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A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press.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).

Monday, February 28, 2005

this is radio europe

Everywhere I go, pleople want to know...

Sont-ils fous, les americains?
Sono pazzi, gli americani?
Why did you vote for Bush?
Excuse me, but do you inform youselves by watching Fox?
Spinnen die Amerikaner?

It's a harsh world out here...

Thursday, February 24, 2005

February 24 Events in Iraq

New York. Oil for Food Scandal. The director of the UN-administered Oil for Food program, Cypriot Benon Sevan, has demanded a period of grace to respond to charges of malfeasance. Sevan was informed by letter that he would face UN disciplinary action. Mr. Sevan has retired from the UN but still enjoys diplomatic immunity.

Kirkuk. Kurds determined to hold onto oil. The prime minister of the regional Kurdish government, Nechirvan Barzani, says Kurds will not support the new government unless the oilfields around Kirkuk are given over to them. Meanwhile, Mr. Barzani has for the present refused to endorse a candidate for Iraqi Prime Minister.

Baquba. Iraqi government announces arrest of a lieutenant of Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. Meanwhile one police officer was shot dead by unknown assailants.

Baghdad. Negotiations continue to find consensus on the selection of a Prime Minister for Iraq. Outgoing premier Iyad Allawi continues to vie with Ibrahim Jaafari for the Prime Minister's slot. The Minister for Electric Power says Allawi will step aside if guarantees are given that the Constitution will be secular.

21:24 Rome. Italy to quit Iraqi when it is ready to "go it alone." Italian Defense Minister Antonio Martino says Italian contingent to stay in Iraq.

19:51 Baiji. Bodies of interpreters found. Adnan and Hussein Salman, 40 and 43, were found shot to death near Baiji. They worked as interpreters for the US military in Iraq.

19:35 Damascus, Syria denies giving training to rebels. The Syrian government news agency SANA says broadcast confessions of Iraqi rebels who said they had been trained by Syria were unfounded and absurd. In three consecutive broadcasts, al-Iraqiya TV interviewed captured Sudanese, Egyptian and Iraqi insurgents who said they had been trained in the city of Latakia on the Syria coast. The group claims to belong to "The Liberation Army." Sudanese Adam Doum Omar, 41, presented as the group's leader, claimed he had been trained by a Syrian intelligence agent named Abu Bakr.

19:31 London. 18 British servicemen to be charged in prisoner torture scandal. Charges will be brought up against 18 British servicemen for torture of Iraqi civilians. Seven belong to a airborne regiment.

18:01 Baghdad. Residents capture four rebels. Residents near a mosque in the Hirriya District of Baghdad captured four persons accused of attacking Iraqi security forces.

17:42 Mosul. Nineveh Provincial Governor escapes assassination. A rebel commando squad attempted to assassinate the provincial governor, wounding two of his bodyguards.

16:57 Kiev. Ukraine to pull out troops before the end of 2005. Ukrainian Defense Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko says President Viktor Yushenko will determine the date.

16:42 Milan. Giant posters with photos of hostages Giuliana Sgrena, Florence Aubenas and Hussein Hanoun have been hung from the Isimbardi Building in Milan.

12:58 Paris. Reporters sans Frontieres says hostage Florence Aubenas and her guide Hussein Hanoun are alive. RSF Director Robert Menard says the organization has had "contacts" and that the pair are being held outside Baghdad.

12:34 Baghdad. Al-Sharqiya denies reporting hostage release. The Iraqi Tv network Al-Sharqiya denies it reported the release of Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena

11:57 Iskandariyah. Three US soldiers killed by bomb. Carbomb south of Baghdad kills three US soldiers, two police and a little girl. Eight others, including 5 police, were wounded.

11:25 Baghdad. Two US soldiers killed and two others wounded in separate bombings north of the capital. Meanwhile, west of Baghdad four Iraqi soldiers were killed and four wounded in a bombing in the town of Qaïm on the border with Syria.

11:17 Erbil. Raida Al Wazan is alive. A northern Iraqi TV network, Niniveh TV, says kidnapped reporter Raida Al Wazan is still alive and that the decapitated corpse found outside Erbil is not hers.

11:02 Rome. Il Manifesto: False alarm. News of release of reporter Giuliana Sgrena is a hoax.

10:49 Mosul. Raida Al Wazan is alive. Al Wazan's supervisor, Razi Feisal, says the reporter is still alive.

10:32 Baghdad. Al-Sharqia TV reports Giuliana Sgrena is about to be released.

09:20 Washington. Marine cleared of homicide charge. The Marine caught on film by an NBC cameraman in the act of executing a disarmed Iraqi rebel in a Fallujah mosque will not be charged, reports CBS.

08:03 Tikrit. Carbomb kills 10. Ten are dead and twenty-five wounded in Tikrit. A carbomb exploded in the parking lot of police headquarters as officers were assembling for review, setting eight vehicles on fire causing numerous casualties.

08:01 Al-Anbar. US launches airstrike on rebels using warplanes and C-130 gunships

08:00 Kirkuk. Assassination attempt on colonel kills two officers and wounds four. Police Col Khattab Omar Aref survived an assassination attempt in which killed two members of his escort.

Update: Rafik Hariri, Lebanon, Red and White Revolution

Mukhtara Lebanon Posted by Hello

Reports in Le Monde and L'Orient-Le Jour suggest mounting tensions, as the Lebanese Government has rejected an international inquiry into the assassination of Rafik Hariri. However, a UN mission charged with drafting an official report on the affair has been permitted entry. The Lebanese Government says it remains responsible for any inquest.

Opposition MP Antoine Andraos is quoted as saying that both sides have hardened considerably as a clash with the government looms. In an editorial in the opposition newspaper an-Nahar, Nicolas Nassif writes that both sides will exert maximum pressure on their allies in Monday's confidence vote and that Syria will pull out all the stops to save its Lebanese allies.

Nur, who confesses interest but much ignorance on the situation inside Lebanon, is worried that the opposition has gone off script in adopting the Syrian presence as the cri de défi. (They're supposed to use the legislative elections, don't they know that?) and that as tension mounts they may be challenged by inadequate crowd discipline, which is also an essential tactic in a color-themed revolution. See this post).

This dispatch is positive, according to BBC: The Lebanese and Syrian governments have agreed on a redeployment of Syrian troops to the Bekaa Valley in the next few hours, says Lebanese Defense Minister Abdel Rahinm Mrad. The redeployment has been brought about due to growing tensions between the Lebanese Government and the opposition. However, General Mrad added that following the redeployment, the Lebanese and the Syrian government would decide on the next steps for Syrian troop withdrawal from the rest of the country.

The following is digested from reports filed by Le Monde correspondent Mouna Naïm , Agence France Presse and L'Orient-Le Jour.

Martyrs’ Square in the heart of Beirut has never been so charged with so much symbolism. It is in this square, one of the battle lines of the civil war which tore Lebanon apart for 15 years, that Lebanon is reacquiring its unity. At the base of the statue raised long ago to the memory of the Lebano-Syrian nationalists executed by the Turks before WWI, people are out every night in the hundreds, men and women of every age, even children, to demand an end to the Syrian grip on their country and to demand the truth on the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

Simultaneously, a few dozen meters away, on the flowery graves of the former Prime Minister and his seven bodyguards killed in a 14 February assassination bombing, many from the same crowds are joined by others in lighting candles and in praying. Everywhere you look, former Prime Minister Hariri is being hailed as a martyr: on giant posters, on banners, and on cardboard panels, plastered with messages from well-wishers. Some messages are emotional: We miss you, old man! Even though you’re gone, you remain in our hearts, some political: From Kamal Jumblatt assassinated in 1976 to Rafik Hariri, the same criminal assassinates freedom., and some are charged with anger: Out with Syria, you are hated!

On Wednesday evening February 23, the Lebanese were right on time for the rendezvous, which they hope will be the turning point in their history. Along with the slogans of independence and freedom, there is anti-Syrian rhetoric so vitriolic that the authorities have had to intervene to restore order.

On the podium, orator after orator pleads for national unity, for people to set aside their political preferences or religion. They implore the crowds to have patience while awaiting the outcome of a decision of opposition legislators in conclave at the home of Druze leader and Socialist Progressive Party Chairman Walid Jumblatt in Mukhtara in the Shoof Mountains. Their communiqués are applauded as they are relayed by Future TV, the television network owned by the late Hariri, across two giant screens erected on the square.

These opposition legislators have insisted on the inclusion of a debate of the Hariri affair in Monday’s Parliamentary agenda. They say they will follow up the debate with a confidence vote and expect all MPs to live up to their responsibilities. L’Orient le Jour (Beirut) writes that most legislators owe their seats to Syria and that they will have no scruples in putting on the blinders, ignoring will of the Lebanese people…whom they misjudge and have never truly represented.

Hezbollah says it has not decided if it will vote to maintain the current cabinet of ministers. Loyalist Nahib Berry believes that the vote of confidence will backfire and actually boost the Karamé government, short-circuiting local, Arab and Western protest. AFP reports that the government has pressured the pro-Syrian parliamentary majority (85 of 127 seats) to defeat the opposition’s censure motion.

The opposition will also against demand an international investigation into Hariri’s assassination in a show of defiance toward the national courts as well as demand the resignation of every Lebanese security official and all other symbols of power. They want the 1989 Taëf Accords, which define the steps towards a Syrian withdrawal, to be implemented immediately, top to bottom. They are also joining ranks with the Lebanese trade and financial community in calling a national strike for Monday 28 February.

Banking associations, industrial groupings and the Lebanese Chamber of Commerce have demanded the wholesale resignation of the government and the appointment (either by Rustom Ghazalé or Jamil Sayyed) of a transitional government of neutralist politicians. In addition to the general strike, declared following three days of tumultuous meetings, they are also organizing a rally at the mausoleum of Rafik Hariri. However they are opposed by government loyalists, lead by Omar Karamé, Abdallah Ghandour, the President of the Tripoli Chamber of Commerce, Mrs. Carla Saadé of the International Chamber of Commerce and Mohammed Lamah, Vice President of the Beirut Chamber of Commerce.

