Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Survival

Is when you ask your buddy to take a scenic mugshot of you on a central Baghdad bridge on the Tigris, while holding your freshly pressed and dry cleaned work shirt, and reminding him to make sure not to show in the picture the army convoy passing by or the burning historical mosque in the background.   ლ(ಠ益ಠლ)


Sunday, July 27, 2014

VICE magazine: Iraq, a bird's view

One of the highlights of my short-lived career in 'journalism' in NYC was collaborating with VICE magazine on their 2007 Iraq issue and writing a few articles and info graphics for them. They finally have the issue online for free in pdf.


Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

...

An Iranian jet fighter crashed because of a 'technical error' inside Iran after strikes in the Salah ad-Din and Diyalah governorates. Tikrit and Baiji and some parts of Diyala have been under heavy bombardment by Iranian fighters.

On the other hand, Maliki's helicopters dropped a few explosive barrels on the Fallujah General Hospital.



Thursday, July 17, 2014

Update

Damage from Iranian air strikes against the al-Bu Ajeel Hospital in Tikrit.



Critical infrastructure in the Salah ad-Din governorate (bridges, water and sewage treatment plants, hospitals, university campuses have been targeted by air strikes during the last two days. Same old song and dance (but as we say in Iraq: 'when you're wet you don't have to fear the rain'). No attempts were made to bomb the outskirts of the Speicher Camp (former al-Sahraa AB) where Sunni rebels have been engaging Maliki troops attempting to recapture the base from outside for several days (probably don't want to damage those runways).

Meanwhile the ISF and Shi'ite paramilitaries have failed their most recent operation to reoccupy Tikrit despite the sustained heavy air campaign.

Nevertheless, Iraqi gov. TV has been desperately airing 'edited' videos of US Apache helicopter footage of strikes against Taliban, claiming they are Iraqi Air Force pilots bombing 'Da3esh', the boogeyman name the Shia use for ISIS. Politically, things are not looking good  for the gang of crooks in power.

The followers of Sheikh Mahmud al-Sarkhi are still being rounded up and detained in Karbala. Up to forty of Sarkhi's followers were said to be executed in public by ISF and backing militiamen and their corpses dragged by ISF trucks in the streets.

Iraqi Shi'ite militiamen executed twenty prostitutes and nine of their customers in cold blood in the middle of Baghdad, Zayouna district, one of the heaviest guarded districts of eastern Baghdad. Rumors that it was either to silence some of the girls (as they had some 'influential' customers) or an argument over protection money and to show as an example for others.

Further south, and just north of Baghdad, IS and tribal units made gains in the Balad and Dhulu'iya areas and crept further around Camp Balad (Anaconda AB) and the Taji AB.

On the Diyalah side of the Tigris, Iraqi rebels managed to re-establish their presence in Khalis and Rashidiya (just outside the northern border of the Adhamiyya district).

Skirmishes continue with ISF near the Iranian-KRG-Iraqi border area around Saadiya and Jalawla (which is currently still under Peshmerga control).

Twist plot of the day: the Iraqi Tammarrud ('Rebellion') movement, a (mostly Shia secular) civil society organization, that called for the protests against Maliki in Feb 2011 and again in Feb 2012, has issued a statement indicating it plans to target Saudi, Turkish and KDP interests all over Iraq, starting with Asia Cell (KDP owned) and Kurek (Turkish owned) cell towers. They actually threatened an 'operation' in 'the heart of Erbil' and threatened Barzani personally in their statement. Tammarrud has strongly opposed the division of Iraq (which they believe is driven mostly by Turkey and Saudi Arabia) and the secession of any community from Iraq, as they say, be it Sunni, Kurdish or Shia, and the return of Ba'athist rule.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

No shit, Kirb. There is an insider threat in every Iraqi institution not just the ISF. Just the way you guyz set things up before you packed up and left:

U.S. Special Forces teams in Iraq will have to consider the "insider threat" posed by the Iraqi military before working more closely with them in an advisory role against Islamic militants, Pentagon officials said Monday.

"It would be imprudent, it would be irresponsible" to assign special operations teams to be advisors without considering the possibility that the faction-ridden and disorganized Iraqi security forces could pose a danger to them, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. 

 Kirby said the Special Forces teams, who have worked out of Joint Operations Centers in Baghdad and northern Irbil, have completed their assessment on the status of Iraqi forces and their ability to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

...

