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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Karzai's powerful cousin killed, worsens strains over poll deadlock

Karzai's powerful cousin killed, worsens strains over poll deadlock By Jessica Donati KABUL Tue Jul 29, 2014 11:53am EDT Afghan policemen search people near the house of the cousin of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Hashmat Karzai, at the site of a suicide attack in Kandahar July 29, 2014. REUTERS-Ahmad Nadeem Afghan policemen stand guard near the house of the cousin of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Hashmat Karzai, at the site of a suicide attack in Kandahar July 29, 2014. REUTERS-Ahmad Nadeem Hashmat Karzai, cousin of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, speaks during a news conference in Kandahar March 28, 2014. REUTERS-Ahmad Nadeem Credit: Reuters/Ahmad Nadeem Related Topics World » Afghanistan » United Nations » (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai's powerful cousin, a close ally of presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani, was killed in a suicide bomb attack on Tuesday, officials said, deepening strains over an election marred by fraud and under a U.N.-monitored review. Hashmat Karzai was hosting an event for the Eid al-Fitr holiday at his home in the southern province of Kandahar, the cradle of the Taliban insurgency, when a man posing as a guest and described as well-dressed set off explosives, the local governor's office said. No one else was killed in the attack. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The motives for the assassination were not immediately clear, but the killing deals another setback to hopes that the deadlock over the electoral contest to replace Hamid Karzai as president will be quickly resolved. A new president was initially due to be sworn in on Aug. 2, but Western diplomats say it could take weeks, possibly months, before a new leader officially takes office. The delays have fueled security concerns and uncertainty now hangs over a deal to keep U.S. troops in the country beyond the end of the year. Sources have expressed anxiety about continued bickering between Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah despite a U.S.-brokered agreement this month to put aside their differences for the sake of national peace. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who visited Kabul this month, will probably have to make a follow-up visit to cajole Ghani, the winner according to provincial results, and Abdullah into forming a unity government, U.S. officials say. President Barack Obama has also urged the two Afghan candidates to iron out their differences. TRIBAL DIVISIONS An influential power broker in Kandahar province, Hashmat Karzai lived in the family's hometown and famously kept a pet lion and other exotic animals at his villa. His early support for Ghani ahead of the first round of the election drew attention to deep tribal divisions emerging in the Pashtun south and to an ongoing feud between Hashmat Karzai and his cousin, the president. Hashmat's influence in the province, a stronghold of the Pashtun ethnic majority, grew after the 2011 murder of another powerful relative, the president's half-brother Ahmed Wali. Hashmat was fiercely critical of the president and was known to have many enemies both within and outside the Karzai clan. Ghani said he was shocked by the killing of his adviser and condemned the act, a sentiment echoed by President Karzai. The deadlocked election that aims to transfer power democratically for the first time in Afghan history is taking place as most foreign troops prepare to leave by the end of the year after over a decade of war that ousted the Taliban in 2001. Millions of Afghans defied Taliban threats to vote in two rounds of the ballot, but mass fraud spoiled the election and the United Nations was asked to oversee a full-scale audit. The process is moving slowly and has already been suspended on three occasions due to bickering over technicalities. The audit has been further delayed this week by the Eid holiday and is not expected to resume until Thursday at the earliest. Underlining a lack of urgency on both sides, Abdullah and Ghani left Afghanistan this week for vacation. They are due back at the end of the week. An extended delay could jeopardise the future of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Their presence beyond 2014 hinges on a bilateral security deal that Karzai has refused to sign. The agreement would keep about 10,000 U.S. troops in the country and both Abdullah and Ghani have promised to sign promptly if elected. At least a quarter of the eight million votes cast are likely to be fraudulent, according to several diplomatic sources, who have been drafted into the process. A Western diplomat said that, while Ghani and Abdullah had agreed in principle to form a unity government, their disparate supporters have threatened to derail the compromise as they fear they might miss out on getting a slice of power. "For me, the election is dead and finished," said a Western diplomat on Tuesday, adding it might be impossible to determine who is the legitimate winner due to the scale of fraud. (Additional reporting by Jeremy Laurence; Editing by Jeremy Laurence, Robert Birsel and Gareth Jones)

