Saturday, April 09, 2011

Did Nouri already extend the SOFA?

New Sabbah reports that a source in Parliament states that Nouri's Council fo Ministers has voted to extend the SOFA and that they signed the extension as well "during the last meeting of the Council of Ministers." Since US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told US troops yesterday that the whole purpose of his visit was to raise the extension of the SOFA, if New Sabbah's source is being truthful, it would appear Gates will be leaving his post later this year feeling "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED." If the extension was signed, did Gates sign on behalf of the US or did US Ambassador James Jeffrey? (Then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker signed the original in 2008.) If the extension was done, this is not a "national security" issue and not only should the US Congress be informed but so should the American people.

Rumors of the extension being a done deal comes as protests took place in Baghad again. Dar Addustour reports Sadr supporters, "tens of thousands" of them, rallied despite Iraqi forces shutting down bridges and imposing a vehicle ban. US flags wer burned, a call for national unity was made and, in a statement Moqtada al-Sadr issued (but had someone else read), it was demanded that all US forces leave Iraq. His statement denounced the presence of US forces noting "the occupation is still among us with assassinations, terror and tyranny." Al Rafidayn reports that, in his statement, he threatened to bring back the (armed) Mehdi militia if US forces were in Iraq after January 1, 2012. The paper notes that the Sadr bloc has 40 seats in Parliament (there are 325 total seats in the Parliament which means that they hold approximately 12.3% of the seats in Parliament) and they hold 7 of the 43 Cabinet ministries (which is about 16.28% of the ministries). If US forces do not leave, Sadr's representative, MP Kamel Saadi, declared that armed resistance will return to Iraq. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN -- link has text and video) reports:

That prospect of American troops staying in Iraq disturbs many citizens, including the thousands who support al-Sadr, a cleric with grassroots appeal in Iraq's Shiite cities and neighborhoods.
Sheikh Salah al-Obaidi, a cleric who read a statement to demonstrators on behalf of al-Sadr, raised the prospect of American troops staying in Iraq into next year and beyond.
"What if the invading forces decide not to leave our country? What if they decide to stay? What if American troops and others decide to stay in our lands? .... Will you keep silent? " al-Obaidi said, reading al-Sadr's statement to chants of "God is great."
"If they decide to stay in our country, then we have to do two things: first is to escalate armed resistance and lift the freeze on Mehdi Army," al-Obaidi said.

Al Mada notes that the protesters also demanded no US bases. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) report:

Black smoke rose from the square from the burning American flags, and protesters set up a grisly display of Americans in business suits being burned in cages.
"We are time bombs," the protesters chanted between a choreographed wave of young men dressed in the satin colors of Iraq's flag.
The protest was the first major Sadr demonstration since demonstrations began sweeping the Arab world this year. Sadr – who has reinvented himself as s serious political figure after his leadership of the paramilitary Mahdi Army, which fought US forces in 2004 – has called for restraint in protests against the Iraqi government, in which his party members now play a key role. Instead, the young cleric has used the possibility of massive protests as a veiled threat against the government.

The Daily Mail (in an article feature multiple AP photos of the protest) quotes protester Haidar Nuaman stating, "It seems that the government does not know what to do. Muqtada's is an important voice to stand against any intention by the government to extend the presence of forces." RIA Novosti reminds, "Al-Sadr lives in Iran where he is engaged in religious study. During a visit to Iraq in January".

Though Moqtada al-Sadr is a media created hero, there were protests elsewhere in Iraq having nothing to do with him. Dar Addustour reports that hundreds rallied today in Anbar Province calling for US forces to leave Iraq and for George W. Bush to be tried as a War Criminal while hundreds rallied in Salahuddin Province also calling for US forces to leave, for detainees to be released and hundreds gathered in Nineveh Province also calling for US forces to leave.

In other news, since long before the start of the Iraq War, Iranian dissidents have lived in Iraq. Following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. Iran's Fars News Agency reported Monday that the Iraqi military denied allegations that it entered the camp and assaulted residents. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Friday saw another attack which the Iraqi government again denied. Iraq4All News explained that the 2500 security forces present at the assault are commanded by Nouri al-Maliki. Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) reported that Iraqi forces are saying one thing and Camp Ashraf spokespeople another while "Journalists were prevented from entering the sprawling settlement, known as Camp Ashraf, which is home to about 3,000 people and has polished representatives in Paris and lawyers and congressional allies in Washington." UPI noted, "[US Secretary of Defense Robert] Gates said no U.S. troops stationed near Camp Ashraf were involved in the clash, but may have offered medical assistance."

Tim Arango (New York Times) reports that Nouri's forces refused to allow "the delivery of American humanitarian aid" to Camp Ashraf today according to the US military and that "some reporters" were permitted to visit the camp today; however, they were prevented from speaking to the residents. CNN adds, "Camp dwellers staged angry protests, hoisting banners and inviting journalists to talk to them. 'Please journalists -- come visit us and check on our people,' one sign read." Tim Arango notes Reporters Without Border and we'll include their statement in full:

Reporters Without Borders condemns the news blackout imposed by the Iraqi authorities on events at Camp Ashraf, a camp in northern Iraq that houses 3,500 Iranian exiles. An attack by the Iraqi army yesterday reportedly resulted in the deaths of around 30 residents and many wounded.

“This news blackout is unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The security forces are denying journalists access to the camp to hide abuses committed against civilians. Anyone trying to take photographs of the clashes is being attacked in a systematic and targeted fashion.”

