Monday, April 30, 2007

Sectarianism

It is always interesting to read the posts of Iraqi bloggers who blame the sectarian violence in Iraq on the current Iraqi government and/or the US without mentioning the crimes of Sunni extremists and Baathists, who began murdering Iraqi Shia and Kurds long before Shia militias started their murderous rampages in Baghdad. Riverbend writes in her latest post:

"I always hear the Iraqi pro-war crowd interviewed on television from foreign capitals (they can only appear on television from the safety of foreign capitals because I defy anyone to be publicly pro-war in Iraq). They refuse to believe that their religiously inclined, sectarian political parties fueled this whole Sunni/Shia conflict. They refuse to acknowledge that this situation is a direct result of the war and occupation. They go on and on about Iraq's history and how Sunnis and Shia were always in conflict and I hate that. I hate that a handful of expats who haven't been to the country in decades pretend to know more about it than people actually living there."


Amazing. Not a word about the hundreds of suicide bombings and car bombs that have killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis since 2003. Perhaps Riverbend believes, like many Arabs and Arab Americans do, that Americans are behind those bombings, or that bombing markets and mosques is a natural reaction to invasion and occupation by a foreign power. Dare I say that the bombers were Sunni extremists, and most victims were Shia and Kurds? To make such a claim is to run the risk of being called a 'sectarian' - to some Iraqis, I AM the sectarian because I mention the sects of the criminals who mass murder Iraqis.

Apparently to Riverbend and a few other Iraqi bloggers, the Baathi elite are not sectarian and never were. This is not to say that Maliki's government is not sectarian in nature, and that the powerful Shia clerics (Hakim, Sadr) are not without fault, but to assert that the current Iraqi government is responsible for starting the sectarian violence is absurd. Furthermore, the current government in Iraq, as dubious as many members' qualifications may be, is a product of democracy in a Shia-majority country that has been dominated by Sunni Arabs for centuries.

Vali Nasr writes in his excellent book The Shia Revival:

'The cities of Baghdad and Basra, and others, swelled much as Beirut had, as strife, persecution, continuing high birthrates, and rural underemployment drove millions of Shias off farms and out of villages. These people streamed into vast and poverty-stricken conurbations such as the Zafaraniya neighborhood of South Baghdad or Sadr City, the enormous Shia neighborhood that skirts the eastern and northern edges of Iraq's capital. The poor of Baghdad or of Basra in the far south had little connection anymore with rigid authority of their ancestral farms and marshes. In the slums, desperately needed social services came via the efforts of such clerical leaders as the ayatollahs Muhammad Sadeq al-Sadr (executed by Saddam Hussein in 1999, and the father of Muqtada al-Sadr), Abol-Qasem al-Khoi, and Ali al-Sistani. As a result, when Saddam's regime fell before U.S. tanks, it was not the mathematician-turned-politician Ahmad Chalabi or the doctor-turned-politician Iyad Allawi who emerged to lead the Shias, but Sadr, Sistani, and the clerics of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).'


If you have not read The Shia Revival and want to understand more about the history of sectarianism in Iraq, this book is a must read. Vali Nasr explains the historical persecution of the Shia, and not just in Iraq, but also in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. He explains in a chapter aptly titled The Fading Promise of Nationalism that although the Iraqi Shia embraced Arab nationalism, they were still marginalized and persecuted:

'The Shia also embraced nationalism enthusiastically. In the aftermath of World War I, new national identities were forged - sometimes out of thin air - to define the struggle against colonialism and the character of the nation-states that were to follow. For the Shia, especially where they were a minority, secular nationalism was an inclusive identity. It defined them above and beyond the polemical debates of old and as equals to Sunnis in the eyes of the nation. Shias had failed to dominate the Islamic world theologically or politically and had faced the pains and perils of marginality. The modern state showed them a path forward that was free of the baggage of their religious identity. In Iran nationalism did not have these connotations, because Shias were a majority; but where Shias were a minority or ruled by Sunnis, nationalism appealed to them in the same way that inclusive ideologies attract minorities, who are drawn by a promise of a level playing field. Shias therefore embraced Arab nationalism, Pakistani nationalism, and Iraqi or Lebanese nationalism, in each case imagining a community where Shia-Sunni divisions would not matter. The modern world, at least in its nationalist guise, held the promise of ending centuries of painful prejudice and persecution.

The promise, however, proved to be illusory, as the modern states grew increasingly authoritarian and showed a penchant for using Sunni sectarian prejudices to shore up their own authority. The entrenched the very divisions that the Shia hoped they would bridge. These nations solidified Sunni rule and Shia marginality and, worse yet, gave impetus to sectarianism. The founding ideas of these nations, despite a certain surface rhetoric of inclusiveness, never truly encompassed the Shia. Nor did they make provisions to include the socioeconomically disadvantaged classes, who often were predominantly Shia (as in Iraq and Lebanon). Marginality continued to dog the Shia as they faced institutionalized discrimination, persecution, and vicious prejudice in their everyday lives.

...Shias have never risen beyond the glass ceiling that separates them from the Sunni elite. A few, such as Saddam's last and highly colorful information minister, Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, rose to prominence. But they were tokens in a world where Shia feet never trod the real halls of power. Saddam Hussein liked to make much of the second part of his name before his Shia subjects - especially during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s - but he nevertheless characterized Shias as Iranian lackeys, and he periodically purged the Ba'th Party of its Shia members in order to make sure that the levers of state power and the banner of Arab nationalism remained firmly in Sunni hands. Shia privates filled the ragtag conscript ranks of Saddam's poorly equipped and ill-trained regular army, but the elite Republican Guards and Special Republican Guards were Sunnis almost to a man. Iraqi Shias revealed what they thought of the Ba'th Party when they insisted on including a clause in the August 2005 draft constitution that would ban all "racist" institutions, meaning among other things the Ba'th Party, and that barred former Ba'thists from holding office.'

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Anatomy of Hate

'Beginning with the Nobel Laureate Conference in 1988, the Foundation for Humanity that Marion and I created at the end of 1986 has been organizing international conferences on a single theme: "The Anatomy of Hate."

"Hate," the key word, describes the passions, often contradictory and always vile, that have torn and ravaged the twentieth century. Only the twentieth century? In truth, the word contains and illustrates the full recorded memory of human cruelty and suffering. Cain hated his brother and killed him; thus the first death in history was a murder. Since then, hate and death have not ceased to rage.

Hate - racial, tribal, religious, ancestral, national, social, ethical, political, economic, ideological - in itself represents the inexorable defeat of mankind, its absolute defeat. If there is an area in which mankind cannot claim the slightest progress, this surely is it. It does not take much for human beings, collectively or individually, to suddenly one day pit themselves like wild beasts one against the other, their worst instincts laid bare, in a state of deleterious exaltation. One decision, one simple word, and a family or a community will drown in blood or perish in flames.

Why is there so much violence, so much hate? How is it conceived, transmitted, fertilized, nurtured? As we face the disquieting, implacable rise of intolerance and fanaticism on more than one continent, it is our duty to expose the danger. By naming it. By confronting it.'

-Elie Wiesel, Architects of Peace

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Exploiting The Old Feud

'Saddam had always had a flair for drama and a keen sense of history. To make sure that his countrymen felt the meaning of what had happened as well as to poison the well for the United States, he compared Baghdad's fall to the Americans in 2003 to its fall to the Mongols in 1258. That earlier conquest had spelled the end of the caliphate and is remembered by Sunni Arabs as a calamity, when the rivers of the cultured Abbasid capital are said to have run black with ink from books and red with the blood of the Mongols' massacred victims. Iraqis, Saddam hoped, would come to see resisting the coalition's occupation as an Islamic duty. He then made an ominous comparison in which he likened the Shias' lack of resistance to the Americans to the alleged offense of Ibn al-Alqami, the last caliph's Shia vizier, who supposedly helped the Mongols to sack Baghdad. "Just as [the Mongol chieftain] Holagu entered Baghdad," he ranted, "so did the criminal Bush enter Baghdad, with the help of the Alqami." His implication was clear: just as the Shia had betrayed Islam in 1258, he was saying, so they were betraying it again in 2003.

Since Saddam raised the ghost of Ibn al-Alqami, references to him have become ubiquitous in communiques of insurgents and Sunni extremists. As the bloody travails of war and occupation have unfolded in Iraq, the Shia have once more been held responsible for failures of the Arab world. Long persecuted and suppressed by the Sunni-dominated Iraqi state, now they are being blamed for teh debacle that Sunnis face in the new Iraq - and by extension in the whole Middle East.

The ready way in which a "secular" Ba'thist figure such as Saddam can ring a change on a seven-century-old Sunni grudge to appeal to sectarian prejudices is a sign that the concepts and categories that are often cited in order to explain the Middle East to Western audiences - modernity, democracy, fundamentalism, and secular nationalism, to name a few - can no longer satisfactorily account for what is going on. It is rather the old feud between Shias and Sunnis that forges attitudes, defines prejudices, draws political boundary lines, and even decides whether and to what extent those other trends have relevance.'

-Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival

Stealing From the Poor and Giving to the Rich

Let us not forget about the complicity of the United Nations in starving the Iraqi people. I have asserted before that fundamentalism spreads as a result of poverty.

Stealing From the Poor and Giving to the Rich

'As von Sponeck spoke, I reflected on my lengthy interview with Iraq’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Mohammed Al-Duri. Al Duri, being interviewed for the first time by English speaking media since claiming his post at the UN, revealed to me in early 2001, in equally shocking details, what sanctions had done to his country and people. He claimed that the UN was part of the problem. Led by two countries, the US and Britain, the UN Oil for Food Program and the “humanitarian” mission it established in Iraq was, he said, robbing the country blind and mismanaging funds, with needy Iraqi families receiving next to nothing. He spoke of the manipulation of Iraq’s wealth for political purposes and alleged that the UN was a tool in the hands of the United States government aimed at encouraging widespread popular disatisfaction with Saddam’s government before the country was dragged off to war.

In hindsight, Al-Duri’s assessment was very accurate. Promoting his new book: “A Different Kind of War,” von Sponeck reiterated in essence and substance Al-Duri’s claims; the only difference is that von Sponeck was an insider; his numbers and stories were impeccable and could hardly be contested. It’s no wonder that one and a half years after assuming his post in Baghdad in 1998, he resigned. Even at such uncongenial bureaucracy like the UN, some people still possess a living conscience; von Sponeck was and remains a man of great qualities.

By March 2003, when Iraq was invaded by American forces, the UN was generating $64 billion in sales of Iraqi oil, according to von Sponeck. But, scandalously, only $28 billion reached the Iraqi people. Around 70 percent of the Iraqi people benefited from the program. If distributed evenly, each Iraqi received half a US dollar per day. According to UN figures, an individual living under one dollar per day is classified as living in “abject poverty”. Even during the most destructive phases of war with Iran, Iraq has managed to provide relatively high living standards. Its hospitals were neither dilapidated, nor did its oil industry lie in ruins. Only after the UN sanctions in 1991 did the Iraqis suffer at such an appalling magnitude. Alas, the tyranny of Saddam expanded to become the tyranny of the international community as well.

“Neither the welfare of the Iraqi people nor the sovereignty of the Iraqis was respected,” by the UN and its two main benefactors, asserted von Sponeck. The UN Security Council’s “elected 10 or veto-wielding five” had nothing for Iraq but “empty words,” but there were “deliberate efforts to make life uncomfortable (for the Iraqis) through the Oil for Food program.” All efforts to modernize Iraq’s oil industry were blocked, said von Sponeck, all at the behest of “two governments that blocked all sorts of items,” which could’ve made that possible: Again, the United States and Britain, coincidently the same two countries that invaded and currently occupy Iraq. The logic in all of this is clear; the “preemptive” war on Iraq was factored into the sanctions from its early days.

The assessments of Al-Duri and von Sponeck converge, revealing the disagreeable intents of the US government and its followers many years before the horror of 9/11 polarized public opinion and allowed Washington’s political elites, the neoconservatives and contractors to make their case for war.

But where did the money go, during the sanctions and now, four years after the invasion?

Von Sponeck reported that a large chunk of the money generated from Iraq’s oil, 55 percent, went to fund the UN’s own inadequate “humanitarian” programs. Much of the rest was taken by the UN compensation commission, entrusted in handling claims of damages made by those allegedly harmed by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. According to von Sponeck, the Iraqi oil pie was so large, there was plenty for everyone: Kuwait, Jordan, Turkey, and all the rest. But most ironically, the commission awarded a large sum of money to two Israeli kibbutzim in the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights, for allegedly losing some of their income due to the fact that the war damaged the tourism industry in Israel.'

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

SoCal Muslims Promote Unity Between Sunna and Shia

This is good; this is what is needed in Iraq.

Southland Muslims promote code of unity

As the conflict deepens between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Iraq, Muslim leaders in Southern California have launched what they hope will be a nationwide movement to promote unity among different branches of the faith in this country and help prevent acts of violence here.

In a ceremony that may be repeated as early as today in Detroit and later in other U.S. cities, a number of leading Southern California Muslims, including prominent Shiite and Sunni clerics, recently signed a "code of honor" that offers strategies for overcoming and avoiding divisions within the community.

Among the code's guidelines are banning the practice of takfir, judging other Muslims as nonbelievers, and forbidding hateful speech about the beliefs and revered figures of other branches of Islam.

"When it comes to interfaith efforts, we are brilliant," said Moustafa Al-Qazwini, an influential Shiite cleric who played host to the March 31 signing ceremony at his Costa Mesa mosque. "But when it comes to intra-Muslim work, we don't do enough."

Sunnis and Shiites vary little in their core beliefs but disagree on the question of the rightful successor to the prophet Muhammad.

In many countries, class divisions also arise, with Sunnis often in positions of power and Shiites in the lower economic and social groups.

Sunnis dominated in Iraq for many years, and Southern California leaders say political and historic disagreements may be more to blame for the current violence there than any significant theological distinctions.

Differing prayer practices can also cause tensions. The code of conduct urges Muslims to be tolerant of one another's prayer traditions but also to respect the manner of worship of the majority in a given mosque. Al-Qazwini said that just last year he was asked to leave a Sunni mosque in Seattle, even though the mosque's leader was supportive of him.

The local reconciliation effort, which began with a February meeting at the Muslim Public Affairs Council's office in Los Angeles, was prompted by spiraling violence in Iraq and several incidents of vandalism in Michigan.

In January, soon after the execution of deposed president Saddam Hussein in Iraq, half a dozen Shiite-owned businesses and mosques in greater Detroit were vandalized, with windows broken and, in one case, anti-Muslim graffiti spray-painted on an abandoned mosque. A spokeswoman for the Detroit Police Department said last week that the cases remained under investigation, with no claims of responsibility so far.

But some in Detroit's large Muslim and Arab American community immediately voiced concern that the incidents might have stemmed from local tensions between Sunnis and Shiites, or specifically from Sunni anger over Shiite celebrations in the Detroit area after the news of Hussein's death.

"People were saying, 'Iraq is coming to Detroit,' " said Victor Ghalib Begg, a Detroit-area businessman and chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan.

Although there have been no such incidents in Southern California in recent months, Muslim leaders here decided not to take chances.

"When the situation in Iraq took this very ugly form, we grew very alarmed," said Maher Hathout, a retired physician who is a longtime Muslim leader in L.A.

"But then there was this even more alarming red flag because of the problems in Detroit…. We were very concerned this could happen here too."

Hathout and a handful of others met to discuss their worries. The resulting document spells out for the first time some practical "dos and don'ts" for Muslims in this country.

"There have always been meetings to express good feelings and give flowery talk about unity, but the significant thing this time is that we've moved to practical, behavioral remedies," said Hathout, a senior advisor to the Muslim Public Affairs Council. "And we signed it together, in a single ceremony."

The document, little more than a single page of text, states that defining the Iraq conflict in purely sectarian terms may lead to further polarization between Shiites and Sunnis and exacerbate their theological differences, which it argues are limited. It also states that American Muslims are eager to help stop the cycle of violence in the Middle East and to keep the conflict in Iraq from spilling onto American soil.

Among its provisions:

• No group or individual should use, spread or tolerate the rhetoric of takfir regarding anyone who believes in the oneness and supremacy of God, the role of Muhammad as divine messenger and the authenticity of the Koran, the Muslim holy book.

Iraqis Must Choose Between Tyranny and Terrorism?

The video below was obviously shot just after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. It shows an Iraqi man using his sandal to slap a poster of Saddam and saying "he killed our youth," among other things. I noticed that a user left this comment:

'Abu Tahseen changed his mind when he experienced "freedom" and "democracy." '

I responded with this:

'Do you not realize that the hardcore Baathists and their allies want to prove to the world and especially to Iraqis that life under Saddam was much better than 'freedom' and 'democracy'? They mass murder Iraqis so that people will equate freedom & democracy with bombings and mayhem. Are Iraqis destined to be ruled (and held hostage) by tyrants and terrorists? Do people not realize that fundamentalism spreads as a result of tyranny and oppression?'

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sunni-Shii Couples in Iraq

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with my mother about how bizarre the divide between Sunni and Shi'i has become in Iraq, and she reminded me that her brother (Shi'i) is married to a Sunni. Below is a photo of them in happier days. Thus far they have managed to stay in their home in west Baghdad. They are like many Iraqi couples who never considered sect to be an important factor in love. Many Iraqis, like The Mesopotamian, are of mixed Sunni-Shi'i descent.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Iraqis Despondent, Overwhelmed

Laran Logan explains concisely the situation in Iraq today. Watch this video or watch 60 Minutes tonight.

Lara Logan: Iraqis Despondent, Overwhelmed
Correspondent Previews Her "60 Minutes" Report: "Life in Baghdad"

In an eight-minute online preview of her "Life in Baghdad" report airing tonight on "60 Minutes," CBS News Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan says Iraqis are overwhelmed, depressed, and hopeless.

Click here for the video of Laran Logan speaking to camera in a preview of her report on CBS's "60 Minutes" tonight.

