Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Photo: Iraqis grieve for their wounded relatives at a hospital in the restive city of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad. Bomb and gun attacks have killed at least 17 Iraqis as US and British commanders expressed cautious optimism that a plan to restore peace to Baghdad was working.(AFP/Ali Yussef)
Security Incidents on August 23, 2006
Two Army Engineering and Support Center Huntsville contractor employees killed in Iraq on Friday have been identified. Brenton Thomas Gray, 34, from Southern Pines, N.C., and Edmund Bruwer, 37, of the Republic of South Africa were killed when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device, according to a news release. Two other contractors who were wounded in the same incident were taken to Germany for medical treatment. Gray and Bruwer worked for Cochise Consultancy, which is based in Tampa, Fla.
The number of U.S. troops in Iraq has climbed back to 138,000, driven up in part by the need to control the escalating violence in Baghdad and the decision to delay the departure of an Alaska-based Army brigade.
Two roadside bombs targeting an Iraqi patrol went off in southern Baghdad on Wednesday, wounding five police, an Interior Ministry source said. The blasts occurred at about 3:00 p.m. (1100 GMT) in Dora district in southern Baghdad, the source said on condition of anonymity. Five cars including a police vehicle were seriously destroyed in the attacks, the source added.
A car exploded Wednesday near an army special ops check-point in Dorra area in southern Iraq, said a security source. According to eyewitnesses the explosion caused the death of three soldiers and the injury of nine others. The security source did not verify this information.
A roadside bomb exploded Wednesday in Baghdad and narrowly missed the interior minister's convoy, killing two civilians and wounding several traffic policemen, officials said. Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani was unhurt and it was not clear if he was the intended target or whether the bomb had been meant for a U.S. military convoy that was about 500 yards behind. The explosion in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Dora killed two bystanders, including a 12-year-old, and injured five traffic policemen, said Dora police officer Mohammad al Baghdadi.
Baqubah:Most of the violence on Wednesday occured in Diyala province just north of the capital around the city of Baquba, where 10 people were killed and three more bodies found, according to police sources. Basra:
Four Katyusha rockets were fired at a British base in a southern Iraqi town on Wednesday, a day after British troops fought a gunbattle with militiamen, police said. No casualties were reported from the rockets, three of which landed inside the base in Amarah town while the fourth hit the nearby neighbourhood of Al-Amarat al-Qadmia without exploding, police Capt Hussein Karim said. An Iraqi police patrol later found four base launcher and a fifth launcher loaded with a rocket in an area near the camp, he added.
British officials have reported that a barrage of mortars hit one of their bases in the south of Iraq. A barrage of 17 mortar rounds were fired at the British base of Camp Abu Naji yesterday, said Maj. Charlie Burbridge, spokesman for the British forces. One British soldier was wounded, and was in hospital in stable condition, he said. One more mortar round landed at the camp this morning, but did not cause any injuries or damage.
A suicide bomber blew himself up Wednesday outside a police headquarters in northern Iraq, killing at least one person. The suicide bomber in the northern city of Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, detonated his explosives at a checkpoint when he tried to enter the police building, said Maj. Gen. Wathiq al-Hamdani, the police chief. One woman was killed and 10 people were injured in the blast, he said.
In the northern city of Mosul, where insurgents have been conducting a fierce campaign against government security forces, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest at a police checkpoint outside a courthouse. Six officers were wounded, but the bomber was the only person killed in the attack, city police said.
In the northern city of Kirkuk, two civilians were shot dead in a carjacking and two more, including a child, were wounded in crossfire between insurgents and troops at an army checkpoint, Captain Imad Jassim said.
NOTE: A BIG THANKS TO WHISKER FOR PUTTING TOGETHER THE SECURITY INCIDENTS IN IRAQ AND FORWARDING THEM TO ME.
REPORTS – DAILY LIFE IN IRAQ
Fuel prices in Iraq have reached peak levels – with gasoline costing approximately $6 per gallon. The costs of diesel, liquid propane gas used for cooking, and kerosene have risen to levels totally disproportionate to Iraqi’s incomes – having a huge impact on day to day life for regular people. Many people in Baghdad have abandoned their cars – even selling them. Those who can afford to buy gas go through extreme frustration to get it – sometimes waiting all night in endless lines to fill up their tanks – or are forced to buy gas on the black market at extremely inflated prices. Meantime, the costs for taxis and the mini buses - widely used by Iraqis - have risen dramatically, too. For example, two months ago the bus fare used to be 500 Iraqi dinars or about 33 cents. Then a month ago the minibus drivers raised their fares to about 50 cents; now the drivers are charging about 67 cents.
