Sunday, February 28, 2010

Al Qaeda targeting Christians again

'Sunni Islamist insurgents such as al Qaeda have long targeted Christians, Yazidis, Shabaks, and other Iraqi minorities, as well as majority Shi'ites, whom they consider heretics. Christians number an estimated 750,000 in Iraq, a small minority in a country of 28 million.

Al Qaeda has vowed to use "military means" to derail the national ballot next month, which it sees as a farce to ensure Shi'ite domination of Sunnis.

Targeting Christians is an effective way to highlight the shortcomings of Iraq's security forces, given the media attention that attacks against Christians attract. Iraqi Muslims are killed in much greater numbers.'

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tehran and Damascus backing Allawi?

Interesting developments: "Damascus and Tehran have thrown their weight behind Iyad Allawi to unseat Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the March elections, sources said Wednesday."

Thanks Montrose Toast

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cultures can change

'Why should we care when we’re leaving? Quite simply, so much of the turmoil in the region was stoked over the years by Saddam’s Iraq and Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran, both financed by billions in oil revenues. If, over time, a decent democratizing regime could emerge in Iraq and a similar one in Iran — so that oil wealth was funding reasonably decent regimes rather than retrograde ones — the whole Middle East would be different.

The odds, though, remain very long. In the end, it will come back to that nagging question of politics versus culture. Personally, I’m a believer in the argument Lawrence Harrison makes in his book “The Central Liberal Truth” — culture matters, a lot more than we think, but cultures can change, a lot more than we expect. But such change takes time, leadership and often pain. Which is why, I suspect, Iraqis will surprise us — for good and for ill — a lot more before they finally answer the question: Who are we and how do we want to live together?' --Thomas Friedman

Hamas founder's son worked for Shin Bet

"The son of a leading Hamas figure, who famously converted to Christianity, served for over a decade as the Shin Bet security service's most valuable source in the militant organization's leadership, Haaretz has learned."

Monday, February 22, 2010

As the KABOBfest continues...

...and as Arab Americans are angered by the assassination of a Hamas weapons buyer in a Dubai hotel,

A series of bombings, beheadings and shootings rippled through Iraq on Monday, leaving at least 23 people dead — including 9 children — and intensifying concern about a spike in violence with less than two weeks until national elections.

Authorities detected no discernible pattern to the violence, with rockets exploding in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, car bombings aimed at government buildings, assassinations of security officers and government officials and the killings of two families in their homes in Baghdad.

The slayings of the families was reminiscent of the attacks common during the height of the bloodletting between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq a few years ago.

In the largely Shiite town of Madaen, south of Baghdad, a gang of gunmen stormed a home of a family and killed all eight people there, including six children.

“The criminals have beheaded some of the victims,” according to a brief statement from Baghdad Operations Command.

Beheading is considered a trademark of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a largely domestic insurgent group with some foreign leaders created in the aftermath of the American-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in April 2003. But the Iraqi authorities gave no indication as to the motive behind the attack.

In another Shiite district in Baghdad, a mother and her three children were gunned down in the middle of the night, according to government officials.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Operation New Dawn starts Sept. 1

'The U.S. military mission in Iraq will soon be getting a name change.

As of Sept. 1, "Operation Iraqi Freedom" becomes "Operation New Dawn."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a memo Wednesday that the name change—which is to immediately follow the scheduled withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq—will send a strong signal that American forces have a new mission. He also said it reinforces the U.S. commitment to honor its security agreement with Iraq and recognizes "our evolving relationship" with the government there.'

Who pulverized the Iraqi state?

"Seven years after the US invasion of Iraq toppled Saddam Hussein's government and pulverized the Iraqi state, voters will go to the polls on March 7 in an election that most Iraqis hope will continue their country's uneven progress toward political stability." --ROBERT DREYFUSS

Evidently Mr. Dreyfuss does not realize that the Iraqi state had been pulverized by Saddam's regime throughout the 80s and 90s and that much of the pulverization during the last seven years has been caused by hardcore Baathists and their tools in Al Qaeda. Just three weeks ago three Baghdad hotels were pulverized by an arm of Al Qaeda. I suppose in the mind of Mr. Dreyfuss (and certainly many an Arab), those bombings can be blamed on the US invasion.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Effects of 1973 oil embargo

Gasoline rationing in America! Saddam's government did the same thing in 1981, I assume so that Iraq could export more oil and help fund the war.

