Friday, February 16, 2007


PHOTO: A wounded Iraqi man lies inside an ambulance outside al-Yarmuk hospital today. Four people were killed today and twenty others were wounded when two car bombs exploded in the Dura district in southern Baghdad. (Photo by Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty Images)

Security Incidents for February 16, 2007

KIRKUK - Three guards of Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari were killed and five others wounded on Thursday when gunmen at a fake checkpoint attacked their convoy in the village of Sulaiman Beq in Salahaddin province, police said. Zebari was not in the convoy, police added. Two gunmen were killed in the incident.

BAGHDAD - One Iraqi soldier was shot dead by a sniper in the Sunni-dominated district of Adhamiya on Thursday, police said.

BAGHDAD - A policeman was shot by gunmen in the Amil district of Baghdad on Thursday, police said.

KIRKUK - One civilian was killed and three wounded in a roadside bomb attack on Thursday in the northern city of Kirkuk.

BAGHDAD - Twenty bodies were found in Baghdad on Thursday, police said.

MOSUL - Four dead bodies were found on Thursday in the northern city of Mosul, police said. Three of them were policemen.

HILLA – Iraqi police forces arrested 35 members of the “Soldiers of Heavens” group during raids.

HIT – City was placed under curfew for four days.

BALAD – A child was killed and a women injured when a mortar shell was fired near the district of Balad in Salah al-Din province.

BAGHDAD – 36 suspects arrested and a large amount of weapons were confiscated in various areas of the city.


Baghdad Security Operation Met with Bombs

Insurgents met the quickening advance of Iraqi and US security forces into Baghdad with another deadly bomb on Friday, amid signs that Shiite militiamen at least have decided to go to ground. On the first day of weekly Muslim prayers since the Baghdad operation was launched, witnesses said US and Iraqi units were pushing into central city districts that have been the scene of recent sectarian carnage. There was no sign of organised resistance, but one Iraqi unit was hit by a roadside bomb on the Mohammed al-Qasim highway, leaving one officer dead and a soldier wounded, a defence ministry offical said. A column of US armoured vehicles accompanied by Iraqi police headed into an administrative area near the Shorja market, where on Monday more than 70 people were killed by a devastating series of car bombs. While the bomb attacks continue and there is sporadic resistance by some armed groups, "Operation Law and Order" seems not yet too have run into any determined attempt to resist the advance of US and Iraqi units.

Civilian Deaths In Iraq Drop Overnight

The number of Iraqi civilians killed in Baghdad's sectarian violence fell drastically overnight, an Iraqi military official said Friday, crediting the joint U.S.-Iraqi security operation that began in force just days ago. Iraqi army Brig. Gen. Qassim Moussawi, a spokesman for the Baghdad commander, said only 10 bodies had been reported by the morgue in the capital, compared to an average of 40 to 50 per day. "This shows a big reduction in terror and killing operations in Baghdad," he said on Iraqi state television. [The corporate media reports on a one day drop in violence, yet seems not to notice most of the violence over the past years towards civilians, particularly violence by US forces. Now, this would be good news (that the death rate was down) if it holds, but I am certain it will not. – dancewater]

………Iraqi security officials also said 34 armed men belonging to a messianic Shiite cult were detained near Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad. The Soldiers of Heaven, or Jund al-Samaa, cult was involved in a gun battle last month with Iraqi forces who accused the group of planning to kill Shiite clerics and others in a bid to force the return of the "Hidden Imam" _ a descendant of Islam's Prophet Muhammad who disappeared as a child in the 9th century. [Well, we all know how full of holes that story was. See “Shia Rivalry Sparked Battle of Zarqa” below. Yet, the corporate media just keeps regurgitating it again and again. – dancewater]

VIDEO: Surging Around The House

As the United States debates the virtues of surges or escalations, Iraqis are already dealing with the impact of increased US forces on the streets. Late last year the Coalition began placing more troops on the streets of Baghdad, in an effort to quell “sectarian violence.” Sunnis have so far felt the brunt of this, as the Iraq government continues to hinder American efforts at dealing an equal blow to Shi’a-backed violence. This week we speak with two families whose homes were ransacked by US troops late last fall. They were searching for Sunnis involved in violence around Baghdad. They take us on a tour and discuss the treatment they experienced. They also describe the liberal use of a device we believe to be a “stun grenade” similar to the M84.

