Thursday, June 30, 2005

Constitution update.

Baha' Al-'Araji, a member of the constitution drafting committee told Al-Mada paper yesterday that there are going to be 5 spots in each Iraqi province where citizens can find designated boxes where they can put their opinions and suggestion as to the process of writing the constitution.
Only Baghdad will be an exception due to its high population so there will be 5 spots in each main quarter in the capital.

One million "suggestion forms" are planned to be distributed nationwide soon and there will be specialized teams to read, sort the received forms and prepare summaries that will eventually be submitted periodically to the main committee.
He also mentioned-according to the paper-that the committee has already purchased air time on satellite channels and columns space on papers (ten in total) to publish/broadcast materials of value to constitutional education to help people get a better understanding of the process.

The same paper also has published (exclusively as paper said) a big part of the draft of bill of rights (pdf Arabic).
These 23 clauses that were drafted by "committee of rights, freedoms and basic duties" are scheduled to be submitted to the rest of the members to be discussed and modified within a couple of days.

As you can see, the document is too big to translate but my 1st impression is that it's acceptable in general, especially when it comes to equality among citizens, the laws of citizenship and the freedom of expression except for that...well, there were probably too many clauses that contained something like "…has the right to…unless that contradicts with the basic values and teachings of Islam and the traditions of the Iraqi society".

I hope they can omit some of these restrictions in the coming discussions before the final shape version of the draft is reached; basically because terms like ethics, values and traditions differ from one city to another and sometimes there are differences even within the same city, especially the big cities that have mixed populations.
So I believe it'd be much better if such loose terms are avoided.
Iraqi blogger Vahal made a comparison between Madeline Albright (he says he prefers to use the name "Halfbright"!) and GWB.

I honestly know nothing about that 1996 interview the blogger is referring to, so I'd like to hear your opinions because it seems to me that the math doesn't add up!

I mean according to the Albright's answer, (x) was worth it, when (it) at that time equaled zero (not to say less).
But now some people suggest that (√x) isn't worth it when today's (it) > zero (not to say it's a lot).

Of course every single human life is special and precious and I myself could have been part of that x or this √x but I'm discussing the subject their way.
I don't get it! Any ideas?
Remember that power station (scroll down) I told you about last month?
I'm sure some of you do because some readers were asking me if any updates as to this story were available.

Well, I'm glad to say that it's working now!
I passed by the station this morning and I saw that one of the two new units is actually working and the 2nd one is expected to start operating within a few weeks.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Talk less, think more and do more.

It's visible to everyone that debates over the war in Iraq, war on terror, invasion or occupation or whatever you may name it are at peak levels right now.
The process is being questioned, criticized and discussed more profoundly than at any time in the last two years but you know what?
That's not happening in Iraq; you can find such discussions and accusations in America but you can't find them in Iraq.

As a matter of fact there are some similar debates here in Iraq but at very limited levels; in the National Assembly there are 83 members who signed a declaration where they accused the government of treason because it asked the multinational troops to remain for another year in Iraq and they said that the government ought to demand a timetable for withdrawal and they're also planning to organize protests and rallies to put more pressure on the government.

However, on the streets, such demands are not popular among everyday Iraqis who are more concerned about finding solutions for their daily life problems whether the solutions came form the government, the Americans or from Martians.
As for the other 192 members of the Assembly, they find such demands irrational and inconvenient at least for the time being.

Those 83 Sadrists and Fadhela party members as well as some other Islamists want to embarrass the government and use slogans that sound great and patriotac to undermine the public support the current government enjoys.
This reminds me of the communists and the pan-nationalists back in the 1st half of the 20th century when they demanded the ousting of British troops and the result was a disaster; all they wanted was power and the deterioration didn't end since then.

The truth is that with very few exceptions, most people and politicians here have thrown this argument behind their backs long time ago; whether they're supportive of the war/liberation or against it and whether they want the coalition to stay forever or they want the troops to leave now, they are now living and discussing the present and planning for the future trying to get the best results possible out of the current situation, each party from it's own perspective.

We're living through probably the most critical phase of this conflict; a phase where firm decisions and clear stands are needed more than ever, while sterile arguments can do nothing but weaken our position against our common enemy; the global terrorism.

I wasn't in touch with media and blogs when the September attacks happened but I heard a lot about the great sense of patriotism and the beautiful unity that grew among different political trends in America at that time and this is a time where such unity must be revived.
This is not the right time to argue about "why we went to this war".
It is time to think together for a way to win this war which none of us can afford to lose.

It doesn't really matter if Saddam had connections with Al-Qaeda prior to 2003 or not and it does not matter if he had the ability to attack the west with WMDs or not.
What really matters here is how to protect the world from terrorism.
Al-Qaeda is present and active in Iraq today; we all know this and this terror group's lethal power cannot and must not be underestimated.

Yesterday for example, interior ministry in Saudi Arabia uncovered a new list of wanted Al-Qaeda members with 36 names on it, 21 of who are believed to be residing in Iraq right now.

Can anyone tell me how can these terrorists be stopped from moving their zone of action to other countries if they weren't intercepted right here and right now?
There's no doubt that once Iraq falls in their hands they will start looking for other battle grounds and they will search for the "greatest Satan" in other places.
It is the American existence in Iraq that attracted them to a great extent and when there are no Americans in Iraq Al-Qaeda will not simply drop their weapons and start a normal life, they will seek other places where they can find, and kill Americans.

What I want to say here is that it is our fate to fight terrorism on our own land and we (the majority) have accepted to challenge this fate the day we abandoned Saddam and welcomed our freedom but that's not the case for you in America.
Actually we've got no other choice but to fight and keep fighting until we win over the terrorists because otherwise we'll have to submit to their will and the damage would be irreversible.

Fighting terrorism for us in Iraq is a matter of life or death so we have no choice but to keep fighting until we kill or lock in jail every one of them and we're doing this whether the world supported us or not but in case we failed, the consequences will not be confined by Iraq's borders.
You (the west) can step back and wait for the terrorists to knock on your doors at any minute or you can put your s*** together and fight them while they're thousands of miles away.

This is war, it's not a picnic and don't think that we're enjoying it and we're not expecting you to enjoy it either.
By quitting now some might think that needless losses are going to be avoided but that's-in my opinion-is a very shortsighted way of thinking because quitting now will only expose America and the rest of the world to a much greater threat.

I was talking about this to one of my friends and he described this war in an interesting way, he said "this war is much like a fierce boxing match; you punch and you get punched but even if you're stronger than your opponent you should not allow him to catch his breath at any round because he might then give you a surprising punch when the next round begins and knocks you down".

So my advice to the American politicians on both sides but especially those on the left side is: grow up, this is not the time to seek political wins and it's not the time to use other's mistakes to get some publicity.
We're facing very tough times so use your skills to find solutions.
Bottom line is, talk less, think more and do more.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Blog display error corrected.

The blog is back to normal…at last!
I didn't realize exactly how much blogging meant to me until I had this problem which caused the blog to appear as a blank white page.
I felt paralyzed, truly paralyzed.
Although it only lasted for less than a 100 hours, it seemed like a 100 days and I felt like missing a very big component of my daily life.

I contacted the BLOGGER support team an hour after the problem appeared and they explained to me that introducing "Blogger Images" was causing these problems for some bloggers and they told me that they were working hard on solving the problem.
However, the solution didn't come from BLOGGER, instead I was able to solve it after I received an invaluable e mail from a thoughtful guy (Thank you John) who pointed out a blog that posted a suggested solution for this blog crisis.

I copy pasted the short code, made some changes, republished the blog and now you can see that it works perfectly.
As you can see, I have changed the title of the previous post as now it looks stupid after the "bug" is no longer there!

