Friday, December 31, 2010

Salafi Muslims taint Islam

"The U.S. condemned attacks yesterday against Christians in Iraq, calling on the Iraqi government to redouble its efforts to protect the religious minority.

Bombs and rockets hit at least four homes of Christians in Baghdad last night, killing at least two people and injuring 13 others, according to the Associated Press. The violence followed a deadly Oct. 31 siege at Our Lady of Salvation Church in the Iraqi capital, and a declaration by al-Qaeda that it was waging war upon the minority group."

Sentenced to death for blasphemy

America should invade Pakistan and help the Salafi slime meet Allah.

"Asia Bibi's case has exposed deep rifts in Pakistan over the blasphemy law, seen by some as an appropriate measure to defend the tenets of Islam, but viewed by others as a dangerous tool easily abused in a society that is a volatile patchwork of ethnicities, religions and sects.

The nation's Shiite Muslim minority has been victimized by extremist Sunni Muslim groups for years. Members of the smaller Ahmadi sect, viewed by most Pakistanis as traitors to Islam because they revere another prophet in addition to Muhammad, have been frequent victims of suicide bombings, kidnappings and other attacks. Last year, in the central Punjab city of Gojra, a mob of 1,000 Muslims set fire to more than 40 Christian homes, killing seven people.

Asia Bibi's case gained notoriety because it involved capital punishment. There have been other controversial blasphemy cases since. Accused of burning pages from the Koran, Imran Latif was charged with blasphemy in Lahore but then released on bail Nov. 3 after questions arose about the veracity of the charges. Eight days later, two men shot him to death in an attack police believe was linked to the blasphemy case.

This month in the southern city of Hyderabad, a Shiite Muslim doctor was arrested on blasphemy charges after police received a complaint that he had maligned the prophet Muhammad. His crime? He tossed out the business card of a pharmaceutical company representative whose first name, Muhammad, was printed on it. The doctor belongs to the smaller Shiite sect known as Ismailis."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010: Lowest civilian death toll since 2003

"Fewer Iraqi civilians have been killed in violence in 2010 than during any other year since the American-led invasion of 2003, according to a Web site that monitors reports of such deaths.

The Web site, Iraq Body Count, said 3,976 civilians died during violence as of Dec. 23, compared with 4,680 such deaths in all of 2009."

USA continues to help Iraqis

"Two dozen Navy bomb experts departed from North Island Naval Air Station here Tuesday to assume responsibility for one of the most dangerous jobs remaining for U.S. military personnel in Iraq: detecting and defusing improvised explosive devices.

The sailors, part of Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 1, will assume command of the 500-man Joint Task Force Troy, responsible for command and control of explosive ordnance disposal forces throughout Iraq. Part of the yearlong mission is to help teach Iraqi forces how to take over the assignment when the Americans leave by the end of next year."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Iraqi Kurds also angry about continued reparations to Kuwait

I don't blame them. "Kuwait has a GDP (PPP) of US$167.9 billion and a per capita income of US$81,800, making it the 5th richest country in the world."

'Iraqi Kurdistan will have to pay US$197 million annually from its oil revenues toward Iraq’s debt to Kuwait beginning from next year, according to a new bill currently before the Iraqi parliament.

Iraq still owes $22 billion of the approximately $53 billion which the United Nations (UN) ordered Iraq to pay Kuwait as compensation for war damages incurred during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

...Sami Abdulla Atrushi, a member of the former Iraqi government’s Financial Committee, said the country’s debt requirements to Kuwait were an unfair burden on average Iraqis.

It’s an injustice against Iraqis in general and Kurdish people in particular,” said Atrushi. “Neither the Iraqi people nor their current government…agree with the policies employed by the former [Ba’athist] regime [of Saddam Hussein], especially those against Kuwait.”

Atrushi said the Kurdish people were the “first victim” of Hussein’s policies, referring to the Ba’athist regime’s genocidal persecution of the Kurds, and that therefore the compensation requirements were especially inappropriate for Iraqi Kurds. '

Monday, December 27, 2010

Terrorists murder Iraqis in Ramadi

"Suicide bombers killed at least 17 people at government headquarters in western Iraq's Anbar province Monday, in the second attack in less than a month, security sources said.

A car bomb exploded at a checkpoint just yards from the main gate to the compound in Ramadi, the provincial capital. As people scrambled to help, a second bomber approached on foot and detonated his explosives. The attack mirrored twin blasts two weeks ago at the compound, which houses the province's government and police. At least 13 people died in that attack.

The 17 dead and 40 wounded Monday included women and children lined up to file compensation papers for relatives killed in the earlier bombing, said Mustafa Hitti, a doctor at Ramadi's general hospital.

One provincial council member, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being singled out for attack, blamed Al Qaeda."

Neanderthals ate fruits & veggies too

"Neanderthals were always thought to be non-vegetarians who enjoyed nothing but meat. However, a new find indicates otherwise.

Discoveries from cave sites in Iraq and Belgium indicate that our primitive ancestors not only ate a lot of greens but were able to cook them as well, reports the Daily Mail."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Iran-Iraq War was 18th worst atrocity in history

With a million dead, the Iran-Iraq war is ranked on this website as the 18th worst atrocity in the history of the world. I was in Iraq during the first two years of that war. I had no idea at the time that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were lending money to Saddam to fight that war. The loans (Saddam thought it was a gift) were on top of Iraq's own money Saddam spent on the war. Kuwait still wants all its money back.


The pic is a little reminder to those who still believe that Saddam could not possibly be close to the Saudis, because one was secular and the other is not.

AQI kills for the "Islamic cause"

AQI can't kill Egyptian Christians, so they kill Iraqi Christians. Kinda like Saddam's intelligence personnel imprisoned, killed or raped a relative of an Iraqi who defected, and send him the videotape. But in the case of Iraqi Christians, they aren't even related to Egyptian Copts. AQI apparently believes they kill Iraqi Christians for the "Islamic cause" in general.

'Egypt's Christian minority, estimated at about 10 percent of the country's 80 million people, has grown more religiously conservative over the past three decades as has the country's Muslim majority.

Egypt's Salafi movement — extreme conservative Muslims — have long accused the Coptic Church here of conspiring to "Christianize" Egypt. Though Salafis in Egypt reject violence, their doctrine is only a few shades away from that of groups such as al-Qaida. Both adhere to a strict interpretation of Islam that supposedly is a purer form of Islam said to have been practiced by Islam's Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century.

The Salafis have set up dozens of websites and Facebook groups to spread the word about the two women.

Hossam Aboul Boukhar, the founder of one of the websites, KamiliaShehata.com, said the Shehata case is not an Egyptian matter anymore but "an Islamic cause." And he listed other women in similar situations.

"It is a phenomenon. The new Muslims, our sisters, are in misery because they are being tortured and imprisoned. We don't know what is going on inside the churches," he said.

In weekly protests from August to November, bearded men in white robes gathered outside mosques in Egypt to denounce Pope Shenouda III, the Coptic Christian leader of Egypt, as an "infidel." And they vowed revenge.

In one demonstration, Islamists raised a flag identical to that of al-Qaida in Iraq — a black banner emblazoned with the phrase: "There is no God but God and Muhammad is God's prophet." Two days later, al-Qaida in Iraq attacked the church.'

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Only one woman in new Cabinet

"Iraq's female lawmakers are furious that only one member of the country's new Cabinet is a woman and are demanding better representation in a government that otherwise has been praised by the international community for bringing together the country's religious sects and political parties.

Although women make up a quarter of the 325-member parliament, only two ministries were offered to women — with a female candidate refusing one of them in protest — in the 44-member Cabinet that was sworn in on Tuesday. Female lawmakers cried foul and demanded more women be appointed."

Criminals in Maliki's new government

From a very good article by Hayder al-Khoei:

'Maliki’s new government is being supported by the Sadrist “outlaws” he fought in 2008, and yet Moqtada al-Sadr, still wanted by the Iraqi judiciary for murder, is going to play a key political role in Iraq for the next 4 years. Another senior Sadrist, Hakim al-Zamili, is implicated in the kidnapping, and likely death, of a former Da’wa colleague of Maliki but is now rubbing shoulders with the new Baghdad elite. Hadi al-Ameri, the commander of a militia whose members formed death squads out of Ministry of Interior police commandos, is now the new Transport Minister.