Meanwhile in Palestine, a Game of Nerves

The latest clash between Israel and the Palestinians is the most serious in years, and it keeps getting worse. On Monday, dozens of rockets fired from the Gaza Strip landed deep inside Israel. On Tuesday, Israel unleashed an aerial bombardment of Gaza, called up military reservists and said it was considering a ground attack. The tension is being inflamed by anguish over the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers last month and the burning to death of a Palestinian teenager in a suspected act of revenge. "We’re looking at a very difficult game of nerves," said Natan Sachs, a fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. What happens next — whether this cycle of violence explodes into a war or dials back down to simmering resentment — depends on variables almost too numerous to quantify, much less predict. The experts see both encouraging signs and a few reasons to worry.
Maliki's 'top brass' focusing their few remaining military efforts on the southern desert, just like we told them to, Muhahah

Notice the green turbaned Iranian Revolutionary Guard lieutenant and the seated cleric. No idea who that is.


Sunday, July 06, 2014

ISIS armored parade

Footage of a recent ISIS parade near the Iraqi-Syrian border using ISF tanks and APCs and pickup trucks with anti aircraft and short range artillery. It's a Facebook video so not sure if you can view it without a FB profile.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Sunni cities and towns bombed today by ISF helicopters and possible Syrian Air Force near Syrian border in Qa'im.

 Areas bombed by explosive barrels dropped from helicopters at low altitudes (a method adopted from the Syrians): Qa'im, Husayba, Ana, Garma, Mishahda, Ishaqi, Rifai'at, Uwaynat, Tikrit Qadissiya district, Shirgat, and Hawija.

The house of Sheikh Rafi' al-Mishhan of the Jumaila tribe west of Baghdad in Garma was targeted by explosive barrels, killing two women. Mishhan had announced two days ago the formation of a tribal brigade to protect his tribe's domain midway between Fallujah and Baghdad.

A helicopter was downed yesterday in Uwaynat, near Tikrit, and the same area was bombed today with explosive barrels.

 
Friday operations by Sunni insurgents as reported by local Iraqi media:





Thursday, July 03, 2014

Baghdad's Sunnis and Shiites apprehensive

This is why reconciliation is no longer an option, and why separation of Iraq into three independent (or at least Federal) entitites is an inevitability:

There’s an expectation here that there will be blood in the streets.

The U.S. Embassy on the Tigris River has been reinforced twice with extra troops. People here guess as to whether the explosion in violence will come in a day, a week or a month. But few think the violence won’t come.

Mistrust and anger between Sunnis and Shiites grows by the day. In a Shiite mosque, worshipers said that they want the Sunni areas where the ISIS militant group has established a foothold to be carpet-bombed. “It should be like what the Russians did in Chechnya,” said one man. He said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki could borrow from Syrian President Bashar Assad and drop barrel bombs on Sunni extremists. The man, who described himself as a moderate, talked about turning Iraq into a Shiite-dominated state once and for all.

ISIS has directly threatened the United States, and several U.S. officials warn that the terrorist haven that ISIS has carved out here and in Syria is more dangerous than Afghanistan before 9/11.



Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Iraq ▲ Order of Battle ▲ July 1st, 2014

Current order of battle in Iraq as of July first, 2014

ISIL/ISIS/Sunni tribal and insurgent movements in red 
Iraqi Army and Security Forces and allied militias in green
Kurdish Region Security Forces (Peshmerga) and allied militias in brown 

Iraqi Operation Command borders in purple
Iraqi Air Force bases in blue

 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Texan caught in Austin trying to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria

Another American citizen caught trying to join ISIS, this one from central Texas, no less.
A Texas man who planned to travel to the Middle East and join the militant group wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria pleaded guilty Friday to federal terrorism charges, authorities said.

Michael Wolfe, 23, of Austin, pleaded guilty Friday to attempting to provide material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organization and he faces up to 15 years in prison, federal prosecutors said in a statement.
More

#Iraq 2012

Promo video on #Iraq from 2012

 
IRAQ in MOTION ! The Other Face from Alawj Media on Vimeo.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Clinton: None of this would have happened if they hadn't invaded Iraq.

#WorldCup2014


Usually I would cheer for Brazil but today decided to root for #TeamUS ��☔☝


Walmart Irish imported Guinness


Found this at my local Walmart in SaTX. Think it would be any good? ��


Map of areas, cities, towns and roads in northwestern Iraq and western Syria controlled by ISIS/ISIL/Iraqi and Syrian resistance factions/tribal units this morning.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Abu Deraa is Back

Abu Deraa (the Mahdi Army butcher of 2006) returns from Iran and parades openly in Baghdad with Sadrist militiamen.

