Friday, December 29, 2006


PHOTO: Residents hold banners condemning the killing of Saheb al-Amiri, a senior Sadrist official, during a demonstration in Kufa, about 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad December 29, 2006. Iraqi officials in the city of Najaf said on Thursday that a raid which killed a top aide of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was a violation of the deal that transferred U.S. control of Najaf to the Iraqi army. The banner reads 'The people of Kufa condole the death of Saheb al-Amiri.' REUTERS/Ali Abu Shish (IRAQ) [Story about this man below. – dancewater]

Security Incidents for December 29, 2006

BASRA - A British patrol was hit by a blast south of Basra and one British soldier was slightly wounded, Captain Olly Pile said.

KHALIS - A suicide bomber killed 10 people and wounded 11 near a Shi'ite mosque in the town of Khalis, 80 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

RAMADI - The U.S. military said gunmen shot a policeman and a woman and wounded three others, including two children, when they attacked their home in Ramadi on Wednesday. A U.S. statement said Iraqi police later arrested 13 suspects.

BAGHDAD - U.S. forces killed two suspected insurgents and wounded two civilians in a raid on an al Qaeda target in Baghdad on Friday, the U.S. military said. A U.S. statement said its forces "regret the injuries the local nationals sustained".

JURF AL-SAKHAR - Gunmen attacked a police checkpoint in Jurf al-Sakhar, 85 km (53 miles) south of Baghdad, killing two and wounding seven, a police source said.

BASRA – A British soldier was killed when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

BAGHDADUS troops killed four people and destroyed explosives and two buildings in Thar Thar. Two more were killed and two captured and two wounded in a separate raid in Baghdad. A cache of AK-47s were seized in that raid.

Bring ‘em on: Seven US troops were killed on Christmas Day, six on the day after and nine on Wednesday. I really don’t know which ones were mentioned on this blog already, since it is nearly impossible to keep straight when the US Department of Defense waits days to announce they were dead – and some announcements in the press does not mention a name. There is one reported death yesterday of US troops and one report of a UK troops killed today. I have no doubt those numbers will go up. Please click the link to see the entire list of coalition deaths.

Security Incidents from earlier this week, translated from Iraqi Press:

BAGHDAD - The Iraqi Christian website Ankawa.com reports that "fundamentalist religious groups" kidnapped five civilians and killed three others who were selling Christmas trees and decorations in the districts of Karrada, Arasat and Ghadeer in Baghdad, Wednesday and Thursday.

BAGHDAD - The Ebaa Agency reports through eyewitness accounts that five civilians were wounded in clashes Wednesday between American troops and Mahdi Army militiamen in the Ubaidi district, northeast of Baghdad. American forces, supported by armored vehicles and helicopters, had cordoned the districts of Ubaidi, Kamaliya and Orfeli, east of Sadr City yesterday and were searching for weapons, according to locals. There were nighttime clashes until early Wednesday morning at the nearby Habibiya district.

BAGHDAD - Islam Memo adds that American troops detained nine gunmen in police uniforms who were manning a fake checkpoint near the Rashad police station in the Mashtal district, northeast of Baghdad.

BAGHDAD - The Shi'ite districts of Kadhimiya and Amil were bombed with mortars, according to the Buratha News Agency. The agency also reported violent nighttime clashes near the main street separating the mixed districts of Sahha, Abu Dshir and Mechanic in Dora, south of Baghdad, between whom it described as "popular committees" and "terrorists." The Islam Memo website, on the other hand, described the incident as an attempt by Mahdi Army militiamen to occupy the mosques of Ibrahim Al-Khaleel, Al-Radhwan and Al-Fanyan in Saidiya and Dora.

BAGHDAD - Haqq Agency reported that militants in the Sunni district of Adhamiya beheaded a man who was purportedly one of the perpetrators of the car bomb explosion in Adhamiya, near the Imam Abu Hanifa Mosque yesterday. The militants brought their victim to the main market square near the mosque and announced to people that he was responsible for the bombing and then proceeded to decapitate him in public. A statement on the Iraq News Network by the National Front for the Liberation of Iraq described the suspect as a citizen of Sadr City, named Abdul Amir Jassim Al-Sa'idi, who carried a SCIRI ID. The statement added that the suspect's wife, who was captured with him, was still being interrogated.

