Friday, December 19, 2008
I hope he is released immediately, as this would show the world that Iraqis really are free, even free to embarrass their Prime Minister. Embarrassing President Saddam Hussein like that would have had deadly consequences for an Iraqi journalist with that kind of fortitude. Moreover, I believe that Iraqis have a right to be angry with President Bush, who could have fired Rumsfeld sooner, could have sent more troops sooner, could have done something about Blackwater sooner, could have planned the invasion, security, and reconstruction better.
Zaidi was merely expressing his deep dissatisfaction with Mr. Bush, and although he did it in a way that embarrassed many Iraqis, the act of throwing your shoes at another person, or beating that person with your shoe because you are very angry with him, is endemic in Iraqi society. It is somewhat embarrassing to admit this, but when my siblings and I were being bad kids, not obeying my parent's orders, they would often threaten us by asking "enza3 in3ali?" (shall I take of my slipper?), or even worse: "enza3 qundarti?" (shall I take off my shoe?). They rarely carried out this threat, but I do remember a few times when a slipper or shoe would be launched in our direction when my parents were extremely annoyed. I think that talking, or even yelling at a person, is a better way to show dissatisfaction with that person.
Sunnis embrace Shi'ite who threw shoes at Bush
December 20, 2008 - 11:10AM
The Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President George W Bush intends to press charges against the people he says beat him up as he was taken into custody, says a member of the Iraqi parliament urging his release.
Bahaa al-Araji, a member of parliament from a party tied to Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said journalist Muntathar al-Zaidi on Friday presented his case that he was beaten to an Iraqi judge.
Zaidi's outburst at a news conference that Bush held with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Sunday has sparked rallies all around the country, and now Sunni leaders are lionising the Shi'ite journalist.
Facing charges of attacking a head of state, Zaidi could be sentenced to as many as 15 years in jail. Zaidi's family wants him tried under a different law that would carry a maximum sentence of two years, his brother said.
Araji joined more than 70 protesters outside Baghdad's International Zone, a secure area that includes the parliament and Maliki's residence. Araji said Zaidi should appear in court no later than Thursday.
"We know that the judges themselves feel for him and, God willing, he will be with his family soon," Araji said. "Tomorrow we will submit a formal request that Zaidi should be allowed visits by his family."
Thursday, December 18, 2008
It is action packed and dramatized to suit Hollywood, but it is a good miniseries that shows how Saddam killed many of his closest friends and relatives, suspecting them of being traitors. Saddam wondered if Adnan Tulfah, son of Khairallah Tulfah and brother of Sajida, would turn traitor, so he had him killed in a helicopter crash. Adnan Tulfah is portrayed as a good guy in the movie - I don't know if there's any truth to that. Even Saddam is depicted as having a soft side, much like Tony Soprano was.
I learned a few things from the movie. I did not know that tanks were into Dujail and nearly destroyed the city in 1982 to punish them for the assassination attempt. I thought the abductions and murders happened in secret. I did not know that Saddam decided to cooperate with weapons inspectors so that Hussein Kamil, who had defected to Jordan with his brother and their wives (Saddam's daughters), would have nothing to negotiate with when seeking an alliance with the Americans. I did not know that Ali Hassan al Majeed oversaw the killing of his own nephews to preserve the honor of the Majid tribe.
In the end it was Qusay and Uday's own cousin who told the US military that they were hiding in his home in Mosul. Most Iraqis hated Saddam and his sons. Even their relatives hated them. I guess that makes them (and most Iraqis) traitors in the eyes of those who loved Saddam.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Witness to Genocide
Volume 62 Number 1, January/February 2009
by Heather Pringle
"In May 1988, a prison guard checked Taymour Abdullah Ahmad's name off a list and directed him to a bus idling in the Popular Army camp in Topzawa, southwest of Kirkuk. The camp was one of Iraq's grimmest prisons. During his month-long internment there, the 12-year-old Kurdish boy watched guards beating male prisoners senseless with lengths of coaxial cable. He had seen four children weaken and then die of starvation. He stood helplessly as a guard stripped his father to his undershorts and led him off to his death. So Taymour was not sorry to see the last of Topzawa. He did not know that the paper in the guard's hand was an execution list.
The buses idling in the prison courtyard looked like ambulances. But this, Taymour soon discovered, was a cruel illusion; inside, they were squalid mobile prisons. The boy, his mother, and two younger sisters were forced into a dark air compartment that reeked of urine and feces. There was no toilet, no food, no water, no way out. The only ventilation came from a small, mesh-covered opening. By the time the bus pulled out, 60 or so frightened passengers--mainly Kurdish women and their young children--were crushed together in the stifling heat.
After more than 12 hours of travel, the bus bumped to a halt in the desert near the Saudi Arabian border. Taymour stepped into the cool night air and noticed at once that their bus, along with the 30 others in the convoy, had parked next to a large, shallow pit. Before he could take this in, however, a soldier pushed Taymour and his mother and sisters over the edge. Gunmen began firing. "When the first bullet hit me," Taymour later recalled, "I ran to a soldier and grabbed his hand." He had seen tears in the man's eyes, and instinctively reached toward him, hoping he would pull him out. But an officer watching nearby issued a command in Arabic, and the soldier shot Taymour. This time the boy fell to the ground, wounded in the left shoulder and lower back. He played dead until the gunmen moved away, then crawled out of the open grave and set off into the darkness. Several hours later, he reached a camp of Bedouins who took pity on him, hiding him in their tents.
Taymour told this story in 1992 to Human Rights Watch, which was investigating the treatment of Kurds in Iraq. Ethnically and linguistically distinct from the country's Arab majority, the Kurds have long sought independence from Iraqi rule. Moreover, a small number of Kurds follow an ancient religion known as Ezidi. To advance the separatist cause, some Kurds sided with Iran during the Iran-Iraq War, from 1980 to 1988. Their defiance infuriated Saddam Hussein, who feared losing control over the rich oil fields of northern Iraq's Kurdish region. So in 1988, Hussein's government publicly announced a campaign to crush Kurdish resistance. They dubbed it Anfal--The Spoils of War--the title of the eighth chapter of the Koran, which records revelations received by Muhammad after his first victorious battle over non-believers. By characterizing the Kurds as infidels, Iraqi officials hoped to rouse support in the Muslim world for their genocidal campaign.
Anfal proceeded with terrifying precision. Iraqi aircraft first dropped conventional bombs and chemical weapons on unsuspecting Kurdish villages; ground attacks followed, driving the survivors to collection points situated near main roads. Paramilitary and military forces waited in secret to gather up the terrified families and bus them to army camps and temporary holding centers. Seven months later, in September 1988, the Iraqi government announced the end of Anfal and declared a general amnesty for anyone who had sided with Iran during the war. By then, however, some 100,000 Kurds had vanished without a trace and around 2,600 Kurdish villages lay in ruins."