Elsewhere, the major problem for people remains electricity. The state power supply average is just four hours a day! That’s been my personal experience in my neighborhood and the same goes across Baghdad from what I’ve gathered chatting with people on gas lines and elsewhere. That means that most Iraqis are left relying on private generators in their neighborhoods to get power – and forced to pay whatever the owners of the generators are charging. It used to cost about $5.40 per ampere, or unit of electricity, per month - the average Iraqi family requires at least 10 amperes a month per housing unit. Now, owners of the power generators are charging almost double – about $10 a month per ampere. Many people can’t afford to pay that much each month. Others are forced to accept the costs because they know very well that they have no choice: either tolerate the nearly intolerable heat in August or pay. Some generators owners have even stopped supplying power saying that the $10 per ampere doesn’t even cover their costs.
Iraq's local police are at the bottom of a ladder where corruption skims off money for even the most basic needs, from bullets to gasoline. Some policemen have to take money from their own pockets to buy their uniforms on the black market, because higher-ups have stolen and sold them.
Iraqi inflation soared last month in a clear symptom of economic ill-health, the Central Bank of Iraq said yesterday, warning the country was sinking into "stagflation" as violence choked business activity. "The consumer price index, as a measure of inflation, recorded an increase of nearly 70 per cent by the end of July 2006 compared to the same month in 2005," the central bank said. Consumer prices rose 52.5pc in the year to June and the acceleration highlights wider problems in a country ravaged by sectarian and insurgent bloodshed, which US officers have warned could topple Iraq into a civil war. Lifting growth is a priority of the Shi'ite-led government of Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki, which blames poverty and unemployment for swelling the ranks of the insurgency. But progress since he took office in May has been slow. Ordinary Iraqis have been particularly hard-hit by rising black market petrol prices. This has added to the misery of stifling summer heat, since most homes rely on fuel-powered generators for their electricity to run air conditioning.
An increasing number of anaemia cases among children and women countrywide is being tackled by the Iraqi government and the United Nations by supplying flour fortified with iron and folic acid as part of monthly food rations. “Rates of anaemia have risen considerably recently in Iraqi society but especially among children. This project aims to reverse this increasing problem,” said Osama Abdul-Aziz, director of the Nutrition Research Institute. According to Abdul-Aziz, 60 percent of students in primary schools and 79 percent of women at childbearing age in Basra governorate have anaemia. Meanwhile, 50 percent of pregnant women in the capital, Baghdad, have the disorder. Iraqis consume an average of up to 223g of flour per person per day and it is the main item in the monthly food ration programme offered to 28 million people countrywide. The nationwide project of flour fortification is supported by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the Canada-based Micronutrients Initiative (MI) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
IRAQI SECURITY ISSUES
Al-Zaman says that the US military has concluded that there are 20 militias openly operating in Iraq, and that dealing with them is the business of the Iraqi government. (Typically "militias" refers to armed Shiite groups, most of whom are at least nominally allied with parties that support the government. Sunni such groups are typically instead referred to as "insurgents," and the US is actively fighting those.) The same report says that Shaikh Mahmud al-Hasani, the stridently anti-Iranian and anti-American Shiite cleric, has accused unnamed parties of being behind the arrest of his followers among seminary students at the Imam Sadiq Seminary in Karbala last week. He called on the Iraqi government and parliament to open an investigation into the incident. (Karbala authorities maintain that they raided an arms depot being maintained by al-Hasani's followers).
The level of violence in Baghdad has fallen sharply since July thanks to troop reinforcements and the new government's efforts to reconcile warring Shi'ites and Sunnis, Iraq's national security adviser said on Tuesday. Mowaffaq al-Rubaie insisted that the sectarian and insurgent bloodshed that has seized Iraq was not a civil war, a description U.S. President George W. Bush's administration has strenuously avoided in the face of mounting casualties. "This is absolutely not a civil war," Rubaie told Reuters in an interview during a visit to Japan. "Al Qaeda tried for that for three years and failed miserably. But it has created a crack between Shias and Sunnis." [This would be good news, if it is true. – dancewater]
A massive wave of sectarian violence engulfed several districts of Baghdad yesterday. The violence was sparked by news reports of sniper attacks against Shi’ite pilgrims heading to the shrine of Imam Musa Al-Kadhim in Kadhimiya to commemorate his death anniversary. When the news had spread, armed members of ‘popular committees’ (militias) accompanying the pilgrims opened fire against residences in some Sunni districts surrounding Kadhimiya. Others took over Sunni mosques in Sulaikh, Dola’I, and Palestine Street, and reprisals were reported from several areas of Baghdad.