Update: Well, not exactly "works perfectly" because when it comes to archives or permalinks for previous posts, there will still be a blank space before the text appears at the bottom of the page.
The good thing is that permalinks for the latest 2 posts do work well, so I hope this will apply for the future posts.
Anyway, it's only a temporary measure until the techies at BLOGGER find a real solution.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Their Losses...

Now after you have probably listened to our losses through the media, I'd like to carry the news of their losses…I hate to parrot what others say.
It's not only us who bleed, they're bleeding too end even more profusely and obviously the media has a purpose behind focusing on our losses while mentioning the terrorists losses in the inner pages or in many cases pretending that they don’t exist.
Iraqi and multinational forces are still scoring victories over terrorists and here on this blog, we'd like to summarize the victories of the latest 48 hours:

-1st regiment/2nd commandoes brigade arrested 43 suspects in Al-Doura district while the 2nd regiment/1st brigade arrested 2 terrorists in Shu'la district.

-The interior ministry announced the beginning of operation lightning-1 in Babil province which is going to be a joint effort between the Army and the local police forces. The 1st wave of raids resulted in arresting 43 suspects and confiscating 10 vehicles used in terror attacks against Iraqi civilians and security forces.

-A force from the Iraqi army backed by Polish troops raided terrorists hides in the areas of Jibla and Rashad in the same province and arrested 8 terrorists and confiscated their Ak-47's.

-Police forces in Kerbala arrested 20 terrorists and confiscated 6 suspicious vehicles and disarmed 2 vehicle-born bombs.

-In Zangora area near Ramadi, Iraqi and American troops arrested a terror cell leader named 'Jbair Grayen Al-Jiblawi who's one of Zarqawi's aides in Anbar province.

-In the north, 3 members of the Ansar Al-Sunna army were captured in Mosul; one of the 3 terrorists carried a Saudi ID.

-In Tikrit, multinational forces arrested 3 roadside bombs-makers and in Kirkuk 10 suspects were arrested. The men are supposed to be responsible for some missile attacks in the city.
Explosives' ingredients and blast capsules were found during the search of the arrest scene.

-In Abu Ghraib, Al-Muthana brigade arrested 19 terrorists and found amounts of weapons and detonation devices as well as vehicles that were prepared for performing terror attacks.

-In Al-Kasra neighborhood in Baghdad, IP men and American explosives experts failed an attack with a car bomb that was parked in the heavily crowded main commercial street in the district.
A shop keeper was suspicious of a car that was left in front of his shop, the driver claimed that the car broke and that he's going to find a mechanic but the shop keeper didn't believe the story and called the police and it was found later that the car contained a large bomb that was a mix of artillery shells, TNT rods and gas containers.
By 1 am, the area was evacuated and people were told to keep a distance from the car. The explosives experts detonated the car in its place as it was impossible to move it away. No casualties happened but there was some inevitable material loss in adjacent shops.

-In Tal-afar near Mosul, Iraqi and American troops killed 15 terrorists in clashes that took place yesterday.

-Police patrols in Dibis town arrested two terrorists while they were trying to plant a roadside bomb on the main street in the town.

-One of the most important successes was arresting one of Izzat Al-Douri's relatives along with 3 of his bodyguards.

-Iraqi TV announced Khalid Sulaiman Darwis (aka Abu Al-Ghadia Al-Soori) was killed during a raid as part of Operation Spear in Anbar province.
The Syrian terrorist is one of the leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Sources: Iraqia TV, Al-Sabah, New Sabah and Al-Mada papers.

Who thinks that a war can be won without losses and sacrifices is far from reason.
Yes, sacrifices, efforts, time and costs are all factors that make us seriously worried but we have to remind ourselves that abandoning the mission before it's fully done would be a disaster for all of us.

I'm positive that Iraqis have no intention of giving up and so do their allies and friends while those who think that our position is weak are actually allowing lies and illusions to control their thinking and were driven away from the larger image by the narrow image provided by the media.
The future is ours, there's no doubt about that and we shall win.


Friday, June 24, 2005

More disgusting bias from the media.

This article by the Guardian is another striking evidence to the bias of the media whenever it comes to Iraq. (Hat tip: Kerry).

"What's new?" One would think. Well, the new thing and really disgusting thing is that the paper didn’t only ignore a piece of good news or exaggerated a piece of bad news like we get to see, hear or read almost every day in the last two years; instead, a frank victory for Iraqi police was somehow changed into a victory for the "insurgents"!!

I read the piece twice and tried to see the any sign that indicates such a victory for the insurgents but I failed in both trials.
The editor carried almost accurate news about the incident in question, yet the commentary and conclusions were a piece of mere ridicule.
It is true that the terrorists were able to arrange a relatively large assault but it was far from being well organized or well done let alone a victory, and here is why:

-The attack was successfully repelled. Now does that make it a victory for the aggressors? I guess not.

-Reinforcements were'nt available during the critical phase of the battle as they couldn't make their way to the battle scene but this didn't deter the IP men from fighting and defending their station independently and I guess everyone agrees that policemen are not supposed to fight against men armed with RPGs and mortars; at least that's true in the vast majority of countries but our IP men accepted the challenge and won.

-It was mainly the bravery and good training of one Iraqi policeman that "turned the tide" according to the paper itself.
Now, one gunner was able to turn the tide and this-in my opinion-is a big sign of skill and organized defense.
Still, the Guardian wants us to believe it was a victory for the insurgents!

-By the end of the battle, at least 10 terrorists were found killed and some 40 were arrested. What a victorious battle those terrorists planned for!

-Finally and actually most important is that during the battle, people from the mixed Sunni and She'at neighborhood called 55 times and provided tips to the IP about the movements of the terrorists.
Yes, 55 phone calls in less than 2 hours and if this doesn't show the real attitude of Iraqi citizens towards terrorists then I don't know what can! But still, the Guardian wants us to believe that the insurgents are winning.
How disgusting!

More fuel for power stations.

I read on Al-Sabah yesterday that the ministry of oil is going to increase daily fuel supplies delivered to the ministry of electricity by 2 million liters to reach 4.5 million liters instead of the current 2.5 million liters of daily supplies.
Officials from the ministry of electricity welcomed this step that will "allow the ministry to operate some idle units and enable the production of an additional 1000 mega watts of electricity" and this will reflect positively on the amount of power available from the national grid.

It's worth mentioning that the peak power production has reached the 5000 mega watts milestone earlier this month and it is planned to increase that amount to 6000 mega watts by the end of this months.
I hope their plans are good enough to provide the electricity we need; we've tolerated 15 years of electricity shortages so far and I really don't mind waiting for another year or two if I'm sure that the guys in charge are really doing all they can to improve the situation.
Iraqi blogger Hussein Al-Kaabi wrote a brilliant and funny post about conspiracy theories and the different forms of mice in Iraq!
The translated version is available from the Friends of Democracy blog.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Lightning, Thunder then Rain...

Okay, I think that "Lightning" updates have become a regular item on this blog, so here's today's-rather short-briefing of what's been happening as to this operation and other activities of security forces in Iraq in the last 24 hours:

Since the Operation Lightning started 1215 were arrested and 49 weapons caches were found, 303 searches and inspections and 67 raids were performed. Also the number of checkpoints placed reached a total of 1519 and 4340 patrols roamed the streets of Baghdad; an Iraqi government official said yesterday.
As to the operations of yesterday; government officials said that 91 terrorists and suspects were arrested throughout the country.

Among yesterday's arrests, 4 wanted terrorists were captured in Tikrit and other 18 suspects in the north western sector; one of who confessed that he smuggled weapons to the terrorists.
Two IEDs makers were arrested also as well as 7 men suspected of being responsible for assassinating a member of Baghdad's city council.
In Mosul, two significant arrests were made when the security forces captured 2 of Abu Talha's senior aides namely Abu Sarhan and Abu Nabhan who surrendered without any resistance.

