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Wednesday, June 28, 2006
No amnesty for killers, period!
Finally, Prime Minister Maliki puts an end to the confusion and ambiguity that was associated with his reconciliation plan.
He said it clearly that amnesty will not be offered to killers of coalition soldiers:

The amnesty doesn't include those who have killed Iraqis or even coalition forces because those soldiers came to Iraq under international agreements to help Iraq

I feel better about Maliki's plan now; mostly because with this point clarified, the government will avoid falling in the serious contradiction we warned from.

But this raises an interesting question; if amnesty is not going to be offered to killers of MNF soldiers, Iraqi soldiers or Iraqi civilians then to whom?

With trigger-pullers excluded, maybe amnesty will be given to the facilitators and sympathizers; those who provided safe houses, transportation and facilities to the insurgents. If this is the case and if those facilitators accept the offer I think it will significantly reduce the ability of insurgents to carryout their operations and the effect will be more profound on foreign terrorists who depend largely on local facilitators.


Three more insurgent groups have decided to join Maliki's reconciliation project, according to al-Sabah:

Al-Sabah's sources revealed that the three groups that announced their supports for Maliki's initiative were Ammoriya Forces, Jaish al-Mujahideen and the Brigades of Saladin. This brings to ten the number of militant groups that responded positively to the initiative, our sources expressed hopes that more groups will join in in the coming days.

Vice president Dr. Tariq al-Hashimi told al-Sabah that he proposed to organize a meeting for tribal powers to empower the good relationships among the sons of the one nation and to smother the fires of sectarian rift.
Sheikh AbdulSalam al-Dulaimi said that more than 30 sheikhs who are prominent tribal leaders in al-Anbar region are about to announce an 'honor pledge' that forbids bloodletting.

So far things seem to be progressing smoothly, but nice words and promises mean very little until they translate into real work; which is my hope.

Breaking News…Samarra bombers arrested!!
In a news conference currently being broadcast on TV, Iraq's national security advisor Muwaffak al-Rubaie says Iraqi security forces arrested Abu Qudama al-Tunisi in a raid in the suburb of al-Dhuloiya north of Baghdad.
15 other foreign terrorists were killed in the raid according to al-Rubaie.

The terrorist of Tunisian origin confessed that he was responsible for the attack that destroyed the Askari Shrine in Samarra back in February 22 of this year.
Muwaffak al-Rubaie said the security forces are still searching for Haitham al-Badri who is believed to be the field commander under whom Abu Qudama was operating.


Al-Rubaie described Al-Badri is a terrorist with connections to elements in the past regime who later became one of the leaders of Ansar al-Sunna and later al-Qaeda organization in Iraq.

Al-Rubaie adds that this terror cell was responsible for the assassination of the late al-Arabiya reporter Atwar Bahjat.

Al-Rubaie described ho the bombing was organized and says details were taken from the confessions of the captured Abu Qudama:

4 Saudis, two Iraqis and one Tunisian entered the mosque at night, handcuffed and locked up the guards in a room and spent the night planting the bombs all around the mosque. Next day they kidnapped and murdered Atwar Bahjat while she was trying to cover the news of the bombing.

Al-Rubaie displayed a poster showing the Shrine before and after the bombing along with a photo of Haitham al-Badri and urged the people to cooperate with authorities in locating the runaway terrorist.

Monday, June 26, 2006
Seven militant groups accpet al-Maliki's offer.
From al-Sabah:

Seven militant groups announced their desire to join the political process in accordance with the reconciliation project and said they were ready to enter a truce and stop the violence.

MP Hassan al-Sinaid-whose close to PM Maliki-said third parties conveyed the message of the seven groups confirming that they were not involved in Iraqi bloodshed suggesting they're eligible to benefit from the initiative.

Al-Sinaid said it was possible that Maliki would meet representatives of these seven groups either directly or indirectly, because he's concerned about the success of the initiative and is keen to gather support for it. Al-Sinaid adds "al-Maliki believes in political measures now, and not only in military ones".

According to those third parties, the militant groups consider the initiative tempting which encouraged them to respond positively, and at the same time pointed out that it's possible to win other groups into the project as they will not find a good reason to say no.
Initial information indicates that the seven groups are: the brigades of the 1920 revolution, the army of Mohammed, Heroes of Iraq, the 4/9 organization, Al-Fatih brigades and finally the general command of armed forces.

The demands of these groups can be summarized by: putting a timetable for withdrawing foreign troops, recognizing the acts of resistance as a legitimate right [still a controversial point with no clear definition or guidelines stated as of now], reviewing the deba'athification law, preserving the unity of Iraq, preventing foreign infiltration, releasing innocent detainees, providing jobs, respecting the citizens and compensating the affected and finally disbanding the militias.

This announcement seems to have been preceded by a lot of work but a declaration of amnesty was the militants' condition to join the reconciliation project mostly to save face.

So far, everybody in Iraq feels good about Maliki's plan and expressed their hopes for it to meet success and ease the suffering of the Iraqi people; everybody except for the Sadrists and the association of Muslim scholars who both criticized the plan and said it wasn't acceptable and expected it to fail.
The question is do they are expecting it to fail only because they think it is not framed in a workable way or because they wish for it to fail?
I'm afraid the latter is the likely answer.
Oh, and did I forget to mention the BBC?

Sunday, June 25, 2006
Who should recognize whom?
Prime Minister Maliki presented his reconciliation plan to the parliament today and in spite of some objections from some parties the heads of parliamentary blocs declared their support for this plan soon after the session of the parliament ended and requesting some further detailed descriptions and modifications in some cases to match their blocs' understanding of the reconciliation concept.

