Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, August 3, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, US Senators Patty Murray, Jay Rockefeller, Max Bacus and Robert Casey work to determine how many veterans are taking their own lives, Jane Arraf demonstrates (without show boating) why her knowledge of Iraq is second only to the legendary Robert Fisk, Matthew Rothschild demonstrates that if you're too dishonest to call out Barack then you're also dishonest enough to try to rewrite facts in order to make your bad column more 'pleasing,' and more.
Starting with the Libyan War,  Saturday the jounalists of the Libyan Broadcasting Authority issued the following statement:
In an act of international terrorism and in violation of UNSC  resolutions, NATO targeted the facilities of the Libyan Broadcasting  Authority in the early hours of this morning. 3 of our colleges were  murdered and 15 injured while performing their professional duty as  Libyan journalists.
NATO admitted the crime sighting "silencing Gaddafi's propaganda machine" as a justification for such a murderous act.
We are the employees of the official Libyan TV. We are not a military target, we are not commanders in the army and we do not pose a threat  to civilians. We are performing our job as journalists representing what we wholeheartedly believe is the reality of NATO's aggression and the  violence in Libya.
We have the right to work in a safe environment protected by national and international law. The fact that we work for the Libyan government  or represent anti-NATO, anti-armed gangs views does not make us a  legitimate target for NATO's rockets.
As journalists, we demand that we get full protection from the  international community and ask our brothers in the profession from all  around the world to stand against such attacks targeting media  personnel.
Foreign journalists in Tripoli, Reporters without Borders and human  rights organizations: we appeal to you to make your moral and  professional stand clear on this issue.
We are hopeful that your media organizations will help us highlight  this important issue and come out in support of our just cause.
Thank you.
Muhammad Ahmed Mukhtar
Abdelwanis Sulaiman Elsayed
Abdelwahid Muhammad Ali
Yesterday on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), Kevin Pina spoke with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya who has left Canada to report from Libya on the illegal war.  Flashpoints Radio airs live on KPFA from 5:00 to 6:00 pm PST, Monday through Friday.
Kevin Pina: The situation on the ground in Libya continues to heat up following the killing of Abdul Fatah Younis who was the chief of staff of the so-called rebels in Libya.  One thing that is being under-reported in the press here and throughout the world is that NATO actually intervened on behalf of one of the rebel groups in Benghazi last Friday and over the weekend, we also understand that NATO bombers also took out three antenna dishes for Libyan television but also killed three journalists.  Apparently killing journalists is one way of supporting free speech in Libya today. Here again is our special correspondent Mahdi Nazamroaya who is on the ground in Tripoli, Libya.  Mahdi, welcome back to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Thank you for having me.
Kevin Pina:  So let's start of course with what happened in NATO's intervention which is not reported in the press at all in the internal conflict among the so-called rebels who appear to now to be tearing each other apart.
Mahdi Nazemroaya:  Yes.  Just a few days ago in Benghazi riots broke out as well as protests, separate protests, and armed struggle as well between different groups. Members of the biggest tribe in Libya, Warfalla, were attacked during a meeting that they had discussing ways to get rid of the Transitional Council. The building they were in was attacked.  It's unconfirmed but it's believed that 160 members of the Warfalla tribe were killed during this meeting.  There was also armed fighting between Abdul Fatah Younis' tribesmen who actually opened fire on members of the Transitional Council especially after the press conference that announced his death, actually murder is the proper way to put it. So in Benghazi fighting has broken out.  In Tobruk fighting has broken out.  In Darnah, fighting has broken out.  The Libyan people there are beginning to take up arms against the Transitional Council. I've been told that some of them were actually waiting for the right moment and it seems that the Transitional Council is in a very, very hard place right now.
Kevin Pina: And that's the voice of Mahdi Nazemroaya, our special correspondent, speaking to us directly from Tripoli, Libya.  He is also a research associate at the Centre for Research on Globalization based in Montreal, Canada. Now, Mahdi, what we also understand -- it's interesting because as you're describing all of this internal strife and battle and warfare among the so-called rebels themselves at the same time the west was making announcements of advancements and military victories they were making in the field.
