Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Sultans' Preachers.

Recently I have been spending much more time reading than writing and I must admit I found myself amidst a difficult conflict between the urge to blog more and the need to read more but reading won at the end, especially that I hardly read a half dozen books during the last three years while I was busy writing several hundreds of posts.

I consider myself particularly lucky that I could read some very interesting books, thanks to the three bookworms in the family; Mohammed, Ali and the ITM father.
They were excited that I decided to do more reading and flooded me with recommendations for books they consider must reads.

One of the best books I read lately was the one jewel of a book "The Sultans' Preachers" by late Dr. Ali al-Wardi, Iraq's 20th century's brilliant sociologist and sharp, straightforward thinker.

This book, unfortunately not available in English so far, is in my opinion a must read for anyone who wants to build good understanding of the Arab and Muslim countries and the factors that shaped the culture over centuries until it reached what we see today.
The author in this book takes a close look at the conflict that arose between the Bedouin culture of pre-Islam desert Arabs and the teachings of Islam and sheds light on what he calls the "double personality" of Muslim Arabs which was the most visible and destructive outcome of that psychological conflict.

The best thing about the book is the direct and frank way it tackled the relationship between rulers and clerics; the two wings of the unholy alliances that controlled, persecuted and abused the peoples of the region for so long, each with its own special tools.

I'm not good at writing reviews but all I can say is that this was the most informative and mind-opening book about Iraq and the Arabic Islamic culture I've ever read; especially when it comes to analyzing the relationship between religion and the state and exposing the role of clerics in facilitating the atrocities that were committed against humanity in the name of the Islamic faith.

And I believe it can be so handy to researchers, politicians and anyone interested in Middle Eastern culture, history and politics, so if there's anyone reading this and has the capability and interest in making a valuable book available for western readers then I encourage them to consider this one.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Battle for the Middle East.

I had read some arguments about how the war in Iraq and the war on terror in general are as critical as WWII or the cold war were to the western world.

Of course the differences between those conflicts are numerous and obvious but they all are the same when it comes to the threats they carried/carry to the present and future of our world, and in all three wars the conflict was about eliminating the threat of extremely dangerous doctrines; fascism, Nazism, communism and now violent religious extremism and tyranny.

I will try to keep this as short and straightforward as I can and I will try to view the situation from as far as I can from the focus of the conflict, I mean I will try to speak as just one other human being who lives in this small village we call earth.

One of our biggest problems here is that many of us and of our politicians in particular seem to have lost the ability to strategic vision and allowed themselves to indulge in details and are satisfied by looking at only one corner of the image that they are no longer able to comprehend the magnitude of this critical conflict of our time.

I am an Iraqi so naturally I am only interested in what's going on within the borders of my country or even the city where I live, just like most people in the third world are, and this is fine and expected.
But what's neither fine nor acceptable is to see politicians and decision-makers, who are supposed to be the leaders of the new world order, think and behave in the same manner as third world citizens.

All they seem to think about is how to get away from this debilitating conflict in Iraq no matter what the outcome would be. Even worse, few people seem to realize what the amplifications of a defeat in Iraq would be on the Middle East and the rest of our small global village.

The situation is bad in Iraq, it's bad for both Iraqis and Americans alike and looking at the way the war is being managed right now makes me extremely worried about the future of our world. I am that worried that I feel I, or the next generations of my people, won't be safe in this world even if we were born and lived elsewhere.

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Iraq might turn into a second Somalia within a year if the situation is allowed to keep descending the way it's doing now.
The Islamic Sharia courts are ruling now in Somalia while in Iraq they function undercover and it's still in our hands to stop them from extending their influence and from becoming the rule instead of the exception they are today.

Let's call the battle for middle east, and I think politicians do not need anyone to explain to them what this part of the world means…the outcome of war in Iraq does not affect Iraq alone, a victory means disrupting the ring of terror and extremism the enemies are trying to establish while failure would be equal to allowing them to establish that huge ring, or should I say that gigantic octopus of terrorists and terror-supporting regimes that would extend from Afghanistan in the east to Libya in the west and from Iraq in the north to Sudan and Somalia in the south.

And instead of creating islands of democracy and liberty, connecting them and extend from there to change the world to the better, the enemies would engulf those islands and add them to their multi-jointed entity of terror.

We need the decision-makers to rise above the rhetoric of who's right and who's wrong and focus on protecting the world from falling prey to the vicious enemies of civilization.

We are in the middle of this situation now and losing is not an option.
You know what, maybe the world isn't going to harvest direct benefits from winning the battle of Iraq but the world still has to spare no effort to win this battle, again not because winning will bring direct benefits but because losing here will bring subsequent losses that would no doubt be great.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Amara lesson.

What will happen if the MNF are withdrawn prematurely before the job is done?

Perhaps the lesson from the recent troubles in Amara when militias took over large parts of the city gives a clear answer and offers Iraqis and the allies a forecast of what the future holds for us should we make the wrong decisions.

