Friday, March 31, 2006

Know your enemies, dudes! Pt II

These days in Beirut, the fourth conference for supporting the "Iraqi resistance" is being held. It came only less than a year after their grand failure 3rd conference which we wrote about back in August.

The most notable statement given during this conference was made by Hasan NesrAllah of the Lebanese terror organization Hizbullah. The turbaned warlord explicitly said he and his party support the "Iraqi resistance" yet he called upon Iraqis to avoid falling into a Sunni-Shia or Muslim-Christian strife.
If you're not familiar with this conference, it's basically a gathering of all kinds of thugs you can think of; pan-Arab racists, Ba'athists from Iraq and Syria, Sadrists, Islamists (including Khalid Mish'al of Hamas this time).

NesrAllah was not specific on which kind of "resistance" he supports except for putting it clear that he means the armed one by saying "I respect those who chose the political way but I urge them to respect the resistance and not to interrupt its work".
You know that there is more than one kind of "resistance" over here; one represented by Zarqawi and his ilk, one by Saddamists, another by Islamist Sunnis backed by Syria and another by radical Shias like Sadr's thugs who are backed by Iran.

The latter two are being denounced and described as terror groups by each other and by the politicians more or less affiliated with them. Now the question goes to the politicians again; which wing of resistance/terrorism you think NesrAllah is referring to?

Was he referring to the Takfiri Wahabis who slaughter Shias in particular (and Iraqis in general) with cold blood? Or was he referring to Sadr's militias that leave dozens of dead shot and strangled "unidentified bodies" scattered in Baghdad on daily basis, not to mention intimidate their political partners and all civilians in their areas of power?

The truth is over there, just open your eyes and you will see it shining like the sun in a July afternoon.
And do not forger that NesrAllah and his party are the pets raised equally by Damascus and Tehran.
To me it is clear that NesrAllah supports both sides of the "resistance" and his advice not to be dragged to a civil war is pure bull^%$#, he wants Iraqis to kill each other because that's what his masters want and remember that he is the one who advised you 4 years ago when you were the resistance back then to "go to Saddam and negotiate with him and spare us the trouble of letting America in"…he and his masters wouldn't mind seeing you all murdered by Saddam if that could've stopped America from coming in and liberating Iraq.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Politics in Iraq, a Mexican series!

There's a great deal of mysteriousness shrouding the government-formation talks between the political blocs in a way that makes these already lengthy talks and meetings seem to be taking forever in the eyes of the average Iraqi citizen.
"All they care about is getting more power for their parties" or "No one trusts nobody" is the most common remarks people here use whenever words like government or parties are spoken.

What's even more confusing to the 'street' here is the contradiction between statements of various politicians and officials and this disturbing contradiction can be even seen among spokesmen of the same party that a firm stance spoken of in the morning gets denied in its entirety in the evening by the words of another spokesman from the same party. This had given a strong impression that the negotiators themselves are so lost and confused and with them, the people find themselves lost, scattered and confused as well.

The political powers here have already consumed three and a half months for their debates yet every time they find themselves reaching a dead-end they blame it on an 'evil act aimed at disrupting the political process' and oh my, how frequent these 'evil acts' are!
Worst part is that they claim to be aware of the motives of those evil acts but they do exactly the opposite of what is expected from them and you find this or that party suspending its participation in the negotiations doing exactly what the 'evil doers' want and these evil doers can virtually be anyone.

I recently had the chance to meet a member of the new parliament during a meeting for NGOs and since this person is an old friend of mine I did not hesitate to go deep and ask a few rather embarrassing questions, something like: what the heck is going on?

"I swear to God I don't know!" the answer was.
"Don't be mean, c'mon give me some real answers" I insisted.
"Trust me, I know no more than you do, although I'm a member of this party and I'm officially member of parliament they do not tell us (the smaller members) of what's going on. News are restricted to the close circle around the boss while we at the peripheries depend on whispers and leaked info or rumors…just like you bloggers do".


People here are still urging politicians to get done with the negotiations and form a government and although they have given up the high hopes they had once of a government that can get all things right, they still hope that forming the permanent government can at least stop the deterioration in some critical aspects of life and prepare for putting things back on the right track again after the last few months that have been the roughest for Iraqis since Saddam was toppled.

Most of the debate in Baghdad today was about the alleged message from Bush to al-Hakeem telling him to replace Jafari with another candidate. The simple people I meet at work have made a simplified version o their own of this story that goes like this "Bush told the government that if they don't agree on a president, I will appoint that I choose"!
This is followed by a "whatever, maybe this can put an end for this mess" which reminds me that we still believe in firm and direct orders from a boss thinking that one shout or frown from him would be enough to solve the dispute while negotiations seem boring and taking forever, something not unexpected with all the stress and frustration Iraqis have to deal with.

On the other hand the local media was more interested in yesterday's negotiations that were resumed after being suspended for one day after the raid on Sadr's militia. Anyway, the latest sessions seem to coincide with a call from Sistani to the leaders of the UIA to go back to the table and accelerate the process.
It's clear that yesterday's meetings were no different from earlier meetings and was unsurprisingly followed by contradicting statements from who were just sitting at the same table moments ago.
The focus this time was the idea of increasing the number of the PM deputies from two to five or at least three with the new deputy being exclusively in charge of the security file and this suggestion is backed by the Kurds, Sunnis and Allawi who is a candidate for this position if an agreement is to be reached, while the UIA and especially the Sdarists are totally against this suggestion "we are against increasing the number of deputies but we can accept appointing an assisting for the PM" said one Sadrist parliamentarian and this is mostly because the Sadrists' greatest fear is to see Allawi in charge of any part of the security file.

So far the only post that has been semi-officially awarded to a politician by name is the president's which is going to go to Talabani as there are no other candidates and no one opposed his nomination as of now. Meanwhile the chairmanship of the parliament is most likely to go either to Tariq al-Hashimi or Ayad al-Samerrai, both from the Accord Front.

The premiership remains the toughest variable in this equation and there's no foreseeable solution for this issue in the horizon and today the newspapers were quoting statements from the Accord and Dialogue Fronts threatening to boycott the negotiations if the UIA did not present someone other than Jafari who seems to keep losing support to his fellow UIA member and rival Aadil AbdulMahdi who has become the new star of the media here.
AbdulMahdi is attracting increased attention from the media and there's high demand on him for interviews especially on the papers. Today I read his latest where he called for forming the government as soon as possible, enforce the laws and activate the constitution to put an end to the current state of chaos and put militias under control as well as dealing with the phenomenon of having Iraqi forces taking orders from neither of the security ministries. He also asked politicians-Iraqi and foreign-to be careful with their statements and study their words before saying anything that can "pour oil on fire".

Mr. AbdulMahdi through his latest remarks looks like trying to prove that he represents the moderate voice inside the UIA and that he stands as a balancing choice that can approximate the position of the extremes of the political/sectarian spectrum.
Actually it looks clearer now that the SCIRI still looks forward to replace Jafari with a candidate from their own. And this is also obvious from a statement al-Hakeem gave to the CNN (found it on the SCIRI's paper al-Adala) when he answered a question about Jafari by saying that "the UIA is till studying the matter and things will clearer in the next few day…we need more time to have this subject studied from all sides…".

