Category Archives: US occupation of Iraq


Iraq: Call an air strike

“… the literature on counter-insurgency is so enormous that, had it been put aboard the Titanic, it would have sunk that ship without any help from the iceberg. However, the outstanding fact is that almost all of it has been written by the losers.”
– Martin van Creveld, in The Changing Face Of War, 2006

Amid the George W Bush administration’s relentless campaign to “change the subject” from Iraq to Iran, how to “win” the war against the Iraqi resistance, Sunni or Shi’ite, now means – according to counter-insurgency messiah General David Petraeus – calling an air strike.

On a parallel level, the Pentagon has practically finished a base in southern Iraq less than 10 kilometers from the border with Iran called Combat Outpost Shocker. The Pentagon maintains this is for the US to prevent Iranian weapons from being smuggled into Iraq. Rather, it’s to control a rash of US covert, sabotage operations across the border targeting Iran’s Khuzestan province.

With the looming Turkish threat of invading Iraqi Kurdistan and President General President Musharraf’s new “let’s jail all the lawyers” coup within a coup in Pakistan, the bloody war in the plains of Mesopotamia is lower down in the news cycle – not to mention the interminable 2008 US presidential soap opera. Rosy spinning, though, still rules unchecked.

The Pentagon – via Major General Joseph Fil, commander of US forces in Baghdad – is relentlessly spinning there’s now less violence in the capital, a “sustainable” trend. This is rubbish. [complete article]

Iraqi fighters ‘grilled for evidence on Iran’

US military officials are putting huge pressure on interrogators who question Iraqi insurgents to find incriminating evidence pointing to Iran, it was claimed last night.

Micah Brose, a privately contracted interrogator working for American forces in Iraq, near the Iranian border, told The Observer that information on Iran is ‘gold’. The claim comes after Washington imposed sanctions on Iran last month, citing both its nuclear ambitions and its Revolutionary Guards’ alleged support of Shia insurgents in Iraq. Last week the US military freed nine Iranians held in Iraq, including two it had accused of links to the Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force.

Brose, 30, who extracts information from detainees in Iraq, said: ‘They push a lot for us to establish a link with Iran. They have pre-categories for us to go through, and by the sheer volume of categories there’s clearly a lot more for Iran than there is for other stuff. Of all the recent requests I’ve had, I’d say 60 to 70 per cent are about Iran. [complete article]

Broken supply channel sent weapons for Iraq astray

As the insurgency in Iraq escalated in the spring of 2004, American officials entrusted an Iraqi businessman with issuing weapons to Iraqi police cadets training to help quell the violence.

By all accounts, the businessman, Kassim al-Saffar, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, did well at distributing the Pentagon-supplied weapons from the Baghdad Police Academy armory he managed for a military contractor. But, co-workers say, he also turned the armory into his own private arms bazaar with the seeming approval of some American officials and executives, selling AK-47 assault rifles, Glock pistols and heavy machine guns to anyone with cash in hand — Iraqi militias, South African security guards and even American contractors. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — The path travelled by one of those Glocks is revealed in a report in The Guardian. The reporter describes interviewing a Sunni insurgent — one of America’s newly recruited fighters. “He pulled his pistol out and showed it to me. It was a Glock, supplied by the US to Iraqi security forces. ‘This belonged to the commander of al-Qaida here,’ he said. ‘They called him the White Lion. I killed him and got his gun.'”

Americans said to have proposed a six-month truce to the resistance groups

Al-Hayat says this morning that it has learned from “sources in the government and sources close to the armed groups” about a plan including a followup reconciliation meeting, to be arranged by the Iraqi Reconciliation Agency, but to be held under American and international auspices, along with a proposal for a six-month truce between the armed resistance groups and the American/Iraqi forces. [complete article]

Forced Iraq postings ‘may be necessary’

Four days before a deadline for Foreign Service officers to volunteer to go to Iraq or face the prospect of being ordered there, the State Department notified employees yesterday that “about half” of 48 open assignments there for next year have been filled.

“This reduces but does not eliminate the possibility that directed assignments may be necessary,” Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte wrote in an e-mailed update. Filling the remaining jobs is still “the Department’s priority,” he said, adding that he is optimistic that more will volunteer. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — The email had to come from Negroponte and not the Sectretary of State herself because madame secretary declines to use email. That’s right! “Rice does not use e-mail.”


FEATURE: “After we finish with al-Qaida here, we will turn toward our main enemy, the Shia militias.”

