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A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press.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

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Another Day, Another Slaughter

What kind of homicidal screwballs run US military operations in Iraq?

An Apache combat helicopter attacked the village of Djila, near Samarra. It opened up on three farmers who had left their homes at dawn to irrigate their fields. Two were killed outright and another ran to his home. In the second attack, the helicopter demolished the whole block building 14 people: five men, six women and three children. according to police Captain Abdallah al-Issawi. [Via L'Orient-Le Jour]

Meanwhile, it appears that Turkish troops will not enter Iraq - for several reasons (and a great deal of international pressure).

NATO vs. NATO: Turkish F16's bomb PKK camps in Kurdistan, killing 34 Kurds..

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Turkish Offensive in Northern Iraq

Via La Repubblica:

Turkish artillery targeted a few villages this morning in Iraqi Kurdistan. A few hours before, the PKK set an ambush for Turkish troops in the village of Daglica in the southern region of Hakkari in southern Turkey in which it killed 12 soldiers, wounded 15 and kidnapped another 10. 23 PKK members were also killed.

Also in southeast Turkey, a passenger van ran over a mine during a wedding celebration, killing one person. Meanwhile, Turkish Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul announced that his Army is planning to cross the frontier into Iraq [...]

85 Turkish mortar rounds fell in the space of two hours, from 6am to 8am, striking the villages of Shransc, Aflah, Pirla, Ghelib Basaga and Nesdur e Risain in Zakho Province, and Qawa Qar, Beit Qar, Stinadar, Matin, Nirua e Rikan in Al-Amadia Province. Residents of Nesdur a pedestrian bridge was destroyed. The Iraqi news agency Nina, reports that Turkish troops have already crossed the frontier.

Labels: , ,

The stakes in the Lebanon’s Presidential Election

Mouna Naim is Le Monde’s Middle East Correspondent whose acute analyses are spot on.
(Story appearing in the 19 October edition)

After 10 months of a divorce that had almost been consummated, the Lebanese majority and opposition resumed speaking to each other on September 25th. The Presidential election, scheduled to take place on October 23rd, provided the impetus. [...] The trading of accusations has given way to a wild goose chase of meetings at every level. Everyone claims that they are making every attempt to avoid a Presidential vacancy in order to prevent the country from sinking into chaos. Regional and international allies of both sides are pushing them, or pretending to push them, to continue along the path of negotiation. But encouraging signs do not mean success. This is because this issue is not so much about agreement on the candidate; it is really about the reconciliation of two radically different views on the future of the country.

The 127 MPs were to have met in an electoral college on September 25th to elect a new President of Lebanon. Sixty-eight majority MPs and a handful of opposition MPs turned up, but the Parliamentary Speaker and leader of the Amal movement (Opposition), Nabih Berri, postponed the session until October 23rd to give bi- and multilateral negotiations a chance to find consensus on the candidate to serve as Head of State.

This negotiating project was already at the core of an initiative launched by Mr. Berri at the end of August. He announced the refusal of the Opposition to accede to his urging to form a national unity government prior to the presidential elections. He also asked that the Majority put an end to its program to go it alone and to abandon the notion of electing a president by simple Parliamentary majority in the last 10 days of debate of the electoral period in the event that no consensus is reached on a nominee.

The Majority, the so-called “14 March Coalition”, wants desperately to hang on to this trump card because, in its opinion, Mr. Berri's initiative is as good as a bum check without two guarantees: first, the restoration the power of the State in all domains and the primacy of its decision-making powers, especially with respect to military questions; second, to facilitate the efforts of the special international tribunal in judging the parties believed guilty of the assassination of the late Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri.

The Majority believes that the future of the country is threatened by the “State within a State” constituted by Hezbollah, with its networks of social assistance, schools, telecommunications and, above all, military coordination. In addition to its own militias, Hezbollah has trained the militants of several other opposition parties who wish to have their own militias, as army and police intelligence has been reporting. Some of these militants have been trained in Syria, while others, according to sources within the Majority, have received “more sophisticated training” in Iran.