The devastating economic effects of the 1973 oil embargo hurt even more in poor countries like Haiti and Jamaica, which had to import all their oil. Watch the excellent documentary "Life and Debt" to learn more about Jamaica's debt crisis that ensued after the embargo.

'The effects of the embargo were immediate. OPEC forced the oil companies to increase payments drastically. The price of oil quadrupled by 1974 to nearly US$12 per barrel (75 US$/m3).[15]
This increase in the price of oil had a dramatic effect on oil exporting nations, for the countries of the Middle East who had long been dominated by the industrial powers were seen to have acquired control of a vital commodity. The traditional flow of capital reversed as the oil exporting nations accumulated vast wealth. Some of the income was dispensed in the form of aid to other underdeveloped nations whose economies had been caught between higher prices of oil and lower prices for their own export commodities and raw materials amid shrinking Western demand for their goods. Much was absorbed in massive arms purchases that exacerbated political tensions, particularly in the Middle East.

...Meanwhile, the shock produced chaos in the West. In the United States, the retail price of a gallon of gasoline (petrol) rose from a national average of 38.5 cents in May 1973 to 55.1 cents in June 1974. Meanwhile, New York Stock Exchange shares lost $97 billion in value in six weeks.[citation needed] State governments requested citizens not put up Christmas lights, with Oregon banning Christmas as well as commercial lighting altogether.[12] Politicians called for a national gas rationing program.[24] Nixon requested gasoline stations to voluntarily not sell gasoline on Saturday nights or Sundays; 90% of owners complied, which resulted in lines on weekdays.[12]

The embargo was not uniform across Europe. Of the nine members of the European Economic Community (EEC), the Netherlands faced a complete embargo, the United Kingdom and France received almost uninterrupted supplies (having refused to allow America to use their airfields and embargoed arms and supplies to both the Arabs and the Israelis), whilst the other six faced only partial cutbacks. The UK had traditionally been an ally of Israel, and Harold Wilson's government had supported the Israelis during the Six Day War, but his successor, Ted Heath, had reversed this policy in 1970, calling for Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders. The members of the EEC had been unable to achieve a common policy during the first month of the Yom Kippur War. The Community finally issued a statement on November 6, after the embargo and price rises had begun; widely seen as pro-Arab, this statement supported the Franco-British line on the war, and OPEC duly lifted its embargo from all members of the EEC. The price rises had a much greater impact in Europe than the embargo, particularly in the UK (where they combined with strikes by coal miners and railroad workers to cause an energy crisis over the winter of 1973-74, a major factor in the change of government).[25] The UK, Germany, Switzerland, and Norway banned flying, driving and boating on Sundays.[12] Sweden rationed gasoline and heating oil.[12] The Netherlands imposed prison sentences for those who used more than their given ration of electricity.[12] Ted Heath asked the British to heat only one room in their houses over the winter.[26]

A few months later, the crisis eased. The embargo was lifted in March 1974 after negotiations at the Washington Oil Summit, but the effects of the energy crisis lingered on throughout the 1970s. The price of energy continued increasing in the following year, amid the weakening competitive position of the dollar in world markets.

...In the U.S., odd-even rationing was implemented; drivers of vehicles with license plates having an odd number as the last digit (or a vanity license plate) were allowed to purchase gasoline for their cars only on odd-numbered days of the month, while drivers of vehicles with even-numbered license plates were allowed to purchase fuel only on even-numbered days.'

Does Allah want us to be stupid?

'Somehow in the last decade or so, millions of believers have been persuaded that they are repositories of sin because they watch films, love music and paintings, read books, experience temporal pleasures and ecstasies. Remember the ferocity with which the Taliban destroyed all pre-Islamic treasures? Saudi Arabia is guilty of similar vandalism. Thus they seek to recreate the piety of triumphant Islam. Well they didn't have cameras, mobile phones, cars and computers then. Should these be banned too?......

One artist I know put it beautifully: "Allah gave me my mind, my hands my eyes, my patience, my selfhood. I use all these gifts and show people the wonders of the world. How can that be wrong? Does God want us to be deaf, stupid and blind?" '

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"just hunting, camping and having fun"

'The men, aged between 25 and 44 and who cannot be named by order of the judge, were arrested in Sydney in 2005 as part of Australia's largest ever terror raids.

