Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Iraqi Oil: the stakes are high

'The Iraqi government offered a profit margin of $1.90 per barrel at the West Qurna field. Total ended up bidding without Chevron and asked for a profit margin of $7.50 per barrel. Spanish oil company Repsol also submitted a bid and wanted $19.30 per barrel. No one got the job.

"Maybe there's a little bit of a learning curve on both sides about what's realistic," said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy research fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute. "Instead of looking at it as a failed tender, people should look at it as the beginning of a negotiation."

The stakes on both sides are high.

Iraq has the world's third-largest reserves of oil - 115 billion barrels. Petroleum exports supply 86 percent of the government's revenue, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But Iraq's state-run oil industry has suffered from years of war, international sanctions and insurgent sabotage.

Before the American-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, the country pumped about 2.8 million barrels per day. Now it's 2.4 million. The Iraqi government wants to expand production, hitting 6 million barrels a day within 10 years. But it will probably need foreign investment and expertise to reach that goal.

For international oil companies, Iraq could be a bonanza. But the country remains unstable, with a fractious government and a simmering insurgency. And the politics surrounding its oil reserves are a minefield.'

US Special Forces have built a powerful force in Iraq

What's wrong with killing bad guys?

'The Iraq Special Operations Forces (ISOF) is probably the largest special forces outfit ever built by the United States, and it is free of many of the controls that most governments employ to rein in such lethal forces. The project started in the deserts of Jordan just after the Americans took Baghdad in April 2003. There, the US Army's Special Forces, or Green Berets, trained mostly 18-year-old Iraqis with no prior military experience. The resulting brigade was a Green Beret's dream come true: a deadly, elite, covert unit, fully fitted with American equipment, that would operate for years under US command and be unaccountable to Iraqi ministries and the normal political process.

According to Congressional records, the ISOF has grown into nine battalions, which extend to four regional "commando bases" across Iraq. By December, each will be complete with its own "intelligence infusion cell," which will operate independently of Iraq's other intelligence networks. The ISOF is at least 4,564 operatives strong, making it approximately the size of the US Army's own Special Forces in Iraq. Congressional records indicate that there are plans to double the ISOF over the next "several years."

According to retired Lt. Col. Roger Carstens, US Special Forces are "building the most powerful force in the region." In 2008 Carstens, then a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, was an adviser to the Iraqi National Counter-Terror Force, where he helped set up the Iraqi counterterrorism laws that govern the ISOF.

"All these guys want to do is go out and kill bad guys all day," he says, laughing. "These guys are shit hot. They are just as good as we are. We trained 'em. They are just like us. They use the same weapons. They walk like Americans."

..."The standards get looser when the Americans aren't with [the local special forces], and they can eventually become death squads, which I believe actually happened in Colombia," says Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down and Killing Pablo, a book about the hunt for Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar by CIA and US Special Forces. The tactics taught in each country are the same, Bowden says. "They teach the same kind of skills. They use the same equipment." '

Iraqis celebrate US withdrawal from cities

It was a day of parades and celebrations in Baghdad, as US forces withdrew from Iraqi cities, but they will remain nearby to support Iraq's security forces.

“The Iraqi people are rightly treating this day as cause for celebration," President Obama said.

Maliki is hailing the US withdrawal as a victory and declared today a national holiday, but I think Maliki and Obama realize that the US will stay in Iraq for years to come.

As Americans withdrew from the cities and Iraqis celebrated, a bombing in Kirkuk has killed dozens of Iraqis. Yesterday 4 US soldiers and 11 Iraqis were killed. Around 350* Iraqis have been killed this month and many more wounded in bombings.

I heard a reporter on BBC World Service today remark on how resilient the Iraqi people have been in the face of these bombings, and wondered how many bombings the Iraqis will withstand before militias launch revenge attacks. The Iraqi Shia withstood two years of bombings before militias began rounding up ordinary Sunni Arab men and killing them. I hope the Iraqis do not allow their enemies to ignite another sectarian war.

Also today Nibras Kazimi reports from Baghdad on his interview with Aljazeera Satellite Channel, who managed to get a representative of the 'Islamic Army in Iraq' on the line. "Anyway, I thought it was funny that I was openly speaking from Baghdad, from Abu Nawwas Street, while the mouth organs for the 'resistance' were in exile or in hiding," Nibras writes.