It's worth mentioning that these two terrorists were nominated to succeed Abu Talha in leading the Qaeda branch in Mosul and they were also leaders for their own terror cells that carried out many attacks that killed many Iraqi civilians, clerics and officials.
In Baghdad, 28 suspects were captured by Iraqi soldiers with support from American troops.

In Baquba, 2 terrorists attempting to perform an attack with a vehicle loaded with explosives were arrested at an Iraqi army checkpoint south of the city.
In Adhamiya, A'amil, Saydiya and Yarmouk neighborhoods in Baghdad, 20 terrorists and suspects were arrested during raids carried out by special forces teams of the interior ministry.
In Al-Risala district south of Baghdad, a tip came from an Iraqi civilian lead to the arrest of 8 suspects who fled a spot from which the interior ministry complex was attacked. This arrest was done by task force Baghdad.

With operation Lightening apparently entering its last chapters, Iraqi interior minister announced that this operation will be followed by a couple of other massive operations with the names "Thunder" and "Rain".
As contrary to the mainly general Lightening, Thunder will aim at selected targets to eliminate terror elements that might have escaped the Lightning and the Thunder is supposed to depend mainly on tips from citizens and intelligence information.

While the Rain is going to be-according to the minister's words-more like an intensified search operations from house to house to collect unauthorized weapons and eliminate any remaining security threats.
I have noticed that the governemnet followed a logical sequence in choosing the names of the security operations; I mean names were obviously based on the fact that we normally see the lightening first, hear the thunder shortly after that and finally rain would start falling...Makes sense, no?

Anyway, the minister expressed the minstrie's ambition to see a great improvement in the security situation here after these operations are finished.

On the other hand, Zarqawi's group announced on a website that one of their members, Abdullah Al-Rshood who's one of the 26 wanted terror leaders in Saudi Arabia was killed early last month during a battle in the town of Qaim. The "battle" obviously refers to Operation Matador that took place in that area at that time.
I wonder what the response of the idiots who said that fighters in Qaim were exclusively peaceful Iraqi civilians defending their homes is going to be!?
An embedded reporter in Iraq provides a refreshing comment about Iraq from the kind that we don't often get from the media.
Hat tip: ITM reader.

Many of the soldiers I spent time with during this spring had also been deployed during the initial invasion back in 2003. Almost universally they talked to me about how much change they could see in the country. They noted progress in the attitudes of the people, in the condition of important infrastructure, in security...

Here's the whole thing.
This blog has been mentioned among the AO/Technorati Open Media 100 !
This sounds pretty cool, don't you think so?

Baghdadis are without water...And so is the government.

This article caught my attention while I was reading Al-Mada newspaper this morning and I would like to share it with you.
By the way, to avoid any misunderstanding or confusion I think I should mention that there are some sarcastic sentences in this article:

Baghdadis are without water… and so is the government.
Two contradicting feelings I had when I heard from some journalists that the offices of the Iraqi government had been temporarily evacuated because of the water shortage that is infesting Baghdad. Two different feelings I had; the 1st was positive and the other was negative.
The government is without water!!

The positive scene says that Iraqi officials at the top of the state's pyramid are no longer different from the people and here they are suffering from the shortage of water just like we're doing after the brave insurgents targeted the water pumps to get the Americans out of the country and rid the people of their evil and here are the Americans, thirsty to death in Iraq and they'll probably leave in a day or two!

In the near past, Iraqis lived an era where the ruling class was living in Iraq but not exactly living in it. They governed the country in the name of a people they haven't shared its pains and sufferings and never thought of providing the citizens with the most basic needs of living.
In summer times; our former officials didn't enjoy the burning sun and in winter they didn't get the advantage of sleeping on a bed of frost and the people alone-out of the government's love-enjoyed these generous gifts while they (our rulers) lived in high palaces away from noise and harm.

While today, a journalist told me what made me feel like crying and laughing at the same time, he told me about ministers and PM's who couldn't water in rest rooms and how he saw a number of them carrying water in containers on their way to the rest rooms in the corridors of the convention center.
…And Baghdadis are without water!!

The negative scene that came to my mind says that our security situation is still catastrophic and this is not the 1st time where the justice rangers attack the artery of life in Baghdad and the people go thirsty but the case remains that no protective measures are being taken and more worse, no backup plans were made to deal with emergencies.

However, we over at Al-Mada are still doing our job in spite of the water shortage and the constitutional committee is still doing its job too.
We have dug a well in the backyard some time a go and it's serving us at times of need and it seems that our National Assembly and constitutional committee should consider digging a well in the green zone so that they can find water when they need it, that if things are to remain as they currently are.
Baghdadis are without water…said hadji Ahmed, the taxi driver I hired in the morning.
But the government is without water too…said hadji Abu Hasan, the taxi driver who drove me home in the evening.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Rebuilding justice in Iraq...

The number of execution sentences against convicted criminal and terrorists that have has been declared so far is now 18; none of which has been practically executed till this moment.

An official from the "supreme judicial board of Iraq" explained that these sentences were not carried out because they represent preliminary sentences and can be subject to objections and retrials and that such cases would be-incase of objections-handed to the state attorney and then to the supreme court which consists of 14 judges to verify the sentences and give a final word about them.

Anyone who didn't live under Saddam's regime would not get the significance of the above paragraph and some might even say "what do 18 criminals represent compared to the hundreds that are getting killed or injured every month during enemy attacks and sometimes with friendly fire; people's rights are-in many cases-lost in a battle where it's not easy to discriminate between an enemy and a friend.

But to me, reading such news makes me feel the change, and gives me a growing feeling of hope and a building justice.
We're building future here that used to look like a hard-to get-dream a couple of years ago and we're ready to sacrifice today so that we can live a better life tomorrow.

The judicial system in Iraq lost credibility and respect over the past decades and turned into a killing tool in the hand of the dictator and was even totally ignored and replaced by the notorious "revolutionary courts" that never hesitated to sentence people to death for the silliest reasons.
No one was able to know the number of executions that were made under Saddam; people would vanish and no one would dare to inquire about their fate.
Is the situation getting worse now? Are we moving in the wrong direction?
Such questions mean nothing to me; maybe some people outside are interested in discussing them but for me?

What really matters here for me is that despite the critical situation and the public pressure on the judicial system in Iraq to reactivate the death penalty against terrorists and criminals, the judges in Iraq are sticking to the principles of law and the have proven to have a good measure of independence and this-in my opinion-is one of the most important elements we need if we want to establish a state of law and justice.

Right now I feel much safer than before and once again I say that I don't expect people who didn't suffer what we suffered under Saddam to understand how I feel.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Constitution fever!

Public conferences and sessions in Baghdad and other provinces seem to be endless nowadays; municipalities, NGOs and forums are all very excited about Iraq's top topic which is writing the Iraqi constitution and they obviously don't want to miss the chance to take part in the historic event.
Such activities play a good role in educating the population and activating the concept of public involvement in the state's decisive steps through organizing sending the people's suggestions and thoughts to the authorities and making sure they're being considered.

During the past week, we were able to count a good bunch of interesting activities:

An advisor of the state ministry for women's affairs announced that the ministry will be holding its 2nd annual conference that would be dedicated to the issue of women's role in writing the constitution as well as providing constitutional education to Iraqi women so that they would be aware of their rights and duties in a constitutional state.
The conference will be attended by 14 foreign judicial personalities and is sponsored by the UNICEF.

The general directorate of youth organized an educational workshop about the role of youths in writing the constitution; a member of the National Assembly attended the event and he voiced his hope to see the "youth and sport committee" in the National Assembly get its deserved foundations and to get more care from the Assembly.
A number of young media workers asked upon the Assembly to officially grant the media a better access to the details of the constitutional process.
At the end of the workshop, the participants suggested that the government should sign the "children rights convention" which is already signed by 181 countries.