Judge Whealy said since their arrest the men appeared to wear their imprisonment as "some badge of honor."

The judge outlined in detail the group's stockpiling of chemicals and firearms and instructional, extremist or fundamentalist material found at their Sydney homes.

Police said during the trial that they found 28,000 rounds of ammunition during raids on the men's homes.

Videos showing the execution of hostages or prisoners by mujahideen, which were never shown to the jury, were "particularly brutal and graphic," Whealy said.

"It is impossible to imagine that any civilized person could watch these videos," he said.

Prosecutors said three men had gone on paramilitary-style camps in Australia's outback to prepare for an attack, but the defense said they were just hunting, camping and having fun.'

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Joe Biden is optimistic about Iraq

'On Larry King Live last night, Vice President Joe Biden said Iraq "could be one of the great achievements of this administration. You're going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You're going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government."

The vice president said he’d been to Iraq 17 times and visits the country every three months or so. "I know every one of the major players in all the segments of that society" he said. "It's impressed me. I've been impressed how they have been deciding to use the political process rather than guns to settle their differences." '

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Will Iraq be like Lebanon?

Friends have reminded me that other countries have also experienced civil war, that Iraq is not alone. The Lebanese civil war lasted 15 years and all sects were at war with each other, but I doubt the violence was as bad as the violence in Iraq in 2006. I should read "Pity The Nation" to learn more about the Lebanese civil war. The outcomes of civil war has been the same in both countries.

Lebanon is a model Iraqis often cite, a democracy that produces gridlock among ethnic and sectarian parties as divided before elections as after them, resulting in an ever tense political paralysis. Bosnia is another. When it comes to land and borders, disputed between the Arabs and the Kurdish regional government, the divisions are as intractable as those of Israelis and Palestinians.

Thankfully the civil war in Lebanon ended long ago. Hopefully the March election in Iraq will lead to peace and prosperity there. If Iraq looks more like Lebanon, I will not complain, even if Iraqis vote for their sect. There was a time when most American Catholics voted only for Catholics. African Americans were prevented from voting in some states, so even the best democracy in the world had its flaws not long ago.

It's just too bad Iraq doesn't have a Mediterranean breeze like Lebanon does. Or a New Orleans breeze. Or a New Orleans Brees!

Monday, February 08, 2010

The ploy to eliminate election rivals

'Allawi, a secular Shi'ite who said he survived an assassination attempt by Baath party agents for his opposition to its rule, said he supported punishment of party members proven to have committed crimes against the Iraqi people.

But he said the candidate ban before the election, seen as crucial to solidifying Iraq's young democracy and settling disputes over territory and vast oil reserves, was indiscriminate and a ploy to eliminate election rivals and detract from the current government's failures.


"Frankly what I see is the gross failure of the government in providing services, in providing security, in reducing unemployment and having a clear cut foreign cover these failures they are attacking others," Allawi said.'

Fanning fears of a Baathist revival

'Fanning fears of a Baathist revival might benefit Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other Shi'ite Islamist leaders, as it could win back voters who might be leaning toward secular, cross-confessional groups, like ex-prime minister Ayad Allawi's.

"We should not stand here with our hands tied during this sensitive period. We should take revenge for our martyrs, prisoners, the displaced and the homeless left by the former regime," Baghdad provincial governor Salah Abdul-Razzaq, a senior member of Maliki's Dawa party, told protesters.

"We will de-Baathify the Baghdad administration," he said, adding that the Baath party "and its instruments al Qaeda" were behind recent bomb attacks that have killed dozens of Iraqis in Baghdad and in the Shi'ite holy city of Kerbala.

Local government leaders in Basra affiliated with Dawa and the other main Shi'ite blocs, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI) and anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's movement, made similar vows at a rally to purge the city of Baath sympathisers.' --Muhanad Mohammed, Reuters

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Anti-Ba3ath protests in Baghdad and Basra

'An emergency session of Parliament called by Mr. Maliki to deal with the crisis failed to muster a quorum on Sunday and was postponed. Tensions over the dispute flared elsewhere, as thousands of protesters attended anti-Baathist rallies in Baghdad and Basra organized by Mr. Maliki’s political organization, the Dawa Party.