*Update: 437 Iraqis were killed in June, the highest monthly civilian death toll since July, 2008.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

There was no Al Qaeda in 1991

I just read the below review of Richard Haass's new book by a Geoffrey Wheatcroft, who suggests that the violence seen in Iraq since 2003 would have happened in 1991 if US troops had entered Baghdad and overthrown Saddam's murderous regime. How does he know this? There was no Al Qaeda in 1991. In fact Usama bin Ladin volunteered to assemble an army of mujahideen to fight Saddam's forces. There would have been no sectarian conflict ignited by the Wahhabi scum. There were no Fedayeen Saddam either. Liberating Iraq would have been much easier in 1991. Easier for the US and its allies and much easier for Iraqis.

'Much of the ground Haass covers is all too familiar by now. He goes over the arguments that America should have pressed on to “liberate Iraq” and destroy Hussein the first time round. As he says, the truth is that “there was no interest in going to Baghdad.” Bush the Elder thought he had a deal with the rest of the world that he would break if he extended the war; American troops would have found themselves engaged in dangerous and difficult fighting in cities; and “we would have become an occupying force in a hostile land with no exit strategy.” It would be superfluous for Haass to add “as later happened under that president’s son.” '

I am amazed by the number of "pundits" who think they know what they're writing about.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Gonna make a difference..."

To the King of Pop, who did make a difference.

Michael Jackson, 1958 - 2009

Oil accounts for 86% of Iraqi govt revenues

"The revival and rehabilitation of Iraqi oil production has been one of the main planks of U.S. policy since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The slowness of the recovery reflects both the post-invasion chaos in the country and the lack of investment and inconsistent policies during the Saddam era. The drawdown of U.S. forces and smaller local expenditures have affected Baghdad's budget, forcing a decision on foreign investment in the energy sector, which accounts for 75 percent of GDP and a staggering 86 percent of government revenues. One of the consequences of the provincial elections earlier this year was to move the political debate forward -- successful candidates tended to be less sectarian and more aware of local issues. Prime Minister al-Maliki needs to use this momentum to push through the new oil policy.

Nationally, the development of Iraq's oil touches on the vexing issues of Saddam's preferential treatment of the western Sunni Arab provinces at the expense of the southern Shiite provinces and the northern Kurdish areas. This tension is exacerbated by the location of the oil, mainly in the south and north rather than the west, and a Shiite and Kurdish desire to be compensated for past injustices."

Syria Cooperating with US & Iraq

For economic reasons, of course.

Syria And Iraq Revive Business Ties

by Deborah Amos

All Things Considered, June 24, 2009 · Syria's border with Iraq has long been a line of tension. The U.S. and the Iraqi government have accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to cross into Iraq. But these days, the border is a potential business asset, as Syria looks to Iraq to help improve its economy.

This month, a new freight rail line opened between Syria's port cities of Tartous and Latakia on the Mediterranean, and Iraq's port city of Basra on the Persian Gulf. The first freight cars, loaded with automobiles from Europe, ended up in the Baghdad market. Syria offers a faster and cheaper route than the traditional transit through the Suez Canal.

The new railway is a sign that Damascus and Baghdad are eager to revive business ties, says Samir Seifan, a Syrian economist.

"The atmosphere is getting better and [more] positive. The two sides [understand] that they should work together," Seifan says.

He notes that Iraq is a booming market for products that Syria exports. It's a partnership based on economic necessity: Syria is running out of oil — production is down by 30 percent — and for the first time, the national budget is in deficit.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Saudi Royals Supported Al Qaeda

Is anybody surprised?

'Documents obtained by The New York Times suggest members of the Saudi royal family may have provided financial support to extremists, including al-Qaida, in the run-up to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The documents are part of an ongoing legal effort by Sept. 11 families to hold Saudi Arabia and the royal family accountable for the attacks. New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau offers his insight.'

