News Sources and Articles:
Help in Understanding the Situation in Iraq
This page > Sources Military Basra/Sadr City Iraq/Middle-East Polit. Devels. Refugees Embassy Iraq-Related U.S. Polit. Devels.


  1. Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion
    Juan Cole, Richard P. Mitchell Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Michigan.
  2. Tom Englehardt described Informed Comment this way:
    "Anyone tuning in to the nightly network news can now regularly go through a typical half-hour without running across Iraq at all. . . Cable TV, radio news, newspapers -- it makes little difference [he cites News Coverage Index of the Project for Excellence in Journalism]. . . [But] you can go to Juan Cole's Informed Comment website, perhaps the best daily round-up of Iraqi mayhem and disaster on the Web, and you'll feel as if, like Alice, you had fallen down a rabbit hole into another universe. ([Detailed list of coverage omitted here]). But how many Americans read Juan Cole every day... or any day?"

  3. Articles by Raed Jarrar
    Raed Jarrar was born in Baghdad, with a Sunni mother and Shiite father. In 2002 he and a friend started blogging about the situation in Iraq, eventually reaching a world-wide audience. After the invasion, he started an NGO to help rebuild neighborhoods, but came to realize the occupation was marginalizing "non-extremists" like himself. In 2005 he moved to the U.S. Suspicious of Administration promises to leave soon, he said "Only a complete U.S. withdrawal that leaves no troops, bases, or private contractors behind would create the safe space for Iraqis to deal with their problems and heal their wounds."
    With regards his usefulness in understanding Iraq, Mother Jones (May/June 2008) says: "[Congressional staffer Caleb] Rossiter credits Jarrar for tipping off Congress to a situation that the administration was not eager to publicize [creating a long-term agreement without Congressional consent]. 'Without Jarrar, who knows where we'd be,' he says. 'He's been crucial in helping us think through our inquiry into this. What makes him so valuable is he understands the coin of the realm on Capitol Hill is good information. We know from experience that we can count on anything he brings us.' Congressman [Bill] Delahunt [(D-MA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight] concurs. 'Raed's been simply invaluable,' he says. 'There's so much about Iraq we can miss: the domestic political forces, the diversity of the society. He's given us outstanding objective analysis on all of it.'"
  4. Beyond the Green Zone
    InterPress News Service articles on Iraq
    We've found articles by IPS reporters such as Gareth Porter and Dahr Jamail to be both accurate and insightful as the the real situation in Iraq. IPS's self-description: "Unlike most other international news media, who report on Iraq from inside the heavily-fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, IPS's Iraqi correspondents spread across the country to bring you some of the boldest reporting about this war-torn nation. To this IPS adds incisive coverage from the international centres of power where the future of Iraq is being moulded."

(reverse chronological order)
(author links are to the best information we can find on the author)

The Military Situation   (see also Basra / Sadr City Attacks)     (TOP)

  1. Iraq violence up as troop levels drop -- Value of the surge debated, 7 April 2008
    Farah Stockman and Bryan Bender, Boston Globe
    [With chart of troop levels and violence since Jaunary 2007]
    "Since the US military began reducing its troop presence in Iraq three months ago, several key indicators of violence in the troubled nation have risen, according to new military figures released this weekend, sparking fears that security gains hailed by the White House are already eroding. The rise in violence -- blamed on both Shi'ite militants and Sunni extremists allied with Al Qaeda -- has prompted war critics to argue that President Bush's surge of 30,000 more troops last year, designed to stabilize the nation, merely postponed the inevitable deadly chaos that will follow an eventual US withdrawal. Other analysts question whether the US strategy planted the seeds for greater bloodshed by funding, and arming, various Sunni and Shi'ite factions who may eventually battle one another or fight among themselves.
  2. Patriot missiles: Iraq Veterans Against the War, 2 March 2008
    Ariel Leve, Times (UK)
    THE WINTER SOLDIERS -- In a reprise of the Winter Soldier hearings held during the Vietnam War to make Americans aware that the My Lai Massacre was not an isolated rogue event, March 13 this year will begin four days of testimony by soldiers about the horrors they experienced -- saw and did -- in Iraq. The organizers will have checked and double-checked the stories for accuracy. All who testify are aware of potentially serious consequences of their testifying, but they WILL testify, and their testimony will go into the Congressional Record -- and, one hopes, further than that. Two important points from this article:
    1. Apologists for the war claim that lack of outspoken opposition from soldiers indicates support for the war, but in actual fact, although fear certainly plays a role in preventing soldiers from speaking out against atrocities, a far more effective reason is the knowledge that a complaint will not go above the commanding officers.
    2. When soldiers are being lectured by officers, a signal of three foot taps by the officer means that they are supposed to ignore what is being said as irrelevant "book" policy, and understand that the real message is the unspoken one.

