Subdivision Tips, South Australia (C: +61431138537), https://www.facebook.com/RealEstateSA5000/

Friday, May 30, 2008

US need Eisenhower-style presidency to break Jewish chains!

President Eisenhower was the only American president who never allowed America’s Middle East policy to be manipulated by the Zionist lobby on behalf of Israel. In 1953, Eisenhower had cut off American aids from Israel until it ceased trying to divert the water of the Jordan River. In 1957 Eisenhower used economic sanctions to force Israel out of Gaza and the Gulf of Aqaba which it occupied using the cover of British and French invasion of Egypt following Nasser nationalisation of the Suez Canal.

While US politicians are led from the nose by the Jews, America is more than ever require Eisenhower-style leadership. It is completely against US people interests declaring wars on Islam and destroying Arabs and Muslim countries just because they may constitute a threat, not to America, but to the rogue state of Israel. That is despite the fact that Israel is currently in breach of 31 UN Security Council resolutions, occupies neighbours' territories, maintains concentration camps and torture chambers and kills people with impunity. It is rather unfortunate that neither Obama nor McCain will be able to defend American interest; as they will continue the same practice of having Jews dictate US foreign policy, since the days of President Eisenhower.
Adnan Darwash, Iraq Occupation Times

U.S. Army suicides highest in 2007

29 May 2008 21:53:05 GMT
Source: Reuters
By David Morgan

WASHINGTON, May 29 (Reuters) - The U.S. Army on Thursday said suicides among active duty troops in 2007 had reached the highest level on record, due partly to the stress caused by deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Army announced that 115 soldiers, including 22 National Guard and Army Reserve troops, killed themselves last year. That marked a 12.7 percent rise from the 102 suicides recorded in 2006. There were 85 Army suicides in 2005.

It was the highest number of actual suicides in the military force since record-keeping began in 1980 and Army officials said the rate has remained at about the same level since, with 38 confirmed suicides recorded for 2008 as of last Monday.

The Army also said there were 935 suicide attempts in 2007.

Preliminary figures released in January had suggested the number of suicides in 2007 could reach 121.

Thirty-two suicides, or more than one-quarter of the actual 2007 total, occurred in Iraq as President George W. Bush poured extra forces into the country in an effort to quell sectarian violence. Another four occurred in Afghanistan.

Army officials said statistics did not show a direct link between repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and the rise in suicides.

But officials acknowledged that stresses caused by wartime Army operations were taking their toll on soldiers including in their personal relationships, the breakup of which was cited as a catalyst in 50 percent of cases.

"We see a lot of things that are going on in the war which do contribute," said Army psychiatrist Col. Elspeth Ritchie.

She pointed specifically to long months away from home, the horrors of combat, the ready availability of loaded weapons and the high activity levels of current Army operations.

"All of those together we think are part of what may contribute, especially if somebody's having difficulties already," she said.

While 24 percent of cases occurred among soldiers sent to a combat theater for the first time, only 7 percent involved soldiers who had been deployed two or more times. Twenty-six percent had never been deployed.

Forty-three percent of suicides occurred after soldiers had returned to their home station.

But officials said the suicide rate for the Army remained below a civilian rate of 19.5 suicides per 100,000 people in the general population.

Army rate stood at 18.8 suicides per 100,000 regular active duty troops and at 16.8 per 100,000 when active duty National Guard and Reserve members were included in the total.

Not included in the statistics were 53 suicides last year among National Guardsmen and Reservists who were not on active duty.

(Editing by Sandra Maler)

Crane collapses in Manhattan's Upper East Side

Crane collapses in Manhattan's Upper East Side
WNBC reports that two people were killed, crane operator injured
BREAKING NEWS
MSNBC staff and news service reports
updated 4 minutes ago
NEW YORK - A construction crane collapsed Friday on New York's Upper East Side, smashing into a high-rise apartment building before crashing more than a dozen stories onto the street below.

The Fire Department said it has pulled people out of the wreckage at East 91st Street and First Avenue. Their conditions were not immediately known.

NBC's New York affiliate WNBC reports that two people were killed and that the crane's operator was injured.

The top floor of a nearby high-rise apartment building was damaged. Firefighters and rescue workers were continuing to search through the wreckage.

The accident happened 2 1/2 months after a crane collapsed, killing seven people about two miles south.

In that March 15 accident, contractors building a 46-story condominium near the United Nations were trying to lengthen the crane when a steel support broke. The crane demolished a four-story town house and damaged several other buildings.

A city inspector resigned after his arrest on charges of falsifying business records and offering a false instrument for filing.

In April, the city's buildings commissioner resigned, under fire over a rising number of deadly construction accidents.

Check back for updates on this breaking news story, and check out WNBC for live streaming video of the rescue effort.

MAP: Earthquake near Chengdu, China (satellite image)


NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and the U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. Caption by Michon Scott. The earthquake that struck China's Sichuan province in May 2008 collapsed more than buildings. It also destroyed mountain ridges, sending avalanches of rock down their slopes. Besides directly claiming many lives, these landslides complicated rescue and cleanup efforts in the aftermath of the quake.


These images, acquired by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA's Terra satellite, show changes in the landscape before and after the earthquake that struck on May 12, 2008, and the resulting aftershocks. The region shown is roughly 150 kilometers (90 miles) from the quake's epicenter. The river running through the image is Min Jiang. In these false-color images, red indicates vegetation; blue-gray indicates bare ground, buildings, and paved areas; and deep blue indicates water.


Some differences between the images result from the seasons in which they were acquired. In the February 19, 2003, image (bottom) the terrain seems more rugged because the Sun's low angle cast long shadows at that time of year. Likewise, the brighter red hues in the May 23, 2008, image (top) may result in part from more robust vegetation growing in late spring.


The most dramatic difference between the images, however, is the abundance of bare-ground areas along mountain ridges. Many, if not most, of these areas result from landslides triggered by the May 12 earthquake, and potentially by some of the aftershocks. According to David Petley of Durham University, topographic amplification strengthens an earthquake's effects on a mountaintop where the shaking is maximized. This leads to landslides that start near the top of a ridge and travel all or most of the way to the valley below.


In the years between the acquisitions of these ASTER scenes, China underwent rapid industrialization and urbanization. As a result, some deforestation may have occurred in this region. Deforestation could account for some, but certainly not all, of the bare-ground areas, and it could also exacerbate the effects of the earthquake-triggered landslides.


As of May 25, 2008, the Sichuan earthquake had created an estimated 30+ landslide dams blocking rivers and streams, such as Yansai Lake. Military personnel and relief workers struggled to clear landslide dams quickly before rising water flooded nearby settlements, but the region's abundant rainfall made this task more difficult. As of May 27, 2008, authorities estimated that 67,183 people had died, 361,822 had been injured, and 20,790 remained missing.

References Petley, D. (2008). Dave's Landslide Blog. Accessed May 28, 2008.

ReliefWeb. (2008). China: Earthquake - May 2008. Accessed May 28, 2008.

VIDEO: Is Iraq's Maliki rising to the occasion?

30 May 2008 08:11:00 GMT
Source: Reuters
May 29 - Improved security in Iraq following Iraqi efforts in Basra and Sadr City have raised hopes that Maliki can turn the tide in Iraq.

While there is little doubt that security has improved in Iraq many political issues remain unresolved. Analysts say the next key test on that front will come if provincial elections are held in Iraq - as hoped -- this fall.

Deborah Lutterbeck reports.

SOUNDBITES:

U.S. Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll Retired Brigadier General Kevin Ryan of Harvard University

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Basra’s population surges as migration from countryside continues

By Abed Battat



Azzaman, May 28, 2008



Basra’s population is surging at a rate that makes provision of essential services extremely difficult, Basra’s governor said.



“Basra’s population is exploding and the city is seeing major demographic transformations,” the Governor Mohammed al-Waili said.



According to the last census conducted in 200, Basra’s population was less than 2.5 million.



“We have now exceeded three million people mainly due to the influx from the countryside,” Waili said.



Ajeel Khalaf, a notable tribal leader, described the current levels of migration from the countryside to the city as ‘catastrophic.”



Another tribal leader whose armed men coordinate with the security forces to maintain peace in the city said the addition of half a million people to Basra in less than one year makes reinstating security a difficult matter.



He alleged that many of those settling in the city recently were ‘former convicts and criminals escaping justice.’



Basra is the capital of a province of the same name.



The area is the richest in Iraq in proven oil reserves with gigantic oilfields yet to be developed.



Most of Iraq’s oil output and exports originate in the province.

Foreign firms vie for $15 billion construction contract

By Mohamed Fadhil



Azzaman, May 29, 2008



International firms are competing for one of the largest construction schemes in the country at a total cost of nearly $15 billion, a statement by Baghdad Municipality said.



The statement said 14 firms have supplied tenders to construct the Al-Rasheed City to be built on a former massive military camp bearing the same name.



The city will include a 4000-bed hospital and as well 21 specialized clinics to form the largest medical complex the Middle East in the future, the statement said.



The residential complex that will include six residential sectors with hundreds of 3-6 story building is expected initially to house 60,000 people, it added.



The return of some semblance of normalcy to Baghdad is encouraging some firms to submit offers.



Most foreign firms had fled Iraqi due to mounting insecurity. Many have migrated to the more peaceful Kurdish north, taking a wait-and-see attitude.

Dissent arises over Iraq cease-fire

A Mahdi Army leader said, "We were duped." A disagreement could restart Shiite fighting.
By Hamza Hendawi

Associated Press

BAGHDAD - An angry Shiite militia commander complained yesterday "we were duped" into accepting a cease-fire in Sadr City - remarks that pointed to a potentially damaging rift within the movement of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
The May 11 truce ended seven weeks of fierce fighting in Baghdad between U.S. and Iraqi government forces and Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, which held nearly complete control of the capital's sprawling Sadr City district.