The Baghdad rally was broadcast at length on state television, showing Mr. Maliki’s aides denouncing those sympathetic to the Baath Party, which has been banned in Iraq since Mr. Hussein’s overthrow in 2003.

One protester waved an American flag with the word “Baath” in Arabic replacing the stars, an indication of the fiercely anti-American oratory that Mr. Maliki and his supporters have used since the crisis began last month. In an unusually undiplomatic exchange, Mr. Maliki’s government has accused the American ambassador, Christopher R. Hill, of interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs by trying to put pressure on the judiciary to reinstate the candidates, which the American Embassy disputed.

Those who attended the rallies fulminated against the Baath Party, warning that its supporters were plotting to return to power. “Even if my finger was a Baathist, I would amputate it,” said one tribal leader at the Baghdad rally, Aidan Salman Hayawi.'

Iraqi Jews made mistakes too

' "During the mother's pregnancy with Saddam Hussein, his father died, and another son died when he was only 12 years old. She both tried to commit suicide and to have an abortion."

As the story goes, Saddam's mother, Subha, was prevented from killing herself and her unborn child by a compassionate family of Iraqi Jews. That family is now reported to be living in Israel, where it may think itself the tool of some huge cosmic joke. In any case, it does not seek publicity for its act of kindness.'

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Does Islam allow dissent?

An interesting discussion about how multiculturalism has turned into multicultural relativism in many parts of the world. We should not appease the backward clerics and those who seek to squash dissent.

Former Fedayeen Saddam should not be allowed in govt

I don't know about banning Baathists, as Baathism is merely an ideology. But Fedayeen Saddam were criminals. Read this to understand how.

The blacklist was compiled last month by an integrity and accountability committee, sparking tensions between the country's Shiite majority and its Sunni Arab former elite.

It includes -- both Sunnis and Shiites -- suspected Baathists and alleged members of Saddam's once deadly Fedayeen (Men of Sacrifice) militia and Mukhabarat intelligence division.

I learned from Nir Rosen's article 4 years ago that many members of the Mahdi Army were former members of the Fedayeen Saddam. Until then I thought Fedayeen Saddam could only be Sunni Arab. I did not think that a Shiite could murder a fellow Shiite for the sake of Saddam, for money. Sadly I was wrong.

The problem with Islam in Europe

This guy is angry. I don't blame him. Europe is too liberal for fundamentalist Muslims.

The "ideology is whatever Saddam says it is"

Sharp: By the early 1950s a teenaged Saddam was demonstrating against the government. Like countless other Iraqis, he was expressing a general sense of resentment against British colonial rule and Iraq's domination by rich landowners. Pan-Arabism was also on the rise---the movement to bring Arab states together into one big nation. In 1958 a revolution overthrew Iraq's British-backed monarchy. The change ushered in a chaotic and violent decade. By this time Saddam Hussein had joined the pan-Arabist Baath Party. In 1959 he and fellow Baathists tried to assassinate Iraq's new military leader General Abdel Karim Kassem. The attempt failed and Saddam Hussein was forced to flee the country. Four years later he came back, just after the Baathists did manage to kill Kassem.

They showed their ruthless side, parading the general's bullet-riddled body on television. But the Baathists were thrown out of power nine months later. The years after this, the mid-60's, were critical ones for Saddam Hussein. He linked up with his one of his uncle's cousins, now high up in the Baath Party. Historian Charles Tripp says Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr and his young sidekick made quite a team.

Tripp: "Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr was very much an old style regimental officer. And Saddam Hussein was not an officer, was not in the army, but was an excellent "street organizer" I think is the phrase often used euphemistically which meant someone who could organize the beating up of opponents, demonstrations, street violence, who had his ear to the ground in ways that Ahmad Hasan al Bakr couldn't."

Sharp: The Baath Party returned to power for good in 1968. Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr became president. Saddam Hussein quickly emerged as his right hand man. And he turned out to be more than just a party thug. He was also methodical, and politically astute. He took over the state security apparatus. Then he and Bakr began to eliminate their rivals. Some were executed, some were shipped off to diplomatic posts, some were simply outmanoeuvered. Even as they consolidated their power, the Baathist leaders were intent on modernizing their country. And shaking off foreign influence.

