Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Iraqi Marxist Insurgent Group Declared

Masked Gunmen Vandalize Hakim Portraits in Kut


An unknown left-wing group calling itself the Iraqi Armed Revolutionary Resistance distributed leaflets in the Mid-Euphrates area around Najaf, Hilla and Karbala calling for “resistance against American, British and Zionist occupiers in order to liberate Iraq and form a free socialist, democratic alternative,” according to the Al-Badeel Al-Iraqi website. The group, which described itself as a “movement of Iraqi Communists and Marxists experienced in armed struggle, leftist Iraqi nationalists, and their supporters,” claimed responsibility for an attack against U.S. troops at the Khan Al-Nus area between Najaf and Karbla on Sunday. The leaflets, which carried a photo of Cuban Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara, announced the launch of the resistance in the Mid-Euphrates and condemned the “puppet government, the so-called Council of Representatives, terrorist Salafis, militias, the Interior Ministry, Iraqi traitors who came on American tanks, the American and British mercenaries, contractors, and their servants from the South Lebanese Army.” Printed in both Arabic and English, the statement said car bombs and roadside bombs killing Iraqis are planted by the above groups to damage the reputation of Iraqi resistance groups.


Iraqi Journalists

A panel discussion with yours truly and my colleagues Ayub Nuri and Ali Fadhil on the Charlie Rose Show.

I did not post my previous media appearances on the blog, but for those who care, I was hosted twice this year on the Brian Lehrer Show on CUNY TV. And this was another panel with me, Nuri and Fadhil at the Overseas Press Club in New York last March.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Adhamiya Wall Update


The Exodus

Nir Rosen's latest piece in the New York Times Magazine on Iraqi refugees in Syria, Egypt and Jordan is a must-read. I have waited for such coverage of this neglected story - the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948 - to appear in the U.S. media for ages. (Be sure to also check out the haunting photo and video essays on the same page.)

The following part of the story immediately stuck out:

“What I find most disturbing,” Bacon went on to say, “is that there seems to be no recognition of the problem by the president or top White House officials.” But John Bolton, who was undersecretary of state for arms control and international security in the Bush administration, and later ambassador to the United Nations, offers one explanation for this lack of recognition: it is not a crisis, and it was not triggered by American action. The refugees, he said, have “absolutely nothing to do with our overthrow of Saddam.

“Our obligation,” he told me this month at his office in the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, “was to give them new institutions and provide security. We have fulfilled that obligation. I don’t think we have an obligation to compensate for the hardships of war.”
Up to four million stranded Iraqi refugees (%15 of the population), and John Bolton thinks it's not a crisis. I wonder if Bolton would think it's a crisis if, say, 45 million Americans (%15) were forced to leave their homes tomorrow. But if he really believes that the U.S. has "fullfilled the obligation to give new institutions and provide security," then I wouldn't count on it.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dulaim Chief: Al-Qaeda is a Cancer in Iraq

Says U.S. Should Deal with Iran Before Withdrawal; Kurdish MP Blasts Cheney

Ramadi, IRAQ: Al-Anbar tribe leaders greet Iraqi Prime Minister Nur al-Maliki (C) and the governor of Al-Anbar, Maamoun Sami Rashid al-Alwani (R) in Ramadi 13 March 2007. PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images


Sheikh Majid Abdul Razzaq Al-Ali Suleiman, head chief of the Sunni tribal confederation of Dulaim in western Iraq, regarded the political process in Iraq as a “failure,” because it is based on sectarian quotas, instead of the intricate social Iraqi fabric, he told the pan-Arab Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper Thursday in an interview at Amman. Sheikh Suleiman stressed the role of Iraqi tribal leaders to put an end to the sectarian bloodshed in the country, especially since major Iraqi tribes often transcend the Sunni-Shia sectarian divide, but he also said he would not participate in the political process without an end to sectarianism. “Sectarianism is a huge blunder, but the major disaster is the blatant Iranian meddling in Iraqi affairs and to destroy all that is Iraqi,” he said.

