the conflict and the prospects of those who fall ill in a country whose healthcare facilities are in a woeful state has received little attention. Shortages of hospital staff and drugs, crumbling medical facilities and outbreaks of disease are making life miserable for millions of Iraqis, a new special report by IWPR reporters can reveal. The World Health Organisation cites Iraqi government estimates that almost 70 per cent of critically injured patients with violence-related wounds die while in emergency and intensive care units. The primary causes, it says, are a shortage of competent staff and a lack of drugs and equipment. Iraq’s central government controls the supply of drugs to all the country’s medical facilities, but supplies often don’t make it to the provinces. The health service’s central warehouses are located in a dangerous area of Baghdad, and medicine is often just as likely to end up being sold on the black market as it is to be delivered to pharmacies and hospitals. The drugs shortage has seriously undermined healthcare provision in provinces such as Karbala and Kirkuk.

Karbala Mirrors Countrywide Crisis

Dire shortage of drugs and doctors reflects catastrophic effect of war and corruption on the country’s healthcare system. Muhammed Ali Hussein, 55, has had diabetes for more than 15 years and says finding insulin has been difficult for the last seven months. "I frequently spend the whole day going from one pharmacy to another," he said. The shortage "has become life-threatening for me daily. It drives me crazy". Karbala's shortages of drugs and qualified medical professionals are undermining the provision of healthcare in the province. The problems in Karbala, the Shia holy city located 100 kilometres southwest of Baghdad, reflect the catastrophic effects of the war and corruption on Iraq's healthcare system as a whole. The country has a centralised system in which drugs and other medical supplies are distributed to the provinces from warehouses in Baghdad, but distribution is often sabotaged by graft and violence.
Many times, Hussein ends up buying his insulin on the black market. That is where much of the drugs and other medical supplies sent to state clinics and hospitals end up, while public facilities suffer shortages of medicines to treat heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma and sedatives, according to Dr Mohammed al-Fartusi, who works in Karbala.

….. The current supply of drugs and medical equipment to Karbala is so dire that a report earlier this year by Paul Foreman, former head of the Doctors Without Borders’ mission in Iraq, noted that medics at state hospitals frequently "ask the relative of injured patients to search local pharmacies for blood bags, sutures and infusions before they could start emergency surgery". Baqir Ali, a 35-year-old teacher, saw cats wandering around the corridors when he took his wife to give birth at one of Karbala's public hospitals. He was equally shocked when the doctor delivering their child asked him to go out to the market to purchase gauze and stitches to prepare for the birth. "Should I buy a doctor as well?" he asked.

Kirkuk Hospital Staff Soldier On

Hard-pressed doctors at province’s only hospital treat up to 500 patients a day - even more when the bombs strike. Kirkuk's public hospital, built under the British mandate in the 1940s, resembles a decrepit castle. Heat and humidity have swept away the colour of the walls, which are crumbling and spattered with blood. Patients and doctors say the province's main public hospital is unsanitary, ill-equipped and overcrowded. Yet the facility is practically all that Kirkuk has in the way of state medical provision. The facility receives about 80 per cent of patients in the province, or about 500 patients per day. Most days, five to ten surgeries are conducted, but when the bombs strike, victims come through the emergency department by the dozens. "It's not an exaggeration to say that healthcare in Kirkuk is in a crisis," said Dr Nabil Sabir, a gastroenterologist. "It's getting worse and needs to be addressed immediately." The problems stem primarily from Kirkuk's poor financial and medical resources. Despite the city’s vast, untapped oil wealth - the province is believed to hold 60 per cent of Iraq's oil - poverty is prevalent, and public services are limited. Iraq's healthcare system began severely deteriorating under the United Nations-imposed sanctions in the 1990s and has only become worse since that time. The hospital and other public health services in Kirkuk are further strained by the increasing violence and the growing number of displaced people who have come here from more troubled parts of the country.

