Monday, November 30, 2009

The "resistance" prolonged the occupation

I have argued before that the "resistance", with their attacks that led to civil war in Iraq, only prolonged the presence of US troops in Iraq. I also remember many people claiming that the US would be in Iraq forever and that "resistance" was the only way to expel the invaders.

'American troops did not expect to play a role in stabilizing Iraq after overthrowing Saddam Hussein, a key adviser to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Monday.

David Manning, who served as a Blair's top foreign policy aide before being appointed ambassador to Washington in 2003, told a British inquiry into the Iraq war the American military did not believe peacekeeping was their responsibility.

"The American military thought that they were fighting a war and when the war was over they were expecting to go home," he said.'

Supreme Court overturns order to release photos of detainee abuse

Considering how militant Arabs and Muslims reacted to photos of abuse by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib, and considering that non-Iraqi Arabs and Muslims (and western journalists) in general never seemed to care or even know of crimes at Abu Ghraib before 2004, I think today's decision by the Supreme Court was a good one.

'The Supreme Court on Monday set aside a lower court’s order that called for the release of photographs of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan being abused by American military personnel. The high court told the lower court to re-examine the issue.'

Iraqi Sunni Arabs still "traumatised"

' Iraq's Sunni vice president played political poker to help his community, still traumatised at losing control after 80 years of domination, thrive in a general election. But his bluff failed, experts say.

Tareq al-Hashemi vetoed an electoral law in an attempt to secure more power for Sunnis, throwing national polls originally slated for mid-January into chaos.

Analyst and commentator Ibrahim al-Sumaidie likens the Sunnis' precarious position to that in an Arab proverb, where a man tries to apply eye-liner to his wife to make her look more pretty -- but instead ends up blinding her.

"It is simply a catastrophe for the Sunni Arabs," Sumaidie, a regular writer in the Iraqi press said, referring to Hashemi's November 18 veto of the law.

The vice president was seeking to garner votes from Iraqis living abroad, including those who fled after the ouster of dictator Saddam Hussein and during sectarian fighting which erupted in 2005.

There are estimated to be as many as four million such voters, who could boost the Sunni presence in parliament against a probable Shiite-dominated government.

But Hashemi's hazardous hand turned to dust when parliament voted -- at the instigation of Shiites -- for a new distribution of seats.

The new provisions do not take into account a real increase in Iraq's population since 2005 and instead increase by 2.8 percent annually the number of seats given to each province, a move that actually harms the Sunnis.

"The Kurds are the sole beneficiary of what passed, and this is a slap in the face for the Sunni Arabs," said Sumaidie.'

Saddam ordered attack on Radio Free Europe in 2000

'Saddam Hussein ordered his secret agents to attack the Prague headquarters of U.S. run Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty to end broadcasting to Iraq, a Czech intelligence service spokesman said Sunday.

The attack was ordered by the then Iraqi leader in 2000 and Iraqi intelligence agents planned to use weapons including rocket propelled grenades, Kalashnikov rifles and submachine guns, spokesman Jan Subert told Czech TV Nova.

"Saddam Hussein ordered his intelligence to violently disrupt Iraqi broadcasting of the Radio Free Europe and for this operation he provided significant financial means," Subert told the station.

He said the weapons had been stockpiled for the attack after they were brought into the country in an Iraqi diplomatic car.

It was not known when the attack was due to take place but Subert told the television station that Czech intelligence discovered the plot and the Iraqis submitted the weapons to Czech authorities in 2003.

The plan was for the attack to take place from the window of a nearby flat that the Iraqis planned to rent as an office for a fake company, he said.'

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Saddam TV targets Sunni Arabs

' Turning on their TVs during the long holiday weekend, Iraqis were greeted by a familiar if unexpected face from their brutal past: Saddam Hussein.

The late Iraqi dictator is lauded on a mysterious satellite channel that began broadcasting on the Islamic calendar's anniversary of his 2006 execution.

No one seems to know who is bankrolling the so-called Saddam Channel, although the Iraqi government suspects it's Baathists whose political party Saddam once led. The Associated Press tracked down a man in Damascus, Syria named Mohammed Jarboua, who claimed to be its chairman.

The Saddam channel, he said, "didn't receive a penny from the Baathists" and is for Iraqis and other Arabs who "long for his rule."

Jarboua has clearly made considerable efforts to hide where it's aired from and refuses to say who is funding it besides "people who love us."

Iraqis surprised to find Saddam on their TVs responded with the kind of divided emotions that marked his reign.

"Iraqis don't need such a satellite channel because it has hostile intentions," said Hassan Subhi, a 28-year-old Shiite who owns an Internet cafe in eastern Baghdad.

Others said they felt a nostalgic sorrow at the sight of their late leader, a Sunni Arab.

"All my family felt sad," said Samar Majid, a Sunni high school teacher in western Baghdad, mentioning images shown from Saddam's execution, and pictures of his two sons and grandson.

The channel, which is broadcast across the Arab world, dredges up the sectarian divisions that Saddam inspired among Shiites and Sunnis at a time when Iraq is gearing up for crucial national elections.* Iraqi politicians have been arguing over parliamentary seat distribution in a dispute that has inflamed the splits. The wrangling will likely delay the vote beyond its constitutionally required Jan. 30 deadline.'


*Bold added by Iraqi Mojo

People who still miss Saddam should educate themselves:

In the name of Arab nationalism and sometimes Islam, Saddam and his clan used Iraq's resources to wage war and enrich themselves, and yet many Sunni Arabs seem to be enamored by him. It is frightening to observe such ignorance among our Arab brothers and sisters.

PS (Nov 30): Also read: Iraqi Poet Criticizes Arab Nationalist Poets for Supporting Tyrants

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Maliki should lead reconciliation effort

It's a tad embarrassing (but not all that surprising) to see top Shia politicians in Iraq unwilling to reconcile with Sunni Arabs in government. The Shia in government may not fully trust Sunni Arab politicians, who were for decades dominant in Iraqi politics and have since the fall of the dictator tried in many ways to get back on top, but Maliki and his Da3wa should at least offer an olive branch to Iraq's Sunni Arabs, even if it has to be in the form of Parliamentary seats. Even if ousted Baathists gain power they do not deserve, the Iraqi Shia and Kurds together will have a clear majority in Parliament. So why all the squabbling? I wish the Shia in power would just reconcile with Hashemi and get this over with, and I think Maliki would do himself a favor by encouraging the Shia in Parliament to make some concessions and get the election law passed. Even vote during Arba3een - why is that such a problem?

While hashing out the details of an engagement to an Iraqi girl a couple of years ago, she told me the engagement cannot take place during Arba3een. She is secular, but her family is not. I was surprised and asked my parents what the fuss was about. They informed me that religious Shia do not get engaged or wed during Arba3een, the 40 days of pilgrimage and other observations that religious Shia do after Ashura, the tenth day of Muharram. It's supposed to be a time of mourning, not happiness. I find these rules to be annoying and rather silly, but I try to respect Shia who observe them, and I can understand why they insist on having the freedom to observe Arba3een in Iraq after it was outlawed by Saddam for so many years. But how far should we allow religion to interfere with government?

The Iraqi Shia must solve their political problems so that Iraqi Sunni Arabs will be fully united with them. Only then they can effectively defeat the extremists who continue to attack Iraqis in the most violent ways. Sunni extremists, the truly irreconcilable, continue to attack fellow Sunnis for cooperating with government. We must support the Sunnis who support Iraqi democracy.

Hashemi has shown leadership by encouraging marriages between Shia and Sunna in Iraq. What has Maliki done? Be a leader, Mr. Maliki. Act like every month is Muharram (no fighting), and don't allow religious holidays to interfere with Iraq's constitution. Stop crying and stop embarrassing your fellow Shia. Parliament should work, even on their religious holidays, to get the election law passed. Iraqis have bigger things to worry about, like soccer.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

At least 720 gay Iraqis killed since 2003

Coincidentally, last night I watched Milk, a movie about the gay rights movement in San Francisco in the early 70s. Even in San Francisco there were people, many of them police, who attacked gay men.

PS: I really hope Iraqis will oust this incompetent government that overlooks such crimes, and I hope the new government arrests or at least terminates the security forces who were involved in these crimes. Makes me want to vote for Allawi.

