Monday, May 30, 2005

Following Operation Lightning.

Yesterday operation lightning began and we noticed an excessive presence of the Iraqi army and police forces on the streets and main squares in Baghdad with an obvious readiness for confronting the terrorists.

It's become clear that the phenomenon of seeing terrorists taking control of streets and government buildings in Baghdad had diminished long time ago but it's not completely over yet. And I guess that operation lightning will mobilize the terrorists out of their hides because awaiting clashing with the security forces is worse (from the terrorists point of view) is much worse than the fight itself and they realize that having their hides assaulted one at a time will render them weaker as they would have to fight in much smaller groups.

Baghdad had witnessed high activity for the terrorists in the western part of the city which is geographically close to Anbar province; around a hundred armed men tried to control a police station where many of the most dangerous criminals were kept in custody and it seems that one of the prisoners is of significant value to the terrorists and my assumption is that the police force in charge wasn’t aware of the importance of that prisoner.

The attackers detonated a number of car bombs in the nearby intersections apparently in an attempt to prevent Iraqi or American reinforcements from reaching the operation scene while they attacked the police station with mortars and RPGs.
The battle lasted for more than 2 hours and helicopters and jet fighters attended the scene and eye witnesses said that some f-16's patrolled the area at very low altitudes but didn't fire at anything.

The policemen fought bravely and defended their station and the attack was successfully repelled after a number of the attackers got killed while the rest fled the area but additional army and police forces blocked the adjacent streets and started chasing the terrorists.

According to news sources in Baghdad, hundreds (nearly 500) suspects were captured in the 1st 24 hours of operation lightning and many weapons were confiscated; some were hidden in caches while others were found during inspecting vehicles in checkpoints.

If we follow the curve of the terrorists power we'll find that the curve is going down in general and I believe that they cannot win the battle on the strategic or the tactical level.
The illusion of the "resistance" had anaesthetized many people that they even forgot all logical and scientific calculations and I don't know how those people are going to deal with the facts when the terrorists are completely defeated.
We've been challenged in our home and we cannot afford to runaway from the challenges and keep weeping about the past. It's our battle and it's a battle for existence and that's why we must fight it to the end.

I've seen that "Memorial Day" is being mentioned very often on blogs recently and honestly I had no idea what that occasion was but thanks to a friend of mine who directed me to a few posts that helped me understand what the "Memorial Day" is about.
Being an I Iraqi citizen I believe I owe the men and women in the US military a lot and they deserve our utmost support and respect.
It's their bravery and sacrifices that liberated me and my country from the worst tyrant of our time and for that I'm grateful and I say THANK YOU again.

Heat, toothache and a birds cage...

I was lacking the energy to post anything new in the last couple of days; partly because of the increasing heat (around 40c in the shade) which makes one look and behave like a sleepy aging alligator and partly because I'm having an annoying toothache that's been attacking every other hour since last Saturday (now don't laugh. Just because I'm a dentist it doesn't mean that my teeth should be perfect!) Anyway, it's an old amalgam restoration that I have in a molar since 1995 and now it apparently started to leak or something so it's time to replace it with porcelain filling.
Now enough whining for me.

Al-Iraqia TV announced that its transmission will be extended to cover the western hemisphere of the globe, so anyone who has a satellite dish will be able to watch Al-Iraqia by entering the following values:
IntelSat 5
97 degrees west
Polarization vertical
12,146 Mhz and symbol rate 22.
This is going to be good news for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who live in the American continents.

Finally I have this photo for you. It's the 1st photo taken with a phone cam I post here. I like the way nature and space are being utilized and preserved here.

More interesting; the tree is still alive!
By the way, I intend to depend more on the phone cam for blogging from now on as it's kind of easier and safer to use in a place like Baghdad especially that I don't have the credentials that regular media reporters are provided with.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Still small in size but has grown 12x in the last 24 months.
In case you're interested in putting your bucks on Iraqi stock, I suggest you read this interesting story about the tiny-yet rapidly growing-Iraqi Stock Exhange.
While people here have different opinions about the "no driver alone rule" this Iraqi cartoonist thinks that such a rule will only make life harder for taxi drivers.

The man on the sidewalk to the taxi driver: How much will you pay me for the ride?!!

Reform halted in Egypt.

I have had the feeling for a long time that constitutional referendum over multi-candidate presidential elections in Egypt will not be a real step towards democracy.
I've seen that the media focused on the violence that accompanied the voting process but there was little mention of a more important thing which is the trap hidden behind this referendum which unfortunately made the Egyptian people in general and Egyptian opposition in particular face an unfavorable dilemma; if they reject the amendment, they will lose the chance to have multi-candidate elections and won't be able to end the one-man rule that infested the country for 24 years.

And if they approve the amendment they will have to accept the outcome of very unfairly competed upcoming elections on September because the amendment requires an independent candidate to get recommendations from at least 250 (little less than half) of the members of a parliament that is highly dominated by the ruling party of Mubarak, a requirement that is practically impossible to fulfill.

The referendum was designed in a way that meets Mubarak's ambitions by a largely corrupt and biased parliament and this is similar to the way the Lebanese parliament approved granting president Lahood an extra term.
I think it is quite dangerous to allow governement-controlled parliaments to take decisions that decide a nation's future and a reform done this way will only make things worse. So free general elections to choose an parliament that is independent form the government should've been the way to start the reform in a country like Egypt.

Ironically, it was the same parties and political movements which were strongly pushing for holding multi-candidate elections have been recently standing strongly against conducting the referendum while the government which rejected the opposition's demands for a long time has lately shown a lot of enthusiasm for the referendum and is apparently considering the results of the referendum a victory for democratic reform in Egypt (from the govt's point of view of course).

If this is supposed to say anything I guess it says that Mubarak views the referendum results as a victory for himself (or his son Jamal) because for a 1st time viewer it will show that doors are open for anyone who wants to run for office but the reality is that it only granted Mubarak a golden chance to be "democratically" elected (or has his son elected) in the upcoming elections in September because there will be no other "eligible" candidates for the voters to choose from.

I could be wrong but I really feel that the march for democracy in Egypt has just been halted, for another few years at least.
It's good to see that Chrenkoff's Get caught, Al-Zarqawi campaign which was launched only yesterday had already acheived a good deal of its objective by gathering more than 180 prayers in its 1st day.
No need to say anything here, if you feel that you want to wish Zarqawi a miserable fate save your words and add your voice here.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

News update.

At this moment, there's a press conference for the ministers of defense and interior in Baghdad and they're shedding light on a new security campaign called "The Thunderbolt" they mentioned that the campaign will focus on securing Baghdad and eliminating terror activities through "exceptional" security measures.
The ministers announced that this "huge campaign" will include the deployment of 40,000* Iraqi police and army men.

The 1st phase of the campaign shall be launched next week and a "powerful ring" of security forces will be created around Baghdad.
The minister of interior added more details; Baghdad will be divided into two sectors; western and eastern sectors and each sector will in turn be divided into a number of sub-sectors (7 in the east and 15 in the west) I guess this is because the western part is larger in size and relatively witnessing higher rates of violence.

