Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Photo: U.S. Army Pfc. Christopher Stafford, 21, from Atlanta, Ga. stands guard over women whose relative was found with a grenade during a foot patrol with Delta Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment near Youssifiyah, 12 miles (20 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
Bring 'em on: The U.S. army said on Wednesday three servicemen were killed of wounds sustained from hostilities in the restive Iraqi province of Anbar. "Two U.S. soldiers and a Marine were killed of wounds sustained from hostile acts on Jan.30 in al Anbar province," the U.S. army said in a statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
Bring 'em on: A Task Force Lightning soldier died and another was wounded while conducting combat operations in the mainly Sunni Salahuddin province north of Baghdad, according to a military statement
Two people were killed and ten others were wounded when a car bomb was detonated near a bakery at al-Amin neighborhood in southeast of Baghdad.
Unknown gunmen in a car opened fire at people who were walking in a main road at al-Sulaigh neighborhood in eastern Baghdad killing ten.
A car bomb went off in al-Jumhoriyah street in central Baghdad killing a civilian and wounding three others.
Three university professors and a student kidnapped in Baghdad on Sunday have been killed, Adnan al-Janabi, the head of al-Nahrain university, told Reuters. He said police had informed the university that their bodies were in the Baghdad morgue.
Ten mortar rounds landed in different parts of Adhamiya district in northern Baghdad, killing four people and wounding 20, police said.
A car bomb killed two people and wounded eight in Bab al-Muadham area in central Baghdad.
A car bomb wounded two people in al-Maamoun district in central Baghdad.
A car bomb killed one person and wounded six people in New Baghdad district.
Police found the bodies of eight people in various parts of Baghdad in the 24 hours to Tuesday evening.
A suicide bomber blew himself up inside an Iraqi army barrack in al-Muqdadiyah district, 80 km northeast of Baghdad, killing one soldier and wounding ten others.
An attack targeted an Iraqi army vehicle patrol in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, a security source said and added "one soldier was killed and three others were wounded in the attack."
An Iraqi police force, backed the Multi-National forces, detained six suspects during a search campaign in west of Kirkuk.
A roadside bomb killed one person and wounded two people in Kirkuk.
The leader of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, the largest political party in Kirkuk, escaped unharmed from a roadside bomb attack on Tuesday near Kirkuk.
A car bomb was detonated near the trade unions headquarters in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul killing one policeman and wounding four others.
The body of a man who had been decapitated was found in Mosul.
Tal Afar:
A car bomb aimed at an Iraqi army patrol wounded 10 civilians in Tal Afar, 420 km (260 miles) north of Baghdad.
A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded six policemen in Baiji, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad.
Police found the bodies of two people with bullet wounds to the head in Baiji.
Gunmen killed a policeman late on Tuesday in Baiji.
A U.S. helicopter killed two insurgents in an attack on four men trying to plant a roadside bomb in Mahmudiya, 30 km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said. Residents said the air strike targeted Shi'ite followers of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr marking the Ashura ritual.
The bodies of six people shot in the head and chest were found in Falluja, 50 km (35 miles) west of Baghdad.
Gunmen killed a teenager in the city of Falluja.
A suicide bomber in a fuel truck rammed the main gate of an Iraqi army base in Miqdadiya, 90 km (50 miles) northeast of Baghdad, wounding nine soldiers.
In Country:
The Iraqi army killed 210 insurgents and arrested 342 in the past two days in various parts of Iraq, the Defence Ministry said.
Iraq's defense ministry said 263 militants from an obscure Shi'ite cult were killed and more than 500 arrested on Sunday in one of the largest battles since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said Iraqi security forces arrested 502 people including 210 who had been wounded in the battle near the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf.
The government said the leader of the group, who claimed to be the Mahdi, a messiah-like figure in Islam, was killed. They said his "Soldiers of Heaven" had planned to assassinate top Shi'ite clerics and had to be stopped.
Television footage shot on Monday and obtained by Reuters on Tuesday showed dozens of bodies laying in what appeared to be a dry and unused irrigation canal that the fighters appeared to have used as a trench.
Dozens of bullet casings and an empty Kalashnikov magazine lay at the side of a man's body. The man was dressed in a blue jacket and civilian clothes.
The footage also showed the bodies of several women and children who appeared to be indoors.
Maliki has said his country only needs a slight increase in the number of US troops in Iraq to help quell violence there.
"We believe that the existing number, with a slight addition, will do the job, but if there seems to be more need, we will ask for more troops," Maliki told CNN television Wednesday, speaking through an interpreter. He did not specify a number.
The US may have to lower expectations for Iraq as it embarks on a new war plan, a senior American military official has said.
William Fallon, George Bush's choice to become the most senior US military commander for the Middle East, told the senate armed services committee: "What we've been doing is not working."
His statement echoed that of other senior US government and military officials in recent months who have also said the US is not winning in Iraq.
Democratic leaders agreed to Bush's idea for a new bipartisan panel to advise him on the fight against terrorism and the Iraq war, days after rejecting such a commission.
Bullets and bombs are killing thousands of civilians every month in Iraq while the psychological impact of the ongoing violence is affecting the mental health of millions and is a major cause for concern for future generations, psychologists say.
In a privately funded study entitled 'Psychological effects of war on Iraqis', the Association of Iraqi Psychologists (AIP) said out of 2,000 people interviewed in all 18 Iraqi provinces, 92 percent said they feared being killed in an explosion.
Some 60 percent of those interviewed said the level of violence had caused them to have panic attacks, which prevented them from going out because they feared they would be the next victims.
Major U.S. companies with multimillion-dollar contracts for Iraq reconstruction are being forced to devote 12.5 percent of their expenses for security due to spiraling violence in the region, investigators said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, tens of millions of U.S. dollars have been wasted elsewhere in Iraq reconstruction aid, some of it on an Olympic-size swimming pool ordered up by Iraqi officials for a police academy that has yet to be used.
The quarterly audit by Stuart Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, is the latest to paint a grim picture of waste, fraud and frustration in an Iraq war and reconstruction effort that has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $300 billion and left the region near civil war.
Information Clearinghouse: WINNING HEARTS AND MINDS
3 Minute Video
The arrogance of power: U.S. occupation troops show complete disregard for either the lives or property of the Iraqi people
There are growing suspicions in Iraq that the official story of the battle outside Najaf between a messianic Iraqi cult and the Iraqi security forces supported by the US, in which 263 people were killed and 210 wounded, is a fabrication. The heavy casualties may be evidence of an unpremeditated massacre.
A picture is beginning to emerge of a clash between an Iraqi Shia tribe on a pilgrimage to Najaf and an Iraqi army checkpoint that led the US to intervene with devastating effect. The involvement of Ahmed al-Hassani (also known as Abu Kamar), who believed himself to be the coming Mahdi, or Messiah, appears to have been accidental.
The story emerging on independent Iraqi websites and in Arabic newspapers is entirely different from the government's account of the battle with the so-called "Soldiers of Heaven", planning a raid on Najaf to kill Shia religious leaders.
The cult denied it was involved in the fighting, saying it was a peaceful movement. The incident reportedly began when a procession of 200 pilgrims was on its way, on foot, to celebrate Ashura in Najaf. They came from the Hawatim tribe, which lives between Najaf and Diwaniyah to the south, and arrived in the Zarga area, one mile from Najaf at about 6am on Sunday. Heading the procession was the chief of the tribe, Hajj Sa'ad Sa'ad Nayif al-Hatemi, and his wife driving in their 1982 Super Toyota sedan because they could not walk. When they reached an Iraqi army checkpoint it opened fire, killing Mr Hatemi, his wife and his driver, Jabar Ridha al-Hatemi. The tribe, fully armed because they were travelling at night, then assaulted the checkpoint to avenge their fallen chief.