I think the decision to announce a phased withdrawal of troops (which is now dubbed as a phased handover of security responsibility) was made without putting in consideration the developments on the ground. And I think pressures on the American and British governments accelerated the process in a reactionary protective manner rather than a rational pragmatic one.

I suspect the allies and the Iraqi government were fully aware of that time bomb called militias but they turned their backs on this fact and acted as if the mission is moving forward smoothly without any disruptions.
It is easy to do it on paper…It takes no more than a small celebratory ceremony…lower this flag, fly the other one and invite officials, generals and journalists to publicize the meaningless event.
But at the same time the other camp represented by the militias was watching cheerfully and celebrating their riddance of an obstacle that was preventing them from taking over cities like Amara.

What happened in Amara for example was not unexpected and it should be a lesson for those who keep saying that the problem is in the "occupation" and that when foreign presence ends the country would live in peace and stability.
But what took place on the ground reveals and confirms once again who is really responsible for disrupting peace and creating chaos.
And it's also a warning signal to the leaders of the coaltion of what might happen if troops are withdrawn before the job is done or if the job is done incorrectly.

There would be utter mess and death and all the blood and treasure that were spent would be wasted. Even worse, the world will have to face a new additional body of extremism and Iraq will be a threat to stability instead of an example of democracy and liberty.

If that is allowed to happen the world will have yet bigger challenges to face and confronting those threats then will be much more difficult and costly than trying to win the war we had already gone a long way in.
These shortcomings and setbacks occurred because the responsible parties have not dealing efficiently enough with the situation and are allowing political pressure to force them to look for quick exits which are often entrances to deeper and worse problems.

Time is certainly a critical factor in this war and a quick response to stop the deterioration is needed here. I mean I want this war to end as soon as possible and I wish we can get the Iraqi troops to handle the security responsibilities in 6 months instead of 12 or 18 but we must be logical with our plans and expectations.
And we must not allow the virtual lines of time guide our decisions or force us to make steps that damage our interests.
What we need our leaders to do now is to agree on plans and measures and work together to achieve our mutual goals but the reason why I'm worried is that I see that the American government and our PM Maliki still need to work around some of their obvious differences.

Action must be based upon a clear, well studied strategy combined with determination to acknowledge and correct mistakes rather than running away from them or just whining about them which seems to be the strategy of many these days.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Air Strikes in Baghdad.

Looks like there's something big going on in Baghdad to night.
Flares are filling the skies and fighter jets are striking targets in the city.

In the last 30 minutes I could see several aircrafts launching missiles and within seconds explosions would follow.

I will try to keep you updated once I learn more about this.

11:20 pm

No further explosions can be heard now but the jets of the US airforce still maintain heavy presence over the east, northeast parts of the city.

11:55 pm

Air activity has faded...seems that what happened in the past hour was likely a limited operation in sectors of Baghdad in and around Sadr city.
What I still can't figure out is the thing with flares. Flares usually indicate that ground forces are involved but so far there have been no reports on ground action.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

That Mecca document.

Shia and Sunni Iraqi clerics were in Mecca last night to sign a document (or decree or treaty or whatever its name is!).
In my opinion choosing Mecca was not only for religious or spiritual reasons, actually I tend to believe that Saudi Arabia offered to host the meeting with such enthusiasm only to improve its image and change the general impression about it so that it's viewed as a country that supports peace and tolerance instead of a country that breeds extremism.

What the clerics agreed upon in that paper was no more than the fundamental fact and the first (or second) commandment in all religions; that is "murder is wrong".
How absurd and demeaning is that! As if they had to go to Holy Mecca to realize that murder is a crime. And as if they were admitting that until last night each sect's clerics didn't consider it a crime to murder someone from a different sect. Frankly I suspect there was never a time when they considered it a crime and I don't think signing that paper changed a thing.

With very rare exceptions, clerics are hypocrites who wear different faces for different times, situations and places, so all in all, I'm not expecting anything from that paper. Like Saudi Arabia, I think they went there and signed that paper also merely to improve their image and to pretend that they were/are not the ones to blame for the daily bloodshed in Iraq.

They want to satisfy their dead conscience and convince themselves that they had done their part of the job by signing that paper and that it's up to the people now to stop killing each other! As if it wasn't the militias they run and tensions they create that are causing the sectarian violence.

There's one other important point about the meeting that makes it rather impossible to expect it to make a difference on the ground; the two most vicious murderous factions that are responsible for most of the sectarian violence, i.e. al-Qaeda and Sadr's militia will not drop their weapons or stop their crimes just because some clerics signed a decree.

However, the document can possibly be of practical value only if it gets used in the right way; that is since the document alienates anyone who violates the points stated within, the MNF and the reluctant PM Maliki can take advantage of it and do what they have to do with people like Sadr who had long enjoyed unwritten immunity.