'The rise of fundamentalist groups in Iraq since the 2003 U.S. led invasion has proven deadly to LGBT Iraqis, who are now being forced to either hide or face the consequences.

Using the internet as a means to track down new victims, militia members are now employing computer analysts to monitor traffic on gay dating and networking websites in the region. They work with internet café owners to single out people who frequent these sites and set up fake profiles in the attempt to lure them out.

On the 28th of August, police raided the houses of Asad Galib and Faeq Ismail, both 24 years old, and took them into custody. They were held and questioned for about four hours, accused of viewing gay websites in an internet café on the 21st of July. Both men denied the accusations and explained that the websites had already been open when they had begun using the computers. They were later released and are now in contact with Iraqi LGBT, a London based organization working to support and protect LGBT individuals in Iraq.

Others who have been accused or are suspected of such activities have not been as lucky.

On the 2nd of September, the body of 21-year-old student Mizher Hussien was discovered in Al Najaf, a city south of Baghdad. His head and genitals had been severed, and he had the word “pervert” written in black across his chest. The details of his murder are unknown, and Iraqi police have refused to launch an investigation into the cause or motivation of the crime.

On the 18th of September in Al Shatra Amara, two bodies were found exhibiting signs of torture. They had both been decapitated and left with a paper stating, “This is the end of all pervert homosexuals”.

Iraqi LGBT has been working since 2003 to raise awareness of the abuses being committed against LGBT people in Iraq, as well as provide protection to those who have been targeted. The organization currently funds a number of safe houses in the region, with nearly 100 individuals in Iraq directly benefitting from their work. In addition, Iraqi LGBT has been involved in securing asylum for Iraqi refugees who have been forced to flee the country.

Unfortunately, Iraqi LGBT has not been able to help everyone. The organization estimates that over 720 LGBT men and women have been murdered by these extremist militias in the last six years. The Iraqi government has largely been absent in pursuing the roaming death squads who carry out these acts, likely due to the influence of extremist Shia religious parties that are calling for a moral cleansing of Iraq.'

Pre-2003 ethnic cleansing in Iraq

This is to corroborate my post No peace in Iraq since 1970s:

'Many Shī‘ī Iranians migrated to what is now Iraq in the sixteenth century. "It is said that when modern Iraq was formed, 75% of the population of Karbala was Iranian". In time, these immigrants adopted the Arabic language and Arab identity, but their origin has been used to "unfairly cast them as lackeys of Iran. Other Iraqi Shī‘īs are ethnic Arabs with roots in Iraq as deep as those of their Sunni counterparts.

...The Shia suffered indirect and direct persecution under post-colonial Iraqi governments since 1932, especially that of Saddam Hussein. Under Saddam public Shia festivals such as Ashoura were banned. It is said that every Shia clerical family of note in Iraq had tales of torture and murder to recount. In 1969 the son of Iraq's highest Shia Ayatollah Muhsin al-Hakim was arrested and allegedly tortured. From 1979-1983 Saddam's regime executed 48 major Shia clerics in Iraq. They included Shia leader Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr and his sister. Tens of thousands of Iranians and Arabs of Iranian origin were expelled in 1979 and 1980 and a further 75,000 in 1989. Shia opposition to the government following the first Gulf War was reportedly suppressed.'

Monday, November 23, 2009

Parliament in a mess over election law

'Hopes for a January election in Iraq faded today after Shiite Muslim and Kurdish legislators teamed up to vote for a new version of an election law that in effect takes seats away from Sunnis and is almost certain to draw another veto from the country's Sunni vice president.

Parliament then adjourned for a holiday until Dec. 8, leaving in limbo the fate of the law that is needed if the crucial election is to go ahead by the end of January, as mandated by Iraq's constitution. The withdrawal of U.S. forces has been pegged to the timing of the poll, and a delay could jeopardize President Obama's promise to bring all combat troops home by August 2010.

The head of Iraq's election commission told the Associated Press that he doubted there was now enough time to hold the poll by January. "Most probably, it might be moved to February," Faraj Haidari said.

Though that would violate the terms of Iraq's constitution, lawmakers seemed unconcerned by the prospect of a constitutional crisis.

"Nobody's applying the constitution anyway," said Kurdish legislator Mahmoud Othman, who predicted the election would be delayed. "We are in a mess now, so it doesn't make a lot of difference." '

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mobile phones are biggest benefit of US invasion

'ASKED to name the single biggest benefit of America’s invasion, many Iraqis fail to mention freedom or democracy but instead praise the advent of mobile phones, which were banned under Saddam Hussein. Many Iraqis seem to feel more liberated by them than by the prospect of elected resident government.

In the five years since the first network started up, the number of subscribers has soared to 20m (in a population of around 27m), while the electricity supply is hardly better than in Mr Hussein’s day. That is double the rate for Lebanon, where a civil war ended two decades ago and income per head is four times higher.'

No peace in Iraq since 1970s

I have been thinking about this post for a few days and I thought about titling it “Ugly Peace in Iraq since 1980”. Some Iraqis (especially Kurds) would argue that even in the 1970s Iraq did not have real peace.

Recently I have read a few articles that have tried to summarize the last six years in Iraq and the surge in particular.  Some authors have attributed the reduction in violence in Iraq more to Iraqis than to Americans. Part 1 of Nir Rosen’s “Ugly Peace” focuses on Washash, a Shia-majority district of Baghdad that saw its Sunni Arab residents expelled by Shia militias in 2006. Rosen got the "ugly" part right, but I'm not sure about the peace. He seems to minimize and even disregard the worst violence committed by Sunni extremists, which is ongoing. It seems that not only Rosen but many fine journalists have been ignoring or minimizing the events of 2004 and 2005, when Sunni extremists attacked Shia all over Iraq in the most brutal ways.

Rosen exposes the injustices committed by Shia militias, as every journalist should, and I'm glad he makes a distinction between criminal elements of Jaish al Mahdi and those who only wanted to protect Shia from Sunni extremists, but he writes as if Shia militias started the sectarian violence after the bombing of the Askari shrine in Samarra in 2006. He explains that after the Samarra bombing, JAM began killing innocent Sunni Arabs, without really explaining what happened to the Shia in 2003, 2004, and 2005.
Rosen summarizes the explanation for the fall in violence: “the increasing calm stemmed from the ‘exhaustion of sectarian violence’ and a ‘Sunni return to politics,’ among other factors.”
Sounds like good news, but I do not know what Rosen means by “exhaustion of sectarian violence”. Maybe he means Shia militias stopped attacking Sunni Arabs. Sunni extremists continue to attack Shia. Maybe he did not read about the dozens of suicide bombings that have been carried out this year by AQI, which has always been the worst of the sectarian militias.

Nir Rosen:
“One explanation that few are prepared to discuss openly is that Iraq’s civil war ended because Shias won: violence against Sunnis ceased after Sunnis were brutally cleansed from Basra and large swaths of Baghdad, and Shias gained firm control of government ministries and local police. Sunnis knew they were defeated and Shias no longer worried that Ba’athist oppression would resume. With no external enemy, Shia militias began to fight each other and turned into criminal gangs terrorizing their own communities. The defeat of the Sunnis and divisions among Shias created space for new possibilities, and the government and American forces occupied that space.”

The Sunnis were “brutally cleansed” from Baghdad, as if Shia were not treated brutally before Shia militias began their murderous rampages. It is as if all of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs have been kicked out of Iraq, as if they have no representation in the Iraqi government. The violence stopped because there are no Sunnis left to kill, and hence the "ugly peace".

Here is a map of Baghdad in mid 2008, showing many districts dominated by Sunnis:


In his article Rosen summarized some of the violence of 2003 and 2004, but he did not elaborate on the incredible violence aimed at Iraq’s Shia, except to call it simply a civil war and to write “by the middle of 2005 sectarian violence was endemic”, hinting that Shia too were innocent victims. But he does not go into detail about the ugly crimes of Sunni extremists. Instead he emphasizes the brutality of the Mahdi Army and gives examples of evidence of their crimes in Washash and other areas.

Here he details the violence aimed at Sunnis in 2003 and 2004, as if to rationalize subsequent Sunni attacks on Shia:

“In October 2003 a Sunni Sheikh, his brother, and a teenage assistant were riddled with bullets as they walked home from mosque. In August 2004 a police chief and a patrolman were killed in an explosion. In December 2004 several members of a Sunni Salafist group were killed. Sunni and Shia clerics issued a futile joint edict banning sectarian fighting, and by the middle of 2005 sectarian violence was endemic.

