There was a lot of coverage of the bombing of the soccer match in Tal Afar´but as far as I can tell only al Jazeera mentioned that this is part of the ongoing ethnic cleanisng campaign against Shia Kurds called Fayli. The Hilla Husseiniyah bombing also got a lot of coverage. I have sleected an article about the Danish Refugee council funding an expansion of help for refugees in rural areas of Syria. (Maryam wrote about the Syrian Red Crescent’s MHUs here - Red Crescent Mobile Health Clinics Reach Out To Refugees and Rural Poor). The wheat Harvest should be good this year according to the FAO and I have also picked out two feature articles one is commentary "Mosque and State" from Nikolas K. Gvosdev who lectures at the U.S. Naval War College, the other is the New york times profile of Hadi al-Mahdi whose talk radio show is very popular because he is so outspoken.
Human Rights & Humanitarian:
ReliefWeb » Document » Denmark helps Syria cope with the long-lasting Iraqi displacement :
The Danish Refugee Council has established a community centre in Dara’a, where a significant number of Iraqi refugees have found temporary settlement. The centre will be opened on a ceremony May 13 attended by the governor of Dara’a and the Danish ambassador.
The ceremony will mark the second step in a plan to expand the response of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) to Iraqi refugees residing outside Damascus and support the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) in the assistance it provides to refugees and Syrian vulnerable families in areas far from the capital city where the international aid remains concentrated.
DRC has been providing educational, vocational training and community services support to Iraqi refugees in Damascus since early 2008. Those services have, since late 2009, been expanded to the countryside cities of Homs and Dara’a.
Politics and Security
Baghdad recount completed, ‘no fraud’ | Radio Netherlands Worldwide:
A manual recount of votes in Baghdad has been completed and no instances of fraud were found there from the March election, electoral commission spokesman Qassim al-Abboudi said on Friday.
"We finished the recount of 11,298 ballot boxes and no violations or fraud have been found," he told a news conference in the capital, adding that the results would be released on Monday.
Kurds urge U.S. intervention to end Iraq stalemate – latimes.com:
Qubad Talabani, the Kurdish region’s representative in Washington, says the U.S. must ‘look out for its interests’ to ensure Iraq has a stable, democratic government.
The spokesman for Iraq’s Kurdish region criticized the Obama administration Thursday in Washington for not doing enough to end the current political impasse and urged American officials to embark on "intense shuttle diplomacy" between the deadlocked political parties.
Qubad Talabani, who represents the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq, said U.S. officials in Iraq have had limited involvement in efforts by political parties to form a government in the two months since the inconclusive national elections in March.
Talabani said the Obama administration appeared determined to avoid the perception that it is "trying to concoct a democratic Iraq." But, he said, the U.S. must "look out for its interests" to ensure the country has a stable, democratic government.
"It would be a shame to see an undemocratic government, after all the sacrifices," Talabani said in an interview after an appearance at the Nixon Center think tank in Washington.
Iraq’s new al-Qaida leader vows to continue deadly attacks: Xinhua
BAGHDAD, May 14 (Xinhua) — Iraqi al-Qaida group has nominated its new leader called "minister of war" and vowed to continue deadly attacks with "dark days in blood color," said a statement posted on a militant website on Friday.
The so-called "minister of war" of the Islamic State of Iraq was identified as al-Nasser Lideen Allah Abu Suleiman and he will replace Abu Ayyub al-Musri, who was killed in a military operation by Iraqi and U.S. forces last month.
read in full: Xinhua
Al Jazeera English – Middle East – Blast hits Iraq football match:
Suicide bombers have struck a football match in northern Iraq, leaving at least 25 people dead and many more wounded.
The blast targeted a game taking place on Friday in the town of Tal Afar, around 60km west of the city of Mosul.
A local police official said a car bomb exploded at about 6pm local time (1500GMT) near a crowd of spectators.
As people fled the scene of the first blast, two more bombers activated explosive belts in the crowd, the sources said.
Local hospital officials put the number of injured at 125.
"Many people were gathered to watch the match," Hussein Nashad, who witnessed the attack, told the AFP news agency.
"We heard a loud explosion and the people behind me shielded me from the shrapnel.
"I ran away, but then I heard someone shout ‘Allahu-akbar’ [God is greatest], and then there was another explosion," Nashad added, speaking from hospital where he was being treated for shock.
Many of the wounded were taken by ambulance to Dahuk, 95km away, because local hospitals were unable to cope with the influx of wounded spectators.
Tal Afar is a predominantly Shia Turkomen town and has been a regular target for suicide bombers in the past.
The attacks follow blasts in the city last October and July that left dozens of people dead. In March 2007, 152 people were killed when truck bombs targeted markets in the town.