I mean if Sadr or certain Sunni groups refuse to abide by the articles of the decree and continue doing their daily dirty job then clerics and religious parties that signed the decree will have the pretext to stop the government or the MNF from taking action against them.
Still, this is just in theory.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Censorship and freedom of speech in Iraq: The Azzaman case.

Perhaps one of the hottest debates in the media community and its surroundings in Iraq these days is the one that was sparked by a controversial call from the speaker(s) of the parliament to the government to shut down al-Sharqiya channel.

The fury among the parliamentarians behind this call was apparently a reaction to the way the channel and its sister newspaper Azzaman covered and handled the story of the federalism law that was instated by the parliament last week.
Actually there was a particular report on Azzaman that went way far from objectivity and where the editor(s) obviously let the anger speak for them that they portrayed the MP's who turned the tide in that session as traitors who sold the country, blah blah blah.

I frankly do not like Al-Sharqiya channel nor I put much trust in Azzaman, or let's say I do not like its inclinations rather than its programs and reports, or at least some of them.
The channel and newspaper (both run by the same man Saad al-Bazzaz, once was the press advisor of Saddam) have a Baathist tone that is clear to the keen spectator/reader and it's one of those channels that are long time criticizers of America and the four Iraqi administrations that ruled the country since the fall of Saddam.
However, the channel has its admirable qualities as well. It now stands among the most popular Iraqi TV channels and it's the only secular one so to speak. It also gives entertainment a fair share of the broadcast time in contrast with most other channels that sound like a funeral house.

Anyway, I would not, by any means, support a campaign or a decision to silence this channel or its sister paper.
The diversity in voices and approaches is what makes today's Iraq different from what it used to be under a totalitarian regime and among the important forms of this diversity is that of media.

I was for the decision to put a ban on al-Jazeera a couple years ago because the damage al-Jazeera caused and poisons and provocations it spewed were so outrageous that made the ban sound very fair to me, but I was then against punishing al-Arabiya when the government ordered it to close its offices for a month.
Although al-Arabia is far from being perfectly objective, it hadn't done something that deserves a ban as a punishment.

Actually my greatest fear in this regard now is that this practice of arbitrary bans becomes systematic within the government and spreads to abolish the margin of freedom of speech we began to enjoy only three years ago.

Al-Sharqiya and Azzaman do spend most of their words and time on blaming America and the government or everything that went wrong in Iraq yet for a very long time they seemed to be rarely, if ever, willing to put some of the blame on the various factions of insurgents, and terrorists. Only recently they began to focus more on the atrocities committed by militias, especially Shia religious ones.

Al-Sharqiya and Azzaman do not support violence and this is something I admire in them, yet what I don't admire is that they tend to ignore the original sources of the violence that is sweeping large portions of our country.

Professor Cole wrote briefly about this and he wonders why the Communist Part and the Sadrists would defend Azzaman and al-Sharqiya (it's not al-Iraqiya Professor!).
I don't agree with Cole it's about posturing because I think the motives of the Sadrists are clear, first the ban was requested by the Sunni Islamist speaker of parliament Mashhadani, the National Iraqi List and the rival Shi SCIRI who both supported the vote and second because al-Sharqiya and Azzaman, like the Sadrists are both anti-American and anti-federalism.

On the other hand, it seems Mr. Cole didn't see clearly what the position of the Communist Party is regarding this issue. If you can read Arabic you will see, from the same Azzaman article that Cole referred to, that the Communist Part is clearly mad at al-Sharqiya and Azzaman but favors relatively more civilized measures in dealing with them. If I'm not mistaken, I read somewhere that the Communists want to sue Azzaman for what they published about the secretary general of the party, this can also be inferred from the same above link.

Perhaps what the editorial board of another Iraqi paper, al-Mada, wrote this morning presents the best understanding of the reasons why such conflicts between the government and the media keep happening.
Al-Mada reminded us and drew our attention to the fact that the press here does not have a functioning code of work ethics and that in general our press does not have clear lines to separate between reports and columns and opinion pieces.
In the same time, the executive and legislative authorities are yet to have the clear fair policy or the appropriate legislations that govern the way in which these authorities can deal with the press when they feel the press did something wrong.

I can say that both parties think and believe they were right in what they did and that their freedom grants them the right to do that but apparently they don’t realize that freedom without laws will be a mess.

Maybe it's time for both sides to start developing better standards of work and clear guidelines on how to coexist and do the service they are expected to do, and I hope this case motivates them to do so.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Me in the new Islamic State!

Nothing changed in my life as a Baghdadi since my city was announced a part of the Islamic State of al-Qaeda.

Of course I did not expect an improvement in electricity, security or other services but I was at least expecting a change in life style under the leadership of the new caliph Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (Abu who??).
I didn't see the women being forced to wear the chador nor did I see men switching to wear the official outfit of terror (the short dishdasha and the bushy dirty beard)!
And I did not see Mutawwa-like men carrying heavy sticks to beat people who break the laws of Sharia like we see in Saudi Arabia.
There's no ban on TV, sculptures, arts or wearing jeans!