At the Morgue

We were asked to send the next of kin to whom the remains of my nephew, killed on Monday in a horrific explosion downtown, can be handed over. The young men of the family, as was customary, rose to go. “NO!” cried his mother. “Isn’t my son enough?? Must we lose more of our youth?? You know there are unknowns who wait at the Morgue to either kill or kidnap the men who dare reach its doors. I will go.” So we went, his mum, his other aunt and I.

I was praying all the way there. I never thought a day would come when it was the women of the family, who would be safer on the roads. All the men are potential terrorists it seems, and are therefore to be cut down on sight. This is the logic of today, is it not? To kill evil before it even has a chance to take root. When we got there, we were given his remains. And remains they were. From the waist down was all they could give us. “We identified him by the cell phone in his pants’ pocket. If you want the rest, you will just have to look for yourselves. We don’t know what he looks like.” Now begins a horror that surpasses anything I could have possibly envisioned. We were led away, and before long a foul stench clogged my nose and I retched. With no more warning we came to a clearing that was probably an inside garden at one time; all round it were patios and rooms with large-pane windows to catch the evening breeze Baghdad is renowned for. But now it had become a slaughterhouse, only instead of cattle, all around were human bodies. On this side; complete bodies; on that side halves; and EVERYWHERE body parts. We were asked what we were looking for, “upper half” replied my companion, for I was rendered speechless. “Over there”. We looked for our boy’s broken body between tens of other boys’ remains’; with our bare hands sifting them and turning them. We found him millennia later, took both parts home, and began the mourning ceremony. Can Hollywood match our reality?? I doubt it.

Armed Iraqis Wary of Security Plan

At least once a week inside his stationery shop, Ali al-Yousef stacks up old notebooks in the back room and fires his pistol at them. "Target practice," Yousef said. "We don't like guns, but we have to have them. I think every house should have a gun." As the contours of the Baghdad security plan start to solidify, Yousef, 55, like millions of other Iraqis, is trying to assess whether measures such as the newly announced ban on civilians carrying weapons are more likely to keep him safe than the 9mm pistol he carries on the seat between his legs, safety off, for the drive home.

New Security Plan Could Make More Homeless

As part of its newly declared security crackdown to put an end to the relentless violence that threatens to divide the capital along sectarian lines, the Iraqi government has ordered the return of illegally seized houses of displaced families. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki unveiled the long-awaited Baghdad security plan, dubbed ‘Operation Imposing Law’. The plan involves US and Iraqi troops stepping up patrols in the capital and establishing new checkpoints. In a bid stop the sectarian bloodletting, the government said those who had occupied the homes of displaced families would be given 15 days to return the properties to the original owners or prove they had permission to be there. Aid workers and analysts said the plan was hasty and would create more problems than it would solve. “It is impossible to achieve this goal - at least for the time being. You can’t solve a problem by creating more problems. The government has to find places for those who are occupying such houses or ensure security in the neighbourhoods they have been displaced from to go back to their homes," said Mizaal Jassim Wasfi, a Baghdad-based independent political analyst.

Fighters Fill Humanitarian Vacuum

Militia fighters and insurgents responsible for much of the internecine violence in Iraq are also offering humanitarian assistance to their own communities to fill a vacuum left by the government and aid agencies. “It is the minimum that we can do as the Iraqi government is weak. Some people need medical assistance, others food and since they are our followers, we have to support them,” said Ali Jalil, a spokesman for the Mahdi Army, commanded by religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr and the most powerful Shia Muslim militia in the country. Because of the high levels of insecurity in Iraq, most international aid agencies have left the country – the United Nations moved its agencies to Jordan in August 2003 following two deadly attacks on its Baghdad compound.

Transport Workers Strike Over Fuel Shortages

Taxi and bus drivers are staging a strike in the northern city of Mosul over fuel shortages. The strike has almost brought life to a standstill in the city home to nearly two million people. Drivers taking part in the strike said they had not received their share of subsidized petrol for more than a month. Iraq’s fuel crisis started shortly after the U.S. invasion and has since aggravated and is felt across the country. Fuel is extremely hard to get and the scanty quantities available in the spot market are beyond the reach of the majority of Iraqis. The head of the transport union in the Province of Nineveh of which Mosul is the capital said the drivers went on strike without telling the union. “Nonetheless, we support them and will offer whatever it needs to have their demands satisfied,” said Shafaa Taha, the transport union chief.