In the Dola’I neighbourhood, just south of Kadhimiya, gunmen occupied the Du’at Al-Islam mosque and kidnapped the Imam, Sheikh Hassan Ali Yassin, and two guards who were in the mosque. Their battered corpses were found later. Fierce clashes were reported at Sarrafiya, which is where most pilgrims arriving from Sadr City and eastern districts of Baghdad cross the Tigris to Kadhimiya. Al-Sharqiya TV reported that gunmen in official Iraqi security vehicles stormed into residences at the nearby Waziriya district. The Islamic Party claimed that three Sunni families, including women and children, near the Talei'a theatre, were all slaughtered by the attackers, until American troops arrived at the scene and forced the militiamen to flee. Gunmen also attacked the Al-Janabi and Al-Quds mosque at Palestine Street, and parliament members, of the Accord front, complained that several districts and suburbs of Baghdad were attacked. A camp for displaced Sunni families at Hayy Al-Ma’alif in southern Baghdad was also attacked. Fighting was also reported at Bub Al-Sham, Binouk, Hurriya, Dora, Hayy Al-Mechanic, Shurta Al-Khamisa, Fadhl, Wathba Square, Jisr Diyala and Madain. The heaviest fighting took place at Sulaikh, which also lies near a main route for Shi’ite pilgrims commuting to Kadhimiya from the Sha’ab district and from suburbs north of Baghdad. Residents and eyewitnesses said the attackers came in vehicles, in open violation of the vehicle ban, at 8 am and started firing against civilians and the Al-Sada Al-Ni'aim and the Shaheed Sabri mosques. Mortar rounds from the nearby Sha'ab district also targeted the neighbourhood. In fact most of yesterday’s violence occurred around the main routes of pilgrims to Kadhimiya, as you can see here (image at the link). Militiamen were openly touting weapons in Baghdad yesterday, under the noses of Iraqi security forces that were deployed to enforce the ban on vehicles. The subtle line between Iraqi security forces and, supposedly, outlawed militias is increasingly being blurred.
Kuwait summoned an Iraqi envoy on Wednesday to express dismay over a border shooting incident this week by "armed elements" in Iraq on a Kuwaiti border patrol, state media said. Kuwaiti security sources said unidentified gunmen in Iraq had opened fire randomly at a Kuwaiti border patrol on Monday. In a meeting with Iraqi charge d'affaires Hamid al-Shrayfi, state news agency KUNA quoted Acting Foreign Undersecretary Ambassador Mohammad al-Roumi as saying he "hoped some elements would not be given the chance to engage in acts detrimental to the good relations between the two fraternal countries". Last year, hundreds of Iraqi demonstrators scuffled with border guards while demonstrating against Kuwait building a steel security barrier, saying it was damaging their property.
Izzedine Mohammed Hassan Majid was once a valued source of information on his former boss and first cousin, Saddam Hussein. Ousted from the army after being linked to an abortive coup in 1992, Majid — a nephew of the notorious Ali Hassan Majid, or Chemical Ali — used his contacts in the Iraqi military and Sunni Arab tribes to supply intelligence to U.S., British and Jordanian spies, said his wife and a former Jordanian security official. But instead of basking in triumph over Hussein's overthrow, the 47-year-old has spent the last 21 months languishing in various U.S.-controlled prisons in Iraq. American officials, citing Geneva Convention restrictions, won't talk about his case. But friends, family and the former security official fear Izzedine Mohammed Hassan Majid is the victim of a bureaucratic mess they say is all too common today in Iraq, where suspects may be detained on unsubstantiated charges and held indefinitely as their cases wend their way through layers of paperwork. Majid was a major in Hussein's Republican Guard until he, his brother Hussein Kamal Majid and others turned against the regime and became involved in the 1992 coup attempt. His brother was executed after the incident, and Hussein purged the military of 1,500 officers, including Majid. The Tikrit-born military officer became a rising star in the Iraqi opposition, along with U.S. favorites Ahmad Chalabi and Iyad Allawi. But unlike Chalabi or Allawi, Majid vehemently opposed the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, instead advocating a coup. Still, he returned to Iraq in the autumn of 2004 to help persuade fellow Sunnis to take part in the Jan. 30, 2005, parliamentary elections, his wife said. He was detained by U.S. soldiers at a checkpoint near Fallouja in November 2004. Majid was publicly accused by Allawi, then interim prime minister, of stealing millions of dollars and backing the insurgency. But he was never charged, leading family and friends to believe his arrest was aimed at keeping him out of politics. "The worst part is that he's stuck in there with all the people who killed his family," said a recently released Palestinian American businessman who befriended Majid while at the prison, where the U.S. citizen was held without charge for nearly nine months.