Iraqi soldiers now have moved into most parts of Sadr City with little resistance. But the objections raised by the commander highlight apparent dissent by some Mahdi Army leaders.

A split among Sadr's followers - between those favoring a more militant path and others seeking compromise with Iraq's government - could threaten the relative calm in Baghdad and reignite Shiite-on-Shiite violence across Iraq's oil-rich south.

The commander, speaking to tribal sheikhs and lawmakers loyal to Sadr, said "we were duped and deceived" by the truce. "They are arresting many of us now."

The group had gathered in Sadr's main Baghdad office to discuss how to respond to what they consider cease-fire "violations" by Iraqi troops, such as arrests and house searches.

Some in the audience, however, took issue with the views of the commander, whose name was not made public for security reasons.

"You can be the winner without a military victory," said Falah Hassan Shanshal, a prominent Sadrist and one of two parliamentarians who attended the meeting in Sadr City, home to 2.5 million Shiites.

"We had to bow before the storm because it was uprooting everything and everyone standing in its path," he said.

Shanshal was referring to the punishing attacks by U.S. and Iraqi government forces, which used tanks, helicopter gunships, and Hellfire missiles fired from unmanned aircraft. The strikes killed and wounded hundreds and left parts of Sadr City in ruins.

The southern section of the district has been sealed off from the rest of Sadr City in an attempt to foil militia movements and rocket and mortar attacks on the U.S.-protected Green Zone.

The battles in Sadr City were part of a wider Mahdi Army backlash to a government crackdown on armed groups launched in late March in the southern city of Basra.

Sadr, who has been in Iran for at least a year, supported the Sadr City cease-fire, perhaps to save his Mahdi Army from further losses so it can continue the fight later.

But signs of opposition have been growing within the militia ranks. Last week, two Mahdi Army commanders said militiamen were divided over whether the cease-fire was in their interest.

The head of Sadr's office in Sadr City, Sheikh Salman al-Freiji, suggested the truce might collapse if "violations" by the Iraqi army continued.

"There will not be any trust built between the two sides like that," Freiji warned. "The Mahdi Army was created to defend the Iraqi people. How can you do that without fighting the occupier?"

Shanshal, the Sadrist lawmaker, was conciliatory. He blamed the Iraqi army for heavy-handed tactics but stressed that he did not want more fighting in Sadr City.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

$100000 reward for any one to kill a black US sold

In Fallujah, a rich old Iraqi woman wants to avenge the killing of her only son by a black US soldier. Today 28.05.08, Fallujah was flooded with leaflets containing a photo fit of the 6-foot black American soldier and the tattoo on his neck. Like most Iraqi mothers she wants to avenge the death of her only son who was unlawfully killed on 13.01.2008 in front of his wife and seven children. The mother’s address was the old Al-Saqlania mosque in Fallujah. It was a warning for Bush that all American soldiers are wanted for the killing of Iraqis. The Iraqi revenge culture dictates blood for blood, nothing less.

There is an armed resistance group supported by the people in every in every Iraqi town. The Al-Qaeda men are alowed to operate and supported because of the brutal American occupation. If that is not clear to you until now, I feel sorry for G.W. Bush.

the CIA smear campaign and dirty works are too clear for the highly-politicised and superpatriot Iraqis. The Americans must leave Iraq or pay the heavy price. They have destroyed a country and killed and dispalced millions of Iraqis. They will be haunted for years to come.

Yesterday 27.05.08, the FBI is announced that it is awaiting the analysis of a new tape from Al-Qaeda threatening to use WMD against western targets. Didn't they say that Al-Qaeda is on the run? As I wrote earlier, the desecration of the holy Koran was a very serious matter which is helping Al-Qaeda in its recruitment drive.

How about the Shiite resistance? Is Al-Sadr part of Al-Qaeda too? Al-Sadr is as anti-America occupation as Al-Qaeda. Al-Sadr will ensure that Bush dream of signing a long-term security agreement with Iraq is close to mission impossible.

All indications point toward a very noisy send off for G.W. Bush before the end of his second term.

Nassurallah ended the Israeli occupation of Lebanon, while Al-Sadr will enure the end of US occupation of Iraq.
Sayyad Hassan Nasurallh of Hezbollah was instrumental in punishing the Israeli froces whenever they dared to attack Lebanon. In Iraq, Al-sadr has the muscles and the support to end the hated US occupation of the country.





Adnan Darwash, Iraq Occupation Times

RE: Iran's Lady Army ready to shoot at Bush Forces


The United States is arming these central Iranian tribesmen who hate Persians.

When the war breaks out the Persians will find out that not all Iranians are loyal to the Persian mullahs.

Iran will be broken up after the war into smaller ethnic fragments.

Its called" Divide and Conquer". Old as the hills.

Probably pre-dates the Roman Empire.


The Revolutionary Guard has replaced the clerical establishment in Iran as the most influential extra-governmental institution in Iran. A few years ago if you wanted to do business in Iran you worked with a cleric's family. Now you must work with an IRG family member. It seldom bodes well when governments are militarized.

That's all that is holding Iran together at present. Iran is a hard shell full of rot within. All that we need to do is crack that shell in one place, just one, and the pus will choke the buzzards. Iran is RIPE.

The goal of the Iranian-sponsored Tet was far more immediate, designed to exploit the gap left by the British withdrawal before it could be filled by newly-raised Iraqi battalions. In this space they would run rampage. Then, they hoped the Najaf clergy would broker a ceasefire to freeze the gains which Sadr's militia hoped to gain in the first hours of surprise. Unfortunately for Sadr, Maliki struck first. And as in boxing, no punch hurts so much as the haymaker that beats the one you were in the process of throwing. Sadr got creamed and Sistani abandoned him.

Tehran's decision to make the gamble was based on three assumptions:

* Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wouldn't have the courage to defend Basra at the risk of burning his bridges with the Islamic Republic in Iran.

* The international force would be in no position to intervene in the Basra battle. The British, who controlled Basra until last December, had no desire to return, especially if this meant getting involved in fighting. The Americans, meanwhile, never had enough troops to finish off al-Qaeda-in-Iraq, let alone fight Iran and its local militias on a new front.

* The Shiite clerical leadership in Najaf would oppose intervention by the new Iraqi security forces in a battle that could lead to heavy Shiite casualties.

Thus the refusal of Sistani to intervene -- worse still his statement that "the law is the only authority in the country" -- meant the end of JAM's last hope. Sadr can no longer hope for salvation by listening for the bell. Any bells that he hears are ringing in his head.

But Sadr is really small potatoes though the many newspapermen perversely think of him as the uncrowned king of Iraq, and the "winner" of the recent confrontation.

What recent events really signify is that Maliki, not Iran's Khamenei, is the master of southern Iraq, or at least that the control of southern Iraq is now in dispute between the two.And maliki has the OiL to back his words and OiL is the lingua franca of Basra.
Ergo: Maliki wins in Basra. Follow the money. The Golden Rule is he who has the gold makes the rules.

This means that there are now two political power centers in the Shi'ite arc. One center is based in Teheran and the other is based in Iraq.

Its the old Najaf against Qom trick all over again. Iraq and Iran know all about it. Its the shiite soul.

Carbomb explodes in Tehran

(AKI) - A carbomb exploded in a western suburb of the Iranian capital Tehran on Monday. The area where the car bomb exploded was immediately isolated by security forces. No one has claimed responsibility for the incident. According to a report on the Fars news agency, one person has been arrested in connection with the blast.

The Iranians appear to have their own little problems and it appears to be growing. Who could possibly be at fault in the Islamist paradise?

Green Zone Paradise of United States of IRAQ

U.S. wants to build ‘paradise’ amid the burning hell it ignited in Iraq


By Fatih Abdulsalam



Azzaman, May 9, 2008



The United States has leaked what can only exist in the imagination of science fiction writers. It wants to turn its fortress in Baghdad called the Green Zone into a shiny, tourist village with a ‘dream list’ of attractions.



This ‘science fiction’ mentality has been there in the minds of the architects of the Iraq invasion in the U.S., both military and civil leaders.



The U.S. still dreams of transforming its Green Zone, the symbol of its dreadful and horrific military and security machine that has imploded a whole nation into a ‘tourist village.’



The zone is seen in Iraq as a symbol center of terror and oppression. It is dislocated from its surroundings. It is a world the U.S. has created for itself and ringed it with blast walls and concrete bocks.



It is already a very beautiful place for its reclusive inhabitants who even lack the courage to drive to the airport and are mostly airlifted there.



Iraqis resisting U.S. occupation and its lackeys target the zone almost on a daily basis hoping to force their occupiers to leave.



Iraqis do not expect positive things from the U.S. They have already seen what its troops and policies have done to their capital and the rest of their country.



The thought of constructing a fascinating village around its $700 million embassy intensifies their rancor and indignation at what U.S. policy makers have done to their country.



The U.S. has dismembered Baghdad through the concrete barriers it has built to separate its neighborhoods.



The U.S. wants to build a ‘dream village’ in Baghdad at a time its bombers are being deployed to strafe the streets and densely populated areas.



The engineers and the architects the U.S. will hire to design and build this village will need to pay more attention to watch towers, electronic fences and war gadgets on how to protect it.



U.S.’s dream village is a plan to set up a paradise in hell.

------------


US opens new Iraq embassy, moves to normalise ties
05 Jan 2009 10:11:56 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Tim Cocks

BAGHDAD, Jan 5 (Reuters) - The United States opened its new embassy building in Baghdad on Monday, a step symbolising its transition from occupying power to an ally of a sovereign Iraqi government.

In recent weeks U.S. diplomats have gradually moved into the $592 million newly-built compound, the world's largest U.S. embassy building, leaving behind a sprawling palace they had inhabited since toppling Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in 2003.

