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A Word from the Islamic Army - 05.17.2006

Brian Conley and Muhammad Zaher

BAGHDAD, May 16 (IPS) - Call them terrorists, call them resistance fighters. A significant member of one such group spoke to IPS about why he joined.

Abu Ayoub, a 35-year-old living in Baghdad, is a member of the Islamic Army. He spoke to IPS in the Adhamiya neighbourhood..

“When the occupation forces entered Baghdad, they killed my brother in front of my eyes. He was wounded and bleeding but the occupation forces didn’t allow me to save him. When I tried to save him they began shooting at me and after a few minutes my brother died. After that I swore to fight them to the death.”

Many resistance groups have been identified since the beginning of the war in March 2003. They range from the well-known Ansar al-Sunna, first noticed in northern Iraq after its members fled Afghanistan, to smaller groups like the Revenge Brigade involved in the kidnapping of Jill Carroll, correspondent with the Christian Science Monitor..

“I think 80 percent are from the Islamic resistance, because Islam orders Muslims to fight against the enemy and against everyone who came to occupy our country,” Ayoub said.

After his brother was killed, friends just came up to support him in his resistance fight, he said. “At first I was fighting in a small group, because we didn’t trust many people to join with us. But now, after three years fighting, we became part of Islamic Army. Now everything has become organised, we make good plans before any attack.”

There are some groups, both Sunni and Shia, who believe the time for violent resistance has passed, Ayoub said. Sunni groups such as the Iraqi Accordance Front, the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Muslim Scholars Association seem to be pushing for a political process, and participated in the December elections.

But the Islamic Army will never negotiate with the United States or the Iraqi government, Abu Ayoub told IPS. He believes negotiators with the coalition and Iraqi government include only resistance fighters from the Ba’ath party.

“The Ba’ath resistance fight for Saddam, not for Islam or for Iraq. We are against this. They aren’t representative of the Iraqi resistance.”

Abu Ayoub believes that the occupation cannot be ended either by a political process or by other peaceful means. Only Iraqis fighting back can liberate Iraq, he says.

“The occupation forces will discover after this negotiation that nothing will change. The resistance will grow more and more till the end of occupation. They came by force, and they will never leave, except by force.”

Ayoub said he is not allowed to say how he joined the Islamic Army. But he was willing to say a little about his organisation. “The Islamic army is very big and we fight all over Iraq. We have groups everywhere in Iraq, but I have no connection with other groups. Only our leaders have connections between each other, this is for our security.”

Abu Ayoub said that after he joined the Islamic Army it was much easier to receive support such as guns. He told IPS there are “special people” whose work it is to bring weapons. His duty is only to fight the enemy, he said.

When asked why he was fighting the U.S. forces, he said: “I want you to ask this question to the U.S. forces, not to me. They came from the other side of the world and crossed the ocean to occupy my country. Bush and Blair lied to all the world when they spoke about weapons of mass destruction. All the world knew very well their governments were lying, but no country said ‘no’. Most of the world supported them to occupy my country.”

Ayoub dismisses claims by U.S. President George W. Bush parroted closely by British Prime Minister Tony Blair that their goal in Iraq is to establish democracy and liberate the Iraqi people.

“They don’t have credibility, they came to Iraq for many reasons, to destroy Islam, steal oil, save the east front of Israel, control the Middle East and establish bases near Iran and Russia. I want to ask them, ‘where is the democracy?’ Three years of occupation and Iraqi condition is from bad to worse.”

Ayoub is not just angry with the coalition forces. He believes it was wrong for Iraqis to join the new army or police force.

“They are not a real army like the Iraqi Army before the occupation. The occupation forces built this new army to protect them from resistance. I think any honest Iraqi should not join this fake army.”

The army was acting against the people, he said. “You can see what they did in Fallujah. They were like a hand of the occupation. They killed many innocent people there and they did that in many other cities in Iraq, like Ramadi, Tal Afar, Hit, Rawa and Haditha. Go there and see how many children, old men and women were killed by the Iraqi Army’s hand.”

Abu Ayoub believes the police should be called the militia. “Ninety-five percent of them are Shia and work with the Badr militia, and they work for Iran’s benefit. They killed many Sunni people just because they were Sunni, to create tensions between Sunni and Shia, and to make civil war after.”

But Ayoub believes it is still not right to attack members of the Iraqi army and police. “First we must liberate Iraq from occupation forces and then we can judge each one of them who committed crimes.”

There will be no civil war in Iraq if the occupation retreats, Abu Ayoub says. “We will control Iraq and push out all the militias and Iraqi politicians who came on American tanks. Then we will find many honest Iraqi politicians to lead Iraq. But for now you can see how the Iraqi people are between two hammers, the occupation and the militia — or even the Iraqi government, because they support them.”




More News From Ramadi, Blackhole of the Occupation - 05.15.2006

Since I arrived in Amman, I’ve been making contacts and looking for appointments with people who’ve arrived recently from Iraq. We’re working on setting up those contacts, but it’s going slowly.

I’m hoping to arrange an interview this week with someone who just came to Amman from nearby Ramadi over the weekend, but I’m not sure how that will go.

Luckily, phones still work in Ramadi and elsewhere around Iraq, so we’ve been able to receive some updates that way, as well as by email from Qasem.

Rafat reached a friend in Ramadi yesterday. He is a manager at the electrical company in Ramadi. Accoring to him, the United States forces there shutdown the electricity and telephone center for many houses and all the public services were turned off or destroyed over the past week.

This corroborates with repeated comments by Qasem regarding the state of social services at this time in Ramadi.

Qasem’s latest email covers the events of Thursday, Friday and Saturday in Ramadi:

May 11, 2006

The day time was quiet but I heard the sounds of heavy guns somewhere around Ramadi…

At 9:00 pm an F-16 bombed one place, it is the train station again … in addition to this, tanks attacked the houses of the train station governmental employees…..three civilians where killed ..these civilians where father and his 2 kids …and some others injured ….and their house destroyed.

May 12, 2006

US troops were attacked by some fighters ….the attacks were in the military base that is located in the agriculture collage. The fighters attacked the base with machine guns and mortars, the reaction of the US troops was to attack the houses that were located near their base and at night they moved their tanks in the streets and arrested many people and inspected many houses.

Let me tell you what the inspection included. As usual, US soldiers were moving with tanks in the streets among the houses after midnight. They arrest people from any family that saw the fighters on their way to fighting location and they arrest any family that shows movment inside their house during US soldiers moving. Most arrest cases are when US soldiers notice that someone is still awake after midnight!!! Because of that me and my family and most the people in our area keep silent and hide inside our rooms and keep the kids quiet and take them to their beds. And sure all this happen in deep darkness every night because no electricity can be found. Only by private generators that can work only few hours because of very expensive fuel shortage.

After inspection any house the result will :

1- destroyed doors and windows.
2- Broken furniture and some broken sets such as TV sets ,refrigerator .
3- Broken car windows.
4- Scared kids and women, girls

And let me tell you what are the steps of getting US soldiers in any house after midnight :

1- US soldiers surround the house and watch it for few minutes.
2- They throw sonic bombs in the windows-that make high explosion sound to make shock on the people who are living inside and this shock keeps everybody inside unable to hear for 20 minutes at least …..and for babies there is risk to lose there ears hearing ability, maybe for their whole life.
3- The soldiers get in the house from many openings (windows, doors) and then they crash any door they face …..bedroom and kitchen, etc.
4- They take all the family (even women, kids) by force, shouting loudly and putting them in one room with tied hands in the darkest, smallest room …..
5- The soldiers start inspection and they break any closed cabinets and lockers……
6- After they make sure that there is no weapons or bombs in this house ….the soldiers start to collect information from the family members. Mostly there are no interpreters with the US soldiers, so that mostly the soldiers will arrest the males and young boys to interrogate them in the US military base.
7- After the US soldiers finish, they throw smoke bombs outside the house then they ride the tanks with the arrested people to go back to their military base.

My family had this experience many times when they had US inspectors after midnight …..and the worst thing for them is when I am not available to be the interpreter for the US soldiers.

Many times I got offers from US soldiers (when they inspecting my house) to be interpreter with US soldiers in inspections with good payment, but I refuse because I know that I will be partner to the US troops crimes in Iraq if I be with them during their killing my people.

US soldiers need to understand that all of them came to Iraq with their guns and hurt Iraqis too much and all of them have his own share in Iraqi tragedy ..in addition all of Iraqis are victims and a few of them fight to stop this tragedy.

May 13,2006

Today in the morning the US troops tried to get more houses to use them as snipers bases…….and many fighters appeared with their guns to stop this.

US soldiers use all the power that they can get from tanks and helicopters that attacked many houses and killed many people (most of the victims were civilians).
This time the US soldiers chose my house to use it as snipers base. At 3 am 10s of US soldiers destroyed the outer gate of my house and came in the house while my family were sleeping …..they hid in the garden for a while. I was woken up. I heard their sounds and steps. After awhile they got inside after crashing the two main doors of my house. Then I came out of my room to show myself with some English words that can help my family to avoid the harmful reaction of the American way of getting in the bedrooms.

The US soldiers shouted on me ” Freeze! Turn back to the wall with raised hands now!” the US soldiers shouted on me.

I did what he asked me. Another US soldier inspected me then he said “he is clean” he said for the officer who was watching me carefully……there was three Iraqi soldiers whose cant speak English at all…….but they where speaking each to other
” OK….. can you help US to finish our job here……we need you to tell us about this house and what kind of people living here.”

The officer asked me this while the other soldiers moving around me ..in fact I cant see them, it was dark but they see me by their instruments found in their helmets ….but I noticed that the officer brought our kerosene lamp to help to see my steps and to see him while he talking to me.

“Please do not hurt us we are a peaceful family and my family includes kids and women and an old man (my father) …please let me wake them by my self to be ready for inspection…….

“ok…..hurry up and I want all the people whose living here come to be in this room ” the officer said pointing to my small room. I hurried to wake up my father and mother telling them calmly that US soldiers are here and all of us are OK….and they want all of us to be in one room” I said to my father with calm voice to avoid scaring him-he has heart problems.

Then I went to my sisters room and woke them up and took them to my room …..2 US soldiers moved with me without saying any word……they felt safe with me because I was doing their orders.

In the room of kids I found my nephews sleeping, one of my nephew, Mustafa who is 5 years old was sick and sleeping deeply. I carried him and moved with the other kids to my room. Finally I waked up all the family and all of the stayed in the room.

The soldiers started tieing the hands of all family members …..but I stopped him
” please do not do this …..you can lock the door but don’t tie their hands, there is kids ….it is hard for them ……please do not do that” I said to the officer.

” ok …..lock the door ….it will be enough” the officer said.

” You are 18 members living in this house ??? how ” the officer asked me

“We have no choice …..that it is all what we can ….there is no other place to live…..but it is ok …our house is nice enough for all of us together ” I answered with a smile….trying to make them relax.

