Friday, August 31, 2007

Why reconciliation is so difficult

Open the link to this excellent NYT article and watch the video.

Shiite’s Tale: How Gulf With Sunnis Widened

Published: August 31, 2007

BAGHDAD, Aug. 30 — Shatha al-Musawi, a Shiite member of Parliament, first encountered the Sunni-Shiite divide on the day the Americans captured Saddam Hussein. Hearing the news with a close Sunni friend named Sahira, Ms. Musawi erupted like a child.

“I jumped, I shouted, I came directly to Sahira and I hugged her,” Ms. Musawi said. “I was crying, and I said, ‘Sahira, this is the moment we waited for.’ ”

At least it should have been: Mr. Hussein’s henchmen killed Ms. Musawi’s father when she was only 13; Sahira, too, was a victim, losing her closest uncle to the Hussein government.

But instead of celebrating, Sahira stood stiffly. A day later, Ms. Musawi said, Sahira’s eyes were red from crying. And before long, like so many Sunnis and Shiites here, the two stopped talking.

Sectarianism, the issue Ms. Musawi said she had wanted to avoid, has instead come to haunt her. She entered politics four years ago, flush with idealism, working closely with Sunnis on Iraq’s Constitution and a draft law that would compensate victims of Mr. Hussein.

Now, even for her, one of Parliament’s most independent figures, the urge to reconcile is being blacked out by distrust, disappointment and visceral anger.

Her disillusionment helps explain why the Iraqi government has missed most of the political benchmarks laid down by Congress, as the Government Accountability Office concluded in a report to be released in coming days.

And her reasons — for defending Shiite militias as a necessary response to Sunni Arab violence, for example — are personal. As with many of Iraq’s leaders, her life has been rubbed raw. After seeing Sunni neighbors kill Shiite friends, and after being pushed out of her own home by violence, Ms. Musawi has struggled to move beyond the pain and anger.

“Many Iraqis are still living in the past, and she too is affected with this predicament,” said Mohammed Mahmoud Ahmad, chairman of the victims compensation committee, where Ms. Musawi is a deputy. For Iraqis of all sects, old offenses linger for decades. And at the simple apartment in the Green Zone that she shares with her second husband (a Sunni Kurd), Ms. Musawi, 40, described a score of abuses.

Shatha al-Musawi, a Shiite member of Parliament, at a meeting in Baghdad last week with political colleagues.

She grew up in a middle-class Baghdad neighborhood, sharing a large comfortable house with six siblings, uncles, aunts and a brood of cousins.

Then one day in 1980 her father went to work and never came home. She later discovered he had been hit by a car belonging to a government official he had argued with.

Only 13, Ms. Musawi was devastated. One of her prized possessions is a photo album of faded pictures beneath sticky plastic, showing her father happy, with wavy long hair and a child in each arm.

“He was a poet, a great man,” she said. “I loved him and I was really very attached to him,” she said. “His loss made me unbalanced.”

Two years later, with the family living in a smaller house, the government struck again. On Aug. 15, 1982, the police arrested her relatives and threw them in prison because their names appeared on a list of “undesirables.”

Ms. Musawi said she ended up in a dirty cell with her relatives and other women and children. Over the next 38 days, she saw a woman give birth beside her; she heard children promising to kill Mr. Hussein. At one point, the police took Ms. Musawi’s mother away and threw ripped pieces of her son’s shirt on the floor to suggest (falsely) that he had been killed.

Captivity shook Ms. Musawi to the core. She did not want to leave when the police tried to release her because “I didn’t think life was a secure place,” she said.

Eventually, she said, she moved on through her faith and obtained a college degree after marriage, divorce and three daughters. When she and Sahira found out about Mr. Hussein’s capture, they were waiting for class at Baghdad University.

At the time, she was hopeful. “Mr. Bush promised Iraq would be a democratic and free country,” she said. “And we believed that.”

Then she laughed. It did not take long, she said, before Iraq started to fracture. In Ms. Musawi’s mixed neighborhood of Adel, Shiite mosques and religious schools closed by the Sunni-dominated government began to reopen immediately after Mr. Hussein’s fall.

Some Sunni Arabs, she said, felt threatened. Soon, Sunni customers at the tailor’s shop where she worked stopped visiting. Her own dinner guests, she acknowledged, were mostly Shiite.

Violence followed. In late 2003, Ms. Musawi said, she saw two cars of men abduct an official at a Shiite mosque near her home, tie him to a car and drag him through the streets. Some of the attackers were young men she had known as boys.

“Are you crazy?” she shouted. “Have you lost your mind?”