Cholera Outbreak in North Blamed on Dirty Water

Local officials say water supply systems are in urgent need of an overhaul. The Kurdistan Regional Government's health minister has warned that cholera outbreaks in the north could spread if the government does not improve its water supply. "If the government doesn't fix the dirty water problem, the cholera outbreak will continue and a huge disaster will occur," KRG minister of health Zryan Osman told IWPR. Osman said that 13 people have died of cholera in the northern provinces of Sulaimaniyah, Erbil and Kirkuk. The minister reported that 430 people in Sulaimaniyah and 270 in Erbil have been diagnosed with the disease. And Salah Ahmed Ameen, a senior health official in Kirkuk, said 450 people are infected with cholera there.

Sunni Patients Fear Baghdad Wards

Sunnis stay clear of hospitals for fear of being targeted by Shia death squads. For Sunni Arabs in the capital, getting medical treatment can be a death sentence. Public hospitals here are operated by Iraq's Shia-run health ministry and allegations are common that hospital staff have helped militia members abduct and kill Sunni patients. Omar Othman, 24, a Sunni who works in a car parts shop, was hit by a bus on his way home from work in December 2006, badly injuring his leg. His father believes he only narrowly escaped a worse fate. On admittance to the al-Kindi hospital in a Shia region of the capital, Omar’s surname - typically Sunni - marked him as a target. “The staff started looking at me suspiciously. I felt I was threatened. No one approached me or treated me," said Omar, who called his father to say where he was. "I went into the hospital like a madman,” his father, Abdullah, a retired police officer, recalled, describing how he rushed from one ward to another before a security guard called him by name. "Aren’t you Abu Othman?" the security guard asked. "Yes, I am," he replied. "Who are you, and how do you know me?" "You were my boss when I was a police officer before you retired," said the security guard. The father told the guard he was looking for his son. The guard said one of the doctors had written on a small piece of paper "a virus is here", and believed it was in reference to Omar. "These sons of bitches will kill him," the guard told Omar’s father.

Militias Jeopardise New Basra Hospital

Campaign of intimidation and violence leaves ambitious project way behind schedule. A state-of-the-art children’s hospital which was meant to improve the quality of healthcare in the southern province of Basra has been severely delayed as a result of attacks on project staff. Since the project to build the new paediatric and teaching hospital in Basra began, dozens of people working on it have been killed; it has run significantly over-budget; and some doubt if it will ever be finished. Hospitals in Basra, which is home to two million people and some of the country's largest oil reserves, lack vital medicine, supplies and staff. A healthcare crisis has now hit the province, which has seen a rise in life-threatening diseases, such as typhus and kala azar - a potentially fatal illness transmitted by a sandfly parasite. In May 2005, hopes were raised that healthcare for children in the province would improve when the cornerstone of a state-of-the-art paediatric and teaching hospital was laid. Among those promoting the construction of the Basra Children's Hospital were United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Laura Bush, wife of US president George W Bush. The project was set to finish on December 31, 2005, but more than a year and a half after its scheduled completion date, the planned new facility remains a building site.


Iraq considers new steps against security companies

Two survivors of Sunday's shooting at a busy Baghdad traffic roundabout said Tuesday that security guards for a State Department convoy opened fire without provocation, contradicting assertions by the guards' U.S.-based employer, Blackwater USA, that they were responding to enemy fire. Hassan Jaber Salma, 50, a lawyer who suffered eight gunshot wounds in the incident, said he and other motorists were attempting to clear a path for the convoy when the Blackwater guards suddenly strafed the line of traffic with gunfire. Sami Hawas Karim, 42, a taxi driver who was shot in the hip and side, said he, too, had stopped for the convoy when he saw the guards suddenly open fire on a car bearing a man, a woman and a small child. The guards then opened fire on maintenance workers in the square, the car in front of him, the car behind him and a minibus full of girls. When he felt the pain of his two wounds, he opened the door of his car and fell to the ground; his 13-year-old son in the car with him wasn't harmed. "I thought about my family and my five kids," he said. "I remembered my two brothers who were killed, and I said to myself, 'I'm going to be the third.'"

Iraq threatens action against U.S. security firm

Iraqi authorities threatened to revoke the license of a private U.S. company that guards top American officials, including U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, saying the company's employees killed at least nine people Sunday in a shooting spree in central Baghdad.

