Nineveh Province Governor Muhammad Dreid Kashmoula on Friday announced he would resign from his post due to the ‘deteriorating’ security situation in the province situated some 402 kilometres north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, media reports said.
Kashmoula has been governor of Nineveh province since the year 2004, having succeeded his elder brother who had been killed in 2003. Another brother was killed in 2006.
Nineveh’s capital, Mosul, and other towns in the province have lately been the scene of daily acts of violence by armed groups, who took it as a safe haven after fleeing from Anbar, Salahaddin and Diyala provinces. Article
Oil-related news: Drip, drip, drip.
A representative from Dallas-based Hunt Oil Corp. did talk with the U.S. State Department prior to signing a controversial oil deal with Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government, according to an internal department communication obtained by United Press International.
Hunt Oil, whose chief executive officer is connected to the Bush administration by campaign donations and a seat on an intelligence advisory board, had previously denied the meeting.
The company now says the meeting took place but that Hunt did not seek advice from the U.S. government on investing in a country with the world’s third-largest proven oil reserves.
The U.S. government has been cautious in comment, aside from maintaining that it hurts their efforts in bolstering the ability of the central government to reconcile and rule the country.
A day after the Kurds announced two more oil deals, with Canadian and French companies, Hunt Chief Executive Officer Ray Hunt told the Wall Street Journal: “The State Department must have been misinformed. … We did not consult with anyone in the (U.S. government) prior to signing our agreement.”
On Sept. 5, according to the State Department communication transmitted Sept. 6, the Hunt official in charge of the region met in Irbil, the KRG capital, with officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“Hunt is expecting to sign an exploration contract with the KRG,” the communication stated. Article
Keeping up with the Turkish tightrope:
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Friday he would not wait for US permission to order Turkish armed forces to cross into Iraq to fight Kurdish rebels.
The United States had asked no one in the run-up to its own invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Dogan news agency quoted him as saying.
‘Without asking for permission or receiving it, the US travelled thousands of kilometres to hit Iraq. No one should give us any advice (on a cross-border operation),’ Erdogan said.
The Turkish parliament is expected to vote next week on a resolution giving permission for the armed forces to launch a wide- scale cross-border operation to attack PKK bases.
While the resolution is expected to pass easily, it is not clear when or if Turkish forces would actually launch such an operation. Article
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said here on Friday that he was ready to face up to the cost of a cross-border incursion into Iraq to fight against the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), the semi-official Anatolia News Agency reported.
“If we decide on a cross-border operation, we do not have patience to lose more time, whatever the cost is, it will be met,” Erdogan was quoted as saying.
Turkey would not be deterred if it decides to launch a cross-border incursion into northern Iraq to crush the separatist rebels based there, he said, referring to mounting international pressure on Ankara.
Erdogan underlined that “there could be pros and cons of such a decision, but what is important is our country’s interests.” Article
Remember that this is the report which was scheduled to be released prior to Gen. Petraeus’ appearance on Capitol Hill, and which the woebegone G. Walker administration specifically asked to be delayed until well after then.
The assessment by the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq, which covered a three-month period ending June 30, found that civilians were suffering “devastating consequences” from violence across the country. It documented more than 100 civilians allegedly killed by U.S.-led forces during airstrikes or raids.
The report described Iraq in more dire terms than last month’s congressional testimony from top U.S. military and embassy officials, which stressed improvements in the security situation.
“The killings are still taking place, the torture is still being reported, the due process issues are still unresolved,” said Ivana Vuco, a U.N. human rights officer in Baghdad.
The first draft of the U.N. report was completed in August, but release of the final version was delayed for more than a month following a request by the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker, according to a confidential account by a senior U.N. official. Crocker insisted that Iraq be given time to respond to the allegations, according to the account. The United States then prepared critical assessments of the U.N. investigation that were included in the final report.
U.N. officials in Baghdad said the report was not intended to challenge the U.S. military’s assertion that this year’s troop escalation helped reduce violence in much of Iraq. The reporting period ended before the time in which the U.S. military has described the sharpest drops in violence. The U.N. agency said it was again unable to persuade the Iraqi government to release civilian casualty figures.
Vuco said her organization was not trying to determine whether the situation in Iraq had improved or deteriorated. “As long as there are human rights violations, there are still concerns,” she said.
Among the most serious issues raised in the report is the treatment of detainees. The U.N. agency found that as of June, 44,325 detainees were in Iraqi or U.S. custody, an increase of nearly 4,000 people since April. Many of them, it said, remained in detention for months without having their cases reviewed or with limited access to legal counsel. The report also expressed concerns about overcrowding and poor hygiene in detention centers, particularly pretrial holding cells run by the Interior Ministry in Baghdad. The agency said it “remained gravely concerned at continuing reports of the widespread and routine torture or ill-treatment of detainees.”
“In addition to routine beatings with hosepipes, cables and other implements, the methods cited included prolonged suspension from the limbs in contorted and painful positions for extended periods, sometimes resulting in dislocation of the joints; electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body; the breaking of limbs; forcing detainees to sit on sharp objects, causing serious injury and heightening the risk of infection; and severe burns to parts of the body through the application of heated implements,” the report said. Article
Mercenary mayhem: Drip, drip drip.
The colonel was furious. “Can you believe it? They actually drew their weapons on U.S. soldiers.” He was describing a 2006 car accident, in which an SUV full of Blackwater operatives had crashed into a U.S. Army Humvee on a street in Baghdad’s Green Zone. The colonel, who was involved in a follow-up investigation and spoke on the condition he not be named, said the Blackwater guards disarmed the U.S. Army soldiers and made them lie on the ground at gunpoint until they could disentangle the SUV. His account was confirmed by the head of another private security company.…
Whatever else Blackwater is or isn’t guilty of—a topic of intense interest in Washington—it has a well-earned reputation in Iraq for arrogance and high-handedness. Iraqis naturally have the most serious complaints; dozens have been killed by Blackwater operatives since the beginning of the war. But many American civilian and military officials in Iraq also have little sympathy for the private security company and its highly paid employees. With an uproar growing in Congress over Blackwater’s alleged excesses, the North Carolina-based company is finding few supporters. Article
Fresh accounts of the Blackwater shooting last month, given by three rooftop witnesses and by American soldiers who arrived shortly after the gunfire ended, cast new doubt Friday on statements by Blackwater guards that they were responding to armed insurgents when Iraqi investigators say 17 Iraqis were killed at a Baghdad intersection.
The three witnesses, Kurds on a rooftop overlooking the scene, said they had observed no gunfire that could have provoked the shooting by Blackwater guards. American soldiers who arrived minutes later found shell casings from guns used normally by American contractors, as well as by the American military.
The Kurdish witnesses are important because they had the advantage of an unobstructed view and because, collectively, they observed the shooting at Nisour Square from start to finish, free from the terror and confusion that might have clouded accounts of witnesses at street level. Moreover, because they are pro-American, their accounts have a credibility not always extended to Iraqi Arabs, who have been more hostile to the American presence.
Their statements, made in interviews with The New York Times, appeared to challenge a State Department account that a Blackwater vehicle had been disabled in the shooting and had to be towed away. Since those initial accounts, Blackwater and the State Department have consistently refused to comment on the substance of the case.
The Kurdish witnesses said that they saw no one firing at the guards at any time during the event, an observation corroborated by the forensic evidence of the shell casings. Two of the witnesses also said all the Blackwater vehicles involved in the shooting drove away under their own power.
The Kurds, who work for a political party whose building looks directly down on the square, said they had looked for any evidence that the American security guards were responding to an attack, but found none.
“I call it a massacre,” said Omar H. Waso, one of the witnesses and a senior official at the party, which is called the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. “It is illegal. They used the law of the jungle.”
Only one of the Kurdish witnesses, a guard who would give his name only as Sabah, saw the first shots fired by the Blackwater guards into a white sedan, killing a man and his mother and setting the events in motion.
Two others, Mr. Waso and his driver, Sirwan Ali, went to the roof after the shooting started and observed long enough to see the Blackwater vehicles leave the square. Eventually both went down to help the victims, they said. All three men have military backgrounds.
When asked if anything had occurred to provoke the initial shots from Blackwater, Sabah said: “Nothing at all. No mortars. No shooting.”
All he saw, Sabah said, was that the white sedan “moved a little bit and they started shooting.”
As events unfolded and the Blackwater guards unleashed a storm of gunfire into the crowded square, Mr. Waso and Mr. Ali both said, they could neither hear nor see any return fire. “It was one-sided shooting from one direction,” Mr. Waso said. “There wasn’t any return fire.”
Mr. Waso said that what he saw was not only disturbing, but also in some cases incomprehensible. He said that the guards kept firing long after it was clear that there was no resistance. People were shot while trying to flee, he said. One man ran from a Volkswagen and the guards shot him in the head from behind, Mr. Waso said.
Finally there was a pause of a few seconds in the shooting as the Blackwater convoy prepared to leave, he said. Then, Mr. Waso said with a look of disbelief on his face, at least one Blackwater guard began firing again, this time at a red bus full of people on the western rim of the square.
“The glass was all broken,” Mr. Waso said, struggling to describe the bus after the firing resumed. “Women and children, all of them were shouting and crying.” Article
Related — condemnation which will reverberate amongst the streets and villages:
Iraq’s Shiite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani lashed out at foreign security contractors on Friday accusing them of “belittling” Iraqis.
Sistani is demanding that the government pass legislation “that stops the shedding of Iraqi blood,” his spokesman Sheikh Abdul Mahdi al-Karbalai said in the central shrine city of Karbala.
“The foreign security companies working in Iraq belittle innocent Iraqi citizens,” a statement from Karbalai said.
“The occupying forces do the same in some of their operations, adding to the criminal acts of the takfiris (Sunni militants).”
The hard-hitting statement came after foreign security contractors Blackwater USA and Australian-managed Unity Resources Group were involved in separate shooting incidents in Baghdad in the past month in which, according to an Iraqi government toll, 19 civilians were killed.
It was issued shortly after the US military announced that 15 women and children were killed in an operation in the Lake Tharthar region northwest of Baghdad on Thursday.