According to several news organizations, the camp is surrounded by armoured vehicles and army trucks. Journalists have been forced to remain at the camp gates. No media personnel have been allowed inside.

Located 60 km west of the Iranian border and 120 km north of Baghdad, Camp Ashraf was set up in the 1980s to house members of the People’s Mujahideen, a militant Iranian movement opposed to Iran’s Islamic regime.

US forces began disarming them after the 2003 invasion. Since then the camp’s residents have been protected under the Geneva Conventions. After overseeing the camp for six years, the US military handed over control to the Iraqi authorities in January 2009.

The Iraqi authorities have banned journalists from entering the camp since July 2009, following clashes between Iraqi security forces and the camp’s residents (,34012.html). The residents accuse the Iraqi authorities of trying to please the Iranian government while the Iraqis blame claim the violence on the Mujahideen.

At the request of a friend with the State Dept, we'll include their official statement. Mark C. Toner, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the State Dept, states, "The U.S. Government is deeply troubled by reports of deaths and injuries resulting from this morning's clash at Camp Ashraf. Although we do not know what exactly transpired early this morning at Ashraf, this crisis and the loss of life was initiated by the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi military. The U.S. Embassy, United States Forces-Iraq, and United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq are in regular contact with Iraqi officials at the highest levels to repeatedly urge them to avoid violence and show restraint. We reiterate our call for the Iraqi government to live up to its commitments to treat the residents of Ashraf humanely and in accordance with Iraqi law and their international obligations."

Reuters notes that "the assistant dean of Mosul University's College of Fine Arts" was shot dead at his Mosul home, 1 police officer was shot dead by his Mosul home, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured one person and, dropping back to Friday for the next two, a Falluja car bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer with two more injured and a Baghdad sticky bombing injured a police officer.

Meanwhile Al Mada offers an editorial noting the dysfunction of the goverment and Nouri al-Maliki's statements a week ago that he'd lost confidence in (his own) government. The paper wonders if it is time for someone else to be named prime minister-designate, such as Ayad Allawi whose political slate came in first place in the March 7, 2010 elections and quotes Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Najafi stating that, "Iraq faces several options, including re-election in the absence of Maliki's commitment to the political agreement" that was agreed to in November and allowed Nouri to become prime minister-designate.

We'll close with this:

For Immediate Release: April 8, 2011
Contact: Ruth Benn, NWTRCC Coordinator
Brooklyn, New York
800-269-7464 (718-768-3420) or

Tax Day - Antiwar Protests

Public Demonstrations and Individual Refusal to Pay for War
On April 18 thousands of people across the United States will be refusing to pay some or all of their federal income tax to protest U.S. wars and escalating military spending. These tax refusers, who see themselves as responsible citizens, want their money used for peaceful purposes and often give taxes to social programs instead.
Monday, April 18, is the final day to file tax returns, and “war tax resisters” will be among those participating in events around the country to protest what they see as the skewed priorities of the U.S. government. Many hand out the pie chart produced by the War Resisters League, which calculates nearly 50% of federal income taxes pay for current or past wars.
Erica Weiland in Seattle, Washington, decided to refuse to pay for war in response to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Our money and time are much better spent addressing the issues in the U.S. and around the world that cause wars in the first place,” she says. Groups in Seattle are organizing leafleting with federal budget information at area post offices.
John K. Stoner, a retired Mennonite minister in Akron, Pennsylvania, says, “I keep wondering why people who say they oppose war continue to pay for it without a whimper of protest.” He and others in his community have launched a campaign of symbolic protest called 1040 for Peace, to encourage U.S. taxpayers to express their opposition to U.S. military spending by refusing $10.40 of any taxes due, telling the government why, and giving that money to projects that promote peace or fund human needs.
War tax resistance has a long history in the U.S. and worldwide. The most famous case was Henry David Thoreau’s refusal of $1 for the Mexican-American War. He spent a night in jail for this act of resistance. Today’s resisters refuse to pay anything from $1 to thousands of dollars of federal income taxes, while risking collection from the Internal Revenue Service for their stand.
Patricia Tompkins, a farmer in Bakersville, North Carolina, speaks for many as she accepts the risks of confronting the IRS to stand up for her beliefs. “I made the decision to become a war tax resister in protest to our government’s policies in the Middle East and Afghanistan. For me, the essence of life is connection to the land and to each other, because without the first we cannot live and without the second we cannot be fully human.
In St. Louis activists are taking their message to cut the military budget and fund human needs to Senator Roy Blunt’s office and announcing grants to humanitarian groups. In Milwaukee, the protest will be in front of the Federal Courthouse. Lincoln Rice, a Milwaukee organizer, says, “My war tax resistance is grounded in my Catholic Christian spirituality. I cannot in good conscience pay my federal income taxes and contribute to the harming my Muslim brothers and sisters in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere.”

Individual resisters are available for interviews. Please contact NWTRCC if you need contacts in your area.
Please see the list of actions at list of events and contacts around the country can be found online at The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee.

The National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC), founded in 1982, is a coalition of local, regional and national groups providing information and support to people who are conscientious objectors to paying taxes for war. NWTRCC initiated the War Tax Boycott, which includes a list of public war tax refusers at

Ruth Benn, Coordinator
National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC)
PO Box 150553
Brooklyn, NY 11215
"Death and Taxes" – watch our 30-minute film about motivations, methods, risks, and rewards of war tax resistance

The e-mail address for this site is