BAGHDAD, Sept 27 (Reuters) – Iraqi Shi’ites, like their allies in Iran, fret that unrest in Syria could oust President Bashar al-Assad and bring to power hardline Sunnis eager to put their weight behind fellow-Sunnis in Iraq who have lost out since Saddam Hussein’s fall.
They fear the turmoil next door could spill into Iraq, reignite sectarian violence and intensify a proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which sees itself as the bastion of Sunni Islam and has never come to terms with Shi’ite rule in Baghdad.
"If Syria falls, Iraq will work with Iran to influence events in Syria," said a senior Iraqi Shi’ite politician, who asked not to be named.
"Change in Syria will cause major problems for Iraq. They (Sunnis) will incite the western (Sunni) part of Iraq."
Iraqi Shi’ite militias are unlikely to fight for Assad’s survival, but might respond if Sunnis in Iraq’s western Anbar province were emboldened by the rise of Sunni power in Syria.
Three decades of conflict have left hundreds of thousands of families struggling to find out what happened to their missing loved ones. Abandoning the search is not an option. Since 1980, the ICRC has spared no effort to put an end to their anguish. Operational update, March-May 2011.
"Iraq is currently one of the countries with the highest number of missing persons and, as a result, with the highest number of families seeking information on their missing relatives," said ‘Dika Dulic’, the ICRC delegate in charge of issues relating to missing persons in Iraq. A lack of clear statistics, however, makes it difficult to accurately establish the true size of the problem.
Baghdad resident Hayat has led a sad life since her husband disappeared on 8 April 2003. "I lost hope," she said. "In the past nine years I have searched every prison. I ended up convincing myself that my husband Abdallah must have died."
In April, the remains of 17 Iranian soldiers killed in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War were handed over from the Iraqi to the Iranian authorities under ICRC auspices at the Shalamja border crossing, near Basra.
As a neutral intermediary, the ICRC facilitates the dialogue between the parties who were involved in the Iran-Iraq war and the Gulf war and who carry the responsibility to clarify the fate of persons still unaccounted for. This includes:
supporting authorities in the collection of information
facilitating transmission of information between the parties chairing meetings
facilitating joint missions in the field and the handover of human remains
The ICRC continues to provide training and other support for the Ministry of Human Rights, Basra’s Al-Zubair Centre of Iraq and Baghdad’s Medical-Legal Institute.
Bringing aid to people facing hardship
Many people in Iraq are still struggling to earn a living and support their families. Between March and May, the ICRC:
Distributed over 8 million Iraqi Dinars through cash-for-work scheme, to 450 vulnerable displaced people and residents of Deralok in Dohuk governorate;
Awarded 108 grants to disabled people and women-headed households in Ninawa, Kirkuk, Basra, Missan, Erbil, Baghdad and Sulaimaniya, enabling them to start small businesses and regain economic self-sufficiency.
Distributed individual food and hygiene parcels, including essential household items, to 2475 internally displaced households, benefiting some 14850 people, in the group settlements of Ninawa, Kirkuk and Wasit;
Following heavy rainfalls and consequential flooding in Ninawa, Erbil and Salah Al-Din governorates in April, the ICRC assisted affected/displaced households, distributing: 4984 blankets, 634 towels, 1340 hygiene parcels, 1315 tarpaulins, 317 kitchen sets,
763 food parcels, and 11.1 metric tons of rice. The ICRC assistance also reached families affected by the floods in Rabea and Baaj districts.
Assisting health-care facilities
Little less than six months away from a scheduled U.S. troops’ withdrawal, Iraqi public cannot wait to see the occupiers leave and their national sovereignty restored. Yet unwillingly they expect a continued U.S. presence as few believe the Americans will leave such a deeply-invested and strategically-important place.
For Iraqis, the debate on U.S. troops’ departure is intertwined with national dignity, security uncertainty and wariness of its coveting neighbors. Some doubt Iraqi security forces have the capability to curb insurgents and defend the country on their own while others fear a residual American force could sanction continued violence by militias.
Quite a few worry neighboring countries will swoop in and exploit the vacuum left by the U.S. whereas a considerable number think the U.S. will manipulate the fragile government behind scenes even if they draw down their troops.
"DON’T EVER THINK U.S. WILL LEAVE EASILY"
Authorities in Iraq are using a mixture of strong-arm tactics and financial persuasion to prevent anti-government protests gaining momentum.
The political stakes escalated significantly when thousands of people took to the streets of Baghdad and other major cities last week to demand reforms, improved services and an end to the corruption associated with Iraq’s new political elite.
Those demonstrations, the largest yet in Iraq, were met by force, as riot police opened fire on protesters with live ammunition. At least 29 people were killed, including a 14-year-old boy.
Since then, army and police units have beaten, arrested or threatened scores of political activists and journalists, their colleagues say. Meanwhile, government security and intelligence agencies are trying to root out the organisers of the protests, especially those who are using the internet in an attempt to organise another mass protest.
Hussein Abdul Hadi, a blogger who helped to arrange the "Day of Rage" march in Baghdad, said: "The intelligence services are collecting information about activists and after the demonstrations they have been making arrests and detaining people."
According to Mr Hadi and other activists, the number detained in the past three days runs into the dozens. Abul Razzq Nouri, a blogger from Anbar province who helped to organise last week’s demonstration, said protest organisers and demonstrators were being "hunted down". The security services deny any systemic effort to silence demonstrators and have promised to carry out a wide-ranging probe into allegations of abuse.
Qassim Attar, spokesman at the Baghdad Operations Command centre, which oversees security of the Iraqi capital, said he believed some soldiers had "overreacted" and behaved "stupidly" during the protest. "We have opened an investigation into the claims of damage against journalists and protesters and if we find evidence that laws have been broken by members of the security services, they will be punished," he said.