  3. Iraqi Shiite Cleric Extends Cease-Fire by His Militia, 23 February 2008
    Richard Oppel, New York Times
    "The Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army militia on Friday to extend its cease-fire for six more months, bolstering hopes that a recent trend toward sharply lower Iraqi civilian and American military deaths in Baghdad would continue." The article gives some background on the Mahdi Army's varying reputation over time.
  4. Iraqi insurgents rig houses with bombs, 16 February 2008
    Bryan Bender, Boston Globe
    Insurgents in Iraq, countering improved defenses against lethal roadside bombs, are converting private houses into large-scale, booby-trapped bombs set to detonate when American or Iraqi forces burst in on raids, according to US officials in Iraq and Washington.

Basra / Sadr City Attacks     (TOP)
(See also the ETWF Basra/Sadr-City Timeline and the New York Times map of Sadr City)

  1. Fighting For Survival, Muqtada al-Sadr Orders a Ceasefire, 14 May 2008
    Patrick Cockburn, Alternet
    "The ceasefire agreement is intended to end seven weeks of fighting in which more than 1,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed. . . The anti-American Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is the great survivor of Iraqi politics. In a tactical retreat he authorized a ceasefire [on Monday May 12] under which the Iraqi army, but not U.S. troops, will enter the great Shia slum of Sadr City in Baghdad while Sadr's Mahdi Army militia will stop firing rockets and mortars into the fortified Green Zone. . . 'We have agreed on a ceasefire and to end displaying arms in public,' said Salah al-Obeidi, spokesman for Sadr. 'But we did not agree to disbanding the Mahdi Army or handing over its weapons.' . ."
    (Interesting note: George Bush, in a 4/7/04 videoconference, quoted by Lt. Gen. Rocardp Sanchez, U.S. commander in Iraq in 2003-2004: "The Mahdi Army is a hostile force. We can't allow one man [Sadr] to change the course of the country. At the end of this campaign Sadr must be gone. At a minimum he will be arrested. It is essential he be wiped out. . . Stay strong! Stay the course! Kill them! Prevail! We are going to wipe them out! We are not blinking!")
  2. Hasty truce with Moqtada al-Sadr tests his sway in Baghdad stronghold, 12 May 2008
    Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor
    This article describes the cease-fire negotiated between the Sadr movement and the United Iraqi Alliance of ruling Shiite political parties, brokered with the help of Iran, which could end fighting that killed more than 1000 people in Sadr City. The ceasefire, accepted by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on May 10 (but not negotiated by his government) allows the Iraqi government forces (but not American forces) movement in Sadr City, allows the Mahdi Army to keep its light weapons (al-Sadr says it doesn't use heavy weapons like mortars and rockets, which are now grounds for arrest), and requires removal of explosives from streets, among other provisions. The American military was said to be withholding judgement on the ceasefire. The truce came just as the Maliki government announced a new offensive against Al Qaeda in Iraq in Mosul, for which continued fighting with Shiites in Baghdad would be problematic. The Sadrists accused the Maliki government, which supports partitioning Iraq and long-term agreements with the U.S., of attacking Sadr City to damage the possibility of a sweep of the fall provincial elections in the South by the nationalist anti-American Sadrists, a tactic which may have been successful to some extent, given the growing anger of Sadr City residents. The Sadrists point out the hypocrisy of Maliki's saying he wants to disarm all militias outside the army, when the Americans are arming Sunni militias and the other main Shiite militia (Badr Organization) has moved into the army.
  3. U.S. Role Deepens in Sadr City, 30 April 2008
    Amit R. Paley, Washington Post
    " . . . The [April 29] clashes underscored how deeply U.S. forces have been drawn into heavy combat in the huge Shiite district since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki['s Basra offensive] . . . Until Maliki's push into the southern city of Basra, U.S. troops were not intensely engaged in Sadr City, a Baghdad neighborhood of roughly 3 million people that was among the most treacherous areas for U.S. forces early in the war. But the southern offensive set off a violent chain reaction that spread quickly to Shiite sectors of the capital and has severely strained the cease-fire Sadr imposed on his followers in August and recently reaffirmed. U.S. troops, fighting at times Tuesday on foot and backed by air support, are now engaged in the kind of urban battle within Sadr's stronghold reminiscent of the first years of the war. More than 500 people have been killed and 2,100 injured in Sadr City since fighting erupted there again in late March, according to lawmakers loyal to Sadr . . . [A military spokesman reported 30 fighters killed] But Sadr City residents gave a very different accounting of the fighting. They said at least 50 people were killed and 130 injured, many of them women and children. . ."
    (For a glimpse of this, see a Real News video report on it.)
  4. Shiite Cleric Tells Followers to End Fighting and Unite Iraqis, 26 April 2008
    Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times