Another workshop was organized by the "Iraqi Journalists and Writers Association" where the role of the media and writers in the constitutional process was discussed in depth and the participants expressed their interest in seeing new legislations that protect the rights of journalists and media workers under international laws and agreements. Also the role of the media in spreading constitutional education had its share of the discussions.

Iraqis in exile had their role in these activities; the "Babil writers and artists association" held a conference (as part of a series) about the constitution to ensure a broader and more active participation of the independent intellectuals in this major national project.
The participants discussed the importance of learning from other nations' expertise and successes and mistakes.

Mean while "Iraq's Women" NGO is organizing a series of workshops for Iraqi women; again about the constitution and the role of women.

The "Akad cultural society" held a conference to discuss the necessity of including clauses in the constitution that protect the rights of writers and artists as well as the cultural rights of minorities.

It's worth mentioning that since the fall of Saddam's regime in April 2003; more than a thousand new NGOs of different interests were created in Iraq.


Monday, June 20, 2005


Humam Hammodi, Chairman of the constitution drafting committee told Al-Sabah that the branch teams of the committee have succeeded so far in completing 80% of the constitution's draft.
Hammodi added that his colleagues at the committee branch-teams are willing to fulfill the task by the previously set deadline of August 15th 2005.
"The final draft will come out with an Iraqi spirit and there are actually little differences to debate" said Hammodi.

As a matter of fact, I'm not the least surprised by this bit of news because I was expecting this process to move smoother than the previous chapters of the democratic change in Iraq, yet I'm a little bit amazed at the rapid progress being made despite all the current difficulties that make any progress incomprehensible for many people outside Iraq and don't blame them for thinking that way because it's unfair to expect them to believe that work can be done this fast in a country living in such rough conditions.

I believe what made such a rapid progress possible is the availability of a good foundation from which a new permanent constitution can be created and here I'm talking about the TAL.
I actually didn't read the whole TAL but I had the chance to read the bill of human rights and it looked quite fair to me and I have no problem with using this law as a basic structure for the permanent constitution.

Everyone noticed that this law was heavily criticized by more than a one group when announced in the 1st place.
However-with time-this law has succeeded in winning the trust of most of the previously skeptical groups and individual politicians.

I remember that many Sunni (as well as dome She'at) politicians considered that law as an American plan to give the Kurds more rights than they deserve but lately I began to see the same people resort to the same law and use some of its clauses to defend their view points!
This might sound weird but actually it's good because it shows that people who chose to join the political process are beginning to use reason instead of their emotions and worn-out conspiracy theories.

So my guess is that the working members of the constitution drafting committee (I'll call CDC for short from now on) are introducing slight modifications to the TAL as a way to get the draft ready on time and to avoid wasting precious time while waiting for the additional 15 Sunni members to join the team.
And when those 15 members occupy their seats in the CDC, I think logically there will be further discussions to approve or re-discuss the clauses in question.

Bottom line, the people won the war when they said their word on the 30th of January and since then, many of the hesitant elements recognized the winning side and began joining it while the barking dogs will have nothing left to chew on but their bitter defeat.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Temperature: over 110f and rising although an A/C is running in the next room.
Background music: my favorite Metallica songs played at an extermely loud volume.
Location: our living room (NOT Gunatanamo).

I think my brother Mohammed will start accusing me of torturing him!
From New Sabah:

Zarqawi's group in an announcement on one of their websites accused Al-Jazeera of siding with the Americans and their allies through its biased coverage of events in Iraq.

Now this is extremely ridiculous. No no, it's funny. No it's...errrr
Well, you name it!
According to Azzaman newspaper, an Iraqi army brigade is now "responsible for providing 80% of the security needs" in a large part of Salahideen province.

Read the full report.
Two good questions:

1) To what degree is the existence of escalation telling as to the success or failure of the mission in Iraq?

2) Including that variable in its appropriate place, how can we judge whether we are winning or losing?

Grim from The Fourth Rail discusses the answers in a beautiful analysis.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Zarqawi being 'betrayed' in Mosul?

According to a story I read this morning on Al-Mada newspaper, it seems that there's a big conflict between the different active armed groups in Mosul.
This conflict originated from the different attitudes of the different groups regarding the issue of targeting civilian "collaborators" (which refers to anyone who works for the government) and it's more likely that this conflict has lead to the appearance of opportunities for a dialogue between some of these groups and the government and this will possibly put an end to a great deal of the violence going on in that area.

It's becoming clearer that most of those groups have begun to doubt the benefits of violence and their reluctance has been taking the shape of an internal conflict with the hard-line groups and I think what supports this theory is the message that came from Al-Qaeda to the Sunnis warning them from the consequences of being involved in the political process and I think that Al-Qaeda wouldn't have threatened its allies in Iraq if Al-Qaeda didn't feel that the carpet was being pulled from under its feet.

Moreover, the claims of the "Takfiri" trend that the whole constitutional process is an American fake started to become unconvincing to the other armed groups.
I think the most important factor that widened the gap between the two wings was the accusations of the "Takfiri" trend (who classically consider everyone else as infidels) to the less radical groups of being traitors and this is supposed to grow even wider after Abu Talha was supposedly handed to the security forces by people from inside their ally groups.

Here's the story that Al-Mada received:

It is believed that that a meeting for the leaders of armed groups in Mosul was planned to be held in the house where Abu Talha was staying and that representatives of the groups that established contacts with the government didn't attend the meeting.

American troops raided the house at the exact time of the meeting and captured Abu Talha.
Sources from Mosul told Al-Mada that on June 9, some person bought a house for 120 million Dinars and then immediately rented the house to a man who works for the education ministry and on Tuesday June 13, a task force from the American army (12 armored vehicles backed by 4 helicopters) raided the same house and arrested Abu Talha and his wife. Not one bullet was fired in the operation.

Abu Talha or Mohammed Khalaf Shkara was born in 1957 in Mosul, traveled to Afghanistan in 1991 and there he joined the Taliban movement and met a lot of Arab fighters and took courses in guerilla war, assassinations and explosives making.
He came back to Iraq in 2001 after the Taliban regime was toppled but he remained in contact with the Arab "Jihadists" and among whom is Zarqawi. They met in Afghanistan, worked together and built strong ties.

After toppling Saddam's regime in 2003, Al-Qaeda formed a higher command to lead anti-American operations in Iraq and Abu Talha was the 1st leader chosen to command the area of Mosul and its surroundings as Zarqawi put a lot of trust in Abu Talha and considered him a strong and loyal ally.

Since then, Abu Talha became the plan maker and main funding source for terror attacks in that area.
With this important arrest, the leadership of the "Takfiri" groups has completely fallen and this will open the doors for more dialogue between the other armed groups and the Iraqi and American administrations and this will eventually facilitate the transformation to political methods in dealing with differences instead of violence.


Another Lightening update.

During the latest 24 hours of operation lightening in Baghdad, 128 suspects and wanted criminals were arrested and amounts of different weapons and ammunitions were discovered:

The 2nd brigade of the interior ministry has arrested 16 terrorists in "Street 60" in Al-Doura area and other 7 suspects in Al-Sha'ab district.
Also in Al-Doura but this time forces of the 3rd regiment arrested 5 terrorists among whom was an "Amir", i.e. a terror cell leader.
10 other suspects were arrested in another area in Baghdad and some weapons were confiscated in the arrest.

In Al-Mansour area, 3 criminals who were trying to abduct an Iraqi citizen were captured along with their BMW vehicle. Weapons were found inside the vehicle.
In a palm grove area near Kadhimiya 4 terrorists were arrested and a car prepared for an attack with explosives was disarmed.

