Saturday, December 30, 2006

Celebrating Justice...

Saddam drew his path to hell long time ago…he chose this fate the day he chose cruelty and oppression as a way to deal with his people. He built his reign with blood and terror and vowed to make death the fate of anyone who dared say no to him.

Saddam lost his humanity the day he committed his first crime, so the one I saw walking to the rope this morning was no man to me.

It was him who rejected humanity to become the monster that the weak feared and prayed to see him dead for years to be safe from his crimes.

Outside Iraq people will divide over his hanging, just like they divided over his life and rule but here in Iraq most of us feel that today justice has been served. Those who mourn him are a few and are still living in the past that has no future in Iraq.

To those who didn’t like justice I say that his death means life to many.
Executing the dictator renews the hopes of not only Iraqis but also of other oppressed peoples in the world in having a better future where they enjoy freedom. It's time for other tyrants to learn from this lesson and realize that a similar fate is on the way if they refuse to change.
Yes, it was the people though their elected government who put Saddam on trial and who says otherwise should go back and learn about how Saddam humiliated, murdered and tortured Iraqis and plundered their fortunes in his stupid adventures.

He deserved to die—our people are still suffering from his crimes till this moment, maybe not in person anymore but through the murderous terrorist machine he built and expanded over years; his orphans are still murdering our people in cold blood trying to deny us the right to build a model of life away from the culture of death the dictator created.

Executing Saddam is an execution to a dark era in Iraq's history and it's a message to all those who followed his ways that there is no turning back; yes, the people will never kneel to a tyrant again and will never give up.
The future is in the hands of the people and they will choose their way no matter how big the sacrifice is.
We have suffered too much for too long and we deserve a better life and that we will keep pursuing.

On this day as we celebrate justice we shall not forget to pray for blessings for the souls of the dictator's victims and we shall not forget to thank our brothers in America and the rest of the coalition nations who helped us and are still helping us in our struggle to build the new free and democratic Iraq.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Year 2007 will definitely be without Saddam walking on the ground….

It's very imminent now and might become a fact at any minute.
The situation in Baghdad is tense now and US and Iraqi forces are heavily deployed on the streets.

We're hearing and reading more confirmations that US military has already turned Saddam in to the Iraqi authorities and I don't think the government is willing, or able, to keep him in custody for too long.
Rumors are spreading fast through phones and text messages in Baghdad, mostly saying that curfew will be imposed in the city tomorrow. No word about that from state TV though.

Friends and relatives are calling me asking me whether he's been already executed, some are claiming he already has.
Meanwhile lots of updates are coming through news TV here; al-Arabiya reporter said the noose is already set in a yard in the IZ. Al-Hurra reported that preparations for the execution are underway and no delay is expected.

It's going to be a long night but it looks like the morning will bring the news Iraqis have long waited for….

By the way, check out Pajamas Media for a good roundup of related news and updates.


-Tariq Harb, Iraq's most famous judicial expert who's been following and commenting on the trial since the beginning said he expected the execution to take place in the next few hours.

-The Sadrist said they would return to the cabinet and parliament after Saddam is executed.

-Bahaa' al-Aaraji, a Sadrist and member of the parliament's legal commission told al-Iraqiya TV that two execution sites have been prepared; one in the IZ and one in another location he wouldn't disclose.

-Al-Aaraji told al-Iraqiya TV that the government is asking clerics whether it's allowed to carry out executions during religious holidays. He added that he expects Saddam to be executed no later than noon tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

It's in our interest to make them understand...

"Oh Iraqis, just listen to what your American enemies are saying these days and you'll know that victory is close…" this is a slogan among many others we hear everyday on one of the terrorists' mouthpieces.
They are talking about the anticipated change in America's policy in the region and this possible change has been interpreted by the terrorists and their supporting dictatorships as the prelude for the victory of the powers of darkness over the "losing" project of America and its friends.
That's the project that aims at getting rid of these extremist powers and allowing freedom to flourish in the region.

It's neither new nor unexpected from our region's leaders and politicians (with a reservation on the word politicians) to misread signals coming from American or western statements. We'd always lacked clear strategic vision in our region and most of our movements are reactions rather than genuine actions because it's rare to see intellectuals or reasonable thinkers given a real role in governance. In fact most of the leaders have either inherited the crown or are lucky guys who took over after successful coups.
That also applies to even our primitive parties which are often small family dictatorships.
Such misreading by unqualified leaderships had always led to moves from their end that brought catastrophes upon the region and history of the middle east is full of examples.

What made me want to write about this issue is the way in which the middle east has read America's announcement of an imminent change of policy. Apparently here, the leaders got it this way: that the change in strategy would be from one of victory to one of exit.
Perhaps the Iranian statement was the clearest (and I consider Nejad a symbol of the nature of middle eastern leaderships) when he said something that shows clearly the way they misunderstood America's position, he said "we are ready to help America walk out of its trouble in Iraq…" it's very obvious from these words that they misunderstood "a change" as a surrender.

Meanwhile other anti-American powers moved to escalate the confrontation on the Palestinian, Iraqi and Lebanese fronts in a way that reflects a renewed hope in a near triumph against the US and its project in the region. We again began to hear voices saying that it's only a matter of time before a chopper evacuates the American ambassador from the IZ to mark a logical end (from their point of view) for the struggle of the mighty extremist powers.

The ideology of the extremists believes in "either victory or martyrdom" and now they think they are closer to the former and this will be used to attract more of the reluctant to the camp that considers itself close to victory and we'll see intensified media efforts invested in this field.
What I want to say here is that now I believe more that I must disagree with those who claim that wrong American policy breeds extremism, and now I believe more than ever that wrong signals that might be interpreted as weakness are what can be exploited by the enemy to give more credit to extremism especially under the current circumstances.

To put it simply; saying that a policy that aims at ridding the world of regimes and criminals such as Saddam, al-Qaeda, Ahmadinejad or Assad is a wrong policy that breeds extremism is utterly stupid.
I personally do not think that America changed its policy from victory to exit but I see that it hasn't been good at expressing its intentions nor sending the right signals, and when I say right I mean clear even to those who have a problem understanding things.

What the free world needs to do, the US and UK in particular, is to make their messages clear and loud so that wrong interpretations by extremists do not cost us losses that can be otherwise avoided.
The message ought to be clear and loud that the change in strategy will be to renew and empower the strategy from one of victory to one of nothing but victory.
Here I see steps such as considering adding more troops in Iraq and imposing sanctions on Iran to have a positive impact; more strategic than tactical though as this will express beyond doubt that nothing short of victory would be the goal of the new strategy.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

When did wondering become analysis!?

A friend of mine asked me to comment on a story that was published on IraqSlogger yesterday.

The story is presented as "analysis" by the website's editors but I can't figure out how it could fit this description when it's filled with "harder to explain", "even more puzzling", "one has to wonder" and "how can we explain" instead of phrases that are usually used to introduce the author's analysis and conclusions to the readers about a given subject.

The so-called analysis tries to describe and analyze the situation of the local press in Iraq and its inability to provide reliable and timely coverage of topics and news that supposedly interest Iraqis.
Yet all I could read was bewildered and ostensible disappointment with the new press in Iraq, a disappointment that I can feel is hiding morbid satisfaction.

Before I proceed I must say that my aim is not to defend the Iraqi press but rather to inspect failed analysis written by a misinformed commentator.

So here are some of the questions that puzzled the Slogger's writer and here are also some answers that hopefully will ease his puzzlement, maybe:

First of all "Babil" was not the official paper of Saddam's regime. The official papers were basically al-Thawra, al-Jumhoriya and al-Qadisiya while Babil was founded only in the 90's and it was owned by Uday who presented the paper as an independent paper. Yes of course it was never independent but it was not official either.