"There will be 675 fixed checkpoints distributed all over the city as well as hundreds of mobile patrols" said the minister of interior.
Answering a question from a reporter about if this campaign is going to be limited to Baghdad only, the minister of defense said "We intend to start working on securing Baghdad next week and we have plans to expand the operations soon after to deal with the terrorists in all other cities".

He also confirmed that contacts were made with the ministry of justice which promised to provide a sufficient number of judges and interrogators to interrogate the expected detainees and to put them on trial when enough evidence are found.

By the way, this campaign seems to be the same one I read about two days ago and talked about in yesterday's post.
The minister of interior also gave a short briefing on the latest achievements of the operations carried out by the Iraqi forces between May 22 and May 26; he said that 578* suspects were arrested in Abu Ghraib, 4 large caches of weapons found, 118 vehicles prepared for car-bomb attacks were destroyed (between April 15 and May 26*) and 6 million dollars confiscated when a terror cell was arrested in Baghdad.

The last defense minister's last words were "it's time to move from defense to offense".

Well, I cannot agree more.

*values were corrected later.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Could spring follow this summer?

Al-Sabah had a story yesterday about a 1st time meeting between the officials in the new Iraqi ministries of interior and defense and the commanders of the multinational forces to put a new strategy for a higher level of coordination in the way the above institutes function.
What's new here is that all future operations will be planned for and monitored from a joined control room. The outlines of this plan were also mentioned by the spokesman of the government Dr. Laith Kubba.

Anyway, this may not seem that significant or really new but what caught my attention was a statement by the commander of the American troops in Rasafa (the eastern half of Baghdad) the officer said "by the end of this summer, the terrorists will be either killed, held in custody or at least rendered unable to function".
I though for a while and my 1st impression was that such a statement is way too ambitious considering the latest escalation in terror attacks on American troops, Iraqi troops and Iraqi civilians.

But this morning I read in the news about a new large operation in Haditha west of Ramadi, then I reviewed the sequence of events in the last few weeks; 1st there was operation "Matador", then was a turning point at the quality operation in Abu Ghraib area where for the 1st time, a division-size Iraqi force launched an assault on terrorists hides; such a huge operation was impossible to do a year ago.

The operations in Al-Qaim and Abu Ghraib inflicted heavy losses on the terrorists and now we have another major operation underway in Haditha that is expected to bring good results too and in between these major operations numerous snake-heads were captured, eliminated or are surrendering every other day with news talking about Zarqawi being fatally injured.
Here I began to think that my 1st impression was kind of rushed and unfair.

What I see happening now is a big change in the strategy of fighting terrorism in Iraq; instead of waiting for the terrorists to build strongholds and then respond to their attacks (like the way Fallujah, Sadr city and Najaf were dealt with) now terrorists are being chased in almost simultaneous operations nationwide and this will make it much harder for the terrorists to reorganize their lines and regroup in new bases.

It is quite true that Iraqi civilians, police and army have received very high casualties in the last month but looking at the other side; we'll find that terrorists have received heavier blows in this very month than anytime earlier this year.

We have said earlier that the winner in this war is the camp that has more resources and determination and so there's no doubt who's going to win at the end but the new thing is that at these rates of losses for the terrorists and if Iraqi and multinational troops keep the same current pressure on, then I guess what that officer said could be quiet close to the truth.
In a memorandum submitted to the Security Council, Iraq has officially asked the Council to extend the duration of the mission of the multinational forces in Iraq "until Iraq fulfills the requirements of the political process which has been agreed on by the Council and until Iraq is capable of securing its borders and protecting its lands and people…"
According to the 1546 resolution of the SC on June 8th 2004 the council would "reconsider the presence of the multinational forces in Iraq 12 months after adopting the resolution..."
Source, Radio Sawa.

Meanwhile, Iraq's ministry of interior has abolished an old ban on bars and nightclubs that was enforced by Saddam back in the early 1990s. Saddam also issued regulations that restricted selling alcohol.

Now what we hear from many "experts" in Middle East politics makes one think that the new government in Iraq which is supposed to have strong ties with the radical regime on Iran would rush to shut down the remaining liquor stores, force women to wear hijab and do everything they can to kick the "infidels" out of the country.

But what happened seems to be the exact contrary to their speculations and the 1st bunch of decisions made by this government were to reopen nightclubs, allow more stores to sell whisky and ask for the "infidels" to stay longer!

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Wolf bites again.

A firm and decisive act against the terrorists in western Baghdad was expected to happen at any time.
This morning the expectations became facts. Here's the original story I saw this morning and it shows that something big was happening but Al-Iraqia TV had more detailed information.

According to Al-Iraqia TV, the Wolf brigade's intelligence elements successfully infiltrated the terrorist groups in the Abu Ghraib region and the information gathered this way paved the way for the latest operation which was done in two waves; the 1st raid was accomplished yesterday while the 2nd one started at 5 in the morning today and has just ended as Al-Iraqia reporter at the scene in Abu Ghraib said.
The successful raids which represent the largest operation performed by Iraqi forces so far had resulted in arresting 450 suspected terrorists.
The brigade depended mainly on its intelligence personnel who recognized the suspects' faces and pointed them out one by one.
The Wolf brigade did almost all the job with the multinational forces providing backup when needed.

Among the detainees was an "Amir" i.e. someone who beheaded at least 10 Iraqis. Also it's believed that the terrorist who lead the latest large attack on the prison in Abu Ghraib was also among those detained.

Abu Ghraib area has a special significance in the plans of terrorist groups and it's the joint between Baghdad and Anbar province (which includes Ramadi, Fallujah and Qa'im). This area hasn't tasted peace since the terrorists began their operations against Iraqis and coalition troops two years ago.
The area also hosts one of the biggest camps of the former Iraqi army; a factor that made it easy for terrorists to possess weapons and ammunition.

The raids ran smoothly and were clearly very well planned and implemented as no casualties happened among the soldiers of the Wolf brigade.
According to Dar al hayat, Allawi said that Al-Qaida #2 man Ayman Al-Zawahiri visited Baghdad in September 1999 using a false name.
Allawi believes that Zawahiri was here to attend the "Islamic Peoples' 9th conference" which was arranged by Saddam's deputy Izzat Al-Douri.

By the way, Izzat was in charge of the "faith campaign" that Saddam launched to introduce "Islamic faith" to the Ba'ath party. This campaign was obviously aiming at approximating the secular Ba'ath with the radical Wahabi groups.

The paper says that Allawi's informationt is based on intelligence reports he was able to have access to when he was the PM of Iraq.

This statement came when the paper asked Allawi to comment on what the Jordanian king said last week that "Iraqi authorities rejected a request from Jordan to hand over Zarqawi back in 2001 as we had evidence indicating his presence in Iraq at that time".

Allawi added "the conference which was attended by 150 people from 50 countries was-in its public form-a cover for secret simultaneous meetings among leaders and members of jihadis groups" and he continues to say "Zawahiri came and left after a while, while Zarqawi remained in Iraq and started organizing new cells in cooperation with the Ansar Al-Islam group".

