Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Day 3 of Baghdad bombings during rush hour

Although world attention has focused on the battle to control oil-rich Kirkuk — where the late Saddam once purged Kurds, and now Kurds and Kurdish parties are purging Arabs -- the strip of small villages connecting Sinjar to Khanaqeen has turned into a powder keg as Kurdish and Arab parties compete for the loyalties of the minorities. Both sides are using economic incentives, intimidation, detention and in some cases murder.
The force at the center of the conflict is the Peshmerga, Kurdish militias that mostly have been absorbed into the Iraqi Security Forces but remain loyal to the Kurdish parties in the north rather than the Shiite-dominated central government to the south. Sunni Arabs, who've cracked down on extremists elsewhere in Iraq, are angry and fearful of Kurdish rule in the region and have given the extremists space to terrorize Mosul.
"The whole front of where the (Kurdistan Regional Government) borders the rest of Iraq from Sinjar through Kirkuk on down to Khanaqeen is timed for a misstep, especially a military misstep," said Brig. Gen. Tony Thomas, the U.S. commander in Nineveh province. "We've got a real challenge and a crisis on our hands."
The office of the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Massoud Barzani, an outspoken Kurdish nationalist and the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, rejects allegations that they're "Kurdifying" areas through intimidation, detention and extrajudicial killings. Barzani's chief of staff, Fuad Hussein, charged that accusations from the Shabak and Yazidi communities, whom the Kurds consider to be fellow Kurds, often were due to Arab backing and Arab racism against the Kurds. Any incidents of intimidation or abuse are isolated and not a policy, he said.
"Some people speak on the behalf of the Yazidis, and now there are a few who are speaking on behalf of the Shabak to say that there is a policy within Kurdish political parties or within the KRG to discriminate against them," Hussein said. "We are trying to do everything to protect these people. We believe in their rights. . . . We are trying to help them as we are trying to help ourselves."
Thomas said he'd seen little evidence of extrajudicial killings during his 14-month tour. "We hear allegations all the time. You'll hear about Kurdish pressure; it will be everything from economic and political pressure to more concerning forced apprehension and murder," he said.
The issue is so sensitive that many Western officials won't talk about Kurdish intimidation on the record. Residents who've complained to U.N. officials about intimidation by Kurdish forces are often subject to detention by those forces within hours of their meetings with the officials.

The above is from Leila Fadel's "Kurdish expansion moves threaten stability in northern Iraq" (McClatchy Newspapers), a very important article. Meanwhile, for the third day in a row, Baghdad's in the news for bombings. Hamid Ahmed (AP) reports a Baghdad car bombing claimed 4 lives today (fifteen more wounded) and it was "the third consecutive day of morning rush hour blasts in the Iraqi capital" which also included a roadside bombing that left seven wounded while, in Mosul, two Iraqi Christians (sisters) were shot dead outside their home and their mother was left wounded.

As the report released Monday by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted (this is the link, click on language of choice -- such as "English" -- and remember it's PDF format):

Starting in August, attempts at intimdation aginst Christians in Mosul were reported with a dramatic increase in violence in the first two weeks of October. Over 2,200 families, more than 10,000 individuals, have reportedly fled their homes and most have sought temporary shelter in the Ninawa plains, leading my Special Representative to publicly express concern and strongly condemn the killing of civilians on 12 October. The development comes at a very sensitive time, and against a backdrop of heightened political tensions regarding the unresolved issues of minority representation in the provincial elections and disputed internal boundaries.

Didn't puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki swear the assaults had resulted in stronger measures to ensure protection? Some of the over 2,000 families have returned to the area and it appears some may flee for their own safety again.

Louise Ireland (Reuters) notes, "In Wednesday's incident, gunmen killed one woman outside her home, then stormed the house, killing her sister and wounding their mother."

A few e-mails to the public account offer heads up to the pay day for the "Awakening" Council members. This was covered in Monday's snapshot. It was avoided in yesterday's (which was a nightmare with too many people wanting too many things included -- mainly friends wanting things included) because some accounts were just laughable and incorrect. (But highly similar to the talking points issued by M-NF.) For those interested in the topic, Tina Susman's "Payday for some impatient sons" (Babylon & Beyond, Los Angeles Times) offers a highly comprehensive rundown and we'll note this from it:

The Iraqi payout, which began Monday in Baghdad, seemed to go smoothly, but the impatience exhibited by Jundi and several other Sons of Iraq is a warning sign of what may lie ahead if the Iraqi government does not fulfill its vow to find jobs for these men.
"So far all we've gotten is promises that we'll get hired here or there, but nothing," said Jundi as other men in line around him joined in the complaints. "There's nothing tangible" to hold on to for the future, said Younis Abdullah Sukhairi. "We don't have any faith." They said they trusted the U.S. forces but not Iraq's government.
The mutual distrust between the mainly Shiite Muslim government and the mainly Sunni Arab Sons of Iraq is at the root of several problems that could derail the program, which is credited with helping bring down violence nationwide. A year ago, there were about 24 attacks per day on U.S. and Iraqi forces and Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. William Grimsley. Now, there are about four attacks per day, said Grimsley, who called the Sons of Iraq "hugely important" in bringing down violence.
As U.S. troops brought journalists to visit some of the pay stations in Baghdad to witness the historic payout, there were no outward signs of mistrust. The Sons of Iraq stood in orderly lines. They quickly began tucking their shirts into their trousers when they spotted a TV camera. As their names were called, they stepped forward one by one to receive bundles of cash. The biggest problem seemed to be matching names on the Sons' identity cards with the transliterations of names on lists being kept by U.S. forces overseeing the operation.
"Say again?!" an American soldier said to an Iraqi after he'd called out the name of a man waiting to get paid. The American couldn't find the name on his list. "What's the tribal name?" he asked. Eventually the name game was sorted out and the man got his money: the equivalent of $300 in Iraqi dinars.
But how long can men be expected to expose themselves to attacks and danger -- at least 79 Sons of Iraq have been killed in Baghdad -- without knowing when they will find permanent work in the Iraqi security forces or other government institutions? That was on the minds of the men waiting to get paid. Even among some Sons already tapped to become Iraqi police, there was the sense that they would not have gotten to that point without U.S. forces prodding the Iraqi government.

