Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Interrogation of Osman Hussain in Rome.

Reporter Claudia Fusani wrote an article for the Rome newspaper, La Repubblica, with dribs and drabs of the confession of Osman Hussain, arrested in Rome, where he ended up after the 21 July bomb incident in London. The article is not particularly well-written but it is causing a sensation. Here's a translation of most of it.

Behind the scenes. Speaking good Italian, Osman Hussain [Hamdi Isaac] describes the do-it-yourself planning of the 21 July attempted bombings in England.
"We did not want to strike Italy"

by Claudia Fusani

The London basement, the leader, Muktar, the videocassette showing dead Iraqi women and children. "Hate" is aroused for American and British soldiers. It is in this cellar where the bombs meant to sow fear but not to kill took form--the bombs of 21 July which did not go off because it was pre-planned that they would be only duds.

The confession--Hussain tells everything he knows. Above all he was not in Italy to plan a bombing. The young 27 year-old man from the Horn of Africa, originally a Somali but then Eritrean but maybe also Ethiopian, puts his hands in the air, surrenders and begins to talk. It comes as a surprise to police when they find out he speaks good Italian. He lived in Rome for five years as an adolescent fleeing misery and famine in the Horn of Africa. As a nine year-old, Hussain arrived as a political refugee thanks to a falsified Somali passport.

He gives a ten-page confession that he then signs in front of Roman magistrates Franco Ionta and Piero Saviotti in which he describes himself as a do-it-yourself terrorist on the lam. A chilling narrative--because just like the conspiracy in Hussain's basement, there could be such meetings organized by anyone anywhere in Italy and in the West. It means, says an investigator, that there are dozens and dozens of timebombs in circulation which could go off at any time.

The interrogation begins at eight in the evening in the Rome offices of the Divisione Investigazione Generali e Operazioni Speciali, DIGOS, on the second floor in via San Vitale. But it is held up for procedural reasons concerning the type of arrest. There are three possibilities: Arrest for extradition, arrest for murder of Benedetta Ciaccia, killed in the bombings of 7 July, or arrest for international terrorism. This has not yet been resolved.

Osman begins his story a few months ago, in the Notting Hill neighborhood of London when Muktar, our leader, told us that he has some material for us to see but that we should be careful and not talk to anyone about it. Saeeed Ibrahim Muktar is the bomber who was to detonate his payload in Bus No. 26. In the photo distributed by Scotland Yard, Mukta is wearing a white cotton cap and is the most heavily built of the four. He is the deviser and the orchestrator of the cell. The cellar is a basement apartment in Notting Hill. Here Mukar summons Osman, Mohammed, Yassin Hassam and the others, all Muslims, all British citizens, and all barely making ends meet between subsidies and part-time jobs in English Londonstan.

More than praying we talked about things relates Osman, work, politics, the war in Iraq. Muktar always had some new film on the war in Iraq. We mostly viewed films showing women and children killed or wiped out by British and US soldiers, or weeping widows, mothers and children. He never spoke about Al Qaeda, Bin Laden and his lieutenants or the network. We never had contacts with Bin Laden's organization. We know it exists, we've read about it on the Internet, but nothing direct. This information worries investigators more than anything else. Actions are spontaneous and emulated. The facility with which a cell can form makes interception impossible.

The hatred felt in the Notting Hill basement begins with the political conviction that it is necessary to send a message, to do something. The bombings of 7 July, according to Osman's story, take him by surprise. We had no links to any Pakistanis, he repeats. But the bombings of 7 July were a message that the Pakistanis were doing their part by acting. Our leader, explains Osman, taught us how to make explosives by mixing fertilizers. It's child's play to get a backpack, fill it with explosive powder and regulate it with a timer. We did not want to kill, we only wanted to spread panic, he repeats.

Then came the escape. I came here only because I didn't know where to go and that here I would find a place to stay and some friends. I'd spend some time here and then move on. Italy and Rome were only stops on his journey. I know nothing of any planned bombing in Italy, he swears. In the apartment along the Casilina, police found no trace of explosives. But there are many questions to which Osman has not supplied an answer. Investigators are convinced that if they had more time, if they had been able to eavesdrop before making the arrest, they might have gathered important information without rushing. During the night, friends and acquaintances of Hussain are bought into police headquarters.

31 July 2005 Events in Iraq and in the Region

Damascus. Syria claims that 795 Syrians have "disappeared" in Lebanon.

Beirut. Maronite leader Michel Aoun calls for the return of Lebanese who sought refuge in Israel following the civil war. Amal and Hezbollah reject any idea of amnesty, saying it is a political, not a humanitarian, matter.

Teheran. The Secretary-General of Lebanese Hezbollah, sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, has begun an official visit to Iran where he hold talks with officials of the Islamic Republic.

Baghdad. If the Constitutional Drafting Committee does not request an extension for its work and if the draft text is not presented to Parliament before August 15th, Parliament will be dissolved, provoking an open crisis in the country.

Baghdad. The Sunni members of the Constitutional Drafting Committee have demanded that fired Waqf chairman Adnane Doulaïmi be restored to his position. Sheikh Ahmed Abdel Ghaffour al-Samarraï has been named to replace Doulaïmi.

Baghdad. 4,000 Iraqis have died in violence since the beginning of the year; more than half are civilians. July and May were the bloodiest months. Baghdad is the most often the city most frequently experiencing violence.

Algiers. The arrested former Number 2 of the dissolved Islamic Salute Front, Ali Belhadj, has been charged with apology for terrorist crimes, incitation to murder and the publication of writings constituting an apology for terrorism. His brother, Abdelhamid Belhadj, was also arrested for publication of writings constituting an apology for terrorism. Ali Belhadj was arrested after a statement to al-Jazeera on the kidnapping of two Algerian diplomatics in Baghdad just before their execution.

Baghdad. The Special Iraqi Tribunal has denied that Saddam Hussein was accosted by an unidentified person following a recent hearing.

Hassoua. A suicide carbomb exploded in front of a police checkpoint 50 km south of Baghdad killing 7.

23:59 New York. The Central Intelligence Agency was told by an informant in the spring of 2001 that Iraq had abandoned a major element of its nuclear weapons program, but the agency did not share the information with other agencies or with senior policy makers, a former C.I.A. officer has charged. In a lawsuit filed in federal court here in December, the former C.I.A. officer, whose name remains secret, said that the informant told him that Iraq's uranium enrichment program had ended years earlier and that centrifuge components from the scuttled program were available for examination and even purchase. The officer, an employee at the agency for more than 20 years, including several years in a clandestine unit assigned to gather intelligence related to illicit weapons, was fired in 2004. In his lawsuit, he says his dismissal was punishment for his reports questioning the agency's assumptions on a series of weapons-related matters. Among other things, he charged that he had been the target of retaliation for his refusal to go along with the agency's intelligence conclusions. [Another nail in the coffin for BushCo!--Nur]

23:57 Khartoum. Mystery surrounds disappearance of Vice President Garang. Contact has been lost with Garang's helicopter which took off from Kampala. Sudanese State Television is broadcasting conflicting information, suggesting that contact has been lost with the aircraft [The old Jordanian Helicopter Trick of getting rid of inconvenient people.--Nur]

22:48 Rome. A suspect package was found in front of Italian Senate building in Piazza Navona.

22:45 Cairo. The Arab League wants Algerian Presidnet Abdelaziz Bouteflika to chair the extraordinary Arab summit called for 3 August at Sharm al-Sheikh.

21:04 Baghdad. Trial of Saddam Hussein to be televised live. Iraqi National Security Advisor Muwaffaq Rubaie says the trial of Saddam Hussein will be televised live to prove that any judgement against him is "fair" and "just. Saddam will be tried for the massacre of 143 inhabitants of the village of Dujail.

19:16 London. Scotland Yard makes seven more arrests in Sussex linked to the 21 July attempted bombings.

19:11 Washington. Newsweek writes that the Pentagon is reparing to reduce troops strength in Iraq to 80,000 in mid-2006 and to 60,000 by the end of next year.

18:49 Cairo. A 4.6 earthquake measured on the Richter Scale struck the Egyptian capital. The epicenter was in Dashour, 55 km south of the capital.

18:43 London. The female partners of Muktar Said Ibrahim and Ramzi Mohammed, arrested for the attempted 21 July bombings, have been released by Metropolitan Police. They were arrested in Liverpool Street Station. The British press reports that they had their passports and were preparing to leave the country.

18:33 Rome. Deputy Speaker of the House and Forza Italia Party Chairman Alfredo Biondi criticized opposition leader Romano Prodi, saying he is "soft" on terrorism, divides Italy and offends the Truth. [I think we know who that is and it's not Prodi.--Nur].

17:44 Ramallah. The Palestinian general elections are scheduled to take place on 20 January 2006, says Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Shaath.

17:32 Baghdad. The bodyguard of Ahmed Chalabi was killed in an attack on Chalabi's convoy south of Baghdad.

16:04 Baghdad. The team drawing up Iraq's new constitution considered giving itself more time to write the document on Sunday, but still looked set to meet its mid-August deadline under intense U.S. pressure. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, flanked by U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, told reporters it was essential that the U.S.- backed timetable for writing the constitution was met and the document presented to parliament by the deadline of Aug. 15. Many of the 71 members on the drafting committee say they need more time, while others say the priority is meeting the deadline. The debate has come to a head because any extension must be requested by Aug. 1. [Hmm...I wonder what the odds are over at Ladbrokes--Nur]

16:02 Damascus.Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora met in the Syrian capital with his counterpart Mohammed Naji Otari. Siniora hopes Damascus will drop security checks on vehicular traffic entering Syria which has nearly blocked Lebanese exports.

16:00 Baquba. The Diyala provincial chief for Ansar al-Sunna was arrested along with 14 others. Majid Mohammed Hamid, his lieutenant Hassan al-Saadi and 13 others have been arrested by police, who say the group is responsible for the murder of provincial council chairman Nawfal Abdel Hussein on 1 January 2005.

15:58 Kuwait City. The U.S. embassy in Kuwait has warned Americans of possible attacks in the the pro-Western Gulf Arab state.

15:51 London. It may not have been a policeman but a member of the British special forces, the SAS, who shot Jean Charles de Menezes in the Stockwell Tube station, writes The Sunday Times. The British Defense Minister has admitted that the Army was cooperating with the Police in the operation which led to the death of Menezes. Based on a reporter's photograph, some men involved in the operaton carried weapons authorized only to the SAS, which is trained to shoot to kill.