I can notice even an increased presence of the government's security forces and I wonder how they could stay in Baghdad despite the declaration of the Islamic state!
Not only that, we did not see the policemen and soldiers executed in public as traitors and they were not even dismissed from service. On the contrary, their chief in the interior ministry is talking about reforms in the structure and force of the ministry and said he dismissed over 3,000 employees who were found not professional enough or not loyal enough to the county.

And the parliament still meets to agree or disagree and the PM still gives his statement through national TV and asks Bush whether he would be allowed to remain in office for another two months and Bush reassures him that he's an elected leader and will remain in office as long as the Iraqi people approve of his performance.

The Islamic State did not abolish the controversial federalism law that was instated after long debates and arguments, in fact it seems like it endorsed the law by announcing its own autonomous region in provinces that are supposed to be sympathetic r loyal to al-Qaeda despite the "lies" in the polls that say only 2% of Iraqis approve of al-Qaeda.
Offices and institutions did not change their regulations or functions and school curriculums are still the same and children go to schools by the millions against the will of the terrorists and n contrary to the press that claim no one can live here or practice any activity outside walls of their homes.

Yes of course living here is so tough beyond the imagination of many of outside spectators but this did not deter civil servants or students in their bulk from going on with their lives.

So what has changed then since the declaration?
Really, what was the cost or the effect on the ground other than the ink they used to print their announcement or the pennies they paid al-Jazeera to spread the news?!

To me it looks like the position of al-Qaeda has gotten so bad after the heavy blows it received at the hands of our liberators in the MNF and our brave brothers in our army and the patriots who rejected al-Qaeda and its agenda.

I think this was what forced those losers to make this meaningless announcement of a fake state. It reflects the undeniable desperation and the abandoning of their original ambitions, from a victory that drives away the Americans and the Iraqis who believed in the change to a pathetic maneuver such as this one.

But we are still here, at least the majority of us are,
Our liberators and allies are still here,
The voters are still here and the elected are still here.

The al-Qaeda is left with nothing but to fantasize about creating a caliph state as long as they still have a foothold in the country and hope that some locals would change their mind and side with them.

Ok fine, let them make their announcement but the indisputable fact remains that their state does not anywhere except for in their own sick minds.

Only two incidents can be counted among the amplifications of this move, the first was their failed assault against the offices of the local government in Mosul which left dozens of the assailants dead or arrested and the second was the attack in Salah Addin province that resulted in nothing but calls from the locals for further support from the government to assist them in abolishing the terror groups and in more reconciliation meetings between tribal leaders to forge unity against the takfiris.

There's no going back thirty years to the days of Saddam an there's no going back a thousand yeas to the days of the Caliphs.
It's over…

We have accepted the rough road and the outcome will not be in the benefit of the criminals. The war is tough, painful and hard but I have no doubt of the outcome that will mean the end for the supporters of tyranny and extremism.

Surrendering is much closer to them than it is to us and history will remember with pride those who sacrificed for the freedom of Iraq…
Maybe I will not live long to see that day but my children will certainly see it.

Sorry whiners, losers and pessimists. I only know to accept a challenge when I face one and I recognize only victory as an end.

Related comments from other Iraqi bloggers:

1-Al-Qaeda declares government, Islamic state in Iraq.
2-The Islamic state in Iraq!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

There are heroes, and there are criminals. The two never equate as victims.

There is one video I wish I can find on the web. It's a short video that was shown on al-Iraqiya last Friday evening and was replayed several times that night.

Until I can find a way to get a copy of the video and put it up I will try to share with you a description of what I saw…

It's about a police station somewhere in Iraq, the place was about to be hit by a suicide bomber riding a vehicle laden with explosives.
The driver approaches the entrance to the station which is surrounded by concrete walls. Several police officers open fire from their ak-47's on the incoming suicide bomber but he keeps closing in.

As the vehicle passes through the gate and past the last barricade all of the officers run away seeking shelter…except for one extraordinary man.
One police officer held his position and was still standing in the way of the terrorist and kept on firing his rifle at the windshield until the vehicle was just meters from the officer, then…BOOM.
End of video….

I watched the video over and over again and my amazement grew with every time I watched it…this is incredible…this is heroic…this is happening.

2 dead, (n) injured in a car bomb. That's what we would read in the news next day and then someone would come to make a body count and make a study about the human cost of the war and list the two men from the two extremes of this conflict, both as victims of the war!
So the policeman is a victim and the bomber too is a victim?…it sounds so cruel and unfair. A man who died to save his colleagues and a beast who killed himself to kill others cannot and must not be both counted as victims.
One is an anti-life criminal while the other is a hero, but on paper, some idiots describe them both as victims of the war.

Who knows?! Maybe there are some other idiots who count the 4,000 foreign terrorists whom al-Qaeda confessed were killed in Iraq as victims too!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Responding to the Lancet lies...