Time is passing by and this is not in the interest of the politicians or the people who are getting tired of the way politicians are performing that many of them would tell you they've stopped following the news. One friend told me yesterday that he used to follow the political news every single day but "not anymore, these negotiations have much in common with those thousand-episode Mexican series, you can skip ten episodes and then come back and you will find things exactly where you left them!".

Monday, March 27, 2006

Following yesterday's raid...

The Iraqi government, or more precisely the UIA part of it is obviously so outraged by the joint US-Iraqi army raid on al-Mustafa husseiniya that took place in eastern Baghdad yesterday.

Actually the reactions to this incident are so intense compared the reactions when 30 or 40 beheaded or strangled bodies are found on nearly daily basis in Baghdad in a way that it makes me question the intentions of this part of the government even more; this incident has received more attention and was met by more objections that it deserves, or to be more accurate; other more worrisome and tragic deaths in Iraq are receiving far less attention that they should be. Everyday there are new dead bodies found in and around Baghdad yet no one bothers to open an investigation. Why is this one receiving special treatment?
And please do not think that I'm talking out of ridiculous sectarian emotions, on the contrary, I wish I could see the government investigate every single death and bring those responsible before a court of law but unfortunately I do not see this happening.
The raid on the husseiniya is not going to be investigated because those killed were Iraqis or Shia, the government will open an investigation because those killed were Sadrists and because Muqtada feels this raid was targeting his militia and fears that letting this one go without making enough noise will probably encourage the Americans to carry out more raids.

Now let's check out stories from the various concerned/involved parties; there's the interior ministry and national security ministry which are largely based on 'eyewitnesses' and statements from Sadr's men in the parliament. These source claim that Iraqi and American soldiers stormed the husseiniya and murdered 20 unarmed worshippers (37 in another story). So called eyewitnesses told local media that the soldiers locked the worshippers in one room, lined them against a wall and shot them dead.
Of course the MNF website has a different story (hat-tip: fourth rail):

Iraqi Special Operations Forces conducted a twilight raid in the Adhamiyah neighborhood in northeast Baghdad to disrupt a terrorist cell responsible for conducting attacks on Iraqi security and Coalition Forces and kidnapping Iraqi civilians in the local area.
As elements of the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade entered their objective, they came under fire. In the ensuing exchange of fire, Iraqi Special Operations Forces killed 16 insurgents. As they secured their objective, they detained 15 more individuals.

Anyway, footage from the scene shows burned vehicles outside the husseiniya, empty smoke grenades and inside the place there were empty shells of BKC machine gun (the main gun mounted on most of the Iraqi army vehicles) the BKC is not a one-GI carried gun but is rather used as a supportive-fire kind of weaponry and if soldiers were to execute unarmed people this would not be their gun of choice because AK-47s or pistols could do the job with less noise and are much easier to carry and it makes more sense to think that this weapon was fired by the people who were hiding inside the husseiniya especially that this gun is abundant at the arsenals of militias.
Also the use of smoke grenades means the assault team was expecting-and likely encountered-resistance from inside the target building.
There's also the burned vehicles on the street which indicate there was gunfire coming from inside the building because the MNF report says that Iraqi soldiers were fired at "after they entered their objective" and it makes no sense at all to fire at the street behind you when you're under fire from the building you are already inside.

However, the best evidence that proves that members of Mehdi army were inside the building came from a prominent Sdarist parliamentarian and spokesman of the Sdar trend; Baha' al-Aaraji told al-Hurra this evening that "worshippers from inside the besieged husseiniya talked to us in person on the phone and asked for help…".
So I wonder why would 'innocent ordinary worshippers' have the personal phone numbers of parliament members and Sadr office officials?!!

Still, the most important part of the case is missing that is a statement from the defense ministry whose soldiers were the trigger pullers in this raid and the defense ministry is who can reveal whatever there's to reveal.

Right now the Sadrists are trying to make a 'national crisis' out of this case, obviously to make some political gains at the expense of their political opponents and to support their accusations against the US military and US embassy.
Today on TV, Jawad al-Maliki, a hardliner from the UIA denounced "the American atrocities that are aimed at provoking civil war in Iraq…" and I just can't understand how can a US raid provoke civil war? Could it be that those American soldiers were Sunni extremists?!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Know your enemies, dudes!

There are a few things that make me keep my optimism about a near end or at least a reduction of Iran's destructive game in Iraq.

One and actually the most important is that we have an American ambassador who recognizes Iran's role in supporting both ends of violence in Iraq; that's the Shia militias, namely the notorious Mehdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr and the extreme terror groups like al-Qaeda's Ansar al-Sunna.
Knowing that ambassador Khalil Zad will be the one leading the talks with Iran makes me feel that the talks are in good hands that are aware of the scope of the conflict.
Many people find it difficult to agree with this theory that Iran has ties with al-Qaeda and its branches and affiliates in Iraq and that's because they think the ideology difference between Wahabism and Shiasm would make any cooperation between Iran and al-Qaeda a fairy tale or a ridiculous American excuse to justify a possible offensive on Iran.
But what really frustrates me is that we have people here who are supposed to be politicians aware of the behind the scenes game who refuse to accept this theory (which I consider a fact).

A few days ago a saw a prominent politician from the UIA talking on al-Hurra and when the point of Zad's accusations to Iran was raised his response was (not literal translation) "No sane person can think that Iran is supporting the terrorists who murder Shia Iraqis…".
It is this kind of blind conviction that make me lose faith in most of the political elites in Iraq; they have entrenched themselves behind their sects to the point that they cannot accept questioning the policies and intentions of their presumed friends forgetting that it's politics 101 to not put absolute trust in anyone.

They (our politicians whether Sunni or Shia) had been keen to have strong relationships with the regional powers, of course there's no objection on having balanced relationships with your neighbors but it's dead wrong to follow the plans of these neighbors when these plans are against Iraq's interests.
We see the Sunni while hate Iran have strong ties with Syria and depend greatly on Syrian support, on the other hand the Shia consider Iran their best friend while denouncing the Sunnis for being friends with Syria who they accuse of being responsible for terrorism.

I really wonder how those politicians forget (or give a blind eye to) the fact that Iran and Syria are the strongest allies to each other to the degree that Iran's president described Syria as "Our first front in the confrontation with our mutual enemies…" and both countries do not want Iraq to be stable and would do literally anything to stop Iraq from becoming a peaceful democracy because they think that keeping America pinned in a troubled Iraq can deplete America's determination and resources and discourage her from confronting the regimes in Damascus and Tehran.
Also it is Sunni Syria that supports the radical Shia Hizbullah and it is Shia Iran that supports radical Sunni Hamas, so why would anyone be surprised when someone suggests that Iran is supporting al-Qaeda or Ansar al-Sunna!?

And if politicians in question do not know this, then they are not qualified and must step down or be forced to step down, and if they know this but ignore it, then that makes them pure traitors.

The other thing that makes me optimistic is that the mullahs do not have much time left to continue their interference with Iraq's affairs; they are opposing the whole world with their persistent pursuit for nukes and they have entered a race against time in Iraq not realizing that the closer they get to their goals, the closer their end gets to them.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Entering stage three.

It's time again to go back to the political process in Iraq and shed some light on the latest developments regarding the discussions for forming the new government.
Today, newspapers in Baghdad brought many relevant reports and statements given by politicians in the past day or two and most of them indicated that next Saturday will mark the beginning of what they called "the third stage" of the negotiations with a warm-up meeting scheduled for Friday (to eat some more lamb) and get ready for the next stage which is expected to be final and decisive.