Here's the full report (in Arabic).
New Sabah (Arabic) reported that the "constitution writing committee" will be modified to include more members, particularly 20 extra seats (instead of 14 as suggested earlier) will be allocated for Sunni personalities. Also the new entity will carry a new name that is:
"The Dialogue Board for Writing the Constitution"

Sources from inside the National Assembly told New Sabah that there are negotiations underway with Sunni Arab political and religious entities to reach an agreement on 20 socially and politically acceptable Sunni personalities to occupy the 20 new seats.
The same sources confirmed that there are efforts to persuade ex-PM Allawi to take back his resignation from his place in the committee and that progress has been made in dealing with the reasons that lead to Allawi's resignation.

The Kurdish and Coalition blocks haven't decided yet who's going to be the chairman of the committee; the Kurdish block nominated Dr. Fouad Ma'soum (who was chairman of the interim 100 member parliament until the elections of Jan 30) for this position while the Colaition block nominated three of its members for the same position.
Dr. Ma'soum said that both blocks are seeking to win this post.

More updates to follow when available.
A great story of Iraqi bravery and American kindness.
Hat tip: Roger Simon.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A nagging question.

I woke up this morning and headed to my clinic and as usual I need first to walk to the garage where buses stop but today while walking my way at the same time I was curiously inspecting people's faces; I passed by tens, maybe hundreds of them during that 15 minute walk. The same questions jumps in my mind with every new face I pass by "is this one Sunni or She'at?" maybe he or she is Kurdish, Turkmen or Assyrian.
I failed to reach a satisfying guess in any case.

I took my seat in a KIA mini bus and I waited till more passengers came in and filled all the seats, then the driver took off and we started moving.
Again I was looking at faces trying to figure out what everyone was; actually I was trying to see if there was a way to identify one's belief, sect or race from his or her face or behavior. Silly? Maybe.

I turned to the window looking through it to the street trying to run away from this nagging question. At this moment I saw a joined Iraqi-American patrol; this time when I looked at the faces, I was able to see a difference between the men of the two armies. Although they all wore similar uniforms, It was easy to distinguish the Iraqi skin, I looked again at the faces in the bus and it was so clear that these were all Iraqi faces; those in the bus with me and those in the back of that Nissan pickup patrolling the street.

I arrived at the hospital where my clinic is, saying "good morning" to every colleague I pass by on my way to my office up the stairs and across the ward and here I remembered that I never asked any of them about his sect; it's true that family names can tell in some cases but without knowing those names one would never find, well unless by a direct question.
I frankly kind of envied a little kid I saw; my nagging question had no place in his young mind.

I really love the purity and innocence of childhood, why do we destroy it with our-most of the time-needless or ridiculous thoughts and insist that they start thinking like us and adopt our thoughts as part of maturing?
Will there be a day when we present these thoughts and beliefs to our children without bias and let them decide for themselves? I don't think I'll live to see that day in my country.

Back at home, at the end of the day I turned the TV on and sat to watch. There was a show where an Iraqi family was interviewed and my nagging question didn't bother me this time but then came the news hour and I started looking at the faces again and this time I was able to find answers, I was so able to recognize who those people were; this one is Sunni and that one is She'at and this and this and….
I couldn't get these answers back in the streets or at the hospital but they were so clear to me on the news.

Do I see the shadows of a civil war? Yes but this war will not extend beyond the HQs of parties and the 21 inches of the screen while the street, the bazaar, the clinic and my city Baghdad (which is a smaller version of Iraq) tell me a different story than that of corrupt politicians and fake clerics.
My proof to that is that I couldn't find anything on the faces I see everyday but features that I can't have doubts about; Iraqi features only that indicate nothing except that who carries them is a son or daughter of this country.

Of course I'm wrong. Who am I to disagree with all the big names and brains of strategy sitting in big offices and surrounded by lights and guards.
Maybe they're a little isolated from the people but there's no chance they could err.
And who am I to disagree with the shiny names of the media who although might be spending 3/4 of their time in a hotel room and might not even know the culture or the language of the country but they certainly are the giants of their field.
In comparison I am just an Iraqi guy who lives in the town, walks in the streets and meets more people than he's supposed to so certainly I don't see what the big names see.


Saturday, May 21, 2005

The criminals are trying to bury the evidence that lead to their old crimes.

Baghdad Dweller reports:

Ali was the only survivor and escaped death from one of Saddam’s mass graves near al-Najaf . his relatives say that he went to Baghdad to give his testimony in front of the inquiry, on his way back to Al-najaf using public transportation bus gunmen near Al-latifhya blocked the road, stopped the bus and killed Ali...
By the way, I'd like to say a few words about the Saddam in Knickers thing.
I actually don't think Saddam would mind being seen this way at all; back in the 1990s he appeared on the state TV wearing a swim suit smaller than the underwear he was wearing in the recent photos. And not only that, he was dancing in that "out fit"!
So if it was okay for him to appear half naked on TV when he was in power, I don't think he would mind being seen the same way when he's a prisoner and I really don't understand the frenzy of his Jordanian attorney who described taking the photos as a crime!

That across the river swim became almost a national holiday as it marked the memory of the day when Saddam crossed the Tigris on his way to Syria after his flawed attempt to assassinate general Kasim (the 1st president in republican Iraq) back in 1959.
Many video clips of "patriotic songs" used snap shots from that dance to remind the people of how strong and fit their leader was, so it's never a new scene for us here.

Anyway, I guess these pictures will have a greater impact outside Iraq rather than inside and whether showing them was with or against the law I believe it delivered another strong message to the small tyrants of the neighborhood and shook their image in the eyes of their people. I won't be surprised to hear that someone from Egypt or Syria used photoshop to edit these photos and fit Mubarak's or Asad's face on Saddam's body.
Iraqi minister of transport told Al-Sabah that his ministry feels optimistic about getting the Iraqi Airways aircrafts back, in reference to the aircrafts that had been held by some countries since the gulf war in 1991.

The minister explained that Iran has promised to release the aircrafts soon while there are some positive signs of a similar resolution coming from the Kuwaiti authorities.

This-when happens-will allow the Iraqi Airways to expand its business and reactivate many of the commercial flight-lines that have been suspended for about 15 years.

However there are no news about other Aircrafts that are still held by the authorities in Jordan and Tunesia, nor about some 100 military aircrafts that were sent By Saddam to Iran in 1991.
Now this is so creepy!

A Russian village was left baffled Thursday after its lake disappeared overnight.

NTV television showed pictures of a giant muddy hole bathed in summer sun, while fishermen from the village of Bolotnikovo looked on disconsolately.

"It is very dangerous. If a person had been in this disaster, he would have had almost no chance of survival. The trees flew downwards, under the ground," said Dmitry Zaitsev, a local Emergencies Ministry official interviewed by the channel.

Officials in Nizhegorodskaya region, on the Volga river east of Moscow, said water in the lake might have been sucked down into an underground water-course or cave system but...

Although I can't but sympathize with this poor village, I couldn't but laugh when I reached this part:

Some villagers had more sinister explanations:
"I am thinking, well, America has finally got to us," said one old woman, as she sat on the ground outside her house.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

After the formation of the government, a greater task is awaiting the National Assembly which is drfting Iraq's permanent constitution of course.
So we have decided to run a series of updates on this blog (hopefully daily) to keep you informed about all the developments, obstacles and successes related to this important process.
Today will mark the beginning of this series:

In what appears like an attempt to override the disputes created by the low number of Sunni law makers included in the "constitution writing committee"; a number of new initiatives to allow more influence for the Sunni in writing the constitution are on the horizon.