Pajamas invited us to respond to a study full of lies made by Burnham, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that claimed 665,000 Iraqis were killed since 2003. The disgraceful study is expected to be published on the website of The Lancet, a medical journal today.
The response was published last night on Pajamas, and here it is now in case you missed it.


Among the things I cannot accept is exploiting the suffering of people to make gains that are not the least related to easing the suffering of those people. I’m talking here about those researchers who used the transparency and open doors of the new Iraq to come and count the drops of blood we shed.

Human flesh is abundant and all they have to do is call this hospital or that office to get the count of casualties, even more they can knock on doors and ask us one by one and we would answer because we’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.

We believe in what we’re struggling for and we are proud of our sacrifices.

I wonder if that research team was willing to go to North Korea or Libya and I think they wouldn’t have the guts to dare ask Saddam to let them in and investigate deaths under his regime.

No, they would’ve shit their pants the moment they set foot in Iraq and they would find themselves surrounded by the Mukhabarat men counting their breaths. However, maybe they would have the chance to receive a gift from the tyrant in exchange for painting a rosy picture about his rule.

They shamelessly made an auction of our blood, and it didn’t make a difference if the blood was shed by a bomb or a bullet or a heart attack because the bigger the count the more useful it becomes to attack this or that policy in a political race and the more useful it becomes in cheerleading for murderous tyrannical regimes.

When the statistics announced by hospitals and military here, or even by the UN, did not satisfy their lust for more deaths, they resorted to mathematics to get a fake number that satisfies their sadistic urges.

When I read the report I can only feel apathy and inhumanity from those who did the count towards the victims and towards our suffering as a whole. I can tell they were so pleased when the equations their twisted minds designed led to those numbers and nothing can convince me that they did their so called research out of compassion or care.

To me their motives are clear, all they want is to prove that our struggle for freedom was the wrong thing to do. And they shamelessly use lies to do this…when they did not find the death they wanted to see on the ground, they faked it on paper! They disgust me…

This fake research is an insult to every man, woman and child who lost their lives.
Behind every drop of blood is a noble story of sacrifice for a just cause that is struggling for living safe in freedom and prosperity.

Let those fools know that nothing will stop us from walking this road and nothing will stop our friends and allies from helping us reach safe shores. There’s simply no going back even if it cost us more and their fake statistics will not frighten us…our sacrifices, like I said, make us proud because our bloods are not digits in those ugly papers. Our sacrifices are paving the way for future generations to live the better life we couldn’t live.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Massive explosions rock Baghdad!

Over the past 90 minutes or so, massive explosions could be heard in Baghdad and actually I'm hearing more of them while I'm typing.
When the first few bangs happened I thought they were just the usual dose of mortars for the night but more and more explosion kept happening!

I went up to the roof to see if anything could be seen from there and I was able to see several flashes coming from the south, south-west side of the city.
Using the simple method of measuring the lag between seeing the flash and hearing the sound I figured out the explosions are taking place somewhere in the area between Karrada and Dora, yet the explosions are very loud that they can be heard in the northern parts of Baghdad!
I'm searching the news for a clue about what's going on but I found nothing so far.

Update (12:35 am):

First news report on the situation is just in.

Reuters says the explosions were caused by a fire that broke out at "an ammunition dump at a U.S. base in southern Baghdad" apparently in the Dora district of Baghdad.

And yes, explosions can still be heard as of now.

Update (1:00 am):

It's been two hours since the first explosions were heard but I still hear more of them.
Right now I can hear several explosions a minute but they got milder than they were in the beginning, i.e. they are fairly loud but they no longer make doors and window shields shake in a 10 mile radius!

I can only imagine what it's been like over there and I can only pray that it did not cause casualties among US military or Iraqi civilians living nearby.

Update (2:20 am):

Less and less explosions can be heard now, I can say the frequency now is at about one every 5-10 minutes instead of 5-10 seconds, so I assume soon there will be no more explosions to hear.
I hope I'm right about my assumption because I really need to have a few hours of uninterrupted sleep...

Monday, October 09, 2006

On this and that...

This blog was not updated since Thursday and I personally did not write anything since last Monday and this really sucks.

I start to get this weird itchy feeling when I don’t write for some time, so here I am now in my pajamas trying to write mostly for the sake of writing, so unless you are as bored as I am and have 5 minutes to waste I do not recommend you go on and read more of this post. I'm sure you can find something more interesting than this.
Call it the week in review, call it a rambling…to me it's just my fix of blogging.

There were no big news from Iraq in the past few days…well, maybe there were some but they aren't considered big news for us anymore. You know, when today's headlines are almost the same as yesterday's and those of the day before you begin to lose interest in them and you just read them apathetically to stay in the loop.

