Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Peaceful methods.

I’ve just heard about the execution of the 12 Nepalese hostages and I want to send my sincere condolence to their families on their terrible loss at the hands of the criminals who call themselves resistance.

On the other hand, I was following the news about kidnaping the french reporters and the demands of their kidnappers regarding Hijab ban, and frankly I was surprised at the beginning, as France was always in a way or another supporting the “Iraqi resistance” plus that reporters in general have served a good role in giving some sort of legitimacy to the so-called resistance. So why would the kidnapers do that, especially when it seems that there’s no money involved in the deal? Are they serious about their demands or are they just trying to satisfy their ill nature by killing innocents just because they are foreigners claiming they are doing this to support Islam and Muslims in France?

There’s a wide variation of organizations that adapt kidnaping foreigner in Iraq with quite a various agenda for each group and it’s not easy to tell to which group these particular kidnapers belong until the case ends with either killing the hostages or releasing them. However, and after listening to reactions inside and outside Iraq to the threat to kill the french journalists, the whole issue seems less vague and I can say I have an idea about why they are doing this and what the outcome will be.

I’ll take the ‘risk’ and say that these criminals won’t kill the reporters and they will free them, although it may take longer than 24 hours. I hope I’m right and I wish I’m not hallucinating but I have reasons for such believe.

I believe that these people are not concerned at all about the Hijab issue and that it’s not a coincidence that they carried this operation in Iraq and not anywhere else, although they are using the Hijab ban as an excuse to get some support from some Muslims that are emotional more than rational.

The other point is that France was and still friendly to most arab and Muslim government which are the usual source for financing terrorist groups in Iraq, so why being ungrateful and why piss them of? It is true that one of the objectives of terrorists in such operations is to discourage foreigners from coming to Iraq so that Iraq looks very unsafe and so that construction efforts get hindered when workers and firms refuse to come to Iraq or demand higher wages. However, reporters are not included, as they are the ones who are supposed to tell the world what a chaotic place Iraq is, and many of them are doing so with different intentions. The only exceptions is when the reporter comes from a very ‘evil’ nation such as Italy, USA, UK...etc.

It’s worth noting that most of the kidnaping are not carried out by ‘true Islamists’; meaning people similar to Bin laden, but rather fascists and ex-Baáthists with some weak Islamists who are ready to compromise unlike the very determined suicide attacks carriers and planners.

The other point that made me believe this is just a bluff is the attitude of certain organizations towards this event such as the “Association of Sunni Scholars”. These people are usually in close contact with the kidnapers (if not in alliance) and they only show efforts to release the hostages when they know it’s possible, and have tried to obtain political gains through playing this role, like what happened after the release of the Japanese hostages (which were released because most Iraqis believe that japan is a very friendly nation and they didn’t want to look bad by killing innocents). Even Al Jazerra showed their strong disapproval of such action for the 1st time when they always remained ‘neutral’ in other cases (you know, because they are just an independent source of information). They went as far as issuing an announcement that condemn the kidnaping of reporters and demanding their release!

Still why are they (the kidnapers) doing that and what will they gain by releasing them? Well, remember what Saddam did just before desert storm when he kept foreign hostages inside his palaces and wouldn’t release them until the USA would promise not to attack him? He made an exception with the Russian workers in Iraq. First he used to visit these families and show gentleness when talking to them and broadcasting it on TV and finally he released them after many demands and visits from famous characters and ex-diplomats from all over the world. This is just the same which is very stupid and sick but still it’s his and his followers’ reality.

These kidnapers don’t care about Hijab and they appreciate the french role and reporters role in general in Iraq, but they believe that such operation and after releasing the hostages would give a message to the west that, “we are peaceful people and we listen to demands made peacefully and to demonstrations even when we don’t agree with you” they are trying to encourage a forighn policy similar to that of France and certain belief among some westerns that peaceful methods work better than force with terrorists, and also saying that they wouldn’t mind what the internal policy is. This is of course different from the hardcore islamists’atittude but I believe these are not involved here, as its just not their style.

The other benefit would be what will certain organizations achieve by opposing such operations and possibly by interfering to help releasing the hostages. what Saddam failed to see and what saddamists still fail to see, is that such behavior will never impress the majority in the west and will always be rejected. That’s mainly because these terrorists do not comprehend how important the human freedom is in the west as well as to free nations and individual everywhere.

I could be wrong, and I hope I’m not, for the sake of the reporters and their families, but that’s the way I see it and the next few hours will reveal everything (probably).

-By Ali.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Many of you have probably already read Arthur Chrenkoff's good news from Iraq, part 9, but I thought I should post it here too in case anyone missed it.
Note: This was also published in the "Opinion Journal" and Winds of Change.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Continuing crisis.

The battle of Najaf is over but the crisis has not ended yet as well as battles in other parts of Iraq. We are now in another "truce" as long as the reasons that led to this crisis haven't been resolved yet and as long as every party still has demands that he sees as essential and cannot be negotiated, and at the same time each party sees himself as not defeated in that confrontation. As a matter of fact both parties have achieved some of their objectives and their losses are somewhat acceptable except the Iraqi people.

This crisis has shown that the reality on the ground is still far from our wishes, but that shouldn't make us lose courage and despite the pain and bitterness we should keep our eyes focused on our goal and try to learn from lessons that we can benefit from in the future, as it's not unexpected at all that we will witness another similar difficulty in the future.

It has become more than obvious that there are many international parties that seek to destroy Iraq or at least hinder the democratic process in Iraq, and those parties have proven their ability to mobilize certain powers in Iraq to serve this role in a way that makes it hard for anyone to throw a direct charge against them, but they have said it clearly and more than once that they won't spare an effort to make the democratic process dies in it's cradle. They call it "helping Iraqis to get rid of the occupation" and we all know what they mean by that. They will go on with their plans even if it means drowning Iraq in blood, our blood of course.

Here I see that the Iraqi government should deal firmly with this issue since Iraqi officials know the truth of this interference and its goals. There have been many announcements made by Iraqi officials in this respect but they have not been taken seriously by the other party, as the issue has become a matter of life or death for them and they will not stop their destructive efforts unless the crisis move into their land.

Some political trends in Iraq still see in Iran a strategic ally despite that the main parties who had good relation with Iran previously, have learned the lesson, and have been minimizing their contact with the Iranians slowly but steadily, as they know that the Iranian regime is the one that's going to lose in this confrontation with America and that this will probably not take a long time, and no one sane wants to stop with the losing part. This becomes more evident when we see that those who still believe that Iran will have a big role in Iran in the future are mainly young people with more passion than brains.

But what was the role of the people in this crisis? Iraqi people had taken a clear stand in this battle despite the fear and threats, as the militias had the louder voice in the tension areas and it's difficult for civilians to stand against that, as you are facing a young man 18 year old or even younger who have no education and who carries an RPG or an AK47 pointed at you and your family, and you know that he won't hesitate for a moment to use it. Still many Iraqis and in many occasions have asked the government to stop these people by all possible means, and I don't know why the cries of those Iraqis didn't get enough coverage. The people of Najaf had a clear stand against these militias and the tribes there took their arms to stop the militias from taking control of their areas and they helped the police in their fights too, and that was why they couldn't control the governerate building and the police stations in Najaf despite many attacks and had to settle in the old cemetery and the shrine.

Sadr and his followers have lost all the support from the majority of Iraqis as a result of their doings and this will be revealed more clearly if they took part in any elections in the future although I highly doubt that they will ever do that. It has become obvious too that this movement has attracted many fascists from different parts including Ba'athists and those who could't find a place in the new Iraq. Add to that the sabotaging the oil pipe lines and infrastructure which left everyone here bewildered and angry with total lack of understanding to why they are doing this.

The other crime that cannot be forgiven is what happened in the "religious court". I think that if what happened gets a fair coverage, it will destroy the Sadr movement and rid it of any possible left support among Iraqis. What happened in this court was huge and was the worst crime since the end of the war. It resembles to a great extent what used to happen in Saddam's prisons in a way that makes us feel unsafe once again. Frankly the scene that was broadcasted on TV, shocked me and terrorized me. I started to feel really afraid and my mind recalled moments and pictures I've tried so hard to overcome the fear that they generated inside me for decades.

If you had asked the majority of Iraqis about security, they would tell you that Iraq is not secure now but that they are not afraid and they feel safe. Now, and after the latest events, most Iraqis started to feel unsafe again, and I'm talking about being afraid that you'd be killed or tortured for something you said and for an opinion that doesn't match with that of the "shadow of God on earth"; Saddam before and Sadr now.

Everyone should know the truth about what's happened in that court and the criminals who were responsible should be dealt with very firmly. What's needed now is a fast and thorough investigation so that everyone knows what would happen if such people were allowed to remain free, not to mention taking active part in political life and getting into the position of decision making.

It will be a huge and unforgivable mistake to take what happened lightly and will make the rest partners in the crime and the crimes that would follow. Some parts may want to catch their breath and avoid anything that may inflame the situation and end the "truce", but this issue is too dangerous to be left for another time or to be subject to compromise.