Also, in the Rasafa half of Baghdad, units from the Wolf Brigade arrested 8 suspects in Zayoona neighborhood.

On the other side of the Tigris, Al-Karkh police forces announced that they've arrested 28 wanted criminals and 26 suspects and confiscated 15 vehicles that are supposedly being used in criminal activities.

In the Southern districts of Zafaraniyah and Al-Aamil 25 terrorists were arrested after a midnight raid that lasted for 6 hours.
Sources from the police force confirmed that among the detainees was a terror cell leader named Abu Omar Al-Jihaishi who's supposed to be responsible for many terror attacks.

On the other hand, explosives experts in Thi-Qar province succeeded in disarming 4 IEDs were planted in the streets in Souq Al-Shiyookh and Al-Gharraf towns; one of the IEDs that was hidden inside a large abandoned pipe weighed around 30 kg (more than 60 pounds).
Sources; Iraqi papers and TV.

Meanwhile, it seems that that Operation Spear is making good progress as well.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

I have always respected the Iraqi artist Moa'yad Ni'ma even in the days of Saddam when he used to publish his sketches without praising the regime and in he focused on social subjects rather than political issues to avoid conflict with the regime and still preserved his honesty and kept his message going.
I've been thinking for several days now about writing a post to explain why we are optimistic and why we smile despite the difficult situation here and why we insist on supporting the change in Iraq.
Ni'ma in this caricature did the job for me and he put all my words and much more than that in one picture.
People ask:
Was the change in Iraq worth our sacrifices?
Are we ready to give more for the sake of freedom and democracy?
What's the highest price that we would pay to get our freedom?
Is it possible to keep the smiles on our faces while we bleed?
Is there something more valuable than freedom?
I believe this image has all the answers.


Lightening update.

Following are some updates about the security operations in Baghdad and some other cities in Iraq in the last 24 hours:

Iraqi security forces arrested former general Abid Dawood Sulaiman who is Zarqawi's military affairs aide and one of the founders of "the army of Mohammed" one of the terror groups that mainly formed from members of Saddam's army and was one of the groups that fought in Fallujah.

Abid's son, former engineer Captain Ra'ad was also captured and it's believed that this person was responsible for manufacturing and planting roadside bombs that target American and Iraqi troops.

The arrests were made in Khaldiya region north of Baghdad; a place known for a high frequency of attacks against Iraqi and American forces.
In another development, the ministry of interior released 460 men who were arrested at an earlier time as part of operation lightening. Spokesman from the ministry explained that no enough evidence were found against those men.
General Flayih from the ministry stressed that those former detainees have all the right to sue any person or entity that might have violated their rights during their detention time.

General 'Hmood from Wasit's police force announced that more than 700 suspects were detained in the southern parts of Baghdad since operation lightening was launched back in May 29th.
He also stated that among the detainees were 402 who have later confessed of committing murder and robbery while 153 were released later due to insufficient evidence.

In Mosul, the police forces arrested a cell phone agency owner for selling phones and phone lines to militant groups without asking them for the documents and information required that are required for registering phone lines in Iraq.
In Adhamiya district in Baghdad, two men who are supposedly responsible for a previous car bomb attack in the same area were arrested.

In Cairo district near Adhamiya, a Katyosha missile was found and disarmed near Al-Nidaa mosque and two other missile bases were found in A'amiriyah west of Baghdad. The two bases carried missiles that were directed towards a residential area.
In Ghadeer area, a citizen reported that he identified an IDE on the street.
Explosives experts found out that the IED consisted of 3x120mm mortar rounds and was later disarmed.

Two cars prepared for detonation one in Dola'ai neighborhood and the other in the north of Baghdad were identified and were detonated under control without any casualties.

In Yarmmok area west of Baghdad, 4 criminals were arrested while they were attempting to kidnap a civilian and 4 other suspects were arrested in a local hospital after tips were received from the locals.

Sources, Iraqi newspapers and local TV.

Update: Abu Talha Captured.

Everyone in the neighborhood is afraid of the democracy that is taking roots in Iraq and despite those regimes' and their media's attempts to make Iraq look like hell in the eyes of their people, this dark image didn't stop the Kurds in Iran from celebrating a Kurdish Iraqi deserved achievement they were deprived of in their country.
Hundreds of Kurds in Mahabad city in Iran celebrated the Kurdish parliament's decision to choose Mas'ood Barzani as a president for Iraq's Kurdistan.
The celebrations turned into clashes with the police and the demonstrators torn apart the elections posters in the streets.

Although Iran his an older experience than Iraq in elections as we're pretty new to such a process it seems that our experiment is more likely to spark celebrations than elections in Iran itself.
Do the rest of us now realize why our neighbors try to fail the change in Iraq? And is there still a doubt that these neighbors are directly interfering in Iraq's business to stop the wave from approaching their shores?
We're terrifying them but not with our army our chemical weapons like Saddam did; this time we're terrifying them with our new model and they won't be able to stop this model from taking its place.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Restricted blog; BBC not allowed!

Ten days ago I was contacted by someone called Sarah Brown from the BBC; she had explained to me their team's desire to interview me via phone and e mail as part of a program they were producing. The program was named "One Day in Iraq" which I thought would really represent a day in Iraq.

So, after several e mails were exchanged to confirm a date and time for the interview, they asked me to do another interview for a side program about Iraqi blogs.

On the 7th of June I received a phone call from them and we started doing the interview. The line was bad so we had to try several times before we were able to get a good line.
I was asked about what was my day like and I told them the story of that day from the time I woke up at 7am till the moment I picked up the phone. As a matter of fact, my day wasn't a special one; I took the bus to central Baghdad then changed buses to get to the clinic where I work at in a southern suburb of Baghdad then after doing the usual daily work at the clinic I went with 2 of my friends and Mohammed to have drinks and lunch in one of our favorite restaurants.
Boring day, right?

Later I went home, had a good nap then woke up to check on my e mails and made my daily blog reading until the phone rang.
There were some other questions about my blogging habits (how often I update the blog? How can I access the web? What time I usually use for blogging?...etc) and there were questions about the general situation in Baghdad; fuel, electricity and security and also there were other questions about the cost of items involved in daily household and people's wages that I answered in a previous e mail.

The name "One Day in Iraq" seemed interesting to me and I thought that this time the BBC was really trying to get the news from the people who live here but obviously that wasn't the case as it now appears that they couldn't get rid of their selective biased attitude in choosing the news they want to show.

As I said yesterday, I was out of town for a few days so I couldn't follow up the story until yesterday and when I did I found that my story was not there; it was for some reason ignored or omitted from the part of the show that talked about blogs and media. Instead I found two stories where other two bloggers where featured; one of them was a teenage Iraqi girl who was pissed off because she couldn't read French and the other one was actually in the States on June 7!!

Obviously the BBC found my day too boring to be reported especially when it comes from an Iraqi in Baghdad so they chose to turn 180 degrees and report a comment from someone stationed 10,000 miles away from Baghdad to get the a good view about "One Day in Iraq"!

No offense to the bloggers who participated in the show as they have the right to say whatever they like and to speak to whomever they like but I feel very disappointed by what the involved BBC staff did.

Moreover, I sent the BBC person who contacted me an e mail at an earlier time asking them to send me the links that lead to the story where my interview was supposed to be found but guess what? I got no response from them at all and they didn't even send a message to say "sorry but we couldn’t use your story and here is why”.

And this is so impolite especially after I was answering 4 or 5 e mails a day to them when they were preparing for their show.
Maybe they were expecting me to lie to them and make my day less boring and more appealing to them by talking about a car bomb or adding some whining to have my comments posted on their website but you know what? I don't care because I told the truth which they apparently don't like to hear and that's their problem now.
I guess that I was too hopeful to have expected much from networks like the BBC that are so drowned in their bias.