THE TRIAL AND PRIOR IRAQI-AMERICAN HISTORY
The trial of Saddam Hussein on charges of genocide moved into its second day on Tuesday with testimony from two Iraqi Kurds who described military bombing campaigns and poison gas attacks in 1987 that killed families, wiped out livestock and razed mountain villages. Their stories began what is expected to be a lengthy series of first-hand accounts by dozens of Kurdish victims of the Iraqi government attacks in 1987 and 1988. In addition to the conventional bombs and fiery napalm canisters dropped on villages from Iraqi military jets and helicopters [Let us not remember where those helicopters came from. – dancewater], the witnesses also described watching other, quieter bombs explode well above the ground and spew green or black smoke that smelled of garlic or spoiled fruit. “Just as if you put an apple in a plastic bag for a long time,” said the day’s first witness, Ali Mostafa Hama, from the Kurdish village of Balasan. Mr. Hussein and his co-defendants maintain that the campaign was military in nature, supporting Iraqi troops trying to suppress Kurdish militias that were backed by Iran. But prosecutors charge that the campaign, which Mr. Hussein’s government code-named Anfal, after a Koranic phrase that refers to “the spoils of war,” killed at least 50,000 Kurds and destroyed some 2,000 villages. Many Iraqi Kurds, though, believe the attacks killed more than 150,000 people. [No mention of UN resolutions against Saddam for these actions, and no mention of what country voted down such resolutions, and no mention of how the US supplied the helicopters used either. Down the memory hole! – dancewater]
I have terrible news! I previously reported here and here that—as Saddam's trial for the genocidal Anfal campaign against the Kurds begins—the Memory Hole was functioning perfectly, with no references whatsoever in the U.S. press to Reagan's efforts to cover up what was happening and give Saddam political cover. However, I'm extremely sorry to say we have suffered a major malfunction, with Hole efficiency falling to 99.86%.
Believe me, we take this breakdown as seriously as you do, and will be working 24/7 to repair it and crush those responsible.
Saddam Hussein's trial for genocide against the Kurds was adjourned on Wednesday for three weeks until September 11, the court said. The former Iraqi leader and six co-defendants are accused of slaughtering tens of thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq during a seven-month campaign in 1988.
The number of U.S. troops in Iraq has climbed back to 138,000, driven up in part by the need to control the escalating violence in Baghdad and the decision to delay the departure of an Alaska-based Army brigade. The increase comes as the U.S. Marine Corps is preparing to order thousands of its troops to active duty in the first involuntary recall since the early days of the war. No more than 2,500 Marines will be recalled at any one time, but there is no cap on the total number who may be forced back into service in the coming years as the military helps fight the war on terror. The call-ups will begin in the next few months, and most of the Marines are expected to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. Troop levels in Iraq had been declining, from about 138,000 for much of last year to a low of about 127,000 earlier this summer, amid growing calls from Congress and the public for a phased withdrawal. Part of the latest increase is due to the overlap of units that are currently moving in and out of Iraq. But much of it comes from the decision late last month to delay the departure of the 172nd Stryker Brigade for four months. The brigade had served its one-year deployment and was beginning to head home to Alaska, but was instead ordered into Baghdad.