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Iraqis laugh at Al Qaeda

After all that Al Qaeda has done to Iraq, it is good to know that Iraqis can laugh at the scum buckets. There is no translation for this comedic poem, but in the first few lines he says: "They made the Islamic religion hated. They made everything forbidden. Only the beheading of humans they made halal (permissible)." If any Iraqis would like to add to this, please feel free to do so.

Occasions for Mourning

"Throughout all this debate and conflict, Sistani tried to stay above the fray. He continued to keep his eyes on the big prize: delivering Iraq to the Shia and protecting Shia identity by ensuring its embodiment in the new constitution and the state arising from it. He did not get bogged down in debates over who was Iranian and who was Iraqi. Most Iraqi Shias were clearly Arabs, but that identity was surfacing in a new way, different from the way in which Arab nationalism and Ba'thism had always envisioned it.


The bombing of markeplaces, police stations, mosques, and open-air religious gatherings meanwhile occurred almost daily, generating a tale of sorrow and rage that would tear Shias and Sunnis apart. On August 31, 2005, about a million Shia pilgrims gathered at the shrine of Kazemiya in Baghdad to mark the anniversary of the death of the seventh imam, who is buried there. The crowd stretched from the mosque across the River Tigris to Sadr City, clogging the bridge over the river. A mortar attack on the crowd early in the day killed sixteen and injured many more. The crowd was on edge when some person or persons on the bridge spread a rumor – Shias believe deliberately – that there was a suicide bomber in their midst. Anxious and fearful, the crowd panicked. In the ensuing stampede, more than a thousand people died; some were trampled to death, while others drowned after jumping into the river. Most of the victims were women and children. The incident showed the extent to which the insurgency could disrupt Shias' lives and turn their commemoration of the death of their imams into a new occasion for mourning. It also underscored the inability of the Iraqi government to contend with the violence, and even more the extent to which the insurgency had succeeded in instilling fear in Shias' hearts and minds.


Urged by Sistani and his clerical network not to respond in kind, Shias showed tremendous restraint. Their patience was taxed, but their sense of distinct identity only grew under the onslaught of Sunni terror (a good deal of which was the work of non-Iraqis, such as the terror group run by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian Salafi who masterminded the insurgency's most violent excesses). Attitudes on the street hardened, as did Shias' determination to stay in charge of their own destiny. Even where relations between Shia and Sunni neighbors remained friendly, distrust of Ba'thists and the Wahhabi influence on Sunni clerics intensified.


Increasingly, Shias saw Sunnis as vicious brutes and ridiculed their historical claims to grandeur. In Basra and other places in the south, Sunnis came under attack. Targeted killing of Sunni clerics and community leaders served notice to others to move away. These acts, which some blamed on the Badr Brigade, reflected the mood on the street. Anger and prejudice were rising on both sides of the sectarian divide. The manner in which Shia identity was taking for was directly tied to the intensity of the sectarian conflict.


This became clear when a bombing attack on the Shia Askariya shrine (where the tenth and eleventh imams are buried, and wherefrom the Twelfth Imam went into hiding) brought sectarian conflict into the open. Hundreds died as angry Shias and Sunnis attacked mosques, killed clerics, and abducted and murdered civilians. Despite calls for calm the violence continued to rage, exposing the deep sectarian fissures that were shaping Shia identity and politics."


-Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival

Muqtada al Sadr

"Muqtada was not a proper cleric. To begin with, he was too young; his father's legacy gave him charisma and support but not the scholarly attainment and respect that are the real sinews of lasting esteem among the Shia clergy. It did not help that he had failed to finish his seminary education, and that as a youth he was better at playing video games than dealing with intricacies of Shia law and theology (in his seminary days he was nicknamed Mulla Atari, after the maker of electronic amusements). Like the scions of many other clerical families of Iraq, he found himself catapulted into a position of power and prominence because his father and older brothers had been killed. So weak were Muqtada's religious credentials that he had to rely initially on the authority of one of his father's allies, the Qom-based Ayatollah Kadhim Husayn al-Haeri, until al-Haeri, worried by Muqtada's erratic politics, found it prudent to distance himself.
What Muqtada laced in religious credentials he tried to make up for with a radical brand of politics exacerbated by his own unstable personality. He preferred fighting his battles in the political arena, and actors ranging from Hezbollah and Iran's Revolutionary Guards to Ahmed Chalabi manipulated him to serve their own ends. Even Sistani, who was a target of Muqtada's rash politics, found the young firebrand cleric a useful tool in dealing with the U.S. administration in Baghdad, since he and Muqtada formed a kind of de facto 'good cop, bad cop team that helped to keep the Americans off balance. 
Muqtada's rebel image, mixing Islam and nationalism, and his willingness to challenge U.S. authority, gained him popularity. His movement, however, lacked coherence. It was powerful but chaotic, best characterized as street (or barrio) politics. He had a cultlike following among poor and uneducated Shia youth, and his support in southern Iraq grew after he threw his Mahdi Army into a fight against U.S. forces in 2004." -Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival

Iraqis on a Plane

This is interesting.  A flight was grounded in San Diego because some Iraqi passengers were heard speaking Arabic.  How embarrassing!
Associated Press - August 30, 2007 3:43 AM ET

SAN DIEGO (AP) - American Airlines flight 590 from San Diego finally made it to Chicago late yesterday, after being delayed in an incident involving passengers heard speaking Arabic.

It turns out six Iraqi men on board work for a defense contractor and were reportedly taking the overnight flight home after a job at Camp Pendleton training Marines headed for Iraq.

Their boss says some of the other passengers complained after hearing them speak Arabic. Everybody was ordered off the plane. According to the airline, law officers questioned the men and then quickly let them go. But by that time it was too late for the plane to take off until Wednesday morning.

The defense contractor CEO calls it "an unfortunate situation," saying his men did nothing wrong.

1 of the Iraqis questions their treatment, saying all they're trying to do is help Americans.

Why Carter calls it Apartheid

The more I learn how many Americans dislike Jimmy Carter, the more I respect him for persistently telling the American people the truth about what is happening to the Palestinians. Here Mr. Carter is asked why he chose the word 'Apartheid' to be in the title of his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sadr calls for ceasefire

Good news, I think.  Bill Roggio wrote an excellent analsysis of the Mahdi Army:

Sadr calls for Mahdi Army ceasefire


Muqtada al-Sadr.

Sadr denies role in Karbala fighting, orders Mahdi Army to stop all attacks, including against Coalition forces

Just one day after major clashes between Iraqi security forces and the Mahdi Army during a Shia religious celebration in Najaf, Muqtada al Sadr has ordered the Mahdi Army to halt all attacks in Iraq , including attacks against Coalition forces. The fighting in Najaf resulted in 52 killed and over 300 wounded, according to reports, and have harmed Sadr politically while placing him in the crosshairs of US and Iraqi forces.

Sadr's aides were out in force, calling for the Mahdi Army to lay down its arms. "We declare the freezing of the Mahdi Army without exception in order to rehabilitate it in a way that will safeguard its ideological image within a maximum period of six months starting from the day this statement is issued," said Sheik Hazim al-Araji, an aide of Sadr, while reading a statement from Sadr on Iraqi state television. The statement was backed up by Sadr's spokesman. "It also includes suspending the taking up of arms against occupiers as well as others," said Ahmed al-Shaibani, Sadr's spokesman.

The major fighting in Najaf broke out on Tuesday, after police and Shia pilgrims clashed the previous day. "Gunmen believed [to be] from the Mahdi Army began firing on security forces and the Badr guards," security officials told the Associate Press. A curfew was declared in Karbala, and the religious festival marking the anniversary of Imam Mahdi, the "12th Imam," was canceled. Mahdi Army fighters are still said to be occupying the center of the city.

The police in the area are believed to be loyal to the Badr Brigades, the political opponents of the Sadrists. A Sadrist member of the Karbala city council denied the Mahdi Army was behind the attacks, and even blamed the attacks on "pro-Iranian groups among security forces that guard the Karbala shrines." Shaibani, Sadr's spokesman, also denied the Mahdi Army was involved in the Karbala fighting. The timing of Sadr's call for a cessation of Mahdi Army activity calls these statements into question.

Muqtada al Sadr's backdown from attacks exposes problems with his confrontational approach to both the Iraqi government and Coalition forces, as well as a weakening of his political position inside Iraq. Since Sadr fled to Iran in January, he has quickly lost operational control over elements of his Mahdi Army, which in reality is an amalgamation of criminal and ideological elements. And with this loss of control, Iran has begun to exercise more direct control over some Mahdi commanders -- the Qazali brothers and the Sheibani Network, for instance -- rather than control them by proxy Sadr. The elements of the Mahdi Army can be roughly described as follows.

The Mahdi Loyalists: These are the true followers and believers of Muqtada al Sadr. They receive support from Iran.

Iranian-back Mahdi Army: These groups are what Multinational Forces Iraq describes as the "rogue" Mahdi Army. As Sadr lost operational control, Iran's Qods Force stepped in and took over direct control. The rogue Mahdi Army (along with the Special Groups, who are often one in the same) receive funding, weapons, training, and operational guidance from Qods Force, and in some cases cells are led by Iranians. The rogue Mahdi Army and Special Groups are essentially Iraqi Hezbollah.