MUQDADIYA - Buratha News also posts eyewitness accounts [ of….] sectarian clashes have been taking place for the fifth day in a row [in areas around this town]. Sources say that armed groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Iraq have been waging war against the mixed village of Abu Saida with mortars, RPGs and machine guns to kick out the few remaining Shia families there. Residents said the police force and MNF have not interfered so far.

IN COUNTRY - Security incidents in Iraq, according to Interior and Defense Ministry sources: 1- 51 corpses with signs of torture and gun wounds were uncovered in different parts of Baghdad. 2- Five explosions in Baghdad killed 20 people and injured 67 others. 3- Gunmen attacked police positions in the mixed Saidiya district, with no news of casualties. 4- Four civilians were wounded from a roadside bomb explosion targeting a police patrol in Mosul, north of Iraq. 5- Three policemen and two civilians were wounded from a roadside bomb explosion at the Camp Sarah district, east of Baghdad. 6- Unknown gunmen attacked a bus carrying employees of the Ministry of Higher Education, wounding two people at Yarmouk, west of Baghdad. 7- Three Iraqi soldiers were wounded in a roadside bomb explosion at Suwaira, 40 km southeast of Baghdad. 8- Iraqi Army forces killed 33 militants and captured 39 others in different parts of the country. 9- Gunmen killed a policeman in Kut, southeast of Baghdad. 10- Three unidentified corpses with signs of torture and gun wounds were discovered in Basrah. 11- Three decapitated corpses were found near Muqdadiya, northeast of Baghdad.

Another one from Al Jazeera:

RAMADI - The US military said gunmen shot a policeman and a woman and wounded three others, including two children, when they attacked their home in Ramadi on Wednesday. A US statement said Iraqi police later arrested 13 suspects.


Review of the Year: Iraq Tears Itself Apart

In Samarra, nobody was killed by the explosion itself, though it wrecked the great golden dome of the shrine. But the attack led to a Shia onslaught on Sunni Arabs. Shia restraint, already close to breaking point, finally gave way after more than two years of bombs aimed at army and police recruits, who were mostly Shia, as well as at purely civilian targets. Within days, 1,300 people, mostly Sunni, were dead. People caught in the wrong areas at the wrong time were dragged from their cars and slaughtered. …. Iraq is disintegrating. In areas where there was a mixed population - above all in Baghdad itself - there have been mass killings. After the Samarra bomb, the capital began to divide up into hostile districts, each protected by its own militiamen. The militias themselves became stronger as everybody wanted armed men they could trust at the end of their street. Shia and Sunni families - whichever was in a minority - received letters, often enclosing bullets, telling them to move within 24 hours or be killed. Few dared to stay. By the end of the year, the UN High Commission for Refugees estimated that 1.6 million Iraqis had fled within the country and another 1.8 million had gone abroad, mostly to Jordan and Syria. At one point, an estimated 1,000 people a day were crossing the border into Jordan and a further 2,000 a day into Syria.

“Liberated” Fallujah

A U.S. base in the restive city of Falluja, 55 km west of the capital Baghdad, came under mortar attacks while explosive devices went off near two U.S. patrols in separate incidents in central Falluja, according to a security source on Friday."Six mortar shells were fired at the Falluja train station, used by the U.S. forces as a military base, at 10:00 p.m. on Thursday," the source told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The station was taken by the U.S. troops as a base after the second Falluja battle in November 2004. The station has been rendered defunct ever since.

“Liberated” Kirkuk on Thursday

Iraqi police captured two suspects accused of robbing and kidnapping people on the highway between Kirkuk and Mosul and of stealing their cars. Both men were from the village of Karab Rut near al Hawija and were believed to have kidnapped many civilians and stolen at least nine cars. A roadside bomb exploded near a police patrol in the Ihtifalat district of Kirkuk. The bomb was remotely detonated but caused one reported injury among the police patrol from the Mikdad police station. Three Iraqi police were injured when a roadside bomb exploded near their convoy on the road between Kirkuk and Hawija. Their police car was destroyed and one of the officers was seriously injured.