The way these policemen, ING members and civilians were, tortured, killed and mutilated shows not only the brutality and savageness of Sadr followers but also the bravery of Iraqis in standing against the enemies of freedom, the thing that was more clear in the attitude and determination of the leaders in Najaf that no one can deny. I felt hope and great pride whenever I saw the chief of the IP in Najaf and its governerate together with the Iraqi troops there. I felt that the future will be ours and that the hope is great in the sons and daughters of Iraq. We need more like these people; they've made unforgettable sacrifice when they continued to fight evil when their families were kidnapped and when the thugs were threatening to behead them. This is a rare bravery and one that I will always remember.

Still that battle brought some good progress too. The stand of the majority of clerics represented by Sistani was an honorable one when he declared that the security in the city and the shrine should be in the hands of the government. This was a clear recognition of the legitimacy of the interim government that will definitely give a needed support to the democratic process and the upcoming elections, as the interim government will supervise these elections and this means that the She'at clerics have decided to put their trust in the government as it does its job and showed that their (the clerics) job would not be more than giving advice and support which is also a blow to the Iranian efforts to use religion and clerics against the interim government.

All this support with that provided by the newly formed interim national conference and the growing power of the ING and IP, made the government more confident in its confrontations although we all hoped for a much better outcome. There are still many sacrifices needed and it won't be only surviving that will ensure victory, as even if the government finished all its tasks, it won't mean much with gangs and fanatics terrorizing people and making them afraid to use their rights and voice their opinions.

-By Mohammed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Now I know the reason for the war...

No, it wasn't for control, and no it wasn't for oil. It was for tattoos!

At Saddam days there were 'laws' made at some periods (late 90s) that prohibit wearing clothes or having hair cuts in a way that simulates westren customs, you know like having a hair cut similar to that most of the marines have, or wearing shorts, or T-shirts that have a flag of a western country (especially US and UK), or any obvious English word on them. One of those days I almost got suspended from high school for a week for wearing a T-shirt with the British flag on it. I had to promise never to wear it or anything like it again. They even made a remark about my school-bag because it had the NIKE trademark!

In short, Papa Saddam was very keen on protecting us and our culture from any invasion from the west. We should dress, eat, walk and behave like a true Ba'athist who is very proud of being Arab (although you could be Kurd but you're still an Arab!) and should believe that *nothing* good can come from outside. Well, it seems that no one now can protect us from cultural invasion and I guess that's what it was all about.

Since most of the tattoo lovers in Iraq seem to be fans of heavy metal, it becomes obvious who's going to benefit from this war. Don't tell me that Halliburton (or the Zionists) don't have shares in records companies that produce heavy metal music!
:: Iraqi plant for manufacturing 230,000 vehicles annually.
:: Al-Arabiya TV Just reported that the IP in Najaf has arrested Ali Smaisem (one of Muqtada's senior aides) together with some other members of Mehdi army. Al-Arabiya broadcasted some exclusive pictures for the arrested men in a police station in Najaf.
IP sources also confirmed that some valuable items that belong to the treasury of Imam Ali shrine were found on Smaisem.

*Update: new pictures showed that among the confiscated stuff were several thousands of dollars and fake identiy cards including Iranian ones.
:: Iraqi Airways sends test flight from Amman to Baghdad.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Boring stories.

Yesterday, one of Ali’s friends came by and suggested that we go out to have dinner somewhere just to break the circle of boring routine daily life. “Do you know a good place?” I asked, “there’s a nice restaurant that’s getting very popular these days” Ali’s friend replied.

It was already 9 pm and I thought that we will find them preparing to close. I know that many places stay open until 11 or 12 but the majority close at around 10 pm but this place was amazing; the parking place was full that we had to park the car on the opposite side of the street.

The place was so neat and natural-looking and the tables were placed outdoors in a big garden with lots of tall palm trees. The restaurant lies in Jadiriyah which is so close to the Tigris river and it’s also rich in date palms and other trees which makes the weather a little bit colder in the night when compared with other areas in Baghdad.

It was 9:30 and new visitors and families were still arriving at the restaurant. At the beginning we ordered fruit flavored narghiles and soft drinks. The narghile there is quite long-lasting and one can keep smoking a single one for more than an hour.

Later the waiter flooded our table with various dishes of appetizers even before we made our orders; frankly speaking, if you eat all the appetizers you won’t have a space left in your stomach for the main dish.

Maskoof is one of the main dishes served in this rest. It’s basically river fish barbequed in a special way that gives fish a superb taste that cannot be matched and the smell of the barbeque was enough to make my saliva run.

One of things I noticed was that most of the visitors there were apparently middle class families and this is different from what it used to be years ago as only rich families could afford to have dinner in restaurants like this one. Dinner for a 6 person family costs approximately 60 000 ID (40$) while two years ago a similar meal would cost a little bit less (35 - 45 thousands) but the huge raise in incomes made it affordable once a month or once every fortnight when there are more than one working member in the family.

We had dinner but we couldn’t finish the dishes because the dish they serve is extraordinarily big and can be enough for two hungry people.
We left at about 11:30 but a lot of people were still there.

You sit in a restaurant like this one and see families relaxing with their children playing and having fun late at night and you feel that there’s ‘something’ wrong in the way MSM is dealing with the Iraqi issue. I watch TV and I see hell breaking around me then I go outside and see enough normalcy AND progress to make me believe that the people in the media are not here to report how’s life going but rather they are here reporting pre-prepared stories and to be faced with something that contradicts the picture they have in their minds would be really annoying and will mean more hard work to try to find the truth or something close to it.

So let me see, I’m a reporter in Iraq and I’m here to tell stories that sell from a land that has been invaded, as everyone is saying it was invaded and not liberated. God, that must be awful! Ok so I need destruction, death, fear, clashes in the streets, angry mob...etc. Where do families having dinner in a place they couldn’t afford before the war, or a father buying a new car for his son which he also couldn’t afford before, or a man renewing his house which was falling apart, or free speech and flourishing business, where does all this fit in such a frame?! It doesn’t! Besides, where's the action in such boring stories!? Moreover, there are pictures of death and destruction and they only need some ‘further clarification’, and that’s easier than making a whole new story. So why bother! I already have frames for good stories and I’ve worked hard in that and it would be a shame to waste all that effort and start all over again. So let’s get the story we worked on and get the hell out of here.
Do you remember the post I made about my uncle and his son Ibrahim?
If you don’t, please read it now and you’ll understand why I’m posting this:
My uncle had just visited us with his son and this time they came in his new car that he bought recently.
It’s a used 1992 Opel and it cost him 2450 $ which he managed to pay without being in debt.

The last car my uncle had was (Nasr) the Egyptian version of the Italian 1978 Fiat. He had to sell it in 1993 to cover some of the needs of his family’s daily life. He never bought a car after that because he simply couldn’t afford it with a maximum salary of 10 $ a month.

My uncle said ”on my last visit to Hilla in an inspection tour my heart was wormed when I saw that most of the teachers in all schools I visited have bought cars”.
Here’s Ibrahim standing beside his car and here’s he practicing his driving skills in our garage.

He doesn’t believe anymore that they came to destroy Islam instead he thinks that they’re here to protect their interests and when I asked him how did they do that he said “by removing Saddam because he was threatening their interests” and when I asked him about our interests he said “prosperity”.
I asked him if our interests could be in conflict with America's interests and he said "I don't think so".

They're still here at our house and I showed them the comments from the readers in responce to the post I wrote about him, he was delighted and surprised to see the support and warm wishes but he said that the Americans have a bad impression about the clerics as he said that most clerics do nor interfer in politics at all.

Ibrahim's perception of events has changed a little. He sees that things have improved but he’s still not sure about the future.

:: I found this cartoon in New Sabah; the sign on the ground says (Al-Alawee Garage) which is one of the largest garages in Baghdad and people go there to hire a taxi or get in a bus to travel for another area inside Baghdad or to other provinces also.
A driver on short-distance lines usually asks passers-by (when he still has vacant seats on the bus) to see if they want to go in the same direction of his line so he can fill the vacant seats.
In this cartoon the driver is talking to a passerby asking him to which (fedraliyah) he is traveling; (fedraliyah is the word used in Iraq to describe the part of the federal state formed by a 2 or 3 provinces).
I guess western readers will find some difficulty in understanding what this cartoon means but I’m sure Iraqi readers will find it funny.
:: Arthur Chrenkoff has posted his 3rd series of (Good news from Afghanistan). Arthur has been doing a great job in collecting and reporting good news from both Iraq and Afghanistan. It's worth reading.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Appeasment and impatience.

This afternoon there was a discussion on a program at the new Iraqi satellite TV channel, Al-Fayhaa, and they interviewed the state minister for provinces affairs, Mr. Waa’il Abdul Lateef. It’s worth mentioning that this newborn channel (which is run by Basrawis and based in the UAE) is attracting big audience in Iraq although the transmission goes only for few hours every day. This is mainly due to the daring nature of its programs and the freedom provided for the participants (mainly Iraqis calling from inside and especially from the south) to voice their opinions in the channel’s discussion programs. The people running this channel are obviously open minded with a clear patriot spirit along with high level of objectivity.