ISIS north of Baghdad

An ISIS Iraqi fighter from Salah ad-Din occupies the office of an Iraqi Army general north of Baghdad and poses for a selfie

Baiji Oil Refinery

Smoke from Baiji Refinery north of Tikrit, as seen from Landsat today

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

For friends in countries and regions where dictators or Internet providers have blocked your access to social-media and news and other websites, you can access them using the simple 'free' tips in the following article

Monday, June 16, 2014

To override Iraqi Ministry of Telecommuication's (or private satellite providers') internet block for web access at home:

[If you still have a modem] Dial up access for #Iraq: +46850009990 +492317299993 +4953160941030 (user:telecomix password:telecomix.)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Letter from Iraq: What was left behind

An interesting exposé on PM Maliki and his rise to power in the New Yorker by Dexter Filkins (NY Times Baghdad bureau chief 2003-2006). 
In the summer of 2012, a mysterious man walked into the office of Rafe al-Essawi, then the finance minister, and handed him a sheaf of documents. The man, who identified himself as Mohammed Abdullah, said that they were government contracts, totalling seven billion dollars, along with instructions to wire payments to a series of Iraqi bank accounts. They appeared to have been approved by Maliki’s cabinet and signed by four of his ministers. Essawi examined the documents, and quickly determined that they were fraudulent: the contracts, the companies, the approvals, the signatures. “Everything was fake—everything,” Essawi told me. 
Essawi ordered his men to block the exits and arrest the man, but he managed to get away. Soon afterward, Essawi said, he visited Maliki and handed him the file and a photograph of the man, captured by the ministry’s security cameras. He told Maliki he believed that Abdullah was probably working with people close to Maliki. “I asked the Prime Minister to use the intelligence agencies to investigate,” Essawi said. Essawi never heard back. A few months later, Iraqi troops stormed the Ministry of Finance, setting fire to Essawi’s office and several others, and destroying the cameras that had recorded Abdullah’s photo. The soldiers carted away dozens of Essawi’s bodyguards. 
Essawi’s story is one of dozens I heard in Iraq and neighboring countries about corrupt members of Maliki’s government, ranging from a circle around the Prime Minister to the lowest functionary. Most of the allegations are unproved, but they are persistent; Iraqi and U.S. officials, both current and former, tell tales of extortion, bribery, kickbacks, and theft. Many involve the siphoning of Iraq’s oil revenues, which last year exceeded ninety billion dollars. Others describe the corrupt use of Iraqi banks to tap the black market in dollars. In the past few years, several government contracts have turned out to be entirely fake. In 2011, the government cancelled a $1.2-billion contract to build ten power plants, and announced that the Canadian company hired to do the work existed only on paper. “The corruption is Olympian,” the former senior C.I.A. official told me.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Looks like the Washington Post finally picked up this two-month-old story:

Called the Jaafari Personal Status Law, it would prohibit Muslim men from marrying non-Muslims, prevent women from leaving the house without their husband’s consent, automatically grant custody of children older than two to their father in divorce cases and legalize marital rape.

The law, which proponents say will save women’s “rights and dignity,” would also permit boys to marry as young as 15 and girls to marry as young as nine. Girls younger than nine would be permitted to marry with a parent’s approval.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Maliki meets the Matrix

This is Nuri al-Maliki's (re)election poster.

 It reads: "The world leader in fighting terrorism"
 

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Ja'fari Personal Status Law

The Iraqi Council of Ministers has just approved the controversial Ja'fari (Shi'ite) Personal Status Law and sent the bill to parliament, even after declaring just days ago that the matter would be decided after the elections. If this reactionary bill is passed, Iraqi men will be able to marry girls as young as nine 'lunar' years (a little under nine calender years), and a married woman won't be able to initiate a divorce unless she can prove under oath (with two witnesses!) that her husband is impotent or cannot achieve an erection. Yep. 

There are other goodies in the law such as legitimizing spousal rape, temporary marriage, polygamy; barring married women from leaving the house without permission; reliance on oath alone for proving paternity (no need for any DNA evidence, as it used to be); a husband can deny expenses for his wife if she is unable to satisfy him sexually; a deceased person's will can be decided by next of kin under oath (no written will needed); uprooting civil marriages and alimony for divorced women, etc., but I can't find any version in English. There's absolutely nothing on it from the mainstream media either. 

At the legal level, the law is consistent with Article 41 of the Iraqi Constitution, which reads, "Iraqis are free to abide by their personal status according to their religions, sects, beliefs, or choices, as regulated by law."

In terms of content, civil elites consider the proposed law unconstitutional because the Constitution prohibits any law that is inconsistent with Article 2, which stipulates in Paragraph (b), "No law may be enacted that contradicts the principles of democracy," and in Paragraph (c), "No law may be enacted that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms outlined in this Constitution." However, the minister of justice is basing his argument on Paragraph (a), which stipulates, "No law may be enacted that contradicts the established provisions of Islam."

That vague and ambiguous article has become a Trojan horse for religious parties to impose their laws. This ambiguity has led to another level of factors, mainly religious factors, which helped the justice minister in his mission.

In principle, no Iraqi cleric can oppose applying provisions that date back to earlier times and which are supported by religious texts. Some of those texts set the marriage age as low as 9 and others relate to the role of women in society whereby a woman is subject to her husband's will and is deprived of all the gains made under the 1959 Personal Status Law, which is considered a civil law par excellence.

The problem facing the Jaafari personal status law is that the normal pattern of laws pertaining to the issues of marriage, divorce, inheritance and women's rights in the world have been evolving toward greater freedom and equality, so why would Iraqi laws head in the opposite direction?

Backward, like a camel's urine, as the old Iraqi proverb says.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

10 year blog anniversary!

It's been one crazy decade between dodging bullets and maneuvering militia checkpoints and concrete blocks to stealthily flying out of Iraq and achieving my lifelong dream of studying and living in the Land of the Free and getting reunited with family, relatives and friends in a better place, full of potential. 

I haven't blogged much about my experiences here in the US between New York and Texas but I hope to share them with you at some point. There were many ups and downs along the way but I can safely say that I'm finally settling down, getting my citizenship soon and, errmm, 'maybe' the M word. :p

I didn't get you any cake, but here's one of my favorite Iraqi delicacies, pacha. Yes, that is boiled lamb head, hooves and stuffed entrails seasoned with dry lemon over soaked bread loaves. Isn't that so yummy?



Enjoy!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Al-Qaeda in Iraq checkpoints on Baghdad-Amman highway

This is how Al-Qaeda (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) operates with impunity on the international highway between Baghdad and Amman in the Anbar province. The victims, Syrian truck drivers, were summarily executed after failing to answer how many times a Muslim is supposed to kneel during dawn prayers.

 Where are your drones, Mr. Obama? Oh, sorry I forgot you're too busy spying on your own citizens and jailing whistleblowers now to even bother about 'terrorists' anymore. Hell, I'm willing to bet these guys might even be some of the groups you're arming and funding through Syrian 'rebels'

 

Friday, July 05, 2013

Friday, June 14, 2013

Syria

What the hell is wrong with this country? The US now wants to arm the sectarian factions that have been chopping off the heads of 15-year-old boys for 'blasphemy'? Hate-filled jihadists who cut out the bleeding hearts of dead Syrian soldiers and eat them? These are the same people that drove Iraq to civil war and now they've managed to do the same in Syria, threatening to burn up the whole region in flames with their 7th century mindsets! They have openly declared that America is their enemy over and over again. Do you not read or follow? Can someone tell me why? Fight them in Iraq and Afghanistan and then support them in Syria? Have you not learned the lessons from Afghanistan and Iraq? Why is Obama such a Saudi tool? There is no more Free Syrian Army fighting over there. They have long ceased to count in this fight. It is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria waging holy war against Shia Arabs, Alawis and Christians, and whoever doesn't follow their extremist brand of Islam. Saudi and Qatari backed jihadists who will turn a modern Arab state into another theocracy. They are the Arab version of the Taliban... and you're going to give them more arms to kill our children and later yours...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tensions high in Baghdad

These flyers were distributed this night in the Mansur and Karrada districts signed by 'Asa'ib Ahl al-Haqq (a renegade Shi'ite militia formerly linked to the Mahdi Army) threatening members of the Sunni community (referred to here as the grandchildren of Umar and A'isha) with 'liquidation' if they do not leave. The threats followed a wave of bombings targeting Shia neighborhoods during the last two days killing up to 30 people. 

Locals reported fake checkpoints set up in several areas of southern Baghdad stopping vehicles and checking IDs. 


