Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, December 24, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraqis celebrate Christmas in Iraq and Jordan and elsewhere, Nouri's forces surround the Ramadi protest yard and then withdraw (for real or as a fake out), and more.

It is Christmas Eve.  December 25th is a holiday for many around the world.  For some (including many children around the world), it's a time for Santa.

  • Lots of the children in Iraq left me and the reindeers food and drink, we all feel rather full up! Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas everyone
  • Santa, Underpants gnomes, and electroshock to the balls -- it's all part of bringing Christmas to Iraq! Watch here:

  • Also,  Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Under The Tree" went up earlier with Barack playing Santa. For some of those and for other, Christmas is a religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

    One of the traditional holiday songs is "Silent Night" from 1818 (written by Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr).  Stevie Nicks performs it below with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

    In Iraq, Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi treated warm greetings to Iraqi Christians and best wishes for all Iraqis.

    1. نتقدم الى الاخوة المسيحيين والشعب العراقي كافة بأحر التبريكات بمناسبة حلول اعياد الميلاد متمنين ان ينعم بلدنا...

    Northern Iraq is the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government.  The KRG issued the following today:

    Erbil, Kurdistan Region, Iraq (KRG.org) – The Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) spokesman, Safeen Dizayee, has expressed the KRG’s heartfelt congratulations to Christians around the world on the occasion of Christmas and announced that the days of 25 and 26 December 2013 will be official holidays in all government departments and institutions in the Kurdistan Region. 
      At the same times the KRG spokesman announced that the days of 1 and 2 January will also be official holidays in all government departments and institutions on the occasion of the New Year.

    KRG President Massoud Barzani also issued a message:

    Now that Iraq is going through the phase of rebuilding, one of the responsibilities is to protect co-existence among the various religious and ethnic communities in the country, and this tradition should not be compromised.
    Unfortunately, in the past few years, Christians in Iraq have become targets of violence, but we should be proud that Kurdistan has always been a refuge and a home for all different communities and it is the responsibility of all of us to preserve this co-existence.

    Lukman Faily is the Iraqi Ambassador to the United States.  He re-Tweeted the following this evening:

    1. Christmas midnight mass in Baghdad, Iraq ليلة عيد الميلاد في بغداد السلام

    Nouri al-Maliki, chief thug and prime minister of Iraq, of course had no message of warm wishes or good tidings.  Nouri's done very little for religious minorities in Iraq of any faith.  He is the US government installed puppet and he reflects the attitudes of his puppet masters.  Tom Halland (Guardian) observed Sunday:

    It is a bitter irony that the invasion of Iraq in 2003, launched under the aegis of two devoutly Christian leaders, George Bush and Tony Blair, should have heralded what threatens to be the final ruin of Christianity in the Middle East. It was Iraqi Christians, trapped between the militancy of their Muslim compatriots and the studied disinterest of their western co-religionists, who bore the initial brunt of the savagery. Extortion, kidnapping and murder became their daily fare.
    The venerable churches of Mesopotamia, ancient even in the days of patriarch Timothy, have suffered a terrible reaping. Since 2003, so it has been estimated by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), almost a million Christians have left Iraq. Those few that remain face an ongoing martyrdom. 

    BosNewsLife notes that, in Amman, Jordan, Iraqi and Syrian children (among the refugees seeking safety in Jordan) are celebrating Christmas with the Religious Freedom Coalition providing dinner and a "joy bag" (gift) which will "contain at least a week's worth of food for families, including rice, oil, pasta, cheese, milk, sugar, tea, halawi dates and candy."  Christa Case Bryant (Christian Science Monitor) addressed the topic yesterday:

    As an evening breeze sweeps across the Jordanian capital of Amman, dozens of Iraqi refugees file out of the Jesuit Fathers church, touching or kissing the cross on their way out.
    Among them is Mofed, an Arab Christian who recently fled the turmoil in his native country. A year ago, Mofed (who, like other refugees, would only give his first name out of fear of retribution) was running a photo shop in Baghdad. Then one day several men came into his store and gave him three options: become Muslim; pay a $70,000 per capita tax (jizya) levied on non-Muslims; or be killed, along with his family.
    "You pay, or get killed," says his wife, Nuhad. "There is no in between. If you say, 'OK, I'll become Muslim,' there is no problem. That is their aim, to get you to change your religion, to be Muslim."
    Mofed and Nuhad decided to exercise a fourth option: flee their homeland, bringing their three children along with them. Their decision is emblematic of what an estimated half million Christians have done since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the subsequent brutal civil war there. During that time, Muslim extremists have attacked more than 60 Christian churches across the country. This includes the 2010 Al Qaeda-linked strike on a mass at Our Lady of Salvation Church that killed 58 worshipers.
    The proliferation of jihadist groups after the fall of Saddam Hussein, coupled with the rise of political Islam, has made an already tense environment even more unbearable for the country's Christian community, which has been part of Iraqi society for more than 1,900 years. While many Muslims have fled the turmoil in Iraq as well, Christians have been disproportionately represented, in part because of their above-average means: Four years into the war, Christians – who made up 5 percent of the population in prewar Iraq – accounted for 15 to 18 percent of registered Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries, according to the International Red Cross. Today, fewer than 500,000 Christians remain in Iraq from a prewar population of 1 million to 1.4 million.

