Friday, April 8, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protests continue around Iraq, Nouri makes more power-grabbing efforts, today's dead includes a young girl who was killed when police fired randomly, will a shadow cabinet emerge, and more.
In Iraq, today is Departure Friday as protests took place around the country, the chant in Baghdad's Liberation Square was "OUT WITH THE OCCUPIERS!". The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Thousands , [F]riday Prayers - The Imam Shaikh Taha spoke frankly and critically - he was courageous and brave because he covered all the relevant points - he did not leave anything out and then the speeches, chants, slogans and thousands of people - women, old crippled men in wheelchairs and children - are all there now - Turn on Baghdad Satellite Station and you will see it all LIVE." The Great Iraqi Revolution notes: "All the roads to Tahrir are open at the moment so please all you Young Men and Women - all you Iraqi Brave Revolutionaries - Your God and Your Country demand your presence in Tahrir. Peacefully Peacfully - Dont allow them to force you to react - this is the price we have to pay to get rid of the Occupation and their stooge gang of a government." Trend notes the thousands "gathered in front of Abu Hanifa mosque in the Adhamiya areas carrying banners proclaiming 'Occupiers, get out!' and chanting slogans such as 'America leave leave, We want a free Baghdad'." Al Jazeera live blogged protests in the MidEast today and, on Iraq, they noted:
IRAQ -Protesters in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, have been talking to Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf. Many are angry about the continued oresence of US military troops in the country. One who preferred not to give their name said:
They have no credibility. They said, "By the end of 2011 we will be out of Iraq," and yesterday, Gates came here and said that there are hints about keeping the US forces, although they denied this before.
They are not going to leave Iraq, and if they don't leave Iraq by the end of 2011, then there will be no peaceful demonstrations, there will be something else.
The Great Iraqi Revolution has posted video of the protests and this one is good footage to start with. They note, "The Revolutionary Youth of A'adhamiya came out protesting with its nationalist patriotic identity after it saw the Council of Ulama's, another face of the Islamic Party, attempting to use this great revolution for its own political advantage and for its political agenda. The Great iraqi Revolution is Iraqi and refuses all the political parties brought in with and by the Occupation in its attempt to occupay Iraq and tare it apart under the guise of its false democracy." And they report, "We have just heard that at 13.05 hrs today 2 demosntrators were taken away and arrested by security forces attached to Regiment 11, from Tayaran Squarey were in Baghdad. The y were Alla'a Nabeel and Ahmed Hussain Hussain." Dar Addustour reports that students demonstrating in Baghdad were calling for a withdrawal of occupation forces as well as the press coverage of the demonstrations which have been taking place since February 25th." Mohammed Tafeeq (CNN) covers protests throughout Iraq but we'll note this on Baghdad:
Women carried pictures of their sons and husbands who are missing or were killed during the war.
"During this war, so many women lost sons and many others became widows, not only Iraqi women but also American women. We are the ones who paid the price of this war," said Shima Kareem, who was among the protesters.
In addition, the Great Iraqi Revolution notes that a protest took place in Sammarra with people demanding the occupying forces leave "and asking for the bringing to justice of all the corrupt officials." Dar Addustour reports "two thousand" demonstrated in Samarra after Friday prayers" and called for an end to corruption (with punishment for the guilty) and for the US to leave. And they note, "Arrest of a number of demosntrators in A'adhamiya where protestors were calling for the IMMEDIATE DEPARTURE OF AMERICAN OCCUPATION TROOPS AND ALL RELATED PERSONNEL." Rana Haddad (Iraqhurr.org) reports they also protested the secret prisons in Iraq and called for them to be closed and for all innocent prisoners to be released. While mosques and religious figures impacted many of the protests they were heavily represented in Adhamiya where Sheikh Sabah al-Obeidi called the protesters peaceful and stated their most important demands were the withdrawal of US forces and the release of innocent detainnes ("who do not have the blood of innocent people on their hands") -- both of which he hoped would be embraced by the Parliament and Cabinet. Sheikh Adnan al-Nuaimi also noted the detainees and stated that too many of them were unnaccounted for and they all needed to be released. Dar Addustour adds that the Aadhamiya protesters numbered in the thousands and were primarily students who called for the immediate departure of all US troops and no extensions to allow them to stay and that protesters demonstrated in downtown Falluja as well calling for the departure of all US troops and for those responsible for the 2004 Falluja attacks (when the US twice attacked Falluja) to be brought to justice before the International Court of Justice. Dar Addustour also notes that 200 buses were used to transport protesters to Basra and that the protesters there included 4 MPs. Protests are scheduled for tomorrow as well and The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "TOMORROW - SATURDAY 9TH APRIL - The central collection and gathering point in Baghdad is Tahrir Square. Should Haliki's security forces cut off bridges and roads and cut off the Rassafa from Karkh, then people on Karch should gather in Nissour Square. Nissour Square is significant because it is the site of the Blackwater Massacre of Iraqis which has still gone unpunished." Edith M. Lederer (AP) reports that the United Nation Security-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, has "warned that unless the government tackles these demands [by protesters], Iraq's political and democratic gains so far 'may seem hollow to ordinary Iraqis'."