Mahdi Criminal Elements: These are criminal gangs that fight under the guise of the Mahdi Army. This provides the criminal gangs with political cover, and Sadr the ability to inflate his ranks and wield more power.

Mahdi Nationalist: These are the nationalist, anti-Iranian elements of the Mahdi Army which largely support Sadr due to loyalty to his father. The Nationalist elements form "Noble Mahdi Army," which have agreed to work with the Iraqi government and Coalition forces.

Allied Shia: These are Shia groups that allied with the Mahdi Army as they feared violence from al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents. These groups turned to the Mahdi Army for protection due to distrust in the Iraqi security forces or a lack of a security presence. Some of these allied groups have been pressed into service by the Mahdi Army. Elements of the Allied Shia are part of the "Noble Mahdi Army."

The US has been working to divide the Mahdi Army for well over a year, and have conducted numerous operations against the extremist elements of Muqtada al Sadr's militia -- the rogue Mahdi Army, criminal elements, and elements of the loyalists. These elements have been targeted at every opportunity by US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad, Diwaniyah, Samawa, Karbala, Basra, and throughout the South.

Sadr's call for the cessation of Mahdi Army attacks follows a recent spate of backtracking from violence in the South and involvement with the Iranians. Sadr recently denied taking part of the assassinations of the governors of Muthanna and Qadisiyah provinces. Sadr also denied conducting an interview with The Independent, where he admitted his Mahdi Army was training alongside Hezbollah. Also, despite denials of sheltering in Iran, Sadr has yet to be seen in public since the US reported Sadr fled to Iran in early July.

Sadr has a very real image problem to deal with concerning the Mahdi Army. Today's statement calls for an end to violence in order "to rehabilitate [the Mahdi Army] in a way that will safeguard its ideological image." The fighting in Karbala, the violent opposition to the Shia-led government, the criminal activity, and the assassinations of Shia governors are causes of great concern for Sadr. These activities are no longer being tolerated by the greater Shia community.

With the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (formerly SCIRI) and large elements of the Badr Brigades breaking away from the Iranian sphere of influence, they have a greater motivation to fight Sadr and his Mahdi Army. The actions of the Mahdi Army are giving the Iraqi government and Coalition forces greater license to target the elements of the Mahdi Army deemed as "rogue." Sadr does not want to fall into the rogue classification.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

1991 changed everything

'Despite all this the Shia remained generally loyal – that is, until 1991, when Shia soldiers returning from the first Gulf war in Kuwait sparked a riot in Basra that quickly spread north to Najaf. The Shia looked to the United States for support, interpreting President George H.W. Bush's call to the Iraqi people to overthrow Saddam to mean American intervention on their behalf. However, Saudi Arabia warned Washington in no uncertain terms that if Saddam were to fall from power, Iran would gain control of southern Iraq.  The House of Saud did not wish to see the Shia uprising against Saddam succeed. Riyadh saw the same threat in Shia empowerment in Iraq in 1991 that it sees today. It preferred to keep Iraq under a Sunni dictatorship rather than risk empowering the Shia. Influenced by their ally in the war, the United States balked at involvement in the uprising. U.S. forces stationed in the Euphrates Valley looked on as Saddam sent his dreaded Republican Guards to the south, armed with tanks and helicopter gunships to crush the rebellion.


Large parts of Shia towns were razed, the shrines in Najaf and Karbala were shelled, and tens of thousands of Shias were killed. Bodies were draped across the beams of the shrine of Husayn in Karbala. The brutality was merciless; as one Iraqi general said about a massacre of Shias in Hilla after the 1991 uprising, "We captured many people and separated them into three groups. The first group we were sure were made up of people who were guilty. The second group we had doubts about, and the third group was innocent. We telephoned the high command to ask what we should do with them. They said we should kill them all, and that's what we did." –Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival

Hashimi says thanks, but no thanks

In Iraq, rare accord doesn't sway Sunnis
August 28, 2007

BAGHDAD - Hours after Iraq's political leaders announced a deal to return former Baathists to government jobs, Iraq's most senior Sunni Arab leader said Monday that it is too small an olive branch for Sunnis to rejoin the government.

Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi welcomed the "great achievement" of a compromise to ease measures imposed by the occupation authority in 2003 to stop senior Saddam Hussein loyalists from returning to top posts. But Hashimi said nothing has changed regarding the Aug. 1 decision by his Iraqi Islamic Party and others, which compose the Iraqi Consensus Front, to quit the government.