Militias blamed for much of the sectarian violence that has pitched Iraq towards civil war may have melted back into the population to escape a major security crackdown, a U.S. military commander acknowledged on Wednesday. "The militias are within the people. They blend in with the people. It is very difficult to identify them when they lay down their arms," Colonel Michael Shields told reporters in Baghdad. He was responding to questions about the relatively low number of arrests and weapons seized during a two-week-old operation to stem a surge in violence between majority Shi'ites and minority Sunnis that has killed thousands in recent months. The possibility that the operation, which has focused on the most volatile districts of Baghdad, had simply displaced death squads to other areas was also "a concern", he said. U.S. and Iraqi forces have been going street by street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood searching houses for weapons and suspects in a make-or-break operation to restore stability. But there have been no major confrontations with any militants so far. Military analysts had warned at the start of the operation that insurgents and militias could simply disperse, hide their weapons and try to wait out U.S. forces. "We did a good job of isolating the neighbourhoods. Could some individuals have fled the area? Of course," said Shields, who commands the 172nd Stryker Brigade, at a briefing at Camp Liberty military base in western Baghdad. [And some members of the militias are also, no doubt, members of the Iraqi security forces – who get the word out that the US-Iraqi forces are visiting the neighborhood. – dancewater]
OPINION: US Foreign Policy Experts Do 180 And Now Believe Sky May Well Be Blue
What's going on in Iraq? Let's check in with Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack: The debate is over: By any definition, Iraq is in a state of civil war... Welcome to the new "new Middle East" -- a region where civil wars could follow one after another, like so many Cold War dominoes. And unlike communism, these dominoes may actually fall. In other news, we're just weeks away from the 4th anniversary of the publication of Pollack's book The Threatening Storm. I wonder how it's holding up? Let's read page 268: “imagine how different the Middle East and the world would be if a new Iraqi state were stable, prosperous, and a force for progress in the region, not a source of violence and instability. Imagine if we could rebuild Iraq as a model of what a modern Arab state could be, showing the frustrated and disenfranchised of the Arab world what they should be trying to fashion. Imagine if there were a concrete symbol demonstrating that America seeks to help the Arab world rather than repress. Invading Iraq might not just be our least bad alternative, it potentially could be our best course of action.”
Yes...just imagine! By the way, this was Pollack's explanation of why Saddam was so dangerous: “[Saddam's] own determination to interpret geopolitical calculations to suit what he wants to believe anyway lead him to construct bizarre scenarios that he convinces himself are highly likely.”
PEACE ACTION: Take the voters’ peace pledge. "I will not vote for or support any candidate for Congress or President who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq, and preventing any future war of aggression, a public position in his or her campaign."
The above post was also put on my blog News about Iraq. Here are some articles from earlier this week that may be of interest:
My dear friends, I have been in Baghdad for three weeks, it looks not three weeks but it looks like years. The situation is so bad. Not safe at all. Baghdad looks like graveyard of hell. The US military close all the streets -- no cars pass through. No one can go from city to city in Baghdad. No people go to work for 4 or 5 days. The tanks everywhere and the police cars in front of every street and the fear in all eyes from the USA military and the police. Also from the killers and the thieves. The weather is too hot: my skin burns and hurts me so much because of the sun and the heat. The killing everywhere; it's the real hell. Before 5 days three women [were] kidnapped in front of the people and no one helped them in Al Karada, I heard. The people talked about the kidnappers, how they took the girl to the car holding guns, and how they were sorry that they couldn't help. Also there were police cars near the accident but they are also scared to help. What kind of freedom or democracy that Bush gave to Iraq or the midle east? Baghdad is like hell in the day and the dark in the night, no electric, no good water. Every thing is expensive more than you imagine. (It is like Death Valley in US, maybe worse.) I don't know how the people can stand [by]. [T]he government [with] supporting the Congress of USA [is] killing the Iraqis, slowly way. Many children killed by the weather and the poverty, and no Ciyrosin (oil) for cars. The taxi took more the 10 Dollars to pick one to 10 miles. It is horrible situation here.
I wish the reason of not writing a new post that I was busy with my lessons, or I was busy with Aya and Ayman. But it's not. Right now I concider myself half human. All days are the same, it just like the other days.. repeating itself, Woke up early, took my breakfast and study and study and study till my course's time came,after that I'll go to have it and then get back and study AGAIN. the Same program is running in my life and I accept it if that doesn't mean the killing, bombing and stealing will go on too. I spent a very bad and hard days since I wrote my last post. The situations is deteriorating rapidly, I don't know from where I should start, many things happened I can't number them. but here are some examples:
My dad went to his work with my sister, Aya was with them in the car, and my dad was driving when they heard the sound of few bullets towards the soldiers' tank. the tanks was in front of my father's car in the other direction of the road. My father's car was not the only car there. Anyway after the shooting stop. The soldiers got crazy as they always did. They ordered the people who sit inside the cars to get out and put their hand on their head as the soldiers' order. The soldiers throw out everything from my father's pocket. My father asked the soldiers to send Aya and her mother to the car because it was too hot. They didn't even try to listen to him, they shouted loudly and didn't accept to hear a word. In the moment the Iraqi police told my sister that she can go to the car and she have to keep the doors open. My sister sat on the car with my little niece Aya who was shouting for getting my father back, crying probobly because she was thirsty. My sister fear to move her hand and open her bag and get the water from it, you don't guess the soldiers reaction about that. She stayed in her place thinking of my father, what is he thinking on that moment, what is he feeling, is he thirsty, she was worried about his state because my father had a hard attack and it's not good for normal people to be in that situation so what about a 60-year-old man. She was cursing them silently. What a humiliation to a respectful man. The situation continued for an hour and a half but for some people like my sister it seems like a year. When he returned back to the home, Dad said nothing at all, my sister said "you didn't know what happened to us today!" my father said "nothing". She told the story and my father didn't comment, trying not to make us worried, picking the glass and drinking the water as he always do. It just needs a strong man like my father to forget it, I am not a man and I am not strong. When the danger is around me, my family or around my friend I can't sit watching. It's not war against Saddam or against the terror only; it's a war against us, it's a psychological war.