While protesters demonstrated peacefully, Iraqi security forces again made news for assaults again. Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) wouldn't be reporting, "Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates urged the Iraqi government to show restraint on Friday in the wake of an apparent attack by Iraqi security forces on a group of Iranian dissidents protected by the United States." Gates was referring to an apparent attack on Camp Ashraf. Marc Champion (Wall St. Journal) adds, "Iraq's armed forces moved against a camp holding thousands of members of an Iranian resistance movement that's based in Iraq Friday, killing dozens and wounding hundreds, according to a spokesman for the movement. It wasn't immediately possible to verify the claims of the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, or MEK, of 31 dead and 300 wounded. Video clips sent out by the MEK's political wing showed armored personnel carriers and military Humvees breaching the perimeter of Camp Ashraf, apparently in the early hours of Friday morning. Five Iraqi soldiers also were reported injured." Aiden Mahler Levine and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) note, "The U.S. embassy in Baghdad said it was 'monitoring the situation at Camp Ashraf and are in contact with the government of Iraq,' and urged 'all sides to exercise restraint'." UPI explains, "In e-mails received by UPI, the People's Mujahedeen said 20 people had been killed and 300 injured." Iraq4All News reports the names of three Camp Ashraf residents who were killed: Haneef Kafaee, Zuhair Thakiri and Hassan Awani. The assault may have legal implications for the US. Mark Tran, James Ball and Melanie Newman (Guardian) report:
"If the government of Iraq acts harshly against the MEK and provokes a reaction," warned the US deputy chief of mission in Iraq, Patricia Butenis, in a cable in March 2009, "the USG faces a challenging dilemma: we either protect members of a foreign terrorist organisation against actions of the Iraqi security forces and risk violating the US-Iraq security agreement, or we decline to protect the MEK in the face of a humanitarian crisis, thus leading to international condemnation of both the US government and the government of Iraq."
Phil Shiner of the UK law firm Public Interest Lawyers, which represents some Ashraf residents, said: "I have not seen these cables. However, from what I can gather their content is quite astonishing and shows that the US – and by implication the UK – knew Iraqis were treating residents inhumanely, foresaw the possibility of serious injuries in clashes at the camp, and knew what was happening at the time of the deaths but did absolutely nothing."
International law requires other states to take positive action to protect innocent civilians in these circumstances, he added.
Iraq4All News also notes that the 2500 security forces present at the assault are commanded by Nouri al-Maliki. Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) reports 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."
Camp Ashraf? 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 is denying allegations that it entered the camp. 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." Of today's alleged attack, UPI notes, "Gates said no U.S. troops stationed near Camp Ashraf were involved in the clash, but may have offered medical assistance."
The Iraqi authorities must immediately launch an independent investigation into reports that Iraqi troops killed and injured residents of a camp for Iranian exiles north of Baghdad in an unprovoked attack, Amnesty International said today. "Iraqi troops moved into the camp this morning and used excessive force against residents who tried to resist them, according to the information we have received," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme. "This is the latest of a series of violent actions that the Iraqi government has taken against the Camp Ashraf residents, whose continuing presence in Iraq they oppose." Clashes broke out this morning after Iraqi security forces took up positions in the camp using armoured personnel carriers and, apparently, live fire against residents who tried to resist them, resulting in multiple deaths and injuries. As yet, the number of casualties cannot be independently verified. The camp in Diyala province around 60 km north of Baghdad is home to some 3,400 Iranian exiles and refugees, including members and supporters of the banned Iranian opposition group the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). PMOI officials told Amnesty International that due to restrictions imposed by the Iraqi government, Camp Ashraf's medical facility does not have adequate medicines or equipment with which to deal with those reported by the PMOI to have been injured in today's clashes. "If true, this is very worrying," said Malcolm Smart. "Whether they like it or not, the Iraqi authorities are responsible for the security and well-being of Camp Ashraf's residents and this includes providing access to adequate and immediate medical treatment when needed." Video clips of the clashes that the PMOI has uploaded to YouTube appear to show Iraqi soldiers firing indiscriminately into the crowds and using vehicles to try and run others down. An Iraqi government spokesman said Camp Ashraf residents threw rocks at security forces in what he termed a "riot." Troops did not open fire, he said, but force was used to push residents back inside the camp. Since the US ceded control of Camp Ashraf to Iraqi security forces in mid-2009, the PMOI has told Amnesty International that the constant military presence has made it difficult to access medical treatment inside and outside the camp. An Iraqi security committee controls the influx of medical supplies into the camp and decides who can travel outside the camp for specialist treatment. In July 2009 the Iraqi government stated that it had set up an investigation into the killing of six Iranian exiles during an Iraqi security force raid on the Camp Ashraf. The findings of this investigation have yet to be made public and no members of the security forces are known to have been held to account fir the killings.