Leading figures from the four major blocs pointed out that earlier discussion had led to an agreement on 23 points (out of 26) from the suggested program of the government which according to Abbas al-Bayati from the UIA is largely a summation of 3 work papers presented by the UIA, Accord Front and the Kurdish Alliance.

One of the most critical points that were agreed upon was the suggestion of establishing a 'national security committee' formerly referred to as the 'council of elders'. Adnan Pachachi from the Iraqi list and Nadeem al-Jabiri of al-Fadheela Party spoke in detail about the structure of this committee; the committee will be headed by the president and will have 19 members distributed as follows:

The president and his two deputies.
The prime minister and his two deputies.
The chairman of the parliament.
The president of the supreme federal court.
The president of Kurdistan region.
The heads of the major parliamentary blocs.

And to further breakup the allocations:

9 seats will go to the UIA.
4 seats to the Kurdish Alliance.
3 seats to the Accord Front.
2 seats to the Iraqi list (Allawi).
1 seat to the Dialogue Front (al-Mutlaq).

It seems that the structure of this committee is already accounted for, yet the responsibilities, jurisdictions and mechanism of work are not as clear because while Pachachi said that "decisions will be made by a 2/3 majority from the members of the committee and decisions will be later submitted to the parliament [if requires a legislation] or to the cabinet [if requires execution] and all decisions made by this committee will be obligatory to its members as well as the permanent government" al-Jabiri said "it will not be only an advisory board or a coordinating entity but it will not be the highest authority in the country because that would be against the constitution…the decisions of this committee will be political and not constitutional in their nature".
On the other hand AbdulKhaliq Zangana from the Kurdish bloc that these points are still being discussed and will not have a definite shape until negotiations resume next Saturday.

Some analysts and politicians were saying they believed establishing this committee was an alternate solution for replacing Jafari with another candidate to head the cabinet but some strong men in the UIA have a different opinion as expressed by Abbas al-Bayati who told al-Mashriq "Ibrahim al-Jafari is staying in his post for a second term because the agreement reached on establishing the committee means the crisis related to Jafari's nomination is over".

Meanwhile it looks like a more defined idea about 'national unity government' has started to emerge and the most common theory at the moment is to limit this 'unity' concept to the 'national security committee' and to the top3 posts (along with their deputies) while the distribution of cabinet posts is most likely going to be decided in the light of election results and what each bloc has inside the parliament.

Again, a lot of expected to come out from the next stage which starts on Saturday and the political editor at al-Sabah wrote this morning that "an informed source from the Accord Front told us that politicians will decide the name of the parliament's chairman will be decided by Saturday or Sunday and the next step will be discussing the nominations for presidency where there's a preliminary agreement on giving this post to Talabani…"

The politicians here are trying to respond to internal public pressure and international pressure and above all, time pressure but this response still does not rise to the level of the challenge, which are least described as enormous.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

After Hamas and al-Dhari...who will be next?

A feverish Russian pursuit for finding a bigger role in Iraq in the two fields of economy and politics is becoming very noticeable lately.
And reading two recent news reports gives me the impression that this kind of Russian involvement does not serve Iraq's interests, instead it agitates the already unfavorable situation.

The first bit of news talks about an official invitation from Russia to Harith al-Dhari head of the Association of Muslim Scholars to visit Moscow to meet officials in the Russian foreign ministry and speak before the Doma.
I can't understand why the Russians chose to invite a nonofficial, extreme religious entity while it would've made much more sense to invite representatives from one of the major parliamentary blocs that can influence the political process. Not to mention that al-Dhari and his association had always tried to impede the political process, opposed the first election and boycotted the second and there's a growing gap even between this association and the Sunni politicians.

The other development I find disturbing is the Russian ambassador's flight to Basra after being invited by the governor of the province who recently announced his refusal to sign any contracts with British firms on the way to boycott these firms and offer investment contracts to Russian ones.

I am completely in support of opening the Iraqi market for foreign capital because simply Iraq will never have a strong economy without foreign investors making business here but this attitude on the end of Basra's governor and the Russians does not read as 'free market' but rather as 'political deal' and a losing one because a smart politician would move to award contracts to those who stood with his people not those who were good friends of the tyrannical regime that oppressed him and his people.

If I were the governor of that province I would be inviting and encouraging the rich countries to invest in my city and not countries whose people were living nearly a famine just a decade ago and whose technologies were proven backward.

I don't like the Russians; they are known for their corrupt deals and the smell of their firms' scandals during the 'oil for food' program still stinks till this day and I think this more than enough reason to put them at the bottom of the list.

The question here is; did third world countries remain behind because they connected their interests with Russia, or, did Russia remain behind because of its involvement with the bad side of the third world?
Or, is it that losers naturally feel attracted to each other?

Monday, March 20, 2006

The third anniversary...sacrifice, fear and hope.

It has been three years since 'Operation Iraqi Freedom' began and for three years we debated whether the decision was right or wrong and until this moment we have different feelings and opinions about where this operation brought us and where its aftermaths are going to lead us.

This disputed operation no doubt had-and will continue to have-major effects on the future of the region and the rest of the world and it's not limited to the boundaries of Iraq; a fact that makes rational debate legitimate by all standards.

To me, each anniversary brings emotions, thoughts and expectations; some are personal and others are for the future of my country and people. Today I relive those historic moments and remember the way my mind accepted and welcomed those moments like all, or say most Iraqis did as we were praying to see Saddam overthrown without even bothering to think of the consequences or results…all we wanted was to see Saddam out of power, period.

Maybe people still remember how Iraqis first reacted to the change; they directed their rage against anything that reminded them of the regime they hated, burning and looting anything that represented Saddam and his regime. The rich and the poor both stormed those buildings because those angry crowds felt those buildings were Saddam's property and few of us realized at that time that that was wrong yet the emotions driving it were understandable.

The smoke faded away and we woke up to see all the chains gone and instead of the God-president and his iron grip over our destinies, we found ourselves without a guide, without any guidance but our long buried primitive nature, the long repressed nature of loving freedom and practicing it.

The change began then, at that moment where reason mixed with sentiments; were we free…or, were we lost?

Actually it was a lot of both and there was also a sense of great relief that the terrifying warnings from hundreds of thousands of deaths, famine and mass refugees were not true at that point, on the contrary the military operation itself was clean and successful by all standards and didn't cause any serious harm to the civilian population, the infrastructure, or the marching troops.

Saddam was gone and suddenly Iraqis and Americans found themselves face to face in a place that felt new to both of them. They knew almost nothing about each other as the prison Saddam built around us left the world with little knowledge about Iraqis except for the whispers of Iraqis who fled the horrors of the tyrant.
On the other hand, all that Iraqis knew about America was that it's the merciless enemy of Muslims and Arabs, the invader coming for oil, the all-time supporter of Israel against the Palestinians, the imposer of the sanctions and above all, the America that let us down in 1991.