So why do Iraq’s new elite object to the inclusion of ex-Ba’athists in the political process when they themselves have criminals in their ranks who have Iraqi blood on their hands?

The de-Ba’athification commission was set up to bar candidates implicated in crimes committed pre-2003 but there has been no commission set up to deal with the post-2003 criminals, especially the militias and death squad members who have maintained a legacy of kidnapping, extrajudicial executions and armed insurgency. '

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Angry Arab thinks Sistani sold Iraq to Americans

As'ad Abu Khara (Happiest Father of Shit), the Lebanese American professor who lives and works in California, believes that Sistani sold Iraq to America:

"In the contemporary history of the Arabs, the name Grand (not really) Ayatullah Sistani will go down on the same shameful list of people like Anwar Sadat, Salam Fayyad, Muhammad Dahlan, Rafiq Hariri, Bashir Gemayyel, King Fahd, King Khusayn, and Iyad Allawi. It will be remembered that Sistani sold Iraq to the American occupiers."

Jordanian med school dropout joined Al Qaeda

and got killed by Americans.

"A prominent Jordanian-Palestinian militant recently killed in Afghanistan was a medical school dropout, who joined al-Qaida after his heart was broken in an failed love affair, his friends and a counterterrorism official said Wednesday.

Haitham Mohammed al-Khayat, 26, better known in extremist circles as Abu Kandahar al-Zarqawi, was an administrator of the online jihadi forum, Al Hesbah, according to Islamist militant websites. The sites announced that he was killed by U.S. forces Friday. He was among eight Jordanians killed or arrested in the militant hotbeds of Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen over recent weeks."

Saddam was really nuts

From MAX FISHER's Iraq Tries to Ignore Koran Written in Saddam's Blood:

'Haraam, and also disgusting. Saddam reportedly had it written "in a ghoulish bid for piety" over two years in the late 1990s. The calligrapher, Abbas Shakir Joody al-Baghdadi, would write out pages using a tool connected to Saddam's veins, with a nurse overseeing the procedures. Baghdadi, who is one of the few Saddam-connected Iraqis to have found refuge in the U.S., is so scarred by the experience he still will not discuss it over a decade later.

...The incident reveals the pitfalls of majority Shia rule in a country once led by the Sunni minority, the difficulty of overcoming Baathist legacy, and the impossibly complicated intertwinement of politics, security, and sectarianism in Iraq. It also serves as an important reminder of a fact often overlooked in the heated debates over the Iraq war and its effects: Saddam Hussein was really, really nuts.'

Iraqi Christians cancel Christmas festivities

"Iraqi Christians on Wednesday called off Christmas festivities in three cities across the country as al-Qaida insurgents threatened more attacks on a beleaguered community still terrified from a bloody siege on a Baghdad church.

Church officials in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul along with the southern city of Basra said they will not put up Christmas decorations, have canceled evening Mass and urged worshippers to refrain from decorating their homes. Even an appearance by Santa Claus has been called off."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Robust Sunni & Kurdish representation in new Iraqi govt

'One Sunni politician whose ties to Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party had barred him from holding office was appointed as one of three deputy prime ministers. The speaker of Parliament, a powerful position that drives the legislative agenda, is a Sunni. And Mr. Maliki, a religious Shiite, replaced the Shiite finance minister with a Sunni.

“This is a very good day for U.S. policy in Iraq,” Christopher R. Hill, a former American ambassador in Baghdad, said in a telephone interview. “Iraqis are not fond of giving Christmas presents, but I think they gave us one today.”

The relatively robust Sunni and Kurdish representation in the new government could help Mr. Maliki navigate one of the most immediate and vexing choices facing his new government: whether any of the 50,000 American troops now in Iraq will stay past a withdrawal deadline of December 2011.'

Malaysia arrests Shiites

"More than 200 Muslim Shiites—including Iranians, Indonesians and Pakistanis—were detained in one of the biggest swoops on outlawed Muslim sects in Malaysia and may be charged with breaching Islamic laws, an official said Monday.

Government authorities in Muslim-majority Malaysia consider only the Sunni denomination to be legal. Sunni Islam is the world's largest branch of the religion, followed by Shia Islam."

And I thought Malaysia is a tolerant progressive nation.

Monday, December 20, 2010

God sent Babylonians to punish Judeans for abandoning monotheism

according to this.



I find it difficult to believe. Also difficult to believe is that God gave that land to the Jews forever.

Amnesty International calls on Iraqi govt to protect Christians

'Rights group Amnesty International on Monday called on Iraq's government to step up protection of Christians, after 44 worshippers were killed in a late October attack on a Baghdad church.

Amnesty "called on the Iraqi government to do more to protect the country's Christian minority from an expected spike in violent attacks as they prepare to celebrate Christmas," the rights group said in a statement.

"Attacks on Christians and their churches by armed groups have intensified in past weeks and have clearly included war crimes" Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's director for the Middle East and north Africa, said in the statement.

"We fear that militants are likely to attempt serious attacks against Christians during the Christmas period for maximum publicity and to embarrass the government," Smart said.'

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sadrists gain influence in Iraqi politics

'In Iraq’s last government, Mr. Sadr’s followers were accused of using their offices to spread corruption and sectarian enmity, with officials lining their pockets and death squads roaming public hospitals.

There are also remaining fears, among Americans and Iraqis, that the militia that helped bring Mr. Sadr to power initially — and was responsible for much of the sectarian violence that threatened to tear the country apart — could again be mobilized against his enemies, particularly after the American military finishes its withdrawal.

The growing strength of the movement could significantly complicate the United States’ relationship with Iraq. Mr. Sadr, who waged bloody street battles against American forces and Sunni Muslims, and his rank-and-file members insist that no American troops should remain on Iraqi soil, and they do not speak with American officials.

“We know there are going to be Sadrist ministries,” said an American diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under normal diplomatic ground rules. “We want to make it work. But we will also be true to our own principles, and they may not want to work with us.”

In addition to the governor’s seat in Maysan, they are seeking control of service ministries and a slot as one of Mr. Maliki’s deputies.

“We’re going to get everything,” said Nasser al-Rubaie, a leading Sadrist politician, as he emerged from Parliament one afternoon.

The posture and power of the Sadrists have forced a shift in tone from American officials and erstwhile Iraqi rivals, who now find themselves thrown together an awkward partnership government.

After fully embracing the political process, Mr. Sadr’s candidates pulled off surprising victories to win 40 seats in last March’s elections. Female members of the Sadrist slate, who campaigned in black, head-to-toe abayas, fared particularly well compared with their secular counterparts.'

Saturday, December 18, 2010

US Special Forces in Iraq

A very interesting National Geographic episode about US Special Forces. This clip shows shots of Saddam's palaces and includes a scene in which the wife of one of Saddam's Generals (of the Fedayeen) tries to get her home-palace back from US Special Forces and says she knows nothing about the Fedayeen. Also a scene in which soldiers find a house that was used by Saddam's secret police, apparently to train would-be terrorists in the art of smuggling explosives past airport security.



You can watch the entire episode here.

Iraqi Parliament lifts ban on Saleh el Mutlaq

"Even in Saturday's session, the tensions over repealing the ban on Mutlak, former lawmaker Dhafer Ani and politician Jamal Karbouli were evident.

After a statement that the men had signed denouncing the Baath party was read, the measure passed by 101 votes to 69. Prominent Shiite lawmakers attended the vote but did not raise their hands in a silent protest, while others stayed away in a symbolic dissent.

A senior member of Maliki's coalition, outgoing Education Minister Khudair Khuzai, said that the Shiites needed to honor their deal with Iraqiya, but wanted to show their supporters that they did not support the Baath party."

Friday, December 17, 2010

1,000 Iraqi Christian families have fled since church massacre

'They are seeking refuge in the relatively safe Kurdish-controlled region in the north.

The UN High Commission for Refugees said about 1,000 families have left Baghdad and Mosul province since an attack on a church left 68 people dead.

It said the flight of Christians to other parts of Iraq and abroad has become "a slow but steady exodus".