    On 25 April, Moktada al-Sadr issued an 8-point statement telling his followers "to wage open war against the Americans" but not to raise "a hand against another Iraqi citizen." In the statement, he urged the army and police to cease cooperation with the "occupation forces," asked the government to purge militia members from the police and the army, and opposed any American military bases in Iraq. This article speculates that trying to cut civilian casualties and portraying himself as an anti-occupation nationalist, in the context of Parliament's reviewing legislation that would outlaw participation in the elections by parties that have militias, is part of a strategy aimed at the upcoming October provincial elections preparatory to the 2009 general elections. Both Sadr's people and Tawafiq, a coalition of Sunni parties, have decided that sitting out the elections in 2005 was a mistake. Meanwhile, a government official declined to respond to the announcement, claiming Sadr was constantly changing his positions.
  5. U.S. Begins Erecting Wall in Sadr City, 18 April 2008
    Michael R. Gordon, New York Times
    (for the larger strategic context of these walls, see The New Walls of Baghdad)
    "Trying to stem the infiltration of militia fighters, American forces have begun to build a massive concrete wall that will partition Sadr City, the densely populated Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital. The construction, which began Tuesday night [4/15], is intended to turn the southern quarter of Sadr City near the international Green Zone into a protected enclave, secured by Iraqi and American forces, where the Iraqi government can undertake reconstruction efforts. . . residents complained vociferously about stagnant pools of water, downed power lines and piles of garbage. The Americans sought to persuade the Iraqis that they were just as eager for the Iraqi government to fix the infrastructure and restore water and electricity. 'We are not stopping governmental services from coming in here,' [a U.S. officer] . . . sought to assure one distressed woman. 'We want them to come in here.' The American military plans to hire 200 Sadr City residents to clean up trash for a 75-day period. So far, it has hired about 90 . . . but the program is seen as a stopgap effort."
  6. Iraqi Unit Flees Post, Despite American's Plea, 17 April 2008
    Michael R. Gordon, New York Times
    "Tuesday's desertions in Sadr City, although involving a particularly hesitant Iraqi unit, left many of the Americans soldiers wondering about the tenacity of their Iraqi allies. . . said Sgt. George Lewis, . . . 'We don't see any progress being made at all. We hear these guys in firefights. We know if we are not up there helping these guys out we are making very little progress.' . . . One big problem is that the Iraqi troops have responded to militia gunfire with such intense fusillades that the soldiers have endangered civilians, American soldiers and even their own forces. The barrage of Iraqi Army fire has become such a regular occurrence that some American soldiers are worried that militia fighters have tried to insert themselves between nearby Iraqi units to induce the Iraqi soldiers to fire on one another. . . [Major Sattar's] company [that withdrew] had replaced a more battle-hardened Iraqi unit just two days earlier, and he had been unhappy to find that he would be occupying a position to the front of the better trained and equipped Americans. 'Every house in Sadr City probably has one of their sons in the Mahdi Army,' he observed when American soldiers visited his position on Monday. 'So it is hard to convince people to believe in the Iraqi Army.'"
    Note:  See also Desertion or a Break? An Iraqi Gives His Side, by Michael Kamber (New York Times, 17 April).
  7. U.S. Army Hopes To Counter Mahdi Army's Influence in Baghdad, 15 April 2008
    Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor
    "The aim now is to launch an ambitious plan of 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day public works and services-improvement projects designed to convince the local population that the Iraqi government -- and not Sadr's Mahdi Army militia -- is best able to improve the quality of life in an impoverished expanse of pot-holed streets, open sewers, and joblessness. A senior American military official says conditions are different now from when earlier hearts-and-minds programs were launched. . . But residents are unlikely to reject the Mahdi Army fighters who control their streets as long as some benefits -- jobs, business contacts, and some services such as healthcare -- are derived from them, some analysts say. . . While in Washington to brief Congress on the situation in Iraq, General Petraeus called Sadr's following a 'legitimate political movement' and said Sadr should not be 'backed into a corner from which there is no alternative.' . . . [But on April 13 the daily Azzaman newspaper quoted Sadr as saying, 'After I heard the statements . . of the US defense minister, I felt compelled to respond to him . . you [the US government] have never been but my enemy and you will remain so until the last drop of blood in me. And I wash my hands from whoever considers you a friend, ruler, a truce -- or negotiating-partner.'"
  8. Rocket Attacks Kill 2 Soldiers In Green Zone, 1 on U.S. Base, 7 April 2008
    Ernesto Londoño, Washington Post
    "Three U.S. service members were killed and dozens were wounded Sunday in rocket attacks on the fortified Green Zone and a military base in Baghdad, the U.S. military said. A fourth U.S. soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Diyala province . . . The Green Zone and U.S. military facilities have become frequent targets of rockets and mortar shells that military officials say are fired from Sadr City and other parts of eastern Baghdad. The latest series of attacks began late last month in response to an Iraqi government military offensive against Shiite militias in Basra, in southern Iraq. . . It was unclear whether the attacks were related to clashes in Sadr City early Sunday. Nine men were killed when U.S. military helicopters fired Hellfire missiles into Sadr City, after a week of relative calm in an area that has become a flash point of violence in Iraq, the U.S. military said."