With more demonstrations contemplated, Mr Nouri said Iraq was entering a "dangerous time", with the prime minister, Nouri al Maliki, apparently insistent on quashing dissent on the streets.
"Al Maliki doesn’t want any future demonstrations and he is doing all he can to stop us, he is coming after us," he said.
Even before the Friday protests, the prime minister had moved to defuse them, imposing a curfew and a vehicle ban.
Another success for the government in tamping down the protests has been its management of the media. In the months running up to the demonstrations, the government has given Iraqi journalists gifts including plots of land, low-interest loans for car purchases and cash handouts, all of them officially sanctioned and distributed under the auspices of the journalists’ union.
Sabah Khadim Hamza, office director at the journalist’s syndicate, was adamant the land allocations and car loans were not bribes, but instead perks the union had struggled to get for its members. "Many government employees in the ministries enjoy such benefits and we wanted to win them for hard-working journalists," he said. "It does not mean reporters will stop being independent."
But critics were not so sure. "Most of the domestic media didn’t cover the protests in detail and really downplayed them. They didn’t interview protesters or ask them why they were marching," said one journalist for a leading Iraqi television channel.
"Basically, al Maliki has found out how to control journalists. He’s given them money and land, and on Friday they paid him back by not covering the protests. Only the reporters working for outside media did their jobs properly that day," he said.
The government repression, plus payments to journalists to spin public opinion in the government’s favour, have so far been effective in limiting the size and frequency of protests in Iraq.
"The government has bribed and beaten journalists to stop them covering the demonstrations," said Nasir al Shalal, a leading human rights activist. "The police and army in Baghdad, Mosul and Anbar were targeting reporters who were trying to film the protests or cover them properly."
Mr al Maliki’s office has said it would investigate allegations of improper use of force. But it insists that any abuses were an overreaction by a handful of security personnel, not a matter of policy.
Officials have also long brushed off allegations that Iraqi journalists receive government bribes. They say gifts of land and cheap loans are designed to support poorly paid reporters who would otherwise have to find another profession, not to buy their silence or complicity.
Mr Shalal dismissed such assurances. "It was not an accident. It was all quite deliberate. A decision was taken at the highest level about how to handle this."
In Mosul, a traditional centre of opposition to the central authority, protesters have accused the government of sending out hit squads, armed with silenced pistols, to sow chaos among the demonstrators.
Omar Majid, a blogger from Mosul, said: "The emergency security forces arrested and beat tens of activists, and gangs working for the government, dressed in civilian clothes, shot and injured people here during the Friday protest, to spread fear. Now these gangs are after us and anyone connected with the movement. They are trying to stop us."
Shaker Kitab, an MP from Iraqiyya, said there were indications the government was acting illegally to suppress demonstrations.
"It was a very modern and peaceful protest, in accordance with people’s constitutional rights, I don’t understand why some of the security forces were violent in their response. This must stop. People are allowed to campaign peacefully for their rights."
The persistent lack of security is hampering efforts to provide essential services for civilians. The ICRC is doing its utmost to help meet the most pressing needs. This is an update on these and otherICRC activities carried out in Iraq in September and October.
Despite improvements in the security situation achieved over the years in many parts of Iraq, ongoing violence continues to claim the lives of hundreds of men, women and children every month, and to have a serious impact on the lives of many more.
Over the past year, the lives of many Iraqi civilians have not changed for the better. Civilians continue to carry the heaviest burden amid the widespread violence. They are still the main victims of the indiscriminate attacks and mass explosions that have taken place in cities such as Baghdad, Ninewa, Diyala, Anbar, Najaf, Kerbala and Basra, and that have left, on average, hundreds of people wounded or dead each month this year.
"Indiscriminate attacks against civilians inflict tremendous suffering. They are clearly unacceptable. They are contrary to international humanitarian law and to the most basic principles of humanity," said Magne Barth, head of the ICRC delegation in Iraq. "Civilians must be protected against violence, as must be medical personnel and facilities".
The humanitarian situation in Iraq remains serious. Iraqis are filled with anxiety and uncertainty about what the future holds. Vulnerable people, such as women heading households, disabled people and detainees, continue to depend to some extent on outside help to meet basic needs.
The persistent lack of security and wanton violence have had a considerable effect on the feasibility of providing essential services for the population. The ICRC is doing its utmost to help meet the most pressing needs, especially in rural areas and in the places hardest hit by the conflict and other violence. ICRC activities aim primarily at ensuring that people have access to adequate health, water and sanitation services, and at helping the destitute and other needy people.
Visits to detainees held under Iraqi, Kurdistan Regional Government and USF-I authority remain a priority for the ICRC. "Ensuring that detainees are treated humanely and are held in conditions that respect their dignity has been our constant concern since we started working in Iraq 30 years ago," said Mr Barth.
The ICRC continues to speak out about the plight of conflict victims in Iraq. It does so in dialogue with as many parties as possible that can influence the situation on the ground. Its aim is to bring about greater respect for civilians and detainees, and to ensure that unimpeded access is granted for humanitarian action to help the people in greatest need throughout the country.
"The role of the ICRC, as an impartial humanitarian organization, is crucial to efforts to protect civilians from harm and to ensure that detainees are properly treated and held in decent conditions," said Mr Barth.
In September and October 2010, in response to the unstable and often changing security environment, the ICRC made further adjustments to its working procedures so that it could continue to provide services to those who need them most.
