Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fi Sabil Saddamists

For the cause of Saddamists. That is what they kill for. The Salafi who murders Shia thinks he will be rewarded in heaven because he is killing "infidels" and "apostates". But does the Salafi who kills Sunni Muslims really believe he will be rewarded by God? Or does he believe that God hates the new Iraqi security forces, even if they are Sunni Muslim?

A suicide bomber in northern Iraq walked into a restaurant and detonated an explosives vest, killing at least three people and injuring 25 others on Saturday night, police said.

The incident occurred in Samarra in the predominantly Sunni province of Salaheddin. The popular, busy restaurant in the city center is frequented by Iraqi security forces and civilians.

It seems to me that the killer in cases like this kills only for the sake of Saddamists, for those who want to destabilize the country and topple the government. The suicide bomber must have been convinced that killing security forces who work for the new government will be rewarded by God, even if the victims are Sunni Arabs. How does one warp the Qur'an to convince Muslims to commit such murder?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Tony Blair: world safer without Saddam Hussein

"I think he was a monster. I believe he threatened not just the region, but the world," Blair said. "If I'm asked if I believe we are safer, more secure, that Iraq is better, that our own security is better with Saddam and his two sons out of power . . . then I believe indeed we are."

Most Britons are descendants of ancient farmers from Iraq and Syria

"Most Britons are direct descendants of farmers who left modern day Iraq and Syria 10,000 years ago, a new study has shown."

Interesting. Thanks Ammu.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Key AQI leader killed in Iraq

'A key Al Qaeda in Iraq figure involved in smuggling hundreds of suicide bombers across the border from Syria has been killed in a raid in northern Iraq, the US military said yesterday.

The military called the death a blow to the insurgent organization in Iraq, but acknowledged it remains very much capable of carrying out well-planned, coordinated assaults with large body counts.

A series of attacks against three hotels and a police crime lab in Baghdad this week killed dozens.

The US military said it had confirmed the identity of the operative through fingerprints and other means.

The man was identified as Saad Uwayid Obeid Mijbil al-Shammari, also known as Abu Khalaf, the military said in a statement.

Abu Khalaf was killed Jan. 22 during a joint US-Iraqi raid in the northern city of Mosul, about 60 miles from the Syrian border. He was killed after he broke free from his restraints and attacked his guard, the military said.

He was believed to have been moving foreign fighters across the border since 2006, the same year a US air strike killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The military said he also worked as a financier, gathering and distributing money and weapons to Al Qaeda throughout the country.' --Chelsea J. Carter

Syria getting serious about tackling terrorism?

'Damascus has jailed two Syrians convicted of seeking to foment unrest in Iraq for nine and seven years, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday.

"The state security court on January 26 sentenced two Syrians, Abbas Yusif and Maher Yusif, to nine and seven years in prison, for attempting to cause trouble in Iraq," SOHR said in a statement.

According to the newspaper Al-Iraqi, the condemned men were arrested "while trying to supply bombs to an armed group" in the war-torn country. The Iraqi paper did not give the group's name, while the decision by the court in Damascus went unreported in the official Syrian media.'

Iraq inquiry should begin with 1991

'The "Iraq inquiry" in the UK should focus on the illegalities of genocidal sanctions and abandoning Iraqis in 1991 before touching on 2003'

I agree.

Blackwater's Youngest Victim

I am impressed by Jeremy Scahill's efforts to document the details of the Nisour Square massacre and other crimes committed by private security contractors. Thanks NARCELX for posting.

'Mohammed had just pulled away from his family's home in the Khadamiya neighborhood in his SUV. His youngest son, 9-year-old Ali, came tearing down the road after him, asking his father if he could accompany him. Mohammed told him to run along and play with his brothers and sister. But Ali, an energetic and determined kid, insisted. Mohammed gave in, and off the father and son went.

As Mohammed and Ali drove through Baghdad that hot and sunny Sunday, they passed a newly rebuilt park downtown. Ali gazed at the park and then turned to his father and asked, "Daddy, when are you gonna bring us here?"

"Next week," Mohammed replied. "If God wills it, son."

Ali would never visit that park. Within a few hours, he would be dead from a gunshot wound to the head. While you may have never heard his name, you probably know something about how Ali Mohammed Hafedh Kinani died. He was the youngest person killed by Blackwater forces in the infamous Nisour Square massacre.' --JEREMY SCAHILL, The Nation

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Execution of Chemical Ali done to "satisfy the American and Iranian governments"

'Dozens of Iraqis gathered at the grave of "Chemical Ali" in northern Iraq on Wednesday to praise the cousin and notorious henchman of Saddam Hussein who was executed for gassing thousands of Kurds in 1988.

"He was one of Ouja's most remarkable men," said Abu Shehab, a 45-year-old man who insisted that Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known by his macabre nickname, had been hanged to appease Iran and the United States.

"The execution of Majid was done to satisfy the American and Iranian governments, but he will always be one of the icons of Iraq," Shehab told AFP.'

I can understand why Iraqi Shia and Kurds want to keep the Baathists out of the Iraqi government.

Is it fair to blame Blair and Bush for continued violence in Iraq?

"The only people responsible for bombs and bombers in Iraq who blow up innocent civilians are the people who detonate the bombs and those who send them there."

Bombed hotels were "dens of evil"

'Iraqi insurgents linked with al Qaeda claimed responsibility on Wednesday for bombings this week at three Baghdad hotels that killed at least 36 people, vowing bloodshed would continue.

The Islamic State of Iraq posted the message two days after three suicide bombs rocked the hotels, two of which are popular with foreigners and Western media.

"The knights of Baghdad descended on the heart of this wounded city and targeted another set of dens of evil," said the message posted on a website used by militant groups.'

Dens of evil, presumably because Americans and other foreigners stay there. Meanwhile in Dubai, the hotels look incredible and security is excellent.  I am very curious if any of the suicide bombers came from Jordan or the peninsula, where there are hundreds of nice hotels and Starbucks that serve Americans and other "infidels". It is not fair.

The Brave Iraqi

Stephen Farrell wrote a nice post about his friend, a brave Iraqi journalist who died in the bombing of the Hamra Hotel: "Another time I was heading home from the Green Zone at the end of the day when a car filled with gunmen pulled in behind us near the Palestine Hotel. Yasser inserted his own car between ours and theirs and slammed on the brakes.

No one expected him to do that; no one would have asked him to do that. As our car hurtled off the gunmen turned on him, chasing his car along Abu Nuwas Street for the best part of half an hour while he desperately shouted a commentary to us into a cellphone that was flying about on the floor of the car, because he needed both his hands on the wheel.

It was an act of unbelievable bravery. It was not done for a salary, or to keep a job or because he somehow feared death less or welcomed it more than any of us. It was done because he was Yasser, because those were his values. And that day he eventually made it back to the safety — safety — of the Hamra Hotel."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

AQI leaders becoming "increasingly well-educated" and Iraqi

By Jane Arraf, CSM: 'An Interior Ministry official said that in addition to those killed, at least 80 people were injured in the blast, which took place near a checkpoint close to the forensics department on al-Tahariyat Square in the Karrada neighborhood. At least five of those killed and half of those wounded were police officers injured when part of the building collapsed, he said. The explosion also sent glass and pieces of metal flying through nearby cafes. It was the third time in two years that the directorate had been bombed, he said.

Following Monday’s suicide bombings of three major hotels in Baghdad, the attacks were widely seen as an escalating attempt to destablize the country ahead of key parliamentary elections in March.

The top US general in Iraq said that while there was no definitive proof, he believed Monday’s attacks were conducted by Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) – an organization whose leaders appear to be increasingly well-educated and increasingly Iraqi, he said.'

France moves closer to Muslim face veil ban

I like France.

'The head of President Nicolas Sarkozy's Right-wing UMP party on Tuesday said he would continue to push for a total ban of face-covering Islamic veils in France.

Jean-François Copé's proposal for a full ban was backed by 190 MPs but rejected by a cross-party commission, which handed a list of proposals to parliament recommending a ban of the burka or niqab in state facilities but not in the street.

The ban would apply to public places, including all schools, hospitals, public transport and government offices. It described the face-covering veil as an unacceptable "challenge to our republic".'

Suicide bomber attacks Baghdad crime lab

"A day after bombs rocked three hotels in central Baghdad, another suicide bomber detonated explosives Tuesday outside the forensics department of the Interior Ministry. A source at the ministry said the bomb killed 17 and injured 80."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Why Sunni Arabs dislike Sistani

Sistani aided the American occupation, according to many Arabs and Arab Americans. Sistani did not call for militant jihad, he did not encourage the Iraqi Shia to fight the Americans. The resistance-minded Arabs in general respect Muqtada al Sadr more than Sistani. Watch this short documentary about Sistani to understand why.