American soldiers raiding a house in 2006 found evidence that Shia militias were cleansing Sunnis from Washash. There was a list of nearly 70 homes where Sunni families were expelled and a list of “good” families who were not be disturbed. There were letters threatening Sunnis, as well as copies of a DVD with a message from the Mahdi Army: images of exploding houses.”

Not a single mention of the Sunni violence that was intended to destroy the new Iraq from the very beginning. No mention of the hundreds of Sunni suicide bombers who targeted Iraq’s security forces and ordinary Shia between 2003 and the 2006 bombing of the Askari shrine.  Suicide bombings are a good indication of violence perpetuated by Sunni extremists; Shia do not participate in suicide bombings that target Iraqi civilians or security forces. The largest number of suicide bombings in the war occurred in 2005:

There have been more than 1700 suicide bombings in Iraq, many involving more than one bomber. This extraordinary statistic, which is symbolic of the violence perpetuated by Sunni extremists and is unprecedented in the history of the world, does not receive mention in Nir Rosen’s “ugly peace” analysis. Instead Mr. Rosen highlighted the crimes of the Shia militias and ignored the mostly one-sided sectarian violence aimed at Iraq’s Shia before 2006.
My uncles who lived most of their lives in Amriya, a neighborhood of western Baghdad, were expelled from their homes in the summer of 2005.  From my perspective, it was Sunni extremists who began expelling Shias from their homes in Sunni-dominated neighborhoods and even turned Amriya, which according to Columbia University had a Shia majority in 2003 (I will call it “mixed” in 2003), into a Sunni majority district by 2006.

Maybe I should not be so critical of Nir Rosen, who is an excellent journalist and with “Ugly Peace” he has shed some light on the sectarianism that is the root of Iraq’s political problems. It’s just sad for me, as a liberal Iraqi American, to see liberal journalists seemingly taking sides and ignoring history.

Nir Rosen is not the only one who seems to be biased. Even in the documentary “Understanding the Surge”, which I posted last week, it is suggested that Iraq’s Sunni Arabs turned to Al Qaeda because Shia militias were expelling Sunnis from their homes, implying that Sunni Arabs allied themselves with AQI in 2006, after the Samarra bombing.  Sunni militia actually began joining forces with AQI in 2004, after Saddam was captured, when it became clear that the US was determined to prevent hardcore Baathists from regaining power and to ensure a democratic government was established in Baghdad.

People who insist that Baathists, being secular, could not possibly ally themselves with Salafi (fundamentalist) groups should remember Saddam’s alliance with Saudi Arabia in the 80s and they should understand that hardcore Baathists would do anything to gain and retain power. Saddam and his cronies were experts at manipulating Islam for political gain. They called their attempt to exterminate Iraq’s Kurds the “Anfal”, a Qur’anic term that refers to the spoils of war belonging to Allah and his messengers. Saddam and his henchmen played God and the Wahhabi Arabs supported them in the 80s, so why would one be surprised by an alliance between Baathists and Salafi groups today? In the 1980s Saddam's regime also expelled tens of thousands of Iraqi Shia - today this is known as "ethnic cleansing", so they already had experience in that area too. Some might even dare to call it "sectarian violence". But in the eyes of many journalists, it seems that "sectarian violence" happens only when Shia militias attack innocent Sunnis.
Rosen did offer this bit of truth about the pre-2006 violence aimed at Shia, quoting an Iraqi Army Captain who commented on the security situation in 2004: 

“At the time,” he told me, “there was only al Qaeda, not the Mahdi Army. We confiscated a lot of weapons and car bombs. This was before the sectarianism started.”

I should thank Rosen for quoting the Iraqi Army Captain who said there was only Al Qaeda in 2004 and no JAM. He also mentioned Baathist oppression, but he does not mention the expulsion of Shias from Sunni neighborhoods before the spike in sectarian violence of 2006.  Perhaps he did not know about the expulsion of Shias from Sunni neighborhoods before 2006, or maybe I'm taking this too personally, or maybe with “Ugly Peace” he wanted to focus only on the sectarianism in Washash. Maybe Part 2 of "Ugly Peace" will be different from Part 1.
Rosen also quoted another Iraqi who said this: “most Sunnis supported al Qaeda and turned on them because of pressure from the government.”
So Rosen did offer bits of truth about the violence aimed at Shia before the Samarra bombing, but in the entire article he did not elaborate on the violence directed at Shia except to quote an Iraqi who said that there was only AQI in 2004. What did AQI do in 2004? What did Saddam's ousted leaders do? I suppose it is not worth mentioning or researching, or it would have made the article too long to read.

Many journalists’ accounts of recent history in Iraq read as if Iraqi Baathists were fighting a legitimate war against occupation, as if Baathists did not engage in sectarian violence against Iraqis. It is as if Rosen is afraid or unwilling to put Iraq’s Sunni Arabs in a bad light.  The people who expelled my Shia relatives from Amriya in 2005 may not have been Iraqi, but the people who committed those crimes could not have known where the Shia lived in Amriya if they had not received help from locals, from Iraqis.

It seems that this Wikepedia entry, also the source for the numbers of suicide bombings since 2003, has it right:
‘A 2005 Human Rights Watch report analysed the insurgency in Iraq and highlighted, "The groups that are most responsible for the abuse, namely al-Qaeda in Iraq and its allies, Ansar al-Sunna and the Islamic State of Iraq, have all targeted civilians for abductions and executions. The first two groups have repeatedly boasted about massive car bombs and suicide bombs in mosques, markets, bus stations and other civilian areas. Such acts are war crimes and in some cases may constitute crimes against humanity, which are defined as serious crimes committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population."[2]
A 2008 RAND Research Brief Counterinsurgency in Iraq: 2003 - 2006 depicts a chart that shows in June and July 2004, Iraqi insurgents began to shift their focus away from attacking U.S. and coalition forces with roadside bombs and instead began targeting the Iraqi population with suicide bombers and vehicle-borne IEDs. By increasing the number of suicide bombings against civilians and accepting their targeting in retribution, the insurgents sought to expose the weakness of the coalition-Iraqi security and reconstruction apparatus, threaten those who collaborated with the government, generate funds and propaganda, and increasingly enact sectarian revenge. The U.S. failure to adapt to this shift had dramatic consequences. By June 2004, U.S. deaths represented less than 10% of overall deaths on the battlefield and Iraqi deaths represented more than 90% - a figure that remained constant for the next 18 months of the War.’

From my perspective based on my experiences and what I have heard and read, the truth about Iraq that most people seem to avoid is the fact that Iraq has been in a state of ethnic and sectarian conflict since 1980. There was a relative peace after the end of the war with Iran 1988, but it lasted only two years. The Arabs don’t like talking about it, but in general the Arabs have seen Iran as an enemy for decades, and Saddam used Iraq to fight that war that Sunni Arab states supported financially. That war with Iran, which Saddam always saw as an extension of the ancient war between Mesopotamia and Persia, continues today.

The war of 1991 and the following Shia rebellion against the dictator resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Approximately half of my relatives fled Iraq in the 80s and 90s. Journalists did not seem as concerned about those Iraqi refugees. In 2003, after the Liberation, two more of my relatives left Iraq because they finally could without risk of harm to their families. Many Iraqi Shia fled Iraq after 2003, even after they “won”.

There have been 76 suicide bombings in Iraq this year. I consider that to be sectarian violence. Sunni extremists continue to attack the Iraqi government and its security forces, even attacking police in Sunni towns, but primarily targeting the Shia-led government.

Discussing last month's bombings of three Shia-dominated Ministries,
'The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, told a news conference last week that he believed a number of insurgent groups, including Baathists and al-Qaida in Iraq, were behind the bombings.

"This is a very complex issue. It's not black and white," he said.'

I would not call the situation in Iraq an “ugly peace”. It is no peace at all. Iraq has been in sectarian conflict since 1980, and the sectarian conflict continues, even as democracy sprouts in Iraq.

The criminal actions of AQI and the Baathists who supported them have shown that democracy and security in Iraq are very difficult to achieve. The hardcore Baathists will always attack the Iraqi government until they become the government. Baathists used violence to gain power in the first place, and they used violence to retain power for three decades.