VIDEO: Alive in Baghdad Christmas Special

Doctor Shortage

So, I'm finally settled down here in my parents' house, have been for almost a week now. Why did I suddenly leave Baghdad? It's actually because I'm expecting my second child in a couple more months, and I'm a bit too spoiled to deliver a child in Baghdad's hospital system. Here's just some info on what the health system is like there now:

When I went back to Baghdad in October, I looked up my old doctor to go see her. She had received a threat from some unknown groups, stopped practicing, and was looking to leave the country. I looked up a few other doctors I knew, and the same story was repeated each time, "Misafra"- 'she's travelling.' I knew of four different young women, all well into their pregnancies, who were receiving no prenatal care, because their doctors had stopped practicing or left the country. One of those women has since given birth to a healthy girl, the other one is expecting any day now. Again, all without any prenatal care. This seems to be the new trend in Baghdad. So many middle-class citizens are leaving the country because of the situation. And so many of these are doctors. Not only are they leaving because of the bombs and kidnappings around them, but because alot of these assassinations and kidnappings are targetting Iraq's educated men and women, especially doctors. It's a sad situation which is leaving people with few choices. Iraq's hospitals, which were in a sad position during the embargo years, seem to have slipped even further into third-world status, with few good doctors sticking around.

The Other Iraq Report

The new report, entitled "Iraq's Sectarian and Ethnic Violence and Evolving Insurgency: Developments through mid-December 2006" is by Anthony H. Cordesman, who holds the Arleigh A. Burke chair in strategy at the center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. The 92-page report was released to none of the media hoopla and obsession that greeted the Iraq Study Group report chaired by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton. But it is even more frank and harsh in its assessments of the current chaos in Iraq than the ISG document. The CSIS report acknowledged what we predicted and then saw confirmed in the fall: that the ill-fated U.S.-led Operation Together Forward II in Baghdad had only made "slow progress in clearing the volatile neighborhoods, and the initiative lacked sufficient forces to maintain peace in cleared areas" "Baghdad was the center of the sectarian conflict, but violence spread to surrounding towns -- particularly Baquba, Balad, and Amara -- as the civil war threatened to engulf the entire country," the report said. Cordesman noted that the United Nations had concluded that by mid-December, sectarian violence was killing 120 Iraqis a day. Back in the spring, we warned that the escalating violence by that point was on schedule to kill more than 30,000 people a year in Iraq., even if things did not get any worse. Cordesman has now confirmed things have gotten worse than that. The U.N. figures he cites mean that even if the current levels of violence in Iraq do not deteriorate further (in fact they show every sign of doing so) 43,800 people will die next year there at the current rates of carnage.

Crisis In Housing Adds to Miseries of Iraq

Along with its many other desperate problems, Iraq is in the midst of a housing crisis that is worsening by the day. It began right after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, when many landlords took advantage of the removal of his economic controls and raised rents substantially, forcing out thousands of families who took shelter in abandoned government buildings and military bases. As the chaos in Iraq grew and the ranks of the jobless swelled, even more Iraqis migrated to squalid squatter encampments. Still others constructed crude shantytowns on empty plots where conditions were even worse. Now, after more than 10 months of brutal sectarian reprisals, many more Iraqis have fled their neighborhoods, only to wind up often in places that are just as wretched in other ways. While 1.8 million Iraqis are living outside the country, 1.6 million more have been displaced within Iraq since the war began. Since February, about 50,000 per month have moved within the country. Shelter is their most pressing need, aid organizations say. Some have been able to occupy homes left by members of the opposing sect or group; others have not been so fortunate. The longer the violence persists, the more Iraqis are running out of money and options.

Sahib al-Aamiri and The Shaheed Allah Foundation

Sahib al-Aamiri was a lawyer who was the the head of the Shaheed Allah [Martyr of God] foundation. He was deeply religious and deeply charitable. Like many who work with the poorest of the poor in Iraq he became a Sadrist and in his personal capacity was active in politics. The key word in the preceding sentence is “personal”. The Shaheed Allah founation is a charity for orphans and the poor it’s not part of the Mehdi Army it is renowned for the charity work it does - particularly for widows, orphans, and street children. So was its director. Moreover contrary to what you’ll read in the Western reports it was not a political organisation. There’s no doubt he was a Sadrist, there’s equally no doubt that a less likely candidate for leading a bomber cell could be found anywhere in Iraq. At 4AM this morning green zone government troops from a unit conspicuously loyal to SCIRI and led by American army of occupation troops burst violently into his home. However who it was who actually shot him dead in front of his wife and children was the American “advisor” in command of the raid. [This killing was reported on 12/27/06. This report came from Gorillas Guides new home on the web. – dancewater]

