General Babikr Zibari, chief of Iraqi army staff, submitted his resignation but the Iraqi Prime Minister and Armed forces Command-in-Chief rejected it, a Kurdish legislator said on Tuesday. Article
Unknown gunmen killed, on Tuesday, the resident engineer in Sarafya Bridge reconstruction project, as he was leaving his home heading to work, a media source from the Housing and Construction Ministry said.
Large portions of Sarafya Bridge had been destroyed in April suicide bombing attack which left ten people killed and 26 others wounded, in addition to material damage to homes on both sides of the bridge. Article
Contours of chaos.
“Dozens of families in Ramadi, and five other nearby towns, were transferred to hospitals on Monday after apparently being poisoned by toxic foodstuffs,” the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The relief foodstuffs had been distributed by unknown groups of men to poor families earlier in the day in the violence-laden province, the source said. Article
Slouching to recess (emphasis added).
Iraq’s Parliament shrugged off US criticism and adjourned yesterday for a month, as key lawmakers declared there was no point waiting any longer for the prime minister to deliver benchmark legislation that Washington has demanded be put to a vote.
Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani closed the final three-hour session without a quorum present and declared that lawmakers will not reconvene until Sept. 4.… Article
Couple this with an unemployemnt rate estimated at anywhere from 50 to 70 per cent (and obvious limitations on businesses and employers due to lack of electricity and water), not to mention the constant cloud of insecurity and impediments to even basic travel and commuting.
“The ‘brain drain’ that Iraq is experiencing is further stretching already inadequate public services, as thousands of medical staff, teachers, water engineers, and other professionals are forced to leave the country,” it said.
Only 60 per cent of the four million people who depend on food assistance have access to rations from the government-run public distribution system, down from 96 per cent in 2004, the report said.
The number of Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies has risen from 50 per cent to 70 per cent since 2003.
The lack of effective sanitation was also highlighted by the joint report, which said 80 per cent of people in Iraq did not have safe access.
The report said children were the hardest hit by the fall in living standards, stating child malnutrition rates have risen from 19 per cent before the US-led invasion in 2003 to 28 percent currently. Article
Two thousand Iraqis are fleeing their homes every day. It is the greatest mass exodus of people ever in the Middle East and dwarfs anything seen in Europe since the Second World War. Four million people, one in seven Iraqis, have run away, because if they do not they will be killed.… Article
Wracked with every civic and political disease one can list (and as the continuing catalysis provides time to carve out and consolidate fiefdoms), is there anything substantive to which any so-called reconciliation can apply, any legitimacy other than on paper which can be sustainably claimed?
This is Iraq’s Ministry of Interior – the balkanized command center for the nation’s police and mirror of the deadly factions that have caused the government here to grind nearly to a halt.
The very language that Americans use to describe government – ministries, departments, agencies – belies the reality here of militias that kill under cover of police uniform and remain above the law. Until recently, one or two Interior Ministry police officers were assassinated each week while arriving or leaving the building, probably by fellow officers, senior police officials say.
That killing has been reduced, but Western diplomats still describe the Interior Ministry building as a “federation of oligarchs.” Those who work in the building, like the colonel, liken departments to hostile countries. Survival depends on keeping abreast of shifting factional alliances and turf.
The ninth floor is shared by the department’s inspector general and general counsel, religious Shiites. Their offices have been at the center of efforts to purge the department’s remaining Sunni employees. The counsel’s predecessor, a Sunni, was killed a year ago.
“They have some bad things on the ninth,” says the colonel, a Sunni who, like other ministry officials, spoke on condition of anonymity to guard against retaliation.
The ministry’s computer department is on the 10th floor. Two employees were arrested there in February on suspicion of smuggling in explosives, according to police and U.S. military officials. Some Iraqi and U.S. officials say the workers intended to store bombs there. Others say they were plotting to attack the U.S. advisors stationed directly above them on the top floor.
Months after the arrests, it’s unclear whether the detainees are Sunni insurgents or followers of Muqtada Sadr, the anti-U.S. Shiite cleric whose portrait stares down from some office walls in a sign of his spreading influence in the ministry.
Partitions divide the building’s hallways, and gunmen guard the offices of deputy ministers. Senior police officials march up and down stairs rather than risk an elevator. They walk the halls flanked by bodyguards, wary of armed colleagues. Article
Supplies and medicine in strife-torn Baghdad’s overcrowded hospitals have been siphoned off and sold elsewhere for profit because of corruption in the Iraqi Ministry of Health, according to a draft U.S. government report obtained by NBC News.
The report, written by U.S. advisers to Iraq’s anti-corruption agency, analyzes corruption in 12 ministries and finds devastating and grim problems. “Corruption protected by senior members of the Iraqi government,” the report said, “remains untouchable.”
One potential problem is in the office of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, according to the report.
The report said that “the prime minister’s office has on a number of occasions intervened on cases involving political supporters.”
n the Ministry of Oil – the most important agency for Iraq’s economy – the report said “corruption is a major problem” when it comes to refined oil products, such as gasoline and kerosene. The report said corruption in the oil ministry is partly to blame for lines of cars stretching for miles as Iraqis wait hours to fill up their tanks.