The UNHCR also said it was dismayed that European governments are deporting failed Iraqi asylum seekers to areas of the country it does not consider safe.'

This is very sad, and so close to Christmas.

Sweden deports 5 Iraqi Christians

"The U.N. criticized Sweden on Friday for deporting five Iraqi Christians back to their homeland as Iraq's Christian community comes under severe threat of militant attacks.

Thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled abroad or to the relative safety of Iraq's northern Kurdish region since an Oct. 31 siege on a Catholic church in Baghdad that was taken hostage during a Mass service by suicide bombers who ultimately killed 68 people.

The U.N.'s High Commission for Refugees said the five deported Christians were part of a group of at least 20 Iraqis who failed to gain asylum in Sweden and were flown out on Wednesday.

In a Friday release, the refugee agency called itself "dismayed" over the deportation and called on countries to take in Iraqis from Baghdad, Kirkuk and three northern provinces that the U.N. considers unsafe because of repeated attacks, sectarian tensions and human rights violations."

Iraqi police officer makes ultimate sacrifice to protect civilians

Thanks Maury for posting the link.

'As the suicide bomber clutched the detonator to his explosive belt, preparing to spray fire and shrapnel into a religious procession here, an Iraqi police officer named Bilal Ali Muhammad faced a choice between his own life and something larger.

If he ran and took cover, Mr. Muhammad, 31, had a chance to save himself, to continue supporting his widowed mother, to help put his younger brother through college and to watch his three young daughters grow up.

Instead, the officer — a Sunni Muslim — threw himself onto the bomber, blunting the explosion’s impact on the Shiite worshipers.

“He gave his soul to the country,” said his mother, Alaahin Hassan, holding two of his daughters in her lap as dozens of black-veiled women filled her living room this week with ritualized wails of grief. “He believed in God. That made him great.”

In a country fractured by sect and ethnicity, from villages like this all the way to the government that is finally forming in Baghdad, Mr. Muhammad’s last act was a burst of heroism and humanity set against the viciousness that still stalks Iraq.

Many Iraqis see the police and the army as corrupt, incompetent and brutal, still unprepared to secure the country as the Americans withdraw over the next year. But Mr. Muhammad’s death, one of thousands among Iraqi security forces, offers a counterpoint to that view.

On Monday afternoon, Mr. Muhammad was guarding the edge of an annual religious celebration of Ashura as Shiites waved green and black banners and beat drums to commemorate the killing of one of their sect’s foundational members in A.D. 680. The ceremonies have been ripe targets for Sunni insurgents, and Iraq’s leaders have deployed swarms of security forces this year to guard against attacks.

At 2:30 p.m., according to witnesses and police officials, Mr. Muhammad spotted a suspicious man approaching the crowd, his hand wedged into his pocket.

Mr. Muhammad, a police officer for five years, stopped the man and asked him, What do you have in your pocket? The man replied, It’s none of your business.

Pulling open the man’s jacket, Mr. Muhammad found an explosive belt strapped to his chest. Whether from instinct or training, or sheer lack of any other options, he acted in that instant.

Shouting warnings to the crowd, he wrapped his arms around the bomber. As both men tumbled to the dirt, the explosion ripped through their bodies and raked the street, scarring the white walls of a schoolyard.

A woman and her granddaughter sitting nearby were killed and a dozen others were wounded. But the police said the death toll would have been drastically higher had Mr. Muhammad not thrown himself onto the bomber.

“He’s a hero,” said Mr. Muhammad’s uncle, Hamza Hassan, who spent the day welcoming well-wishers to a funeral tent outside Mr. Muhammad’s family home here in this farming town near the Iranian border. “The only choice was to become a martyr.”

Since 2004, about 2,200 police officers have been killed here in Diyala, a northeastern province that is a stronghold of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and a crucible of Iraq’s volatile mix of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. They have been killed in broad offensives against police stations, by magnetic bombs under their cars, by pistol shots at checkpoints.

At least three of them, confronting suicide bombers, have made the extraordinary decision to wrap their arms around their killers to absorb the blast.'

Iraq offers to help Iran in fighting terrorism

LOL! Thanks Hayder for posting on fb.

'Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani offered Tehran his ministry's support and experience in fighting terror Friday, just days after a suicide bomber killed 34 people in southeastern Iran.

Bolani, who is hoping to keep his job when Prime Minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki names his cabinet in the coming days, said his country had been on the "frontline" in the battle against terrorism for several years, and that the Iraqi people sympathised with Iran.

"We have always been on the frontline of the fight against terrorists in past years," he said in a statement to the press. "The Iraqi people have tasted that bitterness, which makes them sympathise with Iran and stand side-by-side in this crisis."

"My ministry expresses its readiness to present its support and experience in the field of fighting terrorism, and all possible means to break the back of terrorism in the future."

On Wednesday, a suicide bomber from Sunni militant group Jundallah killed 34 faithful taking part in an Ashura procession in the southeastern Iranian city of Chabahar in Sistan-Baluchestan province.'

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mother of AQ leader says Al Qaeda not a terrorist organization

Adnan Gulshair el Shukrijumah's mother, who lives in Florida, says her son and Al Qaeda are not terrorists.

Sunni extremists have targeted Shia pilgrims since 2003

"Sunni insurgents have consistently targeted Shiite pilgrims with bombings, rockets and mortars since the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni who was hanged in 2006."

Why not before 2003?

Reminder: Terrorists are not insurgents!

Al Qaeda wants to kill Christians on Christmas

"Al Qaeda is planning attacks in the United States, Britain and Europe around Christmas, one year after a failed attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound passenger plane, a senior Iraqi official said Thursday.

Major General Dhiya Hussein, the interior ministry's counter-terrorism chief, said a captured militant from the Iraqi wing of al Qaeda revealed the plot during interrogations. The insurgent was among a group of 39 men arrested in a widespread swoop on top militants last month, he said.

Authorities say last month's raids, which led to the arrest of one of al Qaeda's top officers in Iraq as well as its leadership in the western province of Anbar, dealt a blow to the group's local affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq.

...Many of those arrested in the latest crackdown had been previously held in U.S. custody and rejoined the insurgency after being released, Iraqi officials have said."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How much US debt does KSA hold?

It's a secret! It's been a secret since 1974, turns out.


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Suicide bombers kill 40 Shia in Iran

"Suspected suicide bombers in Iran’s restive south-eastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan killed at least 40 Shia Muslims and injured more than 50 amid mounting sectarian strife in the Sunni-dominated region.

Local media reported that two suicide bombers infiltrated crowds of mourners who had gathered in the port of Chabahar on Wednesday for a two-day national festival to commemorate the death of the third Shia imam."

Read more: Suicide bombers kill 40 in restive Iranian province

Thanks Maury for the alert.

Attacks on Shiite pilgrims continue

"At least 10 Shiite pilgrims were killed and dozens wounded in attacks targeting them in Iraq on Tuesday evening, officials said.

In western Baghdad's Ghazaliya neighborhood a roadside bomb detonated near a gathering of pilgrims killing at least 10 and wounding 21 others, an Interior Ministry official said.

To the north of Baghdad, in Diyala province, at least 14 people were wounded when a roadside bomb detonated near a procession of Shiite pilgrims in Khalis, according to the town's mayor.

This was the third attack in as many days in the ethnically mixed Diyala province targeting Shiite pilgrims. On Sunday and Monday two suicide attacks in the province left at least five people killed and nearly two dozen wounded.

Attacks targeting Shiite pilgrims have spiked in recent days as hundreds of thousands of worshipers have been making their way to the holy city of Karbala in southern Iraq and other Shiite shrines."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Glen Beck thinks 10% of Muslims are terrorists

I just saw this on Juan Cole's post Fareed Zakaria Destroys Beck on Lunatic Islamophobia. I love Zakaria's calm, erudite, incisive analysis.

US convinces Allawi to join Iraqi govt

AP: "The head of a Sunni-backed political party will join the Shiite-led government being assembled by his top rival, a spokeswoman said Tuesday, clearing a final hurdle to end months of tortuous, postelection dealmaking.

The breakthrough cements what the Obama administration has been pushing for as U.S. troops prepare to leave Iraq by the end of 2011: an inclusive government that distributes power among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds to forge stability after more than seven years of war.