Members of another tribe called Khaza'il living in Zarga tried to stop the fighting but they themselves came under fire. Meanwhile, the soldiers and police at the checkpoint called up their commanders saying they were under attack from al-Qai'da with advanced weapons. Reinforcements poured into the area and surrounded the Hawatim tribe in the nearby orchards. The tribesmen tried - in vain - to get their attackers to cease fire.
American helicopters then arrived and dropped leaflets saying: "To the terrorists, surrender before we bomb the area." The tribesmen went on firing and a US helicopter was hit and crashed killing two crewmen. The tribesmen say they do not know if they hit it or if it was brought down by friendly fire. The US aircraft launched an intense aerial bombardment in which 120 tribesmen and local residents were killed by 4am on Monday.
The messianic group led by Ahmad al-Hassani, which was already at odds with the Iraqi authorities in Najaf, was drawn into the fighting because it was based in Zarga and its presence provided a convenient excuse for what was in effect a massacre. The Hawatim and Khaza'il tribes are opposed to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Dawa Party, who both control Najaf and make up the core of the Baghdad government.
This account cannot be substantiated and is drawn from the Healing Iraq website and the authoritative Baghdad daily Azzaman. But it would explain the disparity between the government casualties - less than 25 by one account - and the great number of their opponents killed and wounded. The Iraqi authorities have sealed the site and are not letting reporters talk to the wounded.
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This "apocalyptic cult" story with Sunnis and Shiites banning together in some death raid has been hard to understand, but then a lot of what's going on over there is baffling. But apparently some Iraqi news sites are suggesting a very different narrative:
The cult denied it was involved in the fighting, saying it was a peaceful movement. The incident reportedly began when a procession of 200 pilgrims was on its way, on foot, to celebrate Ashura in Najaf. They came from the Hawatim tribe, which lives between Najaf and Diwaniyah to the south, and arrived in the Zarga area, one mile from Najaf at about 6am on Sunday. Heading the procession was the chief of the tribe, Hajj Sa'ad Sa'ad Nayif al-Hatemi, and his wife driving in their 1982 Super Toyota sedan because they could not walk. When they reached an Iraqi army checkpoint it opened fire, killing Mr Hatemi, his wife and his driver, Jabar Ridha al-Hatemi. The tribe, fully armed because they were travelling at night, then assaulted the checkpoint to avenge their fallen chief.
Members of another tribe called Khaza'il living in Zarga tried to stop the fighting but they themselves came under fire. Meanwhile, the soldiers and police at the checkpoint called up their commanders saying they were under attack from al-Qai'da with advanced weapons. Reinforcements poured into the area and surrounded the Hawatim tribe in the nearby orchards. The tribesmen tried - in vain - to get their attackers to cease fire. [....]
This account cannot be substantiated and is drawn from the Healing Iraq website and the authoritative Baghdad daily Azzaman. But it would explain the disparity between the government casualties - less than 25 by one account - and the great number of their opponents killed and wounded. The Iraqi authorities have sealed the site and are not letting reporters talk to the wounded.
Yeah, it's that last bit that's troubling. No, this can't be substantiated and deserves a dose of scepticism. But if the Iraqi army called in the Americans because they were being "overwhelmed," why so few casualties on their side? Why deny reporters access to the site and the wounded? It'll be interesting to see where this goes.
Update: Evidently the battle site has been visited by some reporters, who come away with a version that supports the official story, at least in part. Make what you will of the two versions--I need more info on this myself.
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An email from a friend:
"What is certain from the information we have (see the different 'official' versions of this massacre then scroll to under the two pictures for the eye-witness story) is that processions of Arab shiite tribes were walking (as part of the Ashoora tradition) to Najaf: The Hawatim and The Khazael. Both tribes are known for their Arab national and patriotic positions. Khazael for example had played an important role in supporting Iraq's position toward Palastine in 1948.
Had they the intention to attack the Hawza symbols in Najaf? I cannot be affirmative but there is a story from inside iraq saying that they have demanded that all Iranians in the Hawza are to leave Najaf.
Were they Mahdists? This may be a simple propaganda to isolate them among other shiites and in the eyes of the outside world.
In any event, this massacre is of great significance.
First: There were many indications and information that the Hakim-Maliki-Sistani alliance is becoming very isolated among the Arab shiite tribes and cities throught central and southern Iraq. For a while, Saddr (in Arabic) was an alternative but since he participated in the elections, returned recently to rejoin the parliment after demanding a scheduled withdrawal of occupation forces while his followers participate in wide spread attacks against the sunnis, he is losing his influence among Iraqi shiites. Iraqi nationalism is stronger than sectarianism.
Secondly: The use of lethal force by the Americans, like what they did in in Falluja, against important Arab tribes will spread the anti American anti Iranian resistance. The myth of the shiites being united behind Sistani is finished. More and more of Arab shiites will join the resistance.
The occupation and its puppets have nothing to the Iraqi people but blood, death, lies and destruction.
Abdul Ilah Albayaty" January 31, 2007
Questions d0 come to mind? How can more than 300 'terrorists' remain hidden in a field near Najaf for so long, and are then suddenly discovered and obliterated? If they are claimed to be such well-trained militants, how come the Iraqi police and military casualties are so low in comparison with near 260 dead 'terrorists'?
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Left I on the News: I WAS WRONG
When hundreds of alleged members of the "Soldiers of Heaven" were killed near Najaf in Iraq yesterday, the press was filled with reports about how this was an action of the Iraqi army. In a comment yesterday morning on another blog, I wrote this:
Here's what else you're supposed to believe - that it was the Iraqis who did all the killing, with just minor American "support." My money's on the fact that 90% of the dead were killed by American helicopter gunships.
Alas, I was wrong. 90% of the dead appear not to have been killed by American helicopter gunships. They were killed by F-16s and British fighter jets dropping 500-pound bombs (as well as some Apache attack helicopters).
That's why I try to stay away from predictions, it's so easy to be wrong. ;-)
Undaunted, however, I'll make another prediction. American news media will continue to report uncritically every claim of the U.S. military, until such time, if any, when a particular claim becomes completely untenable.
As expected, the attack Iran hype has slipped into overdrive.
"The Pentagon is investigating whether an attack on a military compound in Karbala on January 20 was carried out by Iranians or Iranian-trained operatives, a U.S. official told CNN on Tuesday.... Some Iraqis speculate that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps carried out the attack in retaliation for the capture by U.S. forces of five of its members in Irbil, Iraq, on January 11, according to a Time.com article published Tuesday."
In other words, CNN, as a faithful propaganda handmaiden, is speculating, thus adding fuel to the attack Iran fire now smoldering, ready to break out into a five alarm conflagration, as planned, with the appropriate admixture of irresponsible speculation, as usual backed up with little more than thin air.
"Some Iraqis speculate that the IRGC has already started a campaign of revenge with the killing of five American soldiers in Karbala on Jan. 20, nine days after the arrest of the IRGC [Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.] members in Erbil. As the logic of the rumor goes, five American soldiers were killed for five Iranians taken; [the attack at the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in] Karbala was an IRGC message to release its colleagues-or else," writes Robert Baer for Time Magazine, basing his story on rumor and hearsay, a common enough modus operandi for corporate journalists these days. "There is nothing the IRGC likes better than to fight a proxy war in another country," never mind this would play right into the hands of the neocons, thus providing yet another pretext for an ultimate attack, as long planned.
read in full...
