Monday, October 05, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Monday, October 5, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi Christians remain under attack but the attacks have been amplified, Camp Ashraf residents are ordered released but get tortured instead, the US sends more troops to Iraq, and more.
In Iraq, various populations are targeted -- including women who are targeted regardless of sect, religion, education, what have you.  Among the targeted groups are Iraqi Christians.  Today alarms are sounded again against assaults on Christians.  Xinhua interviewed Archbishop Lois Sako who tells them, "It seems clear that the operations of targeting Christians have returned again.  Before kidnapping the Christian man Imad Eila two days ago, there were several incidents occurred against other Christians in Kirkuk such as the killing of one of them, kidnapping a physician, and the storming of two houses of Christians by unknown gunmen in the city.  These horrible attacks against the Christian families here began to arouse horror among the unprotected minority, and the new attacks also raise fears of a new wave of violence against us." Alsumaria adds, "Then families comprising around 60 people have left the city last week in fear of being targeted for political motiviations or because of religious unawareness".  ZENIT explans that Imade Elias Abdul Karim, a Christian nurse, was kidnapped in Kirkuk last night and is corpse was discovered today. Asia News explains that he was tortured to death, that he leaves behind two children.   September 27th, Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported Dr. Mehasin Basheer has been released after being kidnapped from her Bartala home. AFP revealed the "Chrisitan doctor [was] abducted by an armed gang overnight from her home" in northern Iraq and quote a police officer stating, "The gang kidnapped the doctor, Mahasin Bashir, in her home late at night, as her children watched." Hammoudi says a ransom was paid. Doctors and Christians have been repeatedly targeted in Iraq and, at this point, it's not known if Dr. Basheer was targeted for either of those reasons or something else. September 24th's snapshot included, "INA reports that Dr. Sameer Gorgees Youssif was released by his kidnappers following his August 18th abduction. The explain the fifty-five year-old man is at least the fourth doctor kidnapped in Kirkuk in the last two years. His family paid $100,000 for his release. His injuries include sever pressure uclers along the right side of his body, 'open wounds around his mouth and wrists' (from being bound and gagged) and bruises all over his body." Like Dr. Basheer, Dr. Youssif is both a medical doctor and a Christian. Jareer Mohammed (Azzaman) noted the kidnapping of Dr. Basheer and that "Basheer serves in a small hospital in the Christian village of Bartella, just a few kilometers to the east of Mosul.  More attacks targeting the string of Christian villages to the east and north of Mosul have occurred recently.  Christian liquor shops are attacked and owners either kidnapped or killed.  The villages have preserved their Christian identity for centuries but the inhabitants now seriously fear for their future." Over the weekend, Last week, John Pontifex (Aid to the Church in Need) explained:
CHRISTIANS in Iraq are beginning to flee the only place where they thought they were safe -- their ancient homelands in the Nineveh plains.           
Reports have come in from clergy in the north of the country that in the past few months, a slow but steady emigration has got under-way from the villages and towns close to Mosul city, which trace their heritage back to the earliest Christian centuries.            
It comes after warnings of another blow to the Church expected in the immediate run-up to the January 2010 general elections.            
With government ministers publicly expecting a surge in violence as people prepare to go to the polls, Church leaders fear that a new security crisis could spark another mass exodus of Christians, which in some areas may mean the departure of the last remaining faithful.            
In an interview with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, leading Iraqi priest Fr Bashar Warda made clear that Christians in the Nineveh region are now beginning to feel threatened by the kind of security problems which have blighted the lives of people in so many other parts of the country.    
Speaking from northern Iraq today (Monday, 28th September), Fr Warda told the charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians: "I am sad to say that the emigration of Christian families that we have seen in places like Mosul and Baghdad has now begun to affect the Nineveh area.      
"We are not seeing -- at least not yet -- a large emigration from places like Alqosh and other [Nineveh] villages but it is definitely happening."
Fr Warda said he could not give precise estimates of the number leaving the region but he said that a number of exclusively Christian villages have each been losing 30 or 40 faithful every month, sometimes more.     
The news has added significance because the many almost completely Christian villages in the region had become a refuge for faithful under threat in other parts of the region.
UPI reminds, "The Christian community in Iraq was the target of attacks in late 2008, forcing nearly half of the population to seek refuge in neighboring Syria." 