Excerpt from President Bakr's Oil Speech 1972: "...Patriots and progressives, in the Arab homeland and in the entire world, in waging decisive battle against the oil monopolies our revolution is taking forward positions in face-to-face clashes with imperialism and its monopolies, to carry out an honorable patriotic and national duty..."

Sharp: President Bakr announced the nationalization of the Iraqi oil industry in 1972. His message was "Arab Oil for the Arabs." A year later fuel prices shot up. Iraq's oil revenues quadrupled. The Baathist regime poured its new money into the military, but also into education and infrastructure. Roads were built, villages electrified, literacy campaigns launched. Iraq became a modern, urban state with a substantial middle class. But if Iraq was modernizing on the surface, behind the scenes something far more primitive was unfolding. Saddam Hussein turned out to be merciless in his quest for power. In 1979 he made his move on his old patron, Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr. Hussein forced his relative to resign and took over the presidency himself. No sooner had he done so than he purged the party's Revolutionary Command Council. Hussein announced the discovery of a plot against himself and the Baathist regime. Then he held a kind of show trial, which he videotaped. The footage shows party members gathered in a large auditorium. Saddam Hussein is on stage, smoking a cigar. The alleged plot leader confesses his crime. Then he reads out the names of his supposed co-conspirators. As their names are called out they are led from the hall to be arrested and shot. Members of the audience shout out their allegiance to Saddam Hussein...

Archival Audio of 1979 Meeting

Tripp: "You notice the mounting hysteria as nobody knows quite who's name is going to be called out next. And so of course this means that the survivors cheer even more frenziedly for Saddam Hussein. It's a very chilling documentary. But Saddam Hussein wanted that to be seen. This was an exercise of power which he would use to impress upon the surviving Baathists in Iraq that he had absolute control over their lives and deaths."

Kanan Makiya: " The whole thing is like theatre except it happens to be real."

Sharp: Kanan Makiya is a prominent Iraqi writer and dissident. He's also seen the footage---and researched what happened next.

Makiya: "And when the firing squad is assembled to execute these so-called traitors who does he use but the remaining members of the Revolutionary Command Council and his own ministers and so on to implicate them in a sense in his own rise to power. Because that is the event upon which he cements his own presidency."

Sharp: By this point any political ideology Saddam Hussein once adhered to seemed to have vanished. Fear became the key to his rule. Historian Phebe Marr says Pan-Arabism had given way to Saddamism.

Marr: "This is a one-man regime, it's more of a personal dictatorship in which we find the cult of Saddam. And yes it's in the name of the Baath Party and yes there's some kind of ideology but the ideology is whatever Saddam says it is."

History of Middle East Oil

I have found "Hidden Wars of Desert Storm" on YouTube. Watch it to understand the history of the relationship between the West and oil-producing Middle Eastern countries. Watch Part 2 to see American Ambassador April Glaspie (at 2:25) say at a press conference in 1990 that the US has no "defense or security commitments to Kuwait" - that was just six days before Saddam invaded Kuwait. Watch closely the expression on her face as she says this.

I wrote about "Hidden Wars of Desert Storm" in my post "The First American War Against Iraq".

Points of clarification about the documentary:

1) The Soviet Union was still in the process of collapsing when Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

2) Abdul Karim Qasim had already nationalized most of Iraq's oil fields by the time he was assassinated in 1963.

3) Abdul Karim Qasim was assassinated by Baathists in 1963, but the Baathists held power for only nine months. Ahmed Hassan al Bakr took over in the 1968 coup. Bakr appointed Saddam as VP and nationalized the remainder of Iraq's oil by 1972.

In 1963, the Baath Party successfully overthrew the government and took power which allowed Saddam to return to Iraq from exile. While home, he married his cousin, Sajida Tulfah. However, the Baath Party was overthrown after only nine months in power and Saddam was arrested in 1964 after another coup attempt. He spent 18 months in prison, where he was tortured, before he escaped in July 1966.

During the next two years Saddam became an important leader within the Baath Party. In July 1968, when the Baath Party again gained power, Saddam was made vice-president.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Iraqi govt gets serious about security

The Iraqi government is finally getting serious about security. Is it because elections are just 4 weeks away and the government has been exposed as fools for believing in magic wands?