Iraqi lives worth less

As the the death toll in Iran reaches into the dozens and outrages American leaders, the "resistance" in Iraq and other jarab continue to mass murder Iraqis in the numbers we have become accustomed to seeing there, without the outrage expressed by the President. It's as if Iraqi lives are worth less than Iranian lives. It reminds me of the comment by Madeline Albright, about the sanctions being worth the price. Iraqis have always been expendable, especially to the 3arab jarab.

'Dozens dead' in Baghdad bombing

At least 60 people have been killed by a bomb blast in the eastern Sadr City area of Baghdad, say officials.

Iraqi police said the bomb went off in a market place in the predominantly Shia area of the Iraqi capital.

More than 130 people were also reported to have been injured in the blast, one of the worst in Iraq this year.

It comes less than a week before US soldiers pull out of all Iraqi cities in advance of a complete withdrawal by the end of 2011.


The Hurt Locker

I am planning to see The Hurt Locker, which proves that the US military has been essential in preventing bombings in Iraq at great risk to themselves.

'The Iraq war has been dramatized on film many times, and those films have been ignored just as many times by theatre audiences. But Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” is the most skillful and emotionally involving picture yet made about the conflict. The film, from a script by Mark Boal, has a new subject: the heroism of the men who defuse improvised explosive devices, sloppily made but lethal bombs planted under a bag or a pile of garbage or just beneath the dirt of a Baghdad street.'

PS: It kinda sucks (for me) that the movie was made in Jordan rather than Iraq. More irony & hypocrisy for ya.

Are Iraqi Security Forces Ready?

Recently I've read a few articles whose authors wonder if Iraq's security forces are ready to take over after the US military withdraws from Iraqi cities at the end of this month, but I wonder if the US military really has been able to prevent overall violence in the country, even with brave men who defuse bombs. Americans cannot prevent suicide bombings - I believe that only Arab Muslims can infiltrate the groups responsible for recruiting suicide bombers and end their existence.

Iraq: forgotten and in trouble?

Saturday's massive bomb in Kirkuk, combined with political gridlock, raises questions about how ready Iraq is for the withdrawal of US troops from cities by June 30.

By Howard LaFranchi | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

from the June 23, 2009 edition

WASHINGTON - Fresh concerns about the US-Iraq relationship are rising as the draw-down of US forces approaches. A suicide bombing in Kirkuk Saturday was the deadliest in Iraq in more than a year. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government continues to fail to approve crucial laws for administering the country.

With the 133,000 US troops in the country set to be withdrawn from Iraqi cities by June 30, demands on the diplomatic relationship between the two countries will only grow, some Iraq specialists warn.

Going further still, some of them worry that Iraq will be neglected as the US turns its focus to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. If that happens, Iraq could slip back into instability and violence, reemerging as a top American security issue.

"President Obama cannot afford to lose Iraq," says Kenneth Pollack, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "If nothing else, there's so much potential for spillover into Saudi Arabia, Syria, and elsewhere in the region."


Why would Americans be worried about violence spilling into Saudi Arabia and Syria, considering that many suicide bombers have come from Saudi Arabia and Syria?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Iranian govt lying to Iranian people

The Islamic Republic of Iran has outlawed shouting "Allah Akbar" on the street (talk about irony), they are cracking down hard on protesters and journalists, and they are lying to the Iranian people, telling them that the western media (and the US President) are encouraging Iranians to riot. They have outlawed any reference to the beautiful martyr Neda Sultany, and said that her killing was staged.

I have a feeling this is the beginning of the end of rule by Ahmedinejad and Khamanei, and maybe the beginning of a true revolution in Iran.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Saddam did not have "license" to slaughter Iraqis

Initially I wanted to title this post "Should Obama be quiet about Iran?" But then I realized how stupid the below comment by a Mr Sadjapour is, and that I should point out his stupidity. He makes it sound like Saddam had a "license" to slaughter Iraqis, because according to his logic, the world did not criticize the slaughter in 1991. Does a government ever have a "license" to slaughter its people?

'But Mr Sadjapour says President Obama's measured message is the right one.

"I think the President's rhetoric so far has been well calibrated, and the historical analogy which concerns me is Iraq in 1991, when George Bush senior encouraged Iraqis to rise up. Saddam slaughtered them and then the rest of the world didn't criticise Saddam for the slaughter, but they criticised George Bush for encouraging Iraqis to speak out," Mr Sadjapour said.