Thursday’s killings of civilians by US forces was also condemned by Sheikh Bashar al-Fayadh, spokesman for the influential Muslim Scholars’ Association, one of Iraq’s main Sunni clerics’ organisations.
“Iraqis should unanimously call for the departure of the occupation,” Fayadh said in a statement. “We have enough bloodletting of Iraqis.”
He also urged action by the world community.
“Where are the human rights organisations? Score and sometimes hundreds of Iraqis are slaughtered every day and no one takes any action.” Article
Hmm. Sensational, but not uncredible by any means. Particularly as regards the allusions to the clouded status and doings surrounding the MEK and the sheer amount of intriguing but incomplete data over the years since the Iraq invasion began of their possible involvement in missions which could publicly be denied by the occupation forces, aided by wink-and-nod cooperation of Bulgarian troops ostensibly assigned (and still in place there) to police the MEK at Camp Ashraf.
In - what else - a remix of the lead up towards war on Iraq, Petraeus even has his own Kurdish version of Ahmad Chalabi. According to Rozhnama, a credible, independent daily paper published in Sulaymaniah, in Iraqi Kurdistan, he is “a special and informed source belonging to an Iranian opposition group”.
A seasoned, highly respected US-based Kurdish scholar, who’d rather remain anonymous, says: “I’ll bet my every dollar this means a Kurdish group. No Persian group is going to give information to the Iraqi Kurds.”
Petraeus’s dubious sources also include the ragtag Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK), a micro-terrorist group that used to be harbored by Saddam Hussein inside Iraq and now is protected by the Americans in Diyala province. So from Saddam’s terrorists the MEK are now elevated to the status of “our” terrorists.
The Kurdish scholar stresses that this Kurdish source, or sources, don’t have close relations with the MEK. “The Kurdish group with whom the US and Israel are doing business is the PKK arm - PJAK [the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan]. Which explains why the PKK’s reward is a Washington wink while they attack Turkey. At this time, the indigenous Iranian Kurdish groups are not leaders, they are followers hoping to replicate the Iraqi Kurdish situation in Iran if they can help to bring down the Tehran regime.”
So what we have is basically a situation of Kurdish PKK guerrillas attacking Turkey from bases in Iraqi Kurdistan, and PJAK guerrillas attacking Iran also from bases in Iraqi Kurdistan. As early as six months ago United Press International was reporting that “the Bush administration was actively courting PKK leaders and Iranian opposition groups based in Iraq to stir up trouble inside Iran”. Article
Flawed policy begets flawed results — the sounds of the fat lady warming up in the wings are unignorable.
Retired Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez says there has been a “crisis of leadership” in the administration and the congress that has led to unnecessary deaths, and that the problem has not been solved by the new strategy President Bush announced in January.
General Sanchez was the commander of coalition forces in Iraq from mid-2003 until mid-2004. He was in charge during the abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib Prison, and he has since retired. The general has recently begun to make his criticism of the administration public, and on Friday, speaking to the Military Reporters and Editors Association, he had several very sharp things to say.
“There has been a glaring, unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders,” he said.
And General Sanchez did not exempt the military leadership, including himself, from his criticism, saying it was a mistake not to get the war strategy right, not to understand the impact the invasion would have on Iraqi society and not to do anything about the problems when they first arose. “It was an absolute lack of moral courage to stand up and do what was right in terms of planning. And we allowed ourselves to believe that we, in fact, would be liberators. That was unacceptable in my view, as a general officer,” he said.
There was no immediate reaction from the Pentagon spokesman. Article
A tad more:
Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded coalition troops for a year beginning June 2003, cast a wide net of blame for both political and military shortcomings in Iraq that helped open the way for the insurgency such as disbanding the Saddam-era military and failing to cement ties with tribal leaders and quickly establish civilian government after Saddam was toppled.
He called current strategies including the deployment of 30,000 additional forces earlier this year a “desperate attempt” to make up for years of misguided policies in Iraq.
“There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight,” Sanchez told a group of journalists covering military affairs. Article
The White House had no initial comment.
But his role as commander in Iraq during the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal leaves General Sanchez vulnerable to criticism that that he is shifting the blame from himself and exacting revenge against an administration that replaced him as the top commander in the aftermath of the scandal and declined to nominate him for a fourth star, forcing his retirement.
Though he was cleared of wrongdoing in the abuse matter by an Army investigation, he nonetheless became a symbol, along with officials like L. Paul Bremer III , the chief administrator in Iraq, of the ineffective American leadership early in the occupation.
Questioned by reporters after his speech, he included the military and himself among those who made mistakes in Iraq, citing the failure to insist on a better post-invasion stabilization plan.
But his main criticism was leveled at the Bush administration, which he said he said has failed to mobilize the entire United States government, other than the military, to contribute meaningfully to reconstructing and stabilizing Iraq.
“National leadership continues to believe that victory can be achieved by military power alone,” he said. “Continued manipulations and adjustments to our military strategy will not achieve victory. The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave off defeat.”
“The administration, Congress and the entire inter-agency, especially the State Department, must shoulder responsibility for the catastrophic failure, and the American people must hold them accountable,” General Sanchez said. Article