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Friday, July 28, 2006
Why not Syria?
We are getting used to the appalling nonsense we hear from the leaders of al-Qaeda every now and then but we still do listen to their hateful speeches in order to understand more about how those criminals think and to know more about their intentions and plans, so while these audio or video statements they keep sending through al-Jazeera can add nothing to help al-Qaeda, they can be a source for free information to us…

There was nothing significant new about what Zawahiri said in his last message that was aired a few days ago but one line struck me as ironic. He was talking about "jihad against the Americans and the Zionists" and how Muslims must rise up and fight back then he mentioned Iraq and considered Iraq's proximity to Israel an advantage that makes Iraq the best candidate country where "the Islamic Emirate can be established and the mujahideen would then move from this Emirate to Palestine to fight the Jews."

That's strange isn't it? Because Iraq is several hundreds of miles away from Israel while Syria and Jordan directly share borders with Israel!
I will leave the Jordanians out of this because they already are considered traitors by Zawahiri since Jordan signed a peace truce with Israel, but what about Syria which shares borders with Israel, is not at peace with Israel and has territory occupied by Israel since 1967?
Wouldn't it make better sense to establish the Islamic Emirate in Syria? I mean that would allow the mujahideen to literally walk into Israel and save a lot of effort and time. Let alone that it sounds so difficult to establish the Islamic Emirate in such a hostile environment as Iraq which now, by al-Qaeda standards, is full of infidel Americans, heretical Shia and treacherous Sunni!

However, Zawahiri didn't mention Syria and jumped over geography and kept the focus on Iraq and this makes me think of a number of possible explanations:

a) Al-Qaeda considers Syria a more hostile territory than Iraq making the situation unsuitable for the rise of Islamic rule...but if Syria is that hostile to the degree that it stands as an enemy then why not fight this enemy to establish the Islamic rule and then use the advantage of Syria real geographical proximity to Israel?!
This leads to:

b) Al-Qaeda consider Syria an ally stronger as is and prefers not to mess with the Syrian regime in fear from ruining this alliance…or

c) This is not about Israel at all and Zawahiri merely used the case of the current war in the middle east to attract greater numbers of jihadists to Iraq to bolster the presence of al-Qaeda following the losses it suffered in Iraq with the death of Zarqawi and subsequent raids of US and Iraqi forces that left many al-Qaeda operatives dead or captured…

Either way, what al-Qaeda said through Zawahiri shows indirectly that the regime in Syria is one favored by al-Qaeda but more importantly proves again that they have their eyes fixed on Iraq which they openly voiced their intentions to turn into a center for their radical Islamic state.

And if Zawahiri, Nesrallah, Ahmedinejad and Sadr are calling upon extremists whether, Sunni or Shia, from all over the world to put aside their differences and unite in this war against the free world and to establish the Empire of terror from "Afghanistan to Andalus" then this is more than enough reason for you in the free world and for us who are struggling for our freedom to put aside our differences and disagreements and unite, from Sydney to Mumbai to Baghdad to Paris and London all the way till California, all must stand against this evil that is trying to destroy our world.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006
War preparations disguised as reconciliation.
The national reconciliation initiative in Iraq is being interpreted in several manners that often reflect the perspective of rival political and religious powers but it remains a fact in my opinion that this reconciliation is not designed for the silent majority that is silently enduring the rough situation and preferred not to join this conflict.

Let me put it this way, this Hussein has no problem with that Bakir and that Omar has no problem with this Haider; we share streets and neighborhoods and markets and we marry from different sects and we work together in the hospital, office or shop.
The attempt of the sectarian parties to drag the ordinary people to the catastrophe of civil war will not appeal to the simple citizen who seeks peace by nature and let's not forget that arm-bearers and violence inciters are always a minority.

What caught my attention these days is the phenomenon of localized reconciliation initiatives being organized between certain districts in Baghdad. These try to give the wrong impression that the division is between the people and makes the fighting parties look like the peace mediators.
Such practices have increased recently and taking the form of basically meetings between community leaders and tribal sheikhs of often adjacent sectors with difference in sectarian distribution where those participants would sign a 'code of honor' to stop killings and forced displacement.

For example, there are now talks and meetings between Sadr city, Azamiya and several other districts in north-eastern Baghdad similar to the so far more or less successful reconciliation that took place in other parts of central eastern Baghdad districts last week. This example of neighborhoods peace talks is echoing in Baghdad recently even that I heard yesterday that the clashes there were going on in Haifa street and adjacent streets were the result of residents from a Sunni district and a Shia one joining forces to confront a death squad disguised as police commandos.
No one knows for sure what happened but this is what people here are saying.

In one way or another I see this to confirm what was said above, that people need no reconciliation and the apparent success of the meetings supports this idea.
Still I believe such meetings between districts are necessary to clear the misunderstanding created by the fighting sectarian parties.

I know this may sound a bit confusing so please read to the end…

The question is are we going to see the same from the parties really involved in the conflict, I mean meetings for real reconciliation and a positive answer to Maliki's calls?
In fact I see that these parties will answer the calls for reconciliation but for a purpose other than Iraq's stability and peace and for a purpose other than putting an end to the daily bloodshed.
It's rather a pessimistic scenario that I am reading from signs I see in the atmosphere; I hear and see that some Shia parties with strong militias are seeking a truce (not peace) with Sunni counterparts especially those with significant militias but this in my opinion will be more like a sectarian truce than a true national reconciliation.

But again, why would they seek truce with all the deeply rooted differences between them?
Well the unpleasant scenario I'm expecting is basically that these parties want this truce to fix one front and pave the way for the beginning of a Sunni-Shia joint Islamic insurgency against the US and the UK in Iraq, and I call it Islamic because that's how the planning party wants it to look like to persuade militants of the other sect to join them in their next mischief or at least to guarantee that the other sect would remain neutral during the conflict they are planning to spark.

