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Sat Jul 22 2006 (Updated 08/19/06) Iraqis Stand With Lebanon
Grand Ayatollah Sistani has spoken out against Israeli agression. Juan Cole writes that Sistani is extremely anxious that the Lebanon war will send Shiite Iraq spinning out of control and lead to a major confrontation between Iraqi Shiites and the US and British troops Previous Statement By Sistani On the US and the Palestinians

On July 16th, Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq's U.S.-backed parliament stood united in their condemnation of Israel's destruction of Lebanon. President of the Iraqi National Assembly Mahmoud al-Mashhadani spoke out against the US at a UN-sponsored conference on transitional justice and reconciliation in Baghdad on July 22nd. In addition to denouncing US backed attacks on Lebanon he states "Just get your hands off Iraq and the Iraqi people and Muslim countries, and everything will be all right,...What has been done in Iraq is a kind of butchery of the Iraqi people." Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is urging Sunnis and Shiites to unite so that Muslims can defeat Israel.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the US on July 26th and addressed Congress. Sadr as well as the Fadhila party, which is part of al-Maliki's Shiite alliance, had urged him to cancel his visit in protest over US support for the attacks on Lebanon. “Fadhila demands that the prime minister cancel his visit to the U.S. in solidarity with the Lebanese people and over what is going on there, the disasters due to the Zionist aggression amid international silence about these crimes,” party official Sheik Sabah al-Saiedi told The Associated Press.

Iraqi Shi'ite militia ready to join fight in Lebanon | Pelosi Attacks Iraq's Prime Minister | Howard Dean calls Iraqi PM an 'anti-Semite' for not supporting Israel | Congress Expects Islamic Dawa to Support Israel, Condemn Hizbullah | A Family in Baghdad: sadness, for what is happening to Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon | Tell Me a Secret: Lebanon..

Turkey is explicitly citing Israel's unrestrained move into Lebanon as a precedent to move into Kurdistan. Turkey's Hezbollah is the Kurdish Workers Party (PPK) and Turkish forces have had running gun battles with their long-time foe in recent weeks.
On June 9th, "masked Shiite gunmen stopped cars in western Baghdad and grabbed people off the streets, singling out the Sunni Arabs among them and killing at least 41". Later, at least 25 people died when two car bombs exploded near a Shia mosque in the capital.

Baghdad's central morgue received 1,595 bodies in June 2006 alone. According to the morgue assistant manager, most of the bodies had gunshot wounds to the head, a common feature of sectarian, execution-style killings. The recent upsurge in sectarian violence in Iraq has raised fears of a civil war, with many Sunni Arabs saying that government-backed Shia militias are behind at least some of the attacks.
Sun Jul 9 2006 (Updated 07/11/06) Rape and Murder In Iraq
US prosecutors have charged Steven Green, 21 , a former private with the US Army's storied 101st Airborne Division, with raping and murdering an Iraqi girl, after gunning down three members of her family, including a five-year-old sister. On July 5th 2006, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called for an independent inquiry and pressed for a review of foreign troops' immunity from Iraqi law.
Sun Jul 9 2006 Zarqawi
On June 7th, the US announced that it had killed the head of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Zarqawi died at 6.15am in a house in Habhab, close to the town of Baquba. "Two F-16s bombed the house, then Iraqi and US troops were sent in to comb the site. Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki announced the news at a press conference"

To at least one reporter, "the manner in which Zarqawi died confirms the belief that his military and political importance was always deliberately exaggerated by the US. He was a wholly obscure figure until he was denounced by US Secretary of State Colin Powell before the US Security Council on 5 February 2003. Mr Powell identified Zarqawi as the link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein though no evidence for this was ever produced."
Mon May 29 2006 Haditha Massacre
The killing of more than 20 Iraqi civilians in an incident last November has become an international scandal after evidence from two official investigations was shown to members of Congress. The killings took place in November in Haditha, a city north-west of Baghdad. When reports of the deaths first emerged the Pentagon said one marine and 15 civilians were killed by a roadside bomb. It now appears a marine was killed by the bomb and that his colleagues then moved through the area, shooting five men standing next to a taxi and then entering at least two homes containing women and children where the killings continued. Eyewitness accounts by local people and a video shot by an Iraqi journalism student had already called into question the Marines' version of events in Haditha just over six months ago. But photographs by American forces could prove the crucial piece of evidence in an investigation that is now expected to result in charges of murder, dereliction of duty and making false statements against up to a dozen Marines.
According to reports in the US, military prosecutors may seek the death penalty for those found guilty of murder. Three Marines officers have already been relieved of duty, and more may be disciplined in a separate investigation into whether there was a cover-up after the killings.

Since the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, the civilian death toll resulting from the conflict remains a topic rarely discussed by American politicians or corporate media. While the Pentagon has refused to provide an estimate of Iraqi casualties, other groups have used various methods to arrive at the numbers of Iraqis killed. Iraq Body Count website states that up to 42,000 have lost their lives, while The Lancet, a respected British medical journal, reported that a study in 2004 found that over 100,000 Iraqi civilians had died due to the U.S. invasion.