The discussion in today’s program was about the situation in Najaf and related events in other Iraqi cities and the calls coming from inside Iraq were a lot more telling and informative than most news reports we get from other channels and the phone calls together with information provided by the minister clarified many points that were considered dark spots for the public opinion. For example, the reason why people in Sistani’s office refused to receive the keys of the shrine was because Sistani’s office found out that many ancient artifacts were stolen from the shrine, and they refused to take responsibility of the shrine until the missing pieces are returned. It’s well known, and as the minister stated that the Mehdi army (or people saying that they are members of Mehdi army as the minister said) stole many priceless ancient artifacts from the safes inside the shrine, as well as huge amounts of cash.

Another reason that I think is behind Sistani’s decision is that Sistani wants the government to take responsibility for protecting the shrine while Muqtada’s assistants insist that they (Mehdi Army) do that or that an armed group that belongs to the Hawza should be formed to carry out this job. It’s obvious that Muqtada want the treasure to remain under his custody and Sistani knows that if it’s left in the hands of the Hawza, Sadr’s followers would terrorize them and get control again, this time indirectly.

Back to the discussion, the minister asked his host to broad cast some pictures from the latest press conference for the minister of defense where he showed pictures for guns and ammunition boxes (made in Iran) smuggled to Iraq and confiscated by the IP and the ING. With pictures for some Arab and non-Arab fighters. The minister confirmed also that those foreign fighters together with gun men from Muqtada’s militias released hundreds of criminals and suspects from some prisons in Iraqi southern cities and supplied them with guns and money to use them as paid fighters.

The host and many of the Iraqis who participated in the discussion showed their impatience with the “double standards of the government” and the host was very direct and forward in his questions especially when he criticized the “awkward attitude” of the government in managing the crisis in Najaf and the “shy statements” for some of the high officials in the governments saying that they tend not to call things with their real names using flexible statements when firm ones are needed and that they hide whenever troubles happen.

The host asked the minister about the credibility of some news reports that were talking about Iyad Allawi planning or threatening to resign. The minister confirmed that these reports are far from being true and that Allawi is determined to continue with his mission to the end. Yet he (the minister) agreed that there are some parties in the government that are using double standards when dealing with Sadr, and he named the Islamic parties on both sides. He said, “It’s a shame that we are still appeasing terrorists when we should have learned something from the past. It’s this kind of appeasement that made someone like Saddam control Iraq for 35 years and claim himself as the only leader and the legendary hero that Iraq cannot afford to lose”.

It’s also worth mentioning that the “House of She’at” is calling for a general strike tomorrow as a sign of protest against the “bombings and military operations in Najaf”. I’m not sure how many people will respond to this call but I’m sure it’s not going to be a major one.

The host, together with many Iraqis who called, showed disappointment in the government’s performance. The host went as far as saying, “We understand that people of Najaf and Basra are afraid to speak their minds and oppose Sadr in public fearing revenge from his followers, but are you, officials of the government afraid of him too? Or are you afraid of Iran? I say this because most Iraqis seem to think that Iran is moving Sadr behind the scene”. Then he added, “When are you going to get the minister of defense and the minister of interior out of the fridge? When are they going to do their job?”

In the end, and despite all the worries and fears, I felt optimistic when I saw a TV channel and many Iraqis support their government’s effort to go on with the democratic process, yet they were so critical of the way it (the government) has been dealing with Sadr’s issue. There’s a sense of enormous impatience among the majority of Iraqis especially those who live in areas were Mehdi Army is functioning.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

"I’m optimistic because things have changed, (with more) financial support and the general standard of living. I’m encouraged".

Iraqi weightlifter said in an interview. This is the kind of athletes who carry our hopes not only for medals but also for a better future for Iraq.
Read the rest here.
Thanks to the reader, Janet for the link.
"Congratulations from Australia to the Iraqi natinal team for a great game - you played well and deserved to win.

I also commend you on saying that indeed you do mind when Bush uses you in his political electioneering. Fair enough, and thank you for expressing the sentiments - because it tells me more about the how the everyday Iraqi feels than can be deducted from the commentariate. I HOPE YOU WIN THE GOLD.

Omar, you reveal that you are not the ordinarly, everyday Iraqi when you say, "This is the *BEST* acheivment Iraq has ever acheived in soccer. Strange isn't it!? Not to me! I really expected that despite the difficult life in Iraq that our athletes were going to perform better than ever, and I believe it's the effect of freedom."

The reason why I say this is because it is not true, and it would be something that the average, everyday soccer-mad Iraqi WOULD KNOW is not true.

I don't think you know much about soccer at all, like most of the American's on this blog.

Iraq beat Australia to get into the semi-finals of the FWC not last WC but the World Cup before. To help our American friends understand - the Olympics is not the biggest thing in soccer, it is the World Cup.

That is why I still think, like so many others do, that this blog is just about run by folk who have a propaganda agenda.

If I am wrong I am happy to apologise though - but I not that you have pulled down that Israeli look-alike flag at last. Where did you get that idea from? Bet you I get banned again for saying what I think. Contrary opinions don't seem to be tolerated here

I found this in our comment section and I think I have some thing to say about it:
Thank you for your wishes to the Iraqi team and Iraqis.
First, my information is totally correct and I have no idea from where did you get yours. Iraq qualified to WC only once and that was in Mexico 1986. We played 3 matches and lost them all; Against Paraguay (0-1), Belgium (1-2) and Mexico (0-1). I watched all the 3 matches, so I think you should apologize here.
2nd I won't ban you, as the rules were clear and you haven't violated any.

As for the flag, I've made it clear why we didn't use the 'old' flag and there are many Iraqi bloggers as well as Iraqis who agree with us. I was hoping that the government would have adopted the proposed flag or any other one that doesn't point to Arab nationalism only, but as this seems to be a remote possibility, I've decided to pull it down and I won't use any flag until they change it, and I think I've made it clear before that I was using this flag temporarily.

You are not the 1st one who call us a US propaganda. I guess this is because we support America's effort in our country without any question. I know we shouldn't and we should be more objective, but the problem is that we found ourselves in the middle of fierce anti-war propaganda that wants Iraq desperately to fail just to prove that America was wrong. Thus we seem to have gone rather far in our support for America's policy as well as the interim Iraqi government and I'd like to say that this was not our intention when we started this blog.

It's very hard to remain objective when you are in the middle of a war and when all your dreams and hopes are being seriously threatened everyday. However, I realize that we must have gone far in our unquestioned support for the American administration and I'll try my best to put this in mind in the future and be as objective as I can.


Saturday, August 21, 2004


Iraqi football team won against Australia 1-0 to reach the semifinal for the first time in Iraq's history. Now we are going to play for a medal! Iraq has one medal only in her Olypic record; a bronze one that we won in weight-lifting back in 1960.

This is the *BEST* acheivment Iraq has ever acheived in soccer. Strange isn't it!? Not to me! I really expected that despite the difficult life in Iraq that our athletes were going to perform better than ever, and I believe it's the effect of freedom.

Right now there is lots of shooting into the air (I don't like it but at least Iraqis are happy and it's better to waste bullets this way).

I know some of our American friends are upset with the Iraqi team because of the latest comments of some players, but this is Iraq, not 1 or 2 players and the player who said these terrible words didn't even play! I wish you could forget that idiot and join us in our celebrations, as the truth must be said, it's a victory that you helped in in so many ways.

One million hits!

Last night the site meter for Iraq the model showed that there have been one million visits to this blog since we activated the site meter last January. I want to remind you that the visits from the day we started the blog until we activated the site meter are not included so we actually reached one million visits some time ago.

We wouldn’t have reached so far without the support from our wonderful regular readers who took the effort and time to introduce Iraq the model to more readers and have always encouraged us to continue.

I know that this number is not a big deal when compared with the traffic of some top blogs that are being visited by millions every month but we feel proud of this achievement because I guess it can still be considered a big deal for a blog that was started less than a year ago by three guys who never heard of the word (blog) before that.

We’d like also to say thanks to all the great bloggers and websites that linked to Iraq the model driving the attention of thousands of new readers to this blog, namely :
Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, Roger L. Simon, Jeff Jarvis, Tim Blair, National Review, Lucianne, LGF, USS Clueless, Cold fury, Winds of Change, Soundfury, Arthur Chrenkoff and of course all my fellow Iraqi bloggers especially, Salam (the first Iraqi blogger), Zeyad and AYS who encouraged us and helped us to start this blog.
The list is too long so I apologize if I didn’t to mention someone.

By the way, because we’re celebrating this new record tonight we’re going to announce ‘amnesty’ to all those who were banned. Now everyone can enjoy freedom of speech in the comment section on one condition; follow the rules which I guess are simple :
No abusive words. And no racism.
Bye for now my friends.

Friday, August 20, 2004


IP enters Imam Ali shrine peacefully and Sadr is still not found.
News are still foggy but Al-Hurra TV reported that 400 members of Mehdi militia were arrested inside the shrine.

In another related development Radio Sawa reported this afternoon that Al-Sistani from London gave an interview to a news website (link unavailable).
The reporter of Radio Sawa said :
Al-Sistani called the militias to leave Najaf immediately and hand over the city to the Iraqi government describing the presence of militias as illegitimate and that the presence these militias inside the shrine is desecrating its holiness.
Sistani had also stressed on the necessity to hold the elections according to the declared schedule saying that the results of the elections will decide who has the right to lead Iraq.
Sistani added “the coalition forces came and helped Iraqis to get rid of a brutal tyrant that murdered Iraqis and destroyed Iraq’s economy and they didn’t come to kill Muslims or attack Islam”.

