Friday, November 30, 2007

Saudi gang-rape victim goes public

To help protect this woman, call the Saudi Embassy at (202) 342-3800. Phone calls carry more weight than letters. And be respectful! Appealing to the best of Islamic values will go farther than some of the insults I've seen in the blogosphere lately."
LONDON: A Saudi gang rape victim who was sentenced to six months in jail and 200 lashes was scolded by judges while police repeatedly dismissed her claims, she said in testimony published Thursday. The 19-year-old girl described the rape itself - including the fact that one of her attackers photographed her - and her struggle to eat or sleep in its immediate aftermath to the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

She was attacked at knifepoint by seven men after she was found in a car with a male companion who was not a relative, in breach of strict Saudi law, and was initially sentenced last year to 90 lashes for being with the man.

After her appeal, the court ordered her punishment should be increased to the current sentence, a decision which has attracted wide international condemnation from human rights groups to the White House.

According to the testimony published in Britain's The Independent newspaper, once the girl's husband found out about the gang rape, he told the police and appealed for the rapists to be arrested, to which a police officer said: "You go find them and investigate." The husband telephoned the police on four separate occasions before any action was taken.  continued

Thursday, November 29, 2007

When did I become sectarian?

I have been accused on other blogs of being "sectarian". I never thought of myself as sectarian, but I don't know anymore. Maybe I am sectarian? Or am I racist? What is "sectarian" anyway? Does one become sectarian when one identifies with one's sect after seeing horrible violence repeatedly inflicted on the people of that sect? Is my sectarianism a result of my interaction with Sunni Arabs on other blogs? Or is it a result of what my family experienced in Sunni Arab-ruled Iraq in the 1980s? Do I hate? Am I mean? Unstable? Did I change while reading The Shia Revival? How do you see me?

More Iraqi Shia Join the Awakening Movement

As a few Iraqi bloggers continue to complain about the improving situation in Iraq, more Iraqis, Sunna and Shia, are working with Americans to fight Al Qaeda and other terrorists:

Sects unite to battle Al Qaeda in Iraq

Sunnis and Shiites work together at the local level to protect their neighborhoods from insurgents and militias.

By Doug Smith and Saif Rasheed, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
November 19, 2007

QARGHULIA, Iraq — Despite persistent sectarian tensions in the Iraqi government, war-weary Sunnis and Shiites are joining hands at the local level to protect their communities from militants on both sides, U.S. military officials say.

In the last two months, a U.S.-backed policing movement called Concerned Citizens, launched last year in Sunni-dominated Anbar province under the banner of the Awakening movement, has spread rapidly into the mixed Iraqi heartland.

Of the nearly 70,000 Iraqi men in the Awakening movement, started by Sunni Muslim sheiks who turned their followers against Al Qaeda in Iraq, there are now more in Baghdad and its environs than anywhere else, and a growing number of those are Shiite Muslims.

Commanders in the field think they have tapped into a genuine public expression of reconciliation that has outpaced the elected government's progress on mending the sectarian rift.

"What you find is these people have lived together for decades with no problem until the terrorists arrived and tried to instigate the problem," said Lt. Col. Valery Keaveny, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 509th Airborne unit in the Iskandariya area south of Baghdad. "So they are perfectly willing to work together to keep the terrorists out."

As late as this summer, there were no Shiites in the community policing groups. Today, there are about 15,000 in 24 all-Shiite groups and 18 mixed groups, senior U.S. military officials say. More are joining daily.

Here in Qarghulia, a rural community east of Baghdad, the results are palpable. Killings are down dramatically and public confidence is reviving.

"Sunnis-Shiites, no problem," said Obede Ali Hussein, 22, who stood at a checkpoint built by the U.S. Army along the Diyala River. "We want to protect our neighborhood."

For commanders in areas where Sunni-Shiite warring had brought normal life to a standstill, the unexpected flowering of sectarian cooperation has proved a boon.

"I couldn't do it without them," said Capt. Troy Thomas, whose 1st Cavalry unit is responsible for securing the Qarghulia area.


Saudi Justice Ministry blames rape victim for being raped

An anonymous commentator noted that the rape victim is Shia. Omar the Uniter (24 Steps to Liberty) would probably think that identifying her sect makes me a "sectarian rat". So be it.

Saudi Arabia: Ministry of Justice should Stop Defamation of Rape Victim
28 Nov 2007 23:29:41 GMT
Source: Human Rights Watch

The Saudi Ministry of Justice should immediately stop publishing statements aimed at damaging the reputation of a young Saudi rape victim who spoke out publicly about her ordeal and her efforts to find justice, Human Rights Watch said today. In response to international outcry over the case, the Ministry of Justice published two statements on its website on November 20 and 24 alleging that the rape victim confessed to engaging in illicit acts and was undressed in a car prior to the rape. The second statement said that "the main reason the crime took place was because the woman and her companion, who exposed her to this heinous crime, did not follow the law [of prohibited privacy]." The Ministry voiced regret that the media provided an "unjustified defense" of the woman. A representative of the ministry also appeared on television blaming her for the attack and strongly hinting that she had engaged in adultery.

"The Ministry of Justice's response to criticism of its unjust verdict has been appalling," said Farida Deif, researcher in the women's rights division of Human Rights Watch. "First, they attempted to silence this young woman and now they're trying to demonize her in the eyes of the Saudi public." continued

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Knights of Mesopotamia secure Amriya

By Jim Muir
BBC News, Baghdad


There is general recognition that the security situation in Baghdad and some other parts of Iraq has got significantly better in the past three months or so.

US soldier patrols market in the Dora area of Baghdad -
The US surge has brought calm to previously restive areas of Baghdad
In addition to the current surge of US forces, one of the major factors that is credited with helping the improvement, has been the emergence in Sunni areas, of local fighters recruited by the Americans as a kind of neighbourhood watch.

There are thought to be nearly 80,000 of them nationwide.

Many of them used to fight alongside the insurgents, but now, encouraged by their tribal leaders, they have turned against al-Qaeda and are helping keep it out of their areas.

We went to al-Ameriya, a journey we would not have dreamt of attempting just a few months ago, to see some of the local fighters in action.

This part of Baghdad used to be a stronghold of al-Qaeda or groups linked to it.

Knights of Mesopotamia

Now we are travelling, not with the American army as we might once have done, but with a tribal Sunni sheikh whose followers are now controlling the area along with the Americans, helping to drive al-Qaeda out and to keep it out.

Abdul Abed, Sunni militia leader
People saw al-Qaeda doing terrible things. They were killing Sunnis, Shias, and Christians. There were bodies everywhere, being eaten by dogs. So we had to fight them
Abdul Abed

We are under the protection of the Fursan al-Rafidain, the Knights of Mesopotamia, a force of about 600, and they clearly rule the roost in al-Ameriya.

They are paid and supplied with uniforms by the Americans, and work closely with them. Our first stop was at their headquarters.

Their leader, Abul Abed, meets the Americans every day.

On the wall is a picture of him with General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq.

But it was not always that way. Before turning against al-Qaeda, he used to be in an insurgent group which fought the Americans.