"So I think this regime is looking for the United States to step into this trap, so they have the licence to slaughter the Iranian people." '

This is a silly analogy anyway, because when Bush Senior called for Iraqis to rise up in 1991, the US-led allied forces had already pounded Iraq with 40 consecutive days of heavy bombing and a ground invasion that stopped at the outskirts of Baghdad. Allied troops had already defeated Iraq's military and it was up to the Americans what Saddam's military could do. Bush ordered the US military to do nothing while the Iraqi Shia were slaughtered.

The US military is currently not in Iran and never has been. The analogy is a terrible one. At least Mr. Sadjapour acknowledged the slaughter by Saddam.

Maybe the important question is this: is Obama being too quiet about Iran?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Iraqis want to see change in Iran

It is interesting to read about Iraqis who would like to see a change in Iran. Like many Iraqi Shia, I would be very happy to see a more tolerant regime in Tehran. Thanks Anand for posting.

Iraqis back Iranian protesters' call for change

By Mehdi Lebouachera

BAGHDAD (AFP) — In a bazaar in Baghdad's predominantly Shiite district of Kadhimiyah, one tailor bluntly expresses hope that the turmoil now besetting Iran will lead Iraq's neighbour to stop interfering in his country.

"Iran constantly meddles in our affairs; I hope that change means they will stop intervening," 43-year-old Salah Aziz told AFP.

Like many Iraqi Shiites, Aziz backs the Iranian protesters who have turned out onto the streets in massive demonstrations over the past week to contest the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

His views mirror the distrust many here have for Tehran, even as the two countries with strong Shiite majorities have strengthened ties in recent years, nearly three decades after the start of a war that left a million dead.

Those improved relations, sparked by a number of Iraqi Shiite political leaders who lived in Iranian exile during the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, have given Tehran greater sway with Baghdad.

"Iranians have reason to protest," Aziz said, sipping coffee with friends during a break from work.

"But I think Ahmadinejad will stay in power. He has the support of (Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei."

Nearby, mobile telephone seller Qais Zahar criticised Iranian political leaders, and particularly Khamenei, for imposing their vision of society on ordinary citizens.

"Religious leaders should not intervene in politics and in people's day-to-day lives," the 27-year-old said.

"I support the protesters. If the regime fell, that would be a good thing for Iran, and for Iraq."

Friday, June 12, 2009

Kings and Clerics

With the election in Iran and Obama's recent remarks about US involvement in the overthrow of Mossadeq in 1953, I thought I would transcribe a bit of history on the subject by Vali Nasr, which helps explain why Islam is so political in Iran today:

‘In Iran, the twentieth century saw the old partnership of kings and clerics strained to the breaking point. In 1925 the Shia ulama - Haeri’s father prominent among them - persuaded an army officer named Reza Khan, who had staged a coup, to declare himself shah. They feared the rise of a Kemalist ruler, and believed that whatever the faults of a Shia monarchy, it would be preferable to an aggressively secular republic of the sort that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was building next door in Turkey. But the clerics got more than they bargained for, since the Pahlavi monarchy that Reza Khan founded turned out to have less to do with preserving Shiism than with acting as a modernizing republic parading in royal trappings. The Pahlavis never conceived of Iran as a Shia realm and refused to see defending Shiism as their duty. On the contrary, they perceived Shiism as a stumbling block to their modernizing agenda.

Before the first Pahlavi shah took the throne, he had taken part in Ashoura, beating his chest while calling out to Imam Husayn. The shah included the name of the eighth imam, Reza, which he also carried, in every one of his sons’ names. Nevertheless, he saw a Turkish-style secular state as vital to Iran’s modernization. Reza Shah secularized the legal system and the courts, banned the veiling of women, deemphasized Iran’s Shia identify, and marginalized the ulama - when need be, brutally. The ulama resisted - at times violently - but the combination of a powerful government and a modernizing society caused clerical influence to fade.