Anyway, let’s take a look at some of the recent bigger stories. First there were the clashes in Diwaniya which can be seen as relatively good news since the operations led to the arrest of a vicious criminal who ordered the slaughter of a dozen Iraqi soldiers who ran out of ammunition during previous clashes back in August.
The funny thing is that Sadrists say it was not them who clashed with the raiding force and insist it was the residents of Diwaniya who did! Yeah sure, civilian residents organized 10 RPG teams out of the blue to attack that Abrams tank and defend the militia lieutenant! Ironically even the rival Badr leader Hadi al-Amiri insists it wasn't the Mehdi militia.

The IA and US army say it was Sadr's militia, the international media says so too and people in Iraq and especially in Diwanaiya know that too…Do they want us to buy their claims that such organized and heavily armed groups can find a place and act independently against the government and the MNF in provinces where the Sadrists and other politico-religious factions virtually control everything?
So who are they trying to fool? I have no idea!

Before that were the news about the national police brigade that was dismantled or sent for retraining after ties were discovered between the brigade's ranks and death squad activities. Some think this was a good first step but many still think many more similar decisions (and more radical ones) are needed because the defect seems to be systematic.

Today the brother of vice president Tariq al-Hashimi was assassinated (al-Hashimi lost another brother and a sister earlier this year in similar attacks) and I saw news reports indicating that gunmen in uniforms came in 10 official-looking vehicles and assassinated the man in a neighborhood that is supposed to be the jurisdictions of the IA, not the national police.
This raises concerns about the efficiency of the IA in this part of the capital which was the scene of heavy clashes last week, and of course suggests other national police units are likely still carrying out illegal operations.

Then there's the talk about the Iraq study group's possible recommendation to turn Iraq into three autonomous regions.

We talked about this some time ago and said that this would be very unlikely because supporters of federalism make up hardly a half of Iraq's parliament, so they have a rather poor chance at passing a legislation that gives too much power to the regional authorities at the expense of the central government.
I think also tough Sunni opposition for putting federalism into action and the strong rivalries among Shia parties, who are divided over this issue, will slow down if not kill the project.
However, a change in the political map in Iraq can change the equation in a way that allows federalism to be implemented, but that change would have to be dramatic, i.e. federalism in the form of three highly autonomous regions can only see the light under a parliament other than the one we have now.

This leads me to the other ambiguous headline I read yesterday about the American administration setting a deadline for Maliki's government to fix up things in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad.
I must say that I feel there IS some kind of deadline because this is not the first time we hear of this sort of things.
If I'm not mistaken, a few weeks back in September Lee Hamilton from the Iraqi study group did say that Maliki's government has got three months to improve security and restore basic services in Baghdad and now, almost a month after that, ambassador Khalilzad says that the time is down to two months, and this makes me think the clock is already ticking.

But it remains very difficult at this point to predict what the administration in D.C had planned for when the deadline is due; is it just a warning shot for Maliki to motivate him to work harder and make the tough decisions the US wants him to make regarding issues like disbanding militias?
Or if there are plans for "critical action" as Khalilzad said, what kind of action would that be, military or political, or both? And how "critical" would that action be?
We can only speculate at this point, some people here suspect America will start to disengage from Iraq if things remain as bad as they are by the end of the year while others believe the exact opposite is going to happen and think America will push forward with even more power and launch a wide and relentless military campaign that might even target political factions that are part of the current government.

Meanwhile and far away from Baghdad, our old friend from the axis of evil tested his first nuke.
I read on the news that the power of the explosion was little more than half a kiloton which sounds like a very small device compared to the multi-megaton devices owned by the US or Russia but I'm very interested to know the dimensions and mass of the device and I hope experts and intelligence can reveal some information about that because the smaller the device the easier it becomes to transport and deploy it.
I can't believe the world leaders let this happen! Now the world is under the mercy of a crazy man and his oppressive communist regime who wanted the bomb so badly that they let their people starve in this crazy pursuit for power.

What's going to be next? Will the world move to disarm North Korea? Will there be measures to stop it from sharing the bomb with terrorists?
I don't even want to think of it because looking at how our world works today I can see headlines coming two or three years from now telling us that Iran tested a bomb…well I think we'll be lucky if we got to read the news instead of being part of it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

America's sin...Hesitation.

In the last post we talked about the biggest mistakes of Iraqi leaders and politicians and today I'm going to talk about America's mistakes. I chose this order for my thoughts because Iraqis with their mistakes contributed more to the current problems in Iraq than America did.

America too had her share of mistakes that made things go in the wrong direction instead of helping out. Perhaps America's biggest mistake was the hesitation in keeping up the strategy of preemptive war.

Yes, America used that strategy in Iraq but failed to go on, and instead of chasing terrorists, America stopped at Iraq and sat waiting for terrorists to come in.

Keeping a large number of troops in Iraq and hoping they could root out terrorists can only be described as a bad plan. It really wouldn't matter much if we had 50 thousand in stead of 150 thousand troops in Iraq and in fact what really matters is the distribution of these troops.
If we look back at the record of the war since April 2003 we'll see that adding more troops on the ground resulted only in making the enemy call for more reinforcements and the war kept getting more violent.
In other words, how much troops we have is not the question, where we put the troops is.