Arabs seem to praise only the Iraqis who fight Americans. Sistani does not want to fight the Americans.

I think if anybody can change Chalabi's mind on the Baathist ban, it is Sistani.

Iraqi Shia welcomed US Marines in 2003

Another fact that many Sunnis still deny, or now use to disparage Iraqi Shia. I wonder if the Arabs ever ask WHY most Iraqi Shia and Kurds were happy to see the end of Saddam's regime.

'Conway had a colorful way of illustrating the welcoming atmosphere in which his Marines were operating.

"Little kids run a quarter mile on a hot pavement with bare feet to wave," he said.

In his account of the war, titled "The Strongest Tribe," author and former Marine Bing West wrote that the south-central part of Iraq was so hospitable to the Marines in the summer of 2003 that the Karbala city council tried to elect a Marine lieutenant colonel its mayor.

But in Anbar, the province that stretches west from Baghdad to the borders of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, trouble was brewing - even as the top Army commander in that area was insisting he'd found the key to success.'

Saddam's was a Sunni-led regime

And today's Iraqi government is Shia-led. I still see Arabs complaining about the "sectarianism" in my comments. They don't like it when I point out that Saddam's regime was Sunni-led, or when I discuss the history of conflict between Sunna and Shia. I still see idiots praising Saddam.

Al-Majid was one of the last high-profile members of the former Sunni-led regime still on trial in Iraq. His conviction and sentencing on Jan. 17 was his fourth death sentence.

...Al-Majid, was Saddam's "hatchet man," Kenneth Roth, head of Human Rights Watch in New York, remarked when the general was touring Arab capitals seeking support two months before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. "He has been involved in some of Iraq's worst crimes, including genocide and crimes against humanity."

Hazem al-Youssefi, a representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, once described al-Majid as a standout in a regime of criminals.

Iraq was held hostage by Saddam and his henchmen, who committed unimaginable crimes for decades without much complaint from our Arab "brothers and sisters". The Sunni Arab nation and "Ummah" unleashed their anger in the forms of suicide bombers and mujahideen only after Saddam's Sunni-led regime was toppled and put on trial for crimes against humanity. The Sunni Arabs in general were angered by America's actions only after America did the right thing and chased down Saddam and his gang of thieves and murderers and put them on trial. Oh and the Arabs were also angered by American abuse at Abu Ghraib after decades of torture and murder at Iraqi prisons before 2003.

Iraq executes Ali Kimyawi, terrorists bomb Baghdad hotels

"Four landmark Baghdad hotels were heavily damaged by car bombs this afternoon in the fourth co-ordinated attack on prominent targets as Iraq readies for an increasingly fraught election.

Security officials said at least 36 people were killed and more than 80 injured by attackers, including suicide bombers and gunmen.

The blasts took place around the same time as the execution of one of Saddam Hussein's most infamous henchman, Ali Hassan al-Majid, otherwise known as Chemical Ali. The timing raised fresh fears that former Ba'athists had launched the campaign in a bid to destabilise the government ahead of the poll.

The first bomb was detonated in between the Sheraton and Palestine hotels in the centre of the capital, causing massive damage to both well-known structures. Around three minutes later, the Babylon hotel on the banks of the Tigris river, just south of the US Embassy, was hit by a suicide bomber driving a car past the perimeter barriers. Damage was also reported to be severe."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

De-Baathification was supposed to be like de-Nazification

'The concept behind the de-Baathification decree was that the Baath Party had been one of the primary instruments of Saddam's control and tyranny over the Iraqi people for decades. Saddam Hussein himself openly acknowledged that he modeled the Baath Party on the Nazi Party because he admired the way in which Hitler was able to use the Nazi Party to control the German people. Just as in our occupation of Germany we had passed what were called "de-Nazification decrees" and prosecuted senior Nazi officials, the model for the de-Baathification was to look back at that de-Nazification. …' --L. Paul Bremer III

The view of Baathists has been tainted in most minds of Iraqi Shia and Kurds. If Saleh al Mutlaq is labelled a Baathist and if he speaks fondly of Saddam, then most Iraqis will agree that it is right to disqualify him.

Martha Coakley was bad for Obama

Last night my uncle, a toxicologist/pathologist, was telling me about a Texas father who has been accused of "shaken baby syndrome" that allegedly resulted in the death of his infant daughter. My uncle uses differential diagnosis to determine the causes of death in many cases, and often the defense team is assisted by other experts, including doctors. My uncle's testimony in court quickly reversed the momentum in favor of the defense, so he was understandably happy. He mentioned that the doctor who testified (for the defense) in this case also testified in defense of a British nanny who was accused of murder in Massachusetts in the 1990s. That murder case was prosecuted by Martha Coakley: "In the late 1990s, she prosecuted the British nanny Louise Woodward, though the judge reduced a verdict of second degree murder to involuntary manslaughter in the highly publicised baby-shaking case."

If you are unfamiliar with Martha Coakley and why the Massachusetts Senate race was so important, watch this excellent introduction by Jon Stewart.

My uncle told me that the jury found Louise Woodward guilty, but the judge believed she was innocent. According to my uncle, the judge sentenced Woodward to probation, and eventually she moved back to the UK, where she became a lawyer and is now defending other people who may be falsely accused of murder or child endangerment.

Today I decided to do a little more research on Coakley and found this comment on Daily Kos, posted on Sept 1, 2009:
Without going into a rant (that started back in the 90s with her shameful handling of the English Nanny case), I will just say that this woman is NOT Senatorial material, and challenge anyone to prove me wrong. She would not only be unable to fill those shoes, but would in fact embarrass the Commonwealth from day one.

Jon Stewart also had a poignant reaction to Coakley's loss and her comment about her dogs being happy about the loss:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

UK company that sold fake bomb detectors busted


'The owner of a British company that supplies questionable bomb detectors to Iraq has been arrested for fraud, and the export of the devices has been banned, British government officials confirmed Saturday.

Iraqi officials reacted with fury to the news, noting a series of horrific bombings in the past six months despite the widespread use of the bomb detectors at hundreds of checkpoints in the capital.

“This company not only caused grave and massive losses of funds, but it has caused grave and massive losses of the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians, by the hundreds and thousands, from attacks that we thought we were immune to because we have this device,” said Ammar Tuma, a member of the Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee.

But the Ministry of the Interior has not withdrawn the device from duty, and police officers continue to use them.'

Thanks David All for posting about this good news.

PS: See this NYT article published in November. Thanks Maury for posting the link.

Most of Al Qaeda's victims are Muslim

By Ralph Peters: "AL Qaeda does one thing extremely well: killing Muslims. Between 2006 and 2008, only 2 percent of the terror multinational's victims were Westerners.

The rest were citizens of Muslim countries. Even as al Qaeda claims to be their defender."

Thanks Omar for sending this.

Friday, January 22, 2010

NO to civil war, YES to democracy

I have been reading journalists' fears of renewed civil war in Iraq, but I don't think it will happen, not like it was in 2006 and 2007. The bombings of Iraqi security forces will continue as long as the "resistance" sees ISF and the Iraqi government as illegitimate. We should strive to make the elections as legitimate as possible, not matter what the "resistance" does.

The "resistance" has been bombing ISF and public places since 2003, but I doubt we will see a return to the kind of civil war that engulfed Iraq in 2006 and 2007. Alaa the Mesopotamian reminds us of the horrors at the height of the sectarian violence:

The country was divided into strictly segregated cantons where on both sides all those of the wrong sect were expelled from their homes and some murdered. People were murdered for no other crime than having the wrong name in the wrong place. Baghdad itself was divided into sectarian zones where anybody risked execution and torture if he ventured into the wrong neighbourhood. A childhood friend of my boys who lived few houses away from ours had been just married; he was a Sunni with a kind of neutral name. He was caught by a Sunni militia few hundred meters from my own house. The militia could not ascertain whether he was Shiite or Sunni, so they took his cell phone and phoned his wife asking her about it. The poor girl thought that he was caught by a Shiite Militia, and she told them that he was Shiite; he was promptly executed. To this day she cannot forgive herself and has become a psychiatric case. In January 2007, my own oldest cousin was shot by American soldiers mistaking him for a terrorist. He was buried ceremoniously by an Al-Qaeda crowd as a martyr. His son, a Sunni, however, was a police officer; he made the fatal mistake of showing his identity card in the cemetery. A month later he was pulled from his car in front of his wife and children, taken away and dumped two days later near his house with his body terribly mutilated by torture. He was murdered by the very same people who attended his fathers’ funeral. These were just couple of incidents that I personally witnessed amongst hundreds if not thousands of others. The years 2006, 2007 were the worst. Baghdad was a city of death and many parts of the city were like ghost towns where people feared to venture out of their front doors even for the most basic needs. Scores of corpses were found every morning littering the pavements and side streets and were collected and taken away by pickup trucks. These trucks laden with corpses piled on top of each other were a familiar sight in Baghdad. It was horror beyond imagination. The tragedies that took place are too painful to recall, some of which I witnessed personally. Baghdad had nearly fallen under the very nose of the American forces and the highly inefficient Iraqi security forces that they were trying to form.