Killing of al Aamiri Leads to Further Postponement of Iraqi Parliament

The resumption of Iraq's parliament has been delayed by the killing of a senior aide to politically and militarily powerful Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Sahib al-Amiri was killed by a U.S. soldier during a joint raid with Iraqi forces in the southern holy city of Najaf, which infuriated Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Washington Post correspondent reported. ….. That dashed Maliki's hopes of getting the anti-U.S. Sadr to end a parliamentary boycott of his 30 parliamentarians and four Cabinet ministers. Sadr called the boycott last month over Maliki's meeting with U.S. President George Bush in Jordan. The shooting was also embarrassing for the U.S. military, which last month handed over security of Najaf to Iraqi forces in an elaborate ceremony, the Post said. [I rather doubt they were embarrassed and I rather doubt the US “advisor” knew who he was killing or why. – dancewater]

More Troops But Less Control

Under the increasing number of attacks and the escalating chaos, it has apparently become U.S. military policy to bulldoze or bomb houses whenever attacks are launched on their patrols. This is particularly the case in places like Fallujah, Samarra, Siniya, Ramadi and other Sunni dominated areas. Sectarian conflict has roared between Shias and Sunnis, who follow different beliefs within Islam. This year has shown how the U.S. military is dealing with sectarian violence. While it carried out collective punishment in cities like Fallujah and Ramadi, it has ignored Shia death squads. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki leads a Shia-dominated government. Many Sunnis believe the U.S. military has long been favouring Shia politicians and their militias. "They are just pretending they are concerned about sectarian war, and they are trying to convince the world that they are dealing with it seriously," Yassir Mahmood of the Beji city council told IPS. Beji is located 200 km north of Baghdad in an oil-rich area where attacks on U.S. troops are commonplace. Sunnis are concerned how far U.S. forces will take that tilt next year. "They (the U.S. military) lifted their checkpoints around Sadr City in Baghdad saying it was ordered by Maliki," Mahmood said. "Yet, when it comes to our Sunni areas they increased killing of innocent civilians." Most of the victims of death squads are Sunnis, whose bodies are found on the streets of Baghdad every day. Many bodies show signs of torture, particularly holes drilled into them, and wounds and deformation caused by acid.

Snipers Stalk Marine Supply Route in Western Iraq

The mission on the road linking Fallouja to Baghdad could be seen as a microcosm of the Marine mission in Al Anbar: nothing likely to be made into a Hollywood war movie, just a "persistent presence" to wear down the insurgency. But there are moments of adrenalin-pumping drama. On this day, the Marines shot an Iraqi spotted planting a roadside bomb. When Lance Cpl. William Shaw was lifting the wounded Iraqi into a vehicle to be taken to a field hospital, the Marine was shot in the back by a sniper. The round struck the back plate in the flak vest worn by the 22-year-old from Fort Bend, Texas. A few inches lower, and Shaw might have been killed or his spine severed. The explosive ordnance detail was called to examine the bomb. It was fake. Fake bombs are a recent wrinkle in the insurgents' game plan. The strategy, apparently, is to fire at Marines who arrive to neutralize the devices.


Sunni Tribe Warns: Don’t Execute Saddam

The Basrah Network posts a statement by the Al-Bu Farraj tribe in the Anbar governorate, west of Iraq, warning the government from carrying out the death sentence against Saddam Hussein. "If the traitorous government touches one hair of our beloved leader, then they will dream of ever living or moving around Baghdad or passing the highway between Baghdad and Syria and Jordan," said the statement.

Iraq Denies Has Taken Custody of Saddam

Iraq's Justice Ministry denied on Friday that it had taken custody of Saddam Hussein from the U.S. military and said the former president would not be executed for at least a month. Asked about a comment from a defence lawyer that Saddam had been handed over to Iraqi authorities, a senior Justice Ministry official told Reuters: "This is not true. He is still with the Americans." He added that the ministry, which is in charge of punishments, would not execute Saddam before Jan. 26.

Saddam Execution Set to Destabilise Iraq Further

Saddam was convicted last month for ordering the killing of 148 Shias in Dujail town in 1982 in revenge for an assassination attempt against him. He was sentenced to death by hanging. The completion of the nine-month trial that saw 39 court sessions, through which three defence lawyers and a witness were murdered, will most likely inflame Iraq's political divide further. Hashim al-Ubaydi's son was sentenced to death by a 'revolution court' of the Saddam regime. But he is not pleased to see that Saddam Hussein will be executed in the present circumstances. "I was an opponent of Saddam and his policies, but I support putting him through a real national court away from occupation influence. I cannot forgive or forget that my son was executed, but as an Iraqi nationalist I cannot accept to see the president of my country put to trial in such a ridiculous way by invaders and their tails." Many Iraqi leaders say the timing of the trial and execution will enlarge the cracks between already divided Iraqis.