Former Premier Ayad Allawi had held out for months, insisting that he or one of his allies should be the next prime minister since his secular Iraqiya party narrowly won more seats than any other alliance in the March parliamentary election. He had long said he would refuse to join a government led by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom many Sunni Muslims view with suspicion.

But after what appeared to be a warm 90-minute meeting between the two on Tuesday, Iraqiya spokeswoman said Maysoun al-Damlouji said Allawi has agreed to join the government as head of a newly created council to oversee security and foreign policy issues.

Allawi's turnabout essentially gives him veto power over many of al-Maliki's top priorities. It also affords him the same salary as al-Maliki — to be set by the new parliament — that is believed to currently be at least $360,000 annually.

The detente came after intense lobbying by Vice President Joe Biden and two U.S. ambassadors. It was one of the last major hurdles Iraq's leaders wanted to clear before announcing the nation's new leaders within a constitutionally required negotiation period that ends Dec. 25."

UN to end Saddam-era sanctions on Iraq

I thought they were ended in 2003. The Wikipedia article on Iraq sanctions says "they began August 6, 1990, four days after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and continued until May 22, 2003." The economic situation in Iraq has changed drastically since 2003. Multi-national companies have signed oil deals with the Iraqi government, even without an oil law, and Iraqis can buy pretty much whatever they want these days. I think this proves that the UN sanctions were really enforced by the US and its allies. It didn't matter that UN sanctions on Iraq existed. What really mattered was US enforcement of those sanctions.

"The UN Security Council will on Wednesday end a swathe of Saddam Hussein-era sanctions against Iraq in a sign of the changes in the country, diplomats said.

US Vice President Joe Biden will chair a Security Council meeting that will lift the international penalties mainly dating from Saddam's 1990 invasion of neighboring Kuwait that set off the first Gulf War.

...There will still be sanctions against some minor members of the Saddam regime who are still on the run. Iraq is also required to pay five percent of its oil revenues into a UN fund for reparations for Kuwait.

More than 30 billion dollars has already been paid out by the fund, and Iraq has protested that the measure is too severe and should be lifted.

Kuwait has countered that before being released from the sanctions, Iraq needs to agree the border between the two countries, and pay a further 22 billion dollars due in war reparations."

Sunni extremists continue to terrorize Iraqi Shia

"Four people were killed and more than a dozen were wounded Monday in attacks on three groups of Shiite Muslims observing the religious holiday of Ashura. In the worst attack, a suicide bomber struck the end of a procession in Diyala Province, killing 4 people and wounding 15, mostly women. In Baghdad, a roadside bomb exploded near a procession, wounding four, and three others were hurt in a blast near a Shiite mosque. For several years, largely Sunni insurgent groups have attacked Shiites during the holiday, which commemorates the centuries-old death of a revered imam."

-- JACK HEALY

Monday, December 13, 2010

Middle East & North Africa remains most repressive

In The Economists's Democracy index 2010, Iraq is given an overall score of 4.00 out of 10.00, the same score as Haiti, but Iraq's score is the 4th best in the Middle East & Africa. Only Israel (7.48), Lebanon (5.82), and Palestine (5.44) scored better.

The index groups governments into four categories: full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes, and authoritarian regimes. Iraq is at the bottom of the "hybrid regimes" group. When scored by region, the Middle East & North Africa region scores the lowest in the world, with an average score of 3.43, and that average includes Israel's score of 7.48!

"The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) remains the most repressive region in the world—16 out of 20 countries in the region are categorised as authoritarian. There are only four exceptions: Israel is the only democracy in the region, albeit a flawed democracy; and there are three hybrid regimes (Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Territories).

Almost all governments in the region continue to restrict political freedoms. All the Gulf states except Bahrain, for instance, ban political organisations. There have been some political reforms in the region in recent years, including the establishment of representative assemblies in Oman, Qatar and the UAE, and the return of an elected parliament in Bahrain. But these reforms have certainly not changed fundamentally the political system in these states, in which the executive branch still dominates and is unaccountable."

Only 12.3% of the world's population live in full democracies and democracy is in decline overall in the world.

Thanks Hayder for posting the link on fb.

More Iraqi Christians flee homes

I saw this article this morning and wanted to post it but I forgot. Thanks Faryouz for posting on facebook.

'It threatens to reduce further what Archdeacon Emanuel Youkhana of the Assyrian Church of the East called “a community whose roots were in Iraq even before Christ.”

Those who fled the latest violence — many of them in a panicked rush, with only the possessions they could pack in cars — warned that the new violence presages the demise of the faith in Iraq. Several evoked the mass departure of Iraq’s Jews after the founding of the state of Israel in 1948.

“It’s exactly what happened to the Jews,” said Nassir Sharhoom, 47, who fled last month to the Kurdish capital, Erbil, with his family from Dora, a once mixed neighborhood in Baghdad. “They want us all to go.” '

"Real Jews"

'Ira Stup was raised in Philadelphia attending Jewish day school and camps. He found his home in the Jewish community and was “intoxicated with Jewish democracy” as framed in the ideals of Israel’s foundation. Now he has returned deeply troubled from a one-year fellowship based in Tel Aviv.

The worst single incident occurred on Ben Yehuda Street in central Jerusalem. Stup, 24, a Columbia graduate, was returning from a rally with a couple of friends carrying a banner that said, “Zionists are not settlers.” A group of religious Jews wearing yarmulkes approached, spat on them and started punching.

“About 20 people saw the whole thing and just watched. They were screaming, ‘You are not real Jews.’ Most of them were American. It was one of the most disappointing moments of my life — you can disagree as much as you want with a banner but to allow violence and not react is outrageous. For me it was a turning point. Nobody previously had said I was not a real Jew.”

The view that American Jews supportive of Israel but critical of its policies are not “real Jews” is, however, widespread. Israel-right-or-wrong continues to be the core approach of major U.S. Jewish organizations, from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

To oppose the continued expansion of settlements in the West Bank (“Zionists are not settlers”), or question growing anti-Arab bigotry as personified by Israel’s rightist foreign minister and illustrated by the “loyalty oath” debate, or ask whether the “de-legitimization” of Israel might not have something to do with its own actions is to incur these organizations’ steady ire." '

--Roger Cohen

I remember when people said I was not a "real" Iraqi, apparently because I supported the overthrow of Saddam's regime. Also I remember Sarah Palin's remarks about "real Americans."

Iraqi Swede bombs for the Prophet

Satirical images of the Prophet Muhammad are taken very seriously by Sunni extremists. Evidently they believe that killing the cartoonist or launching a terrorist attack in the cartoonist's country will be rewarded by Allah.

Or was the bomber a Shiite? I bet he was Sunni. The al-Qaeda linked "Islamic State of Iraq" praised the bombing. Does anybody else wonder if he was Sunni? Or would that kind of thinking make one "sectarian"?

"Born in Baghdad, as a child he emigrated, with his parents and sisters, to Sweden, where he enjoyed an unremarkable upbringing in a small provincial town, acquiring citizenship along the way. He moved to Britain in 2001, settling in Luton, where he studied for a degree, married and fathered two children.

Mr Abdel Wahab’s unexceptional background recalls that of Lors Doukaiev, a young Belgian of Chechen background who was injured when his makeshift bomb detonated prematurely in Copenhagen in September. Mr Doukaiev is awaiting trial.

The two youthful terrorists had both been angered by what they considered to be blasphemous cartoons. Mr Doukaiev reportedly travelled to Denmark to letter-bomb Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that, notoriously, published a number of satirical drawings of the Prophet Mohammad in 2005."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Muslim Dior

This is hilarious. Bill Maher is great.



This bit of satire was aimed at KSA, but Bill should still read Abbas Hawazin's Categories of Syrian Hijab for a more realistic portrayal of Muslim women outside KSA wearing (and not wearing) hijab.

Another mass grave discovered

'A mass grave yard of the victims of the former Baath regime had been discovered by a Human Rights team in northern Basra on Friday, a local Basra official said on Saturday.

“The grave yard, discovered by a team of Human Rights Ministry and the Human Rights Bureau, in al-Der village, 60 km to the north of Basra, comprised remnants of many victims of the former regime, dating back to 1991,” the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.'