The huge mass of military power looks dull here and there's no meaningful objective for its presence but to protect the political structure of post-Saddam Iraq and this can be done with much less troops than there is now in Iraq.
It is unfair to leave this highly-trained, heavily-equipped mighty forces to fight a guerilla war against gangs and faceless insurgents and militias armed with old rifles and rusty mortars.
All the sophisticated warplanes, tanks and big organized units will have not have a chance to make the desired impact on the ground or meet the goals such units are built to achieve, which means smaller, more agile units backed by strong intelligence-gathering capabilities can replace the bigger units when the latter can move on to engage bigger targets elsewhere.

The insurgents, terrorists and militias operating in Iraq depend on foreign support for money, training, technology and in some cases men. Moreover the influence of foreign interference is clear even in the political arena in Iraq through the numerous political crises the country had faced.
Thus, this war will not see an end unless America revives the preemptive war strategy and start chasing the enemies and striking their bases in the region, especially in Syria and Iran.

We all saw how Saddam's regime collapsed in two weeks and we learned then how fragile and weak that regime and similar regimes are. And we discovered how ridiculous and futile the rage and warnings of the "Arab and Muslim street" were.

The same thing can happen to Syria or Iran; there's every reason to believe that regimes and armies will fall apart and surrender in the same manner that we saw in Iraq, and few will volunteer to stop Asad or Ahmedinejad from falling.
When this happens it will recharge the war on terror with great momentum and then Syria and Iran will no longer serve as training camps and recreation resorts for terrorists. The entire region from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean will be a dangerous place for terrorists just like Iraq and Afghanistan are and terrorists will have to keep running and hiding and will not be capable of launching organized campaigns from secure bases.
By expanding the war on terror to engulf these major terror hideouts, the huge military force will once again resume playing its logical role as a hunter not as a target trying to defend itself against incoming enemies.

Like what happened with OIF, the price of the operation itself would be much lower than the price of waiting and when the troops finish their primary objectives the peoples of the liberated countries and the troops will have the advantage over the remaining terrorists who will have their finance and support network disrupted.
Terrorists will then be forced southwards to Somalia, Yemen and Sudan which are countries already having problems with the international community and incapable of providing generous support for fleeing terror groups.

America's worst mistakes were hesitation, failing to invest the initial victory in Iraq and Afghanistan and not using her power and influence to achieve more. America simply did not act like a winner but instead stood idly like a weary giant doing nothing but complain about mosquito bites.

Some might ask…Do we have to do all of this? Go through all these battles and change those regimes?
My answer is Yes. For one reason; terrorists and terror-supporting regimes have chosen war and America, and the values it stands for, is the target and they will not stop shooting at America until they are dead or arrested.

It is a war that was imposed on the free world by murderous maniacs who would do anything to destroy the human civilization and they would not hesitate to use any means to destroy those who are different. Fighting those criminals now will cost less blood and resources than fighting them later.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The four sins...

Optimism about the future of Iraq has obviously decreased whether among Iraqis or their allies and conditions are seemingly taking a steep slope down to the worse.

There's a growing feeling here in Iraq and especially in Baghdad that things were much better say a year after the liberation than they are now.

How did this deterioration happen? For example when it comes to security…violence is increasing although the Iraqi police and army are steadily growing!
Moreover, chances for major reconstruction and economic development look poor amidst all the corruption and violence.
The people, in spite of their courage in challenging the extraordinary rough conditions and their amazing patience cannot afford now to pay attention for much beyond their personal safety and the people's concerns about their survival are increasingly replacing hopes and ambitions.

I want after this introduction to illustrate the reasons behind this grim reality.
Those reasons are numerous; local, regional and international, so in this post I will begin to identify the local Iraqi reasons and I will list them according to electoral weight of powers in question and their share of responsibility.
I will be talking only about leaderships, not the people because the latter expressed their choices in a civilized way but the leaderships led us to this unpleasant situation through a number of mistakes that I'm going to list one by one…

First is Sunni stupidity: The Sunni leaderships fell in the gravest mistakes the day they adopted the pan-Arab Baathist ideology of the past regime and stuck to the Saddamist ways without any consideration for the changes in the world in general and in Iraq in particular.

Sunni leaders dragged the Sunni body into a confrontation with a superpower and with other components of the Iraqi people, and happened despite the fact that Sunni communities hardly fired a bullet at the allied forces back during OIF and made an unconditional surrender.
The leaderships did not use the position to make something good out of it but instead used the collapsed organizations of the past regime to swim against the current in a suicidal stupid move blessed by Arab regimes awed by the fall of the idol.

Second is the treason of Shia leaderships; those are the ones who encouraged America to make the change and made all kinds of promises that they would contribute to leading the new Iraq in a way that plants the seeds of democracy and pluralism in the entire Middle East. In fact they were hiding their true intentions.