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded four people (one was a police officer), a Mosul hand grenade explosion claimed the life of 1 child, an Al Sinuni car bombing which injured Peshmerga with either three wounded or over thirty, a Mosul roadside bombing wounded two police officers, a Mosul roadside bombing wounded two Iraqi soldiers, a Mosul roadside bombing injured one person, a Falluja sticky bombing claimed 1 life and wounded two people and a Falluja roadside bombing injured one person.   Fadhil al-Badrani, Tim Cocks and Angus MacSwan (Reuters) report a Haditha suicide bomber took his own life and the lives of "at least six mourners" in a funeral tent with at least fifteen more people left injured.
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 man was shot by Iraqi security forces in Mosul.   Reuters notes the person was a civilian.
Meanwhile September 24th, there was a prison break in Tikrit with sixteen prisoners escaping and, by the 25th, 6 of the 16 were said to have been captured. CNN reported 2 more escapees were captured on the 26th during "house-to-house searches" for a total of 8 prisoners now captured. Fang Yang (Xinhua) reported September 29th that three more were captured (9 total) and that, with the latest three, all five who were on death row have been captured. Yang notes Col Mohammed Salih Jbara ("head of anti-terrorism department of Salahudin province) has been "sacked" as a result of the prison escape. Anne Tang (Xinhua) reported Sunday that two more escapees were captured "bringing the number of recaptured prisoners to 11".
Staying on the topic of Iraqi, prisons, members of the MEK are being held in them.  Backtracking,July 28th was when the assault on Camp Ashraf by Nouri al-Maliki's 'troops' began. During Saddam's time, Iranian exiles were allowed safe harbor in Iraq. The exiles were leftists who were opposed to the religious fundamentalist leaders following the toppling of the Shah (the exiles did not favor the Shah). They utilized violence and are known as the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran or the MEK. They remained in Iraq in the 80s, the 90s and this decade. The European Union and England are among the organizations and countries that listed the MEK as a terrorist group -- past tense. The MEK has renounced violence and was removed from the terrorist listing. The US still has the MEK listed as a terrorist organization. There were efforts to remove it from that listing by Congress beginning in 2008; however, the previous administration wasn't interested in that or anything else to do with MEK. It is a hot button issue and it was ignored repeatedly by the Bush administration. This is one of the hot potatoes dropped into the current administration's lap. I have no problem criticizing the Barack Obama administration (or criticizing Barack) but this was a problem that was dumped in their lap.  That said, there's no excuse all this time later for no movement on it.  The US military brass in Iraq tends to feel the same way and look askance at Chris Hill. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports today that the 36 MEK members who were hauled off during the July assault on Camp Ashraf were beaten and then "forcibly transferred [. . .] to a remote southern prison despite an Iraqi judge's order to free them, the judge and the group's leader said Monday."
This was the third ruling to release the 36 according to Rebecca Lowe (Edgware & Mill Hill Times) who reports on the UK protests outside the US Embassy in support of the Camp Ashraf residents -- 20 people have been on a hunger strike since Nouri's assault on Camp Ashraf and 300 people joined the fasters on Saturday to demonstrate their solidarity. From the start of the Iraq War until the start of this year, Camp Ashraf has been under US protection.  Nouri now has control of it and has no interest in keeping his promise to offer protection.  Ron Naso (KCBS -- audio link) reports on protests in the Bay Area where twenty-five gathered to show their support for the residents of Camp Ashraf and chanted, "US, US recognize, Ashraf residents human rights!" and "President Obama, take action! Take back Ashraf protection!"
Al Jazeera's latest installment of Inside Iraq began airing on Friday. The topic explored was the sanctions on Iraq for that country's armed assault on Kuwait under the previous leadership of Saddam Hussein. 
Jasim Azawi: To discuss the continued tension between Iraq and Kuwait, I'm joined by an Iraqi professor at Baghdad University Saad Naji Jawad and by Abdullah Alshayji, chairman of the American studies unit at Kuwait University. Gentlemen, welcome to Inside Iraq
Abdullah Alshayji, Iraq is no longer threat to international peace and security and yet Kuwaiti officials refuse to get Iraq out of chapter seven.  As a matter of fact, politicians keep lobbying the P5 -- the permanent members of the [UN] Security Council to keep Iraq hemmed in under that chapter.  Why is that?  Is it a question of the money Kuwait needs or is it something else?
Abdullah Alshayji: No, it's not the issue of the money, it's the issue of the recrimination, reparation. Iraq has done great damage to Kuwait.  The hardship has not been buried yet.  Between now and then -- as you said in your intro -- there has been reoccurence of claims by Iraqi officials.  Last summer, we had another round of this recrimination.  Although the relationship at the governmental level between the two governments have been excellent, we have donated to Iraq hundreds of millions of dollars.  The last one was $10 million just couple of weeks ago. We have received Iraqis -- injured Iraqis -- from the Bloody Wednesday on August 19th and we were thanked by the