Now the two strangers had to work together to accomplish a goal Iraqis knew almost nothing about; they knew that America wanted to topple Saddam and secure the oil fields but that's all they knew while America was thinking of a huge transformation for the entire Middle East with Iraq being the key to that transformation.
There was a wide gap between the two but we had no choice but to work together, because in a moment Iraqis didn't choose, America and a group of Iraqi ex-pat leaders were suddenly replacing a regime that controlled everything for too long.
Iraqis were confused and vulnerable and there were too many differences to cope with but we were there and there was nothing we could do about it and we had to prepare ourselves for many transitional stages that some Iraqis thought were improvised and arbitrary while others thought were planned long time ago.

The question keeps ringing…
Was it the right decision to remove Saddam?

I say yes, and that's what most Iraqis said and still say even if they became divided over what happened later…the truth is that virtually no one wants Saddam back.

I will just ignore the weepers, whiners, teenagers and half educated naïve people and their silly rallies as I don't want to waste time on people who can do nothing but blindly oppose everything without thinking.
I will ignore them and focus on the more important goals we want to reach here…

Life stopped and time stopped when Saddam ruled Iraq, actually that totalitarian regime was moving backwards and dragging us with it and nothing could stop the deterioration that began the moment Saddam came to power.
We had to accept the change and live with all that would come along with it whether good or bad.
The democracy we're practicing today in Iraq is the exact opposite of what we had for decades and until three years ago. This democracy carries the essence of life, the differences, the dynamics and yes, the failures but also the seed of a better future.

Before the liberation we were suffering and we had no hope, now we are also suffering but we have hope and I see this hope even in the words of those that are cynical about the outcome of the political process; who say they hope things will be better in four years or eight years…
When Saddam was here we didn't have any hope and we could expect nothing good from a dead regime that cared only about its absolute existence.

Yes. We are facing enormous and dangerous challenges and this is not unexpected because the old will not easily step down and accept the loss; the old will fight back fiercely and the old here is not only Saddam and the Ba'ath, the old can be found among many of our current leaders and the mentality they carry that belong to the same generation that bred Saddam but I believe they will melt away as well because no one can go against the direction of time and the clock cannot be forced backwards.

The green bud looks weak and is buried in the dirt and surrounded by a tough shell but it will break through this covering, pierce the dirt and stand on its feet to announce a new era.
We will not be defeated and orphans of the dark past will get what they deserve and our sacrifices and the sacrifices of those who stand with us shall not go in vain, our sacrifices will pave an easier road for those want to follow us when they decide it's time for them to change.

And yes…Iraq will be the model.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A look at the Swarmer.

In a statement for the al-Qaeda linked "Shura Council of Mujahideen" in response to operation Swarmer, the terror group predicts this operation to be a failure "just like all previous operations".

What I noticed in this particular statement is the tone which came significantly calm when compared with similar statement during equally large offensives like in Fallujah or Tal Afar when the terrorists even threatened to use unconventional weapons and promised to "make the earth shake beneath the infidels".
This time the comment of al-Qaeda was as if the operation represented little if any threat to their men and assets.
So what's really happening? Is Swarmer a mere political theater? Show business? Professional military quest? Or what?

Through my humble military knowledge, the participating force is way larger than the size of the assaulted targets. All we heard from US or Iraqi officials about accomplished objectives was the capture of 50 or 60 suspects (no big names or top ranking al-Qaeda leaders), IED making materials, several missiles and 70 lbs of TNT, i.e. almost the everyday finding of weapon caches. Let alone that we didn't see any footage of the reportedly confiscated weapon caches.
(Numbers from a statement for the spokesman of Iraqi defense ministry)

I tend to believe that the primary objective of the operation is to polish the skills of future battalion-size airborne Iraqi units through real-time action against real targets and to move Iraqi forces to the stage where they can take the initiative instead of waiting for the enemy to make the first move.

As the maps show, the area where the operation is taking place is surrounded by a number of medium and large sized US and Iraqi bases and using helicopters in such great numbers is more expensive, complicated and has little advantage over ground transport of troops and you don't really need helicopters to gain the surprise factor when approaching the open plains, semi-desert area takes slightly more than an hour in vehicles from the nearest bases.

But I think Iraqi forces can benefit greatly from this kind of experience given the relatively small number of these troops compared to the area they need to cover which makes air deployment of troops vital for having quick response abilities especially when Iraqi troops are planned to become responsible for security in a growing amount of territory over time.

I also suspect there are other two possible dimensions for the operation; one deals with morale and the other is a long-term military plan to cut the lines of transportation between the eastern and western areas of action of the insurgency that pass through the rural areas near and around Samarra.

The morale dimension can be summarized in the fact that the security forces in charge (US and Iraq) are asked to take action that can antagonize the threat represented here by the terrorists' attack on the golden dome mosque of Samarra that gave rise to great tension on the streets and jeopardized the unity of the country.

The government promised to respond to the challenge and catch the perpetrators and I tend to think that the operation is targeting the suspected bases used by the group that blew up the mosque.

If the troops do have this objective in their mission brief, then I think there's a good chance to get this particular terror group busted.
Even if the last part is not among the objectives, hearing a better evaluation of the performance of the participating Iraqi troops will be enough reward.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Saddam era documents.

As you probably already know, many Iraq and Afghanistan documents from the Saddam/Taliban era have been released to the public through this website.
Our friend Roger directed me to one document he though was interesting, and reading it, I believe he is right about it.
Find my (hopefully accurate) translation of this document HERE.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Who's really in the swamp?

According to this BBC report and this AP story, AbdulAziz al-Hakeem called for talks between Iran and the US over the situation in Iraq in what I view as an armature maneuver from Tehran to find an escape from her conflict with the international community.

This development leads me to a number of important conclusions as it includes a confession from Iran that they are strongly interfering with the situation in Iraq but at the same Iran is saying that this interference is negotiable and in my opinion the bargain offer brought by al-Hakeem is in fact an Iranian proposed call for compromise because the Iranians have been talking about opening a window to talk with the US (and of course Iran wants the price for leaving Iraq alone to be leaving them alone to move on with their ambitious nuclear program).

Obviously someone deluded Iran and Syria into believing that meddling with the situation in Iraq might give them leverage and help them get out of their conflict with the international community.
Both Iran and Syria are looking forward to a deal that allows them to make some political gains in return for taking their hands off Iraq and both regimes like to say that America has to get out of the Iraqi swamp and that they are capable of getting her out of it.

But is Iraq really a swarm for America or is it a swamp for the Syrian and Iranian regimes?
I believe the latter possibility is truer; those two regimes had proven beyond doubts that they are against security and stability in Iraq and the Middle East and they had proven themselves as great supporters for terrorism maybe not realizing that by doing so they are making the world only more aware of the dangers imposed by these two regimes.

As an Iraqi what concerns me the most is that some Iraqi politicians are helping Iran and Syria play their dirty game in Iraq, this game that brought troubles over troubles to our people and cost us a lot of blood, resources and time.

What we need is an investigation committee similar to Mehlis's to uncover the daily crimes and identify those involved in these crimes whether foreigners or Iraqis so that we can arrest those responsible and put them to trial and we won't lack the evidence a successful trial requires.

I do not expect the US or the rational nations in this world to make a deal with losing regimes like the two in question; Iran and Syria are going against the current of logic and history and their burdens will grow heavier with time because the way they read facts and changes in the region will only lead them to more isolation and I can already see them in a confrontation with the world.

Iraq's new parliament met today.

The new Iraqi parliament met for the first time a few hours ago marking the birth of the constitutional state in Iraq. An incomplete birth and a stumbling child but it is a step that hopefully will become a bridge over the current political and security mess.