Even as some of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs continue to support violent attacks against the Iraqi government and security forces, many Iraqi Sunni Arabs are participating in government, showing off their political strength. Tareq al Hashemi, one of Iraq’s Vice Presidents, has vetoed the recently passed election law, which the Iraqi parliament had been arguing about for weeks, because he said it does not include enough parliamentary seats for Sunni Arab refugees. This would be like a Shia VP of Saudi Arabia vetoing an election law because he believes it does not provide enough seats in the Saudi parliament for Saudi Shia (there are no elections and no Shia ‘VP’ in KSA). Like in war, in politics Iraq’s Sunni Arabs are playing hardball.

Even in a state of war, Iraq seems to be more democratic than most Arab countries. And Iraqis want better. Most Iraqis I know are tired of Maliki’s government, and they want to see big changes. I hope Iraqis will vote secular this time, and I hope the outcome of the election will result in true peace in Iraq, not just an “ugly peace”.

Iraqis must resolve their differences, and when they do so, hopefully they will also bring peace, justice, and prosperity to all of Iraq’s districts. Iraqis are making progress towards reconciliation without government efforts. One of my uncles who was expelled from his home in Amriya in 2005 was able to visit that house a few weeks ago and he found living in it a Sunni family, who graciously agreed to pay rent to my uncle. I have also read about Shia families being invited back to Adhamiya. I think that getting the history right, as difficult as it may be, may also contribute to the healing.

The Shia did not “win” in Iraq by expelling Sunni Arabs from Basra and Baghdad. The Shia sorta won by establishing a democracy, or at least a semblance of one, with the help of Americans. Clearly there are hurdles to overcome, and Baghdad is more segregated along sectarian lines than ever before. But there are still large numbers of Sunni Arabs in Baghdad, and it seems the Shia militias' "cleansing" and killing of innocent Sunni Arabs ended many months ago. Iraq’s Shia, after all their struggles, have not won a huge victory, and they will not be victorious until all of Iraq is truly peaceful, like it was before 1980. Real democracy in Iraq, and therefore victory, will be realized when power is passed peacefully from Nouri al Maliki to an Iraqi who will end the era of corruption and sectarianism and lead Iraq to a real peace.

Friday, November 20, 2009

January 31 election deadline "impossible"

'A senior Kurdish leader on Friday moved to defuse the latest threat to Iraq's imperiled elections – a possible Kurdish boycott – saying ongoing discussions with Iraqi leaders and political party blocs were close to resolving their differences.

"I am cautiously optimistic there will be a resolution," says Barham Saleh, prime minister of the Kurdish regional government.

Also to be resolved is the opposition of Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who on Wednesday vetoed the election law passed last week, arguing that it did not allow for enough participation by Iraqi expatriates – a majority of whom are Sunni Arab.

A vote on the law is scheduled for Saturday. But the country's top election official said that even if lawmakers resolved all their differences, it would be impossible to hold elections in January.

"We have already stopped all our work," says Faraj al-Haydari, the head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC). Both IHEC and United Nations officials have said they need at least 60 days to prepare for a credible election. The poll would have to be held before the last week in January – the start of some of the holiest days on the Shiite calendar.'

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The sectarian segregation of Baghdad

Baghdad has been increasingly segregated by sect over the last six years as a result of the conflict. I read Joel Wng's post in which he mentioned that Amriya was listed as Shiite-majority in 2003, which struck me as odd. My uncles moved to Amriya with my grandparents in the late 60s and my impression was that Amriya was always a Sunni majroity neighborhood, especially after my uncles were evicted from their homes in 2005. But in reality Amriya must have been a mixed neighborhood, because other distant relatives of mine, also Shia, lived there and prospered there for many years.

I wrote this in March 2007: 'In the 1960s my grandparents moved from Nejef to Amriya, a neighborhood in western Baghdad. After my grandparents died, two of my uncles continued to live in their parent's house without problems until 2004, when 'mujahideen' started taking over the neighborhood. In the summer of 2005 my uncles received a letter telling them to leave or they would be killed. Fearing for their lives, my uncles took their wives and kids to Nejef, where they are lucky to have places to stay. I don't think any Shia live in Amriya anymore.'

For this reason I thought Amriya was a Sunni neighborhood, but according to a map by Dr. Michael Izady of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, Amriya was a Shia-majority neighborhood in 2003.

Baghdad by sect in 2003:

By 2006, Amriya was turned into a Sunni-majority neighborhood:

In late 2006 Zeyad of Healing Iraq also showed Amriya as a Sunni district.

How the hell did Armiya go from a Shia-majority district to a Sunni-majority district in three years? Here are some clues:

'Al Amriya is considered amongst most sect-driven areas in the capital and the Takfiris - with short dishdash and Afghan style dreadlocks were quite active and until one month ago.

Before, the Takfiris were usually seen in the streets shooting at any unidentified passersby and would slaughter - with the literal meaning of the word, anyone in its home if they ‘deem’ that he/she worked for the invaders authority. Also, they would target the police forces (mainly Shiites) and abduct cops and later would chop their heads off and dumb them in the trash. And they too planted road bombs to get the invaders forces.'

This explains how many Shia, including my two uncles and distant relatives, were expelled by violence and threats of violence in Amriya.

Is global warming irreversible?

Listen to this very interesting interview with Professor Stephen Salter at his lab in the University of Edinburgh. Professor Salter invented a system by which wave energy is transferred to electricity.

'Thirty years after inventing a way to turn wave power into electricity, the professor fears it's now too late to rely on renewable energies to help cut global carbon emissions and prevent the melting of the arctic caps.

"We've wasted so much time not getting Ducks built when we could have been doing it properly that renewables are going to be too late," he says, looking out across the giant wave tank that dominates his university laboratory.

The first Salter Duck, created in 1973, was a rather simple teardrop design made from balsa wood. Today, the latest incarnation is a far more complex construction made from steel. But he warns, "I don't think we have time to get them working in big enough numbers in order to prevent something nasty happening to the arctic ice." '

Saddam's conversation with the FBI

According to Saddam, James Baker told Saddam that Iraq would be taken back to the pre-industrial age of if he did not comply with US conditions. After 40 consecutive days and nights of bombing, the former Secretary of State fulfilled his promise.

'He takes personal responsibility for ordering the launching of SCUD missiles against Israeli targets during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, because he blamed Israel and its influence in the U.S. for “all the problems of the Arabs”, but denies that his purpose was to draw that country into the conflict and to divide Washington from its Arab allies. He provides details on the lead-up to the war, reporting that during a January 1991 meeting former Secretary of State James Baker told Saddam’s foreign minister that if Iraq did not comply with U.S. conditions “we’ll take you back to the pre-industrial stage.

Saddam’s historical recollections include his ascendancy within the Ba’athist party in 1968 and 1969; his disappointment after the Iran-Iraq war with Arab governments for their lack of gratitude for Iraq’s “saving all of the Arab world” from occupation by Iran; details about the 1991 Persian Gulf war; and the post-war Shi’a uprising in Iraq’s south, which he characterizes as “treachery” instigated by Iran.

Not included in these FBI reports are issues of particular interest to students of Iraq’s complicated relationship with the U.S. – the reported role of the CIA in facilitating the Ba’ath party’s rise to power, the uneasy alliance forged between Iraq and the U.S. during the Iran-Iraq war, and the precise nature of U.S. views regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons policy during that conflict, given its contemporaneous knowledge of their repeated use against Iranians and the Kurds.

This series of interviews also does not address chemical warfare in Kurdish areas of Iraq in 1987-1988, although an FBI progress report says Saddam was questioned on the topic. One interview, #20, is redacted in its entirety on national security grounds, although it is not clear what issues agents could have discussed with Saddam that cannot now be disclosed to the public.'

Hat tip to Iraq Slogger.

Iraq war and nation-building have been expensive

The war has been huge for Iraqis, especially in terms of lives lost and forever changed by violence. For America the war in Iraq has also been very expensive. America's increased debt as a result of the war will only help China and other US creditors, whose US treasury bonds will no doubt be repaid with interest by our (Americans') kids and grandkids. The deaths of 4,365 American soldiers and tens of thousands of wounded understandably compels ordinary Americans to question whether the war in Iraq was worth it. In terms of financial costs alone, this war has been very different from the war of 1991, which was paid for by the Saudis and Kuwaitis.

