Tuesday, July 17, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, a rumor circulates about Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the Iraqi government screams "mine!," Nouri decides to sue over allegations against him, Nouri hurls allegations at others, and more.
Starting in the US where there's major news on the legislative front. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Her office issued the following today:
FOR PLANNING PURPOSES
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
TOMORROW: Murray to Call on Senate to Pass Veterans Omnibus Legislation
Murray will ask for immediate passage of the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012
(Washington, D.C.) -- Tomorrow, Wednesday, July 18th, U.S. Senator Patty Murray will give a speech on the Senate floor calling for unanimous consent on the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012, bipartisan, bicameral, and comprehensive legislation that combines provisions of the Veterans Programs Improvement Act of 2011 (S. 914, Report No. 112-088) and Honoring American Veterans Act of 2011 (H.R. 1627, Report No. 112-084 Part 1), as well as provisions from other Senate and House legislation. This comprehensive package would extend health care to veterans and their families who lived at Camp Lejeune, expand critical health programs, improve housing programs for severely disabled veterans, enhance programs for homeless veterans, and make needed improvements to the disability claims system.
WHO:U.S. Senator Patty Murray
WHAT: Senator Murray will seek unanimous consent on the passage of important veterans omnibus legislation.
Camp Lejeune is a North Caroline Marine Corps base which was considered to be one of "the biggest water-contimination case[s] in history, with more than a million people potentially exposed to carcinogens such as TCE and benzene from the 1950s to 1985, when the poisoned wells were shut down" (Mike Manager of GovExec). Franco Ordonez (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "Up to 750,000 people at Camp Lejeune may have been exposed to water that was poisoned with trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, benzene and vinyl chloride. Some medical experts have linked the contamination to birth defects, childhood leukemia and a variety of other cancers."
Senator Richard Burr, Ranking Member on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has long championed this issue. Last month, Kat reported on a Senate Veterans Affairs Committeee hearing and how there appeared to be movement on this issue and she quoted Chair Murry stating:
For all of its glory and history the Baghdad-based government currently attempts to hold onto the history of another people. AFP reported at the end of last month that Nouri al-Maliki's Baghdad government had made the decision to cut archaeological ties with the United States over Jewish archives. Nouri's government insisted the Jewish archives belonged to Iraq. The same government that refused to protect the Jews in Iraq now wants to lay claim to the documents: "The archives, which were found in the flooded basement of the intelligence headquarters in Baghdad in 2003, include Torah scrolls, Jewish law and children's books, Arabic-language documents produced for Iraqi Jews and government reports about the Jewish community."
The only thing Nouri's government can lay claim to is the government reports. They can lay claim to that because Nouri is the New Saddam. And, as such, he can claim the property of a people as surely as Saddam Hussein would be insisting, if these were Shi'ite papers, that they belonged to the Iraqi government. A people own their own documents and that is especially true when you're dealing with an oppressed people -- the Shi'ites under Saddam or the Jews in modern-day Baghdad where all but a handful have been run out of their homes and out of the country. Shame on the government for attempting to lay claim to that which it is not entitled to. Xinhua noted this week, "Iraq rejected an offer made by the United States to bring back half of the Iraqi Jewish Archive previously transferred from Baghdad to the US after 2003, insisting that Iraq should restore the whole Archive, an Iraqi official newspaper reported on Sunday."
While Nouri's government uses a great deal of time and energy trying to grab that which it is not entitled to, it refuses to maintain Iraq's historic treasures. Dropping back to the May 29th snapshot:
Last week Aseel Kami (Reuters) reported on the State Board of Heritage and Antiquities' Mariam Omran Musa who is suing Iraq's Ministry of Oil over a pipline through Babylon which threatens the existence of the historical Hanging Gardens. Musa declared, "Oil and antiquities are both national wealth, but I have an opinion: when the oil is gone, we will still have antiquities." The Travel Channel notes that the Hanging Gardens were considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. RT adds:
The magnificent gardens allegedly built for a king's homesick wife in the 6th century BC were one of the Ancient World's seven wonders. Some historians doubt they existed, but they were described in many written sources and were said to have been destroyed by earthquakes. The remains of the ancient city of Babylon are situated near present-day Al Hillah in Iraq's Babylon Province south of Baghdad. The country has long been trying to get UNESCO to add the site to its World Heritage list, but chances appear to be fading away as authorities plan to lay an oil pipeline there. Iraq's Oil Ministry plans to extend a strategic route to export oil through six provinces at the center and south of the country.Two pipelines carrying oil products and liquid gas from Basra in the south to Baghdad were built under the ancient site in the late 1970s and early 80s.