"At the beginning, people saw it as an occupation which had to be resisted. But then they saw that the Americans were working in the interests of the people.

"They saw al-Qaeda doing terrible things. They were killing Sunnis, Shias, and Christians. There were bodies everywhere, being eaten by dogs. So we had to fight them," Abul Abed said.  continued
[I have to say this: why didn't they fight Al Qaeda until recently?  Is it because they weren't getting paid?]

Did Dhia al Kawwaz lie?

Why would anybody lie about such a thing? I really believed yesterday that a horrible crime had been committed against his poor family. It appears, thankfully, that they are safe:

Iraqi journalist's family 'safe'

The family of an Iraqi journalist - who he claimed had been killed by gunmen in Baghdad - have appeared on Iraqi television, apparently safe and well.

Dia al-Kawwaz, who lives in Jordan, said that several members of his family were killed by Shia gunmen on Sunday.

But a taped report on the US-owned al-Hurra TV showed his family, none of whom seemed distressed or injured.

Mr Kawwaz' sisters denounced his actions, saying there had never been any sort of threat against them.

One of his brothers-in-law suggested that he had made the story up for political reasons.

Mr Kawwaz edits a website that has been critical of the Iraqi government and the US military presence in Iraq.

He has lived outside Iraq for more than 20 years.

On his site, Mr Kawwaz said the gunmen stormed into his family home in a Shia district of north Baghdad on Sunday, opening fire indiscriminately killing his two sisters, their husbands and four young children as they ate breakfast.

He said the attackers threw explosives into the house before driving off in a vehicle with no number plates, passing unhindered through a nearby police checkpoint.

Mr Kawwaz was unequivocal in accusing Shia militia men of carrying out the attack.

At the time, Interior Ministry officials denied all knowledge of any attack.

Sistani repeats his call for unity and an end to violence

As Omar of 24 steps forward and 48 steps backward to "liberty" claims to be able to unite Iraqis, Sistani repeats his call to unite Iraqis:

Iraq's top Shiite cleric calls for unity

NAJAF, Iraq (AP) — Iraq's top Shiite cleric renewed his call for an end to sectarian violence in the country and for Sunni and Shiite Muslims to unite, according to a Sunni cleric who met him Tuesday in this holy city south of Baghdad.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's plea for peace and unity came as a group of Sunni and Shiite clerics met in Najaf in the latest attempt by clerics from both sects to stem the violence. The meeting was sponsored by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, Iraq's most influential Shiite party, which is closely linked to al-Sistani.

Later, Khaled al-Mulla, one of the 10-member Sunni delegation, said the Iranian-born religious leader called for solidarity between the two sects and an end to the bloodshed, which has intensified after a major Shiite shrine north of Baghdad was bombed in February 2006 by Sunni militants.

"I am a servant of all Iraqis," al-Mulla quoted al-Sistani as saying.

The wave of sectarian killings that followed the Samarra bombing continues until today, but has significantly abated since a major Iraqi-U.S. security plan was launched nine months ago. continued

Also: Top cleric al-Sistani urges Shiites to protect Sunnis

Najaf, Nov 27, (VOI)- Top Shiite Cleric Ali al-Sistani urged Shiites to protect their Sunni brothers and defend them, head of south Iraq's scholars body said on Tuesday.

Shiekh Khaled al-Mulla said at a press conference held in Najaf after the visit made by a delegation of Sunni and Shiite clerics to al-Sistani, "The top cleric asserted on the sanctity of Iraq's blood, urging Shiites to protect and defend Sunnis."
Sistani said in the two-hour meeting "I'm a servant for all Iraqis and there is no difference between Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, or Christians."

"Sistani also warned Iraq's clerics of enemies' plots to differentiate between Iraqis," Sheikh Mulla said.

Preparations are currently underway to hold the first national meeting between Shiite and Sunni clerics in the city of Najaf. The delegation consisted of clerics from Iraq's Kurdistan, Basra, al-Nasriyah, and Falluja.

Najaf lies 180 km south of Baghdad.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Reminder: I am Iraqi AMERICAN

Omar of "24 Steps to Liberty" recently published a post in which he wrote:

I now invite those deceived [or maybe just mad] people to go to Iraq and tell us what they see. If they do believe that Iraq is “safe” now, why don’t they go and tell us what happens? One of them is a bloger who claims to be Iraqi and knows everything about Iraq, more than Treasure of Baghdad and I do, although he left Iraq more than 25 years ago and was never back since. Now, I invite him to go to Iraq and live “normal life” with his relatives and report from there!

I think those last two sentences are about me. A few reminders for Omar, "Treasure of Baghdad" and anybody else who knows very little about me and my blog:

1) I have never claimed that Iraq is now safe. I have recently posted articles that point to evidence of a drop in violence in Baghdad. Iraq is safer than it was a year ago. I do not understand why a few Iraqi bloggers are having such difficulty accepting this fact. Saying that Iraq is safer than it was a few months ago is not the same as saying that Iraq is safe.

2) I have never claimed that I know more about Iraq than the great "Treasure of Baghdad" and his non-sectarian buddy Omar of 24 very arduous steps to "liberty". On the contrary - I have asked questions and learned a great deal about Iraq from other Iraqi bloggers. Until earlier this year, I did not know that the three stars on the Iraqi flag represent the nonexistent unity between Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. Actually I first learned about the Iraqi flag from a commentator on my blog (AfghanShia) who isn't even Iraqi, and the representation of Baathi "unity" on the flag was later confirmed by Iraqis at Zeyad's blog (Healing Iraq).

Omar also attacked me in his comments section, calling me an "ignorant" for claiming that Iraqi journalist Dhia Kawaz is Shii. The author of an AFP article, which I posted yesterday, called Kawaz a Shiite. AFP could be wrong. In fact it would make sense of Kawaz is Sunni Arab, since his paper is based in Jordan and Kawaz has been very critical of the Shia-led Iraqi government. But AFP also reports: "I heard the news from my mother. The bodies were buried in Najaf after sunset yesterday and there will also be a condolence meeting in Kut tomorrow," Kawwaz told AFP, refering to two central Shiite cities. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that only Shia bother to transfer their dead relatives to Najef to bury them there. Omar, however, wasted no time in disparaging me further:

Dhia al-kawaz is from Haditha in western Iraq. He is a Sunni. Go check your info. and stop the propaganda.

Just becasue AFP said Kawaz is shiite doesn't mean he is! Arn't you Iraqi and know everything about Iraq and it's community and culture? How come you don't know Kawaz family and where they come from?

Apparently a true non-sectarian Iraqi, like Omar of 24 steps forward and 48 steps backward to "liberty", is supposed to know what sect every Iraqi belongs to. How ironic.

3) I am Iraqi American. I have spent most of my life in America. I speak, read, and write English much better than I do Arabic. I do not know everything about Iraq and I welcome constructive criticism and corrections to my posts and comments.

Monday, November 26, 2007

“I advise young Saudis not to go to Iraq.”

In March I wrote a post about an interview with this man.