Bringing aid to vulnerable people
The ICRC has maintained its support for people facing special difficulties earning a living and supporting their families, such as women heading households and people with disabilities. In September and October:
- hygiene kits and food parcels were provided for more than 5,600 people in the governorate of Mosul;
- emergency aid was provided for more than 170 displaced people in Sulaimaniya governorate;
- 95 grants were made in Kirkuk, Ninewa, Dohuk, Sulaimaniya and Erbil governorates to enable disabled people to start small businesses and regain economic self-sufficiency. Around 700 disabled people have received such aid since 2008;
- the livestock of 731 needy farmers in the Kifri district of Diyala governorate were vaccinated;
- around 950 metric tonnes of wheat seed were delivered to some 3,800 farmers in the governorates of Diyala, Anbar, Salahadin, Baghdad and Babil to help them restore their food production;
- 50 kilometres of irrigation canals serving over 7,000 people were cleaned and renovated in the Khalis and Kifri districts of Diyala governorate;
- 600 sheep and 38 metric tonnes of fodder were distributed to 200 farmers in the Baaj district of Ninewa governorate.
Assisting hospitals and physical rehabilitation centres
In some rural and conflict-prone areas, health-care services are still struggling to meet the needs of the civilian population. The ICRC continues to help renovate the premises of health-care facilities and train staff. Limb-fitting and physical rehabilitation services are provided by the ICRC to help disabled people reintegrate into the community. In September and October:
- 10 doctors and 28 nurses successfully took part in a course intended to strengthen emergency services given in Al Sadr Teaching Hospital in Najaf;
- 273 new patients were fitted with prostheses and 1,148 new patients with orthoses at 10 ICRC-supported centres throughout Iraq.
Providing clean water and sanitation
Access to clean water remains difficult in much of Iraq. ICRC engineers continue to repair and upgrade water, electrical and sanitary facilities, especially in places where violence remains a concern and in rural areas, to improve the quality of services provided in communities and health-care facilities. In September and October, these activities included:
The ICRC delivered water by truck:
● in Zharawa district, Sadr City, Husseinia and Maamal to 6,384 internally displaced people;
● to the 385-bed Al Imam Ali General Hospital;
● to the 400-bed Al Kindy General Hospital in Baghdad, which was struggling to cope with summer water shortages.
Support for health-care facilities:
The ICRC completed work upgrading:
● Tarmiyah General Hospital, which serves between 250 and 300 outpatients daily, in Baghdad governorate;
● Tamour primary health-care centre, which serves 50 patients per day, in Kirkuk governorate.
Water supply in hospitals:
- The ICRC completed the installation of drinking-water purification units in Baquba General Hospital, Muqdadiya General Hospital, Baladrooz General Hospital and Al Zahraa Maternity Hospital, with an overall capacity of 600 beds, in Diyala governorate.
- Five main projects benefiting around 725,000 people were completed throughout the country.
ICRC delegates visit detainees in order to monitor the conditions in which they are being held and the treatment they receive. In all cases, the ICRC shares its findings and recommendations confidentially with the detaining authorities, with the aim of obtaining improvements where necessary.
In September and October, the ICRC visited detainees held by the correctional service of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Defence and various Kurdish Regional Government authorities in places of detention in Basra, Thi Qar/Nasiriya, Baghdad, Babil, Kirkuk, Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniya governorates.
In some of these places, to help the detaining authority improve conditions of detention, the ICRC gave detainees mattresses, blankets and recreational items such as books and games.
The ICRC makes a special effort to restore and maintain ties between detainees and their families. In September and October, over 1,000 Red Cross messages were exchanged between detainees and their families in Iraq and abroad. The ICRC also responded to around 800 enquiries from families seeking information on detained relatives. In addition, it issued 249 certificates of detention to former detainees. The ICRC facilitated the voluntary repatriation of two released detainees, and issued two travel documents to refugees to enable them to resettle abroad.
Clarifying what happened to missing people
In its role as a neutral intermediary, the ICRC continues to chair the mechanisms set up to address the cases of people who went missing in connection with the 1990-1991 Gulf War. At the 67th session of the Technical Sub-Committee of the Tripartite Commission, held on 28 September in Kuwait, the members of the sub-committee reaffirmed their commitment to accounting for people who went missing in connection with the war. At the sub-committee’s next meeting, which will take place in Kuwait in November, preparations will be made for a joint field mission to the south of Iraq to check on suspected burial sites.
On 27 and 28 October, representatives of Iran and Iraq held a high-level meeting in Geneva under ICRC auspices with the aim of determining what happened to people missing in connection with the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War. The meeting was the first of its kind following the signature in October 2008 of a memorandum of understanding between Iran, Iraq and the ICRC aimed at expediting the search for information on people previously registered as, or presumed to be, prisoners of war and on others who have gone missing, and at identifying mortal remains.
Relieving the suffering of the families of missing persons by clarifying what happened to their loved ones is one of the ICRC’s priorities. The ICRC continues to provide the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights and Baghdad’s Medical-Legal Institute with the technical support they require to exchange information and build up their capacity in the area of forensics.
Promoting international humanitarian law
Reminding parties to a conflict of their obligation to protect civilians is a fundamental part of the ICRC’s work. The organization also endeavours to promote international humanitarian law within civil society. In this framework, it organizes presentations for various audiences, which include military personnel, prison staff, students and professors.
In September and October, information sessions on international humanitarian law were organized for members of the Iraqi Army, the Peshmerga forces and Assayesh security forces. In October, a "train-the-trainers" course was organized for 14 members of the Iraqi Centre for Military Values and Professional Leadership Development. One member of the Iraqi armed forces attended an advanced course on international humanitarian law at the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in San Remo, Italy, and another attended a workshop on rules of engagement, also held in Italy.
LONDON, 29 September 2010 (IRIN) – The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has expressed concern about the growing number of deportations of Iraqi asylum-seekers from Western Europe in the last two months.