  9. U.S. Cites Planning Gaps in Iraqi Assault on Basra, 3 April 2008
    Michael R. Gordon, Eric Schmitt and Stephen Farrell, New York Times
    The Bush administration has portrayed the Iraqi offensive in Basra as a 'defining moment' -- a compelling demonstration that an Iraqi government that has long been criticized for inaction has both the will and means to take on renegade militias. The operation indicates that the Iraqi military can quickly organize and deploy forces over considerable distances. . . But interviews with a wide range of American and military officials also suggest that Mr. Maliki overestimated his military's abilities and underestimated the scale of the resistance. The Iraqi prime minister also displayed an impulsive leadership style that did not give his forces or that of his most powerful allies, the American and British military, time to prepare. . . Iraqi planning appeared to be little more than an improvisation." The article describes the way American forces became involved, and raises the issue that, although the stated purpose of the offensive was to disarm Shiite militias, battle was with Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and not the other two main Shiite militias, who are allied with Mr. Maliki.
  10. "Handed Over" To a Government Called Sadr, 2 April 2008
    Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail, Interpress News Service
    On March 25, "'Mehdi army militias controlled all Shia and mixed parts of Baghdad in no time,' a Baghdad police colonel, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS. 'Iraqi army and police forces as well as Badr and Dawa militias suddenly disappeared from the streets, leaving their armoured vehicles for Mehdi militiamen to drive around in joyful convoys that toured many parts of Baghdad before taking them to their stronghold of Sadr City in the east of Baghdad.' . . . Brigadier-General Kathum Alwan of the Iraqi army told IPS in Baghdad, 'We must admit that the formation of our forces was wrong, as we saw how our officers deserted their posts, leaving their vehicles for militias. . . Not a single unit of our army and police stood for their duty in Baghdad, leaving us wondering what to do. Most of the officers who left their posts were members of Badr brigades and the Dawa Party, who should have been most faithful to Maliki's government.'"
  11. Iranian who brokered Iraqi peace is on U.S. terrorist watch list, 31 March 2008
    Warren P. Strobel and Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers
    "The Iranian general who helped broker an end to nearly a week of fighting between Iraqi government forces and Shiite Muslim militiamen in southern Iraq is an unlikely peacemaker. Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, who helped U.S.-backed Iraqi leaders negotiate a deal with radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr to stop the fighting in Iraq's largely Shiite south, is named on U.S. Treasury Department and U.N. Security Council watch lists for alleged involvement in terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear and missile technology. His role as peacemaker, which McClatchy first reported Sunday, underscores Iran's entrenched political power and its alliances in Iraq, according to analysts. . . 'Iran showed that they could mediate this cease-fire while the U.S. has shown very little influence,' said Joost Hiltermann, the deputy program director for the Middle East and North Africa at the private International Crisis Group. 'The United States is eager to accuse Iran of playing a damaging role in Iraq, but the bottom line is that Iran and the United States have a lot of things in common.'"
  12. Sadr Offers Deal for Truce as Fighting Persists in Iraq, 31 March 2008
    Erica Goode, New York Times
    On March 30, Muqtada al-Sadr announced a nine-point agreement worked out over several days with Iraqi officials who had gone to Iran to meet with him. In the announcement, ". . .Mr. Sadr told militia members 'to end all military actions in Basra and in all the provinces' and 'to cooperate with the government to achieve security.' But he also made demands, including an amnesty for fighters in the Mahdi Army militia and the release of all imprisoned members of the Sadrist movement who have not been convicted of crimes. While the government has occasionally made small-scale releases of Sadrists, it has resisted earlier demands for more sweeping action. The move by Mr. Sadr stood in stark contrast to his actions in 2004, when he ordered his militia to fight to the death in the old city of Najaf, suggesting that Mr. Sadr's political sophistication and skill at military strategizing has grown in the past few years. . . Ali al-Dabbagh, a spokesman for Mr. Maliki, appeared on the Iraqi television station Iraqia and said that the government welcomed the action and that Mr. Sadr's gesture demonstrated his 'concern for Iraq and Iraqis.' Still, it was not immediately clear which, if any, of the concessions the Iraqi government has agreed to. Mr. Sadr's statement did not appear to have an immediate effect on the violence that has rippled throughout the country and paralyzed the capital over the last week."
Iraq/Middle-East Political Developments     (TOP)