US Transfers Saddam to Iraqi Authorities

Lawyers representing Saddam Hussein reported Friday that the condemned former leader was no longer in U.S. custody and issued an appeal to stop his execution. The physical hand-over of Saddam to Iraqi authorities was believed to be one of the last steps before he was to be hanged, although the lawyers' statement did not specifically say Saddam was in Iraqi hands. "A few minutes ago we received correspondence from the Americans saying that President Saddam Hussein is no longer under the control of U.S. forces," according to the statement faxed to The Associated Press. n Baghdad, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has signed the death sentence against Saddam, a government official said. ...."Our respect for human rights requires us to execute him, and there will be no review or delay in carrying out the sentence," Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in comments released by his office Friday. Al-Maliki said those who oppose the execution of Saddam were insulting the honor of his victims. His office said he made the remarks in a meeting with families of people who died during Saddam's rule.


“I believe everyone, to some extent, is influenced by the militias,” Colonel Miska said. “While some Iraqi security forces may be complicit with the militias, others fear for their families when confronting the militia, and that is the more pervasive threat.” Looking at a map he had his intelligence officers create, which highlights current battle zones and details the changing religious makeup of neighborhoods, Colonel Miska noted just how many different forces, each answering to different bosses, currently occupied the battlefield. “Who would design this mess?” he said. “It is like an orchestra where everyone is playing a different song.” His main focus, he said, is trying to establish some kind of unity of command. As it stands, the police and military answer to different ministries, and within the police force the bureaucracy is divided even further between the regular police and the national police. On top of that are about 145,000 armed men who work as protection detail for the Facilities Protection Services, with minimal oversight, according to United States military officials. There are also thousands of Shiite militia members and Sunni insurgents posing as security forces. Colonel Miska tried to define where American forces fit in the tangle of competing interests, which is only further complicated by the complicity and direct participation of top government officials.

Kurds Crack Down On ‘Islamists’

Kurdish authorities have arrested 30 suspected members of Islamist groups active in the semi-independent Kurdish region in northern Iraq. Many of the suspects were said to be members of Ansar al-Islam, a group whose members are sworn enemies of the Kurdish regional governments in the area. Ansar had their bases in the Province of Sulaimaniya and for long were the Kurds biggest headache. Kurdish leaders had even sought help from former President Saddam Hussein to check their advance on the city. The U.S. bombed their bases during the 2003 war that toppled Saddam Hussein. But Ansar are reported to have remobilized and are said to be now a force to reckon with not only in the north but also in central Iraq.

PM Postpones Government Reshuffle

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has not been able to muster enough support to introduce new changes in his government. Parliamentary blocs have been adamant in their attitude not to give any concession that would have seen a reformed government brought to light this year. Maliki had promised President George Bush during a meeting held in Amman recently that he would form a national unity government as part of efforts to contain terror and violence. The Prime Minister had hoped to have the unity government in place before Bush’s much-awaited for announcement of his new Iraq strategy.

2007 Budget Estimated A $41 Billion

The government has approved the budget for 2007 estimated at $41 billion. The budget is the biggest in the years since the 2003 U.S. invasion due to skyrocketing oil prices. Saffa al-Safi, state minister for parliamentary affairs, said the figures for the 2007 budget “are encouraging in comparison with previous budgets.” One fourth ($10 billion) of the money available for 2007 has been earmarked for development and reconstruction. Allocations for security are the second largest, totaling $7.5 billion. Allocations for education have been doubled to $2.6 billion and there will be a 7% increase for the health sector for which $1.8 billion has been earmarked.

Iraq Expands Diplomatic Ties With World Countries

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs plans to set up 15 new diplomatic missions in 2007. Foreign Minster Hoshyar Zebari said by the end of 2007 Iraq should have nearly 80 embassies across the world. Zebari made the remarks during a meeting with local media representatives in which he also talked about relations with neighboring countries as well as the security situation. He said the government was determined to take up “effective measures” to reinstate security and improve public services.