The session was not more than a ceremonial one and it was limited to gathering and reading the oath and short speeches from the chairman of the former National Assembly and from the eldest member of the new parliament Adnan Pachachi who didn't set a deadline for the next session but said in a later statement to the press that the next session will commence after the major blocs reach an agreement on the key issues of dispute which are the structure of the three main councils (presidency, premiership and chairmanship of the parliament).

Almost all the statements given by various prominent politicians to the press after the session ended were optimistic and they all spoke about consensus on forming a government of national unity yet some of them admitted that there's a serious trust issue between the major blocs.
Jafari-and in an earlier time Talabani-expressed their confidence that forming the government will not take more than another month. Jafari also said something that can be regarded as a preparation for an honorable retreat when he said that "if the people asked me to step down, I shall do that".

Meanwhile meetings among the major blocs continued in Baghdad and several members of these blocs said that meetings are discussing the government posts and their corresponding jurisdiction rather than the people who are going to occupy these posts which I think is a smart alternative because it is easier to reach compromises this way and I must say that I feel that our politicians are submitting to the guidelines stated by the constitution and are doing their best to find solutions but the problem is that I doubt their best is good enough because most of them are not qualified to handle the responsibilities they're entitled to.

But that's not the politicians' mistake, it's in my personal opinion the people's mistake for they have elected those unqualified politicians and now the people must accept the fact that they will have to live with a government below their expectations for four years but I have hope that the people will learn from this experience and make better choices when the next time comes…that's if Iraq survives these four years and I believe it will.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Politicians back at the table while death goes silent.

Meetings among the major political blocs are underway as we approach Thursday when the first session of the new parliament is scheduled.
Observers and politicians expect these last-minute meetings to be decisive given the fact that a 60-day countdown clock will start ticking once the parliament is seated and during those 60 days the parliament will have to vote on a presidential council and then approve the cabinet formed by the PM when the latter gets asked to do so by the president.

Of course the 60 days deadline is not the end of the world, for if this deadline is exceeded, the president will have to ask another person to form a cabinet and present it to the parliament for approval. And so on, until a government is in place.
But, no one prefers to take this road and most people prefer to get the government formed from the first trial to avoid adding unnecessary tension to what we already have to deal with.

The statements given by the politicians who attended the meeting were mostly vague but there were a few points they said they agreed upon; one is forming a committee from members of the major blocs to write down a draft system for the work of the cabinet. This draft system when written will be submitted to the leaders of the blocs to be revised, approved and later adopted by the new government. Which means there's an inclination towards making the new government work under the umbrella of a program written in accordance between the major blocs instead of one proposed by the PM or the largest bloc alone.

This indicates that the powers pushing for a more equal sharing of power are getting some positive results from the pressure they've been putting on the parties that controlled the interim government.

Also it's worth mentioning that the Sunni Accord Front is suggesting a plan to reduce the jurisdictions of the PM and increase those of the presidency "to avoid the rise of a new dictatorship" and prevent monopoly of power by a single person, according to sources in the Front.

Today's meeting took place at al-Hakeem's headquarters and it was noticed that Jafari wasn't there for one reason or another but maybe Jafari wasn't invited to create a relatively friendlier atmosphere for the talks as Jafari represents the main point of dispute between the UIA and the rest of the blocs and the politicians themselves mentioned that they left this issue out of the discussion today and I kind of find this a good decision because it apparently allowed them to work out an outline for a mechanism to solve a few issues away form the effects of their stiff stances with regard to the premiership.

Nadeem al-Jabiri, the head of Fadheela Party which is part of the UIA said his party will not take part of these meetings and accused the other political leaders of living a state of denial "because the politicians are not discussing the most important point of difference which is the nomination of Jafari".
Al-Jabiri in a letter delivered to the local press said that his party was terrorized into withdrawing his candidacy for heading the cabinet and said that parties within the UIA he refused to name used intimidation to force the nomination of Jafari.

Meanwhile the newspapers that speak for Shia parties are waging war of words against the US administration and namely against ambassador Khalil Zad who they like to refer to as the "sectarian ambassador of the Taliban Emirate" who they accuse of trying to reimpose a Sunni dictatorship in Iraq.
Not only that, al-Bayina al-Jadida newspaper went as far as asking al-Hakeem to call for jihad against the US presence!

Today in Baghdad death crept in silence…

There were no car-bombs, huge explosions or clashes yet more than 80 bodies were found scattered in various districts of the capital and the number is increasing while I'm typing these words.
The most disturbing finding is that some of the victims were strangled and others were found hanging from lampposts with the word 'traitor' written on the bodies and this makes one think the 4 victims in this particular case were from Sadr city itself because 'traitor' is used to describe someone from your own but who turned against you and it makes no sense to use it on strangers.
I'm afraid I have to think that some sort of 'court' is behind these executions because strangling or death by hanging is not the common execution method for al-Qaeda or regular criminals and I'm afraid we are standing before the doings of a new sharia court similar to the one found in Najaf back in 2004 (and we never heard of the results of the alleged investigation ever since).

People were shocked when they heard Awad al-Bandar of Saddam's revolutionary court say that he tried and sentenced 148 Iraqis to death in a matter of only weeks but the latest wave of murders makes me think that there's someone trying to beat that record.

You form a multi-thousand men militia, you arm them with all kinds of weapons you can find, you fill them with hatred through your inflammatory speeches, you promise to use your militia to defend Iraq's worst enemies, you accuse the Sunni of being Takfiri terrorists, accuse the US of supporting this terrorism and accuse Kurds and fellow Shia of being materialistic opportunists and puppets of the US occupier. And your Islamic militia attacks dozens of mosques and kills dozens of people over night.
And after all this you call yourself a patriot.

You are just as dangerous to Iraq as Saddam was or al-Qaeda is.
I worked in Basra for a whole year, and I was the only secular person in town of 50,000 devout Shia. They didn't hate me, they didn't hurt me and I never felt afraid of being there. On the contrary, there was a great deal of mutual respect between me and the locals I was in contact with.
Al-Qaeda was already murdering Iraqis back then but Iraqis knew who the bad guys were and they didn't alienate or generalize the term 'terrorist' over an entire portion of the community.
It's you and hateful thugs like you who got us to this point….God damn you.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The situation as it looked today.

Security in Baghdad has drastically deteriorated recently and reached its latest spike with the multiple bombings of yesterday.
Looking at the time pattern of violence escalations we can notice that spikes in attacks curve coincide with the sessions of Saddam's trial which indicates that followers of Saddam are still strong and active inside Baghdad and it seems that those are isolating themselves from the developments in the Iraqi scene even with regard to their politician friends and public base so to speak as the latter had changed their methods and switched largely to political means of opposition.

Those Saddam followers are moving far away from the general course of events and are likely to remain a source of trouble for a long time to come but their determination I suspect will fade after Saddam is executed.
We are talking here about a minority that sees legitimate governance only in Saddam and his regime and their attacks are usually chaotic when it comes to attacking Iraq targets and characterized by random mortar and rocket attacks and virtually opening fire on anything that represents a state different from the one they have in their old minds.