Friday, December 12, 2008
In 2003, before the invasion, Iraqis knew that the Ba3thi elite (Saddamists) would fight hard and if overthrown would want revenge, and they would kill Iraqis en mass, as they were quite used to it, in order to regain power. But I did not realize that non-Iraqi Arabs would join them, and volunteer as suicide bombers, often targeting markets, cafes, buses, universities, weddings, funerals, and restaurants. I have no problem calling those murderers "jarab" because that is what they are. More than 1,100 suicide bombers, even if they are not 3arab, are definitely jarab. They murder for their sect, their cult, although they have murdered many Sunni Iraqis. They are against reconciliation between Iraq's Shia Arab, Sunni Arab, and Kurds. Today they struck a packed restaurant where Iraqis had gathered to talk peace between Arabs and Kurds. And when I describe them as "jarab" some Arabs get angry with me.
People who say that there were no suicide bombings in Iraq before 2003 say the truth, but most people who say this do not ask why there were no suicide bombings in Iraq before 2003, and why it took months after the invasion for the number of suicide bombings to rise. After their overthrow, the Ba3thi leadership allied themselves with "mujahideen" like Abu Musab al Zarqawi and together they have been engaged in the most horrific crimes in human history, causing sorrow and suffering among millions of Iraqis.
Friday, December 05, 2008
Meanwhile in Iraq, "International media watchdog groups called Wednesday for the release of a freelance journalist jailed in northern Iraq for violating a public decency law by writing a story about homosexuality."
From the same article there is good news: "the number of attacks in Iraq has dropped to the lowest level since 2003 despite a recent spate of high-profile bombings, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq said Wednesday." (Thanks David All)
Monday, December 01, 2008
According to Peter Galbraith, then an idealistic Senate staffer determined to stop Hussein from committing genocide, the Reagan administration "got carried away with their own propaganda. They began to believe that Saddam Hussein could be a reliable partner." '
U.S. TROOP LEVELS:
_October 2007: 170,000 at peak of troop buildup.
_November 2008: 146,000.
_Confirmed U.S. military deaths as of Dec. 1, 2008: At least 4,207.
_Confirmed U.S. military wounded (hostile) as of Nov. 28, 2008: 30,840.
_Confirmed U.S. military wounded (non-hostile, using medical air transport) as of Nov. 1, 2008: 34,618.
_U.S. military deaths for November 2008: 17
_Deaths of civilian employees of U.S. government contractors as of July 1, 2008: 1,229.
_Iraqi deaths in November from war-related violence: 360, the lowest number of civilian casualties reported in one month since the AP began tracking them in May 2005.
_Assassinated Iraqi academics as of Nov. 27, 2008: 408.
_Journalists killed on assignment as of Dec. 1, 2008: 135.
_Nearly $576 billion so far, according to the National Priorities Project.
_Prewar: 2.58 million barrels per day.
_Nov. 16, 2008: 2.40 million barrels per day.
_Prewar nationwide: 3,958 megawatts. Hours per day (estimated): 4-8.
_Nov. 18, 2008 nationwide: 4,880 megawatts. Hours per day: 14.8.
_Prewar Baghdad: 2,500 megawatts. Hours per day (estimated): 16-24.
_Nov. 18, 2008 Baghdad: Megawatts not available. Hours per day: 17.0.
Note: Current Baghdad megawatt figures are no longer reported by the U.S. State Department's Iraq Weekly Status Report.
_Prewar land lines: 833,000.
_Oct. 2, 2008: 1,300,000.
_Prewar cell phones: 80,000.
_Oct. 2, 2008: 13.4 million.
_Prewar: 12.9 million people had potable water.
_Oct. 2, 2008: 20.9 million people have potable water.
_Prewar: 6.2 million people served.
_Oct. 2, 2008: 11.3 million people served.
_Nov. 27, 2008: At least 2.4 million people are currently displaced inside Iraq. However, more than 140,000 Iraqis returned to their homes between June and October of this year, most of them internally displaced people, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
_Prewar: 500,000 Iraqis living abroad.
_Nov. 27, 2008: Close to 2 million mainly in Syria and Jordan.
All figures are the most recent available.
Sources: The Associated Press, State Department, Defense Department, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, The Brookings Institution, Refugees International, International Organization for Migration, Committee to Protect Journalists, National Priorities Project, The Brussels Tribunal, Department of Labor.
AP researchers Julie Reed and Rhonda Shafner in New York compiled this report.
Perhaps he should have. It turns out that my team was right to think that many disgruntled Sunnis could be peeled away from Zarqawi. A year later, Gen. David Petraeus helped boost the so-called Anbar Awakening, in which tens of thousands of Sunnis turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and signed up with U.S. forces, cutting violence in the country dramatically.
Our new interrogation methods led to one of the war's biggest breakthroughs: We convinced one of Zarqawi's associates to give up the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader's location. On June 8, 2006, U.S. warplanes dropped two 500-pound bombs on a house where Zarqawi was meeting with other insurgent leaders."
Friday, November 28, 2008
"As the death toll from two days of violence rose to 160, details of some of those killed were emerging including Indian police and military, a rabbi, an American father and teen daughter, and a British yacht magnate.
The bodies of five hostages were found at the Chabad House Jewish center where commandos stormed the building through a hole blasted in the wall.
After several hours of gunfire and explosions from inside all went quiet and CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson said it appeared the operation was over.
The death toll from attacks in nine locations was 160 -- including three Germans, an Italian, an Australian and one Chinese among the at least 15 foreigners killed -- with a further 327 injured."
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
'Chalabi definitely wants American troops to stay in Iraq -- even though he had a lot of horror stories about the way the U.S. military is operating "with total immunity and impunity."
"American soldiers," he said, "are breaking into people's homes and are arresting and detaining Iraqi citizens without charges. Even if they run over an Iraqi and kill him they will not be charged with a crime, because they are above Iraqi law."
"Isn't that proof," I kept asking, "that the presence of the military is fueling the insurgency, and that your job would be easier if the Americans left?"
"No," he kept insisting, "we need the Americans to protect us from our neighbors. From Syria, from Saudi Arabia, from Iran."
That's obviously one of the main objectives of his current trip. He's convinced that the administration, for political reasons, is looking for a way out of Iraq. And he wants to make sure that doesn't happen.