Ahmad Abdullah Al-Shaie

BURAIDAH, 23 November 2007 — A young Saudi, who was brainwashed to fight in Iraq where he narrowly escaped death and suffered scarring to his face and hands in a failed suicide attack, recently called on young Saudis not to follow in his footsteps and be wary of militant groups in Iraq.

Ahmad Abdullah Al-Shaie, a young Saudi from Buraidah who describes himself as a victim, told Al-Riyadh newspaper that he was brainwashed into going to and fighting in Iraq. "The Iraqis who were supposed to train me and prepare me to fight the occupation tried to kill me by making me an unwilling suicide bomber," said Al-Shaie, who was tricked into driving a truck full of explosives.

In 2005, Al-Shaie went to Iraq to fight American troops. The leader of his group, Abu Abdul Rahman, asked him to drive a gas tank to a place in the Al-Mansour district of Baghdad. The Saudi youngster said he was suspicious why he had been chosen. He had no experience, did not know his way around, and felt an Iraqi would have been better suited.

The young Saudi had arrived in Iraq to undergo military training to take part in the insurgency. "We thought the Iraqis were on our side. I never doubted them, as I used to see them fasting and praying. I thought they were doing jihad and it never crossed my mind that they may want to kill me," said Al-Shaie.

On the day he was to deliver the truck, Al-Shaie was shown how to maneuver it. Iraqi fighters guided him through Baghdad and when they reached a certain point they (the Iraqis) sped off in a waiting car.

Al-Shaie recalls the moment when he was left alone. "I continued driving. After around 500 meters, the truck exploded. It was a nightmare. I couldn't believe what had happened. Twelve people died and many were injured," said Al-Shaie, adding that later he learned that his truck, which was carrying 26 tons of liquid explosives, was aimed at bombing the Jordanian Embassy.

Al-Shaie arrived in Iraq in 2005 after meeting an old friend, who told him about jihad and stories of fighters in Afghanistan and Chechnya. The friend showed him a "fatwa" permitting Saudis to go to Iraq to fight without the approval of their parents and the ruler of the country.

In the last 10 days of Ramadan in 2005, Al-Shaie told his parents he was going camping. "I knew that if I told them about my real intentions they would have objected. We went to Syria where we met a Saudi called Abu Abdullah," he said, adding that all of the people he met used nicknames and never their real names.

In Syria, he was introduced to a Syrian man called Mazin, who arranged for his passage into Iraq. "When we entered Iraq, we met two young Iraqis carrying two Yemenis, who were wounded in Falluja. The Iraqis told us to move on before sunrise, otherwise the Americans would come after us," said Al-Shaie.

In Iraq, Al-Shaie and his group met the leader of foreign Arab fighters. "His name was Abu Aseel and asked us if we wanted to be martyrs. None of us raised our hands because we had all come to fight and not to kill ourselves," said Al-Shaie.

The group was told of the rewards given to martyrs in Islam. However, the group remained unconvinced. Their passports were taken from them and they were handed $100 each and sent to the Al-Anbar province where they joined a group of 40 Arab fighters.

"After one week, we went to Ramadi where we were supposed to be getting training... We complained to the leader of the camp that we weren't getting any training. He just said we would be taken to Baghdad the next day," said Al-Shaie, adding that an explosives expert called Abu Omar Al-Kurdi received the group in Baghdad.

It was in Baghdad under Al-Kurdi that Al-Shaie was tricked into driving the truck on that fatal morning. After the truck he was driving exploded, the young Saudi, having sustained burns, was taken to the Abu Ghraib Prison Hospital.

After one month, US officials handed Al-Shaie and a group of other young Saudis into the custody of the Saudi government.

Al-Shaie says he does not know the fate of his friend, who brought him to Iraq. He believes he may have died fighting. "The conditions in Iraq are very difficult... We were brainwashed and were used by these people," he said.

"Most Saudis in Iraq have gone because of fatwas permitting them to fight. However, we all know that the Kingdom's Higher Scholar Committee has not approved these decrees. Many young Saudis that went to Iraq have been influenced by what they see on websites and hear in cassettes," he said.

"The Iraqis are not happy with foreigners fighting in Iraq. They think we're interfering in their internal business," he said. "I advise young Saudis not to go to Iraq."

"Rogue" elements of Shia militias must be destroyed

Updated: This story turned out to be false.

This is absolutely horrid.  Something must be done about these Shia militias that murder Iraqis (and their relatives - I thought only Saddam's regime murdered relatives of political opposition) who criticize them.
BAGHDAD (AFP) — An Iraqi journalist said on Monday gunmen went on a killing spree in his Baghdad home, murdering seven children and four adult relatives in the latest assault on media staff in the war-scarred country.

Dia al-Kawwaz, editor of Internet website Shabeqat Akhbar al-Iraq (Network of Iraqi News), said militiamen sprayed his relatives with bullets after storming into his house on Sunday.

"Four gunmen entered my family house in Shab area. Two of my sisters, their husbands and seven children between five and 10 years old were killed yesterday (Sunday) morning," Kawwaz told AFP on Monday by telephone from Amman.

He accused Shiite militiamen of carrying out the killings, saying they "stormed the house when the family was having breakfast".

"Earlier I was accused of being pro-US and so had to flee to Germany and now I am accused of being a Saddamist," said Kawwaz, a Shiite, who has lived in Germany for the past 20 years.

Friday, November 16, 2007

AQ Terrorizing Shia and Christians in Pakistan

An excellent piece of writing by B. Raman, the former head of India's equivalent of the CIA (thanks Anand):

The State of Jihadi Terrorism in Pakistan


"11. Musharraf has so far not told his people and the international community that Al Qaeda and pro-Al Qaeda organisations in the tribal areas have been increasingly targeting Shias and Christians. Captured Shia members of the para-military forces are being treated with brutality and killed by beheading or by cutting their throats. Shia members of the civil society are also being targeted. The FM radio stations have been indulging in the most horrible anti-Shia broadcasts. Shias are being projected as American agents in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. They are alleging that the majority of the prostitutes in Pakistan are Shias and projecting the Shias as the sect of the prostitutes in the Ummah. A highly reputed school for poor tribal girls run in the FATA by a Christian missionary organisation was targeted and forced to close through intimidation. There are no Buddhists in the tribal areas, but many historical Buddhist heritage sites are there. These too are systematically being attacked. Al Qaeda is trying to replicate Iraq in Pakistan by exacerbating the already existing divide between the Shias and the Sunnis in the civil society as well as in the Army.

12. Musharraf has been totally helpless in dealing with the situation. There is an urgent need to encourage the emergence of a new leadership---political as well as military---which would be able to deal with the worsening jihadi terrorism with greater political sensitivity and operational effectiveness."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fundamentlists Target Basrawi Women

How sad for Iraqis who celebrated their new-found freedom from tyranny, only to be murdered by fundamentalists. I wonder if these criminals are the same people who murdered Steven Vincent.
By Mona Mahmoud and Mike Lanchin
BBC World Service

An Iraqi girl waits in line with women (archive image)
Women are being targeted amid a local power struggle
The chief of police in the southern Iraqi city of Basra has warned of a campaign of violence against women carried out by religious extremists.