It seems like this plan represents a real will for reaching a form of understanding among the different rivals in this country to make the country move forward and build the country without having to resort to violence through adopting dialog and talk instead of violence and alienation.

However, this honest will is not be enough to make this project succeed unless it's combined with a workable formula and here I think insisting on classifying armed groups and declaring some of them as "honorable resistance" and legitimizing their acts while they are yet to recognize the new political system and drop their weapons is totally wrong.

These armed groups of all backgrounds must be classified under one category which is militias and these under the reconciliation plan are recognized as a main obstacle hindering the building of a modern state of law. Thus separating the so called resistance from the militias and treating them as different categories will be the beginning of a failed project.
I am not talking out of a personal conviction but I'm talking out of the fact that makes any description other than "harmful militias" a big mistake and should the government fall in this mistake to appease this or that faction, the government will be facing a terrible contradiction…let me put it this way, first you hear this:

-The elected Iraqi government officially asks the UN security council to extend the mission of the multinational forces in Iraq for another year.

Then this:

-The elected Iraqi government offers legitimacy to armed groups fighting the multinational forces.

Doesn’t that sound absurd?

We have to choose one of two ways; either to consider each and every one of these armed groups an outlaw militia and deal with them accordingly by dismantling and disarming them and then prosecuting those involved in crimes against Iraqis or against the multinational forces.


To consider the government's plea for keeping the multinational forces an illegitimate decision that does not reflect the people's will. Then we should take the case to the parliament and tell them to vote.
And if the parliament decides these forces should leave immediately instead of staying an extra year then so be it! Let the forces go pack and let's legitimize resisting them and then we can go face our destiny alone.

But this will not happen because we saw the government pass this step without any considerable objection from the parliament and even those who raised objections did not request a vote; they object just to embarrass another bloc and because they know well what the result for such a vote would be.

Offering legitimacy to any entity that bears arms outside the official security forces is the beginning of the wrong solution. The interests of Iraq and the decisions of the elected government and logic put us before one valid choice…

No legitimacy for outlaw militants, period.

Who carries arms outside the official circle is an outlaw and should not be negotiated with before he drops his weapon and must first recognize the government that represents 11 million voters before he can ask for recognition from the government.

Thursday, June 22, 2006
Forward Together update; Maliki sends a powerful message to the militias.
It is day eight of operation forward together now, the operation so far has met some relative success according to an official statement from the ministry of defense:

Baghdad has witnessed a decrease in number of attacks; terror attacks in the past week-first week of operation forward together-were 19% less than attacks in the week before the operation was launched.

But the operation has also faced some serious security breaches like the suicide bombing in the Buratha mosque or the latest mass abduction of laborers just outside of Baghdad.
From day four we said that adjustments had to be made, today the authorities are discussing and preparing for these adjustments, and the reports are quite encouraging!

Yesterday Prime Minister al-Maliki told the commanders in charge of the ongoing security operation to give explanations for the disturbing security breaches that happened over the past week. He asked the commanders to identify the troublemaking entities "whoever they may be" and to deal firmly with them.

The answer came from the chief of operations in the defense ministry general AbdulAziz Mohammed who sent a message to the PM telling him that the presence of armed partisan militias was the major obstacle complicating the execution of the operation.

Al-Maliki's response to this info was quick, today the front page story on al-Sabah reports that al-Maliki promised to take decisive steps to overcome these obstacles and insisted that his government was determined to make this operation succeed.

Developments kept coming fast and soon after that general Mohammed told the local press that an important meeting is going to take place today [Thursday] between the Iraqi and American commanders to discuss plans to deal with the obstacles facing the operation that were identified as the presence of militias.

Brigadier AbdulJalil Khalaf, commander of the 1st brigade/6th IA division which is responsible for security in wide areas of Baghdad told al-Sabah that orders were given to the Iraqi soldiers to open fire on anyone seen carrying a weapon and does not belong to the official security forces "all weapons outside the official security forces or the MNF are enemy weapons and must be dealt with accordingly".

Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Rumor of the day.
All societies have their own flow of rumors but in places like Iraq, we just LOVE rumors. Rumors can be fun, rumors can bring hope and sometimes rumors make you get prepared to face the incoming unknown.

So here's the latest of the rumors circulating in Iraq, particularly in the Shia community as I heard it yesterday when I met a friend from the south; a young journalist who I consider a reliable source for all kinds of unreliable news. The new rumor he brought with him this time is built over an existing background of conflicts within the UIA. It goes like this:

Two weeks ago the forces of the interior ministry arrested a group of militants that are believed responsible for a number of crimes. Those terror suspects turned out to be members of the Badr organization whose leader is Abdul Aziz al-Hakeem.
Al-Hakeem paid PM Maliki a visit and asked him to order the release of the detained Badr members, a request that upset Maliki and to which he responded by telling al-Hakeem "I am trying to build a state here and you come to ruin it?!! There's no way I'm doing what you are asking me to do".
The two men exchanged very harsh words and al-Hakeem was so angry when he rushed out of al-Maliki's office.

The creator of this rumor went as far as connecting the above story with al-Hakeem's sudden trip to Iran and Bush's visit to Baghdad, here's what my friend added:

People in the south are saying that al-Hakeem flew immediately to Iran to discuss Maliki's defiant position with the Mullahs and as a reaction Bush came all the way from America to tell Maliki that he has America standing on his side.