Information Clearinghouse: US PLANS TO 'FIGHT THE NET' REVEALED
Bloggers beware.
As the world turns networked, the Pentagon is calculating the military opportunities that computer networks, wireless technologies and the modern media offer.
From influencing public opinion through new media to designing "computer network attack" weapons, the US military is learning to fight an electronic war.
The declassified document is called "Information Operations Roadmap" [PDF File]. It was obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University using the Freedom of Information Act.
Officials in the Pentagon wrote it in 2003. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, signed it.
The "roadmap" calls for a far-reaching overhaul of the military's ability to conduct information operations and electronic warfare. And, in some detail, it makes recommendations for how the US armed forces should think about this new, virtual warfare.
The document says that information is "critical to military success". Computer and telecommunications networks are of vital operational importance. (...)
When it describes plans for electronic warfare, or EW, the document takes on an extraordinary tone.
It seems to see the internet as being equivalent to an enemy weapons system.
"Strategy should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense] will 'fight the net' as it would an enemy weapons system," it reads.
The slogan "fight the net" appears several times throughout the roadmap.
read in full...
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "President George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq is the greatest crime of the 21st century." -- Paul Craig Roberts in The Failure of America as a Moral Force


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Photo: A mourning procession of Shiite Muslims pass under a tight security on Ashoura, the tenth day of Muharram when Imam Hussain grandson of prophet Muhammad, was killed in the Battle of Karbala in the year 680, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2007 in Karachi, Pakistan. (AP Photo/Shakil Adil)
All British bases in Basra came under intensive katyusha and mortar shelling, causing damage in one of the bases, a military spokeswoman said on Tuesday. "All British bases in Basra International Airport, northwest of the city, the base in Shatt al-Arab Hotel, the one in the area of al-Saie in central Basra and the British consulate came under intensive shelling with katyusha and mortar rockets," Capt. Katie Brown, the spokeswoman for the multi-national forces in the south, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI) by telephone. Brown, however, declined to name the base that was damaged.
Eyewitnesses residing in the Basra International Airport camps told VOI that the British base in the airport came under four separate attacks with katyushas and mortars on Monday night and Tuesday morning. An eyewitness said sirens kept wailing several times in the British base. The attacks coincided with reports about a possible visit by British Defense Secretary Desmond Browne to Basra to see British forces there.
Bring ‘em on: One Marine assigned to Multi-National Forces-West died Monday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province. (CENTCOM)
Gunmen in two cars opened fire on a bus carrying Shiite pilgrims to the capital's most important Shiite mosque at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in Baghdad, killing at least seven people and wounding seven others.
Three shells struck Azamiyah, which is the site of the main Sunni Abu Hanifa mosque, killing three people and wounding five others.
Seven mortars fell on Waziriyah neighborhood, killing two and wounding 15, according to police and hospital officials.
A mortar round wounded nine pilgrims when it landed in Kadhimiya, a Shi'ite district of northern Baghdad home to a revered shrine, where thousands had gathered to commemorate Ashura.
Five insurgents were killed in their clashes with an Iraqi police patrol on Tuesday in the city of Baquba, 60 km north east of Baghdad.
A suicide bomber blew himself up among a crowd of worshippers entering a Shiite mosque, killing 16 people and wounding 57 in Mandalin, a predominantly Shiite city northeast of Baghdad and near the Iranian border.
A suicide bomber blew himself up among worshippers outside a Shi'ite mosque in the town of Balad Ruz, about 80 km to the south of Khanakin, killing 23 people and wounding 57.
An Nasiriyah:
A 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldier was killed in an accident when a M-1114 HMMWV rolled over northwest of An Nasiriah Jan 29. (CENTCOM)
Gunmen killed a teacher on Monday on a main road near the town of Mahaweel, 75 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad.
A bomb left in a garbage can exploded as scores of mostly Shiite Kurds were performing rituals commemorating the Islamic sect's holiest day in the Kurdish city of Khanaqin, also near the Iranian border. At least 13 people were killed and 39 were wounded in that attack, police Maj. Idriss Mohammed said, adding that most of the victims were Shiite Kurds, who comprise the majority in the city, about 90 miles northeast of Baghdad. Most Kurds are Sunni but a minority are Shiite.
A car bomb targeted a police patrol, killing two policemen and wounding two others in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
A suicide truck bomber killed 16 people at the compound of a police rapid reaction force northwest of Ramadi, 110 km (68 miles) west of Baghdad, on Sunday, the U.S. military said.
The Iraqi MP for the Sadrist bloc Baha Al-Araji unveiled on Monday the near announcement of the Sadr-Kurd alliance. Speaking to newsmen he said that a work plan has been devised along with recommendations for serious cooperation seeking real national unity.
The Sadr bloc delegation that is visiting Kurdistan at present, held meetings with the Kurdish leaders and discussed the Iraqi developments in general and the relations between the Sadrist bloc and the Kurdish alliance.
> The U.S. Congress has the power to end the war in Iraq, several high-powered legal experts including a former Bush administration attorney told a Senate hearing on Tuesday.
> Former U.S. envoy to the United Nations John Bolton said in an interview published in France that the United States has "no strategic interest" in a united Iraq.
Bolton suggested in the interview that the United States shouldn't necessarily keep Iraq from splitting up. The Bush administration and the Iraqi government have said they don't want Iraq divided.
"The United States has no strategic interest in the fact that there's one Iraq, or three Iraqs," he was quoted as saying. "We have a strategic interest in the fact of ensuring that what emerges is not a state in complete collapse, which could become a refuge for terrorists or a terrorist state."
The comments marked the second time in less than a week that Bolton had criticized the Bush administration's policy. On Fox News last week, he said the United States may not be able to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons because it was following a flawed diplomatic strategy.
Over one million residents of Baghdad could be driven from their homes in the next six months if Iraq's sectarian violence continues at its current level, according to an in-depth assessment conducted by the Santa Monica-based humanitarian assistance group, International Medical Corps.
The study finds that residents of the Iraq capital account for about 80% of the 546,078 Iraqis civilians who have already fled their homes because of the sectarian fighting in the 11 months since the Feb. 2006 bombing of the Holy Shrine in Samara. The pace of those fleeing is accelerating at a dramatic rate. Since November alone, the number of those displaced has jumped by 43%.
Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr has ordered his militia not to confront U.S. forces and has endorsed negotiations aimed at easing the deployment of American troops in his strongholds, according to Sadrist and other Shiite officials. (…)
The Sadrist movement has given its blessing to an initiative led by one of two mayors of Sadr City to negotiate terms under which U.S. forces will be able to deploy freely there.
If the negotiations succeed, U.S. forces will be welcome in Sadr City, the Mahdi Army stronghold that has witnessed two previous battles between U.S. troops and the Shiite militia, said Rahim al-Daraji, the mayor of the southern half of Sadr City. Al-Daraji said he has been authorized to negotiate on behalf of the Mahdi Army and other Shiite factions.
"It will mean any U.S. soldier will be as welcome in Sadr City as any Iraqi citizen," said al-Daraji, who said he is politically independent. "He will be able to walk safely in Sadr City, sit in any restaurant he likes, and he can help in reconstructing the city."(…)
If Sadr orders his militia to lie low, there is a good chance his largely volunteer militia will survive the latest threat to disband militias, enabling it to re-emerge once U.S. troops start to leave, said Joost Hiltermann, who is based in Amman with the International Crisis Group.
"Moqtada's playing it clever," he said. "The Mahdi people are just going to melt away."