U.S. officials ruled Iraq directly from the same palace for more than a year after ousting Saddam.

The opening of the new embassy is in line with a change of power that was effected on New Year's Day, when U.S. forces in Iraq officially came under an Iraqi mandate.

"This new embassy is significant in that it reflects a more normal situation," U.S. embassy spokeswoman Susan Ziadeh said.

"This is a broadening of the relationship because the situation is more secure and we are able to transition to what we call a more normal embassy."

The embassy has 1,200 employees, including diplomats, servicemen and staff from 14 federal agencies, Ziadeh said, adding that "its scale reflects the importance of the U.S.-Iraq bilateral relationship".

U.S. forces on New Year's Day handed over responsibility to Iraqi troops for the Green Zone, a fortified compound in the heart of Baghdad off limits to most Iraqis, who have widely viewed it as a symbol of foreign military occupation. The new embassy is located in the zone.

The U.S. force in Iraq, now more than 140,000 strong, had previously operated under a U.N. Security Council resolution.

U.S. troops now work under the authority granted by the Iraqi government under a pact agreed by Washington and Baghdad.

That pact -- viewed by both countries as a milestone in restoring Iraqi sovereignty -- requires U.S. troops to leave in three years, revokes their power to hold Iraqis without charge and subjects contractors and off-duty troops to Iraqi law.

Ziadeh said the mission of the new embassy would start to resemble those in other embassies around the world.

"Our work is looking at a whole range of issues on trade, on energy ... transportation sectors, rule of law," she said. (Editing by Samia Nakhoul)


---------
Mammoth new U.S. Embassy marks new stage for Iraq


By Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers Leila Fadel, Mcclatchy Newspapers – 2 hrs 17 mins ago
BAGHDAD — The U.S. flag was raised Monday over the mammoth new American Embassy in Iraq , symbolizing a new era of restored Iraqi sovereignty and reduced U.S. power, despite the fact that it's the biggest American mission on Earth.

Some have likened the pink-hued complex along the Tigris River to a prison, but Iraqi President Jalal Talabani called it a symbol of a close and growing relationship between Washington and Baghdad .

"This edifice that you constructed is not an edifice of just an embassy but it is of the deep friendship between the American and Iraqi peoples," Talabani said at the dedication ceremony as he stood alongside U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker .

"It is therefore our big hope that the embassy will play the desired role . . . in emphasizing, developing, improving and expanding the Iraqi-American relations at all levels: political, economic, energy, military, cultural, technological and others," Talabani said.

Crocker noted that the U.S. government last Wednesday moved out of the Republican Palace , the most opulent palace built by former dictator Saddam Hussein , which had served as the American headquarters after the U.S.-led invasion in spring 2003.

As of last Thursday, "the last United Nations Chapter Seven resolution declaring Iraq a threat to national security expired," Crocker said to guests as the wind blew outside. "Today a flag is raised and a new era begins."

The ceremony was interrupted sporadically by helicopters flying above the compound, partly drowning out the speeches by Talabani, Crocker and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte , who'd served as the first U.S. ambassador to Iraq after the invasion.

The invitation to the ceremony included the instruction "No firearms, cameras, cell phones or other electronics," and guests walked into the outdoor ceremony on red carpets snaking around sandy spaces, which eventually will be landscaped.

Future athletic fields are being used to house the cafeteria and trailers where the U.S. military will live. Behind the raised stage, palm trees framed the Iraqi High Tribunal , where Saddam was tried.

Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh posed for photographs with guests in the tented reception area. South Asian waiters in bow ties served pastries and appetizers to the crowd.

"It's happening, it's pumping through. It's just a drastic, drastic change," Saleh said. " Iraq has a chance of developing normal politics or quasi-normal politics now. Is it a coup by Western standards? Maybe not, but by our standards it's phenomenal."

The ceremony came in the midst of the month of Muharram, a sad, holy time for many Shiite Muslims, who commemorate the Battle of Karbala , in which Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, was killed. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki , who'd recently returned from Iran , wasn't at the ceremony Monday, nor were most other Shiite officials.

------
US inaugurates $700 million embassy in Iraq


By CHELSEA J. CARTER, Associated Press Writer Chelsea J. Carter, Associated Press Writer – 2 hrs 36 mins ago


BAGHDAD – The United States inaugurated its largest embassy ever on Monday, a fortress-like compound in the heart of the Green Zone — and the most visible sign of what U.S. officials call a new chapter in relations between America and a more sovereign Iraq.

U.S. Marines raised the American flag over the adobe-colored buildings, which sit on a 104-acre site and has space for 1,000 employees — more than 10 times the size of any other American Embassy in the world.

"Iraq is in a new era and so is the Iraqi-U.S. relationship," Ambassador Ryan Crocker proclaimed.

In perhaps an unintended sign of the new relationship, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki did not attend Monday's ceremony because he was traveling in Iran, a country the U.S. has accused of aiding and arming Iraqi militants.

Explaining the opening of such a large embassy three years before the U.S. must finish withdrawing its 146,000 troops from Iraq, Crocker told The Associated Press that it is vital for the U.S. to remain involved in nonmilitary ways.

"I think we have seen a tremendous amount of progress," Crocker said before the ceremony, "but the development of this new Iraq is going to be a very long time in the making, and we need to be engaged here."

Crocker said Baghdad was looking to the West for the first time since the Army's 1958 revolution that toppled Iraq's monarchy and set the stage for the ascendance of the Baath party, which dominated Iraq until the 2003 invasion.

"Iraq has defined itself in general hostility to the West and the United States. You now have a fundamentally different state and society taking shape that values those relations, that values those contacts, that wants its children educated in American and other Western universities. And we need to be there as a partner to ensure that those relationships are solidly built and well maintained," he said.

"We will be engaged in different ways as security continues to improve and as Iraqi security forces are more and more in the lead. But that engagement over the long term is key," he added.

The veteran diplomat has served many years in the Middle East, where a lack of U.S. resolve in Lebanon 20 years ago opened that country to meddling from Iran and Syria.

The inauguration of the $700 million embassy came just days after a security agreement between Iraq and the United States took effect, replacing a U.N. mandate that gave legal authority to the U.S. and other foreign troops to operate in Iraq.

Under the new security agreement, U.S. troops will no longer conduct unilateral operations and will act only in concert with Iraqi forces. They must also leave major Iraqi cities by June and the entire country by the end of 2011. Another accord mapped out the bilateral relations.

Crocker said that since 2003 invasion, "perhaps no single week has been more important than this past week. On Dec. 31 we left the Republican Palace."

U.S. diplomats and military officials moved into the embassy on Dec. 31 after vacating Saddam Hussein's Republican Palace, which they occupied when they captured Baghdad in April 2003. The palace will now seat the Iraqi government and al-Maliki's office.

For nearly six years, the grandiose and gaudy palace, with its gold-plated bathroom fixtures, wall paintings of Scud missiles and enormous chandeliers, served as both headquarters for occupying forces and the hub for the Green Zone — the walled-off swath of central Baghdad that was formally turned over to the Iraqi government on New Year's Day.

The new embassy's exact dimensions are classified, but it is said to be six times larger than the U.N. complex in New York and more than 10 times the size of the new U.S. Embassy in Beijing, which at 10 acres is America's second-largest mission.


Reinforced concrete surrounds the new compound, which provides housing for hundreds of staff who had been living in makeshift quarters with aluminum walls that provided little protection from mortar rounds that were fired daily into the Green Zone a year ago. "It is from the embassy that you see before you that we will continue the tradition of friendship, cooperation and support begun by the many dedicated Americans who have worked in Iraq since 2003," U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told guests at the ceremony in the complex's courtyard.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a longtime Washington ally, praised President George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003 and topple the regime of Saddam Hussein, who was executed two years ago.

"The building of this site would not be possible without the courageous decision by President Bush to liberate Iraq," said Talabani, a Kurd. "This building is not only a compound for the embassy but a symbol of the deep friendship between the two peoples of Iraq and America."

But as U.S. and Iraqi officials lauded progress in the country, Baghdad was rocked by a second day of violence that saw four car bombs explode in various parts of the city, killing four people and wounding 19.

Though violence has plummeted around Iraq in the past year, with attacks dropping from an average 180 a day to just 10, horrific bombings still plague the capital. Many recent attacks have targeted pilgrims during ceremonies commemorating the death of a much revered Shiite saint.

On Sunday, a suicide bomber killed at least 38 people at a Shiite shrine just four miles north of the new embassy.

Iraqi officials said the bomber was a man disguised as a woman. Initial reports said the attacker was a woman concealing a bomb under her black cloak. At least 17 of the dead were Iranian pilgrims.

In response to that attack, Iraqi authorities banned female pilgrims from entering the district for ceremonies on Tuesday and Wednesday.

___

Associated Press reporter Patrick Quinn contributed to this report.

Karbala Shrines under threat of being flood due to rising ground water



"the Youth of Heaven"
Karbala's Shrines Drowning, Who Control's Basra's Oil?
Az-ZamanAz-Zaman published a front page report today claiming that two of the holiest Shi’a shrines are under threat of being flooded if no precautionary measures are taken to prevent it. The problem regards Karbala, where the tombs of Imam Husain and his uncle, al-‘Abbas (whom the paper mistakingly identified as the Imam’s brother) lie over a large natural aquifer. The water levels, experts said, have been steadily rising, especially with the poor state of the city’s infrastructure, according to Karbala’s “chief engineer,” Muhammad Hasan Kadhim, “ground and surface water has definitely reached the tombs (of Husain and ‘Abbas.)”

According to Kadhim, the two tombs, in addition to the area extending between them, may suffer major structural damage that could jeopardize the shrines and the tunnel system built underneath them. While an engineering solution was devised in 2003 to prevent soil erosion, “the...