Jake Armstrong of the Pasadena Weekly does The Count:

American military service members — 3 more than last week — have died since the war began in 2003, according to the US Department of Defense. A total of 13,883 have suffered injuries serious enough to keep them from returning to duty.


billion is the cost of food and other products Kuwait-based contractor Public Warehousing Co. KSC delivered to US and coalition soldiers in the past 6 years, allegedly under fraudulent, inflated bills and false claims on contracts, according to a criminal indictment handed down Monday, the Washington Post reported.


is the rating Iraq received on a scale of 10 in Transparency International’s annual corruption report, putting the war-torn country in a dead heat with Sudan for the fourth-most corrupt nation, Voice of America reported Tuesday.


million is how much Pasadena taxpayers have contributed to the Iraq war since it began, enough to fund 998 affordable housing units, according to the National Priorities Project.'

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Al Qaeda in Iraq becoming less foreign

'Al Qaeda in Iraq is becoming more Iraqi and less dominated by foreigners as the insurgent group increasingly joins forces with Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party, the commander of U.S. forces said on Wednesday.

Investigations into massive suicide bombings in Baghdad on Oct. 25, in which more than 150 people died, indicated that explosives or fighters were coming across from Syria, U.S. General Ray Odierno also said.

The U.S. commander's comments reinforced accusations by the government of Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that al Qaeda and former Baathists were working together to undermine improved security and elections expected to be held in January.

Maliki's government has also accused neighbouring Syria of giving a safe haven to Baathists plotting attacks in Iraq.

"Al Qaeda in Iraq has transformed significantly in the last two years. What once was dominated by foreign individuals has now become more and more dominated by Iraqi citizens," Odierno told reporters at the U.S. military's main base in Baghdad.

"There's still a small foreign element to al Qaeda, there are some who used to be Sunni rejectionists or ex-Baathists who are involved in this because of course they don't want the government to succeed."

Overall violence in Iraq has fallen sharply in the past 18 months and November so far has experienced one of the lowest civilian casualty levels since the 2003 U.S. invasion.

But attacks by suspected Sunni Islamist insurgents like al Qaeda remain common.

The twin suicide bombings in Baghdad on Oct. 25 devastated the Justice Ministry and the Baghdad governorate headquarters, while two similar suicide bombings on Aug. 19 killed almost 100 people at the foreign and finance ministries.'

Hashemi vetoes election law

'One of Iraq's vice presidents vetoed the country's new election law today, throwing into fresh doubt the feasibility of holding crucial national elections in January and possibly disrupting the withdrawal next year of U.S. troops.

Vice President Tariq Hashimi, a Sunni, carried out his threat to veto the law because, he said, it does not provide for enough seats to represent Iraqi refugees who fled the violence of recent years and are living mostly in Syria and Jordan. A majority of the refugees are Sunnis.

Iraqi law gives the nation's two vice presidents as well as its president the power to veto legislation.'

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Washington criticizes Israeli expansionism in East Jerusalem

'An unusually harsh White House statement on an Israeli settlement construction project suggests both a widening rift between the White House and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a deep freeze of the Obama administration's Mideast peace initiative.

The White House Tuesday lost no time in expressing its "dismay" at Israeli approval earlier in the day of a 900-unit expansion of the Gilo settlement in Jerusalem. The housing for Jewish residents would be built on West Bank land Israel occupied in 1967 and subsequently annexed to Jerusalem.'

Corruption in Iraq leads to terrorism

'Our country is now ranked by the global corruption monitor, Transparency International, as the third most corrupt in the world - and sadly for all of us this is not a statistic - It is a fact of life!

Our security is undermined because checkpoint guards are bribed. Our electoral commission is corrupted because the sects divide up offices of power amongst themselves so that their will, rather than the people’s, is ensured.

If you want a job to feed your family and have a roof over your head then you are expected to pay cash for the privilege of a government post. People in desperation feel that they have no alternative than to give corrupt officials a bribe.

People even have to pay to have their garbage collected. If they don’t pay they risk having garbage pile up in the streets. What sort of life is this for our families?

The corruption can be seen at every level of our society. At the highest level we have seen ministers of this government personally profit to the tune of millions of dollars. Funds meant for much needed electricity and water services are siphoned off and used to benefit ministers and their cronies and families.

Billions of dollars provided by countries that want to help our people are wasted or worse still stolen. Yet our current politicians and parties do nothing to deal with these problems because they are the very reason for them. We must have change. And we need bold change and an end to the cosy deals between sects and the current politicians who have brought our country to this.'

Iraq must protect its Christians

'Before the war, Christians were a learned, professional class that enjoyed civilian jobs and some deference from former dictator Saddam Hussein. But like Kassab himself, many fled during the 1980s to avoid conscription into Saddam’s Ba’ath Party, and the dictator’s treatment of Christians became increasingly erratic and brutal as he became more paranoid and unstable through the 1990s. "He prevented newborn babies to be given Biblical names, and [he] nationalized our institutions," says Kassab.

But nothing could prepare his people for what was to come after Saddam fell. Out-of-work Ba’ath soldiers became armed brigands. Sunnis and Shi’ites roamed the streets, seeking scapegoats. Churches were targeted. Christians who had lived in relative harmony with their Muslim neighbors before were now branded traitors and accused of colluding with the Americans, of being "infidels" and "crusaders."

"The whole situation in Iraq led very frail communities in Iraq, like the Christians, to be hurt first and foremost. They don’t have tribal people to help them, they are small. People were kidnapped and killed right in front of their neighbors and families. We’ve had people crucified. Some women have had acid tossed in their faces."

And it all happened with seemingly little rhyme or reason, other than to punish arbitrarily – whether it be the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, who was found in a shallow grave after he was kidnapped in March 2008, or the 5-year-old boy who was kidnapped and killed, his small body found partially eaten by wild dogs, in a small village outside Mosul in May of this year.

The Shia-dominated government in Iraq, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, has made many promises to stop the violence, but so far, has not come through, says Kassab. Meanwhile, with only two Christian members of parliament, it is extremely difficult to exert political pressure internally. In November, one of the parliamentarians, Yonadam Kanna, called for a formal inquiry into the recent killings.

"We definitely get sweet words [from the government], no doubt about it, and a lot of sympathy," says Kassab, "but not all the action." '

Monday, November 16, 2009

Muslim perceptions of crusaderism re-emerged in colonial period

'Today the crusades are seen by many Muslims as evidence of unceasing Western aggression against their faith. But for centuries they saw them in a rather different light.

"You often hear people say there has been an abiding resentment amongst Muslims of the crusades," says Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith of Cambridge University. "Nothing could be further from the truth. They thought they had won."

Muslims believed they had emerged victorious because once the Christian fighters stopped coming from the West, the Muslims were left in control of Jerusalem for several centuries.

The revival of the idea of crusaderism as representing an innate Western desire to gain control of the Muslim lands only re-emerged during the colonial period. But since that time it has had great resonance. Today Osama bin Laden uses the term to motivate young Muslims to attack Western targets.

"It has become crystal clear that the West in general, led by America, harbours a crusader hatred against Islam which is beyond words" he said shortly after 9/11.'

13 Sunni Arab men murdered

'In a massacre that revived memories of Iraq's worst years of sectarian bloodshed, assailants dressed in Iraqi army uniforms savagely killed 13 men and boys late Sunday near the restive city of Abu Ghraib, according to Iraqi officials and villagers.

Most of the victims - some of whom reportedly were beheaded, while others were shot and then mutilated - were members of the Awakening, a Sunni Muslim movement that with U.S. backing and funding has fought the terrorist group al-Qaida in Iraq.

Residents and security officials said that shortly before midnight, armed men in civilian vehicles raided two villages near Abu Ghraib - a city to the west of Baghdad that houses a major prison - took captives to a nearby cemetery named Seyid Mhimmed and killed them.

"I believe they were targeted because they formed Sahwas (Awakening councils) in the area and fought back al-Qaida," said Ibraheem Ismail, who described himself as a first cousin of seven of the victims and more distantly related to the rest.

Among the dead were a father and two sons, three brothers and several local leaders, including the sheik of the local mosque, who was a member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a major Sunni political group.'