Then came the counterattack. The credit must be shared between the troop surge decided by President Bush under the wise leadership of General Petraeus, the establishment of a unified Baghdad command by Al-Maliki’s government and the valiant efforts of the Anbar tribes and the Sahwa movement. The Iraqi security forces began to be developed in good earnest. The Maliki Government deserve to be credited for its determined and largely successful campaigns against Militias in the South primarily and the rather less successful ones in Mosul and Diyala. Towards the end of 2008 and in 2009 the insurgent tide had been more or less reversed. The war is not over and there is still much to be done, to be sure; but at least overt Militia control of entire provinces and neighbourhoods has ended and they were forced underground again. People can go about their business and shops are open; and even some neighbourhoods are becoming mixed again. In the shiaa areas calm has more or less been restored. Sectarian killings have almost stopped. However the scars of battle and the debris of destruction can still be seen all over the place, and underneath the surface animosities and sectarian hatred are still smouldering which is not surprising considering the atrocities inflicted by parties against each other. But the Iraqis are not a stupid people and everybody has realised that the violence did not serve anybody and that all sides stand to lose if it continues.

Iraq Pundit urges readers to not Miss the Real Story:

According to the NYT, the Sunnis are an endangered species. They are surrounded by hostile people coming from all directions. Watch out, Sunni Iraqis, your days are numbered. What utter nuttiness.

The paper says the decision, which is illegal, by the accountability and justice commsion has support among the people of Iraq for the banning of politicians from the ballot. The reporter implies civil war is but moments away:

"Thursday, hundreds of people in the predominantly Shiite cities of Basra and Najaf, in southern Iraq, demonstrated in support of the decision. They held banners denouncing the former Hussein government and burned pictures of some of the barred candidates."

Let's not forget the attitudes, according to the NYT, of the people who equate Sunnis with Baathists and therefore criminals: "The Baathists can't return to Iraq," Jabar Amen, the head of the Basra Provincial Council, said during the protest. "There is no place for them among us. There is no place for criminals."

The foolish reporter gives the impression that Iraq is uniquely horrid. That people here hate each other. It's an insult not only to Iraqis but also to readers who the journalists take for fools. The only way a reader can understand is when the story is simplified dramatically. But who's surprised? The NYT always overlooks the complexity of the Iraqis. Sure there were demonstrations in favour of the illegal decision. But there also were protests against the decision in Basra. Misrepresenting the situation here adds nothing but perhaps kudos from Iraq haters.

I agree with Talabani's move to ask Iraq's Supreme Court to investigate the legality of the bans. They should also investigate whether the candidates were actually involved in terrorist activities. Anybody, including members of Parliament, who can be proven beyond doubt to have been involved in terrorism must be tried in court. Otherwise this the ban is illegal.

Many Iraqi Shia and Kurds equate Baathists with Nazis, maybe worse than Nazis. Baathist leaders committed horrible crimes, no doubt. But the era of Saddam Hussein is over. Iraqi Shia must be reassured that it is impossible for Baathists to return to dominance, given the polls of Iraqi opinion of the neo-Baathists. I have predicted the neo-Baathists (and alliance led by Allawi and Mutlaq) may have up to 15% support in Iraq. With all this attention and the labeling of all Sunni Arabs as Baathists, neo-Baathist support may rise.

A return to civil war is unlikely because Al Qaeda in Iraq has largely been defeated and most Iraqi Sunni Arabs seemed to have joined the political process. The Baathists are embracing democracy like they should have done in 2004, and all Iraqis should support them. Not all Baathists are bad people. The resistance-loving Baathists, however, may continue to terrorize Iraqis, even if neo-Baathists are allowed to participate in the elections. Allowing the non-violent neo-Baathists to participate, however, will make the elections legitimate, and that should be the primary goal of all Iraqis.

There's a "burning fuse" in Iraq

"A burning fuse in Iraq that so far can’t be extinguished"

"Meanwhile, back in Iraq, things are getting downright dicey. The Sunni-Shiite feud that once lay dormant has been reignited after a government panel barred more than 500 candidates, many of them Sunni, from the ballot in the March 7 elections. The Sunnis see that move as an effort to deny them a voice in government, and there is every reason to believe they are right. Secular Shiites who might draw votes from religious-based Shiite parties are also among those banned." --Jay Bookman

Burning fuse? Ya think they would bomb Iraqi markets, government buildings and ISF if they're denied a voice in government? They wouldn't do that, would they?

Saudi girl sentenced to 90 lashes for bringing camera phone to school

In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, our "moderate" ally:

"A 13-year-old Saudi schoolgirl is to be given 90 lashes in front of her classmates after she was caught with a mobile camera phone.

The girl, who has not been named, was also sentenced to two months in jail by a court in the eastern city of Jubail."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

American VP Biden going to Iraq

'Alarmed that the disqualification of hundreds of candidates from upcoming parliamentary elections threatens to derail Iraq's fledgling democracy, the Obama administration is dispatching Vice President Biden in hopes of defusing the looming political crisis.'

UN Resolution 242

UN Resolution 242 on Wikipedia below. Arabs and Muslims have always said that there is a double standard when enforcing UN resolutions, and this UN resolution, which is 42 years old, is a good example of the hypocrisy. It is a very good point.

Israel has complained that the Arabs do not recognize Israel's right to exist, while Israel demolishes more Palestinian homes and annexes more Palestinian land. Now most Arabs do recognize Israel's right to exist, including the elected government of Hamas in Gaza. No more excuses.

'United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 (S/RES/242) was adopted unanimously by the UN Security Council on November 22, 1967, in the aftermath of the Six Day War. It was adopted under Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter.[1] The resolution was drafted by British ambassador Lord Caradon and was one of five drafts under consideration.[2]

The preamble refers to the "inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East in which every State in the area can live in security."

Hamas accepts Israel's right to exist

Good news. Hopefully this will lead to peace in Palestine AND Iraq.

"Hamas has accepted Israel's right to exist and would be prepared to nullify its charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel, Aziz Dwaik, Hamas's most senior representative in the West Bank, said on Wednesday."

Iraqi Supreme Court to investigate legality of bans

BBC: "Iraq's President Jalal Talabani has asked the country's Supreme Court to settle a political dispute ahead of national elections on 7 March.

President Talabani's request comes after the Justice and Accountability Commission barred about 500 candidates from running in the elections.

Mr Talabani says that the commission's decision might not be legal as it has not been approved by parliament.

The body said some of those banned had ties to the outlawed Baath party.

The Justice and Accountability Commission is responsible for ensuring the Baath party, once led by Saddam Hussein, does not make a comeback in Iraqi politics."

Iraq has 3 of world's 4 largest oil fields

Iraq should have the biggest GDP among Mid East oil producing nations, but it is ranked near the bottom in income-per-capita among Arab nations. Why?

The World's Biggest Oil Reserves, by Christopher Helman: "The once and future king of the world's oil fields, Ghawar, in Saudi Arabia, ranks first on our list. It is thought to have had more than 100 billion barrels of recoverable oil in place. At 160 miles long and 16 miles wide it confounds even the most experienced geologists. With something on the order of 60 billion produced over the past 60 years, you'd be excused for thinking that Ghawar was sliding into its twilight years. Yet the Saudis insist that Ghawar is still going strong, producing 4.5 million bpd from six main producing areas with the ability to do 5 million bpd if called upon.

The secret to Ghawar's longevity is water injection. Starting in the 1960s Saudi Aramco began injecting water underneath the oil around the outer borders of the field. Today the water flood is up to millions of barrels a day, with the oil floating up to the top of the reservoir on sea of water. In conversations with Forbes in 2008 Aramco executives insisted that by continuing to treat Ghawar with kid gloves they'll be able to coax 4 million bpd out of her for many years to come.