Walid Jumblatt, who has become the figurehead of the opposition, launched an appeal, relayed by television to Martyrs’ Square: Rafik Hariri is a martyr for Lebanon, the Arabs and the world. His assassination was an act of terrorism. I ask you to raise the flag of Lebanon high above the others and to sing the Lebanese national anthem. Amidst the applause, other opposition leaders have joined the public where they asked the crowds to turn out again on Monday, en masse, starting at 10:00 a.m., to promote one theme: We want the truth!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

February 23 Events in Iraq

Baghdad. Kurds and Sunnis prepared to cooperate with Jaafari. We hope that Mr. Jaafari will start to form a transitional government as soon as possible recruiting influential personalities., said Mohammed Ihsane, Minister for Human Rights within Massoud Barzani's Democratic Party of Kurdistan. However, Mr. Ihsane lamented the slow pace of consultations around cabinet appointments but underscored the existence of an understanding to name Jalal Talabani as President. Meanwhile, the KDP Minister for Culture, Sami Shursh, displayed more reserve, saying that any compact with the UIA must recognize the natural rights of the Kurdish people and that the Kurdish parties were neutral towards Mr. Jaafari's nomination. Mr. Shursh continued, We will ally ourselves with any party which supports a democratic system ensuring a federal Iraq.

Baghdad. Adnan Pachachi's Independent Democrats Movement will not have a seat in the new parliament, says spokesman Jalal Meshta. Meshta indicated that the party was open to cooperation with Mr. Jaafari but that the sparse Sunni turnout prevented the party's representation in parliament.

Al Anbar Province. 18 Iraqis were killed and wounded 25 in clashes with US troops and in several bombings in northern Iraq. Meanwhile, US Marines launched an assualt on the town of Haklaniya

Baghdad. Captured Iraqi insurgents say they were trained by Syria. Al-Iraqiya TV reported that captured Iraqi insurgents have admitted to being trained in Syria. The report is unconfirmed. In a video broadcast by al-Iraqiya, a reporter interviews a group of Iraqi insurgents, who explain how they learned decapitation, sharpshooting and bombmaking in 2001 in the Syrian city of Latakia. I slaughtered animals while learning how to decapitate., says Mohammed al-Taee, a mortar squad leader. Al-Taee says he began his training in Islamabad before spending five months in Syria. He returned to Iraq in 2003 where he says he killed Iraqi National Guards and translators working for the US military. I learned how to make bombs in Latakia and I spent a year with Syrian intelligence. I shot three or four people. He then removed a glove to reveal a hand mutilated by a premature detonation. Two others in the video explained that their job was to take photographs of decapitations and executions under the direction of a Syrian officer named Anis.

Note: Prof. Juan Cole confirms that the confessions are as "phony as a 3-dollar bill". It is embarrassing that Allawi thought he could peddle this horse manure to the Iraqi and American publics.

Baghdad. Iraqi government admits contacts with insurgents. Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita says he has been informed of contacts between insurgents and the Iraqi government and that US military is frequently contacted by intermediaries for the rebels.

Baghdad. Iraq fears the fallout of US attacks on Iran and Syria. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hochyar Zebari warned that Iraq will be destabilized if the US targets Syria or Iran.

21:54 Baghdad. Iraqi Trade Ministry official assassinated. Saad Abbas Hassan was shot while at the wheel of his car in downtown Baghdad. The vehicle went out of control and crashed through a shop window, killing a child.

21:02 Rome. Vote delayed. The Italian legislature will vote on refinancing its Iraq mission in mid-March.

20:34 Rome. Women's Forum. Italian Communist women's forum says, In times of war, journalism is freedom and information as they plan street demonstration in Palermo for the release of kidnapped Italian reporter Giuliana Sgrena.

19:58 Rome. Plea from state universities for release of Manifesto reporter Giuliana Sgrena.

19:51 Rio de Janiero. Family launches web appeal for release of Brazilian hostage. The family of Joao Josè Vasconcellos, a Brazilian national kidnapped 19 January in Iraq, has launched an appeal for his release on the web.

17:27 Washington. Pentagon investigates rape accusation. The Pentagon is investigating the rape of an Iraqi female prisoner by a US soldier and is preparing a second investigation, says Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

17:14 Rome. Kurdish official to address Italian senate. Karim Sinjari, Interior Minister for the Kurdish regional government, will address the Italian senate tomorrow.

17:09 Baghdad. Iraq frontier reopens. Iraqi frontier opens following the Shi'ite feast of Ashura.

17:00 Baghdad. A coalition forms around Allawi. A coalition has been formed to support the renomination of Iyad Allawi as Premier but its composition has not been revealed [while appropriate bank accounts are credited--Nur]. National Security Advisor Kassem Daoud has defined the coalition as national and democratic whose goal is to foster the democratic process which all Iraqis desire. Allawi himself is reported as saying, We believe in a liberal Iraq which is not governed by Islamists [He used the I-word!...Like, hello, the election was last month and only 10 percent of Iraqis thought enough of you to vote for you?--Nur]. Meanwhile, Ibrahim Jaafari, candidate of the majority Shi'ites says he is also building new alliances. The door of Dr. Jaafari is open to everyone, says Jawad Taleb, political advisor to Ibrahim Jaafari.

16:47 Osnabrueck. Three British soldiers sentenced. A British court martial in Germany has sentenced three British soldiers guilty of prisoner abuse. The three were involved in Operation Ali Baba, conceived by the British military to prevent looting of humanitarian aid stockpiles in southern Iraq.

16:17 Teheran. Journalist sentenced to 14 years in prison. The editor of the reformist newspaper Gilan-e-Emrooz was sentenced to 14 years in prison for working for the United States in producing anti-Iranian propaganda.

15:43 Basrah. Shi'ite militants on parade. More than 4,000 of Moqtada al Sadr's militants parade in Basrah.

14:32 Rome. Anti-war petition. 15 thousand signatures have been collected in Italy protesting the war and demanding the release of kidnapped reporter Giulana Sgrena.

13:54 Milan. Terrorist arrested at Malpensa Airport. A suspected international Algerian terrorist has been arrested in Milan airport. He was travelling with an child. [Bogus with a capital "F" for fazullo--Nur]

13:01 Erbil. Body of decapitated women found. TV reporter Raida al Wazan, kidnapped on Sunday along with her 10 year-old daughter, was found dead near the Kurdish capital of Erbil.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

February 22 Events in Iraq

Baghdad. Amnesty International says women are no better off today in Iraq than they were under Saddam Hussein. However, murders and sexual violence against women is on the increase, often involving US military personnel. The US military claims it has no knowledge of the Amnesty International report entitled, Iraq: Decades of Suffering.

Amman. Jordan and Syria settle border disputed. Jordanian Interior Minister Samir Habachneh says Jordan and Syria will initial an agreement on Sunday settling a border dispute dating back to the 1930s.

Canberra. Australian Prime Minister John Howard said his country would deploy another 450 troops to Iraq to guard Japanese troops working in southern Iraq. Australia already has around 950 troops stationed in the Middle East. Prime Minister Howard, a firm ally of US President George W Bush, said he knew the surprise announcement would be unpopular with many Australians.

Baghdad. Concern over links of al-Jaafari to Iran. Detractors of Ibrahim al Jaafari accuse him of corruption, dubious links to Teheran and being an enemy of women's rights. Al-Jaafari has said he supports Islam as the source of law in the Constitution which the new National Assembly will draft. Senator Hillary Clinton complained on Sunday that the nomination of Mr. Jaafari would evoke serious cause for concern. Meanwhile Abdel Mehdi of SCIRI was consiliatory. We are always ready and willing for dialog and support the participation of everyone. The Committee of Iraqi Ulema and other Sunni groups are voices of the Iraqi people and we are in dialog with them, although we do not agree with them when they contest the legitimacy of the elections.

Kirkuk. The Islamic Alliance of Kurdistan announced that it would join a parliamentary bloc with other Kurdish parties to yield 77 seats in the National Assembly. It is now allied with Massoud Barzani's DPK and Jalal Talabani's PUK.

Samarra. Three civilians were killed and one wounded by a roadside bomb.

Brussels. Europe to train Iraqi magistrates. EU nations to train 770 Iraq magistrates, prison officials and police in Operation Lex to take place outside of Iraq.

19:46 Brussels. Berlusconi says there is no further news concerning kidnapped hostage Giuliana Sgrena.

19:15 Brussels. EU and USA say they are prepared to hold an international conference on the future of Iraq with the interim government of Iraq were to request it.

19:15 Rome. Italian journalist reportedly killed by Iraqi National Guards. The Roman public prosecuters' office reviewing the kidnapping and murder of Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni and chauffer Hisham Mahmud Hussein after reports in an Iraqi newspaper that the pair was killed by Iraqi National Guards.

16:55 Brussels: Strong NATO backing for training of Iraqis. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer says the alliance has found funds and staffing for an Iraqi troop training program. However, few nations will deploy trainers to the al-Rustamaniya Military Academy in Baghdad outside the Green Zone which is scheduled to open in September 2005. Germany is to train Iraqi troops in the UAE while France will conduct training of 1,500 officers in Qatar. This falls short of NATO's original goal of training 1,000 officers inside Iraq as well as 500 in Rome, 500 in Stavanger (Norway), and 500 in Oberrammergau (Germany). Spain and Canada have agreed to train anti-mine personnel and police. Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Luxemburg, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain have refused to send trainers to Iraq. 79 trainers of whom 34 are Americans, 13 are Danish and 7 are Polish have been contributed. Estonia, Norway, and Turkey will contribute a single instructor each.

16:11 Baghdad. Suicide bombing in Green Zone.

14:04 Baghdad. Shi'ite political alliance nominates al-Jaafari of the al-Dawa party as candidate for Prime Minister. Abdel Aziz Hakim, head of SCIRI, says al-Jaafari was nominated unanimously.

13:34 Baghdad. Chalabi withdraws from Premier nomination race within the UIA to preserve the unity of the UIA alliance.

13:08 Mosul. Carbombing in Mosul.A Fiat rented near the Sahha bridge exploded as a US convoy passed nearby, damaging a military vehicle. No victims reported.

11:54 Baghdad. Carbombing in Green Zone. Carbomb detonates as a convoy of Interior Ministry commandos exits the Green Zone, killing 2 commandos and wounding 2 civilians. 30 police were also wounded. US and British embassy officials were travelling with the convoy.

11:46 Brussels. All NATO partners to participate in Iraqi troop training program.

11:41 Baghdad. Raid on Shi'ite mosque. The al-Rasul al-Akram mosque in the Ghazalia district of west Baghdad was subject to a commando raid by insurgents.

11:20 Baghdad. Carbomb detonates outside Kurdish party headquarters.

10:49 Baghdad. Powerful blasts in west Baghdad.

10:48 Fallujah. Members of a rebel cell which allegedly kidapped and murdered Italian reporter Enzo Baldoni were killed as they tried to reinfiltrate Fallujah. The ringleader was identified as Hisham Mahmud Hussein.

Monday, February 21, 2005

February 21 Events in Iraq

Baghdad. Horse-trading on the choice of a new Prime Minister resumes after a 48-hour pause for the Shi'ite feast of Ashura. Jawad Maliki, an offcial of the al-Dawa party says that Tomorrow, God willing, a candidate will be selected. We are oriented towards the selection of Ibrahim Jaafari. However, after a meeting with Iyad Allawi, Mr. Jaafari suggested that negotations minght be prolonged. Meanwhile, Ahmed Chelabi has announced yet again that he has received a majority support from UIA. As to the presidency, a Kurdish official says the candidate with the best chance is Jalal Talabani but that the List members have not yet taken a formal decision.

Baghdad. Eight Iraqis, including 6 members of the Iraqi security forces and government officials were killed in a series of attacks north of the capital. Two others are reported missing.

Baquba. Al-Zarqawi lieutenant arrested. Iraqi security forces have announces the arrest of Udaï Abou Firas, suspected of killing a number of Iraqi police. Abu Firas had been enrolled in the army of Saddam Hussein.

Baghdad. $25 million bounty on al-Zarqawi. The US upped the bounty on Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi to $25 million.

22:05 Ramadi, 42 arrests. US Marines arrest 42 alleged insurgents and confiscate arms after setting up checkpoints and conducting house-to-house searches.

21:33 Washington. General Myers, "Rebel attacks number between at least 50 and 60 attacks per day".

20:38 Baghdad. Released Indonesian journalists stopped at Jordanian border. The driver for the released Indonesians journalists say the pair was stopped inside Iraq at the Jordanian frontier because Iraqi authorities had sealed the border.

19:36 Rome. Pier Scolari meets Council President Gianni Letta. Il Manifesto Editor-in-Chief Pier Scolari tells Italian Government Council President Giovanni Letta that the forced departure of Italian reporters may worsen the situation for kidnapped journalist Giuliana Sgrena.

18:30 Rome. Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini suggests a precautional withdrawal of Italian media from Iraq.

18:13 Baghdad. Roadside bomb set by rebels kills three US soldiers and wounds 8.

17:26 Brussels: European Union tells insurgents: Free Giuliana Sgrena and Florence Aubenas immediately.

16:59 Amman. Italian reporters to depart Baghdad. Italian intelligence warns that Italian reporters in Iraqi are in "imminent danger" .

16:54 Rome. La Farnesina Palace tells Italian journalists to leave Iraq. Pasquale Terracciano, Italian government press attaché, tells Italian reporters to leave Baghad.

16:23 Al-Kut. Bearded police officer shoots superior after receiving order to cut his beard. I cannot shave off my beard because it would go against instructions from the Marjaiya, said Zaid Maksussi, in custody after using his Kalaschnikov to shoot his superior.

16:21 Baghdad. Italian press corps quits Iraq. Correspondents for RAI, Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica to leave Baghdad within 48 hours.

15:14 Baghdad. Italian Embassy instructs Italian reporters to leave Iraq.

14:09 Baghdad. Three Iraqis working for US military kidnapped. Islamic Army Terror Brigades kidnap two Iraqis and a Turk working for the US military in northern Iraq.

12:29 Baghdad. US ambulance fired on by insurgents.

11:06 Baghdad. Release of Indonesian journalists confirmed. The Indonesia Foreign Ministry has confirmed release of Indonesian hostages.

09:17 Adhim. Truck driver in military convoy killed. A truck driver delivering supplies to Iraq's security forces was ambushed in Adhim, 50 km north of Baquba. Meanwhile, two civilians were killed by mortar fire directed at government headquarters in Baquba

09:14 Mossul. TV journalist kidnapped. Raeda Wazzan, a reporter for al-Iraqia TV was kidnapped in the Maidan District in downtown Mossul by insurgents together with her 10 year-old son.

09:13 Baghdad. Al Arabiya reports that the kidnapped Indonesian journalists, Meutya Hafid and camraman Budiyanto have been released in Ramadi by their captors.

Lebanon's Red and White Non-Violent Revolution

Beirut Posted by Hello

Belgrade 2000. Tbilisi 2003. Kiev 2004. --Beirut 2005?

As some of us who watched the popular standoff against Leonid Kutchma’s government in the squares of Kiev might have observed, someone’s deep pockets must have paid for those thousands of color-themed caps and scarves! Surely people didn’t buy them from surplus orange inventory at Benetton or Oxfam! Well, there is money. January’s Le Monde Diplomatique reports that the color-coordinated popular manifestations seen in Eastern European capitals may appear spontaneous, but they are less than what they seem. Behind the scenes, every detail is carefully planned.

The origins of the color-themed revolutions go back to 1999. Following the failure of the US bombing campaign against Serbia, the US and the EU cast about and latched on to new revolutionary strategy : carefully orchestrated, massive street demonstrations inspired by pacifist's Gene Sharp’s From Dictatorship to Democracy: A Conceptual Framework for Liberation.

In advance of the 2000 Serbian elections, the US and the EU put together a large-scale monitoring apparatus comprised of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and well-funded NGO’s, including Madeleine Albright’s National Democratic Institute, Senator John McCain’s International Republican Institute, George Soros’ Open Society and James Woolsey’s Freedom House not only to guarantee transparency but to launch a popular movement with the appropriate levels of stagecraft, press and public relations.

The avowed goal of forcing the government to acknowledge election results masks, according to LMD, a theme hammered by Washington--régime change. The neutral monitoring effort is a vehicle for the intervention of foreign powers in a non-violent revolution.

Behind the slogans in Belgrade(Otpor::Resistance), Tbilisi (Kmara::Enough) and Kiev (Pora::Now) is a massive Western undertaking in funding and encouragement, including internships in organizational training and in getting the message out to the public. But the subterfuge leaves some participants bitter. Gia Jorjoliani of the Center for Political Studies in Tbilisi is quoted in LMD as saying: I stopped participating in Georgian monitoring when I realized that it was an initiative that is less interested in free elections than in toppling régimes.

LMD reveals that there are certain prerequisites for spontaneous revolution.
  1. A semi-dictatorship or a country too reliant on the good graces of the West to shoot the demonstrators.
  2. An election in which the government is forced to commit fraud to stay in power.
  3. Cooperation with local media to ensure that the fraud is substantiated and reported.
  4. An opposition figurehead who steps out of the targeted government as a reformer.
  5. A sincere desire for change on the part of a portion of the population which cannot be challenged.

If all five conditions are not met, it’s a no-go as evidenced by the recent challenge to Hugo Chavez which crumbled to nothing.

The upcoming Lebanese legislative elections may offer the right terrain for non-violent régime change and the end to the Syrian troop presence. The assassination of Rafik Hariri has conveniently provided a unifying sentiment across the Christian and Muslim communities by pointing the finger at Syria. Walid Jumblatt has come out as the voice of the opposition. All that’s needed is for Lebanese President Emil Lahud and the Syrian-backed government to be tempted into election fraud.

Today’s BBC story, Beirut protesters denounce Syria, provides evidence of the rhetoric now being fed to the press which will set the stage for the Red and White Revolution:

Many protesters out on the streets wore red and white scarves, symbolising the opposition's "independence uprising", which it describes as a peaceful campaign to dislodge the pro-Syrian Lebanese government and force out the 15,000 troops Syria keeps in Lebanon. "It is my civic duty as a Lebanese to take part in this uprising," said one protester Youssef Mukhtar, quoted by the Associated Press news agency. "Enough bloodshed and disasters. It is the 21st Century, and people should be able to govern themselves. The situation has become unbearable and we have to regain our country," he added.
In yesterday’s Corriere della Sera, the good-looking youthful pair captured on camera above imparts its icons.

If successful, the next step is Egypt, where Madeleine Albright has been testing the waters. But things will not be so simple there, given the widespread distrust of the Americans. Although Egypt is very beholden to the Americans, it has recently preemptively jailed some attractive potential opposition leaders. But voter fraud is almost guaranteed as Hosni Mubarek’s son attempts to keep power in the family.

LMD suggests that more spontaneous revolution offensives are planned for Cuba, Byeloruss and Moldava. Even the President's desperate, last-ditch Greater Middle East Initiative is a willingness to try, if not an actual capitulation to, non-violent options. Sure, it's hype and spin and psychology capitalizing on popular discontent, funded abroad and even serving Washington's foreign policy aims, but seen in the right light and over the long run, it may subvert itself and lead to a positive future and genuine self-determination. Or is it dangerous, self-serving politics-through-other-means cold warfare?

[Update 24 February: President Bush was quoted in Bratislava, while bathing in the accolades of the cheering crowds, as saying, The peaceful revolutions in Georgia and in the Ukraine augur that Moldava and Belarus will soon join the camp of democratic nations. ].

Your thoughts?

Sunday, February 20, 2005

February 20 Events in Iraq

Allawi announces killing of two al-Zarqawi webmasters. Abu Rim and Abu El Ezz, allegedly webmasters for al-Zarqawi's terror group, were killed by Iraqi security forces. [Armed with laptop and dangerous--Nur].

19:45 Doha. Al Zawahri video broadcast by al Jazeera. Al Zawahri says Al Qaeda is unstoppable.

15:41 Baghdad. Attacks north of capital kill 7 as 2 are kidnapped. A carbomb exploded in Hawija, killing the driver. In Kirkuk, two Kurds were killed at a weapons dump. Two night watchmen were killed at the refinery at Baiji in a guerrilla raid last night. The bodies of two police wre found near Samarra. In Samarra, city official Nayef Saleh Mohammed was kidnapped. In Dur, north of Samarra, Fauzi Idane, a contractor, was kidnapped.

15:33 Ramadi. US troops launch assault on city. Marine is killed.

13:21 Budapest. Saudi Arabia recalls Ambassador. Hungarian Premier Ferenc Gyurcsany puts foot in mouth at the conclusion of a soccer match with a victory by Hungary over Saudi Arabia: "This is a fantastic result over a team composed of real terrorists. Riyadh responded by recalling its ambassador to Budapest for consulations, says the MTI news agency.

10:11 Al-Anbar Province. US beefs up security in al-Anbar province. The US has closed off all entrances to Ramadi.

07:55 Jakarta. Indonesia dispatches crisis mediation expert. Triono Wibowo, Director of the Crisis Center of the Indonesian Foreign Ministry, is travelling to Jordan to head efforts to release kidnapped Indonesian journalists.

04:27 London. British shown to be involved in Abu Ghraib torture. Tony Blair's government has disavowed any connection to the abuses at Abu Ghraib Prison but a revelation by the Observer on Sunday suggests the contrary.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

February 19 Events in Iraq

My friends tell me they don't drop by to read the events timeline--because it's too depressing! So if you do read it, I guess you should be praised for your clear-eyed bravery, huh?

London. A British officer has been implicated in the drafting of rules authorizing torture in Abu Ghraib prison. The Observer cites a letter from Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram saying a British officer was dispatched to Baghdad and assigned to the Coalition's judicial unit run by the Americans. There he participated in drafting the text, Interrogation and Policies in combatting the Insurgency. Meanwhile The Independent on Sunday reports that members of the British military knew about about abuses at Abu Ghraib five months before the British Cabinet was informed.

17:03 Baghdad. 27 dead and 109 wounded in Ashura violence in the capital.

16:25 Baghdad. Four Iraqi civilians killed by mortar fire. Mortar fire was directed at Shi'ite worshipers returning from home Ashura rituals in Baghdad.

13:10 Baghdad. School bus explosion, 17 dead. Seventeen are dead and forty-one wounded after a suicide bombing of a bus transporting Shi'ite worshipers in Baghdad.

12:12 Baghdad. Al Zarqawi claims credit for Baquba suicide bombing.

12:09 Kirkuk. Religious leader assassinated. Sheik Mohammed Rustom Kaka, chairman of the Committee of Kurdish Ulema, was killed by a hit squad as he was riding in his car. Sheik Kaka was involved with the Democratic Party of Kurdistan.

11:35 Baghdad, two killed in Sunni district. Mortar fire killed two as it fell near a Sunni mosque in Baghdad.

11:19 Baghdad. Three dead and dozens wounded in suicide attack. A suicide bombing in front of a Shi'ite mosque in the Baya district of Baghdad killed three members of a funeral procession for a Shi'a woman killed in a suicide bombing yesterday. The bomber drove up on a motorcycle and blew himself up amidst the crowd.

09:25 Doha. Al Jazeera broadcasts Giuliana Sgrena's photo journal. Manifesto provides kidnapped reporter Sgrena's collection of war photos to al Jazeera.

09:15 Baghdad. City locked down for feast of Ashura . All entrances to the Shi'ite quarter have been blocked off by security personnel. Worshipers are allowed in on foot only. The Imam Kazem mosque is surrounded by police.

09:14 Jakarta. Plea from mother of kidnapped journalist. The mother of Meutya Hafid has called on her "Muslim brothers" to release her daughter. Indonesian President Susilo Mambang Yudhoyono went on Metro TV to say that Miss Hafid is just a reporter and does not work for the Indonesian government.

09:13 Baquba. Bomb placed outside National Guard barracks kills one soldier.

09:12 Haswa. Insurgents attack US military base in Haswa, south of Baghdad, during the night.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Outlook for US Aims in Iraq

The Limits of Washington’s Oriental Dream
LE MONDE | 18.02.05 | 14h23

Any analysis of the Middle East starts with an analysis of the situation in Iraq in the aftermath of the 30 January elections--there is going to be no radical transformation in the short term due to the sparse turnout among the Sunni population.

More ambitious than the British, who in 1920 relied on the Sunni minority to control events, the Americans believed they could import a Western-style régime into Iraq. Driven by messianic vision, Washington dreamt of installing a democracy in Baghdad which would transform the whole region. In launching the Greater Middle East Initiative it had hoped to transcend the difficulties with which it met on the ground.

The policy of the British was to impose a dictatorship. From then on, they enjoyed a great deal of latitude in manipulating a succession of régimes in Baghdad. But will the American adventure in Iraq produce a stable, pro-American régime? This is certainly the goal of the United States. But so far they have not found a way to avoid Shi’ite domination. And clearly the objective of the supporters of Ayatollah al-Sistani is to send the Americans packing as soon as possible.

As things stand, Washington is now committed to a long-term presence to prevent the outbreak of civil war. Originally estimated to number only a few thousand partisans, the insurgency is now counted in the tens of thousands. US troops are frightened--their behavior is becoming more and more distrustful, even displaying outright hostility towards the population. Despite what is said, those who want to import “international terrorism” are few. The insurrection comes from within the country and it is heterogeneous.

In theory, two solutions are available. One is a massive build-up in the US military presence to approximately 500,000 troops. But the Pentagon is already struggling to maintain the current 150,000. The other, which corresponds to the current strategy, is to reduce troop presence by accelerating the training of Iraqi security forces using US advisors. But time is running out and the insurgents are concentrating precisely on demoralizing these forces in the embryo.

Some voices inside the United State are arguing for a military pullout pure and simple. But sooner or later a request will come from the Iraqi government itself insisting on a US pullout. The unanswered question is what the fundamental attitude of this government will be towards the United States.

America’s difficulties in Iraq haven’t softened the rhetoric directed against the régime of mullahs in Iran. Nothing indicates that Washington has given up on toppling this régime, which in fact is ailing and unpopular. But if the United States or Israel give into the temptation to attack Iran, then it is very likely that the immediate consequence will be a nation unified against America.

By refusing dialog with Teheran, Washington diminishes the capacity of Iran to influence events inside Iraq. Due to the multiplicity and the nuance of its ancient ties to Iraq, Iran has the potential of making things very much worse inside Iraq. Whatever the case, any recent visitor to Teheran or Qom cannot help but notice that the results of the 30 January election are considered to be an immense success for Iran.

It is undeniable that in the medium term the Islamic republic must carry out wide-ranging economic and political reforms. But it is in no danger of imminent collapse. Neither is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is being sorely tested. Incidentally, there has been a warming of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, despite their deep rivalry, driven by a mutual instinct for survival.

The best chance for progressive institutional change in the Middle East is to take up the dossiers of the most challenging yet neglected issues, beginning with Israel-Palestine. The first steps taken by Mahmoud Abbas have been bold; getting Hamas to participate in the peace talks seems increasingly likely. The ceasefire to which Israel and Palestine agreed on 8 February in Sharm al Sheikh holds new hope. Forthcoming events – especially the Palestinian parliamentary elections in July coinciding with the Gaza pullout – will be crucial. The path to a final settlement remains long although the terms, even concerning the thorniest of issues such as the status of Jerusalem, the Israeli settlements or the Palestinina refugees, are already known. The right of return, as we know, is no longer an insurmountable obstacle.

In diplomacy, it is rare that the contents of formulas are more malleable than the formulas themselves. When a problem appears intractable, said the father of a united Europe, Jean Monnet (1888-1979), change the problem. Therein lies the art of negotiation. And the moment is ripe to begin.

The best way to get Syria to withdraw from Lebanon in compliance with UN Resolution 1559 of 2 September 2004 is to begin negotiations with Israel on a withdraw from the Golan Heights. But Washington has imposed sanctions on Damascus and allows doubt to swirl around its intentions concerning the régime of Bashir al-Assad. Surely it knows that if al-Assad is toppled, chaos will ensue.

Within the framework of a return to diplomacy, as President Bush has advocated, a time and place must be found for the opening up of a dialog with Iran. If the successor to President Khatami (elections will be held in June) is a powerful and experienced man, like Hojjat ol-Islam Hashemi Rafsanjani, it is conceivable that the Islamic Republic will recognized Israel and agree to observe the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, two Western demands, in exchange for acceptance of its legitimate role in regional security and economic concessions.

The positive aspect of the more or less aborted Greater Middle East Initiative is that certain régimes have become more aware of the necessity of reform. Saudi Arabia has taken a few steps in that direction. We all know Tocqueville’s Law: The moment in which a country initiates reforms is the moment in which a moldering régime risks collapse. It’s not always good for the population and the environment when a régime, even moldering, collapses. If Western countries can create a minimum amount of confidence in which to work, then they can assist their Middle Eastern partners in dialog in making incremental reforms which will gradually open up a space for enduring cooperation.

Such ideas may appear utopian but I believe that they are not. To implement grand designs, you need generous vision in the planning coupled with realism in the execution. And by their very nature, grand designs seem improbable at the outset.

Thierry de Montbrial

February 18 Events in Iraq

Washington. US puts pressure on Syria. The United States insisted again on the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Meanwhile Condoleeza Rice declared the Syrian Ambassador to the United States persona non grata.

23:29 Baghdad. US troops looses reach 1,472.

22:31 Rome. Manifesto: "No news concerning Giuliana Sgrena". Editors Gabriele Polo and Valentino Parlato say there is no further news concerning reporter Giuliana Sgrena.

21:24 Brussels. EU ministers demand release of Giuliana Sgrena.

20:01 Iskandariya. Another mosque bombing. Seven are dead and 10 founded in another attack on a Shi'ite mosque south of Baghdad.

19:33 Rome. Vatican "implores" insurgents for release of Giuliana. Vatican Foreign Affairs Minister Mons. Giovanni Lajolo pleads for release of Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena.

19:18 Baghdad. US soldier killed south of Baghdad.

19:01 Rome. National TV networks add extra segment to evening news for coverage of demostrations in favor of Giuliana Sgrena.

18:11 Baghdad. Hostage Giuliana Sgrena appears in new video

17:38 Baghdad. Shi'ite death toll rises. Twenty-three killed in violence against Shi'ites.

15:49 Samarra. Bodies of six soldiers and two police recovered. Six cadavers shot through the head belonging to Iraqi soldiers were found near Samarra. Two police were killed in a separate incident.

13:52 Rome. Berlusconi maintains silence on the fate of Italian reporter Giuliana Sgrena.

13:38 Baghdad. Three die in cafe bombing. A bomb went off in a Shi'ite cafe in northwest Baghdad.

12:57 Tel Afar. US soldier killed. A roadside bomb killed a US soldier in Tel Afar

12:29 Baghdad. Shi'ite mosque bombed: 18 dead and 27 wounded.

12:08 Baghdad. Second Shi'ite mosque bombed. 1 dead and 4 wounded at the Ali al-Bayaa mosque in west Baghdad.