Update: 'The mayor of Abu Ghraib, Shakir al-Zubaie, told The Associated Press that none of the people killed in the nearby village of al-Saadan were members of the local Awakening Council, but said some had fought against al-Qaida for a short time in early 2008.'

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"Resurrecting Eden"

I just watched this great 60 Minutes special about the marshes of southern Iraq. Also watch Michael Wood's documentary, if you haven't already. Saddam drained the marshes after the Shia rebellion in 1991.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Hashemi threatens to veto election law

"Iraq's Sunni Arab vice president threatened on Sunday to veto a new election law unless seats in parliament are allocated to Iraqi refugees, casting fresh uncertainty over the January election.

Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi told parliament the law had to be altered to give a voice to Iraqis abroad. Many of them are members of Iraq's once-dominant Sunni Muslim community who fled after Saddam Hussein's ouster in 2003 unleashed a sectarian war."

PS: I did not know that the Iraqi Vice President has veto power.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Israeli settlements will lead to one state solution

Below is more evidence that Americans' perceptions of the conflict in Palestine have been changing over the years, albeit rather slowly. I am always pleasantly surprised to see honest reporting on Palestine in mainstream American media.

Philip Weiss notes "The American lib-left seems to be getting the news that the two-state-solution is having its death rattles (3 years of death rattles, unusual case doctor). Joe Klein wants sanctions. And here’s the Nation on the crumbling of the Palestinian Authority. It is unusual to read such a starkly-honest statement of the situation in even a liberal American publication. Roane Carey in the latest Nation:

...for all practical purposes, there is only one nation between the Jordan and the sea, composed of roughly equal numbers of Palestinians and Jews. Then Israel will "face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights," former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned when he was still in office, "and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished." So Israel will have to confront its own existential dilemma: are the settlements really worth retaining if it means the eventual end of Zionism?

Reading that in The Nation, a liberal magazine, was not as surprising as reading this in Time:

...while I agree that the Obama negotiators have been naive and incompetent in dealing with Likud intransigence, it's also clear that if it's "nonsense" to ask the Israelis to stop building settlements in East Jerusalem--universally recognized as Palestine's capital in a two-state solution (except by the Neocons and the Likudniks)--then the Netanyahu government isn't at all interested in peace.

It is ironic that the continued building of settlements on Palestinian territory, which right-wing Jews and Christians insist is Israel's right, would lead to the end of Israel as a Jewish state, assuming Israel eventually gives those Palestinians living on occupied territory the right to vote in Israeli elections, and assuming Palestinians continue to produce offspring at a faster rate than Israelis.

The international community, including many Jews, will not support an apartheid state, so when will the state of apartheid end? Will it be a one state solution in which all Palestinians have the same rights as Jews, or will it be a two state solution?

Thanks tgia for linking to Mondoweiss.

Angry Arab speaks for Iraqis

The Arab American professor in California who claimed that Sistani is one of the two people most responsible for sectarian conflict in the Middle East, comments on a Ynet article about an Israeli-born engineer who befriends Iraqis:

Ynet: "Shapira said he connected more with the Iraqis than with the Americans that he worked with: "Our mentality is much more similar to theirs than the Americans. When I left they really cried. Even now, after I left, we still talk through Skype."

Angry Arab: 'Ha. They said the same about the Lebanese back in 1982. They thought that the Lebanese will be their friends forever. Ha. In your dreams (and my nightmares) o Zionists.'

So there you have it: Iraqis will never be friends of Israelis, according to the Lebanese American professor in California. It's clear enough that the Arabs in general would rather see Iraqis living in miserable conditions forever than seeing Iraqis befriending Israelis and allowing Israelis to help them rebuild their country. These are our Arab "brothers". It makes me sad.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ayad Jamal Aldin

From Wikipedia:

'Ayad Jamal Al-Din (in Arabic : إياد جمال الدين) is an Iraqi member of parliament as part of the Iraqi National List. An islamic state secularist, he advocates the separation of church and state. He is quoted as saying:

We are like a bird born in a cage — America broke the cage open, but the bird does not know how to fly.

He is a young, Shia cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi’s overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, on a policy platform to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.

He was born in Najaf in 1961 which remains home for most of his family, although he now lives in Baghdad. He has several brothers and sisters and his late father was a literary scholar, with over 50 books to his credit, and his uncle was the famous poet Sayed Mustafa Jamal Aldin. Although he eventually trained as a cleric, he was brought up in an environment where science, culture, poetry and religion were studied hand-in-hand. That is where his belief that our problems are ‘human problems first’, and not Sunni or Turkmen or Kurd problems.

Well known in Iraq for his stand against corruption, he is on record as saying that his mission is to see an end to the corruption that has seen politicians subvert religion to their own needs, and use their sects to determine their success.

His first public appearance was at the age of 16, when he protested against the state’s attempt to prevent other Shias from making a pilgrimage to Karbala. And that is why he campaigns for ALL parties to declare who is funding them, how they are controlled, and for an end to outside interference in Iraq’s politics.

He paid for his protest with his freedom, being exiled to Syria and later Iran, where he studied the Qu’ran and Shari’a for eight years and earned his masters degree in Philosophy. He is on record saying that he does not want a secular state in order to reduce the role of God in people's lives; he wants to liberate religion from the state. He wants to see an end to the political sectarianism that puts Kurd against Shia and Turkmen against Sunni, believing that “we have a shared history, and we have a shared destiny”. He has consistently argued that freedom, tolerance and security walk hand-in-hand.

He is the father of six children – three boys and three girls.'

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Surge

An interesting documentary about the surge of US troops that helped reduce the violence in Iraq. Thanks to Abu Muqawama for posting it.

Abu Muqawama writes: "Now we just need a documentary/book about the Surge told from the perspective of the ordinary Iraqis who lived it."

A comment about the book by Kim Kagan: 'Readers should be aware that The Surge is a military history, and as such is told from the perspective of the military.'

Understanding the Surge from ISW on Vimeo.

Is Maliki becoming more autocratic?

'This week a Iraqi court ordered the Guardian to pay 100m dinar (£52,000) for supposedly defaming the country's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. The ruling should outrage anyone who cares about free speech and fair reporting. Journalists in Iraq find their task difficult and dangerous enough without the government adding its own challenge by suing reporters through the country's court system. The article that caused offence would not have raised an eyebrow in an established democracy. But either Mr al-Maliki himself, or someone who believed he was acting in his interest, took exception to a piece of reporting by the Guardian's correspondent Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, which described fears inside Iraq that the prime minister was ruling in an increasingly autocratic manner.

...Maliki has repeatedly portrayed press freedoms as essential to nation-building efforts in Iraq's young democracy.

However, Iraqi officials have become increasingly sensitive to scrutiny of their achievements in the leadup to a general election, scheduled for 21 January.'

Angry Arabs not angry about Arab hypocrisy

I want to document the apparent lack of anger or even awareness among Arab intellectuals at Arab hypocrisy. The Angry Arab wrote today 'Qatari government hearts Isarel': '"Qatar to allow Israeli football players if it wins World Cup bid". Make no mistake about it: all lousy Arab regimes would beg for peace for Israel to please the US.'

The Angry Arab has not commented on the difference between the way Arabs have treated Qatar and the way they've treated the new Iraq and its government. The Arab "resistance" have killed tens of thousands of Iraqis since the overthrow of the tyrant Saddam and his murderous regime. More than 1,100 suicide bombers, most of them non-Iraqi Arabs, have blown themselves up in Iraq since 2003. They continue to attack Iraqi security forces, and I still remember the comments on the blogosphere by Arabs from all over the world who believed that it was right to attack Iraqi security forces, because Iraqi security forces work with the infidel occupier. But the Arab resistance has never attacked Qatari security forces like they've attacked Iraqi security forces.

The rules seem to apply only to Iraq, and they definitely do not apply to Qatar. There have been no bombings of Qatari police stations, no bombings of markets in Qatar, where there are 10 Starbucks and one very large and important American military base from which the US launched two wars on Iraq. This bit of Arab hypocrisy does not seem to anger the Angry Arab. Or maybe he didn't notice.