To live or not to live this is the question.
[This was written by a teenage girl in Mosul. It is hard to find decent words to say to those who are responsible for creating such a situation in her home town. It is hard to realize that Americans created this hell for her, and while I tried to stop it, my tax dollars are still funding it. It is hard to be an American anymore, due to overwhelming shame from this horror the Bush administration created in Iraq. – dancewater]
Mohamed Jassim, 45, teacher, Falluja: The high cost of living is the major problem for my family since we returned to Falluja on 25 December this year, when the US forces decided to allow us to return to our homes. My salary which is about 300,000 Iraqi dinars ($200; £107) is not sufficient to provide for the basic needs of my family. I now provide for 11 people. The price of a single gas cylinder is 17,000 dinars while the price of 20 litres of petrol - the amount needed to operate the home generators for a month due to frequent power cuts - is 115,000 dinars. Just imagine how life is in a house with a large family where there is no electricity, especially when the temperature become so high in summer time. To make matters worse, this family has small children and students who are preparing for upcoming exams. The drinking water is so bad, it's not fit for animals. The water and electricity network works only between one to two hours a day. Healthcare is not good in Falluja either. The local hospitals are short of anaesthetic. A doctor has asked one family of a patient to fetch some from Baghdad. The communications network is hardly functioning. Sometimes I have to leave Falluja to make a phone call. The trip may take two hours. Leaving and getting back into Falluja requires a special authorisation.
Rawa Abdel Khaleq, 25, housewife, Samarra: There are checkpoints everywhere. Explosions may occur at any time of the day. The US military conducts campaigns in the city on a regular basis. The worse thing is that curfews are imposed for several days running. Last month, the US and Iraqi forces imposed curfews three times. In one instance, a curfew was imposed for an entire week. Because of this many of the main market's traders have moved to other parts of Iraq. Consequently, the residents could not buy the food they need, and are forced to consume their stored supplies. My father, who works for a drugs company, supports a family of seven people. When the curfews are imposed, he cannot go to work. Likewise, my brothers and sisters cannot go to their schools and universities. We don't feel any sense of security.
Walid Khalid, 36, trader, Samarra: My small business has folded due to the deteriorating situation in Samarra. Checkpoints are everywhere. Sporadic explosions made movement inside and outside the city difficult. This applies to most of the city. Though Samarra is mostly an agricultural city, its farmers cannot take their crops to Baghdad to sell. Consequently, a significant number of Samarra residents have already emigrated but they could not go to Baghdad whose residents hold them accountable for the bombing of the shrine of the two imams. We are not afraid of sectarian violence - I'm a Sunni - as promoted by the media outlets. But we are concerned about the harsh living conditions we are living in. The Shia shrine which blown up in February has been in Samarra for 1,200 years. At the same time, the Sunnis who are the majority in the city, have always maintained good relations with the Shia. Why was the shrine blown up now? Why have the sectarian problems surfaced only now? I think regional and foreign powers have attempted to trigger a sectarian war in Iraq. Things will not improve in the foreseeable future.