  1. Sadr's Militia May Live to Fight Again, 14 July 2008
    Patrick Cockburn, The Independent (UK)
    A comprehensive analysis of the current situation of Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. Cockburn looks at its non-defeat but loss of heavy firepower, the reality of Iran supporting the al-Maliki government, and the sense among some Shiite Iraqis that the Army's violence and corruption was acceptable when it was protecting them from Sunnis, but is now unacceptable. Cockburn acknowledges that Prime Minister al-Maliki has succeeded in his attempt to seriously weaken a movement that was estimated by the U.S. military to be able to garner 60% in the upcoming elections, but points out the class divisions that still fuel al-Sadr's popularity among the disenfranchised poor in parts of Iraq.
  2. Powerful Iraqi cleric flirting with Shiite militant message, 22 May 2008
    Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra, Associated Press
    AND . . .
    Will Sistani End the War in Iraq, 24 May 2008
    Pepe Escobar, The RealNews
    AND/BUT . . .
    Shi'a Clerics Dispute Sistani "Fatwas" Report, 23 May 2008
    The Associated Press sent out an article quoting "three prominent Shiite officials in regular contact with al-Sistani and two followers that received the edicts in Najaf" that Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the senior Shiite cleric in Iraq, had moved away from his yaer-long silence on the issue of the occupation and was quietly ("verbally and in private") issuing fatwas (religious opinions) indicating that military opposition to the occupation was acceptable. The article indicated these might be just religious opinions, rather than calls to action. Meanwhile, in an analysis of al-Sistani's role, RealNews commentator Pepe Escobar speculated that the cleric may have felt the need to deal with the popularity of rival lesser-cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's steadfastly anti-occupation stance by taking one of his own, stating further that al-Sistani's position is so powerful that he could, if he chose, issue the "big fatwa" -- ending the occupation simply by saying it needed to end. However, a group of Shiite clerics came out with a rebuttal of the fatwa story, saying that since none of the alleged fatwas came through regular religious channels, the news would have to be considered false, "media stunts" to create confusion among Shiites.
  3. Iraq elections may slip to November -Petraeus, 22 May 2008
    David Morgan, Reuters
    "Iraqi provincial elections, seen as a step forward in Iraq's political evolution, are now likely to take place in November instead of October, U.S. Commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, said on Thursday. Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker now believes the November time frame is more likely as Iraqi lawmakers prepare for a final vote approving the ballot as early as next week. The general said Iraqis still need to set up an electoral committee to oversee the balloting and to make security and other arrangements. . . 'Probably November is the more accurate prediction. But again there's every intention to have elections in the fall.'" Such a postponement would put the Iraqi elections after the U.S. elections.
  4. Sunni leader urges bloc to rejoin Iraq Cabinet, 27 April 2008
    Sameer Yacoub, Boston Globe
    "Iraq's Sunni Arab vice president yesterday called the return of his boycotting political bloc to the Shi'ite-led Cabinet a priority, saying the government must reconcile quickly to 'save Iraq.' Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi's comments were the latest to signal readiness by the main Sunni bloc, the National Accordance Front, to rejoin the government after an absence of nearly nine months. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki also said Friday that he expected to present a new Cabinet list within a few days, a step that would be a boost to his government and seen by Washington as a significant step forward. But while the two sides have said they were prepared to join forces for more than a week, internal power struggles within the National Accordance Front have delayed a formal announcement, according to a Sunni official familiar with the negotiations."
  5. Turkish Military Says It Is in Iraq, 22 February 2008
    Associated Press
    Turkish troops launched a ground incursion across the border into Iraq in pursuit of separatist Kurdish rebels, the military said Friday -- a move that dramatically escalates Turkey's conflict with the militants. It is the first confirmed ground operation by the Turkish military into Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. It also raised concerns that it could trigger a wider conflict with the U.S.-backed Iraqi Kurds, despite Turkey's assurances that its only target was the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.
  6. Iraqis set provincial elections, agree on detainee amnesty, 13 February 2008
    Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers
    "Iraq's parliament, spurred by a threat from its speaker that it would be dissolved, on Wednesday passed a budget and approved two major bills that are considered crucial for national reconciliation. Lawmakers hailed the actions as the first time that rival political blocs had made significant concessions to pass legislation. They came on the last day before a five-week break. . . The major winners are Sunni Muslims -- who won a limited amnesty for prisoners and an Oct. 1 date for provincial elections -- and Kurds, who won a budget that allocated 17 percent of Iraq's funds to them, instead of 13 percent as the Shiite-led government had proposed. . . Setting a date for provincial elections was the second of 18 so-called benchmarks that the Bush administration and Congress have said are vital to Iraqi progress toward national reconciliation."
  7. Sadr Militia Moves To Clean House, 7 December 2007
    Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times
    An interesting description of the internal tensions between "moderates" and "extremists" in the Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, and the attempts on the part of the former to reign in the latter in the period before Prime Minister al-Maliki set out to destroy the militia in Basra and Baghdad. ". . .'What we want to do during this period is to establish a new order, to collect the people who are professional, educated and have good information, who are good, faithful in our social works and are helping the people,' said Sadr's chief spokesman Sheik Salah Ubaidi. . ."
  8. 50 Die in Fight Between Shiite Groups in Karbala, 29 August 2007
    Stephen Farrell, New York Times
    Although "old news," this article covers a turning point event which presaged the pivotal government attack on Basra 8 months later. The outbreak of fighting during a Shiite religious festival was between the two main Shiite militias -- the Mahdi Army (loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, whose representatives had withdrawn from the government earlier in the year in protest of the government's acceptance of U.S. military occupation) and government security forces whose makeup included a high proportion of members of the Badr Organization (the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which has significant influence over Prime Minister al-Maliki). ". . . The tensions in Karbala began Monday, with confrontations between Sadr supporters and the Badr-dominated security forces around the shrines. Those forces have been on a constant state of high alert because of suicide bombings by Sunni insurgents at Shiite religious festivals in previous years. Sadrists said the police who carried out body searches and magnetic scans at checkpoints provoked their followers by beating pilgrims who chanted pro-Sadr slogans. Other reports said that Mahdi Army followers accompanying pilgrims and claiming to be protecting them were prohibited from taking weapons into the shrines. Iraqi officials said those initial clashes escalated Monday night when the police attacked the al-Mukhayam mosque, a Mahdi Army stronghold in Karbala, and arrested about 20 fighters. The Mahdi Army retaliated Tuesday morning by attacking security force positions, the police said. . ."
    Note:  In the aftermath of this incident, al-Sadr declared a 6-month cease fire for the Mahdi Army, renewed in February 2008.