George Bush and the Haditha massacre | Massacres Common in Iraq | War Crimes Start at the Top | Was it an Isolated Event and Did the Military Try to Cover it Up? | Lawmaker says Marines killed Iraqis 'in cold blood' | US Killing of Civilians "Fact of Life" in Iraq: Iraqis | Iraq's My Lai | US probes new Iraq massacre claim
Mon May 29 2006 Maliki Chooses Cabinet
The Iraqi parliament was approved on May 20th. The 37 -member cabinet ( List of ministers ), however, is still without ministers of defense and interior over differences between Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds. The main Shia alliance, the United Iraqi Alliance, which holds 130 out of the 275 seats in parliament seized 19 of the 37 ministries including the powerful oil and finance portfolios. The main Kurdish bloc snatched seven ministries including the Foreign Ministry while the National Accord Front, the main Sunni bloc, grabbed six ministries. Former premier Iyad Allawi's Iraqi list secured five including the Ministry of Justice and Human rights. More
The distribution of cabinet posts among coalitions and parties has produced substantial discontent in the Iraqi parliament. The Iraqi Turkmen Front expressed its disappointment that it was entirely excluded from any cabinet post. Some members of the United Iraqi Alliance complained of nepotism and that they had been passed over for a cabinet post, and that it was given instead to persons less competent or experienced.
In what has become an absurd ritual, the US and its allies immediately hailed the government as another triumph for democracy in the Middle East. President Bush declared that it was “a good day for the millions of Iraqis who want to live in freedom” and “a new chapter in our relationship with Iraq”. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who flew to Baghdad on Monday to give his seal of approval to the regime, pronounced it to be “a new beginning”.
These comments bear no relation to reality. The vast majority of Iraqis who live in squalour and fear outside the Green Zone had no say in the formation of the government or its policies. Every aspect of the process since the December 15 elections has been managed and supervised by US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and a small army of US officials stationed at the American embassy in Baghdad.

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On February 12th, 2006, Iraq's largest parliamentary bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance had selected the incumbent Ibrahim al-Jaafari as their candidate for Prime Minister, but was meet with objections from Kurdish groups as well as the US (the US seemed to be in favor of Abdul Mehdi who was the most friendly of the candidates for US business interests). On April 14, Mohammed Redha al-Sistani, negotiating on behalf of his father Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, brokered an agreement with al-Sadr and Abdul Mehdi. Under this agreement, al-Sadr agreed not to object to dropping Jafaari, and in exchange Abdul Mehdi would not seek the Prime Minstership himself, settling for his existing post of Vice President. On April 21, Iraq's largest parliamentary bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance nominated Nouri al-Maliki to the post of Prime Minister.
The new parliament is virtually hung, and Prime Minister al-Maliki governs as a minority prime minister, being able to count on less than 115 MPs from his own party, in a parliament with 275 members. He is therefore hostage to the Kurds, who want to move Iraq in the direction of having a very weak central government and who want to unilaterally annex a fourth province, oil-rich Kirkuk, to their regional confederacy, despite the violent opposition of Kirkuk's Turkmen and Arab populations.

Iraq: Still failing | Iraqis Already Frustrated with Government | Iraqis leaders debate positions while ordinary Iraqis turn up dead and tortured | Bloody day heralds birth of Iraq's new unity government | Maliki to Present Partial Cabinet

Sectarian tension has been running high in Iraq, with hundreds, mostly Sunnis, killed in reprisal attacks triggered by the bombing of the Imam Ali Al-Hadi in Samarra in March. The sectarian bloodshed has prompted a redrawing of some neighborhoods, with minorities moving out and going to places where they are part of the majority community. It has also prompted many Iraqis to change names to spare themselves the sectarian hell.
In the two parliamentary elections and a referendum on the constitution in 2005, Iraqis voted along strictly sectarian or ethnic lines. The Shia and Sunni religious parties and the Kurdish coalition triumphed; secular and nationalist candidates performed dismally. The new constitution shifting power to Kurdish and Shia super-regions with control over new oil discoveries means that, in future, Iraq will be largely a geographical expression.
The state of Iraq now resembles Bosnia at the height of the fighting in the 1990s when each community fled to places where its members were a majority and were able to defend themselves. Sunni extremists are conducting a campaign of indiscriminate terror against the Shiite population and Shiite death squads are murdering hundreds of Sunni Iraqis who they consider to be sympathisers of the anti-occupation insurgency or the former Baathist regime. Even according to official figures, at least 762 people were killed in Baghdad during April. While the majority of victims were Sunnis, others—such as liberal intellectuals, gays and liquor sellers—were killed because their lifestyle, beliefs or occupation were anathema to the religious fanatics.

Iran is perhaps the only unambiguous winner in the new situation in Iraq, and its foreign minister was basking in the glow on Saturday. On May 26th, Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari defended Iran's right to have a civilian nuclear energy program.
In the latest issue of the New Yorker, Hersh reports that the Bush administration has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack to destroy Iran's nuclear program. One of the military's initial option plans calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon against suspected underground nuclear sites. Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner says a military operation has already begun inside Iran. Gardiner says, "It's a very serious question about the constitutional framework under which we are now conducting military operations in Iran."

In January, Muqtada al-Sadr pledged the support of his militia, the Mahdi Army, to Iran in case that country were attacked by the United States. Juan Cole writes: "SCIRI's Badr Corps militia, it was alleged by Newsweek, is still on the Iranian payroll. Any attack by the US or Israel on Iran's nuclear energy facilities would certainly bring massive crowds into the streets in protest in neihboring Iraq. The resulting violence and the attacks on US troops are not important demographically, but they could cost the Republican Party its majority in Congress, if the American public becomes alarmed that the US is losing (even more) control."

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Iraq:   4