It has, Maj-Gen Abdul Jalil Khalaf said, included threats, intimidation and even murder.

Some victims were dressed in indecent clothes by their killers or had notices attached to them, he said.

Women interviewed by the BBC said they no longer dared venture on to Basra's streets without strict Islamic attire.

"There is a terrible repression against women in Basra," Maj-Gen Khalaf told the BBC.

"They kill women, leave a piece of paper on her or dress her in indecent clothes so as to justify their horrible crimes."

Forty-two women were killed between July and September this year, although the number dropped slightly in October, he said.

In one case, he added, a woman was killed in her home along with her six-year-old son, who was rumoured to have been conceived in an adulterous relationship.

Maj-Gen Khalaf, sent to Basra this year by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to impose order in the city, said the police were often too scared to conduct proper investigations into the killings.

"The relatives are reluctant to report the crimes for fear of a scandal or because they despair of the police's ability to solve them," he added.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Iraqi Police Seize Association of Muslim Scholar's Baghdad HQ

Saddam's regime would have bombed the headquarters of opposition groups and murdered all their members.  Note that this raid was ordered by the Sunni Endowment.
Associated Press
November 14, 2007 10:53 a.m.

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi troops seized the west Baghdad headquarters of a powerful Sunni Muslim group Wednesday.

The Association of Muslim Scholars, a hard-line Sunni-clerics group with links to insurgents, has its headquarters in the Um al-Qura mosque in the capital's Sunni-dominated Ghazaliyhah neighborhood.

Iraqi security forces dispatched by the Sunni Endowment, a government agency that cares for Sunni mosques and shrines, surrounded the mosque complex at Wednesday morning and demanded that the building be evacuated before noon, the association said in a statement posted on its Web site. continued

FBI finds Blackwater shootings unjustified

FBI finds Blackwater Iraq shootings unjustified, report says

Associated Press
Wednesday November 14, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

A Blackwater helicopter flying low in Baghdad
A Blackwater helicopter flies low over Baghdad. Photograph: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty

The shootings of 14 of the 17 Iraqi civilians killed by Blackwater security personnel in a September confrontation were unjustified and violated rules on the use of deadly force, according to a newspaper report.

Citing civilian and military officials briefed on the case, the New York Times reported on its website last night that the US justice department was reviewing the findings of the FBI, which was continuing to investigate the incident in Baghdad on September 16.

No evidence supported assertions by Blackwater employees that they were fired upon by Iraqi civilians, the Times reported. continued

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bab el Sheikh

In Mixed Slice of Baghdad, Old Bonds Defy War (thanks Maury)

Johan Spanner for The New York Times
A cafe in Bab al Sheik, a neighborhood in Baghdad where Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Christians live together with unusual ease.
Published: November 13, 2007
BAGHDAD — At its oldest spot, a small dusty strip of dirt road near a mosque, the neighborhood of Bab al Sheik — a maze of snaking streets too narrow for cars — dates from a time, more than a thousand years ago, when Baghdad ruled the Islamic world.
At that time, orchards and palaces of Abbasid princes unfolded in stately splendor not far away.
Ten centuries later, Bab al Sheik is less grand, but still extraordinary: it has been spared the sectarian killing that has gutted other neighborhoods, and Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Christians live together here with unusual ease. It has been battered by bombings around its edges, but the war has been kept from its heart, largely because of its ancient, shared past, bound by trust and generations of intermarriage.
"All of these people grew up here together," said Monther, a suitcase seller here. "From the time of our grandfathers, same place, same food, same everything."
Much of today's Baghdad sprang into existence in the 1970s, when oil nationalization drew Iraqis from all over the country to work. The city's population more than tripled over the course of 20 years, and new neighborhoods sprawled east and west. The war and civil conflict have seemed to take a heavier toll in those areas than in some of the older neighborhoods.
No one knows that better than Waleed, a rail-thin Bab al Sheik native who 10 years ago moved his family to Dora, a newly built middle-class neighborhood in southern Baghdad.
In Dora, residents were from all over. That never seemed to matter until the basic rules of society fell away after the American occupation began. The only bulwark left against chaos was trust between families, and in Dora there was not enough.
"We didn't know each other's backgrounds," said Waleed, sitting recently with Monther in a barbershop in Bab al Sheik, rain spitting on the street outside. Neither man wanted to be identified by his last name out of concern for safety.
"Here, he can't lie to me," he said, jabbing a finger in Monther's direction. "He can't say, 'I'm this, I'm that,' because I know it's not true."
In Dora, he said, he did not have those powers of discernment. And he paid the price: his son was shot to death on Oct. 9, 2006, while trying to get a copy of his high school diploma. Waleed moved his family out of the area immediately.
"My first thought was this neighborhood," he said. "My grandfather is from here. I always felt safe here."
So did two reporters, who made six visits to the area over two months. It was safe enough, in fact, to walk through the warren of narrow streets, nod at older women sitting at street-level windows, linger in a barbershop and make long visits to Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish homes.
On a recent Friday, a large Kurdish extended family relaxed at home. The living room was dark and cool, tucked in an alley away from the afternoon sun.
Abu Nawal, the father, recounted how a group of men from the office of the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr came to a local cafe, proposing to set up shop in the area. The cafe owner pointed to a sign, which stated in dark script that all discussions of politics and religion were prohibited. The men were then asked to leave.
"The guys in the neighborhood said, 'If you try to make an office here, we will explode it,'" said Abu Nawal, a shoemaker, whose family has lived in the neighborhood for four generations.
Some time later, Sunni Arab political party members came and were similarly rebuffed.
"They wanted to put their foot in this neighborhood, but they couldn't," said Abu Nawal, who asked to be identified by his nickname for the safety of his family.
He said he despised the poisonous mix of religion and politics that was strangling Iraqi society, and he enjoyed cracking wry jokes at politicians' expense. Playing off the names for extremist militias, which in Iraq call themselves things like the Islamic Army, he refers to his group of friends as the Arak Army, righteous defenders of an anise-flavored alcoholic drink.
The neighborhood has another rare asset: moderate religious men.
Sheik Muhammad Wehiab, a 30-year-old Shiite imam whose family has lived in Bab al Sheik for seven generations, was jailed for 14 months under Saddam Hussein, a biographical fact that should have opened doors for him in the new Shiite-dominated power hierarchy. But his moderate views were unpopular in elite circles, and he has remained in the neighborhood.
He feels connected. So much so that while talking on the phone one night this fall, he walked out into the tiny alley outside his door, lay down and watched the stars in the night sky.
"I think Maliki right now is envying me," he said to himself. "No bodyguards. Just free. This is the blessing."
Sheik Wehiab has radical views. One of them is that Muslims have behaved terribly toward one another in the war here and that they have given Islam a bad name in using it to gain power.
"I don't blame those guys who drew the cartoons," he said, referring to the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that set off riots and protests across the Islamic world last year.
"Muslims are the ones to be blamed," he said, sitting in an armchair in his quiet living room. "They have given them this picture." An ice cream seller walked past his window, hawking in a loud voice.
Sheik Wehiab's friend, a Sunni cleric, holds a similar view. continued

Monday, November 12, 2007

"Security" guards murder another Iraqi civilian

BAGHDAD, Nov. 11 — An Iraqi taxi driver was shot and killed on Saturday by a guard with DynCorp International, a private security company hired to protect American diplomats here, when a DynCorp convoy rolled past a knot of traffic on an exit ramp in Baghdad, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said Sunday.