Iraqi Sunnis worry that any settlement with the Shiite militia will leave Sunnis as the chief targets of stepped-up security operations, thereby deepening the vast sectarian divide.
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Iraqslogger has confirmed that the U.S. Army's Criminal Investigation Division has opened an investigation into this video, which was first posted on our site last week.
The clip, originally linked via a now defunct account on YouTube, purports to show a former guard from Abu Ghraib talking about torture techniques employed at the American-run prison. The man also recounts the gang rape of a female teenage detainee, in which one guard "pimped" the girl to others for $50 each. As he recalls, "I think at the end of the day he'd made like 500 bucks before she hung herself."
According to chief of public affairs Christopher Grey, "CID Special Agents are looking into the matter and take this issue very seriously. I am not able to provide you with any further details of our activity at this time due to investigative reasons."
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US President George W Bush's State of the Union address appears to confirm other indications in recent weeks that he is not merely sending more troops to Iraq to do more of the same, but has adopted a new strategy of fighting all three major Iraqi Arab political-military forces simultaneously. (…)
One veteran military expert on Iraq, retired US Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor, said Bush's new policy is a "war against all" in Iraq and called it "a blunder of Hitlerian proportions".
Macgregor likened the policy of fighting all three Iraqi anti-occupation forces at once to Adolf Hitler's insistence on continuing a two-front war against the Soviet Union and the Allied powers during World War II, which is widely regarded as having ensured the defeat of Nazi Germany.
Macgregor is no stranger to military planning in Iraq. He led combat troops in destroying a brigade of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard troops in the most significant tank battle of Desert Storm in February 1991 and prepared a proposal for a limited-duration attack on Baghdad at the request of a personal representative of then secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld in autumn 2001.
"It is ideology pushing violence to extremes," Macgregor said of the latest turn in Bush's Iraq policy. "They are trying to reverse the damage they have already done to themselves by having built up a Shi'ite state and army. But it is too late, and it is bound to be counterproductive."
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From the Washington Post this morning:
President Bush said yesterday that Iraqi forces "are beginning to show me something," while he sought to play down his apparent differences with Vice President Cheney about how well things are going in the strife-torn country.
Bush was asked in a National Public Radio interview about an Iraqi raid Sunday, backed by U.S. helicopters, on a heavily armed Shiite cult that Iraqi officials said was poised to assassinate the country's Shiite religious leadership. "This fight is an indication of what is taking place, and that is the Iraqis are beginning to take the lead," Bush said. "So my first reaction on this report from the battlefield is that the Iraqis are beginning to show me something."
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports from planet Earth Iraq:
Iraqi forces were surprised and nearly overwhelmed by the ferocity of an obscure renegade militia in a weekend battle near the holy city of Najaf and needed far more help from American forces than previously disclosed, American and Iraqi officials said Monday.
They said American ground troops - and not just air support as reported Sunday - were mobilized to help the Iraqi soldiers, who appeared to have dangerously underestimated the strength of the militia, which calls itself the Soldiers of Heaven and had amassed hundreds of heavily armed fighters. . . .
This group had more capabilities than the government," said Abdul Hussein Abtan, the deputy governor of Najaf Province, at a news conference.
. . .
The Iraqis and Americans eventually prevailed in the battle.
But the Iraqi security forces' miscalculations about the group's strength and intentions raised troubling questions about their ability to recognize and deal with a threat.
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Sometimes I can't believe how nice American troops in Iraq are. I really mean that. Look at this: US troops are still willing to help although they had surrendered sovereignty to the Iraqi people themselves, and Iraq is now an independent and sovereign country. "American Apache attack helicopters and F-16s, as well as British fighter jets, flew low over the farms where the enemy had set up its encampments and attacked, dropping 500-pound bombs on the encampments. The Iraqi forces were still unable to advance, and they called in support from both an elite Iraqi unit known as the Scorpion Brigade, which is based to the north in Hilla, and from American ground troops. Around noon, elements of the American Fourth Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division were dispatched from near Baghdad."
With the conflict reports came from the "Green Zone" government, I was sure that the story is totally different from the official version announced, here is a small portion of the conflict reports, later you will read what exactly happened which is a a crime and total embarrassment for the American occupation and their "Shoe shiners" in the "Green Zone":
1- The "Green Zone" government and the Americans announced that the Battle is Zarqa- north Najaf exactly in "Kufa farms, if this is true then hundreds of "insurgents" and thousands of the "Green Zone" army [they even brought extra forces from Hilla] add to this the Americans battled in an area 600_200 meter [I am quoting Najaf-mayor deputy, 25 years old Adb-AlHussein Abttan].
2- From the first hours of the battle they announced 250-300 "insurgents" dead, three days later of heavy fights, the number never changed.
3- The "Green Zone" government said that the group is Sunnis and Baathists insurgents [that was a little bit hard to believe], the media revealed that the group is a Shiite group but they reported three different names:
"Heaven Soldiers", "God Soldiers", "Soldiers of Islam" and "Mahdawia"._Interestingly Nahrain [owned by Ammar Al-Hakim son of Al-Hakim], says Saudi Arabia involved by providing logistic and financial support to the group.
4- Different "Group Leader" names reported:
Shirwan Alwaili Minister of National Security announced that the Leader of "Soldiers of Islam" called "Ahmed Al-Hassan" was killed in the battle, Later they said his nickname is Yamani [comes from Yemen], [Al-Akhbar] and later they added that he is Shiite from Lebanon, his name is Abu Kumar.
The true story revealed by Islamemo through an eyewitness who joined the fight with the so called "insurgents", and challenges the "Green Zone" government id they can deny it:
Two Shiite Iraqi tribes [Al-Kazail and Al-Hawatim] were heading to Najaf to join Ashura ceremony, one of the leaders of the tribes went in his car with his wife because he is an old cripple man, since there is a curfew in Najaf, police checkpoint outside Najaf opened fire on the convoy killing the tribe leader and his wife.
It was dark at night convoy guards had there weapons with them they returned the fire, but the police managed to contact their commanders asking for support, other unites joined by the Americans opened fire on the convoy also killing 40 members.
It is along story with details, the eyewitness tells about the only journalist from managed to take pictures of the exact events was killed and his camera was stolen.
A delegation from both tribes went to Najaf to meet the officials and the journalists in "Ahbab Hussein" hotel, the Americans prevented the delegation from meeting NBC journalists, they allowed Iraqi TV journalist to meet the "Green Zone" soldiers only.
Historian Reidar Visser says in a report that if some press reports are correct, the group involved in fighting near Basra on Sunday (with causalties up to 300 at last report) were followers of messianic leader Ahmad al-Hasan, also known as "al-Basri" and "al-Yemeni", and he says this group represents what he calls "full-blown Mahdism", the leader being considered the representative of the Hidden Mahdi. Their ideology includes rejection not only of the persons who represent official Shiite authority in Najaf, but also rejection of the whole idea of learned interpretation of the law, the sole authority being Ahman al-Hasan himself as representative of the Mahdi. And their involvement in large-scale fighting would mark "a dramatic new development" in the Iraqi situation.
This is in contrast to another version of events, according to which these were followers of a completely different individual, Mahmoud al-Hasani al-Sarkhi, whom Visser describes as follows: "Ultimately, Mahmud al-Hasani represents a variation of the Sadrist phenomenon also seen in Muqtada al-Sadr and Muhammad al-Yaqubi - i.e. he claims to be the true custodian of the legacy of the late Muhammad al-Sadr (Sadr II), and he pays lip service to the orthodox view of the Shiite hierarchy in that he claims to be a mujtahid (a cleric who has the authority to interpret Islamic law)."