The announcement late Sunday was hailed as evidence of movement toward national reconciliation by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's widely criticized Shiite-led administration, which is under international pressure to address the concerns of Iraq's disaffected Sunni minority.

The White House welcomed the accord, with President Bush offering congratulations Monday on the reconciliation statement and saying it reflected a commitment "to work together for the benefit of all Iraqis."

Amid the political back and forth, a suicide bomber detonated a vest packed with explosives in a Sunni Arab mosque in Fallujah, killing 10 worshipers, including the imam, and shattering what had been a period of relative calm for a region that was once the most volatile hotbed of Iraq's insurgency.

The attack at the end of evening prayers, the deadliest to shake Anbar province since Sunni tribal leaders began working with U.S. forces in recent months to purge Islamist insurgents, was blamed on Al Qaeda in Iraq by American military officials and a Fallujah police official. The blast killed Imam Abdul-Sattar Jumaili and nine other men and injured 11.

Sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims was blamed for gun attacks that killed Shiite pilgrims along a 50-mile route to a shrine in Karbala. The city is filled with an estimated 1 million faithful for Tuesday's culmination of the annual Shabaniyah ritual, witnesses reported.

The U.S. military announced Monday the deaths of four American troops in weekend clashes. Two of the four died in a firefight with insurgents in Samarra on Sunday. The other two, both Marines, died in separate combat incidents in Anbar on Saturday and Sunday.

Most Iraqis would celebrate Maliki's resignation

"Most Iraqis would celebrate Al Maliki's resignation. But we all wonder about his replacement. I've said many times that I support Ayad Allawi and still hope that he will have a chance. Unfortunately, several Arabic publications have attacked him. One such paper is Al Quds Al Arabi, which writes about his hiring a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm and his support from the Gulf states.

To Al Quds Al Arabi and others who consider Allawi questionable, I say give the Iraqis a break. You supported the murderer Saddam Hussein, and you told us to shut up when we spoke up. You didn't listen to us Iraqis then when we dealt with his unspeakable horrors, why should we listen to you now?" -IraqPundit

The Iraqi Shia as Persians (or agents of Iran)

"And the last misconception is to believe that all Iraqi Shih’a, whether of Arabic or non-Arabic (Fayli Kurds or Turkumans) origins, religious Najaf i turbaned mullah or secular educated Baghdadi communist, are all non-Arabs (Ajam) and highly suspicious. For me, the idea of presence of one homogenous mass named the “Shih’a of Iraq” is purely non-sense." -Shako Mako

Falluja Mosque Bombed

When this war started, I thought no way a true Muslim would attack a mosque, but then Al Qaeda started blowing up Shia mosques, and in 2006 Shia militias started burning Sunni mosques. So then I thought no way a Sunni Muslim would attack a Sunni mosque, but...

Suicide bomber kills 10 in mosque attack in Iraq

FALLUJA, Iraq, Aug 27 (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed 10 people and wounded 11 when he blew himself up after evening prayers in a mosque in Falluja, west of Baghdad, on Monday, police and hospital sources said.

Police said the bomber had entered the office of the mosque imam where the imam, Abdul Sattar al-Jumaili, his son and a group of worshippers had been meeting.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Khalizad: Mideast turmoil could cause world war

Middle East turmoil could cause world war: U.S. envoy
Mon Aug 27, 2007

VIENNA (Reuters) - Upheaval in the Middle East and Islamic civilization could cause another world war, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was quoted as saying in an Austrian newspaper interview published on Monday.

Zalmay Khalilzad told the daily Die Presse the Middle East was now so disordered that it had the potential to inflame the world as Europe did during the first half of the 20th century.

"The (Middle East) is going through a very difficult transformation phase. That has strengthened extremism and creates a breeding ground for terrorism," he said in remarks translated by Reuters into English from the published German.

"Europe was just as dysfunctional for a while. And some of its wars became world wars. Now the problems of the Middle East and Islamic civilization have the same potential to engulf the world," he was quoted as saying.

Khalilzad, interviewed by Die Presse while attending a foreign policy seminar in the Austrian Alps, said the Islamic world would eventually join the international mainstream but this would take some time.

"They started late. They don't have a consensus on their concept. Some believe they should return to the time (6th-7th century) of the Prophet Mohammad," he was quoted as saying.

"It may take decades before some understand that they can remain Muslims and simultaneously join the modern world."

Khalilzad was also quoted as saying Iraq would need foreign forces for security for a long time to come.

"Iraq will not be in a position to stand on its own feet for a longer period," he said in the interview.

Asked whether that could be 10-20 years, he said: "Yes, indeed, it could last that long. What form the help takes will depend a lot on the Iraqis. Up to now there is no accord between Iraq and the United States about a longer military presence."