Three witnesses said the taxi had posed no threat to the convoy, and one of them, an Iraqi Army sergeant who inspected the car afterward, said it contained no weapons or explosive devices.

"They just killed a man and drove away," Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said in his office on Sunday afternoon.  continued

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Hypocrisy of Sayyids

I was going to include this as part of the Shia Hypocrisy post, but it is more appropriate to post separately, because not all Shia are Sayyids. A true Sayyid is a Muslim man who can trace his lineage to the Prophet Muhammad. A Muslim woman who traces her lineage to the Prophet Muhammad is a Sayyida or Ilwiya, but her sons are not considered Sayyids. The title "Sayyid" cannot be inherited maternally, and therein lies the hypocrisy: all true Sayyids are the descendants of a woman, the only biological child of the Prophet Muhammad.

My father is a Sayyid, and my mother (not a Sayyida) recently received as a gift the family tree that shows my father's lineage to the Prophet. Every name on that tree is a male, even though the daughters of Sayyids are considered Sayyidas. My mother added her children's names to the tree, including my sister's name.

Bush Sr. Defends Ousting Saddam

I read this yesterday and I thought "good" but wondered if Bush Sr. knew about Saddam's awful crimes, why didn't he overthrow the slime ball when US troops were 50 miles from Baghdad in 1991, when this would have been much easier, before Al Qaeda, before Fdayeen Saddam, before sanctions ruined the country, before fundamentalism spread throughout Iraq?

Father defends Bush on Iraq war

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Former president George H.W. Bush forcefully defended his son's handling of the Iraq war Thursday, saying critics of the current president have forgotten the "extraordinary brutality" of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"Do they want to bring back Saddam Hussein, these critics?" the elder Bush told USA TODAY in a rare interview. "Do they want to go back to the status quo ante? I don't know what they are talking about here. Do they think life would be better in the Middle East if Saddam were still there?"


Shia Hypocrisy

I have written a lot about the hypocrisy of the Arabs and I have given many examples, but I have never written about the hypocrisy of many Iraqi Shia.  I know I should not characterize an entire group of people as hypocrites, and when I wrote about "Arab hypocrisy" I should have written a disclaimer as I am doing now.  Those posts were emotionally charged and I wrote them after heated debate in which a few Arabs blogging from Western countries made some silly accusations about all Iraqi Shia and claimed (some of them still do this on other blogs) that the Iraqi Shia deserved what happened to them during Saddam's rule and they deserve what has happened to them since 2003.  Certainly not all Arabs think this way, and I should have noted this when I wrote about "Arab hypocrisy".  By the same token, not all Shia think the same way, and a few bloggers like Sheko Mako have already written excellent posts about this.  However, I think it's still important to point out the incredible hypocrisy of some Shia, so here it goes:

The Mehdi Army, supposedly composed of downtrodden Shia who were oppressed by Saddam's regime, have now for four years imposed their own form of oppression on fellow Shia by enforcing Sharia law, and by expelling and murdering innocent Sunni Arabs.   Historically the Shia have been persecuted by Wahhabis and many times have been mass murdered for their beliefs, for being "kufar" (sinners) because according to Wahhabis, the Shia have deviated from practicing the "true" form of Islam and are heretics worse than the Jews and Christians.   I  have always considered Shiism to be the more progressive branch of Islam because the Shia introduced the concept of temporary marriage (the Shia's version of dating) and the Shia pray three times a day (as opposed to five), combining two prayers with two others and thus making it more practical. So what have the Iraqi Shia done with their new found freedom since 2003?  Many of them have decided to enforce Sharia law in their communities, essentially suppressing freedom as it has been in Iran since 1980.  It is as if the fundamentalist Shia are trying to compete with their Wahhabi counterparts in enforcing their versions of Sharia, making a mockery of the Iraqi Shia's decades-old struggle for freedom and democracy.  Muqtada al Sadr, who is not even a proper cleric, along with his followers (many of them common criminals and former Fedayeen Saddam), have tried for four years now to impose their oppressive freedom-less laws on the Iraqi people.  How sad and embarrassing for the Iraqi Shia who wanted true freedom and democracy for so long.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Sunni-Shia Fatwa Against Violence

Even more good news!  Thanks RhusLancia.

November 8, 2007

First Sunni-Shia 'fatwa against violence' to be signed in Iraq

Senior religious leaders in Iraq are preparing to sign an unprecedented "fatwa against violence" that will help reconcile the rival Sunni and Shia branches of Islam and herald new hopes for peace in the war-torn country.

The fatwa, negotiated by the peace organisation run by the Anglican "Vicar of Baghdad" Canon Andrew White, will mark a significant move towards a settlement between the Shia and Sunni communities and ease the process towards a political solution.

It comes in the context of plummeting fatalities among both coalition troops and civilians and is a further vindication of the"surge" security strategy of US General and Iraq commander David Petraeus.

Canon White, who will tonight be presented with the first Woolf Institute "Pursuer of Peace Award" in London in recognition of his work in the Middle East, said the fatwa was to be signed by Sheikh Ahmed al Kubaisi, acknowledged by Iraqis as the senior Sunni religious authority and whose Friday sermons from Dubai reach 20 million, and Ayatollah Sayyid Ammar Abu Ragheef, chief of staff for Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, leader of the Shia community in Iraq and beyond. The fatwa, which will have the equivalence of statutory authority for all Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iraq, is the culmination of years of dialogue with religious leaders behind the scenes in Iraq and throughout the region by Canon White. It follows a meeting in Cairo in August organised by Canon White's Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East, at which the two Islamic leaders were present and where they agreed to "end terrorist violence" and to work towards the fatwa.

The meeting was described by the Wall Street Journal as "truly historic". Robert McFarlane, a former national security adviser to Ronald Reagan, wrote in the Journal: "A fatwa such as this will carry the force of law for all followers. Think about that. After more than four years of brutal warfare and untold suffering, the leading religious authorities in Iraq have joined hands and said "Enough," and have committed to use their authority to bring peace to their country.

Speaking to The Times in London, Canon White, who has seen six of his Baghdad church leaders killed and 45 members kidnapped and not returned since the present campaign began, said: "The fatwa will definitely happen." He said that a military solution to Iraq on its own had no chance of working. "One of the key things is getting the governments to recognise that." But a reconciliation solution on its own would also be ineffective.

"There is not a quick, easy solution," he continued. "This is long-term work. We have to engage with these people continually. The key thing is talking to them every day. Never before has there been a Sunni-Shia fatwa against violence. It has never been heard of in history. Will it make a difference? Not immediately. But I hope eventually it will."

Tonight's award to Canon White is being made by the influential Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths, based in Cambridge and dedicated to promoting understanding between Muslims, Christians and Jews. Institute director Dr Edward Kessler said the award was for "Andrew's tireless work in bringing hope to broken people in a torn region."