Shia Rivalry Sparked Battle of Zarqa

Iraqi officials claimed a major military victory over Sunni insurgents near Najaf last month. But official sources reveal that the alleged militants were in fact Shia members of a religious cult that the authorities wanted to get rid of - with the help of US air support. When the “Battle of Zarqa” erupted on January 28 in the date palm orchards of Zarqa, 16 kilometres northeast of the holy city of Najaf, the conflict seemed clear. Gunmen battling Iraqi and US forces in a fierce, day-long fight were, say the Iraqi government, a large group of Sunni militants affiliated with al-Qaeda en route to attack the holy shrines in Najaf and the high-ranking Marjaiya clerics, as well as Shia pilgrims, gathering for the ten-day religious festival of Ashura. The group was heavily armed and even managed to shoot down a US helicopter, killing two American soldiers. Sunni attacks on Shia pilgrims during holy days have occurred before. Thus the claim of government ministers in Baghdad and the Iraqi national security adviser, Muaffaq al-Rubaii, seemed plausible. Najaf was about to be attacked by al-Qaeda elements, they claimed, and in an effort to avert the attack, “hundreds of foreign fighters” had been killed. The successful assault thus seemed a major victory for the embattled Iraqi government in its effort to assert authority, especially in Najaf which, along with US forces, had taken control over security in the holy city only the month before.

Qaradawi vs. Rafsanjani

Al-Jazeera today broadcast an extremely important direct dialogue between the influential Sunni Islamist Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Iranian politico Akbar Hashmi Rafsanjani on the subject of Sunni-Shia sectarian tensions. The debate wasn't face to face, and Rafsanjani spoke through a translator. Still, Qaradawi and Rafsanjani reached some key points of consensus. Both emphasized the danger of the United States exploiting Sunni-Shia differences, and both said that the United States and Israel were the only winners in an Iraqi civil war and the only beneficiaries from sectarian killing. Both supported Iraq's territorial unity, and both called for unity against the American occupation rather than sectarian violence. Both called for more Sunni-Shia dialogue, and for a common front against American plans to divide the Islamic umma. Qaradawi said that whatever Sunni concerns about the Shia, Sunnis (he used "we" here) would stand with Iran if it was attacked and against the aggressors.

Sadr Orders Militia Heads Out Of Iraq

Radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has ordered heads of his Mehdi Army militia to leave Iraq and asked the government to arrest "outlaws" under a U.S.- backed crackdown, Iraq's president said on Thursday. President Jalal Talabani made the remarks after Iraq closed its borders with Iran and Syria and as U.S. and Iraqi troops tightened their grip on Baghdad, patrolling neighbourhoods and setting up checkpoints that searched even official convoys.

Iraqi Press Monitor

Politicians Agree on Return of Displaced (Al-Ittihad) Baghdad’s security plan is also a strategy to rebuild the country, develop human and economic resources and improve public services, said Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi during a visit with the governor of Diwaniya province in south-central Iraq. Mahdi also said that all political blocs supported the return of displaced families to their homes. (Al-Ittihad is published daily by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.)

Maliki: Iraqi Media Network should work for all (Al-Sabaah al-Jadeed) Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged the Iraqi Media Network, the country’s official news service, to reject sectarianism and teach Iraqis about national reconciliation. Receiving the director general of the network, Habeeb al-Sadr, al-Maliki urged the organization work for all Iraqis. (Al-Sabah is a daily independent publicly owned newspaper, Iraq’s official news service.)

First Anniversary of Samarra Bombing (Al-Bayan) At a commemoration on the first anniversary of the bombings of the Holy Shrine in Samarra, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the road from Baghdad to Samarra would not reopen for another two months because security forces meant to be guarding the road were still being trained. The bombing triggered a surge in ethnic violence throughout the country. Interior Minister Jawad al-Boolani said his ministry would provide protection to companies rebuilding the shrine. (Al-Bayan is issued four times a week by the Islamic Dawa Party, chaired by Vice-President Ibrahim al-Jafari.)

Syria: Situation in Iraq “Very Dangerous” (Azzaman) Syria’s foreign minister Waleed al-Mualim called the situation in Iraq very dangerous and complicated at a press conference attended by Arab League Secretary General Amr Mosa. He also said that Iraqis could only resolve their problems through political means that encouraged unity, a schedule for the withdrawal of foreign armies and the strengthening of Iraq’s armed forces. (London-based Azzaman is issued daily by Saad al-Bazaz.)