Raghed was under great stress from her cancer treatment and her doctors were very worried about her, said Bassima Jua'ad, oncologist at the Cancer Radiation Hospital. But since the group of students started to offer entertainment, Raghed improved rapidly, Jua'ad said. "This improvement does not mean that she will be cured instantaneously, but it has helped with the treatment," Jua'ad said. Laughter improves health because it reduces the depression and stress that can suppress the immune system, Jua'ad said. The trauma of staying in the dull rooms of the hospital contributes to the bleak outlook of patients, but the entertainers bring a bit of light to the children, Jua'ad said. It's a tough audience, but the troupes stay until they see the children break out in big smiles. They give sweets and sometimes kites and dolls to the children. The group gets no financial support from the government or from local organisations, but pays the costs from their own pockets and from the donations of their families. "Unfortunately in Iraq today, with the current lack of security, people are not so involved with arts and culture because they are afraid to go out to the streets," said Khalid Adnan, a member of the student group and in the last year of the arts college. "Many extremists started to see theatre and dance as a sin against Islam." The dangers have stopped some Iraqis from going to jobs and school, but not Adnan. "We decided not to stay in our homes waiting for the day that Iraq will get better," he said. "Instead, we decided to go to help people who need this art to survive - and for sure Iraqi kids are the ones most in need of smiles." According to the Ministry of Health, about 52 percent of all cancer patients in Iraq are children under 5. Some 6,000 new cancer cases are reported every year. Health officials blame some of the cancer increase on the depleted uranium used in bombs during the war. Besides feeling better and healing faster, some of the children now can imagine a future: to leave the hospital bed and one day join the world of the arts, theatre and circus. "I want to be a clown when I grow up, because the most beautiful thing is to see people laughing," said 8-year-old Hussein Dua'a.
Since October 2005, some 38 lawyers in Iraq have been killed, many of whom were defending women's rights. IRIN News, a United Nations humanitarian news and information service, reports that at least 120 lawyers have fled to surrounding countries since January because of the threats to their safety. Lawyers at special risk for death threats and murder are those who take cases involving violations of Islamic law, such as adultery, so-called honor killings, and cases of women asking for custody of their children. In July, Iraqi lawyer Salah Abdel-Kader was found murdered in his office with a note that read, “This is the price to pay for those who do not follow Islamic laws and defend what is dreadful and dirty,” according to IRIN. He frequently took on cases involving custody disputes and honor killings. The threat of violence has had a chilling effect on lawyers willing to take these cases. “We are afraid and terrified by such killings, and many of my colleagues have stopped accepting such cases — even if it could bring good money — because our lives could be in serious risk,” said Iraqi lawyer Qusay Ahmed, according to IRIN News.
Dozens of former Colombian soldiers deployed in Baghdad as security guards are engaged in a pay dispute with their employer Blackwater, a US private military company contracted in Iraq by the State Department. The dispute erupted in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone after 35 Colombians learned that their salaries amounted to a quarter of the $4,000 (€3,120, £2,126) they allege they were offered by recruitment agents in Bogotá acting for Blackwater. Mostly seasoned counter-insurgency troops, the Colombians allege that they were given their contracts barely hours before departing Bogotá or en route to Iraq and only then realised that they would be paid $34 per day. "We were tricked by the company into believing we would make much more money," one former Colombian army captain, who asked not to be identified and who returned from Iraq two weeks ago, told the Financial Times. The 35 Colombians stationed in the Green Zone jointly signed and sent a letter to Blackwater on June 9, a copy of which was obtained by the FT, demanding they receive a salary of $2,700 a "in line with their compatriots", or be repatriated. Because Americans and Britons usually earn salaries in the order of $10,000 in Iraq, the much lower pay offered to Colombians is likely to prompt accusations of exploitation and discrimination, one US security consultant said.
More than 500 Iraqi men have joined the police in restive Anbar province — a focal point of the Sunni Arab insurgency — in the most successful recruiting drive in the region by U.S. and Iraqi forces, the U.S. military said Tuesday. U.S. Marines screened thousands of applicants earlier this month in various regions along the western Euphrates River valley before shortlisting the recruits for the Anbar police force, said a statement by the U.S. command. The recruitment of more than 500 police cadets is a significant achievement in the American goal, but desertion rate remains high among the Iraqi army and police force, often because the foot soldiers don't get paid in time or get fatigued by the ongoing fighting. If all 500 new applicants stay with the force after the training period, which last from eight to 10 weeks, Anbar will have more than 2,200 police officers in uniform, the statement said. [But how many of them are infiltrators? – dancewater]
The American soldier comes from America. He left his country, his family, his children, his wife. He cannot see them, maybe six months or more. This is very big problem because they are men.... The mujahideen, [we] can [leave] our homes for 20 minutes, hit the American soldier, and come back home. So we [have fought] continuously now three years, and we can continue 10 years or more. But Americans cannot continue one year. It is impossible. I have maybe 2,000 mujahideen in all Iraq, in all towns.... If I divide this into groups of 20, I have 100 groups. So this means I have 100 operations in a week. So in a month I have 400 operations. So if in every operation I kill only 2 soldiers, I kill 800 soldiers in a month. So [President] Bush is very tired because of this number of operations ... so we are sure that the American army cannot continue in Iraq. When the American army took me they hit me. They hit me all over my body. They took my money.... The problem is how the American soldiers are dealing with the people. Why [does the] American government say the mujahideen are terrorists? Sometimes when we try to hit the American soldier, or Iraqi soldier, sometimes we kill women and children in this operation. We don't want to kill the women or children, but this is war.... Allah judges people, asking you, 'How did you deal with the people, the wife, and with Jill Carroll?'