'The American military is rushing delivery of dozens of bomb-detection dogs to Iraq after accusations that widely used mechanical devices are ineffective to pinpoint explosives at checkpoints and other search sites, The New York Times said.

“Army Maj. Sylvester Wegwu said the first 25 of 145 trained bomb-sniffing dogs are due to arrive Friday in Baghdad,” the newspaper said.

“Another 120 bomb-sniffing dogs are scheduled to arrive in Iraq over the next 12 months in Iraq.”

”We have more requests than we have dogs and handlers,” added police Brig. Gen. Mohammad Mesheb Hajea, who is in charge of the training program.'

Thanks Montrose Toast

Bow wow wow yippie yo yippie YAY!

When should the US get out of Iraq?

Two years ago I asked "when should the US get out of Iraq?" Those were opinions from a few pundits. When I started this blog I added two polls (not scientific) to my sidebar, one asking "when should the US withdraw from Iraq?" With 1,481 votes, almost half believe the U.S. should stay in Iraq for "as long as it takes." One commenter asked "For as long as it takes to do what?" Good question.

On one hand, many people feel that the US should stay in Iraq to ensure that Iran does not take over Baghdad completely. On the other hand, many Iraqis believe that the US should stay in Iraq to ensure that Saddamists do not return to dominate. In an email exchange with my friend Alaa the Mesopotamian, he wrote:

I have lived with Baathists in Iraq and worked with them. I must admit that like most people in Iraq today we would be prepared to forgive many of them if they really felt that there was something wrong of the Baathist era. Some are quite normal people and had to join the party as we all know, for purely opportunist reasons. Some could not avoid it, for sure because of Baathist policy of demanding membership for army people, for University teachers, for a teaching job etc. etc. So like they say, if these were not involved in any crimes, I suppose they have to be reintegrated and given their civil rights. The problem is that the Baathists as a whole cannot be trusted. Their pretense of wanting to join the political process is not just innocent desire to join the new democratic process. Mostly it is an attempt at infiltration with a coup in the back of their minds. Believe me no one knows them better than me. I managed to avoid joining for years despite the fact that I used to be employed in the most sensitive kind of jobs.

I dont really believe, that anyone who does not really want to join couldnt avoid it. However, it will be most gratifying and a dream if these people can really change. The most terrifying thing from my perspective is the question of what will happen once the Americans do withdraw as is expected. I have talked about that and I am very apprehensive about the future. You left Iraq early in your life and you dont really know these people. In the words of someone I knew who was himself a high ranking member and left them, words that I cannot forget: "The Baath party is an organisation for criminals". Who do you think is doing all these acts of terrorism in Iraq? Al-Qaeda? AQ was always a tool in their hands, admittedly once out of control, but nowadays almost insignificant and what remains of them are entirely in the service of the Baathists and their allies. The Iraqi AQ members themselves were mostly ex-regime members. This is a fact that everybody knows and amply proved from the many arrests that have been made.

Well, with the Americans around, they will not dare stage any coup; but with the Americans out - Allah Yustur. [God have mercy]'

I believe we should be careful when labeling people "Baathist" and we should remember that the majority of Baathists did not participate in violent crimes. However, I can understand Alaa's perspective and I share his fears. I believe the Iraqi government should allow the neo-Baathists to run and participate in government, but the US should stay in Iraq until Iraqi security forces can stand on their own and can defend against any threat.

Even in the case of a complete withdrawal from Iraq, the US military will not be far away in Kuwait and Qatar.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Candidates will have 24 days to campaign for election

Candidates are not allowed to start campaigning until February 12th. The election is scheduled for March 7. That gives candidates exactly 24 days, if one includes February 12 and March 7, to campaign.

Iraq’s independent elections commission announced Thursday that the parliamentary elections campaign, scheduled to start Sunday, would be postponed for five days, as confusion reigned over an appeals court decision that overturned a ban on hundreds of candidates.

How can unknown candidates have any chance in this election if they have just 24 days to advertise themselves and talk to the Iraqi people? A one month campaign was already a tight squeeze. How can the Iraqi people get to know the candidates in just three weeks?

Meanwhile the well-known and wealthy candidates like Allawi have been effectively campaigning via the media for weeks now. Iraq Pundit notes that "Some posters already are on the walls, and candidates are on TV several times a day talking about how much better they are than the next guy." This is extremely unfair to lesser known candidates.