This rumor may sound so naive, especially in the last part of it but no smoke is without fire as we say here. The story was inspired by the fact that the UIA is divided over a number of issues and that Dawa and SCIRI were not getting along well for quite a long time; this was particularly visible during the months that followed the December election and the dispute over choosing a prime minister.
The dispute resurfaced again last week and this time in a more personal way between al-Hakeem and al-Maliki, this was when a draft of al-Maliki's reconciliation plan was leaked to the local press. This leaked draft included a point about bringing back former high-ranking Sunni officers and giving them high positions in the army and this particular point in addition to a division over the description of "resistance" led to intense disagreement inside the UIA and especially from al-Hakeem according to local news reports.

Apparently this rumor was created and spread by some of al-Maliki's supporters who wanted to paint a better image of their boss but even if it was entirely made up it will still indicate an inclination in the PM's close circle to do what's needed to prove that the new head of government is competent and does not allow his sectarian emotions to stop him from doing his job.
Anyway, this rumor left a positive impression among the people who heard it, at least that's what I could sense from the enthusiastic tone of my friend.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Sir, would you please fill out this form?
Now and after a week since operation forward together was launched in Baghdad let's try to evaluate this operation through the people's reactions and through the authorities' announcements.

First we will see that the operation brought high hopes and was found largely promising by the people of Baghdad as it reflected the level of the government's determination to provide Baghdadis with their number one need, which is security.

What happened in the first two days made people feel that there was a good chance for the government bring calm to the capital but two days later the insurgents we again able to find a way to disrupt peace and renew their attacks against Iraqi civilians and ISF.

Yesterday the Iraqi minister of national security admitted that insurgents are a step ahead of the government when it comes to intelligence. As bleak as this confession may sound I think it's admirable of the government to admit such a fact because the first step in solving a problem is through recognizing it and never through denying it or speaking big empty words.

In fact the minister's statement was pretty close to what we wrote in our earlier post, both accounts define the weakness point of this particular operation and that of the government's efforts to fight the insurgency in general which is intelligence.

To discuss this point we should go back few years in time to know the intelligence system worked in Iraq and why we still be behind the insurgents in this regard if we did not take the right measures.

As we all know, the bulk of the insurgency is made up mostly of the security corps of the past regime, mainly the secret service, special republican guards, military intelligence and former ba'athists and these corps collectively were the ones in charge of collecting and analyzing intelligence for the regime and over years, these corps were able to build a massive database that contained lots of information about every single citizen in Iraq.

I recall those years when everyone had to fill countless inquiries (general information forms) every now and then; for example if I moved from one city to another, applied for a job, moved from one school to another, rented a house or a shop, started a new business or even signed up for a phone line I would be asked to fill many of these forms to many entities. Not to mention the inquiries every citizen had to routinely fill and these inquiries would come from the police station, local ba'ath HQ, the district council and every other authority you can think of.

these inquiries in addition to asking regular questions like number of family members, their jobs, working places etc, etc, they also went as far as asking detailed questions about relatives as far as of the 6th degree, like "do you have any relatives that had been executed?" or "do you have any relatives living abroad? And why?".

The data collected in this manner were used to keep track of citizens and determine how this or that one should be treated (given or denied a job, admitted to college or not, promoted or not).

You can imagine now how much information the past regime had about the people of Iraq, and where did that huge database go?
It was kept by the same people who were in charge of it before, hard disks and box files were all taken home and the rest was burned and soon many of those personnel became the core of the local insurgency so it's somewhat correct to say that those intelligence collectors did not lose power because they retained one of the most powerful weapons in the kind of warfare we're fighting here.

The regime was toppled and places were switched; the jobless former officers became in control of a huge information treasure while the new administration was left with office drawers void of files!

So this imbalanced possession of information needs to change, and to change soon and a plan to build a new database should go simultaneously with the plan to collect weapons. We need to do this because the insurgents are hiding amongst us, they look and dress like normal civilians, they drive civilian vehicles, not tanks and they operate from normal houses, not military bases.
Building a new database can be done through reasonably simple procedures and from the base up by a simple campaign coordinated the authorities, the district councils (Mukhtars) and food ration distribution points.

Of course this should not be done in the same totalitarian demeaning manner that Saddam adopted; just decently detailed records of who lives where and who works where will be enough and can be of great help to our counterterrorism efforts.

Saturday, June 17, 2006
Forward Together faces a serious challenge.
The first time I checked on Iraq's news this morning I read about several violent incidents in Baghdad that included roadside bombs and car-bombs that left dozens of civilians and ISF members dead or injured. I even did pass by close to the scene of at least two of these attacks after which many of the main roads in Baghdad were closed to traffic.

Just an hour ago I heard of another series of bombings, also in Baghdad and the news reports are talking about 5 new car-bombs that went off mostly at police and army checkpoints a short while before curfew time was there.

I was afraid that this would happen but I was also hoping it would not…unfortunately yet not surprisingly it did.
I think the problem with the new security operation is that the tactics employed so far are not new and were not adjusted in a way to meet the needs of the changing security challenges and its worst weakness is that it focused on fixed checkpoints.

My guess is that the terrorists/insurgents were frightened by the size of the operation and the amount of troops deployed but they were able to check the pulse of the new security measures and adjust accordingly, thus was the period of relative calm we had in Baghdad during the first two or three days between Wednesday and Friday.

The terrorists apparently were able to study the geographic distribution of checkpoints and a)find safe routes to move around and carry out their attacks without passing through checkpoints, and b)make the checkpoints themselves targets for their attacks.