Thanks Hayder for posting.

General Petraeus is most fascinating

"In June, Petraeus was appointed by President Barack Obama to replace former Gen. Stanley McChrystal as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Petraeus had previously served as the commander of the Multi-National Force-Iraq in 2006, where he was seen as the one who turned the tide of violence in that nation and could do the same in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan -- a country which has defeated every foreign army that ever entered it -- may be the ultimate test. After nine years of war, the Afghans' support of U.S. presence in their country has dwindled, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. Since last year, Afghans' confidence that U.S. and NATO forces can provide security and stability in their area has also dropped.

But Petraeus is a different kind of general, fighting a different kind of war. The counterinsurgency strategy largely authored and being implemented now by Petraeus is based on the idea that wars cannot be won with bullets alone, but instead through the hearts and the minds of the local population. Human terrain is the decisive terrain.

To Petraeus, this means gaining the trust of the local population, opening schools, teaching farmers new techniques, helping businesses grow, bolstering the government to provide basic services to citizens, and ultimately, keeping the peace to keep it from becoming a launching pad for terrorists."

Thanks Fayrouz for posting.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hundreds of Iraqi Christians attend mass 40 days after Church massacre

"Hundreds of Iraqi Christians attended mass under heavy security on Friday to mark 40 days since dozens of worshippers were killed in an Al-Qaeda siege that sparked an international outcry.

Teary-eyed parishioners, diplomats, and politicians gathered in the Sayidat al-Nejat (Our Lady of Salvation) Syriac Catholic church, seated on plastic garden chairs as priests read aloud the names of the 46 people who died, recited prayers and sang hymns.

Outside, dozens of armed soldiers, policemen and private security contractors stood guard as streets were closed off to vehicle traffic, and men and women alike were frisked on entry."

"We can't give up"

"Iraq is much safer now than it was in 2007, especially for U.S. troops, but we aren't out of the woods yet. If the use of sticky bombs tells us anything -- think Northern Ireland -- then we still have quite a long way to go. A stable and prosperous Iraq is in the United States and the Middle East's interest. We can't give up, not while MAIEDs continue to wound, kill and maim men, women and children in Iraq."

--Capt. Michael Cummings, U.S. Army
Best Defense deputy IED correspondent

Thanks Iraq Pundit for posting the article.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

More foreign fighters entering Iraq

'Intelligence officials say foreign fighters have been slipping back into Iraq in larger numbers recently and may have been behind some of the most devastating attacks this year, reviving a threat the U.S. military believed had been almost entirely eradicated.

It is impossible to verify the actual numbers of foreign insurgents entering the country. But one Middle Eastern intelligence official estimated recently that 250 came in October alone. U.S. officials say the figure is far lower, but have acknowledged an increase since August.

At the same time, Iraqi officials say there has been a surge in financial aid to al-Qaida's front group in Iraq as the U.S. military prepares to leave by the end of 2011. They said it reflects fears by Arab states over the growing influence of Iran's Shiite-led government over Iraq and its Shiite-dominated government.'

KSA wanted to invade Lebanon and destroy Hizballah

"Saudi Arabia proposed creating an Arab force backed by US and Nato air and sea power to intervene in Lebanon two years ago and destroy Iranian-backed Hezbollah, according to a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

The plan would have sparked a proxy battle between the US and its allies against Iran, fought in one of the most volatile regions of the world.

The Saudi plan was never enacted but reflects the anxiety of Saudi Arabia – as well as the US – about growing Iranian influence in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East."

I wonder if any Americans think the Saudi-led Arab army would keep Lebanon secular.

Iraqi govt bans theater and music classes in Baghdad's Fine Arts Institute

"Last week, the Iraqi government shut down social clubs that serve alcohol in Baghdad, enraging the educated class who demonstrated against the extreme Islamic-inspired order. Today, Iraqis woke up to hear a far worse order; the Iraqi Ministry of Education has banned theater and music classes in Baghdad's Fine Arts Institute, and ordered the removal of statues showcased at the entrance of the institute without explaining the move."

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Saudi royals know how to party

Are the Saudis not the biggest hypocrites in the world?

"A world of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll plays out behind the official Islamic law observances of Saudi Arabian royalty, U.S. diplomats say in cables revealed by WikiLeaks and quoted by the Guardian newspaper.

Consulate officials in Jeddah, describing an underground Halloween party thrown last year by a member of the large Al-Thunayan family, said liquor and prostitutes were present in abundance behind heavily guarded villa gates, the Guardian said."

Thanks Non Sectarian Sunni Guy for posting the link.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Iraq's neighbors suck

'Iraq's relations with its neighbors represent a critical element in its efforts to maintain security and stability and normalize its position in the Gulf and the broader region. While Iraq made substantial progress in 2008-09 on these fronts, there remained unfinished business, especially in terms of relations with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Syria. The August 19 bombings -- targeting the MFA, and by extension Iraq's improving relations with its neighbors -- represent a serious setback to that progress and have alarmed senior Iraqi officials that Iraqi Sunni Arab neighbors in particular now view those earlier gains as "reversible." Iraq views relations with Saudi Arabia as among its most challenging, given Riyadh's money, deeply ingrained anti-Shia attitudes, and suspicions that a Shia-led Iraq will inevitably further Iranian regional influence. Iraqi contacts assess that the Saudi goal (and that of most other Sunni Arab states, to vary degrees) is to enhance Sunni influence, dilute Shia dominance and promote the formation of a weak and fractured Iraqi government. Coincidentally, Iranian efforts are driven by a clear determination to see a sectarian, Shia-dominated government that is weak, disenfranchised from its Arab neighbors, detached from the U.S. security apparatus and strategically dependent on Iran. Neither of these objectives is in the U.S. interest. In the longer term, we will need to flesh out ideas for a post-GCC security architecture that includes Iraq more fully, develops ways to contain Iranian regional influence, and shapes the special position Iraq will likely occupy in the Gulf in ways that further our interests and those of our Gulf partners.'

Friday, December 03, 2010

Maliki fired capable officers in the name of de-Baathification

'Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki fired hundreds of intelligence and security officials to replace them with less capable political loyalists, say U.S. State Department cables from early 2010. A cable sent just days before Iraq's national campaign season began on February 12 predicted "serious harm to the intelligence institutions by drumming out experienced and proficient officers in certain services in the name of de-Ba'athification, regardless if it a cover for political gamesmanship." The Iraqis were fired under the guise of Iraq's "de-Baathification" policy, which forbids anyone associated with Saddam Hussein's Baath party from participating in politics.

The firings, and their successive replacement with inexperienced or Iran-trained loyalists, came as the planned U.S. withdrawal shifted greater responsibility for Iraq's security to the same national institutions Maliki was purging. Though violence in Iraq has greatly improved since the war's worst years, it remains a serious problem, with many residents still fleeing the continued ethnic violence and terrorist attacks.'

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Al Qaeda in Iran

The Iranian government supports Al Qaeda?? Are you kidding me?? All this time I thought it didn't make sense. It still doesn't make sense, but apparently it is so. This will undoubtedly (hopefully) cause more Iraqi Shia, especially the ones in government, to not trust the Iranian government.

"A State Department cable released by WikiLeaks earlier this week contains a stunning new detail about the relationship between Iran and al Qaeda. The Saudis have privately complained to the Obama administration that Iran harbors a dangerous network of al Qaeda operatives who are targeting the kingdom. And at the heart of the relationship is one of Osama bin Laden’s little-known sons."

Leaked cables may push Maliki closer to Iran

'Sunni Arab hostility toward the growing Shiite power in Iraq is no revelation. But the sensitive cables are coming out just as the recently reappointed Maliki is cobbling together a cabinet that may finally lead to a government.

"Sunni Arab dislike of a Shiite ascendancy in Iraq is well known by Maliki. But this will exacerbate the problem and may push him closer to the Iranians," said Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009. "Tehran will certainly try. We'll see if there are any Arab overture to the new government once it is formed - that would help, but I doubt it."

Iraqi officials were quick to dismiss the likelihood of lasting effects, pointing out this was more of a problem between Iran and the Arab Gulf than a problem for Iraq. A new era of Shiite Arab majority leadership was forged in Iraq following the invasion, after decades of dictatorship under Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab who oppressed the Shiite majority and the Kurds.'