Those leaders pretended to be America's allies in the beginning but the Taqiyya soon faded away when those leaders seized offices and powers.
They went back to the laps of their primary sponsor replaced America's friendship with Iran's and abandoned the idea of a modern state for a stupid dream of building an Iran-style theocracy in Iraq.

Kurdish opportunism comes third. The closest friends and allies of America in Iraq let her down the day they put their plans for a separate Kurdish state above everything else and took advantage of the weaknesses of the center to make more gains for their project of an ethnic state.
So instead of having the Kurds and their pioneer experience as an element of stability for the rest of the country they became yet another element of instability and weakness. They presented the first chapter of ingratitude for America who was hoping the Kurdish experiment could become an example that can be reproduced and spread southwards.

Fourth and last of local reasons is the weakness, incompetence and confusion surrounding the liberal leaderships:

Those liberal leaders in spite of what they achieved in the beginning, allowed themselves to be infected with a very dangerous type of narcissistic selfishness.
They closed their ears, eyes and mouths to the then approaching theocratic threat.
Their selfishness and ego were the reason for many conflicts among liberal parties the thing that led to their collective lousy results in the elections.
Instead of joining their forces to stop the theocratic tide, liberal politicians like Allawi, Chalabi and the like were busy fighting each other at a so critical point in time.
Watching that happen, many secular politicians found themselves choosing to go under the umbrella of religious or ethnic blocs in order not to miss the chance to have a seat in the parliament.

Even worse, after two rounds of elections and winning a humble number of seats, they did not act like mature opposition and they did not take advantage of the poor performance of religious parties to improve their positions.
All they did was mostly to sit dumb and dull, adding nothing good to their record if not losing some points.

In my opinion these were the reasons from the Iraqi side of the equation. Next time I will talk about the American side.

Monday, October 02, 2006

About those poll numbers...

I've been trying to write about this poll and its results-which many consider depressing while I consider interesting-and I had received many emails asking and looking for answers but I was distracted by the rising tension in Baghdad and the unexpected curfew.

I'm not going to apologize, praise or give excuses for what was shown about my people's attitude in that poll but I will try to find some objective answers and identify relevant factors of influence that led to these results.

Now that I spent enough time mulling this over, I can say that having 40% of Iraqis who disapprove of attacks on US troops is actually a surprising figure (in a good way) and it's not that bad at all. I mean the numbers indicate that war has more support in Iraq than it has in the UK itself or in countries in the Middle East where America is not waging a war! But again, if we want to comment on these numbers we need to keep a few points in our minds…

The magnitude of pressure and misinformation the people here are subject to from the media is a factor that cannot be ignored. Since April 2003 and till now virtually all the media kept describing the US presence as a force of occupation even when the legal status of the forces ceased to be so long time ago.
For over three years, the media kept focusing on the mistakes and shortcomings of the US military and US administration in what I can only describe as force-feeding hatred to the Iraqi people.

It's not only the media, there are also our politicians. A good deal of the political class here is guilty of treason; some betrayed the US after posing as allies and friends while some betrayed the people by dragging them to an absolutely unnecessary confrontation with the US military.
Both types have been trying to convince the people that America is responsible for instability and chaos in Iraq.

The behavior of Iraq's neighbors, Arab league, UN and the anti-war crowds in America and Europe has had a no better influence than the media or our irrational politicians and clerics.

What do you expect the attitude of the common Iraqi to be when he watches, hears or reads about the fairly wide anti-war movement in the west?
When there are Americans who say America is wrong or say the war isn't for a just cause and when Americans say the US presence in Iraq is bad, and when that is the only side of the image the media focuses on, it becomes an invitation for Iraqis to resist this presence and there's no doubt many will answer the invitation whether with words or violent action since they will get the impression that they're legitimately resisting something bad.

We have little in our culture about compromise or working-out-our-differences-peacefully. Radical solutions often seem more tempting to the ordinary, less educated people.
When everyone, and I mean everyone, keeps telling them America is their enemy, the common reaction would certainly involve violent means of expression…yes, that's our common way in showing our disagreement with others in this part of the world.
It sucks, it's backward and it's savage but it's the fact and it will not change overnight, such changes happen slowly.

We should not expect pleasing answers from confused people, living in extremely difficult conditions, subjected to extreme emotional, physical and psychological stress and being misguided and misinformed by biased media and corrupt leaders.

After all this pressure and suffering, 40% of Iraqis still view America as their friend…now really, you can't find that in many countries that America did not fire a single bullet at especially in the Middle East.
There are 40% of Iraqis who view American soldiers (not only American people) as friends and in my opinion this should be considered a good foundation for building a much better relationship.
Some improvement in performance combined with removing some of the sources of negative influence can make the numbers change drastically.

I said in the beginning I would not apologize for or praise my people's attitude but I've changed my mind. I can't ignore the part of the poll that says 94% of Iraqis disapprove of al-Qaeda! I'm sure we can't get such a result anywhere else in the Arab or Muslim world…well, maybe not even in the west…who knows!