One area where the ulama could still make their weight felt was the struggle against imperialism. Clerics supported both the nationalization of Iran’s oil industry in 1951 and the popular movement that it created. The nationalization led to a confrontation between Iran and the West, which ended in 1953 with the CIA-backed military coup that ousted the nationalist premier, Muhammad Mossadeq, and restored power to the young shah, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, who was Reza Shah’s son. While many in the Shia ulama supported Mossadeq’s goals, at the end of the day the most senior clerics backed the restoration of the monarchy because they badly feared chaos and a communist takeover. They set aside their sympathy for the nationalist cause and reacted to the same fears that led the US to support the coup. They had made, thought top clerics, yet another hard choice in order to defend the realm of the true (Shia) faith.

Whatever they meant at the time, however, the events of the early 1950s did not signal the birth of a lasting rapprochement between the throne and the Shia clergy. On the contrary, the 1960s and 1970s saw the state of relations between the two hit a new low. Rapid socioeconomic development, political repression, the growing influence of Western culture, the close ties between Tehran and Washington, and a growing gap between rich and poor all fed worsening social tensions. The ulama read these signs of the times as cause for worry, but also as an opportunity to undercut the religiously wayward Pahlavi monarchy. Some among the ulama also believed that unless Shiism took a leading role in the social and political struggles of the day, it would lose more ground and find itself shoved to the sidelines by leftists. To prevent this, the ulama would have to wax political as never before.’

--Vali Nasr, The Shia Revival

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Saddam shoulda been overthrown in 1991

Another article that compels me to ask why Saddam's regime was not overthrown in 1991, after the US and allies destroyed Iraq's infrastructure via 40 consecutive days of bombing and then marched to the outskirts of Baghdad.

Thanks Courtney for sending me the link to this article.

The Bones of ‘Anfal’

A multicultural team of archaeologists and forensic experts unearths the grizzly evidence of Saddam Hussein’s genocidal reign.

By Dennis Fisher

The horror began to emerge from a rocky patch of Iraq’s Al Hajara Desert 17 miles from the nearest military outpost.

Each scrape of a 7,000-pound backhoe bucket revealed more and more unspeakable violence, cemented in time beneath the arid soil: mothers cradling infants, both bodies riddled with bullets, children still grasping favorite toys, and even the body of a woman with a near-term fetus in her womb.

A forensic team’s grisly work provided the clearest look to date at what came to be known as “Anfal,” the slaughter of about 100,000 ethnic Kurds Saddam Hussein orchestrated in the waning days of Iraq’s 1988 war with Iran.

A group of American archaeologists, anthropologists, and forensics experts led the team, which had been dispatched to the isolated, war-torn region to document the graves and other evidence of the atrocities.

Although the debate over the effectiveness of U.S. efforts in Iraq continues, the Americans who worked on the difficult and dangerous forensics project are certain their efforts were vital in documenting the brutal actions of a despotic regime, as well as helping bring a measure of justice to the Kurdish people.

The evidence they gathered was used in 2006 to help convict Hussein and several of his top military advisers on charges of crimes against humanity. The horrific pictures and reports the team produced also provided the most graphic evidence yet of the extent of Hussein’s crimes against his own people and the severity of his retribution against those who turned against him. Hussein may not have been stockpiling nuclear weapons, but he executed his genocidal plan the old-fashioned way: with terror squads, midnight kidnappings, and wholesale slaughter.


Monday, June 08, 2009

Iraq not responsible for Saddam's crimes

I think this supports the argument that Iraq's Saddam-era debts, including reparations to Kuwait and KSA, should be forgiven.

Court: Iraq can't be held responsible for Saddam

WASHINGTON (AP) — Iraq's current government cannot be sued for the actions of Saddam Hussein's regime, the Supreme Court said Monday as it threw out lawsuits filed by Americans who were held by the government of the now-deceased dictator.

Foreign nations usually are immune from lawsuits in U.S. courts, but federal law strips that protection from countries that support terrorism. Under Saddam, Iraq was considered a state sponsor of terrorism.

But the Iraqi government says the U.S.-led invasion that deposed Saddam and a federal law enacted in 2003 restored Iraq's immunity to lawsuits in American courts. The Supreme Court agreed.


Saturday, June 06, 2009

Rachel Corrie, a Girl With Dreams

I remember the anger I felt when Rachel Corrie was killed. I was and still am disappointed with Americans who did not defend her, and I was and still am enraged by those who attacked her. I believe Rachel Corrie deserves the medal of honor.