Mahdi Nazemroaya:  Well they've been doing this the  whole time, this is not unusual, it's not strange, it's not new, but it's not true.  They have not been making advances.  I was just looking at an article from the Guardian from last month, how they were saying Tripoli was reached. The reporter, he wrote this report in Tripoli. I'm looking at the Telegraph right now from July 6th and it's talking about covert guerilla war in Tripoli and how Tripoli's about to fall and there's three fronts to the east of the Libyan capital.  They've been talking about this for a long time, there has been no gains.  It's the other way around.  The tides are turning. The Transitional Council is in a very hard spot and this is what's forced NATO and it's coalition to intervene to help the Transnational Council attack Libyan citizens in the east.  The Libyan people in the east are trying to throw off the yoke of the Transitional Council which essentially is NATO.  In fact, Qatari armed vehicles have been seen in Benghazi and Qatari troops are in Benghazi as well as well as others from the Gulf Cooperation Council who have been putting down the protests and the armed struggle that's trying to remove the Transitional Council from power and bring back the legitimate government of Libya in Benghazi.
Kevin Pina: Well that might for a lot of our listeners who are wondering why Al Jazeera is embedded with the rebels, now we hear Qatari troops are actually fighting against people in the east on behalf of people with the Transitional Council inside of Libya according to our special correspondent Mahdi Nazemroaya who is joining us directly from Tripoli, Libya.
At this point Mahdi reads the letter in that we noted at the top and then the two discuss it. Okay, a friend at KPFA asked if I'd note something.  I'm going to but I'm not a fake like Amy Goodman so I'm not going to schill.  First off, we walked away from Flashpoints Radio for a reason.  Even now there are community members who are upset that I'm highlighting it.  I understand that and I respect their feelings. Why are they upset?  Because they have not forgotten when Ray McGovern and Dennis Bernstein engaged in attacks on two women in their effort to promote Julian Assange.  This is disclaimer within disclaimer.  But since we're on Julian, I know Gareth Peirce and like her.  She's his new attorney.  Unlike the Julian Booster Wagon, we noted in real time what incredible f**k ups his attorneys were, we noted -- and were the only ones who did -- the judge's disbelief at the filings and the witnesses Julian's attorney's provided.  (As stated then, Julian's lousy attorneys were no reflection on his guilt or innocence.  They were and are incompetent.  The judge all but stated that in the court room.)  Gareth's long history speaks for itself and she'll do a wonderful job representing Julian. And starting with her taking over the case, I'm out of it in terms of commentary unless those two women get attacked again.  The women may or may not have been raped.  My position here was we don't know what happened, we weren't there.  And if Ray McGovern, Naomi Wolfe and others had taken that position, Julian's reputation wouldn't be so bad right now.  But instead, they chose to insist the women were this and that and every awful thing in the world.  When Ray, Naomi, et al's claims were demonstrated to be lies, they not only didn't issue a correction or an apology, they continued to repeat the lies.  Two women who may or may not have been raped were torn apart because some little babies had to protect their hero.  That's not what we're supposed to do on the left.
But because that's what McGovern and Dennis did on Flashpoints, there are people that will not listen to the show anymore.  And I do understand that and I do respect it.  The reason we started highlighting it was because when we (Wally, Kat, Ava and I) were speaking to various groups in the spring, the Libyan War kept coming up.  We're there to discuss the wars, so that was fine.  But it was very, very hard for people to find coverage they felt they could trust.  Al Jazeera, for example, destroyed its reputation with the Libyan War. (Amy Goodman revealed herself to be a fraud to a number of college students with her silence on the Libyan War.)  Kevin Pina was guest hosting Flashpoints Tuesday through Friday and he and Mahdi were covering Libya Tuesday through Thursday (and doing a great job). That's why we included the program and that's why I have e-mailed and individual apology and an explanation to every community member who has complained that we are highlighting Flashpoints.
KPFA is in fundraising mode.  I was asked to note that and to note that Flashpoints has been the only place on Pacifica Radio where you have gotten Libyan War coverage regularly.  (Robert Knight may be noting it on his show. He's on WBAI and I wasn't asked by any WBAI friends to make any comments.) Dennis needed a rest and is back from his vacation with a voice that still sounds sore.  He has publicly thanked and praised Kevin and Mahdi for their work and he is said to be determined to continue Flashpoint's leadership on the Libyan War. If you appreciate the coverage and you want to donate and can afford to, the number is 1-800-439-5732.  You can also safely contribute online.  You can make a one time donation or you can make a donation where they charge your credit card X amount every month.  Pacifica Radio is public radio and, if you itemize your deductions on your taxes, your donation is tax deductable.