The second thing is that al-Sabah al-Jadeed (New Sabah) is not based in Erbil. I happen to know its owner and editor in chief (Ismail Zayer) in person.
Mr. Zayer has indeed moved to Erbil but he did not take his paper all the way with him. Al-Sabah al-Jadeed is still based, edited and printed in Baghdad.
Perhaps our friend @ Slogger when he heard that al-Sabah al-Jadeed opened offices in Erbil and Amman assumed that the entire paper relocated. And by the way, I read the paper every day and I never got the feeling that it endorsed the views of the Kurdish parties; perhaps there are some shared opinions out there but that is not equal to "strictly follows the political line of the Kurdish parties".

Mr. Mohsen has obviously little knowledge about the situation in Iraq and the obstacles publishers face, and this lack of knowledge explains his analysis.
For example, trying to compare the coverage offered by local papers with that of news TV is absurd and for a simple reason; you can't expect to find today's news (nor last night's news) on today's papers, but you can wait for them to be in the papers the next day or even two days later in cases of weekends.
This is because of the daily nighttime curfew, occasional unexpected curfews and the weekly Friday morning curfew; journalists, editors and printing houses in Iraq do not have the time they need to publish in the way papers elsewhere do.

Another correction for Mr. Mohsen, he wrote:
How can we explain the fact that the story of the killings in Baghdad's colleges was deemed to be important enough to occupy the most prominent space in a Pan-Arab publication, only to not appear in the local Iraqi version of the same daily? (Both editions share the same editorial board).

As I understood, Mr. Mohsen saw neither of the editions (print edition) since I assume he's living outside Iraq and what he saw was exactly what I saw which is the web edition.

Now if you know Arabic and opened the website of Azzaman you will first find yourself in the homepage from which one can navigate to either the Iraqi or International version, and guess what? The top story at the top-middle portion of the page is occupied by the rape and murder story.

Now why Iraqi papers are not covering the Haditha investigation in a way that pleases Mr. Mohsen?
The reason is simple, it's that they know Iraqis do not view incidents of this sort-that happen like once a year) to be as important as the daily deaths of dozens at the hands of terrorists and gangsters.

Or take a look at this:
Another title in Az-Zaman's International front page reads: "al-Ya`qubi: the Iraqi Coalition is disintegrating!" Compare with the headline of the Iraq edition: "The Coalition: we shall not abandon the Sadr Current".

The stories do not contradict each other in any way; al-Ya'qubi controls only 15 or so of the 130 seats of the UIA and his opinions frequently conflict with those of other bigger factions of the UIA; in this particular case, al-Ya'qubi thinks no solution can be reached while other members are trying to show-or hope for-otherwise. The paper had done nothing wrong in putting both stories. I agree they can use some better coordination but give them a break! All Iraqi papers pay less attention to websites than to print editions.
And by the way, al-Ya'qubi's comments made it to the front page of the website of the Iraqi edition this morning, so like I said, it's only a matter of late publishing rather than policy.

Or this about the Haditha case story:

Even more puzzling, Az-Zaman ‘covered' the story by their correspondent in Washington…

What's puzzling in that? As far as I know, the legal proceedings are conducted by American military courts so it's very natural to let a correspondent in America handle the coverage.

One more thing to assist Mr. Mohsen in better understanding the situation; a couple months ago the government, and as part of the attempts to create appropriate climate for reconciliation, asked (or rather ordered) the local media not to publish stories that might inflame the situation and create tensions. Technically that means the media will have to stop using terms such as "Sunni insurgents" or "Shia militiamen" if they want to keep publishing (Azzaman was just about to get closed if you remember) and so if you can't share the material you have as a journalist this will naturally make you less and less interested in reporting news about violence.

Last but not least I have one language tip for Mr. Mohsen and his colleagues; you cannot take "several" out of "4 or 5", right?
Poor Eason, he screwed up big time in his media career then he hired people to "slog" for him (what the heck does that mean anyway?) and that's what he gets!

If the Slogger team wants to offer analysis or become a better alternative for whatever other sources of Iraq news, they ought to try better than this. Because if they keep writing like this, their site will soon be regarded as just one new waste of bandwidth, the same way that flipping channels looking for the whole image can be a waste of time.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Understanding the question is half of the answer...

That's what we used to say back in school then when we became dentists and doctors we changed that to 'diagnosis is half the treatment', and it looks that's where we're standing right now.

Everyone now seems to agree that any plan to fix the situation in Iraq has to have a military component along with a political one. The latter, as I understood, is supposed to bring together or facilitate a set of compromises and mutual concessions among the political powers in Iraq in order to achieve an acceptable level of stability and allow for sustained progress…
But why has it been that difficult to advance this political path despite all the time and effort spent in this direction?

There's a problem we should address and do something about if we want a political solution to see the light and that is that some of the key political players in Iraq who are interested in finding a solution cannot move in that direction because they have their hands tied by former deals or affiliations with current-or former-extremist allies of the same sect as theirs and those extremist have taken the entire political process in Iraq hostage.

What I'm trying to say here is that the military component we need at this particular stage should be different from the routine military operations that US and Iraqi military had been conducting so far.
The new military component should be designed to create a friendly climate where politicians can strike deals and reach compromise without coercion from radical extremists.
And so if more boots are to be added on the ground then the mission will have to include freeing politicians and parties such as Maliki and al-Hashimi (the Dawa and the Islamic party respectively) from the ropes that bind them to Sadr and harmful elements in the Sunni political scene.

Right now is a good time, perhaps the best time we have to launch this effort since there's already a large front forming from the parties that are willing to talk against the extremists' camp.
If the way forward requires maintaining the basic course of the political process and empowering (and cleaning) the current government and its head then the only way to do this is to relief Maliki, his party and the rest of the Shia alliance from the dominance and influence of Sadr and there are two ways to accomplish this:

Either persuade Maliki and his team and promise them great support and protection from Sadr's reach.
Deal a lethal blow to Sadr and his militia in order to render him unable to inflict harm on Maliki and other members of the UIA.

Now really, it shouldn't be that difficult to figure out that the first way isn't working out right, what's needed now is to take the decision to try the second way and deal with the biggest threat to stability in Iraq in the way we should.

If claims that the militia is fragmented and not entirely under Sadr's control are true (and it's actually hard to believe that one man can control a militia of dozens of thousands spread over 11 provinces) then this must be an advantage for us because if that's the case there would be little reason to believe those renegade units would fight for Sadr since many have reached financial independence from the center leadership and let's not forget that money and fear are the main weapons militia leaders use to expand their power and maintain control over the militia members and the population.

The members were recruited by either fear or persuasion and these bonds that still keep some units highly loyal will fall apart once the head is taken…ideological fighters constitute a minority in my opinion and those, along with presumed IRGC and Hezbollah fighters who are assisting Sadr will represent the bulk of the remaining actual force that US and Iraqi troops would have to fight and eliminate. Those are highly organized but they are not invincible.

Together we succeeded in reducing the threat posed by al-Qaeda when it was identified as the biggest threat to Iraq's stability and security and now together we can do the same with Sadr and other thugs—we understand the question and we have a diagnosis that seems sound; it's time to proceed with the treatment.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The political process enters a new phase.

Instead of a 'national rescue front' led by the opposition some influential politicians here are considering forming a new political front made up of members of the government ostensibly to override sectarian and ethnic divides, and it seems there's support from Washington to form this bloc.
More about the shape and role should be clear when Tariq al-Hashimi returns from there as he represents one of the main candidate components of the proposed bloc (the Islamic party, the SCIRI and the two Kurdish parties) with reports about possible inclusion of the Iraqi bloc of Allawi, who already said he'd join the bloc if he gets invited to.

This new bloc, once formed, is expected to work jointly with Maliki to carry out a wide cabinet reshuffle as well as take measures to deal with Sadr and his militia.
Iraq Pundit has another theory in which he thinks Maliki could be replaced by Aadil Abdul Mahdil, the current VP from the SCIRI but I guess that's not among the primary goals of the new front, not now at least because I think the goal is to press and encourage Maliki to make some decisions rather than to replace him which might further destabilize the political process instead of advancing it.