Adrian Finighan: Now to Iraq and a crackdown by Iraqi security forces on an Iranian dissident camp has left 25 people dead and 320 wounded -- that's according to a representative of the camp. The Iraqi government said that five members of its security forces were injured in the incident at Camp Ashraf in Diyala Province which is about 90 kilometers north of Baghdad. Let's go live now to Baghdad. Our correspondent Jane Arraf joins us there. Tell us more about this dissident camp and why the Iraqi government wants to crack down on whatever's happening there.
Jane Arraf: Well, Adrian, this camp was really the last holdout of the major Iranian opposition group that was fostered here under Saddam. And it's a huge problem for the Iraqis. They simply refuse to leave. Many of them have European passports, many of them have ties to the United States. And in this latest clash, which took place overnight, Iraiq security forces moved in to bring in a new unit and were met with protesters throwing stones, according to officials. Now the casualty toll is in dispute but this is a base that the Iranian government has put heavy pressure on the Iraqi government to close. It's a continuing problem and the latest casualties Here in Baghdad, more protests --
Adrian Finighan: I'm sorry Jane, I was just going to ask you about the protests in Baghdad. Just as in the rest of the region, we've seen further protests there today. But slightly different from what we've seen elsewhere in the rest of the region
Jane Arraf: Well they're a little bit different because here they've gotten rid of their dictator. Saddam Husein The interesting thing about thess protest -- which take place against the backdrop of a visit by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates here is that they seem to be increasingly militant. And it's not just the burning of the US flags that we mean by that. It's that a lot of these people say it's not just the US military they want to leave, it's the US civilian presence. Now the United States has announced plans to double its embassy here to 18,000 people next year -- the biggest of its missions in the world. Protesters here say that's just not going to happen. And it will make it very difficult for the US to keep any sort of military presence here certainly after the end of this year.
Adrian Finighan: Jane, many thanks. Jane Arraf there live in Baghdad.
US staying? First, it's not as if they've left. As Nathan Hodge (Wall St. Journal) points out, "After all, the war here is not over. Over 47,000 U.S. troops remain on the ground, and the U.S. mission in Iraq, to quote a marvelously phrased memorandum sent yesterday by Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn, is not '"excepted" from cessation'." UPI reports State of Law's MP Saad Muttalibi (State of Law is Nouri al-Maliki's political slate) is giving interviews stating the US wants up to 20,000 troops in Iraq beyond 2011. Alsumaria TV notes, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki informed US Defense Secretary Robert Gates that the government refuses any US or foreign military presence in Iraq, Cabinet spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh said in a statement to Alsumaria." The US knows Nouri's hold on power is weak and possibly fading and have already agreed not to pressure him publicly. They did the same in the summer of 2006 and 2007 when they came to an agreement each year to extend the UN mandate -- and up until the UN announced the extensions, Nouri was denying them publicly. In other words, take it with a grain of salt. Gladkov Vladimir (Voice of Russia) reports that Sheikh Burhan Mizher (of Kirkuk's provincial goverment; heads the province's agricultural department) stating, "Of course, we want them to stay." Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) observes that "keeping troops in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline would have political ramifcations in both Washington and Baghdad. President Obama promised to pull all American forces out of Iraq when he ran for the White House in 2008; Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq is facing pressure from politicians loyal to the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr to get all American troops out by the deadline." Gareth Porter (Dissident Voice) reports:
President Barack Obama has given his approval to a Pentagon plan to station U.S. combat troops in Iraq beyond 2011, provided that Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki officially requests it, according to U.S. and Iraqi sources. But both U.S. and Iraqi officials acknowledge that Maliki may now be reluctant to make the official request. Maliki faces severe political constraints at home, and his government is being forced by recent moves by Saudi Arabia to move even closer to Iran. And it is no longer taken for granted by U.S. or Iraqi officials that Maliki can survive the rising tide of opposition through the summer. As early as September 2010, the White House informed the Iraqi government that it was willing to consider keeping between 15,000 and 20,000 troops in Iraq, in addition to thousands of unacknowledged Special Operations Forces. But Obama insisted that it could only happen if Maliki requested it, according to a senior Iraqi intelligence official. And the White House, which was worried about losing support from the Democratic Party's anti-war base as Congressional mid-term elections approached, insisted that the acknowledged troops would have to be put at least ostensibly under a State Department-run security force.
Nathan Hodge (Wall St. Journal) reports that Gates addressed US soldiers Friday and told them his three-day trip to Iraq was "all about" extending the US military presence in Iraq beyond the end of this year.