US Frees Iranians Held In Iraq

“Two of the Iranian diplomats who were detained by the American forces were released this morning in the presence of the Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubai and the Iranian ambassador to Iraq,” Hasan Kazemi Qomi, the report said. It gave no further details. Mr Rubai refused to confirm the releases, saying: “I do not wish to comment on this.” The US military press office in Baghdad referred questions about the Iranians to the office of the secretary of defence in Washington, which did not immediately respond to an inquiry. On Wednesday, military spokesman General William Caldwell said US forces were holding two Iranian nationals detained last week in the Iraqi capital on suspicion of weapons smuggling. “There was an operation on the morning of December 21 based on intelligence. We conducted a raid on a site in Baghdad,” Gen Caldwell said. Ten people were arrested in the raid and “documents, maps, photographs and videos” were seized which, he said, linked them to “illegal activities”. After interrogation it was discovered that two of the 10 were Iranians.

Kidnapping Suspect Seized In Iraq

The US military says Iraqi special forces backed by American advisers have captured an Al Qaeda cell leader believed to be behind the June kidnapping of two US soldiers who were found tortured and dead. A US statement says the man was captured in a raid on Tuesday in Yusifiya, just south of Baghdad. It says he was seen commenting on a video CD, which was played at a mosque, showing the kidnapping of the soldiers.

Reporter Returns to Baghdad

When I was last here in 2005, it took guts and guards, but you could still travel to most anywhere in the capital. Now, there are few true neighborhoods left. They're mostly just cordoned-off enclaves in various stages of deadly sectarian cleansing. Moving trucks piled high with furniture weave through traffic, evidence of an unfolding humanitarian crisis involving hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced Iraqis. The Sunni-Shiite segregation is the starkest change of all, but nowadays it seems like everything in Baghdad hinges on separation. There's the Green Zone to guard the unpopular government from its suffering people, U.S. military bases where Iraqis aren't allowed to work, armored sedans to shield VIPs from the explosions that kill workaday civilians, different TV channels and newspapers for each political party, an unwritten citywide dress code to keep women from the eyes of men. Attempts to bring people together have failed miserably. I attended a symposium called "How to Solve Iraq's Militia Problem," but the main militia representatives never showed up and those of us who did were stuck inside for hours while a robot disabled a car bomb in the parking lot. Then there was the Iraqi government's two-day national reconciliation conference, which offered little more than the grandstanding of politicians whose interests are best served by the fragmenting of their country. The message was: The south is for the Shiites, the north is for the Kurds, the west is for the Sunnis, and the east is open for Iran. Baghdad, the besieged anchor in the center, is a free-for-all.

Abducted Security Contractors Appear in Videotape

Four American security contractors and an Austrian co-worker who were kidnapped in southern Iraq six weeks ago appear to be in good physical condition in a videotape that was shot two weeks after they were taken captive. The footage, which hasn't been made public, is the first proof that all five men survived their abduction Nov. 16 in an ambush in the town of Safwan. The clip was shown to McClatchy Newspapers in Baghdad on Tuesday night on condition that the provider's name and other identifying details be withheld for security reasons. The provider said the video was shot in response to a demand for proof that the men were alive before negotiations for their release could begin. The provider was confident that the men are still living and remain in the hands of a little-known Shiite Muslim militant group that calls itself the "Mujahedeen of Jerusalem Company."

Bush Iraq Policy Murky On The Real Enemy

This year saw the emergence of a sectarian civil war in Iraq and much more open Sunni-Shiite conflict in the Middle East. Sunni regimes in the region expressed acute anxiety both about the possibility of the Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq spreading to their own countries and about the growth of Iranian influence. In that setting, the most striking thing about the George W. Bush administration's policy in 2006 has been its inability to identify the primary enemy in Iraq. Is it al Qaeda in Iraq? Bush often implies that they are the real enemy, suggesting that the U.S. must fight the enemy in Iraq so it doesn't have to fight them at home. Is it the armed Sunni resistance groups, who were the original target of a U.S. counterinsurgency war that is now an all but officially admitted failure? Or is it the Mahdi army of Moqtada al Sadr, which has been implicated in large-scale killings of Sunnis in the Baghdad area and which is aligned with Iran in the conflict between Washington and Tehran? And what about the Badr organisation, which is known to be responsible for mass kidnapping, torture and what many now call ethnic cleansing of Sunnis from predominantly Shiite neighbourhoods in Baghdad? Is Iraq really about the global war on terror, the alleged threat from Iran, the danger emanating from sectarian war, or simply the administration's desire to claim success against the resistance to the occupation itself? The Bush administration has not been able to issue a clear policy statement on that question. The original source of the administration's confusion over its primary enemy in Iraq was the decision to sell the counterinsurgency war in Iraq to the U.S. public in 2004-2005 as a struggle between a nascent democratic state and anti-democratic forces in the country.