Najaf underground haven of Caves



===

i city. (AP Photo)

By ADAM SCHRECK | AP

Published: Feb 15, 2010 01:55 Updated: Feb 15, 2010 02:41

NAJAF, Iraq: Najaf's airport was meant to be a symbol of Iraq getting back to business, and in many ways it's been a success, creating jobs and spurring a construction craze her. But an increasingly bitter dispute between local authorities and the Kuwaiti contractor brought in to run the facility is casting a cloud over one of Iraq's proudest postwar accomplishments and prompting accusations of political meddling.

The standoff serves as a warning to other companies considering answering Baghdad's calls to snap up investment opportunities and pump needed development money into the country. It highlights how risks go beyond bombings to widespread corruption, uncertain legal protections and inadequate government oversight.

Najaf International Airport opened a year and a half ago to great fanfare. It was a landmark in developing Iraq's mainly Shiite south, which ousted ruler Saddam Hussein had largely neglected.

Since then, foreign carriers such as Gulf Air have moved in, ferrying planeloads of pilgrims to Najaf, home to some of Shiite Islam's holiest sites. That provides work for locals, including thousands of taxi drivers outfitted with brand new Chevrolet Aveo yellow cabs financed by the provincial government. The boosted visitor numbers have fueled a wave of new building projects in the city.

“The airport changed the landscape of the place,” said Nouri Jawad, general manager of Qasr Al-Dur, a four-star hotel in the city center.

The airport, which was converted from a military air base, is noteworthy for its normality.

Unlike Baghdad's dated and foreboding departure hall, the compact terminal here is light and airy, evoking the optimism of the booming holy city it serves. Well-heeled visitors from the Persian Gulf dressed in white robes and black abayas stream across the terminal's polished stone floor. A new ATM - a rare sight in Iraq — awaits travelers.

The dispute, however, has left unclear who exactly is in charge.

Najaf's provincial council seized control of the facility last month. It accuses Kuwaiti contractor Aqeeq Aviation of investing only a fraction of the $50 million promised for the airport, forcing the government to pay for some terminal fixtures and leaving the airstrip without adequate navigation and landing equipment.

Aqeeq, a division of Kuwaiti investment company Al-Aqeelah, in turn blames the Najaf authorities.

It says it pumped millions into the airport, though it does not claim it paid the full amount. That, it argues, is because local authorities broke the contract at several key points, including failing to turn over administration of most of the airport, such as the new passenger terminal.

Najah Al-Balaghi, an Aqeeq executive who continues to list his title as CEO and managing director of the airport, blames the problems on Najaf officials' inexperience working with the private sector and what he calls their “lack of basic knowledge about policies and law.” He said that if Najaf officials believe Aqeeq violated its contract, they should take the matter to court. Instead, they blocked access to the company's local bank account before taking over operations last month.

Political posturing between Iraq's Shiite-dominated parties also plays a role ahead of parliamentary elections on March 7.

Al-Balaghi said his company was caught in the middle when control of the Najaf council shifted to Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's party in local polls a year ago and tussling over the airport heated up.

“Both parties in Najaf are utilizing Aqeeq's achievements in the airport and attributing it to their party ... to win more seats,” Al-Balaghi said.

Enticing foreign investors such as Aqeeq to bet on Iraq's future has taken on increased urgency as security improves and US troops pull out of the country. Iraqi and American officials see foreign investment as vital for rebuilding the country's tattered infrastructure and providing jobs that provide an alternative to violent extremism.

But foreign companies have been slow to arrive in Iraq, which is still plagued by violence that authorities fear could increase as American forces speed their withdrawal after the March elections.

German automaker Daimler opened an office in Baghdad last year, and Lufthansa is planning to resume direct flights from Europe after a 20-year hiatus. Agriculture equipment maker CNH Global has started assembling tractors south of Baghdad.

Iraqi leaders are pushing for more companies to take the plunge. In October, Al-Maliki headed a large delegation to Washington to tout Iraq's potential as an investment destination.

For the most part, though, big corporations are keeping their distance or dipping into the Iraqi market via local distributors for now. Even the country's vast oil reserves initially struggled to garner enthusiasm, with Western oil giants balking at the terms of offer for developing some of the fields.

Security is not the only concern. The economy under Saddam was tightly controlled by the state, limiting Iraqi officials' experience with the hard-nosed realities of free-market capitalism. Legal reforms have not kept up with the need for investment.

“I can't say the entire problem is caused by Aqeeq,” Fayed Al-Shemri, the head of the Najaf provincial council, acknowledged when asked who was responsible for the dispute over the airport. “It's (also) a problem of old laws dating back to the former regime.” A lack of adequate checks and balances to protect both investors and the local population is often a problem in countries racked by conflict, said Robin Hodess, director of policy and research at Transparency International. She said Iraq still suffers from rampant bribery and nepotism, and a shaky regulatory framework.

The anti-corruption watchdog ranks Iraq alongside Sudan near the bottom of its corruption perceptions index, an annual survey of perceived levels of graft. Only Myanmar, Afghanistan and Somalia received lower scores.

Aqeeq's parent company is still deciding whether to fight for its rights at the airport or simply walk away, al-Balaghi said. Either way, he advises caution over putting money into Iraq for now.

“There is huge potential but an ambiguous regulatory and legal framework,” he said. “What happened to Aqeeq is likely to happen to any other private potential investor.”

===========

Iraq Earmarks $50bn for Airport Projects
Posted on 26 October 2011. Tags: Airports

According to The Saudi Gazette, the Iraqi government has earmarked an estimated $50 billion for airport development projects in Iraq over the next few years.
Iraqi Airways is scheduled to add new 55 Boeing and Bombardier aircraft to its fleet soon.
Kifah Hasan Jabbar, Director General of Iraq Civil Aviation Authority and Iraqi Airways, is expected to reveal more information on the projects at the upcoming Emerging Markets Airport Suppliers Conference (EMASC 2011) on Dec. 11 -12 in Dubai.
The emerging markets of China, Russia, India, the Middle East, and Africa are forecast to be among the growth leaders in airport infrastructure development spending over the next few years.
Abdulmunaim M. Ismail and Ghaml Darweesh Al Isuozah, special advisors to Benkin Regane, Iraq’s Deputy Minister for Technical Affairs with Ministry of Transport , will make a presentation on Iraqi government’s plan to spend $150 billion for the infrastructure program related to airports, sea ports and railways. Special focus will be on ongoing and new transportation projects in Baghdad, Basra, Dohuk, Karbala, Salhaddin province etc. The Umm Qasr seaport expansion and country-wide railway network projects will also be highlighted.
“The presentations by Iraqi authorities will provide an overview of business opportunities available at the airports in Iraq, assesses challenges and obstacles with a view to mitigating them, leading to business opportunities for all,” said Raj Menon, General Manager of Arabian Reach, the organizers of the conference. “We were happy to have them as our featured speakers and are even happier to note that EMASC 2011 is on the road to becoming one of the largest airport suppliers event ever held in the Middle East.”

============

IRAQ NOTEBOOK: Wax statues in Shiite holy city prompt awe by fans, cries of heresy by critics

( Alaa al-Marjani / Associated Press ) - In this picture taken on Feb. 21, 2012, wax figures depicting Shiite clerics are on display at the wax museum in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. What was intended to be a tribute to this Shiite holy city’s contributions to culture has instead given critics the opportunity to, well, wax lyrical about what they call the project’s faults instead.

( Alaa al-Marjani / Associated Press ) - In this picture taken on Feb. 21, 2012, wax figures depicting Shiite clerics are on display at the wax museum in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. What was intended to be a tribute to this Shiite holy city’s contributions to culture has instead given critics the opportunity to, well, wax lyrical about what they call the project’s faults instead.
( Alaa al-Marjani / Associated Press ) - In this picture taken on Feb. 19, 2012, a man arranges the clothing on wax figures depicting Shiite clerics on display at the wax museum in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Even before they go on display, the wax figures have become embroiled in controversy.
( Alaa al-Marjani / Associated Press ) - In this picture taken on Feb. 22, 2012, a wax figure depicting a Shiite cleric is seen at the wax museum in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Even before they go on display, the wax figures have become embroiled in controversy.
( Alaa al-Marjani / Associated Press ) - In this picture taken on Feb. 19, 2012, wax figures depicting Shiite clerics are on display at the wax museum in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Even before they go on display, the wax figures have become embroiled in controversy.
( Alaa al-Marjani / Associated Press ) - In this picture taken on Feb. 18, 2012, a man, left, and second from right, are seen with wax figures depicting Shiite clerics at the wax museum in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq. Even before they go on display, the wax figures have become embroiled in controversy.

CAPTION
FULLSCREEN

Smaller Text Larger Text Text Size
Print
E-mail
Reprints

By Associated Press, Updated: Wednesday, March 21, 3:47 AM

NAJAF, Iraq — An exhibit of wax statues depicting some of Shiite Muslims’ most beloved clerics, aimed at paying tribute to this Iraqi holy city’s contributions to culture, has been dipped in controversy as some Sunnis decry the figures as heretical.

The wax sculptures are due to be displayed at a museum in Najaf, but even before the exhibit opens, some Sunni Muslims — rarely shy about highlighting their religious differences with Shiites — are denouncing them as a violation of Islamic law. Even some Shiite clerics are a bit leery.

0

Comments

Weigh In
Corrections?

Personal Post

“Even those dead people whose statues are displayed (would have) disapproved of this,” said Ali Bashir al-Najafi, a spokesman for one of Iraq’s top Shiite clerics.

Some Muslim clerics of both sects interpret Islamic law as forbidding most depictions of people and even animals in art or other likenesses. They believe such likenesses could be perceived as false idols and, therefore, taboo.

The wax figures portray bearded clerics in turbans and politicians in freshly ironed suits. They include Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, who was beloved by Iraq’s Shiites for encouraging Friday prayers during Saddam Hussein’s regime. He was assassinated by Saddam’s agents in 1999. Also depicted is Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, who was born in Najaf and was Lebanon’s top Shiite cleric until his death in 2010.