--Leila Fadel

Sharia-compliant states

If the six principles of Sharia really are the rights to the protections of life, family, education, religion, property and human dignity, then Abdul Rauf is correct in stating that America is a "Sharia-compliant state".



America protects the principles of Sharia better than most Muslim countries, it seems.

Before I learned about the six principles of Sharia law I posted "Saudi constitution in accordance with Shari3a". It is the Salafi understanding of Sharia, which evidently involves forbidding women to drive and forcing them to wear niqab. Saudi religious police would rather keep a group of school girls inside a burning building then have them come out with their hair exposed! It seems the Salafi Muslims in KSA do not understand the meaning of the right to the protection of life.

The right to the protection of education has also been trampled on throughout the Muslim world. In Afghanistan girls risk their lives to go to school.

In many Muslim countries, the right to the protection of religion is protected only for Muslims. In some Muslim countries, Christianity is allowed, but not well protected by the government. The Iraqi government has failed to protect Iraqi Christians (and therefore Christianity in Iraq) in the post-Saddam era of religious violence. The Egyptian government has been unable to stop Islamic extremists' persecution of Copts for decades.

In America, the right to practice ANY religion (or no religion) is protected in the US constitution.

The rivalry between Najaf and Qum

"Najaf will always be a double-edged sword for the Iranians. On the one hand, Iran is able to extend their socio-economic links to Iraq through Najaf, the religious centre of Shia Islam. On the other hand, the rivalry between the Najaf and Qum schools will always remain a thorn for Iranian interests in Iraq as long as there are strong ideological opponents of Khomeini’s view on theocratic government.

Sistani rarely gets directly involved in politics, precisely because of his rejection [of] the Guardianship of the Jurist, but in his last intervention he pushed the idea of on open-list system in the general elections to make politicians in Iraq more accountable to their constituents – much to the dismay of Iran. The first parliamentary elections were held on a closed list basis, in which voters voted for party lists but party leaders decided in back room negotiations who exactly would fill the seats. Sistani was conveying a well known desire of the Iraqi people to know which MPs they were placing in power. But the Iranians did not want an open list because they preferred a united Shia list, which would be able to win seats based more on its sectarian coloration and not because of the individual merit of candidates."

--Hayder al-Khoei

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Sadrists don't like sight of lingerie in display window

'One recent day, an intimidating group of Sadrists entered a lingerie store in the movement's Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City and brusquely told its owner to take bras and underwear out of his display window.

"I am not doing anything wrong," the owner lamented to an Associated Press reporter after the men left. Still, the owner, who refused to be identified for fear of being targeted, moved the offending items to the back of the shop. Nearby a cafe owner, similarly afraid to be identified, said Sadrists told him to keep teenagers out of his establishment or be shut down for corrupting youth.

Such intimidation by followers of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr imposing their version of Islamic restrictions had waned last year in areas they traditionally controlled, after Iraqi security forces cracked down on the movement's Mahdi Army militia. But now they are increasingly back, emboldened by the movement's success in March 7 elections.'

New "Islamic State of Iraq" leader was detained by US

Nibras Kazimi: 'So the ISI's current proto-caliph, Abu Bakr al-Husseini al-Qureishi al-Baghdadi, is allegedly Dr. Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Samara'i ("Abu Du'a'"), while the 'Minister of War' who goes by the pseudonym Al-Nassir Li Din Allah Suleiman is allegedly Nu'man Salman Mansour al-Zaidi ("Abu Ibrahim", formerly the ISI's "vali" for Anbar).

Al-Zawi also revealed that, just like Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, al-Samara'i and al-Zaidi were formerly detained by the Americans, specifically in Bucca Camp, and then released. There is a very significant pattern of how many active and captured terrorists in Iraq are former detainees that were released in the past two years without being transfered to Iraqi jurisdiction. One needs to ask, why were they released? Who was responsible for such decisions? Why were such decisions taken? But who are we kidding, when was the last time anyone was held accountable for their major blunders in Iraq?

It should be noted that most of this recent tranche of info on the ISI seems to be coming from the break-up by the Ministry of Interior of an important terrorist cell active in Baghdad, which was responsible for planning many of the major terrorist operations of recent memory, including last month's church attack. One should take note that while these terror acts got plenty of ink in US papers, the arrest of this cell was hardly reported: two short paragraphs in the New York Times, one paragraph in the Washington Post."

Violence down in Iraq

"Elite counterterrorism units in Iraq are running half as many operations this year as they have annually since 2008, in part because of a nationwide drop in violence, senior U.S. military officials said Wednesday.

...According to the Iraqi government numbers, 105 Iraqi civilians and 46 members of the security forces were killed in terrorism-related violence in November. Additionally, 40 suspected insurgents were killed and 195 arrested, the data shows.

That's the Iraqi government's lowest monthly casualty count since November 2009, when 122 people died.

Although nationwide violence has dropped dramatically, bombings and shootings still occur on a near-daily basis in Iraq."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Israel & Arabs agree on Iran

I know that many Arabs don't want to see the US bomb Iran, but many obviously do. Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah, Saudi King Abdullah, and Israel's conservative government would like to see America bomb Iran.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sistani not an Iranian lackey

'Two cables from late 2009 described the limits of Iranian sway over its neighbor, with one saying that its "greatest political roadblock" for Iran was differences between Iranian religious leaders and Iraq's pre-eminent Shiite spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. In the March 2010 parliamentary polls, al-Sistani's call for an open-list ballot - allowing voters to select individual candidates - won out over Tehran's preference for a closed list, which would have favored established parties, the cable said.'

Iraqi govt more willing to stop malign Iranian influence

From a cable dated 24 April 2009: "Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - Quds Force (IRGC-QF) officers are active in Iraq, conducting traditional espionage and supporting violent extremists as well as supporting both legitimate and malign Iranian economic and cultural outreach. Iraqis and their government have demonstrated increasing willingness to push back against malign Iranian influence in the last year. Working with the Iraqis, we have succeeded in stopping some IRGC-QF activity through military operations and diplomatic engagement, while we prevented some IRGC-QF officers from entering Iraq through explicit warnings that we would target them unilaterally. However, under the Security Agreement effective January 1, all operations in Iraq must be conducted in conjunction with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and our previous unilateral warnings carry less weight. As Coalition Forces continue the period of responsible drawdown, we will rely increasingly on the GOI to keep the pressure on the IRGC-QF. We intend to support the GOI in these efforts through continued diplomatic engagement, intelligence sharing, and our security partnership of Coalition Forces working by, with, and through the ISF."

Violence against women in Iraq

I've known about the violence against women in Iraq, but I did not realize so much of it is concentrated in Kurdistan. I always perceived the Kurds to be more progressive than the rest of Iraq because they've had an autonomous government supported by the US since 1992. But this year I've read a few articles about honor killings in Kurdistan, and after reading recent comments by Mister Ghost, I've read a few articles about FGM in Kurdistan. Thank you MG for discussing honor killings and FGM in Kurdistan.

In 2009, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) reported about FGM in Kurdistan for the first time. UNICEF/Arbil followed. Shortly before, WADI had published the first findings from a comprehensive study by the association, indicating that FGM is prevalent in almost all parts of Iraqi Kurdistan. This study, published in 2010, also shows that FGM is equally widespread in towns and in the countryside. Human Rights Watch is expected to publish their own survey soon, confirming the results found by WADI.

Today, female genital mutilation in Kurdistan is internationally recognized beyond dispute. All future reports about FGM worldwide will also have to include Kurdistan. Maps of the FGM-affected regions are currently being revised. Those who still call FGM an “African problem” are corrected by other, better-informed. This recognition has become possible thanks to the campaign.

Read more: Stop FGM in Kurdistan. It's good to see that UNICEF has been part of the effort to stop FGM in Kurdistan. In March I asked "Why aren't more countries in the middle east (especially the oil rich nations) contributing to UNICEF?"

I'm glad that Kurdistan's government is allowing open discussion of these issues and is attempting to combat gender-based violence against women.