This is why the Majority is insisting on Resolution 1559, which the United Nations Security Council passed in September 2004 and of which at least two of its provisions have not been implemented. One relates to the disarming of Lebanese (Hezbollah) and non-Lebanese (Palestinian) militias. Supported by its allies, Hezbollah adamantly refuses to disarm. One of its conditions for agreement on a future president is the “burial”, to use the phrase of Nabih Berri, of Resolution 1559.

Another unimplemented provision of Resolution 1559 relates to the election of a president without foreign interference. This was not the case in 2004, when Emile Lahoud was reelected to a three-year term upon the instructions of Syria. The 14 March Coalition insists that Syria continues to interfere politically inside Lebanon through its Lebanese friends and by ordering its hit-men to track down and kill Lebanese MPs (four have been assassinated in a little more than a year) for the purpose of installing a figure whom it would control to the Presidency.

This is why the special tribunal on the Hariri assassination is so important. The Majority insists that the trial will usher in a new age by demonstrating that the responsible party for the assassination of Rafik Hariri and 15 others is none other than Syria or its clandestine services…

The success of this legal proceeding relies on the cooperation of the future Lebanese executive. A future president and administration hostile to the tribunal could hinder its operations in different ways: by adopting an obstructive interpretation of Lebanese law that would limit its powers, by refusing to contribute its share of the costs of the proceeding or by standing in the way of the team of investigators. The Opposition has already been successful in, sometimes quietly, sometimes loudly, preventing the adoption by the Government of the rules governing the proceeding and the associated covenant with the United Nations. The UN then dispensed with going through the Lebanese government and imposed both by itself.

Although unable to dissipate the crisis, which had progressively worsened over the last 10 months, the mutual good will, at least apparent, demonstrated since September 25th by the Majority and the Opposition has preventing things from spiraling out of control. The specter of assassinations continues to stalk 14 March politicians, who have requested Arab and international protection. After having been forced into exile for more than 3 months for security reasons, some politicians returned, then departed again on September 25th. Others never leave their homes except under heavy escort. Still others have moved into a high security hotel in downtown Beirut.

October 23rd is not a deadline for the election of a President. The Lebanese Constitution grants Parliament an extra month. But given the complexity of the issues, the outlook is not encouraging. The repercussions on regional turbulence, especially US-Iranian tensions and US-Israeli-Syrian tensions do not bode well for Lebanon.

Update: The Lebanese Presidential election is postponed until the the end of the 3-month deadline, November 23rd, after meetings between 3 EU foreign ministers (France, Italy and Spain) and Nabih Berri.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My Hero: Rep. Pete Stark of California

Proof that you can be rich _and_ liberal!

Pete Stark said today on the House floor:

"First of all, I'm just amazed they can't figure out, the Republicans are worried we can't pay for insuring an additional 10 million children. They sure don't care about finding $200 billion to fight the illegal war in Iraq. Where ya gonna get that money? You going to tell us lies like you're telling us today? Is that how you're going to fund the war? You don't have money to fund the war or children." [Hat tip to Atrios]

Read his bio at Wikipedia:

"Stark grew up as a Republican*, but his opposition to the Vietnam War led him to switch parties in the mid-1960s. [As CEO of Security National Bank, he] printed checks with peace signs on them, and placed a giant peace sign on the roof of his bank's headquarters."

There are only three decent people left in Congress: Pete Stark (b. 1937), John Conyers, Jr. (b. 1929) and Louise Slaughter (b. 1929). Significantly (and dramatically) all are of the Silent Generation.[Strauss and Howe]

*A Fiorello LaGuardia Republican, ok in my book.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Putin in Tehran

Via L'Orient Le Jour:

Putin in Tehran for the conference of Caspian Region Heads of State.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

10 October 2007 Events in Iraq

US troops spent the day in Diyala Province fighting "al Qaeda of Iraq" (body count 37) but when the sun went down....insurgents launched a sustained mortar attack on Camp Victory outside Baghdad, killing 2 US soliders and wounding another 38.