My theory about this future conflict is based on findings of the current conflict in the Middle East and we mentioned before that we are most likely going to face a situation in the Iraqi south similar to what's happening in the Lebanese south as another chapter of Iran's plan that seeks to spread chaos in the middle east in general and in Iraq in particular and a look at the statements of Iran's friends in Iraq who urged Maliki to cancel his visit to the US and the tone that was used in these requests lead only to the conclusion that these parties won't hesitate long before they enter the battlefield, actually we already are hearing rumors that Sadr's militiamen are present in Lebanon and fighting alongside Hizbollah.
I question the credibility of this news but I consider it an introduction to an actual physical engagement, this introduction also had included the banners campaign we talked about the other day.

Even if this war breaks out in Iraq, it will not lead to the collapse of the state because the act of the militias will be anti-Iraqi government as well as anti-coalition and these militias will find themselves fighting two determined powers.
However, Maliki will be in an embarrassing position because he realizes that confronting a large-scale Islamic insurgency will no doubt include a lot of destruction to some Iraqi cities similar to what happened to Najaf two years ago and this time the relative stability in the south will face serious threats and we will go into another cycle of instability and destruction of whatever little infrastructure we have in there.
This will exactly mean moving Iraq back years in time and this is the main objective behind the insurgency, i.e. delaying the success of the Iraqi project at any cost to delay any possible action by the world against the Mullahs in Iran.

That's why I see that the government should take an active role in these local reconciliation/truce meetings and ask the involved parties to peacefully hand their weapons to the government as gesture of good intentions and after that a second phase of enforced disarmament may come.
After all, reconciliation will be meaningless if everyone will still be keeping a finger on the trigger.

Saturday, July 22, 2006
50%? Actually I'd say more than that.
Another sign that factions that prefer violence over dialogue are getting more isolated; this time the radical 'association of Muslim scholars' is being renounced by no less than their former allies in the Islamic Party.

This report from Radio Sawa quotes Omar al-Jubori the head of the human rights office in the Iraqi Islamic Party as saying that Harith al-Dhari, secretary of the association of Muslim scholars was "responsible for 50% of the blood of Sunni Iraqis who were killed in Iraq".

In his statement Mr. Jubori said that Sunni political and religious leaderships were wrong when they prohibited Sunni men from enlisting in the Iraqi police and army (Arabic audio available).

I realize that most of you do not know Arabic so I'm going to pick excerpts from that statement, in a part I found interesting Mr. Jubori said:

Sunni political powers now demand that American troops remain in Iraq for some time…the American forces represent a balancing element between the people and the security forces that are not balanced in their sectarian composition…the Americans should work on correcting this imbalance.
Harith al-Dhari is responsible for 50% of Sunni deaths in Iraq, the Americans are responsible for 25% and the Shia militias are responsible for the other 25% and this is something that most Sunnis admit…

I kind of agree with the above statement but in somewhat a different way; it is probably correct that al-Dhari and his gangs were responsible directly for 50% of Sunni deaths but they are equally responsible for the other 50% but rather indirectly.
Ever since Saddam was toppled the al-Dhari's association was involved in most of the violence in Iraq in more than one way; they allied with Ba'athists, Saddamists and foreign terrorists and provided them with shelter and support. They preached hatred and sectarianism and provoked violence that we saw in the form of attacks in various regions in Iraq that killed thousands of Iraqis.

That's the direct way, the indirect way on the other and is that the violence they stirred left the US military with no choice but to attack at some cities and those attacks left a lot of collateral damage including the deaths of many Iraqis who were trapped in the crossfire of those battles like what happened in Fallujah or Ramadi or Mosul. Those civilians were mostly Sunni and al-Dhari is to blame for their death.
And when Dhari and his allies send their gangs to massacre civilians in mixed or Shia neighborhoods in Iraq they had also invited angry militias to take revenge and murder similar numbers of mostly Sunni civilians.

Same applies to Shia militias who I also want to hold accountable for civilian deaths among Shia civilians in almost the same manner. When Sadr fought the US military in Najaf or Baghdad he was responsible for the collateral casualties among civilians and whenever he sent his militias or death squads to snatch people off the street and shoot them in cold blood he had also invited Sunni extremists like Dhari to send their gangs to kill more or less an equal number of Shia civilians.
What I want to say is that it's good to finally see Sunni political parties renounce the doings of fellow Sunnis who took the far end of extremism And I'd so much like to see Shia political parties do the same and renounce Sadr and whatever other violent factions within the Shia community.

See, addressing the bad elements is the key to having good plans but in contrast with that you read reports such as this one from the Daily Telegraph (via Pajamas) that talks about some Iraqi politicians considering plans to partition Baghdad into a Sunni west and Shia east. That idea is totally unacceptable and is not inline with the reconciliation plan some of them ironically support. What these politicians are saying is equal to saying that people of different sects should reconcile but at the same time they should not come near districts of other sects!

And what about the million Shia who live in the west, or the million Sunni who live in the east? Does it make sense at all to tell them to simply relocate because the government and the coalition cannot or don't want to put in enough effort to stop the fanatics form slaughtering them?
What makes sense in my opinion is to neutralize the gangs that commit atrocities on both sides and that's the only plan we should have and implement if we still want to keep Iraq in one piece.

Relocating civilians will be a humanitarian catastrophe and cannot solve the real problem because unless troublemakers are defeated or neutralized they will keep causing troubles no matter how many partitions are in place.

Although late, it was a bit of a relief to see Iraqi and US commanders planning to move more troops into the Baghdad area (also via Pajamas).

I was thinking the other day that military priorities of the US and Iraqi forces need to be reorganized according to the challenges imposed by the intentions of the bad guys to take over Baghdad. I mean why does the US keeps thousands of combat troops in relatively less turbulent areas that are of much less strategic value to the bigger picture!?
This redistribution of forces should've been considered months ago.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Just new banners, or war drums?
A few days ago we mentioned that we tend to believe that this ongoing war in-geographically-Lebanon is not only about Hizbollah and Israel; that it is probably the first stage of a wider regional conflict that is going to extend far beyond the borders of Lebanon and Israel.
What I want to add today is that it is not wise to try to deal with it in the same way previous conflicts were dealt with, why?
Because this conflict is not like any of the previous ones.

What we must realize here is the involvement of the theological (mythological) element in this particular conflict which is also the reason why this conflict has the potential to expand into full-scale regional war.

