Saturday, September 04, 2010

Violence, refugees, no, the war hasn't ended

Under cover of darkness, hundreds of armoured vehicles rumbled across the Iraqi border into Kuwait, marking the much-touted withdrawal of American combat forces. Dominant sections of the international media interpreted the August 19 pullout as a political statement -- the fulfilment of a commitment by President Barack Obama to bring home troops entrapped by the Bush administration in the Iraqi military quagmire. In short, the American public was made to believe that the pullout by the fourth Stryker Brigade was leading to the end of the U.S. occupation. On August 31, Mr. Obama formally declared in a televised address that all American combat operations in Iraq had ceased. The spin-doctors in the American establishment and their willing accomplices in the media have indeed done a marvellous job. An extraordinary task -- of dressing up a new phase of Iraqi occupation as the beginning of its end -- has been accomplished.
However, many questions arise in the wake of the withdrawal. How should the pullout be interpreted, if not as the occupation entering its terminal phase? What are the facts on the ground, and what prospects do they hold for the future of Iraqis?
There are three significant markers that the Iraqi occupation is not ending and is being merely repackaged. First, the suggestion that the U.S. combat operations are ending is just not true. The nomenclature, however, has changed significantly. Instead of being called "combat operations," the act of chasing militants, joint raids by U.S. Special Forces and their Iraqi counterparts on militant strongholds, and other offensive military tasks will henceforth be called "stability operations."

The above is from Atul Aneja's "How real is the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq?" (The Hindu) and the non-withdrawal is also addressed by Syed Rashid Husain in "Is Uncle Sam really leaving Iraq for good?" (Arab News):

The US however, is to maintain a considerable non-combat presence in Iraq — even after the ‘pull-out.’

Imperial powers rarely keep their pledge to leave occupied lands, especially if oil is there to seduce them. Britain occupied Egypt in 1882 to safeguard the Suez Canal. It promised to leave within a few years, but the last British soldier left Egypt in 1956. Britain expelled the Ottoman Turks from Iraq in 1917-18 and promised to leave as soon as possible. But the lure of Iraq's oil did not permit them and so the last British soldier left only in1959. And it may not be too different today.
As the US ‘combat’ troops move out, 'Big Oil' is moving in. The rush is on for Iraqi oil. And the American 'non-combat' military presence would be there in Iraq to reassure the US companies that their investments are safe, covered and protected.
A July report from the US government’s Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction says oil production in Iraq is currently about 2.4 million barrels per day. The goal, by 2017 is to produce 12 million barrels per day. This is tall order and may not be possible, without the active presence of 'Big Oil' in Iraq.

The Iraq War did not end with Barack's Tuesday speech. It continues even though many work hard to pretend otherwise. Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two police officers and a Mosul roadside bombing wounded one Iraqi soldier.

The Iraq War has not ended and Ashish Kumar Sen (Washington Times) reports, "The United Nations’ refugee agency is expressing concern that Western European countries are forcibly deporting Iraqi citizens back to Iraq. Sixty-one people, most of them Iraqis living in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Britain, were flown back to Baghdad this week." The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released the following yesterday:

GENEVA, September 3 (UNHCR) – The UN refugee agency on Friday objected to the continuing forced returns of Iraqi citizens from Western European countries soon after 61 people were flown back to Baghdad.
Spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva that UNHCR was "very concerned' about the returns. The 61 on Wednesday's chartered flight were mainly Iraqis who had been residing in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the United Kingdom. UNHCR has not been able to confirm reports that three Iranians were among those on board.
UNHCR's guidelines for Iraq ask governments not to forcibly return people originating from the governorates of Baghdad, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah Al-din, in view of the serious human rights violations and continuing security incidents in these areas.
"Our position is that Iraqi asylum applicants originating from these five governorates should benefit from international protection in the form of refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention or an alternative form of protection," Edwards said in Geneva's Palais des Nations.
UNHCR considers that serious risks, including indiscriminate threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from violence or events seriously disturbing public order, are valid reasons for international protection.
Some of the individuals among the group returned on Wednesday may be destined for safer areas such as the Kurdistan Region in the north, others may have elected to return voluntarily.
"Nonetheless, of the 11 individuals we were able to interview on arrival, some originated from Baghdad and at least one person was a Christian from Mosul, in the governorate of Ninewa," Edwards said, adding: "The security situation in that governorate remains extremely volatile."
Similarly in the Baghdad governorate, the security situation remains unstable with increased attacks and several recent major security incidents. On August 25, for example, a series of coordinated attacks throughout the country, including suicide bombs, left 62 people dead and 250 wounded. Car explosions, roadside bombs, mortar attacks and kidnapping remain daily threats for Iraqis.
"We strongly urge European governments to provide Iraqis with protection until the situation in their areas of origin in Iraq allows for safe and voluntary returns. In this critical time of transition, we also encourage all efforts to develop conditions in Iraq that are conducive to sustainable and voluntary return," Edwards said.
The continuing violence in Iraq has resulted in large-scale internal and external displacement of the Iraqi population. More than 1.5 million people remain displaced within the country while hundreds of thousands of others have found refuge in neighbouring countries, mainly in Syria and Jordan.
UNHCR is concerned about the signal that forced returns from Western Europe could give to Iraq's neighbours, which, despite a score of national priorities, are hosting large numbers of Iraqi refugees.

Today Rob Hastings (Independent of London) reports that Iraqis Ahmed Hussein Saeed and Mohammed Abdullah escaped the Oxfordshire detention center they were being held on Thursday night and were hunted down "by police using dogs and a helicopter" and adds, "Fifteen Iraqi refugees have been flown to Baghdad this month, of which several were Kurds. British officials tried to send their flight on to Kurdistan but were told by the KRG that this was not acceptable. A spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Deportations to Iraq told The Independent that British authorities now simply left Kurdish refugees in Baghdad with $100 and a hotel room for the night, and instructed them to make their own way back home to Kurdistan from there."

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends