Eleven children and two female teachers were wounded when an Iraqi primary school was hit by mortar fire in the city of Diwaniyah on Wednesday, police said.
Three mortar shells landed in a hall while children were attending classes at the school in Diwaniyah, which lies about 180 kilometres (about 110 miles) south of Baghdad. Two bystanders were also wounded.
Security sources took control of Al-Ruwad school after the attack and transported the children to the hospital, police said. Article
“A car bomb parked in downtown the city of Tikrit, 170 km north of Baghdad, detonated around midday near the convoy of Colonel Jasim Hussein Jbara, head of the provincial National Security Directorate,” the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Jbara escaped the attack unhurt, but one of his bodyguards was killed and another wounded, the source said, citing initial police reports. Article
Iran will open two consulates in Iraq’s Kurdish Autonomous Region after talks held by officials from the province in Tehran, a Kurdish government spokesman said on Wednesday.
‘The decision by Iran to open consulates in the province comes after talks held by a Kurdish government delegation with Iranian officials,’ Jamal Abdallah, the spokemsan for the Kurdish Autonomous Region told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
The consulates will be opened in Arbil and Sulaymanyah to facilitate trade ties and relations between Iran and the Kurdish region, Abdallah said. Article
A raft of information on or related to the tensioning of the Turkish tightrope.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan may ask parliament on Thursday to authorise a military incursion into northern Iraq to fight Kurdish rebels using the region as a base.
Erdogan is under pressure to act after rebel attacks that have killed 15 soldiers since Sunday, but political analysts say a major cross-border operation remains unlikely.
“A request for approval for a cross-border operation could be sent to parliament tomorrow,” Erdogan said on Wednesday. “After the holiday (this weekend) we plan to gain authorisation for one year.” Article
Turkish warplanes and helicopter gunships attacked suspected positions of Kurdish rebels near Iraq on Wednesday, a possible prelude to a cross-border operation that would likely raise tensions with Washington.
The military offensive also reportedly included shelling of Turkish Kurd guerrilla hideouts in northern Iraq, which is predominantly Kurdish. U.S. officials are already preoccupied with efforts to stabilize other areas of Iraq and oppose Turkish intervention in the relatively peaceful north.
Top NATO commander Gen. John Craddock, the senior U.S. soldier in Europe, indicated that he could do little to stop a Turkish incursion.
Craddock was asked by reporters in Washington whether he can influence Turkey’s actions in terms of Iraq.
“I won’t say in terms of Iraq,” he said. “I will say that I talk with my counterparts, military leaders in Turkey, frequently, and we discuss issues about their border. And I’ll leave it at that.”
The latest Turkish military activity followed attacks by rebels that have killed 15 soldiers since Sunday.
Turkish troops were blocking rebel escape routes into Iraq while F-16 and F-14 warplanes and Cobra helicopters dropped bombs on possible hideouts, Dogan news agency reported. The military had dispatched tanks to the region to support the operation against the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which the U.S. has branded a terrorist organization. Article
#3 (and a wan, almost desultory objection it is):
The United States reiterated on Wednesday its opposition to Turkey’s attempt to launch a unilateral incursion into Iraq in pursuit of separatist ethnic Kurds.
“We do not think that it would be the best place for troops to go into Iraq from Turkey at this time. We think that we can handle this situation without that being necessary,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters. Article
Sidebar: “…70 percent of the air cargo intended for and 30 percent of the fuel consumed by the U.S. forces in Iraq flies through Turkey.” Source
#4 (which boils down to flexing and posing):
Iraq will not allow Turkish military forces to enter into the Iraqi territories to hunt down members of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) without an official approval from the Iraqi government, the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday.
The government warned Turkey against making an incursion into northern Iraq.
“The security agreement signed between the two countries last month envisages a security border agreement, cooperation in fighting terrorism and the exchange of information,” the Director of the national command center General Abdul Karim Khalaf al-Kenani told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). Article
In a surprise move, Turkish firms working in northern Iraq have begun to terminate their activities in anticipation of a major Turkish military incursion.
Many companies are said to have evacuated their employees and ended their contracts, according to Ahmad Ajar, head of the Turkish Businessmen Society in Arbil.
“Major companies are ending their work in northern Iraq and on way to return home,” he said.
The relative stability of the region has been luring Turkish and Iranian firms but the countries are reported to be reducing their activities in response to political tension.
Turkey’s investments in the region are estimated at $5 billion. Article
Oil-related news: waiting in the wings, the cash-flush majors are not toal fools — they are well able to bide their time and wait for discovery and a dimunition in insecurity, then swoop in and swallow up smaller companies.