I will not say Forward Together has failed as it's still early to make judgments but we will be waiting for the next phases of the operation which is the announced plans to disarm the city and attack the terrorists in their safe homes because that is the way to reduce violence.
Having checkpoints is a good idea, but these checkpoints should have no fixed places or schedules. On the other hand fixed checkpoints can be very helpful at the entrances and exits of Baghdad and these should be fortified enough to sustain themselves and repel possible attacks.

Needless to say, collecting intelligence is of critical importance to the success of the operation; no checkpoint can stop a suicide bomber from inflicting harm once he's on the street. Those must be dealt with before they wear their explosive belts or leave the garage with their explosive-laden cars, and this requires intelligence and a more aggressive tactic than fixed checkpoints.

What happened today urges an adjustment of tactics on the part of the commanders in the interior and defense ministries, and this adjustment must be made as soon as possible.

Thursday, June 15, 2006
Forward Together...Day 2
Baghdad sounded quieter than usual today, and the sounds of bombs retracted before the tide of official announcements that took the news headlines replacing the usual bloody scenes.

Traffic in the capital was rather usual for a Thursday, the last weekday in the week. I woke up this morning to the sound of a small explosion, probably a PRG that was followed by some shooting which is usually the response of security forces present in the area to such attacks. That was during the curfew hours in the early morning and when I went out later in the morning there was no evidence that the attack left casualties or material loss and we even didn't hear about it in the news.

For the second day checkpoints are more abundant than usual and are more serious in their work; this is visible from the number of vehicles that get picked for searching. On normal days we would see soldiers manning the checkpoints do nothing more than scanning the passing vehicles with their eyes, sometimes holding a paper with a list of wanted registration plates and in most cases only dark-colored BMWs, Opels and Daewoos would be stopped and searched but now every vehicle is susceptible for a search.

We heard nothing about what was accomplished yesterday but we sense a clear atmosphere of cautious calm.

Tomorrow a ban on vehicles will be imposed from 11 am to 3 pm, apparently aimed at the Friday prayer time and the few hours prior to and after it.
I guess this curfew will be there for more than one Friday and the point behind that is probably to limit worshippers in mosques to the immediate circle around the mosque. In most cases worshippers are from that circle and they need no vehicles to get there but the case is different with large mosques that usually serve as substitute offices for certain political parties and trends and such mosques are frequented by lots of worshippers from distant places and always pose a possible starting point for organized protests or even violent action taking advantage from the divinity of mosques and the Friday ceremony as well as the long reach of certain large mosques that goes far beyond the spot of the mosque.
Naturally who takes the time to travel miles to get to a certain mosque is viewed as an active element seeking something beyond prayer alone, so this limitation will prevent such potentially undesirable activities from happening.

Back to the important announcements I mentioned above…

The Iraqi media was especially interested in PM Maliki's expected plan for reconciliation, talking about such a plan includes two sides closely related to the ongoing security operation, the first is a message telling that restoring security is not essentially through the use of force and that reconciliation is an important factor in building security and replacing bullets with talks. The second aspect falls in the category of shaking the lines of militants taking advantage from the hesitation of some groups following the successful strikes of the last several days.
In general and as a result of the Sunni participation in the government, these hesitant elements will have a good chance to leave weapons behind and join the political train by accepting the reconciliation invitation that pretty much resembles a pardon preceding a military crack down to deny the use of lack of such gesture as a pretext to continue the violent course by some militant groups.

The other announcement that received equally high coverage was that of the government's security adviser Mowafak al-Rubaie. While Maliki adopted the language of pardon, Rubaie adopted the language of confident force in addressing the extremists who cannot be negotiated with.

I agree that the raid that killed Zarqawi led us to some significant findings and revealed a lot of information but it didn't reveal everything, so I agree with Mr. Rubaie that the end of Zarqawi marked the beginning of al-Qaeda's end in Iraq and I do believe the government has a golden opportunity to deal with al-Qeada and its allies as the death of Zarqawi left his organization and followers in a state of shock and huge suspicion that the network's lines have been infiltrated, and I feel that most of them are behaving clumsily out of fear from being already identified and located. Of course this will make their moves more noticeable and will eventually expose them, that's if they're not already exposed.
Moreover, the government is sending vague messages through the local media stating that some of the documents seized near Zarqawi included names of well known political figures and I think this kind of leaked information is choking the involved elements.

In fact some people here are suggesting a link between the arrest of the head of the city council in Kerbala and the information found in those documents building these speculations on the nature and timing of the arrest, some are expecting similar arrest to follow against even more important figures.
That's what we're going to find out soon but in general these announcement and leaks stand as part of a necessary psychological war that-if performed well-can further lower the morale of the terrorists and their allies.

One of the most significant things about this operation is that we did not see any serious rejection or opposition to it from any of the influential parties or clerics which indicates that there's a general desire to back this operation or at least let it pass without complications and accept it as a means to get out of the deteriorated security situation.
Maybe that's because this particular operation doesn't give an impression that it's directed against a certain segment or sect as the case would be if the operation was conducted in Najaf, Sadr city or Ramadi for example.

The current feeling in Baghdad is that the operation is in the benefit of everyone and this is a good advantage that should be used to achieve success.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Forward Together!
Baghdad looked tense today as the city witnessed the launch of the new massive security operation "Forward Together".
The feeling here ranges from anxiety to hope which I saw clear in the voice and looks of the people I met; in addition to the understandable anxiety that accompanies every new military operation I saw a lot about hope that this new operation may be able to stop or even reverse the deterioration of security in the capital.