Canon White, Vicar of St George's Church in Baghdad and International Director of the Iraqi Institute of Peace, has in recent years acted as a negotiator in many conflict and hostage situations including the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002 and the riots between Muslims and Christians in Northern Nigeria in 2004. In July this year he briefly left Iraq after receiving death threats for attempting to secure the release of five British hostages seized in May.

Is George Bush a genius?

I don't agree with everything said here - the Iraqis HAVE seen the draft oil law and they have not ratified it for good reasons, but this is a funny clip nevertheless. If the violence in Iraq really is an excuse for the Americans to stay there, why have the Iraqis (and non-Iraqi Arabs) given the Americans such great excuses to stay in Iraq?


I'm glad to read about the turnaround in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Amriya, where my uncles lived until they were expelled by "mujahideen" in 2005 and where two distant relatives were murdered earlier this year. 

Troops praise progress in Baghdad enclave that once was al-Qaeda base

12:00 AM CST on Thursday, November 8, 2007

From Wire Reports Douglas Birch, The Associated Press

BAGHDAD – Twilight brings traffic jams to the main shopping district of this once-affluent corner of Baghdad, and hundreds of people stroll past well-stocked vegetable stands, bakeries and butcher shops.

DOUGLAS BIRCH/The Associated Press
DOUGLAS BIRCH/The Associated Press
Iraqis pass an armored vehicle in Baghdad's Amariyah neighborhood. Violence has sharply declined in the neighborhood, a drop attributed in part to the buildup of U.S. troops.

To many in Amariyah, it seems little short of a miracle.

Just six months ago, this mostly Sunni neighborhood was a base of operations for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The district in western Baghdad was hit by more than a dozen bombings and shootings some days.

On Tuesday, women shopped and men drank tea in sidewalk cafes. Occasionally, U.S. soldiers walking the streets were greeted with salaams and smiles.

What is happening here reflects similar trends across Baghdad and parts of Iraq, where civilian and U.S. military casualties have dropped sharply in the past two months. Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil said Tuesday that all but 12 to 13 percent of Baghdad is under control by the U.S. military and other security forces.

But the speed of the turnaround in Amariyah has taken almost everyone by surprise.

"The progress that we made is almost unbelievable," said Capt. Brendan Gallagher, 29, of Columbia, Md., with the Army's 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

The neighborhood is still nowhere near its former gloss as the Beverly Hills of Baghdad, as it was called before the 2003 U.S. invasion. A six-foot-high concrete wall rings the two-square-mile neighborhood, many villas stand empty, and the streets are littered with trash. There is 70 percent unemployment, military officials say.

But residents are making the first small steps to rebuilding.

"Amariyah was one of the first places where things got real bad," said 1st Lt. Schulyer Williamson, 24, of Pensacola, Fla., part of Capt. Gallagher's unit. "My platoon sergeant and I would pick up six dead bodies a day."

The violence peaked in May, U.S. officials said, as al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters killed 14 U.S. military troops in a series of bombings.

Several U.S. military officials said the most important factor in reducing the violence in Amariyah was the U.S. troop increase, which quadrupled the number of U.S. military forces patrolling the neighborhood in mid-June.

Another key to progress, they said, was the formation in late May of a local anti-insurgent alliance, the Farsan al-Rafidayn, which means "Knights of the Land of the Two Rivers."

How to aggravate an insurgency

How Blackwater Sniper Fire Felled 3 Iraqi Guards

Witnesses Call Shooting From Justice Ministry Unprovoked, But State Dept. Cleared Its Security Team After a Brief Probe

Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, November 8, 2007; Page A01

BAGHDAD -- Last Feb. 7, a sniper employed by Blackwater USA, the private security company, opened fire from the roof of the Iraqi Justice Ministry. The bullet tore through the head of a 23-year-old guard for the state-funded Iraqi Media Network, who was standing on a balcony across an open traffic circle. Another guard rushed to his colleague's side and was fatally shot in the neck. A third guard was found dead more than an hour later on the same balcony.

Eight people who responded to the shootings -- including media network and Justice Ministry guards and an Iraqi army commander -- and five network officials in the compound said none of the slain guards had fired on the Justice Ministry, where a U.S. diplomat was in a meeting. An Iraqi police report described the shootings as "an act of terrorism" and said Blackwater "caused the incident." The media network concluded that the guards were killed "without any provocation."

The U.S. government reached a different conclusion. Based on information from the Blackwater guards, who said they were fired upon, the State Department determined that the security team's actions "fell within approved rules governing the use of force," according to an official from the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Neither U.S. Embassy officials nor Blackwater representatives interviewed witnesses or returned to the network, less than a quarter-mile from Baghdad's Green Zone, to investigate.

The incident shows how American officials responsible for overseeing the security company conducted only a cursory investigation when Blackwater guards opened fire. The shooting occurred more than seven months before the Sept. 16 incident in which Blackwater guards killed 17 civilians at another Baghdad traffic circle.

The Feb. 7 shootings convulsed the Iraqi Media Network, one of the prominent symbols of the new Iraq, in anger and recrimination.

U.S. officials and the security company, now known as Blackwater Worldwide, offered no compensation or apology to the victims' families, according to relatives of the guards and officials of the network, whose programming reaches 22 million Iraqis.

"It's really surprising that Blackwater is still out there killing people," Mohammed Jasim, the Iraqi Media Network's deputy director, said in an interview. "This company came to Iraq and was supposed to provide security. They didn't learn from their mistakes. They continued and continued. They continued killing."  continued

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Blaming the Victims

In recent comments the discussion turned to an article written by Madeleine Bunting and published in The Guardian. Bunting writes "thousands of women and children are dying every day in Iraq and Afghanistan, and yet the governments responsible have been returned to power." So the governments in power are responsible for the deaths of women and children and not the suicide bombers and terrorists who intentionally murder innocents in an attempt to defeat those governments. Not only that - apparently WE the people who elected those governments are also responsible, and the media is responsible. I could not read the entire article yesterday, so I should add here that Bunting does make some good points, and she offers this disclaimer about the female suicide bomber she writes about: "That's not to say that her own moral choices were defensible - she blew up herself, her beloved brother, fellow Muslims and plenty of women in the crowd - but the challenge even from such a morally flawed character persists." The "challenge" she refers to is the claim by the bomber that we think that we are innocent, but we are not, because we have "chosen to forget". Really? Chosen to forget? We and the media may have become desensitized to the daily violence in Iraq, but we have not chosen to forget. Her claim is an insult to the well-intentioned bloggers and commentators who have passionately written about the war in Iraq.

Bunting goes on to write about Dahr Jamail and his new book. I have read Jamail before and I have become familiar with his seemingly one-sided view of Iraq. I wanted to give an example of Jamail's bias, so I visited his website and immediately I found a telling sentence on his 'reports' section of his site: "Dahr Jamail was the primary contributor to this report concerning the failure of Bechtel to reconstruct/rehabilitate the water treatment plants it mentioned in its contract." WOW. According to Jamail, Bechtel "failed" to reconstruct/rehabilitate the Iraqi water treatment plants, as if Bechtel was somehow negligent and intentionally breached their contractual obligations. Jamail does not mention that 52 Bechtel employees (many of them Iraqi) were murdered by the glorious "resistance" and other criminals.