Meet Abu Abed: the U.S.’s new ally against al-Qaida

Abu Abed, a member of the insurgent Islamic Army, has recently become the commander of the US-sponsored “Ameriya Knights”. He is one of the new breed of Sunni warlords who are being paid by the US to fight al-Qaida in Iraq. The Americans call their new allies Concerned Citizens.

It is a strategy that has worked well for the Americans, on paper at least. This week, the US military claimed it had forced the extremist group al-Qaida in Mesopotamia out of Baghdad altogether, and cut the number of murders in the city by 80%. Major General Joseph Fil, commander of US forces in Baghdad, said: “The Iraqi people have decided that they’ve had it up to here with violence.”

Critics of the plan say they are simply creating powerful new strongmen who run their own prisons and armies, and who eventually will turn on each other.

A senior Sunni sheikh, whose tribe is joining the new alliance with the Americans against al-Qaida, told me in Beirut that it was a simple equation for him. “It’s just a way to get arms, and to be a legalised security force to be able to stand against Shia militias and to prevent the Iraqi army and police from entering their areas,” he said. [complete article]


NEWS: Displaced, bribed, killed without provocation, Iraqis look forward to economic surge

Report: 14 percent of Iraqis now displaced

The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction offered a generally optimistic picture of security developments in Iraq in his quarterly report to Congress on Tuesday, but noted that while violence was down, one of every seven Iraqis — 14 percent of Iraq’s population — is now displaced by the war.

The report said that electricity production in Iraq reached its highest level since early 2003, in part because insurgent attacks on power-lines and repair crews have declined. Corruption, however, remains a major problem, the report said. [complete article]

Will ‘armloads’ of US cash buy tribal loyalty?

Inside a stately guesthouse on the grounds of Saddam Hussein’s palace in Tikrit on the banks of the Tigris, sheikh Sabah al-Hassani jokes that the initials “SH” of the former dictator etched on the walls are his.

“I have a weakness for Cuban cigars, French cologne, and Spanish-made loafers,” he says with a wide grin.

Since June, Mr. Hassani, who claims to be one of the princes of the legendary Shammar tribe, which numbers nearly 7 million across the Arab world, says he has received at least $100,000 in cash and numerous perks from the US military and the Iraqi government.

With his help, at least $1 million has also been distributed to other tribal sheikhs who have joined his Salahaddin Province “support council,” according to US officers. Together, they have assembled an armed force of about 3,000 tribesmen dubbed the “sahwa [awakening] folks.”

All of these enticements serve one goal: To rally Sunni tribes and their multitude of followers to support coalition forces.

The payments are a drop in the bucket given the billions spent annually in Iraq by the United States. And paying tribes to keep the peace is nothing new. It was one of Mr. Hussein’s tools in his selective patronage system designed to weaken and control all institutions outside his Baath party. The British also tried it when they ruled Iraq last century. [complete article]

Militant group is out of Baghdad, U.S. says

Soon, General Fil said, there will be fewer troops for the Iraqis to rely on. “Already we are at a point where we’ll see that as the surge forces depart the city, we’ll see a natural decline in numbers, and I’m very comfortable where that comes to,” he said.

With less than two months to go before his division heads home, General Fil offered a mixed vision of the military’s role for the coming year. He said that if 2007 was the year of security, 2008 would probably be “a year of reconstruction, a year of infrastructure repair, and a year of, if there’s going to be a surge, a year of the surge of the economy.” [complete article]

How Blackwater sniper fire felled 3 Iraqi guards

Last Feb. 7, a sniper employed by Blackwater USA, the private security company, opened fire from the roof of the Iraqi Justice Ministry. The bullet tore through the head of a 23-year-old guard for the state-funded Iraqi Media Network, who was standing on a balcony across an open traffic circle. Another guard rushed to his colleague’s side and was fatally shot in the neck. A third guard was found dead more than an hour later on the same balcony.

Eight people who responded to the shootings — including media network and Justice Ministry guards and an Iraqi army commander — and five network officials in the compound said none of the slain guards had fired on the Justice Ministry, where a U.S. diplomat was in a meeting. An Iraqi police report described the shootings as “an act of terrorism” and said Blackwater “caused the incident.” The media network concluded that the guards were killed “without any provocation.” [complete article]


ANALYSIS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Drafting diplomatic cannon fodder

Why diplomats won’t go to Iraq

At a State department “town hall” meeting on Wednesday, one participant, veteran diplomat Jack Croddy, pointed out the risks of injury and death faced by American diplomats [in Iraq]. But he hit closer to the heart of the matter when he told the director general of the Foreign Service, who was leading the meeting, “It’s one thing if someone believes in what’s going on over there and volunteers, but it’s another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment.” On Friday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was traveling, issued a statement saying, “We must go forward with the identification of officers to serve, should it prove necessary to direct assignments. Should others step forward, as some already have, we will fill these new jobs as we have before —with volunteers. However, regardless of how the jobs may be filled, they must be filled.” [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — The core issue here is that there is an inherent tension between loyalty and intelligence. The willingness to follow orders requires, in part, a willingness to suspend the use of ones own powers of discrimination, analysis, and judgment. Diplomats who are good are doing what they are told and probably not as good at conducting diplomacy.


