Thursday, December 30, 2010

Calls to leave, Iran points finger at Saudi Arabia

Reuters notes a Baghdad rocket attack left three people injured and that 1 man was shot dead at his Kirkuk home. Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports the number of people addicted to drugs in Baghdad is said to be increasing from an estimated 1,462 in 2008.

Meanwhile two papers weigh in that the US needs to leave Iraq. The editorial board of the Orange County Register argues, "We argued from the beginning, nearly eight years ago, that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, and the prolonged U.S. occupation seems to have led to an Iraq that is more shaky than stable and has serious tolerance problems, leading, for example, to most Iraqi Christians fleeing the country. For better and for worse, however, it is time to allow Iraqis to handle these Iraqi problems. The U.S. should continue to withdraw troops on schedule and allow historians of the future to weigh the pluses and minuses of our misadventure in Iraq." The Pensacola News Journal's editorial board opines, "Frankly, we figure the future of Iraq lies in an increasingly authoritarian government that, while mild by Middle East dictatorship standards, will hopefully also be reasonably secular and relatively democratic. Meanwhile, the terrorists will continue to set off bombs, the Shiites and Sunnis will continue to scratch and claw for power, and the Kurds will try to stay out of it under independent governance. For the United States, the best outcome will be if Iraq keeps arm's-length from Iran and succeeds in greatly expanding oil exports, which frankly we believe was the point all along, no matter all the rhetoric we were spoon fed about spreading democracy, etc."

Press TV reports that Fawzi Tarzi, a Moqtada al-Sadr acolate, is isnisting that Saudi Arabia supports terrorism in Iraq and quotes the Iraqi National Alliance's Mohammed Hussein stating, "We should seal our borders with Saudi Arabia to hold the flow of terrorism." And Iran's state-run media also serves up Wisam al-Bayati (link has text and video) with the assertion that Saudi Arabia is "snubbing" Iraq's government out of Baghdad because many in it are Shi'ite.

There will be a snapshot today. Tomorrow there probably won't be one unless news of the day demands one. Tomorrow and Saturday, the focus will be on the end of the year. We'll close with this from Mehdi Hasan's "US Drone Attacks Are No Laughing Matter, Mr Obama" (Guardian via Information Clearing House):

Speaking at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner in May, Barack Obama spotted teen pop band the Jonas Brothers in the audience. "Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but, boys, don't get any ideas," deadpanned the president, referring to his daughters. "Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming." The crowd laughed, Obama smiled, the dinner continued. Few questioned the wisdom of making such a tasteless joke; of the US commander-in-chief showing such casual disregard for the countless lives lost abroad through US drone attacks.
From the moment he stepped foot inside the White House, Obama set about expanding and escalating a covert CIA programme of "targeted killings" inside Pakistan, using Predator and Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles (who comes up with these names?) that had been started by the Bush administration in 2004. On 23 January 2009, just three days after being sworn in, Obama ordered his first set of air strikes inside Pakistan; one is said to have killed four Arab fighters linked to al-Qaida but the other hit the house of a pro-government tribal leader, killing him and four members of his family, including a five-year-old child. Obama's own daughter, Sasha, was seven at the time.
But America's Nobel-peace-prize-winning president did not look back. During his first nine months in office he authorised as many aerial attacks in Pakistan as George W Bush did in his final three years in the job. And this year has seen an unprecedented number of air strikes. Forget Mark Zuckerberg or the iPhone 4 – 2010 was the year of the drone. According to the New America Foundation thinktank in Washington DC, the number of US drone strikes in Pakistan more than doubled in 2010, to 115. That is an astonishing rate of around one bombing every three days inside a country with which the US is not at war.
And the carnage continues. On Monday, CIA drones fired six missiles at two vehicles in a "Taliban stronghold" in north Waziristan, on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan, killing 18 "militants". Or so said "Pakistani intelligence officials", speaking under condition of anonymity to the Associated Press. Today another round of drone strikes is thought to have killed at least 15 "militants" in the same area.
These attacks by unmanned aircraft may have succeeded in eliminating hundreds of dangerous militants, but the truth is that they also kill innocent civilians indiscriminately and in large numbers. According to the New America Foundation, one in four of those killed by drones since 2004 has been an innocent. The Brookings Institute, however, has calculated a much higher civilian-to-militant ratio of 10:1.

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