Special charter flights to take failed asylum-seekers home have increased in frequency, and Iraqis are being returned to parts of the country which are still unsafe, in contravention of UNHCR guidelines for the handling of Iraqi asylum applications, it says.
The deportations are handled by Frontex, a Warsaw-based agency set up to coordinate operations between European Union (EU) member states in the field of border security, and their planes can carry returnees from several different countries. The most recent (on 22 September) had failed asylum applicants from Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and the UK.
One of the UNHCR’s complaints is that the information provided by those countries is usually sketchy, varies from country to country and is given only very late in the process. In the case of last week’s flight, Sweden told the UNHCR the names and dates of birth of those being sent home, but not their destinations. The UK provided details of where its rejected claimants were going but not their identities.
No country told the UNHCR how many of the passengers being put on board the plane were going home voluntarily, and how many were being deported against their will, but reports from Baghdad say police had to be called to escort some of them off the plane.
A spokesperson for the UNHCR, Sybella Wilkes, called for states sending home asylum-seekers to be more transparent. “We are aware when a flight is leaving,” she told IRIN, “but we don’t know until the last minute who is on board or which countries they are coming from.”
The organization does not oppose people being sent back to Iraq in every case. “It’s possible that some people on the plane were going back voluntarily,” Wilkes said. “It’s possible that some were going to areas where we don’t have issues about security. But we don’t know. Having full information would be in everybody’s best interests.”
What they do know is that among the passengers leaving Sweden were two women and four children. The British government said all those it was sending last week were single adult males, but their destinations included Baghdad, Ninawa, Kirkuk and Salah ad-Din – all areas the UNHCR considers unsafe.
Five governorates unsafe
“We are very clear in our guidelines,” said Sybella Wilkes. “Baghdad, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninawa and Salah ad-Din are still not safe, in view of serious human rights violations and continuing security incidents in those areas. We specifically ask governments not to return people to those five governorates, and we are disappointed they are ignoring our guidelines.”
The general secretary of the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, Dashty Jamal, blamed the rise in forced removals on the electoral success of right wing parties in a number of European countries. He told IRIN: “Most of the EU countries’ right-wing parties have united together to change their immigration policy, and deport back all Iraqis who apply for asylum in their country.”
He said that as well as the charter flights run by Frontex, individual refugees are being sent back almost every night on scheduled flights to Jordan. “I believe that no part of Iraq is safe, even Kurdistan. It is like the UN saying that Berne in Switzerland is safe but Zurich is not safe. This is not the time to send people back. They are playing with the lives of innocent people.”
Contacted by IRIN, the UK’s border agency denied there had been any overall policy recently to deport more Iraqi asylum-seekers. Detailed figures of deportations over the past two months are not yet available, but a spokesperson insisted that every case is looked at individually and considered on its merits. “We only ever return those whom the Border Agency and the courts are satisfied are not in need of our protection, and who have failed to comply with a request to leave.”
Are the Agency and the courts ignoring the UNHCR guidelines on safe and unsafe areas? “A whole range of factors are taken into account,” the spokesperson told IRIN. “And from the UK’s point of view we have to be satisfied that they don’t need our protection.”
The UNHCR has been lobbying since June against the forced removals to Iraq, but says so far they have not seen any shift in position by Western European governments. Sybella Wilkes says she is disappointed. “I would like them to consider that they have a minority of Iraqi asylum-seekers in their countries. And this is not a very positive example when Iraq’s neighbours have much greater numbers, and have been much more generous and welcoming.”
Dashty Jamal told IRIN on 28 September that a number of Iraqis in the UK had received tickets for a flight back to Iraq on 6 October, and that a demonstration was being planned that day outside the Iraqi embassy in London to protest at the way returnees are treated when they get to Baghdad.
|Refugee Returns September 2009 – August 2010 (Individuals)|
2009 – August 2010
|Data source: MoDM, DDM, City Councils Baghdad, Diyala. All data has been collected inside Iraq. All figures have been rounded to the nearest 10.|
BAGHDAD, 14 July 2010 (IRIN) – The city of Fallujah, about 60km west of Baghdad, still has no functioning sewage system: Waste pours onto the streets and seeps into drinking water supplies.
The city’s infrastructure was in ruins after two fierce battles between US forces and Sunni militants in 2004. In a bid to garner local support for the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, US officials pledged to build a sewage treatment plant at a cost of US$35 million.
Work began in July 2004 and was supposed to be completed in 18 months, but continuing violence, design changes and the replacement of incompetent contractors delayed the project and costs ballooned to over $100 million.
Six years on and with US forces preparing to withdraw from Iraq next month, not a single house is connected to the system. The US army has decided to hand over the partially finished project to a local contractor with the promise of providing the necessary funding to complete it.
"The project is in its final stages and is expected to be handed over by the end of this year," Sheikh Hameed al-Alwan, head of Fallujah local council, told IRIN. "But unfortunately the plant will work only partially as its backbone, which is the main pipeline that sends all the waste to the main processing unit, will not be constructed because of the lack of funds."
Without this vital pipeline, the plant will serve only a fraction of the city’s 580,000 residents, al-Alwan said, adding that the worst affected would be those in suburban areas. “Our only hope is that the Americans can secure the money to complete it, especially after the Iraqi government has said it does not have enough to allocate to it.”
Foul-smelling sewage has run through the rutted and pockmarked streets of Fallujah for more than three years. Residents currently depend on underground septic tanks which are in many cases leaking waste onto the streets from where it eventually ends up in the River Euphrates, a main drinking water source for Fallujah and other downstream cities.
Abdul-Sattar Kadhum al-Nawaf, director of Fallujah general hospital, said the sewage problem had taken its toll on residents’ health. They were increasingly affected by diarrhoea, tuberculosis, typhoid and other communicable diseases.