Tribal Leaders Denounce Terrorism (Al-Mada) Tribal leaders of Najaf said they rejected their members who supported terrorists in the city. The 500 leaders denounced violence in a vast meeting held in Najaf and attended by Governor Asaad Abu Gulal and other officials. They also said they backed the government in its fight against terrorisms throughout Iraq. (Al-Mada is issued daily by Al-Mada institution for Media, Culture and Arts.)


Quest to Heal an Iraqi Boy Becomes a Final Mission

Hours before getting killed the way he feared most, Capt. Brian S. Freeman looked up and smiled when Abu Ali dropped by his office. After nearly six months of overcoming financial and bureaucratic hurdles in a war zone, Freeman told the Iraqi man, there were promising signs that a pair of U.S. visas -- the last big step in getting Abu Ali's 11-year-old son to the United States for lifesaving heart surgery -- would be issued soon. The Iraqi was speechless. He asked an interpreter to express his gratitude to the tall American soldier who had made saving the child's life an unofficial mission. Then he pulled out his camera, swung his arm around Freeman's broad shoulders and posed for three photographs. Hours later, shortly before sunset Jan. 20, armed men in GMC trucks stormed into the government building in Karbala, in southern Iraq. They killed an American soldier, handcuffed Freeman and three other U.S. soldiers, hauled them into the vehicles and drove off. Freeman and the other abducted soldiers were later slain by the attackers.

Democrats Criticize Lack of Alternatives in Intelligence Estimate

Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have questioned whether the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq gave political advantage to the Bush administration by making "rapid withdrawal" of U.S. troops the only alternative military option the NIE explored. The estimate judged that rapid withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq would "almost certainly" increase sectarian violence, intensify Sunni resistance, possibly cause the Iraqi Security Forces to dissolve and allow al-Qaeda to seek a sanctuary to plan attacks inside and outside the country. That assessment came just days before the Senate and House prepared to debate nonbinding resolutions opposing increased troop levels in Iraq. On Feb. 2, the day the estimate was released, President Bush's national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, told reporters that the document showed that "an American withdrawal or stepping back now would be a prescription for fast failure and a chaos that would envelop not only Iraq, but also the region, and could potentially, by giving al-Qaeda a safe haven in Iraq, result in risk and threats to the United States." Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), a panel member, wrote Negroponte on Feb. 8: "Setting up a false choice between indefinite military involvement and a rapid, unplanned withdrawal distorts the current debate in Congress and in the country about how best to defend our national security interests in Iraq." He added that such an approach "does, however, closely align with the administration's efforts to justify an unsustainable military involvement as the only option."

US Military Detains Iranian Delegates In Baghdad

Al-Melaf reports that U.S. troops have detained the members of a Shiite delegation visiting parliament minister Sheikh Jalal Al-Din Al-Sagheer at his home in Baghdad. The delegation included two Iranian nationals, Abdul Zahra Al-Daghiri, a cleric from Iran’s Arab Khuzestan province, and Ahmed Frauzenda. Al-Daghiri entered Iraq after 2003 and joined the Shaheed Al-Mihrab Foundation, headed by the son of Aziz Al-Hakim, head of the largest Shia bloc in Iraqi parliament. Al-Sagheer's office issued a press release calling claims made by U.S. troops at Camp Victory as “false.” The U.S. statement said that the Buratha Mosque, raided two days ago by Iraqi troops, was harboring militias and was used as a weapons storage. Al-Sagheer denied that the mosque was raided by Iraqi troops, explaining that it was an Iraqi Special Forces battalion under direct U.S. command, and not Iraqi governmental troops that are part of the Defense and Interior ministries. It also denied that the mosque contains torture chambers, as “terrorists” have claimed, or that militias have used it to stage attacks against other areas. The statement added that all weapons and ammunitions confiscated by U.S. troops from the mosque were registered as property of the Interior Ministry, and that the guards were also employees of the Defense and Interior ministries. [More from Iraqi news sources at this link. – dancewater]

US State Department’s Rosy Deception on Iraq Refugees

In a friendly sort of way, this piece highlights the good intentions of the US government, describing new steps to be taken, from "emergency cash assistance" to counseling by social workers to "small infrastructure projects" to aid provided to "education and vocational training." The message from the State Department paints a picture that is filled with the positivity of good works being carried out in the name of America. From Jordan the view is different. Here, close to a million Iraqis, forced to flee violence in their neighborhoods and throughout their country, try to keep a low profile and scratch out an existence in a climate that is neither welcoming nor supportive. As more and more Iraqis are displaced inside and outside Iraq, the attitudes of host governments are becoming more and more hostile. Granted, these governments have reason to be concerned about the strain placed on their infrastructure and services by the more than 1.6 million (and counting) Iraqis now living outside Iraq. The international community has been shamefully negligent in providing support to help these governments, especially the governments of Syria and Jordan, which host the largest population of Iraqi refugees displaced by what the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees calls "the largest long-term population movement in the Middle East since the Palestinian crisis of 1948," following the creation of the State of Israel. The US claims to have spent $3 million in 2006 on refugees in the region. None of the organizations I've heard from here have seen this money, nor, based on yesterday's UNHCR briefing, has the UN or the Jordanian government. What makes the reception of the State Department story so bitter - even insulting - can be illustrated with a quick crunching of numbers.