Jasim Azawi: If that is the case, Abdullah Alshayji, what is the reason for the refusal to allow Iraq escape chapter seven?
Abdullah Alshayji: I mean, as you know Jasim, let's be frank here, it's not Kuwait.  Kuwait does not have leverage to keep Iraq under chapter seven.  Iraq has to fufill --
Jasim Azawi: And yet you keep lobbying.
Abdullah Alshayji: -- its international obligations.  We have the right to ask Iraq to fulfill its obligations., international obligations.  There have been numerous United Nations security resolutions that have been passed.  Iraq is not the only country that was subjected to chapter seven.  So as long as Iraq and once Iraq fulfills its obligations under chapter seven, then Kuwait welcomes that, and Kuwait finally --
Jasim Azawi: Let me engage Saad Naji Jawad and see --
Abdullah Alshayji: [Crosstalk] -- willing to help Iraq get out of chapter seven.
Jasim Azawi: Saad Naji Jawadm, according to Abdullah Alshayji, Kuwait wants and is actively seeking good relationship and yet Iraq must remain under chapter seven.  And he also acknowledges that it is not up to Kuwait really to say whether Iraq remains or does not remain in chapter seven, it is the United Nations, it's the big P5.  Shouldn't the Iraqis address their greivances towards the US, the UN and P5 instead of Kuwait?  
Saad Naji Jawad: Well, Jasim, thank you very much.  There are subjects which I always avoided to speak about.  But one of them is the Kuwait-Iraqi situation or relations. I have a weak spot for the Kuwaitis.  I have good friends from Kuwait.  On the family side, we have historical good relations with the families from Kuwait.  But the problem is what my friend Dr. Alshayji is saying is contradictory.  One time he says, which I agree with him, it's not in the hands of the Kuwaitis to keep Iraq under chapter seven. And on the other hand, he says we have the right to keep on pressing Iraq until it fills -- it fills its obligations.  I should think the matter is, the matter is in the hand of other powers.  I think if the Americans want to get Iraq out of chapter seven they will ask them to do it immediately.  And I should say more of the Americans or other European powers want Kuwait to pay reperation to Iraq instead of Kuwait paying reperations to Iraq.  They can't do it without the Kuwaitis or the Iraqis having anything to say.  I also believe that to speak about good relations with the present Iraqi government is not something that could give positive or could satisfy the Iraqis about the future of Iraq-Kuwait relations. I think the present government does not represent really the real intentions or the real Iraqi people.  I think these people are really looking after their own interests and they are representing the American policy in Iraq rather than representing the Iraqi real policy --
Jasim Azawi: This is standard --
Saad Naji Jawad: -- objectives.
Jasim Azawi: -- Saad Naji Jawad, is creating bitterness.  Abdullah Alshayji, that bitterness is seeping into the body politics of Iraq.  So chapter seven, sooner or later, will be lifted.  And not by Kuwaiti intervention but by the will and the decision by the United Nations.  So why wouldn't the --
Saad Naji Jawad: Let me --
Jasim Azawi: Americans do it, Abdullah Alshayji?
Saad Naji Jawad: Let me say one thing.
Jasim Azawi: Go ahead.
Saad Naji Jawad: There is nothing called chapter seven under reperations in international law and in the charter of the United Nations. Yes, chapter seven says if a country is a threat to international peace and security, there should be an action to be taken, even the use of armed forces to stop this threat.  Once this threat is stopped, chapter seven does not apply to anything else. This is a new innovation by the Americans to put Iraq under continuous pressure and I think one day the International Court of Justice will rule that whatever Iraq paid under this chapter was not legal and that should be paid back.
Jasim Azawi: Let's hear from Abdullah.
Abdullah Alshayji: Let's cut through the chase here, I think Iraq has the obligation -- whether it's Saddam Hussein's regime or this regime.  International law does not look at the difference of a regime or the change of regime means forgiving the regime obligations that should be applied to the new regime.  This is number one.  Number two, I take issue with my friend from London here, and that is that United States although it plays a major role in protecting Kuwait and helping Kuwait standing on its feet but still Kuwait is a soverign country here and Kuwait has the right to do what is right under the United Nations charter.  Kuwait is a member of the United Nations body.  And Iraq has really -- Kuwait has come a long way, in my opinion.  We sent an ambassador in the summer of 2008. Our foreigh minister visited Iraq on the day of Kuwait libertation from Iraq on the 26th of February.
Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports that plans for a January referendum have been put aside in Iraq.  This would be the referendum promised when the Iraqi Parliament voted on the treaty masquerading as a Status Forces Agreement (Thanksgiving Day 2008), those who voted (many skipped the vote due to the vote's controversial nature) were told there would be a referendum in six months on the matter. Six months came and went. As late as May, some foolish gas bags were stating the vote would take place in June or July. Forgetting all that's needed before any vote can take place. The vote wasn't happening. Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, declared it would take place in January 2010 along with the planned national elections. More lies.