What seems to be the most acceptable initiative is one I read about in the morning papers of today; it suggests the establishment of an additional constitutional committee from Sunni Arabs.
Abbas Al-Bayati, a member of the Assembly form Jafari's block said that "when we reach an agreement on adopting this plan as a solution, then we will move to the other step of choosing the members of this committee".

This basic idea is that this committee-when formed-will include 14 Sunni law experts and politicians who are going to have the same rights and authorities of the other 55 members of the current "constitution writing committee".
If this is going to happen, the Sunni will have a total of 16 seats out of the 73 seats of the two constitutional committees collectively, i.e. around 22% which is supposed to be close to the percentage of Sunni people among the population in Iraq.

More later.

In response to some questions.

We've received some questions from our readers asking about Spirit of America, Friends of democracy and the progress of their partnership.
We know Spirit of America and its people.
They have supported Friends of Democracy (which is an Iraqi nongovernmental organization we have helped with), developed the only specialized Arabic blogging tool that we have written about more than once before and they have done other good things to help the people of Iraq.

Our experience with Spirit of America and its people has been very positive. They have done things no one else would do and helped in places where no one else would try. We trust them and believe they are doing their best to do good things in Iraq.

What I am sure of is that Spirit of America had fulfilled all of its commitments towards Friends of Democracy according to the agreements made between the two organizations. As far as I know, they have fulfilled their other commitments, too.
The friends of democracy team is working hard to accomplish and expand its current projects despite all the obstacles and hardships associated with NGOs' work in Iraq; just last Monday, two Iraqi journalists who worked as assistants and reporters for the Friends of Democracy were shot death on the road south of Baghdad. So you can imagine how hard and dangerous it is for an NGO to get good things done while the enemies of democracy are ready to kill anyone trying to serve his people.

There might have been some delay in accomplishing a few projects but the important thing is that resources are here and plans are already made and I am full of hope that the future will show the good deeds of the people behind those two organizations.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Who are you trying to fool Kharrazi?

BAGHDAD -- Iran's foreign minister made a historic trip to Baghdad yesterday, pledging to secure his country's borders to stop militants from entering Iraq and saying the ''situation would have been much worse" if Tehran were actually supporting the insurgency as the United States has claimed.

Now, he's trying to say that Iran was NOT supporting the insurgency, hmmm, then what about that meeting between Asad and Khatemi last year in Tehran when they both vowed to support the Iraqi "resistance"?
And what about the recruitment centers where idiots signup under the Mullahs' noses (and with their blessings) to fight and become "martyrs" in Iraq? Not to mention Iran's involvement in providing Muqtada with money and weapons and training his gangs in Iranian camps.

Kharrazi went on with his lies as far as saying:

"We believe securing the borders between the two countries means security to the Islamic Republic of Iran," Kharrazi said.

Now come on Kharrazi! We both know that the change in Iraq is threatening the existence of the Mullahs' regime and Iraq's stability will only accelerate the collapse of their control over Iran. So how do you expect Iraqis to buy such lies?

I have no doubt that people here will not put much (if any) trust in Iran's "promises" and I hope the governemnt here will be just as smart.
The department of industrial development issued licenses for 7661 new industrial projects in 2004. Al-Sharqiya reported.

Chief of the department, Abdul Kareem Jasim stated that construction material industries ranked first in the number of licenses issued with a total of 3896.
The rest of projects included the following:
1025 food-stuff production projects, 200 textile industries, 676 plastic and chemical industries and 1363 metalwork industries.

Although I don't expect many major businesses to be among those mentioned but it's still encouraging to hear such numbers.
Watermelons, Paul Bremer and a slippery sheep; all in one place!
You want to know what the story is?
Click here to read something special.
An Iraqi blogger from Najaf (in Arabic) had somehow found some documents that reveal fishy deals in which some public real estate were sold by the city council to Al-Hakim's party (the SCIRI) and to Al-Hakim himself by orders from Allawi and some of his ministers and the deals by the way, were finalized last March.

To sell property is okay but when the prices are ridiculously irrelevant, then it means that something really wrong was happening.
I still need to gather some exact information about the current prices of property in Najaf but with a rough estimation I can say that those deals were similar to say, buying a nice Mercedes for 50 bucks!

The documents seem quite authentic to me and this is very worrisome.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

News, comments, suggestions...etc

While the "Department of Sunni property" welcomed Rice's call for increasing the participation of the Arab Sunni in drafting the constitution, Adnan Al-Dulaimi, the spokesman of this entity described this initiative as a "good step, although it came late" and added "we feel sorry such a call came from America while it should've come from inside Iraq…".
Al-Dulaimi went on saying "When America is defending the Sunni interests it's actually defending America's interests as a broader Sunni role in writing the constitution will add to stability and produce a favorable political balance in Iraq…"

Here we can see another aspect of the change in the way some Sunni parties and entities are viewing America's attitude towards Iraq; instead of saying that America wants Iraq to remain in chaos to justify the presence of American troops (like they used to say for a long time), now they began to realize (or admit) that America's and Iraq's interests can be more correlated to each other and that America does want stability in Iraq.

While Harith Al-Dhari of the "Association of Muslim scholars" said "what the American minister said is empty words..." and he stressed again that his trend will not take part in any political process as long as the country is "under occupation".
I pointed out many times that Al-Dhari and his group are far from being representatives of the mainstream Sunni opinion; he and his group insist on singing a different tone than the rest of the Sunni community therefore they're getting more and more isolated.

Meanwhile, Sistani urged PM Jafari to work on including more Sunni members in the "constitution drafting committee". This committee is comprised of 55 members; 28 of who are from the She'at dominated block of the "United Coalition" while there are only 2 Sunni members in it so far.

Iraqi press reported this morning that Jafari "strongly refused" a call from the American secretary of state to postpone Saddam's trial. Jafari explained this refusal by saying "This could lead to more violence in this phase" and he stressed that the trial must take place as soon as possible. Jafari also rejected the idea of starting negotiations with the militant groups but he showed his agreement with what Rice suggested about the need for a greater Sunni role in the constitutional process and he admitted that "the current percentage of Sunni members of that committee does not reflect the magnitude of the Sunni population" and he stressed that he will "work hard to include more Sunni in the process".

At the same time Rice asked Jafari to stick to the time table of his government; Jafari said that he will try to do that but if something critical would require extending the time table then "we will go for extending it".
I am not certain what they were referring to by "extending the time table" but I guess it's related to the situation that appears and the measure taken to handle the situation when the parliament fails to write an agreeable constitution which should be submitted to the people by August 15 this year.

The Iraqi ministry of defense announced through the local media that it gave orders to all Iraqi troops to "stop attacking or searching worship places; mosques, *husaniyas and churches".
I really don't know why they added churches here because churches were never involved in violence, actually they were targeted by terrorists more than once and I feel that adding churches to the list of forbidden places here is just ridiculous.
Plus, what if we had strong evidence that some terrorists or serious weapons were inside a mosque or a husainiya? What if the ministry receives intelligence that Zarqawi or Izzat Al-Doori was hiding in a mosque? Should the troops ignore the information and let the terrorists go?