Jamail did not include in his report or his website the fact that "Bechtel's hospital site security manager was murdered. The site manager received death threats and resigned. Bechtel's senior Iraqi engineer quit after his daughter was kidnapped. Twelve employees of a subcontractor in charge of the hospital's electricity and plumbing were killed in their offices. Eleven workers of another company supplying the project's concrete also died."

Jamail does worry about the poor people of Iraq and his report states that "if the security threat is too great in some places for Bechtel to carry out its contractual obligations for water service reconstruction, the work must be immediately subcontracted out to Iraqi firms and/or government workers and international aid organizations, or military protection sought." No mention that Bechtel DID subcontract the work to Iraqis. No mention that many of those Iraqis were murdered. Does Jamail realize that insurgents have not allowed reconstruction to happen so that the new Iraq will fail? Is this fact so difficult to acknowledge? Or does Jamail agree with the insurgents and their tactics? His report was written before Bechtel left Iraq. Why hasn't Jamail updated his website to put at least some blame where it actually belongs? If I were one of those Iraqis hired by Bechtel, I would be very angry with Dahr Jamail and people who blame contractors for their "failure" to rehabilitate Iraq.

AQ/Taliban murder more Muslims

Suicide bombers kill over 90 in Afghan north

By Bill Roggio
November 6, 2007 9:54 AM

The Taliban have pulled off the largest suicide attack in Afghanistan since the US overthrew the Taliban government in late 2001. A pair of suicide bombers targeted a parliamentary delegation as it visited a sugar factory in the northern province of Baghlan. Over 90 were reported killed, including five members of parliament, and over 50 have been wounded. A local doctor said the casualties may well rise.

A large number of children and civilians were killed in the strike. Among those killed were Sayed Mustafa Kazimi, the leader of the parliamentary delegation and member of the opposition. Kazimi was also the head of the national economy commission of Afghanistan's lower house of parliament.

End the sectarian strife

Sunni, Shiite tribes unite to fight Qaeda

By Abeer Diwani 

Azzaman, November 7, 2007

A rare visit by a delegation representing Sunni tribes in the Province of Anbar to the predominantly Shiite Province of Qadissiya is yet another signal that Iraqis are keen to put an end to sectarian strife.  

The Anbar delegation included major Sunni tribes who have formed a coalition and raised a tribal force to check Qaeda influence in their areas.

Anbar was the main stronghold of Qaeda in Mesopotamia but reports say the terror group's influence there is receding.  

The delegation held talks with tribal chiefs in Qadissiya Province centered on national reconciliation.

Ramadi, Anbar's provincial capital, was for long a no-go area for Iraqi and U.S. troops as Qaeda fighters were almost in total control of its streets and districts.  

Diwaniya, Qadissiya's provincial capital, is currently one of the most restive cities in southern Iraq due to infighting among disparate Shiite militia groups.

Sheikh Mohammed Shaalan said both Sunni and Shiite tribes in the two provinces have vowed to bring national reconciliation to success.  

Shaalan heads Shiite tribes in Qadissiya.

The structure of Iraqi tribes overlaps sectarian divisions in Iraq.  

Certain powerful tribes in Anbar for example have their largest following among Iraqi Shiites. Shiites and Sunnis can be members of the same tribe and fight under its banner and vow allegiance to the same tribal chieftain regardless of sect.

Shaalan, who spoke for the meeting, said a tribal delegation from Qadissiya would also travel to Anbar in the near future.  

"We have agreed to support he government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki which is working hard to enable tribes assume a better role in solving conflicts away from sectarianism and factionalism," he said.

Shaalan said the two sides signed an agreement under which they will coordinate their efforts and raise resources "to combat crime and punish those attacking and killing security and police personnel."  

"We need to have no weapon brandished without the state's approval. Carrying weapons should be the sole prerogative of the state," he said.

The tribes have also agreed to "ostracize" any one of their members found defying the state or attacking government troops or police.   

Tribesmen providing refuge for "terrorists and criminals" will be punished severely, he said.

More good news

BAGHDAD: An Iraqi judge has ruled that there is enough evidence to try two former Shiite officials in the Health Ministry in the killing and kidnapping of hundreds of Sunnis, many of them snatched from hospitals by militias, according to U.S. officials who are advising the Iraqi judicial system.

The case, which was referred to a three-member tribunal in Baghdad last week, is the first time that an Iraqi magistrate has recommended that such high-ranking Shiites be tried for sectarian violence. But a trial could still be derailed by the Health Ministry, making the case an important test of the government's will to administer justice on a nonsectarian basis.

The investigation has confirmed longstanding Sunni fears that hospitals were opened up as a hunting ground for Shiite militias intent on spreading fear among Sunnis and driving them out of the capital. Even before the case, Baghdad residents told of death threats against doctors who would treat Sunnis, of intravenous lines ripped from patients' arms as they were carried away, and of relatives of hospitalized Sunnis who were killed when they came to visit.

The case centers on Hakim al-Zamili, a former deputy health minister, and Brigadier General Hamid al-Shammari, who led the agency's security force, which is charged with protecting the ministry and its hospitals. The two were taken into custody in February and March, but the status of the judicial inquiry into their activities and its findings had not previously been reported.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Kudos to Italian and British police

Two UK arrests in European anti-terror swoop

By Megan Levy and agencies
Last Updated: 2:00pm GMT 06/11/2007

Two men have been arrested in Britain as part of a European anti-terror operation led by Italian police.
A total of 20 suspected Islamic extremists were arrested across Italy, Britain, France and Portugal today on charges ranging from association with the aim of committing international terrorism, to falsifying documents to aid illegal immigrants.
Police believe the detainees had been setting up "Salafist jihadi" militant cells, which have recruited and assisted would-be suicide bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan.



Monday, November 05, 2007

Good News

Tom Baldwin and Deborah Haynes | November 05, 2007

IT is whispered about at the margins of meetings, and discussed in Washington parties where rumour is passed around with the wine and canapes.

It even appears, fleetingly, to be fact.

"The day nobody died from violence in Iraq" is a date that has been much anticipated in the White House - where US President George W. Bush is desperate to hail the success of his surge of 30,000 troops this year.

But no one can quite say when this event occurred.

"It was some time this week, wasn't it?" says a senior military source. "Or maybe last week."

Another diplomatic official confidently asserted that there were "at least two such days this month". When, exactly? "Not sure," he replied.

Such vagueness may be concealing a truly significant transformation on the ground in Iraq.

There have certainly been several days in the past month when no US or British soldiers were killed.

During a five-day stretch between October 19 and 23, there were no deaths among coalition forces. Although three US servicemen died from "non-hostile causes", this was the longest period without combat deaths for almost four years. And, between October 27 and 29, there were more days without coalition deaths.