And you can also check out Susman and Ned Parker's "Iraq's Sunni fighters leave U.S. payroll" (Los Angeles Times proper):

On Monday, fighters groused about a cut in pay, in some cases from $350 a month under the U.S. to $300 now.
In west Baghdad's Ghazaliya district, off a residential street with palm trees and chocolate-colored houses, hundreds of the fighters gathered in a line and waited to be called inside the tombstone-like blast walls of a U.S.-Iraqi military compound.
Under the leadership of a former officer in Saddam Hussein's special forces who identifies himself as Col. Raad, more than 100 Sons of Iraq members have been placed in the police force in this neighborhood.
Ghazaliya's Sunni paramilitary began as a way for the U.S. military to counter the influence of both the Sunni-dominated insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq and the Mahdi Army militia, made up of Shiites. Through the summer of 2007, the Iraqi army was thought by Sunnis and U.S. officers to be tacitly aiding the Mahdi Army as it spread into Sunni sections of Ghazaliya.
Raad, a onetime insurgent, fought the Americans in 2003 and 2004 and spent most of 2005 in Abu Ghraib prison, but became one of the group's leaders after his release. On Monday, he sat side by side with the Iraqi army commander and watched as his men were paid, studying the list of names.

This morning, the United Nations World Food Programme issued this press release entitled "New Report Says Iraq Food Security Better But Situation Still Volatile:"

Baghdad, 12 November 2008 -- The number of people without adequate access to food in Iraq has fallen dramatically, according to the findings of a joint assessment carried out by the Iraqi Government and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
The assessment -- which shows a significant improvement in food security - found some 930,000 people were without adequate access to food last year, down from around four million in 2005.
The Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Assessment (CFSVA) was carried out in late 2007 in collaboration with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as a follow-up to the last food security survey in mid-2005.
"We can give a cautious welcome to these figures," said Edward Kallon, WFP Country Director for Iraq.
"I say cautious, because 930,000 is still far too many for a relatively wealthy country. Moreover, there are a further 6.4 million people who would slide into food insecurity if it were not for safety nets, such as the Public Distribution System (PDS)."
Under the Government-run PDS, every Iraqi is entitled to a monthly food basket to fulfill their nutritional needs. However, frequent shortfalls and delays in the distribution of certain commodities have made it difficult for vulnerable households to manage their monthly food needs.
As well as surveying the food security of 26,000 people across the country, the CFSVA also examined the nutritional status of 24,000 children under five. It found an improvement in national acute malnutrition rates and little change in chronic malnutrition rates. However, in five districts, stunting rates among children were described as alarming.
"This report gives us crucial insights into the current state of food security in Iraq," said Dr Mehdi al-Alak, chairman of the Central Organization of Statistics and Information Technology of the Iraqi Ministry of Planning. "And that, in turn, is vital for the country's economic recovery, reconstruction and improvements in basic services."
"For the first time, we have a comprehensive report covering all parts of the country. This makes it an extremely valuable tool for working out policies and strategies in the future," said Dr. Jamal Ameen, the head of Kurdistan Region Statistics Office.
WFP is currently providing food assistance to 750,000 of the most vulnerable among the estimated 1.5 million people displaced inside Iraq since February 2006, who do not have continuous access to a PDS ration because they are unable to register in the places where they are currently living.
Kallon attributed the reversal of declining food security to increased economic activity across the country, stimulated by a marked improvement in security and the humanitarian efforts of the international community. “But the situation remains volatile and any deterioration could undermine the whole process,” he said.
The report recommends continued food assistance to the most vulnerable in collaboration with the Iraqi government’s efforts to reform the PDS. It calls for support to initiatives to improve mother and child nutrition and caring practices, scaling up micronutrient programmes and providing food for education in the poorest areas, with a particular emphasis on girls’ school enrolment and attendance.

Katherine Zoepf covers the $3.5 billion oil deal between China and Iraq in today's New York Times.

Last Thursday, Stan started his own site, Oh Boy It Never Ends. The plan for yesterday's snapshot was to note the political election section with links to community posts including Stan's "Isaiah and some quick thoughts" -- it did not work out that way. (It rarely does when attempts are made to plan something.) But I will note it here and note Stan's "Read Terrance D.C." from last night as well as:

If you've checked out Stan's site, you recognize the above. That's how his permalinks display. It gives the site and the most recent posting.

The e-mail address for this site is

leila fadel
mcclatchy newspapers
 the los angeles times
 tina susman
ned parker
the new york times
katherine zoepf

oh boy it never ends