It is true that religion had always been playing a central role in the numerous chapters of the conflict between the Muslims and the West but this time there's a totally different theological belief that is being used by Iran to provoke and direct this war; I think the best way to say it is that we are about to see Iran launch the mullahs' version of an 'Armageddon'.
I know this may sound absurd and maybe some of you are thinking no one could possibly be thinking that way but remember, I am telling you what extremist theocrats seem to be planning for and logic has very little space in the mullahs' way of thinking.

I'm not going to claim I know exactly what Hizbollah's or Hamas's hidden motives are because I don't live there but I know about those of the regime in Iran and its arm in Iraq; both Ahmedinejad and Sadr are devout believers in the 'Savior Imam' of Shia Islam who is the 12th grandson of prophet Mohammed, also known by the name 'Imam Mehdi' hence the name of Sadr's militias 'the Mehdi Army'.
I must point out though that some factions of Sunni Islam also believe in the rise of the Imam but they have their own different version of the story.

Both Ahmedinejad and Sadr believe it is their duty to pave the way and prepare the ground for the rise of the Imam whose rise, according to their branch of Shia Islam, requires certain conditions and a sequence of certain events; the story is too long to discuss in one post so I'll just move on to offer my observations…

We are seeing some signs here that make us think that Iran and its tools in Iraq are trying to provoke the rise of the imam through forcing the signs they believe should be associated with that rise. One of the things that do not feel right is the sudden appearance of new banners and writings on the walls carrying religious messages talking specifically of imam Mehdi. These messages are getting abundant in Baghdad and in particular in the eastern part of the capital where Sadr militias are dominant and a special number can be seen in the area of the interior ministry complex.

The interesting part is that these banners appeared within less than 24 hours after Hizbollah kidnapped the Israeli soldiers. Coincidence?
I don't think so.

The messages on the banners are sort of new too and sound different from the ones we're used to read, I've took photos of two of them that read as follows:
"By renouncing sin and by integration for the sake of afterlife we become the best soldiers to our leader and savior the Mehdi"
"integration" here sounds meaningless in the sentence but it's just one of those words the Sadr likes to use!

"Everyone gets power from weapons and money but the loyal to the savior get their pride from almighty God"

You can see that these are written on white cloth instead of the traditional black, red or green of religious banners.
I asked a friend of mine who's aware of the dates of Shia religious occasions to check if there was one of these occasions around these days but the answer was negative.

We pointed out in an earlier post about the organic connections between the tools of Iran in Iraq and Lebanon and how Sadr was following Nesrallah's steps and I won't be exaggerating if I said that Sadr is even using the same structural pattern of Hizbollah for his militia, not to mention that Sadr's "foreign relations bureau" is based in Beirut!

What I'm interested in finding is whether Sadr is going to jump in and join this war and whether Iran's agenda is going to include creating more chaos in the "Arab" depth to keep Tehran safe…

Threatening with such wide-spread chaos is embarrassing to the world and especially to America and Europe and will probably move the latter powers to try to contain the crisis and prevent it from taking a wider scope than it occupies now and I'm afraid this could make the world look for symptomatic treatments instead of cures.

Those banners above represent an ominous sign and I'd like to say again that one should prepare for the worst from the very unstable mixture of religion and policy.

I went to a guy who knows quite a lot about this salvation war so to speak and asked him if the texts mention anything about the timing of the war and whether it's supposed to begin before or after the rise of the Imam and the answer was "After" but he added that chaos and rampant violence in the region are supposed to be among the signs and that the main battle would be "lead by the Imam himself".

The thing is that we can't be sure that they are going to play by book because throughout the Islamic history rulers employed what people consider divine texts to remain in power and make people obey them; and they did this either by twisting the texts through slanted interpretations or by making up the text as in adding thousands of texts that were claimed to be the sayings of the prophet.
Here we're most likely going to see a new maneuver and I expect that the "imminent" arrival of the Imam is going to be announced through the Mumahidoon (those who pave the way for the Imam) and that's what Sadr and followers describe themselves and that's the word they use for a title of their website. That's if they didn't claim they were receiving messages from the Imam via a messenger.

All previous wars between Israel and Arabs were of a pan-nationalist nature and used feelings of Arabism to push the people to war. Of course religion had a role too but now religion is going to push Arabism aside and be the dominant element in Iran's planned war because of the failure of pan-nationalism to retain its influence in the region after a long history of failures.
Iran's dreams in exporting the Islamic revolution were stopped by the once strong pan-nationalism in last quarter of the 20th century but today we're facing a renewed project of exporting the Islamic revolution in an attempt to fill-and taking advantage of-the vacuum left by the fading pan Arab nationalism…
And with liberalism still not strong enough to face such a challenge, I think the future of the region is in big danger.

Sunday, July 16, 2006
No more half-solutions.
In spite of what we are facing here every day I find myself, just like many others, so attached to following what's going on between Israel and Lebanon and that's mostly because of the close resemblance between the two cases.
In both cases we see a weak government suffering to control a powerful militia that is challenging the will of the rest of the country and engaging in a proxy war making the people suffer the results of regional conflicts that in no way can benefit their country.

The other reason why I'm closely following this ongoing crisis is that the powers involved in this conflict between Lebanon and Israel are closely connected to the powers fighting in Iraq and we here believe that the battle over there will have an impact on the situation here in one way or another.
It's still very difficult for people here to predict how this crisis is going to end especially that politics mix with ideology in a complex way in this region, however there's a general sense that the fires of war are going to spread to the rest of the region but still no one here can see the way this bigger war is going to end.

This comes from the nature of strategy adopted by the fighting powers and here I'm talking about the Arabic/Islamic component whose strategy relies on keeping a crisis open and always on reaching half-solutions to enable the leaderships to retain their positions…of course this also means keeping the countries of the region behind of the rest of the world and I see the same strategy being employed this time.

Iran proved that it's able to drag the region into a state of chaos by maneuvering its tools in Syria, Hizbollah, Hamas and the militias in Iraq. Iran knows that such a conflict directed by militias that blend with civilians will lead to long-lasting chaos and represents a half-solution that debilitates the other powers and at the same time it's not a costly tactic for Iran! A 100 million dollars in the hands of gangs are enough to cause a lot of destruction that cannot be cured by billions in reconstruction, and it always costs less to destruct than to build.