My own opinion -- feel free to disagree -- Dennis can cross a line when he's passionate about something.  That does not excuse what happened to those two women (the on-air trashing) for me.  But it does help me understand it.  When he crosses a line, if someone points that out, he usually gets it.  That has been the pattern in the past.  So if you're on the fence about donating and want a reason to, there you go.  I don't think he'd trash the two women today.  (I doubt most would, the backlash was too severe.) Also true, while a huge number were still playing the sexist and nonsense card of "That awful President Hillary Clinton . . .," Dennis was pointing out that she is Secretary of State and responsible for her actions there but if you're unhappy with White House policies and actions, Barack Obama was actually elected president in 2008 and you should take your complaint there.  Though that is so basic to this community, it is something that a large number of lefty males have struggled with and a large number continue to struggle with it. And male or female, it's something a number of KPFA on-airs continue to struggle with.
If you're not going to donate, you're not going to and you don't owe anyone (including me) an explanation. But whether you donate or not, do remember that, as Dennis pointed out on air yesterday, Flashpoints did what Pacifica Radio is supposed to.  And let me point out what Dennis didn't because he was being kind: Flashpoints did what Pacifica Radio is supposed to -- but none of the others did.  (Again, Robert Knight most likely has covered this with guests and reports on WBAI.) All that air time to fill.  And we've had talk about TV shows and we've had trivia.  Since when is Pacifica Radio broadcasting Entertainment Tonight? When all other news outlets are droning on in the same pro-war voice, Pacifica Radio is supposed to provide the voice of dissent, the voice of the silenced. One show did that and if you want to donate to Flashpoints for that reason, great.  But grasp that one show did its job while a lot of shows did nothing.  (And if you want to donate to Flashpoints but aren't able to while it's airing live, you can donate at any time and note on the phone -- 1-800-439-5732 -- or in your online donation that you are donating because of the work Flashpoints has been doing.)  End of pitch.
Each month the Army releases their data on suicides.  The press covers it and any information released by the other branches as well.  Reading in the paper (the monthly release is usually just noted in the print media), you can be left with the impression that these are the military suicides but they are not the only ones.  Those who have discharged and left the service have become "veterans" and not "service members."  Veterans deal with many issues like readjustment to civilian life, attempting to find employment (in a bad economy and in a climate where young male veterans of the current wars have one of the worst rates of unemployment in the country), attempting to re-establish relationships, as well as, for some, other issues such as PTSD. 
Veterans taking their own lives because the system failed them (or their pain from what they experienced while serving is too much to handle) are paying the costs of war and they are paying it with very few aware because their numbers are not tracked. 
Many have decried this lack of record keeping including Senator Daniel Akaka when he was Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee and Senator Patty Murray back then as well as since she became Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee.  Senator Murray and three other senators are attempting to resolve the 'mystery' around veterans suicides and to get this cost of war out in the open.  Her office notes:
(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, has joined with Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Max Baucus (D-MT), and Robert Casey (D-PA) to call on state Governors to begin reporting critical statistics on suicides among military veterans in their states. The effort, which comes amid a steadily rising suicide rate among veterans and members of the military, focuses on pushing 41 states to create a direct link to the VA to communicate information about veteran suicides. That information is particularly important for tracking and prevention efforts as many suicides among veterans not enrolled in the VA often go unrecorded.'
"One of the most significant obstacles to understanding veteran suicide is the lack of information available regarding these individuals," the Senators wrote. "In many cases the Department of Veterans Affairs does not even know that a veteran has died if that individual was not enrolled in VA health care."
In addition to the National Governors Association the letter sent by the Senators also went to the National Association of Medical Examiners, which is the professional organization for medical examiners and death investigators who are responsible for investigating deaths that are violent, suspicious, or otherwise unusual.