I think it was better to write the decision in a more specific and detailed manner, for example "no worship places should be attacked or searched unless there are solid evidence that these places are being used against they way they should be" and I think that if there has to be a specific rule that protects mosques or churches then there also has to be a rule that protects houses too because to me, my house is more sacred than any other place in the world.

*A husainiya is a name used to call She'at mosques.

Every time oil supplies are resumed through the northern pipeline (that connects Kirkuk's oilfield with the Turkish ports), it doesn't take more than a week before the pipeline is blown up again. It happens so fast that newspapers sometimes announce resuming the supplies and the sabotage in the same day as positive news move slower usually.
Anyway, the medai is not the subject here.
It's really frustrating to see this happening over and over again while the government seems incapable of finding a cure for this problem.

An Iraqi columnist suggested a solution for this pipeline's tragedy and wht she wrote caught my attention; she said among other things in long column:

The pipeline is 300 km long, so what if we hire one man to guard each one meter of the pipeline? This means we will need 300 thousand men and assuming that we'll pay each man a salary of 300 $ a moth and provide him with 200 $ worth of supplies and equipment each month, the total cost per year will be something around 1.8 billion $. Sounds like a lot of money, right?

But let's think of it this way; at an export rate of 0.5 million barrels/day at a price of 40 $, the revenue will be something like 7.3 billion $ per year, subtract the 1.8 billions that are needed for protecting the pipeline and we will end up making a 5.5 billion $ income per year (instead of the almost nothing we're getting right now) and we will provide jobs for 300 thousand men.

Maybe this is a wild suggestion and maybe the columnist is a dreamer but I guess with a few modifications, a good and practical plan can be reached.


Monday, May 16, 2005

More nice pictures coming today from the new Iraqi blogs!

This one shows civic society women activists while receiving internet training and instructions on starting blogs using the Arabic blogging tool.

This workshop is the first among a series of coming workshops arranged for by the Friends of Democracy; the goal of which is to offer women activists the opportunity to express their opinions about their current life and their future as well as enabling them to interact with each other, show their points of view and share ideas concerning the most critical process of this phase which is drafting the constitution.

Samawa city.

Photo of the day.

The sons of Diwaniya celebrate their return to their city after finishing a training course in a Baghdad military training facility. Those brave young men have become Diwaniya's special tasks force; the first line of defence against terrorists and criminals.

Diwaniya special tasks force parading on the streets of their city.

Via Al-Witwity.
Charles johnson, Roger L. Simon and Marc Danziger together with a number of fine bloggers are putting the final touches on the Pajamas Media; an ambitious experiment that will hopefully open new horizons for blogs and blog-based news services.
Pajamas also plans to make blogs a more valuable source of income for bloggers who sign up to join the team through organizing advertising on blogs.
Till this moment, more than 300 bloggers worldwide have joined the Pajamas and I'm one of them. All bloggers are welcome to sign up through contacting "".

If you want to know more about this, John Hawkins has an interview with Marc Danziger, one of the founders of Pajamas.
More Saddam-Kremlin oil scam deals exposed:

Saddam Hussein's government provided senior Russian officials with oil rights worth millions of dollars under the oil-for-food program in an effort to lift U.N. sanctions against Iraq, according to a U.S. Senate Committee report released on Monday.

The oil allocations were "compensation for support," Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan told the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

The report, based on documents as well as interviews with Ramadan and Tareq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister, pointed to Alexander Voloshin, former chief of staff to President Vladimir Putin in the Russian Presidential Council, and ultranationalist parliamentarian Vladimir Zhirinovsky.....

More about the scandal here.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Our friend, the Egyptian Sandmonkey thought for a while that Mubarak was changing:

Like many Egyptians who saw the frontpage of Alahram newspaper on Saturday, I was astonished to see the frankness and openness that President Mubarak used in his Interview with the Kuwaiti Newspaper "Siyasssah".......

Well, I was all excited and stuff because it meant that Mubarak is going to stop bullshitting us and start being more honest in his attacks and statements, which is something I really really would like to see.

however, soon he finds out that he was wrong about it:

I was wrong.

Today Al-ahram issued a retraction and a personal complaint from the President, who protested the publishing of the interview and claimed it misquoted him and was inaccurate and slanted. Chances are Al-Ahram didn't get the clearance from the President to publish the interview with all the "controversial"statements in it that we Egyptians were not supposed to read.

My predictions: Heads will roll in Al Ahram. Someone will get shafted. This is not something Mubarak is likely to forgive. you know?

My humble advise: Do not ever believe what a dictator says; one should either show absolute active defiance and accept the dangers associated with that or adopt the less risky road of passive defiance and rejection of the tyrant's policies and promises and either option is better than waiting-even for a second-for anything good to come from a tyrant because that would be just like fooling oneself.
The "Quran desecration" crisis has made the news all over the last several days but it seems over now as the original source says now that the reports of the descretion were incorrect.
Michelle Malkin links to an article on the Times (UK) online that covered parts of the issue:

AT LEAST nine people were killed yesterday as a wave of anti-American demonstrations swept the Islamic world from the Gaza Strip to the Java Sea, sparked by a single paragraph in a magazine alleging that US military interrogators had desecrated the Koran.....

The unrest began this week after Newsweek published an allegation that American military interrogators had desecrated the Islamic holy book in an effort to rattle detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The report said that they had placed the Koran on the lavatory inside inmates’ cells and had “in at least one case, flushed a holy book down the toilet” .

I thinks this irresponsible and reckless behavior at the end of the media must not pass unquestioned (some reasonable punishment won't be a bad idea though) because people were killed in some countries just because some reporter thought it was cool to write about a subject considered irritating by millions of people. I'm not trying to justify the riots here; on the contrary, I'm against them but (and correct me if I'm wrong) one must not put matches near gasoline.

I haven't payed any attention to this story from the beginning plus, it's technically impossible to flush a 700 page medium sized-if not large-book down a toilet!!

What is interesting is that Iraq witnessed no demonstration at all, not even a single statement of denoencemnet from anyone although Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya kept running updates on this subject almost every news-hour and have always talked about the descretion incident as if it were confirmed news.

If this is to indicate anything I think it indicvates that Iraqis are more concerned about their own lives than they're about the "issues" of the Islamic world's dignity and more important (and here I see our community approaching a turning point) is that people are giving the media less credit than they used to do.

Update: FOX video clip covering the Newsweek's screw up and "apology" here and a longer one here.
Saot Al-Iraq has just posted this thread of breaking news (Arabic link):

Trusted sources have confirmed information that a deal has been made between the Australian govt. and Harith Al-Dhari the head of the "Association of Muslim Scholars" to solve the case of the Australian hostage Douglas Wood.
Australia would be paying Al-Dhari 10 million US dollars in return for Wood's release and the exchange is supposed to take place within 48 hours.