More lies and the lies never end. This is a huge slap in the face to the Iraqi Parliament, to the Iraqi people and to the democratic process. But it's also more than that.
Business Week runs Sameer N. Yacoub's AP story where Iraq's Parliament notes that there will be no vote on the draft oil law. That's not much of a surprise. US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill told Congress that last month.

It's among the issues causing tension (to put it mildly) between Hill and Gen Ray Odierno, top US commander in Iraq. But grasp that NOTHING has happened. All this time later, NOTHING has happened.

This community opposes the oil draft law which we see as the theft of Iraqi oil.

But what is taking place?

Elections are (supposedly) being held. And?


Elections were held in 2005.

What's been accomplished since? (Provincial elections were held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces in January 2009 and in 3 more in July of 2009 -- but these are the first national elections since 2005).

Congress demanded measurements, metrics. In 2007, the then-administration came up with a series of benchmarks. Nouri agreed to them and signed off on them. The benchmarks were never met.

These benchmarks became 'confusing' because the press (and the the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction) began measuring them 'partially" as if that was the point.

No, that was never the point.

The benchmark says you will ___ then you do ___.

You moved an inch when you were supposed to travel a mile? Well, let's give you a smiley face sticker if it makes you feel better but let's not pretend that you've accomplished your benchmark.

Those benchmarks were not open-ended. They were supposed to be met.

It's two years later and they have not been met.

It's two years later and why are US forces still there?

No, they shouldn't have been sent there to begin with. Yes, the Iraq War is an illegal war.

But the 'excuse' for it was that the (US installed) Iraqis were moving forward.

In 2005, they had national elections. In 2010, they're supposed to hold national elections again. And what's been accomplished between the two?

It's no longer just Nouri disrespecting US forces stationed in Iraq. Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Capt Abdullah al Maliki made a point of delivering a speech in front of US soldiers where he offered an insult "speaking slowly so the interpreter wouldn't miss the implicit insult that the U.S. military had avoided hand-to-hand combat" by using air strikes on Baghdad at the start of the Iraq War.  US forces disrespected to their faces (and that behavior tends to escalate -- is anyone in the administration worried about the safety of US forces?).  And for what?

