Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, November 2, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, KRG objects to al-Maliki, the United Nations issues a report on Iraq, and more.
Today the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq released their thirteenth "Human Rights Report" with this one covering January 1, 2008 through June 30, 2008.  In their press release, they note:
The report highlights the situation of detainees across the country that remains of severious concern, including in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region.  Many detainees have been deprived of their liberty for month or even years,  often under harsh physical conditions, without access to defense counsel, or without being formally charged with a crime or produced before a judge.  Continuing allegations of widespread torture and ill-treatment of inmates are of particular concern.  Slow bureaucratic procedures, insufficient resource, degraded infrastructure and lack of effective accountability measures result in inordinate delays in processing detainees' cases.    
The plight of women across Iraq still requires urgent measures to combat gender-based violence, including so-called honor crimes.         
The report is entitled "Human Rights Report" [PDF format warning, click here]  and is thirty pages and divided into five sections.  The first section is the Executive Summary, the second is the Recommendations, third is Protection of Human Rights, fourth is Rule of Law and finally Promotion activities of UNAMI.  The summary is ten points that notes the violence in generalities, notes that the March and May attacks on Basra and the Sadr City section of Baghdad resulted in claims that civilians were wrongly targeted (and that UNAMI is investigating those claims), the targets of certain professional classes, the issue of prisoners, etc.  The Recommendations are broken up into three sections.  First up is those give for the Iraqi government and topping that list is: "Issue on a regular basis mortality data compiled by the Ministry of Health, based on informaction received from all governorates and statistics kept at the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad, together with details of the methodology used to calculate the figures."   In addition, they called for measures to protect at risk populations (religous and ethnic minorities, women) and to ensure prisoners are provided with counsel (and access to relatives), prompt judiciary processes, investigations of reports of abuse, better trained employees, etc.  In this section the confusion over which prisoners belong to the US (M-NF) and to the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) is broached and that leads us to the recommendations for the Kurdish region which (yet again) notes that policies regarding journalists and media professional need to be reviewed, that the vulnerable communities need to be better protected (not that different from their recommendations for the Iraqi government) the policies with regards to prisoners need to be reviewed and careful consideration should be given to "a moratorium on the death penalty pending a thorough review of legal proceedings followed at both pre-trials and trial stages."  Next come the recommendations for M-NF which include the need for continued investiagtions ("throughly, promptly and impartially") of all alleged "unlawful killings," a weak request that the US follow internationa human rights law, determine custody of prisoners captured jointly by the US and Kurdish forces, a weak request to allow international human montiors access to US prison facilities, etc.
The next section, "Protection of Human Rights; Extrajudicial executions, targeted and indiscriminate killings" notes at the start reports that civilians were targets following "car and suicide bombings" and that "Armed groups continue to ignore the distinction between civilian and combatants."  The same grouping (armed groups) has acted with impunity in attacking "government officials, religious figures, state employees, law enofrmacement personnel and a number of professional groups including academics, journalists, lawyers and judges."  The section then goes on to provide a breakdown of the violence for the time period. The next section focuses on the targeting of certain groups.  We'll note two specific groups from that section.
Religious figures and activists have been the victims of targeted violence throughout Iraq during the reporting period.  These attacks included the killing of Sheikh Essam Fleih Hassani, Imam of Al-Mukhtar mosque in Samarra, a member of the Sunni "Association of Muslim Scholars" and a well-known figure opposed to Al-Qaeda and other militia groups.  On 8 February, four Christian activists who were on a missionary work with the Norwegian Churches Organization were kidnapped by gunmen from Al Sakhra Church in Barsa.  On 29 February, Paulos Faraj Rahho, Chaldean Bishop of Mosul, was kidnapped and killed.  On 5 April, gunmen shot dead Adel Yousif, a priest in Hay al Karrada in Baghdad.  On 11 April, Riyad al Nouri, director of Al Sadr Office was shot dead by gunmen in Najaf.  On 15 April, Ali al Fadhli, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani was shot in downtown Basra city.  On 16 April, gunmen attacked and injured Sheikh Habib Al-Khateeb. 
[. . .]
Medical workers and doctors continued being targeted.  These attacks included the killings of surgeon Jinan Al Sabbagh in Basra on 12 Janury, Munther Mehrej Radi, Dean of the Faculty of Denstiry in Baghdad University, on 23 January, Khalid Nasir Al Meyeahee, Director of Basra Hospital on 9 March.  Dr. Amer Lazem in Baghdad on 17 April, Dr. Barakat Kathem in Balad Rux on 16 June and the kidnappings of surgeon Mohammad Abid Ali Al Ta'ei in Hilla on 10 April, Dr. Sabbar Mahrooz Abdullah, and his assistant, Dr. Ahmad Salah, in Tikrit on 15 May.
The report notes that Diyala Province had "the highest number of kidnapping incidents" and that it, Nineveh, Anbar and Diwaniyah joined Baghdad in having large number of corpses discovered.  Now a few who can go into the way-back machine will remember when the New York Times (and which reporter) were pimping the 'less corpses discovered in Baghdad per week!' lie to sell the idea that things were looking up, thing were looking up. So note this: "During the reporting period, between 3 and 5 unidifentifed bodies were found almost on daily baiss in different areas of Baghdad, including Karrada, Mansour, Sadr City, Dora, Tobchi, Shaab, Fedhyah and Hurriyah."  Three to five would be more than when the New York Times was insisting -- case closed! 
There is no news in the section on contractors.  The next section explores civilian deaths at the hands of Iraqi forces and US forces (but not really much data on the latter).  We'll note this:

Civilian deaths reportedly caused by Iraqi Security Forces (as well as by US-supported armed groups such as Awakening Councils and the Sons of Iraq) including the following: a lawyer shot by Iraqi police curing an exchange of fire with gunmen in Kut, on 8 January; 15 civilians killed in a fight between Awakening Council members and suspected insurgents in three villages around Mosul on 10 February; nine civilians killed in clashes between Iraqi Security Forces and the Mahdi Army in Kut on 11 March; 9 civilians were killed amid clashes between armed groups and Iraqi security personnel in Hay al Mithaq in Mosul on 11 March; one woman was killed by police in car that failed to stop at a checkpoint in Samarra on 14 March; in Mosul four civilian were killed on 9 April, and two others amid clashes between gunmen attacking a security checkpoint and the armed people defending the checkpoint and the armed people defending the checkpoint (south east of Mosul) on 27 April.
The next two pages involve the "Situation of women" and starts off noting complaints to UNAMI:
. . . from women regarding restrictions on their freedoms by conservative elements operating in neighbourhoods, governmental institutions and educational establishments in certain parts of Iraq. Wome reported receiving verbal comments on their mode of dress, particularly in cases where they were not wearing headscarves.  UNAMI also received reports of instances where women faced harassments or threats at checkpoints for similar reasons.  Female students at universities reported increasing pressure on them by their families to conform to a more conservative style of dress and behavior.  Where female students failed to comply, retaliatory measures outside the university grounds were reported against them.  Certain areas formely controlled by radical elements have witnessed a lessining of such pressures on women and girls since it came under the control of Iraqi Security Forces or the Awakening Councils.  This includes the ability to move more freely, report to work or attend educational activities.
The report also notes violence throughout Iraq,  and the incidents of 'honor' killings and domestic violence in the Kurdish region.  That's the first half of the report.  Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post) reports a move towards improvement on the part of some women in Baghdad and uses college student Hadeel Ahmed as one exmaple.  Ahmed is learning to drive and has given up "her head scarf and long skirts".  That is not: All things are great for women in Iraq! Or even just in Baghdad.  It is one small group of women in Baghdad who are making an effort to reclaim rights they had prior to the start of the illegal war.  Electronic Iraq posts an IRIN report entitled "Violence against Iraqi women continues unabeted" and quotes the UN's Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Yakin Ertuek explaining that "violence against Iraqi women is committed by numerous actors, such as militia groups, insurgents, Islamic extremists, law enforcement personnel, members of the family as well as the community."  And Sunday Afif Sarhan (Observer) reported that 'honor' killings in Basra had increased with 81 women murdered in 2008 to date including Rand Abdel-Qader:
Rand Abdel-Qader was killed after her family discovered that she had formed a friendship with a 22-year-old infantryman whom she knew as Paul. She was suffocated by her father then hacked at with a knife. Abdel-Qader Ali was subsequently arrested and released without charge.
Rand's mother, Leila Hussein, who divorced her husband after the killing, went into hiding but was tracked down weeks later and assassinated by an unknown gunman. Her husband had told The Observer that police had congratulated him for killing his daughter.
Meanwhile Reuters notes Turkey sent planes to bomb northern Iraq again yesterday. Hurriyet notes that the Turkish military has confirmed the attacks: "Turkish warplanes on Monday bombed terror organization PKK targets in northern Iraq, the general staff said in a statement, confirming an earlier statement by Iraq's border guards."