Nothing on it so far on TV but if it proves to be true then I don't know what the hell is keeping the authorities from taking Dhari and his gang.
According to Technorati, the total blog count has crossed the 10 million blogs milestone, awesome!
I believe Kilometer Zero is the first iraqi film ever to compete at Cannes. Isn't that cool!?
I've seen a few short clips from the movie which the director had apparently done a fine job in creating and I'm looking forward to see the whole thing soon.
More updated details here.
I almost forgot that yesterday was the set date for the Muslims-against terror rally in DC.
Well, I was a little bit lazy with my reading yesterday. Nevertheless, I've just found this report about the rally with some photos.
Via Glenn.
Sadly, the turnout was apparently not as high as desired but anyway, something is better than nothing.
The report mentions the presence of Al-Jazeera crew in the scene but so far there's no mention of the rally on Al-Jazerra, neither on TV nor on their website. Surprising? No!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Al-Witwity reports about the confiscation of many Iraqi Sumerian artifacts in Diwaniya after arresting a Syrian mukhabarat officer who was trying to smuggle these priceless artifacts out to Syria in cooperation with some local thugs.
Experts estimate the total price of these artistic historic pieces to be around 35 million dollars.
Click here for pictures of the retreived artifacts.
The Friends of Democracy blog is back to life after a long hiatus.
In an attempt to protect their city from suicide car bombers, the local authorities in Tikrit set an emergency rule for driving on the streets; the new rule says that "no drivers will be allowed to drive their vehicles alone, i.e. every vehicle has to carry at least two people to be allowed to move on the streets".
Source, Al-Sabah.

The local police said that they will shoot at any vehicle that violates this rule and I heard that such an incident did happen once at least in the last few days.

I don't know how practical this is or how effective it is going to be and of course it's going to have some undesirable economic side effects as it's going to severely restrict the movement of Taxis and lorries but if it's going to save one life then it's certainly worth it.
Chester provides a summary of the Sunday morning, through Tuesday night events of Operation Matador.
The map he included helps get a better view at the operation scene.

Unlike food stuff, the validity of chairs doesn't depend on temperature, humidity or the addition of preservative materials. Instead, it depends on what people think of the guy sitting on that chair.
::Ferid introduces Baghdad's Softball team with a couple of pictures and he's apparently sad he missed the games:

Damn it, they were playing just near were I live and only now I knew about it.

Well, same here my friend. I'm definitely going to follow the local sport news from now on!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Breaking news and untold news.

Every morning I wake up with an idea for something I want to blog about but an hour or two later "Breaking News" signs start flashing on the TV screen bringing news about a car bomb in Baghdad, a suicide attacker in Tikrit, an IED in Hilla and an assassination in Baquba and I frankly get little bit discouraged and a lot more saddened by these news and I begin to feel that it would be inappropriate to write about some regular stuff when there are people dying and suffering but these situations are happening over and over again and will probably continue to happen in the same frequency for days, weeks or maybe months and I realize that being paralyzed by these terror attacks and the pain they bring is exactly what they terrorists want to see.

So I have decided to keep blogging in the same manner regardless of the "Breaking News" which have proven to successfully be heart-breaking but I don't intend to allow them to be life-breaking.

Now back to the subject I originally wanted to talk about.
People inside and outside Iraq keep wondering why little progress is being made construction wise; why Iraqi cities still get poor power supplies? Why there is a deficiency in clean water in many places? Why sewer systems are incomplete? And a thousand questions like these are heard everyday.
I myself had similar questions but following the progress in one particular project gave me a better understanding of the situation and made me see some facts that I wasn't aware of.

The story began nearly two years ago in the summer of 2003 when an engineer friend of mine visited me at home; after a short random chat and a cup of tea he pulled out some papers from his briefcase and handed them over to me "could you please help me with some translation Omar?" he asked.
"Of course, what's this about?" I replied.
"The company I'm working for is trying to get a contract for preparing the location for a new power plant and I need to read and understand the tender" he explained to me.

Anyway, I translated the parts he wasn't able to understand; he thanked me briefly and rushed out to meet his boss.
A few months later, I was transferred to work in Basra, so passing by the construction site became something I do on regular basis as it lies just adjacent to the old "south Baghdad power plant" near the southern entrance of Baghdad.

The old six-unit south Baghdad power plant. The two new units are now situated to the right of the two shorter chimneys.

For over a year, I closely followed the progress of the work and I never allowed myself to sleep in that part of the 8 hour biweekly trip as some kind of strong passion appeared between me and that power station (sounds weird I know).
Later I got transferred back to Baghdad and began to pass through that street more often and every time I would drive really slowly to get more time near the construction site just to see if anything new had been added.

Recently, things began to take their final shapes; through out the past twenty months or so all I could see were vague metal and concrete structures that had no distinctive identity and it was rather difficult to know which was what.
A couple of months ago the two chimneys were all set. Shortly after that, fuel tanks were fully constructed in situ and just two weeks ago, the two giant turbines were set in place.

Last week, I met my engineer friend again and he told me that the two turbines will be experimentally operated on May 24 and if the experiment runs smoothly, the two new units would be connected to the grid adding 300 megawatts to the national power supply.
When I asked my friend how he feels about it he sighed and said:

"I feel really proud of being part of this; this time I wasn't working for material benefit only, I felt overwhelming happiness for doing something good in such a hard time. You have no idea my friend what we’ve been through to make this project work out. The work was suspended many times because of attacks; mortars hit the site three times, RPGs two or three times, small guns fire attacks happen every other while. We have lost 11 men in these attacks, 7 Iraqis and 4 foreigners and many others received death threats. It wasn't an easy job at all my friend. We also had to establish a 6 meter tall concrete wall to provide more protection for the workers and the station".

I was so touched by his story and we wondered together if people outside realize how the new Iraq is getting built. People here are working and at the same avoiding bombs and bullets. People head to their work stations every morning and they don't know what the roads are hiding for them. We went to the election centers not minding the risks of getting killed and Iraqi young men keep going to the recruitment centers although they realize that doing so might get them killed.
Many "experts" outside Iraq watch from a distance and enjoy counting our dead and they ignore what we're building here but I don't care because I believe that victory is near.

One of the two new units.

This gives a glimpse at what construction efforts face in Iraq, not to mention other factors like bureaucracy and corruption.
But let's take a broader look at the results; after two years of hard work, sacrifices and suspensions, the work is almost 100% done and next moth Baghdad will get more power and engineers like my friend will stand proud of what they accomplished but can anyone tell me what did they terrorists gain from attempting to stop the work!?

This short story represents one of a thousand unreported struggles where victory sided with our people and in the same way victory will be on our side in the greater war against the forces of darkness and terror.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

They can't smother the sun with a bucket of....

Cultural forums are one of Baghdad's old traditional meeting places; these forums which are usually hosted by intellectuals, poets and social Baghdadi figures in their homes have never lost their distinctive flavor and in spite of the exceptional circumstances we're passing through, these forums remained alive and active and kept enriching the social, cultural life in Baghdad with ideas and discussions that preserve the position of the Iraqi intellectuals.
Such forums are not clubs or institutions belonging to some parties or organizations; they're totally independent and kept being so through out the past centuries.

In Baghdad, there are many of houses that host these-usually weekly-forums which are attended by dozens of poets, writers and scientists in a special atmosphere that kept the old Baghdadi traditions alive.

Among the most famous houses are "Al-Sha'arbuf" and "Al-Khaqani" forum-houses; last Thursday I was privileged to attend one of these sessions by in invitation from the lecturer who's a remarkable Iraqi poet.
I found in this invitation a great opportunity to take a closer look at these forums after a long time of not attending any.