15:42 Baghdad. The committee charged with drafting the new Iraqi consitution will meet all night to decide if it will request a 6-month extension. President Jalal Talabani urged the committee to wrap up its work without delay. However, Shi'ite members of the committee want an extension of two weeks to a month. There is talk going around that there will be a 30-day extenison, but it has not yet been confirmed, said "Shi'ite committee member Bahaa al Aradji. [There is a deadlock caused by Kurdish demands. I don't expect them to back down.--Nur]

15:34 Sanaa. The United States has agreed to hand over to Yemen seven Yemenis detained at the U.S. Guantanamo Bay base, the Arab state's foreign minister said on Sunday. Abubakr al-Qirbi told Reuters that Yemeni authorities received official notification about the handover, but that a date had yet to be set.

15:23 London. An abandoned satchel filled with false passports, credit cards and drivers' licences was found near Heathrow.

15:17 Washington Despite pouring more than $9 billion into rebuilding Iraq over the past two years, the United States has made only limited progress in key areas such as oil and power, according to new reports on U.S.-funded projects there. Soaring security costs are a major stumbling block in what is billed as the biggest U.S. foreign aid operation since the post-World War II reconstruction of Europe. [Whew--Nur]. When it's analyzed overall, it will turn out as being an expensive program in terms of what we actually got for our money, said one senior U.S. official, who asked not to be named because such a statement might be viewed as too negative by Bush administration officials. It will be high cost but that does not mean that we should not have continued, the official said of the rebuilding plan. Meanwhile Jim Crum, a senior U.S. official involved in Iraq reconstruction, said despite security problems he believed there had been great progress in rebuilding Iraq and he pointed to the more than 600 schools rebuilt using U.S. funds. [...And spread sunshine all over the place, just put on a happy face--Nur]

15:11 Jerusalem. The Israeli military said Sunday it is changing riot control methods, replacing its sometimes lethal rubber-coated steel pellets with compressed sand bullets. An Israeli human rights groups praised the decision, but said it was surprising that the army had taken so long to find non-lethal means of dispersing Palestinian demonstrators. The new round, in which the head of the bullet is made from compressed sand and can be fired from a regular rifle, has already been used in the West Bank against Palestinians protesting against the separation barrier Israel is building, the army said. The sand bullet, said to be extremely painful but less dangerous because it does not penetrate the skin, was developed and first used by Israel's Prisons Authority, the army said. [Oh happy day--not. Nur].

15:10 Jerusalem. The evacuation of Jewish settlements in Gaza, scheduled to take place in 2 weeks, could be temporarily suspended if there is a major outbreak of violence on the part of armed Palestinian groups sayd Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boïm. In such an event, a massive deployment of Israeli troops is planned to deliver a knockout punch to the "terrorists."

15:01 Haditha. US marines killed 11 rebels who had taken refuge in a school. The rebels had fired mortar rounds at the Americans.

14:37 Teheran. Iran is able to produce enriched uranium in a very short time and sheltered from any possible military attack, said nuclear program director Hassan Rohani. As soon as we decide to proceed with enrightment, we will attain our objectives in a very short time and should our nuclear installations come under military attack, it should not impact production.

14:27 London. The UK warns Iran that its decision to start up its Ispahan uranium enrichment plant would be "uselsss and damaging" and would threaten its negotiations with the European Union.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

30 July Events in Iraq and in the Region

Baghdad. Kurds demand partial control of northern oilfields.

Gaza. Two UN workers in Gaza were released by their kidnappers.

Jerusalem. The Israeli military plans a vast ground offensive in the Gaza Strip before the evacuation but the Defense Minister opposes the move. Mr. Mofaz in under intense US pressure to avoid an escalation.

Sdérot. Two Qassam missiles were fired by Palestinian militants.

Ishaki. A roadside bomb killed several civilians near this town 100 km north of Baghdad.

Dour. A roadside bomb killed several civilians near this town 155 north of the capital.

Mosul. The casualty toll from a suicide bombing of Iraqi army recruits in the northern Iraq town of Raabia on Friday rose to 40 dead and 57 wounded.

Baghdad. Moderate Sunni leader Khalaf al-Ilayan, head of the National Dialogue Council, escaped an assassination attempt but his bodyguard was wounded. Men dressed in government uniforms attacked his car.

Basrah. A mine detonated as a British diplomatic convoy passed nearby, killing two private security guards. The pair were security contractors employed by Control Risks Group. There is no information on the wounded.

Baghdad. Sunni leaders accuse the government of arming death squads as a reprisal to insurgent actions.

Hit. A suicide bomber attacked a US convoy, wounding four marines.

Baghdad. The bodies of three civilians kidnapped a Baghdad Airport were found in the al-Amil area of Baghdad. They included Maher Yassine Jassem, director of Airport telecommunications.

Mahmudiya. A mine killed a civilian and wounded three others south of the capital.

23:30 Teheran. Iranian authorities have arrested human rights laywer Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

21:18 Teheran. Iran demanded that the European Union submit proposals in a dispute over its nuclear programme by Aug. 1 rather than take a week longer. The European Union -- represented by Britain, France and Germany -- is due to offer Iran a limited package of economic and political incentives to give up work that the United States suspects is a veil for efforts to build a nuclear bomb. In return, the EU wants Iran to agree to maintain indefinitely its suspension of uranium enrichment, nuclear fuel reprocessing and related activities.

20:44 Beirut. The new Lebanese government of Fouad Siniora was approved by Parliament with a strong majority.

20:12 Cairo. Anti-Mubarek protests. Dozens protested Hosni Mubarek and many were beated by police with clubs. Four protesters were arrested and briefly detained, including three Kefaya members: Kamal Khalil, George Ishak and Amin Iskander. Our question to Mr. Bush and Mrs. Rice is where are the democratic values you were taking about?, asked protester Adil Saïd at the end of the demonstration.

19:20 Rome. A British extradition request for Isaac Hamdi will be forwarded Monday or Tuesday.

16:51 Baghdad. Former dictator Saddam Hussein was agressed by an unidentified individual as he left the Iraqi Special Tribunal after a hearing, said Saddam's legal team in Amman. . Punches were exchanged. Neither the assailant not Saddam were injured. A member of Saddam's defense team, Khalil Doulaïmi said that Saddam was surprised to find three judges and a prosecutor whom before whom he had never appeared. Doulaïmi also said there was no notification of new charges and no time was given to Saddam to meet with his attorneys. Abdel Haq Alani, a British legal consultant to Saddam's legal team, said the incident was a "parody of justice." "This was a hearing, not a trial and there should have been no spectators. [I see. The idea is to have Saddam dispatched by a Jack Ruby-like incident.

16:32 Washington. The USA promises to arrest the executioners of of the two kidnapped Algerian diplomatis.

16:09 Cairo. The King of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad ben Issa Al-Khalifa, will participate in the extraordinary session of the Arab Leage on August 3rd at Sharm al-Sheikh. Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, Palestine and the Emirates have confirmed their attendence.

15:43 Fallujah. Fifty Falljah tribal leaders have pronounced themselves in favor of the referendum on the Constitution but oppose a federal Iraq after a meeting with US officials at a US military base near the city. Sheikh Hamid Farhan Abdallah Al-Mehendi said that In our estimation a federalized Iraqi could divide the country. What kind of Constitution is one which permits the Kurds to adopt their own flag? The Kurds and those from Basrah get oil and all we get is the al-Anbar desert? For his part, Sheikkh Riyad Ali added, Our rights are ignored. The Sunnis have governed Iraq for the last four decades and now it seems we are forgotten in the new democratic process sponsored by the Americans.

15:34 Baghdad. Members of the committee writing Iraq's new constitution said Saturday major differences remain only two weeks before the deadline for parliament to approve the draft. A Sunni member said some issues may remain unresolved until after the December elections. There is a group that wants Iraq to be called "The Iraqi Islamic Federal Republic", while the other wants it called the "Iraqi Federal Republic" and another group rejects both names, said Kurdish legislator Hussein Mohammed Taha. He added that Kurds and Shiites agree that Iraq should become a federal state while Sunni Arabs still object, fearing it could lead to the division of the country. Another problem is the official language of Iraq and whether it should be Arabic alone or Arabic and Kurdish, he added. There are even differences over whether Iraq should be formally declared as part of the Arab and Islamic nation or whether the document should state that the Iraqi people are parts of those nations, he said. A serious point of disagreement also appears to be the role of Islam in the state.

15:17 Umm Qasr. A number of Iraqi homes and farms have slightly «encroached» into Kuwait at the border area of Umm Qasr in southern Iraq, Kuwait said Saturday, but insists the matter, which sparked Iraqi protests last week, will be resolved through dialogue.

14:39 Baghdad. A suicide bomber rammed a checkpoint near the National Theatre in the Karrada district of south Baghdad. The blast killed five people, including three
policemen, and injuring nine, including a mother and her two children.

13:06 Baghdad. A roadside bomb directed at a US military convoy in Baghdad's Doura district killed an Iraqi civilian and possibly killed or wounded several US soldiers.

12:01 Baghdad. The Director-General of the Health Ministry, Mrs. Iman Naji Abdelrazzak, was kidnapped by gunmen who stormed her home in the capital's upscale district of Mansour .

11:50 London. Two men were arrested in Leicester in the early hours of the morning in connnection with the 7 July bombings.

11:21 Baghdad. Gunmen spray Jordanian Embassy with gunfire

The Textual Analysis of Terrorism

Sphinx has a masterful discussion the hermeneutics of Muslim extremism in his explication of Oliver McTernan's article today in The Guardian.

Sex, Qat, Bombs--and Rap Sheets

Go read Postman Patel today.

Friday, July 29, 2005

29 July Events in Iraq and in the Region

Cykla. Two U.S. soldiers were killed on Thursday when their unit came under attack by small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades in Cykla, about 200 km (120 miles) west of Baghdad, a U.S. military statement said.

Baghdad. One U.S. soldier died on Thursday when the vehicle he was driving was involved in a single-vehicle accident off base in central Baghdad around 11:30 p.m.

Basrah. An Iranian lieutenant and a solider were arrested by Iraqi border guards when they crossed the border into Iraq.

Baghdad. Deep differences continue to divide the committee drafting the Iraqi Constitution, notably federalism, distribution of wealth between the central goverernment and the regions, the role of Islam and even the name of the country. I fear that even in six month we cannot resolve so many complicated things, said Salah al-Moutlaq, spokesman for the Council on National Dialog, a Sunni organization. Kurdish member Mahmoud Osman, joked about US pressure on the committee to finish its work on time: The Americans are merely interested in fast food and a fast Constitution.

Baghdad. The head of the Iraqi Waqf, Adnan Doulaïmi, was fired by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari for his increasingly frequent declarations concerning the arrest and assassination of Sunnis by Iraqi security forces.

Baghdad. Moqtada Sadr says he has gathered one million signatures on a petition demanding the pullout of foreign troops from Iraq.

Washington. The Inspector-General for Reconstruction in Iraq, Stuart Bowen, confirms that millions of dollars have been siphoned off by US officials and contractors. The US has granted $23 billion in reconstruction money for Iraq.

Baghdad. Sheikh Faisal Khazali, chieftain of the Khazal tribe, was shot dead behind the wheel of his car while driving though the al-Alam districe of southwest Baghdad

23:46 San Salavdor. Salvador has decided to keep its contingent in Iraq for another 12 months. The participation of Salvador in the Iraq war is important for the United States because the conflict is very unpopular in Latin America. Norman Quijano, an MP reprenting the Parti Arena (right wing, currently in power), made the announcement. Salvador has 380 soldiers in Iraq. Nicaragua, Honduras and the Dominican Republic removed their troops after the Spanish pullout last year

23:30 Washington. The CIA has concluded that newly-elected Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was not the hostage-takers shown in an old photo of the beseiged US Embassy in Teheran dating from 1979 and pulished last month in the US media.

22:31 Washington. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice phoned French FM Philippe Douste-Blazy to discuss the results of her trip to the Middle East. [This was likely some howling about Lebanon's refusal to disarm Hezbollah--Nur]

20:37 Baghdad. Three people were killed and 17 wounded when a carbomb targeted an outdoor bar along the Tigris. The vehicle expolded near a bridge in the Sunni Adhamiyah quarter and set three parked cars ablaze.

18:50 Rome. A suspect in the 21 July attempted bombings in London Osman Hussain, was arrested in a apartment close to the central railway station in Rome. He was in his brother-in-law's apartment. British police informed the Italian agency Ucigos that a cellphone registered to Hussein had been used in Italy. Italian police did not expect to find both Hussein and his brother-in-law.

16:07 Rome. The Italian Senate has adoped a new anti-terrorism law granting the military power of arrest and detention.

16:07 Karachi. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced that 1,400 foreign students studying at some of Pakistan's 10,000 madrassas are ordered out of country. Musharraf also said that no visas for religious study in Pakistan would be granted.

15:54 The Hague. The United States has asked Dutch authorities to extradite a Dutchman of Iraqi descent suspected of helping plot attacks on American convoys in Iraq, the Justice Ministry said Friday. Wasem al Delaema, aka Wesam Khalaf Shayed Delaeme, was arrested in May during a raid on his home in the Dutch city of Amersfoort. U.S. authorities informed the Netherlands on Wednesday that they want to prosecute al Delaema in the United States and have asked Dutch prosecutors to drop their case against him. he US has demanded the extradition of a Dutch citizen of Iraqi origin, Wesam al Delaema, suspected of involvement in attacks on the US military in Iraq. Delaeme had fought in Falloujah, according to the US Justice Dept. This is the first time the US Justice Department has pursued an individual for alleged terrorist activities in Iraq.

15:45 Baghdad. Hundreds of Iraqis protested arbitrary arrests and police brutality. The protest was called by the Islamic Party. Over 1,000 Sunni protesters accused the government of pursuing sectarian policies and torturing and killing in "the new Iraq of fire and steel". Simulating torture, they dressed up as soldiers and used drills, wooden clubs and electric wires to act out what they said were the techniques used by government forces against them.T he protest took place outside the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses the Iraqi government and Western embassies.

15:37 London. Police arrest two presumed terrorists responsible for the bungled bombings of 21 July.

15:32 London. Iraq's Kurds want at least partial control over northern oil resources in a post-war political system that ends uneven distribution of wealth, Planning Minister Barham Salih said on Friday. If this succeeds, foreign oil firms will have to negotiate about developing fields in the country with the second largest reserves in the world with provincial governments eager to raise their share of oil revenue, as well as with central government. We call for allowing the provinces to participate in managing the oil sector because the strict central system of managing it has proved its failure, said Salih, who was in Amman after meeting British Prime Minister Tony Blair in London. A senior Shi'ite official, who declined to be named, told Reuters the oil devolution scheme was likely to succeed, although there was concern it could increase the politicization of the sector and rob it of direction.

15:30 London. Liverpool Street station closed.

14:28 Gaza. Two UN aid workers, an Australian woman and a Palestinian were kidnapped by masked men in front of a hotel in Gaza.

14:04 Mossul. A suicide bomber killed a group of 25 police recruits in Mosul and wounded 35. Police said the attack occurred outside a municipal building in Rabiaa, a town 80 km (50 miles) northwest of Mosul, Iraq's third largest city and a focus of an 18-month-old insurgent campaign against U.S.-backed Iraqi security forces.

13:16 Diyarbakir (Turkey). A bomb explodes under a car in the city of Hakkari in southeast Turkey. One person is killed.

13:12 Baghdad. Special tribunal questions Saddam Hussein for 45 minutes on suppression of the Shi'ites in the south in 1991.

10:40 Mosul. Nth lieutenant of al-Zarqawi arrested. Ammar Abu Bara, aka Amar Hussein Hasan was arrested on Wednesday

09:00 Haditha. U.S. and Iraqi forces killed nine insurgents, including five Syrian fighters, in a small village northwest of Baghdad. The insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades and small arms at a U.S. and Iraqi patrol.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

28 July 2005 Events in Iraq and in the Region

Mass wedding in Kurdistan

Baghdad. U.S. Marine jets dropped laser-guided bombs and other ordnance on insurgent positions northwest of Baghdad, killing nine insurgents, including five Syrians, the U.S. military said. The airstrike was launched after troops from the U.S. 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment and the Iraqi 1st Division came under fire in a village west of Haditha, 140 miles (225 kilometers) northwest of Baghdad. Jets from the 2nd Marine Air Wing dropped three laser-guided bombs and one global positioning system guided bomb, destroying all three buildings, the statement added.

Baquba. Insurgents launched coordinated attacks against four Iraqi army checkpoints along a road between Baquba and Baghdad, killing six Iraqi soldiers. At least eight people-- three soldiers, four policemen and one civilian -- were wounded as fighting continued into late afternoon.

Riyadh. Saudi Arabia's King Fahd requires constant medical attention after a tracheotomy.

Algiers. Al Qaeda's killing of two Algerian diplomats in Iraq has thrown into doubt a government amnesty proposal and forced a rare debate on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's handling of Algeria's own Islamist threat.

Baghdad. Shi'ite leaders told a conference the Constitution due to be completed next month will solve many of Iraq's problems. About 700 members of the Gathering of Islamic Students of Iraq packed the auditorium of a hotel once frequented by Saddam Hussein's agents, and listened to Shi'ite politicians and clerics predict a bright future once Iraq's new constitution is drafted and approved.

Teheran. Iran's former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani called for the release of jailed journalist Akbar Ganji, whose family says he has been on hunger strike for over six weeks. Ganji, an outspoken critic of the Islamic state's clerical leadership, was jailed in 2001 following a series of articles he wrote linking officials to the murder of political dissidents.

Diyarbakir (Turkey). Kurdish guerrillas have kidnapped the mayor of a town in eastern Turkey and police and troops have launched a search, security officials said. Hasim Akyurek, mayor of Yayladere in Bingol province and a member of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, was abducted on Wednesday while on his way to inspect preparations for a local festival, the officials said.

London. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said he might take action against Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq if U.S. forces did not stop the rebels infiltrating across the border into Turkey.

Menoufiya. (Egypt) President Mubarak, 77, announced that he would run for president a fifth time in his hometown, 80 km north of Cairo. Mubarek also announced that he would replace the current State of Emergency with anti-terrorism laws. [Le plus ça change...--Nur]. The Kefaya (« enough») movement said it would boycott the elections. The Kefaya spokesman, George Isaac told AFT that Mr. Mubarek had only "empty words" for democratization. The Marxist movement Tagammou and the Nassirites have decided to boycott both the presidential and the legislative elections to protest the restrictions place on independent candidates by the recent amendment to the Constitution. Meanwhile, the head of the al-Ghad Party (liberal), opposition leader Ayman Nour, said he wound announce his candidacy for the presidency on Saturday.

Cairo. Mohammed Mehdi Akef, the spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, condemned the Sharm al-Sheikh bombings.

Jerusalem. Prime Minister Ahmed Qoreï assured that the Palestinian authority would intervene against armed Palestinian groups to prevent attacks during the Israeli evacuation of Gaza. Meanwhile, Ariel Sharon announced that "thanks to the Gaza evacuation" Israel would never return to its 1967 borders nor permit the return of Palestinian refugees.

Gaza. Gunmen kidnapped a intelligence colonel in a Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza. Witnesses say the kidnappers were members of al-Fatah.

Jerusalem. Israel announced that a triple barrier will be built around Gaza. An Israeli military source days a triple barrier would be built around the Gaza Strip to stop infiltration by militants following the Israeli evauation. The plan will add two barbed-wire barriers, observation towers, cameras and remote controlled machine guns. At certain points along the barrier, 20-foot high concrete walls will be constructed. The cost is expected to be $20 million and be completed by spring 2006. The Jewish state said it would maintain control of Gaza airspace and the coastline. [This is really bad news. We have Sharon smirking about how he hornswaggled Bush with the Gaza pullout while Peres is grubbing for money. Bush is a naieve man.--Nur]

Ramallah. A 25 year-old Palestinian were shot dead by Israeli soldiers near Tulkarem. The Israeli military claimed that Mouayad Moussa was a member of Islamic Jihad.

Ramallah. Palestinian Authority orders 100,000 flags. Gaza factories are preparing 60,000 Palestinian flags. 35 000 others will be made with the al-Fatah logo while another 20,000 will carry a portrait of Abbas and Yassir Arafat.

Jerusalem. The Knesset has adopted a retroactive law limiting the claims of Palestinians injuried or suffering losses as a result of Israeli actions during the Intifada. The Justice and Defense ministries hope to avoid millions of dollars in damages.
Jerusalem. The Knesset extend a law by nine months which prohibits residency in Israel of any Palestinian spouse of an Israeli Arab.

Baghdad. The Iraqi authorities have requested the Multinational force to protect diplomatic missions.

Baghdad. A group linked to al-Zarqawi uploaded a video showing a hostage, presented as a Kurdish member of PKK working as anti-insurgency spy.

Baquba. Four soliders and a policemen were killed and another policeman wounded in two attacks targeting checkpoints in Baquba and Khani Bani Sadr.

23:54 Washington. The Iraqi insurgency gets most of its money through the delivery of cash from neighboring states, notably Syria, said US Treasury official Daniel Glaser. Iraqi rebels are suppored by charity organizaiton and Iraqi expatriates, said Glaser. They also finance themselves through criminal activity such as drug smuggling. Glaser told the US House of Representatives that a signficant number of former Iraqi political figures are held or monitored by the Syrians but blamed the Syrians for not interdicting the funds going to the rebellion.

23:51 London. The estimate of 25,000 Iraqi civilians killed in Iraq since March 2003 is "the absolute minimum" reports The Lancet

23:47 Washington. Iranian cadres are training Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon, said Assistant Secretary of State David Welch to the House International Relations Committee. Welch also testified there was «a continuing covert Syrian presence there» despite the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. And, Welch said, there are armed Palestinian groups in Lebanon, as well. He said the United States would have no contact with Lebanon's energy and water minister, Mohammed Fneish, who is a member of Hezbollah. Welch reiterated the long-standing U.S. view that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. But Welch and James Kunder, an assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said the administration had asked Congress to approve $35 million in U.S. aid and $1.7 million in other support.

23:46 Baghdad. The U.S. military is considering offering protection to foreign diplomats in Baghdad after al-Qaida agents killed three Arab envoys this month, said US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.

23:26 Washington. U.S. investigators want Israeli diplomats to tell them about any contact they had with a U.S. analyst charged with disclosing classified data, a diplomatic source close to the probe said on Thursday. The U.S. government recently contacted the Israeli Embassy in Washington to request information about any meetings between embassy diplomats and the Defense Department analyst, Lawrence Franklin. Franklin worked on the Iran desk within the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the time the government says he disclosed to an unidentified foreign diplomat classified information about a Middle Eastern country's activities in Iraq. A six-count indictment charged him with conspiracy to share classified information with people not authorized to receive it. Though the individuals were not named in the court documents, federal law enforcement officials said they were two senior employees of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobbying group. Franklin has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His trial date was set for Sept. 6. He faces a maximum sentence of 55 years if convicted of all counts.

22:50 Vatican City. Responding to Israeli criticism, the Vatican on Thursday said it hasn't condemned every strike by Palestinian militants against the Jewish state because Israel's military response to the attacks has sometimes violated international law. Israel's Foreign Ministry had complained Monday that Benedict, in a public appearance at his Alpine vacation retreat on Sunday, «deliberately» didn't mention a July 12 suicide bombing in the coastal city of Netanya while the pontiff did refer to recent terror strikes in Egypt, Britain, Turkey and Iraq.

22:54 Paris. At least seven people from France have been killed in Iraq after joining insurgents there, French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy told a newspaper Le Parisien. The interior minister also said he wanted to reinforce surveillance of flights to Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, which he said are stopovers for Europeans heading to Iraq to join militant groups .

22:15 Baghdad. Millions of dollars in reconstruction aid to Iraq have been skimmed of by American officials and entrepreneurs. In the region of Hilla alone $7 million was siphoned off by US contractors and officials. US Department of Justice official will publish a detailed report on Saturday.

21:49 Paris. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon appealed to French Jews to move to Israel while avoiding the suggestion of anti-semitism in France.

21:16 Paris. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says it is his goal to transport 1,000,000 Jews to Israel during a meeting with the Jewish community of France. However, the President of the Representative Councils of Jewish Institutions in France, Roger Cukierman, stated that French Jews do not share a common view on Israel. Meanwhile David de Rothschild, the President of United Jewish Appeal of France, said that Jews should strive to maintain their communities outside Israel. [Monsieur, je suis français...--Nur].

16:37 Jerusalem. Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres on Thursday urged the international community to donate tens of millions of dollars to upgrade border crossings in the Gaza Strip, a move he said is critical for boosting the Palestinian economy after Israel's upcoming withdrawal from the area. Peres said roughly US$120 million is needed to improve the three major crossings into Gaza. He said the money would be used on new technology that would allow goods to move quickly in and out of Gaza, and to reduce the wait times for Palestinian laborers entering Israel. He said Israel would be willing to contribute funds and suggested that US$50 million pledged by the United States for the Palestinians be put toward the effort. To reduce Gaza's isolation after the withdrawal, Israel and the Palestinians are discussing other measures, such as reopening Gaza's airport and building a seaport. [Not happening--Nur]. There is also a proposal to establish a rail link between Gaza and the West Bank, a project Peres said would take three years to complete and cost US$400 million. Israel has also announced that it plans to withdraw from the Philadelphi corridor along Gaza's border with Egypt, which has agreed to station about 750 soldiers in the area to prevent weapons smuggling into Gaza. However Israel has conditioned its offers of eased movement on improved Palestinian efforts to rein in militants--a major sticking point in current talks. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat expressed disappointment over those talks, saying the arrangements for a safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza and other measures have fallen short of what had been negotiated before the outbreak of violence in 2000.

16:32 Baghdad. General Petraeus will be replaced by Maj. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who commanded the 1st Armored Division in Iraq, at the end of the summer.

15:57 Beirut. Lebanon's new government defended the right of Hizbollah guerrillas to resist Israel and pledged solid ties with Syria on Thursday. Hizbollah often clashes with Israeli troops in the Shebaa Farms, a border area Beirut says is Lebanese soil still occupied by Israel. The United Nations says Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon is complete and Shebaa is Israeli-held Syrian land.

14:20 Baghdad. Train tank car bombing kills one and wound four.

14:08 London. Three Turkish nationals were arrested this morning by British police at the Tooting Broadway station. The three are workers in a kebob and hamburger stand.

10:17 Baghdad. A huge fire broke out this morning the the Dura neighborhood of south Baghdad after a train transporting tank cars filled with petroleum what struck by a bomb layed along the tracks. The bomb exploded when the locomotive of the train was 1km away from the Dura refinery. An enormous black cloud covers the area.

08:13 Baghdad. Two US soldiers killed by a bomb in north Baghdad.

07:13 Jerusalem. Palestinians fire three homemade rockets at the Israeli town of Sderot.

07:31 Kabul. A US combat helicoper caught fire as it was landing in Spin Boldak, on the border with Pakisatn. The 31 people aboard were unharmed.

09:57 Cairo. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has call an extraordinary meeting of the Arab League in Sharm el Sheik on 3 August.

Living with Terrorism

Le Monde's Editor-in-Chief Jean-Marie Colombani does a talking points analysis of the War on Terror. In fact, says Colombiani, it's not a war and to call it such is dangerous. It is an attempt at subversion and it is resisted by supporting moderate imams and intellectuals in the Muslim world and correcting our "pedagogy of modernism" at home.

Colombiani's arguments show that among our worst enemies are reactionaries such as Bush, the Religious Right and individuals such as General Boykin who are playing the game of radical Islam.

Living with Terrorism

We’ve known it since 9-11. The London and Sharm al-Sheikh bombings, on the heels of Madrid, Bali, Casablanca, are only the confirmation that we live in extraordinary and profoundly destabilizing times in a complex age, which will test the ability of our societies to survive. I’m going to attempt an analysis through a few bullet-points.

1. Islamic terrorism is here to stay
It is dangerous to entertain any illusion concerning this fact. One of them is to imagine that France is sheltered from the terrorists who have struck in England and in Egypt. The French authorities do not entertain such an illusion, and they are correct.

Because is no form of diplomacy which by its nature is able to protect a “Western” country from an offensive led in the name of resisting the "West". Because it is really is a struggle led by small groups of Islamist terrorists against democracies and what they represent: moral freedom, materialism, equal status for women, and the resolute separation of the spiritual and the temporal. They have one objective: to kill the largest numbers of civilians possible in the West—Americans or Europeans-- where they live or where they vacation en masse. The killing could also be carried out to punish or destabilize regimes in the Arab world whom they accuse of impiety or pro-Western attitudes. But it is always the same enemy: the West and enlightenment. Enlightenment is a threat to the kind society which they want to create and impose in the Arab-Muslim world: a dictatorial, interfering system founded on the refusal to separate Mosque and State, tradition instead of reform and The Rule instead of life.

2. Islamic terrorism may not be reduced to a single cause.
Behind the actions of autonomous cells of young Sunni Moslem men, a terrorist generation which strikes at us today, there is a odd mixture of feelings making for a dangerous cocktail. The West is perceived as dangerous because it seduces and it attracts; detestable because it causes jealousy. It is considered illegitimate and humiliating by these young people, who are brought up on scripture claiming that Sunni Islam is the highest and most complete form of monotheism.

How does one explain the backwardness observed in the Arab-Muslim world if it is the repository of the most recent and most perfect among revealed religious? The terrorism that besets us today cannot be explained without an examination of the relationship between Islam and modernity and between the Muslim world and the West. Here and there around the world, the globalization of the Western way of life provokes frustration, marginalization, alienation and competing feelings of seduction and rejection when it collides with other cultures. They imagine that this globalization is first and foremost a globalization of values perceived as a destabilizing enterprise meant to target their religiosity. Their targets are all symbolic places representing contemporary cosmopolitanism.

3. Islamist Terrorism may not be reduced to regional conflicts taking place in the Arab Muslim world from Kashmir to Palestine and from Afghanistan to Iraq.
The Sunnis involved in radical Islam have selective outrage: the martyrdom of Shi’ites or Kurds in Iraq never caused them to shed a tear. They only remembered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when they wanted to use it to justify the attacks of 9-11. But it is true that these conflicts do lead to paranoia, conspiracy theory and persecution complex among those whom they wish to recruit as terrorists. But terrorism may not be reduced to these conflicts alone. Their hatred for the West and for democracy will persist even after the Gaza evacuation. But it has eaten its fill. Each step towards resolving these conflicts is in itself an important step for those who desire peace and those who are fighting terrorism in engaging public opinion. As eminently desirable as it is, especially in the Middle East, each step is only a small part of the response.

4. Iraq was not and is not the answer to terrorism.
The US military intervention into that country, as the Europeans predicted, has only exacerbated the rancor of the Islamists militants: it is playing the role of “recruiting sergeant” for terrorism, as the Chatham House report says. The war reinforces the hatred for the United States Iraq felt by a good many in the Arab-Muslim world and evidently serves as a pretext. Even worse, in a world of instantaneous global reach of the visual image, the responsibility for each car bombing in Baghdad is not blamed on this or that group of insurgents: it is blamed on the US occupation and is considered as an extra proof of the “war” waged by the West on the Muslim world. Hundreds of millions of television viewers blame the United States for the daily carnage in Iraq. We can reject the validity of their reasoning, but it is the predominant perception and cannot be ignored.

From this point of view, it is vain on the part of Tony Blair to deny the evidence: the link between the London bombings and the British involvement with George Bush is a strong possibility. But it would be dangerous to draw the conclusion that the only exit is retreat. Although it is true that the Americans and the British invaded Iraq for the wrong reasons, they now have the obligation of assisting the birth of a future democratic Iraq. It is a task which will require long, patient and painful efforts.

5. Westerners don’t have all the answers.
Of course, the West must get more involved in regional conflict resolution, better integrate their Muslim populations and distance themselves from regimes considered longtime friends that are obstacles to reform in the Arab-Muslim world.

But the West doesn’t hold all the answers. The struggle against Islamist extremism must be waged within the Arab-Muslim world, and it is outside the reach of the United States and Europe. It is a struggle of progressives vs. autocratic and dictatorial regimes; it’s a battle of reforming imams versus fundamentalists, of pragmatism versus purity. These changes are slow, because they are decisive.

6. The fight against Islamist terrorism is not a war.
It’s not WWIII or WWIV. It’s unfortunate as well as dangerous to use these expressions. A war ends when one of the belligerents surrenders or by negotiation. But this is not applicable to Islamist terrorism. This struggle requires multiple, multiform and diplomatic (resolving regional crises) as well as police work (infiltration and surveillance of the terror networks) but above an all ideological response (supporting moderates in Saudi Arabia and in Pakistan). The people who want to adopt the al-Qaeda label work in autonomous cells and do not obey a central authority. Al Qaeda is less of an organization than a label. This label designates a struggle against democracy and all forms of liberty.

7. The focus of their hatred is on Europe, perhaps more than the United States.
This reality was suggested by the events September 11, even if certain sectors of opinion had and still have difficulty allying themselves with the United States in this struggle. The hatred germinates in Europe. The first al-Qaeda militants, veterans of the war against the Russians in Afghanistan in the early 80s, have passed the standard to a new generation. Researcher Olivier Roy calls them disenfranchised nomads, victims of globalization. They come from the ranks of immigrants to Europe. It is not in the Maghreb or in Pakistan but in Europe that they rediscover Islam, forging a naive and ultra-radical vision. They become, in their absurd dialect, “good Muslims” which translates into “good fighters”. It is in Europe that they intend to deepen the fissures which isolate Europe’s Muslim communities. Islamophobia is the objective of the terrorists. If it develops they will have realized their ambition in creating a clash of civilizations and placing the The Old Continent in their sights.

8. Our “models” are in question, right here and now.
In many regards we are facing endogenous terrorism. Born in our cities, narratives abound of young men who waiver between the most complete integration and irreparable marginalization. We must realize that this internal struggle within the Muslim world—the struggle between a modernity that subverts and the usage which radicals intend to make of tradition (i.e., the takeover of Muslim society by the Sunni radicals)—is taking place in our European cities and recruits our young people. Both the British model—remaining at arm’s length from communities--or the French model–- interventionist--are attempts at integration but we continue to have our heads in the sand. We must question the pedagogy of modernity, which by all evidence is insufficient or unsatisfactory. When our educational system produces so many marginalized, what is it that we need to do to counter the influence of those who claim that integration is a waste of time and that “truth” may be found elsewhere?

What everyone must realize, in any case, is that there is no salvation outside of modernity and the vivification of our republican ideals.

9. The epicenter is Pakistan.
As research by Bernard-Henry Lévy on the assassination of US journalist Daniel Pearl has shown and as we witness every day in reports, Pakistan is a roiling caldron and a sort of huge factory producing fighters for holy war. Despite efforts by General-President Musharraf, Pakistan is the place from which the most radical ideology emanates, where the worst of the Salafist organizations rule the streets and where nuclear weapons are produced. This is one of the many contradictions of the Bush government’s war on Iraq when it should have focused its attention on Pakistan.

10. Resist regression, and ever-present risk
Nothing could be worse in the War on Terror then to renounce our values by placing restrictions on personal freedom, canceling habeas corpus, torturing or prisonment without due process.

In an article in the journal Commentaire (Summer 2005), Pierre Hassner writes: The dialectic of terrorism and counterterrorism on the worldwide scale, beginning with September 11 and President Bush’s War on Terror, risks being written as the catastrophic version of what we call the dialectic of the bourgeois and the barbarian. If modernity was an immense undertaking to bourgeois-ify the barbarian, then it may produce the opposite reaction of barbar-ifying the bourgeois in his response to terrorism.

Let us be on our guard to resist the temptation roll back our freedoms.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

27 July 2005 Events in Iraq and in the Region

Washington. Eleven American soldiers serving in Iraq have been charged with mistreating detainees while on operations in the Baghdad area. The soldiers are from a National Guard unit, the 184th Infantry. The abuses were allegedly carried out while the soldiers were on an operation, not in a detention facility. The Los Angeles Times newspaper has reported allegations that the troops used a stun gun to administer electric shocks to the suspected insurgent.

Baghdad. The two Algerian diplomats kidnapped a week ago in Baghdad by a group linked to al-Zarqawi have been executed. The news was confirmed by the President of Algeria. On Wednesday 27 July your brothers of the armed wing of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia have carried out the the verdict of the Islamic tribunal. The Algerian head of mission Ali Belaroussi and diplomat Azzedine Belkadi have therefore been executed. The two were executed at the request of the Salafist Preaching and Combat Group, the most violenct terrorist organization in Algeria. This group held Belkadi responsible for the frightening massacre of Benthat (23 September 1997) in which 250 people, mostly women and children were slain. Algerian Islamists have always claimed that the massacre was carried out by Algerian Army special forces disguised as terrorists. How things traspired were never clarified but what is certain that the soldiers at the city barracks did not intervene during the two hours of killing, despite cries for help, screams, flames and smoke from buildings set on fire by the perpetrators. According to the Salafist Preaching and Combat Group, Belkadi was also responsible for the massacre of al-Rais (28 August 1997) in which 300 were killed. At their website, the group had requested al-Zarqawi to "dispense justice" to the two diplomats, whom they said were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Algerian Muslims.

Beirut. A group calling itself el-Qaëda wal-jihad fi bilad al-Cham, katibat Omar fi wilayat Loubnan sent a fax to the Jaafari Mufti of Tyr and Jabal Amel, Ulema Ali el-Amin, saying that several cells had been created by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to assassinate 9 leading Shi'ite figures: Ulema Ali el-Amin, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berry, Vice Chairman of the Senior Shi'ite Council Abdel Amir Kabalan, spiritual guide Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, MP Mohammed Raad, Hezbollah Shura Council member Mohammed Yazbeck and the leader of the Islamist Party of south Lebanon Sheikh Nabil Kaouk. However, Hezbollah MP Mohammed Raad said the nine were "targets of Israel."

Baghdad. A US soldier was killed and five others wounded by a roadside bomb which struck their patrol.

Baghdad. At least 10 people were killed by mortar round which struck the Baghdad bus terminal.

Baghdad. The manager of telecommunications for Baghdad Airport, Maher Yassine Jassem, was kidnapped together with two other employees.

Baghdad. The commander of US forces in Iraq, George Casey, suggested a drawdown of US troops in 2006. Meanwhile Prime Minster Ibrahim Jaafari says he hopes for a rapid withdrawal of the Multinational Force. A high-ranking security official, Mouaffak al-Roubaï, said that the Multinational Force would transfer control of ten major cities to Iraqi forces in December.

Washington. Donald Rumsfeld says he hopes Iraqi leaders will adopt the new Constitution without delay, saying an 6-month extension would be very damaging.

Baghdad. President Jalal Talabani announced an end to nighttime arrests, after men dressed in police uniform killed several peopel in nocturnal raids.

Hillah. An Egyptian lieutenant to Ayman al-Zawahiri was arrested south of Bagddad. A 35 year-old Egyptian named Tantawi was arrested at a farm in Youssoufiyah near HIllah.

Washington. A poll conducted by USA Today/CNN/Gallup shows that a majority of Americans believe that the US will not achieve its aims in Iraq.

London. Bombing suspect Yasin Hassan Omar immigrated to the UK from Somalia in 1992 with his father when he was 11 years old. Two two were given refugee status in and in May 2000 were granted permanent residency. Omar received a regular poverty subsidy from the British Government: £25,000 per household and £13000 in aid per person for more than 6 years.

Grantham. Two men were arrested during the night at the Grantham railway station aboard a train from Newcastle heading for London.

London. Luton Airport closed. British police close London's Luton Airport to prevent an unnamed bombing suspect from flaying to Nimes in France.

Birmingham. A giant manhunt ordered by Scotland Yard led to the arrest in Birmingham of four people. One of the arrested is Yasin Hassan Omar, a 24 year-old Somali sought in the 21 July attempted bombings.

23:55 Washington. The Pentagon is running short on ammunition. The House Budget Office said the Pentagon's request for small-caliber munitions has risen from 730 million to 1.8 billlion and medium caliber from 11.7 to 22 million in a year's time.

23:55 London. Following a meeting with Tony Blair, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview with The Times that the tolerance of Turkey had its limits concerning PKK camps in northern Iraq. There is a limit in terms of time and there is a limit to our tolerance.

23:36 Kuwait City. The US remains on high alert in Kuwait without mentioning a terrrorist threat.

22:36 Paris. Ariel Sharon called Jacques Chirac a "one of the greatest leaders in the world" and thanked him for the "precious assistance" in resolving the Israeli-Palestine crisis [What does he want??--Nur]

23:01. Tuscon. "Raging Grannies" arrested. Police arrested American peace activists aged between 57 and 92 for trying to enlist an Army recruiting center. Spokesgranny Better Schroeder, a retired nurse, said the group's action was very serious, we really wanted to enlist. We think its better if old folks get killed rather than our young people.