PS: The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions estimates 24,145 Palestinian homes have been destroyed since 1967.

Also visit If Americans Knew for statistics on home demolitions.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Obama: suffering of Palestinians "intolerable"

Not only has President Obama acknowledged the suffering of Palestinians and said it is intolerable, but he is the first American President to use the word "Palestine" in a speech. He has basically recognized Palestine as a nation. It is an acknowledgment by an American President that is long overdue, but I'm happy it has finally happened.

He said it like no other US President has: we must deal with the Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, and surrounding nations. He said what needed to be said long ago by other Presidents. Thank you, President Obama! Finally America is getting serious about peace in Palestine. This was another historic speech by Barack Obama.

I'm also glad he attacked Holocaust deniers and people who (still!) believe that 9/11 was not committed by Arab extremists.

Obama: Iraqis better off without Saddam

Obama's speech in Cairo was full of goodies, including "Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of another's."

I liked hearing him say that he believes the Iraqis are ultimately better off without Saddam's tyranny: "unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible."

I'm sure Saddam could have been "contained" without invading Iraq, but the tyranny would have continued, and millions of Iraqis would not have self-determination, and would still be subject to the whims of madmen and thieving thugs. The majority of Iraqis would have continued to suffer under Saddam's rule, while the Sunni Arab world would have had peace of mind knowing that their dictators would not be overthrown by the US. The Egyptians should not worry, as it does not appear the US will overthrow their beloved Mubarak any time soon!

PS: I have never heard a US President be as honest about the history of Palestine as President Obama. The entire speech was honest, and unprecedented from an American President.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Why must Iraqis pay for what Saddam did?

Kuwait, one of the richest countries in the world per capita, is insisting that Iraq continue to pay reparations for Saddam's invasion in 1990.

PS: This article claims "Iraq's majority and now dominant Shi'ite Muslims feel they were just as much victims of Saddam as Kuwait was." I would argue that the Iraqi Shia were victimized much more and for much longer than the Kuwaitis were.

I find it strange that most Kuwaitis, including the Kuwaiti government, are pro-American, yet many Kuwaitis seem to be anti-Iraqi. Consider the Kuwaiti Gitmo detainee who was released in 2005. He was sent back to Kuwait, where a Kuwaiti court acquitted him of terrorism-related charges (or as some say, he "slipped the attention of" Kuwaiti authorities), and so he found his way to Mosul and killed seven Iraqis. By 2007, a total of seven Kuwaitis had blown themselves up in Iraq.

Iraq-Kuwait spat over war payments threatens ties

By Waleed Ibrahim and Eman Goma
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

BAGHDAD/KUWAIT (Reuters) - Iraqi and Kuwaiti lawmakers traded accusations on Wednesday over U.N.-imposed reparations Iraq must make to its smaller neighbor, which it invaded in 1990 under former leader Saddam Hussein.

Kuwait insists Iraq remain under United Nations chapter seven rules, meaning Iraq must continue to pay 5 percent of its oil revenues to Kuwait and other claimants in war reparations.

The spat has prompted some Kuwaiti politicians to call for the withdrawal of their ambassador to Baghdad, whose appointment last year was hailed as a breakthrough in hitherto frosty ties between the two countries.

"The Kuwaiti stance is repulsive and reflects a vengeful spirit," said communist Iraqi lawmaker Hameed Mousa, reflecting a widespread view among Iraqi politicians, who say they are mulling sending a delegation to Kuwait to discuss the issue.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict

If you are interested in the history of the Palestine-Israel conflict, you will find the concise The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict by Jews for Justice to be useful. It began as a pamphlet written and published by a group of concerned Jewish American citizens in Berkeley, and now it's a website, used by other informative sites such as If Americans Knew, also run by concerned Americans.

It seems that residents of the San Francisco Bay area have always had a different understanding of Palestine. In 1991 during a trip to San Francisco I found this post card in a book store. I remember thinking "wow I can't believe this is being sold at a book store in America."