Visser's point is that if in fact the millenarian group following "Ahmad al-Hasan from Basra" were the protagonists, then this represents an important new departure in Iraqi conflict.
If it is indeed his followers that are currently fighting in such large numbers outside Najaf, this would mean that Mahdism has now entered Iraqi politics on a larger scale - with the inevitable evocation of past schismatic movements in Shiism similarly inspired at least to some extent by Mahdism, like Shaykhism and Babism, which for long periods during the nineteenth century created civil-war like conditions in Persia and the Ottoman provinces of Iraq.
Here in America, the widely-read Shia expert Juan Cole for some reason writes as if these two individuals are one and the same. He writes:
The group follows Ayatollah Ahmad al-Hasani al-Sarkhi, called al-Yamani, who is said by his followers to be in direct touch with the Hidden Imam or promised one.
Which would completely confuse anyone trying to make sense of the reports.
The biggest story out of Iraq so far this year may not be the surge, or the latest mass bombing, or the escalating sectarian violence; it might, instead, be a decision that further complicates all of the above. Over the next few weeks, a law to reform Iraq's oil industry - essentially the only source of income the country has aside from U.S. subsidies - is expected to move toward implementation, and the consequences could be enormous.
Coverage of the proposal has focused on the fact that it doesn't break up the country's oil resources, as some had suggested, to various ethnic groups - a piece for the Kurds, a piece for the Shiites, etc. But the real story may be that once the proposal is put into place, international oil companies will have a far better shot at Iraq reserves than ever before. (…)
James Paul, executive director of the Global Policy Forum, a New York-based non-profit public interest group that tracks the Iraq play, says Iraq offers an irresistible return on investment for oil companies: Its crude costs about $1 a barrel to produce, and world market prices hover around $50 a barrel. Since oil revenues will have to underwrite Iraq's reconstruction, notes Paul, the future of the oil industry is perhaps the most critical decision for Iraq's people to make. Yet, he adds, the government seems headed toward passing a "grossly undemocratic" law put together without much public input - but with plenty of advice from the United States.
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At least that's the song Bush and Cheney better start singing, complete with choreography. Because otherwise, this surge of troops is going to be woefully short of a surge of equipment:
"We don't have the [armor] kits, and we don't have the trucks," [Lt. Gen. Stephen ] Speakes [Army's deputy chief of staff for force development] said in an interview. He said it will take the Army months, probably until summer, to supply and outfit the additional trucks. As a result, he said, combat units flowing into Iraq would have to share the trucks assigned to units now there, leading to increased use and maintenance. [....] U.S. commanders privately expressed doubts that Iraq-bound units would receive a full complement of Humvees. "It's inevitable that that has to happen, unless five brigades of up-armored Humvees fall out of the sky," one senior Army official said of the feared shortfall.
Other items of note regarding this New Way Forward Without Any Practical Considerations: we've turned over about half our bases to the Iraqi army, so the military is still figuring out where the new troops will sleep--probably bunking up real cozy-like in the existing facilities. And the National Guard is pretty much tapped out on their equipment already, with about 40 percent of what they need. The estimate for returning to minimum equipment levels? 2013.
I was in Najaf last week and met many of its inhabitants. The people I interviewed were adamant that they will never let Iranians establish a foothold in the holy city.
True, thousand of Iranians visit Najaf every day and the city's inhabitants welcome them. But they are only welcomed because they are tourists, nothing more nothing less.
The doubts raised about Iraqi Shiites loyalty are baseless. Iraqi Shiites are as attached to the country as any other of its sects.
There must be political agendas behind the claims that Iraqi Shiites have aligned themselves with Tehran at the expense of the country's national unity and the integrity of its borders.
Those raising suspicions about the Arab identity of Iraqi Shiites are simply offering over 12 million Iraqis as a gift to the Persian nationality. Their aim is to pit the country's two main sects against each other and settle political scores, using Iraqi blood as a bridge to achieve their dirty aims.
Undoubtedly, the regime in Tehran has bases inside Iraq and influence within its political and religious establishments. But the regime wields this influence not for the sake of Iraqi Shiites but to further its interests.
Iraqi Shiites are true Arabs. History says they were the vanguards of the uprisings and revolutions against foreign occupiers and influences.
Iraqi Shiites spearheaded uprisings against the British rule of Iraq and they were the ones who repelled repeated attacks by Iran when it desperately tried to push into Iraqi territory during the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war.
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I got a letter from a dear friend of mine telling me that the media says that the Sunnis kill the Shiites and the Shiites kill Sunnites in Iraq .. OOOOHHHHH Of course that is not true , Sunnites and Shiites have been living together for ages , they marry each other , I have relatives married Shiites women\men, if that was true , that means my parents' uncle should kill his wife ,my mom's uncle should kill his wife , some of my parents' cousins should kill their wives\husbands !!!!!!!! and I should kill my two best friends , that is ridiculous...
In my grandparents' neighborhood, there are people from many religions there are Muslims(Sunnites, Shiites) , Christians , Subba , &Armenians.. they are more than neighbors , like one family , when my eye problem happened ( I had Deplopia) our Christian neighbors went to the church and lightened candles for me , and our Shiites neighbors went to Karbala , she traveled to another city , just to pray for me ( Karbala is a religious place specially for Shiites ), the examples are so many . I've talked about that in many posts . and said that in many interviews , and I will keep saying that till the people in the world start to realize , that Iraqis (Sunnites and Shiites) live in Iraq for more than 1400 years, they are MUSLIMS and IRAQIS.
We go shopping together , if we need any help , we ask our neighbors to help us , because we are all Iraqis , no matter what are our religion , nor creeds , I didn't know what are Shiites and Sunnites until I was 12 years old, and lately it appears that there are more creeds , Shafee and hanafy !!!!!! and other creeds , I don't know which one I belong to , and I don't even want to know , those names are not important , we all believe in the same god , and say the same prayers , no matter how do we stand and those formals if we put our hand together when we pray or not !!!!!!, what's important is what is there inside our hearts .
So , NO we don't kill each other , the terrorists who kill Shiites are the same who kill Sunnites , it is impossible that Good Iraqis kill each other , no matter what is their religions nor creeds ...
[Days of My Life blog is posted by an Iraqi girl who turned 15 on January 29 -- zig]
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(…) As for the national Iraqi resistance; it existed since the first months of the occupation... And this is a story that Bush wants to deny its existence on the ground of reality; the story of the existence of a nationalistic Iraqi resistance that rejects the occupation, while he claims his remaining in Iraq to crush Al-Qaida'a?
If the occupation goes out of Iraq, then the Iraqis will know how to crush Al-Qaida'a...
But fabricating explosions that kill innocent Iraqis, plotted by unknown people; this gives a justification for Bush to remain, under the pretext of achieving security in Iraq.
As for the Iraqi symbols who returned to Iraq under the protection of the occupation, those who used to call themselves- the opposition, who allied themselves with Bush to realize his project in Iraq; those symbols, about whom we are certain now, after these barren years, that they came only to monopolize authority and plunder the wealth of the country. Those symbols do not want the world to hear the word - national Iraqi resistance... That word hurts their feelings, or rather, provokes them and makes them angry... because those symbols want to convince the world that all the Iraqis support Bush and his men in Iraq. And whoever objects is a Saddamist, Ba'athi criminal...
And so, this resistance is a bunch of Saddamists, Ba'athies and criminals; or so they were trying to convince the world and the Iraqi people on the first months after the occupation... they attributed the charge of the trapped cars and the daily random killings as an act of the Iraqi resistance.