OPINION: Putting a country in your tank

Why did we invade Iraq anyway?

Lately, even Democratic candidates for president have been weighing in on why the U.S. must maintain a long-term, powerful military presence in Iraq. Hillary Clinton, for example, used phrases like protecting our “vital national security interests” and preventing Iraq from becoming a “petri dish for insurgents,” in a major policy statement. Barack Obama, in his most important speech on the subject, talked of “maintaining our influence” and allowing “our troops to strike directly at al Qaeda.” These arguments, like the constantly migrating justifications for invading Iraq, serially articulated by the Bush administration, manage to be vaguely plausible (with an emphasis on the “vaguely”) and also strangely inconsistent (with an emphasis on the “inconsistent”).

That these justifications for invading, or remaining, are unsatisfying is hardly surprising, given the reluctance of American politicians to mention the approximately $10-$30 trillion of oil lurking just beneath the surface of the Iraq “debate” — and not much further beneath the surface of Iraqi soil. Obama, for example, did not mention oil at all in his speech, while Clinton mentioned it twice in passing. President Bush and his top officials and spokespeople have been just as reticent on the subject.

Why then did the U.S. invade Iraq? Why is occupying Iraq so “vital” to those “national security interests” of ours? None of this makes sense if you don’t have the patience to drill a little beneath the surface – and into the past; if you don’t take into account that, as former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz once put it, Iraq “floats on a sea of oil”; and if you don’t consider the decades-long U.S. campaign to control, in some fashion, Middle East energy reservoirs. If not, then you can’t understand the incredible tenaciousness with which George W. Bush and his top officials have pursued their Iraqi dreams or why — now that those dreams are clearly so many nightmares — even the Democrats can’t give up the ghost. [complete article]


NEWS: Iraqi Cabinet votes to repeal immunity for American mercenaries

Iraqi Cabinet votes to repeal immunity for U.S. guards

The Iraqi Cabinet today approved and sent on to parliament a proposed law repealing the immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts that has been extended to foreign security contractors operating in the country.

A government statement said foreign security companies, their employees and contractors would be subject to Iraqi laws and the judicial system, and “all immunities they have are canceled.” It also said the law would require them to cooperate with Iraqi rules governing visas, weapons possession, vehicle licensing and taxation.

“The reason this law is being passed is basically to stop these security companies and American contractors from thinking that Iraqi blood is cheap and that they couldn’t be prosecuted,” said Adil Barwari, a member of parliament from the Kurdistan Democratic Party who sits on the security and defense committee, which will now review the legislation. “It’s something to make them think before they act.” [complete article]

See also, Immunity jeopardizes Iraq probe (WP) and Officials: Blackwater guards offered limited immunity (CNN).


FEATURE: The mega-bunker of Baghdad

The mega-bunker of Baghdad

When the new American Embassy in Baghdad entered the planning stage, more than three years ago, U.S. officials inside the Green Zone were still insisting that great progress was being made in the construction of a new Iraq. I remember a surreal press conference in which a U.S. spokesman named Dan Senor, full of governmental conceits, described the marvelous developments he personally had observed during a recent sortie (under heavy escort) into the city. His idea now was to set the press straight on realities outside the Green Zone gates. Senor was well groomed and precocious, fresh into the world, and he had acquired a taste for appearing on TV. The assembled reporters were by contrast a disheveled and unwashed lot, but they included serious people of deep experience, many of whom lived fully exposed to Iraq, and knew that society there was unraveling fast. Some realized already that the war had been lost, though such were the attitudes of the citizenry back home that they could not yet even imply this in print.