Well maybe this is our best chance to achieve some progress security-wise and there's a growing feeling (I won't say dominant but it's here and it's visible) that the new government has the real and serious desire to end this tragic chapter of Baghdad's history.

It seems that President Bush's visit to Baghdad has given more credibility for the operation; that at least was what I heard from people around me or read in Baghdad's papers today; the visit definitely left a positive impression that America is dead serious this time about finding solutions for Iraq especially when it comes to security and critical parts of reconstruction like electricity.

No one can predict how much time this new operation will take but time in this case is of little importance compared to accomplishing the objectives of the operation.

The streets weren't so much different this morning except for increased security presence in the form of checkpoints and traffic jams that were associated with a few incidents and this is what I experienced this morning on my way to work, most likely that was because I live in one of the hot spots that was among those listed as targets for the operation.
I heard a number of explosions that weren't so far away with sporadic light and medium gunfire but news reports indicate that only one incident left casualties.

Some Baghdadis have shopped for extra amounts of water, food and fuel expecting the operation and curfews to take more than a few days and there's a minor internal immigration within Baghdad from the more dangerous districts to the relatively safer ones. This isn't happening in large numbers and I knew about it only from some families that I know that have temporarily left their homes in some districts.

In Baghdad you can't find the same feeling you would find in Ramadi, that is the fear that the operation will include collective punishment and this is because Baghdadis are used to living standards of a big city (in Middle Eastern standards though) but in the past few years they have suffered enough from militants of all types and want their city life back, they want to see militias and insurgents defanged and they want schools and markets and services to function properly again.

In order to encourage the residents of Baghdad to report abuse by the ISF or send tips to the authorities, the government announced phone numbers and email addresses to facilitate contact. The government knows that large segments of the people (mostly Sunni) do not trust these lines and think they could be used to track them back through corrupt elements within the security forces, so the government is trying to deal with this mistrust and they announced numbers that people can use to directly contact the office of deputy PM Dr. Salam al-Zouba'i (who's originally from the Accord Front) apparently to persuade the Sunni residents of Baghdad to feel safe about contacting the authorities.

I don't want to bet on the citizens' cooperation in this regard but at the same time I can say that they won't give the militants a hand. The militants are getting more and more isolated by the day and this isolation is directly related to the increasing suffering and contempt of the citizens from this useless armed opposition especially that most of the once were opposition parties have joined the political process and became an integral part of the government and they smothered their tone and making their demands through political routes.

The militants know the strategic value of Baghdad so they will probably try hard to keep a low profile during the operation in order to stay in Baghdad and I don't expect them to risk an open confrontation with the authority and they will not be dragged to such confrontation; they depend almost entirely on hit and run attacks using the advantage of looking like civilians until the moment they strike.
So for this operation to work out, we will need to focus on disarmament and collecting every piece of weapons that can be collected because each weapon represents a chance for more violence.
In fact I believe this will be the main objective of this operation; to maintain strong security presence, make it harder for the militants to move around and do as much disarmament as possible.
The media here is reporting that the plans include collecting all unnecessary weapons from homes; that's if a family possesses two weapons fro example they will be allowed to keep only one small weapon with a limited amount of ammunition even if both weapons were licensed.

There are also rumors that the campaign will include questioning those who have recently moved from other provinces and settled in Baghdad or those who relocated themselves within Baghdad to verify the reasons behind that movement.

We'll try to keep you updated on this once we have more to say, but that's all for now.

Monday, June 12, 2006
Iraq, Jordan send powerful messages to Zarqawi's lovers.
The anti-Zarqawi-lovers sentiment is getting stronger in the region, especially in Iraq and Jordan where Zarqawi and his gangs committed their worst crimes.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports that authorities in Jordan have issued arrest warrants against four MPs from the Islamic movement; two of whom (Mohammed Abu Faris and Jafar al-Hourani) are already in custody while the search continues for Ali Abu al-Sukkar and Ibrahim al-Meshokhi.

Al-Arabiya TV mentioned today that arrests were made after families of victims of the Amman hotel bombings raised the case to the authorities after the four parliamentarians attended a mourning ceremony at Zarqawi's family home.
One of the four Islamists appeared on TV and called Zarqawi a martyr while denying that title to the victims of the Amman suicide bombings which obviously enraged the families that protested the outrageous attitude in front of the building of the Jordanian parliament.

Meanwhile in Baghdad, Al-Mada reports:
The Iraqi foreign ministry summoned the Palestinian consul Mr. Daleel al-Qassos last morning to express Iraq's shock and disappointment by Hamas's defense of Zarqawi and calling him a martyr while the entire world knows the crimes this terrorist committed against Iraqis and other peoples in the region including the Palestinians who had fallen in the Amman bombings.

The paper adds quoting the Iraqi deputy foreign minister Labeed Abbadi as saying:
Iraq was expecting a clear stand from our Arab brothers; that they would congratulate the Iraqi people and their security forces on this great accomplishment in our war on terror but we were surprised by their silence and by the attitude shown by Hamas which can only be interpreted as frank support for the murderers of Iraqis.

The report adds that the foreign ministry wants an apology from Hamas:
The Iraqi government demands that the Palestinian government headed by Hamas gives a clarification regarding their earlier statement, if they fail to do so, the Iraqi government will thoroughly discuss a suitable reaction to the attitude of the Palestinian authority.

The quick reaction of the Jordanian government is definitely appreciated and the most significant point here is that the first move came from the people who have finally risen to put a limit to the death-preachers who-without any regard for people's feeling and sufferings-defied and all values of humanity and logic let alone a legitimate judicial decree by openly praising and glorifying a murderer who created rivers of blood anywhere he went.