Refugees     (TOP)

  1. They Can't Go Home Again (U.S. accepts few Iraqi refugees), 21 April 2008
    Adam Doster, In These Times
    ". . . the Bush administration's response to the displacement crisis has been pitiful. From 2003 to 2007, the White House -- which instigated the war and made scores of Iraqis vulnerable by employing them as translators and drivers -- refused to acknowledge the existence of a crisis at all, resettling a mere 466 refugees into the United States. Rising violence and growing attention to the emergency forced President Bush's hand in early 2007. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice created a high-level State Department task force on the refugee issue and promised to resettle 25,000 Iraqis. But over the course of the year, that target dropped to 7,000, and later to 2,000. By year's end, only 1,608 Iraqis had been admitted. . . on March 11 [2008], the State Department's Senior Coordinator of Iraqi Refugee Issues James B. Foley told the House subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia that reaching that number [2008 goal of 12,000] is 'not guaranteed.' . . . Why does America keep missing its targets? The State Department points to bureaucratic snafus, ranging from the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) stringent security review of each applicant, to jurisdictional confusion between the State Department and DHS, to a lack of interviewers in the field. [Jake Kurtzer, a congressional advocate for Refugees International,] says the fault lies with the White House, where officials refuse to take the problem seriously. . . in 1975, when, under President Gerald Ford, the United States resettled 130,000 South Vietnamese refugees between May and December after the fall of Saigon. Overall, more than 900,000 were eventually admitted to the country. 'To do less,' Ford later said, 'would have added moral shame to humiliation.' . . . But Iraq is a different story. Admitting that the embattled nation is in the throes of a humanitarian crisis disrupts the narrative that Iraq is stable and the war is winnable. Allowing people from the Arab world to emigrate freely could also brand the GOP as soft on terrorism, a political liability among the party's conservative base, especially in an election year. . ."
  2. Europe is Closing Its Doors to Iraqi Refugees: Where Will They Go?, 26 April 2008
    Mariah Blake, Alternet
    " . . . Since 2003, when war broke out, at least 4.7 million Iraqis have been uprooted, creating the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since Israel was founded. About half of the displaced remain in Iraq, while more than 2 million have spilled into Syria and Jordan, where the influx has overwhelmed hospitals and schools and created water and housing shortages. Humanitarian groups say that situation among refugees in these countries is increasingly desperate, with many living in ramshackle camps and struggling to meet basic needs, like food and medicine. Unless industrialized nations act soon, Amnesty International has warned that the situation could 'implode, further destabilizing the region.' But most Western countries have refused to offer direct aid to Syria and Jordan, or welcome more than a handful of refugees. The U.S. admitted just over 1,600 Iraqis in fiscal year 2007, far short of its initial 7,000 target, which the State Department attributes to administrative bottlenecks." The European average is 11% of asylum claims, with Greece less than 1%, due to immigration restrictions following September 11. Sweden (9 million people) modified its policies and has taken in 49,000 refugees. Now overwhelmed, even Sweden is clamping down.
  3. Shiite Refugees Feel Forsaken in Their Holy City, 19 October 2007
    Alissa Rubin, New York Times
    ". . . The scope of sectarian killings in Iraq and the relocation they have caused have yet to be publicly acknowledged by the Iraqi government. But a visit to Najaf, whose refugee population is typical of the southern provinces, lays bare the vast needs of displaced Iraqis and the rough road ahead for the project of national reconciliation. In Najaf, estimates of the number of the displaced range from 60,000 to more than 400,000. The official number of displaced is 10,000 families, or 60,000 people, since there are six people on average in an Iraqi family, according to the International Organization for Migration, which works with governments worldwide on refugee issues. However, numbers are hard to track because some displaced families stay only a few months in one place and then move on. The majority live in squatter villages in the country far from services; there are about 1,700 in the refugee camp. Because registering with the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration is a difficult process that requires going to Baghdad and presenting several documents that prove former address and family size, only a fraction of those displaced register, according to officials at humanitarian agencies. In addition, said Kammal Abdul Zahra, the head of the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization's Najaf office, many rural, less-educated people are afraid of being on any official lists, so they do not register with the provincial government, or with any charitable agencies. His guess is that the real figure is closer to 400,000. . ."
  4. Doors closing on Iraqi displaced, 10 October 2007
    "The head of the UNHCR Iraq Support Unit told the BBC up to 11 governors were restricting access because they lacked resources to look after the refugees. Andrew Harper warned that, with no imminent end to the displacement, Iraq was becoming a "pressure cooker". The UNHCR says 2.2m people are displaced in Iraq, attempting to escape violence or persecution. The Iraqi government says the actual number is half that. A government spokesman has told the BBC that while dealing with the growing numbers of internally displaced people was a significant problem, only three provinces were refusing access to refugees. In addition, the UNHCR estimates that 2.2m Iraqis have fled to neighbouring states, particularly Syria and Jordan, since the US-led invasion in 2003."
    (See also map of numbers of displaced people arriving in the various provinces from Feb 2006 to Jul 2007.)