Khalilzad said the chaos in Iraq since U.S.-led forces overthrew Saddam Hussein in 2003 was not unavoidable but arose from mistakes in the initial period of occupation.

"Historians are discussing now whether we should have sent more troops to Iraq to preserve law and order, if it was right to dissolve the Iraqi army, if we should have built an Iraqi government quicker, if there should have been such a sweeping de-Baathification program (removing Saddam-era officials)."

Revising the De-Baathification Law

Maliki's government has finally signed an agreement to allow former low-level Baathists to work for the Iraqi government. This is long overdue and may be a result of US pressure on Maliki to reconcile with Iraq's Sunni Arabs and to meet other key benchmarks. Most members of the Baath party did not support the crimes committed by Saddam's regime and did not participate in any criminal activity - Bremer and his team should have realized this in 2004.

Iraq's leaders agree on key U.S. benchmarks
Sun Aug 26, 2007

By Waleed Ibrahim

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's top Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish leaders announced on Sunday they had reached consensus on some key laws that Washington views as vital to fostering national reconciliation.

The appearance of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Iraqi television with the other leaders was a rare show of public unity amid crumbling support for the prime minister's government.

The other officials at the news conference were President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd; Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi; Shi'ite Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and Masoud Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

Iraqi officials said the leaders had signed an agreement on easing restrictions on former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party joining the civil service and military.

"They signed a new draft on debaathification," said Yasin Majid, a media adviser to Maliki.

Other officials said consensus had been reached on holding provincial elections and releasing many detainees who have been held without charge, a key demand of Sunni Arabs since the majority are members of their sect.

Majeed said the leaders also endorsed a draft oil law, which has already been agreed by the cabinet but has not yet gone to parliament.


The law is seen as the most important of a package of measures that have been stalled by political infighting in Maliki's government between the political parties, who have been reluctant to compromise.

The lack of political action has frustrated U.S. President George W. Bush's administration, which has been urging more political progress before a pivotal report on Iraq is presented to the U.S. Congress next month.

The report by the U.S. military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and ambassador Ryan Crocker, is seen as a watershed moment in the unpopular four-year-old war, with Democrats likely to use the negligible political progress to press their case for troops to begin pulling out soon. Continued ...

Sunni Cleric Warns of Iranian 'Expansionism'

'Iran and its associated Shiite sects are hijacking Arab causes and exploiting them to serve an "expansionist scheme", a top Sunni Islamist cleric warned in a statement.'

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Iraqi Americans Protest at Saudi Embassy

This happened a couple of days ago. 

August 24, 2007

Saudi Embassy Protest Highlights Role In Iraq


About a hundred Iraqi-Americans rallied this morning outside the Saudi Embassy -- and across the street from The Gate -- in protest of the kingdom's support for Sunni insurgents and terrorists in their home country. Bearing signs and banners that read "Saudi Are Behind 9/11 And Iraqi Suiside Bombing [sic]" and "Wahhabi Saudi Money Kill Our Children," the protesters traveled from across the country to send Saudi Arabia a message.

Iraqi-Americans protest at the Saudi Embassy on Friday, Aug. 24, 2007.(Click here, here and here for photos of the protest.)

"The muftis of Saudi Arabia send fighters to kill the Iraqi people for their religion," said Abdul al-Mayahi of New Orleans. With protesters shouting "No bomb!" and "Down with Wahhabi!" in Arabic behind him, he continued, "We ask Saudi Arabia to act against those people who import terrorism, who come to Iraq. They need to live in peace."


With almost 80 million people, Egypt is the biggest Arab country. Egypt has led the Arab world in art, culture, and politics. The most famous Arab singer of all time is probably Um Kalthoom. Thousands of movies have been made in Egypt, and many of them are quite good, and very funny. They say that the Egyptian dialect is understood by all Arabs - because of Egyptian movies - I wish I had watched as many Egyptian movies as my mother did. Egypt has great influence in the Arab world. You may have learned in the God's Warriors series that what happens in Egypt usually spreads to other Arab countries. Last night I learned (from Anand) that when Saddam invaded Kuwait, he offered Egyptian President Hosni Mubarrak 20% of Kuwait's oil in exchange for his support. You can get a lot more done if you have Egypt on your side.

Compared to Arabs who spent all their lives in the mid east, I have watched very few Egyptian movies, but I remember very well one famous (perhaps the most famous) Egyptian actor: Adel Imam.