The full text of the Senators' letter is below:


July 20, 2011

The Honorable Dave Heineman

Chair, National Governors Association

444 North Capitol Street

Suite 267

Washington, DC 20001-1512


Dear Governor Heineman:

As you know, there has been a disturbing rise in suicide rates among veterans and members of the military.  We are sure you find this trend as troubling as we do.  As we continue our work to provide all the needed resources and services to assist servicemembers and veterans with mental health concerns, we ask for your assistance in this effort. 

One of the most significant obstacles to understanding veteran suicide is the lack of information available regarding these individuals.  In many cases the Department of Veterans Affairs does not even know that a veteran has died if that individual was not enrolled in VA health care.  This makes it very difficult for researchers and mental health professionals to study the information and design effective, targeted campaigns to prevent suicide. 

This is a result of the fact that only 16 states provide information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Violent Death Reporting System.  VA has also been working with the states to create a direct link between the states and VA to communicate information about veteran suicide, but so far only nine states have reached such an agreement with the Department.

Thank you for your assistance, we look forward to working with you on behalf of the nation's veterans.

Patty Murray
John D. Rockefeller IV
Robert Casey
Max Baucus
Turning to the Iraq War, news came late yesterday that the Iraq had agreed to launch official negotiations with the US on the US military staying in Iraq beyond 2011. As Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) notes, "Long after most reporters had rushed home to beat the 1 a.m. curfew still in force, Deputy Prime Minister Rosh Nuri Shawis emerged to read a statement to state-run television saying the attendees recognized the need for further training of Iraqi military forces."  And as we'll note, curfew or not, Jane Arraf reported on it yesterday.  As did AP's Lara Jakes and Mohammad Ali Harissi for AFP -- those three's reports were noted in yesterday's snapshot.
Yang Lina (Xinhua -- link has text and video) reports, "Iraq's political leaders have given the government the green light to begin negotiating a deal with the U.S. The deal would keep American troops beyond the end of 2011 to train Iraqi security forces."  Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) point out, "As a candidate, President Obama promised to end the Iraq war, so the White House has been reluctant to call openly for U.S. troops to remain."

So, yes, that makes the start of acknowledged negotiations major news. (Even if the New York Times runs a paragraph by AP and refuses to file their own story on the issue. Talk about caught sleeping on the job -- and, no, that's not a slam at Tim Arango who is pursuing a different story and doing follow ups. He is not the only one who could have written the story and when Mullen went into Iraq, he did so with reporters.)

Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) observes, "After weeks of wrangling and lots of US pressure it appears to be a breakthrough. After a five hour meeting in presidential compound here in Baghdad there was an announcement that a deal has been reached that presence of US military trainers would be raised in parliament." And as noted yesterday, Jane Arraf Tweeted about the big meet-up so refer to her Twitter feed for many more details about what was discussed by the Iraqi political blocs beyond US troops. And, if you visited her feed this morning, you saw that the supposed official stated position of the Sadr bloc is they're not going to block the move if everyone else goes along with it (US troops in Iraq beyond 2011) but that she (Arraf) was meeting up with a Sadr official to find out what their position actually entails.

Of the negotiations, Press TV notes, "The move, which is opposed by the Iraqi people, comes after a visit to Baghdad by the outgoing Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, who has urged the al-Maliki government to make a decision whether it wants an extended presence of American forces in Iraq." This week in Baghdad, a petition calling on US forces to leave Iraq at the end of the year got 2.5 million signatures. Another number is offered by Stars & Stripes, "The U.S. has offered to keep up to 10,000 troops in Iraq beyond the year-end deadline." As Dar Addustour notes, the meet-up of the political blocs took place at Jalal Talabani's home (Talabani is the President of Iraq).

Mohammed Tawfeeq and CNN quote
the Deputy Prime Minister Ruz Nouri Shawees stating, "After extensive discussions, the leaders of the political blocs headed by Iraq's President Jalal Talabani have agreed to let the Iraqi government start negotiations with the American side only on the issues of training and under the Strategic Framework Agreement." In an active and functioning media, that statement alone would result in multiple columns, analysis and discussions. As it is, it will probably sail right over most heads (the meaning of it). Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) elaborates further, "The leaders agreed that any request to keep U.S. military trainers in Iraq would fall under a general security agreement with the United States and would not require signing a new accord to keep U.S. troops in the country into 2012, according to Talabani's office. U.S. military and diplomatic officials in Iraq did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday night."