Maliki Alleges 7 Cases When Blackwater Killed Iraqis

The Ministry of Interior has registered seven cases of Blackwater’s guards’ killing Iraqis, including the one on Sunday, he said, without providing details. He said the government was working to rewrite the rules that regulate private security companies, which have immunity from Iraqi law. “This company should be held accountable for these violations,” Mr. Maliki said, “because we will never allow Iraqi citizens to be killed in cold blood by this company that is playing with the lives of the people.” A Blackwater spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday, but the company has previously defended its employees, saying they were responding to an insurgent attack.

IRAQ: Sharp drop in number of violence-related deaths, government says

The number of victims of violence in Iraq has dropped by over 50 percent since February 2007, health and security officials said on 19 September. "Between January and September 2006, the number of violence-related deaths in all [of] Iraq was about 27,000, while in the same period of 2007 the number of dead was about 7,000," Adel Muhsin, the Health Ministry's inspector-general, told IRIN in a phone interview. "Due to unrelenting violence during the said period [January-September 2006], Baghdad’s main morgue was receiving a daily average of 100-150 dead bodies of the victims of violence, while nowadays the number is about 15 dead bodies a day and about 50 percent of these deaths were in normal incidents," Muhsin said. Since Operation Imposing Law was launched by US and Iraqi forces on 14 February, the number of those thought to be victims of Shia death squads has dropped dramatically in Baghdad, and there has also been a lull in violent attacks by Sunni insurgents. Security spokesman Brig Qassim al-Mousawi said the seven-month government crackdown had “achieved security and stability in the capital by imposing the same pressure on all sides”. "Our forces are now in control of most of Baghdad, and residents are cooperating actively with them to hunt down terrorists," al-Mousawi told a press conference on 19 September in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. "There are still terrorist attacks here and there in Baghdad but these attacks, including assassinations and kidnappings, have dropped nearly 75 percent since February," al-Mousawi said. In one of Baghdad's main hospitals, a remarkable decrease in violence-related deaths has been reported since the crackdown.

Iraq arrests man for murder of Russian diplomats-Ifax

Iraqi authorities have arrested the man behind the murder of four Russian diplomats abducted in Baghdag and later killed by an al Qaeda-led group, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said on Wednesday. Four Russian diplomats were abducted in June 2006 and an al Qaeda group posted video footage on the Internet showing the killing of three men it said were Russian hostages. Russia said all four had been killed. "We have arrested the key person who was responsible for this murder," Zebari told the Interfax news agency in an interview. "He is called Abu Nur and is a terrorist fundamentalist, a representative of one of the al Qaeda cells," he said. "He is now in detention."


From Missing Links blog:

Naaman discusses in an op-ed this morning in Al-Quds al-Arabi a novel interpretation of the recent saber-rattling, namely that in addition to the obvious targets of attempted intimidation, namely Iran and Syria and their allies, it is quite likely the creation of an atmosphere of menace is also designed to keep the supposedly pro-American cohorts from deviating from the American line, as they clearly show signs of doing, by intimating that their failure to help America rack up political gains could result in nothing less than war.

U.S. Detains Iranian in Iraq

An Iranian officer accused of smuggling powerful roadside bombs into Iraq was arrested Thursday in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said. The arrest could add to tensions between Washington and Tehran already strained by the detention of each other's citizens as well as U.S. accusations of Iranian involvement in Iraq's violence and Iran's disputed nuclear program. The military said the suspect was a member of the Quds force - an elite unit of Iran's Revolutionary Guards - and was seized from a hotel in the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah. Two other Iranians were detained in the raid but later released, a Kurdish official said. The Iranian officer was allegedly involved in transporting roadside bombs, including armor-piercing explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, into Iraq, according to a military statement. It said intelligence reports also indicated he was involved in the infiltration and training of foreign fighters in Iraq.