This is almost too good to be true but Radio Sawa was always considered as a trust worthy source of information and I just hope that this is true as we’ve awaited such an announcement for a long time. It will deprive Muqtada of any significant legitimacy or credibility among the She’at if he had any previously. Muqtada and his thugs were dreaming to get support or at least silence from the She’at senior clerics. Now Muqtada is left with very little space to maneuver in; Sistani’s statement had put Muqtada in-between two hard choices either handing the city to the government and accepting the fact that he got defeated or he can go on with his crazy battle and get erased together with his militia.
This is important even with these breaking news. Such statements will greatly minimize any unfavorable sequel that may come after military operations due to a possible sympathy from simple minded Muslims towards an “Islamic movement” being destroyed by the government and the coalition forces.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

I read this story and I felt very upset and then I got many mails asking for my comment on it.

I really think that the Iraqi Football Federation should give the 2nd player (Ahmed Manajid) at least some advice on to how much he can express his own opinions in public, as he is representing Iraq right now.

However I have great doubts about the article. Looking at the address of the article and reading through it, it seems to me that the reporter was looking for a particular answer rather than just reporting. What would you expect as an answer for asking athlets about a politician, any politician using their achievements for advertising his campaign. Also we have no idea how this question was presented!

Another point is that when someone wants to draw a conclusion from several comments he tend to pick the ones that lead to his conclusion in a strong way, yet all the reporter could come up with were comments from 2 players and the coach out of 22 players and several trainers, medical staff...etc So if those were the 'best' comments he could get, I'm interested to know what were the comments of the others since the comment from the 1st player (Sadir) was actually not that bad!

I believe if he found a worse comment other than that he would've post it, don't you think so? Finally I'd like to put this report about 3 athletes together with this picture that you all had probably seen but some of you seem to have forgot about. Maybe we can get closer to the truth by taking two sides of the story?

Democracy in progress.

In another step towards a democratic Iraq; yesterday the national assembly successfully held the elections to form the Iraqi national council in an atmosphere that is entirely new for Iraqis. For the first time we saw free discussions with the absence of fear. No one man talking and the rest just listening and nodding their heads in approval. Many members were so eager to talk and show their opinions, interrupting each other many times and of course this is all natural as a result of being forced to silence for such a long time. This led to a mess many times but it didn’t last for a long time.
Objections and the existence of many different points of view in the same place are things that no one dared to do or even think of before.

What happened was huge indeed and people should realize that this is the fruit of toppling Saddam’s regime. The effects of democracy and free speech must not be underestimated but some people are not able to show enough patience to see the results and they are very anxious to judge the whole issue as a disaster whenever some difficulties appear. Some of these people just want us to fail, others are shortsighted and some are just worried about success and want it to happen tomorrow.

We’re on the right road despite all the big obstacles created by the enemies of humanity and governments governed by narrow minded politicians who seek only their individual or partisan benefit taking advantage of people’s natural rejection for war and violence in general.
Till now there is no evidence that the disturbances and troubles -fed by many countries and groups- could ruin the democratic process and this is the true victory in this decisive battle, as the democratic process in Iraq has not stopped and was not even delayed except for few days.
It’s the best reaction to the attempts of some powers to establish the rule of violence and gun power to ensure that the Iraqi model fail which if happens will ensure their (dictators) control over their nations, and it’s a message to the violence provokers in the neighborhood that the process is not going to stop and a democratic Iraq will be a fact soon.

This event coincided with an official escalation against the militias and other trouble makers and with a threat to them that they will be dealt with strictly after they refused to drop arms and stop violence time after time until their repeating refusal became an evidence (to those who didn’t see it at the beginning) that their means and attitude are their goal. They adopt violence just for the sake of spreading violence and chaos in Iraq. They showed no real demands, have threatened And took actions to destroy Iraq’s infrastructure. It has became clear that all they want is to stop the evolution of democracy and the building of new Iraq. We recall how the militias of the SCIRI, the INC and the Kurdish parties agreed to turn into political groups to participate in the political process while those idiots who still refuse to put down their guns have obviously placed the interests of their supporters from outside above the interests of Iraq.

The conference witnessed the withdrawal of some members objecting to the way the votes were taken, and although this is sad but I believe it’s natural and cannot be avoided and it happens in the best democracies when there are debates about critical and controversial issues. There was a negative outcome of this conference, that is the wining list of candidate was the one supported by the parties that have the majority in the government. However I think this was unavoidable and at the same time has good aspects too.

It was unavoidable because the small parties couldn’t organize and coordinate their efforts to create an alliance that can balance power inside the National Assembly. Time was short and after all it’s true that the parties in the government still represent more Iraqis than the rest and are more organized and experienced in politics.

While I think it’s good because most Iraqis support the government’s policy and actions against terrorists and gangs and they need as much support as possible which they did get from the assembly when they sent a delegate to Sadr with the same demands of the government. That delegate gave the government strong legitimacy in what it’s doing in Najaf.

It’s a complicated issue that we see here. We don’t want to support the government because we are afraid of giving it more power than needed and at the same time we don’t want to weaken it’s position in such a critical phase in our struggle against the power of darkness.

I was thinking about this for some time and I think that what we need right now is an honest opposition that backs the government in its war against terrorists and fanatics and at the same time stand against it as it (the government) tries to monopolize the political field which may end up with a distorted democracy or a faked one. Till now the “opposing” groups are not really opposition, they are just taking advantage of the freedom they have been given to show themselves as representatives of certain segments of Iraqis when all they were doing is ruining all Iraqis’ efforts to build Iraq. They lack any view for the future or any constructive ideas. All they are saying is that they are against the government because it’s not elected! Do they really believe that elections were possible without an interim government?! Their objections show that they are either totally ignorant or that they say things they don’t believe in just to take advantage of the inexperience of the majority of Iraqis when it comes to politics and elections just to stop democracy.

Yesterday’s elections were far from perfect but it gave us more experience that will serve all democratic political powers in the future, and from a strategic point of view, the fact that Iraqis managed to go on with their plans to establish democracy in such unstable circumstances and with fierce fighting taking place in some parts of Iraq is an outstanding victory for all of us and an event that shows the determination of Iraqis to keep the course no matter how dangerous it is. What happened yesterday was a serious blow to terrorists and fanatics and their supporters. It’s a clear message that says, “Do your best. It won’t stop us”

By Ali.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I’d like to inform our dear readers who can't watch TV now that the 1st half of the match between Iraq and Morocco has ended in a draw 0-0. We’ll get to the second round anyway, but it’s important that we get the 1st place in our group so that we avoid Argentina; the strongest team in the tournament. A win or a draw will achieve this for us.

UPDATE: Well I guess you know we lost. Final score 2-1 for Morocco. However we still have the lead in the group since Costa Rica won over Portugal, so our match in the Quatrifinal will be against Australia, our allies! Sorry guys but we plan to win!

Dreams and worries.

I came back from my last duty visit to the beautiful small town that lies on the bank of the Euphrates south of Samawa and I saw that the town was evolving. I came back with lots of observation; the town is changing but the people are practicing the change without feeling it; they still carry a lot of sorrow from the dark recent past.

One delightful event I witnessed at my arrival was receiving the keys of the new house that was especially renewed and furnished by the multinational forces to host the doctors who serve in this town.
At the gate I saw two flags with two hands reaching out of the flags and shaking as a symbol of the cooperation and friendship between the peoples of Netherlands and Iraq.

With the new housewe started to overcome the hardships we were facing; now we have new A/C devices and a new fridge that are essential in a place where temperatures exceed 50c most of the day time.

We also got rid of the big problem of contaminated water after the multinational forces established a water treatment plant At the beginning people were hesitant to use this water! (they got used to the taste of the polluted water) but shortly after that everyone started to drink the clean water and tankers are still carrying water to the remote villages that belong to the town. At the gate of the plant you can see the flag of Netherlands and it’s interesting to see the Iraqi flag together with the flags of the coalition countries hanging on the walls of the buildings built or renewed under supervision by the forces of these countries, something no one dares to do in Baghdad but the case is different in Samawa; the people consider these countries as friends and liberators and are not at all afraid of showing this. People have exchanged visits with the members of the forces and they even prepared reception parties to welcome the newly arriving troops, Al-Hurra TV reported the event while the rest of the media ignored it as well other numerous good stories. The Japanese are handling the rehabilitation of health centers and hospitals in Samawa and they started to bring in medical supplies, instruments, medical devices and related furniture.

Some officials are skeptical about the outcome of the work as long as corruption is a chronic disease in our institutions. I’m not talking here about individuals but about the corruption of the bureaucratic system that delays the work instead of facilitating it. Anyway, we’re just in the beginning.

The Japanese invited some doctors and administrative health officials to visit Japan and you can imagine the reaction and impressions those Iraqis showed when the returned from Japan; they were in a state of shock from the civilization out there and they came back with hope, dreams and frustration too; we’ve got a long way to walk and a lot of work to do before we can catch up with the civilized world.