Speculations for new names are already appearing in the media here and these names indicate that the direction of the new bloc will be towards including, and giving a bigger role to, elements who believe in continuing the political process and who reject extreme ideas and irrational suggestions for solutions. The latter represented by groups such as the Sadrists, the Ahl al-Iraq conference (the part of the accord front headed by Adnan al-Dulaimi) and Salih al-Mutlaq and his team, in other words the parties that call for fighting the MNF and deal irresponsibly with the sectarian situation whether by violent acts or provocative statements.

In fact both sides or both fronts are forming at the same time as the parties that are being excluded from the governing coalition are uniting themselves too and this is likely to heat up the struggle because the extremists will feel much more sidelined than they already are and they realize that the new, let's call it moderate, front will become a majority. This was clear when the radical parties tried two weeks ago to collect signatures of MPs to call for ending the presence of the MNF; they were able to collect 105 signatures which leaves a clear majority of 170 votes capable of passing its own new plans.

To me personally I don't think the new front will be able to eradicate violence but will focus on making some governance reforms which is a needed step to face extremism later; first you contain them politically and call things with their names so that later you can actually contain them.

The toughest part in the work of the new front will be gaining the trust of a hard-to-satisfy-population traumatized by rough times and frustrated by the performance it's seen so far.
Without winning enough support (from a public mostly standing idle or neutral in this partisan conflict) the front will not be able to easily contain the radical elements which will of course continue to play the role of destructive armed opposition with strong backing from the neighboring outside.

The other thing that bothers me is that the front although will include Sunni, Shia and Kurds it still retains an Islamic direction. My dissatisfaction changes nothing from reality which showed how Islamists won the last elections and this is sadly a phase we must bare with because of lack of organized alternatives that could've filled the vacuum left when the dictator was toppled. This applies not only to Iraq; after a long era of dictatorships in the middle east and the fading of the left, Islam which stood at times against former regimes had a better chance to become the new ruling power whether in Iraq, Palestine or Egypt.

The long and difficult transition to democracy enforces this phase and I feel I must accept it for one reason which is; if dictatorship remained in power, political Islam would've kept growing stronger but if I accept it as a transitional element in an inevitable stage and allow it to practice governance then performance will be the judge and the decision of the people through elections will then decide who deserves the next chance.

And from what can be seen now the performance of Islamists is not winning them new supporters as much as retaining dictatorships would be.
And this (Islamists being in power) will lead to one f two possibilities:

Either they insist on their obsolete doctrine and keep falling back in the face of liberal democracy which eventually leads to their defeat as a political power or, the moderate elements of political Islam, such as the two in the front in question, consider redesigning their policy and agenda in such a manner that avoids conflicts with other powers and accepts the concept of power-sharing and stop imposing their vision as the one and only right one to accept being a partner, not a sole leader.
The good thing in all of this however is that extremism will be the loser and will keep shrinking on the long term.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Looking at the ISG report...

The ISG report was released more than a week ago but I didn't want to write immediately about it. The strange thing is that although the report is highly publicized and the recommendations touch on many critical topics few of ordinary Iraqis here seem interested in discussing it and the interest can be seen almost only among politicians.

It's actually not that strange; many people see this report and other political movements as an effort among politicians to make deals that can only by coincidence be in the interest of the people.
Anyway, that's not the way I feel—the report addresses both Iraq's and America's problems and needs and it did open a new dimension to the debate or at least, refreshed the debate.

Of course I'm not going to discuss or comment on every single one of the 79 recommendations but I'd like to share my general impressions about the document and will make that brief.

The External Approach; I basically do not think this can work especially when it comes to dealing with the main regional players; Syria and Iran and particularly Iran. I simply can't see a chance for the US to find common grounds with the current regime in Iran whose main goal is to extend its "Islamic revolution" throughout the middle east.
And I have no doubt that Iran, with the mullahs in power, is not willing to accept a compromise that offers the US even a marginal level of benefit. The goals and visions of the two countries are so at odds that they can't agree on anything, let alone work together.

Syria represents a rather different issue but still, what applies to Iran applies to Syria as well; the history of the middle east-one full of blood from coups-taught us not to trust clerics nor dictators.
Both never keep promises and they can come up with pretexts to feel good about their lies; clerics would say they had to do so to serve God and the community and dictators…well, they have no respect for their people in the first place, so why would we expect them to feel ashamed of not keeping promises!

But I digress…

All I want to say is that the political offensive described in the ISG report must evolve into an intensive political assault if it's to become a valid strategy.
Plus, there's big discrepancy between the internal and external approaches time-wise. While the internal approach sets deadlines sometimes as short as one month, the external approach is left with loose deadlines and the implementation of its recommendations depends largely on cooperation of states other than Iraq and America; states that are not so interested in helping us in the first place.
What I want to say is; if the external approach is really important to success then it has to go side by side with the internal one, and that I doubt would happen in the way it's presented in the report.

On the other hand and contrary to the external approach I think the Internal Approach has outlined several very thoughtful and astute recommendations for policy adjustments particularly in areas such as increasing the numbers of embedded US military advisers, the judicial system, fighting corruption, the oil sector (the meters and the way to deal with local tribes for example), putting police commandos and border guards under the defense ministry…These are good ideas that when implemented will make a difference.

I was disappointed by the reactions of some Iraqi leaders, yet not surprised I must admit; the recommendations include points where those leaders must accept making concessions; an example is the Kirkuk recommendations, the assertions on the unity of the country and Kurdish reactions to that. Honestly I also feel that Maliki has not made clear his position from the report as a whole and he has to make some clarifications soon. If he wants to show that he cares about finding solutions.

I understand that the milestones may be a little too tough on Iraqi leaders and politicians and that they might not be able to accomplish those milestones in time, but they must at least try and show their best once there's agreement on adopting some or all of the recommendations.

Bottom line, while the External Approach is of doubted feasibility and will need a lot of time to be polished and agreed upon and complex efforts to be implemented after that, the Internal Approach looks like a reasonable road-map that has good potentials for making tangible improvements.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

More money to the people.

According to a recent paper published last November by Dow Jones (don't have a link, read a summary on paper) after the world economic forum in the dead sea, Iraq's income from oil exports for this year was at 35 billion dollars with a 14.3% increase from last year's total.

And that if oil export levels retain the current level and under stable prices, the coming year will witness a record income that was never reached in the history of modern Iraq and revenues will jump up to 40 billion dollars; a huge figure given the humble plans of the government and a figure that will put the government in a position where it must come up with new and ambitious plans to match the new revenue figures.

In fact and from what can be read in papers and heard from official statements it seems most government departments failed to spend the funds allocated by the government for those departments to execute their projects.
That's not because of security challenges only since there are several regions in the country that are relatively stable and where work can be done but more because of bureaucracy and corruption that make it extremely difficult to implement plans and make sure the money is spent in the right direction.

I think this was what pushed the government to announce a number of new measures to cope with the condition, perhaps the easiest measure to come up with was to announce plans for massive raises for civil servants; according to al-Sabah the raise will be as high as 60% of current payments in some cases, especially to those with lower incomes.

Another announcement followed soon, yesterday al-Sabah brought the news that the parliament is discussing a suggestion to set aside 30% of oil sales income to distribute among the citizens of Iraq. The draft law sets 3 classes of payments according to age and subsequent needs and responsibilities; from one month to 6 years, from 6 to 18 years and the third one 19 years and older.
People who migrated from Iraq, those with salaries higher that 1 million dinars/month and convicted criminals will be excluded from the payment program, the report added.

The people here met the news with some delight, hope and some skepticism too although the announcement came through the government's paper.

If this plan comes to materialize I think it can reflect positively on the security situation to some extent. The economy is part of the problem and also part of the solution and the government should move forward with reforms that involve economy and infrastructure as well as, of course and above all, security.
I personally like the idea of distributing the money directly among the population because I believe the people are more capable of making good use of that money than the government and instead of having billions lost to corruption and mismanagement that money will be used to revive the market and reduce the government's control over the economy. Plus, it will give people the sense that they do have an actual and visible share of their country's riches.