AP reports Iraqi refugees in Syria are not pleased by the treaty and that approximately 3,000 of them protested against it yesterday: The protesters carried banners including one that read: 'The pact aims to put Iraq under US tutelage.' They also chanted anti-US slogans and called on Iraqi leaders to revoke the pact." Meanwhile South Korea says bye-bye. Hwang Hae-rym and Teri Weaver (Stars and Stripes) note South Korea has now left Iraq and is no longer part of the so-called 'coalition' of the willing.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul car bombing that claimed 5 lives and left thirty people wounded and a Mosul cart explosion that claimed 6 lives and left fifteen people wounded. Reuters notes a Hilla roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 5 Iraqi soldiers.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two police officers wounded in a Mosul shooting.
AP reports that the "U.S. military is urging Iraq's Shiite-led government to boost the number of Sunni volunteers into its security forces" -- meaning the "Awakening" Council members.  The "Awakening" Council figures into a lengthy statement the Kurdish Regional Government issued.  They noted they had held off commenting specifically about Nouri al-Maliki's November 20th speech because they didn't want to harm the vote in Parliament on the treaty.  Their concerns include the use of groups similar to the "Awakening" Council which they feel not only rewards thugs who have caused harm in the past but undermines their ability to police their own area.  (al-Maliki and Baghdad's take is that the tribal councils are necessary to provide protection and that the KRG has 'expansionist desires').  The KRG is also worried that al-Maliki is circumventing the Constitution and they note the following:

1. The Prime Minister aims to suspend the Constitution. Despite his talk about the need to make amendments to the Constitution, what he really wants is to suspend the Constitution; a constitution which he participated in drafting and for which he has expressed admiration. The idea of suspending the constitution is a very dangerous action indeed. Amendments can be made to the Constitution and there is a mechanism set out in the Constitution for this purpose. Suspension of the Constitution is unacceptable to all parties, even those who opposed the constitution.

2. Imposing decisions of one party at the exclusion of participation in the decision-making process by other parties who are part of a coalition government. The Prime Minister applies the decisions taken by the Islamic Dawa Party (the Prime Minister's faction) to the government. This is in violation of the Constitution and in violation of all the agreements we have. Most importantly, it is a violation of the program of the coalition government of federal Iraq.

3. Militarization of society by using the Iraqi Army for political purposes and establishing political groups armed and funded by the government. The Federal Prime Minister attempts to militarize the society and create Support Councils. In fact, these are all linked to and belong to his party. Of course, his party has the right to establish such organizations in accordance with regulations set out in the law. But they cannot be established in the name of the government and be funded and armed by the government.