Petraeus: 'We are not trying to mislead'

Despite President Bush's pledge Thursday that U.S. troops will remain in Iraq after he leaves office, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David Petraeus, said Friday that he will still use the prospect of troop withdrawals to persuade Iraq's political leaders to resolve their differences. [They are not even making any sense any more. – dancewater]

Controversial Osprey aircraft deployed to Iraq

The first combat squadron of tilt-rotor V-22 Ospreys has been quietly deployed to Iraq, ushering a new form of aerial technology into 21st Century warfare. A Marine Corps aviation squadron and 10 Ospreys left for Iraq on Monday aboard the U.S.S. Wasp, a small Navy aircraft carrier known as an amphibious assault ship, said Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Eric Dent. The departure from the New River Marine Corps Air Station near Jacksonville, N.C., was made under extremely tight security with no advance notice to the news media and no ceremonial speeches by Marine Corps officials. ``It was just another workday for the squadron,'' Dent said. Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, nicknamed ``The Thunder Chickens,'' will be based at the Al Asad Airbase in western Iraq for at least seven months of combat operations. The Marine Corps Ospreys, known as MV-22s, will be used to ferry Marines as well as cargo throughout predominately Sunni Muslim Anbar province.

Guns, not roses, for Iraq

The grand debate about Gen. David Petraeus' Capitol Hill testimony last week on U.S. strategy in Iraq focused primarily on troop levels, withdrawal dates and whether Bush's so-called troop surge was succeeding. But widely overlooked was Petraeus' sales pitch to lawmakers for one initiative he said will help save the war-torn country: massive arms sales from the U.S. government to Iraq. "Iraq is becoming one of the United States' larger foreign military sales customers," Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 11, noting that Iraq has inked deals to buy $1.6 billion in arms from the U.S., with the "possibility of up to $1.8 billion more." Data obtained by Salon shows the arms sales could rise far higher than even the amount the general suggested last week. Petraeus said that the arms sales are an important part of the initiative to keep the Iraqis "rapidly expanding their security forces." But Petraeus himself presided over an arms debacle in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 in which nearly 200,000 weapons went missing. And while U.S. arms might help the Iraqi security forces "stand up" in the short term, experts warn that the U.S. military could easily lose control over what may follow. Some fear a war zone flooded with weapons that could be turned on U.S. soldiers, or supply huge firepower for a full-blown civil war.


Migration Reshapes Iraq's Sectarian Landscape

A vast internal migration is radically reshaping Iraq’s ethnic and sectarian landscape, according to new data collected by thousands of relief workers, but displacement in the most populous and mixed areas is surprisingly complex, suggesting that partitioning the country into semiautonomous Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish enclaves would not be easy. The migration data, which are expected to be released this week by the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization but were given in advance to The New York Times, indicate that in Baghdad alone there are now nearly 170,000 families, accounting for almost a million people, that have fled their homes in search of security, shelter, water, electricity, functioning schools or jobs to support their families. The figures show that many families move twice, three times or more, first fleeing immediate danger and then making more considered calculations based on the availability of city services or schools for their children. Finding neighbors of their own sect is just one of those considerations.

Over all, the patterns suggest that despite the ethnic and sectarian animosity that has gripped the country, at least some Iraqis would rather continue to live in mixed communities. The Red Crescent compiled the figures from reports filed as recently as the end of August by tens of thousands of relief workers scattered across all parts of Iraq who are straining to provide aid for an estimated 280,000 families swept up nationwide in an enormous and complex migration.

…. Just last week within Baghdad itself, a Sunni tribe of 250 families that lived in Dora, one of the most violent neighborhoods, was forced to flee. Rather than going to an area where they would be with others of their sect, they went to their neighbors to the south, in Abu Dshir, a Shiite area. They were welcomed by the local tribe and given places to stay in people’s homes, according to field staff both for the Red Crescent and the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental agency. Still, some poor Iraqis, for example those fleeing ethnic cleansing by Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia in villages in the eastern province of Diyala, make the only choice available to them: head for Baghdad and stop in one of the refugee camps on the fringes of the city amid the other desperately poor. The size and scope of the migration has elicited deep concern on the part of aid officials. Relief workers “have a mammoth task to alleviate the sufferings of this vast number of Iraqis,” a draft report on the Red Crescent figures says. Although Iraqis of every income level, sect, ethnicity and region of the country have been caught up in this migration, perhaps the most tragic consequences turn up where enormous numbers of poor Iraqi villagers have collected in camps, shantytowns and urban slums after leaving behind almost everything they owned, said Dr. Said Hakki, a physician who is the president of the Red Crescent.