"The pipeline crosses the perimeter of the archaeological site but outside the walls, beneath the so-called outer city," said Véronique Dauge, chief of the Arab States Unit at the Unesco World Heritage Centre. "But even if it doesn't cross the centre of the ancient city, it is in an area that has never been excavated." The site covers approximately 850 hectares, most of which is virgin territory for archaeologists. A spokesman from the Iraqi oil ministry quoted by AFP reported that the land dug up revealed no archaeological remains.
"No one can say right now if the oil pipeline has caused damage," said Lisa Ackerman, executive vice-president of the World Monuments Fund (WMF), a New York-based foundation for preserving architectural heritage, who works on the site with the Iraqi authorities. "But I think it's very likely that it crosses sensitive archaeological zones."
Meanwhile AFP reports, "Teams of Iraqi archaeologists have discussed 40 ancient sites in the country's south from the Sumerian, Akkadian and Babylonian periods, an Iraqi antiquities offical said on Monday." And hopefully the fate of those sites will be better than the currently threatened Hanging Gardens or other threatened sites in Iraq. Mohamad Ali Harissi (Middle East Online) reports that historical sites discovered near Najaf's airport -- including "the remains of the celebrated ancient Christian city of Hira" -- are at risk, "unexplored and unkempt," due to a lack of excavation funding. One of the people who led historical digs upon the discovery and in 2009 and 2010 is Shakir Abdulzahra Jabari who states, "The area has historical importance, because it is rich in antiquities, including especially the remains of churches, abbeys and palaces. But now the antiquities have been neglected for a year, and they do not receive any attention, despite the fact that many Western countries are interested in Hira's history as the main gateway of Christianity into Iraq."
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the Hanging Gardens remain in jeopardy in Iraq today. They're not the only historical marvel at risk. There is also the famous Abbasi Bridge in Zahko. Abdul-Khaleq Dosky (Niqash) reports on the bridge and notes the many origin stories told about the ancient marvel:
One of the oldest revolves around a young man in the Abbasside era - the Abbaside dynasty ruled for almost two centuries from the year 750 - who fell in love with a girl living in the village on the opposite side of the river; he built the bridge so he could be with her.
Another story focuses on a Turkish architect who came to Zakho, which lies near the border of Iraq and Turkey, in the Middle Ages. A nearby Turkish governor had amputated one of his hands and as a kind of challenge to him, the architect decided to build a bridge.
Legend has it that the architect built the bridge by constructing both ends and then having it join in the middle. Using this method, the bridge was in danger of collapse many times. So the architect consulted a medium who told him that he should kill the first person to cross the river and bury the body in the centre of the bridge. Unhappily for her, the next day his son's wife, a woman called Dalal, came across the river to bring him his breakfast. And apparently that is why to this day the locals know the crossing as the Dalal bridge.
Iraq has so much worth preserving and so much in need of preserving. It certainly is telling that Iran's Press TV can run -- and has run, here and here for examples -- multiple pieces on the Jewish archives and interview biased Americans but when it comes to Iraq's historical treasures Press TV has nothing to say. That's your first indication that this isn't about history, just another pissing match and the world's certainly seen more than enough of those.
Although it might not be at the top of your vacation destinations, let's not forget that Iraq is the home of the first city that was ever recorded, Sumerian, that was built over 6000 years ago so why diminish the importance of visiting such a pillar of civilization? We are not talking about an apple mac support London from the corner of the street here. True it has its own significance but what about a city that was built thousands of years ago and which is known to be the place where the first book was ever written. Here in Iraq between the rivers of Euphrates and Tigris once stood the great and famous Mesopotamia, a region where the first form of writing was developed, where the first signs of irrigations systems were found and where people had already discovered the wheel.
-- not the Hanging Gardens, not the Ctesiphon Arch, nothing.
Nouri says he wants to build up the travel industry in Iraq. Yet here's a bridge that's already bringing in approximately 150,000 tourists each year and Nouri's refusing to use any of the large piles of government money he sits on to ensure that the the bridge remains standing and doesn't fall apart.
Al Rafidayn reports that Nouri met with US Central Command General James Mattis on Sunday. Why? To ask the US to speed upt he delivery of weapons. All Iraq News also covers the meeting and includes a photo of the two. AFP adds, "The Iraqi premier also pointedly said during a meeting with General James Mattis, the visiting head of US Central Command, that only the central government would decide which arms purchases would be made, in an apparent swipe at Kurdish complaints over the acquisition of F-16 warplanes." Defense World adds, "Iraq has agreed to acquire American military equipment worth more than $10 billion, including 36 F-16 warplanes, tanks, artillery, helicopters and patrol boats which are not delivered for years to the Iraq."