All of the figures were either born, studied or buried in Najaf, located 100 miles (160 kilometers) south of Baghdad. The city of roughly one million people is home to Iraq’s religious Shiite leadership, called the marjaiyah, and holds the tomb of Imam Ali, who Shiites consider the Prophet Muhammed’s rightful successor.

The exhibit is the brainchild of Sheik Ali Mirza, a Shiite cleric. He said he was inspired during a visit to a wax museum in Beirut that included a likeness of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Mirza said the figures in Najaf are so lifelike visitors sometimes “raise their hands to salute the statues as if they were alive.” He said the statues are all Shiite because the exhibit will be in Najaf, which he called “the Vatican of Shiite Muslims.”

The wax figures were originally intended to be part of festivities connected to the city being named the 2012 Islamic Capital of Culture. But the cultural arm of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation — the grouping of Islamic nations once known as the Organization of the Islamic Conference — announced recently that the festival has been canceled at the Iraqi government’s request.


The event had already been beset by accusations of mismanagement and corruption. But the wax figures are not going to just melt away. Officials said the figures will still be displayed at a Najaf museum.

The cleric knows the likenesses won’t be to everybody’s liking.

“The museum is a new idea and people need time to get used to it,” he said.

But some in Iraq’s Sunni minority are not getting used to it, reflecting the religious divide that is never far from the surface here. Even more so than Shiism, Sunni Islam has historically frowned on depictions of the human form. Many Iraqi Sunnis look down on the country’s Shiite majority because they allow depictions of Muslim figures in banners, flags or other religious paraphernalia. For Sunni extremists, this is just further proof of their accusation that Shiites are not true Muslims.
-
Sunni extremists have sharply criticized the statues and Shiites who visit them.

“Believe it or not: wax museum for the turbaned in Najaf,” sneered a headline on one Sunni website.

Personal Post

“Idols reached Najaf,” thundered another.

“The pre-Islam era of paganism is returning,” warned a comment on another website.

A leading Sunni cleric was more diplomatic.

“It is not right to erect statues whether made of wax or of anything else. That is haram (religiously forbidden) because it is an emulation of God’s creation,” said Sheik Ahmed al-Taha who is the preacher of the Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad, a key Sunni house of worship. “It is similar to what heathens do.”

Some Shiites are also uneasy. While Shiism allows more latitude for the depiction of faces or busts, the full-body wax figures are for many a step too far. Al-Najafi said it is OK to have half a statue but not the full body.

The hardline Shiite movement known as the Sadrists, followers of the late ayatollah, want the statue of al-Sadr taken down.

“The people behind this museum bear the responsibility before God,” said Hakim al-Zamili, a senior Sadrist lawmaker.

Mirza is careful not to speak against the marjaiyah, whose edicts are practically law in this Shiite majority country. But he points out that various Shiite clerics have different ideas about the statues’ appropriateness.

The statues have already become a hit with some Shiites. Curious onlookers have flocked to a religious school owned by Mirza where the statues are being kept until the museum opens.

“I am very impressed. I did not expect something like this. They seem so real,” one visiting cleric, Sheik Muhsen al-Najafi, told Mirza during a visit.

An activist in Najaf, Qassim Abdul-Sadda, said he was not very religious but went to see the wax statues about a month ago out of curiosity.

He took pictures of himself next to the statues and posted them on the Internet. When some of his friends realized they were wax figures, they called the statues “haram,” he said.

But he likes them.

“It is good to preserve the heritage of Najaf in this way by showing this generation and generations to come the scholars who had a great contribution to the history and culture of Najaf,” he said.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Stockholm Conference and Conditionality in Iraq

By Reidar Visser (www.historiae.org)

28 May 2008

As international experts prepare for the 29 May conference in Stockholm on development aid and debt relief for Iraq under the Iraq Compact scheme, the picture of US policy-making in this area is depressing. Despite a declared intention of pursuing a unifying policy, through its peculiar choice of Iraqi allies the Bush administration is in fact contributing to fragmentation. Whereas the formula of a tripartite federal state based on “Shiite”, “Sunni” and “Kurdish” regions enjoys only limited popular support in Iraq outside Kurdistan, it is being pursued very determinedly by Washington’s Iraqi partners: the two biggest Kurdish parties (KDP and PUK) and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) – the only Shiite party that supports a federal arrangement based on sectarian identities, and also historically the Shiite party with the closest and most long-standing ties to Iran. Even Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who used to criticise the notion of strong federal regions, may have become increasingly dependent on ISCI and the Kurds after his latest moves against the Sadrists. Whilst he theoretically maintains the position that the demarcation of new federal entities is the constitutional prerogative of the Iraqi people, the current machinations by his government to influence this autumn’s provincial elections could serve as a forewarning about what kind of methods it may choose to employ in the federalisation process later on.

Moreover, despite a façade of rhetorical disagreement in the US policy debate, both Democrats and Republicans are in practice giving in to Iran when it comes to Iraq. The Bush administration has chosen to promote Tehran’s friends in ISCI (and at the same time uses much of its resources to weaken Iran’s historical enemy in the country, the Sadrists, thereby leaving them with no other option than rapprochement with Iran); the Democrats, for their part, insist on a narrative of an “irreversible Iranian victory in Iraq due to the follies of the 2003 invasion”, where, it is maintained, a certain level of Iranian influence must simply be accepted as a given. And because the rest of the world is doing precious little to influence these patterns, the nationalist majority of Iraqis – Shiites and Sunnis who want no role for Iran in Iraq whatsoever and who consider tripartite division an “Iranian plot” – are left with no outside support.

There is one exception to the generally disheartening picture of US policy-making for Iraq. During the Crocker & Petraeus hearings in the US Congress last April, individual representatives repeatedly raised useful questions that related to conditionality and leverage. For example, Senator John W. Warner (R.) of Virginia asked whether the fact that the United States is concluding a new security arrangement with Iraq in 2008 might perhaps provide a good opportunity for Washington to make use of its leverage and thereby push the Maliki government into doing something about long-delayed legislative projects related to the fundamental question of national reconciliation. Similar suggestions have been heard from time to time by Democratic representatives who are not attracted to Joe Biden’s “alternative policy” of actively supporting additional federal regions south of Kurdistan.

Unfortunately, however, “conditionality” seems to be a foreign term to the Bush administration. Ryan Crocker’s bland response to Warner suggested that he had not given much thought to any such idea. Weeks later, during visits by US officials to the Gulf countries, Washington’s remarkable unwillingness to use leverage for political ends once more asserted itself: “Arab countries should move to re-open embassies in Baghdad as soon as possible”. Full stop, no caveats.

Should the Arab countries really open embassies in Baghdad and unconditionally cancel all debts? In the current situation, that would in practice mean bankrolling a system of government in Iraq based on ethno-sectarian regions which few Iraqis are asking for. In fact, Arab reluctance to make friends with the Maliki government could be one of the last sources of external support for those Iraqis who remain deeply unhappy with the way in which a small, foreign-sponsored parliamentary elite is ramming through a state model in Iraq that may well turn the country into an orifice of institutionalised sectarianism instead of a beacon of democracy in the region. Only a week ago, developments in Basra underlined just how much opposition to the Maliki line can be found outside the Green Zone, even in core Shiite areas. A vote by the Basra provincial council – reportedly by consensus, and thus conceivably even involving some “defections” from the local ISCI branch – protested against the central government’s decision to remove the head of the Southern Oil Company. The initiative was headed by Fadila, an Iraqi Shiite Islamist party which enjoys considerable sympathy in other Arab countries thanks not least to its outspoken criticism of Iran, but which symptomatically has received scant attention from the US.

Today, the latest phase in the forced ethno-federalisation of Iraq is being played out as the Kurdish–ISCI ruling minority tries to fashion a provincial elections law that can suit its strategy of minimising popular impact on the elections results. Open lists that would give voters the opportunity of overruling party elites in their choice of candidates have been discussed in Iraq recently, but the KDP-appointed president of the “independent” electoral commission, Faraj al-Haydari, has already deemed this “impracticable”. Similarly, the idea of smaller electoral districts is being dismissed because of Kurdish concerns over Kirkuk. This all echoes the December 2005 parliamentary elections, in which no less than one third of ISCI’s members of parliament were “elected” not on the basis of the popular vote but rather were promoted as a result of party manipulations of the list after the ballots had been cast. But then again it is only two months since the Kurds and ISCI fought tooth and nail to avoid any timeline for elections; it would be naïve to expect a sudden change of priorities just because the provincial powers law has been adopted by parliament.

In Stockholm, the Iraq Compact will come up for discussion. As the compact currently stands, it is reminiscent of the Bush administration’s approach to Iraq: open-ended commitment and no substantial demands for political reform. In the annual report by the Iraqi government to the compact organisers, a prominent item under the “national reconciliation” heading is the “expectation” that the Tawafuq bloc will soon rejoin the Maliki government! In fact, forthcoming changes to the Maliki government have been announced regularly ever since the summer of 2006 without any real change actually taking place, but Western governments have been amazingly persistent in taking these optimistic prophecies at face value. At the same time they have remained acquiescent when faced with equally determined efforts by Maliki to avoid any robust checks and balances being introduced to the revision of the hyper-decentralised 2005 constitution.

Stockholm could be an opportunity for a fresh discussion of to what extent the Maliki government’s line is truly representative of Iraqi public opinion and really constitutes a sound basis for a new political system in Iraq. Arab states could try to find a constructive position between full boycott and unconditional surrender to the ISCI-Kurdish blueprint for the new Iraq. More likely, however, the conference will play out as a polite gathering of diplomats that will fail to ask critical questions about the overall direction of Iraqi politics, thereby perpetuating the West’s abandonment of the Iraqi people.