Those who preach hatred and death represent one of the roots of the terrorist culture and the struggle against terror cannot succeed without bringing justice upon those evil men.

I wonder what will it take to see a strong public and official stand against terrorism and death-preaching in the rest of the Middle East and when are we going to see the people in Saudi Arabia or Egypt for example raise cases against Qaradawi and his likes?

Sunday, June 11, 2006
Some are sad just because we're happy.
Hamas's reaction to the death of Zarqawi caused the contempt of so many Iraqis. The printed and watched Iraqi media lashed out vigorously on Hamas, politicians and ordinary people on the streets are just equally angered by some Arabic official and media reactions which spoke of the criminal as if he were a hero.

It is totally unimaginable why someone would describe the head chopping, children murdering terrorist as a hero. It's disgusting and infuriating beyond words.

This wrongful description of evil is a major reason for misery in this region and it only contributes to justifying more unjustifiable death and violence. This makes one sometimes wishes that Iraq is somehow lifted away from these perverted sociopaths who surround us.

To say I was angry is the least I can say to describe how I felt reading the comments from Arabs on a BBC forum. There was no surprise that all Iraqi commentators were pleased that we got rid of that vicious terrorists but on the other hand there was probably 90% of non-Iraqi Arab commentators who mourned him as a martyr.

Here I'm choosing only one comment that drew my attention because it shows how when hate prejudice reaches certain levels it blinds the minds and hearts of people.
This one comment maybe the most accurate to describe how thousands if not millions think in this region; this Arab commentator is telling frankly why he's sad without lying and without using decorated speech.
I think it reflects the truth in the way of thinking of unfortunately many Arabs; a truth that was released by an individual mouth carrying more courage of expression than those who appease and keep their inside hidden…

Zarqawi's death means nothing at all because it's the byproduct of the despotic policy that exists in his home country, Jordan.
There are thousands of Zarqawis in our nation who are getting persecuted and terrorized so they found their way to Iraq where they can vent, thanks to America who brought destruction to the region with the help of her agents (the rulers). And for your information, our information about Zarqawi is vague…is he a national hero, or a criminal terrorist? We don't know for sure but we see that our enemies are so happy that he's killed and that is what makes me feel sad for his death.

I'll end this with a comment from Iraq…

I used to be against killing people because of their perverted opinions or their anti-freedom doings but after I have seen and lived through their terrorism and anti-humanity extremism I say now that the only solution is to end the life of those who are not even humans. They poison the minds and thoughts of sane people.

People, let the world live in freedom and happiness…
I say it to all the sane and rational people; congratulations on the death of Zarqawi. [emphasis added]

I couldn't agree more, so if you are sane, come celebrate the moment with us, but if not, get prepared to mourn more demons.

Will soccer do what the government couldn't?
Al-Mada reports:

In the presence of Basra's governor Mohammed al-Wa'ili and the members of the city council, politicians and clerics signed the 'Germany W.C. peace treaty'.

On the occasion of the beginning of the world cup in Germany, politicians, clerics and tribal sheiks gathered at the Basra businessmen center to sign the 'Basra Peace Declaration' which is basically a call for peace and friendship to create an appropriate environment for Basrans to watch and enjoy the matches of the world cup without fear.
On the honor of signing the document, a party was held where speeches were made and gifts from English superstar David Beckham were given away.

Definitely an appreciated gesture from Mr. Beckham and I hope the signatures won't be only ink on paper.

Thursday, June 08, 2006
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has just announced the death of terror leader Abu Musa'ab al-Zarqawi in a joint press conference with Ambassador Khalil Zad.

Al-Maliki explained that Zarqawi (and 7 of his aides) was killed in an air raid in the little town of Hibhib 8 km north of Baquba after receiving tips from residents in the area.

General Casey says more details on the operation will be available in a briefing at 3 pm local time. General Casey mentioned that Zarqawi's identity was confirmed through his fingerprints.


What is Hibhib?

Hibhib is a small town several kilometers to the northwest of Baquba and most of its people are from the Azzawi tribes.
This small town was traditionally nicknamed Um al-Arak as it was famous for producing some of the finest Arak in Iraq, an industry that flourished in the area for the abundance of date palms. It's even said that Hibhib's Arak can make the fox get drunk!

Hibhib is located 8 km to the northwest of Baquba and 50 km to the northeast of Baghdad

Of course that was before the Salafi Zarqawi tide reached this once peaceful town.
It was quite visible lately that Hibhib became a place for intense terror activity, especially after the phenomenon of severed heads appeared. Severed heads of civilian Iraqis were found twice in fruit boxes in and around Hibhib; a terrible crime that shocked Iraqis.
Also a few days ago 19 passengers, mostly students were murdered in cold blood just north of Hibhib which indicated that a seriously bloody terror cell was in this area.

There had been several reports about Zarqawi fleeing Anbar to Diyala after the tribes in Ramadi turned against al-Qaeda but obviously, Diyala and its suburbs and Iraqi tribes were not willing to endorse the head chopping criminal.

In the first official confirmation, PM al-Maliki said that Jordan has provided intelligence that was used in the raid on Zaraqwi's hiding place but he also stressed that tips from locals were the primary lead to Zarqawi's exact location and these were the information according to which the missiles were guided.