The private sector in Iraq had witnessed giant leaps immediately after the fall of Saddam; that could be seen in the form of the thousands of private businesses that were established in the course of the past three years and that had a direct positive effect on the standards of living after long years of deprivation.
It's worth mentioning that between 1946 and the beginning of 2003 a total of 8374 businesses were registered while between April 2003 and the end of 2005 more than 20,000 have been registered. During last month alone 286 new businesses were added.
Such statistics seem quite extraordinary under the current security situation which sadly continues to overshadow and limits further improvement of this aspect of life in Iraq.

On the other hand, the exchange rate of the Iraqi dinar improved significantly in the past few weeks and is now at 1410/$1 instead of 1480/1$ in early November. I am no economy expert but this looks like a good sign; it improves the purchase ability of people who get paid in dinar, which is the vast majority of course and at the same time it serves to reassure the people of the value of the national currency.

Let's imagine if the government intensifies its efforts in this direction and takes some candid and well-studied steps to offer a convenient environment for business and investment particularly in Baghdad, the heart of the country's economy. A lot of progress can be made, especially that the foreign investment law has been instated and approved which by the way looks like a good paper. This economic activity can move Iraq forward in a matter of few years and the country can catch up with what it missed.
The potential is huge; a stable climate is the key to unleash that potential.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Scores of Ansar Al-Sunna Emirs Captured!

Excellent news, about a dozen high-level leaders of Ansar al-Sunna terrorist group have been captured recently. From MNF Iraq:

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On Wednesday, the Government of Iraq released the names and photos of several suspected senior-level Ansar al Sunna emirs who were captured by Coalition Forces during a series of raids in mid-November.

The AAS network is responsible for improvised explosive device attacks and suicide attacks on Iraqi government, Coalition Forces and Iraqi civilians. The AAS network is also responsible for multiple kidnappings, small arms attacks and other crimes in the central and northern part of Iraq.

One terrorist emir, Abu Mohammed aka Ismail, AAS Emir of Yusifiyah was killed during a raid late November.

The suspected Ansar al Sunna emirs who were captured are:...

Continue reading the report.

By the way, this is the same terror group that's been threatening to murder university students and teachers in Baghdad if the latter refuse to suspend study; perhaps the arrests and their locations explain why the threat was addressing students and teachers in Baghdad alone and not any other city.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Kofi al-Tikriti!!

Kofi Anan is once again imagining that by mourning Saddam's days he'd be putting his feet in Iraqis' shoes and undestand their feelings. I can't figure out how he managed this fantasy but I'm more inclined to believe that he's put his feet in the shoes of his son and his partners in the oil for food. That way his grief would make sense.

Many try to speak on behalf of Iraqis—politicians, journalists…everyone! And I just don't understand why they don't let Iraqis speak for themselves.
What Kofi and the like are doing is unjustified and ignorant generalization of one group' s opinion upon the rest of Iraqis opinions.

He simply can't generalize the situation the way he did; did he consider Kurdish mothers and wives when he made that statement? Did Erbil, Basra or Kirkuk send a letter to Kofi blaming him for not stopping America from toppling Saddam?

Who said all Iraqis share the same vision! What Kofi missed is that Iraqi today is not the same place with 100% approval YES for Saddam. People have diverse opinions and have different problems and different dreams and someone like you Kofi cannot just come like this and say that Iraqis were better off under Saddam….you didn't live here.

I do agree though that there's some percentage of the population who would like to see Saddam back in power but that in no way reflects what the country as a whole wants.

Isn't it a shame that the secretary general of the UN is whining about he wasn't able to save a murderous dictator?

I'm not living in denial, I admit it that living here is so difficult and there's a lot of fear and pain, and a lot of patience and hard work is needed.
But that's the worst part about Kofi; he knows how things are in Iraq right now yet instead of trying to do anything to help us out, and instead of apologizing for the UN's failure to do something good for Iraq, he comes and says he's sorry he couldn't save the dictator!

Saddam is not coming back and history moves in one direction Kofi, and your term is about to end, so please shut up.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

To the Iraqi teachers and students; with love!!!

And the terrorists' campaign to kill all aspects of humanity continues; this time with a direct threat addressing students in Baghdad.
This poster was seen in Baghdad lately, it has no ultimatum on it but the word on the streets says the ultimatum ends tomorrow morning.

Here's what the poster says:

In response to demands from the honorable teachers and beloved students and to protect them from the Rafidhi [Shia] government and the death squads it endorses, it has been decided to cancel all studies for this school year in Baghdad exclusively

Ansar Al-Sunna

They did not say what the consequences would be for those who ignore the ultimatum but this at least constitutes a call for halting the very basic activities of a society with implicit threats for those who choose to do otherwise.
No one needs to read more to know the kind of punishment this terror group has designed for those who dare disobey the order. At least students didn't need to know more, the students I talked to today and yesterday were so scared. In fact they were terrified thinking about what the terrorists might do to them should they choose to continue going to school.

After all, we all know what those savages are like and how they look at education and particularly universities where male and female students exist and learn together.

Who asked for their protection in the first place?! The students and teachers? Of course not.
And if teachers and students want protection, they would want that protection to be able to continue their studies, not cancel it!

Update: December 6

Schools were open today, most students went to their schools and colleges as they normally do and gladly there are no reports of attacks gaainst schools or students.
However, a not so small percentage of students skipped schools today and that percentage varied from one place to another, but all in all, there were more students in schools than at homes.

Meanwhile, the Ansar al-Sunna terrorists have released another poster, in which they announce (long story short) that the ultimatum was meant to address only university students and not high schools.
The new poster clarified the punishment part that wasn't explicitly described in the first one.

The message clearly says that students, teachers and even bus drivers who drive them to colleges, who choose to challenge the warning will be considered "members of the death squads...we will kill them anywhere they go and we will blow them up in their cars and buses".

Monday, December 04, 2006

New plan for security in Sadr City, Sheiks pledge support.

I read this on Radio Sawa yesterday; the headline says:

The Iraqi government within the next few days will launch a new security plan to extend order and tranquility in Sadr city.

Audio report (available from the same link above for those who know the langauge) explains:

Sources that attended a meeting between PM Maliki and tribal chiefs of Sadr city told Radio Sawa that the two partis agreed to cooperate to launch a campaign to improve security and basic services in the city.
The campaign would include controlling the possession of weapons and limiting that to the official security forces.

The sheiks had also demanded that Malki orders aborting plans for future MNF raids on the city.

Al-Hurra had this tiny bit to add to the news:

PM Maliki met with tribal leaders of Sadr city to discuss the security situation…the sheiks hailed the PM's meeting with President Bush because they said "it was an effort in the interest of Iraq"

Obviously an ambitious plan and I can tell that Maliki is trying to exert more pressure on Sadr. But at the same time, if he wants to go ahead this plan-which will inevitably lead to confrontations between the militias and the government's armed forces-he must be prepared to rely exclusively on his own efforts and assets and not give much credit to what ever help or cooperation sheiks pledge to offer.
They said very encouraging things and made some promising gestures but I still wouldn't bet on their support, I hope I'm wrong in my judgment this time though!
The thing is that that's how most sheiks are, they sound friendly, reassuring and try to please you when they are your guests and in your territories only to do the exact same thing and make the same exact promises to your enemy when they return home.

Anyway, we'll see how it goes.
And by the way, I've been hearing rumors that Sadr is dead, and many emails are asking me to verify the rumor.
All I can say for now is that I can neither confirm nor deny the rumor, and I must add that the website on which the rumor first appeared is not a credible source.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Renouncing a myth, or ignoring a fact?