The key point in this strategy is to keep the half-solution alive. This method proved successful in keeping the despotic regimes in power for decades and these regimes think this strategy is still valid. What makes them this way is their interpretation of international comments which came almost exactly as they always do; calls for restraint and urging a cease-fire which they (Iran and her allies) think will mean eventually going back to negotiations which they know very well how to keep moving in an empty circle.
That was clear from Nesrallah's earlier speech when he said "whether today or a month or a year from now, the Israelis will sooner or later find themselves forced to negotiate…"
Of course Nesrallah did not talk about the rest of his hidden policy which is provoking another crisis once the first one cools down.

The same is going to happen in Iraq if the situation did not change from the way it is today and maybe one day the Iraqi south will be similar to the Lebanese south and we will probably see the militias embarrass the country with "adventures" just like Nesrallah is doing now, that's of course is what nobody here wants to see; nobody but Iran.

The question is did Iran make the right calculations this time? And is the world willing to accept more of those half-solutions?
I don't think so…

Trying to play the same scenario and adopt the same policies over and over again will bring undesirable outcomes for Iran this time and I can see that there's an Israeli determination to break the cycle; the thing is that Israel does not have to deal with the problem that America has to deal with; Israel does not have the political brakes that view the war in different ways. I mean to Israel this war is about existence and that's why Israel is going to go as far as it takes to secure this existence while the geographically-distant America view it differently and the attitude of some Americans who feel that this war is not that serious is understood.

But I do think that it is time to be decisive for one important reason; those who direct the conflict in the region do not seek a solution and even if America looks geographically far right now one should not forget that technology will not allow her to remain so in the future and I think dealing with conventional arsenals today is better than to deal with nukes in the future and that's the threat the world is going to face as long as religion mixes with politics in the middle east.

The hesitation of the international community can be so dangerous and the intentions of the axis of terror are so clear. That's why firm and resolute measures have to be undertaken against Syria and Iran who are directly responsible for the mess in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006
The Middle East; where to?
I've been closely following the developments between Israel and Lebanon. As you know, anything that goes on between any two parties in the Middle East will eventually have direct or indirect effects on the rest of the region's countries.

I don't know for sure what made Hizbollah do what they did this morning but I can make some guesses starting from the fact that Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah collectively form one big axis of evil in the Middle East with connected interests and shared goals so the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers looks like an act planned to serve the interests of the members of the axis without the least regard to the harm it can bring upon Lebanon.

For example, the foreign ministers of the 5 UNSC countries and Germany were meeting today to discuss how to respond to Iran's position regarding the nuclear issue, so this could be an attempt to distract the international community and especially Israel and America from the Iranian nuclear threat. And if that's the case, then their plan has just failed. But this will also mean they (the axis) will try other measures and will cause more trouble to distract the international community from focusing on the Iranian nuclear threat.

Meanwhile, Hizbollah itself is under continuous pressure from other parties inside Lebanon regarding the disarmament of the party's militia; therefore maybe Nesrallah thought that putting Lebanon in such an embarrassing de facto situation would relieve some of that pressure and give him an upper hand in the negotiations.

Another possibility is that the operation was conducted in the hope that it could lower the Israeli pressure on Hizbollah's allies in Hamas and slow the ongoing military operation in Gaza.

Actually it could be all of the above reasons because they all serve the common interest of the axis members and are all three possibilities fall in the category of putting the international community, America and Israel in a position where they have to fight (militarily or politically) on more than one front.

It's still early to speculate how this situation is going to unfold but nothing indicates the presence of possibility for a peaceful resolution and the question is how much force the Israelis are willing to use and how far they're going to send their military, and most important, whether other parties are going to be involved and I personally think Iran and Syria are not going to stand idle in this conflict. That's because there's no way that Iran didn't know about what Hizbollah was planning for (while the Lebanese government was apparently clueless!) and I think Iran knows that Israel would respond with force. That's if operation wasn't entirely an Iranian plan in the first place.

I think Tehran wants to buy time here, they know it will be almost impossible to avoid a confrontation, actually they are looking forward to it but they want to decide when and where and they want to be prepared well enough for it (can they?!). So they want to fight to the last Lebanese, Iraqi and Syrian before their turn comes.

From an Iraqi perspective I believe that a powerful strike to Hizbollah will be in Iraq's national interest. Hizbollah is Iran's and Syria's partner in feeding instability in Iraq as there were evidence that this terror group has a role in equipping and training insurgents in Iraq and Hizbollah had more than once openly showed support for the "resistance" in Iraq and sponsored the meetings of Baathist and radical Islamist militants who are responsible for most of the violence in Iraq.

Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah have made it clear that their mission is to fight back the American plans in the Middle East, to me that is equal to saying that their mission is to stop Iraq from becoming a stable democratic country to prevent democracy from spreading to the rest of the region.

Those extremists do not understand the language of compromise and they do not believe in negotiating even if they declare the opposite.
They want a war and I think they're going to get one.

Monday, July 10, 2006
Enemies that need each other…
"Policemen stopped me at a checkpoint and asked me whether I was Sunni or Shia" that's what a worried friend of mine told me today.
I asked him why he thought the policemen had asked him such a question and he said "I was on my way to Aadhamiya for some business when the men stopped me and surprised me with their question, when I told them I had nothing to fear or worry about, they said I should. They told me that gunmen were checking people's ID cards".

My friend backed before the seriousness of the warning, lumped the situation and headed back to where he came from.
A similar story I heard yesterday from another friend who was spending a few days with his wife at her parents'. One morning he went out for bread when a group of armed men stopped him and inquired about who he was and what brought him to that neighborhood.

My friend was astonished because those guys identified him as a stranger in no time. Anyway, he took out his ID that (indirectly) indicates to which sect he belongs and he introduced himself. He was then asked about which mosque he frequents for prayers and he answered with a valid mosque name along with the name of the preacher.
The response from the armed men came even stranger than their question "don't do this again and do not wander around unless in the company of a local because you might meet one of our men who would not ask before pulling the trigger"!!