Everyday I watch the progress in building a new internet café; the walls are getting higher day by day and I guess that the work will be done within next month. There are rumors in the town that the café is going to be supervised by the local clerics and one man told me that these clerics will allow Islamic website only and forbid accessing other sites “this is no Internet. Internet service means that you can access any website you want” he added laughing. I’m still not sure of this rumor but the locals are worried that it may come true.

The multinational forces invested the time of the summer vacation to rebuild some schools and build new ones while we in the hospital started to do the routine health checking for the students who have just finished elementary school and going to be in the 7th grade next season.

The children were happy carrying their application forms but the story is about some girls who refused to have pictures taken for them, I asked one of them “what would you like to do when you finish your studies?”. She replied with apparent sadness “I’m not going to finish high school, my parents won’t let me continue after 9th grade”. I asked again “Is that what you want?” she replied “I don’t know, it’s for my parents to decide....”.

On the other side some parents confirmed that they insist to have their daughters finish their studies “the future is different from the past as you know doctor” one of those parents said to me.

Something caught my attention while I was examining the students, some of the names do not belong to the south in any way; names that are not even Arabic and when I asked about it the students told me that they were Kurds. “What would the sons of the mountain do in the south?”I asked. Here an old man tried to make things clear for me he said that they were 500 families forced to leave their homes and brought to the south in the early 1980s “these kids were born here” he added with tears starting to form in his eyes “but it’s ok, we’re all Iraqis and here is our land too; this is what Saddam planned for us, twenty years is too much time and my son got married here. We have to accept it and I wish that Allah will avenge us”. Later I knew that most of those families returned to their lands in the north while 13 families decided to stay in Samawa.

I felt pain, deep inside, I’m supposed to work here for one single year but I’m counting days to go back to my beloved Baghdad. What would I do if I had to stay here for the rest of my life. I kicked these thoughts out of my mind; this is beyond my capabilities and it’s not going to happen again in our new Iraq.

I heard a lot of unconfirmed stories about crimes committed by Saddam’s regime in this town but I’m going to mention one of these because I met the victim himself. He’s an agricultural engineer and I met him one evening in the coffee shop. He was dedicated to his job as many of the locals said.

When the uprising started in 1991 he was taken with his family to one of Saddam’s jails “Saddam’s dogs left me handicapped” he said and showed me his arms that were full of ugly scars from torture “they used a hot iron to burn my arms” I shared his pain with him while he was telling me the details “I survived because I was not found guilty but my two brothers were not lucky as I was; I’m still looking for their bodies in the mass graves” and continued “Saddam had stolen every dream we had, look at the desert just beside the river! we couldn’t plant anything here, and even now we don’t have the money or the technology and Baghdad was and still taking the priority. I doubt they will look after us soon. The future is not for my generation, it’s for our children”.

I am trying my best to assure the people there that the best is coming and I point to the changes that happened in their town but the worries are great and the shadow of the past is so heavy.

Someone told me once “we don’t need reconstruction because we don’t have anything at all and we need to build everything from zero point. When you start your building on a weak base you have to expect it to fall soon and Saddam left us with weak basis in everything. We need help from the whole world to stand on our feet”.

No one I met talked about "ending occupation", "Jihad"...etc. These 55 thousand people who are mostly She'at and who live in this small town named Al Khider dream only about peace and prosperity and they believe in the goodness of the others especially those who are helping them

I left the small town with her worries and dreams and all the way I was thinking: After all what we've been through, we are finally free and trying to build our country, and there are people from all over the world who are doing all they can to help us. On the other side we have people from outside and inside Iraq who threat, kidnap and kill these good people and all in the name of Iraqis! Did they stop once to ask Iraqis what they want?! No of course not, as they were sent by Allah and they don't need to hear from humans! They pocess the absolute truth, yet they can't convince simple people of their own skin, religion and nationality!

-By Mohammed.

Iraqi National Assembly

Over the past few weeks a group of wonderful people have been working on a website, press release, and other campaign material to prepare for our announcement that two of us, me (Ali) and Mohammed, will be officially announcing our candidacy for the Iraqi National Assembly. You can read the official press release here:

Press Release 2004-08-18 (عربي)
Press Release 2004-08-18 (English)

While there is still much work to do, now would be a good time to thank all the people who helped make this possible:

But to actually win a seat in the Iraqi National Assembly, we will need help from many many people. The Iraqi Pro-Democracy Party website list ways you can help make this dream come true.

I must say that we thought about this soon after the end of the war and we started a small party as some of you probably remember me saying that, but things didn't go well at that time and we couldn't continue. After starting our blog however, your support, encouragement and the wonderful things we learned from you, made us believe that we can do it again. This time we won't quit, because even if we don't win we know that we'll achieve something and something that we believe important; taking active part in the democratic process in our country.

For sometime we thought that we can help by doing our jobs and by posting our opinions here on the blog, and while we still think it does help, the battle against tyranny and fanaticism in our country demands more than that. It demands that each one of us put all the effort he/she can make and take an active stand regardless of how difficult or dangerous it may seem. We simply cannot just stand and watch and we hope that we will encourage others also to do their best in order to achieve our freedom and establish democracy in a country that suffered more than enough from wars, dictators, terrorists and fanatics.
We believe that democracy is the only cure to all those diseases and the only answers to all threats. As hard the battle seems now and as far victory may look, we believe in our people and we believe in our friends and we know we will win.


Ali & Mohammed

Monday, August 16, 2004

The Arabic letters written on the backs of the armed men surrounding an Iraqi civilian are mili....tias.
Cartoon from New Sabah.

Scorpions, Al Arabiya and humidity.

The last 10 days I spent in the village near Basra was kind of a refreshment away from the noise and mess of the cities.
The area is totally isolated from the conflicts of the out world as if it has immunity to the effects of currents events.

The folks there are not much concerned about what’s happening in Najaf and some other cities although sometimes they show sympathy to the poor people of Najaf and contempt to what Muqtada and his militia men are doing and every now and then I could hear some one call him a (za’ toot) which is Iraqi slang meaning (ignorant kid) while his followers are mainly described as (thieves and junkies) but the anti-Muqtada sentiment reached a peak in the area when some of his men attacked the government offices in Al-Qurna which is the nearest large town to the village; four civilians were killed that day when the a Danish patrol entered the town and tried to stop the thugs from causing further damage but Muqtada’s men started to shoot at the patrol in the town’s crowded main street killing four people and injuring nine at least before they fled the town. People told me that these thugs came from Amara and they were not from the locals.

The hot humid weather and the slow rhythm of life made me even gain some weight as I spend only 4 hours a day in the clinic while the rest of my time is spent on cooking, watching TV, having snacks and lots of sleeping.
Frankly speaking, my greatest worries there are about scorpions as I found another one in my bedroom last week (AYS has details about the first one we found and killed earlier).

I spent hours everyday following the developments of the situation, and the coverage of the Arab channels was disgusting but still I had to depend on them to get updates and reports as I had no other choice.

There was a great deal of bias in the way the Arab channels handled the events, for example when a government official gives an interview the host would flood him with questions asking him for proofs and evidence for each sentence he says while they accept the statements of Muqtada’s aides without the slightest skepticism. One example that you probably missed and it clarifies my point was in an interview with Ahmed Shaibani (one of Sadr aides) on Al-Arabiya channel.

Shaibani claimed that Iyad Allawi said in a meeting with the government members that he will piss on the dome of the shrine.
Do you believe this!? And the host didn’t bother to ask Shaibani for any details to support his disgusting claim (like date, place, occasion or motives for Allawi to say such words).

Of course no one will believe this harsh lie but this interview exposes the evil will of some media sources to create distrust between the people and the interim government. It seems also that Al-Arabiya didn’t learn from the lesson of closing Al-jazeera’s office. As a matter of fact, Al-jazeera itself is cheating and sometimes broadcasting reports from inside Iraq.

Whenever Muqtada or his assistants appear on TV I feel like I’m going to puke (lately I started to take anti emetic pills before I watch the news!) But sometimes it’s funny to hear him speak because he has some slang terms that he started to use very often in interviews and these are from the kind that is only used among close friends and are totally unacceptable in a formal conversation such as (Habibi) which means (darling, honey or in some cases buddy).

This observation may look silly but it’s really not because it indicates that this man doesn’t have the slightest margin of manners let alone brains! And I believe that who calls Muqtada a “cleric” is totally mistaken and is unnecessarily offending the clerics; I’m not fond of them anyway (not forgetting that some of them are wise and respectable men) but at least in general they talk and behave in a much better way than this idiot.

In another occasion Muqtada said that Iyad Allawi is just another longstanding brutal dictator and that Iraq is now under a dictatorship that is much worse than Saddam’s regime. Here I had to agree with him because this government has been ruling Iraq for seven whole weeks and if Iraqis are going to remain silent it will probably rule for a whole year! Besides Allawi is so firm in demanding that Sadr disarms his militia while Saddam didn’t talk to rebellion She’at in this harsh manner, he silently killed Muqtada’s father, his two brothers and exterminated hundreds of thousands of She’at; many of them were killed INSIDE the Shrine of Imam Ali. What a chronic dictatorship Allawi’s government is!