“You are a good boy …..take care your family ” he said with smile

“Oh no ….I am not boy ….I am man ….do not let me feel bad” I said to him ….kidding

“Oh sorry, sorry …..how old are you???”

” I am 30 years old ….”

“Oh , you seem younger…..30 ??? Are you sure?? ”

“Yes I am sure ….and if I seem younger it is good for my girlfriend-right?”

” hahaha…yes sure. you deserve good one ” officer said with laugh

” she is good ….and it is not your business …..ok….??” I said with laughing

“Ok …..ok…..now get in with your family and we will open the door when we finish……get in the room please”…the officer said

I keep quiet while I am getting in the room …..

One of the soldiers locked the door and we stayed in darkness.

At the beginning I thought that the soldiers will get out after they finish inspecting the house ….but they stayed till the 11:20 am…..and we stayed in the dark room for 6 hours …

The first 2 hours were ok although it was very hot and dark ….but the problems started when Mustafa wanted to go to bath room………I asked the soldiers to allow him to go…..

“We cant open it …only the Americans can open it ….we not allowed to do any thing without their orders” Iraqi soldier said to me .

” Ok tell them now ….he is sick kid and he need to go toilet now”

“Ok…..I will try ….I can’t speak English……I just will tell them by signs …ok??” the Iraqi soldiers said

“Ok, ok”

He went upstairs and after few miutes he came back with one US soldier.

“What is your problem ??? ” the American soldier asked me behind the locked door
I explained for him about my nephew …..then he opened the door

“Ok …he should go alone …” the American soldier said

“No he cant he is sick…..he is sick he cant walk ….he have weak legs”

“Ok ok …..You go with him …..and you,” pointing to the Iraqi soldier, “watch them.” the American soldier said to me and to the Iraqi soldier.

“What he said ??” the Iraqi soldier asked me

I explained for him …………then we go to the toilet and the Iraqi soldier points his gun on us, me and 5 year-old sick Mustafa

This way of used with every one went to the bath room…….we spend the 6 hours as hostages in dark hot room.

The next message will explain what happened ……..thanks.




Iraq Happens… Our Would-Be Courier Killed, and Other Recent Updates -

It’s ironic, and perhaps a bit too flippant, but it was the only thing I could think of when Omar told me the news today.

I’ve finally recovered a bag that was lost by Royal Jordanian that contained 110 hours of MiniDV tape for the video end of the project, after being forced to pay 39 Jordanian Dinar for customs to release it.

I don’t know what US Customs is like, being an American citizen and never forced to navigate it, but I can tell you that Jordanian and Iraqi customs can be described by one word: Kafka-esque.

When I finally obtained my bag, I found the tapes absent, and was told by Royal Jordanian that “no one had gone through my bag, not RJ or customs.” After haggling a bit, it turned up that of course they had gone through my bag and there was a ticket in the bag to bring for the box of tapes.

I was initially told I would have to pay 95 JD. But so that you can understand where haggling will get you, even though I was told “there is nothing we can do” repeatedly, the “chief of customs” eventually marked the price down to 56 JD, and then, after I explained to him I am a freelance journalist, etc. It was marked down to 39 JD.

Perhaps if I had until next Ramadan, I could have received the tapes for free. Considering that I brought 6 cameras through customs with no problems however, it seems like the joke is on them!

When I returned to the flat I called Omar, to check on our progress to find a driver to transport the camera, tapes, etc. to him in Iraq, I heard the news.

“Well you know dude, we can’t use that driver now, just because he is dead.”

I didn’t know how to respond, I believed he was a friend of Omar and his brother, Mhyar, but I guess they weren’t close. I gave him my apologies, but Omar’s sort of “it happens” reaction led me to my own blasphemous thought, “Iraq happens.”

In other news, yesterday an Iraqi friend in Amman received a call from another friend who now lives in Amman. According to this friend, who is from Fallujah, just this morning he received a call that US forces broke into his house and arrested his sons as well as the other men in the house, and smashed his home up, apparently searching for weapons or something else. I’m trying to make an interview with him and, inshallah, it will happen soon.

This friend gave me an interview his organization taped with a woman who was arrested by the US and I hope to have that translated and uploaded soon.

There have also been reports of renewed fighting in Samarra from friend here, and we’ll be trying to reach a doctor who works in the hospital there. The only news I’ve found that mentions Samarra recently, however, is in the context of the shrine bombing, and nothing recent.

See here.

The government negotiations aren’t going well, not only has the Fadhila party pulled out altogether, Bahaa al-Araji is threatening that the United Iraqi Alliance will form a government unilaterally, I’m not sure this is really possible, but I’ll be looking into it and trying to post more soon.




Continued Account From Qasem in Ramadi - 05.14.2006

Technical Difficulties appear to be mostly corrected, we’re still having some trouble posting directly from Amman, however. Here is the rest of Qasem’s email. We will try to contact him by phone tomorrow and provide another update as soon as we can connect with him.

May 8, 2006
US troops tried to get inside more houses to install sniper bases among the houses …some fighters attacked them and fighting continued for 2 hours after noon. After a 4 hour period of no fighting some fighters hunted one US professional sniper on his base then many attacks happened and fighting…and other US snipers in Ramadi started shooting anyone who can be found in the streets…..but just as they started many people started to take out the people by their cars and help them to run away from the snipers shooting ……..the people believe that snipers are the most wild US soldiers of all the US troops in Ramadi, because snipers killed many kids and I know him one of them, his name Haitham Yusif Hubaiter (7years old) he was killed by US sniper while he was going to his school 2 months ago, in addition to many kids and women killed by the US snipers with shots in head.

By the way the college of agriculture and college of education still occupied by US troops and the students use other buildings of Anbaar university to study.

May 10, 2006

At 9:30 in the morning, the US troops tried to install more snipers by occupying more houses close to the core of the city, some fighters attacked them and tough fighting continued for 3 hours… US bullets damaged many houses because of their random shooting, this way hurt many families inside their houses and my family was harmed also when many bullets sparked fire in the kids room.. I heard their screams while 2 of my nephews run away from their burning bedroom. My brother and I ran upstairs to find out what kind of hurt we will find this time… my mind was full with images of a kid killed with sniper bullet in head or burned dead body of one of my nephews. I was scared too much and I lost control of my steps on the stairs. I found my brother broke down the door and crashed the window with his hands to get out the heavy smoke and he carried out his 5 year-old son Mustafa who was startled, to get him out of the burned room. The fire started to burn some blankets, I found my way to bring water and started extinguishing the fire. It was small fire cased by the bullets …this kind of bullets used by US troops is very harmful gun for human beings or the materials-it contains lead that will be like a hot liquid inside the bullet…if the bullet get inside the body will explode and crash the body from inside and melt bones & flesh ….and if the bullet attacked a car or furniture or wood, it will burn and melt it .

The streets were empty and the fighters succeeded to disapear as usual …but the US soldiers keep there machine guns working and pointing to our houses….

I know that US soldiers want to keep themselves alive till they see their families but we also need to be alive to take care our suffering families in our poor hard life in Iraq.

Notice : till now there is no electricity, no drinking water, no phone service and no way to know what is the next day can be ……darkness and blood are our atmosphere.

And in media there is the usual news about 10s of Iraqi dead bodies found in Baghdad streets and explosions killed many Iraqis and the only help that government doing is to collect the dead body and put them in hospitals and tell the media to avoid scaring the people by hiding the real numbers of the dead bodies in the streets.

Other new strange crimes appeared in Baghdad when a group of gunmen was moving in Baghdad streets and shooting in the crowded places on the civilians and the Iraqi police allow them to pass the check points ……it is strange but it is fact ……ask any Iraqi even government members then he can’t say it is not fact…

Now, IF I have the choice to live in Baghdad or Ramadi or Fallujah …I will choose the 2 last choices because the dangerous side is clear but in Baghda every thing is Dangerous even Police check points can arrest and kill the people for money or some thing else…




More Destruction and More Victims Leads to More Fighters - 05.12.2006

Another email from Qassem in Ramadi… This is only part of his email, but I want to read through and make it easier to understand his english, also I’m hoping to provide some more context for the situation in Ramadi.

As for me, I am in Amman, I slept for 12 hours after being awake for 36 travelling. I met with the NCCI as well as Kathy Kelly and Kathy Breen, and my flatmate Justin Alexander who works with UNAMI. Expect more about all of these people and their organizations soon. I have to be in touch with Rafat, my friend and “fixer” and I hope we’ll start shooting video interviews by tomorrow or Saturday.

Now this from Qassem:

Now the situation in Ramadi and the ways around it going to be worse more……US troops going to install more snipers towers and at 7th May 2006 US attacked the train station of Ramadi completely ..it is the third attack for this station although it is empty and surrounded by the local people houses……
US snipers occupied more houses such as ( Mr.Fasaal Alassafi ’s house) .the US snipers used to make the houses military bases for snipers and hunt any body moving around them….
The people in Ramadi called Iraqi fighters whose attacking US forces ( Resistance ) .resistance still watching and attacking US troops hardly .

For the Ramadi people think that Resistance is the Iraqi victims relatives of US boming ,and they believe that Resistance revenging for the Iraqis whose killed by US troops .
The main problem is that US troops think that by hurting civilians they will force resistance to stop the attacks but the clear fact is that Resistance got more members and getting stronger when more civilians killed……the other problem is that the people here have no way to stop US troops crimes only by defending their houses by them selves ……they believe that the world ignored them ….so no peace chance can be useful .

The streets of Ramadi full with destroyed buildings ,houses and burned cars ,I know very well that all of them destroyed by US troops in add there occupied schools and houses.
I believe there is bad experience for my people with the US troops.my people never trust US troops and US troops never trust us…….we living with our families and children in our houses and they living in their tanks with weapons among our houses…….

Now in Ramadi most the streets are dangerous because of US snipers and services is almost not found because US troops destroyed telephone station ,mobile service ,electricity and water services …..the main reason to destroy this services is to punish the civilians because they do not help US troops to kill the fighters……for me I believe that my people never agree to help some body to kill any body ….. US can get out the city to avoid attacks it is the easier choice for Iraqis and US soldiers ….and it is the best choice to get peace without blood.I know that the fighters need to get back their life and stay with their families again with peace and US soldiers want this also ….both of them need the chance and US troops can make this chance.




Iraqi Government by Thursday? - 05.11.2006

Helena Cobban over at Just World News has been running a “Democracy Denied in Iraq” counter for quite some time now. The current time reads 146 days. That’s 146 days since the elections last December, without a finalized Iraqi government.

Now Prime Minister al-Maliki is claiming he’ll have a government formed tomorrow! It still seems questionable, but certainly al-Maliki appears to have a better shot at it than his predecessor al-Jaafari.

I spoke to a friend of mine in Baghdad just a little while ago. He seems optimistic that al-Maliki might make his self-imposed deadline-he promised to seat a government in half the alotted one month deadline.

The main issue we both see is what the results of the Ministers of Interior and Defense will be. These are really the key issues, since security is such a big question right now.