US Papers Wed: Bush Lied to Himself, Country

Ex-press aide says president self-deceptive and misled country into Iraq War
The big news today is the bombshell book from ex-press aide Scott McClellan who writes that President George W. Bush is deeply dishonest in his dealings with himself and the country. Both the Washington Post and The New York Times go big with the story.

Michael D. Shear of the Post writes that McClellan's book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," shows that Bush, in fact, deceived the country over the Iraq war, using a sophisticated "political propaganda campaign" -- often involving press secretaries like McClellan. I don't think McClellan will be invited to any more Bush family functions. What's infuriating is that McClellan worked for Bush for close to a decade and then waits until Bush's last year in office to write that the president has a "lack of inquisitiveness," that he's dishonest and that his top aides were and are a bunch of liars. Why now? Why enable him all these years? Why not do something earlier when it might have made a difference?

The whitehouse is a dirty can of worms!


Bush is unpopular and on his way out. Many of his aides want to jump out of his sinking ship or dissociate themselves from the deception, forgeries and fabrication that led to the war on Iraq. The Jewish-controlled media prostitutes were effectively used to send the US troops marching on Baghdad to Israeli drums. We hope that someone will expose all those who collaborated in the bigget heist of the century after hoaxing America and hoaxing the world.
Adnan Darwash, Iraq Occupation times

Iraq's Sadr calls for protest against U.S. forces

27 May 2008 18:11:55 GMT
Source: Reuters
BAGHDAD, May 27 (Reuters) - Anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for a mass protest on Friday against negotiations between Washington and Baghdad on keeping U.S. troops in the country beyond 2008.

"We invite Iraqis to join us for a mass demonstration after Friday prayers unless the government cancels this agreement," Sadr said in a statement issued by his office in the holy Shi'ite city of Najaf on Tuesday.

He said the protests would continue nationwide until the government agreed to hold a referendum on the continued U.S. presence. Sadr pulled his bloc out of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government last year in protest at his refusal to negotiate a timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal.

Sadr called for a million-strong march against the U.S. presence in April but later called it off for security reasons.

The United States is negotiating with Iraq on a Status of Forces Agreement aimed at giving a legal basis to U.S. troops after Dec. 31, when their United Nations mandate expires.

The United States, which invaded in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein, now has 155,000 troops in Iraq.

Maliki met his top officials on Tuesday to discuss the negotiations.

Democrat lawmakers in the United States fear the new agreement will commit the U.S. military to a long-term presence in Iraq, while Iraqis such as Sadr's followers see it as a surrender of Iraq's sovereignty to an occupying force.

"We will collect a petition with signatures of the Iraqi people, who are against this deal," Sadr said.

In Najaf, Sadr's spokesman, Salah al-Ubaidi, said:

"History will not look well upon this government if it signs this agreement without consulting the people. It will put Iraq in crisis."

Sadr's protest call is likely to raise tensions with the Iraqi government, whose forces battled militants loyal to the cleric in the capital for weeks before a truce was agreed on May 10. The fighting was sparked by a government offensive against his Mehdi Army militia in the southern city of Basra in March.

Sadr is popular among Iraq's Shi'ite poor and his militia is estimated to number tens of thousands. But it has kept a low profile since Iraqi troops poured into Sadr City last week, taking control of Sadr's main Baghdad stronghold. (Reporting by Wisam Mohammed; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by David Fogarty)

------------
Most Iraqi political and religious authorities have already called on the government not to sign any long-term security agreement with the American occupiers as Iraq is not a sovereign state while remain occupied..
If the agreement ever to be materialised it will be honored only by those Iraqi agents who accepted to sign such a long-term committment to extend American colonisation of the country. The Americans want to remain outside the law as any truly independent Iraqi government will have to ask for compensation for the adamage done to Iraq infrastructure and for all the killing and wounding of thousands of Iraqis.

Iraqis consider any agrement signed under occupation as null and void. The occupation must end and all US agents and mercenaries must be withdrawan or face the merciless Iraqi justice.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Iraq replaces southern oil chiefs in major shake-up

26 May 2008 10:47:39 GMT
Source: Reuters
(Adds details, political context, quotes)

By Aref Mohammed

BASRA, Iraq, May 26 (Reuters) - The Iraqi government has replaced some of the top officials in state-owned oil companies in southern Iraq, tightening its grip on an industry that fuels the economy but has been outside of its direct control.

The shake-up, which has largely escaped public notice, affects industries in the southern oil hub of Basra, where 30,000 government troops were deployed in March to clamp down on Shi'ite militias and criminal gangs that dominated the city.

The Baghdad government has removed the heads of the South Oil Company, which is in charge of exports, the South Gas Company and the Iraqi Oil Tankers Company since mid-May, local officials and the Oil Ministry told Reuters.

Analysts warned the move could trigger fresh violence in the unstable but strategic area, home to Iraq's main oil reserves.

The head of Basra airport has also been replaced by the Transport Ministry in the shakeup, and the local officials said the head of Basra port could be next.

The officials told Reuters the move was an attempt by the central government in Baghdad to take advantage of the improved security situation in Iraq's second city to wrest control of the industry from the locally powerful Shi'ite Fadhila party.

Iraq, which wants to boost oil exports this year to a post-war high, exports the bulk of its crude through Basra, its gateway to the Gulf, at an average of around 1.5 million bpd a day.

The oil industry provides more than 90 percent of government revenues and is seen as crucial to rebuilding an economy shattered by decades of war and sanctions.

PROVINCIAL ELECTIONS

The local officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, accused the government of making politically motivated appointments, saying the incoming general directors were linked to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Dawa party.

"Bringing officials close to Dawa to take key posts in the Southern Oil Company is a clear plan to have control over this vital sector before the provincial elections," said one senior provincial official aligned with Fadhila.

The Oil Ministry defended the shakeup on Monday, saying the officials had been removed under the ministry's "right man in the right place policy".

Control of Basra and its oil will be a key prize in the elections due on Oct. 1. Fadhila will be competing with Dawa Party ally the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) and supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

"The move should be recognised as a major development in the intra-sectarian conflict," Babak Rahimi, a professor at the University of California in San Diego, told Reuters.

"The move by Maliki's government is risky because its going to upset many local Shia factions, potentially leading to another major military conflict in the port city, where security is still unstable."

BROADER CONFLICT

Rahimi said the shakeup was part of a broader conflict between Dawa and SIIC, which were in exile in Iran during Saddam Hussein's rule, and other factions such as Fadhila.

"The exiled factions are trying to undermine the native Shia factions in light of the October provincial elections," he said.

Fadhila, whose members include the provincial governor, withdrew from Maliki's government last year after losing control of the Oil Ministry. But it continues to hold considerable power in the oil industry in southern Iraq.

A letter signed by Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani and seen by Reuters, ordered Jabbar al-Ebi, general director of the South Oil Company, to be reassigned as a ministry adviser and his deputy Kifah Nauman to take his place temporarily.

It said the order was effective from May 15, but Ebi was still in his office last week when Reuters called him for comment on his removal. He declined to answer any questions.

Similar letters were sent on the same day to the other two oil officials, officials said.

The Basra Provincial Council has protested that the government is acting illegally by failing to consult it before making the changes.

"The ministry has so far not submitted convincing reasons for changing him. The provincial council has decided not to approve the ministerial order," said Munadhil Khanjar, head of the provincial council's economic committee.

Oil Ministry spokesman Asim Jihad denied any irregularities.

"The Oil Ministry has the authority to assign or remove any official from his post under the ministry's policy -- the right man, in the right place," Jihad said.

He said Ebi's appointment as a ministry adviser was in fact a promotion, while the general directors of the South Gas Company and Iraqi Oil Tankers Company had been removed because their appointments had never been approved by the cabinet. (Editing by Peter Blackburn) (Additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed and Ross Colvin in Baghdad, writing by Ross Colvin)

While Sistani refused Maliki still negotiating with Bush to allow US bases and attack on IRAQ


According to a number of sources, Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani has openly opposed the projected long-term security agreement between Iraq and the United stated. This followed a warning against the agreement by the communist party of Iraq and a large number of other Iraqi parties and personalities, as was reported by www.Iraqshabab.com in Arabic today 26.05.08
The 20-article agreement planned for signature between Al-Maliki and the US allowing the US to establish military bases and giving immunity to US personnel in carrying out attacks, arresting or killing Iraqis. Feeling the heat of the overwhelming Iraqi rejection, US ambassador, Ryan Crocker changed gear and announced in Najaf and Kerbala, on 25.05.08, that the US doesn’t want to impose the agreement but it was requested by the Iraqi government. Many have almost given up on Al-Sistani but it is to his credit that he refused to meet, let alone shake hands with the American occupiers. One must wait and see the reaction of Al-Maliki who has been negotiating with George Bush disregarding that occupied Iraq is not in a position to sign agreements with the barbaric American occupiers.

Pro-British Iraqi king and the British-installed client regime signed an agreement with the British empire allowing it to maintain two air bases in Shoaiba, near Basra and in Habania, west of Baghdad. There was one clause in the agreement that prohibited the British forces wearing military uniforms outside their bases. In 1920, the Iraqi Shiites led the uprising against the British presence disregarding the overwhelming superiority of the British firepower.

In 1958, General Abdul Kareem Qassem, killed the entire pro-British royal family and their client regime of Nuri Al-Saeed. General Qassem gave the British forces fortyeight hours to vacate their bases or be annhiliated. The Iraqis will never accept a foreign military presence in the country, let alone soldiers of pro-Israeli and anti Muslim Zionised Christians.

Both these are currently occupied by the British and the Americans.

Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani has been reluctant to issue a fatwa (edict) calling for an armed Jihad against the Crusaders currently occupying Iraq because he supported the political process that meant to end the brutal occupation without further bloodshed.
But his position may change 180 degrees if the Americans and their client regime don't clear out of Iraq by the end of 2009.