The other funny thing was his appearance on TV a few days ago with his hand bandaged.
Come on Muqty! I’m sure you can do better than this.
I recall that we used to do this trick when we were young teenagers to attract girls’ attention “Look I got injured while I was kicking some a**es” but I can’t figure out why is Muqtada using it now.

Perhaps we should consider convincing him to see a neurologist (when he’s in jail of course); maybe this will help us understand better the etiology of his sickness and what the hell is going on in his CNS, plus we can try some new drugs on him instead of the poor guinea pigs.

:: A new round of (Good news from Iraq) at Chrenkoff's blog.
Go read it.

Iraqis speak!

:: 30 minutes ago, Hussain Al-Sadr, a moderate cleric and at the same time Muqtada’s cousin attended the Iraqi National Conference after he news that he visited Najaf yesterday. The conference is having large coverage by Iraqi and Arab media (except poor Al Jazeera as they have no reporter on the ground)

In his words, Hussain stressed that there’s no place for armed militias in the new Iraq but there’s always a chance for everyone to participate in the political process.

He called Muqtada and his men to drop their weapons, leave the holy shrine and disband the Mehdi Army adding that guarantees can be provided by the government that there will be no consequences or penalties waiting for them after they evacuate the shrine.

He called the attendants to send a delegation of at least a hundred members to head to Najaf and tell Muqtada about this proposal and escort him out of the shrine.
There was immediately a vote and the majority agreed on this initiative, so it’s expected that the following steps will take steps in a short time, probably later today.

The core of this new development is that this time it’s not the government that’s offering a solution, it's not one or few men decision, it’s the representatives of almost all the segments of the Iraqi people who are trying to end the conflict peacefully and put an end to the existence of militias.

If this initiative works out, it’s going to be a victory for the will of the Iraqi people but if failed it will mean that Muqtada is refusing the solution suggested and accepted by the representatives of the Iraqi people.

After agreeing on the project there was kind of a mess in the conference hall, something really amusing to see because there wasn’t a 100% agreement this time!. Some members were criticizing the way the vote was performed. However this mess didn’t last for a long time.

::The chairman announced that the latest reports from Najaf indicate that Muqtada is willing to meet the envoys.
I must say that I admire the process regardless of the results.
I still believe firmly that this will not work and that Sadr will fail to seize the chance to get out of his miserable position simply because he and his men are arrogant and ignorant. I think they'll behave just like Saddam did when he was offered a chance for peace, and truly I think this will be the best outcome, as it will remove an anti democracy figure from Iraq and this time no one will dare to say that Sadr represents the majority of Iraqis, as the majority have spoken!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Lately there where some demonstrations supporting Sadr in the south of Iraq and it was seen by some of the media as an evidence of the wide support for Sadr among Iraqis. What made the picture even darker was the attitude of some of the IP and ING officers who declared that they protest against what happening in Najaf and that they support Sadr. Then came the news that the government is negotiating with Sadr which was interpreted as a sign of weakness and a submission to the pressure of the people.

Who are those demonstrators? Are they Sadr followers or just average Iraqis sympathizing with him? Why did it take days for them to go out to the streets. I’m taking here about the unarmed demonstrations.

Despite the fact that their number is still not that significant but I want to share with the others my opinion of who are these people and what do they want.

1st of all I want to say that when I looked at the people taking parts in those demos, I noticed some strange things. The way most of those people expressed their opinions was in a rather calm peaceful manner and they were holding signs showing slogans and demands, as there no "Death to America" or "Jihad"...etc. Such behavior is highly unexpected from Sadr followers, as there were some of Sadr followers demonstrating but these were small in number (tens of young men) and they were all armed. Also Most of these people were old men while Sadr movement was always composed of teenagers and young men.

Still who are these men and women and why are they showing support? And who are those officers and why did they protest?

To understand this we’ll have to go back to when the new Iraq army and security forces were formed. In the beginning many Iraqis were still haven’t accepted the idea of joining an army formed by an “occupying force” and most of those who joined the army at that time were members of the old militias of the major parties such as the Badr brigade and others. But since we all know that the SCIRI was in a conflict with Sadr all the time and that even small fights broke between the two, it becomes unexpected that they stand with him this time?

This will be more clear if we look at the attitude of the SCIRI and that of Al Da’awa party; the strongest She’at Islamic parties. Both parties adapted a stance different from that of the rest in Allawi’s government. When almost all the others called for a military action and declared that they won’t stop until the Mahdi militia is disarmed.

Such stance is because these parties and although they are in great conflict with Sadr, still derive their power and influence in the streets from the same source that the Mahdi army gets it. They both depend on the religious emotions of simple minded people and they both retain a kind of sacred or holy image either because of their descent, their rank as clerics or their She’at Islamic perspective which depends on common history and beliefs. I must say that this doesn't apply to all clerics though.

Now if Sadr get arrested and as I explained before, the ‘holiness’ which all these parties depend on will be lost or damaged severely, as it will be shown that they are not above the law and that they are not as strong as they claim and with all their differences and all their conflicts with each other, they still agree on not messing with their common source of power, their ‘holy’ image that til now have put them above the law.

There is another factor here that helps to explain why Sadr gets such support that involve not only She’at clerics but all the anti American front in Iraq, which is formed of a bizarre mosaic of Ba’athists, Religious fanatics whether Sunni or She’at backed by terrorists from outside and unlimited support from the neighboring countries as well as all anti American anti democracy powers. Still there is a question regarding the non-Shea’at components of the anti American front. Why would they all show considerable support to Sadr that’s far more than they should any other part?

I think the answer to that is that they saw in Sadr a more ‘legitimate’ voice than the others, as it’s true that although most of his army is composed of criminals and even ex-Ba’athists, there are still some poor and ignorant Iraqis who suffered a lot at Saddam’s time and were not able to voice their demands. These people found freedom now but many of their demands are still haven’t been met. Some of them misunderstood freedom and were deceived by Sadr words and are attracted by his father’s name.

The non-She’at parties saw in Muqtada’s revolt a golden opportunity to further disturb peace in Iraq and hinder American and Iraqi efforts to build a democracy. Also they are very determined to push any peace agreement away, unlike the She’at parties, because they hope that Sadr get killed and that this would inflame the position further.

To summerize it, all the parties who support Sadr do not want him to succeed. Some just want him not destroyed because it will harm them too (She’at clerics) and others want him killed or arrested because they mistakenly think that this will make it worse. The truth is that most Iraqis don’t support Sadr and do not care what happens to him and even if he get killed, his militia which is a very unorganized crazy bunch will disperse into small gangs that kill and steal without any political ambition. Here’s another reliable voice that describes Iraqis reactions.

When we put all the above in mind, it gets easier to understand the current strange developments. The way I see it is that those officers were members of the Badr brigade or other She’at Islamic party and they are naturally still loyal to them and that they got orders from their superiores in their parties to make such a statement. Otherwise and if they really supported Sadr one would expect them to join him not only to show sympathy. While the civilians who demonstrated also seem to be members or supporters of the SCIR and Al Da’awa party or other similar organizations.
It seems that the Allawi, his defense minister and interior minister together with most of the government see this truth and are determined to carry on the fight, and they don’t have much choice anyway, as it’s very clear that Sadr and his gangs will never drop their arms and will continue intimidating and terrorizing people despite any peace agreement.

The road to democracy in Iraq is still a very hard and long one and the latest events have shown that more sacrifices are needed mainly on the Iraqi part. This fact will not stop us or scare us and I’ve seen many Iraqis who feel the same. They are aware for probably the 1st time since the end of the war that they have a role to play and that it’s a very important one that involve serious sacrifices and it doesn’t seem to make them give up. At least that’s what I saw and heard.

-By Ali.

Friday, August 13, 2004

It’s rather quite here in Baghdad this morning and reports from Najaf say that it’s similar there.

Iraqi official said that tens of the militia men who were arrested in Najaf were not Iraqis and that some of them do not even speak Arabic. The Iraqi government seems determined to keep up the fight until the "Mahdi Army" surrender although some She’at parties are trying diplomatic ways. At the same time there are conflicting signals coming from Muqtada and his deputies.

Iraqi Interior minister said that The "Mahdi Army" have fired 110 rockets and mortars against civilian areas which led to the death of many civilians and that some of Sadr followers are firing mortars from inside the shrine and that they have planted land mines around the shrine. I also was told from one of my friends who work in a health center in Zayoona, a neighborhood close to Sadr city, that 3 mortar shells fell inside the neighborhood which is strictly a civilian area.

The interior minister also said that Muqtada is not wounded and that he (Muqtada) had contacted the government contrary to what one of Sadr deputies said about Muqtada being injured due to bombing by the coalition. The same deputy warned that “ there will be flood of blood if Muqtada dies”.

I don’t know who is he threatening by this statement since the “Mahdi Army” is already fighting the coalition and the government unless he means they will seek revenge by frankly attacking Iraqi civilians! Well it won’t be something new as they’ve been doing so for a long time but I guess that he means that it’ll be their main objective.