This kind of happenings is not entirely new for the residents of Baghdad but became more and more visible recently especially after the two bloody massacres in Sadr city last week and in Jihad district yesterday.
Even people in the provinces have the feeling that Baghdad is under extreme pressure right now as if they feel that violence lessened in their provinces only to increase in Baghdad. I had relatives and friends calling me to check on us, express sympathy and sometimes offer me and my family a place to stay at for a couple weeks in this or that province.


Some time ago we pointed out the poor intelligence capabilities of the government compared to that of the militants and it looks like the current security operation did not deal seriously with this defect, on the contrary the gap seems to be even growing giving advantage to the militias and insurgents.

Again I feel I must point out that security operation of the government is still not doing much to deal with the escalating violence.
Personally I was for a plan based on securing one piece of territory at a time instead of attempting to secure the entire capital at once (see our earlier post) and that's because I believe the government does not possess enough tools to cover Baghdad in its entirety.

The concept of power concentration seems a reliable way that can be applied in limited areas effectively and once a given area is secure that power could move to secure adjacent areas. I still think that clearing Baghdad should start from the center-out, not the other way around.

As a reaction to the escalating situation in Baghdad president Talabani addressed the people urging calm and warning them from being dragged into sectarian violence. I really don't know why would Talabani ask the people to remain calm and this message doesn't make sense because the ordinary people in their vast majority look for peace, they don't carry arms neither they take part in the violence.

In fact most people stayed at home out of fear from being caught in the crossfire that the streets of Baghdad are almost empty in many districts. Instead, Talabani should have sent his message to the members of his government who are openly directing their gangs to commit crimes against civilians.
The people need no advice from the government, they only seek protection.

Anyway, I do not consider the recent wave of violence as sectarian violence even though it assumed a sectarian shape…both terrorists/insurgents and outlaw militias are concerned about their existence more than about defeating their sectarian counterparts, therefore each party uses the existence of the other as pretext for its own activity. Our friend Shalash the Iraqi put it eloquently in one of his posts just a week ago:

There will be no excuse for the Mehdi army to exist if terror groups ceased to exist and there will be no excuse for the terrorists to exist when the Sadr gangs and rats of Badr drop their weapons. one depends on the other...
Whenever the government tries to disarm the militias, the terrorists would come to attack at the strongholds of the militias to give them reason to exist and whenever the government tries to attack terrorist strongholds the militias would take to the streets to distract the government and drag its forces into side battles…

Baghdad is the key to Iraq, and Iraq is the key to the Middle East, and from this fact this battle draws its significance.

Saturday, July 08, 2006
Singing out of the flock.
Ok, now this post is going to be a bit (actually a lot!) longer than usual but there's a good reason for this as it was written by a whole bunch of people.
Actually it’s a compilation of selected reactions of more than a dozen (out of hundreds) people to one of the hot topics of these days which is the kidnapping of Israeli tank-gunner Gilad Shalit and the Israeli military operation in Gaza strip in the attempt to free him.

The reactions I gathered were posted on an Arabic forum on the BBC Arabic website. About three dozens of comments were made by Iraqis both inside Iraq and in exile and all these comments were supportive of Israel or at least against Hamas as far as the topic is concerned except for only three comments; that's a 10:1 ratio while as you probably have guesses, the opposite ratio is true about the comments by the rest of Arabs.
These comments and some of the non-Iraqi Arab reactions they stimulated caught my attention.
In fact Mohammed and I spent an entire day reading through the 500+ comments in that thread and thought we could share some of the best and most interesting stuff with you.

What was written in that thread stands as one example of the change in the Iraqi way of thinking since the day we got rid of the dictator and shows that logic and facts are gaining more ground at the expense of emotions and conspiracy theories.

Perhaps our problem is that we in Iraq are evolving politically faster than we are doing when it comes to economy, security, etc. that we are even ahead of countries like Egypt or Kuwait in holding real elections and having a permanent constitution and fair representation of all the segments of the people.
Of course this lag between political and material progress will bring on difficulties and challenges but at the same time what cannot be denied is the impressive evolution in awareness considering the short time elapsed since we got our freedom back.

But what really makes me feel optimistic about this new Iraqi way of thinking is that it shows how Iraqis are beginning to distinguish between terrorism and rightful acts of resistance not only in Iraq but also on a global level and are showing decreasing tolerance for extremism and this in my opinion is what builds peace in the region or any given region of this world.

It is true that terror organizations stepped up their attacks after America and the coalition came to Iraq but at the same time more and more Iraqis are standing against terrorism and extremism and on the long term this is how our world will become a safer place…Enjoy the reading:

"Hamas with their radical false-heroic speech opened the door for extremists in Gaza and Damascus to open a battlefront that will harm the innocent Palestinian citizen and destroy the peace process. Hamas has long been against the peace process and has long worked on halting it"
Ahmed Talib al-Taii: Baghdad/Iraq.

"There are trends that still live by the past and its dark residues of killing ignorance.
We are the sons of today and our minds must develop at a pace close to that of intellectual development of the world. We cannot solve issues with violence, murder and destruction of nations. We have to use logic and dialogue to convince those you disagree with, and once we do that we will have defeated our enemies, at least on the political arena which enables us to win the moral case before other nations.
Reckless policies that believe only in rifles, cannons and slayings belong to the past and will bring nothing but further destruction and chaos.

Strange they speak in the name of Islam while the prophet of Islam was tolerant in dealing with his enemies [whenever he could] for the sake of his message. Those who slay people like sheep are far from the values of that honorable message"
Hashim al-Tabatabai: Baghdad/Iraq.

"Our hearts go out to the family of the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped by some Palestinian group. We share your suffering and we fully support anything you do to free your missing soldier"
Hassan al-Shami: Baghdad/Iraq.

"I wonder how much time and blood it will take until Arabs and Muslims realize that the world is not the property of their ancestors and that God is not a trademark of their minds and that terror is a dead-end that leads only to more destruction.
Israel is a civilized country defending herself from barbaric savages whose minds are made of stone…minds that do not want to believe they are living in the 21st century.
What's happening to the Palestinians despite its cruelty is going to be a good lesson for them to learn they must clear their community off the hateful fundamentalist terror mentality…[Quranic verse] "God will not change people until they change what's within themselves"…but, will you change?!!"
Abu Ayoub al-Iraqi.