PS: Here is the full report.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Al Qaeda Murdering Iraq's Sunnis

Sunni struggle claims 4th Fallujah chief

BAGHDAD - The Fallujah city council chairman, a critic of al-Qaida who took the job after his three predecessors were assassinated, was killed on Saturday, the latest blow in a violent internal Sunni struggle for control of an insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad.

In the capital, U.S. and Iraqi officials defended plans to build a barrier around a Sunni enclave to protect its inhabitants from surrounding Shiite areas, while residents expressed concern it would isolate the community.

Sami Abdul-Amir al-Jumaili was gunned down by attackers in a passing car as he was walking outside his home in central Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, according to police.

His assassination came a month after he agreed to take the dangerous job — the only person willing to do so — with promises to improve services and work with the Americans to ease traffic-clogging checkpoints in the city with a population of an estimated 150,000 to 200,000.

The 65-year-old Sunni sheik was the fourth city council chairman to be killed in some 14 months as insurgents target fellow Sunnis willing to cooperate with the U.S. and its Iraqi partners. Abdul-Amir's predecessor, Abbas Ali Hussein, who was shot to death on Feb. 2.

Both men were strong critics of al-Qaida in Iraq, which is battling a growing number of Sunni tribes that have turned against it in the vast Anbar province — a center for anti-U.S. guerrillas since the uprising in Fallujah in 2004 that galvanized the insurgency.

U.S. officials say tribal leaders and even some other insurgents are increasingly repelled by the group's brutality and religious extremism. The tribes also are competing with al-Qaida for influence and control over diminishing territory in the face of U.S. assaults.

The U.S. military confirmed the killing, and provincial officials condemned it.

"He was one of the many good people of the province who worked to help the city of Fallujah rebuild and regain life," the provincial government said in a statement. "This murder was a crime against all of the citizens of Iraq. We again strongly condemn this cowardly back-stabbing act."

Continued...

US Complicity in Saddam's Crimes

This is part of a documentary entitled Web of Deceit, and it shows Donald Rumsfeld's reaction to video of him shaking hands with Saddam Hussein in 1983.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Historical Persecution of the Shi'a

'The Umayyad caliphs, and more so their successors, the Abbasids (750-1258), who ruled from Baghdad, imprisoned and killed Shia imams and encouraged Sunni ulama to define Sunni orthodoxy and contain the people of Shiism. By the tenth century Sunni jurists of the Hanbali school, known for their intolerance of Shiism, held sway over Baghdad, and fear of Shia revolts supported their penchant for purifying Islam. The last decades of that century witnessed anti-Shia violence in Baghdad and its environs – mosques and Ashouras were attacked, and Shias were even killed or burned alive. When in 971 C.E. Roman forces attacked the Abbasid domain, the first response of the caliph’s forces and the angry and terrified Sunnis was to blame the Shia. Shia houses in al-Karkh (in today’s Iraq) – which had become a refuge for Shias who escaped persecution in Baghdad – were torched as the attackers chanted, “You [Shias] are the cause of all evil.” In a pattern of behavior that would be repeated throughout the centuries down to the present, the Shia bore the brunt of popular frustrations with the failures of Sunni rulers. Treated as the enemy within, they were the first to come under suspicion when there was an external threat to the ruling Sunni establishment. By the middle of the eleventh century, persecuting the Shia of al-Karkh had become a custom; ever Saturday, Sunni mobs would show up at Shia mosques and shrines before looting the town, saying “You blasphemers! Convert to Islam!"

By the eleventh century these attitudes had also been canonized by Hanbali jurists, who condemned Shias as rafidis, or rejecters of the Truth. They said that Shias should not lead prayers or marry Sunnis, and that any meat that Shias slaughtered was not halal (permissible) for Sunni consumption. In short, the Shia were not to be treated as Muslims. After the Mongol sack of Baghdad and the destruction of the Abasid caliphate in 1258, attacks on Shiism grew even sharper. Hanbali characterization has in recent history found a reflection in the extremist Sunnis' demonization of Shiism, which regards the faith as a heresy and a bigger threat to "true" Islam than Christianity and Judaism.'

--Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival

Worth Repeating

The hardcore Baathi response to people who tell the truth about Saddam's tyranny: "choose your words carefully, or else I will do to you things you cannot even imagine..."

PS: The poll referred to in the beginning is a poll of the 'Arab street' by Al Jazeera, and I doubt it included a poll of Iraqi Shia.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Merciful

I have always enjoyed reading Alaa the Mesopotamian. I was just reading old posts of his and found this good one:

Thursday, July 15, 2004
THE MERCIFUL

Hi,

Well, of course the Arabs are our brothers in so far as we are an Arabic speaking people. And of course we don’t wish them harm. And how many sacrifices have the Iraqis made for their sake? So, we wish them well, generally speaking. However, how we wish they could be less stupid, less cruel and more understanding. Also it would be nice if they could become less selfish, less hypocritical, less addicted to lying, treachery and jealousy. That would be nice. And perhaps they could show a little more concern about the murder of our people, the destruction of our livelihood, the sabotage of our national assets and infrastructure. It would be even nicer if they could actually stop perpetrating these rather unfriendly acts.

Also, somewhat it seems to us that cutting the heads of hostages is not a particularly good way of illustrating the Arab and Islamic nobility of spirit; especially if it is done in the name of Allah. I mean we are puzzled, because we thought that Allah was The Merciful; the Compassionate. But hard as we try to understand our brothers, we don’t seem to be able to comprehend the merciful nature of their actions. Perhaps we are not sufficiently well trained philosophically and too ignorant to appreciate the finer points of theology and the relationship between beheadings and various forms of murder to monotheism and Jihad in the name of The Merciful, the Compassionate.

Also we thought that our religion preached tolerance and kindness towards others, but it seems that our lamentable ignorance of theology led us to these erroneous misconceptions. But then this is your fault, venerable Sheikhs. You have not made sufficient effort to enlighten and train us in the true precepts and ways of piety. We have yet to appreciate that the true way of the Lord calls for drenching the earth with human blood. We seem to remember that the Gods of paganism craved for human sacrifice; “The Gods are thirsty – Les Dieux Ont Soif ”. Do we have sneaking suspicions that these ancient creeds have crept back into your system of belief?

Oh, yes; Oh brothers and venerable Sheiks with the correct size of beards, we are in dire need of explanation from you to save us from our utter disbelief and bewilderment concerning your ways. We are in state of shock that threatens the very foundation of our own faith.

Salaam

# posted by Alaa : 5:36 PM

Al Qa'ida Has a Minister of War

Isn't that nice?

Al-Qaida chief appointed minister of war

CAIRO, Egypt - A Sunni insurgent coalition posted Web videos on Thursday naming the head of al-Qaida in Iraq as "minister of war" and showing the execution of 20 men it said were members of the Iraqi military and security forces.

The announcement unveiling an "Islamic Cabinet" for Iraq appeared to have multiple aims. One was to present the Islamic State of Iraq coalition as a "legitimate" alternative to the U.S.-backed, Shiite-led administration of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — and to demonstrate that it was growing in power despite the U.S. military push against insurgents.

It also likely sought to establish the coalition's dominance among insurgents after an embarrassing public dispute with other Iraqi Sunni militants.

The Islamic State of Iraq is a coalition of eight insurgent groups, the most powerful of them al-Qaida in Iraq. It was first announced in October, claiming to hold territory in the Sunni-dominated areas of western and central Iraq.

In the Cabinet announcement video, a man identified as a spokesman for the group appeared, with his face obscured, speaking from behind a desk with a flat-screen computer.

"It is the duty at our present stage to form this Cabinet, the first Islamic Cabinet, which has faith in God," said the spokesman, wearing robes and a red headdress.

He denounced Iraq's rulers for the past decades — including Saddam Hussein's Baath Party and the present government — saying they "spread corruption and ruined the country and its people, until God helped the mujahideen (holy warriors) bring torture upon them."

"Now the Islamic State emerges as a state for Islam and the mujahideen," he said.

He then listed a 10-member "Cabinet," including Abu Hamza al-Muhajer as "war minister." Al-Muhajer is the name announced as the successor of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq who was killed in the summer of 2006. The U.S. military and Iraqi government have identified him by another pseudonym, Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

The names listed by the spokesman were all pseudonyms and their real names were not known — though the pseudonyms included the names of some major Sunni Arab tribes.

The Islamic state is led by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who holds the title of "emir (prince) of the faithful."

Sheik Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Falahi was named as the emir's "first minister," the spokesman said. Other positions included ministers of information, "prisoners and martyrs," agriculture and health.

The video came on the heels of a rare public dispute between the coalition and other insurgent groups.

In past week, another Sunni insurgent group, the Islamic Army in Iraq, has issued statements accusing al-Qaida of killing its members and trying to force others to join its ranks. Al-Baghdadi tried to patch up the dispute by issuing a Web audiotape this week calling for unity and promising to punish any of his group's members who kill other insurgents.

Al-Qaida in Iraq is blamed for some of the deadliest suicide bombings against Shiite civilians, as well as numerous attacks on U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers and police. The U.S. military has blamed it for a devastating bombing Wednesday in Baghdad's Sadriyah market.