Baghdad's Stadium is back to life.

The Iraqi premiere soccer league was launched the day before yesterday in Baghdad under high security precautions.
People who have been there told me that Iraqi police and army as well as American forces patrolled the area to make sure that no terrorists would be able to perform any attack.
The 1st match between Al-Zawra and Al-Shurta (police) soccer clubs was the 1st match to be held in Iraq's only international stadium; Al-Sha'ab Stadium (which means the people's stadium) since 2003.

The stadium which was opened for the 1st time back in 1966 suffered from neglect and lack of maintenance in the past decades and then was shut down in 2003 as the area was used for military purposes by coalition troops.

In late 2003 or early 2004 a campaign to rehabilitate the stadium started and troops left the area. Although work on this project was completed months ago, the stadium hasn't been opened due to the security situation which makes a stadium full of people a favorable target for terror attacks.

But obviously, the current relatively calm situation in Baghdad encouraged the authorities and the soccer clubs to resume holding matches in this stadium and I really admire the thousands of spectators who came to the stadium hours before the match started and defied all fears and threats and cheered their favorite teams in a festival of sport, joy and hope.

Photo scanned from today's Al-Sabah.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Hi everybody and sorry for the unexplained absence.
We were out of town for a few days to do some work and I thought we would have the time and internet access to do some blogging while we were there but it turned out that I was wrong!
the rest of the night will be spent on rest, having a homemade meal and maybe responding to (or at least reading) the e mails that are waiting in our inbox.

Blogging will hopefully be resumed tomorrow after I get back from the clinic.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The rights of the disabled.

Baghdad and other Iraqi provinces are witnessing a considerable activity in holding public conferences and meetings for civil-society organizations to voicing their opinions and hopes about writing the new permanent constitution of Iraq and to guarantee the participation of wider segments of the Iraqi people in the talks about this vital process.

Such conferences and meetings have become so abundant and popular nowadays and many people are taking part in their activities especially intellectuals, politicians, artists, sheiks as well as ordinary people.
In this regard, the organization of health and culture organized a conference in Baghdad that called for discussing the draft of the international memorandum for protecting the rights of the disabled and to include the basic clauses of this memorandum in the permanent constitution.
The conference was attended by representatives of NGOs active in this field from all over the country.

At the end of the conference, the delegates demanded to include the principle of nondiscrimination among Iraqis in the Iraqi constitution and they stressed that differences among human beings must be respected and that disability must be accepted and treated as a type of human variation.
The participants in the conference also asked the government to provide all that is needed to guarantee equality in opportunities.


Today's Lightning brief.

Operation lightning is showing good results in Baghdad and its suburbs one week after it was launched and I guess that this good effect comes from the high coordination among the different departments of Iraqi security forces as well as the multinational forces.
The last 24 hours or so resulted in arresting some 300 terrorists and suspects in addition to confiscating amounts of weapons and munitions according to local papers and TV.
So, here's a summary of the operations:

In Adwaniya district in Rasheed suburb security forces clashed with a group of armed men and by the end of the clashes 30 militants were arrested and all their weapons were captured.
While in Ja'ara and Wardiya near Mada'in, Iraqi forces raided some suspected terrorists hides and arrested 27 of them and found weapons and anti-Iraqi publications.

In Mahmoudia near the so called triangle of death, 32 terrorists were captured and remote control detonation devices were found in the raid.

Also 5 terrorists were arrested in Huriya west of Baghdad, 10 in Jurf Al-Sakhr and Sewairah to the south of the capital.
Another 14 terrorists were captured in Nahrawan and 9Neesan districts.

In Al-Tarmiya to the north of Baghdad, a mechanized regiment of Iraqi forces carried out several raids and arrested 2 of the dangerous wanted terrorists, Hussein Abdullah and 'Owayed Al-Ubaidi; mortar rounds, grenades and detonation devices were seized in the operation.

In the notorious area of Latifiyah, the 1st regiment of the 4th brigade carried out a number of raids near the international highway and arrested 64 terrorists while in Mahdiya district in Al-Doura region, the 1st regiment of the 2nd brigade Special Forces arrested 36 suspects and confiscated their weapons.

In Al-Shishbar district in Mahmoudia, the 4th brigade Iraqi forces raided the neighborhoods between Al-Salam quarter in the north and Alexandria in the south and arrested 73 suspects and confiscated their weapons along with 7 vehicles were used in performing terror attacks.

In another important development, it seems that the government has identified the leader of the murderous group "The Army of Ansar Al-Sunna" as the newspapers and Iraqia TV today mentioned that now "there's a 50,000 $ reward put by the government for anyone who submits information that lead to the arrest or death of Abu Abdullah Al-Shaafi'i".
This terrorist organization is one of the most dangerous groups currently working in Iraq.

Generally speaking, Baghdad looks quieter these days and I hope that operation lightning would extend to storm all terror nests after Baghdad is well cleaned as was planned previously.

I recall that the most pessimistic researches estimated the number of militants by 200,000 and that there are other 5 million supporters and sympathizers and I admit that the numbers seem huge just like Saddam's empty millions-sized armies but anyhow when we look at the other side we find 22 million people standing against terrorism and working to build a democracy.

Do you know who's going to be the victor?
It's not a very difficult question, eh?


Iraqi law makers call for dismantling militias.

The majority of the National Assembly's members agreed upon calling for dismantling the armed militias in Iraq and they expressed their concerns from having these militias imposing the policies of their corresponding parties on the political process in the country.
This discussion took place in yesterday's session of the National Assembly.
Some MP's suggested merging these militias with the state's armed forces but others emphasized on the principle that such issues must be dealt with on basis of national interest and not on the ethnic or sectarian basis which these militias were established for.

Sources; Iraqi newspapers.

I commend what those PM's have said and this shows the beauty of democracy; despite the fact that many of those people are part of the parties to which the militias belong to, the voice of reason grows louder over the voice of arms in the halls of an elected parliament.
The people are watching and the PM's realize that and realize what the public want.
I love democracy as it won't let me down.


Monday, June 06, 2005

::Is this a good plan, or is it a crazy one? I really don't know.
What do you think?
::Domestic flights resumed between Baghdad and Basra.
Neurotic Iraqi wife is now back in Baghdad and she's blogging from inside the Green Zone.
Big Pharaoh says that America's 1st lady was taken to visit a *fake school* in Alexandria:

Upon Laura Bush’s recent trip to Egypt, it was planned that she, along with her host Mrs. Mubarak, would visit a USAID funded school in Alexandria. One week before the scheduled visit, the tattered school was painted anew, tidied up, and the sewage system was fixed. The dirty roads around the school were cleaned up and trees were miraculously planted all around the area. A sign in English was written to welcome the 2 first ladies.

Nevertheless, the Alexandria education officials didn’t like how the Om el Qura school kids looked like! The girls were poor and wore dirty school uniforms. Instead of cleaning them out and distributing clean clothes that would have definitely drew a huge smile on their faces, the officials decided to replaced the kids with new kids brought from a language school! Not only that, they gave the entire school staff a one week leave! Can you imagine how humiliated the school kids and the teachers are feeling right now..

That's really sad...and pathetic.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Egypt and the fear from the hasty change.

Yesterday, an article posted on Winds of Change and written by their correspondent Tarek Heggy caught my attention.
The author expresses his concerns over the risks associated with what he called a hasty transformation from the current situation towards democracy and he particularly emphasized on the disastrous results that would inevitably happen when the Islamic Brotherhood reaches power in Egypt. Here's Heggy's full article for you to read.