But the random arrests and mass punishments against innocent civilians, led by the occupation forces joined by the Iraqi Interior and Defense Ministries, made people resentful against the occupation and those who collaborate with it... (…)
These stupid and aggressive acts against the Iraqis made a big number of them change their minds, and respect anything concerning the national resistance. A lot of people started looking at the resistance with an appreciative and respectful eye, that they aren't a bunch of Ba'athis or foreign people from beyond the borders, and this angers the weak Iraqi government, which possess no popularity or support on the ground of reality. This government is supported only by the occupation, and even the congress criticizes it; being a weak government in need of constant American support...
In the former security plans until now, the government doesn't eliminate the gangs and the militias who kill innocent civilians; but they are rather busy chasing the resistance, joined by the occupation soldiers. This is a priority to them. As to the daily shedding of the innocent Iraqi blood; no one cares about it and no one stops it, neither the occupation nor the government...
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Joshua Holland: SO, IS IT S**T OR IS IT SHINOLA?
Richard Lugar, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, took to the pages of the Washington Post today to urge us to get our damned sports metaphors straight when it comes to our adventures in the Middle East ...
We need to recast the geo-strategic reference points of our Iraq policy. Some commentators have compared the Bush plan to a "Hail Mary" pass in football -- a desperate heave deep down the field by a losing team at the end of the game. Actually, a far better analogy for the Bush plan is a draw play on third down with 20 yards to go in the first quarter. The play does have a chance of working if everything goes perfectly, but it is more likely to gain a few yards and set up a punt on the next down, after which the game can be continued under more favorable circumstances.
Ooh, I'll try! Iraq is like a game in which we dominated on the very first possession and then lost control of the ball the rest of the way. We didn't give up any touchdowns, but the other guys scored like a dozen field goals. Now the game is over, we lost, but there are a few guys who've taken one hit to the head too many still running aimlessly around the field in the pathetic belief that they can still pull out the win -- never mind that the lights have been turned off, the crowds have gone home and the stadium crews are cleaning up the gum stuck under the bleachers.
Or something.
Anyway, it's pretty strange to pass off a four year-old conflict that just keeps getting worse and worse as being "in the first quarter."
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I would respectfully suggest to the president that he is not the sole 'decider'. The decider is a shared and joint responsibility." -- Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. the head of the Judiciary Committee until Democrats won control from Republicans in November


Monday, January 29, 2007

Photo: Iraqi soldiers arrest suspects in heavy sandstorm during clashes with gunmen at Zarqa, 20 kilometers (12 miles) northeast of Najaf, Iraq, Monday Jan. 29, 2007. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)
Iraqi officials said Monday that 300 militants were killed in a fierce battle between U.S.-backed Iraqi troops and insurgents allegedly plotting to kill pilgrims at a major Shiite Muslim religious festival. Elsewhere, bombings and mortar attacks targeting Shiites killed at least 15 people. The fighting that began Sunday near the Shiite holy city of Najaf had largely subsided by Monday as Iraqi security forces frisked suspects while others patrolled elsewhere on the battlefield. Brig. Gen. Fadhil Barwari also said 300 militants had been killed, including 30 Afghans and Saudis, and 20 were captured. Iraqi security officials said earlier that one Sudanese was among the fighters detained. The figures could not be independently confirmed. The Iraqi Defense Ministry, which oversees the army, said it could not yet give a casualty toll because sporadic fighting was ongoing.
> The leader of an Iraqi cult who claimed to be the Mahdi, a messiah-like figure in Islam, was killed in a battle on Sunday near Najaf with hundreds of his followers, Iraq's national security minister said on Monday.
Women and children who joined 600-700 of his "Soldiers of Heaven" on the outskirts of the Shi'ite holy city may be among the casualties, Shirwan al-Waeli told Reuters. All those people not killed were in detention, many of them wounded. Iraqi troops, backed by U.S. forces, confronted the group after learning it was planning an attack on the Shi'ite clerical establishment in Najaf on Monday.
"One of the signs of the coming of the Mahdi was to be the killing of the Ulema (hierarchy) in Najaf," Waeli said. "This was a perverse claim. No sane person could believe it."
> [The Iraqi government spokesman] Al-Ghanemi said the area where the men were staying was once run by Saddam's al-Quds Army, a military organization the late president established in the 1990s. The commander said "the gunmen had recently dug trenches in preparation for the battle." He added that the area of full of date palm groves. Other officials in Najaf said Saddam loyalists bought the groves six months ago.
Al-Ghanemi said 600 to 700 gunmen had planned to disguise themselves as pilgrims and attack Najaf on Tuesday, the day they believed that the Imam Mahdi, or the "hidden imam," would reappear. He said leading Shiite ayatollahs consider such fringe elements as heretics.
> The Iraqi health minister said on Monday the security forces lost five soldiers while 31 others were wounded during the military operation near the Shiite sacred city of Najaf.
> U.S. and British jets played a major role in the fighting, dropping 500-pound bombs on the militants' positions, but President Bush said the battle was an indication that Iraqis were beginning to take control.
"My first reaction on this report from the battlefield is that the Iraqis are beginning to show me something," Bush told NPR.
> An Iraqi army brigade entered the area where a battle with Ahmed al-Hassan's fighters took place over two days near Najaf and arrested 50 gunmen there, a military source said. (…)
The source added "the army troops also held in custody 200 women and children who were found in the area." Describing the area after the two day-long battle, the source said "more than 1,000 corpses that belonged to the armed group fighters were found in the battle area."
> Az-Zaman added that the attackers were repeating slogans calling for the return of the Mahdi, the twelfth Imam who, according to Muslim tradition, will re-appear with the nearing of judgment day to combat injustice in the world and prepare for the final Day of Judgment.
The newspaper pointed to the fact that many of the fighters of the Mahdi army had moved to the South to avoid capture during the Baghdad security plan. It is unclear whether the daily is insinuating that the Mahdi Army is somehow involved with the group of attackers. Some rumors in Iraq and the Arab World accuse Muqtada al-Sadr of holding unorthodox millenarian beliefs that perceive political action as a mean to hasten the reappearance of the Mahdi.
> Two senior Shiite clerics said the gunmen were part of a Shiite splinter group that Saddam Hussein helped build in the 1990s to compete with followers of the venerated religious leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. They said the group, calling itself the Mehwadiya, was loyal to Ahmad bin al-Hassan al-Basri, an Iraqi cleric who had a falling out with Muhammad Bakr al-Sadr — father-in-law of the Shiite leader Moktada al-Sadr — in Hawza, a revered Shiite seminary in Najaf.
A parked car bomb struck a bus carrying Shiites to a holy shrine in northern Baghdad,
killing at least four people and wounding six, police said. The blast occurred when a small car parked nearby exploded about 9:30 a.m. as the pilgrims were boarding the bus on Palestine Street. The bus, which was completely burned out, had been heading to Kazimiyah, which is home to the most important Shiite mosque in the capital.
A bomb hidden under a concrete barrier exploded as workers were paving a street in an intersection in a predominantly Shiite area in eastern Baghdad, killing one worker and wounding two others, police said.
Three university professors and a student were kidnapped in the Khadimiya district in northern Baghdad when they were on the way home from a seminar at a law college on Sunday, a Higher Education Ministry official said
A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded two policemen near Qahtan Square in Qadisiya district in southwestern Baghdad,.
A car bomb killed one person and wounded three others near a square in Sadr City district in eastern Baghdad.
A car bomb killed one person and wounded three others in al-Baladiyat district in eastern Baghdad.
Police said they discovered around 42 unidentified bodies which were dumped in several Baghdad districts overnight. The bodies showed signs of torture and gunshots.