Al-Nawaf said that although he did not have specific numbers, 10-15 percent of patients at his hospital had water or sewage-related diseases.
Experts say the Fallujah plant is just one of many abandoned, incomplete or hastily finished projects around the country.
Anbar-based analyst Khudhair Jassim Ali, who lectures at the university, said that a lack of funds, corruption and a lack of cooperation between the government and companies working on projects have delayed badly needed infrastructure projects.
"The government should follow up with these projects to take over from those parties that will leave Iraq, whether US forces or NGOs. It should fill the gap.”
بغداد: استفحلت ظواهر الغش في الصناعة بالعراق اعلنت وزارة الصحة عن قيامها باجراءات قانونية مشددة بحق (93) معمل مياه معبأة توزعت مابين الاغلاق والغرامات المادية بسبب مخالفتها الشروط الصحية.وذكر مصدر في وزارة الصحة في تصريح صحفي “ان العديد من معامل تعبئة المياه تعمل وفقاً لشروط غير صحية،واخرى غير مجازة”.
مشيراً الى انه “تم اغلاق (79) معملاً منها (56) معملا في بغداد،(25) في جانب الكرخ و (31) في جانب الرصافة،فضلاً عن (14) معملا في الانبار و(9) في واسط و(6) في كربلاء و(4) في صلاح الدين و(1) في كل من كركوك والديوانية وذي قار ونينوى لمخالفتها الشروط الصحية في حين تم فرض غرامات مالية على معامل اخرى”.مضيفاً “ان الوزارة ستصدر قائمة بأسماء المعامل المغلقة ليتسنى للمواطنين معرفة اسماء المياه غير الصالحة وتجنبها،وان هذا العمل يأتي ضمن خطة الوزارة التي اعتمدتها للمحافظة على عدم ظهور اي اصابة بمرض الكوليرا”.
I have selected Nizar Latif’s article "Alliance could keep al Maliki in power" in "The National" because it covers very well the situation that the other blocs find themselves in with regard to the Sadrists. In that context I should mention this posting (العراقية تستعد لإرسال وفد رفيع إلى إيران لمقابلة السيد مقتدى الصدر | Gorilla’s Guides) made by my colleague Nabil which reveals that a delegation from Allawi’s list (the Iraqiyal list) met members of the Sadrist trend’s political bureau and that they are preparing to send a delegation to Iran to meet Muqtada al-Sadr.
I have also picked an article that appeared in the London "Times" about the plan to build a wall around Baghdad in the hope of keeping bombers out.
More immediately there is a lot of interest in the two al-Qaeda members arrested and who apparently were planning to attack the World Cup in South Africa. A lot has been made of the claims that one of them was a Saudi military officer, "not so fast" say the Saudis. (And if you think from Major General Mansour al-Turki’s name that Saudi Arabia is a family business you’d be right).
No? No, I did not know it either, but it does explain why every time that an alleged al-Qaeda member is killed/captured/accidentally blows themself up that they are always described as being a "senior" al-Qaeda commander/leader/prince/warlord.
62 of them were sentenced to death today i don’t know how many of them received a fair trial or how many of them were truly members of an al-Qaeda affiliated movement. ( That there is an al-Qaeda inspired fighter movement in parts of Irak is true and they enforce their will brutally as the slaughter of two clergy proved).
The Day(s) In Quotes:
- Sheikh Dhea al Shouki, a leading preacher at Kufa mosque, in the Sadrists’ heartland to Nizar Latif on the political crisis: “I tell the Iraqi people to look out for themselves and to protect themselves because the coming situation will be one of sectarianism and interference in Iraq by neighbouring countries. The Iraqi government is corrupt and the Iraqi army is not serving the people well.”
- Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki to Asharq Al-Awsat on the identity of the Saudi military officer detained in Irak as an al-Qaeda commander
"The identity of the individual mentioned by the material evidence requires verification, especially as the public information confirms that he has previously impersonated another figure. "
62 Iraqis sentenced to death: Xinhua
RAMADI, Iraq, May 18 (Xinhua) — A court in Anbar province gave death penalties to 62 Iraqis and different prison terms, including life imprisonment, to 130 others, a source from Anbar police command said on Tuesday.
The court in the province delivered the verdicts according to article 4 of the Iraqi counter-terrorism law after the court found them guilty for crimes of killings, bombings, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Some senior leaders of the al-Qaida organization and leaders of other insurgent groups were among those who received death sentences, the source said.
Many of the 130 convicts were either fighters of al-Qaida group or involved in assisting the group to carry out deadly attacks, the source added.
"All the convicts were residents of Anbar province," he said
Politics and Security
Alliance could keep al Maliki in power – The National Newspaper:
Until yesterday it had seemed unlikely that Mr al Maliki would be chosen as the new alliance’s candidate for prime minister, with the Sadrists, a major faction in INA, saying they would veto his election.
However, that threat has now apparently been withdrawn, giving a significant boost to Mr Maliki’s hopes of leading the country for another four years.
“We have no veto over Mr al Maliki being chosen as prime minister and we can work with him, for the good of Iraq,” said Bahar al Araje, a senior Sadrist, confirming statements made by Saleh al Obeidi, a spokesman for the group’s leader, cleric Muqtada al Sadr.
According to Mr al Araje, the Sadrists continue to harbour reservations about Mr al Maliki and he made it clear that, while the Sadr movement would not veto the prime minister’s coveted reappointment, it may not give him its outright support.
“We still have criticisms of Mr al Maliki, including that he does not consult when he makes decisions, that he continues to detain followers of Muqtada al Sadr and that he has politicised the security forces,” Mr Araje said. “While we will not veto him, and while we will continue in an alliance with the State of Law coalition, I do not expect Mr al Maliki to be prime minister again, It will be another candidate.”