Now, although I completely agree with what he said about the Islamic brotherhood's ambitions, ideology and plans, I have some reservations about the idea in general and I'd like to summarize my observations in the following few lines:

I noticed that Mr. Heggy in his article had jumped over the most important part of the transformation which is the people's choice. I mean assuming that the transformation is a democratic one since elections are to be involved then one should not overlook that crucial element which is the opinion of the people, i.e. the silent majority.
So the question here is, will the Egyptian people allow/choose the Islamic brotherhood to rule the country?

Let's take Iraq as an example here for a "hasty" transformation and let's learn from the lessons that accompanied the transformation in Iraq; when Saddam was toppled there were no secular or liberal parties on the ground except for the Kurdish parties which are limited by ethnic and geographic barriers and parties like the INC of Chalabi or Allawi's party were outside Iraq and had no big enough public base in Iraq, not to mention that they didn't have well defined platforms. The most organized parties were the SCIRI and the Da'wa which are both religious She'at parties.
So these parties won in the 1st elections as expected and a similar win for the religious parties in Egypt is in the same way not unexpected.

But let's take a look at the situation now (from a political point of view and regardless of terrorism as we're discussing a people-parties relationship) the dominant parties realize that Share'at law cannot be applied in Iraq because people don't want such a system.

And more important is that secular and liberal parties (small ones in particular) have realized their weakness and they're now trying to form alliances in order to get a bigger role in the process and there are indications that such parties will be tougher competitors when the next round of elections come.
So what I want to say here is that liberal and secular Egyptian parties should learn from the experiment of their Iraqi counterparts to avoid falling in the same mistakes and I don't think that's very difficult to do.

One other fact that should be mentioned here is that there are nearly 10 million Christians living in Egypt and I guess that's a considerable percentage of the population and its effect must not be ignored.

Anyhow, my above perspective could be wrong as I don't live in Egypt and there are certainly some differences between Iraq and Egypt but there's one idea that I am completely sure of and it's that the road to democracy is never an easy one and that sacrifices have to be expected and no one should expect a perfect liberal, secular and human-rights preserving democracy from the first try.

One Arab poet had a verse that so eloquently describes the conflict in making such difficult choices, the translation of the verse goes like this:

Those who fear climbing mountains
Shall live forever in the holes

And I truly don't want our friends in Egypt to keep living in the holes.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Salafis talk on TV...

In an interesting development, a group of clerics from the Salafi trend (which is the most extreme trend of Islamic factions) visited Dr. Jafari in Baghdad to congratulate him on forming the new government. Although this might be late but it's still a good step when comes from Salafi groups.

The clerics said that they clarified to Jafari that their groups are trying hard to raise the voice of reason among the extreme mosque preachers and that they're leading an educational campaign to counteract the "takfiri" ideology (takfiri means considering anyone who disagrees with your view of religion an infidel).
They said that their campaign includes convincing people that using arms against American forces is useless and illogical for the huge difference in capabilities that makes it crazy to fight a superpower.

The clerics also voiced their concerns to Jafari about the intensified raids of the security forces in their regions and that they're not feeling "safe" because the majority of Iraqi forces are comprised of She'at Iraqis and those She'at members of the forces think that everyone with a beard is a terrorist.

And in a new experience for Al-Iraqia TV, they hosted three of those clerics in a talk show. The three men were Abu Manar (the manager of the Sunni properties in Tikrit) and Abu Safwa and Abu Al-Harith from the department of Sunni properties in Mosul.

Everyone talked in the show with considerable frankness and openness and no phone calls were ignored. This in my opinion is pretty good in spite of the deep differences; transparency and addressing differences with such openness is a very good initiative and it comes instead of the dark mysterious statements that we can't verify their sources in many cases.

It was good to see that everyone tolerated criticism and most of the phone calls were trying to focus on one idea that is we are all Iraqis in the 1st place and we still have the desire to work as one hand.
The show was very interesting indeed.

Abu Manar said "people were looking at us with suspicion and a look of surprise was on their faces when the three of us were walking in Baghdad streets wearing our beards that clearly indicate that we're Salafis and it seems that people still think that everyone wearing a beard is a terrorist. This belief is in fact a result of the doings of "mufsidoon" and we disagree with such doings like killing people indiscriminately and attacking people with explosives. We're trying to tell the people that there are Salafis who are ready to work with the people against the terrorists".

Abu Manar gave an interesting example; he talked about his meeting with Abu Al-Walid who's the commander of the Wolf Brigade, the officer asked the cleric about the reason behind the relative stability of Tikrit when compared to Mosul and the people who attended the meeting answered that it's clerics like Abu Manar who continuously encourage people to stay away from violence that keep their city quiet.

The three clerics acknowledged that fighting America is like fighting the entire world and this is completely irrational; one of them said "1st of all, we're like children when compared to America's power and we must realize this fact and second and more important is that Islam prefers dialogue over fighting and we don't lack the ability to talk".

When the host asked the clerics for their opinion about Bin Ladin and Zarqawi, one of them stressed that their opinion about those two (and added Saddam to them) was clear from the beginning. He said that "It's people like those three men who destroyed the reputation of Islam" and he clarified that Saddam threw him in prison just like he did to members of the She'at Da'wa party "we were subject to oppression and we we're never with Zarqawi or Bin Ladin".

When the clerics were asked about 9/11 they said that the attacks were an example of betrayal and explained that for example when someone receives the passport of a country then he's tied to a contract with that country and Islam forbids violating such contracts even if the other party wasn't Muslim.

One of the clerics said that he wished that the government would consider allowing more Sunni people to join the Army and the police forces and he expressed his willingness to start a campaign in mosques to encourage Sunni youths to join the Army so that they would feel that the army belongs to the whole country and that the army's guns are not directed against a particular sect.

In this regard it was reported in Iraqi newspapers that 4 days ago; Sheik Ahmed Faraj was assassinated in Ramadi and that was a shock for the city. Faraj was a student of Sheik Falah Al-Ani who opposed Saddam and vanished after he publicly criticized Saddam in a mosque back in the 90s and his fate is yet unknown.
Faraj was able to gather a number of intellectuals and students in Anbar around him he continuously called for ending violence and fighting.
Faraj, although viewed American forces as forces of occupation, insisted that fighting them is not encouraged and that call for peace was enough to get him killed.

I have expected earlier that after the "Association of Muslim Scholars" got divided into two wings; an extreme wing that insists on violence and a rational wing that calls for talks to solve conflicts, I expected that clerics form the latter wing would be persecuted and probably assassinated.

These events show a decrease in the numbers and power of the "takfiri" groups and an increase in the numbers of those who favor discussions and are interested in joining the political process and I think that this meeting between this group of Salafis and the government is a positive sign regarding the future of the situation in Iraq.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

In a conference held in the Kurdish Iraqi city of Halabja, Mrs. Nermin Othman the Iraqi minister of environment said that the city's people are still suffering from the effects of the chemical weapons that were used against the city by orders from Saddam back in 1988.

The minister also stated that judicial and administrative arrangements are now being made to prepare for putting the firms and individuals who supplied Saddam's regime with chemical weapons on trial.
From radio Sawa (Arabic).

I think some guys in old Europe will need to call their lawyers soon!

More on Operation Lightning.

As part of the lightning operations in Baghdad, the Iraqi security forces arrested 49 terror suspects in the districts of Hurriya, A'amil, Ghazaliya and Mada'in in and around Baghdad.

The most interesting arrest was the one in Mada'in as Iraqi troops found swords in the place where the suspects were hiding in addition to amounts of machine guns, pistols, mortar rounds, RPGs and wireless military type communication devices.
The confiscated items were shown on Al-Iraqia TV in a special report last night.
Five other terror suspects were arrested in Al-Doura district south of Baghdad and a weapon cache was near an elementary school in the same area.