Here is a breakdown of some stories in the press regarding al-Maliki and the upcoming government nominations:

http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/MAC946024.htm

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2006%5C05%5C10%5Cstory_10-5-2006_pg4_1

http://www.irishexaminer.com/irishexaminer/pages/story.aspx-qqqg=sport-qqqm=sport-qqqa=sport-qqqid=2970-qqqx=1.asp

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2006/05/10/2003307173

I’ll be reporting about the view of Iraqi refugees on the government negotiations as soon as I am in town, certainly expect to hear something by tomorrow!




Alive in Baghdad back to Baghdad, well, Amman! - 05.07.2006

As many of you are no doubt aware, I have once again been derelict in my duties as founder and coordinator of this website. This is because the past week has involved hectic preparations for a return trip to the Middle East

As I type this I have one hour until I leave for JFK airport to hop a plane back to the Middle East. I have a short layover in Frankfurt Germany and expect to arrive in Amman at approximately 8:40pm local time.

Through the dedicated assistance of Alive in Baghdad’s readership, we’ve raised enough money not only to go back for 2 months, but also to take many cameras over with us.

I’ll be bringing 6 cameras including my own, and expect to begin producing media from Amman almost immediately and to get these cameras into the hands of our “correspondents” in Iraq and Amman’s Iraqi refugee community as quickly as possible thereafter.

Our goal is to be uploading a number of interviews each week, as well as myself providing regular “headline” news updates from Amman, over video, audio, and text. These news updates will be aimed at cutting through the rhetoric and informing people not in the Middle East or lacking access to Al-Jazeera and similar stations, about the view from the ground.

We hope to very soon have a bi-monthly news program put together combining reports from Amman and Baghdad with general news updates as well. This will also be available by video initially and hopefully audio as well soon after.

Please stay tuned, and also look for the launch of our new site in the Drupal codebase. It will look nearly identical, but should correct some of the functionality problems we currently face.

As always, any donations are heartfully accepted, money, cameras, tape, audio equipment, and computers are all worthwhile and needed donations. Please feel free to email me for further information!

aliveinbaghdad at gmail.com




Da’wa Party Goes on Offensive Against Militias… - 05.06.2006

…but is it motivated by national pride or political protection?

The Da’wa Party has one of Iraq’s smaller militias. Today Jawad Al’Maliki, in one of his first public acts as Prime Minister, took steps to curb the power of Iraq’s political party militias.

According to Reuters:

“Arms should be in the hands of the government. There is a law that calls for the merging of militias with the armed forces,” Maliki said in his first policy speech after he was asked by President Jalal Talabani to head Iraq’s new government.

Iraq’s interim government has promised several times it will disband Iraq’s powerful sectarian militias but has never delivered. Militias are tied to political parties so disbanding them would be highly sensitive.

Al’Maliki is making positive waves with this proclamation to curb the militias immediately, however his selection raises other concerns for Iraq’s new “democracy. According to Sabrina Tavernise, writing for the New York Times, here published by the Seattle Times:

One independent Shiite woman politician said she had experienced difficulties with al-Maliki because she was a woman. Shatha al-Musawi said al-Maliki had refused to include her and three other Shiite women in a committee that was negotiating over the prime minister’s post.

“The incident, along with my history of work with him in the National Assembly, gave me this impression that he thinks women are not qualified enough for this kind of job,” she said.

The Australian news outlet “The Age” has taken the tack of describing Al’Malki’s actions as sending “mixed signals on the critical issue of disbanding armed militias.” Unfortunately, Louise Roug’s assertions become questionable given her apparent inability to recognize the differences between the various Shi’a political parties:

US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said on Sunday that militias and other “death squads” were “a serious challenge to stability in Iraq to building a successful country based on rule of law”. But taking guns out of politics remains a challenge in a country where political forces have assembled armed forces to back their agendas.

Mr Maliki’s own coalition is backed by two Shiite militias, the Iranian-trained Badr Brigades and radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

Many Shiite politicians, who control most seats in Parliament, refuse to refer to their armed wings as “militias”, and dismiss charges that members of the Iraqi security forces are loyal to Shiite clerics such as Sheikh al-Sadr, rather than the national Government.

Although Da’wa, SCIRI, and Badr are all part of the umbrella United Iraqi Alliance Shi’a political bloc, they have very different origins and allegiances. SCIRI in fact came to life in 1982 after a split with the Da’wa al’Islamiyah Party. Although the Badr Militia and Mehdi Army are both militias connected to political parties in the UIA, they have very different goals and very different allegiances. For the time being Da’wa appears to have been able to preserve an alliance with the Mehdi Army, but that puts it in direct conflict with the Badr Organization, who have the intention of fomenting Iran’s Islamic Revolution inside Iraq.

Further greying the confusing realm of Iraqi politics, despite Jawad Al’Maliki’s apparently warm welcome by all of Iraq’s current political parties, many allege there is perhaps a dinar’s worth of difference between the outgoing incumbent and his successor. (And for my reader’s who don’t know, that’s a fair bit less than a dime’s worth!)

According to Sami Moubayed, published in the Asia Times:

There is nothing in his background, however, to show that Jawad al-Maliki will be any better than Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Maliki, after all, has all of Jaafari’s weaknesses and none of his strengths. Jaafari is more experienced, better connected in the Arab world, and more politically independent than Maliki. Like Jaafari, however, Maliki is a product of political Islam. Both of them are allied to the rebel-cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and both are equally sectarian in their policies, having turned a blind eye to the Shi’ite death squads that roamed the streets of Iraq and gunned down prominent Sunnis after February’s bombing of a holy Shi’ite shrine in Samarra.

The two men claim to oppose sectarian violence, and both call for incorporating the militias into the Iraqi army. Both are in favor of appointing sectarian officials at the ministries of Defense and Interior, a demand that is backed by their ally Muqtada al-Sadr. Both are opposed to collaborating with the strong and US-backed former secular prime minister Iyad Allawi.

Both are friends of Iran, although they do not take orders directly from the mullahs of Tehran, unlike the Iran-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution of Iraq (SCIRI) and its leader Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim. Both want to create an Iran-like regime in Iraq but one that is politically independent from Tehran.

They share three good traits in common: both respect the integrity of the country and refuse to create a Shi’ite regime in the south; both want to crush the Sunni insurgency of former Ba’athists and the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda; and both are guided by the rules and wisdom of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Mr. Moubayed goes on to provide a lengthy description of Al’Maliki’s background and early years as well as the lack of distinction he sees between the two candidates.

Despite Jalal Talabani’s initial support of Jawad Al’Maliki, with Maliki’s recent declaration to disband the militias tension already appears to be rising between the Kurdish representatives in Baghdad and the newly selected Prime Minister.

Also from The Age article cited above, President Jalal Talabani was quoted describing Prime Minister Talabani on Saturday:

“We have all signed up to a national political program that will ensure unity, democracy and the rule of law,” Mr Talabani said. He praised Mr Maliki. “He is a patriot who was firm in his struggle against dictatorship,” he said.

However Agence France Presse quoted Mr. Talabani on Sunday, responding to Jawad Al’Maliki’s calls on the political parties to disband their militias:

“Peshmerga is not a militia. It is a regulated force,” Talabani, a Kurd, said at a joint news conference with US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, in Arbil and telecast live on Al-Iraqiya state-television.

In his book, “Night Draws Near” Anthony Shadid repeatedly recalls an Iraqi proverb that reflects their concept of “ghamidh” or “mysteriousness.” According to Shadid, Iraqis can often be heard to say, “The mud is getting wetter.” Despite having been returned to the States for nearly six months, I finally feel like I am beginning to understand the concept.

Although the tone of the foreign press the last few days has generally been one of hope, I feel that now, more than ever, this is an appropriate description for the ever shifting sands of Iraq.

A new Prime Minister has been elected, Summer is on its way, but still, the mud is getting wetter.




What Can You Believe - 05.02.2006

Brian Conley and Isam Rashid

BAGHDAD, May 2 (IPS) - There is so much more media around now; the problem is that Iraqis do not know what to believe any more.

Through the abundance, the one thing clear is that most Iraqis do not trust the media. “Most of the news about Iraq is imperfect news; the numbers for U.S. soldiers killed by the Resistance and also the Iraqis killed by road or car bombs, I see different numbers from channel to channel,” Safa Muayad, a 25 year-old student at Baghdad’s Islamic University told IPS.

“There has been palpable mistrust of the media among Iraqis,” Joel Campagna, Middle East coordinator for the Coalition to Protect Journalists(CPJ) told IPS. “You hear this from foreign and Iraqi correspondents. There is hostility towards the media when you go to report on political violence.”

This hostility has increased particularly over the past two years, Campagna said. “You hear stories from even journalists in their local communities operating under tremendous pressure.”

But locally and internationally, Iraqi journalists are inevitably essential to reporting Iraq. “The language factor and the knowledge of the place help the reporter to get material more than the Western one,” Bassam Sebti, an Iraqi who works for the Washington Post told IPS.

But even with Iraqi journalists, media movement is increasingly limited to particular neighbourhoods. News coverage appears to have an especially strong focus on Baghdad’s Green Zone, where Iraq’s isolated politicians haggle over increasingly arbitrary decisions.

There are still major foreign bureaus in Iraq, but freelancers, once as common on Baghdad’s streets as sand in your sandals, have become a rare breed.

Their capacity for movement is even more constrained. “Freelancers are fewer and farther between than ever,” Dave Enders, an American freelancer who has spent 18 months in Iraq told IPS. “My colleagues scoff at me for not using a chase car, which I can’t afford on a freelance budget.”

Enders once used to visit the troubled Sunni neighbourhood Adhamiya, but now he says it “seems to be constantly watched, so I stay out.”

Bassam Sebti tried to visit Adhamiya during the recent violence. “But the clashes were so heavy that no one dared to go in there. In addition, if insurgents discover I am a journalist working for Western media, they may kidnap me and kill me.”

The dwindling presence of the foreign press in Iraq is cause for alarm for many locals. Foreign media is still necessary in Iraq because there is no established tradition of press freedom in Iraq, Fatima al-Naddaf, member of the Women’s Will Organisation and editor of their newspaper told IPS.

Some channels support the interests of the occupation forces, others inflame risks of civil war, she said. “Some of media cause problems between Sunni and Shia. It depends on the channel, some of them are positive and work for the truth, but other channels are negative and they are part of the problem, tools for the occupation.” It is a situation where media particularly need to be objective and professional.

Everyone seems to agree that media cannot function independently under occupation. “Iraq media are not good media because we are under occupation and the occupation controls the media,” journalist Salah Hassan told IPS.

Safa Muayad says there is no free press in Iraq. “Because occupation killed many journalists.. They want Iraq to be empty of Western journalists, to destroy Iraq. In Fallujah and other cities they did many crimes freely because there were no journalists there.”

Baghdad resident Ya’rub Tarik believes that once Iraq has a free press, it will serve the people better. “Then the media, by showing the truth, will help to end occupation.”