It's really odd that the arrest of "Baghdad Sniper" didn't get any mention in the news. Of course except for here on Pajamas Media when we reported it two days ago.
And two days ago it was understandable since the only source available back then had been a short report aired on Radio Sawa Wednesday afternoon.

Next day, that's yesterday morning, the two major newspapers in Iraq had the news on their first pages, yet the story didn't spread to the MSM!

The government owned al-Sabah had this to tell:

"Spokesman of the interior ministry brigadier general Abdul Kareem Khalaf told al-Sabah that a security force that belongs to the ministry, backed by a force from the rescue police conducted a dawn-time raid yesterday and arrested terrorist Ali Nazar al-Jubori also known as Baghdad Sniper and two of his aides; Isam Fadhil and Ali Basil…intelligence led to their whereabouts in three different locations in Hay al-Neel of the Palestine Street district…"

Al-Sabah's rival, Azzaman had also reported the arrest, only leaving aside some details:

"…on the other hand, official spokesman of the interior ministry, brigadier Abdul Kareem Khalaf confirmed to Azzaman that "three snipers were arrested yesterday" but offered no further details"

And yesterday we got the news here that 30 more militants have been arrested using intelligence that became available after arresting al-Jubori…

Where's the MSM from all of this?
If he was a myth, then why were the media running stories about him and his operations in the first place?
And if he was for real, then why are they ignoring his arrest?

Whatever! All I care about is that a notorious bad guy has been arrested and is no longer able to harm anyone, and I like that!
Meanwhile, the silence of the MSM makes me, well...giggle but with a splash of disgust.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

One meeting, two men, and too many expectations.

Eyes and ears are fixed on Amman waiting for the Maliki-Bush summit.
The meeting is no doubt an important one given the sort of issues that will be discussed over two days. Actually it will be the first real lengthy talks between the two men since the earlier two meetings were much shorter.

I've been listening to what ordinary Iraqis think of this and I've been following what politicians had to say on their end and from that I got the sense that most people here are at odds with politicians in the way they perceive the meeting, and that's for a very simple reason; Iraqis are desperate and they're frustrated by the failure of their government. So they are anxiously waiting for solutions and are hoping the two leaders agree on decisions that can improve the situation in Iraq.
On the other hand the politicians here, knowing how much of our troubles exist because of them, are afraid that decisions that might arise from the meeting will inevitably be not in the interest of the powerful political factions in Iraq.

Many of our politicians here, especially the Kurds, some Sunnis and those close to Sadr are against Maliki's trip or at least cynical about its consequences and that's because Maliki and Bush are the wet who don't fear the rain as we say here. They don't have much to lose now, both men are already receiving tons of criticism from their peoples for what's going on in Iraq, and when people are in such a situation they tend to be less shy about making daring decisions and that's exactly what Iraq's political factions that have bigger shares in the parliament and cabinet are afraid of.

Speculations about possible decisions also vary greatly, there are people who expect Bush to set an ultimatum for Maliki to control the violence but the theory ends here and there are only vague visions about what comes after such an ultimatum.
Others prefer to downplay the significance of the talks and suggest, or hope that it's bound to failure and explain that by the "fact" that neither leader has the capacity to alter the course of events in Iraq.
In contrast with that there are rumors-some can be called fantasies actually but that's not unexpected in a community that still believes in miracles- circulating in Baghdad that major changes in the government will take place immediately after Maliki returns from his trip and here there is a number of those theories:

-Replacing all the Sadr bloc ministers with new ones from other blocs combined with a crackdown on Sadr and Sunni politicians involved in the violence (this theory relies on the arrest warrant on Harith al-Dhari and the threat Sadr followers made to suspend their participation in the cabinet and parliament if Maliki ignored their calls and went to Amman)

-A vast change in the cabinet, replacing all current cabinet members with non-partisan technocrats.

-One other theory of wild imagination indeed predicts that Bush (with help from regional countries, namely Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia) have already set up a government-in-exile (With Iyad Allawi on top) to replace Maliki and his cabinet should the latter refuse, or fail to, comply with American demands in disbanding armed militias.

People who think the latter will be the case built their theory on the earlier statement of the Iraq Study Group from September when the group said Maliki had only three months left to do whatever he could to stem the violence.

Anyways, I do agree that the meeting will indeed see serious talks aiming at launching efforts to save Iraq from destruction and America from humiliation at a very critical point in history. The two men know the kind of decision they need to make but they will need all the courage they can find to do that.

Let's wait and see what happens, tomorrow is not that far….

Monday, November 27, 2006

Rough days...

The past four days during which we were under siege were long and rough for Baghdadis. Anxiety and fear haunted us at our homes and a flow of horrible news made the prison feel even tighter…it was a material and psychological siege that will not be easy to forget.

Thursday began differently for me, first thing in the morning I received very troubling news that one of our friends has been kidnapped. His shocked, terrified father came to us looking for any bit of information that might be possibly helpful in the search for his son who vanished a day before. We in turn became anxious because we too would be in danger if that friend fell in the hands of very bad guys.

We decided to go home earlier than usual that day and then we were met by the terrible news about the savage massacre in Baghdad that took away hundreds of innocent lives. I avoided looking at the news after I heard of the open-ended curfew and we had to get prepared for the worse.
Terrorists and militias started an open war; the battlefield is our city and the fuel is innocent civilians as always since those criminal groups find it easier to kill civilians than to confront each other (and rid us of their evil). The big problem is that the security forces are not strong enough to stop them, worse than that, some members of these forces let themselves become partners to the criminals.

We had no choice but to rely on ourselves to protect our homes and neighborhood insurgents and militias alike. In our mixed block the elders met to assign duties and make plans in case things go wrong. They decided that people should all exchange cell-phone numbers as the fastest means to communicate at times of action, it was also decided that if someone calls to report an attack on his home, everyone else must go up to the roof and start shooting at the direction of the assailants.
More roadblocks were erected and older ones strengthened—streets and alleys were blocked in any possible way to prevent any attack with vehicles.
They also agreed that no one moves on the streets after a certain hour at night and any moving person would be dealt with as a threat.

The situation was terrifying and the rattle of machineguns broke through the tense quiet of the night several times every night but perhaps the star of the latest show was the mortar—there has been a frenzy of mortar fire, gladly none struck our neighborhood but we could hear the stupid death packages pass by each other in the air across our neighborhood.
No major incidents happened near us except some shooting at a stranger vehicle which neighbors told me carried militants who were trying to launch mortar rounds from an abandoned space but were forced to run away by the shooting.

The other star of the crisis was rumors about ugly revenge attacks and I sometimes feel that those rumors are part of the terrorists and militias propaganda campaign.
Being unable to surf the web for news, TV and radio were the main sources for news and updates about what was going on in Baghdad's vast sides but I trusted the phone more; I was making frequent calls to friends and relatives to see how they were doing.
One of my aunts lives in Adhamiya, she told me they received heavy bombardment from mortars. Another friend from the same sector relayed some odd news to me "there's a war raging between the Islamists and the Baathists…the Islamists have near full control now"
The phone brings only bad news most of the time but it's still better that to remain worried and disconnected from the surroundings.

Some news were really bad though, my uncle called on Friday to tell me that he and his family of eight were being forced to leave their neighborhood.
My Sunni uncle, his Shia wife and their children were told to leave because the head of the household is Sunni. His voice was filled with pain as he talked to me, I asked him who made the threat and he said ten cars filled with armed men came to our street shooting their guns in the air and announcing through a loudspeaker that all Sunni people must leave within 24 hours, then they went to the mosque and murdered the preacher's son.
The locals didn't like this of course since it was the first time they witness this level of violence and tension according to my uncle. Later that day the Shia in my uncle's neighborhood sent a delegation to the local Sadr office demanding the displacement order be cancelled. The guy in the office turned them down telling them these were "orders from above…we will kick them out the same way they kick the Shia out in other areas. They shall remain refugees until Shia refugees return to their homes"

Ordinary people do not approve of such atrocities but they have no power over the murderers…my other aunt who lives in the same neighborhood of my uncle's was a bit luckier because she's married to a Shia so she volunteered to hold my uncle's furniture for him while his family sought refuge at several relatives' homes.
"I'm leaving Baghdad to another city, the situation has become unbearable here…"
My uncle's words were killing me…
He said the delegation was still trying to convince the Sayyid to reconsider this decision but he (my uncle) would not wait to hear back because his feelings were deeply wounded—a teacher who spent 30 years teaching the kids of the neighborhood without any discrimination and now a bunch of thugs made him a target for their campaign of blind revenge.