4. The federal government does not rely on a law to govern the work of the Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers doesn't even have an agreed upon charter, so proposals and decisions are all drafted in the Office of the Prime Minister (by leaders of the Islamic Dawa Party) first and then presented to the Council of Ministers.

5. The Federal Prime Minister keeps maintaining that he is the only one in charge of the executive branch. But this is not the case when we look at Article-66 of the Constitution which says, "The federal executive power shall consist of the President of the Republic and the Council of Ministers and shall exercise its powers in accordance with the Constitution and the law."

The Constitution has entrusted executive powers to the Council of Ministers. Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki is the head of the Council of Ministers. Important decisions must be made by the Council of Ministers headed by him. They cannot be taken by himself on behalf of the Council of Ministers. In the new Iraq, decisionmaking is not to be monopolized.
Turning to the War Hawk Corpratist who is now president-elect, Barack Obama gets easy publicity today for comments about he'd 'like' a 16-month withdrawal . . . of combat troops.  The same old song-and-dance.  Chris Hedges (Truthdig via Information Clearing House) reminds:
Barack Obama's decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan and leave behind tens of thousands of soldiers and Marines in Iraq -- he promises only to withdraw combat brigades -- is a failure to rescue us from the status of a rogue nation. It codifies Bush's "war on terror." And the continuation of these wars will corrupt and degrade our nation just as the long and brutal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank has corrupted and degraded Israel. George W. Bush has handed Barack Obama a poisoned apple. Obama has bitten it.
The invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq were our response to feelings of vulnerability and collective humiliation after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. They were a way to exorcise through reciprocal violence what had been done to us.
Collective humiliation is also the driving force behind al-Qaida and most terrorist groups. Osama bin Laden cites the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which led to the carving up of the Ottoman Empire, as the beginning of Arab humiliation. He attacks the agreement for dividing the Muslim world into "fragments." He rails against the presence of American troops on the soil of his native Saudi Arabia. The dark motivations of Islamic extremists mirror our own.
Meanwhile Jeremy Scahill (CounterPunch) examines whom the War Hawk is staffing with, "Barack Obama has assembled a team of rivals to implement his foreign policy.  But while pundits and journalists speculate endlessly on the potential for drama with Hillary Clinton at the state department and Bill Clinton's network of shady funders, the real rivaly that will play out goes virutally unmentioned."  Almost worth applauding, Scahill.  But you don't know a thing about Bill's funders and your association with crap-ass Pacifica programming, specifically the one where John Nichols FLAT OUT LIED that he was getting proof in Canada that it was Hillary and not Barack talking to the Canadian government about NAFTA means you should learn to stick to what is known.  After Scahill defeats the point of his own opening, he gets around to semi-exploring Susan Rice -- a Supreme War Hawk (as noted here for months and months and months) and that is work worth applauding. 
Thursday's snapshot noted: "Meanwhile in Germany a US soldier is seeking aslyum.  Andreas Buerger (Reuters) reports 31-year-old Iraq War veteran Andre Shepherd self-checked out of the military in 2007 and is now seeking sancturay in Germany where he held a press conference today and declared: 'When I read and heard about people being ripped to shreds from machine guns or being blown to bits by the Hellfire missiles I began to feel ashamed about what I was doing.  I could not in good conscience continue to serve. . . .  Here in Germany it was established that everyone, even a soldier, must take responsibility for his or her actions, no matter how many superiors are giving orders'."  Today James Ewinger (Plain Dealer) reports for Andre's hometown (Cleveland) that the 31-year-old war resister calls the Iraq War "illegal" and he notes:
Shepherd said he grew up on East 94th Street in Cleveland, attended Lakewood High School and studied computer science at Kent State University until he ran out of money.
He enlisted in 2004 with the hope of flying the Apaches, but was urged to become a mechanic first.
Scharf said he doubts that Shepherd's expected order to return to Iraq would, by itself, constitute an unlawful order.
"His best argument would be that Apaches are used to kill civilians," Scharf said, but he still viewed it as a weak case.