But meanwhile journalists are facing more danger than before. In 2003 it was safe to say you work for western media, Bassem Sebti said, but now it is not because anyone working with the Western media are seen as “infidels and agents of the occupier.”

The CPJ has expressed concern about increasing risks to Iraqi and Arab journalists.

“Statistics show that nearly 80 percent of all media fatalities have been local Iraqi journalists,” Campagna said. “These are journalists working for both international news and the nascent Iraqi media following the fall of the old regime. These statistics reflect the increasing role that local journalists play in telling the story from Iraq.”

Paradoxically, while Iraqis are suspicious of the press, they seem overwhelmingly to believe that media has a vital role to play in the conflict situation. The difficulty is in finding the media outlet to pick and trust. Iraqis have a bewildering choice between different channels, websites accessed through cyber cafes that have sprouted all over, and the many local media outlets.

“The new media is very politicised,” Campagna said. “You have opposition newspapers, affiliated with political parties, and even the state broadcaster has been accused of being pro-sectarian or pro-Shia.”

Bassam Sebti says a part of Iraqi media is “owned by political parties who want to achieve a specific political aim.” But he said that while Iraqi journalists tell him the foreign press is more professional than the Iraqi media, he believes some foreign newspapers are very biased as well.

Campagna has misgivings about prospects of press freedom in Iraq’s near future. “If we look at the succession of the government from the interim government on, they have not always dealt with the media in a positive way. We’ve had a number of cases of journalists harassed, who’ve had their cameras confiscated. You hear many stories of the heavy- handed treatment of journalists by security forces. Those reports keep trickling in.”

The government has limited media freedom, Sebti says. “But I hope newspapers’ views become unbiased and neutral to take the country to the other side, to security.”




Only Self-Determination Equals Liberation -

Today marked the three year anniversary of President Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” announcement. Marking that anniversary, Senator Joseph Biden has again demonstrated that the Democratic opposition to the Bush agenda also has little to offer the Iraqi people.

By weighing in on the issue of borders and statehood in Iraq, Biden is playing the Arnold Wilson to Bush’s David Lloyd George. To those of you who might consider yourselves stronger scholars of Iraq than I, perhaps this seems a bad analogy.

You might suggest that Biden is the Gertrude Bell to Bush’s Arnold Wilson. I think this gives Senator Biden too much credit for possessing innovative thinking and real knowledge regarding the situation in Iraq.

Toby Dodge, in his work, Inventing Iraq, discusses the ramifications of Lloyd George’s (then Prime Minister of Britain) initial overtures toward leaders in the Middle East. According to Dodge,

On January 5, 1918 Lloyd George gave a speech calling for Mesopatamia, along with other non-Turkish areas of the Ottoman Empire, to be recognized as having “their separate national conditions.” Lloyd George, in announcing British war aims and encouraging Arab nationalist hopes, was careful to avoid using the potentially costly and destabilizing words “self-determination.”

From Charles Tripp, another noted historian of Iraq, we hear some interesting commentary on Arnold Wilson, then civil commissioner in Baghdad for Britain. Arnold Wilson was heavy-handed and believed only he knew what was going on in Iraq, because he was on the ground. Much like Senator Joseph Biden however, he seemed to feel he knew best for Iraq, and even put together statistics to demonstrate this. From Tripp’s A History of Iraq:

Arnold Wilson organised a survey (musleadingly labelled a ‘plebiscite’) of the opinions of notables in the three provinces in early 1919. When asked about the future shape and constitution of the state, they returned a variety of answers.

Arnold Wilson greatly exaggerated the degree to which there existed general acquiescence to continued British control…in the absence of a decision on the future of Iraq, the civil administration continued to entrench itself.

While Iraqis struggle on, seeking the chance to experience democracy and self-determination, the Iraqi government continues to entrench itself. This government, comprised of ex-patriates, intellectuals, and possibly relatives of the same notables who knew Mr. Wilson, can hardly be said to be representative.

According to Senator Joseph Biden,

It is increasingly clear that President Bush does not have a strategy for victory in Iraq. Rather, he hopes to prevent defeat and pass the problem along to his successor. Meanwhile, the frustration of Americans is mounting so fast that Congress might end up mandating a rapid pullout, even at the risk of precipitating chaos and a civil war that becomes a regional war.

As long as American troops are in Iraq in significant numbers, the insurgents can’t win and we can’t lose.

Perhaps Senator Biden’s opinion is accurate, and President Bush has no strategy for “victory in Iraq.” In my opinion, and I’ve discussed this previously, those behind the Bush Doctrine measure victory in Iraq by the degree of destruction meted out to its chances for contiguity and national sovereignty. Furthermore, Biden’s intimation that Bush intends to “pass the problem onto his (presumably Democrat) successor,” suggests that somehow the crime of muddling around in Iraq and failing to “complete the task” is more egregious than the innumerable war crimes and massacres of Iraqi citizens meted out by the American war machine.

Biden implies that he might support a rapid pullout if necessitated by political realities on the ground in the United States. This implication, despite his apparent belief that it would precipitate “chaos and a civil war…” demonstrates the extreme cynicism with which men like Senator Biden now view the world. Somehow his own political career and that of his fellow Congress people is more important than standing on principle. But as Biden would never admit that, he turns it into a sort of attack on the President’s role in the Iraq debacle.

At this point it of course becomes important to look at Senator Biden’s voting record. Looking here we see that the Senator voted to give President Bush warpowers, without the direct assent of the Congress as each case arises-contravening the United States Constitution. Joseph Biden also voted for the use of force against Afghanistan and twice supported the Patriot Act.

Clearly his attempts to paint his own opinion as measured and valuing the interests of the Iraqi people can’t be taken to seriously in light of his disregard even for the self-determination of the American people.

Continuing with Joseph Biden’s piece:

Iraq’s new government of national unity will not stop the deterioration. Iraqis have had three such governments in the last three years, each with Sunnis in key posts, without noticeable effect. The alternative path out of this terrible trap has five elements.

Decentralization is hardly as radical as it may seem: the Iraqi Constitution, in fact, already provides for a federal structure and a procedure for provinces to combine into regional governments.

Besides, things are already heading toward partition: increasingly, each community supports federalism, if only as a last resort. The Sunnis, who until recently believed they would retake power in Iraq, are beginning to recognize that they won’t and don’t want to live in a Shiite-controlled, highly centralized state with laws enforced by sectarian militias. The Shiites know they can dominate the government, but they can’t defeat a Sunni insurrection. The Kurds will not give up their 15-year-old autonomy.

Some will say moving toward strong regionalism would ignite sectarian cleansing. But that’s exactly what is going on already, in ever-bigger waves. Others will argue that it would lead to partition. But a breakup is already under way. As it was in Bosnia, a strong federal system is a viable means to prevent both perils in Iraq.

Again, Joseph Biden appears to have little firsthand scholarship on Iraq under his belt, and with this other statement, near the end of his piece, the evidence is clear that, rather than supporting self-determination for Iraqis, and thus the will of the majority of Iraq’s populace, rather than that of a political elite, Senator Biden supports a nicer face of US hegemony than President Bush:

Fourth, the president must direct the military to design a plan for withdrawing and redeploying our troops from Iraq by 2008 (while providing for a small but effective residual force to combat terrorists and keep the neighbors honest).

You might ask yourself, what exactly does “keep the neighbors honest” mean, but it probably isn’t worth the braincells. (hint: attack Iran to “stop it from gaining nuclear weapons”)

Please see Juan Cole’s interesting post Monday regarding another plan for establishing security in Iraq, through a more nuanced establishment of a type of “federalism.”




Donate - 05.01.2006

You can help the problem in Iraq. You can help by supporting unembedded independent reporting on the ground. Alive in Baghdad has brought that, and pledges to continue bringing it throughout 2006. Unfortunately, we can’t do it without your help.

We need each reader of this site to donate at least $5, and to consider donating $5 every month until the conflict is over. If only 600 people donate $5 a month, we will have enough money to operate on the ground each month of 2006 in Baghdad.

Please donate more if you can. Your ablitiy to have unembedded reports from Iraq is directly incumbent on the willingness of Alive in Baghdad’s readers to support this project.

Where is my money going?

Brian Conley, independent filmmaker, has returned from Iraq where he was covering the situation in Iraq and focusing on the perspective of Iraqis living in Baghdad and refugees from Al Anbar province. Currently he is organizing speaking events around the United States. Donations directly fund Brian’s work and will be directed toward his eventual return to Baghdad. The sooner we are able to raise the necessary funds, the sooner he will return. We hope the project will continue reporting from Iraq within the next few months.

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About -

Mission Statement

Alive in Baghdad was formed with the intent of making the world, and particularly the United States, aware of the Iraqi experience. The body of media available thus far has at best personalized and made comprehensible the occupation force, and at worst, otherized the Iraqis, classifying them as terrorists and encouraging Americans to ask the misleading question “Why do they hate us?” Instead Alive in Baghdad will encourage Westerners to ask questions about the similarity of life between working Americans and working Iraqis, to wonder about the strength of resolve it takes to continue supporting your family against all odds under occupation. We will encounter those who do not join the resistance despite the lack of any viable employment and survival in a manner that remains neutral to the occupation, as well as those who feel the resistance or the occupation are the only options.

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Alive in Baghdad will be operating under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License. We believe that by making all of the media created by the project free for distribution, editing, and re-use, we can ensure that the widest audience is able to see this alternative view from Iraq. All media will be hosted by infotage.net and downloadable via Bittorrent when Brian returns from Iraq. It is the Creative Commons element that is one of the main purposes for this journey to Iraq. Many great filmmakers have travelled to Iraq, but because their footage is not available online in raw format for wide distribution, we feel they are not making the impact they could. The Alive in Baghdad Project cannot hope to have the reach of CNN or FoxNews by itself, but we feel that Creative Commons licensing is the best solution to that. It is our hope that if editors and community members around the US and the world have access to this footage they will take it and use it to tell the Iraqis’ stories widely within their communities and amongst their families.

Bios

Brian Conley
Brian Conley is a 25 year-old journalist and filmmaker. He is the founder of the Alive in Baghdad Project. During his first trip to Iraq, the Alive in Baghdad Project focused on interviewing Iraqis living in and outside Baghdad. At this point Brian is working on writing articles about the ongoing situation in Iraq and arranging the project’s second phase. Previous to his trip to Iraq, he contributed to or produced seven films, traveled the United States, worked internationally in Quebec City and Guatemala, and has been shooting video for seven years. Through his work with Indymedia he has contributed to several films with international reach, most notably two films about the FTAA, Trading Freedom and more recently The Miami Model. However it is his independent work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Miami Workers, and other organizations of Communities of Color that most define his dedication to the documentary trade. By providing a space for the voiceless, one works for a stronger dialogue and thus a stronger presence of freedom and democracy in the world. His most recent film to be completed is Libertad y Justicia, para Todos: un centavo mas, about the struggles of migrant workers in south Florida. It is the filmmaker’s hope to return to Iraq in order to continue to expand on his body of work from Iraq. As the situation in Iraq continues to evolve, he hopes to continuing covering Iraq and providing an in-depth look at the perspective of the occupied.