In regard to Al-Qaeda and recent tribal efforts in the Anbar governorate to eliminate their presence, Sheikh Suleiman acknowledged that Al-Qaeda militants mainly target Iraqis instead of Americans. “Al-Qaeda is a cancer in our country,” he said, “but there is also an honorable resistance that is confronting the intrusion of Iran and Al-Qaeda in the country, although we have recently received dangerous information that Iran is backing some militants affiliated with Al-Qaeda.” Sheikh Suleiman added that his tribesmen have taken upon themselves to root out Al-Qaeda militants from their territory after they realized that Al-Qaeda is targeting all Iraqis without discrimination. “We saw car bombs attacking everyone, from students to religious clerics, hospitals and children playgrounds. This is not resistance,” he said.


Also, Iraqi blogger Chikitita tells us what it's like to get a taxi in Baghdad these days.

UPDATE: I am amazed by the headline of this story from the Associated Press. It reads "Iraqi officials discourage U.S. pullout." I clicked on it, wondering if it was a typo, because you may have heard that 144 members of Iraqi Parliament have signed a petition drafted by Sadrist members calling for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal the other day, a development that the U.S. media (with the exception of the Washington Post and the New York Times, which will probably put the story on page 12) has mysteriously not picked up yet. But, no, the AP story was instead about the visit of Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh - who speaks impeccable English, the AP tell us - and (U.S.-appointed) National Security Advisor Muwafaq Al-Rubai'i to Washington to warn Congress members of the disastrous consequences of a U.S. withdrawal. I am still shaking my head.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Surge in Violations Against Iraqi Journalists

Report Underscores Threat Against Freedom of Press in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq: An Iraqi falls in tears as he looks at framed pictures of Iraqi journalists who were killed in Iraq during the past three years, during a ceremony to commemorate their martyrdom in Baghdad, 05 April 2007. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images


The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory in Iraq (JFOI) registered 123 violations against Iraqi journalists and media workers in one year during the period between May 3, 2006, and May 3, 2007. In its annual report published on Thursday, JFOI said the total number of violations had doubled over the last year, with an average of one violation against a journalist every three days. The organization added that infringements against the freedoms of Iraqi journalists were not only carried out by terrorists, militant groups, militias, and Multi-National Forces, but also by Iraqi security forces, local authorities in Iraqi governorates, and Iraqi parliament. All violations have been made with impunity, the report asserted.

The report also accused local authorities of curtailing freedom of expression and opinion by imposing restrictions against Iraqi journalists operating in different governorates, issuing strict regulations to officials prohibiting them from disclosing information to the press, and banning journalists from covering demonstrations and public events.

The violations were classified as follows: 51 journalists killed and assassinated. 18 abducted, 14 arrested or detained, 40 different assault cases against media organizations.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

A Stranger by the Gulf

By Badr Shakir Al-Sayyab (1953):

The wind gasps with the midday heat,
Like a nightmare in the late afternoon
And on the masts, it continues to fold, to spread for departure
The gulf is crowded with them--laborers roaming the seas
Barefoot, half-naked
And on the sand, by the gulf
A stranger sat--a baffled vision wanders the gulf
Destroying the pillars of light with the rising wail
Higher than the torrents roaring foam, than the clamor
A voice thunders in the abyss of my bereaved soul: Iraq
Like the crest rising, like a cloud, like tears to the eyes
The wind cries to me: Iraq.
The wave howls at me: Iraq. Iraq. Nothing but Iraq.
The sea is as wide as can be, and you are as distant
The sea is between you and me: Oh Iraq.

Yesterday, as I passed by the café, I heard you Iraq . . .
You were a spin of a record
This, the spin of the cosmos in my life--it rolls time on for me
In two moments of tranquility if it has lost its place
It is the face of my mother in darkness
And her voice,
They glide with the vision until I sleep
And it is the palm trees that I fear if they grow dim at sunset
Crammed with ghosts snatching every child
who doesn't return from the paths,
And it is the old woman and what she whispers about Hazam

And how the grave split open over him before the beautiful, young Afra
And he took hold of her . . . except for a braid

Rose red . . . do you remember?
The glowing fireplace crowded with palms seeking warmth?
And my aunt's whispered tales of bygone kings?
And behind a door like a decree
That was closed on the women
By hands forever obeyed--as they were the hands of men
The men would carouse and pass the night in revelry
without tiring

So, do you remember? Do you remember?
Content, we were resigned
With those sad stories--as they were the stories of women.
A collection of lives and times, we were in its prime
We were its two spheres--between which it rested
So, isn't that nothing but dust?
A dream and a spin of the record?
If that were all that remains, where is the consolation?

In you Iraq, I loved my spirit or I loved you in it
Both of You, the lantern of my spirit, you--
and evening came
And the night pressed down--so let both glow in the darkness,
so I will not lose my way
If you came to me in a foreign land--the encounter would be
Meeting you--Iraq at my hand . . . this, the encounter
Longing for it penetrates my blood, as if all of my blood is desire
A hunger for it . . . like the hunger of the blood of the drowned for
air The desire of the unborn stretching his neck from the
darkness to birth
I wonder how it is possible for traitors to betray
Does one betray his country?
If he betrays the meaning of being, how can he be?

The sun is more beautiful in my country than any other, and darkness
Even darkness--there, is more beautiful
for it embraces Iraq

What a pity . . . .when will I sleep
And sense on the pillow
Your summer night--gilded by your perfume, Iraq?

Between timid villages and strange cities, my footsteps
I sang your beloved soil
And I carried it--for I am the Messiah in exile dragging his cross
And I heard the footfall of the famished moving, bleeding
from faltering
And dust, from you and from padded feet--my eyes filled with tears
I still walk, disheveled--with soiled feet on the roads
Under foreign suns
In tattered rags, hands outstretched, calling
Pale from fever and disgrace, the disgrace of a strange beggar
Amidst foreign eyes
Amidst scorn, and rejection, and aversion . . . or pity
Death is easier than pity
Than the pity foreign eyes squeeze out as
Drops of mineral water
So be doused, you, Oh drops, Oh blood, . . . oh . . . currency
Oh Wind, Oh needles tailoring the sail for me,
when will I return
To Iraq, when will I return?
Oh Flash of the waves staggered by oars---
carrying me to the Gulf
Oh great constellation . . . oh currency.
If only the ships didn't charge their passengers for traveling?
If only the earth like the vast horizon was without seas
I am still calculating, oh currency, I count you--I ask for more

I am still repelled by you from the intervals of my alienation,
I still ignite my window and my door with your glow,
On the other shore over there,
So tell me, oh currency . . .
When will I return, when will I return.
Do you see that joyous day approaching before my death?

And in the sky, in the fragments of clouds
And in the breezes, hailstones saturated with August perfumes
I reveal with a cloak, the remainder of my lethargy, like a silk veil
Disclosing what is and is not visible,
What I have and barely have forgotten,
when doubt is within certainty
It is clear to me--as I extend my hand to slip on my clothes--
What answer was I searching for in the darkness of my soul
That the hidden joy did not fill the abyss of my spirit like fog?
Today--as delight floods through me--surprising me--I return

What a pity--
I will not return to Iraq
And will he who lacks currency return?
And how is it saved?
And will you eat when you are hungry? And will you spend
Dignity deems generous, on food?

So cry for Iraq
For what do you have but tears
But your futile anticipation, for the winds and the masts.
Three major insurgent groups in Iraq have announced that they have merged under a united front called the Reformation and Jihad Front on an Internet posting published Wednesday. The Islamic Army, the Mujahideen Army, and Ansar Al-Sunna, insurgent groups that are believed to be more nationalistic despite their explicitly religious tone, formed the new alliance. The new front also called on the 1920 Revolutions Brigade as well as the “Iraqi tribes, military officers, professionals, journalists, professors and workers” to join them in their defense of the country, according to the statement.

At least two of the abovementioned groups have recently clashed with Islamic State of Iraq elements west of Baghdad, and the new alliance should be seen as the latest insurgent umbrella group challenging the control of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. The front also affirmed that it would continue to fight the occupation and to oppose the current political process in the country, but it would not target Iraqi civilians nor engage in “side-battles that distract from the main enemy." Continued.