Embassy News     (TOP)
(see also the Embassy page)

  1. Iraqis see red as U.S. opens world's biggest embassy, 24 April 2008
    Howard LaFranchi, Christian Science Monitor (includes an audio segment by the reporter)
    This article highlights the Iraqi perception of the New Embassy Compound as a symbol of American control of their country into the indefinite future. "[Abdul Jabbar Ahmed, a vice dean for political sciences at Baghdad University,] says the Americans 'surely have a right and duty to protect their delegation here.' But he says he still wouldn't have built something so large. 'That is too much of a symbol,' he says. 'It sends a message to the Iraqis that says, 'Be careful, we removed Saddam Hussein and we can remove what has come after him anytime we want.''"
    In spite of the serious problems with the embassy's fire-fighting system uncovered earlier this year, and estimates of a 2009 occupancy, the U.S. has cleared the embassy for occupation in May. This rush apparently is due, according to the audio segment, to the extra mile of distance of the new embassy from Sadr City, and the fact that, unlike the old embassy, its direction from Sadr City does not line up precisely with Sadr City's streets, making targeting it with rockets much harder.
  2. Embassy in Iraq Cleared For Occupancy, 4 April 2008
    Tim Kauffman, Federal Times
    The New Embassy Compound (NEC) was originally scheduled to be opened in September. It was certified ready for occupancy in December, in spite of wiring problems and critical faults in the fire-fighting system, which were identified in a February report. In March, Richard Shinnick, who took over in January as acting director of State's Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations, sent a team of State Department architects, engineers, attorneys and contracting officers to fix the problems. Shinnick now says all aspects of the fire-fighting system work, permitting the use of the buildings even in advance of their formal accreditation. "Shinnick said he will prepare the certificate of occupancy next week for State's undersecretary of management to sign. Once signed, maintenance and operation of the embassy will be turned over PAE Government Services, the contractor that will assume day-to-day oversight of the complex. Employees then can begin working at the compound once computers, telephones and other office supplies have been installed." Some staff have already sleeping at the NEC, shuttling to the Green Zone for work.
  3. State Dept. orders another review of troubled Baghdad embassy, 27 February 2008
    Warren P. Strobel, McClatchy Newspapers
    "The State Department's new embassy construction chief has rejected his predecessor's certification that the $740 million new U.S. embassy in Baghdad is 'substantially completed' and has instead begun a top-to-bottom review of the troubled project. The official, Richard Shinnick, said in an interview the State Department hopes that the sprawling embassy complex -- originally scheduled to be completed last September -- will be ready by March 31. But he said repeatedly that he's not setting a target date because past deadlines have forced a rush to complete the embassy's defective work. 'That's not the message I want to send,' he said. The central issue appears to be the firefighting systems."
  4. Iraq Embassy Cost Rises $144 Million Amid Project Delays, 7 October 2007
    Glenn Kessler, Washington Post
    " . . . The embassy, which will be the largest U.S. diplomatic mission in the world, was budgeted at $592 million. The core project was supposed to have been completed by last month, but the timetable has slipped so much that the State Department has sought and received permission from the Iraqi government to allow about 2,000 non-Iraqi construction employees to stay in the country until March. Two key office buildings, including the new chancery, will not be finished until early 2009, according to the document. . . The 32-page State document provided to Congress describes much of work to be funded with the additional $144 million as "follow-on projects" to the original plans. But U.S. officials involved in the construction said the projects are partly the result of new staffing needs and an embassy reorganization that could greatly delay completion of the compound. Officials said some of the new work is required because Rice reorganized embassy operations this year. A decision to locate Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and his staff in the new embassy will require the conversion of normal office space into a facility secure enough to handle classified material. The reconfiguration of the chancery will cost $14.7 million. The cafeteria was originally designed for the light duty expected at a typical embassy, where people live in their own apartments and eat only lunch on the job. But now it is being redesigned, at a cost of $27.9 million, to provide three meals a day -- and to be rocket-, bomb- and mortar-proof."

Iraq-Related Political Developments in the U.S.     (TOP)