Rob Baker
Rob Baker is a 27-year-old nerd who does web design & development for several non-profit organizations in the Boston Area. He maintains a weblog at http://www.simplefuture.org.

Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart is a 22-year-old videographer and techie who has worked extensively with independent and non-profit media organizations in Florida and throughout the United States. He has worked with Brian on a number of projects including The Miami Model. In addition to videography, Kevin provides computer training and support and is working toward a degree in Cultural Anthropology. He currently edits video associated with the Alive in Baghdad project and administers some portions of the alive in baghdad website.

Tania Mejer
Tania Mejer is a 26-year-old journalist who has worked at many of Boston’s newspapers, from alt-press to mainstream, weeklies to dailies. She currently works as a copy-editor and freelances as a writer, editor, designer and sometime photographer.




Qasem, and Media, Describe War Crimes in Ramadi - 04.30.2006

There has been little news coming out of Ramadi recently, most of it bad. I recently made acquaintance with an Iraqi, Qasem al-Dulaimi, who is in Ramadi with his family now.

As some of you may have read, Juan Cole quoted a recent article in Az-Zaman, regarding the resurgence of fighting in Ramadi. According to that article:

The US military forced an entire downtown city quarter to evacuate, so they could make it their HQ inside the city, apparently in preparation for moving against the guerrillas.

This morning Qasem sent me his account of the events in Ramadi over the past week, which you’ll find below. He mentions a series of events which appear to be an account of this “evacuation” from the inside.

I am now with my family in Anbar[A province in western Iraq] I found my family ok…and most friends also…….but the situation was very bad ……burned tank ( US tank ) was in front of my house and my house [was damaged] partially…..there was hard fighting ……

At 22/April 2006 the US troops did clear crime in the other side of Ramadi ( Tameem ) …US soldeirs inspect Iraqi family house and after they finished they killed 3 men inside it and one woman were dead when she shocked with this crime …..the resuilt was 4 civilians killed by US troops inside one house after inspection …. The people there told me that the US soldiers seems got mad for no reason and there was no fighting at that day………

Baghdad TV channel show the victems and the house and gave report about it …the clear thing was that US soldiers killed 3 men in a house of civilian family without any reason !!!!

I’ll try to connect Qasem’s letter similar accounts from the media on corresponding days. First of all, I was not able to find any mention of the Tameem district of Ramadi in recent news from Google News, however I did find this account from Bill Roggio, recalling events in Ramadi on February 2nd of this year:

The Iraqi Army has taken on greater responsibilities in the province, with Operation Final Strike being one such recent example. Today, a raid on a factory in the Tameem district in Ramadi was led by the 1st Brigade, 7th Division of the Iraqi Army, and netted an insurgent cell. The Multi-National Force-West press release states “The intelligence attained by the Iraqi soldiers led to the capture of 15 suspected insurgents, 11 of which are identified as Syrian nationals and the remaining four as Iraqis.” A cache of 36 AK-47 assault rifles was also found in the factory.

Qasem’s account of April 22nd, corresponds slightly with Todd Pittman’s story filed with the AP from Ramadi, apparently one of the only journalists currently in Ramadi, and embedded with US forces.

U.S. commanders said four insurgents were killed and two Iraqi soldiers wounded in the gunfight in eastern Ramadi — one shot through the calf and evacuated by U.S. medics, another with a minor facial wound.

As Iraqi forces swept through houses, troops from the U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment entered several residential buildings, climbing to rooftops to secure the rest of the patrol.

Although the official account provides for a similar number killed, here detailed as “four insurgents,” official details are apparently not forthcoming. More interesting is the official evidence which directly corresponds to Qasem’s account, of troops searching homes in Ramadi. Although there is little “official” information forthcoming from Ramadi, it is certainly possible that the incident recalled by Qasem’s friend involved Iraqi troops(notoriously trigger-happy) and not United States forces. Given the extremely shadowy nature of the insurgency, however, its difficult to be certain about most things in accounts which only use the empty descriptive “insurgents,” without further details.

Providing the succint analysis of how violence begets violence, in a manner only those personal experienced in the impact of war, Qasem continues:

I believe that this crime will make the situation getting worse because the relatives of this family sure will attack US troops next time for revenge or to stop US soldiers crimes.

At night ,the US air force was very noisy with their jets and scared us too much …..I canot imagine that it will be ok tonight …..because US trying to do bad thing while they inspecting houses.

I like to tell them “ I am and my family and my people living in our houses and staying in our city , and, US soldiers and tanks and guns used every day against us…so, who should stop ??? we or U ??”

After this Qasem provides a brief account of the events of yesterday and today (Sunday the 30th). This is where he provides his own account of the United States’ “evacuating civilians.” Although some of my readers are probably thinking to themselves, “how is it legal for an occupying power to displace civilian or “protected persons” in order to set up a base for military options?,” this is, indeed, a protected right of States. I myself was aghast until doing the research, for example:

In the very wide sense in which the Article must be understood, the prohibition covers the destruction of all property(real or personal), whether it is the private property of protected persons (owned individually or collectively), State property, that of the public authorities (districts, municipalities, provinces, etc.) or of co-operative organizations. The extension of protection to public property and to goods owned collectively, reinforces the rule already laid down in the Hague Regulations, Articles 46 and 56 according to which private property and the property of municipalities and of institutions dedicated to religion, charity and education, the arts and sciences must be respected.
It should be noted that the prohibition only refers to “destruction”. Under international law the occupying authorities have a recognized right, under certain circumstances, to dispose of property within the occupied territory — namely the right to requisition private property, the right to confiscate any movable property belonging to the State which may be used for military operations and the right to administer and enjoy the use of real property belonging to the occupied State.

While it appears clear the US military has not violated international law in this incident, it does appear to suggest that the overwhelming force and destruction of government buildings and state property by the United States in the first days of the invasion did violate international law. But I digress, here is Qasem’s account of the events:

29 April 2006
for the last week fighting was the daily thing that we got……US tanks moving and fighting started just when US soldiers kill some body ( civilians ) …I can see that the number of fighters increased more and more and I can say that the main reason of this is that the number of killed civilians increased …….2 kids killed by snipers one of them was with his mother going to the doctor, the kid was (7 year-old girl) killed by US sniper in front of (Almustafa private hospital) in the centre of Ramadi, the other kid was (8 years old boy) killed by US sniper in front of his house while he was playing with his friends .

More than five other victims killed by US snipers also in Al-Malaab sector and the central market ……all those victims killed by snipers although there was no fighting at the time of killing them.

Now US troops trying to spread snipers in the houses along my house street ,till now they failed because fighters attacked them during their attempt to occupied houses.

Today US army warned the families to leave their houses [within] 4 hours (as period time) or they will be attacked by US tanks!!…….and now some of these empty houses are snipers bases ……one of the snipers attacked my father but he missed him and crashed the rear glass of his car…….. my father is (65 years old man) he is peaceful man…

Now my family is planning to leave our house again but there is no place to go.

Although perhaps it is not a violation to use the threat of property destruction as a tactic, certainly it would be to fire on civilian homes with tanks. As I mentioned previously, this account corroborates with a description translated by Juan Cole from Az-Zaman, although other corrorborating sources could not be located, as there were apparently no news reports in English from Ramadi on the 29th of April.

Qasem continues his description of displacement by the US forces in Ramadi,

At 30 April 2006, 2 hours after midnight, US troops used new way to force the people to leave their houses …the new way is putting side road bomb in the gate of some houses and exploded them all the families scared from this way but most of them have no place to go…

Some people told me that US troops need our sector to get safe way for the US military convoys that coming from Habbaniyah (20 kilometer eastern of Ramadi) going to Baghdadi US base (120 Kilometer west of Ramadi) ,the shorter way between Habbaniyah and Baghdadi is through Ramadi north part ……

Most of the local people will not allow US troops to destry their houses for Military high way …..for me I refuse getting out my house to give safe feeling for US military tank drivers…..sure I refuse.

Another element of the international law covering this kind of situation may also surprise my readers. If the US military deems it necessary to destroy Qassem’s home, as well as others, it is in fact completely admissible under international law! For example:

The prohibition of destruction of property situated in occupied territory is subject to an important reservation: it does not apply in cases “where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations”. The occupying forces may therefore undertake the total or partial destruction of certain private or public property in the occupied territory when imperative military requirements so demand.

Furthermore, it will be for the Occupying Power to judge the importance of such military requirements. It is therefore to be feared that bad faith in the application of the reservation may render the proposed safeguard valueless; for unscrupulous recourse to the clause concerning military necessity would allow the Occupying Power to circumvent the prohibition set forth in the Convention.

A further near war crime in Ramadi was detailed here, by Todd Pittman, on April 30th:

One street over, another insurgent sprayed machine-gun fire that cracked over Claburn’s head as he stepped into a courtyard with other troops. A U.S. Humvee shot back with a heavy .50-caliber gun.

According to Anthony Swofford’s memoir of Desert Storm, Jarhead, all soldiers should be aware that the use of high-calibre weapons against human targets is largely in violation of the Geneva Conventions. They were informed by the instructor who taught them to shoot the .50 Barrett sniper rifle:

By the way, you know you can’t hit a human target with a .50-caliber weapon right? It’s in the Geneva Convention. So you hit the gas tank on their vehicle, and they get blown the hell up, but you can’t target some lonely guard or a couple of towlies in an OP calling in bombs.

I’ll try to keep my readers updated on the situation in Ramadi, and will leave you with Qasem’s final summary of the preceding weeks events, including further information from April 29th:

7 days summary
for the last week US troops started to cut all services ……US jets attacked the phone station and destroyed it completely …….the electricity station in Sufia ( southern farms of Ramadi ) damaged partially and no electricity at all in our area …….and there shortage in drinking and domestic water and I don’t know the reason yet but it is normally happen if there is no electricity …….

For the last year Ramadi people take care of their city services by their own selves because our city completely ignored by the Iraqi government ( Jafari ) in add to the problems of my people with US troops along the last 3 years…..now we need to maintain the services again by ourselves ……the people in Ramadi think that the US troops want to punish the local people of Ramadi because they never allow to US troops to install military bases inside the city and fighting US soldiers every time they trying to get in the city…..for the last weeks US troops made many mistakes and destroyed houses of Alkurbeet Family ( tribe leader ) , train station of Ramadi centre and many other buildings …… in add they attacked Iraqi national guards that joined them …..US snipers killed 3 of Iraqi soldiers ….it was other mistake!!

29 April 2006
at the morning I succeeded to get out my house and I found many wholes at many wall of the houses around …..it resulted from last night attacks of US troops ( after midnight ……most of streets blocked by the local people …..we can notice that the street is blocked when line of small stones cross the street ,it means there is US tanks on it some where……this is our way to warn the people that this street is dangerous and US tanks can kill who enter it………the clear fact is that US troops never put marks or signs to warn the civilians if they don’t allow people to get in some where…..and 100s of civilians killed because of no signs put by US troops .

at 8:30 pm US air force attacked Almalaab area ….some people killed and injured.