19:28 Cairo. Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmad Nazif said he believed that the resolution of the Iraq and Palestine crisies would help the war on terror. Nazif aslo said that Egyptian police had several "serious leads" in the Sharm al-Sheikh bombings.

18:57 Paris. Ariel Sharon said he would adhere to the Road Map after the August evacuation from Gaza. As to his talks with Jacques Chirac, Sharon said, My meeting with Chirac was very cordial and friendly. We spoke about Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian question and bilateral relations....The French understand the danger posed by Syria and by Lebanese Hezbollah.

18:51 Jenin. A Palestinian teenager was killed by gunfire between Israeli and Palestinians in the northern West Bank. Youssef al-Hassis, 15, a bystander, succumbed to his wounds. Seven palestinians and two Israei soldiers were wounded as Israelis went to arrest Hamza Sami of Islamic Jihad. Soldiers arrived at his home in 30 armored carriers escorted by four bulldozers. When the convoy entered the city armed Palestinians threw bombs and opened fire.

18:44 Paris. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said in Paris that he was not worried by Jewish extremists who threaten to oppose the August pullout form Gaza. Meanwhile the "Pulsa Denura" curse layed on Sharon by extremist rabbis was denounced by several Israeli MPs on the right and left as well as by Grand Ashkenaze Rabbi Yona Metzger.

18:42 Baghdad. The committe charged with drafting the new Constitution will decide on the 1 August deadline whether or not to extend its task by six months

19:02 Jerusalem. Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz has cancelled a trip to Washington because of a dispute with the United States over Israeli arms sales to China, the Haaretz newspaper said on Wednesday. Washington, Israel's closest ally and provider of $2 billion in annual defence aid, was still restricting arms deals with Israel as a result of the disagreement. The United States demands Israel adhere to U.S. regulations. Washington torpedoed Israel's multibillion-dollar sale of Phalcon strategic airborne radar systems to China in 2000, citing fears it could upset the regional balance of power.

18:51 Washington. The State Department said Wednesday Syria could face additional U.S. penalties if refuses to transfer to Iraq $262 million in funds the US says it obtained in violation of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Iraq. Elizabeth Dibble, a deputy assistant secretary of state, told a hearing of two House subcommittees that the United States has repeatedly pressed Syria to transfer these assets to the Development Fund for Iraq, or DFI. She said $121 million has been turned over to the fund, but $262 million remains in the Commercial Bank of Syria. The Syrian government has said repeatedly that it is committed to transfer these funds and did so again this month during a meeting between senior Iraqi and Syrian leaders, Dibble said. She added that despite Syrian efforts to improve anti-money laundering and terrorist finance controls, U.S. sanctions provided for under the USA Patriot Act «could be triggered if Syria does not follow through with the transfer of this remaining amount to the DFI.» Syria already is under a variety of trade and other sanctions imposed under the Syria Accountability Act, approved by Congress in 2003, and under legislation that targets nations on the State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism. Syria is one of eight countries on the list. Dibble testified before a joint hearing of the House International Relations subcommittee on investigations and oversight and the subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the Middle East panel, said former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein found the Syrian regime «perhaps his most favored and profitable collaborator» in circumventing the 1996 U.N. Oil-for-Food program. Investigators discovered that Iraq began illegally exporting oil to Syria in the fall of 2000, generating about $1 billion in profits. Trade agreements Iraq signed with Syria and other countries enabled Iraq to buy goods, services and cash outside of the oil sales and purchases approved by the UN. Rep. Gary Ackerman, a Democrat, said the United States, as a member of the U.N. Security Council, knew about the illegal Syrian activities but apparently did nothing about it. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., said the United States could be vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy if it goes after rival governments, such as Syria, for violations of the Oil-for-Food program while ignoring similar activities by friendly countries. In this category, he named Jordan, Egypt and Turkey.

18:41 Teheran. Iran said Wednesday that it will restart some nuclear activities perhaps as soon as August and announced that it has developed solid-fuel technology for its ballistic missiles, increasing the accuracy of missiles already able to reach Israel and U.S. forces in the Gulf. The Shahab-3 missile--able to fly up to 1,930 kilometers (1,200 miles), putting the entire Arabian Peninsula, the Levant and even parts of Greece and Egypt within its range--is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The Shahab, whose name means shooting star in Farsi, was last successfully tested in 2002 before equipping its elite Revolutionary Guards with it in July 2003. Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles and a fighter plane.

18:40 Baghdad. Two suicide attackers who targeted the Iraqi military blew themselves up in quick succession on Wednesday in northern Baghdad, killing two soldiers and wounding eight. A suicide car bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into several army vehicles parked in front of Numan Hospital. Minutes later, a second suicide attacker on a motorcycle detonated himself in the same spot. The incident occurred in the northern Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah.

18:21 Baghdad. Most Iraqis want Islam to be designated as the state religion but don't want a society modeled after theocratic Iran or secular Turkey, the head of the committee drafting the constitution said Wednesday. Sheik Humam Hammoudi also said political leaders would meet soon to discuss two contentious issues standing in the way of agreement on whether Iraq will develop a federal state: distribution of wealth and authority of regional administrations. Hammoudi said there was broad agreement on the committee to designate Islam as the state religion since 95 percent of Iraq's 27 million people are Muslim.

18:02 Algiers. The Algerian president's office confirmed Wednesday that two diplomats in Iraq had been killed by their kidnappers.

US Should Pull Out of Iraq Now

Columbia University's Jeffrey Sachs has written an editorial for the Lebanese paper, L'Orient Le-Jour, calling for the immediate pullout of US troops from Iraq.

Iraq: Make Politics, Not War

Once again, the United States must come to terms with the limits of its power. In Iraq, America has undisputable control of the skies but holds nothing on the ground. Its very presence incites violence.

While President George W. Bush believes that he is protecting America in taking the war to the enemy, more than 1,700 Americans have died in the Iraq War, which has also caused the terrorist attacks on the allies of the United States. The horrible London bombings were probably inspired by British co-direction in the war.

The error of the Bush Administration was to have ignored political considerations in his war calculations or to have blindly followed the dictum that war is the pursuit of politics by other means. In fact the war represents the end of politics and of political imagination. Given the self-satisfaction of Bush and his advisors and their lack of cultural and historical sensibility, the believed that the invasion of Iraq would be easy, that Saddam Hussein’s army would collapse and that the United States would be welcomed as a liberator.

For these reasons, the Iraqis naturally view the occupation as merely new chapter in the long history of foreign exploitation by the United States. Oil is generally recognized as the basis for this war, not terrorism. The war was prepared by Bush One’s advisors in the 90’s and made possible by the Republican win of the presidency in 2001. During the 90’s, US Vice President Dick Cheney and others clearly indicated that the regime of Saddam Hussein threatened America’s oil security by forcing it to over-rely on Saudi Arabia. They believed that the vast Iraqi oil reserves could not be reliably developed until Saddam was overthrown. The September 11th terrorist attacks in the United States gave them the green light, but their motives were intrinsic.

And the Iraqis are aware of all this. The refusal of Mr. Bush to set a date for troop withdrawal is not seen as "determination" but as America’s declaration of its intention to remain in Iraq, to establish a puppet government, to take control of the oil reserves of the country and to build permanent military bases.

It won’t work. Simply stated, there are too many real political forces at work on the territory of Iraq for the United States to manage and these forces are becoming more and more insistent upon a schedule for the withdrawal of US forces, as are the legions of Iraqis participating in public protests and religious activities at the mosque. Each time the United States refuses to set a deadline for the withdrawal of its troops it only feeds the opposition, not to mention the insurrection. Plenty of Iraqis are prepared to fight and die to oppose the US presence. Only politics, not arms, can cool things off.

Vietnam was a veritable precedent for the current situation. The Vietnamese dead and wounded surpassed US dead and wounded by a ratio of twenty to one, yet the United States could not get the better of the nationalist enemy which it faced. The United States bombed Vietnamese cities and reduced them to cinders--just as they could in Iraq--but that would accomplish nothing except the deaths of a great number of innocent victims and confirm the United States as an occupier in the eyes of everyone.

All this has an economic angle. US foreign policy doctrine instructs that national security rests on three pillars : Defense, diplomacy and development. Economic aid to poor nations is essential because poverty is the firmament of violence, conflict and terrorism. However, diplomacy and development are obliged to yield to defense, or, more precisely, to the military, and find themselves relegated to second and third place in US foreign policy budget.

The United Staes is going to lay out more than $500 billion, or 5% of its GNP, on military spending this year, half the aggregate total in the world. In other words, the United States spends as much per year on weaponry as the rest of the world combined. However, they are spending only $18 billion, barely 0.16% of GNP, on assistance and development. Europe spends approximately 2% of its GNP on defense and 0.4% on GNP on assistance and development and this may rise to 0.7% of GNP by 2015.

Should the United States decide to engage itself politically rather than militarily, as it does today, then it will come to understand that American interests are better served by greater spending on development and by using the lever of trade as an approach in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The bombing of Libya did not return Qadaffi to the fold. It was peaceful diplomacy which accomplished that by demonstrating to Qadaffi that the restoration of diplomatic relations with the West and the abandonment of his nuclear plans held certain advantages for his future and for that of his country.

The same approach towards Saddam Hussein would have been less costly and more promising. Vast sums of money and millions of lives would have been spared if this approach has been attempted with Ho Chi Minh in the 1950’s.

No one questions the necessity of intelligence and policework in the fight against terrorism. But the war in Iraq with its phenomenal military spending represent something else. The United States Armed Forces can protect America against conventional military threats and protect the accessiblity of sea lanes so that rivers of oil and other essential resources may flow. But it cannot protect the United States from politics. For this, America must show more acuity and invest in peaceful development projects rather than in the construction of military bases in the heart of country which it exploits as it has always done. The US must withdraw from Iraq immediately. Afterwards, it can and must use its economic and political weight in the management of this complex and difficult situation, which it was largely responsible for creating, even if it was not completely at fault. US domination in Iraq will be limited but a pullout will make this domination more workable than it is today and far less costly in terms of money and human lives—American, allied and Iraqi.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Epigram of Our Times

Update 27 July: Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian shot dead in the head, was not wearing a heavy jacket that might have concealed a bomb, and did not jump the ticket barrier when challenged by armed plainclothes police, his cousin said yesterday. Speaking at a press conference after a meeting with the Metropolitan police, Vivien Figueiredo, 22, said that the first reports of how her 27-year-old cousin had come to be killed in mistake for a suicide bomber on Friday at Stockwell tube station were wrong. "He used a travel card," she said. "He had no bulky jacket, he was wearing a jeans jacket."