The only non-Iraqi press outlet I see offering analysis of the news at this point is the editorial board of the Khaleej Times:

With pressure coming in from Washington to decide at the earliest if it wants the remaining troops to stay or leave, Maliki faces a tough task. His tenuously cobbled coalition government is at a risk of falling apart in case a decision is made in favour of retaining American forces for longer than the December 2011 deadline. Facing violent opposition from some of his coalition partners -- concerning further prolonging of US forces in the country -- Maliki is in a catch-22 position in trying to choose the lesser of the two evils. For the security in Iraq is far from stable and is in fact worse than before, according to a recent report presented before the US Congress. According to the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart W. Bowen Junior, the security situation is at an all time low.
Though an earlier military assessment in May lauded the improvement in security, it was misleading and based on a comparative assessment of the situation to that in 2007. As a matter of fact, according to Bowen, Iraq is facing enhanced security threat from Shia militant factions that have contributed to the spread of violence and instability. An increase in targeted killings of US soldiers and Iraqi officials and attacks in Baghdad over the past many months is testament to the fact. In addition, the Iraqi military capability is as yet not on track.

The start of negotiations is major news.  And it did come late yesterday.  So some needed to play catch up today.  Understandable.  If they, in fact, caught up.
There are 20 headlines to stories on The Nation's main page currently, not one has anything to do with Iraq.  On Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman gave it two sentences plus a quote from Adm Mike Mullen.  A military officer, grasp this, had more to say on Democracy Now! about war than did that 'peace loving' Amy.  (Some may say, "She covered the debt ceiling!"  Finally.  And too damn little too damn late.  Ava and I documented that in real time she did nothing "TV: The unexamined (American) lives" and "TV: The Age of Fakery."  She only cared after the fact.  See Elaine's "The Goody Whore" from last night.) And then there's Matthew.
The Progressive offers a piece by Matthew Rothschild, a weak and inaccurate piece.  Maybe he shouldn't have written a damn thing?