To many Iraqis, Maliki's government seems to be trying everything they can to undermine candidates who may pose a threat to the incumbents in charge.

Most people seem to agree that Iraq should get on with its election.

Justice for Saddamists better late than never

Haydar al Kohei wrote a post about Fedayeen Saddam on trial in Baghdad for beheading three men in Nasriya in 1998:

The execution video, parts of which have since been uploaded on YouTube, was shown to members of the Ba’ath Party and Fedayeen paramilitaries on trial in Baghdad last Thursday and after one of the defendants closed his eyes in horror at the video the presiding Judge, Mahmoud al-Hassan, could no longer hold back his anger. While the video was still playing he remarked ‘Yes look away, as if you never saw it. Look how he closes his eyes. Go on close your eyes, close your eyes! It’s a sickening scene? Now you see? Now you see?’

The Judge orders the video to be stopped and returns his attention to the defendants, a few of which were present when the execution took place eleven years ago. He is furious at the men and tells them even if someone had killed his own father it would be difficult for anyone to carry out a murder in that fashion. He asks how they could have heard of such a thing and accepted it. He declares ‘will you say you didn’t hear? Will you say you didn’t know? Go on, let one of you tell me he didn’t know about this. We used to hear about the Fedayeen and their unit, which beheads people, but we have never seen. We have never seen with our own eyes.’

There was pin drop silence and no one dared to interrupt him. The Judge was visibly shaken by the video. Between his shouts, the only sound that can be heard is the weeping of the mother of Ehsan Hussain, who came to bear witness and had to watch every horrible moment all over again as the video was resumed. She cries as she watches the men dance around her son’s head. The video is then paused and an unmasked face becomes clearly discernible. His name is Falah and he is a member of the Fedayeen. He denies he beheaded any of the men but admits he was one of those celebrating the deaths of these ‘traitors’.

It saddens me to think this crime would not have happened had the US done the right thing in 1991 and removed Saddam and his sons from power. This should help explain why so many Iraqis fear the return of the Saddamists.

PS: Watch this video of the trial and of video of the beheading if you have the stomach for it.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

"We will never bow to terrorists"

'Sunni Islamist insurgents such as al-Qaeda frequently hit Shi'ite gatherings with suicide bombers, grenades and shootings in the hope of restarting the bloody sectarian strife that nearly tore Iraq apart in 2006-07.

Pilgrims in Kerbala complained bitterly that the government had failed to protect the millions of people gathered for the festival.

"When I left my house four days ago, I never stopped thinking about getting killed. I lost my brother last Ashura ... and I always say I could be next," said Jasim Mohammed, a civil servant, referring to another Shi'ite ritual, Ashura.

"We will never bow to terrorists. Today I'm coming to Kerbala to practice my rituals and soon I will vote with same determination." '

Iraq remains divided

'A revival of the Baath Party itself seems almost inconceivable now, but many of those challenging Mr. Maliki have appealed to Sunnis with sympathies to elements of the old regime, particular in the military and former government elite. Mr. Maliki himself has excoriated the Baath Party’s remnants in exile, accusing them of colluding with terrorist groups to carry out a series of devastating attacks since last August.

Many lawmakers accused the commission of settling scores on behalf of the Shiite-dominated parties, at the behest of Iran.

“The decision of the commission is a sword on my neck because of my opinions against Iran,” said Dhafir al-Ani, another Sunni who was disqualified.

Mr. Maliki himself made no immediate statement responding to the court’s decision.

Iraq remains so deeply divided that even establishing the rules for an election — which was supposed to happen in December and then in January — has been fraught for much of the last year, largely paralyzing the work of the Parliament. An election law stalled for months last year, only to passed, then vetoed, passed again and finally amended after another intense round of international intervention.'

Hamas's cartoons and the intractable conflict

Jon Stewart made a good point. These are adult cartoons, not for kids!

Honor Killings or Domestic Violence?

Anna Momigliano argues in The Nation that we should not bash Arab culture and that domestic violence exists in every culture. Domestic violence is not punished like it should be in some European countries like Italy:

"Violence against women is widespread in almost any country, regardless of ethnicity or religion," says Farian Sabahi, an Iranian-Italian academic who teaches Islamic history at the University of Turin.