…..Since Bush has touted the occupation of Iraq as the frontline in the war on terror, he might be expected to focus like a laser on al Qaeda as the primary enemy. After all, he routinely cited the threat of creating a "terrorist haven" in Iraq if the United States were to withdraw without "victory". But by continuing a war against the Sunni resistance forces and providing unconditional support for largely Shiite military and police forces, the administration has effectively taken the pressure off al Qaeda in Iraq. The major Sunni resistance organisations, which have already been in an undeclared war with al Qaeda since before the 2005 constitutional referendum, would appear to be in the best position to defeat the al Qaeda networks in Iraq if they could focus their efforts on that foe. But their main concern remains the war being waged by the U.S., Shiite and Kurdish forces against them. Bush's de facto support for militant Iraqi Shiites against the anti-jihadist Sunni resistance has been a losing proposition from every perspective. It has increased regional tensions by appearing to strengthen Iraqi forces aligned with Iran, fueled sectarian war and eased the pressure on the one enemy on which most U.S. citizens might agree should be targeted -- al Qaeda in Iraq. Clarifying the murky logic driving that policy and its consequences may be a major preoccupation of U.S. Senate committees in 2007. [They haven’t a clue. – dancewater]

ARTICLE: A More Balanced View Of What US Troops Think About Escalation

[I guess Sec. Gates didn’t find these guys when he was in Iraq. There has to be one in every crowd though – one fool had this to say: We just provide a stabilizing effect." – dancewater]


End Of Another Year

A day in the life of the average Iraqi has been reduced to identifying corpses, avoiding car bombs and attempting to keep track of which family members have been detained, which ones have been exiled and which ones have been abducted. 2006 has been, decidedly, the worst year yet. No- really. The magnitude of this war and occupation is only now hitting the country full force. It's like having a big piece of hard, dry earth you are determined to break apart. You drive in the first stake in the form of an infrastructure damaged with missiles and the newest in arms technology, the first cracks begin to form. Several smaller stakes come in the form of politicians like Chalabi, Al Hakim, Talbani, Pachachi, Allawi and Maliki. The cracks slowly begin to multiply and stretch across the once solid piece of earth, reaching out towards its edges like so many skeletal hands. And you apply pressure. You surround it from all sides and push and pull. Slowly, but surely, it begins coming apart- a chip here, a chunk there. That is Iraq right now. The Americans have done a fine job of working to break it apart. This last year has nearly everyone convinced that that was the plan right from the start. There were too many blunders for them to actually have been, simply, blunders. The 'mistakes' were too catastrophic. The people the Bush administration chose to support and promote were openly and publicly terrible- from the conman and embezzler Chalabi, to the terrorist Jaffari, to the militia man Maliki. The decisions, like disbanding the Iraqi army, abolishing the original constitution, and allowing militias to take over Iraqi security were too damaging to be anything but intentional.

OPINION: Iraq Deadly For Journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists recently released its 2006 report on threats to journalists. Iraq is by far the deadliest place for the fourth year in a row, with 32 journalists killed this year. Sadly, the violence follows a trend that started with the U.S. invasion. When you step off the elevator at the Reuters news offices in Washington, D.C., you see a large book sitting on a wooden stand. Each entry describes a Reuters journalist killed in the line of duty. Like Taras Protsyuk. The veteran Ukrainian cameraman was killed on April 8, 2003, the day before the U.S. seized Baghdad. Protsyuk was on the balcony of the Palestine Hotel when a U.S. tank positioned itself on the al-Jumhuriyah bridge and, as people watched in horror, unleashed a round into the side of the building. The hotel was known for housing hundreds of unembedded reporters. Protsyuk was killed instantly. Jose Couso, a cameraman for the Spanish network Telecinco, was filming from the balcony below. He was also killed. The difference between the responses by the mainstream press in the United States versus Europe was stunning. While in this country there was hardly a peep of protest, Spanish journalists engaged in a one-day strike. From the elite journalists down to the technicians, they laid down their cables, cameras and pens. They refused to record the words of then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who joined British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush in supporting the war.