Meanwhile, via L'Orient-Le Jour

Carbombings continue daily, with very high death tolls.

Three people were killed in Baghdad and 17 wounded in one blast and two fusillades.

In Tikrit, 4 people, including 2 policemen, were killed and 8 wounded in a carbombing.
In Diwaniyah, two policemen were killed in a drive-by shooting; a school for women came under mortar fire, wounding 11 students, 2 teachers and 2 other persons.
In Baghdad, the US released 1,400 Iraqi prisoners, but holds more than 25,000 in outdoor camps.

Along the Syrian border, a camp for displaced, stateless Iraqi Palestinians burned to the ground.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

9 October 2007 Events in Iraq

In downtown Baghdad's Karrada District, employees of Unity Resources Group, a BritishAustralian-staffed Dubai-owned security firm, executed two Christian women, Marou Awanis, a widowed "part-time taxi-driver trying to make ends meet and to pay for the education of her two children" and Geneva Latif for driving while Arab. Their car alone took 40 bullets.

Elsewhere, 33 people were killed and 120 were wounded in a wave of violence as the Turkish goverment repeated threats to invade Iraqi Kurdistant

In the industrial town of Bajii in Salaheddin Province, where the US is waging its war against "al-Qaeda", two suicide bombers attempted to assassinate a police chief and a tribal leader. However 19 people were killed as they drove their fuel trucks into the the residences of Colonel Saad al-Noufouss and Sheik Thamer Ibrahim Atallah, who was a member of the American-sponsored Salaheddin Awakening Council. Another 50 were seriously wounded. US troops immediately sealed off the town.

In Mosul in Nineveh Province, armed men assassinated police General Abdel al-Znoun Moubarak, the second in command of the province. A roadside bomb killed another police officer and wounded two others in the convoy.

In Baghdad, a booby-trapped car killed 8. In other parts of the capital 12 others were killed and 70 wounded.

An important Sunni cleric, Sheikh Hareth al-Dhari, called on the faithful not to support the US in its operations against "al-Qaeda".

In Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has issued contingency order to launch a punitive expedition into Iraqi Kurdistan following an ambush of 13 Turkish troops at the border on Sunday by PKK guerrillas.

In Washington, the White House is, according to Toby Dodge of IISS, "profoundly worried and unhappy" with the decision by PM Gordon Brown to draw down British troops levels in Iraq.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Où sont les Glocks d’antan?

L'Orient Le Jour reports that the US has recorded the serial numbers of only 2.7% of the weapons it imports into Iraq for distribution to Iraqi security forces. As to 9mm Glock pistols provided to the Iraq police between 2004 and 2005, 80,000 are missing. The Glock is now the official pistol of the Islamic Army of Iraq. Meanwhile, the Iraqi goverment is buying $100 million in light weapons from China because US weapon manufacurers can't take orders owing to backlog.

Today the mayor of Iskandariyah, Abbas al-Khafaji, was assassinated. An Iraqi MP was captured in Sharkat as he was allegedly "plotting" with al-Qaeda (guffaw). Sheikh Maawia Naji Jebara, a leading of "The Anbar Reawakening", the US pet project, was also assassinated along with no less than 5 bodyguards near Samarra.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Northwest Passage

This is off-topic, but dramatic nonetheless. The mythical Northwest Passage is now open (at right of photo).

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Israeli bloodlust

Granted they live in a hostile neighborhood, but this is shameful:

1) They fired at a Palestinian crowd awaiting a prisoner release
2) Their naval artillery is pounding the Gaza Strip.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Los Desaparecidos Birmanos

Via L'Orient-Le Jour