An entire battalion of Iraqi police “was found to be nonexistent” and corruption in the army is “widespread,” with ghost employees and a shortage of supplies, according to the report. Article
Iraq’s Oil Ministry has directed all its agencies and departments not to deal with the country’s oil unions.
The unions and Iraq’s government, especially the prime minister and oil minister, have been at odds for months now over working conditions and the draft oil law.
The unions went on strike in early June and are threatening to stop production and exports again if demands are not met. The unions claim the oil law, if approved by Parliament, will give foreign oil companies too much access to the oil. The unions enjoy enormous support, especially in the south of Iraq.
The letter was addressed to the all of the ministry’s companies, such as the state firms in the north and south of the country, as well as research, development and training centers based in Baghdad, Baiji, Basra and Kirkuk. Article
Also (and note too the glaring lack of mention of Iraqi participation):
The United States has asked Israel to check the possibility of pumping oil from Iraq to the oil refineries in Haifa. The request came in a telegram last week from a senior Pentagon official to a top Foreign Ministry official in Jerusalem.
The Prime Minister’s Office, which views the pipeline to Haifa as a “bonus” the U.S. could give to Israel in return for its unequivocal support for the American-led campaign in Iraq, had asked the Americans for the official telegram.
The new pipeline would take oil from the Kirkuk area, where some 40 percent of Iraqi oil is produced, and transport it via Mosul, and then across Jordan to Israel. The U.S. telegram included a request for a cost estimate for repairing the Mosul-Haifa pipeline that was in use prior to 1948. During the War of Independence, the Iraqis stopped the flow of oil to Haifa and the pipeline fell into disrepair over the years.
National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky said yesterday that the port of Haifa is an attractive destination for Iraqi oil and that he plans to discuss this matter with the U.S. secretary of energy during his planned visit to Washington next month. Paritzky added that the plan depends on Jordan’s consent and that Jordan would receive a transit fee for allowing the oil to piped through its territory. The minister noted, however, that “due to pan-Arab concerns, it will be hard for the Jordanians to agree to the flow of Iraqi oil via Jordan and Israel.”
In response to rumors about the possible Kirkuk-Mosul-Haifa pipeline, Turkey has warned Israel that it would regard this development as a serious blow to Turkish-Israeli relations.
Sources in Jerusalem suggest that the American hints about the alternative pipeline are part of an attempt to apply pressure on Turkey. Article
So how’s that political “national unity” progress going?
In the autonomous Kurdistan region, Kurdish security forces in Dohuk city arrested 50 Kurds for waving the Iraqi flag to celebrate the victory of the Iraqi national football team, a police source said Monday.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, ‘Kurdish security forces seize anybody carrying the Iraqi flag, even for one hour.’
The region’s president Massoud Barzani had earlier ordered that the Kurdish flag would replace the Iraqi one in all the cities of the autonomous region. Article
Massoud Barzani, speaking in an interview with U.S.-funded Alhurra television, complained that the Baghdad government was dragging its feet on holding a referendum that could put Kirkuk under control of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
“There is procrastination (by the government) and if this issue is not resolved, as I said before, all options are open. … Frankly I am not comfortable with the behavior and the policy of the federal government on Kirkuk and clause 140,” he said.
The constitutional clause calls for a referendum in Kirkuk to decide its future status by the end of the year. Before the vote, the clause says Kurds expelled from the city during Saddam Hussein’s rule must be allowed to return. A census would then be held to determine which ethnic group was a majority of the population.
“If clause 140 is not implemented, then there will be a real civil war,” Barzani said, promising to visit Baghdad shortly to discuss the matter with the central government. Article
Update Aug. 1, 2 a.m.:
Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that Iraq’s Sunni vice-premier for security affairs, Salam al-Zawbai, is accusing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of denying him his prerogatives of office. Al-Zawbai released a statement on the web page of his political party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, saying that al-Maliki does not accept that his vice premier has a role in security affairs, and has issued orders to the police and army to ignore al-Zawbai! Source
“Then why are we here?” indeed.
Military officers hail the fact that violence is down as evidence that their campaign against al Qaida in Iraq is succeeding. But there’s no sign of reconciliation between Sunni Muslims and Shiites, the rationale the Bush administration cites for increasing the number of U.S. troops in the country.
The Shiite Mahdi Army militia continues to drive Sunni residents from neighborhoods in Baghdad, a development that one American officer called “disappointing.” Shiite politicians show little sympathy for the expelled Sunnis or interest in stopping the expulsions. In interviews, they argued that the drive against Sunnis is a justified response to Sunni campaigns to drive Shiites from their neighborhoods, a position that American military officers reject.
American officials say they’re hopeful about the recent decision by some Sunni insurgent groups to cooperate with U.S. troops to defeat al Qaida in Iraq. But some of America’s new Sunni allies warn that once they’ve disposed of the religious extremists in their midst, they’ll return to battling rival Shiites – and American occupiers.