The Sadr movement indicated it had laid down conditions for ending its veto against Mr al Maliki, including that he release scores of detainees. That has not yet happened.
While a major obstruction to Mr al Maliki’s return as prime minister appears to have been removed, his position is far from certain.
The State of Law/INA alliance has yet to name its leader, with a 14-member committee supposed to make the selection.
Although the Sadrist leadership appears to have ended its open hostility to Mr al Maliki, Muqtada al Sadr’s followers seem far from convinced.
With the atmosphere in Iraq increasingly one of alarm at rising violence and recent deadly sectarian attacks, Sheikh Dhea al Shouki, a leading preacher at Kufa mosque, in the Sadrists’ heartland, said he feared for the future.
“I tell the Iraqi people to look out for themselves and to protect themselves because the coming situation will be one of sectarianism and interference in Iraq by neighbouring countries,” he said in a telephone interview. “The Iraqi government is corrupt and the Iraqi army is not serving the people well.”
Baghdad to enclose city with 15ft wall to keep suicide bombers out – Times Online:
Baghdad is to resort to one of the oldest forms of defence by building a massive wall around the capital to keep out insurgents, The Times has learnt.
A series of recent suicide bombings has driven the governor of the Iraqi capital to propose the concrete barrier, which will be 15ft (4.5m) high and 70 miles (112km) long. Every man, beast and vehicle entering will be searched at one of only eight gates along the main highways.
Baghdad, roughly the same size as London and with approximately five million inhabitants, will face severe disruption as a result. Freedom of movement will be limited and workers and visitors alike will probably have to wait for at least an hour to enter. Once inside, though, it is hoped they will be much safer. Shatha al-Obeidi, an aide to Salah Abdul Razzaq, the governor, said: “We want to stop the terrorist from sneaking in. With the wall it will be much easier.”
Building work is expected to take about a year. Once the wall is completed, officials plan to remove most of the 1,500 checkpoints and many miles of cement blast barriers that have sprung up inside Baghdad over the past few years. “We have become a city filled with concrete,” said Ms al-Obeidi. “That will change.”
Iraqi forces capture 2 non-Iraqi Arab Qaida leaders: Xinhua
BAGHDAD, May 17 (Xinhua) — Iraqi security forces said Monday they have arrested two non-Iraqi Arab Qaida leaders, and one of them is said to be part of a plan to carry out terrorist act during the coming soccer World Cup in South Africa.
The two were allegedly a Saudi and Algerian nationals who were captured in separate raids in Baghdad, according to a military spokesman.
Azzam Saleh al-Qahtani, known as Sinan al-Saudi, 31, was an officer in the Saudi Army before he came to Iraq in 2004. Al-Saudi later became an al-Qaida security leader in Anbar and Salahudin provinces in western and central Iraq respectively, Major General Qassim Atta told a news conference.
Atta said that al-Saudi was involved in "planning and coordination to carry out attacks during the World Cup in South Africa in complicity with Ayman al-Zawahiri (al-Qaida’s No. 2 top leader)."
Al-Saudi was also involved in the Baghdad massive bombings and many robberies against jewellers and killings of many people, Atta added.
Another Qaida leader named Tariq Hassan Abdul Qader, known as Abu Ysseen al-Jazairi, 34, an Algerian national, was also captured by a joint U.S. and Iraqi force, Atta said, adding that al-Jazairi was captured in November last year but his captured was not announced as he was interrogated for information about his terrorist group.
Al-Jazairi, who entered Iraq in 2005 through Anbar province, was the leader of al-Qaida’s military wing in Karkh area, the west side of Tigris River that bisects the Iraqi capital, Atta said.
Saudi Arabia Wants to Verify Identity of World Cup Terrorist Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English):
After the Iraqi security services announced their arrest of Saudi citizen Abdullah Azzam Saleh Misfar al-Qahtani, Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Saudi Arabia is also looking for a fugitive with a similar name and characteristics. Iraq claims that al-Qahtani is a former Saudi army officer and a senior member in the Al Qaeda organization in Iraq, and that he was planning to carry out a terrorist attack at this year’s World Cup which is set to begin in South Africa in the next few weeks.
Saudi Interior Ministry Security spokesman Major General Mansour al-Turki refused to confirm or deny that al-Qahtani had been arrested, telling Asharq Al-Awsat that "the identity of the individual mentioned by the material evidence requires verification, especially as the public information confirms that he has previously impersonated another figure. "
In his statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Major General al-Turki said that the information available to the Saudi security apparatus "refers to the departure of a Saudi citizen who has a similar name [to this] outside of Saudi Arabia as part of an unessential holiday in the month of Shawwal 1425 (2004) and that his return [to Saudi] has not been recorded until now."
Iraq: Former prisoners ‘becoming Al-Qaeda leaders’ – Adnkronos Security:
Iraqi security forces are concerned that many of the prisoners released by US troops are becoming leaders in the Al-Qaeda terror network on their release. According to local news site, Al-Sumaria News, Baghdad security forces spokesman Major General Qassim Atta revealed the level of concern to reporters on a visit to Abu Ghraib prison.
"Most of the prisoners freed by American forces from their prisons in the last few years have become Al-Qaeda leaders once they are released," he told reporters.
"To stop this phenomenon we have signed a security accord with US troops, so that before freeing any prisoner they ask Iraqi forces their opinion."
In the past US troops, who had more than 20,000 prisoners in Iraqi prisons, could release prisoners without informing local security forces.
News – World: Imams ’slaughtered in Iraq’:
Baquba – Two Sunni Arab imams were brutally killed on Monday in Iraq, including one who was decapitated and had his head planted on a power pole, in attacks blamed on al-Qaeda, military officials said.