Coming in second is West Qurna, in Iraq, home to an expected 21 billion barrels of oil. This month a joint venture between ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell were awarded the contract to develop the 9 billion barrel first phase of the West Qurna oil field. They will aim to raise output from 300,000 bpd to 2.3 million bpd. It's tough to make the case that the two biggest oil companies from the countries that invaded Iraq in 2003 are getting a sweetheart deal. The contract calls for the government of Iraq to retain ownership of the field and the oil. Exxon and Shell, as contractors, are to be paid just $1.90 for each a barrel they produce.

Third is Majnoon, also in Iraq. At 13 billion barrels, these massive reserves are in a relatively small area near the Euphrates River in southern Iraq. The field's abundance was so mind-boggling that it was named Majnoon, Arabic for "crazy." This easy oil hasn't been developed in part because of its location so close to the Iranian border. In the 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq war, managers reportedly buried the wells, concerned that they might be targeted by Iranian forces. The field produces just 50,000 bpd now, but has the potential to do 1.8 million bpd.

The Rumaila field in Iraq, with 17 billion barrels, is the forth-largest field. In November, British giant BP and China National Petroleum Corp. won the first oil contract of the post-Saddam era to redevelop Rumaila. Located on the border with Kuwait, the field is already producing 1 million bpd, half of Iraq's total production. The partners intend to spend some $15 billion to treble that to 2.85 million bpd. That output would be enough to put Rumaila in second place worldwide after Saudi Arabia's Ghawar."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

CIA 'seeks truce with Iraqi Baathists'

Jan 11, UPI: 'The Central Intelligence Agency is reported to have recently conducted secret contacts in Yemen with Iraqi Baathist leader Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam Hussein's former vice president, in a bid to negotiate a political accord between Sunni insurgents and the Shiite-led Baghdad government.

The Paris-based Intelligence Online Web site said other meetings were held with Baathist leaders in Damascus, the Syrian capital where Douri and his associates reportedly live.

The objective is to reconcile the minority Sunnis, who were the backbone of Saddam's tyrannical regime, and the majority Shiites, who were brutally suppressed by that regime, before crucial parliamentary elections scheduled for March 7.'

Did Jimmy Carter lose Iran?

I'm watching "Presidents: 1977 - Present" on History Channel. Carter's image was damaged after the failed mission to rescue American hostages in Iran. I was interested in how Jimmy Carter reacted to the failed mission and whether he addressed the nation. I found his statement here and learned that Carter addressed the nation on April 25, 1980 to discuss the rescue mission.

Then I found Carter's statement on YouTube. One of the comments is by a "rsharif" (probably Iranian American) who wrote "Thank you Jimmy Carter for removing the Shah of Iran and replacing him with the Islamic republic of Iran." The comment has a rating of +7 even though it makes no sense.

I found this concise summary:

Ever since oil was discovered there in 1908, Iran had attracted great interest from the West. The British played a dominant role there until World War II, when the Soviet Union joined them in fighting to keep the Germans out. Until 1953, the United States mostly stayed on the sidelines, advocating for an independent Iran under the leadership of the young king, Reza Shah Pahlavi. But that year, fearing that charismatic prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh might be moving Iran closer to Moscow, the CIA directed an operation to oust him and consolidate power under the Shah.

With a steady flow of oil from the ground and military equipment from the U.S., the Shah led Iran into a period of unprecedented prosperity. But growing resentment against an uneven distribution of wealth and the westernizing influence of the United States led to a confrontation with Islamic clergy in 1963. The Shah effectively put down the uprising, sending its leader, an elderly cleric named Ruhollah Khomeini, into exile in Iraq. Though no one knew it at the time, Iran's Islamic revolution had begun.

The Iranian Revolution

Fast forward to New Years Eve, 1977: President Carter toasted the Shah at a state dinner in Tehran, calling him "an island of stability" in the troubled Middle East. What the president also knew, but chose to ignore, was that the Shah was in serious trouble. As opposition to his government mounted, he had allowed his secret police, SAVAK, to crack down on dissenters, fueling still more resentment. Within weeks of Carter's visit, a series of protests broke out in the religious city of Qom, denouncing the Shah's regime as "anti-Islamic." The popular movement against the Shah grew until January 16, 1979, when he fled to Egypt. Two weeks later, thousands of Muslims cheered Khomeini's return to Iran after fourteen years in exile.

Did the Carter administration "lose" Iran, as some have suggested? Gaddis Smith might have put it best: "President Carter inherited an impossible situation -- and he and his advisers made the worst of it." Carter seemed to have a hard time deciding whether to heed the advice of his aggressive national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who wanted to encourage the Shah to brutally suppress the revolution, or that of his more cautious State Department, which suggested Carter reach out to opposition elements in order to smooth the transition to a new government. In the end he did neither, and suffered the consequences.

Who is a Baathist?

Good article by Anthony Shadid: "Seven years after the United States-led invasion, and three years after the leader it overthrew was executed, a question in Iraq remains unanswered: Who is a Baathist?

The term is as malleable as it is incendiary, and the quandary it represents has underlined the growing dispute over the credibility of Iraq’s parliamentary elections in March, which the Obama administration had viewed as a milestone in its plans to withdraw tens of thousands of combat troops by August.

Some of the country’s more ardently Shiite leaders see the hand of the Baathists, followers of the secular Arab nationalist party of former President Saddam Hussein, in a spate of spectacular attacks, a sign that the party has yet to relinquish its ambition to return to power.

To many Sunni Arabs, though, it is a catchall term employed to disenfranchise them. This month, it has become the fig leaf, critics say, for a brazen campaign of score-settling that has reopened sectarian wounds and thrown into question the legitimacy of the March 7 vote."

Iraqi Army targeted in Mosul

"At least 30 people have been injured after a car bomb exploded outside an Iraqi army base in the northern city of Mosul.

Among the wounded at the army compound on Wednesday, were 18 soldiers, five police officers and 10 civilians, police said.

The explosion, which took place at 10am (07:00 GMT), was also close to the city's Al-Zuhoor police station .

Al Jazeera sources said police were alerted of another car bomb, this time in the centre of Mosul city, 350km north of Baghdad, but that device was defused.

While overall violence in Iraq has dropped sharply following years of sectarian conflict that killed tens of thousands of people, bombings and assassinations still occur on a daily basis.

US and Iraqi officials have said they expect attacks to rise before parliamentary elections scheduled for March 7."

Salahi scares American media and leaders

I wanted to post this last month but I shelved it, thinking it was unimportant, and then today I decided to write a post about it because it bugs me how this guy Salahi is being treated. While watching Hardball with Chris Matthews one night, I was surprised to see him devote half of his show to the Salahi couple and how they got into the White House. Roxanne Roberts admits she became alarmed after she heard the name:

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Her "head shot up" when she heard the name. She also said they looked "sketchy". How do they look sketchy? Or is it just the name that's sketchy?

Today Dylan Ratigan made an excellent comment:

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I wonder if Salahi would be treated this way if his name was Smith. The media's attention on the Salahi couple seemed sensationalist, the kind of journalism I expect from People, not MSNBC, "the place" for politics. Maybe Chris should have spent that time talking about Martha Coakley and asking if there's any chance she would lose the Senate race.

A "general massacre of democracy"

'The parliamentary election is a test of Iraq's growing stability as violence starts to fade and U.S. troops prepare to end combat operations in August and withdraw by end-2011. Sunni resentment could potentially fuel a lingering insurgency.

But two-thirds of the list handed to electoral authorities by the Justice and Accountability Commission was composed of Shi'ites, according to a copy received by Reuters. The list appeared weighted more against secular alliances than Sunnis.

"This is just a general massacre of democracy," said Hashim al-Habubi, a member of Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani's Iraq Unity coalition, which includes prominent Sunni tribal leaders.'

Mohammed of ITM writes: "However, it is obvious now that, unlike with Sunni candidates, none of the banned Shiite candidates is a prominent political figure. In fact, the media so far has not mentioned the names of any of those disqualified Shiite candidates."

Is Chalabi exploiting (and amplifying) Shias' fear of Baathists?

'Chalabi is no. 3 on the INA’s list for Baghdad. That makes him one of its principal movers and shakers, as he had been in the past before falling out with Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim. By using the De-Baath commission to nullify the candidacy of 511 politicians, especially from Maliki’s and Bolani’s lists, he scored a big victory towards placing the Anti-Baath issue at the forefront of electoral politics. I’m also sure that he knew that the American administration would rise to the bait: Joe Biden’s attempts to micromanage this crises only serves to make the issue bigger, and the bigger it is, the better for the INA running on this controversy as their sole ‘gotcha’ against Maliki. It is interesting that Basra’s Muzahim al-Kana’an, who in the last election got an exemption from De-Baathication because he was running on Chalabi’s 2005 slate, has been included in the latest AJC list. Al-Kana’an is running with Bolani this time (…note that Bolani also ran on Chalabi’s list back then).' --Nibras Kazimi

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Al Qaeda fighters leaving Iraq for Yemen

'Experienced fighters returning to Yemen from the Iraq war and radicalized U.S. citizens who have taken up residence in that country have broadened assessments of the threat posed by the al-Qaeda affiliate there, according to administration and congressional officials.