The session was held at Al-Sha'arbuf's house; Al-Sha'arbuf is one of Iraq's best cardiologists and was born to a family famous for its great interest in literature and science; their house has been hosting such forums for a really long time and the consecutive generations of this family was keen on keeping this lovely tradition alive.

The house is located in Al-Karrada Kharij neighborhood and the sessions are held every Thursday afternoon. I wasn't surprised at all when I saw the house full of visitors because I am sure that the Iraqi writers and thinkers would not be deterred by any hardships and would do anything to keep the creation flowing.

Some arrived late because of road-blocks on their way to the meeting place and some preferred to even walk and leave the taxis than to miss the meeting.

The session usually starts by a lecture prepared by one of the guests and these lectures are previously scheduled for moths.
And the lecture is usually followed by a debate session to discuss the subject of the lecture and everyone interested in commenting would be granted some time to voice his thoughts.
And of course there are a few breaks where Arabic coffee and desserts are served in between discussions.

It was interesting to see that some writers take advantage of such occasions to market their books by placing a small pile of their books on a table and writing the price on a piece of paper (notice the price of a book is 1250 ID, i.e. less than a dollar).

It was a pleasant experience for me to see the mouths that were forced to shut up for decades speak again and debate freely with no reservations or fears. No more fear from having a secret service agent sitting next to you and counting your breaths, making you think a thousand times before saying anything that might "hurt the feelings of the Ba'athist comrades".

The meeting lasted for 3 hours but to me it seemed like 30 minutes just like all other sweet times.
In such occasions, one forgets that there's a hand trying to assassinate this freedom; what I saw stronger than any terror plan. Bombs might have delayed some of those men and explosions could have stopped a few men from coming but they would certainly not stop the doors of this house from opening every Thursday afternoon.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and I believe this creative Iraqi cartoonist said more in this simple, yet telling cartoon than what anyone would say in any single article.


Saturday, May 07, 2005

::Here's an update to the march against terror.

::Douglas Wood, the Australian hostage in Iraq was apparently beaten by the terrorists who captured him.
Via Tim Blair.

How brave these "freedom fighters" are!!

::Railroads to be reopened, rehabilitated in Iraq and more commercial flights to be resumed, Al-Mendhar reports.

::Roger Simon has another update on Pajamas Media:
And speaking of Pajamas Media, blog sign-ups have reached the magic number of 250.
While reading one of the military blogs I found a link to this article by Scott Ritter.
He starts the article by suggesting that Iraq is a second Vietnam!
Okay now, I wasn't born yet when the war ended in Vietnam but I had read a lot about that war and I live in Baghdad as you already know so I think I'm not entirely clueless about this subject.

What I really see is that the only things in common between the two conflicts are that they were/are both in Asia and that American military power was/is involved.

I can't understand how he could see Iraq similar to Vietnam when the vast majority of the population here is happy with getting rid of Saddam, i.e. glad the change took place in Iraq.

The wildest estimations for the size of "insurgency" in Iraq suggest that there are less than a hundred thousand "insurgents" and double that number of supporters, i.e. a total of 300 000 which roughly represents only 1% of the total population of Iraq.
Even if we double the above estimations, we will end up with 98% of the population are against those "insurgents".

I think Ritter in his article (which as you see was endorsed by Al-Jazeera) ignored the whole country of Iraq and built his entire "analysis" on stories from Al-Qaim and tried to generalize the situation in that spot over the rest of Iraq.
Obviously he doesn't recognize that Al-Qaim which is nothing but a remote suburb had been used as the main entrance for foreign fighters who want to enter Iraq from Syria. It's actually the transit stop for foreign terrorists on their way to the rest of Iraq, i.e. it's just another small town hijacked by the terrorists.

I realize that declaring victory will require a lot of patience, sacrifices and efforts from both; Iraqis and the coalition but I can't see America losing because this would mean much greater loss for Iraq in the 1st place, and Iraqis (the remaining 99% after excluding the 1% mentioned above) definitely don't want to see that happen.

It's always wrong to take one case and generalize it over the whole picture, I mean the same way that Ritter used Al-Qai'm as a parameter to weigh the situation in Iraq I could use Samawa, Sulaimaniyah or Basra to say that everything is moving in the right direction and this is not true either.
What would best escribe the situation is to aknowledge the fact that many parts of 5 provinces out of 18 in Iraq are still in a critical phase while the rest of the country is living in far more stable conditions.

And this applies to all other aspects of the situation in Iraq; political, military, economic and social. So one can focus on the great progress acheived in a relatively short time to get more momentum to make more progress in the turbulent spots or one can close an eye and a half and see only places where little or no progress was acheived.
I believe this depends on one's intentions.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Friday prayers and the future elections.

I have noticed lately that many announcements are being posted on the walls in Sunni mosques encouraging people to participate in the coming elections-that are planned to be in January 2006-and to not miss the chance like last time.

I think the Sunni trend had made up its mind about this subject after the latest dispute inside the "association of Muslim scholars" after which it became obvious the decreasing influence of Al-Dhari's trend (who's out of the country right now along with his son) and the increasing influence of the moderate trend that favors being part of the political process.

I have pointed this out earlier and I expect the near future to bring up the results of this development in the form of less violence in the usual hot spots.
It's also become clear that the association has taken a firm decision not to take active part in the political process and had joined the "committee of national reconciliation" as a supervisor only and there's a frank invitation for the association to limit its role to religious advisory and preaching (as it should be).

For the fourth week in a line, the "department of Sunni property" which is an official entity that takes care of Sunni mosques and Sunni heritage has been distributing inquiry forms to the people who attend the Friday prayers as such prayers are usually attended by more people than other week days.
The inquiry (or poll) includes four questions:

1-would you like to have a role in drafting the constitution?
2-would you like to participate in the next round of elections?
3-would you prefer to see a unified committee for the Sunni?
4-Are you with the call for joining the Iraqi army and police?
*You can submit any suggestions you have.

The results I could take a look at in Baghdad were as follows:
In "Ghaffar Al-Thunoob" mosque in A'adhamiyah, 273 people filled the forms and 96% of them answered the 4 questions with "yes".

In "Al-Yakeen" mosque in Al-Sha'ab quarter I wasn't able to get the exact number of the people who took the poll but the percentage of those who answered the 4 questions with "yes" was 92%.

In "Haj Ahmed Ra'oof" mosque in Al-Baladiyat quarter south east of Baghdad, 95% of those who took the poll answered all the questions with "yes".

No doubt these results suggest that a high percentage of the Sunni people will most likely vote in the coming elections especially considering that these answers come from committed Sunni Muslims who regularly attend mosques.

The 2006 election will obviously witness a very hot competition and we're going to see a lot of action, i.e. the more players, the better the game will be while those who put their bucks on the failure of the change in Iraq would better forget about their winning.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

First of all, our deepest condolences to the families of the victims of today's massacre in Erbil.
May God bless the souls of those who have fallen while trying to protect their city and their people and we wish those who gut injured a fast recovery.