The author of this video writes "this is a comedic clip from a Adel Imam movie that's both funny and makes you really think. It makes you think about those who preach a certain ideology, the ideology of hate, the ideology of death,the ideology of wahabism... promising their brainwashed masses eternal bliss if they follow their ideology. The funny thing is, the preachers are never the ones that volunteer for what they preach. If they really believed in their ideology, why aren't the preachers the first to sign up for implementing the ideology they preach? This shows this in a Adel Imam way, with comedy"

Friday, August 24, 2007

God's Christian Warriors

Part 3: Watch Jimmy Carter talk about fundamentalism.

Part 4: Christian Zionists and how they affect US foreign policy.

Part 5: Pastor John Hagee on Iran and Biblical prophecy. I wonder if any of my readers believe that Jesus Christ will return to Earth after the Battle of Armageddom and that people who do not accept Jesus will burn in Hell for eternity.

I found Greg Boyd to make a lot of sense in Part 7 (towards the end) and Part 8. Also in Part 8 listen to evangelical Richard Seizick (sp?) talk about how he became an environmental activist.

PS: For the record, I think Jesus was a cool cat!

"To Hell with Iraq"

Ali Hassan al Majid, aka Chemical Ali, says here that Iraq's population is "25 million - fine, let it return to 5 million...the important thing is the Arab nation."

Dissecting the Iraqi Economy

Below is a look at selected macroeconomic indicators in Iraq, from the IMF report , with explanatory footnotes and comments at the bottom by Anand, who has obviously studied this much more than I have.  Thank you Anand.

Iraq : Selected Macroeconomic Indicators, 2004-07












Oil and gas sector





Total exports of oil and gas (in billions of U.S. dollars) [i]





Average crude oil export price (in U.S. dollars/barrel) [ii]





Crude oil production (in millions of barrels/day)










(Annual percentage change)

Output and prices





Real GDP





Non-oil real GDP [iii]





Consumer price inflation (end-of-period) [iv]










(In percent of GDP)

Investment and Saving





Gross domestic investment





Of which: non-government [v]





Gross national savings





Of which: non-government [vi]










(In percent of GDP, unless otherwise indicated [vii] )

Public Finances (cash basis)





Government revenue (including grants)





Of which: Oil revenue [viii]










Of which: Current





Of which: Capital [ix]





Budget balance (including grants) [x]





Primary fiscal balance





Non-oil primary fiscal balance [xi]





Total government debt (in billions of U.S. dollars) [xii]










(Annual percentaje change unless otherwise indicated)

Monetary Sector





Base money [xiii]





Currency issued










(In percent of GDP, unless otherwise indicated)

External Sector





Non-oil exports of goods (in U.S. dollars, percentage change)





Imports of goods (in U.S. dollars, percentage change)





Trade balance





Current account excluding official transfers





Current account including official transfers [xiv]





Overall external balance [xv]





Foreign Direct Investment [xvi]





Total external debt [xvii]





Central banks gross reserves (in billions of U.S. dollars) [xviii]





In months of imports of goods and services










Memorandum Items





Nominal GDP (in billions of U.S. dollars) [xix]





Unemployment rate 1/





Local currency per U.S. dollar (period average) 2/





Real exchange rate (Jan. 2004 = 100) [xx] 3/





[i] This is all the revenue measured in dollars that the GoI (Government of Iraq) has to work with

[ii] The price GoI gets for its crude is more than $10 less than Brent, because of the type of crude it is

[iii] Non oil GDP growth is slowing down this year (non-oil 2007 GDP had been projected to grow 7% instead of the now forecast 5% in the previous IMF report.) But there might be a pickup next year if Al Anbar, Ninevah, At Tamin and some southern provinces can maintain momentum. Iraq's non-oil economy has had moderate growth in recent years from a low base, although economic growth varies enormously by region.

[iv] Core inflation is likely to be 19% this year. But more GoI spending and US taxpayer spending in Iraq risks driving up inflation, unless it is targeted at increasing the supply of Iraqi goods and services. For example, a jobs program would worsen the situation in Iraq by driving up prices unless the workers hired worked efficiently at producing goods and services (which would lower prices by increasing the supply of goods and services in Iraq.)

[v] Non-government (private sector) investment is very low in Iraq. Further down in this report you can see that foreign private sector investment is also extremely depressed. This has to turn around if Iraq is to have a sustainable and continuing non-oil economic growth. Even government investment has fallen in Iraq because the GoI is having great difficulty executing its capital spending budget (including increasing electricity (the GoI is spending only $40 million this year on electricity generation compared with more than $4 billion that has been contributed by the US government and the more than $20 billion the IMF and World bank project is necessary ) and oil production (executing only 3% of its oil capital investment budget in 2006 ), as well as construction), executing only 22% of its capital investment budget in 2006. For a more detailed discussion on why please see the comments at , with respect to the article )

[vi] Private Iraqis are not saving very much. If Iraq prospers in the future, it is in their interest to borrow as much as possible to invest in Iraq's future growth. If Iraq does not prosper, private Iraqis will have very strained finances.)

