Friday, August 26, 2011

Rockets, bombs, extended stay and foreign workers

In and around Iraq, rockets and bombs land, but no one launches them. (See previous entry.) For example, Alsumaria TV reports, "The office of Armed Forces General Commander Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki denied reports saying that Iraqi territories were used to launch attacks on Kuwaiti Mubarak Port, a source told Alsumaria. Security sources in Basra Province revealed on Thursday that unknown gunmen launched three missiles from inside Iraqi territories on the project’s site in Kuwaiti Boubyan Island. The missiles landed in Gulf waters, the sources reported." DPA provides this background, "Kuwait began constructing the port in April near Iraq's territorial waters close to the Gulf, which has been a subject of dispute between the two oil-producing states. Iraq says the port interferes with shipping lanes to its own ports. But Kuwait says the port is being built on its land and within its territorial waters." Of the Iraqi government assertions about the rockets, Aref Mohammed (Reuters) reports, "Ali al-Maliki, head of the Basra provincial council's security committee, said the rockets were aimed at the former U.S. prison camp Bucca and had a range of only one kilometre."

Meanwhile AP reports there will be a send-off ceremony this afternoon for approximately 160 Alabama Army National Guard members deploying to Iraq. This as the US and Iraqi governments continue to debate the details of extending the US stay in Iraq beyond December 31st. Dar Addustour reports that there is agreement on both sides regarding tanks, helicopters and armored vehicles but the number is still being debated (Iraq now wants no more than 8,000 troops while the US would like 20,000) and there is disagreement regarding immunity for US troops. From yesterday's snapshot:

Those who still need to believe in fairy tales should avoid the interview Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) did with Iraq's Ambassador to the US Samir Sumaida'ie who states, "The principle that there will be some military presence [in Iraq beyond 2011] to help train Iraqi military and police has been largely agreed upon." This jibes with both what US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said on Friday and what Ali al-Dabbagh (Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson) said over the weekend. Sumaida'ie addes, "You'll see it when you see it. Americans want everything now or yesterday. We don't do it like this. We do it in our own sweet time." Rogin adds:
Sumaida'ie tried to explain what's really going on here. He said that there is a consensus among all political players, with the exceptions of the followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, that Iraq needs some American military support, particularly when it comes to training, past the end of this year. "However, the form that this will take and the legal details are still being debated," he said.
He said the debate over the number of U.S. troops to remain in Iraq has ranged between 8,000 and 20,000, and that they would be non-combat forces limited to the training of Iraqi military and police forces.

US troops frequently pop up in Moqtada al-Sadr's online advice column "Mama Moqtada" -- in fact, you never know what will pop up as Moqtada attempts to both free style and ramble away in free-association. Al Mada reports that in the midst of a reply in which he wrote of the problem with the security ministries (they lack heads -- two of the three have 'acting' ministers), the threat of a withdrawal of confidence in the government, widowhood, bombings, spiritual love and everything but his recipe for potato salad, Moqtada suddenly launches into the need to "put an end to this farce" and the Iraqi army and police all get shoved aside as he quickly switches -- as if on a manic high -- to the issue of Turkey and Iran bombing Iraq.

Though Nouri can't name a Cabinet (as he should have by December 25th and had it voted on by Palriament), Al Rafidayn reports that MP Mohammed Chichod is blaming Iraqiya for all delays. The National Alliance politician not only blames them for delays in filling the three security posts, he also accuss them of leading a "regionally funded scheme attempting to overthrow Nouri al-Maliki's government.

In Wednesday's snapshot we covered the issues facing foreign workers in Iraq -- subcontractors promising to take care of paperwork that ends going unfiled, subcontractors bailing the country and not paying the workers' the wages they have earned, the awful living conditions, the Iraqi government's decision to not only fine the workers but also to begin deporting them, etc. Rebecca Murray (IPS) reports:

Ukrainian and Bulgarian workers are currently camped out on a construction site of half-built luxury villas in Baghdad’s elite "Green Zone" – a vast security enclave housing government offices, embassies and international NGOs - demanding their salaries before being shipped back home.
Although the 2005 Iraqi constitution bans human trafficking, Iraq has no anti-trafficking law that prosecutes offenders on the books. Since 2008 an inter-ministerial task force has been negotiating a draft law for parliamentary approval.
Over 200 foreign labourers began work on the prestigious Arab League Summit housing site at the beginning of the year, but construction was halted in April due to turmoil throughout the Middle East.
However, 35 workers have stayed on, desperate to receive their unpaid wages. Crowded into a rudimentary hall where they live and sleep, they have no legal working papers and little food and water in Iraq’s intense summer heat.
Their handmade signs posted on the construction site fence a couple weeks ago begged attention. "Please help we are in trouble", said one, while another pleaded: "SOS Ukrainian Workers".

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