But his other objective, which he told me he was planning to discuss with both Rumsfeld and Cheney, is to change the way U.S. troops are operating in Iraq. "America," he said, "has a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which governs how U.S. forces operate inside a sovereign nation, with over 100 countries. But the Bush administration refuses to have one with Iraq -- and, as a result, the U.S. Army is operating outside the law. Rumsfeld feels that a SOFA will tie the hands of the U.S. military and not allow it to fight the insurgency. Of course, the lack of such an agreement has the opposite effect since it causes great resentment towards the U.S. among the Iraqi people." '
IRAQ: Iraqi lawmaker wins in fight over Israel visit
'Iraqi lawmakers, who have become enraged with fellow parliament member Mithal Alusi for his visits to Israel, now have another reason to be angry with the fiery politician. Alusi hired Iraq's leading constitutional lawyer to fight the legislature's attempt to punish him for visiting the Jewish state, and today, he won.
That means Alusi, a secular Sunni Muslim who frequently criticizes Iraq's Shiite-led government, no longer faces prosecution for traveling outside Iraq or for having visited Israel, most recently in September when he attended a terrorism symposium at an academic institute. Upon his return from Israel -- his third trip there since 2004 -- Iraq's parliament erupted in angry debate over what to do about Alusi, who has accused many leading Iraqi politicians of being stooges of Iran.
The session ended with a vote to strip him of his parliamentary immunity and to pursue criminal charges. Alusi immediately threatened to fight the decision in court. His lawyer, Iraqi constitutional expert Tariq Harb, took up the case two days later. Reached by phone today, Harb said the trial lasted two months before the supreme federal Court and that he based his case on a provision of Iraq's Constitution, Article 44. It guarantees Iraqis freedom to travel where they want.
"Removing the immunity is violating the constitution and the Iraqi law," said Harb. This morning, the court found in favor of Alusi, who was reported to be traveling and unavailable for comment.
"I am happy for two reasons here," his lawyer said. "One is because I won the case. And the second is that this proves the Iraqi judiciary is independent, and there is no influence of the executive, legislative or government authorities on it. We have a courageous and daring judiciary," he said.'
-- Saif Rasheed and Tina Susman in Baghdad
Monday, November 17, 2008
The proposed pact must still be approved by Iraq’s Parliament, in a vote scheduled to take place in a week. But leaders of some of the largest parliamentary blocs expressed confidence that with the backing of most Shiites and Kurds they had enough support to ensure its approval.
Twenty-seven of the 28 cabinet ministers who were present at the two-and-a-half-hour session voted in favor of the pact. Nine ministers were absent. The nearly unanimous vote was a victory for the dominant Shiite party and its Kurdish partners. Widespread Sunni opposition could doom the proposed pact even if it has the votes to pass, as it would call into question whether there was a true national consensus, which Shiite leaders consider essential."
Saturday, November 15, 2008
'Against all the odds "A", a 59-year-old medical doctor in Baghdad, bribed a prison officer and fled the country. She told her story to Amnesty International just three weeks ago. Her crime? She was arrested in June 1999 on suspicion that she had contacts with an Iraqi opposition group. She denies the accusation.
"Those suspected of any involvement in opposition activities can expect to be arrested without a warrant; held in secret detention, without access to family and lawyers; be brutally tortured -- including in one case known to Amnesty International, having their eyes gouged out --and finally, could face execution," the human rights organization revealed in a new report today.
In its report, Amnesty International is shining a spotlight on these grave human rights violations in Iraq, that are taking place systematically and with total impunity. These violations range from arbitrary arrest and detention, to torture, extrajudicial and judicial executions after unfair trials, "disappearances" and forcible expulsions on the basis of ethnic origin.
The majority of the victims of Iraq's relentless repression are Shi'a Muslims in Southern Iraq and in some districts of Baghdad, as well as Kurds in the north. Summary executions are being carried out on a regular basis. The Iraqi Government rarely announces executions or makes public any official statistics in relation to the death penalty. In many cases it is impossible to determine whether the reported executions are judicial or extrajudicial given the secrecy surrounding them.
On 11 July 1999 Ibrahim Amin al-'Azzawi, a 70-year-old lawyer, was executed. His family, who have now fled the country, believed it was because his son-in-law, Riyadh Baqer al-Hilli, a Shi'a Muslim, was suspected of involvement in underground anti-government activities. No information on any charge, trial or sentencing was ever available. No information is available to Amnesty International either as to the fate of Riyadh, who was also arrested and taken away.'
Monday, November 10, 2008
We already know how gays are treated in the lands of Wahhabism and Khomeinism. Guys like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Usama bin Ladin undoubtedly agree with the Californians who voted for the ban. The Islamic clerics who condemn Iranian gay men to death by hanging are probably proud of the Mormons who funded the campaign against gay marriage. This issue will eventually be decided by California's Supreme Court, and I hope the court decides to overturn the ban once again.
On Saturday I saw protesters carrying some great signs. "I Didn't Vote On Your Marriage" and "OMG CA WTF??" were two poignant messages. I agree.
Friday, November 07, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Some Kurds pined for Sarah Palin, McCain’s running mate, famous for her pointy glasses and snug red dresses. “Obama’s victory froze my heart. I liked Sarah Palin, her leadership, with its mix of innocence and courage. She was beautiful and sweet,” said Shadman Rafiq, who works in a computer repair shop in Sulaymaniya.
Rafiq believed that McCain and Palin would protect the country’s Shiites and Kurds, but he feared Obama would abandon them.
In the ethnic powder keg of Kirkuk, people rallied to Obama because he has promised an end to the American intervention in Iraq. Mohammed, a 54-year-old Turkmen, said: “Obama's victory means the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, and he will implement his promises to the American and Iraqi people."
Some looked to Obama’s rise as a lesson for their own nations about overcoming discrimination and bigotry. “This is a historic event. As far as I know, there is a silent sectarian war between blacks and whites, like the one in Iraq between the Shiites and the Sunnis, but I think Obama’s winning proves that there is no difference between the white people and the black,” said Ammar Makiya, a 24-year-old barber, who worked in Baghdad's Bab Sharji market.'
Monday, November 03, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
October 14, 2008 02:49 PM
McCain Transition Chief Aided Saddam in Lobbying Effort
William Timmons, the Washington lobbyist who John McCain has named to head his presidential transition team, aided an influence effort on behalf of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to ease international sanctions against his regime.
The two lobbyists who Timmons worked closely with over a five year period on the lobbying campaign later either pleaded guilty to or were convicted of federal criminal charges that they had acted as unregistered agents of Saddam Hussein's government.
During the same period beginning in 1992, Timmons worked closely with the two lobbyists, Samir Vincent and Tongsun Park, on a previously unreported prospective deal with the Iraqis in which they hoped to be awarded a contract to purchase and resell Iraqi oil. Timmons, Vincent, and Park stood to share at least $45 million if the business deal went through.