[vii] Multiply all of these percentages by $13 trillion determine the equivalent dollar amounts for America

[viii] Difference = mostly US grants to Iraq

[ix] Depressed because of the failure to execute the capital part of the Iraqi budget See note ( v) above.

[x] Soaring budget deficit in spite of receiving huge grants from the US government and the failure to execute the capital investment portion of the Iraqi budget. This is why it is urgent to increase oil production quickly.

[xi] if oil prices drop, Iraq is in big trouble

[xii] This is inclusive of Iraq's three step 80% NPV debt forgiveness mentioned in summary portion of this IMF report.

[xiii] The Central bank is trying to restrict money supply to control inflation. This is driving up interest rates and causing the currency to soar, suppressing non oil GDP by driving Iraqi exporters and import competing firms out of business. The central bank is simultaneously moving the monetary base from Iraqi Dinar assets to dollars to weaken the Iraqi Dinar. If the Iraqi Dinar were to continue strengthening, the GoI will lose a lot of money.

[xiv] The difference primarily reflects grants by the US government to Iraq.

[xv] Soaring currency is causing imports to soar, and depressing non-oil exports

[xvi] Extremely depressed because of the bad security situation. It is urgent that foreign businesses be encouraged to invest more as quickly as possible.

[xvii] Reflects Iraq's 80% NPV debt forgiveness in three stage process.

[xviii] A consequence of high oil prices and America's grants to Iraq driving up the Iraqi Dinar, coupled with the Iraqi Central bank's attempt to weaken the Iraqi Dinar.

[xix] Caused by high oil prices. To determine the dollar values of any of the of the above statistic which are measured as a percentage of GDP, please multiply the (percentage of GDP figure) by this row.

[xx] Iraqi Dinar is soaring in real inflation adjusted terms against other currencies.


Some final thoughts to consider:

1.         The IMF is perhaps the best data source on the Iraqi economy, although estimates regarding Iraq's black economy are subject to considerable uncertainty

2.         There is a shortage of goods and services and too much GoI and US gov't spending in Iraq at the moment, which is driving up inflation. It is urgent that the GoI and US government use the money they are spending far more efficiently. i.e. buy more goods and services for less money. Without significantly increasing the supply of Iraqi goods and services, including by improving security, more GoI and US government spending in Iraq is likely to drive up inflation without improving the Iraqi economy.

3.         Additional US grants to Iraq might suppress Iraq's non-oil GDP. Large US grants to Iraq coupled with high oil prices are causing the Iraqi Dinar to soar in real terms (adjusted for Iraq's inflation rate) relative to foreign currencies. This is because the US government buys Iraqi Dinars with its dollars to spend on Iraqi reconstruction, goods and services. The Iraqi central bank has tried to stop Iraqi Dinar from strengthening by buying dollars with Iraqi Dinars (if not for that, the Iraqi Dinar would be a lot stronger than it is now), but with limited success. This is suppressing Iraq's non-oil economy by hurting exporters, as well as Iraqi businesses that compete with imports.

4.         The GoI has a major budget crunch, unless they can boost oil production quickly. The Iraqi government is expected to have a budget deficit of 9.7% of GDP this year, even after receiving very large grants from the US government, and massively under-spending and under-executing its capital budget. If not for the later two issues, the budget deficit would be much larger. To put this into perspective, this is similar to America running a 1.3 Trillion dollar budget deficit, or 2.5 – 3 Trillion dollar budget deficits excluding money other countries were giving us and assuming a normal capital budget execution. And this is with $70 oil (almost all GoI revenue comes from oil and American tax-payers.) If oil prices were $50, the deficit would be far worse. And the GoI has a very bad credit record, making it very hard to borrow large sums of money.

5.         The IMF technical staff (and most other people who follow this) are very skeptical that Iraq can significantly boost oil production any time soon. There is considerable risk that the GoI will be compelled to spend less on the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces), reconstruction and social services over the next couple years than currently expected. Reduced spending on the ISF risks increased violence and reduced security across Iraq.

6.         The administration, Congress, and MNF-I need to increase US grants to the ISF ASAP to reduce violence and increase security across Iraq.

7.        The Iraqi economy is becoming increasingly important as MNF-I shifts emphasis to 3 Dimensional operations (civil affairs, governance, ISF training and equipping, economics) in the growing majority of Iraq that is secure.