The Kurdistan Regional Government is offering the global oil industry its first and, so far, only chance at entering the Iraqi crude sector. Despite anger in Baghdad, the KRG plans to sign even more controversial oil deals and is waving the “For Sale” sign proudly.
“We have many opportunities to excite you,” KRG Natural Resources Minister Ashti Hawrami told United Press International when asked what the “sales pitch” is to international oil firms. “And if you don’t come forward now, you will lose.”
“We anticipate more partnerships as companies who have been studying the area for a while make their move,” said Bob Fryklund, vice president of industry relations for the global energy consultants IHS.
“The independents are focused on KRG, while the majors are focused on the existing major fields in the south and central Iraq,” Fryklund said. “Thus, continued signature of new blocks in the north by companies like Perenco and Heritage is not unexpected.
“The independents are looking for a foothold in high-potential exploration plays, and most know that in plays which are immature the first companies usually get the better position. … Big fields are found by the first in,” Fryklund said.
The deals are with Heritage Energy Middle East Ltd., a subsidiary of the Canadian firm Heritage Oil and Gas, and Perenco Kurdistan Ltd., a subsidiary of Perenco S.A. of France. Two more contracts were approved by the regional oil council and will be announced soon, Hawrami said.
So far, Hawrami said, the production-sharing contracts give the contractors “15 percent of the profits after the approved cost recoveries.”
The deals include a signing bonus, which Hawrami wouldn’t detail, other than “not very significant, but designed to get ongoing commitments of the contractors.” Article
Also in oil-related occurrences:
The Iraqi Kurds’ oil minister, in contrast to the federal oil minister, says what’s best for Iraq is to embrace the oil unions.
Iraqi Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani has ordered the ministry’s companies and departments to cease dealings with the oil unions.
“The trade unions in Iraq now are illegal till the new law is passed by the Parliament,” Shahristani told UPI, referring to a new labor law called for in the Constitution but that has not materialized.
Ashti Hawrami, minister of natural resources for the Kurdistan Regional Government, told UPI his region’s law has incorporated local worker requirements, and unions are key to that.
“Our key objective is maximize returns for Iraq,” Hawrami said, “so we have no problems with unions and professional organizations, because in a democratic society we must be inclusive of all these requirements.”
Iraq’s oil workers were banned from unionizing by Saddam Hussein, one of the few Saddam-era laws kept by the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority and subsequent Iraqi governments.
Regardless, the workers organized and successfully blocked plans to privatize parts of the oil and other sectors. Article
Pre-emptive damage control?
Austrian gunmaker Glock rejected reports Wednesday which said that the black market in Iraq was flooded with the company’s semi-automatic pistols.
It was “incorrect” that 80,000 pistols, many of them made by Glock, had disappeared in Iraq since 2004, the gunmaker’s lawyers, Quendler, Klaus & Partner, told the Austrian news agency APA.
“As in every army and police unit around the world, a minimal number of weapons may have disappeared within the Iraqi defence forces, but that was a result of criminal acts such as theft or misappropriation or such like,” APA quoted the lawyers’ office as saying.
Nevertheless, given that the Iraqi population numbers around 30 million, the small number of weapons that had been stolen from the army or the police “will not have any substantial effect on the security situation and will certainly not lead to a flooding of the local gun market,” the lawyers were quoted as saying.
…in October 2006, senior US official Stuart Bowen compared deliveries carried out by a private American subcontractor and Iraqi stocks and discovered that 13,180 Glocks had vanished.
Nine months later, a US Congressional body established that the American military had lost trace of some 190,000 weapons delivered in 2004 and 2005. That figure included 80,000 pistols — mostly Glocks. Article
Hmm. One suspects that there is more involved in the exchange than just warm bodies.
The Iraqi government is willing to hand over wanted detainees in Iraqi prisons to Saudi Arabia and will not allow “terrorism” to be exported to the kingdom, the Iraqi vice president said on Wednesday.
“The Saudi government submitted to the Iraqi government a list of wanted suspects who had illegally infiltrated into Iraq,” Tareq al-Hashemi said in an interview with the Saudi Okaz newspaper during a visit to the kingdom to perform Omra (Lesser Pilgrimage).
Giving no information about the number of wanted individuals, al-Hashemi said that dozens of Saudi suspects had fled to Iraq to exploit the lack of security and stability in the country. Article
Nah, no civil war unrest (in a pig’s eye). And “protect” from whom?
Iraqi president’s advisor for Yazidi affairs, Ido Babasheikh, called for setting up a brigade to protect the Yazidi community in Iraq, while a minister from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) said that deliberations are underway to implement the proposal.