Timmons' activities occurred in the years following the first Gulf War, when Washington considered Iraq to be a rogue enemy state and a sponsor of terrorism. His dealings on behalf of the deceased Iraqi leader stand in stark contrast to the views his current employer held at the time.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Iraq makes historic return to oil sales as PM calls for British troops to leave
Iraq has moved to put itself at the centre of the global oil industry as it launches its first sale of production rights to Western companies at a summit in London.
By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 6:40PM BST 13 Oct 2008
The recent drop in violence across Iraq has increased the prospects of Baghdad doubling its oil output by 2012 by allowing foreign investors to bring the most advanced production techniques to the war-torn country.
Iraq was at the forefront of world-wide oil production until the Ba'athist regime nationalised the industry in the 1970s. Although Saddam Hussein made deals with French, Russian and Chinese oil companies in the 1990s, United Nations sanctions barred the country's re-emergence as a leading source of energy supplies.
Representatives of 35 companies have been given six months to apply for a 20-year right to operate oilfields that hold up to 40 per cent of the country's 115 barrels of proven reserves. Hussain al-Shahristani, Iraq's Minister for Oil, convened the meeting at a Park Lane hotel in central London. Aides said the location was deliberately chosen to demonstrate that Iraq had shed its old pre-occupations about foreign powers dominating the industry, which generates ninety per cent of its annual income.
A British firm is acting as Baghdad's strategic advisor as it overhauls its most important asset. The firm, Gaffney, Cline and Associates, was responsible for a presentation given by Mr Shahristani to the executives. The major British oil firms BP and Shell are seen as leading contenders to gain access to the six major oil fields and two gas fields on offer.
Baghdad hopes to sign the final agreements by next June, months before the country's ruling coalition of Shia and Kurdish parties face the second democratic general election since the 2003 campaign to depose Saddam. But the exercise has kicked-off without a final agreement on a national oil law, a key measure that Baghdad has been under immense pressure to enact.
Enthusiastic bidding despite a recent drop in oil prices would translate into a political windfall for the government. "International interest will be extremely high," said Muhammad-Ali Zainy, senior analyst at the Center for Global Energy Studies in London. "The Iraqi oil industry has been stagnant – and has actually been deteriorating – and it's time to open it to foreign direct investment."
Shell became the first big British oil company to open an office in Baghdad last month. In a signal it had Baghdad's seal of approval, the company was granted a £2 billion deal to modernise an existing gas field.
Critics of the war suggested yesterday's conference represented the breakthrough America and Britain had sought at the outset of the war, a claim that ignored China's equally strong position in the pursuit of Iraqi resources. China has already secured a £1.78 billion deal to renew an agreement it signed with Saddam under sanctions.
Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, declared the country was keen to deepen its economic co-operation with British companies despite his call for UK troops to withdraw from the Iraqi frontline by the end of the year. "Definitely, the presence of this number of British soldiers is no longer necessary," he said. "We thank them for the role they have played, but I think that their stay is not necessary for maintaining security and control."
Mr Maliki said differences over British forces failure to control violence in Basra would not affect overall ties between Baghdad and London. "Our relationship now is good and we are working to improve it further in other fields as we take over responsibility for security," he said. "The Iraqi arena is open for British companies and British friendship, for economic exchange and positive cooperation in science and education."
Iraq's Sunnis Fear Life Without U.S. Oversight
U.S. Turns Over 'Son's of Iraq' Program to Iraq, Sparking Sunni Fears of Reprisals
By JOHN HENDREN
JAMBARIYAH, Iraq, Oct. 1, 2008
As the Iraqi government takes over responsibility for paying the salaries of the so-called Sons of Iraq, many of these mostly Sunni fighters fear the nation's Shiite-led government will leave them jobless -- or worse -- Shiite militias within the Iraqi police and army will target them for assassination.
The Iraqi government began taking over responsibility for these informal security forces today, with the first paychecks coming from the Iraqi government next month. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told ABC News Iraq plans to give 20 percent of the nation's 100,000 Sons of Iraq jobs to the police force and army.
"I don't think that the Iraqi government neither the Multi National Forces could achieve such success and security without their participation," al-Dabbagh told ABC News.
But here in the small village of Jambariyah, an al Qaeda stronghold north of Baghdad until early this year, just one of 70 Sons of Iraq has been hired to date, and of the 1,200 in the city of Dujail, none.
If his men go without jobs, al Qaeda and violence will return, said Saad Hatem Farhan, mayor -- or mukhtar -- of Jambariyah. "Most of us will be killed. The rest, they'll force them to be insurgents again."
Now, despite their success, Iraq's Shiite-controlled government plans to disband the Sons of Iraq here and throughout the country. That has the Sons of Iraq, according to Farhan, "very, very worried" that government neglect or malice toward these groups will unravel a fragile peace in village after village across Iraq.
The program has been widely deemed a success, hailed by American military leaders as a key to the success of the American troop surge in quelling violence in this fragile, war-torn nation. As he departed last week as the top commander on the ground in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus was asked if hiring 20 percent into the security forces was enough.
"That depends on what happens to the other 80 percent," he said.
The government says it has a plan. After hiring 20,000 Sons of Iraq in the army and police, the government says it will vet the remaining 80,000 for criminal ties and hire those who are qualified in other civil service jobs, at least until they find other work. But in a country where jobs are scarce and sectarian suspicions linger, leaders of these groups put little trust in the government.
"We distrust the Iraqi government to fulfill its promises," Farhan said, "especially in the Sunni areas."
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Saddam's defense attorneys assert that the execution of Saddam was an act of vengeance, not justice. Most Iraqi Shia would disagree. I will never forget the day Saddam was executed. On that day I received a phone call from a Palestinian American friend, who said "bad move Shia". The Sunni Arab reaction to the trial and execution of Saddam is symbolic of the deep sectarian divisions in the Arab world. Instead of heeling wounds, the trial and execution seemed to only intensify the sectarian conflict.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Saturday, October 04, 2008
"In 1968, Iraq had a weak president who was beholden to Nasser, a follower of Nasser. But the defeat of [the Arabs by Israel] in 1967 meant that whatever government was in power when that defeat took place had to go. So the Ba'ath saw an opportunity in this and they thought the time has come for them to take over the country again. The background was extremely interesting. There were two things happening within Iraq at that time. They were developing their own oil and very close to giving the concessions for huge new oil fields, to the USSR and France. And the price of sulpher had shot up so greatly that they were about to mine the sulpher mines in the north and sell it in the world market.