12:04 Baghdad. Bombing carried out by suicide bomber. A suicide bomber blew himself up inside the Kazimain mosque in the Abu Dishr, district.

11:49 Baghdad. 17 dead in mosque bombing.

11:48 Baghdad. Fascist parliamentarian Gustavo Selva says street demonstrations in Italy calling for the release Giuliana Sgrena are "useless and unhelpful".

11:30 Baghdad. Shi'ite politician says police tortured three militant to death. Abdel Aziz Hakim says Baghdad police tortured and killed three Shi'ite militants.

11:24 Baghdad. Thirteen dead on mosque bombing. Thirteen are dead and 22 wounded in bombing of Shi'ite mosque in southwest Baghdad.
11:21 Milan. Mohamed Daki, a Moroccan cleared of charges of terrorism by a Milan court called for the release of Giuliana Sgrena.

11:18 Baghdad. Four dead in mosque bombing.

11:03 Baghdad, Suicide bomber strikes Shi'ite mosque. A suicide bomber blows himself up during Ashura prayers in mosque in southwest Baghdad.

10:54 Baghdad. Carbomb kills two and wounds ten in mosque bombing in south Baghdad.

10:48 Baghdad. Thousands of Shi'ites march in Ashura procession.

10:03 Najaf. Sons of police chief assassinated. The bodies belonging to the sons of Najaf police chief General Ghaleb al Jazairi were found today north of Karbala. The bodies of Haidar and Bahaa al Jazairi, both approximately 20 years old, were found near Husseiniya, 10 km north of Kerbala.

09:03 Mosul, US soldier killed. A Task Force American Freedom soldier was killed in action in Mosul.

07:00 Mosul. Carbombing kills US soldier.

06:59 Baghdad. Indonesians kidnapped. Reporter Meutya Hafid and cameramen Budianto were kidnapped near Ramadi on Tuesday.

05:43 Ramadi. Two Indonesians kidnapped.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

February 17 Events in Iraq

Milan. CIA under investigation in Italy. 12 CIA agents kidnapped Egyptian Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, 42, known as Abu Omar in broad daylight on a Milan street in February 1993 and took him to Aviano USAF Base which he was tortured and interrogated for seven hours before sending him to Egypt, where he is still imprisoned. Nasr lost his hearing and the use of his legs as a result. The Milan Public Prosecutor's Office knows the identity of the US agents and is considering their arrest on kidnapping charges.

Washington. 307 incidents of sexual assault were reported by members of the US military deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Bahrein in 2004. Most victims were women and most abusers were fellow male soldiers.

Baghdad. Allawi has signed the treaty recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in Iraq (Somebody's mad at Washington--Nur).

Baghdad. Council of Ministers declares two-day weekend, Friday and Saturday, as legal holiday.

New York. Mark Malloch-Brown, UN Chief of Staff, sends letter to US Senate saying diplomatic immunity will not be lifted for UN officials involved in the Oil for Food investigation and that they will not be permitted to testify in public before a Senate committee. However, should officials wish to testify voluntarily, they will be permitted to do so in private.

Teheran. Russia to initial deal with Iran for delivery of nuclear fuel. On 26 February, Russia and Iran will sign an agreement under which Russian will deliver nuclear fuel for the Bouchehr reactor for a period of 10 years, announced . Asadollah Sabouri, Vice Director of the Iranian Atomic Energy Commission. Spent fuel will be returned to Russia, reports the Russian news agency. RIA Novosti. (Do you think this is a little "in your face" from Pootie-Poot directed to Bush's new diplomatic team?)

Baghdad. Kidnapped Iraqi-Swedish hostage Minas Ibrahim al-Youssoufi, Secretary General of the Iraqi Christian Democratic Party, pleaded for assistance for his release from the King of Sweden and Pope Jean-Paul in a video broadcast on al-Arabiya.

Baghdad. Ali Hassan Majid, aka Chemical Ali, will be among the first of Saddam Hussein's lieutenants to be tried for war crimes, including the chemical attack on Halabja and executions of Shi'ites in Basrah. Hussein himself will be charged with the killings of the father of radical Shi'ite leader Moqtada al-Sadr and two of his brothers.

Kirkuk. Petroleum Minister Thamer Abbas Ghadbane says exports of Iraqi crude to Turkey have been halted due to sabotage.

Baghdad. Shite list encounters obstacles in agreeing on who will be named Prime Minister. Horse trading to continue through the weekend with a meeting to follow on Tuesday, when party members will vote by secret ballot, says Nouri Kamel Mohammed, member of the al-Dawa Party politburo.

Ankara. Released Turkish hostage, businessman Kahraman Sadikoglu, confirms his family paid a ransom to an intermediary in Jordan for his release. He says his kidnappers were ex-officers of Saddam Hussein's army.

Daylan (Iran). An explosion occurred near the port of Daylam on the Persian Gulf. Witnesses day a missile was launched from an unidentified aircraft 20 km. from Daylam. An Iranian government official said an Iranian aircraft lost a fuel tank. Later an Interior Ministry spokesman said the explosion occurred just after an aircraft overflew the city, but there was no reason to think it was a hostile action. Daylam is located 150 km from a Russian-designed nuclear power station located in Bushehr which is expected to enter into service in 2006.

Dubai. A UAE millionaire has offered to buy the abandoned homes of Gaza settlers from the Israeli government but his offer has been refused. Mohammad al-Aba met with Ilian Cohen to discuss the purchase a block of homes in Goush Katif. However the Israeli government said the homes would be razed. M. al-Abar owns a real estate company.

21:15 Washington. Washington Post reports that the US turned a blind eye on illiicit oil trafficking in the Oil for Food scandal. The US Treasury winked at sales of oil to Turkey and Jordan. The US had responsiblity for patrolling Iraqi waters through which the oil tankers regularly traversed.

19:51 Milan. Oil for Food: Italian tribunal examines Cogep, a company owned by Natalino and Andrea Catanese, involved in the Iraqi Oil for Food scandal.

19:40 Mosul. Three US troops wounded in Mosul

18:34 Jerusalem. Israel vows it will no longer bulldoze the homes of families of Palestinian "terrrorists," in an announcement by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz.

17:39 Baghdad. US troops wounds three. Three Iraqis were shot and wounded by US troops as the soldiers dispersed a crowd which had gathered around the scene of a carbombing. The bomb injured no one.

16:38 Washington. Bush vows to settle Iranian nuclear question diplomatically. Bush says crisis to be settled "with our European friends."

15:56 Washington John Negroponte named Intelligence Services Director.

15:42 Samarra. Official of Allawi's party kidnapped. Saif Abu Mishaal Hasan, party chief for the province of Salah al Din, has been kidnapped.

15:22 Baghdad. Al Jaafari says new premier to be named within two days.

14:30 Baghdad. Official elections results confirm that UIA gets 140 seats in new National Assembly.

14:00 Rome. Kidnapped reporter Sgrena's colleagues prepare video documentary. Journalist Pierre Scolari prepares video showing Iraqi children maimed by US cluster bombs for broadcast by al Jazeera and al Arabiya.

07:07 Baghdad. Four US troops dies in separate road accidents. Two US soldiers were killed in a road accident in Babil Province, south of baghdad. One other was killed in Diyala and another southeast of the capital.

Anagram for John Dimitri Negroponte


Just so you know how I feel...

*Posted by Seraphiel @ Atrios.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

February 16 Events in Iraq

Baghdad. Text of Giuliana Sgrena video: Get out of Iraq. The Iraqi people shouldn't have to suffer any longer. Help me, do something, Pierre [Scolari]!

Baghdad. Supporter of Iyad Allawi lashes out at PM hopeful Ibrahim Jaafari. Imad Shabib of Iraqi National Accord lashes out at al-Dawa Party's Ibrahim Jaafari: He should act like an Iraqi. He should be loyal to Iraq and not to some other country! Shabib also lashed out at Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Religion is a very complicated matter in Iraq. We have both Sunni and Shi'a in the same tribe, in the same clan. If we head in this direction, we shall all be divided. The Prime Minister does not have to be a Sunni or a Shi'a. He should be the best leader for Iraq. Dr Jaafari is our friend but I say this to al-Da'wa and the SCIRI: Be vigilant! Shabib also expressed sour grapes. The slate of Mr Allawi, a secular Shi'ite, made it into third place. We lost because His Eminence Sistani had a major impact on the vote. Three million Shi'ite voters turned out because of him alone, and the [election] results do not correspond to reality.

Mosul. Four US soldiers and one Iraqi policeman were wounded in two separate insurgent raids in Mosul.

Baghdad. Guards kill bomber wearning suicide vest attempting to enter the Jaafar al-Sadek mosque in Baghdad.

Baghdad. Four oil pipelines sabotaged.Four oil pipelines supplying the Baïji and Doura refineries north of Baghdad were sabotaged. Up to $8 billion has been lost to sabotage following the March 2003 invasion, says the Iraqi Petroleum Ministery.

Washington. US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld says Iraq will have 270,000 professional soldiers by mid-2006. He refused to estimate the growth of the insurgency.

Karbala. Feast of Ashura. In an intense security climate, even children have been forbidden to ride bicycles in Karbala. February 19 will be the anniversary of the martyrdom of Hussein at the hands of Ummayid Caliph Yazid. At the tombs of Imams Hussein and Hassan thousands of faithful have left prayer cards, as well as posters of Gandhi and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeyni.

20:52 Paris. Director of Libération despairs of finding Florence Aubenas, and her Iraqi interpreter, Hussein Hanoun, alive.

20:42 Paris. French Goverment believes kidnapped reporter Florence Aubenas and her interpreter, Hussein Hanoun, are still alive

20:02 Baghdad. Video of hostage Giuliana Sgrena delivered anonymously to Associated Press.

19:57 Balad. Bodies of eight foreigners discovered north of Baghdad. Balad hospital says deaths are three days old. Victims had their hands bound behind their back and were were wearing civilian clothes. One had a slashed throat.

19:35 Rome. Berlusconi optimistic on release of kidnapped Italian reporter Giuliana Sgrena.

18:35 Baghdad. Two Lebanese hostages released. Brothers Ghazi and Hussein Haider have been released. They were kidnapped on 29 December

18:26 Baghdad. Twenty-nine Iraqis killed over last 24 hours. Twenty-nine Iraqis included three police and a guard for a petroleum installation have been killed since last night.

18:16 Al Anbar. Four US soldiers killed, three accidentally and one in a raid by insurgents.