OPINION: Surge Toward the Truth

"The American people are waiting for us to provide real leadership to show the way out of Iraq. My 12-point plan responds to that demand. This plan, - creates a peace process which will enable our troops to come home and stabilize Iraq. The Kucinich Plan to End the War in Iraq includes the following:

1. Congress must deny more funds for the war.

2. The President will have to call the troops home, close the bases, and end the occupation.

3. Initiate a parallel peace process which brings in international peace keepers.

4. Move in the international peace keeping and security force and move out U.S. troops. Peacekeepers will stay until the Iraqis are able to handle their own security.

5. Order U.S. contractors out of Iraq.

6. Fund an honest process of reconstruction.

7. Protect the economic position of the Iraqi people by stabilizing prices in Iraq, including those for food and energy.

8. Create a process which gives the Iraqi people control over their economic destiny without the structural adjustment policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

9. Give the Iraqi people full control over their oil assets, with no mandatory privatization.

10. Fund a process of reconciliation between the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds.

11. The U.S. must refrain from any covert operation in Iraq.

12. The U.S. must begin a process of truth and reconciliation between our nation and the people of Iraq.

Protest at UCSB

Students have brought activism back to UCSB, organizing the largest protest since the 70’s. Over a thousand people went to the rally, marched through campus, and then held a speak-out in the middle of the 217 freeway, before delivering their demands to the Chancellor’s office. Two protesters - one student and one prof. - were arrested, but have both been released, uncharged. They’re holding “Peace Out University” in a local park all of next week. [They shut the highway down for a few hours, and there were other protests across California, and across the country. – dancewater]

VIDEO: This Is War (Do It In The Name Of God)

VIDEO: Is It For Freedom?

ART: Regarding the Pain of Others

In her lecture at the opening of the exhibition, Nosh emphasized the psychological impact of the war on Iraqis, or as she puts it, 22 million people "living with post-traumatic stress disorder." While she was staying with her Iraqi relatives in Baghdad, she noticed the increased tension and fighting in her family's home as the increasing violence imposed new pressures and stresses on its members. She told of her young cousins, whose education has been put on hold because it was simply too unsafe to bring them to school every day. In a slide show of images she took while staying with her Baghdad family, equally as compelling as those hanging on the gallery wall, she showed a picture of two young cousins sitting on a couch with a vacant look in their eyes. They've "lost [their] adolescence, locked in a home day after day," Nosh explained. Nosh, who had been covering Iraq between 2002 and 2004, "when things just started going downward," was working out of the Baghdad journalist compound. However, in early 2006, she was driven to return to Iraq upon seeing the images of injured American troops returning home. "We started to see constant images of American [troops] coming home brutally injured" but not seeing the Iraqi side, Nosh said. "I was just craving to see the Iraqi side of it."

Not Art, Just Pictures From Yahoo News: Faces of Grief

Action for Americans: Face the Cost of War

So far, over 3,000 of our troops have died in Iraq. Yet 47 senators are trying to duck out on the first vote on Iraq since the election. It's morally reprehensible to let people die just because discussing the war is awkward. Help your senators face the true cost of war by sending them a photo memorial of one of the many American fatalities of the Iraq war from your state.

Quote of the Day: This will be my last post on Today In Iraq, but I do have my own blog of Iraq news at News About Iraq.

I have followed Today in Iraq since yankee doodle first started it in June 2003. It was shortly after that start date where he added the quote above. When I was first invited to post here, yankee doodle had one request – that US military and US veterans be treated with the respect they deserve. I have honored that request. Yankee Doodle is a US veteran. Since the new blog has ‘borrowed’ his idea, his title and the quote he posted shortly after the blog started, I hope they will honor that request also. I will not be moving to the new site (which I think should be named something else, so the blogs don’t get confused) but good luck with it! - dancewater


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