Nuri Nuri on the Wall… - 04.26.2006

Who’s the “realest” strongman of them all?

Saddam Hussein, known almost ubiquitously as Iraq’s most famous strongman, was preceded by another. Jawad Al’Maliki, for all intents and purposes selected Prime Minister of Iraq, reverted to using his birth name today.

His name “Nuri” may not come from Iraq’s original strongman, but it certainly rings reminiscent of Nuri Al’Said. Although I am wise enough not to look for a conspiracy around every corner, I find this “coincidence” very interesting.

When I mentioned it to my friend Angus, he rasied the question of whether it was just a coincidence, or something symbolic that most Iraqis might recognize.

I’m waiting to hear back from friends of mine in Iraq, whether the street is buzzing with any reponse to Maliki’s decision. Until then, perhaps its a good time for a history lesson for my readers.

Nuri Al’Said was Iraq’s Prime Minister during the signing of the controversial Anglo-Iraqi Treaty in 1930. According to Thabit Abdullah, an Iraqi historian, in his book, A Short History of Iraq;

“Under the forceful leadership of Prime Minister Nuri al-Sa’id, the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of 1930 was signed. It was to last 25 years and provided for the independence of Iraq within two years of its ratification.(p136)

Abdullah explains that Nuri al-Sa’id came to prominence due to his relationship with al-’Ahd, or the “Covenant Society.” This was the secret society of Iraqi Arab officers whose direct influence led to the revolt against the Ottomans in the midst of Word War I. Again from Abdullah,

Though its founder was an Egyptian, Iraqi officers, such as Nuri al-Sa’id, Yasin al-Hashimi, Ja’far al-’Askari and Jamil al-Midfa’i, dominated its membership and later played important roles as the early leaders of the independent state of Iraq.(p114)

Another Iraqi historian, Jasim Abdulghani, writes about Nuri Al’Sa’id in his book, Iraq and Iran: The Years of Crisis. Abdulghani stresses al-Sa’id’s credentials as a statesman, as well, having served several positions in Iraq’s cabinet, not soley the position of Prime Minsiter:

Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Nuri al-Sa’id, stressed before the League’s Council the strategic importance of the Shatt to Iraq, as her only access to the sea, when he said:

On the general question of equity, the Iraqi Government feels that it is Iraq and not Persia that has grounds for complaint. Persia has a coast-line of almost two thousand kilometres, with many ports and anchorages.

Iraq is essentially the land of the two rivers, Euphrates and Tigris. The Shatt al-Arab, formed by their junction, constitutes Iraq’s only access to the sea; it requires constant attention if it is to be kept fit for navigation by modern shipping, and Basrah, 100 kilometres from the mouth, is Iraq’s only port. It is highly undesirable, from Iraq’s point of view, that another Power should command this channel from one bank. Iraq is not asking that the frontier should be altered, but I make these remarks to show that it is not because the existing line is unduly to its advantage.(p113)

This is perhaps one of the earliest assertions by Iraq of its right to the eastern bank of the river. Jasim Abdulghani cites the statement from al-Sa’id to bolster his arguments regarding the foundations of the Iraq-Iran conflict which came to a head at the end of the 70s and through the 80s.

Al-Sai’d’s personal history, perhaps providing an insight for Khalilzad and foreign policy analysts into Iraq’s new Prime Minister, because of its diverse and contradictory nature, while also being fundamentally dedicated to Iraqi national strength.

Abdulghani also gives hints at a possible trend toward Arab nationalism in regards to Syria and Kuwait evidenced by other actions Nuri al-Sa’id took, for example:

Iraq’s association with the Fertile Crescent has been influenced by historical considerations:
(2) the preoccupation on the part of Nuri al-Sa’id, the architect of Iraq’s foreign policy under the monarchy, to bring about a Fertile Cresecent union under Iraqi Hashemite rule and to contain Egyptian influence in Syria,(p76)

When the Iraqi-Jordanian federation was proclaimed in the late 1950s, Nuri al-Sa’id entertained the hope that Kuwait might eventually join the Federation.

Another factor behind Nuri’s calculations was his conviction that Kuwait’s inclusion in the federation would lend more credibility to the Iraqi-Jordanian union in the Arab world, particularly since Kuwait was ruled by a non-Hashemite dynasty.

However, as Marion Farouk Sluglett & Peter Sluglett make abundantly clear, all good things must end. In their book, “Iraq Since 1958: From Revolution to Dictatorship,” they note:

In the case of the Sharifian officers who threw in their lot with Faysal and the Iraqi state after 1920, their original patriotic and nationalist attitudes are not in doubt.

By the end of the 1920s, however, it was clear that such figures as Nuri al-Sa’id and Ja’far al-’Askari had become content to accommodate themselves to the British, with the result that any Arab nationalist credentials they might once have had gradually ceased to count in their favour among the Iraqi population.(p17)

Perhaps Iraq’s new Prime Minister’s name change was meant as a more direct signal to American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad. Khalilzad and his American allies have been pressuring Iraq’s politicians to reign in the militias, something Nuri al’Maliki has recently made an initial order of business for his premiership.

William R. Polk, in his book Understanding Iraq, describes the former Prime Minister Said’s efforts to crush rebellion:

Nuri was well aware of the hostility toward him, his government, adn the monarcy. To protect the regime, he did three things. He cracked down on opponenets, killing some, imprisoning others, and buying off many. He neutralized the army by ensuring that while on duty in Iraq, military units were deprived of ammunition and usually kept far from centers of power. And, at the same time, he began a program aimed at restructuring the country economically. In this effort he was able to draw on substantially increased oil revenues.

Obviously Saddam Hussein’s regime learned much from Nuri al-Sa’id’s strategies. His rule was relatively successful, unlike al-Sa’id, who met a tragic end on July 15, 1958, the day after the revolution against the monarchy began. Nuri al-Sa’id’s major mistake appears to have been betting on the British occupation, rather than the Iraqi people. It remains to be seen whether Nuri al-Maliki learned these same lessons from Iraqi history, or whether he will successfully execute a combined strategy of bringing the militias to heel by force, and the populace to heel with the carrot of economic reconstruction.

As I said previously, it’s most likely that Nuri al-Maliki’s name change is simply coincidental, but its hard for me to believe that Iraqis have not already made the connections to Iraq’s famous strongman and strategist, Nuri al-Sa’id.




Jawad Al’Maliki, Interesting Bedfellow - 04.24.2006

It’s late, but I haven’t posted this weekend, so let me drop this short item.

Jawad Al’Maliki was selected for Prime Minister and the parliament met over the weekend. Al’Maliki is an interesting candidate, holding the distinction of having fled to Syria under Saddam’s regime. Many of Iraq’s other well-known politicians such as Al’Jaafari, Al’Hakim, and Al”Mehdi, fled at least for a time to Iran. Others such as Iyad Allawi and Ahmed Chalabi spent a fair amount of time in the UK. At the end of the day, at least on the surface, it seems this avoidance of time spent in Iran has been a real deciding factor in Al’Maliki’s candidacy for Prime Minister.

Look at these analysts’ take on Al’Maliki, while you’re waiting for my own take on the issue:

Just World News: Da’wa Wins

Juan Cole has a fantastic breakdown of Al’Maliki, translated from Al’Hayat and others: Al-Maliki Acceptable, Say Kurds, Sunni Arabs

Also check out Reidar Visser’s always enlightening insights, but be prepared for a bit of a read: Centralism and Unitary State Logic in Iraq from Midhat Pasha to Jawad al-Maliki: A Continuous Trend?

Also, please check out the Iraqi Blogs, they’ve been continuing to provide some valuable insight, particularly given some recent posts by “ChristianIraqi”




Who is the Prime Minister, and Who Cares? - 04.21.2006

There’s disagreement now within the media about exactly what Prime Minister Ibrahim Al’Jaafari’s decision on Thursday means.

Analysts are running the gamut from suggesting Jaafari has finally thrown in the towel, to implying this could be just another political machination.

Helena Cobban over at Just World News even seems to think this could mean another victory for the Sadr/Da’wa Party Bloc.

There are a variety of stories about “what happens next” that I’ll post at the end of this entry. None of them ask the most important question however, “What do the Iraqi people think about all this nonsense?”

Again and again and again, our accepted narratives about Iraq ignore the perspective of those most affected. President Bush says there isn’t a civil war happening and doesn’t need to back it up because, well, when has he ever backed up any claims he’s made?

The mainstream press and certain Iraqi politicians claim there IS a civil war, and their evidence is the alleged self-evidence of 50-60 killings per day, an increase in gun prices, etc.

Unfortunately neither of these perspectives appears built on an understanding or investigation of the Iraqi perspective. Ask the average Iraqi on the street who’s in the parliament, and if he bothers to even consider the question-chances are its not worth his time-he may not even know who the leaders being considered today are.

I’d be willing to bet they will however, for the simple reasons alluded by “Jaguar” at 24 Steps to Liberty:

When the PM had a deadline of a month to form a government, he missed it and took three and a half more months to do so. And the deadline-missing continues.

In Jafari’s government, the main posts were distributed as follows:
Ibrahim al-Jafari, Shiite: PM
Rosh Shawees, Kurd: Deputy PM
Ahmed Chalabi, secular: Deputy PM
Galal Talbani, Kurd: President
Adil Abdul Mehdi, Shiite: Vise President
Ghazi al-Yawar, Sunni: Vise President
Masoud Barzani, Kurd: President of Kurdistan region [because Talbani got a presidency post]
Hahcim al-Hasani, Sunni : chairman of the National Assembly
Hussein al-Shehristani, Shiite: deputy chairman of the National Assembly
Arif Tayfour, Kurd: deputy chairman of the National Assembly
Bayan Jabr Solagh, Shiite: Minister of Interior
Sadoun al-Dulaimi, Sunni: Minister of Defense
Hoshyar Zebari, Kurd: Minister of Foreign Affairs

Note that the distribution of posts was based on ethnic background and they are the same people who were in the Governing Council, or members of their parties!

Giving some insight into what Iraqis are thinking about more, Zeyad of “Healing Iraq” is still writing about the conflict in Adhamiya

The Adhamiya battle in a nutshell: Iraqi security forces from the Interior ministry (some believe to be accompanied by militiamen) attempted to enter Adhamiya from the Raghiba Khatoun area around 1 am, Monday. Adhamiya residents and its dozens of watch teams responded with heavy fire and thwarted the perceived attack.

The same, or another, force later attempted to enter from the other side through Omar bin Abdul Aziz Street. The attack was repelled and several vehicles were burnt. 7 to 12 residents were killed in the clash.:

This may not gel with the foreign press’ account of the clashes, but certainly it corroborates with Isam’s email to me on Wednesday. Again and again the foreign press returns to the issues of politics and United States policy in Iraq. This keeps happening because they don’t know what Iraqis think.