As Kurdistan is fast progressing, becoming democratized and westernized, it faces serious difficulties with its conservative culture that has subjected women to painful and deadly rituals including honor killing. Barham Salih, prime minister of Kurdistan, promised on Thursday to put the issue of women first in his government’s policies and eliminate violence against women, who constitute more than half of the Kurdish society.

Perhaps these changes in Kurdistan have been made possible by American influence. If so, I hope the positive influence continues, and not just in Kurdistan. With American help and encouragement, Iraq can become a better country.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Arabs want US to attack Iran

"Whistle-blowing website Wikileaks begun releasing extracts from secret messages sent by US embassies which give an insight into current global concerns.

They include reports of some Arab leaders - including Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah - urging the US to attack Iran and end its nuclear weapons programme."

Saudis still biggest financiers of Al Qaeda

'Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, and the tiny Persian Gulf state of Qatar, a generous host to the American military for years, was the “worst in the region” in counterterrorism efforts, according to a State Department cable last December. Qatar’s security service was “hesitant to act against known terrorists out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S. and provoking reprisals,” the cable said.'

Saturday, November 27, 2010

UAE to build new museums

This is good for the UAE. Hopefully it will be good for the region. Thanks Sousan for posting on fb.

"In 2005 Sheikh Zayed’s son and heir, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, approached Thomas Krens, who was the director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York, with the idea of creating a new branch of the Guggenheim Museum — a Middle Eastern version of what Mr. Krens and Mr. Gehry had accomplished a decade earlier in Bilbao, Spain. But the sheik’s ambitions were never so small: within a few years the proposed site of the project, Saadiyat Island, a 10-square-mile development zone just north of Abu Dhabi’s urban center, was being planned as a miniature city built around culture and leisure, with some of the most recognizable names from the creative world.

Abu Dhabi’s blockbuster deal with the Louvre was signed in 2007; another deal, with the British Museum, to design exhibitions for Foster & Partners’ Zayed National Museum, was signed two years later. The maritime museum by Mr. Ando and a performing arts center by Zaha Hadid are still being planned. These cultural megaprojects will be joined by a campus of New York University on Saadiyat Island’s southern shore and, in a location to be determined, a four-million-square-foot development for media companies and film studios meant partly to provide job training and opportunities for young Emiratis.

Sheik Khalifa and his government want all this to instill national pride in a new generation of Emiratis while providing citizens with tools, both intellectual and psychological, for living in a global society. The idea, several people told me on a recent visit, is to tell a new story, one that breaks with a long history of regional decline, including the recent upheavals caused by militant fundamentalism, and to re-establish a semblance of cultural parity with the West."

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Iraqi Christian lawmaker demands govt protect Christians

'"We demand the government be up to its responsibility of protecting its people - otherwise the crimes targeting Christians will continue," Kana told a parliament session on Tuesday.

He said calls from France and Germany should be "rejected" and claimed they are "linked to foreign agendas that aim to deplete Iraq's Christian community."

Kana also accused "political agendas" within the Shiite-led government of ignoring pleas to help Iraqi Christians. "We found no response, just silence," he said.'

Iraq is a basket case

I haven't been able to watch the Rachel Maddow Show on TV lately, so I check out her website on MSNBC to catch up on the latest in American politics. Last night I noticed on the site a collection of Maddow's reporting on Iraq and I watched all the clips.

Maddow's reporting on Iraq has often been pessimistic (understandably, I suppose) and she was always "against" the war, but it's clear she cares about the welfare of Iraqis. I also appreciate Richard Engel's brutally honest and straightforward reporting on Iraq.

Maddow traveled to Iraq in August to cover the US announcement of the end of combat operations there. In this interview, Engel tells Maddow that Iraqis are still thankful that the US overthrew Saddam's regime, saying that Saddam was really THAT bad.

This was filmed in August and the two discuss how hot Iraq is and Maddow shows her disgust at the lack of electricity:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Also watch this clip, in which Maddow and Engel discuss President Obama's remarks on the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Engel calls Iraq a "basket case".

Monday, November 22, 2010

Honor killings in Iraqi Kurdistan

I did not know until recently the scale of "honor killings" in Kurdistan. In this sad story, a man was killed by his wife's brother, because her family did not approve of the marriage.

"Honor killing has a long history in Iraq and here in the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan. But even here, this couple’s case stood out because the man was killed, not the woman, and because of the political clout of the warring families.

As some Iraqi lawmakers try to crack down on honor killing, the case — in which there have been no arrests — also illustrates how difficult it can be to uproot a deep-seated tribal honor code.

More than 12,000 women were killed in the name of honor in Kurdistan from 1991 to 2007, according to Aso Kamal of the Doaa Network Against Violence. Government figures are much lower, and show a decline in recent years, and Kurdish law has mandated since 2008 that an honor killing be treated like any other murder. But the practice continues, and the crime is often hidden or disguised to look like suicide."

Iraqi govt must be formed to pass a budget

'He said Iraq would not be able to resume that aid until a new budget was passed.

Some lawmakers called for an investigation into the shortage of money; others said they were not surprised to learn that the well was dry.

“It’s expected,” said Ayad al-Samarrai, a former speaker of Parliament. “When Parliament is delayed for all these months, it also stops monitoring the government and holding them accountable.”

Less than two weeks ago, Iraqi leaders announced a power-sharing deal to fold the country’s major ethnic and religious factions into a fragile unity government led by Mr. Maliki, a religious Shiite who took office in 2006 and presided over an ebb in bloodshed.

The latest delay seems to be centered on an obscure parliamentary question: When will President Jalal Talabani, whom Parliament re-elected on Nov. 11, formally ask Mr. Maliki to form a government?'

Murder of Christians in Mousul continues

"Three people were killed Monday in Iraq in the latest attack targeting Christians, police in the city of Mosul said.

In one attack, two Christian brothers were killed in Mosul when gunmen broke into their workplace in an industrial part of the city and shot them. The brothers were welders who owned the shop.

On Monday evening, police found an elderly Christian woman strangled in her home in central Mosul.

The attacks on Christians started October 31 in Baghdad have extended to the northern parts of the country, such as Mosul.

Last week, a bomb attached to the vehicle of a Christian man detonated in eastern Mosul, killing him and his 6-year-old daughter, local police told CNN.

The November 16 attack came one day after two Christian men in adjacent homes were killed after gunmen stormed their houses.

Also on November 15, a bomb detonated outside a Christian home. It caused damages but no injuries."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Iraq is worst at solving murders of reporters

Maybe the government's excuse is "Allah will solve it".

'Gunmen killed a young television news reporter in his home in the restive northern city of Mosul on Sunday, in the latest in a series of deadly attacks on journalists in Iraq, police said.

Mazin Mardan, in his mid-20s, was a correspondent for Al-Mosuliyah satellite television channel, covering hard news and carrying out interviews for the city's local station.

"Unknown gunmen raided the house of Mazin Mardan of Al-Mosuliyah satellite channel in the Al-Sadiq neighbourhood, east Mosul," police Major Mohammed al-Hayali said. "They killed him and they escaped."

The shooting occurred at around 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) in the city, 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Baghdad, Hayali said.

In October, the International Press Institute press watchdog said more journalists had been killed in Iraq this year than in all of 2009.

The same month, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Iraq a lowly 145th place for media freedom out of 175 countries, and in September said the Iraq conflict has been the deadliest for the media since World War II.

And according to the "Impunity Index" released in April by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Iraq has the worst record of any country for solving the murders of reporters.'

Iraq runs out of welfare money

'In only their fourth session since being elected in March, members of Iraq's parliament on Sunday demanded to know what happened to the estimated $1 billion allocated for welfare funding by the Finance Ministry for 2010.

"We should ask the government where these allocations for widows' aid have gone," demanded Sadrist lawmaker Maha Adouri of Baghdad, one of the women who make up a quarter of the legislature's 325 members. "There are thousands of widows who did not receive financial aid for months."

Another legislator said farmers have not been paid for wheat and other crops they supplied the government for at least five months.

The cause of the shortfall was unclear, but officials have worried that the deadlock over forming a new government since March's inconclusive election ultimately would lead to funding shortages. Whatever the cause, the welfare cutoff has been felt among Iraqis.