OPINION: Why Cousin Marriage Matters In Iraq

One central element of the Iraqi social fabric that most Americans know little about is its astonishing rate of cousin marriage. Indeed, half of all marriages in Iraq are between first or second cousins. Among countries with recorded figures, only Pakistan and Nigeria rate as high. For an eye-opening perspective about rates of consanguinity (roughly equivalent to cousin marriage) around the world, click on the "Global Prevalence" map at www.consang.net. [The data they base these facts on are from the 1980’s, so I don’t know if this is still true in Iraq. – dancewater] But who cares who marries whom in a country we invade? Why talk to anthropologists who study that arcane subject? Only those who live in modern, individualistic societies could be so oblivious. Cousin marriage, especially the unique form practiced in the Middle East, creates clans of fierce internal cohesiveness and loyalty. So in addition to sectarian violence in Iraq, the US may also be facing a greater intensity of inter-clan violence than it saw in Vietnam or the ferocious Lebanese civil war. The US can't deal with a problem it doesn't recognize, let alone understand. Anthropologist Stanley Kurtz has described Middle East clans as "governments in miniature" that provide the services and social aid that Americans routinely receive from their national, state, and local governments. No one in a region without stable, fair government can survive outside a strong, unified, respected clan. But still, what does this have to do with marrying cousins? Cousin marriage occurs because a woman who marries into another clan potentially threatens its unity. If a husband's bond to his wife trumped his solidarity with his brothers, the couple might take their property and leave the larger group, weakening the clan. This potential threat is avoided by cousin marriage: instead of marrying a woman from another lineage, a man marries the daughter of his father's brother - his cousin. In this scenario, his wife is not an alien, but a trusted member of his own kin group.

No More Victims Group Continues to Aid Iraqi Children

Alaa' left Florida a little over a year ago. I had full intentions of keeping a journal during her stay; however, when I found time to write, I would draw a blank. It wasn't due to writer's block, lack of time, or even apathy. It was because I had a mixture of emotions. It was too hard to define, too hard to narrow down, too hard to describe. I'm a mother. I'm a wife. I'm a daughter. I'm a law student. I'm a Muslim. I'm an American. I could label myself all day. But, at the end of the day, I'm a human being. So was Alaa'. So were the many people who died. And, a year later, I feel that I have a responsibility to share with others what I gained from Alaa's visit. When I first met her, she had just gotten off the plane. The media surrounded us. It was the chance for that perfect shot, that memorable moment. But, I didn't reach out to hug Alaa' that night. Instead, I muttered, "Mashallah." It was one of the few Arabic phrases I knew. It was appropriate. While the phrase means Praise God, it is typically used to verbalize a cause for happiness. Likewise, it can be used to describe a beautiful child. Alaa' was beautiful. …..Alaa' underwent several surgeries during her trip to Florida. Dr. Saad Shaikh dedicated himself to helping her see again. He and his wife, Naazli, also a retinal surgeon, worked tirelessly and without pay. At the end, they thanked me for the opportunity. It reminded me that there are good people out there. ….I have a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son. My daughter, Layla, met Alaa'. Children are so beautiful, so innocent. Until corrupted by adults, children don't judge others. Even though neither spoke each other's language and Alaa' was blind, they held hands and danced. Layla brought Alaa' toys that she had hand-selected. When local Fox News interviewed Layla, she told them, "I got her some toys to make her feel better. The monster gave her a boo-boo in her eye." At first, I was nervous that viewers would interpret her statement as political banter coming from a toddler. The truth was, I had never explained the concept of war to my daughter. It's an adult issue. But, there was something so wise in her response.

The mission of No More Victims, a non-profit, non-sectarian, humanitarian organization, is to restore health and well-being to victims of war and to advocate and educate for peace. No More Victims believes one of the most effective means of combating militarism is to focus on direct relief to its victims. For more information, visit www.nomorevictims.org.


PEACE ACTION: Progressive Democrats of America has been working and organizing support for HR 4232 since Rep. McGovern introduced this important bill in November of 2005. Rep. McGovern spoke at the PDA "Get out of Iraq" Town Hall meeting the day after he introduced HR 4232. We continue to work for its passage as a top legislative priority. We urge you to continue organizing support for HR 4232 and to ask your Congressional member to co-sponsor the bill. PDA is committed to cutting off all funding for deployment of US troops in Iraq and for the removal of all funding for the occupation of Iraq. Please sign the online petition at www.pdamerica.org and send it to your friends.


I pray to God that the next year would be better than the one that has ended. I pray to God that the next year would be a year of peace, calm, and settlement for the Iraqi people, and for every other people like them, suffering the calamities of a stupid war ignited by fools, which left the sane people at a loss how to extinguish it…. Many happy returns… And may peace be upon you… Faiza Al-Arji


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