The United States didn't want either to happen. The United States wanted the oil for American oil companies; they wanted the sulpher for themselves. They thought that if Iraq went to the Soviet Union or France, Iraq would be lost to them. In this they were joined by the Ba'ath Party. The Party used the concessions for oil and sulpher as a bargaining point to endear itself once again to America. And they arrived once again at some kind of an agreement of collaboration between the two sides. On the American side negotiating for both the oil and sulpher was a well-known personality, Robert Anderson, the former secretary of treasury under Eisenhower. He met secretly with the Ba'ath and they agreed that if they took over power these concessions will be given to the United States.
And so once again the United States was in the business of supporting the Ba'ath office for the government of Iraq. The Ba'ath was successful. This time Saddam Hussein played a key role. He was one of the people who donned a military uniform -- though he's not a military man -- and attacked the presidential palace and occupied it. The president, being weak, surrendered immediately. Two weeks after they took over power on the 17th of July 1968, there was what they call "the correction movement." That meant getting rid of the non-Ba'ath elements in the coup, and Saddam was prominent in that. As a matter of fact he held a gun to the head of the prime minister and said, "You're going with me to the airport because you're leaving this country." And the guy pleaded with him, said, "I have family, I have a wife and kids." And Saddam said, "Well as long as you behave, they'll be fine." He took him to the airport, he put him in a plane, he deported him, and of course years after, he assassinated him in front of the Intercontinental Hotel in London. The man couldn't escape him in the long run.
However, the communists are hardly thrown out and not long after, they turn to Saddam, and he personally leads a delegation to Moscow, and there's a development of a relationship between the two. What game was he playing?
Well, alliances of convenience don't last very long. The Ba'ath Party was committed to certain things which American foreign policy could not tolerate. In this particular case it lasted a very short time, really a matter of two weeks. And Saddam got rid of all of the pro-American elements in the government and he asserted his authority on the country. He was not the president. He was the second man, after a relation of his from Tikrit, President Ahmed Bakr. But what happened immediately after that is the things they needed, they couldn't get from the United States anymore. They needed help economically. They needed arms. And the United States were not in the business of openly supplying arms to Arab countries to re-equip themselves for another round of fighting. That was the major issue between the two sides. Saddam knew he could get the arms from Russia and he journeyed to Russia -- this was his first trip outside Iraq, outside of exile of course -- and he got what he wanted. And the alliance of convenience disintegrated as they always do.
So, there was a new alliance, this time with the Soviets.
In 1972, Iraq and the Soviet Union signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation. They wanted to seal the cooperation taking place between them in a formal alliance. The reason Saddam signed that treaty of friendship and cooperation was because that obligated the local communist party, which was very strong, to cooperate with the Ba'ath Party, which was not so strong at that time.
Of course the Russians loved an opportunity to have a hold on Iraq and they signed the treaty and told the local communist party to join the Iraqi government. That alliance internally did not last very long. But the external one was on and off for a very long time. And the Soviet Union at one point thought Iraq was a more important ally than Egypt. Its army always acquitted itself better than the Egyptian army. It was a wealthy country that didn't need a lot of aid, like Egypt. And it was the gateway to the Gulf, to oil. It represented a more immediate threat to the West's lifeline than Egypt did.
So Saddam in the early '70s is Iraq's vice president. Could you describe how he's already setting up a Stalinist system with control of the government.
In the early '70s, Saddam started out controlling one small department called the Peasants Department; at that time the Ba'ath regime, for a very brief period of time, was committed to installing a democratic system in Iraq. It was a bit of a dream. Came the time for them to assign the job of head of the security system, and no one from the inner circle wanted the job. Everybody says, "This is a dirty job. I don't want it." Young Saddam Hussein raised his hand, and said, "I want the job. I'll take over the security system."
He took over the security system, called it the Department of General Relations and proceeded to expand it. This was his first step towards attaining power.
The president at the time, Ahmed Bakr had been a general, and a very nice man. Quite a religious man too. Saddam was a relation of his. He surrendered everything to Saddam, because Saddam worked an 18-hour day. In no time at all, Saddam was head of security, he was head of the Peasants Department, he was head of relations with the Kurds, he was head of the committee that controlled the oil. He was head of the committee that controlled relations with the Arab countries. He was head of the workers syndicate.
There was a conflict between all these departments that Saddam controlled so tightly and the armed forces -- because the armed forces is the one organization capable of overthrowing government. Saddam proceeded to emasculate the army and place his professional soldier relations from Tikrit in key positions. For example, his brother-in-law became chief of staff of the army. And of course soon enough, like all people who are dictators, who are jealous of the army, he appointed himself general and eventually like Stalin he became field marshal.
So much of what you just described certainly has Stalinist overtones.
Without any doubt everything Saddam did had Stalinist overtones. In particular, the reliance on the security system rather than the armed forces, the jealousy of the generals in the armed forces, the use of criminal elements within the country, and, incorporating them into the security system. And those people were sort of semi-literate thugs whose loyalty was to Saddam, without whom, they were nothing. And so he brought them in, he depended on them, and they did him service. Anybody he wanted to get rid of he got rid of. And the door was wide open.He had two qualities that put him ahead of his colleagues. His ability to work an 18-hour day. Endlessly. And a sense of organization. You didn't see Saddam at three o'clock and miss that appointment by five minutes. Because Saddam would ask you why you are five minutes late, or five minutes early. If you had an appointment with Saddam at three, you showed up at three. That was that. He is that organized. He is that methodical. "
"So far, the United States is trying to cajole Maliki into supporting the Awakening, offering $300 to $500 per month for each member of the Sunni militia. At the same time, US military officers in Iraq have promised to guarantee the payments to the Sunni forces and to shield the Awakening from attacks or reprisals by the regime. But among Sunnis, including those interviewed for this story, there is widespread concern that they are on their own and that the United States will not abandon the government in Baghdad despite its sectarian, pro-Iran leanings.
In that case, said a former top Iraqi official, many Sunnis may turn to an unlikely source for support: Russia. "The Russians are very active," he said. "They are talking with many Iraqis, including resistance leaders and Awakening members, in Damascus, Syria. They are in discussions with big Baathists." According to this official, former Baathists, army officers and Awakening members in Damascus, Amman and inside Iraq are looking to Russia for support, especially since Russia seems intent on reasserting itself in the Middle East. "The Russians intend to come out strongly to play with the Sunnis," he said. "I heard this from sahwa members in Damascus and Amman. 'If the Americans abandon us, we will go to the Russians.'"
Friday, October 03, 2008
"A counterpoint to the Baghdad bombings was the gesture of reconciliation in Samarra, where a Sunni-Shiite prayer service at the city's grand mosque Wednesday drew about 700 worshipers. In their speeches, clerics from each sect agreed on the need for tolerance -- and jointly blamed much of the sectarian war on the U.S.-led coalition forces.