Sandmonkey thinks that the government's story regarding the latest attack in Cairo has many holes in it.
After he logically discusses some of these holes he declares that the contract between the people and the government is no longer valid and that the people want their freedom back.

We, Egyptians, forsake a lot of our liberty for the sake of our security and they are not keeping their end of the bargain. Say what you say about the American Patriot act, but there hasn’t been a single terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. The American government has clearly kept its end of the bargain, the Egyptian government seems incapable of it, so we should no longer keep ours. They can’t protect us; It’s time to get our freedom back!

I have talked many times about the close resemblance between Syria and Iraq (pre-liberation Iraq of course) but this article by Karfan and friend abolishes the few differences I thought existed between Arab countries tyrranical regimes; they're identical twins, I swear!
Reading this article took me back to Iraq in 2002; every single tiny detail is exactly the same; the army, the Ba'ath party and its hateful regional convention, the worn out-slogans and the numbness you can see clearly on many faces.

Maybe the only difference lies in the cars!
The Mukhabarat drive white Peugeot cars in Syria while in Iraq they used to have white Toyotas and in stead of a Range Rover being the dream of Syrian officers, Iraqi officers' dream was a Nissan Patrol.

Al-Sabah is conducting a new opinion poll and till no 1590 people have said their opinion about this question:
What is the task Jafari's government has to handle first?

The answers came like this:

1-providing security 55.16% (877 votes)

2-dealing with unemployment 3.08% (49 votes)

3-getting the foreign troops out 4.97% (79 votes)

4-improving public services 1.26 (20 votes)

5-applying Shareat law 1.01% (16 votes)

6-writing the constitution 5.47 (87 votes)

7-providing more houses 1.51% (24 votes)

8-fighting terrorism 11.45% (182 votes)

9-fighting corruption 4.78% (76 votes)

10-Saddam's trial 10.06% (160 votes)

11-don't know 1.26% (20 votes)

I think that not all of the questions were well selected because "fighting terrorism" is part of the more general task of "providing security" and "writing the constsution" is not the duty of the cabinet.

However this poll shows (like some previous ones) some intersting findings; the most important one is that it shows that Iraqis are not fond of Shareat laws at all and that a low percentage of Iraqis consider ending the presence of foreign troops one of their priorities for this period of the transitional phase.

Also, it shows that unemployment is not a major concern as well while I noticed an increase in the demands for more efforts to be done to improve security (when compared with similar polls conducted immediately after the January elections) and this-in my opinion-is attributed to the increased frequency of terror attacks recently.

By the way, I was interviewed (via e mail) by Mr. Ghost a few days ago. You can take a look at the interview here.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Our friend Al-Witwity has a 1st hand report about the mass grave that was discovered two days ago near Diwaniyah.

He met a Kurdish woman who miraculously survived the execution process.
The woman who's originally from the "Seeti" suburb near Erbil said that she was brought along with 9 other members of her family and larger numbers of other Kurds in buses and were all executed later in this area.

Eye witnesses from the area said that back in the middle of 1980s, buses and bulldozers used to come to this valley twice a week but no one dared to question what was happening.

This woman after she someway managed to escape got lost in the desert for 5 days until some shepherd found her and kept her safe away from the eyes of the security services that kept searching for her for years until they knew that she had officially lost her mind.
The woman expressed her gratitude for the locals who were kind to her and allowed her to live in a room attached to a mosque for the past 21 years after she lost all her family and had nowhere else to go.

Al-Witwity had also talked to the chief of the "Humanitarian association for defending the rights of the mass graves' martyrs" who confirmed that there are 19 other mass graves to be revealed soon, each one is supposed to contain the remains of approximately 2000 Iraqis.

You can find a number of pictures of the mass grave here (scroll down).

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Why there are no reports or links for mass graves in Iraq in 2002?

I've noticed this question being repeated more than once on the comment section here and on a few other sites.
I want to know why such a question is being asked; would a report about mass graves in 2002 make the situation any different?
Is it that some people think it's too much for Iraqis to get a year off from being buried in mass graves?
Is the question suggesting that all the mass graves fond so far in Iraq do not count if 2002 was free of mass graves?
Or maybe people asking this question are trying to say that Saddam suddenly became a better person in 2002?

Maybe I'm being oversensitive here and maybe it's just an innocent question; however I'd like to talk shortly about it.

The tragedy of mass graves was associated with certain incidents, namely the uprising in 1991 and the notorious campaign against the Kurds in the late 1980s and a few other cases and I guess most of you already know this.
The other thing is that the absence of mass graves in a specific year does NOT mean that no people were executed at that time because there were always executions carried out separately in different spots in the country and the victims' bodies were either buried separately or sent to their families to be buried.

I still have to admit that 2002 was relatively less bloody than the years that preceded it; at that time I noticed that people would express their anger on the streets with less fear from punishment, not because Saddam became a nicer guy or decided to allow free speech (God forbid!) but mainly because he was more concerned about a greater threat coming from across the Atlantic so he partially ignored the war on the "internal front" against the people.

In spite of that, executions continued until the last days in the regime's life and there are stories about people executed even in the 1st week of April 2003 (sorry for not providing links).
More over, many doctors who served in Abu Ghraib before 2003 confirmed that an average of 40 prisoners were executed weekly in that prison alone in two execution sick festivals each week, every week on Saturday and Tuesday if I didn't forget, which gives a total of around 2000 executions/year in Abu Ghraib alone (sorry again for not providing links).

I read some report a week ago about the number of executions in different countries and China ranked 1st with a total of approximately 3400 executions/year and the Chinese government is being severely criticized for that.

And considering that the population of China is more than 50 times that of Iraq; a total of 80 executions/year would more or less put Iraq in the same rank of China's when it comes to declaring an execution crisis.
But Saddam being keen on fulfilling his responsibilities towards his people was able to finish the assignment of one year in a matter of two weeks.

A friend in need is a friend indeed.

I read this on Al-Sabah a few days ago:
Iraqi ex-body builder Ali Al-Gayyar thanks governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for covering the expense and facilitating the procedures of his 24 year old daughter's (Zeina) treatment trip.

The newspaper explains that Gayyar and Schwarzenegger became friends after they met in several body building championships back in the sixties and seventies of the last century.

The funny thing was to know that in the 1966 world championship, Schwarzenegger ranked 5th on the world while Gayyar got the bronze medal!
I guess Gayyar was telling himself "who thought that this loser would some day become the governor of California".

Baghdad's new lottery!

There's a new lottery going around in Baghdad these days. It's a lottery where the winners are decided through site-surveys not through pulling a ball out of a box or something.
There is currently one mobile phone company already functioning in Baghdad but there are two more companies still building the infrastructure needed to start providing their services and this basically includes distributing a large number of towers all over the city.

If your house occupies a spot that is proven by site-surveys to be the best spot for hosting one of these towers in your area, then your neighbors will certainly be jealous of you. And here's why:

1-The phone company would pay the house owner (the host) 500 $ per month for allowing the company to install the tower in on his house's roof or in the garden.

2-The deal would also include installing a diesel power generator to keep the tower functioning 24/7 and this means the family would not face any problem with electricity through out the duration of the contract and in Baghdad's summer season this is an invaluable bonus.

3-The host would certainly get excellent network coverage!

See an example of these towers here.