The Association of Muslim Scholars rotested against the capture of 12 Sunni guards from a mosque in Amiriyah district, western Baghdad, by US-led coalition and Iraqi forces. They claimed in a statement that the forces seized the guards' weapons, charity money that they carried, computers and the fuel used for electric generators. They called the seizure 'a robbery' and urged the forces to release the guards and return their belongings
Three mortars killed 11 people and wounded 28 more in Zaafaraniya, southeast of Baghdad,.
A sniper in Karada area shot a policeman who was guarding Hay Al Wihda bank.
A suicide bomber detonated his car at an Iraqi army checkpoint in Al Hurriyah area near Adan square, 5 civilians were killed and 25 others were injured.
A car bomb exploded behind Al Mustansiyriah university, 3 civilians were injured.
21 dead bodies were found in Baghdad, some were handcuffed and tortured, 1 in Abu Ghraib, 3 Bayaa, 3 Aour, 1 Zayuna, 1 Rashad, 1 Adhamiyah, 1 Alwiah, 3 Amil, 2 near Haifa Street, 2 Ghazaliyah, 2 Yarmouk and 1 Dora
Diyala Prv:
Two civilians were killed and three others wounded in a mortar attack waged by unidentified gunmen on the residential section of al-Kubat, north of al-Khalis district.
According to a security and medical source from Baqouba city today, a group of terrorists attacked a residential complex for Al Bayat tribes in Kara Taba village which led to the killing of 8 civilians .
Jurf al-Sakhar:
Mortar rounds rained down on a Shiite neighborhood in the town of Jurf al-Sakhar, 40 miles south of Baghdad, Monday morning, police spokesman Capt. Muthanna Khalid said. He said 10 were killed, including three children and four women, and five other people were wounded
According to an Iraqi police source from Al Tuzz area 175km north of Baghdad, this morning 5 unknown gunmen were killed by fires from the American helicopters last night near Sleman Beak area 7km south of Tuzz area. The police source said the gunmen were trying to plant an IED.
Tuz Khurmato:
Five worshippers were killed when a rocket propelled grenade hit a Shi'ite mosque in the town of Tuz Khurmato, 70 km south of Kirkuk.
According to the head of the operation room in Kirkuk province colonel Yazgar Shuku, last evening at about 5o'clock a car bomb exploded near the central market. It was left by the roadside, 6 civilians were killed and 16 others were injured and 25 civilian cars were destroyed.
A car bomb exploded in Al Shurja market near Omar Bin Al Khatab mosque, 5 civilians were killed and 20 others were injured and 12 civilian cars were destroyed.
An Iraqi army soldier was shot dead at by a sniper gunshot while manning a checkpoint in the western entrance of Fallujah City.
Three gunmen in a car showered a policeman with bullets and killed him near his house in the Mualimeen neighborhood in Fallujah.
A roadside bomb went off near a U.S. patrol in the Albu Hatim area in the southwest of the city, damaging a U.S. Humvee. It was not clear whether the U.S. troops sustained any casualty by the blast, the source said, adding that the U.S. troops sealed off the area.
British forces in southern Iraq may face a spill-over of violence from an anticipated US troop "surge" in the capital Baghdad,
a senior US diplomat has warned.
David Satterfield, the State Department's senior co-ordinator for Iraq policy, told BBC radio Monday that Washington and London were consulting each other to minimise the risks for British troops in the region around Basra. (…)
Satterfield rejected suggestions that there was a US-British split over Bush's planned surge at a time when the British government stands by a vision of cutting the troops it sent into Iraq during the US-led invasion in March 2003.
He also denied that a build-up of US forces in Iraq and the Gulf presaged direct military action against neighbouring Iran.
Iran is taking steps to greatly expand military and economic ties with Iraq, Tehran's ambassador to Iraq said in an interview on Sunday with New York Times.
The ambassador, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, said Iran was prepared to offer Iraqi forces training, equipment and advisers for "the security fight" and was ready to assume major responsibility for the reconstruction of Iraq.
He also acknowledged for the first time that two Iranians detained last month by U.S. forces were security officials as the United States has claimed.
"They worked in the security sector in the Islamic Republic, that's clear," Qomi said in a 90-minute interview at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad. The interview appeared in Monday's New York Times.
The Iranians were in Iraq because "the two countries agreed to solve the security problems," the ambassador said. The Iranians "went to meet with the Iraqi side," he told the newspaper.
Qomi said the Iranians should not have been detained and he ridiculed evidence the U.S. military said it has which proving the Iranians were involved in planning attacks on American and Iraqi forces.
A prominent Shiite leader said Monday that setting up federal regions in Iraq would solve the country's problems, adding that Shiites are being subjected to mass killings but they should not retaliate by using violence.
Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Shiite bloc in the 275-member parliament, was speaking at a Shiite mosque in central Baghdad to mark Ashoura, one of the holiest days in the Shiite calendar commemorating the 7th century death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussein. Thousands of people dressed in black in a sign of mourning attended the ceremony at the Khulani Mosque.
"I reaffirm that the establishing of regions will help us in solving many problems that we are suffering from. Moreover, it represents the best solution for these problems," al-Hakim said. "We affirm the necessity of establishing the south and center and Baghdad regions after the people vote on it."
A delegation from the Sadrist parliamentary bloc met on Monday Iraq's Kurdistan President Massoud al-Barazani to "correct" many misunderstandings over the Sadr movement, a legislator said.
"Our meeting with President Barazani corrected many understandings about the objectives and mechanisms of the Sadr movement," legislator Al-Aaraji, currently on a visit to Arbil, said "Barazani expressed support to the Sadr movement and we appreciated his back-up."
This is the first meeting of its kind between Barazani and the Sadrists (followers of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr), the legislator pointed out and added "many issues were discussed during the meeting which made a number of recommendations."
Branding his visit to Arbil as historic, al-Aaraji said "the Sadr movement will back the Kurdistan Coalition demands in the parliament if these demands did not clash with the national and Islamic basics."
Bush will reject any effort in Congress to limit the number of US forces in Iraq because it would hamstring American efforts to stabilize the wartorn country, national security adviser Stephen Hadley has said in an article.
Nine anti-war protesters were arrested Monday when they gathered in a House office building to read off the names of American and Iraqi war dead.
More than 770 civilian contractors have died in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003. Statistics kept by the Labor Department indicate fatalities among civilian contractors working for American firms escalated rapidly late last year, with at least 301 dying in Iraq in 2006 -- including 124 in the final three months.
There have long been rumors and realities about insurgents using American style PSD tactics. The recent abduction and murder of four U.S. Soldiers from the Shi'a holy city of Karbala is the first major event in which this supposed myth became reality. (…)
Given the confusion and lack of hard details, the tactics are new and disturbing. Rumors in Karbala say this is an Iranian operation designed as payback for the arrest of its citizens. The lack of violence towards Iraqi military and police is an unusual part of this operation. The theory is that the Iranians needed hostages to negotiate the release of its operatives. An American raid on the Iranian embassy the day after the Karbala incident may also be part of the reason for the rumors. President's Bush's decision to allow the killing of Iranian agents in Iraq may also be linked to increased aggression by both sides.
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This was published by Aswat al-Iraq yesterday, and it speaks for itself.
A Sunni-Shiite fraternal council, organized by [an institution commemorating Moqtada's father] and the Islamic Party of Iraq, wound up two days of activities in Basra today. Abdulkarim Jarrad, head of the Islamic Party in Basra, told Voices of Iraq that attendees, in addition to representatives of the two sides, included also other religious and social leaders, and he said these meetings "differ from earlier meetings we have had together with [the Sadr group] in that it included legal and political studies and [the creation of] working groups that will continue efforts to make sure the recommendations are translated into action".