America has been slowly changing its view on this conflict, which has been the main source of tensions between Arabs and America for 60 years. More Americans are beginning to realize the portrait of Israel as innocent victim is not quite true, and they are beginning to question America's unconditional support for Israeli expansionism. Just last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Israel emphatically that the construction of settlements must stop. It seems that the Obama administration is serious about pressuring Israel to stop expanding into Palestinian territory, more so than previous administrations. Clinton also recently blasted Israel's plans to demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. As noted on If Americans Knew, 18,147 Palestinian homes were destroyed between 1967 and 2006. So far Netanyahu has refused to stop expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Many Arabs and Arab Americans regard Obama's pick of Rahm Emanuel as business as usual, as another misguided move by a biased administration. But as Newsweek pointed out, Rahm Emanuel may be Obama's "secret weapon" with Israel: 'It's not just that Obama can use Emanuel's Israel-friendly reputation as a kind of shield, allowing him to display "tough love" toward the Jewish state. Daroff told NEWSWEEK Rahm has such a nuanced understanding of Israeli politics, he can easily act as the president's BS detector as negotiations go forward.'

Maybe I'm just being optimistic, but I hope Obama's team is able to bring about real peace and justice in Palestine.

I began reading about this conflict as a student at the University of Colorado. The political atmosphere in Boulder was more liberal than where I grew up in the suburbs of Denver, but over the four years I spent in Boulder I noticed a change in attitude among Americans, a general increase in sympathy for Palestinians. I like to think this change was the result of our work at the Arab Students Club, but more likely it was the result of brave efforts by American Jews who were concerned about the injustice in Palestine and wanted to help stop it. The US media was biased towards Israel throughout the 80s, and the Palestinian perspective was simply not covered in US mainstream media. Only horrific incidents like Baruch Goldstein's gunning down of dozens of Palestinians in a mosque made the news in America, and even then it didn't generate much public debate about what Israel was doing to the Palestinians.

Although some American mainstream media (such as 60 Minutes and Real Time) have been paying more attention to the Palestinian perspective recently, serious debate about this conflict has been confined to universities. At CU Boulder I met many well read intellectuals, including a smart Lebanese student named Ghassan, who became the President of the Arab Students Club until he graduated. Ghassan filled the bookshelves of the office with books about the history of Palestine. One of these books was The Hidden History of Zionism, by Ralph Schoenman. This book, more than any other, shocked me into sympathy for Palestinians. That's when the hypocrisy in US foreign policy and American attitudes with respect to Israel became highlighted in my mind.

After college I continued to read books and articles about the conflict, and by 2000 I felt that I knew more about the history of Palestine than I did about the history of Iraq. In the 1990s the public found a new tool for debate: the world wide web. The web changed everything. Suddenly Americans did not have to rely on US mainstream media to learn about the history of the conflict, and they also gained access to foreign media, which in general has always had a different perspective on Palestine. Le Monde, for example, has always been more objective in general than American media. Even Israeli media such as Haaretz has paid more attention to Palestinian suffering than FOX News and other popular sources of American news. A heartening fact that should be emphasized here: many American and Israeli Jews are quite aware and concerned about the injustice against Palestinians.

Could it be that the web has forced American mainstream media to focus more on the Palestinian perspective?

In the late 90s the debate about Israel-Palestine on the Yahoo message boards always attracted the most comments, about ten times the number of comments as the board on Iraq. It is no different on my blog. Both sides are passionate about this issue. American conservatives in general seem to dismiss the suffering of Palestinians and deny that injustice has been done to them. Extremist Arabs, on the other hand, refuse to acknowledge the existence of Israel and refuse to allow Arab nations to recognize Israel. Hardcore Arab nationalists wanted to push the Israelis into the sea, and this attitude only aggravated the tensions. But the reality of the conflict has been much different than the rhetoric of Arab nationalists. Israelis have not been pushed into the sea. On the contrary - Palestinians have been pushed into other countries and into the hills of the West Bank (and now densely populated Gaza), the last 20% of historic Palestine. Since 1967 Israelis have moved into the West Bank, and it is clear that Israel wants to annex the West Bank without giving citizenship to its Palestinian inhabitants, many of whom are refugees from previous wars.