Al-Maliki said that among the 7 killed with Zarqawi were two women who were responsible for collecting intelligence for the al-Qaeda HQ cell.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006
The Salhiya mass abduction.
perhaps one of the most shocking security incidents that took the headlines inside and outside Iraq was the one when gunmen dressed in military uniforms riding police-like vehicles seized 50 men in Salhiya district in central western Baghdad a couple of days ago.

The common first reaction after reading the news reports was one of astonishment by the exceptionally challenging nature of this operation as the operation took place in the center of the capital in a supposedly well guarded area and in broad day light but as we dig deeper into the circumstances of the incident, it looks like this case can be more complex than we thought it was in the beginning.

I had a long conversation with some of my friends on this particular case and tried to analyze some of its sides using the little knowledge and analysis skill we have.

What we found basically suggests that the raid could've possibly been conducted by government forces and not terrorists, yet not by the regular government forces.
In other words he suggests that a security corps not related to the defense or interior ministries was possibly behind the raid in an attempt form the government (or some other entity) to find "shortcuts" for eliminating terror cells in Baghdad without having to go through courts and time-consuming police investigations and paperwork.

The nature of the target and the scene and timing of the operation supports this theory in a way; most drivers and workers in travel agencies are from areas through which the road to Jordan and Syria passes through, i.e. they belong to Arab Sunni tribes and have secured some sort of a treaty with influential powers in that region and they use this advantage to pass back and forth safely through this dangerous long highway. These drivers are the only ones capable of doing this right now after many Shia drivers were killed on the road by al-Qaeda or local insurgent groups. Moreover, there were 2 Syrian nationals among those 50 men.

This leads to conclusion #1: Those kidnapped/arrested probably had ties with local insurgents and/or al-Qaeda in Iraq, especially in the western region of the country.

The idea that it's a death squad operation is unlikely for one reason; the location and time at which the operation took place indicate that the raiders were confident and fearless, and the scale of the operation and the magnitude of the raiding force indicates that high ranking officers know about it and if these officers are corrupt and running death squads they will be expected to not mess with the other wing of the insurgency (I'm talking about operations organized at commanders level who receive direct or indirect orders from Syria or Iran). I realize that many people still find it hard to believe that Syria-backed al-Qaeda and Sunni extremists are working side by side with Iran-backed death squads. And whether the trigger pullers know this or not isn't of value here but I'm positive that commanders on both sides know who their allies are.

This leads to conclusion #2: If Iran is behind death squads in Iraq (which is what most of us believe to be the case) then Iran and death squads were not behind this one and it wasn't an operation motivated by sectarian tensions.

In short, it is quite possible that this operation was conducted by an independent security corps taking orders directly from the president, PM or US military to strike a particular target quickly and without the hassle of traditional justice…a legitimate force, maybe a special counter-terrorism force or one belonging to the Iraqi intelligence/military intelligence service but performing operations in a dirty (yet effective) way, capturing suspects, forcefully interrogating them and executing those found guilty and releasing those found innocent.

The fact that 13 of the 50 were released last night and found by the police in Baghdad supports this theory to some extent. Those 13 men were found alive but had torture marks on their bodies.

A death squad or a terror cell wouldn't have spared any.

Sunday, June 04, 2006
The cabinet remains incomplete.
It's been two weeks since the parliament in Iraq inaugurated new PM Maliki's cabinet and the three vacant seats in this cabinet are yet to be filled with ministers for defense, interior and national security.

Three attempts to find competent and nonsectarian men for theses three important posts have failed so far bringing up questions on this cabinet's ability to provide what Iraqis need most urgently ; security.

People who follow the news frequently enough here in Baghdad know that a big security operation is coming and hearing several tough statements from Iraq's PM Maliki makes one anticipate this operation to be coming sooner rather than later and that it's going to deal with both wings of violence in Baghdad; the al-Qaeda terrorism (and allied local Sunni insurgency) and the out-of-control armed Shia militias.

So, any delay in appointing ministers in the three security-related posts largely serves the immediate interests of the troublemakers of all backgrounds because it also means the anticipated large-scale operation will have to be delayed as a result.

It is true that these three ministries are of great importance and thus the selection of people to fill these posts for four whole years must be made with utmost care but what I find difficult to understand is how making this choice could this take this long?
The talks among parliamentary blocs in this regard did not start after Maliki had been nominated, actually it began long before that and if I'm not mistaken I recall that the blocs upon the deadlock over Jafari's nomination decided to leave the PM issue for a while and move to talk about nominees for the security related ministries in a maneuver to avoid wasting time especially that it took a couple months to convince Jafari to step aside and the UIA to find another nominee.

The point is that with all the time that's been consumed in these talks and with the limited list of candidates for each ministerial post (3 for each post more or less) and given the clear guidelines for selection, there must be something else putting the stick in the wheel, something other than the qualities of the nominees and the agreed upon criteria.

In my opinion, it is quite possible that there are parties within one or more of the political blocs that are trying to make this process take forever; of course it can't take forever but more like to delay it to win as much time as possible to delay military action against armed groups some of those parties are affiliated with; time they need to prepare themselves for the imminent confrontation or, to even succeed in appointing ministers that are inclined to impede such an operation.

This is how I see things and I could be wrong, or there could be other obstacles facing the completion of the cabinet but again what makes this possibility a valid one is the fact that it is no secret that the targets for any future major security operation have friends or affiliates in the parliament and even in the cabinet itself whether on the Sunni side or the Shia side and it is probably naïve to expect these affiliates to give the Iraqi government and the MNF a hand in striking their associates in the militias or the insurgency.