Violence in Iraq has dropped markedly from last year, with 860 people killed in war-related incidents in September, down from 2,431 in the same period a year earlier, according to figures obtained from the Iraqi Interior and Health ministries."
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
'The global economy is set to slow significantly, and the downside risks to the world economic outlook remain elevated, according to the latest report from the Economist Intelligence Unit's Country Risk service. This reflects not just the problems in American and European financial sectors, but also higher global inflationary pressures, which are eroding corporate competitiveness, crimping consumers' spending power and casting a shadow over growth prospects in many countries. Pakistan was the biggest loser in August, with record rates of inflation, slowing real GDP growth, increasing monetisation of a ballooning fiscal deficit and a burgeoning current-account deficit, which has led to a rapid drawdown of foreign-exchange reserves.
The report forecasts a slowdown in growth in emerging markets, rather than a downturn, although parts of emerging Asia, the Middle East and eastern Europe appear vulnerable. Emerging-market credit fundamentals will remain generally strong, and few countries are vulnerable to the kind of financial crises that marred the second half of the 1990s. Any problems with debt servicing are likely to be encountered by emerging-market corporates and financials, rather than sovereigns. But there is a 30% probability that the developed world will experience a deep recession. Should that happen, growth will be markedly lower in emerging markets, leaving them more exposed to financial stress.'
Monday, September 29, 2008
"The worst of the bombings, in a bustling market of the central Karada district, seemed intended to inflict casualties on people preparing to celebrate a major holiday at the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.
First, a car bomb blew up in a parking lot on Attar Street. Then as crowds gathered, a second bomb exploded, in what seemed to be an effort to kill or maim bystanders, several witnesses said."
Sunday, September 28, 2008
"It’s not the stakes that have changed. It is the fact that you are now going to have to step up and finish this job. You have presumed an endless American safety net to permit you to endlessly bargain and dicker over who gets what. I’ve been way, way too patient with you. That is over. We bought you time with the surge to reach a formal political settlement and you better use it fast, because it is a rapidly diminishing asset.
You Shiites have got to bring the Sunni tribes and Awakening groups, who fought the war against Al Qaeda of Iraq, into the government and Army. You Kurds have got to find a solution for Kirkuk and accept greater integration into the Iraqi state system, while maintaining your autonomy. You Sunnis in government have got to agree to elections so the newly emergent Sunni tribal and Awakening groups are able to run for office and become “institutionalized” into the Iraqi system.
So pass your election and oil laws, spend some of your oil profits to get Iraqi refugees resettled and institutionalize the recent security gains while you still have a substantial U.S. presence. Read my lips: It will not be there indefinitely — even if McCain wins.
Our ambassador, Ryan Crocker, has told me your problem: Iraqi Shiites are still afraid of the past, Iraqi Sunnis are still afraid of the future and Iraqi Kurds are still afraid of both.
Well, you want to see fear. Look in the eyes of Americans who are seeing their savings wiped out, their companies disappear, their homes foreclosed. We are a different country today. After a decade of the world being afraid of too much American power, it is now going to be treated to a world of too little American power, as we turn inward to get our house back in order.
I still believe a decent outcome in Iraq, if you achieve it, will have long-lasting, positive implications for you and the entire Arab world, although the price has been way too high. I will wait for history for my redemption, but the American people will not. They want nation-building in America now. They will not walk away from Iraq overnight, but they will not stay there in numbers over time. I repeat: Do not misread this moment. God be with you."
George W. Bush.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
'Even relatively liberal people in Iraq seem to have harsh attitudes toward this subject. "These people are not welcome in the society because they are against the social, natural and religious rules," said one well-educated Iraqi who did not want to be identified more closely. A Baghdad executive said religion and tradition have made the overwhelming majority of Iraqis hostile to homosexuals. "Nobody is interested in talking about this at all," he says with a grim chuckle. A handful of gay men told NEWSWEEK harrowing stories about being cast out of their homes or savagely attacked by the storm troopers of virtue: Shia extremists among Badr Corps operatives (many of whom are now in the Iraqi Security Forces) or groups like the Mahdi Army, and sometimes both. But when told of such atrocities one Iraqi acquaintance blamed the victims, calling them "the lowest humans."
Persecution of gays will stop only if Iraqis can abandon centuries-old prejudices. They would have to acknowledge that human rights don't cover only the humans they like. Insisting that gays are just a few undesirable perverts who "should be killed"--as one Iraqi who works in journalism put it--encourages an atmosphere of impunity no matter the offense. Killing gays becomes "honorable." And raping them is OK because it isn't considered a homosexual act--only being penetrated or providing oral sex is.
Ali Hili says the government, security forces, judiciary and religious establishment are complicit in terrorizing gays. Since the late-evening visit by the militiamen, Nadir has moved to another part of Baghdad and stayed away from home. "They said, 'We will get you even if you fly to God'," he says. Changing Iraq's attitudes toward its gay minority may prove even harder than ending the war.'
Friday, September 19, 2008
I commented that this is appropriate, since the crimes of Saddam Hussein's regime at Abu Ghraib were much more horrific and lasted much longer than American torture at Abu Ghraib. I find it strange that the author put the word "crimes" in quotes. Many Sunni Arabs and even some Iraqis do not know of or refuse to believe the stories of torture and murder that took place at Abu Ghraib and many other prisons in Iraq prior to 2003. This is just another symbol of the division between Shia and Sunni Arabs. Maybe I shouldn't blame those who are ignorant of Saddam's crimes, since the Arab press did not report them.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Extracts of speech by Hafez Adv. AB Mohamed,
Director Al Baraka Bank, South Africa
o World Jewish Population. 14 million
o Distribution: 7m in America
- 5m in Asia
- 2m in Europe
- 100 thousand in Africa
o World Muslim Population: 1.5 billion
o Distribution: I billion in Asia/Mid-East
- 400 m in Africa
- 44 m in Europe
- 6 m in the Americas
o Every fifth human being is a Muslim.