Surely the most frightening thing is how quickly we have come to share the terrorists' evident belief that innocent people must die.
Robin Saltonstall, Beverley, UK [Found at BBC's Have Your Say on the public execution of Jean Charles de Menezes]

Meanwhile, Bill Clinton thinks like a terrorist in suggesting that "many more people will die". More good news from Big Dog: "Open society is unsustainable."

Abu Graib Scandal Returns to Horrible Life

The latest.

25 July 2005 Events in Iraq and in the Region

Tel Aviv. Cabalistic curse placed on Ariel Sharon. Yossef Dayan, an extremist Israeli rabbi, layed a Cabalistic curse of pulsa de-nura ("whip of fire") on Ariel Sharon to prevent the evacuation of Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. Dayan had been threatening to invoke the curse for more than a year. The ceremony was conducted in the cemetery of Rosh Pinna, in Upper Galilee, in the presence of 10 rabbis. It was a poignant ceremony, said Dayan. We had moments of apprehension when one of the participants raised doubts on the Jewishness of Sharon." (The curse only works on Jews). We have only to wait and see if our prayers will be answered. A similar ceremony was organized against Labour Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin a few weeks before his assassination. Already on Sunday Sharon was forced to publically deny reports that he had had a heart attack.

London. Friends and family of slain Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes want to know how exactly police ordered him to halt and why he wasn't arrested during the 15-minute bus ride to Stockwell Station. An independent commission has already questioned a hundred witnesses.

Jerusalem. Israel is putting the final touches on planned evacuation from the Gaza Strip. The evacuation will not be phased and a massive troop deployment of 60,000 is envisioned beginning 17 August. A portion of the troops will be involved in evacuation operations while others will be charged with maintaining order. The evacuation is to last three weeks. 5,000 Palestinian police will also be deployed to prevent militants from attacking the evacuees and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will move his residence to the Gaza Strip.

Ramallah. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas confirms that Israeli still has not furnished a reply on several key questions concerning the Gaza Strip evacuation, notably the reopening of Gaza Airport and unfettered passage between the West Bank and Gaza.

Gaza. Israeli Army arrests 10 Palestinian militants, including nine members of Islamic Jihad.

Paris. Sharon favorable to a role for France in the settlement of the Palestinian crisis. Sharon is in France until Friday. Meanwhile spokesman Michael Jankelowitz of the Jewish Agency announced that several hundred French Jews would resettle in Israel this summer.

Cairo. Arab League to call an extraordinary summit on the Palestinian question. Secretary-General Amr Moussa announces a plan to discuss the Israeli evacuation from Gaza and its follow-up. The summit will be held within the next two weeks.

Milan. Preliminary Investigating Magistrate Chiara Nobili of Milan has issued arrest warrants for US CIA agents responsible for the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric, Abu Omar. Eliana Castaldo, Victor Castellano, John Thomas Gurley, James Robert Kirkland, Anne Lidia Jenkins and Brenda Liliana Ibanez were named in the warrants. A total of 19 warrants have been issued.

Baghdad. Sunni members of the constitutional drafting commission are expected to return to the body after a meeting held by all Sunni factions, said Salim Abdallah of the Islamic Party. Sunni members have several demands following the assassination of two of their colleagues last Tuesday.

Baghdad. Australian Premier John Howard made a surprise visit to Baghdad to meet with Premier Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Algiers. Algeria has evacuated its diplomatic staff from Baghdad. Meanwhile the Interior Ministry announced that two suspects arrested in the kidnapping of two Algerians diplomats are being questioned.

Baghdad. The draft Iraqi Constitution will make it impossible for Iraqi Jews to recover their nationality, said Monzer al-Fazel, a Kurdish member of the drafting committee. Jews in Iraq numbere, 134 000 in 1948 but most (more than 123,000) left in 1952. Twenty years later their numbers had dwindles to 500. However, the Constitution will permit Iraqis to hold dual nationalty, forbidden by Saddam Hussein.

Baghdad. The Iraqi Special Tribunal questioned six lieutenants of Saddam Hussein: The dictator's half-brothers Watban and Barzan Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti, ex-Vice President Taha Yassine Ramadan, his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, Ahmad Hussein Khodeir al-Samarraï and Samir al-Aziz al-Najm, Chairman of the Baath Party.

Stockholm. Sweden has refused to serve as venue for the trial of Saddam Hussein or to hold the Iraqi ex-President in its jails.

23:56 Baghdad. Al-Qaeda condemns Iraqi Constitution: Drafting the constitution is the worst of the initiatives against Islam....It is a baseless lie to affirm that elections constitute the best solution to save the Sunnis from the crisis.

23:56 Sharm al-Sheikh. Armed clashes took place between Egyptian police and Bedouin tribesmen. 25 Bedouins were arrested in the el-Rouwaisat hills. The authorities were attempting to retrace the itinerary of two vehicles used in the resort bombings and suspect that the bombers came from Ras Sidr on the western side of the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian Interior Minister denied an earlier report by sources close to Israeli security that six Pakistanis were sought in the bombings. Arab television was also reporting that nine Pakistanis had stayed in local hotels after entering Egypt with false Jordanian passports. A spokesman for the Pakistani embassy in Cairo told Reuters that his government has requested more information. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry in Islamabad had expressed doubt on the involvement of Pakistani nationals in the bombings, for which reponsibility was claimed by two Islamist movements: the Mujahedeen of Egypt and the Abdullah al-Azzam Brigades.

22:44 Sharm al-Sheikh. Egyptian police are looking for six Pakistani's suspected in the bombings at the Red Sea resort. [Yeah right. They're probably minimum wage housekeeping staff. The Bedouins wouldn't give them the time of day.--Nur]. Security forces conducted a raid in a mountainous area near the Bedouin communities of Khouroum and el-Ruwaisat, 30 km from Sharm al-Sheikh, where authorities claimed the Pakistanis were hiding. The suspects are Rashid Ali, 26, Mohammed Anwar, 30, Mohammed Ikhtar, 30, Tasadaq Hussein, 18, and Mohammed Aref, 36. A sixth man may have been killed in the bomb blasts. The bombers used more than 600 kg of explosives and used an Isuzu pickup truck.

22:43 Washington. Iraq's police service has accepted recruits with criminal backgrounds and even insurgents planning terrorist attacks because of poor vetting procedures, according to a U.S. government report released on Monday. The 96-page report, based on a study by the Pentagon and State Department Inspector Generals' offices, said that too many recruits were "marginally literate" and some had reported for training with criminal records and physical handicaps. The formation of an effective police force is a mainstay of the U.S. strategy for making Iraq increasingly self-reliant in combating the insurgency. As of 18 July, 65.000 police have been trained by the Coalition. The training budget is thought to be $510 million in 2005 and $566 million in 2006.

23:37 Washington. U.S. President George W. Bush has chosen two key Iraq policy advisers to serve as America's envoys to Israel and Egypt. Richard Jones, who currently serves as the Secretary of State's senior advisor and policy coordinator on Iraq, will be nominated as ambassador to Israel, the White House said. Jones previously served as deputy administrator for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. The White House said Bush also intended to nominate Francis Ricciardone, who helped set up the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and served as special coordinator for the transition, as the U.S. ambassador to Egypt.

23:03 London. UK will pay an indemnity to the family of Jean Charles de Menezes. During a press conference with Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, Jack Straw also announced that the remains will soon be transferred to the de Menezes family.

22:49 Stockholm. Saddam wants a change of venue for trial. Lawyer Giovanni di Stefano, a member of of Saddam's legal team, says he has forwarded a request to the Iraqi government and the United Nations. However, Premier Jaafari has excluded moving the trial outside the country.

22:32 London. Eight out of ten British Muslims believe that the decision by Tony Blair to participate in military operations in Iraq is one of the reasons behind the London terrorist attacks. However, the vast majority believe that the wave of suicide attacks in unjustified.

22:17 Hollywood. A TV series on the War on Iraq will premier on the FX Channel. The series is produced by Steve Bochco who financed "Hill Street Blues" and "NYPD Blue". FX is part of the Fox News Corporation. This is the first time a serialized dramatization of an ongoing conflict will be aired on US television.

22:04 Umm Qasr. Hundreds of Iraqis destroyed a metal and concrete barrier installed by Kuwaiti authorities inside Iraqi territory. Hundreds of Iraqis rallied at city hall in Umm Qasr before leaving to dismantle the barrier installed 100 meters north of the official border. Kuwaiti border guards deployed along the frontier pointed their weapons at the demonstrators but did not open fire. Kuwait has started construction of a metal barrier to replace a 3-meter high wall of sand marking the 200 km frontier. Kuwaiti Interior Minister Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah ordered authorities to accelerate the construction of a high-tech security system to monitor the frontier with Iraq.

21:29 Neve Dekalim (Israel). Jewish settlers threw scrunched-up garbage bags in the face of Israel's top army rabbi on Monday in protest at his visit to discuss removing graves during the planned Gaza Strip pullout.

21:09 Baghdad. A group linked to al-Qaeda has published the photo and ID of the kidnapped Algerian charge d'affaires

19:10 Rome. Italian Senate approves 350 million euro measure extending Italian military mission in Iraq until 31 December 2005

18:48 London. Investigation by Independent commission reveals that the Brazilian executed in Stockwell Station was shot 8 times. 7 bullets in the head and 1 to the shoulder.

18:46 London. Jack Straw cautiously backpedals from Tony Blair's position on no link between terrorism in London to the war in Iraq: "It is not possible to affirm" that there is no link between the London terrorist attacks and the British presence in Iraq.

18:31 Rome. Pope Benedict XVI prayed for the deaths, destruction and suffering in Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and the UK during yesterday's Angelus. The Israeli Embassy protested because there was no mention of Israel.

16:08 London. Scotland Yard says 5 bombs were prepared on 21 July.

13:46 Samarra. US soldier killed by roadside bomb.

10:44 Fort Knox. An Indiana national guardsman charged with murder in the death of an Iraqi police officer pleaded guilty at his court-martial Monday to a lesser charge of negligent homicide. Cpl. Dustin Berg, 22, testified that he felt he did not properly assess the threat that he faced and acted rashly. Berg, who changed his story multiple times for investigators, initially said the Iraqi police officer had pointed an AK-47 at him to prevent Berg from reporting insurgent activity. On Monday, however, Berg said that Iraqi police officers as a matter of habit carried their guns with the barrels pointed slightly upward.