The Man Who Might Save Iraq: He is a former Sunni Arab mujahid from Ramadi who until recently was fighting the US occupation. He has only a secondary education and is married with two wives. Now he is praised even by urban, secular, highly educated Shi'ites as a "conscious man", or "the kind of man we need now in Iraq". Sheikh Abdul Satter Abu Risha is the leader of the Anbar Sovereignty Council, a powerful coalition of Anbar tribes, including at least 200 sheikhs, that is fighting the Salafi jihadis of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Pentagon study reveals that more than 40% of U.S. troops in Iraq support torture, and less than half say they will report a member of their unit for killing innocent civilians, while one of out ten soldiers reported mistreating non-combatants or damaging their property when it was not necessary.

In Jihadist Haven, a goal: To Kill and Die in Iraq.

Abandonment of Iraqi refugees compared to Holocaust-era refusal to assist Jews.

Iraq Reimposes Freeze on Medical Diplomas In Bid to Keep Doctors From Fleeing Abroad. (This is actually old news since the law was reintroduced some time last year, but the media apparently found out just now.)

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Yazidi Rioters Burn KDP Headquarters Near Mosul

Hundreds of Yazidi rioters attacked the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the towns of Khana Sor and Jazira, west of Mosul, and took down the Kurdish flag and burned it, according to several Kurdish and Yazidi websites. The attacks came during a massive demonstration by the Yazidi community Friday protesting the threats against Yazidi workers in Erbil, Dohuk and Zakho, and recent religious edicts by Kurdish clerics sanctioning attacks against Yazidis, according to eyewitness accounts. Demonstrators pelted guards and Peshmerga forces with stones, and some stormed into the KDP headquarters destroying windows and furniture and setting several vehicles near the building on fire. Peshmerga troops reportedly opened fire and wounded three demonstrators, according to the Ezidi Inqad Movement.

Ninewa Deputy Governor Khisro Guran told the Peyamner News Agency Saturday that members of an armed group called the Yazidi Reform and Progress Movement, which he described as a “Ba’athist” group stirring chaos in Yazidi towns, attacked the KDP headquarters in Seba Sheikh Khidr, a village in the Qahtaniya district west of Mosul, and set it on fire late Friday.

Yazidi workers and students residing in the Kurdish autonomous region had received death threats, and angry Kurdish rioters almost broke into a hotel full of Yazidi workers in Erbil before security forces intervened several days ago. The Bahzani website reported that two Yazidi men were killed in Mosul by unknown gunmen. The Islamic State of Iraq insurgent group had claimed responsibility for killing 24 Yazidis in Mosul last week. The attack, which was described as the largest against the community in decades, was thought to be in response to the brutal murder of Doa Khalil Aswad, 17, a Yazidi girl who had engaged in a relationship with a Muslim Kurd, by her relatives amidst fanfare in the Yazidi town of Ba’shiqa east of Mosul on April 7.

Leaders of the Yazidi community, a tiny gnostic sect in northern Iraq, Turkey and Syria that combines Islamic teachings with ancient Babylonian and Persian religions, had condemned the crime against the young Yazidi woman, and denied that it was in response to her alleged conversion to Islam, as Kurdish websites had reported. Tahsin Beg Sa’eed Ali, the Emir of the Yazidi sect and head of the Higher Yazidi Spiritual Council, had strongly condemned the incident and called for restraint in a press statement on April 27. His residence and the Yazidi Cultural Center in Ain Sifni, east of Mosul, were reportedly attacked and burned down by Kurds last week.

Iraqi police in Ba’shiqa said that two people who participated in stoning the young girl were detained and that two of the girls’s uncles and four other people had fled the town while investigators continue to search for the rest of the culprits, including the girl’s brother, who had appeared in a cell phone video recording of the murder, which was widely circulated on the Internet. Aswad’s corpse was exhumed and sent to the Medico-legal Institute in Mosul several days ago before it was returned to the Sheikh Shams cemetery, medical sources told a Kurdish newspaper yesterday, but they did not disclose the results.


Iraqi Communists Celebrate May Day

Supporters of the Iraqi Communist Party celebrate May Day at Fardous Square in central Baghdad.

Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images

Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty Images