..."U.S. officials said they are on heightened alert because of the potential threat from extremists carrying American passports and the related challenges involved in detecting and stopping homegrown operatives," the report says.

An additional concern, it says, "is a group of nearly 10 non-Yemeni Americans who traveled to Yemen, converted to Islam, became fundamentalists, and married Yemeni women so they could remain in the country." One U.S. official, it reports, described them as "blond-haired, blue-eyed types" who "fit a profile of Americans whom al-Qaeda has sought to recruit over the past several years."

...The new group, whose leadership was formed by terrorists who escaped from a Yemeni prison in 2006 and Yemenis released from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, under the Bush administration, combines al-Qaeda affiliates in both Saudi Arabia and Yemen and is bolstered by insurgents returning from Iraq with what one counterterrorism official called "battlefield expertise" and tactical knowledge.

"As the Iraq conflict came down, you found that a number of those al-Qaeda types who went to Iraq to fight came back with hardened skills and new techniques," the senior administration official said.

"These individuals who wanted to go and fight are now being plugged into the existing organization in Yemen," said Gregory D. Johnsen, a Yemen expert at Princeton University. "For a long time, there was no real organizational infrastructure for them to fit into. Now, there is something." '

Black September

In the video I posted today the Arab narrator says the Jordanian King mass murdered Palestinians in the "August of the Black". He means Black September". I've heard Arabs before confuse the names of months in English. I found this Wikipedia entry:

The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine in late 1947 led to civil war; the end of the British Mandate of Palestine and the unilateral Israeli Declaration of Independence in May 1948, led to the invasion of the former borders of Palestine by neighboring Arab states and the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The fighting between Israel and the Arab states was halted with the UN-mediated 1949 Armistice Agreements, but the remaining Palestinian territories came under the control of Egypt and Trans-Jordan. In 1949, Trans-Jordan officially changed its name to Jordan; in 1950, it annexed the West Bank of the Jordan River, and brought Palestinian representation into the government.

At the time, the population east of the Jordan River contained over 400,000 Palestinian refugees who made up one-third of the population; another third of the population was comprised of Palestinians on the West Bank. Only one third of the population consisted of the original inhabitants of Trans-Jordan, and meant that the Jordanians had become a ruling minority over a Palestinian majority. This proved to be a mercurial element in internal Jordanian politics and played a critical role in the political opposition. Since the 1950s, the West Bank had become the center of the national and territorial aspects of the Palestinian problem that was the key issue of Jordan's domestic and foreign policy. According to King Hussein, the Palestinian problem spelled "life or death" for Jordan and would remain the country's overriding national security issue.[4]

King Hussein feared an independent West Bank under PLO administration would threaten the autonomy of his Hashemite kingdom.[5][6]. The Palestinian factions were supported variously by many Arab regimes, most notably Egypt's President Nasser, who gave political support; and Saudi Arabia, which gave financial support.[citation needed] The Palestinian nationalist organization Fatah started organizing attacks against Israel in January 1965, and it was subject to repeated cross-border attacks by Palestinian fedayeen; these often drew disproportionate reprisals that killed and injured Jordanians as well. [7] The Samu Incident was one such reprisal. Palestinian resistance received much broader support following the 1967 Six Day War, by which Israel captured and occupied the remaining portions of Palestine and additional land from neighboring Arab states. Jordan had long maintained secret contacts with Israel concerning peace and security along their border. Due to internal splits within the Jordanian government and population however, many of King Hussein's orders to stop these raids were not obeyed, and some Jordanian commanders along the Israeli-Jordanian border began giving the Palestinian raids passive assistance.[8]

I did not know that by 1949 the number of Palestinian refugees in Jordan had already equaled the entire native population of Jordan. Today up to 60 per cent of Jordan's population is of Palestinian origin.

I wondered how Scott Brown's Senate win will affect Obama's foreign policy and particularly the Obama administration's efforts to pressure Israel to stop expanding into Palestinian territory, and I found this:

Israel has made enormous sacrifices in an attempt to secure peace - including unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. I support a two-state solution that reaffirms Israel's right to exist and provides the Palestinians with a place of their own where both sides can live in peace and security. As our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel lives every day under the threat of terror yet shares with America a dedication to democratic ideals, a respect for faith, and a commitment to peace in the region. Until a lasting peace is achieved, I support the security barrier erected by Israel which has proven successful in protecting Israeli civilians from terrorist attacks.

Two state solution? Isn't that what Democrats want? Solomonia wrote "...but the position paper is three pages long and more in-depth and supporters of Israel will love it."

US may view Iraq election as illegitimate if ban upheld

'In a sign of the seriousness with which the crisis is being viewed, U.S. officials say they have quietly warned the Iraqis that there is a real possibility the U.S. and the international community will refuse to accept the elections as legitimate if the ban is upheld, a step that would undermine the entire U.S.-led effort to bring democracy to Iraq and that would potentially deprive the next Iraqi government of international recognition and domestic support.

...Many Iraqis suspect that Iran, at least indirectly, is influencing the process to help ensure that its Shiite Iraqi allies do well in the elections. Chalabi and Lami are also among a slate of candidates fielded by the largest Shiite coalition, the Iraqi National Alliance, which is backed by Iran.

"Iran has a big influence in this," independent Sunni lawmaker Mithal Alusi said. "For its own reasons, Iran doesn't want to see a successful, democratic election in Iraq."

So preoccupied is Iraq's political leadership by the threat posed by Baathists, however, that most Iraqis either genuinely fear their influence or are too afraid of being branded a Baathist to speak out, U.S. officials say.'

--Liz Sly, LAT

5 Humanitarian aid workers killed in Adhamiya

"Gunmen killed four or five people at the office of an Iraqi humanitarian group in a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad at midday on Monday, and left a bomb for police responders, in a rare attack on a nongovernmental organization here.

Accounts of the attack, in the Adhamiya neighborhood, remained inconsistent on Monday. A police officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment, said the gunmen killed four employees of the organization, Mawteny, and wounded a fifth. They left a bomb inside the office, which police and army officers disarmed, the police officer said.

But a source at the Interior Ministry said the gunmen killed all five people inside the office and left a bomb in a car outside, which wounded two police officers. The dead include two women, according to both accounts."

Rare attack on an NGO? Remember Margaret Hassan? Remember the 2003 bombing of the Red Cross in Baghdad?

Have neo-Baathist candidates been complicit in terrorism?

"The security and the welfare of grief-stricken Iraqi people stand above any short-term personal or factional political gains. In the run-up to parliamentary election campaigns the hopefuls should seriously avoid beating the drums of sectarian or ethnic differences.

In a budding democracy like Iraq, where the tolerance level is not that high yet, any miscalculated move or statement by political aspirants may cost the country dearly.

Competition among rival groups is a normal thing and necessary for the promotion of democratic values in any society but the candidates should not turn competition into an open confrontation.

But, unfortunately, according to investigative reports, certain local Iraqi groups and individuals, who are mostly the remnants of the Baathist regime, have been complying with terrorists to wreak havoc in the country in order to prove the current Iraqi government as inefficient.

Likewise, certain Arab countries, who have also been fearful of a rising democracy in the Arab world, have been fanning the sectarian-flame in Iraq since the Saddam regime was thrown into the dustbin of history."

Arab & Muslim unity or hypocrisy?

An Arab posted the video below a year ago, after Arab "leaders" cried for Gaza. I don't agree with everything he says. He says Assad killed hundreds of thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood and he says Saddam killed tens of thousands of Shia. I think it's the other way around: Saddam killed hundreds of thousands of Shia and Assad killed tens of thousands of the Muslim Brotherhood. Also he characterizes the Palestinians as "filthy" because they betrayed the Kuwaitis. Not all Palestinians supported Saddam and not all Palestinians supported Saddam's invasion of Kuwait.

Nevertheless some good points are made in this video. I just wanted to show how disgusted some Arabs are by the hypocrisy of the Arabs and their support for Saddam. So I'm not the only one.

In the video the narrator says the Jordanian King mass murdered Palestinians in the "August of the Black". He means "Black September"

Talabani urges Parliament to lift immunity

I have argued before that members of Parliament should have never been given immunity from prosecution.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has urged parliament to lift the immunity from prosecution of some lawmakers for lauding the Saddam Hussein era, saying they were harming the political process ahead of March elections.