The other point that suggests some political powers are not sincere in their alleged efforts for finding a solution for this deadlock lies in the very mechanism of selection; this mechanism is the same one that was used in almost all previous stages of the political process in Iraq and proven to give rise to deadlocks at almost every single stage, yet the political powers did not think of replacing this mechanism with one that is less likely to produce bumps in the road and I'm really surprised why they did not choose one of the mechanisms traditionally used in our community for solving disputes that involve sharing of power or property.

It would've been way easier if say the UIA was to pick a defense minister from the Accord Front and the latter picks an interior minister from the UIA instead of each bloc making the pick from within its member. This way both blocs will be sure that both selections are as close to neutral as they can be.
This method and similar ones are not uncommon in the community especially among tribes, for example when two tribes dispute over sharing a piece of land they resort to divide duties; one tribe draws the line along which the land is to be divided while the other makes the pick and this way it can be assured that the two portions are as close to perfect halves as they can be.

Primitive? Maybe, but it works.

The latest postponment of vote which was announced an hour ago is going to be bad for the situation in Iraq and for the image of the government in general and that of PM Maliki in particular who wanted to look like the tough and determined new leader of the country.
He warned the parliamentary blocs last week that he would be using his constitutional right to choose people to complete his cabinet as a last resort if the blocs failed to reach consensus on this subject by Sunday but today, although he reportedly presented his candidates for filling the three ministries he was forced to give in and offer the blocs more time to talk and discuss the issue…again.

Thursday, June 01, 2006
Rumor of the day.
There's one rumor in Baghdad these days that has become so big and spread beyond the normal limits of rumors…

This rumor speaks of an American plot, namely one of President Bush to orchestrate a military coup in Iraq, install a Pervez Musharraf-like general as head of state with a treaty signed between the US and the general to guarantee an honorable pull out from Iraq as well as Iraq's loyalty to the US to prepare for America's exit from the country and that this coup is to be carried out by the Iraqi army under command of a Sunni general from the former army since the American administration-according the rumor-believes officers of the former army are the only ones capable of understanding and controlling the security situation in Iraq.

It seems that this rumor in particular was created by a pro; he made a long and somewhat convincing (to the less informed) story on the origin of this coup scenario; the rumor says that President Bush was advised by former national Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzenzinski to give Sunni officers a free hand in Iraq to control the security situation and according to the rumor, this meeting of Bush and Zbigniew Brzenzinski was written about in the New York Times!
Of course I didn't even bother to search for such a Brzenzinski statement or NY Times report as the story in its entirety sounds illogical.

It's saddening to see people supposed to be politicians and leaders take such rumors and consider them solid facts. On one hand you'll see Sunni former officers and politicians daydream about how they're going to rule the country after their coup succeeds, which means it encourages the acts of armed resistance and discourages people from being involved in the system since it predicts that it's only a matter of time before the current system collapses and on the other hand you'll see Shia politicians use this rumor to justify a prolonged existence of their partisan militias, actually I heard Sadiq al-Mousawi (prominent Shia politician and former advisor of president Talbani) use this pretext in his argument on the necessity to keep the militias on a talk show last night.

It's really odd to see the same rumor promoted by both, the government and the opposition but that's understandable as both sides found in this rumor what can serve their interests.

This reflects that there's still a big chunk of the population here in the Middle East that is having a hard time believing that the change has happened, understanding democracy and throwing behind the old conspiracy theory mentalities; a tough but essential struggle for establishing a new system.

What worries me a lot is hearing people in Iraq in particular and in the Middle East in general saying that this region not good enough a land for democracy and that these countries will always need dictators to put things in order and preserve security and stability; these are remarks I hear all the time and some even go as far as saying that Saddam's reign was good for Iraq.

The indisputable fact is that dictatorship did not lead us to become an advanced nation and I never heard of a dictatorship that was able to make a nation free and advanced and the results we reached from decades of dictatorship was nothing we could ever be proud of.

Some here say that Saddam managed to control the country but they admit he was bad and they think that if only he looked after economy better than he did then things would've been way better…maybe the common dream among my people of generation is to become the one good ruler who can fix all the mistakes of the previous bad rulers but reality proves that everyone who came to power in any of the earlier nationalist tyrannical governments turned out to be "bad".
In fact this has nothing to do with the individuals in power and perhaps that's the core of the problem; here in the Middle East we need to understand that it's all about the system we choose for our countries and we're yet to absorb this.

For example if a person like Saddam got appointed in an important position in a democratic state then the system will guide him and keep him on track and of course dismiss him if he misbehaves; of course democratic systems are not perfect and error-free but they are better than no systems (chaos) or the systems we had here.

And vice versa…if you bring a "good" person from a democratic state into this region and appoint him in a position of power in a despotic system, he will undoubtedly become bad.
I may not be exaggerating when I say that we have accomplished so much with our newborn democracy and the building of the new system had in one way or another limited from the inclinations of individuals to become bad, even though that's not to the same extent of what we see in states with long history in democracy but these small steps are certainly better than nothing.

The important point here which should be taken into consideration is that we are not forming a government but we are forming a state and a system from scratch so naturally the difficulties we'll face during each stage will be much bigger than the difficulties that would face other states that are already democratic during similar stages, say after elections.

Patience and hard work are the key to victory and in the same time obstacles, violence and disputes are no excuse for quitting; just like al-Qaeda and its allies concentrate on Iraq and consider it the nucleus for their Islamic state, we and the whole world must unite to rescue Iraq and present our model of freedom and justice.

Iraq is the key to the change and the terrorists realize this so we must show how determined we are if we want to defeat them.


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