Mike picked Matty Rothschild as Idiot of the Week and boy had Matty earned that honor.  A month or so back, Matty was going to get ripped apart by me over his so-called concern for civil liberties.  If you're concerned for civil liberties and do a "McCarthy Watch," you do that the same regardless of who is in the White House.  He can rip Bush apart, he just can't call out Princess Barack.  Now because Matthew called out the Libyan War and (rightly) noted it was an impeachable crime, I wrongly thought he had left the Cult of St. Barack and was more than willng to table the critique of how he does a McCarthyism Watch when it's Barack and when it's Bush.
If you're wondering what it looks like, you can see it in his hideous column "Pentagon Presses to Stay in Iraq, with Immunity!"  Oh, that runaway Pentagon!
Poor Barack, the ultimate victim.  No one listens to him!  The Pentagon does what it wants! 
I'm sick of this crap.  He is president.  People like Matthew Rothschild lied and whored to get him the Democratic Party nomination.  He's now the president hold him accountable.  I am so sick of these pathetic little babies and Matthew is the King of them. 
From his embarrassing garbage:
All U.S. troops are supposed to be out of Iraq by the end of this year.
This has not only been Obama's pledge. This is the precise wording of the security agreement between the Iraqi government and the United States.
But now the Obama administration wants to keep U.S. troops beyond that date, so the Pentagon's been negotiating with the Iraqis to extend the American presence there.
Okay, that wasn't Obama's pledge.  That's a damn lie.  Barack would not have gotten the Democratic Party nomination if he was promising that all troops will be out of Iraq at the start of 2012, three years after he takes office.  That's a damn lie.
Secondly, after "Obama's pledge," Barack's never responsible again.  It's not Barack that wants the US to stay in Iraq, it's "the Obama administration."  Matthew Rothschild is such a damn chicken, such a pathetic coward, that he can't call out Barack Obama.
I don't like Barack.  I didn't vote for him.  I won't vote for him in 2012.  But I'm not the one pretending he's a weakling, I'm not the one pretending he has no strength or power.  I recognize he's the president of the United States.  That's something that the Cult of St. Barack that gifted him with the nomination can't own up to.
The Pentagon is NOT negotiating. 
"Brave" Matty can call them out but he's wrong.  Robert Gates, when he was Secretary of Defense, was required to note the time issue and that it was passing when speaking to Nouri or Jalal Talabani.  Leon Panetta has infamously noted the time issue since becoming Secretary of Defense.  Adm Mike Mullen went to Iraq to convey how serious the government was taking the issue.
Their efforts were to prompt action.  They are not negotiating anything.  James Jeffrey, the US Ambassador to Iraq, is the public face of negotiations (as Ryan Crocker was when he was the US Ambassador to Iraq).  He is assisted by State Dept employees the administration has tasked for this issue.
This is not who Hillary Clinton has selected, it's not her issue.  Joe Biden and Samantha Power are tasked with Iraq on the orders of Barack Obama.  Hillary is not involved.  You see her with her Iraqi counterpart from time to time, she does receive most visiting Iraqis but she and Nouri are not close and anyone who can't grasp that can't remember Hillary's public remarks about Nouri when she was in the Senate.  That's the practical reason Hillary's not over Iraq.  There are other reasons as well.  Samantha Power is elevated to her position because, although Joe Biden has a great relationship with many Iraqi politicians (including the Kurds), he also made comments, when he was a senator, about Nouri that Nouri has not forgotten.  (Hillary and Joe both rightly called Nouri a despot at one point or another and it's not forgotten on Nouri's side.  And they were not one time remarks.  Nor were they unique remarks in the Senate.  Back then, Baraba Boxer was among the many calling out Nouri as a Little Saddam.)
If that's news to you, that's still not an excuse for ever thinking that the Pentagon would be negotiating -- or that they would do so against the wishes of the president.
Matthew throws caution and facts to the wind in this sentence: "Because even as Admiral Mullen was making his pitch, U.S. troops along with Iraqi troops were raiding a village, killing three men, including a tribal elder who was seen in handcuffs, and wounding five others, including two little girls."
No.  You can't alter facts and keep them as facts.  Mike Mullen arrived in Iraq on Monday.  The incident Rothschild's referring to took place LAST WEEK.  This appears in Saturday's second entry: "and, dropping back to Friday night, a "joint U.S.-Iraqi air landing on al-Rifeiat tribe's village in Balad township of Salahal-Din Province" today resulted in the deaths of 4 Iraqi civilians (and six being injured),"  Mullen arrived on Monday.  You can't alter the facts and claim that they're still facts.  Yes, Matthew Rothschild, it does make the story play better, but it's not fiction and you can't alter the facts.  (And if you're interested in this story, Tim Arango has filed two reports on it so far -- here and here.)
What Matthew Rothschild is really doing when he refuses to call out Barack Obama, when he invents blame for the Pentagon and when he alters time lines to make the story more 'pleasing,' what he's really doing is demonstrating how Judith Miller was able to write for The Progressive.  She did.  Long before her bad reporting helped sell the Iraq War, she was writing for The Progressive.  And meeting the very low standards required from that magazine.
While Panhandle Media can't get the story right (including that currently the blocs aren't considering impunity -- read yesterday and today's reports in the Arab media and in some of the English media as well), Jane Arraf is all over the ins and outs, both in terms of the agreement to negotiate and what led to it Nouri's promised Ayad Allawi that Iraqiya can pick the Minister of Defense and that the national security council promised in the Erbil Agreement will come to be and Allawi will head it -- as Arraf notes, this mean that there may be "enough support for the agreement to be passed by parliament, even with the opposition of the Sadrists.  If you're generous, Moqtada's bloc has 40 seats.  There are 325 MPs (though only around 225 tend to show up at any session). 

Violence continued overnight. The Belfast Telegraph notes, "Four Iraqis have been killed in two successive bomb attacks targeting a shop selling alcohol in western Baghdad, police and health officials said." AFP adds, "The explosions come shortly after the beginning of Ramadan, during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and sex from dawn until dusk. Ramadan began on Monday for Iraq's Sunnis and a day later for the country's majority Shiites. Also on Tuesday evening, unknown gunmen shot dead Iraqi army Lieutenant Colonel Azad Mohammed Ahmed in the Khadra area in the south of Kirkuk while he was driving to his house with one of his guards." Reuters adds that last night 2 cab drivers were shot dead in Hilla, that a bomb went off in a Tikrit car claiming 2 lives and leaving one person injured, that a rocket attack in Baghdad injured two police officers, two Ramadi bombings claimed 7 lives and left eight people injured and Reuters updates the death toll for Tuesday's Baghdad bombings targeting an alcohol store -- the new death toll is 3 police officers (sixteen people are said to have been injured).