KUNA notes, "Baghdad Monday urged neighboring countries to respect sovereignty of Iraq and warned against violating its airspace. Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, addressing a graduation ceremony of police officers, said the Iraqi airspace has been breached by aircraft of neighboring countries, which he did not name, on a daily basis." Kitabat notes that Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh declared today that Turkey has breached Iraq's airspace with "warplanes" repeatedly and that they intended to complain to the United Nations Security Council. Reuters answers the immediate question -- breach? do they mean the raids on northern Iraq? Yes, Reuters reveals, that's apparently what they mean. That's strange that Baghdad's not previously said one word publicly, in all these years, that could qualify as a complaint about these bombs. In fact, they've told the United Nations previously that they were cooperating with Turkey and cited this as an example of how they fight terrorism and insisted it was proof of the stability they were bringing to the region and reaon enough for the UN to remove the Chapter VII classification imposed on them as a result of the attack on Kuwait.
Oh, well, maybe the accusations will cover Nouri's latest embarrassment. The Journal of Turkish Weekly was already reporting this morning that Iraq's radar system was down due to "the power cut in Iraq." Nouri has been on a holy tear of late, hurling one allegation after another. Rudaw reports, "At Iraq's Council of Ministers meeting last week, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki accused the Kurdistan Region of 'smuggling oil.' The accusation caused a stir and Maliki's Kurdish deputy Dr. Roj Nuri Shawais, issued a strong reply." Nouri loves to blame so much that facts rarely matter to him. Back on May 30th we noted Nouri was blaming Arab countries yet again while saying nothing about Iran and, when the issue is water, that's not realistic. Today Al Mada and Kitabatboth report on findings from London's Institute of Development Studies which has predicted a 70% decrease in fresh water in Iraq as a result of Iran's actions with regards to the Tigris River. While the Arab neighbors also have an impact, the report finds Iran a greater culprit (causing Al Mada to note Iran and the "environemental disaster" its caused in their headline). If the issue isn't addressed, Iraq's drinking water and agricultural sector will dwindle. Al Arabiya adds:
The IDS report, obtained by Al Arabiya, stated that Iran stopped the flow of Alwand River, which runs from western Iran to eastern Iraq, for the past four years. This caused the damage of around 10% of arable land and rendered the residents of several villages around the river homeless.
The production of several crops has also been greatly affected whether through quantity with a loss that amounted to 80% in some years or through quality that has witnessed a remarkable drop. Iran, the report added, has also been pumping drainage water into several Iraqi rivers, which led to a rise in their salinity levels and in turn inflicted a substantial damage on marine life, basically demonstrated in the death of several fish species. This also caused the migration of birds that lived in the area and the emergence of snakes which attack crops and kill livestock.
Last week, Nouri was trying to improve his image -- and a press eager to sell war on Syria was happy to oblige. All this led to days of Nouri the brave, offering the Syrian Ambassador to Iraq asylum. Those days are gone. Tariq Alhomayed (Asharq al-Awsat) notes, "The Syrian Ambassador to Iraq's defection was not only a slap in the face for the tyrant of Damascus; it also came as a blow to Nuri al-Maliki's government." Nouri's not happy about what Nawaf Fares is saying. When Nouri's unhappy, what does he do? That's right: Sue. And BBC News notes that Nouri's spokesperson today announced that there would be a lawsuit against Fares:
In interviews since defecting, Mr Fares said Syria formed an alliance with al-Qaeda to disrupt US forces in Iraq.
Mr Fares has accused Mr Maliki of being complicit in attacks in Iraq because of "his alliance" with Damascus.
The BBC's Rami Ruhayem in Baghdad says Mr Fares has a few stories to tell about his former Syrian masters and, since arriving in Qatar from Baghdad, he hasn't been holding back.
Kitabat reports that Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has written to the Parliament urging them to investigate whether Nouri has had any involvement with terrorism.
On violence, Al Rafidayn reports that 1 intelligence officer for the Ministry of the Interior was assassinated today in Baghdad by unknown assailantes suing guns with silencers. In addition,All Iraq News notes that a police officer's home in Salahuddin Province was bombed -- the police officer was outside his home at the time and not wounded. In other news of violence, Nouri continues the mass arrests. If you are ever unclear on how people (inclucing innocents) can disappear into the maze that passes for the Iraqi 'legal' system, you just have to follow the mass arrests. Alsumaria reports 32 arrested in Kirkuk today. The suspects were arrested based on 'intelligence.' But Nouri has no real intelligence capability and that's one of the things the State Dept was supposed to be helping him with but he spurned that. We're not done. Alsumaria also reports mass arrests in Babylon today: 60 arrests. In related news, Khalid al-Alwani is a member of Iraqiya and serves on Parliament's Integrity Committee. All Iraq News notes that he attended the funeral of Saddam Batawi who died in prison and that he's calling for the end of torture in Iraqi prisons and detention centers.
Meanwhile Fars News Agency reports, "Spokesman of the office of Iraq's most revered Shiite Cleric and top religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali Hosseini al-Sistani, categorically denied media reports about and assassination attempt on Ayatollah Sistani's life."