  1. Cheney reasserts al-Qaida-Saddam connection, 6 April 2008
    Associated Press
    "Vice president's words come as latest Pentagon report again dismisses link." That report is the latest in a long string of findings (including the 2004 9/11 Commission report) of no significant relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida that have failed to stop the Vice President from making the claim.
  2. Grilling Petraeus, 2 April 2008
    David Cohn, Mother Jones
    "We asked a dozen national security experts what Congress should ask the top military commander in Iraq at this week's hearings. Here's what they came up with. . . [Gordon Adams, American University, said] 'Why do you and the administration continue to plan policy as if we have any leverage in Iraq? Don't American forces have precious little to do with the "frozen" character of the conflict? Sunni peace is dependent on the sheikhs, not us; Shiite peace is in question because of the decisions of militia we have little influence over; and Baghdad has already purged its mixed neighborhoods, which has solidified the barriers between hostile neighbors. A dysfunctional government we prop up has virtually no impact on the country's security or economy outside Baghdad, and 70 percent of the people want us to leave. It seems the U.S. is completely unable to influence the fundamentals of the situation. So why should anyone assume that more or fewer U.S. troops are the key factor in Iraq's future?' . . ." We assume that "fewer" in his last sentence does not refer to complete withdrawal, which we believe would, as a clear end to occupation, make a very positive difference.
  3. Former Congressmen Urge House to Reclaim War Powers, 13 March 2008
    Corey Owens, Constitution Project
    "Today, former Members of Congress Mickey Edwards (R-OK) and David Skaggs (D-CO) called on Congress to reclaim the constitutional authority to declare war. Edwards and Skaggs are the co-chairs of the Constitution Project's bipartisan War Powers Committee, which, in Deciding to Use Force Abroad: War Powers in a System of Checks and Balances, documented and criticized the consolidation of war powers in the hands of presidents of both parties. 'Kings used to be able to send their subjects off to war whenever it suited their purposes,' Edwards told the subcommittee. 'In a dictatorship, that power persists. It is central to the American republic, however, that the chief executive is specifically denied that prerogative.' . . ."
  4. Exhaustive Review [By Pentagon] finds no link between Sadaam and al Qaida, 10 March 2008
    Warren P. Strobel, McClatchy Newspapers
    "An exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network. The Pentagon-sponsored study [by the Institute for Defense Analysis, completed last year], scheduled for release later this week, did confirm that Saddam's regime provided some support to other terrorist groups, particularly in the Middle East, U.S. officials told McClatchy. However, his security services were directed primarily against Iraqi exiles, Shiite Muslims, Kurds and others he considered enemies of his regime."
    Note: The study, completed last year by the Institute for Defense Analysis, and subject to a long and "painful" declassification, was not released widely as earlier announced. The Pentagon says it will mail copies to any reporter who "asks for it."
  5. AP Poll: Leaving Iraq Will Help Economy, 8 February 2008
    Jeannine Aversa, AP
    "Pulling out of the war ranked first among proposed remedies in the survey [68%: 48% 'a lot', 20% 'somewhat'], followed by spending more on domestic programs [43%], cutting taxes [38%] and, at the bottom end, giving rebates to poor people in hopes they'll spend the economy into recovery [the stimulus package: 19%]."

Impeachment     (TOP)

  1. Stalling on Impeachment, 10 July 2008
    Matthew Palevsky, The RealNews Network
    Veterans for Peace met with House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers to confront him with his failure to follow through on a promise to present a decision on impeachment by early July. During the meeting, Iraq veteran Adam Kokesh gave the following battlefiled metaphor (from his Fallujah experience) for how the Democratic Congressional leadership is treating impeachment:
    "My team was called to assist in the medevac to get him to the field hospital at Camp ("dih-KA-toe-min")[Taqqadum]. He was on a stretcher on the Humvee in front of me, and I watched the corpsman treating the external wound that frightened [inaudible] panic on the road. And when we got there, I was there to help unload him and carry him in on a stretcher, and he was moaning and writhing in pain, barely conscious, and he flailed his arm off the stretcher. And as I put it back on and put it by his side, I told him, "You made it. You're going to be all right. We got you here. You're going to be okay." And he died only minutes later from the internal bleeding. And I get the feeling that what you're doing and what the Democratic Party is doing is telling this country, as we are being bled dry by tyrants, that we're just going to be okay, that the only promises we get from Democrats are Band-Aids over these far deeper wounds than anyone is willing to really admit to publicly. . ."
  2. Nader Sheds Light on [Democratic retiscence towards] Bush Impeachment!, June(?) 2008
    Ralph Nader, campaign speech
    ". . . Now notice this. You've got towns in Vermont, Massachusetts, and five little towns -- and one not so little, West Hartford -- in Connecticut, who've passed resolutions demanding the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. In one cluster, around Stockbridge, in Massachusetts, there are thirteen towns in one Congressional district [MA-1] where a two-thirds majority called for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney in 2007.
    "All this was presented to the congressman, a Democrat, Congressman John Olver. He has a PhD from MIT in science. He was born 1936, so he has a scope of history. Here's what the reaction was.
    "Made fully aware of the overwhelming majority of his constituency resolved for impeachment, Congressman Olver vehemently refused. Rather, he expressed his opinion that the current autocratic executive, meaning the White House, would attack Iran from the air, declare a national emergency, institute martial law, and call off the 2008 elections, were the Democrats to initiate impeachment.
    "Now, I don't remember Congressman Olver being seen as a particular off-the-wall maverick, but if that's the kind of thinking that is circulating on Capital Hill, things are a lot worse than we thought. Because if this is accurate, it's a lot worse than we thought, and if it isn't, they're a lot more paranoid than we thought they would be. Either way, they're not a proper opposition party. . ."

This page > Sources Military Basra/Sadr City Iraq/Middle-East Polit. Devels. Refugees Embassy Iraq-Related U.S. Polit. Devels.

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