Two million Iraqis forced to flee homes

Nearly two million Iraqis have become refugees in their own land in the past year, redrawing the ethnic and sectarian map of Baghdad and other cities, a report by the Iraqi Red Crescent said yesterday. In Baghdad alone, nearly a million people have fled their homes. Last month saw the sharpest rise so far in the numbers of Iraqis forced to abandon their homes - 71.1%. The forced migration raises questions about claims from the Bush administration that the civilian protection plan at the core of its war strategy is making Iraq safer for Iraqis. Instead, data compiled by Red Crescent staff and volunteers in Iraq's 18 provinces suggests many Iraqis have failed to find real safety or sustainable living conditions after being forced to leave their homes. Some families have been uprooted twice or even three times in search of safety, affordable housing, functioning water and electricity, adequate schools, and jobs. More than three-quarters of the displaced were women, and children under 12, reducing families to poverty, and compounding the sense of social dislocation. "The men who were the breadwinners are no longer part of the family. They either fled or joined armed groups," the report said. The vast internal exile began after the bombing of Shia shrines at Samara in February 2006 ignited Iraq's sectarian war. Thousands of Shias fled Sunni majority neighbourhoods and headed for the south, where they are in the majority. Sunnis fled Shia enclaves for the north and west of the country. Christians also left their homes in Sunni areas for Kurdistan. Some two million Iraqis left the country. Now a further wave of migration is under way as Iraqis discover they can not survive in their original havens. Unlike the earlier flights, the current movements are not easily categorised by ethnicity. "Our understanding is that people are just moving to where they feel safer," said Tim Irwin, a spokesman for the United Nations high commissioner for refugees in Washington.

Iraqi refugees flood into Syria

Afraid of proposed new visa restrictions, Iraqis flooded into Syria at 10 times their normal numbers earlier this month until the measures were postponed, a Syrian customs official said Thursday. More then 20,000 Iraqis were pouring across the border every day, compared to 2,000 a day normally. The large influx began Sept. 1, when Syria announced that visas would be required to enter the country, the official told reporters touring the remote Tanaf desert border crossing. On Sunday, the Foreign Ministry said the visa requirement would be postponed until after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which ends around Oct. 12.

How to Help Iraqi Refugees

ANOTHER Way to help: The Collateral Repair Project

Write a letter to the editor about Iraqi refugees

Send a Letter to the Editor of your local newspaper asking the Bush administration and Congress to increase humanitarian aid for Iraqi refugees. While newspapers are covering the war in Iraq, help us spread the message that assisting Iraqi refugees is an important step to stabilizing the region. Speak Out. Save Lives. [I can think of NO excuse as to why the corporate media is not covering this – but they are not – so letters to your local paper would likely be the only coverage the Iraqi refugees will ever get. – dancewater]


OPINION: Enough havoc: Send the 'dogs of war' home where they belong

The only surprising element of the controversy raging in Iraq over the "private military corporation" known as Blackwater USA is that it took so long for serious questions about the role of such firms to be widely aired. The White House is running for cover on the issue, and with good reason: The return of mercenaries to the global stage is a direct consequence of US President George W. Bush's insistence on invading Iraq in defiance of the international community - and on doing so in a manner dictated by neoconservative theory rather than military necessity. It took an especially heavy civilian death toll in a recent shootout for attention to be focused on a peril that has haunted Iraqis since the aftermath of the 2003 invasion: that of trigger-happy mercenaries, numbering in the tens of thousands and apparently answerable to no one, endangering the lives of innocents and getting away with it. Apologists for the "private military" industry argue that their employees' contracts make them subject to the Pentagon's Uniform Code of Military Justice, but in practice they have enjoyed near-total impunity for their actions.


Iraq Moratorium Day – September 21 and every third Friday thereafter ~ "I hereby make a commitment that on Friday, September 21, 2007, and the third Friday of every subsequent month I will break my daily routine and take some action, by myself or with others, to end the War in Iraq."

New Blog: Iraq Oil Report

Quote of the day: "Some teenagers who lost loved ones joined the armed groups and started taking revenge on innocent people from different ethnic groups. Rape, armed gangs, theft, drug addiction was commonplace," it said. "The overall picture is that of a human tragedy unprecedented in Iraq's history." - from Iraqi Red Crescent report