18:08 Rome. Berlusconi happy that Sgrena is still alive.

18:01 Rome. Italian Senate approves financing for Iraq mission. Vote was 141 to 113 .

17:43 Baghdad. Sheikh Ahmad Abdul Ghafur Samarrai of the Committee of Iraqi Ulema calls for release of Giuliana Sgrena.

17:24 Rome. Parents of Sgrena say they see daughter cry for the first time on video released by kidnappers.

16:53 Baghdad. Crowd lynches suspected suicide bombing. Residents of the Bayaa quarter of Baghdad lynch suspected suicide bomber.

16:05 Rome. Opposition leader Prodi asked for united effort to free Giuliana Sgrena.

15:52 Rome. Italian Intelligence Service, SISMI, says hostage video is a positive sign [It wasn't such a positive sign last August--Nur].

15:08 Rome. Italian Minister of Environment Matteoli says "We are politicians. We don't get emotional! [That's news to me.--Nur] Matteoti says kidnapping of reporter Giuliana Sgrena is the result of "years of ditatorship".

12:50 Rome. Franco Sgrena. "This will not end well." Father of Giuliana Sgrena expresses fear for fate of daughter.

12:05 Rome. Video of hostage Giuliana Sgrena broadcast by RAI-3.

A Biography of Rafik Hariri

Rafik Hariri

Lebanese ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, assassinated on 14 February at the age of 61 years in the center of Beirut, submitted his resignation in October in what was viewed as a defeat in an arm wrestle with Syria. Hariri governed as Prime Minister from 1992 to 2004, except for a brief interval between 1998 and 2000.

His obsession with security, which motivated him to travel only in an armored automobile equipped with sweepers for phone signals and with carbomb detectors, did not save him from the bomb that was set off by the transit of his convoy composed of several limousines and SUVs. A multimillionaire with excellent relations with Arab monarchs and European leaders, Hariri, starting from humble origins, made himself an immense fortune. His connections influenced him to enter Lebanese politics and in 1992 he was elected Prime Minister, an office which he held until 2004, except for a brief interval in which Salim Hoss was Prime Minister between 1998 and 2000.

Rafik Hariri was born into a modest household in Sidon in 1944. His father was a farmer and his mother ran a fruit stand. Hariri began his university education in 1964 only to abandon his studies to emigrate to Saudi Arabia because of insufficient economic resources to continue. In Saudi Arabia he worked as a Math teacher and as an auditor for an engineering company. In 1969 he started his own firm, Ciconquest, which grew unstoppably during Saudi's oil boom. He began to win contracts from private and government customers for the construction of office buildings, hospitals, hotels and palaces. A workaholic, Hariri built Riyahd's Hotel Massara in a mere six months. By the beginning of the 1980s, Hariri was among the 100 richest men in the world.

Following the civil war in Lebanon, he made himself conspicuous in war-torn Beirut as he engaged in the reconstruction effort. With his building supply and construction companies, he began to remodel Beirut with the desire to turn it into a New Singapore. Between business and politics he was able to start up his own television network, Future TV, a general entertainment network which became hugely popular in a country enjoying the one of the most vibrant media markets in the Arab world.

Hariri had his ups and downs with the Syrian régime, the real political arbiter in Lebanon, but his relations with Damascus did not deteriorate until 2004 when he opposed a constitutional amendment which would grant an additional term to President Emil Lahud, slated to retire. However, after a mysterious trip to Damascus, Hariri changed his mind and announced that he would support the reelection of Lahud for which he was roundly criticized.

In October 2004, just after consenting to the reelection of Lahud, Hariri resigned as Prime Minister saying that Lebanon needs a orderly and unified government in order to carry out its responsibilities in facing challenges from within and without; I was unable to manage those challenges because of obstacles with which you are all familiar.

Amidst his clamorous resignation (a politician closely identified with Syria replaced him), Hariri became a member of parliament and moved increasingly closer to a heterogeneous group of MPs who demand the end of Syrian tutelage of Lebanon, although Hariri himself never criticized Damascus openly.


The reaction of the Lebanese swings between blaming Syria and blaming Israel. Here are some comments from a Lebanese forum.

  • This crime is ignoble, reprehensible and on many levels a crime intended to destabilize the already unsettled domestic political situation in the approach of legislative elections and above all relating to the controversial and thorny issue of UN Resolution 1559. Rafik Hariri was not free of reproach but he was a first-class politician and was very solicitous of his duties despite his wealth. He was incontrovertible player on the political stage but above all, a Lebanese. His assassination will have nefarious consequences on Lebanon, the Near and Middle East, and the world. This assassination also weakens Syria and places it in a very fragile sitution. The crime is grist for the Israeli mill. What a disaster, I'm afraid for my Lebanon, it's no use telling myself that Lebanese are used to war; I know they want an enduring peace and to live in a country which is not under threat.

  • May Rafik Hariri rest in peace. He drank from the poison Syrian chalice of Lahud's term extension. I'm very sorry Hariri did not run for President in 2004. But who profits from this crime? Syria?

  • I'm French. This evening, I wanted to write a letter to the Syrian ambassador to France. I needed the address. But then I found out that the Syrian Embassy doesn't have a web site. I looked in the phone directory and it wasn't listed. I took the next step and looked for a website for the government of Syria. Damascus does not have one. Now that's pretty odd that a nation that's on every world atlas, a nation we all know exists, is so unfindable. I've known for a long time what kind of country Syria is--I mean politically--but this is beyond all limits. I'm a friend of Lebanon--it's obvious. But don't worry, Lebanon is eternal. It will triumph over tyranny.

History of the Civil War in Lebanon

Just an aide-memoire gathered from an article by Mouna Naïm in today's Le Monde.

  • 1975 : 13 April. A bus carrying Palestinian civilians was machine-gunned in Aïn el-Remaneh Street in the eastern suburbs of Beirut, setting off a 15-year civil war.
    The Lebanese Army and Christian parties square off against Palestinian refugees and Muslim political parties, who form a “progressive Islamist” movement, headed by Druze political figure Kamal Jumblatt, leader of the Socialist-Progressive Party.
  • The Lebanese Army and the Christians accuse the Palestinians of maintaining a state within a state enforced by the rules of the jungle since their exile from Jordan in 1970. The progressive Islamic alliance accuses the Christians of betraying the Arab cause, especially the Palestinian cause. Clashes begin in the outskirts of Beirut and spread throughout the country. The Lebanese army dissolves. Half of them become the Army of Arab Liberation, the other half joins the Christian militias.
  • 1976. June. The Syrians regard Lebanon its soft underbelly exposed to Israeli aggression. Amidst the chaos, Lebanese President Elias Sarkis invites in the Syrian Army to rescue the Christians, with the approval of the Soviet Union and the United States. Israel also approves, because it means a clampdown on the Palestinians. The Israelis insist that the Syrians do not cross over the Red Line, traced by the Litani River in south Lebanon.
  • The pressure off, Christians now counterattack the Islamists and Yassir Arafat asks the Arab League to deploy 30,000 Arab peacekeeping troops, of which 25,000 are Syrian. The Syrians remain after other Arab contingents abandon the effort. Twenty years later, 14,000 Syrian troops are stationed in Lebanon, with Syrian intelligence agents ruling the roost. Until its invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States made no complaint about the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon.
  • 1977-1987 : A decade of bloodshed. Kamal Jumblatt is assassinated. His son, Walid, now accuses Syria of wanting to kill him which most Lebanese believe. When Anwar al Sadat visits Jerusalem and a separate peace is concluded with Israel, Lebanese Christian militas attempt to dislodge the Syrians. Israel becomes their supplier and mentor in South Lebanon.
  • 1978. The Syrian Army and the Christian militias clash. The Israelis, already allied with the Christians, invade Lebanon, stopping at the Litani River, later withdrawing to an 800 km-long Security Zone. The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 425, demanding an immediate Israeli withdrawal. It sends in UN peacekeepers who are pulled out in 2000 after Israel agrees to heed Resolution 425.
  • 1982 June. Israeli forces reach West Beirut where they intend to eliminate the Palestinian Fedayeen. Syrian troops attempt to stop the Israelis and incur heavy losses in men and matériel. The Palestinians are dispersed to the four corners of the Arab world.
  • Elected under the barrel of Israeli cannons, Bashir Jamail, an ally of Israel, becomes President. Given the “green light” by the Israelis, his partisans “clean out” the Palestinian refugee camps of of Sabra and Chatilla of the remaining fedayeen. It is a massacre.
  • 1983. May. Amin Jamail succeeds his brother as President and concludes a peace deal with Israel which the Lebanese Parliament refuses to ratify. Reinvigorated by the move, the Syrians, allied with dissident Palestinians and Shi’ite militias, deliver the coup de grâce to remaining Palestinian feyadeen in North Lebanon and in Beirut and broaded the territory held by its Lebanese allies.
  • 1988-1989 : Amin Jamail steps down but disorder in the country prevents elections. Jamail transfers power to Christian General Michel Aoun. Prime Minister Sélim Hoss, supported by the progressive Islamist alliance, believes the presidency belongs to him.
  • 1989. April. Lebanese factions sign a peace accord in the Saudi Arabian town of Taëf, which allows for a “special relationship” between Beirut and Damascus. It also provides for a phased Syrian pullout. Meanwhile, General Aoun continues to challenge the Syrians and pitiless combat between the two sides continues. Finally, Michel Aoun is exiled to France.
  • 1991. Iraq invades Kuwait. Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad gets the green light from Washington to continue Syria’s hegemony over Lebanon as a condition for joining the US-led anti-Iraq coalition.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

February 15 Events in Iraq

Mosul. Le Monde reports that the lid is ready to come off in Mosul. Mosul is a city of 2 million, mostly Sunni, with a substantial Kurdish minority and a smattering of Christians, Turkmen and Yazidi. The US has permitted a large Kurdish garrison inside the city on the eastern bank of the Tigris of 4,000 PUK militiamen, most in Iraqi military uniform. The paper reports that the lesser minorities have abandoned the city and that today an ultimatum expires, demanding that the Sunni insurgents surrender. This was the scenario which preceded the US assaults on Karbala, Najaf, and Fallujah.