Such statistics do not take account of deaths among the Iraqi security forces or civilians. But Iraqis, too, have had days when no one in their ranks has died. On October 13, for instance, neither the coalition nor the Iraqi military suffered any deaths. But one Iraqi policeman was killed, along with four reported civilian deaths in Baghdad.

Two days later, there were no deaths among the coalition but six among the Iraqi security forces.

October 19 was a death-free day for both coalition and Iraqi security forces, but 12 civilians were killed.

The civilian death toll was lower on October 23 - when four were killed - but they were joined in the mortuaries by two Iraqi policemen.

On October 30, the Iraq Interior Ministry reported that there were no civilian deaths in Baghdad but three US troops and four Iraqi policemen were killed.

It is beyond dispute, though, that the tide of violence in Iraq has been stemmed. (Maybe Dahr Jamail will dispute it)


Saudi Arabia hub of world terror

November 4, 2007

Saudi Arabia is hub of world terror

The desert kingdom supplies the cash and the killers

It was an occasion for tears and celebration as the Knights of Martyrdom proclaimed on video: "Our brother Turki fell during the rays of dawn, covered in blood after he was hit by the bullets of the infidels, following in the path of his brother." The flowery language could not disguise the brutal truth that a Saudi family had lost two sons fighting for Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The elder brother, Khaled, had been a deputy commander of a crack jihadist "special forces" unit. After his "glorious" death, Turki took his place.

"He was deeply affected by the martyrdom of his brother," the Knights said. "He became more ambitious and more passionate about defending the land of Islam and dying as a martyr, like his brother."

Turki's fervent wish was granted earlier this year, but another Saudi national who travelled to Iraq had second thoughts. He was a graduate from a respectable family of teachers and professors who was recruited in a Saudi Arabian mosque and sent to Iraq with $1,000 in travel expenses and the telephone number of a smuggler who could get him across the Syrian border.
...Yet wealthy Saudis remain the chief financiers of worldwide terror networks. "If I could somehow snap my fingers and cut off the funding from one country, it would be Saudi Arabia," said Stuart Levey, the US Treasury official in charge of tracking terror financing.

Extremist clerics provide a stream of recruits to some of the world's nastiest trouble spots.

An analysis by NBC News suggested that the Saudis make up 55% of foreign fighters in Iraq. They are also among the most uncompromising and militant.

Half the foreign fighters held by the US at Camp Cropper near Baghdad are Saudis. They are kept in yellow jumpsuits in a separate, windowless compound after they attempted to impose sharia on the other detainees and preached an extreme form of Wahhabist Islam.

In recent months, Saudi religious scholars have caused consternation in Iraq and Iran by issuing fatwas calling for the destruction of the great Shi'ite shrines in Najaf and Karbala in Iraq, some of which have already been bombed. And while prominent members of the ruling al-Saud dynasty regularly express their abhorrence of terrorism, leading figures within the kingdom who advocate extremism are tolerated.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Oil Law

Today the price of oil reached $96 per barrel, and the Iraqi government is feeling huge pressure to pass an oil law that will allow Iraq to sign contracts with foreign oil companies.  Also today I received a summary of an article written by an Iraqi oil expert in London.  He sent me the link to his article a few days ago, but I could not translate it, so he was kind enough to find the time in his busy schedule to summarize in English his article about the Iraqi oil law.  His summary is below in blue.

I have been trying to convince the Iraqi parliament to not ratify the law right now for several reasons:

1)       This is the most important law that Iraq can promulgate and comes in terms of importance right after the constitution. This is because almost everything got destroyed in Iraq during three wars, a long period of economic sanctions and now the ongoing present state of violence, destruction, corruption and occupation. Oil is the only asset that remains for the Iraqi people and should not be jeopardized under such conditions with over 4 million Iraqis now living as refugees inside and outside, over and above the millions that left Iraq before the collapse of Saddam's regime.

2)       Oil's importance emanates from the fact that it finances over 90% of the government's annual budgets and is almost the sole source of hard currency that allows Iraq to import food, medicine, manufactured goods and services. Besides oil revenues are used to support the Iraqi Dinar, without which the Iraqi currency will collapse. Also because the Iraqi economy is producing almost nothing of value except for oil, then oil will be the major source of finance to rebuild Iraq and its economy, helped to a smaller extent by foreign direct investment.

3)       There is no need to rush this law and start contracting with foreign oil companies. I gave an example of trying to double the present oil production of 2 million barrels per day (mbpd) to 4 mbpd. To increase production by 2 mbpd using foreign oil companies, their cost will be around $30 billion and will take almost 7 years to complete. In contrast, if the Iraqi National Oil Company (INOC) were to be revived (Saddam abolished it in 1987) then INOC can do the same job at half the cost because there are already 60 fields discovered with huge oil reserves and need only to be developed. Also the infrastructure is already there and it only needs rehabilitation and some expansion to handle the bigger capacity. As a matter of fact INOC has done that in the past, back in 1979, when the production capacity reached 3.9 mbpd with the help of French, Brazilian and Indian companies and using SERVICE CONTRACTS. The foreign oil companies, on the other hand, will have to explore for oil, find it, develop it and also build the necessary infrastructure, and that will take twice the cost and twice the time. Besides, the contracts will be Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) which mean these companies will share with Iraq in the oil produced and also operation of the fields will remain under the control of the oil companies for at least 30 years.

4)       The Kurds are making PSCs with small foreign oil companies and, so far, have made 9 and their target is 15 PSCs. They want to produce one million barrels per day within 5 years. This is bad for Iraq, because although the Kurdish region is a federal region, Iraq is supposed to be one country and the Kurds should not behave as if they are independent. Since Iraq now has 115 billion barrels of reserves housed in 80 fields, only 20 of them are developed and 60 fields need development and exploitation, then the Kurdish PSCs are redundant if they if they consider the Kurdish region as part of Iraq. The remaining 60 discovered fields must be developed first at much lower cost as I said and without foreign sharing as the Kurdish PSCs dictate.

5)       I also demanded the Article 112 of the constitution be amended because it deprives the federal government from overseeing exploration works, given that what is to be discovered through exploration is more than twice the present Iraqi reserves of 115 billion barrels. All of these future fields are given, according to article 112, to the Kurdish Region (KRG) and to the provinces such as Basrah and Amarah and others. The constitution also gives the Iraqi provinces the right to form regions on federal basis just like the Kurdish region. If this regionalisation and federalisation takes place, then Iraq will disintegrate, and such disintegration will plague the rest of the Middle East. This is true, because there will be disagreements and fights between the regions themselves regarding ownership of the fields, especially since many of them lie in two or more provinces. Also there will be disagreements between the provinces and the federal government, as it is going on now between the KRG and the federal government. Shiites are fighting each other in Basrah, and militias there, together with gangs of crime, are now fighting each other to control as much stolen oil as they can and also control oil smuggling, as reported recently by the International Crisis Group (ICG) after making a visit to the Basrah region.

6)       In a nutshell, I advised parliament to postpone ratifying the oil law until better times because there is no need for it right now as long as INOC can do the job cheaper, better and with no foreign company sharing production and controlling the operations. Also the constitution must be amended in order to avoid disintegration of Iraq.

--Dr. Muhammad Ali Zainy