The message came after hours after another video from the group showing a masked gunmen walking down a row of men, blindfolded and bound, shooting each in the back of the head.

The video purported to show 20 Iraqi police and soldiers that the Islamic State in Iraq claimed six days earlier to have kidnapped northwest of Baghdad. It had threatened to kill them after 48 hours unless the government freed female prisoners and handed over police accused of rapes in the northern town of Tal Afar.

The Iraqi government has denied that 20 police and soldiers were kidnapped. Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said Thursday that the men in the video could not be identified and said the insurgents may have dressed up civilians to kill them.

"We checked with our commands then and all the troops were accounted for," Khalaf told The Associated Press. "They are immoral criminals. They have used all criminal methods and we don't rule out that they executed civilians who they dressed in military uniforms."

Majority of Americans Support Withdrawal

Majority of Americans Support Withdrawal
Fox and CNN Polls Both Depict Deep Pessimism on Prospects for "Success" in Iraq

Sixty percent of Americans interviewed for a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll would side with Congressional Democrats in the current Iraq debate over funding and timetables, with 35% reporting that they would like to see an immediate withdrawal of American troops and another 26% calling for pullout by March 2008.

A recent Fox News poll had similar results, with 54% approving of Congress's effort to set a date for pullout, and 61% disagreeing that withdrawal could be equated with surrender.

It should be no surprise that a majority looks forward to withdrawal, since 69% think the war is going "badly" and 63% believe no one is winning, according to the CNN poll.

A slight majority in the CNN poll did not believe that sending 20,000 additional troops would make a difference in the security situation, and 45% in the Fox poll reported that Bush's surge had not had any impact, though 40% saw some kind of improvement and 4% thought it had gotten worse.

Hundreds Die in Baghdad

Does anybody deny that Iraqis are mass murdered in order to show the world that the new Iraqi government cannot provide security for its people and to prove that life was indeed better for Iraqis before 2003? It is obvious to me that insurgents are defeating the Iraqi government and US forces by mass murdering Iraqis - this has been their strategy all along, and it has been quite effective. Many Shia now think that US forces should leave. It makes me sick that Arabs (extremists, criminals, NOT ordinary Arabs) mass murder Iraqi Shia in order to turn the Shia against the Americans and the Iraqi government.

A Day of Bombs and Blood (Thanks Semite)

By PATRICK COCKBURN

Yesterday will go down as a day of infamy for Iraqis who are repeatedly told by the US that their security is improving. Almost 200 people were killed on one of the bloodiest days of the four-year-old war, when car bombs ripped through four neighbourhoods across Baghdad, exposing the failure of the two-month-old US security plan.

In the aftermath of the blasts, American and Iraqi soldiers who rushed to the scene of the explosions were pelted with stones by angry crowds shouting: "Where is the security plan? We are not protected by this plan."

Billowing clouds of oily black smoke rose into the sky over the Iraqi capital after four bombs tore through crowded markets and streets leaving the ground covered in charred bodies and severed limbs. "I saw dozens of dead bodies," said a witness in Sadriyah, a mixed Shia-Kurdish neighbourhood in west Baghdad where 140 people died and 150 were injured. " Some people were burned alive inside minibuses. Nobody could reach them after the explosion. There were pieces of flesh all over the place. Women were screaming and shouting for their loved ones who died."

The escalation in devastating bomb attacks by Sunni insurgents against Shia civilians is discrediting the US security plan, implemented by a "surge" in American troop numbers. Launched on 14 February it was intended to give the Iraqi government greater control over the streets of Baghdad. The Mehdi Army Shia militia, blamed for operating death squads against Sunni civilians, had adopted a lower profile and avoided military confrontation with the US but that is unlikely to continue in the wake of these devastating bomb attacks. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is seen as being unable to defend his own people.

In the aftermath of the explosions, one man waved his arms and shouted angrily: "Where's Maliki? Let him come and see what is happening here." The enraged crowds throwing stones at American and Iraqi troops who arrived after the blasts also shouted: "Down with Maliki."

The worst attack was on Sadriyah meat and vegetable market in the centre of Baghdad. It had already been the target of one of Baghdad's worst atrocities when a suicide bomber blew up a Mercedes truck on 3 February, killing 137 people.

Some of the casualties yesterday were construction workers rebuilding the marketplace. One of the workers who survived, 28-year-old Salih Mustafa, said he was waiting for a minibus to go home when the bomb went off at 4.05pm. "I rushed with others to give a hand and help the victims," he said. "I saw three bodies in a wooden cart, and civilian cars were helping to transfer the victims. It was really a horrible scene."

There is no doubt that the bombs were directed at killing as many Shia civilians as possible. About half an hour before the Sadriyah blast, a suicide bomber had rammed a police checkpoint at the entrance to the great Shia bastion in Sadr City in east Baghdad. It is also the stronghold of the Shia nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The explosion killed 35 people and wounded 75, police say. Black smoke rose from blazing vehicles as people scrambled over the twisted wreckage of cars to try to rescue the wounded.

In another Shia neighbourhood, Karada, a parked car exploded, killing 10 people and wounding 15.

"The problem is that the Shia stopped killing so many Sunni but the Sunni are killing more Shia than ever," said an Iraqi official before the attacks yesterday. He added: "If this goes on, the Shia will exact revenge. Sectarian massacres will dwarf anything we have seen before."

The bombings came hours after Mr Maliki said that Iraqi security forces would take full control of the whole country by the end of the year. But last night, amid a torrent of public criticism, the Prime Minister ordered the arrest of the Iraqi army colonel in charge of security around the Sadriyah market.

And in another move that could weaken his position further, six ministers supporting Mr Sadr have just withdrawn from the government because of Mr Maliki's failure to demand that the US set a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops.

The 17-million strong Shia community, the majority of the Iraqi population, is increasingly hostile to the US presence while the five million Sunni generally support anti- American armed resistance. Only the Kurds fully back the US.

Responsibility for security in Maysan province was handed over by Britain to Iraq yesterday. "Then it will be province by province until we achieve [this transfer] before the end of the year," said Mr Maliki in a speech delivered on his behalf by the National Security Adviser, Mowaffaq al-Rubaie.

But the transfer of political or security control by the US and Britain to Iraqi authorities has always been deceptive. Iraqis believe, with some reason, that real control remains in the hands of the occupying forces. Earlier in the year, British forces blew up a police headquarters in Basra and US helicopter-borne troops tried to kidnap two senior Iranian officials visiting Jalal Talabani, the Iraqi President.

The success of the US security plan in Baghdad depended less on an additional five American brigades than in fostering a belief by Iraqis that it was providing them with security.

The Sunni insurgents and Shia militias grew in strength in the Iraqi capital in 2006 because their communities were terrified of bombers, death squads and kidnappers. The US army and Iraqi army and police could only win acceptance if they provided a superior level of security, which they are notably failing to do.

"We've always said securing Baghdad would not be easy. We've seen both inspiring progress and too much evidence that we still face many grave challenges," Major-General William Caldwell, a US military spokesman, said.

Women in Shi'ism

"Having decided to crush Husayn and the Kufan revolt by force, Yazid sent an army of thousands to the area. They laid siege to Husayn's caravan, whose male members (except for Husayn's ailing son, Ali) put up a valiant resistance. Among Shias, the gallantry of Husayn and his brother and standard-bearer Abbas are legendary. Dug in with their backs to a range of hills, Husayn and his men held off the Syrian army for six grueling days. Then the Umayyad general Shimr, a figure forever damned in Shia lore, managed to cut off Husayn's troops from their source of water, thereby forcing a fight in the open. Nerved by a courage born of desperation and a stead-fast belief in the rightness of their cause, Husayn and his parched, outnumbered men bravely charged the much larger Umayyad army, only to be cut down and massacred. The fallen were beheaded; their bodies were left to rot in the scorching heat of the desert, and their heads were mounted on staffs to be paraded in Kufa before being sent to the caliph in Damascus. Husayn's body, along with those of his companions, was buried on the battlefield by local villagers. Shia legend has it that an artist drew Husayn's noble countenance as it awaited display at Yazid's court. That image of Husayn, in a majestic pose with arched eyebrows and piercing eyes, the Shia believe, is the same that adorns shop windows in Karbala and is carried in Shia processions. Egyptians claim that Husayn's head was buried in Cairo, where today the Sayyidina Husayn (Our Lord Husayn) Mosque stands at the mouth of the Khan Khalili bazaar.

Husayn's sister, Zaynab, accompanied her brother's head to Damascus. There she valiantly and successfully defended the life of the lone surviving male member of the family, Husayn's son, Ali, who would succeed his father as the fourth Shia imam, thereby ensuring the continuity of Shiism. Zaynab bore witness to Karbala and lived to tell the tale. That Husayn's heroism became legendary and gave form to Shiism is very much her doing: Shiism owes its existence to a woman. It celebrates the strong characters and bravery of female figures in a way that has no parallel in Sunnism. Women like Zayab and her mother, Fatima, played major parts in Shia history and fill a role in Shia piety not unlike the one that the Virgin Mary plays in the popular devotionalism of Catholic and Orthodox Christianity. Zaynab lived most of her life in Cairo, and a mosque popular with women sits where her home once stood. She is buried in Damascus; her shrine, the mosque of Sayyida Zaynab (Lady Zaynab), is a popular place for Shia pilgrims to visit."

-Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Charges Against Adnan Dulaimi

Allegations of Killings and Forced Migrations, Buratha Reports

Adnan al-Dulaimi, member of parliament and head of the Tawafuq Front, at the Iraqi Parliament in September 2006.
Photo by Ali Abbas/AFP.
Adnan al-Dulaimi, member of parliament and head of the Tawafuq Front, at the Iraqi Parliament in September 2006.

Buratha News reports that it has obtained important details relating to the judicial file of Sunni MP Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of the Tawafuq Front, the largest Sunni bloc in the Iraqi Parliament.

Dulaimi's file contains "tens of charges" lodged by residents of Hay al-'Adil, according to Buratha's report in Arabic, alleging links between Dulaimi and crimes of murder and forced displacement in the western Baghdad district.

Aside from providing further details in the ongoing controversy over attempts to prosecute members of parliament, Buratha's report, if true, also gives a glimpse into the judicial process in Iraq.

The charges allegedly include accusations of forced displacement and assassinations ordered directly by Dulaimi, his three sons Munqidh, Muhannad, and Makki, his son-in-law Mus'ab, and his daughter Asma', also a Tawafuq MP, according to Buratha's report.

Buratha writes that the charges were relayed directly to the security apparatus by Shaykh Jalal al-Din al-Saghir after hearing of them from residents of Hay al-'Adil. Shaykh al-Saghir is a member of parliament and the head of the Shi'a Buratha Mosque, which is closely associated with SCIRI, and located in the western Baghdad district of Utayfiya.

The Minister of Defense circulated the charges among its units, according to Buratha News, in order to verify them, and found that "the results came back unainimously positive, that is, the information contained in these complaints was sound."

On that basis, a criminial investigation was opened, Buratha News writes, with the attorney general organizing the complaints which, according to Buratha, pointed to Adnan al Dulaimi specifically, and his "protection apparatus" which Buratha says was formed during the Interim Government and grew to include approximately 250 members.

Shaykh Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, member of parliament, and head of the Buratha Mosque, speaks on the phone at the Iraqi Parliament in May 2006.
Photo by Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty.
Shaykh Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, member of parliament, and head of the Buratha Mosque, speaks on the phone at the Iraqi Parliament in May 2006.
On March 13, 2007, the Central Investigating Court wrote to the Supreme Judicial Council in a letter, numbered 1601, requesting an investigation into Dulaimi and his sons Munqidh and Makki, as well as members of his protection force, considering Dulaimi responsible for the alleged forced displacement and sectarian killings. The Council sent the letter immediately to the head of public prosecutions, Buratha reports. This office sent a letter, number 3870/2007, to the Supreme Judicial Council dated April 10, 2007, which prompted the Judicial Council, in its letter, number 244, dated April 11, 2007, to write to the Speaker of the Parliament.

The speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani received the letter, Buratha writes, and the matter has not left the speaker's office yet.

Presumably, the content of the letter from the Supreme Council to al-Mashhadani requested that Dulaimi's parliamentary immunity be lifted so that the case can proceed.

Here the story intersects with what Slogger reported yesterday, wherein Dulaimi, his party, and the Tawafuq Front denounced the judicial order as a politically motivated ruse, and sectarian in its essence.

Continued...

Sadriya Blast Kills 112

Sadriya Blast Kills 112; Sadr City, Karrada Attacks

Iraqis gather at the site of a car bomb explosion in Sadiriya in which scores of Iraqis were killed on Wednesday.
Photo by Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP.
Iraqis gather at the site of a car bomb explosion in Sadiriya in which scores of Iraqis were killed on Wednesday.


A car bomb in Baghdad's Sadriya neighborhood has killed at least 112 people, the Associated Press reports.

Explosives in a parked car detonated near a crowd of workers in a Sadriya market, in central Baghdad east of the Tigris River. A police official confirmed the death toll with the Associated Press. The market had been the site of a bomb attack in February that killed 137. Many of the dead were construction workers repairing the damage from the February explosion. Sadiriya is a predominantly Shi'a area of Baghdad.

Eyewitnesses told IraqSlogger that several buildings around the Sadriya market had collapsed. Sources put the explosion at around 4:00 pm local time.

A suicide car bomb attack on a police checkpoint in Sadr City killed at least 30 an hour before, wounding 45, the AP reports. At least eight cars stopped at the checkpoint were incinerated in the blast when the attacker drove into the check point. At least five of the dead were Iraqi security officers.

A parked car blast in Karrada killed 11 people and injured 13, according to the AP. The blast also damaged the nearby Abdul-Majid Hospital.

The AP also reports an explosion on a minibus somewhere in the Rusafa area that killed four and wounded six.

Tyranny vs Civil Strife

'Most Muslims at the time (the forebears of the Sunnis) followed the tribal tradition according to which a council of elders would choose the most senior and respected elder to become the head of the Islamic community, or umma. Early Muslims found justification for this practice in the Prophet's declaration that "my community will never agree in error." For the Sunnis, the successor to the Prophet would need no exceptional spiritual qualities but would merely have to be an exemplary Muslim who could ably and virtuously direct the religious and political affairs of the community. The Sunnis chose Abu Bakr, the Prophet's close friend and father-in-law, as his successor or caliph. A small group of the Prophet's companions believed that the Prophet's cousin and son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib, was more qualified for the job and that it had been the wish of the Prophet that he lead the Muslim community. In the end consensus prevailed and all dissenters, Ali included, accepted Abu Bakr's leadership.

Abu Bakr was succeeded by Umar, Uthman, and finally Ali. Sunnis call these four men, whose successive terms spanned the three decades from 632 to 661, the Rightly Guided, or Rashidun, Caliphs. They had all been close companions of the Prophet and were knowledgeable in matters of religion. For Sunnis, the time of these caliphs was Islam's golden age, an era when political authority continued to be informed by the pristine values of the faith nad hwen Muslim society remained close to its spiritual roots.

Even the era of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, however, proved to be far from harmonious. Umar was killed by an Iranian prisoner of war, but most notably, Uthman was murdered in 656 by mutinous Muslim soldiers, his blood spilling onto the Quran that he was reading. The young Muslim community was in shock at the spectacle of Muslims murdering the successor to the Prophet. The aftereffects of Uthman's murder plagued the caliphate of Ali. He faced mutinies - including one that included Abu Bakr's daughter and the Prophet's wife, Ayesha - and was hard-pressed to restore calm, and soon confronted a strong challenge from Uthman's cousin Muawiya, the governor of Damascus, who demanded that Ali avenge Uthman's murder. The tribal demand for justice soon took on the quality of a power struggle between the new caliph and the governor. A civil war between the caliph's army and Muawiya's forces ensued, further miring the Muslim community in conflict and confusion. That war ended only when Ali was assassinated by angry extremists who blamed both him and Muawiya for the crisis. The nearly century-long reign of the Umayyad dynasty (661-750) had begun, and Damascus would be its center.

Sunni Muslims accepted Muawiya's rise. He lacked religious authority, but he guaranteed the basic order that the faith was thought to need. Under the Umayyads the caliphs became both pope and caesar, delegating authority over religious matters to professional religious scholars and functionaries, the ulama. The Sunnis were well on their way to embracing their traditional stance of accepting a regime's legitimacy so long as it provided order, protected Islam, and left religious matters to the ulama. The famous saying "Better sixty years of tyranny than a single day of civil strife" captures the spirit of the Sunni position.

Not all Muslims were content with this formula, and Shiism arose in part on the foundation of their dissent. Ali's murder, the transformation of the caliphate into a monarchy, and the de facto separation of religious and political authorities under the Umayyads led a minority of Muslims to argue that what had come to pass was the fruit not of God's mandate but of man's folly. They saw the roots of the problem going back to the choice of the first successor to the Prophet. Muslims had erred in choosing their leaders, and that error had mired their faith in violence and confusion. The dissenting voices rejected the legitimacy of the first three Rightly Guided Caliphs, arguing that God would not entrust his religion to ordinary mortals chosen by the vote of the community and that Muhammad's family - popularly known as the ahl al-Bayt (people of the household) - were the true leaders of the Muslim community, for the blood of the Prophet ran in their veins and they bore his charisma and the spiritual qualities that God had vested in him. Abu Bakr and Umar were particularly at fault for ignoring the Prophet's wishes about how his authority should be handed on and convening a gathering at Saqifah Bani Saeda to elect his successor. This view would become foundational to Shiism.'

-Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival

Sadriya Hit Again

Baghdad bombs kill 66

A car bomb near a central Baghdad market killed 21 people Wednesday, a defence ministry official said, bringing to at least 66 the death toll from a spate of bombings in the capital.

The explosives-rigged car blew up in the Al-Sadriyah district, home to a mixed Kurdish and Shiite population.

The defence ministry official said another 74 people were wounded and added that women and children were among the casualties.