London. UK troops to face legal action over deaths of Iraqis. The UK daily The Independent reports that the Ministry of Defence is exuming the bodies of several Iraqis killed by UK troops for full autopsy and forensic examination by the military's judicial branch. The Independent itself is spurring inquiry into the case of six Iraqi civilians who met death at the hands of British troops. It is expected that the troops involved will face court martial and that the British goverment will pay an indemnity to the families concerned. The paper reveals that Ghanim Gatteh al-Roaimi was killed by British soldiers while standing outside his home in January 2004; Walid Faai Mouzban was killed during a house-to-house search in 2003.

Washington. Sevan pocketed $1.2 million in Oil for Food scandal. Senate investigators say program director Benon Sevan pocketed at least $1.2 million in bribes and kickbacks.

Washington. Red Cross President Jakob Kellenberger engaged in high-level and confidential talks on concerns for prisoners held by the United States in Iraq and Guantanamo with President Bush.

Washington. George W. Bush has formally requested $82 billion from Congress to finance military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The request includes $717 million for a US embassy in Baghdad, $658 million for a diplomatic residential compound, $2 billion for poppy eradication and legislative elections in Afghanistan, $150 million for Pakistan, $200 million for the Palestinians and $300 million in economic and security assistance to Jordan.

Baghdad. Sunni political leaders and a representative of Moqtada al Sadr met with the Committee of Iraqi Ulema in the Oum al-Qoura moque in Baghdad. At the end of the meeting, participants published a communiqué stating their conditions for participation in a national debate on reconciliation and the drafting of a Constitution. The participants also called for the withdrawal of occupation forces and for the end to distribution of goverment posts according to religion, race or ethnicity and recognition of the right of the Iraqi people to resist the occupation.

Baghdad. Allawi warns that next government will be Islamic. Caretaker PM Iyad Allawi says Iraq must be secular society but that he will cooperate with Islamists in forming the new government.

Teheran. Iran discrete concerning Iraqi elections results. Comment by Iran's government and national newspapers on the Iraqi elections has been very low-key.

Baquba. US drone shot down by insurgents.

Baghdad. Six Iraqis were killed and nine wounded in rebel action in Baghdad and north of the city.

Samarra. The bodies of three executed Iraqi soldiers found.

20:25 Moscow. Russia confirms arms sale to Syria. Russia will sell SA-18 ground to air missiles over Israeli objections.

17:08 Rome. Berlusconi says Italian contingent will return home after security is established in Iraq.

16:24 Baghdad. Three dead and one wounded in separate incidents. Two Iraqi soldiers were killed and one wounded by a bomb in Dhuluiya, 70 km north of Baghdad. The body of a third Iraqi soldier was found floating in the Tigris near Balad.

16:14 Rome. Italian Senate to vote on extending mandate for troop presence in Iraq to June 30.

14:33 Rome. Opposition to vote 'No' on bill to extend financing of Iraq mission.

14:16 Baghdad. United Iraqi Alliance backs single candidate for Prime Minister. The UIA will back Ibrahim al Jaafari, leader of the al-Dawa Party, as Prime Minister after Adel Abdul Mahdi withdraws his candidacy. Mrs. Janane al-Obeïdi made the announcement, saying that agreement was reached after negotiatons with other lists. Reports says the Shi'ite majority has agreed to the nomination of Jalal Talibani as new President. The two Vice Presidential slots will go to one Sunni and one Shi'ite.

14:09 Diyarbaki (Turkey). Turkish police arrest two dozen Kurds at demostration. Three hundred demonstrators calling for the release of Abullah Ocalan were charged by police in Diyarbakir in southeast Turkey.

12:21 Rome. Opposition leader Romano Prodi says goverment refuses to give details on Italy's military mission in Iraq before crucial vote.

09:45 Baghdad. Turkish contractor freed. Kahraman Sadikoglu, kidnapped in December, was freed by his captors after family pays a $500,000 ransom.

09:08 Baghdad. Charges of voter fraud lodged with Elections Commission.

UIA makes astute choice of Ibrahim Ja‘fari al-Ushayqir

Ahmed Chalabi is out of the running. No surprise, because we all know he couldn't be elected dog catcher, despite his claim on Saturday that he had been "chosen" by the Shi'te political parties as the frontrunner for the post of Prime Minister. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani's list, the United Iraqi Alliance, has united behind one candidate for Prime Minister, Ibrahim Ja‘fari al-Ushayqir, a member of Iraq's Islamic Call Party (al-Da‘wa al-Islamiyya).

Though predominately Shi'ite, al-Da‘wa has always had Sunni members and, according to, has coordinated closely with Sunni Islamist groupings over the years since its founding in 1958. Given the contacts of long standing within the Sunni community, Karbala-born Ja'fari appears to be the right person to reach out to the alienated Sunnis in restive al-Anbar Province to put a damper on at least a portion of the insurgency. Settling Sunni-Shi'a differences is key to the future of the country. As a historical reminder, Najaf clerics associated with al-Da'wa refused to issue a fatwa permitting war on the Kurds in the 60's and 70's. This may also resonate positively within Kurdistan.

Though anti-secular, al-Da'wa is not an organization of clergy only. It includes students, middle-class professionals, businessmen and reform-minded mujtahids. It also seems to be preserving of the power of tribal sheiks. It's history has been that of staunch anti-communism but economically, it has been an advocate of a mixed economy with natural resources under the control of the State. As to govenment, quite clearly Iraq is going to be an Islamist state but as Juan Cole has often written concerning the views of Grand Ayatollah Sistani, not one which is run by the clerics. Al Da'wa tracts suggest that an Iraqi Islamist state will be different from its neighbor, Iran. It's Islamic polity is based on Islamic creed and an Islamic juristic consultation on the laws passed by the legislature, rather than a Khomeini-style rule where divine authority is invested with ruling clerics.

As an anti-war American who is opposed to most of Bush's foreign policies and evil-empire and idolatry talk, I feel satisfaction of seeing the administration thwarted in its plans by Iraqi religious populism. Bush's dreams for a secular state with a 100% market-oriented economy are a mirage. I do remember the thousands of innocent Iraqi dead and the empty sacrifice of our fallen troops and their families but I hope the shame and ignomy of the entire enterprise will fall entirely on Bush and his political party and that they will be recalled as the clowns they are by posterity.

Monday, February 14, 2005

February 14 Events in Iraq

Erbil. Dollars pour into Kurdistan. The French daily Le Figaro reports that foreign capital is flowing into Kurdistan. The capital, Erbil, has a new airport and a new Sheraton. The new glass and marble Sheraton features a huge garden complete with an artificial lake. The second floor bar lounge is staffed by Philippinos and serves mixed drinks to diplomats and businessmen. Domestic tourism is growing by leaps and bounds--80,000 Iraqi tourists visited Kurdistan in the last few months. Investor Fouad Ahmed plans a Sea Word attraction for the region. Grocery superstores, modern hospitals, restaurants and convenience stores are under construction everywhere. An Italian vitner has moved in and will shortly begin bottling Kurdish wine. In Suleimaniya, a US run university is under construction. Elsewhere tract housing, apartments and light industry installations are planned. Investors in Kurdistan enjoy a 5-year tax holiday.

London. British military quitting in droves to join private security firms. The Daily Telegraph reports that RAF and SAS special operations units have been decimated as soldiers rush to join private security firms. 120 members of the SAS and SBS (Special Boat Services) resigned the military to join Kroll, Controlled Risks and Armour Security. The Defence Ministry has recently sent out a mass mailing to thier troops in Iraq saying that it is in everyone's interests that they remain in the service. A former SAS soldier told The Guardian that he now makes 19,600 euros per month insted of the 2 900 euros per month he earned while in the army.

23:49 Ankara. Turkey frees 8 suspected terrorists. Eight persons suspected of a series of attacks on synagogues and British institutions in Istanbul were freed. The public prosecuter has requested the release of 17 suspected terrorists.

20:15 Baquba. Blast kills US soldier and wounds three.

17:58 Shorgat. Contractor and three others killed. A contractor to the US military was killed Shorgat, 300 km north of Baghdad. Meanwhile in downtown Mosul two police were killed and two wounded by unknown gunmen. A third police officer was killed near Baiji, 200 km north of Baghdad.

17:56 Samarra. Woman and child killed and five wounded when mortar rounds landed in a residential district.

17:55 Samarra. Five Iraqi soliders kidnapped. Five Iraqi soliders, including a captain, were kidnapped were kidnapped and forced into a car without license plates. The Abu Anas al Shami Brigades claimed credit for the kidnapping.

17:53 Rome. Taormina joins Saddam Hussein's defense team. Italian lawyer Carlo Taormina together with Daniele Bertaggia of Ferrara and Anna Agosti of Bologna have joined Saddam Hussein's defense team and are en route to Amman.

16:57 Baghdad. Finance Minister says Shi'ites prepared to work with Sunnis. Abdel Abdel Mahdi, a candidate for Prime Minister, repeats offer extended by Shi'ites to Iraq's Sunni community.

16:32 Paris. France invites all Iraqis to national dialog. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Hervè Ladsous calls for a "national dialog" to resolve Iraq crisis.

16:06 Washington. US Senate finds overwhelming proof of corruption in Oil for Food scandal. NY Times reports the US Senate investigators have found proof of corruption on the part of managers of the UN's Oil for Food Program.

14:45 Trieste. Barbara Contini happy with election results. The ex-CPA governor of Nassiriya, Italian diplomat Barbara Contini, is happy with Iraq's election results. Ms. Contini currently coordinates Italian humanitarian relief to Darfur.

13:39 Nassiriya. Italian Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola visits Italian contingent in Nassiriya

13:17 Rome. Fini says Iraq pullout would undermine UN Secretary General. Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini claims Italian opposition to the extension of Italy's peacekeeping mandate in Iraq would undermine Kofi Annan.

12:03 Baghdad. 99 lists seat no candidates. 99 lists failed to garner at least the 30,750 votes required to seat one candidate in the new Iraq National Assembly.

11:56 Talil. Italian Air Force Chief of Staff Leonardo Tricarico visits Italian airbase at Talil.

11:03 Dubai. Al Arabiya reports that the kidnappers of Christian leader Minas Ibrahim al-Youssoufi have demanded a $4 million ransom and the intervention of the King of Sweden. Al-Youssoufi is a naturalized Swede.

10:59 Baghdad. Three persons killed in separate attacks north of capital. A man was killed at a checkpoint near Samarra; an Iraqi soldier was killed while on patrol near Doujail; and Iraqi interpreter for the US military was slain near Chorgat.