A source in the Iraqi Defense Ministry who refused to reveal his identity told Al Arabyia that Muqtada is now near the shrine and that he’s negotiating and asking to be allowed to leave Najaf and in return he would turn in some of the leaders in his army to the Iraqi government.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he does that, as I always thought that this man doesn’t know what he wants and that he’s trapped in a situation that’s far from what the people who pushed him into this have promised or made him believe would happen.
In the first reaction from clerics, the "Sunni Association of Scholars" issued a “Fatwa” that forbids fighting against the “Mahdi Army” and called to support Muqtada while the 4 most senior Shea’a clerics gave no statement except Sistani who asked for working towards a peaceful solution that guarantees violence won’t take place again.

Such ‘paradoxical’ statements from She’at and Sunni clerics are not strange if we knew that most She’at denounce Muqtada’s doings and the truth to be said, Sistani have always showed wisdom in such critical situations. On the other hand the Salafis in the Sunni Association of Scholars have always supported terrorism in Iraq and have had strong relations with Muqtada, Hasan Nasr Allh of Hizbullah and Hamas.

The Mahdi army have taken Iraqi civilians as hostages and they are trying to scare us of by causing the death of many of them whether directly or indirectly. They hope that the large casualties will push the Iraqi government and the coalition to stop the military operation to avoid more losses. I must say that this will be the worst thing we do now, as what guarantees that this will not happen again once Sadr gang feel they can get away with their crimes every time and with the simple minded people following them being the only victims again and again? Also the way these criminals will be dealt with will send a message to their ‘brothers in terrorism’ in Fallujah, Ramadi and Sammarah.

We should never stop and weaken in response to the propaganda war that try to blame the coalition for crimes committed by Sadr and his followers.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

It’s still tense here in Baghdad and everyone is talking about the expected major operations in Najaf. There are different opinions on who’s responsible of what happened but the majority clearly confirm the responsibility of the militias, and even those who hold the Americans responsible for the latest violence believe so because they think that the Americans together with the Iraqi government gave those gangs the freedom to act like this when they should’ve dealt with them firmly from the beginning.

I was talking about this with some of my friends and I was trying hard to explain that the government was patient to show that force is not the only nor the 1st choice to confront problems but it will be the last choice and after exhausting all other possible solutions. All this to show that Iraq’s policy will be entirely different from that of the dictatorships that ruled in the past. A policy that seeks what’s best for the people rather than the government’s will or desire, to avoid any possible losses among people.

However the truth has to be said and as one of my friends said, “what you say is true but the militias in question were the ones who raised arms and that was 1st choice, and here responding with force will be a self defense rather than a choice made in haste”.

One of our friends came by and said that he was in Kadhimyea when Muqtada’s followers tried to enter and occupy the Imam Kadhim’s mosque, the most holy mosque in Baghdad and that the civilians and the IP prevented them from doing so, locked the doors of the mosque and drove them away from the whole neighborhood.

As we were talking we were hear the explosions and gunfire coming from Sadr city as they never ceased in the past few days. One of our friends was more affected than the rest of us. He was from Najaf originally. He lives in Baghdad but owns a hotel in Najaf just in front of Imam Ali shrine. He couldn’t go back to Najaf lately because of all the violence there. He was telling us about the huge loss the people of Najaf have been suffering during the past 4 months, as the whole economy of the city and the vast majority of jobs depend mainly on the Muslim tourists who come to visit the holy mosque all over the year from Islamic and other countries with Sheát citizens and mainly Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, India and some Gulf states . This tourism has virtually stopped since that time as a result of the deteriorated security conditions since Sadr and his followers came to the city.

My friend was very nervous today as he heard today that the Mahdi militia have occupied his hotel and are using it as a base for operations. He tried to call some of his relatives many times as we were sitting and finally he managed to talk to his uncle. We all were silent trying to find out what was happening there. Our friend told us later after he hang up that the Mahdi army members have occupied all the high buildings around the shrine that are composed of 3 floors or more. His uncle was trying to prevent the thugs from using the bedrooms and begging them to leave the hotel if possible, but my friend who was afraid about his family’s fate urged his uncle not to be harsh with those criminals and to leave them alone. His uncle told him that almost all the civilians living near the shrine have deserted their homes and that it’s crowded with Muqtada’s men who are taking shelter in an area that my friend estimated to be about 3 square kilometers, while people in the rest of the city are practicing their daily life in nearly a normal state. However he confirmed the presence of concrete blocks that were used lately in the main crossroads of the city that lead to the area where the fight is taking place. he also mentioned that there’s a considerable increase in the number of tanks, as yesterday he could see only 2 or 3 at a time but now there are many of them and that some tanks were about 200m away from the shrine.

It seems that everyone in Najaf is sure that a decisive attack will be launched soon and that the joint Iraqi and American forces are about to kill or arrest Muqtada and his deputies. People are also sure that the militia’s end in Najaf will mean their end everywhere, as it’s true that Iraqis are still incapable of acting or organizing themselves without a leader and a leader with some “legitimacy” too.

Update: Ali went to the hospital today and told me that the bridge near the ministry of health was blocked by American Humvees and armored vehicles and that there were many American soldiers, IP and ING members there. Cars are prevented from crossing the bridge on either side but people are crossing the bridge on foot and the soldiers are searching those who pass. He knew from his colleagues who live in different areas of Baghdad that all bridges except the Al Sinak bridge and Al Jumhooryiah bridge are blocked. Some people think it’s because some fights that took place in Haifa street yesterday, but my guess is that this has nothing to do with it, as there were many fights in Haifa street but the bridges leading to the area were never blocked. Besides some of those bridges are far away from Haifa street. I think that blocking the bridges come along with the preparations to launch the final attack in Najaf to avoid any unpleasant reactions that may come from his followers in Baghdad or any other party that may try to take advantage of this critical situation to inflame it furthermore.

Everyone here is waiting for the final attack and the end of this crisis. Most people I met are waiting for the moment when they can see Muqtada and his deputies in handcuffs, those criminals have been given a chance they didn't deserve in the 1st place.

-By Mohammed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Pharoz Rajifar (sp?) president of the Iranian organization that " Defends values of Islam" said that 15 thousands Iranian have volunteered to commit suicidal attacks in Iraq. Hamshri newspaper that's published in Iran reported that Mr. Rajifar mentioned that all the volunteers are ready to "defend Islam" in southern Iraq or any other place that might need their services. The registration process started in last June following the clashes between the coalition forces in Iraq and Sadr's militia in Najaf and the latest clashes have "provoked more people to volunteer".

The Iranian government said that this initiative has nothing to do with the government and refused the accusations of interfering in Iraq's internal affairs saying that the Iraqi officials need to prove these accusations or remain silent.

I don't know how many proves we need! Besides how can a government say that it has nothing to do with thousands of its citizens threatening peace and preparing suicidal attacks in another country, and all in public!? Don't they have a law against this? What if those people have threatened to kill someone in Iran? Would they have been left free? Besides we have enough suicide bombers for a couple of months at least, and Iran has done more than enough to support Sadr and all the “Jihadists” in Iraq. It was even reported that Zargawi uses Iran-Iraq borders to go in and out of Iraq. They have allied with the She'at worst enemies; the Wahabies just to destroy Iraq and prevent democracy here. I wonder how far they will go!

Things are going very ugly with Iran. We would never even think of going to another war but I'm really lost at how are we going to deal with these evil Mullahs and their non-stopping attempts to destroy Iraq regardless of the cost.
Battles in Baghdad have reached a surge today. You can hear heavy machine guns, mortars, RPGs all the time together with helicopters and jet fighters firing all kind of weapons including what seems to be small bombs sometimes (judging by the sounds) All this is coming from Sadr city and some neighboring areas and it seems closer to us here in the center than previous days.

Many people say that some of the Mahdi Army militia have left Sadr city and are infiltrating the side roads of other neighborhoods. People say that they are preventing people from opening their shops, shutting down those who are open together with gas stations. This seems logical since they can’t perform in Sadr city with the curfew still working there but I doubt that they are able to pass through the check points made by the American army and the ING all over Sadr city, at least not in large numbers.

I went with one of my friends to fill his car with gasoline from AL Sha’ab gas station that’s situated in Al Sha’ab district close to Sadr city. We found it closed and a guy who sells ice there told us that masked men from Mahdi Army came and forced the owner to shut down his station and leave. There are other rumors of masked armed men making checkpoints inside Baghdad (outside Sadr city).

However the truth is that Iraq is a country that’s well known to accept and spread rumors in a lightening speed. This was particularly obvious at Saddam’s days, as his Mukhabarat were usually the source of such rumors intended to make people afraid all the time and give him the features of a mighty ruler who knows and controls everything and it seems that Sadr followers are using the same weapon. The reason why I think this is just a rumor is that when I went out I saw Humvees patrolling all the major roads of Baghdad and there were a bunch of them near that same gas station. Also this morning the taxi driver who took me to work was complaining that most gas station were closed since yesterday, and that it a long time before this rumor spread.