My opinion of the Jaafari Prime Minister drama is that it focuses on the wrong issues.

The right issues are the repeated failure of the “democratically elected Iraqi Government” to properly follow its own legislation and dictates.

A short list can be found at 24 Steps to Liberty, in his recent entry, quoted above, and the previous entry to that. Essentially the main issues are:

The constitution was not prepared by the declared date, and was pushed back no less than twice. The elections were held on December 15th, and the Parliament was legislated to seat 3 weeks after the elections were certified. In fact the parliament did not even sit then, it sat 3 days late. And of course then the Prime Minister was supposed to present a platform within 15 days, and then the cabinet within one month after that.

All of these deadlines have been failed and ignored. No international body has taken issue with this, nor has the United States considered this a salient issue in regards to its desire to establish a “democracy.” The only important question for the US is to seat a body of leaders who are tolerant and subservient to US intentions and goals in the region.

In regards to the question of Iraq’s coming(or current?) civil war, I think its important to read this recent piece:

Iraq is Not in Civil War (Yet) Iraq is Under Occupation

Again, I’d like to call on my readership to consider supporting our next phase, to provide camera equipment to Iraqis, to tell the important stories on the street, and not just those in teh secure halls of the Green Zone. Click the donate button to the right, and give what you can, or even better, send us some digital video or photo equipment! See the “Contact” tab for the information on where to send it, as well as our email address.

Now here are those articles regarding Jaafari’s recent maneuver:

http://news.ft.com/cms/s/c56ba5cc-d06e-11da-b160-0000779e2340,dwp_uuid=c1a5b968-e1ed-11d7-81c6-0820abe49a01.html


http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=88b1dbd5-bcea-43fa-a9cb-8530dba93736&k=73276


http://www.localnewsleader.com/kindred/stories/index.php?action=fullnews&id=178572

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0604200190apr20,1,2117789.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed&ctrack=1&cset=true

http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=topNews&storyid=2006-04-20T103731Z_01_IBO016273_RTRUKOC_0_US-IRAQ.xml

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2006-04-20-prime-minister_x.htm?csp=34

http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/8FAE928B-88FC-42AE-A3E9-03C93C7873DE.htm

http://justworldnews.org/archives/001876.html




Now More Than Ever, Iraq Needs Cameras - 04.19.2006

Now more than ever Iraqis need control of media production tools. The failure of the press to adequately cover the recent Adhamiya conflict is only the latest evidence.

I didn’t hear from my friend Isam for three days. As some of you know we work together to write stories about the situation in Iraq. I met Isam near the Adhamiya neighborhood last fall when we were both conducting interviews with employees of a women’s advocacy organization.

Isam lives in Adhamiya, and as many of my readers may have heard, there have been some fierce clashes there in the last few days.

The line of the mainstream press appears to be “Iraqi Police were attacked by insurgents and worked to repel attacks.”

My colleague Dahr Jamail and Arkan Hamed already have a piece about the fighting published by Inter Press Service.

Finally today I heard Isam’s account of what happened:

I recieved your message friend,and i tried to send you my answer but i couldn’t, there is problem with the phone network.

I was very busy for days ago and i was help Aadhamiya people when we were baried our friedn who get killed by US troops and they were my close friend ,I feel very sad for them ,i lost them for ever and i was filming at that time but there familes asked me to dont use these filmes and i promised them to do that and i damaged all the film.

It was just lie the Iraqi police came to Aadhamiya and tried they start shoot everywhere with out reason and they shoot to the houses and to the cars and they killed twoo from Aadhamiya and after that Aadhamiya people start resisting them and the win at the end and they push the police out ,and after all that the minstry of interior said they were not police ,i saw them they were police and they came with more than 30 police cars and they just lie and lie and after that the US troops came and help them and killed other 5 persons from Aadhamiya .

If there was clearer evidence for the need of independent verification of the situation in Iraq, I can’t tell you what it would be. I’ll be travelling back to the Middle East next month. I’m appealing to my readership to consider donating camera equipment to take back to the Middle East. Please consider donating cameras or money for cameras.

Iraqis need the equipment and the training. Iraqis are the only people capable of accurately telling their stories and providing honest insight into daily life in Baghdad and elsewhere.

President Bush today said:

“I don’t expect everybody to agree with my decision to go into Iraq. But I do want the people to understand, the American people to understand, that failure in Iraq is not an option.”

And now in response, and I know its a bit dramatic, I say to you,

“I don’t expect all of my friends and family to understand why I’m returning to the Middle East. But I do want all of my friends, family, and readers to understand, that failure to empower Iraqis to tell their own stories is not an option.”

Please help this project to succeed. Don’t let the deaths of Iraqis go unnoticed. Don’t let Isam’s efforts go unheralded.

Dust off your old 2 and 3(or 5 and 6!) mega pixel digital cameras forgotten in a drawer, donate your old 1 chip(or 3 chip!) camcorder, mail some extra tapes or cash for incidentals/cameras, do whatever you can do.

Email me for more ideas, or with your questions!

aliveinbaghdad at gmail.com

also, if you wish to be placed on a mailing list for updates from the site, email here:

aib.mailinglist at gmail.com




Rumsfeld Ignored Saddam’s Militias, Generals “Ignored” Shi’a Militias - 04.18.2006

There’s been a great deal of talk recently about a “revolt of the guards” against Donald Rumsfeld, as no less than six retired generals have spoken out in the last two weeks.

Their major concern, if you haven’t read about this already, take a look at these articles:

Retired general’s Iraq critique hits a nerve at the Pentagon

New Military Offensive Against Rumsfeld

Rumsfeld rebuts critics, backs Iraq policy

More Retired Generals Call for Rumsfeld’s Resignation

White House Defends Rumsfeld’s Tenure

All of these articles focus on the issues surrounding the controversial decision to seize Baghdad and exert overall control of the country, allowing the individual soldiers of Saddam’s army to “disappear.” Today, Tom Lasseter, over at Knight Ridder, reports on another controversial decision:

U.S. officials were warned for more than two years that Shiite Muslim militias were infiltrating Iraq’s security forces and taking control of neighborhoods, but they failed to take action to counteract it, Iraqi and American officials said.

Now American officials call the militias the primary security concern in Iraq, blaming them for more civilian deaths than the Sunni Muslim-based insurgency and demanding that the Iraqi government move quickly to stem their influence.

The interesting thing about this article, to me, is the idea that this really was a mistake, and not a developed plan or policy of the Bush administration. Unfortunately for them, while I’ve been researching Bayan Jabr and the Badr Brigade, I’ve found some interesting material from early on in the war.

On April 1st, as I mentioned previously, the UK’s Times reported that Britain directly assisted the rise of the Badr Brigades inside Iraq:

MILITIAMEN from an Iranian-backed force were deliberately recruited by Britain to join the new Iraqi security services after Saddam Hussein was overthrown, the Government has admitted.

The sectarian Badr organisation, trained in exile by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, is suspected of violently pursuing its own agenda after being allowed to enlist in national units. John Reid, the Defence Secretary, disclosed in a Commons written answer to the Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price that it had been official policy to welcome the Shia gunmen.

Long before this, in April of 2003, shortly after the “liberation of Baghdad,” Juan Cole wrote:

Wolfowitz and other pro-war policymakers were right that large numbers of Shiites, from the educated middle class to factory workers, are secular Iraqi nationalists. But they were dead wrong to discount the power of the religious forces, and seem ignorant of the centrality of the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala. The neo-conservative fantasy of Iraq is now meeting the real Iraq, on the ground, in the shrine cities as well as in the smaller, mostly Shiite towns in the south of the country. Western audiences are discovering that Iraqi Shiites, while perhaps unified in their hatred for the dissipated Baathist regime, are not unified in their vision for a post-war Iraq.

Furthermore, any basic reading of the history of Islam would lend an understanding of the turmoil and divisions between Shi’a religious leaders and those of the Sunni sect. It was in the late 600s that the forces of the Sunni Umayyad dynasty confronted Imam Hussein, the 3rd Shi’a Imam on the plains of Karbala. Their four thousand strong force decimated Hussein and his small group of approximately seventy followers, after which his head was returned to the Umayyad’s capital.

It is easy for the Shi’a to cast Saddam as one of the many oppressive Sunni leaders controlling Baghdad and the United States as the “New Mongols,” with President Bush in the lead role of Hulagu Khan.

Fastforward from the 600s to 1982, and Iran is holding a conference of opposition groups (mainly Shi’a religious parties). It was there that the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq was founded under the leadership of Tehran. It’s important to understand that, besides the invasion of Iran by Saddam in mid-September 1980, the Iran-Iraq war was also sparked by claims by Iran’s foreign minister that they would destroy the Ba’ath regime. Furthermore, Iran is believed to have supported Da’wa party militants who engaged in several assassination attempts on important Iraqi officials prior to the invasion.

According to Cole;

SCIRI, headed by Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, is in essence an offshoot of the revolutionary al-Da`wa al-Islamiyya Party founded in the late 1950s. Al-Hakim was forced abroad to Tehran in 1982 by Saddam’s persecution of key al-Da`wa figures. SCIRI has a paramilitary wing of 10,000 to 15,000 armed fighters, likely trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and commanded by Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim.

SCIRI figures attended State Department meetings about overthrowing Saddam, and spoke to the press about their negotiations with the office of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about a role for the Badr Brigade in fighting alongside US troops during an invasion. Since the Bush administration had labeled SCIRI’s backers in Iran part of the “axis of evil,” this initial willingness to cooperate with them was breathtaking in its cynicism.

From January of 2003, however, ideology asserted itself over pragmatism, and the Bush administration suddenly broke with SCIRI.

Now, in case that’s not enough to make it clear that Badr was a threat from the beginning, read further in Juan Cole’s article:

Then, at meetings with the opposition groups in Turkey in late January, Khalilzad made it known that the US intended to administer Iraq itself for some time after “regime change,” instead of working through an Iraqi provisional government. Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim immediately denounced this plan as equivalent to a US colonial occupation, and threatened that the Badr Brigade would attack US troops if they overstayed their welcome.

Among the big surprises of the two weeks following the fall of the Baath Party in Iraq is the way in which Shiite religious leaders and parties moved immediately into the vacuum. This process was facilitated by the thinness on the ground of US troops, in accordance with the Rumsfeld military plan that rejected Pentagon requests for larger military forces.

The US warned Iran not to allow Badr Brigade forces into Iraq during the US invasion. Al-Hakim maintains that they slipped into the country even so.

It remains to be seen if the US interim administration can disarm the Shiite religious militias and recover enough control of the Shiite urban areas to allow something like free multi-party politics to emerge.

Given all of this information, it seems like the Press is again missing the point about the revolt of the Generals. It shouldn’t just be about the failure to “mop up the remnants of Saddam’s army,” leaving them to “fight again another day.” One must also consider the almost certain complicity of the Bush administration in the tide of civil war now rising in Iraq.