    Christian Iraqis who've sought asylum in the US observed Christmas Eve.  Stephen Farrell (New York Times) reports on Middle East Christians in NYC:

    The Salam Arabic Lutheran Church has become a home for Arab Christians, many of whom fled the Middle East. Some escaped violence in Syria and Iraq. Others say life was made difficult by armed gangs, kidnappers and extortionists, jihadi extremists or Israeli soldiers and settlers.
    There are other Arab churches in New York, but Salam Arabic is truly a kaleidoscope of Middle East Christianity. Side by side in its pews are Greek and Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Iraqi Chaldeans, Lebanese Maronites, Egyptian Copts and Greek Orthodox from the Galilee in northern Israel.
    Its pastor is the Rev. Khader N. El-Yateem, a 45-year-old Palestinian who was born in the West Bank village of Beit Jala and came to New York two decades ago to minister to a growing Christian Arab diaspora.         

    Some see December 25th as a day of peace.

    Iraq is one country that could use a day of peace.  Iraq Body Count notes 28 violent deaths yesterday, 766 for the month of December through yesterday and 9200 for the year so far.

    The violence continued today, December 24th, with Iraq Times reporting a Mosul attack left 2 police officers dead and a Christian bystander shot in the leg.   National Iraqi News Agency reports a Falluja mortar attack left seven Iraqi soldiers injured, 2 Bartel bombings left 2 people dead (a woman and a man) and seventeen more injured, a Tikrit suicide bomber took his own life and that of 1 police officer while leaving three more injured, a Baaj roadside bombing left four Iraqi soldiers injured, a Tuz Khurmato car bombing left three police officers injured, a Mosul armed attack left 2 police officers dead, a bomb targeting Nouri's puppet Sadoun al-Dulaimi -- we're not including his title, he doesn't have a title, only a vote by Parliament can give him that title and we're not even going to call him "acting" because since 2010 that office been vacant -- left two bodyguards injured, a Falluja roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and three more injured, a Shuhada attack left 1 police officer dead and another injured, an armed Mosul attack left 1 police officer and his brother dead, an Imam roadside bombing left three police injured, a Buhriz bombing left two people injured, and, on the border between Iraq and Syria, clashes left 8 people dead.

    Meanwhile, Iraqi Spring MC reports the latest attack on the press.  The governor of Anbar has terminated a satellite news channel because it had the 'nerve' to visit the square and speak to the protesters.

    The governor is Ahmed Khalaf Dheyabi.  He became the governor in August after elections were held June 20th -- elections some have called fraudulent.  The US government didn't call the election results fraudulent -- no, the State Dept's Brett McGurk praised Ahmed Khalaf Dheyabi.  Dropping back to the December 2nd snapshot:

    December 21st, the protests will have hit the one year mark -- that's twenty days away.  Today, All Iraq News reports:

    The Coordination Committees of the Sit –In yards in Ramadi city announced on Monday withdrawing their authorization for the Governor of Anbar to negotiate with the Central Government over the demands of the demonstrators.
    The demonstrators and chieftains in Anbar announced on September 3rd authorizing the Governor of Anbar Ahmed Khalaf to negotiate with the CG to implement their demands. 

    They're not pleased with the talks Governor Ahmed Khalaf has had with Nouri -- which have produced no results.  But they're especially bothered by the fact that the Governor is not working for them.  Some feel he's working for the United States' government.
    Where did they get that idea?  Who knows.  But Sunday, these remarks from Brett McGurk were posted repeatedly on Arabic social media:

    In the Sunni majority provinces of Ninewa and Anbar, provincial elections had been delayed due to security concerns. We were clear from the outset that this decision was unwise, and pushed to ensure the elections took place, which they did on June 20. The outcome led to a status quo in Ninewa, with the brother of Speaker Osama Nujaifi retaining the governorship; but new leaders emerged in  Anbar, and these new leaders, with our encouragement, are engaging the central government. 
    Prime Minister Maliki met the new Anbar Governor, Ahmad Khalaf al-Dulaimi, before traveling to Washington, and we expect to see additional meetings soon, with a focus on coordinating security and political efforts. 