The reemergence of heated debate over the Baath party, which ruled Iraq from the late 1960s until 2003 and was dominated by Saddam's fellow Sunni Arab minority, is roiling Iraqi politics less than two months before the parliamentary election.

Lawmakers were granted immunity from prosecution for political speech under the Iraqi constitution that was written following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

..."We confirm again that national reconciliation is indispensable. We say that this does not mean retreating to the past, or reconciling with those who want to return the country to the era of crime and tyranny," Talabani said in the statement that was issued by his media office late Monday.

Talabani singled out Dhafer al-Ani, a senior Sunni politician in parliament, accusing him of referring to Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and his Anfal campaign which slaughtered Kurds in the 1980s as achievements.

In 2007, Iraqi security forces raided the home of Dhafir al Ani and found 65 Kalashnikov rifles and traces of TNT on four of the vehicles there.

Thanks sheytan al kabir for sending the Reuters article. The sheytan argues that most MPs have a criminal background.

50,000 Sahwa now employed by Iraqi govt

"Nearly 50,000 Sunni fighters who sided with American forces against al-Qaida and other militants in Iraq are now in government jobs, a top official said Tuesday in an attempt to soothe fears they would be neglected by the country's Shiite leaders."

Monday, January 18, 2010

Any true progressives & conservatives on TV?

Michael Lind blames the lack of real debate on cable TV:

'Whereas progressives and conservatives — and libertarians and democratic socialists, to say nothing of fascists and Islamists — analyze politics and public policy from the standpoint of a more or less consistent view of the world, Democratists and Republicanists are P.R. agents for one of the two parties. The job of a Democratist is to defend whatever the Democratic Party did today, whether or not it is compatible with progressive principles. The job of a Republicanist is to defend whatever the Republican Party did today, whether or not it is compatible with conservative principles. The partisan spinmeisters who use television to raise their profiles can be rewarded with jobs as presidential speechwriters or White House press secretaries, or with bestselling books and TV shows of their own.

'Twas not always thus. Let's travel back in time to the 1950s and 1960s, when there were only three networks. In both Congress and the executive branch, there was a seemingly monolithic bipartisan establishment. In Congress, this took the form of the dominant "conservative coalition" of moderate Republicans and conservative Southern Democrats (like today's Blue Dogs, only more prehistoric). The executive branch of both parties, along with the prestige press, was socially more upscale than Congress, staffed by people who prepped at the same Northeastern schools, went to the same Ivy League universities, wore the same horn-rimmed glasses, and thought the same complacently establishmentarian thoughts. If you doubt me, watch old black-and-white "Meet the Press" episodes, where the Horn-Rimmed People drone on to each other about current affairs in vaguely British, "Long Island lockjaw" accents.

William F. Buckley Jr.'s movement conservatives, the libertarian movement, and the New Left all rebelled in different ways against the sclerotic bipartisan establishment. In the 1950s and 1960s their dissent was pretty much confined to small-circulation magazines like National Review and Dissent. The real breakthrough was Buckley's "Firing Line" program on PBS, followed by the appearance on Sunday television of George Will. Buckley and Will both looked and sounded like Horn-Rimmed People, but their thinking broke with the postwar consensus. The old networks soon balanced them with overtly liberal commentators — Jane Alexander vs. James Kilpatrick. Gore Vidal debated Norman Mailer on "The Dick Cavett Show." Genuine intellectuals and authors occasionally got on Johnny Carson's "Tonight" show. In recent years, Bill Moyers has kept this kind of intelligent programming alive in an increasingly hostile media environment.'

Leaving Saddam in power in 1991 was morally insensible

William F . Buckley in April 1991: "Mr. Bush never hesitated in the month before his great victory to pronounce Saddam Hussein to be a "Hitler." The general sentiment is that Hitlers cannot be left to run whole countries, even countries whose destructive potential has been vastly reduced. Iraq is no longer in position to threaten Kuwait, or Israel; but the government of Saddam is well positioned to continue barbarous treatment of those Iraqis whom we encouraged to revolt against him. To be indifferent to their needs when we have sitting in the area the heaviest military concentration since the invasion of Normandy strikes many people who aren't given to thinking in geopolitical grids as morally insensible.

On the matter of the UN mandate, Resolution 686 authorizes the coalition to move against Iraq to cause it to "Cease hostile or provocative actions by its forces against all member states and other parties, including missile attacks and flights of combat aircraft." The rebels would surely qualify as "other parties." And the helicopters which General Schwarzkopf said he had been "suckered" into permitting the Iraqis to use are certainly combat aircraft, and are being used against Iraqis courageous enough to align themselves with the coalition. They are volunteers, answering the mobilization call of George Bush.

The objection that other members of the coalition would not sanction shooting down Saddam's helicopters being used to shoot Iraqi rebels is by no means obvious. In Great Britain, the press is highly mobilized in opposition to inaction. The Kurds do not constitute a threat to Turkey, and in any event are asking not for independence, but merely for more autonomy. Syria is frozen in the existing situation, and Israel has every reason to hope for the quick extinction of the neighboring dictator who threatened to pulverize Israel only a year ago. The geopolitical argument in favor of withdrawal is subsumed in the moral argument in favor of liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein."

Saudi King sends condolences to Haiti President

"Oil-rich Saudi Arabia is one of the world's wealthiest countries. But though it's generous when it comes to building Islamic religious schools and mosques throughout the world, Saudi Arabia has been rather miserly when it comes to the suffering of the people of Haiti, which was struck by a cataclysmic earthquake that destroyed its capital and killed tens of thousands.

Certainly, Haiti is a world away from Saudi Arabia. And it's a mostly Christian country, rather than Muslim. But that hasn't stopped other wealthy Middle East countries from pitching in.

The United Arab Emirates, for example, has launched an air bridge for getting relief supplies to Haiti. Qatar has dispatched 50 metric tons of aid to Haiti, and Kuwait has made an initial pledge of $1 million, as has Morocco.

Earthquake-prone Turkey and Iran also are helping. Ankara has dispatched a mobile hospital to Haiti and Tehran has donated 30 metric tons of aid.

Even some poorer Middle East countries are helping out. Jordan has sent a planeload of supplies while Lebanon has committed to taking part in relief efforts. Israel has dispatched medical rescue teams to Haiti.

Saudi King Abdullah, meanwhile, has sent a message of condolence to Haitian President René Préval."

More Lebanese in Brazil than in Lebanon

Interesting reading on the Arab diaspora. I did not know Arabs migrated to Haiti! Also I did not know there are such large numbers of Levantine Arabs in Brazil!

'The Americas have long been a destination for Arab migration, with Arabs arriving in some countries at least as early as the nineteenth century, but even as early as 1492 with several Moors among Christopher Columbus' crew . The largest concentration of Arabs outside the Middle East is in Brazil, which has nearly 10 million Brazilians of Arab ancestry[7]. Of these 10 million Arabs, 7 million are of Lebanese ancestry[8], making Brazil's population of Lebanese greater than that of Lebanon. Most other Brazilians of Arab descent are mainly Syrian. There are also large Arab communities in Mexico (about 400,000 Mexicans of Lebanese descent), Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago, Ecuador, and Venezuela.[9] Palestinians cluster in Chile and Central America, particularly El Salvador and Honduras (between 150,000 and 200,000).[10] The 500,000 strong Palestinian community in Chile[11][12] is the fourth largest in the world after those in Israel, Lebanon and Jordan. Arab Haitians (in which a large number live in the capital) are more often than not, concentrated in financial areas where the majority of them establish businesses. In the United States there are around 3.5 million people of Arab ancestry. Most Arabs of the Americas are of either Lebanese, Syrian, or Palestinian ancestry and are mostly Christian, with sizeable minorities of Jews and Muslims, as well.[13].'

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The puzzling disqualifications

"The disqualification of Iraq’s defense minister, Abdul-Kader Jassem al-Obeidi, appeared most puzzling of all. He has run the ministry since 2006, by most accounts capably, and is running as a candidate on Mr. Maliki’s coalition. A spokesman for the ministry, Brig. Gen. Ali Salih, declined to comment on Sunday, but said a response was expected Monday.

...The accountability commission, a remnant of the original committee created to purge Iraq’s government ministries of former leaders of the Baath Party after the American invasion in 2003, appeared to be digging in.

Its chairman, Ali Faisal al-Lami, stood by the disqualifications in spite of the furor, and the country’s election commission has, so far, agreed. Mr. Lami previously headed the de-Baathification committee, as it was known, until his arrest in 2008. Once he was released in August, he returned to the new commission.