Jarrad added that the council issued a final statement that included disavowing takfiiris and Saddamists, agreeing on rejection of the occupation, and declaring that it [the occupation] is the first and the last cause of sectarian fitna.
He said the final statement also stressed the need to work to spare the blood of Muslims, Shiia and Sunni alike; to end the practice of forced migrations on both sides; and to invite the return of those who have been subjected to that; and to set up a council to implement that.
The final statement also urged the following: that other religious, tribal and political leaders organize similar fraternal meetings; that there be a timetable for the withdrawal of the occupation forces from Iraq; and that security in Basra be turned over to the Iraqi government once there has been established a sound security force based on national loyalty.
It remains to be seen whether the "surge" in forces, and the alleged new strategy behind it, can yield results. Given that this is likely to be the last big US push in Iraq, the determination of American politicians and military commanders should not be underestimated. But the configuration of US infrastructure in Iraq and the dynamics that determine its relationship with the new Iraqi elites would suggest that the "new" strategy is doomed from the outset. In fact, it could exacerbate the sectarian divide by the summer and make a horrendous bloodletting in Baghdad - once the Americans begin to depart the arena - that much more inevitable.
As for countering Iranian influence, the US surge in Baghdad may in fact contribute to its growth by drawing the rebellious Shi'ites (as opposed to the elites in the Green Zone) closer to the Islamic Republic. While important sections of Iraq's Shi'ite community were deeply wary of Iran at the outset of the invasion four years ago, their attitudes have steadily changed to the point where pro-Iranian sentiment in Shi'ite Iraq is pervasive and near-hegemonic. This will likely subside as the sectarian conflict eases in the long term, but for the foreseeable future it seems that the longer the Americans stay in Iraq the deeper Iranian influence becomes.
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The genocide option threatens Iraq, where the United States is engaged in direct military action against another virtually defenceless population-in contrast with El Salvador where proxies did the dirty work. Military technology has advanced further, and the complete amorality of the Deciders and their willingness to kill without limit to achieve their goals or save face is clear. It is important for the Deciders that not too many U.S. service personnel be killed, as this has a definite negative effect on the national willingness to move forward to "victory" (or at least temporarily fending off acknowledging defeat). If U.S. casualties can be reduced by more intensive firepower, at the expense of greater Iraqi civilian casualties, that has been and will continue to be the route taken. Furthermore, U.S. pacification violence applied to Sunni-dominated towns is implemented out of sight of the mainstream media (although not completely hidden given the bravery of some non-imbedded Western journalists and Al Jazeera).
The Bush "surge" is a desperation maneuver, and in a context of ever-stronger political objections to more U.S. personnel in Iraq and sensitivity to U.S. casualties, there is good reason to believe that the Bush answer will be even more intensive firepower in Baghdad and other cities and villages in which the insurgents mingle easily with the civilian population. Bush even warns U.S. citizens of more blood and gore "even if our new strategy works exactly as planned." Furthermore, partly via the use of the Salvadoran Option and partly by U.S. manipulation of sectarian conflict, [7] the invasion-occupation has produced a deadly civil war in which the Sunnis and Shiites engage in large-scale communal ethnic cleansing and killing, adding to the toll.
There can be little doubt that the rate of civilian killing in Iraq is about to rise from something like the recent Lancet estimate of 655,000 to a larger figure. If "genocide" was committed in Bosnia, where recent establishment analysts concluded--embarrassingly, given the earlier institutionalized total of 250,000-- that approximately 100,000 people died on all sides, including military personnel, [8] surely we have a case of genocide in Iraq just during the period 2003-2006. And Bush is about to give us more, with the Democrats and UN looking on but doing nothing to restrain the killing machine.
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Whatever It Is I'm Against It: HOORAH
Here’s what we’re supposed to believe: in Najaf American and Iraqi soldiers killed 250 militants from a group that no one’s ever heard of before this very day.
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Born at the Crest of the Empire: SURPRISES IN NAJAF
So, the militants in Najaf were an apocalyptic Shia cult targeting the symbols of the mainline Shia? (Reuters)
And, this fractious Shia group had "shoulder-fired rockets, antiaircraft guns and Katyusha rockets?" (WaPo)
What next?
(This would explain why the Shia dominated government took on this fight, eh?)
For two days now, CNN has been running a long segment about what they call a possible "nightmare scenario" in Iraq, in which the training and weapons being given to Iraqis might eventually be turned on Americans. Two days ago, Wolf Blitzer even asked Dick Cheney (pdf link) about it in an interview.
Gee, I wonder where I've read all this before...two years ago?
Is there any chance at all that the U.S. is not only training Iraqi pilots, but also preparing to leave attack planes, helicopters, and cruise missiles behind for the Iraqi government to use on that mythical day when American forces leave? Are you kidding? And let them fall into the "wrong hands" when that government falls the week after the Americans leave?
Issandr El Amrani: THE NEW SADDAM
Having made a mess of Iraq, continuing to refuse to play a constructive and even-handed role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and having gotten bored with democracy promotion, the Bush administration now appears to be fanning the flames of sectarian strife region-wide. Since September 2006, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney and other senior administration officials have made trips to the Middle East to rally the support of what Rice has described as the “moderate mainstream” Arab states against Iran. This group has now been formalized as the “GCC + 2,” meaning the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman) as well as Egypt and Jordan.
I suggest that this new coalition be renamed to something less technocratic: the Sunni Arab-Dominated Dictatorships Against the Mullahs, or SADDAM. I have to confess I was inspired by historical precedent. In the 1980s, some of you may remember, there was another Saddam who proved rather useful against Iran. Saddam invaded Iran without provocation, sparking an eight-year-long war that was one of the 20th century’s deadliest. Along the way, the U.S. and the Arab states listed above provided much in funding, weapons and turning a blind eye when Saddam got carried away and used chemical weapons against Kurds (it did not raise that much of a fuss when he used them against Iranians, either).
By forming SADDAM, the Bush administration hopes to do several things. Firstly, encourage countries with ambivalent policies towards Israel to accept a new regional security arrangement with the Jewish state firmly as its center—the holy grail of the neo-conservatives who, despite reports to the contrary, continue to craft U.S. Middle East policy. (Otherwise, why would Elliott Abrams still have his job?) Secondly, it is securing the support of these countries against Iran, in preparation for a possible strike against its nuclear facilities or some other form of military action, or at least to ensure the recently announced United Nations sanctions against Iran are effective. One tactic is getting the oil-producing SADDAM countries to up production and bring the price of the oil barrel back to under $50, as Saudi Arabia is obviously doing by boycotting calls by fellow OPEC members to cut production.
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Another Day in the Empire: PEACE TRAIN: IMAGES FROM IRAN
A slideshow of images from Iran with music by Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens. Click here to view in browser.
A Newsweek Magazine poll found that more than seven-eighths of Americans oppose President Bush's plan to send 21,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq. Consequently, for the first time in office, his approval ratings have sunk below Adolf Hitler’s. When asked what he thought about the comparison, the President said pointedly, “It takes a strong leader to do what’s in your heart and not what’s popular. Adolf had the courage to act on his convictions, and I admire that. He didn’t care about approval ratings or Poles.”
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "They kidnap 10 Sunnis, they get ransom on five, and kill them all, in each big kidnap operation they make at least $50 000, it's the best business in Baghdad." -- a Shia man close to the Mahdi Army quoted in the Guardian special report "'If they pay we kill them anyway' - the kidnapper's story"


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