Al-Sistani realised the real intention behind the US-UK attacks on Basrah and on Al-Sadr city and made his views known to Al-Maliki. He is also against the on-going American-Kurdish operations in Mosul against Iraqi nationalists in the city.It seems Al-Sistani patience has been stretched to the limit by the practices of brutal American occupation.

Islam is the only force that can rally the masses against the on-going Zionised Christian crusade against Muslims. The more Bushlomo (s) push the more ground they lose to Al-Qaeda.

All Muslims from all walks of life inhabiting the area between Nigeria and the Philippines were shocked hearing and seeing on TV that the Holy Koran was desecrated before being used for target practice by a group of US snipers in occupied Iraq. All religious aiuthorities feel that it is their duty to end the criminal, immoral and brutal occupation of Iraq by the later-day American barbarians. Al-Sistani and other members of Iraqai Hawza (religious council) can't remain silent any longer. The desecration of the holy Koran will turn out to be the straw that broke the back of the hated American occupation.

Adnan Darwash, Iraq Occupation Times









وصف العلامة السيد محمد حسين فضل الله الاتفاق الامني المزمع توقيعه بين بغداد وواشنطن بالاتفاق بين الذئب والحمل.
واضاف فضل الله، ان امريكا تهدف الى اضفاء صفة الشرعية والقانونية لاحتلالها العراق ما يوفر الغطاء لاعتقال اي من العراقيين بتهمة الارهاب.
وقال ان من شأن هذا الاتفاق منع محاكمة اي جندي امريكي في العراق مهما كانت اساءته او جريمته مستشهدا بقيامها بسحب الجندي الامريكي الذي جعل القران الكريم هدفا لرصاص بندقيته.
كما اشار فضل الله الى ان واشنطن تهدف عبر وجودها العسكري في العراق الى الضغط على كل من سوريا وايران مشددا على ان الاتفاق المذكور ليس من مصلحة الشعب العراقي.
وكان المرجع الديني العراقي آية الله السيد علي السيستاني قد رفض بشدة الاتفاقية الامنية الاستراتيجية التي تنوي الحكومة العراقية عقدها مع الاحتلال الامريكي.
وقال مصدر مقرب من آية الله السيستاني يوم السبت ان الاخير جدد تاكيده بانه "لن يسمح بتوقيع مثل هذا الاتفاق مع المحتل الاميركي ما دام حيا".
واضاف المصدر، "ان آية الله السيستاني كان قد اعرب عن اعتراضه عقد الصفقة خلال لقاء مع رئيس الوزراء نوري المالكي في مدينة النجف الاشرف يوم الخميس".
وكان المرجع الديني اية الله السيد كاظم الحائري اكد بدوره يوم السبت رفض الحوزة العلمية في العراق عقد الاتفاقية الامنية بين الاحتلال الاميركي والحكومة.
ودعا اية الله الحائري الحكومة العراقية الى عدم التوقيع على الاتفاقية، وقال ان الحوزة لن تعترف بشرعية هذه الاتفاقية، وانها لن تكون ملزمة لاحد، معتبرا ان الاحتلال يهدف الى تقنين وجوده غير المشروع، والعبث في امن البلاد ومواطنيه والاستمرار في نهب ثروات العراق.
وتفيد التقارير بان الحكومة العراقية تعتزم التوقيع على اتفاقية امنية طويلة المدى مع الولايات المتحدة، تسمح لواشنطن باقامة قواعد عسكرية دائمة في البلاد وتمنح مواطني الولايات المتحدة الحصانة من الملاحقة القضائية.
يشار الى ان مسودة الاتفاقية الامنية بين العراق والولايات المتحدة تم اعدادها من قبل الاميركان في يناير2008 ووقعه الجانبان في 17 مارس 2008 ومن المقرر ان يتم الاتفاق النهائي عليها في اوائل يوليو 2008.



Translation:
Description scholar Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah security agreement to be signed between Baghdad and Washington agreement between the wolf and pregnancy.
He added Fadlallah, that America intended to legitimize its occupation and legal Iraq provides cover for the arrest of any Iraqis on charges of terrorism.
He said that this agreement would prevent the prosecution of any American soldier in Iraq whatever the women or doing his crime, citing the withdrawal of the American soldier who make the Quran a target for his rifle bullets.
Fadlallah also pointed out that Washington aimed through its military presence in Iraq to put pressure on both Syria and Iran, stressing that the said agreement is not in the interest of the Iraqi people.
The Iraqi religious authority, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Sistani has rejected the Convention strongly security strategy which intends Iraqi government held with the U.S. occupation.
A source close to Ayatollah Sistani on Saturday renewed his affirmation that the latter that he "would not be allowed to sign such an agreement with the U.S. occupation as long alive."
The source added that "Ayatollah Sistani had expressed his objection to the deal during a meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the holy city of Najaf on Thursday."
The religious authority, Ayatollah Kazem Al Hairi Mr. confirmed on Saturday refused to turn scientific shrine in Iraq holding Security Agreement between the U.S. occupation and the government.
He called on Ayatollah Al Hairi Iraqi government not to sign the Convention, said that the estate will not recognize the legitimacy of this Convention, and that it would not be obligated to anyone, contending that aims to legalize the occupation and the quality of the illegal, and tampering with the security of the country and its citizens and to continue to plunder the riches of Iraq.
It is reported that the Iraqi government intends to sign the long-term security agreement with the United States, allowing Washington to establish permanent military bases in the country and grant U.S. citizens immunity from prosecution.
It should be noted that the draft Security Agreement between Iraq and the United States had been prepared by the Americans in January 2008 and signed by the two sides on March 17, 2008 is scheduled to be final agreement in early July 2008.

---------------

Powerful Iraqi cleric flirting with Shiite militant message

By HAMZA HENDAWI and QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writers
Thu May 22, 2:48 PM ET



BAGHDAD - Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric has been quietly issuing religious edicts declaring that armed resistance against U.S.-led foreign troops is permissible — a potentially significant shift by a key supporter of the Washington-backed government in Baghdad.

The edicts, or fatwas, by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani suggest he seeks to sharpen his long-held opposition to American troops and counter the populist appeal of his main rivals, firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia.

But — unlike al-Sadr's anti-American broadsides — the Iranian-born al-Sistani has displayed extreme caution with anything that could imperil the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The two met Thursday at the elderly cleric's base in the city of Najaf south of Baghdad.

So far, al-Sistani's fatwas have been limited to a handful of people. They also were issued verbally and in private — rather than a blanket proclamation to the general Shiite population — according to three prominent Shiite officials in regular contact with al-Sistani as well as two followers who received the edicts in Najaf.

All spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Al-Sistani — who is believed to be 79 or 80 — has not been seen in public since a brief appearance in August 2004, shortly after returning from London for medical treatment for an unspecified heart condition. But his mix of religious authority and political clout makes him more powerful than any of Iraq's elected leaders.

For American officials, he represents a key stabilizing force in Iraq for refusing to support a full-scale Shiite uprising against U.S.-led forces or Sunnis — especially at the height of sectarian bloodletting after an important Shiite shrine was bombed in 2006.

It is impossible to determine whether those who received the edicts acted on them. Most attacks — except some by al-Qaida in Iraq — are carried out without claims of responsibility.

It is also unknown whether al-Sistani intended the fatwas to inspire violence or simply as theological opinions on foreign occupiers. Al-Sadr — who has a much lower clerical rank than al-Sistani — recently has threatened "open war" on U.S.-led forces.

The U.S. military said it had no indications that al-Sistani was seeking to "promote violence" against U.S.-led troops. It also had no information linking the ayatollah or other top Shiite clerics to armed groups battling U.S. forces and allies.

A senior aide to the prime minister, al-Maliki, said he was not aware of the fatwas, but added that the "rejection of the occupation is a legal and religious principle" and that top Shiite clerics were free to make their own decisions. The aide also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Fatwas are theological opinions by an individual cleric and views on the same subject can vary. They gain force from consensus among experts in Islamic law and traditions.

In the past, al-Sistani has avoided answering even abstract questions on whether fighting the U.S. presence in Iraq is allowed by Islam. Such questions sent to his Web site — which he uses to respond to followers' queries — have been ignored. All visitors to his office who had asked the question received a vague response.

The subtle shift could point to his growing impatience with the continued American presence more than five years after the U.S.-led invasion.

It also underlines possible opposition to any agreement by Baghdad to allow a long-term U.S. military foothold in Iraq — part a deal that is currently under negotiation and could be signed as early as July.

Al-Sistani's distaste for the U.S. presence is no secret. In his public fatwas on his Web site, he blames Washington for many of Iraq's woes.

But a more aggressive tone from the cleric could have worrisome ripples through Iraq's Shiite majority — 65 percent of the country's estimated 27 million population — in which many followers are swayed by his every word.

A longtime official at al-Sistani's office in Najaf would not deny or confirm the edicts issued in private, but hinted that a publicized call for jihad may come later.

"(Al-Sistani) rejects the American presence," he told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment to media. "He believes they (the Americans) will at the end pay a heavy price for the damage they inflicted on Iraq."

Juan Cole, a U.S. expert on Shiites in the Middle East, speculated that "al-Sistani clearly will give a fatwa against the occupation by a year or two." But he said it would be "premature" for the cleric to do so now.

Between 10 and 15 people are believed to have received the new fatwas in recent months, the Shiite officials told the AP.

Most of those seeking al-Sistani's views are young men known for their staunch loyalty to al-Sistani who call themselves "Jund al-Marjaiyah," or "Soldiers of the Religious Authorities," according to the Shiite officials.