In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Lami’s commission accused the United Nations of interfering in Iraq. The United Nations, with the United States, has lobbied against the disqualifications."

The "Angry Arabs" are not angry about US interference here, probably.

Ali Kimyawi to be hanged "within days"

'One of Saddam Hussein's most loathed henchman, Ali Hassan al-Majid, otherwise known as Chemical Ali, will be hanged within days, a senior official said tonight, setting the scene for Iraq's highest profile execution since Saddam himself was put to death more than three years ago.

The former spy chief and first cousin of Saddam was today sentenced to death for ordering the slaughter of more than 5,000 Kurds in the northern Iraqi town of Halabja with chemical weapons in 1988.

It was the fourth death sentence the 68-year-old has received for atrocities committed during the brutal three-decade reign of the Ba'athists. Iraq's deputy justice minister, Busho Ibrahim, said Majid's execution was now imminent.

"We will receive Chemical Ali from the Americans in the next few days and he will be executed very soon afterwards," said Ibrahim. Majid was sentenced by Iraq's high criminal court. All remaining prosecutions he faces are now expected to be set aside.'

Kuwait fears violence could spread

Probably Kuwait wants the US to stay in Iraq as long as possible.

'Kuwait fears a rise in militant attacks and sectarian tensions in Iraq could cause a new security threat for the Gulf Arab oil producer, a minister said in remarks published on Sunday.

The sectarian bloodshed unleashed by the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq has largely abated but U.S. and Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi authorities expect attacks by Sunni militants to increase ahead of key parliamentary elections in March.

Large-scale bombings killed dozens this month across Iraq, which Baghdad blamed on al Qaeda militants and elements of former leader Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party.

"I'm worried about the collapse of the security system in Iraq, which could drive many Iraqis to seek refuge in Kuwait," Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Salem al-Sabah told al-Qabas daily.

"I am worried about ... a sectarian conflict that would spread to Kuwait ... I'm worried that conflicts, terrorism and al Qaeda groups could spread to Kuwait," he said.

Kuwait, which is almost one-third Shi'ite, waged a largely successful campaign to stamp out violence by Islamist militants after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities and Iraq war.

Last year, Kuwait said it had foiled an al Qaeda-linked plan to bomb a U.S. army camp and an oil refinery in the OPEC oil exporting state.

Relations between Iraq and Kuwait became tense last year because of a dispute over billion of dollars Baghdad owes to Kuwait in reparations for 1990-91 occupation of the small state in the era of Saddam Hussein.'

Thanks madtom.

Islamists seek to destroy Iraq's Jewish history

The intolerance and stupidity of "Islamists" is embarrassing.


'For centuries Jews, Christians and Muslims came to Al-Kifl, a small town south of Baghdad, to visit the tomb of the Prophet Ezekiel and pray.

The distinctive Jewish character of the Al-Kifl shrine, namely the Hebrew inscriptions and the Torah Ark, never bothered the gentile worshipers. In the 14th century a minaret was built next to the shrine, but the interior design remained Jewish. The vast majority of Iraq's Jewish community left some 60 years ago, but Shi'ites took good care of the holy site.

Until now.

Recently "Ur," a local Iraqi news agency, reported that a huge mosque will be built on top of the grave by Iraq's Antiquities and Heritage Authority, while Hebrew inscriptions and ornaments are being removed from the site, all as part of renovations.

Prof. Shmuel Moreh of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, winner of the 1999 Israel Prize in Middle Eastern studies and chairman of the Association of Jewish Academics from Iraq, speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, confirmed the report.

"I first heard the news of tomb desecration from a friend of mine who is a German scholar. After visiting the site he called me and said that some Hebrew inscriptions on the grave were covered by plaster and that a mosque is planned to be built on top of the tomb. He told me that he found the changes at the tomb disturbing and warned me that I'd better act quickly, before any irreversible damage will be inflicted," Moreh said.

"I had contacted Mr. Shelomo Alfassa, US director of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, and told him about this situation. Then I saw the report from the Ur news agency, mentioning the decision of the Antiquities and Heritage Authority to build a mosque and to erase the Hebrew inscriptions and ornaments," Moreh said.

He asked friends to check out the developments at the site. The most recent to visit the shrine said that some of the inscriptions are now hidden by a layer of plaster.

Iraqi press reports claim that the building must be destroyed because of its poor condition. However, Alfassa believes that Iraq's Antiquities and Heritage Authority "has been pressured by Islamists to historically cleanse all evidence of a Jewish connection to Iraq - a land where Jews had lived for over a thousand years before the advent of Islam."

According to the Baghdad-born Moreh, many of the Muslims who visit the tomb today are unaware Ezekiel was a Jew.

Iraq, the biblical Aram Naharaim, is rich in Jewish religious sites. Not only Ezekiel is buried there, but also Ezra, Daniel, Nehemiah, Nahum and Jonah. (Another tomb attributed to Ezekiel is located in Dezful, in southwestern Iran.)

Soon after the US-led invasion in 2003, Iraqi authorities indicated that they intended to take good care of the Jewish sites, which might become an powerful tourist magnet. In May 2009, the Tourism Ministry declared that it intended to preserve all of Iraq's heritage sites, regardless of creed, and would soon begin the renovation of Ezekiel's tomb.

But the future of Jewish sacred sites looks grim in the intolerant current climate of post-Saddam Iraq, where only eight Jews are left, the Christian minority is severely persecuted by the fundamentalists and ancient Shi'ite mosques are blown up.

"Let's hope that the Jewish sites will be spared, but someone must intervene before it's too late," Moreh warned.'

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Maliki backs ban on Baathists

By Liz Sly, LA Times: 'Reporting from Baghdad - Prime Minister Nouri Maliki threw his support Saturday behind a decision to ban about 500 candidates from participating in Iraq's upcoming elections despite an outcry from the mostly Sunni and secular parties that are affected.

The decision by the Accountability and Justice Commission to bar the candidates has revived Sunni-Shiite sectarian tensions, called into question the Iraqi government's commitment to reconciliation and cast doubt over the likely inclusiveness of elections that U.S. officials are hoping will stabilize Iraq.

Maliki said in a statement that the commission's rulings must be respected "without exception" and cautioned against "the politicization" of a process intended to weed out former supporters of the outlawed Baath Party, which ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein.'

Hamas is too soft for Al Qaeda

'Salafists: Hamas has gone soft

Hamas, an Islamist nationalist movement, limits its activities to the Palestinian arena, preferring to attack Israel and rejecting Al Qaeda-style calls for global jihad against the West. It has cracked down heavily on the territory’s growing extremist organizations since taking control of Gaza in 2007.

The new groups, of which there are about half a dozen, claim to practice what is known as “Salafism,” or the observance of Islam in the manner of the Prophet Mohammad in the seventh century. Local Salafis say Hamas, which limits its militant activities to Israel and has so far failed to implement strict Islamic law in Gaza, has betrayed its Islamist credentials.

Salafi groups have grown in strength in recent years amid rising poverty and a crippling Israeli siege on Gaza.'

Money is the "last thing" on Kuwaiti minds

'Kuwait is not asking its former occupier Iraq to repay a multi-billion-dollar debt but only for assurances on security and good neighbourly ties, the Kuwaiti foreign minister has said.

"What we need from Iraq is security and assurances. We don't want money which is the last thing on our mind," Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah told Al-Qabas newspaper in an interview due to appear on Sunday.

"Let me be very clear. We have not asked Iraq to repay the debt," said Sheikh Mohammad, according to an advance copy of the interview received by AFP.

Kuwait loaned Iraq an estimated 16 billion dollars during the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war.

Iraq's new leaders have repeatedly urged oil-rich Arab countries to cancel Baghdad's debt, mostly comprised of Gulf support during the war with Iran.

Sheikh Mohammad called on Iraq to help create the atmosphere conducive that could allow the Kuwaiti parliament to write off the debt.

"We want Iraq to be a good and safe neighbour," said the Kuwaiti minister who complained that some Iraqi MPs still praise former leader Saddam Hussein for invading the oil-rich emirate.'

First wave of US forces leave Iraq

Remember all the people who praised the "resistance" and complained that without "resistance" the US would be in Iraq forever?

"Among the first troops to invade in March 2003, and the first to help turn enemy insurgents into allies, the Marines will be the first major wave of American forces to go as the U.S. military begins a withdrawal to be completed by the end of next year. For them, as for the rest of the U.S. military, this has been the longest war since Vietnam.

At their peak in October 2008, an estimated 25,000 Marines were in Iraq, mostly in the country's western Anbar province. Now only about 4,000 remain. They, too, will be gone shortly after the Marines officially hand over responsibility to the Army on Saturday."