The negotiations between the Iraqi oil ministry and Basra oil pipes company workers resulted in the end of the workers' strike and a ministry promise to meet the strikers' demands, a spokesman for workers said on Tuesday. "The negotiations between the Iraqi oil minister advisor, Kadhem al-Yaqoobi, and representatives of the strikers led to a promise by the ministry to meet the workers' demands and to the end of the strike by the workers," said Qassim Abbod, a Basra oil pipes company worker. The workers are to give the ministry a chance till Sunday to implement the strikers' demands otherwise "the company workers will strike again if their demands are not met by Sunday," threatened Abbod. The workers of oil pipes company in Basra went on Tuesday on a strike that led to cut off the delivery of oil products to Baghdad and stopped exports of black oil, oil refinery byproduct, as of Tuesday early morning protesting a delay in receiving their payments and pressing for an increase in salary and a payment of annual allowances.
Anti-U.S. rebels are fighting pitched battles with Iraqi forces in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. The guerrillas are now almost in total control of half of Mosul on the left bank of the Tigris River. Residents say the fighters have boosted their presence on the right bank in the hope of having the whole city for themselves. U.S. troops, following a short intervention, have withdrawn from the city and Iraqi troops are finding it extremely hard to have the resistance under control. The city’s left bank is now as lawless as some of the most restive neighborhoods of Baghdad such as Dora where Iraqi troops, assisted by U.S. marines, are striving to bring under control but to no avail. Kidnappings and killings have increased dramatically in the city. The violence is mainly aimed at the Kurdish, Christian and Shiite minorities as the city is predominantly Sunni Arab. The city’s five bridges are closed to traffic to prevent movement by guerrillas from one city flank to another. But the closure is also hampering Iraqi troops’ logistic effort. Iraqi security and police personnel on the left bank have all but abandoned their positions and even uniform. Even the well armed and entrenched Kurdish peshmerga (fighters) can now hardly protect themselves and there are reports that the Kurds are mulling abandoning the city. The guerrillas have blown up the well guarded offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, President Jalal Talabani’s faction, which has one of the best trained and armed militias in the country.
Many Iraqis are wary of Tehran’s growing influence in southern Iraq and demonstrations are reported in several cities urging the authorities to take immediate measures to halt Iranian meddling. Since the U.S. 2003 invasion, Iran has established a firm foot in the region, bolstering its allies and their militias with money and arms. Iranian influence so conspicuous that in several cities such as Najaf, Kerbala and Basra Persian is steadily replacing Arabic as the official language. Major Shiite political factions and their powerful militias are pro-Iran. So are several senior Shiite clerics, particularly those of Iranian origin. But despite Tehran’s increasing influence, there are still many, among them a few high-ranking clergy, who now publicly show their discontent with the Iranian presence in the south. Some of these clerics have large following in Baghdad and other southern cities and are apparently coordinating efforts to counter-balance the pro-Iran camp. Their supporters went to the streets last week, accusing Iran of fomenting sectarian strife and using its agents to stifle opposition to its presence in the country. One of the organizers, Abdulzahra al-Maamouri, said there was “an atmosphere of terror” in southern Iraq. “We are always under threat. Iranian intelligence agents are in full control and would like everybody including clerics opposing them to shut up.
Iraq’s vicious circle of violence has no limitations of time and geography. It stretches from Mosul in the north to Basra in the south and engulfs the cities, towns and villages in between, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. It pays no heeds to the series of military campaigns and security plans. There are some who would say the violence in Iraq is bound to come to an end one day. But that day may not come because in the midst of Iraqi chaos there are of fighters of all colors and hues but no signs fighters for peace. There are armed men who are prepared to fight for their sects, political factions and ethnic minorities. But there are no men in the country ready to fight for peace. In the years since the U.S. invasion, the country has bred all kinds of violence. Iraqi fighters or gangsters have mastered unprecedented skills of murder, kidnapping and killing. The authorities, whether Iraqis or occupiers, have deliberately closed all doors for the emergence of a peace group in the country. In other words the violence plays into their hands.