But, yesterday's bombings in Sadr city differ from those chaotic attacks; yesterday's attack had a clear motive in pushing Iraq toward a sectarian conflict because they attacked the heartland of the Mehdi militia which is well known for its hasty and arbitrary reactions as well as the lack of a general strategy for the groups of this militia that are spread over several provinces.
In my opinion the attacks was aiming at provoking large-scale violent reactions from the Mehdi militia to increase the chances for sectarian strife and in fact, we have heard that dozens were shot dead in Baghdad following the attack (al-Yarmouk hospital alone received 20 bodies of men executed by bullets in the head).
It has also become clear that what keeps such violent reactions within certain limits is the heavy deployment of the army especially in the hot zones of Baghdad where violence is most expected and the army has proven to be reliable in its assignments unlike the forces of the interior ministry.

And in spite of the admirable job the army is doing in Baghdad, I expect the capital to be the focus of the conflict for a long time given the demographics of the city and its suburbs and I expect these limited battles (and I don't like the term "all-out civil war" that many choose to use) I expect these battles to be concentrated in Baghdad, its suburbs as well as probably a few provinces with mixed populations while the majority of the 18 provinces will remain relatively calm because the parties of the conflict on either side will try to keep their territories of support safe and as far as possible from the frontlines.

And while politicians and community leaders are expected to work on calming the situation and containing the tension, we see some of them doing exactly the opposite and making statements that can only fuel the fire; we hear them say that 'al-Qaeda or the Saddamists are responsible for the violence and are trying to push us to civil war' then they begin to throw threats here and there and warn from a civil war if 'the other' side doesn't try to end cooperation with the terrorists.

This contradiction between their statements and attitudes makes me believe that an old joke of a man who sees a banana peel on the floor and says "uh, oh…here I fall again" can apply perfectly to some people who are unfortunately considered Iraqi leaders.

The other problem is that people (voters) are blindly following their corresponding parties and are taking what politicians say without the least use of reason; the followers of the UIA think there's a conspiracy against 'the majority' because their leaders say so while Kurds or Sunnis mostly think that insisting on Jafari and Bayan Jabor is the main problem that I obstructing progress.
What people (voters) are missing is that the parties they are loyal to are not internally united and in the same party you can find different opinions with regard to a particular point.

Probably the only good news in the past few days was changing the time of first session of the new parliament from the 19th to the 16th of March and this will hopefully refocus the energy of politicians back to talks under the umbrella of the parliament where inflammatory speeches are less likely to have a place though I expect the leaders of blocs will want the session on the 16th to only serve to preserve the protocols and formalities while real meetings will begin days if not weeks later.
The UIA have held separate meetings with the Accord Front and the Kurdish Alliance and they tried to convince these two blocks with their political program but without discussing the issue of replacing Jafari and this is clearly an attempt at cracking the Sunni-Kurdish front and to see if any of the two is persuadable into forming a government with the UIA without the third bloc but it seems that these attempts didn't meet significant success.

The other relatively good news was the agreement between the ministries of interior and defense that was declared in a joint press conference for the two ministers. This agreement states that army patrols shall from now on accompany the forces of the interior ministry during conducting any raids which means that the interior began to recognize the fact that many Iraqis do not trust them and it shows that something is being done to find a workable solution for this trust problem while the current minister is still in office.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Where is Zarqawi?

Sheikh Usama al-Jad'aan the chief sheikh of the Karabla tribes of Anbar brought some interesting news in an interview with al-Hurra TV.
This is the same man who once made the controversial announcement of arresting 270 al-Qaeda men back in January so I'll take his words with a grain of salt until some authority confirms his statement.

Sheikh Usama said today that the "Nakhwa" 4,000 man-strong tribal force he's supervising has succeeded in capturing yet another 169 infiltrators coming mostly from the Jordanian borders during the past week.
The sheikh also spoke of disbanding 9 terror groups working with Zaraqawi's al-Qaeda in Iraq and confirmed that the recently captured infiltrators were mostly non-Iraqi Arabs with some Iraqis guiding them in and providing logistics and that they brought weapons, explosives and sophisticated maps with them with a selection of targets pointed on those maps.

Our main problem is the vast size of Anbar as well as having shared borders with 3 countries; Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria and recently we have that more and more infiltrators are coming through the borders with Jordan rather than the other two countries…We have rid about 90% of the province of Zaraqwi's criminal thugs and we are coordinating our work with the ministries of defense and interior and we had several meetings with Iraqi officials as well as General Casey. Now we believe Zarqawi had escaped to Salahiddin province and we are cooperating with the tribes of Salahiddin to find out where this criminal is hiding.

A few days ago I read a short report on the al-Bayina al-Jadida newspaper that mentioned that Zarqawi had moved to the outskirts of Salahiddin and sought hide in the Himreen Mountains (these are technically hills lying Northeast of Salahiddin, southeast of Kirkuk and extend to the Iranian borders where they merge with Zagrus Mountains) for about a month before fleeing to Afghanistan through Iran.

Whether the information we got from paper and the sheikh are accurate or not, the authorities should do a better job in keeping us informed with as much information as possible.
I wouldn't mind unclassified!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The awaited first session for Iraq's parliament is still a point of dispute. (Updated)

We all heard the news last night that Aadil AbdulMahdi, the vice president from the UIA agreed to sign president Talabani's written call for the new parliament to convene by March 12 but I chose not to give more value to this news than it actually deserves because I felt that AbdulMahdi's signature was mere ink on paper but meant very little on the ground….at least for the time being.

It is known that the Kurds, Sunni and secular blocs are for holding the first session of the parliament as soon as possible and the only bloc that proposed a delay was the UIA.
Talabani responded to this proposal by calling for a meeting between the political leaders and said that he would then listen to the opinions of the blocs' leaders to reach accordance on this issue.

But then AbdulMahdi gave his signature last night…so why hold the meeting then?
The leaked news from members of the UIA indicate that the bloc is split over the timing of seating the parliament with the Da'wa and Sadrists against the March 12 deadline and the SCIRI, Fadheela and most of the independents standing for it.

With 130 members in one bloc and each one of them has family, friends and acquaintances, leaked news become abundant; sources close to members of the UIA told us that the leaders of the UIA are willing to pull back Jafari's nomination and present a new candidate but on rather tough conditions.
The source said he believes the Shia leaders need more time to negotiate these conditions with the Kurdish, Accord and Iraqi blocs.
At least that's what the UIA has been propagating among their supporters lately and I suspect this represents an effort to preserve the 'face' of the bloc before declaring reaching compromise with the other blocs.

The first meeting that took place today in the government's headquarters didn't result in anything new and we heard half an hour ago that a second meeting is in session so there will be updates once available.

Update: 10:30 pm

Just got an update saying that leaders of the parliamnentary blocs have agreed on calling the new parliament to convene on Sunday March 19.
Sooni is blogging again after a long hiatus and he's back with an interesting report from inside the walls of Baghdad's women prison where the inmates spoke out on the Iraqi women day and presented their artwork in which they demanded their rights, called for equality and supported secularism!

Just for a change...

Well this may give you a good laugh as it is doing here in Iraq. This little audio clip where some funny guy is mocking Saddam's voices reading a mobile phone error message became very popular here after Saddam's trial began and I though I should share it with you.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Forming Iraq's new government...With voting or accordance?

The political dispute between the UIA and the rest of the political bodies is still up and growing with both parties stubborn and not showing signs compromising.