A new fuel shortage complicated the situation in Baghdad and its effects were soon visible. Local 'street generators' that provide electricity for homes were also badly affected since the curfew stopped diesel fuel from reaching the consumers.
Large, main marketplaces became unreachable and people became more dependent on the smaller local store owners whose business activity spiked for a few days, but those too were anxious watching their shelves going empty.
The good thing was that bakeries didn't stop making bread.

We were having our small chitchat meeting everyday, and sometimes twice a day; friends and neighbors who can't venture outside the block but find some comfort and fun in talking to other friends and neighbors over tea or drinks…better than staying alone at home after all!

Shia and Sunni we sit together wondering if there would be a day when we too fight each other. Of course not, some would rather run away and leave Iraq for a while many will try to continue their lives here accepting the risk and praying for things to calm down.
Not everyone can run away, most people are connected to work, kids, schools and homes; people are people everywhere, they all want to live a decent life and live it in a place they call home.

Criminals are always fewer than ordinary people but those criminals are willing and capable of doing harm and they would not hesitate to do anything to get what they want. In fact they did terrify us in the most vicious ways and this terror reached Sunni and Shia alike.
No one among this majority wants this madness to continue but how long can we take this, when will we feel safe? That's the question on everyone's mind.

As usual during times of crisis, people's morale takes a steep slide down and my friends who used to say they expected Iraq to stabilize within a maximum of 5 years are now talking about 10-15 years and some have reached total frustration and are comparing Iraq's future with Somalia's present.
Rough times blur the vision and disrupt reason, I understand that. When you hear stories about people burned alive or mass public executions it makes you imagine that the streets are full of monsters coming to predate everything and makes you shout calling for merciless punishment upon even those who are only suspects.

Being stuck at home for four days with all the violence going outside and the fear that it might reach you at home was a horrible experience. When the news came that the curfew was over and people began walking on the streets again there was a strange feeling that was particularly very strong this morning in Baghdad; despite all the rumors and fear from more wide-scale revenge attacks there was a feeling among the people that they must go out on the streets and live in all possible means.
The most beautiful scene was that of students going to their schools and colleges despite all what happened in the days before.

Not everyone will absorb the lesson but I'm sure that this last dose of terror has changed the feelings of so many people here, a change in favor of denouncing and rejecting violence, I hope.

We're back.

Hi everybody, and sorry for the long absence…
Many of you are probably aware of how things have been in Baghdad since last Thursday; the curfew and subsequent shortage of electricity and fuel seriously diminished our ability to reach the web. But, things are back to normal today.

First thing we'll do now is go answer as many of your emails as we can then we will resume blogging as usual.
Thanks for all of you who care and were worried about our safety.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dialogue: Their way...

Lebanese industry minister Pierre Gemayel was assassinated a few hours ago this afternoon…
Prime ministers, MPs and journalists; all are targets for terrorist regimes if they dare show their opposition to Damascus or Tehran.
The message is clear and loud, I just wonder how many more messages do we need before the world realizes that these murderous regimes are not so much into dialogue?

I accuse Syria of being behind this crime. Syria thinks that just because they made a "friendly" gesture towards Iraq yesterday they would have the right to unleash their dogs in Lebanon today.
That's their definition for dialogue.

These regimes and their allied gangs will not stop their crimes; they will do anything they can to stop the movement of democratic changes and reform in the region and to keep their despotic, dark age regimes in power.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Find the right partner.

Where do Iraqis stand from all the debate about Iraq's future, and how do they look at the expectations and recommendations being made these days?
Iraqis are of course the most concerned and affected by the ongoing crisis but the continuous pressure and trauma made their vision so confused that they are drowned by the daily dangers and problems that compressed their dreams and thought and made seeing tomorrow's sunshine their top priority.

The government stinks—that’s the overwhelming impression that is undermining the public's support for the government and its institutions.
People are tired of criticizing and there's frustration about the government's ability to take serious measures to contain the conflict or improve performance.

Frankly speaking, the ordinary citizen lost faith in his government—worse than that would be the prospect of living with it for another four years and that sounds like a very bad idea if incompetence remains at the current level, or gets worse.

Each episode of escalation brings to the surface the argument that the government must resign or be made to resign but that is not an easy option because even if it was technically possible to force a resignation there would be no better choices ready at our disposal.
At the same time, dismissing the current legislature and calling for early elections would mean more chaos on the streets and more bitter exchange of violence among rival parties…and the ordinary people would be caught in the crossfire of this conflict.

The idea of a 'palace coup de tat' may look tempting and it's one of the popular ideas among many of the people these days as a cure for the deadly instability. But I'm not sure the advocates of this option realize the possible consequences lying beneath the sugarcoating but I understand their attitude because previous coups were mostly smooth and "stability" was regained in relatively no time.

But the case is different now, Iraq is no longer a centralized state and changing the head of the state from within-or from outside-won't be enough to make the entire country accept the change or pledge allegiance to the new administration.
Changing the head will not bring back the limbs together and it might give rise to even more complicated situations.

I agree that a coup would be welcomed by the large segments of people who are tired of the present situation but what about a few months or a year after that? What would be the reaction when months pass by and stability is not restored (and I doubt it can)?
I think the coup administration would then be put in a very similar position to this government's…embarrassed, incapable and losing public support.

Now, our real problem in Iraq is that we do not have leaderships with patriotic agendas and like we said many times in previous postings; these leaderships that work according to partisan and regional-foreign agendas are the main cause of trouble because they are in power and they would not easily abandon the agendas of their masters and regional supporters and they will remain an obstacle in the face of building the state.
The bitter fact is; it was us who brought them to power and gave them legitimacy through elections. But…regret is useless now.

I believe that America would like to see Iraq emerge as a model for the region and is working hard to find a way to solve the current crisis. But that cannot be done without having a cooperative Iraqi partner on the ground who shares similar views for Iraq and the middle east. And that's the point; that partner does not exist, at least not in the government.

And I don't think Iraq's neighbors would instruct their representatives (their servants in Iraq) to give America a hand, even though they pretend to be heading in that direction because their vision for Iraq and the region are fundamentally in conflict with that of America. They want to see America defeated in Iraq and that's of course at the expense of Iraq.

So, to start looking for solutions, America must first start looking for an Iraqi partner, a partner that is devoted to building a model state in Iraq and that favors building a strategic alliance with America instead of grave alliances with rogue regional powers that want to throw Iraq back to the ages of despotism or settle old accounts with America through a proxy war.

Perhaps figures like Allawi and his bloc stand as a good candidate for a partner but they're a candidate not big enough to form a "salvation front" and work with America and save Iraq.
There are other smaller liberal powers but these are shattered and confused and many of them chose to side with religious parties in order to have a chance to win a seat but I also think they might be willing to form new alliances under different frames, and here the Kurds arise as a potential valuable addition to the front—should they choose to stop looking at the situation from a narrow ethnic corner and realized the bigger image of the region.

Dismissing Maliki's government, whether under a constitutional cover or not, will not be a fruitful act unless before that a fresh patriotic front capable of filling the vacuum is established. This front has to be largely from within the parliament in addition to liberal powers that weren't lucky enough to reach the parliament.
This new political mass will be a very helpful asset to the patriotic Iraqi project and to America's interests, whether on the long term (the next elections) or on the short term in case Maliki's government resigned.