07:39 Kirkuk. Two pipelines sabotaged. An oil pipeline and a gas pipeline were sabotaged.

06:32 Kirkuk, Gas pipeline sabotaged.

Without Comment - Today's Plantu in Le MondePosted by Hello

Condoleezza and the Salvation Mission

Below is a rather long editorial by Repubblica (Rome) Editor-in-Chief Eugenio Scalfari. Basically, Scalfari says Condi is charming, but charm is not what the European community is looking for. He considers her wooing to be a pathetic attempt at forcing Europe under the Gospel tent. The Europeans have wised up to Dick Cheney, who is the power behind the imperial throne. The fact that he has plans for Syria and Iran is an open secret. The Europeans want the USA to turn away from the salvation mission on which it is currently embarked (doomed to failure in the long run) and to join with them in peaceful negotiations in today’s trouble spots, lest the US be tempted again into the military option. For if it is tempted in this manner, the world will face a 20 year-long crisis of untold dimensions with a constellation of costly military conflicts across the globe. Scalfari asks American public to come clean, to frankly admit that if overthrowing Saddam were the single aim of the President, he would have never been granted War Powers by Congress.

The imperial power and its mission, by EUGENIO SCALFARI

The new US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, made quite an impression during her recent trip to Europe which culminated in meetings with Jacques Chirac in Paris and with the NATO and EU allies in Brussels. Europe unanimously agrees that she is quite a fascinating personality with extraordinary mental abilities and a capacity for getting things done.

But what exactly did she want and what did she ask of the Europeans? Two things: to overcome the divisions of the past caused by the war against Iraq and to exhibit a willingness to work with President Bush in building a democratic Iraq. Additional troops have not been requested, but the training of Iraqi security forces as well as the constitution of a new governing elite capable of governing the country are necessary to guarantee Iraq’s security.

Rice said that the US-UK military coalition does not have an exit strategy yet made two seemingly ambiguous and contradictory statements. Her first statement was directed at the EU: From now on we must decide together. The second was, We will leave Iraqi when the job is done. But who decides when the job is done? And what job is she talking about, anyway?

Washingtonians say that to understand what is really going on in the US capital, you have to consult the real authority in the White House: Vice President Cheney. Prior to the Bush Administration, the opinion of the Vice President counted for very little. Now, however, the power of the Executive resides with Vice President Cheney. While Rice was traveling through the Middle East and Europe, Dick Cheney said something very specific concerning the job to be done. He said the job will be finished when the Iraqi armed forces can guarantee security within and without Iraq. Without. That is, vis-à-vis Iraq’s neighbors, meaning Syria and above all, Iran.

Such precision comes from Cheney, not from Condoleezza. Nevertheless, it’s obvious that they are both talking about the same thing. Rice pressed the Iran button again and again. Rice says there is no military option on the agenda for Iran. It may not be on the agenda, but it is still on the table because it must no be pulled it off and no one intends to remove it. Rice says Iran must be treated harshly, that the country must not be permitted to acquire a nuclear capability.

In her contacts with the European allies, the new Secretary of State eloquently and succinctly defined the strategy guiding the second Bush administration: The United States and the West must unite to spread the ideals of freedom and democratic institutions throughout the world. Assistance must be offered to bring down intolerant and tyrannical states. In Rice’s words, We are certain that our European allies, with their diplomatic, political and cultural experience, will fully join us in this mission, simultaneously incorporates Western values and concerns for its security.

President Bush himself is expected in Europe at the end of February. He will doubtlessly retrace the ground covered by Secretary Rice but with more authority due to his office. As usual, he will extol the West’s salvation mission to the rest of the world with inspiring words. He might vaunt two positive events: The Iraqi elections and the agreement initialed in Sharm el Sheik between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He will certainly be received in every European capital with friendship and respect. By what about after? What is going to happen afterwards?—What should happen afterwards?


What can we do to close the gaping Mesopotamian and Palestinian wounds, which despite some tepid progress remain open? And what can we do to prevent new, devastating conflicts from exploding in the hands of the imperial power should it be tempted once again by the military option?

Peace between Israel and Palestine is surely the most comforting news we’ve had during this roiling phase of missteps and postponements. The conditions are there for real progress and united action by the US together with Europe can be a deciding factor. We must create a Palestinian state as soon as possible and assist negotiations between the two sides, including massive financial assistance creating jobs, dignity and a stable income for the Palestinian people and returning Israel’s catastrophic financial condition to health. A partnership with the EU could also push things along towards a rapid and enduring solution, restoring hope and granting a future to peaceful cohabitation of these two peoples in that slender wedge of land.

In Iraq, despite the elections, the game is wide open. Wide open, including terrorism, which brings civil war nearer with each passing day. Wide open, with the emerging power of the Shi’ites, who demand an Islamic state, and the Kurds, whose demands go beyond federal autonomy to agitation for an independent state. We are already witnessing the nefarious and uncontrollable effects caused by those who, lifting the lid of Pandora’s Box, have caused a deadly toxic cloud to advance across the entire region.

There is not much that the European allies can do in the current situation. They can only help train the Iraqi security forces and argue for a gradual withdrawal of the occupation forces. They can also hope that solid guarantees will be granted to the Sunni minority. But these are just words. Events do not depend on us or on the United States. They depend on the Iraqi tribes, on prominent clerics, and on the economic assistance which the United States is able to give. Overall, Europe did not want this war. The postwar situation has dramatically proved that Europe was right. To place the Europeans before a fait accompli in order to persevere with missionary intentions is a pathetic ploy which will hopelessly delay any chance at healing the Iraqi wound.

Obviously, much depends on American public opinion. I’d like to ask a question which is not trivial in importance; if in Spring 2003 Bush had asked his country and the Congress to authorize a war on Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein, would he have been permitted to march in? Would Blair have received the green light from the House of Commons? They invented the pretext of weapons of mass destruction to get the authorization to go to war. Otherwise, the response by Congress and the House of Commons would have certainly been “no”. In spring 2003, the imperial power stacked the deck in its dealings with the UN, the international community and Europe. But above all, it duped public opinion within its own country.

It’s unlikely that the imperial power will succeed at this again lest we be plunged into two decades of untold hostility marked by a constellation of military conflicts.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

February 13 Events in Iraq

Baghdad. Shi'ites to govern in a major Arab state for the first time since the 10th century Fatamid Caliphate in Egypt.

Kirkuk. Kurds win the absolute majority of seats on the At Ta'mim Provincial Council. The provincial seat is the city of Kirkuk, where Kurds drove through the streets waving Kurdish flags in celebration.

Baghdad. Ahmed Chalabi says he is backed for the post of Prime Minister by Sistani's Unified Iraqi Alliance.

Los Angeles. Hollywood intends to recreate the November assault on Fallujah. Harrison Ford to star in Universal Pictures' No True Glory, the Battle for Fallujah.

21:53 Kirkuk. Gas pipeline explosion.

21:52 Samarra, US soldier killed. One US soldier was killed and another wounded by gunfire near their military base. Total of US KIA rises to 1,455.

21:11 Washington. White House congratulates elections victors.

20:45 Nassiriya. Interpreter and son killed. An Iraqi interpreter for Italian forces was killed along with his 20 year-old son in Nassiriya.

17:42 Baghdad. 30 January to become national holiday.

17:25 Balad. Three US soldiers killed in road accident. A US armored vehicle was returning to Balad, north of Bagdad, when it careened into a canal, killing three US soldiers and wounding another five.

15:18 Baghdad. Shi'ite lists win 132 seats in 275-seat National Assembly.

15:02 Baghdad. Composition of new National Assembly. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani: 132 seats; Kurds: 71 seats; Iyad Allawi: 38 seats; Ghazi Al Yawar: 5 seats.

14:45 Al Anbar Province. Voter turnout is 2 per cent.

14:34 Baghdad. Iyad Allawi's list finishes third.

14:31 Baghdad. National voter turnout was 8,055,000.

14:30 Baghdad. Shi'ites win more 4,075,000 votes.

14:19 Baghdad. Election results expected soon.

13:09 Baquba. A member of the Iraqi Communist Party and a member of the local city council were assassinated.

12:59 Munich: Dispatch of UN troops "a difficult propostion". UN Secretary General Kofi Annan says UN troops are unlikely to be sent to Baghdad. He also said he would not resign over the Oil for Food scandal.

12:57 Baghdad. Al Arabiya TV reports that two candidates on Allawi's list were assassinated.

12:34 Mosul. Two civilians killed. Rebels fire RPGs at the Mosul Governor's residence, wounding two civilians. Meanwhile, 14 bodies were recovered after numerous incidents of violence.

12:33 Dhoulouiyah.Two bodies riddled with bullets found. The corpses of two Iraqi soldiers were recovered near Dhoulouiyah, 70 km north of Baghdad.

12:29 Samarra. Two Iraqis killed at checkpoint. US soldiers open fire on two vehicles at a checkpoint near Samarra, killing two civilians and wounding a third.

12:24 Baghdad. Al Zarqawi executes Iraqi general. General Jadaane Malih, commandant of the Taji Military Base 10 km north of Baghdad, and two bodyguards were executed by a group linked to al Zarqawi.

12:20 Baghad. Iraqi army officer killed in ambush north of Baghdad.

11:19 Baghdad. Police operation follows attacks on Shi'ites. Iraqi police have rounded up 52 persons suspected of shooting up a Shi'ite bread bakery in Baghdad.

10:40 Rome. Sgrena kidnapping. Fini: "The Italian government does not deal with criminals" (Except those inside Italy--Nur). Italian foreign minister Gianfranco Fini tells the UK Sunday Times that the Berlusconi government does not deal with criminals.

10:06 Baghdad. Three bodies recovered. The corpses of three Iraqis were found bound and blindfolded east of Baghdad. The trio could be police or soldiers.

10:02 Baghdad. Anonymous sources says Kurds trail Shi'ites in elections.

09:27 Baghdad. Election results to give Iraqi Shi'ites 60 per cent of the vote.

09:26 Hilla. Carbomb kills one at checkpoint. A suicide carbomb targeted a Iraqi-controlled checkpoint between Hilla and Kerbala, killing at least one person.

06:38 Washington. US drones spy the Iranian skies. The Washington Post reports that US drone aircraft are deployed on spy missions over Iran. Teheran has protested the incursions through the Swiss Embassy, saying it hasn't shot down such aircraft in order to keep its defensive weaponry under wraps.