Blast targeting Shiite mosque leaves 18 injured in Iraq – Monsters and Critics:
Hilla, Iraq – At least 18 people were injured by an explosive device that went off after Friday prayers in Hilla, a police source said.
The bomb was planted beside the Shiite Imam al-Kadhim mosque in the city, 100 kilometres south of the south of Baghdad.
Iran Frees Iraqi Soldier in Border Incident – ABC News:
Iran released an Iraqi border patrol officer Friday after he was detained briefly when Iraqi border guards were mistaken for Kurdish rebels on a northern stretch of the two countries’ border, an official said.
The guard was released unharmed Friday evening, said Brigadier General Ahmed Gharib, head of Iraq’s border guards in Iraq’s northern Kurdish province of Sulaimaniya.
"It was a misunderstanding. It’s not the first time it has happened," Gharib said.
Officials said Iranian troops fired into the air after mistaking the Iraqis for rebels Thursday.
There was no exchange of fire between the two sides in the incident, contrary to some reports, said Major General Jabbar Yawar, spokesman for Iraq’s Kurdish peshmerga security forces.
Society and Economy:
Iraq expects bumper wheat harvest this year: Azzaman in English:
Good weather conditions will help Iraq reap up to 2 million tons of wheat this year, according to U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Last year grain production declined drastically in the country due to severe drought. The drop in yields turned Iraq into one of the world’s largest wheat importers.
Last year’s wheat produce was in the range of 1 million tons while Iraq’s needs are estimated at more than 4 million tons.
Iraq’s wheat imports just from the U.S. cost the treasury up to $1.4 billion last year.
Iraq’s reliance on food imports has increased and widened. The country currently imports vegetables and fruits as well as grains, meat, chicken, legumes, sugar and tea.
Commentary and Analysis
Mosque & State: by Nikolas K. Gvosdev The National Interest:
The accord signed in recent weeks between the two leading Iraqi Shiite political blocs—the Iraqi National Alliance and the State of Law party—has not only cleared the way for a new government to be formed in Iraq, but also, for the first time, has explicitly guaranteed a role for the senior Shiite clergy. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has been named as the final, binding arbiter for any disputes among the members of the governing coalition. “The marjaiya [the assembly of the most senior ayatollahs] has the final say in solving all the disputes between the two sides and its directives and guidance are binding,” the agreement states.
Seven years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Shiite clergy, who already exercised a great deal of behind-the-scenes influence over the political process, have now been given a more public role. True, this is not a constitutional mandate; the clerics have no formal power to interfere with government policy. And if the current Shiite coalition should dissolve (or lose power in subsequent elections), the agreement would not be binding on future governments. Nevertheless, this development is quite at odds with the vision of a secular Iraq that many Americans believed would be created in the wake of Hussein’s ouster.
However, Iraq is not on the verge of being transformed into an Arab version of Iran’s Islamic Republic. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s novel innovation—creating a clerical “guardian” to oversee the state (velayat-e faqih) as an Islamic version of Plato’s philosopher-king—was rejected by the Shiite clergy of Iraq.
Saturday Profile – Hadi al-Mahdi, a Strident Political Voice on Iraqi Radio – NYTimes.com:
HADI AL-MAHDI, a man you might call the Rush Limbaugh of Iraq, bounded up the stairs to a radio studio in a converted villa beside the Tigris River. “Today,” he said, with impish determination, “we are going to defend the Sunnis.”
For the next hour Mr. Mahdi, a Shiite married to a Kurd, did just that. In a sonorous, sarcastic voice, he ridiculed the murky process that disqualified Sunni candidates in Iraq’s recent elections as an assault on the multiethnic, multifaith democracy Iraq is supposed to be creating.
As the sun set on another dusty Baghdad evening rush, he condemned not only the man behind the disqualifications (“He’s illiterate.”) but also Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki (“Is there glue in your chair?”), Mr. Maliki’s main challenger in the election, Ayad Allawi; the ministers of education and electricity, “this dirty Parliament” and the rest of Iraqi officialdom “living in the Green Zone, while your family is living abroad.”
“Who is going to die? Your son?”
Mr. Mahdi’s program — “To Whoever Listens” on Radio Demozy, FM 104.1 — is a thrice-weekly, populist jeremiad of all that is wrong with Iraq’s fledgling democracy, and one measure of what the overthrow of Saddam Hussein has done for it.
His is not the only radio talk show in Iraq, but it is arguably the most breathtaking exercise of free speech in a place where its limits are still being established. It is, by some accounts, one of the most popular programs on the air in Baghdad. It is, without question, immensely entertaining.