The relationship between Iraqi Shia and Palestinians has deteriorated over the last two decades. In 1990 Yasser Arafat expressed his support for Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. After 2003 this relationship deteriorated further, especially after Saddam was hanged. Current relations between the Iraqi Shia and the Palestinians does not change the fact that Palestinians have been wronged for the last 60 years. What happens in Iraq does not change the origin of the Palestine-Israel conflict and it does not justify Israeli expansionism and oppression of the Palestinian people.

Rev 06/03/09: Added "(and now densely populated Gaza), the last 20% of historic Palestine."

Monday, June 01, 2009

Oil exports begin without oil law

Kurds start oil exports from northern Iraq

Iraq's self-ruled Kurdish region has started exporting crude oil to foreign markets for the first time.

Companies chosen by the Kurdistan Regional Government will pump up to 90,000-100,000 barrels per day from two northern oilfields to Turkey.

The Baghdad government has allowed its pipeline to be used, in a deal that could begin resolving internal disputes over Iraq's substantial oil wealth.

The revenue will be shared between Baghdad, the Kurds and oil companies.

Kurdish President Massoud Barzani called a "giant step" at a lavish ceremony in Irbil.

"We are proud of this success, and this achievement will serve the interests of all Iraqis, especially the Kurds," he said.

"A democratic Iraq will endure and prevail"

"I believe that even though the threats are serious, a democratic Iraq will endure and prevail.

The main reason for my optimism is that most Iraqis have learned the lesson the hard way.

Sunni Arabs discovered that resisting democracy and taking the path of extremism put them on the losing side. Despite a recent government crackdown on some leaders of the Sunni Arab Awakening Councils (also known as Sons of Iraq) the co-operation between these groups with the US forces and central Government in fighting al-Qa'ida terrorists continues.

The Shia population voiced its rejection of the rule of militias and hardline religious parties loud and clear. The provincial elections earlier this year showed beyond doubt that a great majority of the Shia population wants a moderate Muslim government, not an extreme Islamist one that imposes its vision through intimidation and violence."

--Omar Fadhil Al-Nidawi, of Iraq the Model

Key Figures

Iraq: Key figures since the war began
By The Associated Press

_October 2007: 170,000 at peak of troop buildup.
_June 1, 2009: 135,000.

_Confirmed U.S. military deaths as of June 1, 2009: At least 4,303.
_Confirmed U.S. military wounded (hostile) as of June 1, 2009: 31,312.
_Confirmed U.S. military wounded (non-hostile, using medical air transport) as of May 2, 2009: 36,903.
_U.S. military deaths for May 2009: 24, the highest figure since September 2008, which was 25.
_Deaths of civilian employees of U.S. government contractors as of March 31, 2009: 1,360.
_Iraqi deaths in May 2009 from war-related violence: at least 225, the lowest number since AP first began keeping figures in May 2005. The next lowest month is January 2009, with 242 Iraqis killed.
_Assassinated Iraqi academics as of April 22, 2009: 418.
_Journalists killed on assignment as of June 1, 2009: 138.

_Over $674 billion, according to the National Priorities Project.

_Prewar: 2.58 million barrels per day.
_May 27, 2009: 2.41 million barrels per day.

_Prewar nationwide: 3,958 megawatts. Hours per day (estimated): 4-8.
_May 23, 2009 nationwide: 6065 megawatts. Hours per day: not available.
_Prewar Baghdad: 2,500 megawatts. Hours per day: not available
Note: Current nationwide figure for average hours of electricity per day and Baghdad figures for the average amount of electricity generated (megawatts) are no longer reported by the U.S. State Department's Iraq Weekly Status Report.

_Prewar land lines: 833,000.
_April 30, 2009: 1,300,000.
_Prewar cell phones: 80,000.
_April 30, 2009: An estimated 17.7 million.

_Prewar: 12.9 million people had potable water.
_April 30, 2009: 21.2 million people have potable water.

_Prewar: 6.2 million people served.
_April 30, 2009: 11.3 million people served.

_May 27, 2009: At least 2.8 million people are currently displaced inside Iraq.

_Prewar: 500,000 Iraqis living abroad.
_May 27, 2009: Close to 2 million, mainly in Syria and Jordan.