Now they listened to Senor as they increasingly did, setting aside their professional skepticism for attitudes closer to fascination and wonder. Senor’s view of Baghdad was so disconnected from the streets that, at least in front of this audience, it would have made for impossibly poor propaganda. Rather, he seemed truly convinced of what he said, which in turn could be explained only as the product of extreme isolation. Progress in the construction of a new Iraq? Industry had stalled, electricity and water were failing, sewage was flooding the streets, the universities were shuttered, the insurgency was expanding, sectarianism was on the rise, and gunfire and explosions now marked the days as well as the nights. Month by month, Baghdad was crumbling back into the earth. Senor apparently had taken heart that shops remained open, selling vegetables, fruits, and household goods. Had he ventured out at night he would have seen that some sidewalk cafés remained crowded as well. But almost the only construction evident in the city was of the Green Zone defenses themselves—erected in a quest for safety at the cost of official interactions with Iraq. Senor went home, married a Washington insider, and became a commentator on Fox News. Eventually he set himself up in the business of “crisis communications,” as if even he finally realized that Iraq had gone horribly wrong. [complete article]


NEWS: U.S. officials upbraid Kurds for failing to halt guerrillas

U.S. officials upbraid Kurds for failing to halt guerrillas

In unusual criticism, United States officials on Tuesday upbraided Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq for failing to curb the Kurdish guerrillas who operate unchecked in the autonomous region and use it as a safe haven for ambushes inside Turkey.

Those raids, which the Turkish authorities say have killed at least 42 people in the past month, have led the Turks to threaten an invasion into Iraq. Turkish armored vehicles continued to rumble into position on Tuesday along the mountainous border.

Until now, American officials have focused their public comments on delicately warning the Turks not to invade Iraq. But that changed on Tuesday when the State Department’s senior Iraq adviser, David M. Satterfield, laid some blame at the door of Kurdish leaders, who have been the staunchest supporters of the American military occupation of Iraq. [complete article]


NEWS: U.S. tax dollars at work

2 reports assail State Dept. role in Iraq security

A pair of new reports have delivered sharply critical judgments about the State Department’s performance in overseeing work done by the private companies that the government relies on increasingly in Iraq and Afghanistan to carry out delicate security work and other missions.

A State Department review of its own security practices in Iraq assails the department for poor coordination, communication, oversight and accountability involving armed security companies like Blackwater USA, according to people who have been briefed on the report. In addition to Blackwater, the State Department’s two other security contractors in Iraq are DynCorp International and Triple Canopy.

At the same time, a government audit expected to be released Tuesday says that records documenting the work of DynCorp, the State Department’s largest contractor, are in such disarray that the department cannot say “specifically what it received” for most of the $1.2 billion it has paid the company since 2004 to train the police officers in Iraq. [complete article]

Bush’s request for wars increases to $196 billion

President Bush asked Congress on Monday to approve $196 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other national security programs, setting the stage for a new confrontation with Democrats over the administration’s handling of Iraq.

Mr. Bush’s request increased the amount of the proposed spending by $46 billion over the $150 billion already requested this year. Much of the added spending would pay for new armored vehicles designed to withstand attacks by mines and roadside bombs, and a rise in operational costs because of the increase in the force in Iraq, now at more than 160,000 troops. [complete article]


NEWS: Bin Laden calls for unity among insurgents

New audiotape from Osama Bin Laden urges Iraqi insurgents to put aside divisions and unite

Osama bin Laden has scolded his al-Qaida followers in Iraq and other insurgents, saying they have “been lax” for failing to overcome fanatical tribal loyalties and unite in the fight against U.S. troops.

The message of his new audiotape reflected the growing disarray among Iraq’s Sunni Arab insurgents and bin Laden’s client group in the country, both of which are facing heavy U.S. military pressure and an uprising among Sunni tribesmen.

In the brief tape played Monday on Al-Jazeera television, the terrorist leader urged militants to “beware of division … The Muslim world is waiting for you to gather under one banner.” [complete article]


FEATURE: Bush’s return to the imperial strategy of the great powers of Europe

Bush’s neo-imperialist war

In 1882 the British occupied Egypt. Although they claimed they would withdraw their troops, the British remained, they said, at the request of the khedive, the ruler they had installed. The U.S. Army Area Handbook aptly describes the British decision to stay:

At the outset of the occupation, the British government declared its intention to withdraw its troops as soon as possible. This could not be done, however, until the authority of the khedive was restored. Eventually, the British realized that these two aims were incompatible because the military intervention, which Khedive Tawfiq supported and which prevented his overthrow, had undermined the authority of the ruler. Without the British presence, the khedival government would probably have collapsed.