"We are sick people and others are old, and not getting our welfare puts us in a financial crisis," said Fatima Hassan, 54, a widow who lives with her four children in Baghdad's Sadr City slum.'

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bomb targets members of Parliament in Mosul

"A roadside bomb exploded Friday morning beside a convoy carrying three members of Parliament in the northern city of Mosul. The lawmakers escaped without injury, but a bodyguard died in the attack, and two were wounded.

The Parliament members belong to Iraqiya, a multisectarian coalition supported by most Sunnis. They were on their way to visit the new speaker of Parliament, Osama al-Najafi, now the most prominent Sunni politician in Iraq. The bomb exploded as the cars were passing between two checkpoints run by Iraqi soldiers."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Is Islam a religion of peace?

A few weeks ago I saw part of a debate on Bloomberg TV about whether Islam is a "religion of peace." It looked interesting and I want to see the entire debate.



There is no compulsion in religion, Zeba says. Her parents respect Jews and Christians, as the Qur'an instructs. A small minority of Muslims perpetuate violence, and their actions are motivated by politics and not religion, she argues.

On the other side of the debate, Ayan Hirsi Ali points out the violent verses in the Qur'an. She argues that Zeba, being a tolerant peace-loving Muslim, does not represent Islam.



Conclusion: the majority of Muslims are peaceful, but given the incredible violence in the Qur'an, Islam cannot be called a "religion of peace."

Iraq scores low on religious freedom

"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today released a report on the state of religious freedom around the world, highlighting Iraq as among the worst offenders in failing to punish violence against non-Muslim minorities.

The report examines religious tolerance in 200 countries and outlines action taken by the U.S. government to prevent persecution. The U.S. called attention to religious tensions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Talabani won't sign Aziz death sentence

' Iraq's president said Wednesday that he would not sign an execution order for the foreign minister in Saddam Hussein's government, who was sentenced to death last month.

"I will not sign Tariq Aziz's death sentence," Jalal Talabani told France 24 television during a visit to Paris for the Socialist International meeting. "I will sign no death sentence at all, because as a social democrat, I'm against the death penalty." '

But: "Talabani, a Kurd, did not oppose the death sentence being carried out against other Saddam aides, such as Ali Hassan al-Majeed, known as "Chemical Ali" for overseeing poison gas attacks on Kurdish villages in which thousands died."

Quantitative Easing

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Christians murdered in Mosul

"A bombing in northern Iraq killed a Christian man and his 6-year-old daughter Tuesday, the latest in a series of strikes targeting the country's dwindling Christian population.

The incident occurred in Mosul, a multi-ethnic city in Nineveh province -- long the home of significant Christian enclaves.

A flurry of attacks in the north over the last 24 hours is a sign that the recent sectarian violence targeting Christians is spreading from Baghdad.

The man and his daughter were killed Tuesday afternoon when an explosive attached to a vehicle detonated, local police said.

Monday night, attackers went into two homes occupied by Christian families in the Tahrir neighborhood in the eastern part of the city, killed the two male heads of the households, and then drove off, the interior ministry official said.

In central Mosul, at about the same time, a bomb detonated outside a Christian's home. No one was hurt in that blast, which damaged the home's exterior.

Attacks in October 2008 on Christians in Mosul prompted a mass exodus from that city of 1.8 million people.

Many Christian families in Iraq who spoke to CNN said they feared for their safety and wanted to leave the country, but didn't have the means to do so."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Violence in Iraq may continue despite power sharing agreement

'Mr. Allawi, a secular Shiite, told CNN on Friday that “Iraqiya is not going to be part, and I am definitely not going to be part, of this government.” He also said the country would probably see more “tensions and violence, probably.”

...The senior American military commander in Iraq, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, reiterated American support for the agreement, expressing concern that failure to be inclusive could inflame tensions and fuel further violence.

“If the people don’t consider it to be an inclusive government, there might be some people in the community who express their displeasure in the form of violence,” he told reporters at his headquarters beside Baghdad’s international airport.

“Having said that, what we’re seeing early on is some pretty good signs the leadership intends to in fact form an inclusive government,” he said. “They’ve been wrestling with some difficult issues for eight months now.”

In the wake of a series of attacks by Al Qaeda and other insurgents that killed more than 100 people, General Austin warned that more violence was likely as Mr. Maliki cobbles together a cabinet. “We can expect there will be some turbulence between now and when the government is finally formed,” he said.

Asked about Mr. Allawi’s remarks that a withdrawal by Iraqiya could result in violence, he added: “There’s always that possibility, and are we concerned about it? Yeah, we remain concerned about it — not only during this time, but during any point in time throughout the year. Certainly, things are a little bit more sensitive about it during this time period because people are very anxious about how this is going to turn out.” '

Friday, November 12, 2010

Jailed for "insulting the divine essence"

'QALQILIYA, West Bank — A mysterious blogger who set off an uproar in the Arab world by claiming he was God and hurling insults at the Prophet Muhammad is now behind bars — caught in a sting that used Facebook to track him down.

The case of the unlikely apostate, a shy barber from this backwater West Bank town, is highlighting the limits of tolerance in the Western-backed Palestinian Authority — and illustrating a new trend by authorities in the Arab world to mine social media for evidence.
Residents of Qalqiliya say they had no idea that Walid Husayin — the 26-year-old son of a Muslim scholar — was leading a double life.

Known as a quiet man who prayed with his family each Friday and spent his evenings working in his father's barbershop, Husayin was secretly [posting] his anti-religious opinions on the Internet during his free time.

The media in the Palestinian Authority, as in the Arab world in general, are largely government-controlled, driving dissenting voices to the relative freedom of the Internet. The blogger's arrest showed a willingness on the part of the Palestinian government to clamp down on freedom of speech on the Web as well. He now faces a potential life prison sentence on heresy charges for "insulting the divine essence."

Many in this conservative Muslim town say that isn't enough, and suggested he should be killed for renouncing Islam. Even family members say he should remain behind bars for life.
"He should be burned to death," said Abdul-Latif Dahoud, a 35-year-old Qalqiliya resident. The execution should take place in public "to be an example to others," he added.'

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Christianity older than Iraq and Islam

"Christians have been living in Iraq since long before it was called Iraq and centuries before Mohammed was born. Ancient Assyrians converted to Christianity during the first century A.D.

Back then, Iraq was part of what was known as Mesopotamia and it would not be until the eighth century A.D. that Islam arrived. Even today, tombs of Old Testament Jewish prophets such as Ezekiel and Daniel dot Iraq."

Mass exodus of Christians would hurt Iraq's development

'On the street, suspicions abound among Muslims as to why the Christian minority has been so heavily targeted. After all, amid Iraq's complex sectarian equation that pits Sunni versus Shi'a versus Kurd, the Christians, numbering some 400,000, are essentially non-players. Sayed Hassan al-Husaayni, the imam at the mosque closest to the Salvation church, says he and his followers have no time for hate-mongering. "We condemn the attacks that have struck the Christians. They are our brothers and we have been living with them for centuries. I believe they are the victims of a terrorist organization, but I'm positive that Iraqi Muslims respect their brothers. We just worry that Christian will leave Iraq and then the Western world will have a negative opinion of Muslims in Iraq." Christians are generally better-educated than the general population and tend to belong to the professional classes. A mass exodus would only further debilitate Iraq's development.'

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2030747,00.html#ixzz151RrNsmy

Thanks Fayrouz (via Bessam) for posting.

Elie Wiesel influenced Bush decision to oust Saddam

'Another person who had a deep impact on his war decision was holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Elie Wiesel.

"There was passion in his 74-year-old eyes when he compared Saddam Hussein's brutality to the Nazi genocide," the former president remembered.

"Mr. President," Wiesel said, "You have a moral obligation to act against evil," Bush wrote.'

Thank you Elie Wiesel.

Mubarak told US Saddam had WMD

'Former U.S. President George W. Bush says Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak informed the U.S. that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He also spoke of other people who had influence on his decision to invade Iraq.

The revelation comes in Bush's memoirs, Decision Points, in which he highlighted mistakes made during the Iraq war campaign, and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in the country.

"President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had told [general] Tommy Franks that Iraq had biological weapons and was certain to use them on our troops," Bush revealed in his newly-released book.'