And in a statement for the Iraqi government yesterday, it was announced that Iraqi security forces succeeded in dismantling 4 car bombs. While in Jurf Al-Sakhar south of Baghdad and Radwaniya north west of Baghdad, the Iraqi army performed two quality operations; for the 1st time helicopters were used to drop units of Iraqi special forces around the targets to get advantage from the surprise factor.
11 armed terrorists were arrested in the operation and weapons and munitions were confiscated.

Today also, a brother of on of the most wanted remaining leaders of the Ba'ath Party (Abdul-Baqi Al-Sadoon) was arrested in Nasiriyah together with 3 other men while they were planning to perform terror attacks in the city.

It's worth mentioning that there's a one million dollar reward for anyone who provides information that might lead to arresting Abdul-Baqi Al-Sadoon who was in charge of the Ba'ath organizations in the south eastern cities of Iraq.

In Kirkuk, "Dibis" military base was handed officially by the American troops to a unit from the 5ht division of the Iraqi army. The commander of the American unit that was in charge of the base said "This step indicates that Iraqi troops are qualified and ready to deal with the security tasks in this region independently".

Meanwhile, multinational forces handed security responsibility in one of Baghdad's sectors to the 2nd brigade of the 6th division of the Iraqi army after the process of training and equipping the brigade units was successfully completed.

Sources; New Sabah, Al-Iraqia Tv And Al-Hurra TV.

Constitution update.

Yesterday, the spokesperson of the constitution drafting committee Mrs. Maryam Al-Rayis confirmed again that Sunni Arab comprise "an excellent percentage" of the body of the constitution drafting committee as many personalities have been added to the committee from different Sunni parties and entities.

She also pointed out that this committee had practically started working and that "it is now the most active element among other work teams in the National Assembly" and that daily meetings are being held in an attempt to accomplish the mission of writing the draft of Iraq's new constitution before the deadline that was set to be on the 15th of August.

She explained that there are a number of points that are currently the hot topics of the discussions, namely the shape of the federalism that fits for Iraq, the issue of the relationship between religion and the state and the issue of the official language of the state.
It had also been decided to hold weekly meetings with civil society organizations on Thursdays every week to remain in touch with the public opinion through talking to those organizations and asking for their opinions.

On another subject I learnt that there's a suggestion from one of the Assembly's committees to replace all the old identity cards, especially the "citizenship certificate "and the "civil affairs ID" with new cards of high quality to override the problems caused by the low quality of the old ones which made them easy to forge.
The suggestion also includes issuing one new card for each citizen instead of the 2 or 3 currently used cards in order to simplify and decrease the amount of paperwork needed in government offices.

Source; Al-Mada newspaper and Al-Iraqia TV.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

It seems that Iyad Allawi is planning to return back strongly to the political arena in the near future, as shows this piece from Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper (Arabic) which included excerpts from a recent interview with Allawi:

Iyad Allawi, the ex-PM of Iraq and the leader of Iraq's 1st democratic opposition in half a century is planning to build an alliance during the coming 7 months to bring Iraqi back to the "secular system" when Iraqi voters will vote to choose a new elected government by the end of this year.
Allawi to some extent had disappeared from the political scene after power moved to the hands of the Shea't block in the National Assembly and he spent a lot of his time in the capitals of the ME having meetings with the leaders over there.

Last month he met the Syrian president Asad and he got Asad's support for his suggestion to bring UN supervisors to monitor the borders area between the two countries which is believed to be a crossing point for foreign fighters.

PM Jafari's government publicly blames Syria for the "lack of cooperation" regarding controlling the borders and the government never mentioned anything about Allawi's efforts.

"This is something new in Iraq; it's our role now to be the constructive opposition" said Allawi in an interview last week in Baghdad.

"We're trying to become pioneers…we have worked hard to become pioneers of democracy and now we're trying to stabilize the concepts of democracy by taking the responsibility of the constructive opposition" he added.

And according to Allawi, secular Iraqis-who dominated politics in Iraq through out most of its modern history-will remain on the margin until next December when Iraqis are going to elect a new government according to the new constitution which is being drafted right now.

He says, speaking of secular parties "I guess the future will be theirs, the current phase is assisting politicians reinforce their power depending on their ideologies and programs but I think that this country's future requires a government that is secular, moderate and believes in a strong Iraq that lives in peace with its neighbors".

Assuming that Iraq can override the increasing sectarian dispute, then Allawi will need 1st to win the Kurds' trust (who are mostly Sunni but secular) and persuade them to abandon their alliance with the She'at religious parties. Maybe he should consider allying even with the religious Sunni.
Allawi said that he lost his post because he was too busy running the country's affairs which took most of his attention and distracted him from building up a stronger block.

I do believe that the next elections will give different results and it's possible that a bigger role will go for the secular parties in general but this will depend mainly on two factors; the performance of the current government and more important on the rise of a strong alliance of secular parties with clear platforms.


Is this the right way to fight corruption?

As part of the new government's plan to fight corruption we've begun to see signs of an educational campaign led by the "Integrity Committee" in many of the state's departments to establish the basic principles and regulations for the work of any state-employed person.
I see that the main problem isn't in the officials or employees and replacing them with others will not solve the problem. The main problem lies in the corrupt system that we inherited from the succeeding totalitarian regimes; we're still subject to the effects of a bureaucratic totalitarian system that gives the lead to the public sector.

Such a system yielded destructive results in many countries but sadly the administration here still adopts it.
What we need is a real revolution in concept and a real transformation in the system because the government departments are full of intermediate rings and unnecessary offices that overload the state's budget and provide more opportunities for corruption to find a place.

Replacing faces or issuing some new regulations won't correct the situation as the new clean official would be faced with a greater number of old regulations that restrict his activity and render him unable to do the change he's supposed to do. Simply, he would be just another prey for the beast of old routine and he would be frustrated that he would have to choose from either joining the corrupt ring of offices, or writing his resignation.

We've been hearing lately about plans for introducing the E-Government system to the ministries as a way to decrease the bad effects of bureaucracy but the current methods of fighting corruption (that are supposed to be part of the bigger plan that includes the E-Govt. too) still show the same old style of thinking; we've received forms in the hospital sent by the "Integrity Committee".
The forms which all employees are supposed to agree to and sign stated 17 points for the employees to commit to.
Among those points are the following:

-Must not prefer one citizen over another because of their religion, race, sex or color.
-Must state any personal interests or activities that might contradict or benefit from the employee's position.
-Must preserve the secrecy of the information if the employee has access to confidential information.
-Must not ask for (or accept) gifts of any form.

The employee should write his name and put his signature at the bottom of the form.
We have also seen many signs and posters hanging on the walls and doors of some municipal and administrative offices encouraging the people to report any case of bribery, blackmailing or authority abuse by any government-employed person and there are also hotlines specific for each of these departments for the citizens to use to report ill treatment or suspicious activities.

The above measures might sound promising for the 1st time but again I say that the error is in the system itself and as long as the government is giving a big role to the public sector we won't be able to get rid of corruption.
We expected the cabinet to include less ministries than before and offer the private sector the chance to handle the tasks which governments failed at for many years but unfortunately here we stand with 36 ministries and one of the highest levels of corruption in the world.

Not against terrorism and not against "occupation".
Around a hundred Iraqis went to the street in Baghdad yesterday in a demonstration that is considered the 1st of a kind against…..smoking!
I read about it this morning in the Iraqi paper Al-Mashriq:

Signs and banners saying things like "No to the culture of addiction" and "Smoking and poverty are circles of the same chain" and similar slogans against smoking.
Mr. Jabir Hashim, the organizer of the demonstration asked the government in the name of the participants to take some serious steps to fight the "spreading disease of smoking". The demonstrators had also urged the government to impose higher taxes on tobacco imports and encouraged the civil society organizations to play an active role in fighting smoking through educating the people about the dangers and multiple side effects of this bad habit.

Talking about higher taxes on tobacco makes me feel nervous.
Time for a cigarette break!