The British would remain in Egypt for 70 years until Gamel Abdel Nasser’s nationalist revolt tossed them out. They would grant Egypt nominal independence in 1922, but in order to maintain their hold over the Suez Canal, the gateway to British India and Asia, they would retain control over Egypt’s finances and foreign policy.

On Sept. 13, 2007, George W. Bush issued his report to the nation on the progress of “the surge” in Iraq. Echoing the British in Egypt, he promised “a reduced American presence” in Iraq, but he added ominously that “Iraqi leaders from all communities … understand that their success will require U.S. political, economic, and security engagement that extends beyond my presidency. These Iraqi leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America. And we are ready to begin building that relationship — in a way that protects our interests in the region and requires many fewer American troops.” (Emphasis mine.) In other words, Iraqi leaders who owe their positions to the U.S. occupation want the Americans to stay indefinitely, and Bush is ready to oblige them, albeit with a smaller force. [complete article]


NEWS: U.S. planners see Shiite militias as rising threat

U.S. planners see Shiite militias as rising threat

Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker have concluded that Shiite extremists pose a rising threat to the U.S. effort in Iraq, as the relative influence of Sunni insurgent groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq has diminished drastically because of ongoing U.S. operations.

This judgment forms part of the changes that Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, approved last week to their classified campaign strategy for the country, which covers the period through summer 2009. The updated plan anticipates shifting the U.S. military effort to focus more on countering Shiite militias — some backed by Iran — that have generated new violence as they battle for power in the south and elsewhere in Iraq, said senior military and diplomatic officials familiar with the plan.

“As the Sunni insurgents quit fighting us, the problems we have with criminality and other militia, many of them Shia, become relatively more important,” said a U.S. Embassy official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan is not finalized. [complete article]


OPINION: The mission that leads to corruption, human rights abuse and liars

Suicide is not painless

It was one of those stories lost in the newspaper’s inside pages. Last week a man you’ve never heard of — Charles D. Riechers, 47, the second-highest-ranking procurement officer in the United States Air Force — killed himself by running his car’s engine in his suburban Virginia garage.

Mr. Riechers’s suicide occurred just two weeks after his appearance in a front-page exposé in The Washington Post. The Post reported that the Air Force had asked a defense contractor, Commonwealth Research Institute, to give him a job with no known duties while he waited for official clearance for his new Pentagon assignment. Mr. Riechers, a decorated Air Force officer earlier in his career, told The Post: “I really didn’t do anything for C.R.I. I got a paycheck from them.” The question, of course, was whether the contractor might expect favors in return once he arrived at the Pentagon last January.

Set against the epic corruption that has defined the war in Iraq, Mr. Riechers’s tragic tale is but a passing anecdote, his infraction at most a misdemeanor. The $26,788 he received for two months in a non-job doesn’t rise even to a rounding error in the Iraq-Afghanistan money pit. So far some $6 billion worth of contracts are being investigated for waste and fraud, however slowly, by the Pentagon and the Justice Department. That doesn’t include the unaccounted-for piles of cash, some $9 billion in Iraqi funds, that vanished during L. Paul Bremer’s short but disastrous reign in the Green Zone. Yet Mr. Riechers, not the first suicide connected to the war’s corruption scandals, is a window into the culture of the whole debacle. [complete article]


ANALYSIS: Scenarios for a post-occupation Iraq

Post-U.S. Scenarios: the bad, the worse, and the ugly

Let’s just get the wishful thinking out of the way first. Peace won’t break out if and when the United States leaves Iraq; violence will continue, and possibly get worse. That’s not a rationale for leaving the troops in place, just a hard reality. How bad, exactly, will it be? Here are four scenarios, ranging from the horrific to the somewhat hopeful. [complete article]


ANALYSIS: The first hints of a new sovereign and unified Iraq?

First steps

“When you are surrounded by nothing but failure, then any success you can achieve will have a magnified effect,” writes historian Bashir Nafie in an overview of Iraqi politics. His starting point is the recent announcement of a six-faction resistance alliance (the gist of which was to unite two MB-related factions with the four-faction Iraqi-Islamist Reform and Jihad grouping led by the Islamic Army in Iraq). A small step, to be sure, says Nafie.

But look at what is going on in the other camps. The initial push from the National Pact proposed by Tareq al Hashemi (for instance he talked to Sistani about it) has quickly died, the problem here being that Hashemi, for all his occasional displays of courage, refuses to see things as they are. Under foreign occupation, proposals and visions and so on will inevitably be mutually conflicting, moreover they will, each of them, benefit from only the narrowest of popular support. Proposals based on “good will” alone in these circumstances will go nowhere. There needs to be a “central political force” with broad support (and Nafie doesn’t find it necessary to spell out the obvious, namely that this includes rejecting the foreign occupation). [complete article]


NEWS & OPINION: A unified Iraqi resistance

It’s the resistance, stupid

The ultimate nightmare for White House/Pentagon designs on Middle East energy resources is not Iran after all: it’s a unified Iraqi resistance, comprising not only Sunnis but also Shi’ites.