Nouri's attempt at seizing control of the government never ends. Al Rafidayn reported this week that Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh informed the press that from now on all official remarks will come from either a spokesperson for the Ministry of Government, a spokesperson for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nouri or Nouri's spokesperson. Statements by any other government official or spokesperson, al-Dabbagh insisted, had "no value" from Wednesday forward. He noted that the Cabinet had adopted the measure -- the Cabinet Nouri controls. Power grabs are nothing to Nouri who has already insisted that the previously independent Independent High Electoral Commission was now under his supervision. Rumors swirl in Iraqi media that the head of the commission, Hadmiay al-Husseini, is resigning; however, Aswat al-Iraq reports that the Commission's Faraj al-Haydari states that the commission has received no resignation notice.
Nouri's efforts at control and inability to form a complete Cabinet all this time later is alarming many officials in Iraq. Al Rafidayn reports Ayad Allawi and Ahmad Chalabi are meeting and working on plans for the formation of a shadow government. England has a Shadow Cabinet which is the political party out of power forming a cabinet with alterntive members to the main cabinet -- hence "shadow," they mirror the larger cabinet. This is not a "take over the government" body in England (except via elections if the voters want it). It is an organized opposition prepared to make counter-arguments and policy proposals. The National Conference's Mohammed al-Moussawi explains that the need for the shadow government was registered when Nouri angered the leaders of many political blocs by talk of dissolving the current government (which he's found unruly) and replacing it with a "majority government" which he would pick. An amazing -- and Constitutionally non-existent -- power for someone whose political slate came in second in the March 7, 2010 elections. Dar Addustour reports today that Adel Abdul Mahdi is part of the team meeting on the shadow government issue. He is one of Iraq's two vice presidents (despite the fact that their terms expired), the Shi'ite one, and he's announced he will not seek the post in the 'new' government Nouri 'is forming' since November.
But just recently, to calm tensions in the northern part of the country near Kirkuk, the divided city whose control is disputed by three ethnic groups -- Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen -- a battalion of American forces has been patrolling and taking up positions on their own. "We went in as U.S., unilateral," said Maj. Gen. David G. Perkins, commander of United States forces in northern Iraq, in an interview this week. He stressed that everything was done in coordination with the Iraqi Army and the pesh merga, the security forces from the semiautonomous Kurdish area in the north.
Aswat al-Iraq notes that a struggle at Kirkuk's Technological Institute has left at least nine college students wounded. [. . .] Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports [. . .] on the Kirkuk struggle explains, "Dozens of Turkmen students had rallied at the institute to protest against corruption and bad management in Kirkuk. Some of the students, who carried flags and banners of the Turkmen party, chanted slogans that provoked Kurdish students, police said. Iraqi security forces entered the institute and brought the clashes to an end, according to Kirkuk police." Xinhua offers, "The clash occurred during a ceremony held by the Turkoman students to honor the Turkomans who were killed in the town of Elton Kubri, some 40 km north of Kirkuk City, during the Turkomans' uprising in 1991 against Saddam Hussein's regime, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity." Reuters quotes 19-year-old Turkmen Aydin Mohammed stating, "A few days ago Kurds were marking the events of Halabja, and we did nothing to stop them. Today we have a day for Turkmen martyrs, and they prevented us from observing it because they are racist."
Today Dar Addustour reports that Turkmen and Kurdish students at the cafeteria of the same Technical Institute to Kirkuk fought again today -- this time over a video the Turkmen were showing (music video) which included images of a KRG flag being burned.
On April 9th in NYC and 10th in San Francisco, human rights, civil rights, and workers rights leaders and advocates - religious and secular - Jewish, Muslim, Christian, humanist - are linking arms in solidarity and common commitment with antiwar activists to take to the streets in the face of what Dr. King once called an "unfolding conundrum".
A true tempest is rising from the triple threat which Dr. King outlined so eloquently decades past of materialism, racism and militarism.
To be sure there is a tsunami fast approaching which is threatening by its erosion of foundational principles and their hard won incarnation over two centuries of struggle and evolution to tear the very moorings out from under all that has made the "American experiment" such a bearer of hope and promise for the human planetary community as a whole.
Materialism - because greed and possession rule. What is good for business is god and what is good for business is the bottom line- period and this religion has been franchised : in education, in health care, in fiscal policy and budgets, in statehouses, in boardrooms, in elections, in Congressional chambers, in the White House, in foreign policy. Though rhetoric may say otherwise (and even that is shifting and shifting blatantly, frighteningly) honest men all know this to be so.
Materialism because the worship of capital at the expense of all else fosters systemic myopia, self-interest, isolation, fragmentation, class division; materialism because its maintenance requires spiritual blindness, mindless group think, loss of idealism, cynicism, a retreat to hedonism or vapid disinterest.