08:30 Suicide carbomb rams a patrol of Iraqi police special forces in south Baghdad, killing two and wounding eleven.

06:16 Suicide minibus rams the hotel al-Sadeer, killing 12 and wounding 16. The hotel is commonly used by American and foreign security contractors.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

24 July Events in Iraq and in the Region.

London. The transportation sector trade union, RMT, reports that a Tube motorman was threatened at gunpoint by British security forces.

Baghdad. Iraqi police infiltrated by rebels. Time Magazine reports fact.

Damascus. Syria sends 60 tons of humanitarian aid to Iraq, including food, tents, blankets and medical supplies.

Sharm el-Sheikh. The recent bombings have hurt both the regime of Mubarek and the Opposition, say political analysts. Nabil Abdel Fattah of the al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies said that the attacks aimed to discredit the Egyptian régime by challenging its capacity to ensure its own security at a time when Egypt pretends that it is the regional guarantor of security. Egypt has entered the scene as an indespensible mediator between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, particularly in the approach of the mid-August Israeli evacuation from Gaza. Reacting to the bombings, Israeli Parliamentary Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Youval Steiniz says the attacks represent a major failure of Egyptian intelligence services. The Saudi newspaper Saudi Gazette wrote that the bombers wished to disrupt the 7 September presidential elections. Egyptian analyst Diaa Rashwan confirmed that the bombings would have a negative impact on the vote. This attack by virtue of its size is unique in Egyptian history. It will have a major impact on the political life of the country. The regime now has every reason to maintain the State of Emergency. This is intimidating for the Opposition and negative for democracy. Rifaat al-Said, chairman of the opposition party Tagammou (leftist), said that the Islamists have caused democracy to fail and have handed the government a reason to reinforce the state of emergency.

Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has threatened the Palestinians with new military measures following an ambush which killed a Jewish couple. However, after talks in Ramallah, Condoleezza Rice announced that there should be no lock-down of the Gaza Strip following the evacuation. Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom has blamed the Palestinian Authority for the attack.

Jerusalem. Talks between Palestinians and Israelis collapse. Talks on the Gaza evacuation between Israeli Defense Minister Shaoul Mofaz and Palestinian Interior Minister Nasr Youssef have produced nothing and have failed, says Tawfik Abu Khussa, a Palestinian spokesman.

Jerusalem. Sharon denies that he is ill. Sorry, but I am as fit as a fiddle, said Sharon concerning rumors of his ill health.

Damascus. Syrian Transport Minister Makram Obeid says the delay in crossing the frontier by commerical truck traffic is a "pseudocrisis". Meanwhile, the Syrian press denounces Lebanese politicians who have "insulted Syria".

Damascus. The Syrian Transport Minister, Makram Obeid, asserting that the "security of Syria is sacred", said that trucks from Lebanon are undergoing both customs and security searches. Obeid added that contacts were underway between the Lebanese carrier, Middle East Airlines, and Syrian Airways aiming at privatization.

Beirut. The Bekaa Agricultural Association says farmers are collectively losing $1 million per day due to the slow pace of inspections at the Syrian border.

Beirut. The largest Palestinian refugee camp in south Lebanon, Aïn el Héloué, home to 50,000 Palestinians, has blocked access to the camp to protest the recent control on the comings and goings of residents carried out by the Lebanese military. Camp residents set fire to tires and stopped traffic for three hours. Security around the camp was imposed following the attempted assassination of Élias Murr. Mr. Murr said in a television interview that he was in possession of information proving the terrorists sought by law enforcement are inside the camp.

Ar Rutbah. A US marine was killed by a bomb near the Jordanian frontier.

Baghdad. Sunnis appear to wish to return to the Constitution draftting committee, which they have boycotted since Thursday.

Baghdad. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani announced that security measures would be boosted for members of the Constitution drafting committee.

Baghdad. Americans and Iraqis have formed a joint committee to establish the criteria for a US pullout, said US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. The chaiman of the committee is Mouaffak al-Roubaï, Iraqi Security Advisor.

23:12 Jerusalem. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon threated the Palestinians with "a new military type of reply" following an attack on an Israeli couple at the Kissoufim crossing in the Gaza Strip.

21:47 Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon denounced what he consideres to be an attempted takeover by extremists in the Palestinian territories at a conference in Afoula in northern Israel.

21:31 Washington. The new Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Turki al-Faisal, said that the Iraqi government must do more itself to secure its frontiers.

21:34 Najaf. Abu Salam al-Kubaisi of the Committee of Iraqi Ulema met with Shi'ite leader Moqtada al-Sadr and announced that Iraqis cannot freely draft a Constitution while US troops are present in the country.

21:29 Balad. A Task Force Liberty soldier was killed and two others wounded by mortar fire directed at their base.

20:46 London. Police apologize but firestorm continues over death of Brazilian. The mea culpa of Scotland Yard has not mollified Brazilian anger at the death of Jean Charles de Meneze. Meanwhile dozens of Brazilians residing in Britain demonstrated in front of Scotland Yard demanding justice.

20:35 London. The Brazilian government has requested the details concerning the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, executed by police. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim says the UK government has pledged a full investigation.

20:19 Sharm al-Sheikh. Residents demonstrate against bombing.

20:09 London. British security forces make another arrest in the area of Tulse Hill.

18:28 London. Police carried out a controlled explosion of a suspect package in west London.

18:03 Islamabad. Pakistani authorities arrest 210 persons in connection with the 7 July London bombings.

16:16 Baghdad. At least 40 people have been killed by a suicide bomber who blew up a truck laden with explosives at a police station. More than 30, mostly civilians, were injured in the blast in the eastern al-Mashtal area. The explosion was so powerful that body parts were thrown onto the roofs of adjacent buildings. The blast - which came in the middle of a sandstorm - left a giant blackened crater at the scene. 25 parked cars were demolished.

15:19 Cairo. A homemade bomb exploded in Cairo, wounding the Eqyptian who was transporting it in the Qerdassa district in the south of the capital.

12:22 London. Scotland Yard apologizes for the death [execution] of a Brazilian electrician at the Stockwell Tube station.

09:48 Haswa. A roadside bomb exploded near an Iraqi checkpoint, kiling a child and wounding six civilians travelling in a minibus.

09:38 Baghdad. A police official and a patrolman were shot dead by insurgents.

Failure of Condoleeza Rice's Near East Mission

Condi's humiliating Middle East tour resulting in shambles will likely not discussed in the US press. Not since Richard Nixon's 1958 tour of South America during which he faced rioting, rock-throwing mobs in Peru and Venezuela has there been a more violent and discourteous treatment of a high-ranking US official. Here is my take on nine disastrous and damaging incidents:

1) Sudan security toughs rough up her press entourage in Khartoum, including the wife of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Andrea Mitchell.

2) Sharon convokes Condi to his 600-acre Negev Desert ranch, The Sycamores, where Condi is placed in the proper psychological setting to be "sicced" by Sharon's mastiffs. She will negotiate a big fat nothing. Among several points of intransigence, Sharon will refuse to evacuate the promised four settlements on the West Bank and to return to the Road Map negotiations.

3) This is where Defense Minister Rice Shaul Mofaz says no deal to easing controls of Palestinians travelling from the West Bank to Gaza.

4) Condi's announcement with fanfare of an international summit to follow the Gaza Strip evacuation fades to silence.

5) The scorching Condi received while sequestered among Sharon's thugs prompts her to "do a Rummy". (When Donald Rumsfeld is pee-ohed, he grabs the nearest military transport heading for Iraq for a "surprise" visit.) Condi makes totally unplanned and unannounced 7-hour visit to Beirut. Now, we can't really think the visit was meant to support Emile Lahoud and the new Lebanese cabinet of Fuad Siniora, can we? Because it wasn't. Condi needed to convince herself that she can indeed talk tough. So she flew to Beirut to strongarm that new government at the Sérail to dump the Hezbollah Minister of Electric and Water Resources--or see the US will scrub that $5 billion loan. In all likelihood, Lebanese politicians said "No" to to dumping Hezbollah. Condi also got in some Syria bashing. Feel the power! S-s-s-s-s-s-yria is a badass-s-s-s-s-s-s.

As Condoleezza was about to raise her cudgel on Hezbollah and Syria during a public press conference, Mrs. Rice was cut short by Prime Minister Fuad Siniora:
  • Hezbollah: I would like to remind everyone that Lebanon, thoughout its history, has respected international law and will continue to do so. Everyone knows very well that UN Resolution 1559 contains some clauses which have been already implemented and others which require resolution from inside Lebanon within the framework of national unity and dialog. There will be serious debate among Lebanon's different political parties...This requires patience and understanding.
  • Syria: We are determined to cultivate healty relations between [our country and Syria] and to promote financial and trade relations which are mutually beneficial.
Siniora outclassed Rice by his smooth rhetoric loaded implication. He is a man who believes in democracy.

But then like clockwork, a carbomb strikes the upscale Monnot quarter and wounds 12.

6) Returning to Palestine, Rice shows up empty-handed in Ramallah. She was to have conveyed the Israeli reply on the Gaza airport, seaport and border and security arrangements. [Sharon made a separate, illegal security deal with Egypt, BTW, in violation of the fundamental Camp David accords]. She had absolutely nothing. Just the ususal rhetoric about rounding up Hamas agitators, which by this time must be half the country.

7) But there was one proposal! Rice's suggestion to Palestinians to purchase Israeli-owned greenhouses in the Gaza Strip with US money. But this proposal was shot down. How do you make a legal purchase of illegal structures?, the Palestinians wanted to know.

8) Farewell salvo: The Sharm el-Sheikh bombings.

In the background, it appears to me that Condi's boss, George W. Bush, is balking at the Israeli suggestion that he should pay the $1.7 billion pricetag for the Gaza Strip evacuation, including demolitions (dynamiting the roads, utilities, synagogues, mikvahs and settler housing), disposing of rubble and debris, contruction of new military bases within Israel proper, and alternative luxury housing for the settlers. An astronomical figure like that makes the $200 million granted to the Palestinians by Congress and personally lobbied by Bush very look paltry.

And the President himself? Mrs. Rice's trip is a crucial and ill-timed failure that will have nefarious upshots. Condi had been publically announced to be Bush's personal representative for the Israel-Palestine crisis, beyond her Cabinet status. She achieved nothing and left the region in humiliation.

We should all take heed. A weakened US government has been destabilized.