Markets are a frequent target for bombings by Sunni extremists bent on slaughtering Shiites, the majority community in Iraq which now heads the government and dominates the security forces.

The bombings have continued despite a massive security crackdown launched more than two months ago that has seen tens of thousands of Iraqi and US troops patrolling the capital's streets.

Death Squads Slowly Resurging in Baghdad

Death Squads Slowly Resurging in Baghdad
Sadrist Movement Sacks Two Officials; Kurdish Editor Released by KRG Authorities
By ZEYAD KASIM

In a new sign of the resurgence of death squads, both Sunni and Shia, despite an ongoing U.S.-Iraqi security operation, several dozen people were found dead across the country Monday. In Ramadi, west of Baghdad, Iraqi police uncovered 17 decomposed bodies buried beneath two schoolyards, all thought to be victims of Al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq militants, who until recently controlled the turbulent city in the heart of the Anbar governorate, west of Iraq. An Iraqi police source said that one body had not yet been removed because it was thought to be booby-trapped.

In Baghdad, 25 bodies with signs of torture were found dumped in different areas yesterday, bringing the total over the last three days to 67, the highest number since the start of the U.S.-led Imposing Law security operation. Anecdotal evidence from local sources in Baghdad suggest the numbers are much higher, since many corpses are left on the street for days without being picked up by authorities.

Residents in the Sunni-majority district of Adhamiya reported several bodies in their area, including one in the middle of the commercial Dhubat Street left by insurgents who were described as “Al-Qaeda” by locals. Almost all victims are Sunni, some of them members of rival insurgent groups, local council members, or Islamic Party members and other Sunnis who have participated in the political process, according to residents. They said anyone who dares even look at the body, let alone touch it or remove it, would risk immediate execution by militants. U.S. and Iraqi forces are just a few hundred meters away at the newly renovated Adhamiya police station, residents said, but they are usually oblivious to what is going on around them behind the concrete blast walls when they are not out on patrol. Similar scenes are described in many parts of western and southern Baghdad.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

When Rumsfeld Met Saddam

I found this to be amusing. YouTube is so much fun!

"Islamic State" Calls for Unity

"Islamic State" Calls for Unity
Baghdadi's Recording Claims Successes, New Missiles

The organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq has apparently issued a recorded statement from its alleged leader, known as Abu ‘Umar al-Baghdadi, on the occasion of the four-year mark since the US invasion.

In the statement, the so-called emir of the al-Qa'ida linked group, seems to respond to divisions reportedly emerging in the ranks of armed Sunni groups, calling for the “mujahidin” to preserve their unity. He also mocks US forces' performance on the battlefield, and argues that the Iraq war has not turned out the way its planners had intended.

Baghdadi called for the “mujahidin of Iraq” (referring to the various armed Sunni groups) to avoid falling into the plans that aim to divide them. In reference to these plans, Baghdadi singled out the Islamic Party of Iraq for condemnation, saying that the divisions that had arisen between the Islamic State of Iraq and the 1920 Revolution Brigades were the result of the positions of the Islamic Party of Iraq.

“The Devil has come between us and you, the devil of the Islamic Party of Iraq and its ilk,” Baghdadi said.

Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi leads the Islamic Party of Iraq. Al-Hashemi earlier indicated that he was in negotiations with armed Sunni groups.

Baghdadi also called for other armed groups to preserve their unity, saying, “My sons in the Mujahadin Army, and the Islamic Army, you will only hear goodwill from us, and the friendship between us is deep, and what is between us is stronger than what some of them think.”

In the call for unity, the statement reminds the “mujahidin” that: “It was not us, O servants of God, who violated your mothers, and sisters and daughters in Abu Ghraib, and put it out on the television screens, to humiliate you,” adding “It was not us who raped Sabrin in plain daylight,” referring to the Sunni woman who claimed she had been raped by Iraqi Interior Ministry forces.

Highlighting the alliance between the Iraqi government and the American forces, Baghdadi says, “Those who did these things agree on the preservation of the system of the occupation.”

“On the contrary, days after these things, we arrested more than 39 apostates from them and killed them to avenge your dignity and your honor,” Baghdadi says, referring to such acts as the abduction and killing of Iraqi interior ministry employees following the affair of the rape allegations.

As the IHT has earlier reported, using a translation prepared by the SITE Institute, Baghdadi also says, "We swear to you we don't shed the protected blood of Muslims intentionally. If I hear otherwise, I will set up a council of judges . . . so even the weakest person in Iraq could take his rights, even if from my blood," he said.

Here Baghdadi appears to be responding to earlier charges made public by the Islamic Army of Iraq that the al-Qa'ida affiliated Islamic State of Iraq kills Iraqi Sunni Muslims. The Islamic Army called upon Usama bin Laden to personally intervene to rein in the “Islamic State.”

The cafeteria of the Iraqi Parliament after a bomb attack Thursday which killed an MP. The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsiblity for the attack.


“University for Terrorism”

On one point, Baghdadi expresses agreement with US officials, saying that he concurs with those who say that Iraq has become a “university for terrorism,” saying “As for the military aspect, believe one of their demons who said, if Afghanistan is a school for terrorism, then Iraq is the university for terrorism.”

Building on the theme, Baghdadi announced the graduation of the largest batch in Iraqi history of “officers of jihad for God’s behalf, to the highest global degree. Indeed, the studies are continuous, summer and winter, day and night,” he said.

He added that the fear of the US Marines had faded in the hearts of the “mujahidin,” saying that the fighters had become thousands, after having been very few in number at the fall of the previous Iraqi regime.

Elsewhere, he says, “It was not Bush’s assumption, nor the assumption of those who planed his futile war that the people of Iraq would start to compete, not to offer flowers and obedience . . . hundreds ask for death that they may live with God,” referring to suicide operations including suicide bombings, in a clear counterpoint to the US and Iraqi claims that many of the suicide bombers that have struck in Iraq are foreigners.

“As for the women of Iraq, who have shed tears asking martyrdom operations, we forbid them from implementing the objectives that men can implement, excepting in special circumstances that make it difficult for men,” Baghdadi continues.

The war, he states, has emptied the American budget at the expense of social security, health, and education spending, saying that those responsible, naming Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, and John Bolton, will sit in the “defendant’s bench.”

On the military front, Baghdadi announces for the first time that the Islamic State of Iraq has gained the capabilities to produce its own missiles, saying “And in the area of arms and equipment: We inform the mujahidin in general in all the areas of the earth, and the people of the jihad in Iraq specifically, that the Quds I missile has entered production, and is of high specifications in length, weight, and striking accuracy, to compete with what other countries of the world have realized with the same military goals.”

Longest Baghdadi Recording Yet

As earlier announced by the SITE institute, the recording is Baghdadi’s longest recording yet, at nearly 42 minutes. The recording was released by the al-Furqan Foundation for Media Production, the official distributor and producer of multimedia for the Islamic State. SITE translates the title of the statement as, “Years of Achievements in the Country of the Unifiers.” A better translation for “unifiers” (muwahhid) would be “monotheists,” i.e. those who practice tawhid or the profession that God is one. The word that SITE glosses as “country” (dawla) would be better translated as “state.”

In other words, the statement presents to the achievements of the Islamic State of Iraq, referring to itself as dawlat al-muwahhidin, the state of those who profess the oneness of God.

The statement was released to mark four years since the US invasion of Iraq, according to its text.

Regarding a separate Internet posting, AP reports that al-Baghdadi's group posted a Web statement Tuesday saying its religious court had condemned 20 kidnapped Iraqi soldiers to death. On Saturday, the group claimed to have captured the troops to avenge the alleged rape of a woman by Iraqi police, and demanded the government hand over the rapists within 48 hours.

However, there were no reports of any Iraqi officers missing, and an Interior Ministry official said Tuesday that all troops were accounted for.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Plague of Nationalism

I found this to be enlightening, and it applies to Arab nationalists as well:

"Archeology, folklore, and the search for what is defined as authenticity are the tools used by nationalists to assail others and promote themselves. They dress it up as history, but it is myth. Real historical inquiry, in the process, is corrupted, assualted, and often destroyed. Facts become as interchangeable as opinions. Those facts that are inconventient are discarded or denied. The obvious inconsistencies are ignored by those intoxicated by a newly found sense of national pride and the exciting prospect of war.

To speak of the Israeli war of independence with many Israelis, in which stateless European Jews established a country in a land that had been primarily Muslim since the seventh century, is to shout into a vast black hole. There is an emotional barrier, a desire not to tarnish the creation myth, which makes it difficult for many Israeli Jews, including some of the most liberal and progressive, to acknowledge the profound injustice the creation of the state of Israel meant for Palestinians. As Americans we struggle with these myths as well, only grudgingly conceding that many of our founding fathers were slave ownders and much of our nation acquired after a genocidal campaign against Native Americans.

In peacetime this collective amnesia is challenged by a few intrepid scholars. Indeed, some of the best scholarly work on the 1948 war and what it meant for the Palestinians has come from Israeli historians - but their voices are muted or silenced in times of crisis. Our own nation is no different. We embrace gross and overtly racist notions of Islam that paint all Muslims as having a tendancy to violence, anger, antimodernism, and close-mindedness. Questioning of the nationalist line, or an attempt to address historical injustices committed by us against our foes, is branded unpatriotic, intellectual treason, just as it was in Argentina in 1982."