“We urged President Jalal al-Talabani on Wednesday to form a brigade to protect the Yazidi community from violence and the president’s office vowed to consider our demand,” Babasheikh told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
Meanwhile, Dakhil Saeed, a Yazidi minister for the region in the KRG, indicated that the regional government is currently considering the proposal and discussions are ongoing to build the brigade of Yazidi men. Article
Contours of chaos: Stripped of houses, land and livelihood and now internally adrift and bereft, a recipe for revolt.
The plight of those who have fled their homes but have not been able to leave the country is dire, says the UN refugee agency.
The head of the Iraq Support Unit, Andrew Harper, told the BBC that an increasing number of provinces were turning the refugees away because they lacked resources to look after them.
He said with so many people in desperate need of shelter and food, Iraq was like a pressure-cooker.
Mr Harper said the UN agency had raised the issue with the central government in Baghdad, but was told that the local authorities had been urged to shelter the fleeing Iraqis.
This means that local governments are in effect ignoring directives from Baghdad.
Steve Simon of the US Council on Foreign Relations told the BBC: “Local authorities are taking ever greater unilateral prerogative in areas that they control because the central state is ineffective, it lacks capacity.”
Ghaith Abdul Ahad, an Iraqi journalist, says the areas where displaced Iraqis live have become fertile recruiting-grounds for militants.
“The insurgents in west Baghdad tell me that the hardest fighters are the Sunnis who have been kicked out of their homes by the Shia,” Mr Abdul Ahad told the BBC.
There is a real fear that the temporary ramshackle refugee camps that today dot the Iraqi landscape are festering wounds that may take years to heal.
More ominously, they are a breeding ground for violence as well as social and political turmoil. Article
Will the plug truly be pulled? Unlikely, but change of status or personnel is less and less outside the realm of possibility.
The U.S. State Department may phase out or limit the use of private security firms, including Blackwater USA, in Iraq following a top-to-bottom review of security practices in the country, according to media reports Thursday.
That might mean Blackwater could lose its contract in line with the demand by the Iraqi government.
The reports said such steps would be difficult because the United States is heavily reliant on Blackwater and other contractors for protection.
But according to two senior officials, there are among options being studied as part of the comprehensive review ordered by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after a Sept. 16 shooting incident in which Blackwater guards are accused of opening fire without provocation and killing 17 Iraqi civilians. Article
First, the numbers on releases don’t quite gibe with previous reports of actual releases versus promised totals. Second, even if entirely accurate, it is a total wash against incoming numbers.
The US military is holding nearly 25,000 people in its prisons in Iraq, 860 of whom are under the age of 16, the general in charge of their detention said on Wednesday.
There are two prisons run by the Americans on Iraqi soil: one at their Camp Cropper base outside Baghdad, the other at Camp Bucca near the southern port of Umm Qasr.
These prison receive an average of 60 news inmates each day, according to Stone, while the average length of time for incarceration of a detainee is 300 days.
Since the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in mid-September, the US military has freed around 50 to 60 prisoners every day. Article
Fast heading to openly surpassing $1 billion for G. Walker’s Xanadu-on-the-Tigris. In a word, SNABU.
Three months after the State Department confidently told Congress that the world’s biggest US embassy would be completed on schedule in September 2007, officials are now saying that it would be delayed indefinitely, with one report saying by more than a year.
A multitude of questions have been raised over the safety of the complex, budgeted originally at about 600 million dollars.
Based on inspections conducted days before its scheduled completion, the fire service mains are deficient, there is no reliable automatic fire sprinkler system coverage in any of the compound’s 21 buildings and none of the fire alarm detection systems were ready for testing, a State Department report said.
The “entire installation is not acceptable,” said the report on the embassy’s fire suppression system.
To allegations of shoddy construction work, [the State Department spokesman] said they were actually “punch list items,” very common during the inspection of large and complex construction projects that needed correction or modification.
McCormack did not dispute a Washington Post report last week that said that the cost of the embassy project would increase by 144 million dollars from the budgeted 592 million dollars.
“It’s not a cost overrun. It’s an additional contract requirement,” he said, pointing out that it was for additional secure office space for civilian and military personnel, and accommodations for additional civilian personnel.
He could not give a new date of completion for the embassy project.
The project has been complicated by a dispute between the US ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker, and the top Washington-based official charged with overseeing the project, the Post reported.
That official, James Golden, had been barred from entering Iraq by Crocker because he allegedly disobeyed embassy orders during an investigation of a worker’s death, it quotes sources as saying. Article
Just a bit more (you’ve already bought it, with our money, Sean):
“We’re not going to buy ourself a turkey here. We’re going to make sure that we get what we paid for,” he said. Soutce