This could be as a result of the attack on one gas station in Sadr city yesterday or as a precaution taken by the government, as these thugs are desperate now and are ready to do anything, causing as much deaths and destruction as possible, and this is all normal for criminals when trapped in a desperate position. Many people believe that Sadr thugs are using mortars to fire randomly at the center of Baghdad, and actually some mortar shells fell on civilian places in many parts of Baghdad.
It is obvious now more than anytime that these criminals fate is sealed, as they are showing that they won’t stop and are ready to go all the way, just as their idiot of a leader said that he will fight till the last drop of blood inside his body. Well I would like to say: Go ahead Muqtada, fight till you go to heaven, as we love you that much and want to see you being martyred!

However and as much as I wish this ends soon, I still think that arresting him and exposing him as the idiot he is (I don’t really believe he’s an evil man though, he’s not smart enough to be so!) to all Iraqis who might still sympathize with him and his like. It seems that the American army is very serious this time to demolish the Mahdi army for good. I really don’t mind all this trouble, instability and risk that comes along with getting rid of Sadr and his men, as it’s worth it since it will definitely make Iraq a much safer place and make elections more possible in the near future, but if all this end without capturing him then I don’t know how I will feel and how Iraqis will view all these loses as they would be truly unnecessary since we could’ve “negotiated” with those criminals from day one and spare people all these troubles.
American Humvees are patrolling Najaf’s streets and announcing through loudspeakers that civilians should evacuate Najaf city as soon as possible. This has coincided with the departure of all the 4 most important clerics from Najaf today “ Grand Ayetullah” (The last one left today). Also a curfew was announced yesterday in Sadr city from 4 p.m. till 8 a.m. and will continue for an undeclared time.

It seems that it’s time at last! I hope they get Muqtada this time and also all his deputies. People here are not only disgusted and upset with this gang but also most of them showed extreme anger and some of them went as far as condemning Islam and even the Mahdi himself!! I don’t agree of course with that, as Muqtada has nothing to do with Islam.

A She’at taxi driver told me, “ Why are we doing this!? Why among all religions we commit such horrible crimes?? If this is Islam then s**t on it and on Mahdi himself, we don’t want this! They went as far as attacking peaceful churches and I really don’t understand why! This is not the Islam we were raised to believe in, the Islam of peace and tolerance. I wish I could see this idiot dead.”

One of my colleagues; a She’at who used to sympathize greatly with Islamist whether She’at or Sunni, told me today that he is shocked with what the Mahdi army is doing, “ When he revolted the 1st time and they called him an outlaw we didn’t like it. How can they call a cleric who’s the son of Iraq’s most respectable Ayetullah, an outlaw. Now I cannot and I do not want to defend him. He’s a criminal and so are all his followers. They have killed civilians, policemen, destroyed a gas station in Sadr city, and are threatening to burn down the oil pipelines now! Why and for what!?”

None of the people I met today showed any sympathy with Sadr and all of them showed eagerness to end this situation in a decisive way, not by negotiation but through capturing or killing Sadr and disarming his militia, but some of them showed pity towards the simple men who are deceived by his propaganda and are till now paying for it instead of the real criminals; Muqtada and his deputies. Many of them were unhappy with the hesitancy the government have shown, as they think that the government and the coalition forces are being rather soft with Muqtada. They all said that the way this will be dealt with should be a lesson to all freedom haters and should send a warning to anyone who might have similar stupid ambitions.

Monday, August 09, 2004

The chief of Najaf IP, brigadier Ghalib Al Jazaeri was interviewed by Al Sharqyia TV today and gave some important statements. Mr. Ghalib confirmed the IP control over the majority Najaf and said that Al Mahdi militia are besieged in small areas. He also said that most of them are surrendering and that among the 1200 captured till now there are 1000 from outside Najaf (Basra, Kut, Amarah, Baghdad) and 4 of them were Iranians who confessed that they have joined the Mahdi army. Those 4 were Transferred to Baghdad for “The importance of the information they have”.

The man’s anger was showing and he slammed his hand against the meeting table as he said that Muqtada’s militia are the ones who broke the truce, as the truce depended on many conditions among which is the disappearance of armed men from the streets and their departure from the city, and that never happened. Also the so-called “legitimate court” founded by Muqtada was still there and was functioning despite the truce and even ‘arrested’ IP members and was trying to prosecute them! He also affirmed that the militia were the ones who started attacking the police station and the city hall.

Mr. Ghalib confirmed that there will be no negotiation with those who he described as “evil that we must get rid of” and repeated that no one is above the law, and resented the attempts of “The Sheát House” to help start negotiation with Sadr and he said that he still have the warrant of Muqtada’s arrest and he’s working on this persistently. He mentioned that yesterday he was in front of Muqtada’s house with a group of IP and ING but the door was closed and no one was in the house.

He made it clear that he will arrest Muqtada as soon as he find him and that he was a law man and has nothing to do with what politicians are trying and he will carry on with his orders and will enforce law. The police chief insisted that Muqtada was still in Najaf according to his information and he finally said that he won’t hesitate to ask for support and back up from the multinational force which he describes as “friends” to get the “evil” out of the city of Najaf.

I must say that I liked what the man said and especially his tone and strong dedication to do his job regardless of the dangers he may face and is facing now.

Also his statement that most of the thugs were from outside Najaf rule out all the claims that this is an uprising, as if it was so then we would’ve seen the people of the city themselves revolting in large numbers but the fact is that Muqtada has gathered his criminals from many cities and focused on Najaf and Baghdad only because he knew he wouldn’t find enough people to support him had he depended on the people of Najaf alone. While the fights in other cities were small compared to Baghdad and Najaf and there was absolutely no fights in the rural areas which shows that the distribution of fighters was planned to focus on important areas only, and this ensures more media coverage which in my mind is one of the main goals of such movement, as it’s clearly supported and planned by outside parties which are dying to show Iraq as an unstable and hopeless place. Besides we all saw how the people of Najaf were delighted to see the IP control the city again in the previous revolt after many days of fighting. Also an uprising is a reaction rather than a planned action and here the percentage of the fighters from outside the city show clearly that this is closer to a planned revolt.

I also admired the man honesty and courage in calling things by their names on TV especially calling Muqtada “evil” and coalition forces “ friends”. I hope the government depend more and more on people like this man who I heard from my friends in Najaf that he’s a very good and respected man.

Doubts as evidences.

Al Iraqyia TV showed a very sad story that seems closer to fiction but it happened in Saddam’s Iraq. A story that can happen only in a country ruled by brutal regime like Saddam’s and its likes. It’s beyond imagination yet it’s cold reality that reflects the fear the dictator have from his people and his readiness to kill everyone if it takes for him to stay in power.

Such people don’t know the meaning of negotiation or dialog and suspicion is enough evidence for them to kill. The important thing is to give no voice other than the voice of the dictator, a chance to be heard.

I found this story worth reporting and sharing with the others so that we all realize and keep remembering the necessity of the change and why it happened and also to try to imagine what’s happening in other countries ruled by dictators. Just because we don’t hear much about human rights violations and similar crimes in other totalitarian regimes, doesn’t mean that they don’t happen, as this story happened in the early 80s way before the world even heard about Saddam’s horrible crimes.
I found this story particularly important because some people think that Saddam’s victims are only those lying in the mass graves which is so far from the truth, and I’m talking about those killed, or tortured directly by Saddam’s regime and not the victims of wars or sanctions. The mass graves were used only later in Saddam’s days while before that and for a long time, individuals and small groups were executed and assassinated on a daily basis and handed to their families or buried in cemeteries. The number of these victims, and putting in mind the long years of Saddam’s reign, is far from being small or un compared to the number of those buried in the mass graves and I think this story throws a light on that.

Al Iraqyia met a number of undertakers and clerics who work in the largest cemetery in Iraq; Al Najaf cemetery (Najaf city). One of those undertakers said, “the security guards used to come often at night carrying the bodies of those who were executed secretly or died under torture. The burying procedure used to be done very quickly and we never dared to ask anything about the dead men and women, who were they and why were they killed. There was only a brief document with the name of the victim on it and no one from the victim’s family was allowed to attend the ceremonies which were very short.

One night in the beginning of the 80s 10 security cars came carrying the bodies of 10 young men who all seemed in their early twenties. We started to burry them but as we were writing down their names we noticed something really strange, they were all carrying the name “Sabah”! What was even stranger that the same thing happened for the next days. Every day a new group of dead men all named “Sabah” until the number reached 40!

We didn’t know the reason at that time, was it just a coincidence or what? Later on, after the war we knew what happened after one of the security officers was arrested and told the story. The reason behind this strange story was that one of Al Dawaá party members was arrested. He refused to give them the name of the guy in charge of his group and during the terrible torture and as he was about to collapse he broke down and said, “Sabah, a student in the college...” he couldn’t finish his words out of pain and exhaustion and went in coma soon. The man died and they (the security) never knew anything more from him.

Destiny had an appointment with all the student named “Sabah” in the colleges in Baghdad as the arrested man was from Baghdad, and especially with Sheát ones or those who are not know to be loyal enough to the regime. 40 young men died just because they carried the name “Sabah”!”

This is the story as it appeared on Al Iraqyia TV by the undertakers in “Al Najaf” cemitery. Mere doubts were enough to lead a man to death at those times. This was the time when Saddam was still using documents when he executed “traitors” before he changed his style as the number of “traitors” increased incredibly and started to use mass graves in remote areas without using any document. The number was too high to be contained in Iraq’s cemeteries.