"One of the reasons why stand against resisting the coalition forces in Iraq is the failure of Palestinians in their resistance for over half a century.
Because of the "resistance" reconstruction is being delayed and the entire situation in Iraq is deteriorating.
And now because of reckless, useless acts, the people of Palestine are without electricity or other services and will not meet their aspirations.
They [resistance in Palestine] will unjustly take the life of a 19 year old. Not only that, the number of Palestinian deaths and prisoners will increase after this incident and Palestinians will never see rest as long as there's violent resistance"
Shaymaa Abdullah: Baghdad/Iraq.

"To answer Mr. Jihad (the Palestinian from Jordan) and his advice for Iraqis: Iraqis are singing outside the Arab flock for one reason which is that they distinguish the truth from the Arab illusions. Only 13 years ago Iraqis used to speak like the rest of Arabs; equipped with the illusions of the "Zionist conspiracy" created by Islamists and pan-nationalists. But Iraqis now have discovered the bitter truth. Who is murdering Iraqis on daily basis?? Who is prolonging the stay of foreign troops? That's the terrorists coming from Arab and Islamic countries!!
Israel doesn't want to become the "Great Israel" because Israelis are only several millions in this world…
We are people with long history that we are proud of and we possess enough education and awareness, so long live the new Iraq and let Israel live as our neighbor. I'd love to say that I wish Israel could rule the entire region; better than any Arab government except for the Iraqi"
An Iraqi in exile: Asia.

"I just want to say that I stand in admiration and respect for the nation that wouldn't mind destroying the world for the sake of her sons' safety; a nation that doesn't care about the consequences for their operations in Gaza as long as the soldier is still kidnapped and has to be set free.
Let Arabs and Muslims learn how human life is highly valued in all non-Arab, non-Muslim countries"
Hassan al-Shami: Baghdad/Iraq.

"From following the participations I am gaining more faith in the maturity of thinking of my Iraqi brothers.
Thank God.
And to Olmert I say: Go forward and abolish the fountains of terror in Gaza"
A free Iraqi: Baghdad.

"When Sharon got ill we were frankly saddened because he was the cure for terror. But today came Olmert and proved that he's tougher than his predecessor.
I say it frankly that who supports Zarqawi, calls him a martyr of the nation and mourns Uday and Qusay deserves this. And who still feels nostalgic for Saddam also deserves this"
Hussein: Iraq.

"Israel is needlessly prolonging [the duration of this operation].
They ought to invade the entire Gaza strip and add it to its lands for good"
Lewis the Basrawi: UK.

"The problem with the thinking pattern of Arabs is that-unfortunately-it got dominated by the way of thinking of the rulers.
The rulers are essentially the enemies of the people and our intellectuals are suffering from schizophrenia. But did the Arabs and Palestinians learn anything from the Israeli reaction?
Did they learn that the human life is the most precious of all the treasures of nations and that all tools of war and peace are reserved to serve this life? Did they learn that for the sake of one person in danger a whole nation would care and worry? While thousands of lives are taken in the secret prisons in Arab countries without remorse or deterrence!
How many Palestinians lost their lives or homes because of this or that reckless mischief of Hamas?
Is the Palestinian so cheap to be spent for the sake of a record of fake heroism? Shame on the kidnappers who keep their families and money away from the danger while using the poor as human shields"
Hatif al-Iraqi: Baghdad/Iraq.

"It's very stupid to sacrifice an entire people to kill one single soldier from your enemies.
What wrong did the innocent and the children do? You [Hamas] are idiots that you chose confrontation and violence.
My brethren; the scales in our world had changed and the law of "an eye for an eye.." is no longer valid, economy is the real power now….
Stay the course with your principles (if you had any) and you will bring doom upon your people"
Salah: Baghdad.

"To Mr. Mustafa: I don't know what lion den and what Palestinian country are you're talking about. Know that this land does not belong to you but you acquired it by invasion centuries ago and now the land is back to her people. No matter what you do you are not getting Palestine because this land isn't yours but you still want to seize things with force you don't actually possess neither you have the right to do so. You don't even have the brains or the strength, go read history to learn the truth about the land you're fighting for"
Aadil: Iraq.

"The infrastructure is demolished, no electricity, no water, no commerce…all this is the result of the foolishness of the radical Palestinian groups.
You made the Palestinian people lose thousands of folds more than what Israel lost.
The Palestinian radical militants understand no language but that of explosions, suicide and betrayal"
Hassan Kuxi: Kurdistan/Iraq.

"Israel is a fact that the Palestinians-and Arabs in general-should recognize and deal with using the language of our time, not the worn-out rhetoric of Bin Laden which can only lead the Palestinians to the brinks of extinction"
Lewis the Basrawi: UK.

"What Israel is practicing against the leaders of Hamas is a natural act of self-defense.
Hamas wants to export terror to the entire region and even Jordan which hosted 3 million Palestinians won't escape the plot"
Abbas al-Basri: Canada.

"We got used to this empty Tarzanic attitude from the Palestinians, but then they would run and beg for help from America and the international community when the Israelis respond. I'd like to say that Palestinians must realize one thing; that the days of Saddam are gone"
Aadil: Baghdad/Iraq.

And here are a few reactions form other Arabs to what Iraqis said:

"The Iraqis here should fear God. We were never for murdering civilians.
How could you praise Israel when she's killing us with the same American weapons you are being killed with, we were never against the Shia (everybody knows our attitude towards Hizbullah but we are against the [treacherous] collaborators in Iraq.
We shoulder the burden of defending the honor of one and a quarter billion Muslims then comes someone whose country is occupied by the Americans to stab us in the back…!"
Omar: Gaza/Palestine.

"…I don't know what's wrong with some of the posters from Iraq whom I question their Arabism. That Americanized Iraqi says Israel is a civilized country!! And says Israel is defending herself from barbarians!!
Abu Ayoub: As a Muslim woman I ask you; who desecrated your honor in Abu Ghraib and who raped that 15 year old girl?
Your speech will not find ears among anyone with dignity"
Um Ammar: San'aa/Yemen.