o For every single Hindu there are two Muslims
o For every Buddhist there are two Muslims
o For every Jew there are 107 Muslims
o Yet the 14 million Jews are more powerful than the entire 1.5 billion Muslims
Here are some of the reasons:
Movers of Recent History
o Albert Einstein, Jewish
o Sigmund Freud, Jewish
o Karl Marx, Jewish
o Paul Samuelson, Jewish
o Milton Friedman, Jewish
o Vaccinating Needle, Benjamin Ruben, Jewish
o Polio Vaccine, Jonas Salk, Jewish
o Leukemia Drug, Gertrude Elion, Jewish
o Hepatitis B, Baruch Blumberg, Jewish
o Syphilis Drug, Paul Ehrlich, Jewish
o Neuro muscular, Elie Metchnikoff, Jewish
o Endocrinology, Andrew Schally, Jewish
o Cognitive therapy, Aaron Beck, Jewish
o Contraceptive Pill, Gregory Pincus, Jewish
o Understanding of Human Eye, G. Wald, Jewish
o Embryology, Stanley Cohen, Jewish
o Kidney Dialysis, Willem Kloffcame, Jewish
Nobel Prize Winners
o In the past 105 years, 14 million Jews have won 180 Nobel prizes whilst 1.5 billion Muslims have contributed only 3 Nobel winners
Inventions that changed History
o Micro- Processing Chip, Stanley Mezor, Jewish
o Nuclear Chain Reactor, Leo Sziland, Jewish
o Optical Fibre Cable, Peter Schultz, Jewish
o Traffic Lights, Charles Adler, Jewish
o Stainless Steel, Benno Strauss, Jewish
o Sound Movies, Isador Kisee, Jewish
o Telephone Microphone, Emile Berliner, Jewish
o Video Tape Recorder, Charles Ginsburg, Jewish
Influential Global Business
o Polo, Ralph Lauren, Jewish
o Levi's Jeans, Levi Strauss, Jewish
o Starbuck's Howard Schultz, Jewish
o Google, Sergey Brin, Jewish
o Dell Computers, Michael Dell, Jewish
o Oracle, Larry Ellison, Jewish
o DKNY, Donna Karan, Jewish
o Baskin & Robbins, Irv Robbins, Jewish
o Dunkin Donuts, Bill Rosenberg, Jewish
o Henry Kissinger, US Sec of State, Jewish
o Richard Levin, Pres. Yale University, Jewish
o Alan Greenspan, US Federal Reserve, Jewish
o Joseph Lieberman, Jewish
o Madeleine Albright, US Sec of State, Jewish
o Casper Weinberger, US Sec of Defense, Jewish
o Maxim Litvinov, USSR Foreign Minister, Jewish
o David Marshal, Singapore Chief Minister, Jewish
o Isaacs Isaacs, Gov-Gen Australia, Jewish
o Benjamin Disraeli, British Statesman, Jewish
o Yevgeny Primakov, Russian PM, Jewish
o Barry Goldwater, US Politician, Jewish
o Jorge Sampaio, President Portugal, Jewish
o Herb Gray, Canadian Dep-PM, Jewish
o Pierre Mendes, French PM, Jewish
o Michael Howard, British Home Sec, Jewish
o Bruno Kriesky, Austrian Chancellor, Jewish
o Robert Rubin, US Sec of Treasury, Jewish
Global Media Influentials
o Wolf Blitzer, CNN, Jewish
o Barbara Walters, ABC News, Jewish
o Eugene Meyer, Washington Post, Jewish
o Henry Grunwald, Time Magazine, Jewish
o Katherine Graham, Washington Post, Jewish
o Joseph Lelyyeld, New York Times, Jewish
o Max Frankel, New York Times, Jewish
o George Soros, Jewish
o Waltewr Annenberg, Jewish
Olympic Gold Medalists
o Mark Spitz, 7 Gold Medals, Jewish
o Krayzelburg, Jewish
o Boris Becker, Jewish
o Stars and TV Producers and
o Personalities Many Jews
Why are they powerful?
So why are Muslims powerless? Here's another reason. We have lost the capacity to produce knowledge:
o In the entire Muslim World (57 Muslim Countries) there are only 500 universities.
o In USA alone, 5,758 universities
o In India alone, 8,407 universities
o Not one university in the entire Islamic World features in the Top 500 Ranking Universities of the World
o Literacy in the Christian World 90%
o Literacy in the Muslim World 40%
o 15 Christian majority-countries, literacy rate 100%
o Muslim majority - countries: None
o 98% in Christian countries completed primary
o Only 50% in Muslim countries completed primary.
o 40% in Christian countries attended university
o In Muslim countries a dismal 2% attended.
o Muslim majority countries have 230 scientists per one million Muslims
o The USA has 5000 per million
o The Christian world 1000 technicians per million.
o Entire Arab World only 50 technicians per million.
o Muslim World spends on research/development 0.2% of GDP
o Christian World spends 5 % of GDP
o The Muslim World lacks the capacity to produce knowledge.
Another way of testing the degree of knowledge is the degree of diffusing knowledge:
o Pakistan 23 daily newspapers per 1000 citizens
o Singapore 360 per 1000 citizens.
o In UK book titles per million is 2000
o In Egypt book titles per million is only 20
o Muslim World is failing to diffuse knowledge
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Iraqi women take on key security role as attacks by female suicide bombers rise.By Tom A. Peter | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the September 11, 2008 edition
Reporter Tom A. Peter talks about the potential future of community policing in Iraq.
Baghdad - Although the overall level of violence in Iraq has decreased to a four- year low, the country has recently witnessed a sharp rise in a violent trend that alarms many Iraqis: female suicide bombings. This year the number of suicide bombings carried out by women has more than tripled to 29 attacks, say US military officials.
Al Qaeda and other insurgent groups have turned to women to exploit cultural practices that do not allow men to search women. As a result, females can pass through most checkpoints in Iraq without someone so much as looking in their handbags.
To combat this threat, Iraqis have begun recruiting women for the Daughters of Iraq, a female counterpart to the Sons of Iraq community policing program largely credited with reducing violence in Iraq. While female security guards remain a small minority, they've stopped many female insurgents. And, some say their example could help change perceptions about the role of women in Iraq.
"Right now women [suicide bombers] are more dangerous than men," says Sheikh Zaid Ahmed Al-Wan, an Awakening Council leader in Adhamiya, a Baghdad neighborhood. "You can't see anything on a woman's body, especially when she's wearing an abaya [a traditional Islamic gown] or a long dress. In the summer you can see everything on a man, you can even see if there's something in his pocket and even in the winter you can tell if he's carrying a big weapon or a bomb."
The most recent female suicide attack killed 18 people and injured 75 on Aug. 14. The bomber targeted Shiite pilgrims in a rest area in Iskandariyah in Iraq's Babil Province.
The bombing highlights how females can often inflict more damage than males. The majority of women bombers wear explosive vests or belts covered by abayas and are sometimes made to look pregnant, according to US military officials who track suicide bombing trends. This allows women easy access to crowded areas where they can cause the most damage.
Identifying a common profile for female bombers can be difficult, with one as young as 13. There is also speculation that bombing cells have used mentally handicapped women to carry out some attacks.
While the motives of each bomber varies, US military officials say most female suicide bombers share at least one of the following characteristics or circumstances: dishonor through sexual indiscretion, loss of a family member and a desire for revenge, desire to attain heroic status, inability to produce children, or an interest in demonstrating gender equality.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
This story is two years old, but still worth posting, imo.