I was curious if the Angry Arab has ever mentioned CENTCOM on his blog, so I searched for it and found this post:

'A US-supported, Shi`ite version of Zarqawi: "The Centcom commander met first with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a languid Shiite cleric who is the leader of Iraq's biggest Shiite party. Hakim, flanked by the chief of his group's Badr Organization militia, told Fallon that "the real problem in Iraq is the Sunnis." Even if the Shiites made concessions to the Sunnis by sharing oil revenue or easing de-Baathification, Hakim said, "the enemies will never accept."" '

So the only thing As'ad Abu Khara has to say about CENTCOM is that its commander met Abdul Aziz al Hakim, who was a Shi'ite version of Zarqawi, according to the Angry professor. Is this guy really a professor? I don't remember Hakim writing a letter encouraging the Shia to mass murder Sunni Arabs, nor do I remember the Badr Brigade bombing markets in Sunni neighborhoods, but we're supposed to believe that Hakim was as bad as Zarqawi.

This is the same professor who has attacked Sistani many times. Sistani is the cleric who repeatedly called for an end to the violence in Iraq and appealed for unity between Sunna and Shia. In one post the Angry Arab wrote: 'the two people most responsible for sectarian conflict in the Middle East are the Saudi King and the Grand (not at all) Ayatullah, Sistani. (You can add others like Al-Qa`idah, the Badr militia, Hariri family, etc).'

No mention of CENTCOM in Qatar and no mention of Arab hypocrisy. OK!

Violence dropping in Mosul

Joel Wing of Musings on Iraq put together a great post on Mosul: 'The presence of so many insurgents in Mosul led to several Iraqi and U.S. offensives, with few results. Beginning in February 2008 U.S. forces began setting up combat outposts throughout the city, and erecting blast walls to try to control the movement of insurgents, as Iraqi forces created a Ninewa Operations Command after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki promised a “decisive battle” against Al Qaeda in the city in January. Deaths only decreased marginally, while the number of wounded increased dramatically over the next two months. They went from 3.34 deaths per day in February 2008 to 2.76 by April, while the number of wounded went from 2.75 to 7.60 during that same period. The problem was that rather than fighting, the militants instead chose to hide amongst the population, and adopted hit-and-run attacks.

Frustrated, in May Prime Minister Maliki announced Operation Lion’s Roar/Mother of Two Springs, but by August he admitted that it was a failure. Casualties actually increased in the two months after the offensive was launched going from 2.12 deaths per day, and 1.51 wounded in May to 3.58 deaths and 4.48 wounded by July. Following attacks on Christians in the city in October, U.S. and Iraqi forces launched Operation Mother of Two Springs II, and then Operation New Hope in February 2009. In October Operation Ninewa Wall was begun, which is almost exclusively Iraqi. Maliki also increasingly played up tensions with the Kurds, to try to rally the Sunni population of Mosul behind him to some success.

Casualties finally took a noticeable drop beginning in November 2008, but the security operations were not the cause. Rather it was the changing political situation in Mosul and Ninewa overall. In 2008 the al-Hadbaa party was formed to run in the 2009 provincial elections. The party was a coalition of Mosul elites, tribal leaders, and independent Kurds. Most important for the security situation, many Baathists and militants came to support the party as well. At the same time, the nationalist and Baathist factions of the insurgency were able to rest control of Mosul from Al Qaeda who had been losing ground in Iraq since the Anbar tribes turned on them beginning in 2005. These groups in turn, decided to try the political route after they boycotted the 2005 elections. The pending U.S. withdrawal was also a factor as many Sunni Arabs were afraid of greater Shiite domination after the Americans left, so they wanted to try to get positions in the government before that happened. Al-Hadbaa leaders were able to broker a cease-fire with the insurgents as a result, and the party ended up winning control of Ninewa in January 2009. Since then they have been able to forge a marriage of convenience with Maliki as both support a strong central government, and want the Kurdish peshmerga out of Mosul and Ninewa in general.

All of these factors led to a marked change in attacks in Mosul. Before armed clashes and shoot-outs were common in the city, along with all the bombings. Beginning in late 2008 through 2009 however, most attacks were drive by shootings, assassinations, house invasions, and still the bombs. The number of deaths went from 2.63 per day in the second half of 2008 to 1.97 in the first half of 2009, while the average number wounded dropped from 5.48 to 4.49 over the same period. From September to October the number of wounded also saw a noticeable drop.

Even with all of these changes Mosul remains a very dangerous place. Al-Hadbaa’s victory has increased tensions with the Kurdish Fraternal List that are boycotting the provincial council. That on-going ethnic divide provides a continued rationale for violence by some. In October 2009 Mosul still saw 66 attacks, 60 deaths, and 82 wounded. Until the problems between Arabs and Kurds are settled there, it will remain a largely war-torn city, unable to experience the slow return to normality that the rest of the country is beginning to experience.'

Blackwater bribed Iraqi officials

More corruption in the Iraqi government is revealed: " Top executives at Blackwater Worldwide authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support after a September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, according to former company officials."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The "conflictual" relation between Islam and Christianity

'A Harvard academic had foreseen the shape of things to come. In 1993, amid this time of historical and political abdication, the late Samuel P. Huntington came forth with his celebrated "Clash of Civilizations" thesis. With remarkable prescience, he wrote that the end of the Cold War would give rise to civilizational wars.

He stated, in unadorned terms, the threat that would erupt from the lands of Islam: "The relations between Islam and Christianity, both Orthodox and Western, have often been stormy. Each has been the other's Other. The 20th century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist-Leninism is only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relation between Islam and Christianity."

The young jihadists who shattered the illusions of an era practically walk out of Huntington's pages. We had armed the boys of the jihad in Afghanistan. They came to a conviction that they had brought down one infidel empire, and could undo its liberal rival.

A meandering road led from 11/9 to 9/11. The burning grounds of Islam are altogether different than the Communist challenge. There is no Moscow that serves as the seat of Jihadist power. This is a new kind of war and new kind of enemy, a twilight war without front lines.

But we shouldn't be surprised with some of history's repetitions. There are again the appeasers who see these furies of Islam as America's comeuppance, there are those who think we have overreached and that we are riding into storms of our own making. And in the foreign world there are chameleons who feign desire for our friendship while subverting our causes.

Once again, there arises the question in our midst of whether political freedom, broadly conceived, can and ought to be taken to distant lands. In the George W. Bush years, American power and diplomacy gave voice to a belief in freedom's possibilities. A different sentiment animates American practice today.

For the peoples of Islam, the question can be squarely put: Will they tear down their walls in the manner in which the people of Central and Eastern Europe tore down theirs? The people of Islam are thus sorely tested. They will have to show their own fidelity to liberty. Strangers with big guns and ample means can ride into their midst with the best of intentions and skills, but it is their own world, their own civilization, that is now in history's scales.' --Fouad Ajami

America's plot to "divide and conquer" the Arabs

After more than 1,100 suicide bombers have blown themselves up among Iraqis since the end of Saddam's tyranny, and as Arab dictators continue to imprison and kill their own people to maintain power, and as Saudi Arabia bombs Shia rebels in Yemen, I still hear Arabs claiming that America's desire is to see the Arabs disunited. The "divide and conquer" logic drives their argument.

Bush Sr. did say in 1990 that one country will not be allowed to have control over so much oil. Preventing one Arab country from gaining control of the majority of the world's oil reserves may have served the interests of an America that would do anything to avoid another oil embargo like the one that plunged America into recession in 1973. But to assert that America actually wants to divide the Arabs and to suggest that America actively prevents unity between the Arabs is to ignore history. There has not been unity between the Arabs for decades. Most suicide bombers in Iraq have been Sunni Arabs, and some of them grew up near occupied Palestine all their lives. It seems that if America wants to see the Arabs disunited, the Arabs themselves have been aiding America's plot, if it exists.

Iraq Pundit describes what some Arabs believe to be the real purpose of the recently passed Iraqi election law: "So there you go. It's a nefarious plan to prevent the noble Arabs and Muslims, you know, the ones who currently get along so well with each other, from uniting and becoming a significant player on the world stage. It's easy to choose to believe this theory and sit back and enjoy the role of the powerless victim. But it doesn't have to be that way."

Maliki slams "negative" Saudi stance

'Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has severely criticised Saudi Arabia for its negative stance towards Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated regime.