"What caught my attention while I'm reading here is the Iraqis' attitude towards the Palestinians (that's if they were really Iraqis). This attitude is harsher than the Israeli tanks. I mean what [harm] have the Palestinians done to the Iraqi people?
Palestine is hardly as big as one district in Baghdad and her population is smaller than that of any Iraqi city!

But we will not kneel down and we shall not despair….we may disagree with Hamas but we will not accept to see America and Israel bring Hamas down and we're proud of our position"
Laith: Ramallah.

"The Israelis will see the consequences of what they did and still are doing when the scales of power change and Arabs and Muslims unite to defend their honor and dignity. Our rights will not be lost as long as we persist to demand them; that's what history taught us and that's what the struggle against colonial Britain and France taught us"
Abdah: Cairo.

"Peace be upon the followers of the right path! As to Iraqis who rejoice what's happening to the Palestinians; I actually have nothing to tell them, never mind what they say.
Palestine has her men who have been defending the honor of a billion Muslims for a hundred years now.
But I ask the sane among Shia Iraqis and Bahrainis not to rejoice our suffering because we are defending your lost dignity"
Abu Khalid: Palestine.

"I think the occupation brainwashed some of our Iraqi brothers that they no longer distinguish between right and wrong or between the oppressor and the oppressed.
We understand your bitterness about your situation and we hurt for you but I call upon you to go back to reason before making judgments and to not listen to the propaganda of Iraq's enemies"
Mourad. [unknown location]

Well, the last guy probably has a point. What he calls occupation allowed us to wash out the stupid illusions and conspiracy theories from our minds.

Thursday, July 06, 2006
A replica of Hamas emerging in Iraq.
Baghdad looks so exhausted these days and so do her people; the relentless violence, the lack of basic services and the scorching heat abolishes human desire to do anything or to even think of anything. In general laziness and wariness is the common feeling in the city.

Even the parliament failed to convene this week because less than 50 MPs showed up. One can also easily notice that traffic on the streets is not as heavy as it used to be and people are getting less interested in talking politics.
Well, the harsh conditions and lack of activity could also be seen from the declining number of updates coming from the Iraqi bloggers in general!

Living for many of us was reduced to existence long time ago; dreams and desires are shrinking under the heavy shadows of the situation.
The government too looks exhausted trying to face all these crises under pressure from a community that is demanding quick solutions and unwilling to listen to the government's excuses.

The heads of the authorities have been busy touring the neighboring countries looking for support, the interesting thing about these visits is that the Sunni delegate (speaker of parliament) was sent to Shia Iran, the Shia PM went to the Sunni gulf countries and the Kurdish foreign minister of Iraq went to talk to the Turks!
I like this distribution of roles, at least this way we can rest assured that the delegates will be negotiating for Iraq not against it!!

Inside Baghdad, statements keep coming about the number of militant groups expressing interest in al-Maliki's reconciliation project and maybe the announcement of the National Dialogue minister Akram al-Hakeem when he said that the number was approaching 20 supports the idea that insurgents still want to make use of this amnesty opportunity. But then the minister adds that "all of these groups but one are of little significance on the ground and the only significant group preferred its name to be kept a secret for the time being…".

On the other hand, the issue of militias remains the tedious riddle facing the government who realizes how difficult it's going to be to deal with these octopus-like multi-headed bodies and there are rumors here that the SCIRI and Sadrists are determined to bring down al-Maliki. The Sadrists in particular are deliberately embarrassing the government in this regard by behaving like government and rebels at the same time and I think I find them pretty close to Hamas who's also lost their way between being government and remaining as "resistance".

In related news, yesterday Sadr announced the shutting down all his offices in Iraq and said this was to protest the government's slow work in rebuilding the golden dome of Samarra, meanwhile there are other news talking about rifts among the ranks of the Sadr militia itself and I suspect inclusion of the names of two "renegades" from the Sadr trend in the most wanted list lately announced by the government supports this news (scroll down to #24 and 27). But the news circulating in Baghdad doesn't speak only of those two but is also focuses around a new rising name in the world of militias; that's Abu Diri'.

Abu Diri' (whose first name is believed to be Salim) is a member of the Mehdi Army and gained the nickname which means 'the armor bearer' after he murdered an MNF soldier and seized his body armor during one the Sadrists battles against the MNF.
Ever since that day he wears the body armor and never puts it away. People say this man commands hundreds (or thousands in some accounts) of "former" Mehdi army soldiers.

The story of Abu Diri' describes him as the killer of Sunnis and suggests that his role is confined to doing a 'Shia body count' after each terror attack on Shia areas and then kidnapping and murdering an equal number of Sunnis. Of course the story has different versions and the ratio varies with the level of enthusiasm of the story teller; an objective teller would set the ratio at 1:1 but a sympathizer would raise it to the level of 10 Sunnis in return for each 1 Shia casualty.

I really do not buy this rift or division story as much as I see we're facing an Iraqi version of Hamas here; one foot in the cabinet and the other in the insurgents' trench and talking about an armed wing working independently from the main body is merely an attempt to make the part who's involved in the government look innocent form the violence committed by their associates.

The militias had sent clear messages to the government that they will not give up easily and probably the latest kidnappings that reached top officials in the government reiterate these messages, it's like telling al-Maliki "No matter what you do we're going to do anything we like, anytime we like and anywhere we like against any target we choose".

The situation isn't nice at all and al-Maliki's cabinet is going to face a very rough summer.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Samarra puts a reward on the head of the golden dome attack's mastermind.
Al-Sabah has the report:

The people of Samarra offer a 100 million dinar reward to anyone who provides information that lead to the death or arrest of Haitham al-Badri. Sheikh Khalid al-Baz, one of the prominent sheikhs of Samarra told al-Sabah that al-Badri was notorious for his violent behavior and had committed several armed robberies and carjackings.

Al-Baz added that al-Badri joined al-Qaeda after US troops killed his brother to later become an "Emir" of this terrorist organization in the Salahiddin province and started murdering anyone who opposed his Takfiri ideology; that's why he and his gang murdered sheikh Hikmat al-Baz of the influential al-Bo Baz tribe. The men of the tribe then decided to fight this Takfiri group and with the help of the 1920 revolution brigades they killed more than 50 terrorists and forced others to flee.