The UIA still insist that their decision to choose Jafari for PM must be respected while the Kurdish alliance, Accord Front and Iraqi list are still pushing towards changing Jafari with someone else from within the UIA (or to a lesser possibility from another bloc).

President Talabani wanted to bring the discussion to the halls of the parliament- a step I admired him for taking-but the UIA through the vice president AbdulMahdi halted Talabani's call by refusing to put his signature on it.
Legal experts and politicians have different opinions on whether the constitution has been breached or not by this delay in seating the parliament but the text is clear and frank; the parliament had to be called to convene two weeks ago thus the constitution is already breached even though politicians refuse to admit it and further delay can only be more illegitimate.

Let's take a look at the UIA's request submitted to Talabani to delay the first session of the parliament; they obviously need some time but what do they need this time for?
Do they need this time for themselves to reorganize their lines, convince Jafari to step down and present a new candidate for heading the cabinet?
Or they need it to try to convince the others to accept Jafari?
I personally find myself more inclined to believe the latter is the case…

The UIA are concerned about the unity of their bloc as they expressed more than once and that's what Ayatollah Sistani advised them to pay attention to when the leaders of the UIA met with him in Najaf recently and they realize that dumping Jafari at this point will most likely cause the bloc to split into two weaker halves. Not only that, replacing Jafari will mean they accept to submit to pressures from smaller blocs and that would be too bad for their pride, morale and reputation among their supporters.
And this is the same reason why they didn't want the parliament to convene at this point before an agreement is reached because they also do not want their candidate to be officially voted down by the rest of the parliament.

Right now, the only way Jafari can be appointed as PM is probably through making huge concessions to the Kurds and Sunni and secular blocs. In the Kurds' case, the UIA will probably promise them to put article 58 of the TAL concerning Kirkuk into action and to extend the jurisdictions of the president (Talabani). The Sunni Arabs will probably be promised to get one of the security-related cabinet posts in addition to agreeing to establish a "National Security Council" with equal representation for all the major blocs but of course all this depends on considering that the 4 blocs will have enough trust among them to buy promises.

As matter of fact, Azzaman has written about a similar deal this morning and their version includes giving Allawi the position of deputy prime minister with wide jurisdictions in the economy field in addition to the above points.

It seems to make sense that the UIA do not want to reach agreement with the others on the presidency and chairmanship of the parliament before they guarantee that their candidate is going to win the trust of a parliamentary majority because they fear the scenario of a 'coup' from the other blocs (with 145 seats) who can appoint a PM from outside the UIA because once the presidency council is elected it will take only 138 votes to approve a PM. As a matter of facts, there are rumors leaking from political salons about the Kurds discussing plans with the Sunni and secular blocs to make Allawi the new PM after voting down the candidate(s) of the UIA.

Speaking of Allawi, the man pointed out something quite interesting when he said in a televised interview last night that he's got members of the UIA on his side "though they wouldn't declare that in public".

I think the best way for the UIA out of this embarrassing situation is to convince Jafari to step down and then it would be viewed as a move from him as an individual, not from his bloc and therefore spare the UIA the waste of dignity and make Jafari look like someone who really cares for the progress of the political process and unity of Iraq.

Anyway, we'd better wait till Thursday night or better Friday before making more speculations as that's when leaders of the different blocs are scheduled to meet and decide a date for the parliament to convene.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Mortars were louder than reason in Baghdad today...

We woke up this morning to the sounds of many explosions in Baghdad and since we are familiar with those sounds we recognized that these were no doubt mortar shelling but not like the usual which is one or two rounds fired by some terrorists in a hit and run manner; this time fire was exchanged between two or more groups and lasted for more than an hour.

Mortars are blind and whoever uses this kind of dumb weapon that belongs to WWI is blind too. Maybe they make good weapons in open battlefields but using mortars inside crowded cities reflects savage insanity that forces you to pick a mortar-lottery ticket and hope not to be the unfortunate winner.

When you count the homes in Baghdad and the number of daily mortars and using some logarithmic equations of probabilities you feel somewhat relieved by knowing that you're unlikely watch a mortar round fall on your head and after each time you hear the bang of one of those dumb things you realize that it fell sufficiently away from you and you hope that it didn't hurt someone.

I wasn't home this morning but I was close enough to home to know that the relatively unusual intense bombardment was close to my neighborhood.
It still felt 'normal' until my cell phone rang, I picked up and it was my father.

Yes dad?
Are you coming home soon Mohammed?
Yes, why?
I just want to tell you not to panic when you see the crowd and police vehicles in our alley…
What's wrong? What happened?
Don't worry (said the old seasoned former soldier) it's just a mortar round; it hit the home of one of our neighbors, some 60 meters from ours.
Anyone hurt?
No, no one was hurt….

I rushed home as fast as I could and when I arrived I learned that my father instructed the family to remain in the small bomb-shelter we have in the back yard. "They come in threes and fours, so I thought it was safer to keep them there for a while, until we're sure the attack is over" my dad explained.

Those were moments that brought a strong flashback from the days of previous wars especially with a strong smell of gunpowder in the air.

What is happening to us? Many questions rang in my head at that moment that were nagging for answers. I looked at my father and I prayed he could help me put things into perspective.

I always talk to my father when things get complicated; this man lived through the times of the monarchy, the first republic, the pan-Arab nationalists and the Ba'ath and he's from the generation that ruled Iraq for decades and many of our current politicians belong to this generation. This makes men like my father closer to understanding the way his generation thinks as well as its internal conflicts, so I threw at him the urging questions and confused thoughts I had in my head:

Me: How is this mess going to resolve dad?

Dad: it is not.

Me: Are you positive? Why?

Dad: People find solutions only if they wanted to and I think many of the political players do not want a solution.

Me: Is there a chance the situation will further escalate?

Dad: Most likely yes, we are a state still run by sentiments rather than reason which means it's a brittle state and any sentimental overreaction can turn the tide it in either direction.

Me: what kinds of challenges can make things worse?

Dad: Virtually anything…assassinating a leader, a fatwa, attack on a shrine like last time; we do not possess the institutions that can abolish the effects of severe sentimental reactions.

Me: Is there going to be no role for politics?

Dad: What politics are you talking about?! We are dealing with deeply-rooted beliefs…Yes, in politics everything is possible but with religion you find yourself before very few options to choose from and our people have mostly voted for the religious.

Me: And what's America's role here? Will they stand by and watch while things go against what the way they desire?

Dad: Why do you always put America in the face of the canon? America is a super power but it's not superman. These are our problems now and America has nothing to do with it. We have to fix our mess or no one will.

Me: But their interests and presence here makes Iraq's stability a top priority for them, right?

Dad: And this stability is not going to happen soon…Why do you always want things to be the way you like them? Failure exists just like success does.

Me: Will America leave Iraq?

Dad: Not now of course but they will at the nearest possible chance. Don't forget that America had been in the region long before 2003 and Iraq is not an irreplaceable base. Syria and Iran can be dealt with from Turkey of the gulf countries.

Me: We need another 9th of April.

Dad: There will be no new 9th of April.

Me: Why do our politicians seek confrontation?

Dad: The religious seek death because after death comes heaven they believe…Do you want to deny them this dream?

Me: No but …will they really go to heaven?

Dad: hell, no!

As a people we have believed in democracy and elections as the best means to decide the future our new country. We do have different visions for democracy but the massive turnout in the last elections show that the majority of people are looking up to voting as a means to choose leaderships and get representation…

We chose our representatives and we know they have a variety of programs and visions for the country and we hoped that the difference in opinions and exchange of thoughts would initiate constructive debase and bring up better decisions.
We the voters expressed our differences through the box and the paper and every one of us voted for the person or party he or she deemed the best.

And in the same manner our representatives should restrict expressing their differences to the halls of the parliament because that's what we chose them to do in the first place and violating this by turning their differences into a violent conflict in the streets is a outrageous betrayal to the people and it's so far away from the way we chose for ourselves to work out our differences.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Mesopotamia…amid a political storm.

As we predicted in our Wednesday post, Jafari's visit to Turkey did complicate the political process in a bad way.
It's not news that from the beginning, Kurds, Sunni and secular blocs weren't comfortable with the UIA's nomination of Jafari but the latter's latest suspicious step pushed them to declare their opposition and officially ask the UIA to nominate someone other than Jafari to head the cabinet.

Of course the UIA rejected this request, Jawad al-Maliki the Dawa party 2nd man said on TV today that the "UIA will not change their candidate and the other parties will have to accept our choice".

The Kurds, Sunni and seculars will still have a chance to force the UIA to replace Jafari because their votes are necessary for approving the cabinet.
What really worries me here is that the UIA knows this mechanism which is stated in the constitution yet they refuse to change their mind which makes one suspect they have no intention to compromise and they want to do some arm-twisting telling the others to 'either accept Jafari or face the danger of halting the entire political process' .
They're playing a very dangerous game that only those who don't care for the unity of the country would dare play.

The feeling that the UIA does not care much for a united Iraq is not something I made up, because this is what newspapers that speak for the UIA are saying. Here are 5 points that al-Bayina al-Jadeeda listed yesterday and described as the "demands of the people of the south".

1-Accelerating the political process and rejecting any opposition for the will of the Umma and forming the government according to election results.

2-Reforming the judicial system and dismissing the corrupt judges and working on punishing the Saddamists, terrorists and Ba'athists.

3-The Kurds must refrain from confronting the will of the Umma as they shared the suffering with us during the days of the past regime.

4-Ousting the Saddamists from the political process and this must include those who speak in Saddam's language.

5-The people will cut off the riches of the south from the Saddamists and the Kurds and anyone who opposes the will of the Umma.

Point #2 is actually much more dangerous than it may seem to the foreign reader; replacing 'corrupt' judges with 'good' judges cannot be done overnight because it requires years to prepare judges. This point is in fact a hidden call for replacing civil courts with Sharia courts because Sharia courts headed by clerics are way faster in making decisions and executing the unwanted elements; just like Muqtada's Sharia courts in Najaf executed dozens people in a matter of days.
Also note that in the last point the terms south and Kurds are geopolitical terms which make me believe that "Saddamists" here refers to the Sunni center.

The UIA always say that the choice of the majority must be respected and I see nothing wrong in this principle but in this case the leaders of the UIA are contradicting themselves and are violating the very same principle they long defended.
They are forgetting (or pretending to be forgetting) the fact that the calls for replacing Jafari reflects the will of the majority represented by the Kurdish, Sunni and secular blocs which collectively have 53% of the seats in the parliament.

The UIA have made it clear that what they want is to either rule the whole country in the way like or rule part of Iraq in the way they like; more precisely in the way their religious references in Najaf and Tehran.
I'm not sure if you're familiar with this but did you know the internal charter of the SCIRI states that the party reports to the Murshid, who currently is Khamena'i?

What makes me cynical about the UIA is that the Shia parties endorse taqiyya which allows them to express false attitudes other than the ones they really adopt for the sake of preserving the 'faith' until they are strong enough to declare their real hidden stance.

They can prove this is a wrong impression; they still have the chance to accept sharing power with others and make compromises.
Unfortunately that seems unlikely at this point.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Am I supposed to feel safe...

When I see this?

From Healing Iraq.

Selling the same bird twice!

That's what we say in Baghdad about bird keepers who raise good pigeons that they can sell them over and over again because the birds would find their way back to their original owner. The same is used to describe frauds who manage to deceive people and sell the same item to more than one customer or to the same customer twice.
Of course I'm not trying to give you a lesson in Iraqi dialect but I thought the title fits the issue I want to talk about today…

A new political fight erupted between President Talabani and Prime Minister Jafari after the latter's controversial visit to Turkey.

Talabani's reaction was immediate and came in an official statement from his office:

The presidency was surprised by outgoing prime minister Jafari's visit to the Turkish Republic without prior notice to the other wings of the Iraqi government which consists-according to articles 24,25 of the still active TAL-consists of the cabinet, the presidency, the chairmanship of the parliament and the supreme judicial council.

The interim cabinet does not have the authority to do negotiations with other countries that might result in any sort of deal or agreement or memo of understanding which can put the permanent Iraqi government before commitments it will not be capable of fulfilling.

We are sorry that Mr. Jafari made this decision which does not match Mr. Jafari's promises about committing to the guidelines of 'team work'.
The Iraqi government will not approve any deal or agreement made between Mr. Jafari and the Turkish government….

Prominent Kurdish politician Mahmoud Othman in a statement given to al-Sabah reflected the Kurds' fear "from Turkish policy and in particular from negotiations between the Iraqi and Turkish governments without a Kurdish party taking part…".

The UIA's Ridha Jawad Taqi responded to the Kurdish criticism and told al-Sabah in an interview that "the reason why the Kurdish brothers are upset was because Mr. Jafari didn't ask the foreign minister Zibari to accompany him. There's no reason for this overreaction. The visit was only for a few hours and there's nothing that forbids the prim minister from traveling without notifying the presidency or the parliament".

The news of Jafari's trip left a bad impression among many Iraqis considering the critical time Iraq is going through. One local newspaper said "we were expecting the prime minister to cancel all trips and forbid his cabinet members to leave the country at this time of crisis but he shocked us with his sudden urge to visit the beaches of Istanbul!".

The trip was particularly disturbing for the Kurds who are chronically allergic to Turkey.

Today there has been a big conference for the provincial administrations of the 9 mid-south and south provinces (from Hilla to Basra) to discuss the idea of establishing the 'federation of the south'.
This supports the theory that predicts that Jafari's visit to Turkey had most likely the objective of discussing necessary arrangements with the Turks before declaring the establishment of the 'federation of the south' mentioned above.

I think the UIA had the intention to make this move for some time now and they seized the latest wave of sectarian tension to revive their idea of federalism and start discussing arrangements with Turkey.
It's not a secret that the UIA had been dreaming of a sectarian state in the south and of taking over the oil riches of the country which is concentrated in Basra and Amara.
But the new state has to gain the approval of the neighboring powers and a large deal of that is Turkey's approval and support. And I assume that most of Jafari's time in Turkey was dedicated to discussing the fate of Kirkuk which is as you know another oil-rich province with an ethnically mixed population with the Kurds dreaming of uniting it with the rest of their region for years.

There's still a good deal of mystery still surrounding Jafari's talks in Turkey but the angry Kurdish reaction indicates that Kirkuk is involved, probably Jafari wanted to practice pressure on the Kurds by telling them that he will obstruct their pursuit of Kirkuk if they refuse to support him in the parliament.

This is my theory and I could be wrong but what I'm sure of is that this will only complicate the political process even more than it already is.