"All the signals confirm that the Saudi position is negative regarding Iraqi affairs," Maliki said in answers to journalists' questions posted on his website.

"There are no positive signs on the part of (their) government," he added.

Maliki said Arab and foreign nations had intervened repeatedly to try to improve relations between Riyadh and his Shiite-led government but the efforts had "led to nothing."

Maliki said Iraq still wanted good relations with the Saudi monarchy nonetheless.

Since Saddam's overthrow in the US-led invasion of 2003, Iraq has repeatedly accused Saudi Arabia of granting passage and giving active encouragement to Sunni insurgents.'

Ex Baathists may participate in elections

"Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Tuesday that former Baathists could participate in the upcoming elections provided they cut ties with the former ruling party of the country.

However, he said he would not negotiate with Baathists who remained loyal to the party and its former leader Saddam Hussein, accusing them and al-Qaeda of creating instability and insecurity in the country ahead of the vote.

They would also be barred from the political process, Maliki told reporters in Baghdad."

Iraqi minorities still vulnerable

"Human Rights Watch said Tuesday in Irbil, Iraq, the Baghdad government, as well as the Kurdistan Regional Government, were not doing enough to protect the besieged minorities, whom its says are under attack from Sunni Arab extremists and suffering from intimidation by Kurdish forces trying to incorporate their lands into the autonomous territory."

Friday, November 06, 2009

Praising suicide bombers should be grounds for disqualification

Another embarassment for Arab Americans and all Muslims who believe that shouting "Allah Akbar" should not accompany committing murder: Death toll rises to 13 in Ft. Hood shootings

Army officials confirmed that the alleged gunman, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, was due to be deployed overseas. Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, was shot by a police officer and is hospitalized.

'...A senior U.S counter-terrorism official said Thursday night that the Army and FBI were looking into whether Hasan, who is Muslim, had previously come to the attention of federal law enforcement officials as the suspected author of inflammatory Internet comments likening suicide bombers to heroic soldiers who give their lives to save others.

...Hasan, a Virginia native, worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for six years before his transfer to the Texas base in July. Army officials with access to Hasan's records told the Associated Press that he had received a poor performance evaluation at Walter Reed.

In a post on the website that appears to be from May, a writer named "NidalHasan" likened a suicide bomber to a soldier who jumps on a grenade to save the lives of his fellow officers in that both were sacrificing their lives "for a more noble cause."

That cause, he wrote, "is to help save Muslims by killing enemy soldiers. If one suicide bomber can kill 100 enemy soldiers because they were caught off guard that would be considered a strategic victory. Their intention is not to die because of some despair. The same can be said for the Kamikazees in Japan." '

So instead of repaying his debt to his country for putting him through medical school and instead of going oversees to help his fellow soldiers, he kills a dozen of them before being deployed, hoping to be rewarded by God. How sad and embarrassing.

Many still believe Saddam responsible for 9/11

"President Obama has had a hard time dislodging misperceptions about his health care proposal — those stubborn beliefs that there are death panels and free care for illegal aliens that don't actually exist in the legislation. Recent research about the way people defend their faith in false information, though, suggests calling out the inaccuracies may not be all that effective in converting the suspicious.

Sociologists at the University of North Carolina and Northwestern University examined an earlier case of deep commitment to the inaccurate: the belief, among many conservatives who voted for George W. Bush in 2004, that Saddam Hussein was at least partly responsible for the attacks on 9/11.

Of 49 people included in the study who believed in such a connection, only one shed the certainty when presented with prevailing evidence that it wasn't true.

The rest came up with an array of justifications for ignoring, discounting or simply disagreeing with contrary evidence — even when it came from President Bush himself."

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Exxon & Shell win Iraq oil contract

"The Iraqi Oil Ministry on Thursday said it has awarded a consortium led by Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC the right to develop the West Qurna-1 oil field, representing the first American-led team gaining access to the country's oil patch.

The pact is the latest in a series of deals Iraq has recently signed or initialed with some of the world's biggest oil companies. Earlier this week, Iraqi officials completed a final agreement with BP PLC and China National Petroleum Corp. and an initial agreement with a consortium led by Italy's Eni SpA. U.S. oil company Occidental Petroleum Corp. participated as a junior partner in the Eni-led team."

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Israel continues evicting Palestinians from homes

The expulsion of Palestinians from their homes, which began in 1947, continues in 2009, especially in East Jerusalem. I think this may be one of the reasons they hate us.

'The truth is that the State of Israel has never been a victim, and our likening of ourselves to the 6 million has been embarrassing from the beginning - but now? After what we did in Gaza? With the stranglehold we have on that society, while we over here live free and easy?

Victims? Lambs to the slaughter? Us?

No, this has gone beyond embarrassing; this is out-and-out shameful.

And, despite our excuses, it's not that we're "traumatized" by the past into believing that we're still weak, still the frightened, powerless Jews about to be led to the gas chambers. Many Holocaust survivors still believe this, and to some very limited extent, this vestigial fear still takes up space in the Israeli mind.

But by now, 64 years after the Holocaust, 42 years after seeing in the Six Day War how strong we'd become, we know, whether we admit it to ourselves or not, that we aren't the victims anymore. We know we aren't a continuation of the 6 million but rather a deliberate and stark departure from them.

THE REASON we tell ourselves and the world that we are victims is because we know, whether we admit it to ourselves or not, that victimhood is power. Victimhood is freedom. A victim can't be told to restrain himself. A victim fighting for survival can't be accused of abusing his power because, after all, his back is to the wall, he's desperate.' ---Larry Derfner, Jerusalem Post

Hat tip to Tony for posting the video and tgia for posting the JPost article.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Iraq signs first major oil deal since 2003

'British oil major BP and China's CNPC on Tuesday signed Iraq's first major new oil deal since the 2003 U.S. invasion, snapping up a development contract for the Rumaila oilfield, one of the world's biggest.

The 20-year contract for the southern oilfield is the first of several deals Iraq expects to sign in the coming weeks and months as it tries to catapult itself to third place from 11th in the league of oil-producing nations.'

Monday, November 02, 2009

UN investigates "foreign involvement" in terrorism in Iraq

Four years after it was determined that half of suicide bombers in Iraq are Saudi and most enter Iraq via Damascus, a "U.N. special envoy has met with top Iraqi officials to discuss government complaints of outside involvement in the recent wave of terrorism. Official figures, just released, show the number of terror casualties doubled for the month of October.

Iraqi officials are praising the mission of U.N. envoy Oscar Fernandez-Taranco to Baghdad to investigate allegations of foreign involvement in recent bloody suicide bombings. Taranco's arrival follows lengthy lobbying by the government to hold an independent international inquiry.

Top Iraqi leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, have repeatedly accused Syria of aiding and abetting the perpetrators of two massive suicide bombings in Baghdad on August 19th and October 25. Syria denies involvement in the attacks."

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Baathists Inspired by Nazis

Very interesting. Thanks CMAR II - I had not seen this video until you linked to it.

PS: This documentary explains why "Farhood al Yahood" happened in Iraq during WWII.

Israel steals Palestine's water

This has been happening for decades. Big Kudos to Jon Stewart for trying to expose some of the injustice.

'Amnesty International has accused Israel of denying Palestinians the right to access adequate water by maintaining total control over the shared water resources and pursuing discriminatory policies.

These unreasonably restrict the availability of water in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and prevent the Palestinians developing an effective water infrastructure there.

“Israel allows the Palestinians access to only a fraction of the shared water resources, which lie mostly in the occupied West Bank, while the unlawful Israeli settlements there receive virtually unlimited supplies. In Gaza the Israeli blockade has made an already dire situation worse,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s researcher on Israel and the OPT.

In a new extensive report, Amnesty International revealed the extent to which Israel’s discriminatory water policies and practices are denying Palestinians their right to access to water.

Israel uses more than 80 per cent of the water from the Mountain Aquifer, the main source of underground water in Israel and the OPT, while restricting Palestinian access to a mere 20 per cent.

The Mountain Aquifer is the only source for water for Palestinians in the West Bank, but only one of several for Israel, which also takes for itself all the water available from the Jordan River.

While Palestinian daily water consumption barely reaches 70 litres a day per person, Israeli daily consumption is more than 300 litres per day, four times as much.'

Meanwhile in Iraq, Sunni extremists continue to mass murder Iraqis without Arab protest...