--Chris Hedges, War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

Blood on Textbooks

As VA Tech Mourns, Iraq Universities Know Violence's Toll

Books covered in blood at the scene of two explosions in front of Mustansiriya University on January 16 in Baghdad.
Photo by Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty.
Books covered in blood at the scene of two explosions in front of Mustansiriya University on January 16 in Baghdad.

The nation reacted in horror as students counted their dead by the dozens, all innocent victims of an indiscriminate attack violating the sanctity of the university campus.

Today, it's Virginia Tech, the site of a horrific mass murder in which at least 33 students are confirmed dead in a shooting rampage by an as-yet unidentified gunman.

In Iraq, universities struggling to operate in the midst of a war zone have been struck repeatedly by bombings, shootings, assassinations, and abductions that have left behind hundreds of killed and wounded, victims and forced thousands of students and professors to stay away, or even leave the country.

On Monday, the same day as the Virginia Tech mass shooting, two separate shooting incidents struck Mosul University, one killing Dr. Talal Younis al-Jelili, the dean of the college of Political Science as he walked through the university gate, and another killing Dr. Jaafar Hassan Sadeq, a professor from the Faculty of Arts at the school, who was targeted in front of his home in the al-Kifaat area, according to Aswat al-Iraq.

In January, Baghdad's Mustansiriya University sufferred a double suicide bombing in January that killed at least 70 people, including students, faculty, and staff. A month later, another suicide bomber struck at Mustansiriya, killing 40.

Kidnappings of students and faculty are another all-too-common occurrence on Iraq's campuses. Members of the univerisity community have been abducted and murdered for sectarian reasons, or simply held for ransom. At a Baghdad University, one student reported to Slogger that he was abducted by sectarian thugs working in cooperation with the National Guard Forces who were supposed to be protecting the campus.

In January, students reported that violent events had threatened students that attendance rates at Baghdad University had dropped to six percent .

Earlier this month, the Dr. Qais Jawad al-Azzawi, head of the Geneva-based Committee International Committee of Solidarity with Iraqi Professors said that 232 university professors were killed and 56 were reported missing in Iraq, while more than 3,000 others had left the country after the 2003 invasion.

In January, the Ansar al-Sunna, a militant organization, distributed leaflets at threatening students and staff with violence if they did not refrain from attending university until Fall 2007, in what may have been a precursor to some of the violent attacks.

Students look at the scene of two explosions in front of Mustansiriya University on January 16.
Photo by Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty.
Students look at the scene of two explosions in front of Mustansiriya University on January 16.

Bodies of Iraqi students in the back of a police vehicle at Mustansiriya University, January 16.
Photo by Ali al-Saadi/AFP.
Bodies of Iraqi students in the back of a police vehicle at Mustansiriya University, January 16.

Iraqi university students carry a banner reading We condemn the barbaric terrorist attacks against Mustansiriyah University's students during a demonstration outside Baghdad's Technological University, 17 January 2007.
Photo by Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP.
Iraqi university students carry a banner reading "We condemn the barbaric terrorist attacks against Mustansiriyah University's students" during a demonstration outside Baghdad's Technological University, 17 January 2007.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tribute to Munim Al Samarraie

Gentlemen,

I was away for a few days and as I opened my e-mail box I saw plenty of correspondence about the martyr Munim Al-Samarrae, started first by our friend Karim Al-Shamma, who paid him a tribute, and right he did! I really want to thank Karim for raising this issue, as it has been long overdue. If any one needs to talk about Munim it should be me, as he was my dearest and best friend. Both of us graduated from Birmingham University, and he was one year my senior. Back in Iraq we started our separate ways in different administrations of the Ministry of Oil and within about three years we came together within the Administration for Distribution of Gas. From then on we remained together except for a short period when he left to work for SCOP while I was at Daura refinery. Since this vital refinery was suffering, at the time, from mismanagement and even maintenance neglect, Munim, being a brilliant engineer and a fine manager, was appointed, to my delight, as president of the refinery in 1970 (or maybe 1971), and then after, perhaps, a couple of years was promoted to DG of the Oil Refineries Administration.

In 1975 I left to the US for a Ph.D. in petroleum economics and soon afterwards Munim was promoted to the post of Under Secretary of the Ministry of Oil, a post which he very much deserved. After my graduation in 1980 I went back to Iraq and, upon Munim's recommendation, I joined the Ministry of Oil as Head of the Energy Studies Department in the so-called, at that time, the General Administration for Public Relations, a department almost solely concerned with OPEC and the oil market. Of course, at that time, every Iraqi joining any government office had to fill a questionnaire of detailed personal information about the family, relatives, anyone in prison, anyone executed, etc, etc. I had to give false information in that questionnaire, as my nephew (from my brother's side), a medical doctor, was executed, and another nephew ( from my sister's side), in final year College of Dentistry, was also executed, in addition to some other relatives of mine and my wife's who were in detention or prison, and Munim knew that.

From the moment we saw each other, after my return from the US in the Summer of 1980, Munim and I confided to each other our hatred and utter objection to Saddam's bloody and harshly oppressive regime, and as the war with Iran broke out a few weeks later, Munim was even madder than I was because of his daily knowledge and often on-the-spot contact with the vast destruction of the oil infrastructure. Together we knew that this senseless and utterly futile war would be the beginning of the demise of Iraq, especially if continued for a long time. As time passed and the war became even uglier, despair and depression started gradually creeping to both of us. At one time I saw a bare spot on the back of Munim's head and when I asked what was it he said his hair started falling and he pulled some of it off his head just to show me how easily it could come off. We were a group of friends, and we used to have parties on Thursday nights and in public holidays, and we used to go out and meet other friends. Almost everywhere we went, Munim was outspoken in talking about the war destruction that befell Iraq and the oil industry and was condemning those who were the cause of that tragedy and attacking the repression and dictatorship we (Iraqis) were living under. Although I was doing the same, he was less careful than I was despite my asking him, frequently, to cool down - he simply trusted everybody!

On one day at work, while I was holding a meeting with some employees in my room, the Ministry's security officer came and handed each of us a pr-printed sheet with some blanks left out for employees to fill and then sign. The sheet contained a call to volunteer for the sacrifice of one's self in Saddam's Qadisiyah. I was feeling sceptical but to my astonishment I saw the others quickly signing it and giving it back to the officer. It was Thursday, and I told the officer I will fill it out and bring it back on Saturday. On that evening I saw Munim and showed him the sheet and told him I was not going to sign it. The act of signing this audacious sheet was just adding insult to my injury! He said it would be a mistake not to sign it, because that would uncover you and you will be giving yourself away to them. Sign it, he added (with a tone smacking of an order). I did and gave it back to the officer, but I decided at instant I gave it to that hateful officer to leave Iraq at any cost, a thought which never crossed my mind before!

A few months later, my daughter's health started deteriorating for no apparent reason, and after several medical check ups and laboratory tests it was found that she had childhood diabetes. This meant that her body stopped making insulin, and she had to take daily insulin shots for the rest of her life - she was only twelve. I told my wife maybe that was an added reason why we should leave Iraq, since a war-ravaged country - where electricity supply was intermittent and medical supplies were not guaranteed - would not be hospitable for sick adults, let alone sick children. She took the children on the Summer of 1982 and left for England, waiting for me there. It was October 1982 when I had a chance to go to Vienna, with a colleague of mine, representing Iraq in one of OPEC's conferences. On the night of my leaving the country, just a few hours before my flight, Munim came to my house, accompanied by his wife (Pauline). He was my neighbour. He looked concerned. He said Muhmmad-Ali you are not coming back, are you! I remained silent. He said, listen to me, my feeling about the regime is the same as yours and both of us are subject to the same suffering, and I wish I do the same, but really you should make it legal; I will send you to OAPEC; better still I will send you to OPEC, for a high-ranking job, but please come back. I said to him, a better solution would be for you to leave, you ought to take your wife and children and leave; your employment chances abroad are much better than mine. He said to me the situation is this: I am a hostage, my family is a hostage, I will do a lot of harm to many people if I leave Iraq, I just cannot do that. So, will you come back!! I said yes. I lied, and he knew I lied - he could read my eyes.

Yes they executed Munim, for a ready-made but sham accusation, bribery! What a tasteless joke! Munim lived a poor man and died a poor man. He was most patriotic, most honest, and most incorruptible. He was a true democrat and a strong believer in human rights. His only sin was that he was against the regime, and that was a medal of honour for him and for all Iraqis who were martyred for the same reasons. I strongly support the idea that sometime down the road, when life inside Iraq goes back to normal, the Ministry of Oil should make an oil and gas museum. In this museum a big room should be dedicated for all those oil and gas Iraqis who got martyred for one reason or another, from the beginning of the Iraqi oil industry till this day; and the late Munim Al-Samarrae should have a statue in that room.