Monday, April 29, 2013

Fishy timing

And, of course, we all know Maliki never lies:

(CNN) -- Iraq's government ordered 10 television networks shut down Sunday, accusing them of stoking sectarian violence with "unprofessional" and "unethical" coverage of recent clashes in the country's north. Sunday's order from the Communications and Media Commission includes the Qatar-based satellite network Al Jazeera and eight outlets aimed at the country's Sunni Arab minority.

Ahmed Saeed, a reporter for Baghdad Satellite TV, said the decree effectively halts his network's reporting. "We cannot cover anything now," Saeed said. "Iraqi security forces will immediately arrest us." The Sunni outlets are based outside Iraq, in Jordan, Dubai or Egypt. Most have been sharply critical of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government since fighting last week between government troops and Sunni tribes in northern Iraq left more than 100 dead.

 The communications commission accused the networks of airing "misleading and exaggerated" coverage of the fighting in the city of Hawija, near Kirkuk, where dozens of demonstrators died in clashes with Iraqi police. The shuttered stations ran inflated death tolls and "carried a clear message by encouraging criminal activities and attacking security forces," it said.

The list includes one Shiite network, Al-Anwar. Some outlets, such as Al Jazeera, have been ordered to shut down operations in Iraq before; the network had no immediate response to the latest order. Watchdog groups previously have accused al-Maliki's government of using the communications commission to stifle criticism from Sunni outlets in particular.

More

Monday, April 08, 2013

Monday, March 25, 2013

Baghdad 10 years after the invasion

I've always enjoyed the Iraq documentaries by Vice Media and their controversial brand of 'gonzo journalism'. I wrote a couple of articles for them back when I first arrived in the US in 2006.

 

 Parts 2,3, and 4 here.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Pentagon's links to Iraq torture centers

I guess this is old news now:
The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the "dirty wars" in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents.

These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country's descent into full-scale civil war. Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows.

After the Pentagon lifted a ban on Shia militias joining the security forces, the special police commando (SPC) membership was increasingly drawn from violent Shia groups such as the Badr brigades.

A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding.

Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq in June 2004 to organise and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and returned to the country in 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld.
More

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Iraqi Deputy PM almost lynched

Iraqi Deputy PM Salih al-Mutlag gets chased away by angry protesters with stones and shoes at an anti-government demonstration in Ramadi this morning. The video is crazy. It clearly shows the crowd getting riled up with some people shouting, "Kick out the traitor," "Slaughter the bastard," "Kill him," and the obligatory "Allahu Akbar" and then shots are heard, probably from Mutlag's bodyguard. At this point, Mutlag and his entourage quickly withdrew from the protest site with the crowd in hot pursuit. They ran and dragged themselves for a good distance with bodyguards shooting in the air until they got to their vehicles. The cameraman runs beside them the whole time. What's funny is that these people are supposed to be Mutlag's constituents. More here.

Another video showing the moment Mutlag was chased away from the protest.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Peshmerga fire on Iraqi Army helicopter

So Iraqi helicopters can't fly over disputed areas?
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Troops from Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan opened fire on an Iraqi army helicopter on Tuesday, underscoring tensions between Baghdad's Arab-led central government and the Kurdish region, officials said.

Iraq's government and self-ruled Kurdistan last month both sent troops from their respective armies to reinforce positions around towns in disputed areas where they both claim control as part of a broader feud over oil and territory.

Kurdistan Peshmerga officials said on Tuesday they fired on an Iraqi military helicopter near Sikanyan town just north of the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, to keep the aircraft from taking surveillance pictures of their military positions.

"We opened fire at an Iraqi military helicopter flying over our forces," said Anwar Othman, deputy minister for Kurdish military affairs. "This is a clear message that next time our response will be tougher."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Egyptian Copt blogger sentenced for blasphemy

Yep
A court in Egypt had sentenced a blogger to three years in prison for blasphemy and contempt of religion. 
Alber Saber was arrested in September after neighbours accused him of posting links to a film mocking Islam that led to protests across the Muslim world.

There has been a proliferation of prosecutions for blasphemy in Egypt in the nearly two years since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown. Many of those targeted are Copts, who make up about 10% of the population.

Although blasphemy has long been a criminal offence, Article 44 of the draft constitution contains a specific article prohibiting insulting prophets.

Human rights activists have warned that it is inherently contradictory to Articles 43 and 45, which guarantee freedom of belief and freedom of thought and opinion. "Expect to see many more blasphemy prosecutions in the future now that it's embedded as a crime in the constitution," Heba Morayef, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, told the New York Times.
More info and links on this Facebook page and #FreeAlber on Twitter.