Although data suggest that violence against women is more common and tolerated in traditional Muslim societies, the difference when compared with Europe is not as significant as one would expect.

According to a 2009 survey, four out of ten women in Turkey experience domestic violence. In Italy gender-based violence strikes "only" 32 percent of the female population (about 80 percent is believed to take place within the family).

Most surprising, perhaps, is the perception of domestic violence among women: while only 10 percent of Turkish women report it as a crime, in Italy this figure is around 18 percent.

Gender-based violence is surprisingly common even in countries thought to be more egalitarian. In Britain, 45 percent of women have reportedly experienced some form of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Similarly, 37 percent of German women have reportedly experienced some form of physical violence, and 25 percent say they have been abused by a partner.

...In 2007, in the Sicilian town of Palermo, Renato Di Felice served only two days in prison, despite being found guilty of purposely killing his wife, Maria Concetta-Pitas, in 2003: the couple's children had testified that their mother had been disrespectful toward her husband, moving the judge to a mild sentence.

But I wonder what percentage of Turkish victims of domestic violence actually report the crimes to authorities, and does the high rate of domestic violence in Italy have anything to do with the large Muslim population there? In Italy, many Italian Muslim women are trapped in polygamous marriages:

Sbai estimates there are 14,000 polygamous families in Italy; others put the number even higher. Many take advantage of the so-called orfi marriage, a less formal union performed by an imam, that does not carry the same social or legal standing as regular marriage.

She is convinced that the polygamists in Italy are practicing a more fundamentalist and abusive form of multiple marriage. Because they feel so threatened by the Western culture around them, the men often imprison their wives and confine them to a life of solitude wholly dependent on the husband.

"They are kept in a kind of ghetto," Sbai said.

When Sbai recently created a hot line for Muslim immigrant women, she was inundated with 1,000 calls in the first three months. To her astonishment, she had tapped into a hidden community of women desperate for information, many trapped in violent, polygamous households, isolated and lonely.

Anna Momigliano:
Passion and honor-related crimes against women seem so engrained in Italian society that in 2006 a German court granted extenuating circumstances on the basis of "ethnic and cultural background" to a Sardinia-born man who had his girlfriend gang-raped because he feared she might have cheated on him.

"All Italians, and those living in Sardinia particularly, felt insulted and outraged by this German sentence," notes Sabahi. "Yet when similar crimes take place among the Arab immigrants, Italian authorities tend to blame it on Islam, without caring about offending the Muslim community."

Sabahi believes "racist prejudice will not help" stop violence; she believes education is the key. "Institutions should focus on protecting women, rather than bashing culture," Sabahi says.

Good points by Momigliano, and she didn't even mention OJ Simpson. But she seems to ignore the differences between "honor killings" in Arab culture and domestic violence in the West. In Arab culture, the murderer is often the brother or the father of the victim. We do not often hear of an American man who kills his sister because she had pre-marital sex or because she was raped, and in America violence against women is publicly combatted and the criminals are punished appropriately.

PS: Thanks Aton for posting the article about polygamous marriages in Italy.

Iraq lifts ban on neo-Baathists

"Iraq has lifted a ban on nearly 500 candidates barred from the March election for alleged links to the late Saddam Hussein's Baathist party."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Ruling clerics play God in Iran

Apparently the clerics in charge of Iran think they are God.

"Iran experts have said that the government hastily ordered the executions of Arash Rahmanipour and Mohammad-Reza Ali-Zamani, 37, another political prisoner, to intimidate the opposition and to silence the protests that have persisted since the disputed June 12 presidential elections.

With the government’s opponents planning another large demonstration on Feb. 11, the country is bracing for another wave of executions. At least nine other prisoners have been charged with the capital crime of moharebeh, which means waging war against God."

Monday, February 01, 2010

Female suicide bomber kills dozens in Baghdad

"The female kamikaze was dressed in the traditional black cover-all cloak, or abaya, worn by devout Shia women. Police said the garment allowed her to hide a large explosive device and mingle with the throngs of pilgrims marching down the roads leading south to Karbala, where the festival of Arbaeen marks the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, in 680 AD."

The suicide bomber was a kamikaze? I don't think Japanese kamikazes ever attacked civilians.