In march 2003 I was invited by the Iraqi Reconstruction and Development Council to join the Iraqi expatriates to go to Iraq and help in the reconstruction process of the battered Iraqi oil industry. One of the first things I did was to visit Munim's house. I saw that it was unlawfully occupied by a family, and they were preparing to leave the house. After a couple of months from my arrival I felt truly disappointed as a result of my dissatisfaction with the American team on the one hand and the grave mistakes the Americans have committed, which led, among other things, to a rapid deterioration of the security situation inside Iraq and their failure to restore basic services to the Iraqi people on the other hand. In the Summer of that year I attended a workshop in the Oil Cultural Centre (used to be called "The Oil Club" in my days) for the preparation of a "Restoration Plan" for the Iraqi oil industry, much of which was damaged, looted and sabotaged. Incidentally this plan, which promised the restoration of the pre-invasion oil production capacity of 2.8 million barrels per day by April 2004, was never completed, and Iraq's oil production till this day hovers around 2 million b/d. I wondered for a short while around the rubbles of the centre, which was looted and damaged. I entered the area of the swimming pool. The area was desolate and the pool was filled with rocks, rubbish and dry sludge. For a moment I went over twenty years back in time and remembered the clean and inviting pool filled with fresh water and surrounded by freshly-trimmed green grass and beautiful shrubs. I imagined Munim and myself swimming in the pool, along with other friends, as we used to do during summer days. I felt very depressed and started crying loudly like a child. An Iraqi translator overheard me and rushed towards me: what is wrong Dr. Zainy, are you OK? I wiped my tears and felt I needed to tell someone my story, and he started crying too.

I could not bear the dreadful situation in Iraq any longer. I submitted my resignation and left to London after the passage of four months in Baghdad. But before leaving I felt I had to go and visit Munim's house for a second time. No one was there and the iron gate was chained. I didn't think that any of Munim's family would have the stomach to come and live in this house. It was a windy and dusty day and I was feeling very depressed. I remembered our jolly days together during the late sixties and early seventies (of last century). I, somehow, felt envious of Munim because he was dead and resting in peace , and I wished I was dead too, and not alive in the gloominess of these days and seeing the degeneration of Iraq to this dreadful level. I started rolling the balls of my eyes to hold back my tears and quickly left.

I am a strong believer in God and in God's system of reward and punishment. I believe that one day, after my death, I will see Munim in Heaven, for he was a good man - a truly good man!!!

May God bless Munim's soul and bless you all,
Muhammad-Ali Zainy

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Iraq reacts sharply to Turkish incursion threat

Iraq reacts sharply to Turkish incursion threat (Thanks Semite)
Speakers of Parliament, kurdish assembly lash out at proposal for raid on 'rebels' in north

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The speakers of both the Iraqi Parliament and Iraq's Kurdistan assembly described a call by Turkey's top general for a cross-border military operation as a "dangerous escalation," warning Ankara against interfering in the country's affairs. The warning came as the European Commission urged Turkey and Iraq to settle differences peacefully.

On Thursday, General Yasar Buyukanit, head of Turkey's military General Staff, said a military operation in northern Iraq would aim to crush Turkish and Kurdish rebels hiding in the area. He said he had not asked Parliament to authorize any such operation.

"The threats by [Buyukanit] are a dangerous escalation that we take very seriously," Adnan al-Mufti, speaker of Iraq's Kurdistan Parliament, told a news conference in Irbil.

"We hope that reason will prevail in taking decisions, because any military intervention will complicate matters more and will shape a threat to the Iraqi people."

The escalation came after Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani said in a television interview last week that Iraqi Kurds would interfere in Turkey's mainly Kurdish cities if Ankara interfered in northern Iraq.

In Baghdad, the fiery speaker of Iraq's Parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, on Friday joined the increasingly heated war of words, warning Ankara that "the hand that will be extended to interfere in our internal affairs will be cut, if not today then tomorrow."

"If neighboring, friendly and brotherly countries have good intentions they should help us," he said, defending Barzani as a "moderate and logical" leader.

Mashhadani said "we support the leader of the Kurdistan region ... and we reject interference in our internal Iraqi affairs from any side. We condemn this interference and we will repulse it."

Turkey has repeatedly urged the Baghdad government and US forces in Iraq to crack down on an estimated 4,000 rebels from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Friday, April 13, 2007

Economic Hit Men

John Perkins talks about corporatocracy at the Veterans For Peace National Convention in Seattle in August 2006. (Thanks Bushra)

Turkey to Attack Iraqi Kurds?

I wonder what the US would do if Turkey invades Iraqi Kurdistan.

Turkish Army Seeks OK for Iraq Raids (thanks Semite)
BY SELCAN HACAOGLU
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey's military asked the government Thursday to approve attacks on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, signaling growing frustration over a lack of action against the guerrillas by Iraqi and U.S. forces.

Such action could put an overstretched U.S. military in the middle of a fight between two crucial partners, the Turks and the Iraqi Kurds, and Washington urged Turkish restraint. A recent surge in Kurdish attacks in southeastern Turkey has increased the pressure on Turkey's military to act.

"An operation into Iraq is necessary," Gen. Yasar Buyukanit told reporters.

Buyukanit said the military already has launched operations against separatists in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeastern region bordering Iraq.

"Our aim is to prevent them from taking positions in the region with the coming of spring," he said, adding the rebels generally intensify attacks as melting snow opens the mountain passes.

Recent clashes have killed 10 soldiers and 29 guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, Buyukanit said.

His call steps up pressure on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to take a harder line against Kurdish guerrillas and their leaders in northern Iraq. There is strong public support for such a move, but the possibility of high casualties could make the government nervous ahead of elections that must be held by November.

If Erdogan's government does ask parliament to approve an incursion, a key consequence would be strained ties with Washington - which fears an offensive would provoke a fierce reaction from Kurdish groups in Iraq that are key allies of U.S. forces.

The United States also sees Turkey as a crucial ally, strategically straddling Europe and the Middle East. But some Turks question just how strong their ties should be with Washington if it refuses to side with them against the rebels.

Even if the Bush administration decided to act strongly against the Kurdish rebels in the mountains near the frontier, U.S. forces are already stretched thin by the battle against insurgents in central Iraq.

Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried spoke with Turkish Ambassador Nabi Sensoy and urged Turkey to show restraint in responding to attacks, a senior State Department official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack earlier acknowledged the legitimacy of Turkey's concerns about the Kurdish militants, but said the Turkish and Iraqi governments should to resolve the problem together.

"Turkey faces a real threat from the PKK," he said. "It's a terrorist organization. It has killed innocent Turkish citizens. It has killed Turkish military. And it's a problem that needs to be dealt with."

Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq, said recently that Iraqi Kurds would retaliate for any Turkish interference in northern Iraq by stirring up trouble in Turkey's southeast.

Turkey demanded Monday in a note to the Iraqi ambassador that Iraq take immediate action against the guerrillas. Turkey has previously asserted its right to stage a cross-border offensive if Iraqi officials fail to clamp down on the guerrillas.

Turkey staged several incursions into Iraq in the early 1990s with forces as large as 50,000 troops. But each time the rebels made a comeback after most of the Turkish soldiers withdrew, leaving behind only about 2,000 soldiers to monitor rebel activities.

Buyukanit predicted victory in the fight against the rebels if the military is authorized to move into Iraq.

"If the authority is given to us, we'll do this kind of operation and we'll be successful," he said.

The military says up to 3,800 rebels are based just across the border in Iraq and that up to 2,300 operate inside Turkey.

"The PKK has huge freedom of movement in Iraq," Buyukanit said. "It has spread its roots in Iraq."

Human rights groups have accused Turkey's government of using brutal tactics in fighting the rebels, who were at their peak of power in the 1990s. A decade ago, fighting desolated huge swaths of the southeast, leaving villages burned or abandoned.

The conflict has left more than 37,000 people dead since 1984. Turkey has vowed to continue fighting until all rebels are killed or surrender.

United By Bombing

Iraqi leaders say bombing will unite them

By Mussab Al-Khairalla and Yara Bayoumy

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Leaders from across Iraq's sectarian divide pleaded for unity at a special session of parliament on Friday, gathering under high security to condemn a suicide bombing that tore through the building the day before.

A senior government source said authorities had intelligence that militants were planning an attack on parliament before Thursday's bombing, which killed a member of parliament and wounded two dozen other people in the building's restaurant.

An al Qaeda-backed group, the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq, claimed responsibility in a Web statement for the worst breach of security in Baghdad's most secure area -- the Green Zone that also houses government offices and embassies.

Three workers in the cafe had been detained, a top lawmaker from the ruling Shi'ite Alliance bloc said. The Interior Ministry said it would not give details of the investigation.

"We had prior intelligence that there would be an attack on the parliament," the government source told Reuters, without giving specific details of when the information had been received or what the nature of the threat was.

Security was heavy on Friday as parliament met. Vehicles and their drivers were thoroughly searched and mobile checkpoints set up. Police raided houses inside the sprawling compound.

The bombing came two months into a crackdown in Baghdad that U.S. officials hope will give the government breathing space to pull Iraq back from the brink of civil war between majority Shi'ites and once dominant minority Sunni Arabs.