How can that front be assembled?
The only means is explicit, direct support from the United States to this future partner.
Everything is allowed in war and since Iran or other countries support this or that harmful party then America has the right, and the moral obligation, to support a party of its choice.
America is in Iraq now and in order to create a cover of legitimacy to any political or military solution, a strong Iraqi partner must first exist.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

This is even better than the Saddam verdict!

Hot and fresh from al-Iraqiya TV...

Finally! The interior minister Jawad al-Bolani just announced that an arrest warrant has just been issued against Harith al-Dhari, head of the association of Muslim scholars.

If you're not familiar with the name, al-Dhari and his organization are the only party that totally rejected the political process, never denounced Saddam's regime, explicitly praised al-Qaeda and is believed to be responsible for sponsoring a great deal of the activity of terror groups and insurgents loyal to the Ba'ath regime.

Al-Bolani said the decision was made according to the 'national safety law' and anti-terrorism legislations and described the arrest warrant as a message to all other warlords and men who incite sectarian violence.

Actually the minister's words were an indirect threat to Muqtada al-Sadr, or more like a direct one because he said, and I'm paraphrasing, "there are two neighboring countries that are causing trouble in Iraq and anyone who cooperates with these countries will not be safe from prosecution"

Al-Bolani acknowledged that al-Dhari is currently outside Iraq but reassured that the government has the tools to reach him and have him arrested.

Update: "Not an arrest warrant, but an interrogation warrant"

Says Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman of the government.

This means they are not ready yet to press charges against al-Dhari and at the moment all they can do through this type warrant is demand he appears before an 'investigation officer' to answer questions.
However, and as far as I know, the procedures here are that if the subject person refuses to show up after three notifications, an arrest warrant might be issued for him.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Iran flexes muscles in Baghdad.

The mass abduction that shocked Baghdad yesterday was intended to be a clear message from Tehran-through its surrogates in Baghdad-to anyone who thinks productive dialogue with the Islamic republic over Iraq and Middle East peace is a possible option.

The operation was a show of victory and it was so smooth and perfect that neither the MNF nor the Iraqi military could do a thing to stop it.
And today the show continues with the assassination of the colonel who's in charge of internal investigation in the department of national police, also known as the police commandos, one day after an investigation was ordered.

Perhaps choosing a ministry like the higher education (which belongs to the Sunni Accord Front) is also a warning message to Sunni politicians who are preparing to send a delegation to Washington especially that the Accord bloc announced recently that they were looking forward to "clear the misunderstanding and mistrust" between them and the US administration to search for solutions for the situation in Iraq.

Did Iran misunderstand the American democracy?
Absolutely yes and Tehran is planning and working according to this faulty impression.

Iran now considers itself the victor and it will not negotiate for peace but instead will try to impose conditions to accept America's surrender.

Monday, November 13, 2006

And the new peacemaker of the middle east is...Iran!

Well, well, well

It's seems our friend Blair is planning to seek help from Syria and Iran to stem the violence in Iraq…I'm truly shocked to see this unprecedented level of impotent thought coming out from London and from no less than Blair.

Take a look at this:

Blair will argue the need for a Middle East strategy that includes making clear to Damascus and Tehran how they can help in the region while warning them of the consequences of hindering peace, a spokeswoman said
Not only that, he's going to ask Washington to do that same and it seems the latter is considering it.
Am I missing something here or what?

Hello Blair! These are the very two countries where trouble is coming from and the two most hardcore anti-Israel regimes in the region.
Hell, Tehran wants to wipe Israel off the map and Blair thinks they can be persuaded to cooperate with America and the UK to build peace in the Middle East?!

Oh, I forgot, he's going to make clear there would be consequences if they refuse to cooperate, sure, why not.
Well consequences my ass, ok?
What kind of consequences are we supposed to expect here and why should we think Iran and Syria are going to listen this time when they've been getting tons of empty warnings with consequences for years?
Maybe I'd have taken that seriously if it was said three years ago when the war was still young and when the Mullahs were shitting their pants watching the Talibans and Saddam fall…but not now.

Iran is bragging about going on with their nuclear program defying the UNSC and the will of the world and the security council can't even reach consensus on imposing economic penalties, so there's no reason whatsoever to think that "consequences' in this case would be any tougher from those already in place.
Sorry, I forgot…Iran so far faced no consequences for what it's been doing whether in Iraq or in their nuclear basements.

Mr. Blair, what you're suggesting is replacing conventional war with a nuclear one through trying to reason with people who are ready and willing to destroy themselves and others without any hesitation or remorse once they have the power they need.
Iran is not china or the soviets who understood the deterrence balance, and instead of 120 killed in three years you will never have an accurate body count when the next war starts.

Unless by "consequences" you mean the use of power-which is the only concept Tehran and Damascus understand-then only lousy economic penalties come to mind and I have to remind you that it was under these empty threats and economic penalties where NKorea built its bomb and Saddam built his palaces and butchered his people.

It doesn't work this way…sorry.


President Bush calls for global isolation of Iran:

WASHINGTON-President Bush, responding to concerns Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert brought to the White House, called on Monday for worldwide isolation of Iran until it "gives up its nuclear ambitions."

Again, and correct me if I'm wrong, global isolation did not stop North Korea from building nuclear weapons, did it?

And it just gets better!

"If they continue to move forward with the program, there has to be a consequence," Bush said. "And a good place to start is working together to isolate the country. And my hope is, is that there are rational people inside the government that recognize isolation is not in their country's interest."

Now give me a break, if finding "rational" people inside Tehran's government is what you're hoping for Mr. President then I assure you this, your disappointment will be huge, and this this disappointment will be costly, very costly.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The American elections from a middle eastern perspective...

The midterm American elections were followed with great interest by Arabs this time and the media here designated a great space to cover this event.

It is usual to see such interest at every presidential election but this time the circle of interest extended to involve midterm congressional elections and that is something interesting and indicates that what used to be considered "minor" changes in the political arena in America is now viewed to have major influence on the course of events in this part of the world.

I will try to talk about what happened before and after the elections and the way people here handled the news and their reactions to democratic win.
It was obvious that a majority here were in favor of a change, not because they think the democrats have a better agenda but because folks here wanted to see Bush and his party lose.

There had been attempts to give the public here the impression that the democratic party as a whole is opposed to the war as a whole and not only opposed to the way war was being managed so far. And the media here, pretty much like the media in the west, were focusing on the democrats' criticism of the Bush administration without saying anything about whether the democrats had alternative plans, together with an exaggeration of the idea that democrats are going to go ahead with an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

However, this tone changed a bit after the elections were over and now there's kind of a warning tone that suggests that "nothing has changed" and that US policy is one and no elections can change the large image. Media and politicians are back to reminding the public that democrats are even better friends of Israel than republicans are.

This, I think, is an attempt to put America as a whole back in its place as the enemy regardless of who's in charge in Capitol Hill, which means the regimes and their media here had to put the people back "on track" so they don't go far in their expectations or prepare to deal with anything American…what happened had to portrayed as a defeat for the American nation, not only for the republicans.

I would like to remind again that claiming that America's policies are the cause of anti-Americanism is crap, because the hatred is for the nature of the American democratic system which contrasts the nature of regimes here.
That explains why there's rarely an opposition to China or Russia in the middle east and that's because neither has a systems that threatens the totalitarian ideology of governance that prevail in the Arab world.

The rulers in the region consider the change in America a victory for them because time is precious right now and many here think the next two years will be stagnation phase rather than action phase for America…I personally doubt this but I can say Iran, Syria and some powers in Iraq think they just won the truce they need.

But is that really god for them? What if the calls for dialogue between them and America over Iraq materialize? And what will the requirements and implications be?