Most victims of Islamic terrorism have been Muslims

'Tens of thousands of innocent Muslims -- and non-Muslims -- have died in this mindless violence targeting bazaars, mosques, schools, hospitals... you name it. True, the self-styled "coalition of the willing" has visited a great deal of horror on Iraq and Afghanistan. But we are not any less injured by nihilists who kill and murder with impunity in our name.

Let's face it: Some of the worst crimes against Muslims have been committed in the name of Islam by people who claim to be our defenders and champions. In fact, they are worse than the West because they pretend to be our friends and allies before they hunt us from within.

If the invaders of Iraq and Afghanistan are not our friends, the folks who live in our midst to kill us from within like a cancer are not our friends either. This is the reality Muslims have to confront, and confront it now, before it's too late. And this is the message we have to send across Muslim lands and around the world.'

Former Iraqi Airways pilot charged with 2003 UN bombing

"A former Iraqi airline pilot who has been in custody for seven months was accused on Saturday by Iraqi authorities of orchestrating the 2003 bombing of the U.N. Baghdad headquarters in which 22 people were killed."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Iraqi court sentences to death 11 for Aug. 19 bombings

"An Iraqi court Thursday sentenced 11 people to death by hanging after convicting them of carrying out the August bombings of two government ministries that killed more than 100 people in the heart of Baghdad.

Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council spokesman Abdul-Sattar Bayrkdar said a court found the 11 defendants guilty of financing, planning and participating in the Aug. 19 bombings, which devastated the Foreign and Finance ministries.

Those bombings and two more massive attacks since have shaken Iraqis' confidence in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has staked his political reputation on keeping Iraq safe as he seeks to secure a second term. The convictions were announced less than two months before a nationwide parliamentary election.

Authorities said the defendants had links to al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath Party."

Ayad Jamal Aldin calls on Middle East to help Haiti

"I am calling on all the people of Iraq and the whole Middle-East to unite and do what they can to support the ongoing rescue efforts and the relief and rebuilding that follows."

- Ahrar Party Leader Ayad Jamal Aldin

It made me wonder how much in donations are coming from Kuwait and Qatar, both in the top five in income per capita according to the CIA World Factbook. I wonder if the Saudi royal family is helping in the worldwide effort.

PS: From Alms in Wiki: "In Islam, zakat, or the giving of alms, is the Third of the five pillars of Islam. Various rules attach to the practice, but in general terms, it is obligatory to give away 2.5% of ones savings and business revenue, as well as 5-10% of ones harvest, to the poor. The recipients include the destitute, the working poor, those who are unable to pay off their own debts, stranded travelers, and others who need assistance, with the general principle of zakaah always being that the rich should pay it to the poor. One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God, and that wealth is therefore held by human beings in trust."

Shia clerics fear Baathist return to power

'A senior Shi'ite Muslim cleric on Friday defended a panel's decision to bar almost 500 candidates from Iraq's next election because of ties to Saddam Hussein's outlawed Baath party, likening the party to the Nazis.

As a controversy threatening to reopen the wounds of Iraq's sectarian divide deepened, Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI) lawmaker Mohammad al-Haidari called for the ban to be enforced.

"The Baath party is worse than the Nazi party," Haidari said in a speech during Friday prayers. "If Baathists return to power, God forbid, their revenge will be even more ferocious."

The Justice and Accountability Commission, an independent body that aims in part to ensure the Baath party does not return to public life, said last week that 15 parties should be prevented from standing in the March 7 election.

The list included prominent Sunni leader Saleh al-Mutlaq, generating widespread protests from once dominant Sunnis that Iraq's majority Shi'ites were trying to sideline them.'

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Najaf market bombed

'Three explosions ripped through the city of Najaf on Thursday, just hundreds of yards from one of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam.

Two homemade bombs detonated just five minutes apart about 5:30 p.m. in an open-air fish-and-vegetable market. Police found another bomb inside a garbage truck. As they tried to defuse it, a bomb in a car parked nearby exploded, ripping through the crowd, said police Capt. Hadi al-Najafi.

Authorities gave conflicting estimates of the number of dead, ranging from one to at least two dozen.

A paint seller in Najaf's old quarter was trapped under the rubble of his store, whose ceiling collapsed from the power of the blasts.

Abbas Elaiwi, like many in this relatively calm city about 90 miles south of Baghdad, was shocked that the explosions had occurred so close to the Imam Ali shrine, where the son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad is buried.

...Jawad al-Garawi, a provincial council member in Najaf, blamed Thursday's attacks on remnants of Saddam Hussein's party and swore to "purge" them from police and government positions in the province.'

Socialism for the Rich Too-Big-to-Fail (Only in America)

Dylan Ratigan asked some excellent questions and compels one to ask if we have socialism for the rich in America. $387 billion in Wall Street bonuses in two years and now our representatives in government squabble over the great cost of healthcare reform and they fear socialized healthcare.

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Karl Marx loved America, hated Russia

Interesting. From a Michael J. Totten interview with Christopher Hitchens:

MJT: Well, you know what Karl Marx thought of Russia.

Hitchens: He hated Russia. He loved America.

MJT: How counterintuitive that is if you don't know it.

Hitchens: Karl Marx's best writing is on America. He said it was the great new country for worker's equality. There was free land for the peasants. It was republican, not monarchical, and it was anti-imperialist. If you look at Henry Adams' memoirs, when his father was at the embassy in London, the Times of London was in favor of the Confederacy. Gladstone helped the Confederacy build a navy. Karl Marx, meanwhile, said Lincoln is our man. The United States is our future. That's not what they teach you in school about Marx.

MJT: That's not what the communists taught their kids, either.

Hitchens: Well, that's true to an extent.

MJT: I mean the schools in the Soviet Union.

Hitchens: For Marxists, Russia was the heart of darkness.

Thanks Anand for sending the link.

Bombings in Najaf

BBC reports:
'Three bombs have exploded in the Iraqi city of Najaf, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens of others, reports say.

Initial reports suggested that the bombs were detonated near a market in the city centre, filled with shoppers in the early evening.'

AFP reports
"A car bomb exploded near a mosque and two other bombs blew up in a retail market in the city, 150 kilometres (90 miles) south of Baghdad, according to a security official."

The violence in Najaf (Néjéf) occurs just days after a Saudi cleric insulted Sistani, the top Shia cleric who rarely leaves his home in Najaf. After Hizballah defended Sistani, the "Angry Arab" condemned Sistani as an agent of the American occupation.

Read Tarek Amr's post "The Clerics War".

I doubt the Angry Arab will be angered by the violence in Najaf. He is angered only when Americans do the bombing. He is angered only by "occupation". And he pretends to care for all Iraqis.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

US Senators laud Iraq for joining transparency group

'US Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) and Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) expressed their strong support for Iraq’s commitment to make its oil and gas industry more transparent following Iraq’s Jan. 11 announcement that it plans to become an Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative candidate country.

EITI is an international coalition of governments, companies, and others that promotes good governance through publication of oil, gas, and mining revenues, the two Senate Foreign Relations Committee members noted on Jan. 12.

“Corruption remains a significant problem in Iraq,” said Lugar, the committee’s ranking minority member. “As oil and gas is the single largest source of revenue [there], it is important that the revenue generated benefit the people of Iraq and not just a handful of businessmen and officials. By committing to implement EITI, Iraq is creating a foundation for good governance in a sector critical to Iraq’s future stability.”

Cardin said, “This is a significant step toward a greater future for Iraq.” The senator also has promoted EITI as chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, more commonly known as the US-Helsinki Commission.'

Haiti helped America acquire Louisiana Purchase

As a result of the disastrous earthquake in Haiti, I have learned that Haiti is the second oldest country in the Western Hemisphere, and that France profited enormously from the slave trade and sugar trade in the former French colony. I also learned the Haitian Revolution was the only successful slave revolt in recorded history and led to the first republic ruled by Africans.

According to Pat Robertson, however, the Haitians made a "pact with the devil" to get rid of the French. Pat Robertson reminds me of the Al Qaeda type who insists he knows God and he knows who has made a pact with the devil.

It's very sad what has happened to those poor people, who have always struggled to survive.

The Haitian Revolution was influential in slave rebellions in America and British colonies. The loss of a major source of western revenue shook Napoleon's faith in the promise of the western world, encouraging him to unload other French assets in the region including the territory known as Louisiana. In the early 1800s, many refugees, including free people of color and white planters, of whom some in both categories had owned slaves, settled in New Orleans, adding many new members to both its French-speaking mixed-race population and African population.

The Louisiana Purchase was huge.

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How the U.S. Military Will Help Haiti