The two largest militias, Sadr’s Mahdi Army and the Badr Organization of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, are tied to prominent Iraqi families whose rivalries date back generations. Both militias have infiltrated the security forces.
Badr, which has never openly battled American forces, generally gets credit for being the more astute player of the two. “The Badr corps understood the game from the beginning and incorporated itself into the security forces,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said.
A senior U.S. military official described American support for Badr – an Iranian-funded organization that many think still conducts targeted assassinations – as the only option since many of its members have been absorbed into the Iraqi security forces.
“Badr has decided to join the government, and they gave up their weapons and became part of the state,” the senior military official said. “If we’re not going to support al Qaida in Iraq and not going to support Jaysh al Mahdi (the Mahdi Army) and we can’t support the security forces, then why are we here?” Article
Unrelated directly to the snippet which follows, but what ever happened to “war czar” Gen. Lute? Off to the Winter Palace? Can we dub him Lute Shytalker?
Rice, accompanied by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, met with foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf Cooperation Council states at the start of a regional tour aimed at countering Iran’s growing influence, notably in Iraq.
“We discussed how to support a unified Iraq where all Iraqis can live in peace and security,” Rice told journalists after the meeting which included top diplomats from GCC states Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
With Saudi Arabia accused of allowing Sunni militants into Iraq to fight U.S. forces and Iran accused of equipping Iraqi Shiite militias doing the same, the parties in a joint statement called for “an end to all interference in Iraq.” Article
Read that as “an end to all interference with U.S. interference in Iraq.” Interference which, by one analysis has created an irresistable black hole pulling neighboring states and regional centers of power inexorably into the morass.
Related: If one stands the reported statements of Admiral Michael Mullen made at a congressional hearing on his nomination to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff up against one another, they cancel out and leave nothing but vapor.
Denmark, which is currently withdrawing its troops from Iraq, was due to transfer its responsibilities on Tuesday to the Iraqis and the British, according to the Army Operational Command (AOC).
“The formal transfer takes place today (Tuesday) in Iraq,” AOC spokesman Kim Grynberger told AFP.
“A small ceremony will be held with a parade in Basra,” in southern Iraq where some 460 troops have been stationed since 2003, under British command. Article
Keeping up with the courts-martial.
A Marine accused of masterminding a plot to kidnap and kill an Iraqi man told his squad, “Gents, we just got away with murder,” after firing three fatal rounds into the victim’s head, a prosecutor said Tuesday in closing arguments of a court-martial.
Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III is charged with murder, kidnapping, conspiracy and other offenses in the April 26, 2006, slaying. A military jury was expected to begin deliberating Wednesday morning.
“After he brags to his Marines that, ‘Gents, we just got away with murder,’ he directs his Marines to cover up the scene,” prosecutor Lt. Col. John Baker told jurors in Hutchins’ trial.
In the defense argument, attorney Richard Brannon denied Hutchins ever said that, and he attributed Hutchins’ participation in the killing to pressure from his commanding officers.
All eight members of the squad were initially charged with murder and kidnapping. Four lower-ranking Marines and the Navy corpsman cut deals with prosecutors in exchange for their testimony and received sentences ranging from one to eight years in prison.
The trial for Cpl. Marshall Magincalda, the only other man still facing charges in the killing, wrapped up Tuesday and the military jury began its deliberations in his case. The panel recessed late in the day without a verdict.
Magincalda is not accused of firing any shots, but under military law he would be as culpable as those who did because he allegedly did nothing to stop the killing.
Both Hutchins and Magincalda face mandatory life sentences if convicted of premeditated murder.
On Jul. 20, Cpl. Trent Thomas was acquitted of premeditated murder but convicted of murder conspiracy and kidnapping; he was reduced in rank to private and given a bad-conduct discharge but received no prison time.
At Thomas’ court-martial, prosecutors produced as witnesses the five squad members who had cut deals. Despite testimony that Thomas had shot the man, the jury still acquitted him of premeditated murder.
Defense attorneys for Hutchins and Magincalda hope their military jurors may also look at the kidnap plot through sympathetic lenses. All jurors in both cases have at least one combat tour under their belts and several have been awarded medals for valor.
Prosecutors have previously identified the victim as a retired policeman and father of 11 named Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, but his name was struck from the charge sheets for Hutchins, Magincalda and another defendant. The victim is now referred to as an ‘’unknown Iraqi male.'’ Defense attorneys said prosecutors could not conclusively identify the body. Article
An American soldier described the bloody scene where a 14-year-old Iraqi girl was raped and killed by another soldier, who he said later bragged to him about the assault.
Maj. Alex Pickands, an Army prosecutor, painted a picture in his opening statement of a unit whose discipline had begun to unravel in a violent rural area south of Baghdad known as the “Triangle of Death.”
Defense lawyer Dan Christensen gave a different view, of a unit filled with soldiers who struggled with mental disorders and took drugs and alcohol to cope with a battlefield that had killed dozens of their friends.
“Every person involved in these allegations had been diagnosed with a mental disorder by March 12th,” he said. “Their ability to cope with the situation was drinking. It wasn’t a big party down there. It was a way for them to deal with the problems they had.” Article