    McGurk is the US State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and, last month, he testified to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.  We covered his testimony in the November 13th "Iraq snapshot," the November 14th "Iraq snapshot" and in the November 15th  "Iraq snapshot."  And the statements that were so popular on social media yesterday are from his opening statement which you can read in full here.

    It appears the US government's puppet will use his post as governor to attempt to prevent the media from reporting on the assault on Ramadi.  That's a Nouri trick but it's one he learned from the US government which repeatedly attacked the Iraqi media in the early years of the (ongoing) occupation.

    In fact, a great deal of Nouri's behavior is not just US aided, it's US learned.  For example, the Guardian's Martin Chulov spoke to  Australia's ABC today and stated:

    There is, for example, an intelligence service called the Iraqi National Intelligence Service which was raised and funded by the CIA,’ he said. ‘[It’s] meant to be slightly different from the state itself but it’s been totally co-opted by Maliki who has instilled members of his Dawa Party into it. [It is] the special forces of the Iraqi military. One unit of it works directly as a Praetorian guard for Maliki.
    There’s a prison inside the Green Zone which is used to prosecute those who oppose him… I guess the tendencies are towards the same sort of totalitarianism that was ousted ten years ago.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports protesters met with the governor today:

    The source told NINA on Tuesday, Dec. 24, that the dignitaries, tribal chiefs and representatives for the protestors, as well as clergymen have agreed with the Governor of Anbar, Ahmed Khalaf al-Dulaimi, during a meeting held on Tuesday evening, at the Governorate building, on the necessity to withdraw joint forces that are besieging the sit-in squares.

    All Iraq News reports that Nouri's forces withdrew from the protest yard after the meeting.  Iraq Times notes that this was followed by an air drop of leaflets and that Nouri's forces were receiving support from the US military.  Leaflet droppings advising to protesters to leave are a lot like the 2003 pre-invasion leafleting the US government did over Iraq.

    There are fears that this is an attempt to lull the protesters into a false sense of security.  Arabic social media notes that Nouri's forces had blocked roads prior to encircling the protest yard and, after leaving the protest yard, they did not open those roads back up to traffic but continued to seal them off.

    Lastly, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued the following yesterday:

    Baghdad (ICRC) – With the security situation deteriorating, Iraqi women who have lost their husbands in connection with the armed conflicts of recent decades are struggling hard to earn a living. Because they face increasing hardship, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is stepping up its support for them.
    There are currently over a million Iraqi women in Iraq who bear the responsibility of supporting their families because their husbands were killed, arrested, disabled by war injuries, or went missing. The women are among those hardest hit by years of armed conflict. With violence against civilians on the increase, their needs are set to grow.
    "Widows in Iraq are often ill-equipped to overcome the significant challenges they face all by themselves," said Patrick Youssef, head of the ICRC delegation in Iraq. "With just a little help from us, however, they are able to take matters into their own hands, rebuild their lives and see to it that their children have enough to eat."
    The ICRC seeks out the people who most need its help, including in particular women finding themselves with little or no means when their husbands die. In 2013, the ICRC helped more than 50,000 people in Iraq, including more than 1,500 women responsible for supporting their families, find a suitable way of earning a living.
    "When my husband died I found myself alone. I was very tired, and the burden was unbearable. Everything was difficult for me, because my kids were small. They needed school. They needed clothes," said Huda Muttashar Naji, a mother of three. Financial support from the ICRC enabled her to open a beauty salon and hairdressing business in her own home in one of Baghdad’s poorest neighbourhoods. "Now I find myself stronger. My beauty salon is good, thank God, and I can cover all the expenses of the household."
    The ICRC has been in Iraq since 1980, working to ease the effects of conflict and other violence. Its assistance activities in the country focus, among other things, on helping poor farmers boost production, providing displaced people with emergency aid, and making grants to women heading households and to disabled people so they can start small businesses, generate income and live in greater dignity.

    For further information, please contact:
    Pawel Krzysiek, ICRC Baghdad, tel: +964 790 191 6927

    the new york times