Al-Sistani's new edicts — which did not specifically mention Americans but refer to foreign occupiers — were in response to the question of whether it's permitted to "wage armed resistance," according to the two Shiites who received them.

Al-Sistani's affirmative response also carried a stern warning that "public interest" should not be harmed and every effort must be made to ensure that no harm comes to Iraqis or their property during "acts of resistance," they said.

"Changing the tyrannical (Saddam Hussein) regime by invasion and occupation was not what we wished for because of the many tragedies they have created," al-Sistani said in reply to a question on his Web site.

"We are extremely worried about their intentions," he wrote in response to another question on his views about the U.S. military presence.

Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army twice revolted against U.S. forces in 2004. It has since periodically attacked U.S. troops and battled them for seven weeks in Baghdad this year.

In perhaps another sign of al-Sistani's hardened position, he has opposed disarming the Mahdi Army as demanded by al-Maliki, according to Shiite officials close to the cleric.

Disarming the Mahdi Army would — in the views of many Shiites — leave them vulnerable to attacks by armed Sunni factions that are steadily gaining strength after joining the U.S. military fight against al-Qaida.

"Al-Sistani would love Muqtada (al-Sadr) to disappear but he will not break the community by openly going against a popular Shiite cleric," said Vali Nasr, an expert on Shiite affairs at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. "If he orders militias disbanded and a car bomb again kills many Shiites, he will be held responsible."

The Return of Iraq's Ayatollah


By MARK KUKIS/BAGHDAD
Sun May 25, 10:25 AM ET



High-profile visits by political figures are relatively rare in Najaf, the quiet holy city in southern Iraq where Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani lives. Sistani, the most venerated Shi'ite religious leader in the country, shuns the limelight. But it fell his way last week nonetheless when Iraqi Prime Ministry Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker appeared in Najaf separately within days of each other. It raised questions whether Sistani is making a comeback as a voice in political decision-making in Iraq.

For years Sistani and Muqtada al-Sadr have seesawed with each other as Iraq's two main Shi'ite power players. In the early days of the occupation, Sistani's call for calm undoubtedly allowed American troops to avoid fierce resistance to their presence in southern Iraq. But Sistani's repeated appeals for peace lost their weight as sectarian violence rose in Iraq, with Sadr leading the Mahdi Army militia in an inexorable year-long quest for Shi'ite revenge following the bombing of a revered shrine in Samarra in early 2006. As a result, Sadr, a mere cleric, towered as the most powerful Shi'ite figure in Iraq, eclipsing the more senior Sistani's prestigious status as ayatollah. Sistani became a voice in the wings on Iraq's political stage as the country's armed factions, including the U.S. military, warred through 2006 and 2007. Now with the situation quieter, and Sadr politically weakened following his military clash with Maliki, Sistani seems poised to renew a larger political role for himself.


Maliki's visit Thursday to Najaf, where he met with Sistani, seemed to be acknowledgment of just that change in status, one that the Ayatollah did not appear to shrink from. "Sistani emphasized that everything should be done to get back total sovereignty on all levels," said Sheik Abdul Mehdi al-Karbala'e, who summed up Sistani's meeting with Maliki in a speech to Shi'ite follower attending Friday prayers in Karbala.


The comment was a not-so-subtle warning by Sistani to Maliki and American leaders as they negotiate a long-term bilateral agreement that will spell out conditions for a U.S. presence in Iraq beyond next year, when the current U.N. mandate ends. A number of contentious issues, such as the presence of permanent U.S. military bases and the ability of U.S. forces to arrest and detain Iraqis, remain unresolved. Crocker, who did not meet with Sistani, was in Najaf to meet with local leaders but he addressed how the talks over the bilateral security agreement were shaping up. "We are in negotiations, and when that negotiation ends there will be an agreement," said Crocker, who spoke in Arabic addressing the local press corps. "That came as a wish of the Iraqi government."


Crocker, who said he had been to Najaf only once before, visited amid speculation that Sistani is losing patience with the U.S. presence in Iraq. In recent days, there have been reports that Sistani has been quietly issuing religious edicts, or fatwas, calling for the armed resistance to U.S. forces. Such a move by Sistani would essentially mark a reversal of his passive cooperation with the U.S. enterprise in Iraq to date. However, Sistani's aides deny the reports. "Nothing like that came from the office of the ayatollah," said Hamid al-Kahfaff, a spokesman for Sistani in Najaf.


Both Maliki and Crocker stand to gain by keeping Sistani happy and supportive of their political efforts, since hopes that Sadr would drop the renegade routine dissipated as the Mahdi Army battled with government forces across southern Iraq and Baghdad in the last two months. With Sadr on the outs, Sistani rises again as a kind of godfather figure whose silence can be interpreted as tacit support, particularly when leaders such as Maliki are seen as consulting him. Sistani maintained his usual silence as Crocker wrapped up his visit to Najaf Saturday. But there is little doubt about the renewed strength of his hand in Iraq. View this article on Time.com

Facts about Lebanon's new president

FACTBOX- 25 May 2008 11:17:50 GMT
Source: Reuters
May 25 (Reuters) - Lebanon's parliament is due to elect army chief General Michel Suleiman as president on Sunday, filling a post left vacant for six months because of a political crisis that had pushed the country to the brink of a new civil war.

The presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system.

Here are some facts about Suleiman.

* Suleiman, 59, has been army commander since 1998. Since then, Israeli troops withdrew from south Lebanon in 2000, Israel and Hezbollah fought a war in 2006 and the army battled and defeated al Qaeda-inspired militants in north Lebanon last year.

* He has good ties with Syria and Hezbollah, Lebanon's most powerful faction.

* He has been credited with keeping the army unified during domestic splits and violence over the past three years. The army is seen as a crucial guarantor of Lebanon's civil peace.

But it has been criticised by the anti-Syrian governing coalition for not moving against opposition protests and for perceived acquiescence in the face of a Hezbollah-led military campaign against its rivals this month. The army was also criticised by Hezbollah after soldiers killed seven of opposition protesters in January.

* Suleiman gained popularity last year after the army defeated Islamist fighters at the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp. The fighting killed more than 420 people, including 169 soldiers.

* He graduated from the Military Academy in 1970 and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and Administrative Sciences from the Lebanese University. He was commander of the 11th Infantry Brigade between 1993-1996, a time which witnessed two major Israeli attacks in southern Lebanon.

Three Iranian Guardsmen die after rebel clash-report

26 May 2008 14:35:51 GMT
Source: Reuters
TEHRAN, May 26 (Reuters) - Three Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen have died from wounds sustained during a clash with rebels near the Turkish border, an Iranian news agency said on Monday, in an apparent reference to Kurdish guerrillas.

The semi-official Fars News Agency quoted a Guards spokesman as saying the fighting took place on Saturday. Iranian media had earlier said nine Kurdish rebels were killed on that day, but Fars did not make clear if it was during the same clash.

"These three Guardsmen were wounded two days ago in clashes with rebels ... and attained martyrdom after they were transported to hospital," spokesman Reza Rezvani told Fars.

Iranian forces have often clashed in border areas with rebels from the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an offshoot of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that is fighting for a Kurdish homeland in southeastern Turkey.

Analysts say PJAK, which Tehran brands a terrorist group, has bases in northeastern Iraq from where they operate against Iran.

Iraq's Kurdistan region borders both Turkey and Iran, and includes remote and rugged mountain ranges where Kurdish rebels from both the PKK and PJAK factions are holed up.

Turkey blames the PKK for the deaths of 40,000 people since 1984, when the group took up arms. Ankara, like the European Union and the United States, considers it a terrorist organisation. (Reporting by Hossein Jaseb and Hashem Kalantari; Editing by Giles Elgood)

Yemen rebel leader said hurt in clashes with state

26 May 2008 12:00:46 GMT
Source: Reuters
SANAA, May 26 (Reuters) - Yemeni rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi may have been killed or wounded during weeks of heavy clashes with government forces in his northern stronghold of Saada, sources close to the government said on Monday.

Houthi's aides denied that he was hurt but the sources said the rebel leader had not been directly involved in the fighting over the past week, with all communications going through his aide Saleh Habra.

Qatari mediators returned to Yemen early in May hoping to salvage a ceasefire agreement that ended six months of fighting between government forces and the rebels last June.

They have since left the country without a breakthrough and it was not clear if they would return.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh blamed Houthi in a speech last Wednesday for failing to respond to Qatari mediation and warned that the government would impose law and order.

"Facing all the crimes that were committed by these elements, and what happened against the worshippers in one of the Saada mosques, the government will take its national, constitutional and legal responsibilities in imposing the rule of law and order," Saleh said.

"These external elements will bear responsibility ... for not responding to the voice of reason.

Fighting in the mountainous region of Saada has raged on and off since a conflict broke out in 2004 between government forces and Houthi's rebels, members of the Zaydi sect of Shi'ite Islam.

The latest bout began over a month ago and a bomb killed 15 people outside a mosque on May 2. The government blamed Houthi and his followers, a charge the rebel leader denied.

The government has since launched a major offensive to crush the rebels. Sources close to the government say its forces have made sweeping progress against the rebels in the past week but communications with the volatile province have been severed for over a week making it difficult to obtain independent reports.

Yemeni officials say the rebels want to return to a form of clerical rule prevalent in the country until the 1960s. The rebels, who want Zaydi schools and oppose the government's alliance with the United States, say they are defending their villages against government oppression.

Sunni Muslims form a majority of Yemen's 19 million population, while most of the rest are Zaydis.

Hundreds of people have been killed during the conflict and thousands have fled their homes.

The International Committee of the Red Cross appealed earlier this month for $8 million to provide food, water and medical assistance to people caught up in the fighting.

One of the poorest countries outside Africa, Yemen is also grappling with a violent campaign by al Qaeda militants, dwindling oil and water resources, unemployment, corruption and a growing community of Somali refugees. (Writing by Lin Noueihed)