The slayings in the province of Diyala, north-east of Baghdad, were against anti-Qaeda preachers who regularly railed against the terror network during Friday sermons.
"At around 2.00pm (11.00 GMT), armed al-Qaeda members captured Sheikh Abdullah Shakur while he was in Saadiyah market," said a Diyala military command officer who declined to be identified, referring to the central town.
"They returned an hour later with his head and attached it to an electricity post."
Shakur, imam of Saadiyah’s mosque, had received several death threats from al-Qaeda, who had demanded that he leave the town, which is home to large Sunni, Shiite and Kurd populations.
The town, located about 100 kilometres east of the Diyala provincial capital Baquba, was an al-Qaeda stronghold during Iraq’s sectarian conflict in 2006 and 2007.
According to the Diyala military officer, in the village of Al-Bushaheen, 20 kilometres north of Baquba, gunmen burst into the home of Sheikh Hashim Arif at about 3.00am (00.00 GMT), dragged him to his garden and shot him dead in front of his family.
Society and Economy:
France24 – Iraq signs oil field deal with Chinese, Turkish firms:
Iraq signed a deal with Chinese energy giant CNOOC and Turkey’s TPAO on Monday to develop a major southern oilfield complex, its 11th deal with foreign energy firms as Baghdad aims to boost crude output.
Among the cluster of fields in the Maysan complex, along Iraq’s border with Iran, is a field partially claimed by Tehran, whose forces temporarily took over an oil well in the Fakka oilfield in December for several days but withdrew after talks between the two countries.
CNOOC and TPAO agreed to be paid 2.30 dollars per barrel of oil extracted from the Maysan cluster of fields, which has proven reserves of 2.6 billion barrels of oil.
Under the deal, output is projected to be ramped up to 450,000 barrels per day (bpd), compared to current production of around 100,000 bpd.
The Chinese firm will have an 85-percent stake in the joint venture, while TPAO holds the remaining 15 percent. The Iraqi government will have a 25-percent stake in the overall project.
The agreed deal was worth around a tenth of what was initially requested — CNOOC and Sinochem, another Chinese energy firm, had originally asked for 21.4 dollars per barrel when the field was auctioned to foreign firms last June.
Sinochem has since pulled out of the deal.
Iraq, Kuwait still going at it » Kuwait Times Website:
A fierce legal fight between the national airlines of Iraq and Kuwait has revived deep resentments that have been simmering since Saddam Hussein first sent his army into oil-rich, neighboring Kuwait back in 1990. The dispute has been playing out in British courts since soon after the end of the first Gulf War, with Kuwait Airways claiming it is owed $1.2 billion by Iraqi Airways for 10 aircraft and spare parts that were looted during the occupation by Iraqi forces.
Lawyers representing Kuwait have accused Iraq of perjury, forgery and a general pervasion of the justice system. In turn, Kuwait has been accused of exploiting Iraq’s instability and being insensitive to the suffering of the Iraqi people. The dispute resurfaced April 25 when the first Iraqi Airways flight from Baghdad to London in more than 20 years was met at Gatwick Airport by lawyers representing Kuwait Airway armed with an injunction issued by a British court. The authorities confiscated the passport of Iraqi Airways director Kifah Hassan Jabbar, and impounded the aircraft, which had been leased from a Swedish company.
The beginning of 2010 was marred by acts of violence that claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians, mainly in Baghdad, the central governorates and Najaf. In Mosul, families fled violence and sought refuge in safer areas. Although recent violence-related displacement has been sporadic, there remain some 2.8 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Iraq who had to leave their homes over recent years in search of safety.
Many Iraqis, especially those worst affected by the effects of the conflict and the ongoing violence, such as displaced, elderly and disabled people and women heading households, continued to struggle to feed their families. Their inability to buy enough of the essential goods they require remains a major concern.
Agriculture, formerly an important part of the economy, has been declining for the past decade. Individuals who have lost agricultural machinery to damage, age or disrepair often cannot replace it owing to a lack of financial wherewithal. In addition, the water supply has been hard hit by a failure to properly maintain pumping stations and irrigation and distribution canals, by the unreliable electricity supply and by higher fuel costs. The massive increase in the price of seed and fertilizer, and cheap imports from neighbouring countries, also play a role in making farming difficult, if not impossible, in many parts of Iraq. Many farmers try to survive by cultivating smaller patches of land, but as they are forced to use low-quality supplies the result is often poor harvests. Others have migrated to cities in search of other ways of earning a living.
The situation was exacerbated by the 2008 drought – the worst in the past 10 years – which had an especially severe impact on rain-fed agriculture in central, west-central and some northern parts of the country. In some areas, agricultural production was wiped out. After years of poor rainfalls, pastures were reduced and prices of fodder soared. According to an ICRC survey, breeders were forced to cut down their herds by more than 60 per cent in some parts of the country, which had a drastic effect on their livelihoods. "Before, we used to move to neighbouring districts. Now, everywhere is dry and we lost our crops and animals. How can we go on?," said one local farmer in Ninawa governorate.
For households that have lost their main wage earner, the economic situation is especially hard to endure. Most people who went missing in connection with recent wars or the ongoing violence, and most people behind bars, are adult males – usually breadwinners. The women and children they left behind often became isolated and therefore extremely vulnerable, despite the strong cultural solidarity among Iraqis.
The ICRC is helping the Iraqis who are worst off to cope with their hardships, and Iraqi communities to support themselves unaided. It is distributing seed and fertilizer, and fodder for livestock. In addition, it is vaccinating cattle and cleaning and improving irrigation canals. In 2009 alone, some 195,000 people benefited.