"Now that the people of Samarra know that it was al-Badri who blew up the Dome of their ancestors they are trying to hunt him down and they distributed photos of al-Badri's in the markets" said al-Baz and added that 1000 of the sons of Samarra are chasing down al-Badri and whoever helped him carryout his coward doings.

The 100 million dinars (~ $ 68 000) is not a lot of money compared to the multi-million rewards offered by governments for similar hunts but when it comes from a single tribe (or even a bunch of them) it reflects the seriousness of these people in what they're saying and doing.

Sunday, July 02, 2006
I'm afraid what we predicted yesterday is beginning to happen…

The mostly Sunni populated Aadhamiya district in eastern Baghdad came under heavy mortar fire this afternoon. The bombardment lasted for about 30 minutes and I could count more than a dozen explosions. No one claimed responsibility for the attacks but the residents of Aadhamiya and surrounding neighborhoods think it was most likely the Sadr militias.
Soon after the attack with mortars gunmen took to the streets with their weapons and clashed with security forces while US Apache helicopters were seen flying at low altitudes.

I talked over the phone to friend who lives in Aadhamiya and he told me that he tried to flee the area with his family to escape the clashes but to find that all main streets were closed to traffic. He confirmed that at least one mortar round struck the Shrine and mosque of Abu Hanifa.
I couldn't find any new reports on the incident except for a brief mention down this story on the BBC and whether the clashes and mortar attacks caused casualties is not known as of now.

I still can hear intermittent gunfire from small and medium machineguns with sporadic explosions of RPGs.
The atmosphere was tense around Aadhamiya as curfew time was approaching and people are afraid that violence might spread to adjacent districts.

And with the Accord Front suspending their participation in the parliament, I think the tension will be increasing over the next few days.

Saturday, July 01, 2006
Bombing the reconciliation.
The eyes in Iraq are focused on al-Maliki's reconciliation plan and discussions on whether it's going to meet success are all over the place especially in the Iraqi media.

Today the headlines on most Iraqi newspapers are talking about al-Maliki's tour in the gulf that is supposed to cover at least three countries with Saudi Arabia being the first stop.
The announced objective of the tour is to garner regional support for al-Maliki's reconciliation initiative and probably al-Maliki decided to make this tour after some insurgent groups have called for giving the Arab league and certain Arab countries a role in this project, meanwhile there are other groups alluding to a possible American pressure on these countries to play a constructive role referring to Khaliazad's earlier visit to Saudi Arabia.

Actually I would be disappointed if al-Maliki hadn't consider such a tour; the neighboring countries are all involved in what's going in Iraq in one way or another and no one can deny that they are part of the problem therefore any search for a solution has to include talking to these countries and working out some sort of understanding with them.

We must not forget that the conflict in Iraq is in fact an indirect conflict between the neighboring countries and America and among the neighboring countries themselves (a sectarian-ethnic conflict between the Arabs and Iran, a political conflict between Iran and America and another political conflict between Arabs and America and this one originates form the difference in the visions of America and Arabs for the region. Not to mention other smaller conflicts). Unfortunately the only Iraqi elements in these conflicts are the Iraqi parties that accepted to fight this conflict on behalf of Iraq's neighbors.

Let's go back to Baghdad, here we are getting contradicting accounts on the progress of the plan, some like the pro-government al-Sabah are overly optimistic about it and are conveying positive messages supposedly from the insurgent groups that are accepting the plan. Al-Sabah is even reporting that yet more insurgent groups are joining the club:

Informed sources told al-Sabah that a new number of these groups are asking some parliamentary powers to mediate talks with the government…the sources said this desire was conveyed to the PM through people close to his office and that al-Maliki is expected to give his response to these groups' demands by Friday. The same sources said these groups are considering making a joint announcement in which they will declare dropping their weapons and joining the talks with the government within 15 days; this time the sources are talking about the "largest of the militant groups" that make up the bulk of the resistant groups.

On the other extreme there is the anti-reconciliation camp of which the association of Muslim scholars whose spokesman al-Dhari keeps saying that "no resistance groups had accepted al-Maliki's initiative" and even said the names presented by the media as names of militant groups did not exist…[I wonder if he has a list with all the names!]

In the middle of these conflicting accounts we get some moderate statements like the statement from deputy PM Salam al-Zoubai; al-Zoubaii who's one of the leaders of the Accord Front was supportive of the initiative but said that only 5 not 10 militant groups had responded positively.
He also said something interesting about the militias issue as he told al-Sabah that the cabinet is trying to find a solution for this issue without integrating the members of these militias into the official security forces.

Another report, this time from al-Mada gives an impression that al-Maliki wants to open as many dialogue channels as possible to encourage insurgents to come forward and talk to him even if no mediators were found. The paper says that al-Maliki announced a special email address to allow anyone-especially insurgent willing to reconcile-to allow them to contact him directly over a safe line. But the also notes that response has been scarce so far and only two messages arrived at that inbox as of Thursday according to top security adviser Wafeeq al-Samarraii.
By the way, I couldn't get that email address, it was displayed only once on local TV and only for a few seconds "to avoid spam mail"!!

This reconciliation plan continues to face serious challenges and the worst of which is today's barbaric attack that killed and wounded dozens in Baghdad, in "Sadr city" to be more accurate.
I'm afraid this attack will inflict more harm in the future than it already did today because it's similar to the Samarra bombing in its goals and this one I see as a blow directed at the reconciliation plan because the type of target suggests so.
The attack carries the marks of al-Qaeda and this terror organization is learning to choose their targets carefully; they did see for example that assassinating relatives and colleagues of the members of the Accord Front did not deter them from joining the political process and becoming part of the cabinet because they were determined to do so. So this time in order to avoid similar results they did not target the parties that are willing to reconcile and chose the side that openly declared its rejection for the reconciliation plan and is well known for being a violent trend.

I think al-Qaeda is hoping that this attack will provoke followers of al-Sadr whose response will almost certainly be a violent one and will probably lead to a series of exchanged violence that will threaten the reconciliation initiative in its first steps.


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