“It’s the resistance, stupid” – along with “it’s the oil, stupid”. The intimate connection means there’s no way for Washington to control Iraq’s oil without protecting it with a string of sprawling military “super-bases”.

The ultimate, unspoken taboo of the Iraq tragedy is that the US will never leave Iraq, unless, of course, it is kicked out. And that’s exactly what the makings of a unified Sunni-Shi’ite resistance is set to accomplish.

At this critical juncture, it’s as if the overwhelming majority of Sunnis and Shi’ites are uttering a collective cry of “we’re mad as hell, and we won’t take it anymore”. The US Senate “suggests” that the solution is to break up the country. Blackwater and assorted mercenaries kill Iraqi civilians with impunity. Iraqi oil is being privatized via shady deals – like Hunt Oil with the Kurdistan regional government; Ray Hunt is a close pal of George W Bush.

Political deals in the Green Zone are just a detail in the big picture. On the surface the new configuration spells that the US-supported Shi’ite/Kurdish coalition in power is now challenged by an Iraqi nationalist bloc. This new bloc groups the Sadrists, the (Shi’ite) Fadhila party, all Sunni parties, the partisans of former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi, and the partisans of former prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. This bloc might even summon enough votes to dethrone the current, wobbly Maliki government.

But what’s more important is that a true Iraqi national pact is in the making – coordinated by VicePresident Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, and blessed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani himself. The key points of this pact are, no more sectarianism (thus undermining US strategy of divide and rule); no foreign interference (thus no following of US, Iran, or Saudi agendas); no support for al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers; and the right to armed resistance against the occupation. [complete article]

Shiite leader visits Iraq Sunni province

In a major reconciliatory gesture, a leader from Iraq’s largest Shiite party paid a rare visit Sunday to the Sunni Anbar province, delivering a message of unity to tribal sheiks who have staged a U.S.-backed revolt against al-Qaida militants.

Ammar al-Hakim’s visit was the latest sign that key Iraqi politicians may be working toward reconciliation independently of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, which has faced criticism for doing little to iron out differences between the country’s Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis.

Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi visited Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, last month at the holy city of Najaf south of Baghdad. The visit amounted to an unprecedented Sunni Arab endorsement of al-Sistani’s role as the nation’s guardian. [complete article]


NEWS: American mercenaries evade justice

Iraqis shot by contractors stymied in search for justice

In the days after Usama Abbass was shot dead in a Baghdad traffic circle by security guards working for Blackwater USA, his brother visited the U.S.-run National Iraqi Assistance Center seeking compensation.

Like other Iraqis who have done the same, he learned a harsh truth: The center in Baghdad’s Green Zone handles cases of Iraqis claiming death or damages due to military action, but not due to actions of private contractors such as Blackwater, who work in Iraq for the U.S. government, private agencies and other governments.

“There will be no compensation because the American Army did not kill your brother,” an apologetic U.S. soldier told Abbass’ brother, who did not want his name published. [complete article]


OPINION: The U.S. has reached its limit

The real Iraq we knew

Today marks five years since the authorization of military force in Iraq, setting Operation Iraqi Freedom in motion. Five years on, the Iraq war is as undermanned and under-resourced as it was from the start. And, five years on, Iraq is in shambles.

As Army captains who served in Baghdad and beyond, we’ve seen the corruption and the sectarian division. We understand what it’s like to be stretched too thin. And we know when it’s time to get out. [complete article]

‘Many in the US military think Bush and Cheney are out of control’

Many in the American military have learned the fundamental dilemma of modern warfare: More money and better weapons don’t mean that you win. IEDs, which cost so little to make, are defeating a military which spends billions of dollars per month. IEDS are so adaptable that each new strategy developed by the United States to counter them is answered by the Iraqi insurgents. The Israelis were also never quite able to counter IEDs. One report quotes an Israeli military engineer who said the Israeli answer to IEDs was frequently the use of armored bulldozers to effectively rip away the top 18 inches of pavement and earth where explosive devices might be hidden. This is fantastic, as the cost of winning means destroying roads, which form the basis of a modern economy.[complete article]