Iran to hang teenage girl attacked by rapists
Saturday, 07 January 2006
Tehran, Iran, Jan. 07 – An Iranian court has sentenced a teenage rape victim to death by hanging after she weepingly confessed that she had unintentionally killed a man who had tried to rape both her and her niece.
The state-run daily Etemaad reported on Saturday that 18-year-old Nazanin confessed to stabbing one of three men who had attacked the pair along with their boyfriends while they were spending some time in a park west of the Iranian capital in March 2005.
Nazanin, who was 17 years old at the time of the incident, said that after the three men started to throw stones at them, the two girls’ boyfriends quickly escaped on their motorbikes leaving the pair helpless.
She described how the three men pushed her and her 16-year-old niece Somayeh onto the ground and tried to rape them, and said that she took out a knife from her pocket and stabbed one of the men in the hand.
As the girls tried to escape, the men once again attacked them, and at this point, Nazanin said, she stabbed one of the men in the chest. The teenage girl, however, broke down in tears in court as she explained that she had no intention of killing the man but was merely defending herself and her younger niece from rape, the report said.
The court, however, issued on Tuesday a sentence for Nazanin to be hanged to death.
Last week, a court in the city of Rasht, northern Iran, sentenced Delara Darabi to death by hanging charged with murder when she was 17 years old. Darabi has denied the charges.
In August 2004, Iran’s Islamic penal system sentenced a 16-year-old girl, Atefeh Rajabi, to death after a sham trial, in which she was accused of committing “acts incompatible with chastity”.
The teenage victim had no access to a lawyer at any stage and efforts by her family to retain one were to no avail. Atefeh personally defended herself and told the religious judge that he should punish those who force women into adultery, not the victims. She was eventually hanged in public in the northern town of Neka.
Secret killing program is key in Iraq, Woodward says
The program -- which Woodward compares to the World War II era Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb -- must remain secret for now or it would "get people killed," Woodward said Monday on CNN's Larry King Live.
"It is a wonderful example of American ingenuity solving a problem in war, as we often have," Woodward said.
In "The War Within: Secret White House History 2006-2008," Woodward disclosed the existence of secret operational capabilities developed by the military to locate, target and kill leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgent leaders.
National security adviser Stephen Hadley, in a written statement reacting to Woodward's book, acknowledged the new strategy. Yet he disputed Woodward's conclusion that the "surge" of 30,000 U.S. troops into Iraq was not the primary reason for the decline in violent attacks.
"It was the surge that provided more resources and a security context to support newly developed techniques and operations," Hadley wrote.
Woodward, associate editor of the Washington Post, wrote that along with the surge and the new covert tactics, two other factors helped reduce the violence.
One was the decision of militant cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to order a cease-fire by his Mehdi Army. The other was the "Anbar Awakening" movement that saw Sunni tribes aligning with U.S. troops to battle al Qaeda in Iraq.
6 hours ago
BAGHDAD (AFP) — Anglo-Dutch energy giant Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to a gas joint venture with Iraq worth up to four billion dollars, the Iraqi oil ministry said Tuesday, becoming the first Western oil major to gain access to the violence-wracked country's vast energy reserves.
The deal to capture unwanted gas burned off during oil production for sale both inside Iraq and abroad is expected to be signed in Baghdad next month, ministry spokesman Assem Jihad told AFP.
It would make Shell the first Western oil group to return to Baghdad since the US-led invasion of 2003 and the Financial Times said it is estimated to be worth about between three billion and four billion dollars.
Iraq's cabinet approved the contract, giving the state-owned Southern Oil Company 51 percent and Shell 49 percent in the venture based in the main southern city of Basra.
The project is intended to make use of the 21 million cubic metres (700 million cubic feet) of gas -- roughly enough to meet the demand for all of Iraq's power generation -- that the oil industry burns off for safety reasons, the FT said.
Monday, September 08, 2008
By Hugh Sykes
BBC News, Tehran
Parvin Ardalan was blocked from travelling abroad to receive an award
Four more women in Iran have been sentenced to jail - six months behind bars - for campaigning for women's rights.
They were accused of "spreading propaganda" against the Islamic system here - specifically for taking part in the Million Signatures Campaign for equal rights for women.
One of those sentenced, Parvin Ardalan, was awarded the Olof Palme Prize this year - on her way to collect the honour, her passport was seized at Imam Khomeini International Airport in Teheran, and she was unable to travel.
She had to accept the award by video-link.
An estimated 50 women have been detained since the signatures campaign began.
Women in Iran have severely restricted freedom of choice, and no equality with men.
A married woman must obtain her husband's permission before taking a job outside their home.
A man may have up to four wives. A woman may not have up to four husbands.
Women must observe the Islamic dress code - showing as little hair as possible, and their arms, their legs and their feet must be covered.
There is no protection against so-called honour killings for women who are raped; a husband - or a father - who kills the rape victim cannot be prosecuted and sent to jail for murder.
"This is inhuman," a law professor at Tehran University, Rosa Gharachorloo, told me.
Most of the people I have spoken to here agree: they believe rape victims should be comforted, not killed.
Women can be stopped and inspected by Gasht-e-Ershad, Ministry of Islamic Guidance patrols.
They have vehicles that look like police cars. They are often seen outside main metro stations in Teheran, checking women for hair or dress infringements.
They also go to parks, to ensure that couples sitting or walking together are married, engaged or related.
Friday, September 05, 2008
Thursday, September 04, 2008
U.S. military reviewing friendly-fire incident
Six Iraqis killed, 10 wounded in attack on patrol
By AMIT R. PALEY Washington Post
Sept. 3, 2008, 11:21PM
BAGHDAD — U.S. troops mistakenly killed six members of Iraq's security forces Monday, Iraqi officials said, further straining relations between the U.S. military and the Iraqis they are paying to secure the country.
The pre-dawn confusion in Mizrafa, a stretch of farmland along the Tigris River north of Baghdad, claimed the lives of two Iraqi police officers and four members of the Awakening, a group of mostly Sunni fighters who work with the U.S. military, said Iraqi Army Maj. Mohammed Younis.
A U.S. military spokeswoman said the shooting was under review. "It is always regrettable when incidents of mistaken fire occur on the battlefield," Staff Sgt. Stephanie Boy wrote in an e-mail.
The incident took place when U.S. troops aboard a boat on the Tigris approached a patrol of Awakening fighters, who were already on alert because a suicide bomber had attacked the leader of the local group in nearby Tarmiyah, killing one person and wounding four.
"They heard a rumor that al-Qaida was going to stage an offensive against their town from the river," Younis said, referring to the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaida in Iraq. "They deployed themselves along the river waiting to ambush al-Qaida if they started to attack."