In January and February 2010, according to the ICRC’s own independent assessment carried out by the organization’s staff all over Iraq, more than 20,000 people benefited from its humanitarian assistance:
- almost 15,500 displaced people (families headed by women) in Baghdad, Diyala, Salah Al-Din and Ninawa governorates were given monthly food parcels and hygiene items;
- around 5,400 people recently displaced from Mosul to Hamdanya and Tilkaif received emergency food parcels, rice and ready-to-eat meals;
- over 1,900 farmers in Diyala governorate received 491.5 metric tonnes of urea fertilizer to help them improve their harvest and make their farming sustainable;
- 43 disabled people in Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaimaniya and Ninewa governorates benefited from micro-economic aid enabling them to start small businesses and regain economic self-sufficiency.
The ICRC also endeavoured to respond to other needs of the Iraqi population in January and February.
Providing clean water and sanitation
Access to clean water remains inadequate in several parts of the country. Only 45 per cent of the population, on average, have clean drinking water and 20 per cent proper sewage disposal. ICRC water engineers continue to repair and upgrade water, electrical and sanitation facilities all over Iraq, especially in areas where violence remains a concern, to enhance access for civilians to clean water and to improve the quality of services provided in communities and health-care facilities.
- Baghdad governorate: Samadiya water compact unit for about 20,000 people, Al Mahmodiya General Hospital serving some 400,000 people living in the area, Ibn Al Khateeb Infectious Diseases Hospital, Medico Legal Institute, Tabat al Kurd water boosting station for over 3,500 people and Al Mada’in water treatment plant for 470,000 people (including displaced people) plus three hospitals and eight primary health-care centres.
- Anbar governorate: Heet water treatment plant for 45,000 residents and 250 displaced people, Habbaniya water treatment plant for 30,000 residents and 1,500 displaced people, and Al Qaim Hospital providing health care for around 350,000 area inhabitants.
- Salah Al Din governorate: al Dor clinic and Dijail compact unit supplying water to almost 25,000 people.
Other water-related works were carried out that will benefit nearly 100,000 people in Missan, Diwaniya and Diyala governorates, and in Ninawa governorate where 3,000 inmates held at Badoosh prison will be among those benefiting.
Water was delivered by truck to:
- 4,500 displaced people in Sadr City and 340 in Husseinia and Ma’amil, and in Baghdad Teaching Hospital, all in Baghdad governorate;
- Qalawa Quarter camp in Sulaimaniya, hosting around 360 displaced people. Two damaged tanks of 5,000 litres each have been replaced.
Assisting hospitals and physical rehabilitation centres
Health-care services are still inadequate. In some areas, it is difficult to reach health facilities because of the prevailing lack of security. Iraqi health facilities still benefit from ICRC support. Limb-fitting and physical rehabilitation services are provided by the ICRC to help disabled people reintegrate into the community. In January and February:
- 12 hospitals and three primary health-care centres received medical supplies and equipment;
- 34 doctors and nurses successfully took part in a training course on strengthening emergency services given in Sulaimaniya Emergency Hospital and in Al Sadr Teaching Hospital in Najaf;
- 26 managers working in the field of primary health care in Ninawa, Kirkuk, Erbil and Diyala governorates participated in a forum, held in Erbil, on improving the quality of health care services in rural primary health-care centres;
- two physiotherapists from Najaf, two from Hilla, one from Sulaimaniya and one from Erbil attended a three-week training course in Erbil, where the ICRC runs a physical rehabilitation centre.
Visiting detainees remains a top priority for the ICRC in Iraq. In January and February, ICRC delegates visited detainees held:
- in Fort Suse Federal Prison, Sulaimaniya governorate; in Nasiriya Prison, Thi-Qar governorate; in Mina and Maaqal prisons, Basra governorate;
- in Tasfirat Kirkuk, Emergency Police Station and Juvenile Police Centre; in Assayesh KDP Station, Kirkuk governorate;
- in Brigade 54, 6th Division, Baghdad governorate;
- in six prisons and two police stations in Erbil, Dohuk and Sulaimaniya governorates;
- in Camp Taji (US custody), Baghdad governorate. This was the last visit to the detention facility prior to its handover to Iraqi authorities.
Around 5,200 detainees held in Fort Suse, Chamchamal, Khademiya, Adhala and Amarah prisons received blankets, mattresses and clothes to help them cope with the cold winter season. In Chamchamal Federal Prison, 34 disabled detainees were given crutches as part of a follow-up carried out by ICRC health delegates of health care in the prison.
More than 7,800 Red Cross messages were exchanged between detainees and their families in January and February. In addition, 626 detention certificates were issued to former detainees or internees to make them eligible for social welfare benefits.
Clarifying what happened to missing people
The ICRC supports the authorities in their efforts to clarify what happened to those who went missing in connection with the Iran-Iraq War and the 1990-1991 Gulf War. It also helps train forensic professionals in the identification and management of mortal remains and regularly supplies equipment. In January and February:
- the mortal remains of nine Iranian soldiers were repatriated from Iraq under ICRC auspices;
- the Technical Sub-Committee of the Tripartite Commission, handling cases of persons missing in connection with the 1990-1991 Gulf War, held its 63rd session in Kuwait, which was chaired by the ICRC and attended by representatives from Iraq, Kuwait and the 1990-1991 Coalition (the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Saudi Arabia);
- two days of training by an ICRC forensic specialist were provided for staff of Al Zubair centre to help them better manage the files of thousands of missing persons.
Promoting international humanitarian law
Reminding parties to a conflict of their obligation to protect civilians is a fundamental part of the ICRC’s work. The organization also endeavours to promote international humanitarian law within the civil society. In this framework, a series of presentations were organized for various audiences, which included military personnel, prison staff, students and professors