I think Syria and Iran will be in an embarrassing position…so far they were saying that America doesn't accept dialogue and the administration is one of war and only war but now things will change and we'll see faces in Washington that call for dialogue, so what will they do then.
I tend to think they will accept dialogue as a principal (or pretend to accept it at least) but on what basis?
Will it be like Saddam's dialogue with the UN, or a serious effort to solve a crisis?
Will the Iranians really consider dropping their nuclear program and move to build friendly relationships with America, the west, accept Israel's existence and stop messing with Iraq's affairs? And is Syria willing to consider changing its totalitarian repressive internal policy and stop the interference in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories?
What about some of the radical parties in Iraq, are they willing to replace violence with dialogue and accept the concept of sharing power?

I put more emphasis on the position of regional players rather than domestic political powers in Iraq because it's become clear that many of the latter do not follow a patriotic agenda and that the "engine" of chaos inside Iraq resides across the border.

The dialogue, if there's going to be any, shall tell although I had learned a lesson not to trust a dictator or a cleric; neither respect deals or promises. They don't respect their people and everyone opposed to their ways is an enemy in their eyes.

A fruitful dialogue can be held when the person on the other end believes in dialogue and that's what is missing in the middle east, again because neither dictators nor clerics accept dialogue. They preach or make speeches and people must listen. Sometimes people are allowed to ask questions but are never allowed to criticize or oppose the words of the divine ruler/cleric.
To them, dialogue is a one-way exchange and that's what we learned over centuries.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Egyptian Blogger Kareem Arrested...Again!

I had met him in Cairo and before that I met his thoughts through his blog.
Abdul Kareem is an "Azhari" who was dismissed and punished for his rejection of the old ways and for his work to free his mind and the minds of others from the prison of obsolete traditions and doctrines.

Abdul Kareem does not represent a majority in the lands of sands but he stands as a hope; a hope for Egypt and a hope for me here in Iraq and for you out there who support reform and open mindedness. People like him work to turn our societies into civilized societies that appreciate liberty and respect the right of the other to be different.

Abdul Kareem was arrested again by the repressive authorities in his country but you can help set him free by adding your voice and signing this petition.

Check out Sandmonkey for more about Kareem's case.

Tom Palmer also wrote about this and he provides the adrress and contact info of the Egyptian embassy in D.C, so you can go ahead and give them a call or write to them.

Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Court, NW, Washington DC 20008
Telephone: (202) 895 5400
Fax: (202) 244-4319

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Interior ministry presses torture charges against senior officers.

From the Washington Post:

Iraq's Interior Ministry has charged 57 employees, including high-ranking officers, with human rights crimes for their roles in the torture of hundreds of detainees once jailed in a notorious eastern Baghdad prison known as Site 4, officials announced Monday.

The charges marked the first time the present Iraqi government has taken criminal action against members of its own security forces for operating torture chambers inside Interior Ministry prisons, said Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, a ministry spokesman.

Site 4 is the same secret detention facility that was discovered in Jadiriya; the same district of Baghdad that hosts the HQ of the SCIRI and its Badr militia, so there's every reason to believe that many, if not most, of the officers in charge of that facility were members or affiliates of the SCIRI.
Although this move came late and it addresses only one case of atrocity I must say that I'm impressed that the interior ministry, with all the influence SCIRI has on it, has made this action.

Building rule of law is much more of a difficult task than breaking the law is and the transformation from jungle law to civil law requires patience and determination.
What makes me feel good about this is that we're now moving to prosecute the criminals of the present just like we prosecuted the criminals of the past.

Gangs and militias are stronger today than they were three years ago and the same can be said about the legitimate foundations and institutions of the state, even more, the latter are growing stronger at a faster rate even though that might not be so visible.
Anyways, I think if law-enforcement apparatus, judicial and military alike, are allowed to retain the momentum, then maybe in a year we will be discussing al-Sadr and al-Dhari verdicts.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Day of Justice.

Now, Saddam is officially going down the toilet!

I wish I could have live-blogged the proceedings and the announcement of the verdict but I was facing some technical difficulties.

Anyways, you can go over to Pajamas Media where you can find a good roundup of related news and opinion including Mohammed's first reaction.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Counting hours...

Baghdad is living tense hours awaiting the announcement of a verdict by the special tribunal against Saddam.

First, the defense ministry announced canceling all leaves and vacations for all personnel then the government declared a curfew for tomorrow in Baghdad, Salah Addin, Diyala and Anbar.
Baghdad's international airport will also be closed from Sunday morning "until further notice" according to al-Iraqiya state TV.

Today, heavy presence of police forces is visible in Baghdad and a few districts like Adhamiya and Ghazaliya are, partially or completely, locked from the rest of the capital with roadblocks and checkpoint.
However, the situation is relatively calm in general but the public is expecting an escalation in attacks by insurgents tomorrow.
Households are preparing for the curfew and stashing extra amounts of fuel and food and there are particularly long lines of people at bakeries waiting for bread. This is all out of fear that the curfew would be extended for several days incase massive unrest break out.

I personally don't see this exaggerated anxiety necessary; of course an upsurge in violence is expected but that would be limited in duration and geographic distribution. Perhaps we will also see some armed demonstrations in certain places in Baghdad and Salah Addin where Saddam loyalists are abundant but this cannot lead to massive chaos because those Saddam loyalists are again limited in power and geographic distribution.

The overwhelming majority of Iraqis are looking forward to seeing justice be served tomorrow which will give the fascist dictator, who brutalized and abused millions of people and their homeland for decades, give him what he deserves.
We have been dreaming for such a day to come and it will be a true turning point, not only for Iraq but for the middle east, for it will be the first time a ruler gets paid back for what he'd done by a court of law.

Saddam's trial is a trial for all tyrants who oppressed their peoples and a tough warning to whose who think they have the right to control nations with fire and steel and get away with it. It is just a one trial in a series of trials yet to come; there are many more criminals in our land and they will eventually meet the same fate as Saddam's.

This is the beginning to build the foundations for the state of law and accountability we're fighting to establish, and the verdict we expect to come tomorrow will only shake the thrones of other middle east tyrants but will also send a strong message to some of the current mini-Saddam's of Iraq who will also have their own days someday.
I'm speaking about the leaders who try to hinder the process of building the nation of pluralism and rule of law; those are just as criminal as Saddam and even if we bore with them so far for one reason or another this patience will not last indefinitely.

We had waited for thirty years to see Saddam in the cage and we will wait again to see the rest of criminals meet the same just fate.

We had made the first step and we will go on….

Tonight is going to be a very, very long one for Saddam but that won't slow the ticking clock and tomorrow he will face the truth he's been avoiding.

Although I was long opposed to the death penalty but this time I must admit that can't wait to hear an execution statement.
Let's turn the darkest page of Iraqi's history forever and let's bury with it the sick dreams of the crazy Baathist minions who still think they can seize power again.

It's not only me despise this pathetic, irrational "solution" of Saddam's orphans but that's a common attitude among Iraqis, in spite of our difficult situation most of us would like to hear the words "The accused was found guilty and will get the death penalty….".


Add Mosul to the provinces that will be under curfew tomorrow. (story in Arabic)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Iraq's Army to receive additional 18,800 soldiers.

A plan to increase the numbers of Iraqi security forces was announced yesterday and the plan was immediately approved and endorsed by defense secretary Rumsfeld.

There was still some controversy and uncertainty about the number of troops that are intended to be added.

But according to this fresh press release from the Iraqi cabinet (from Voice of Iraq/Arabic) the planned increase will include adding 18800 soldiers to the units of the army overseen by the defense ministry. It remains unclear how many troops will be added to the police forces or border guards.

The press release mentioned that those 18800 troops will be distributed over several wide regions of the country including; Kirkuk, Anbar, Diyala, Salah Addin, Baghdad, Middle Euphrates and the Southern region.

The existing units that will benefit from this increase include:

3 Division headquarters
5 Brigade headquarters
20 Battalions
1 Special Forces Battalion

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Sultans' Preachers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Battle for the Middle East.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Amara lesson.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Air Strikes in Baghdad.

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

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

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

11:20 pm

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

11:55 pm

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