The escalation ("surge") was sold as a way to buy time for political movement. No political movement took place. How long are US forces going to have to remain on the ground for the US-installed puppet government of exiles in Iraq?

AFP quotes MP Ali Hussein Balo stating, "There is no agreement on the contents of the oil law . . . because this government wants the management of the oil sector to be centralized. Due to these conflicts, we have decided to delay the oil law enactment until after the eleciton."

As Chris Hill stated.

We're told the 'problems' in Iraq are political not military. So why is the military remaining on the ground in Iraq month after month when the US-installed puppets are in no hurry to move?

It's past time for all US forces to leave Iraq.
Meanwhile Erin Alberty (Salt Lake Tribune) reports 45 soldiers from Utah's Army National Guard's 2-285th Aviation Battalion are deploying to Iraq for one year while AP notes that Arizon's Army National Guard's 2-285th Assault Helicopter Battallion is sending over 250 soldiers to Iraq.  The War Resisters League notes:
As the U.S. led war in Afghanistan begins its ninth year this week, 82 were arrested bringing a strong message to the White House that war, torture and drone bombing are outrageous, unacceptable and must end immediately. National anti-war groups and people from around the country joined together to say "No to War in Afghanistan. No to Torture and Vengeance."

The day opened with a "Guantanamo prisoner" presence at the U.S. Supreme Court as Justice Sonia Sotomayor begins her tenure on the country's highest court. The group distributed the Center for Constitutional Rights' "Torture Team" baseball cards and had four large puppet heads of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice­all dressed in prison stripes as they called for accountability for the architects of the Bush administration's torture policies.

Then, hundreds of people gathered this morning in McPherson Square for song, poetry and rousing speeches to kick off a day of action. Led by the "Mourn the dead, heal the wounded, end the wars" banner, those gathered then marched to the White House in a solemn procession, carrying large photographs of war victims, signs and banners.

The group assembled on the sidewalk in front of the White House and Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey Sheehan was killed in Iraq in 2004 while serving in the U.S. Army, read a statement and welcome the group, which by this time had grown to more than 500 people.

As the "March of the Dead" wound through the crowd wearing white masks and carrying the names of dead U.S. service people and Iraqi and Afghan war victims, more than 20 people dressed at Guantanamo prisoners assembled near the White House fence. Members of "Witness Against Torture," a group committed to the shuttering of Guantanamo and the quickly enlarging Bagram air base in Afghanistan, many chained themselves to the fence. On their backs, they wore the names of Guantanamo detainees cleared for release who remain detained under the Obama administration despite the White House's heralded decision to shutter the prison.

The group read the names of those killed in war and newspaper accounts of U.S. bombings and their devastating consequences in Afghanistan and Iraq. Code Pink, World Can't Wait and many others also participated in the day of action. Veterans for Peace carried large American and peace flags and processed with three coffins representing those killed in war. Each coffin was draped with a flag­America, Iraq and Afghanistan all represented. Members of the War Resisters League held a large banner than said "End the War in Afghanistan" and wore white shrouds emblazoned with the pictures of Afghan civilians.

All those who remained on the White House sidewalk were eventually arrested. In total, 82 people were taken into police custody as the readings of the names of the dead­a tragic litany of war­continued.

Meanwhile, the National Call for Nonviolent Resistance, the group that convened the day of action, and members of PeaceAction left the area to deliver a letter to the Obama Administration. Rebuffed at the press gate, the group held a die-in, read statements and were eventually arrested.

The protests today send a strong message that Americans are sick of war, gravely concerned that the Afghan conflict is spinning out of control and hopeful that the President will listen to the American public and end the occupation. Continuing­and surging­Bush era policies means more American deaths, more civilian casualties, an intensified insurgency and the further waste of precious resources that are so badly needed at home.

The October 5 Anti-War Coalition includes National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, the War Resisters League, Witness Against Torture, Code Pink, Peace Action, World Can't Wait, Veterans for Peace and Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Lastly, over the weekend,  Kat's "Kat's Korner: Combo is the answer" went up Sunday as did Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Dream Team Take Two."