And just for kicks, take a look at these articles about the ongoing troubles in Ramadi, in case you’re not unhappy enough:

April 18 (Bloomberg) — Marines in western Iraq damaged a mosque in Ramadi after coming under what the U.S. military said were coordinated attacks involving heavy machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

A series of attacks, which also involved “multiple homicide car bombs” and small-arms fire, were directed at Marines in central Ramadi from locations including the Fatemat Mosque yesterday afternoon, the U.S. Army said in a statement from Baghdad received this morning. Marines responded with tank fire aimed at the minaret of the mosque, ending that attack.

“This is the fourth time in three-and-a-half weeks that the Ramadi Government Center has received attacks from the Fatemat Mosque,” Lieutenant Colonel Stephen M. Neary, commander of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, said in the e-mailed statement. The Army “respects all religious sites but we always maintain the inherent right of self-defense.”

also:

U.S., Iraqi forces fend off numerous attacks in Ramadi

US Troops Attacked In Ramadi

US army: Assault repelled in Ramadi

In case you didn’t read yesterday’s post, this is one of the same government centers the US Military, on Sunday, stated it hopes to hold elections that will calm Anbar.




Four Months, No Government in Sight - Iraq’s Parliament Speaker - 04.17.2006

Over at Just World News, Helena Cobban maintains a “Democracy Denied” counter. As of today it reads “123.” That’s 123 days since the December elections for Iraq’s new interim government.

Rumors are circulating that the parliament will meet and decide a government on Monday or Tuesday. Omar told me late tonight (Monday morning in Baghdad) that he is hearing they will meet later today and form the government, or possibly tomorrow.

The press currently available doesn’t appear particularly optimistic, however.

REUTERS:

BAGHDAD, April 16 (Reuters) - Failure to reach a deal on key government posts before parliament meets on Monday could delay the formation of Iraq’s new government for at least another month, acting parliament speaker Adnan Pachachi said on Sunday.

After months of resisting pressure from Sunnis and Kurds to drop Ibrahim al-Jaafari as its nominee for prime minister, the powerful Shi’ite Alliance said on Sunday it was close to an agreement to replace Jaafari with a member of his Dawa party.

But if parties don’t agree before Monday on a parliament speaker and a presidential council they will have to do so in stages, further prolonging the political paralysis.

“The goal is to reach a mutual agreement for all the three important posts. If we fail to reach it the deal may be divided into stages and this means that we will vote for some posts and leave others for next time,” said Pachachi, a secular politician.

LOS ANGELES TIMES:

BAGHDAD — Iraqi leaders worked Saturday to resolve their impasse over who will rule the country, with a secular coalition proposing an emergency government that would supersede election results and Shiite clerics conferring on how best to preserve their sect’s newfound power.

Politicians remained deadlocked over Sunni Arab and Kurdish opposition to Ibrahim Jafari, the main Shiite Muslim coalition’s nominee for prime minister. The crisis has created a political vacuum, stalling crucial reconstruction projects and contributing to the country’s security woes.

Top Shiite clerics in Najaf were deep in discussion over whether to intervene more forcefully, an official at the clergy’s office said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The clergy’s aim, said the official, is to prevent the choice for prime minister from being made by the entire parliament, where Shiite politicians are short of a majority. The clerics also want to prevent the formation of a “salvation” government as proposed Saturday by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, the official said.

ASSOCIATED PRESS:

Acting Speaker Adnan Pachachi had said the 275-member assembly would convene Monday to try to jump-start the stalled process of forming a new government four months after parliamentary elections. But the Sunni politician said Sunday that the session would be delayed “for a few days.”

Shiite officials did not want legislators to meet until all parties agreed on the new prime minister and other top posts requiring legislative approval. Sunni and Kurdish politicians oppose the Shiite choice of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari for a second term.

Al-Jaafari has refused to step down, and Shiite officials have been reluctant to try to force him out for fear of shattering their political alliance. He also has the backing of influential anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

And now the BBC is already reporting that the attempts to open parliament’s fourth session in as many months has stalled. This certainly doesn’t bode well for hopes to form a government this week.

BBC:

A session of Iraq’s parliament planned for Monday has been postponed amid continuing deadlock over the PM.

MPs were to meet for only the second time since December’s election but the acting speaker said leaders needed more time to resolve their differences.

Kurdish and Sunni parties are refusing to back the Shia nominee for premier, the incumbent Ibrahim Jaafari.

Meanwhile violence shows no sign of abating, with at least 34 people killed across Iraq on Sunday.

The United States recently revealed it will engage in the “new liberation of Baghdad” at some point after the new government is formed. This certainly doesn’t bode well for hopes to form a new government either. These plans could well be serving to discourage Sunnis, Muqtada Sadr, and other anti-occupation Iraqis entrenched in the political process from reaching agreement on the Prime Minister dispute.

The battle for Baghdad is expected to entail a “carrot-and-stick” approach, offering the beleaguered population protection from sectarian violence in exchange for rooting out insurgent groups and Al-Qaeda.

Sources close to the Pentagon said Iraqi forces would take the lead, supported by American air power, special operations, intelligence, embedded officers and back-up troops.

The Iraqi government, when it is finally formed, will also need to demonstrate that it is in charge of its own seat of government. “It will be the second liberation of Baghdad,” said Daniel Gouré, a Pentagon adviser and vice-president of the Lexington Institute, a military think tank. “The new government will be able to claim it is taking back the streets.”

Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell at the State Department, said a crackdown in Baghdad was one of the few ways in which a fresh Iraqi government could bind the new national army and prove its mettle.

“They have to show they can liberate their own capital,” he said. “Baghdad is the key to stability in Iraq. It’s a chance for the new government to stand up and say, ‘Here we are’. They can’t do that if they are hunkered down in bunkers.”

The operation is likely to take place towards the end of the summer, giving the newly appointed government time to establish itself. If all goes to plan, US troop withdrawals could take place before the end of the year. In the absence of progress by then, the war may come to be seen by the American public as a lost cause.

The idea that any assault to retake Baghdad, no matter how many Iraqis are used on the frontline operations, will somehow herald a new legitimacy for Iraq’s government is laughable. It appears at least some of the “experts” such as Mr. Wilkerson, are still falling for old mistakes. Iraqis are angry with the ongoing operations by the United States, the recent scandals involving raids in Haditha and near the Shaab neighborhood in Baghdad are just two of the latest examples.

Finally, despite the ongoing militant resistance within Ramadi, US officials even believe that somehow local elections will help pacify the area.

RAMADI, Iraq — U.S. officials are pressing for early local election in troubled Anbar province, hoping it will produce a government that can undercut support for the insurgency in the region where it is strongest.

The effort has gained new urgency amid U.S. fears that Sunni Arab extremists are trying to fill a political vacuum created when tribal sheiks fled to Jordan in recent months. The sheiks got out after a suicide attack and assassinations of local figures who had worked with the Americans.

Past attempts to form a government in Anbar - including provincial councils and officials appointed by the Americans or the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad - have had little success in winning public confidence in this Sunni Arab-dominated province, a bastion of the insurgency since it erupted following the U.S.-led invasion three years ago.

Pittman at least notes some amount of cynicism about this plan. One of the most important issues to remember is that the United States, despite public overtures toward democracy, has repeatedly demonstrated it must be democracy on the United States’ terms.

I’ll go to sleep tonight hoping the situation will change as Monday progresses in Baghdad, but I’m not particularly hopeful.

Unfortunately the costs of continuing political unrest are painfully high, as Dahr Jamail and Arkan Hamed have recently written for Inter Press Service.




United States Illegally Funding Shi’a Militias? -

I’ve suggested recently that the Shi’a militias, read: Deathsquads, have been directly supported by the Bush Administration and the United States military, despite professed intentions to secure Iraq and establish a tolerant democracy.

Although I believe this is self-evident to anyone who has been to Iraq and talked to people on the streets and followed the evidence, there have been some questions from readership regarding direct evidence.

Well, today it came out with a vengeance. The Chicago Tribune reports that:

U.S. officials are doling out millions of dollars of arms and ammunition to Iraqi police units without safeguards required to ensure they are complying with American laws that ban taxpayer-financed assistance for foreign security forces engaged in human-rights violations, according to an internal State Department review.

This is statistical, hard evidence for exactly the actions I and Iraqis I speak with regularly, have been claiming for months. Some interesting highlights from the article:

As Iraq slides deeper into sectarian violence, the performance of U.S.-supported Iraqi units could be crucial, because some are infiltrated by militias believed responsible for much of the current strife.

This is exactly the issue, except for one thing, the militias are not “infiltrating” the security forces, they are the security forces. Soon after the interim elections, security forces were divied up between the Mahdi Army, Badr Brigade, and Kurdish Peshmerga organizations. There has been little Sunni Arab presence in these organizations from day one. That is being rectified slowly, but the emphasis cannot be placed heavily enough on “slowly.”

Also:

But the internal memo suggests that U.S. officials believe it is not possible to comply with the laws in Iraq, noting the “burden of following the usual State Department procedures as they are practiced at other posts would vastly overwhelm [the Baghdad embassy’s] available resources.”

On a more basic level, the memo says U.S. officials face “a serious challenge” in even compiling, sorting and analyzing reports of Iraqi rights violations, a move identified as a “necessary first step” for complying with the laws. Similarly, there is still no comprehensive system identifying Iraqi recruits receiving aid and training.

While U.S. officials in Iraq did not answer questions about how many weapons they have distributed overall, Interior Ministry forces were issued more than 10,000 AK-47 rifles, 16,000 pistols and 800 light and medium machine guns during one recent three-month period, according to a Defense Department report to Congress in February.

The State Department memo says such weapons have been issued to local Interior Ministry police forces nationwide, known as the Iraqi Police Services, based solely on “hand receipts” signed by any of the 18 provincial police directors in the country.

The official in charge of a province is then free to “subsequently issue [guns] to subordinate units,” the memo shows.

For weapons distributed to Iraq’s National Police, also based in the Interior Ministry, the memo says there is accountability only to the brigade level–not to units further down the chain of command.

But there still is no formal mechanism within the U.S. Embassy for monitoring or measuring abuses, whether in detention facilities or on the streets of Iraq, according to the State Department memo and interviews with U.S. officials.

Even when the embassy receives handwritten allegations from Iraqis, it does not track such reports, the memo indicates. And it calls a tracking system “a necessary first step towards building a vetting tool that can be a cornerstone of normalized Leahy vetting procedures.”

These are just some highlights from the article. I will be investigating the possibilities for getting the entire memo, if possible, I intend to disseminate it here at Alive in Baghdad. Also, there has not yet been enough pressure placed on Bayan Jabr, Iraq’s sitting Interior Minister. I’ll attempt later tonight or tomorrow to compile some of the softball interviews he’s been dealt by the foreign press. Until then, check out this recent interview with the BBC last week;

Iraqi minister denies terror link




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