London's inflated rental prices double those in rest of UK

Prices 'flat or falling' despite strong auction market DateOctober 1, 2014 - 12:29PM 150 reading now Stephen Nicholls National Domain Editor View more articles from Stephen Nicholls Follow Stephen on Twitter Email Stephen Hordes of buyers are competing at home auctions but new data suggests prices are flat. Photo: Photo: Janie Barrett. Property prices in Melbourne and Sydney are apparently flat as a tack, despite an exceptionally strong spring auction market. RP Data's head of research, Tim Lawless, said after Sydney dwelling prices grew 1.8 per cent in the last month of winter (with quarterly growth over winter of 5 per cent) they rose just 0.8 per cent during September, as auction clearance rates were a boom-like 80 per cent or more. And in Melbourne, after rising 0.8 per cent in August (and rallying during the three months of winter with an extraordinary 6.4 per cent growth), prices suddenly dropped 0.8 per cent in September, when clearance rates were averaging 77 per cent. "I was quite surprised at seeing a flat market coming into September," said RP Data's head of research, Tim Lawless. He said there was usually a strong correlation between auction clearance rates and rising prices. This was a point raised in a Reserve Bank report last week which said auctions were the best way of measuring property price growth: "We find evidence to suggest that average prices of dwelling sold at auction are informative for forecasting growth in average private treaty prices and average sales prices overall," the authors David Genesove and James Hansen said in the discussion paper 'Predicting Dwelling Prices with Consideration of the Sales Mechanism'. Mr Lawless said that rather than focusing on the monthly figures a better indicator of the property market were the quarterly figures showing 4.1 per cent growth for Sydney and 3.7 per cent growth for Melbourne. Or even the six monthly trend of 5.2 per cent growth for Sydney or 1.2 per cent for Melbourne. RP Data's year-on-year price price growth for Sydney had now dropped to 14.3 per cent, down from 16.2 per cent last month. And the annual figure for Melbourne was now 8.1 per cent, down from 11.7 per cent. "I'm not saying the monthly data isn't important, but you need to take it in context with the overall trend in the data," he said. RP Data says Brisbane prices grew 0.7 per cent over September and 0.6 per cent over the quarter; Adelaide prices were up 0.9 per cent over the month (up 3.1 per cent quarterly); Perth prices dropped 0.4 per cent (-0.6 per cent); Canberra -.5 per cent (1.4 per cent); Hobart -0.3 per cent (-1 per cent); Darwin -1 per cent (1.4 per cent) and for the combined capitals 0.1 per cent (2.9 per cent). ============ Renting drives U.S. homeownership to 19-year low Tue, Jul 29 12:53 PM EDT image By Lucia Mutikani WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Homeownership in the United States hit a 19-year low in the second quarter as tight finances continued to drive Americans toward renting, one of the lasting legacies of the recession. The seasonally adjusted homeownership rate fell to 64.8 percent, the lowest level since the second quarter of 1995, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday. That compared to 65.0 percent in the first three months of 2014 and 65.1 percent a year ago. Economists said homeownership, which peaked at 69.4 percent in 2004, could fall even further as banks maintain stringent lending practices and wage growth remains tepid, despite an acceleration in job creation. "We are becoming more of a rental society. It's becoming harder to own a home," said Patrick Newport, an economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts. "People who lost their homes to foreclosure are now renting and credit standards have tightened significantly." The 2007-2009 recession, sparked by the collapse of the U.S. housing market, has left the economy with deep scars that will take long to heal. Wage growth remains lackluster, even though the unemployment rate is at six-year lows and the economy has recouped all the jobs lost during the downturn. Weak wage gains have combined with higher mortgage rates and home prices to force many to give up on the American dream of home ownership, leading to a tightening of the rental market. In the second quarter, the residential rental vacancy rate dropped to 7.5 percent, the lowest level in more than 19 years. "That is not surprising, young adults are choosing to rent," said Yelena Shulyatyeva, an economist at BNP Paribas in New York. "The shock from the financial crisis is still here." The shift toward renting could further boost the construction of multi-family units and undermine the single-family segment, the biggest sector of the housing market. Multi-family starts have seen double digit growth over the last few years as developers scrambled to meet demand for rental units, while groundbreaking for single-family homes generally has been weak. This trend suggests the housing market recovery will remain sluggish for a while. In the second quarter, the number of occupied housing units - a gauge of household formation- increased 458,000 from a year ago. Economists said the increase was far below what would be needed to signal a strong housing recovery. "Historically that number has been over a million, it has to be over a million in order for the housing market to start growing significantly," said IHS Global Insight's Newport. "We are not seeing much growth in household formation, which means that young people graduating from college are moving in with their parents. That trend has not changed much and is the key reason why the housing recovery has been so weak." (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Tom Brown) ======================= London's inflated rental prices double those in rest of UK Published time: July 28, 2014 19:03 Edited time: July 28, 2014 19:54 Get short URL London’s rental prices eclipse those in the rest of the UK by 100 per cent, according to newly published research. (Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett) Economy, Prices, Real Estate, UK London rental prices are double those throughout the UK for the first time in modern history, according to newly published research. Average rents across the nation increased by 6.3 percent over the past year, and are currently peaking at £862 (US$1,464) per month, according to the HomeLet Rental Index. HomeLet, a specialist insurer and tenancy referencing firm, provides comprehensive and current data on new tenancies throughout the UK. According to the company’s report, London-based tenants face rental prices of £1, 412 ($2,398) per month on average, in contrast to a much more affordable £694 ($1,178) outside the capital. Londoners have seen rental prices soar in the past year by approximately 11.2 percent, the index reveals. This stark rise eclipses what is considered affordable by experts, compounding widespread fear of a London-centered cost of living crisis. The UK’s North East and Scotland were the only UK regions to experience moderate decreases in rental prices – demonstrating yearly declines of 2.4 percent and 3.8 percent respectively. Monthly rental prices in Scotland average at £578 ($981), while the North East's tenants pay approximately £507 per calender month ($861). Martin Totty, the chief executive of HomeLet's parent company, emphasized that Britain’s private rental market continues to demonstrate “strong growth,” and is characterized by a state-wide trend of increased rental costs with very little exceptions. But while average incomes in the UK are rising, affordability with respect to private renting is becoming a problem for some, he admits. "As a rule of thumb, for a rental property to be affordable, a tenant's gross income must be at least two-and-a-half times his or her annual rent,” according to Totty. HomeLet’s “data shows that rents in London have pushed beyond that boundary, with the South East and South West of England close behind,” he cautioned. But the minister of state for housing and planning, Brandon Lewis, dismissed HomeLet’s research, claiming the firm’s data is misleading. "Contrary to this limited survey, figures from the Office for National Statistics clearly show private rents falling in real terms – while inflation currently stands at 1.9 per cent, nationally rents have risen by just 1 percent,” he argued. On the subject of tackling an over-inflated rental market in the UK, Lewis suggested “building more rented housing.” He added that “excessive red tape” will only drive rental costs upwards while reducing choice for prospective tenants. For this reason, the government is currently “investing £1 billion ($1.6 billion)” in a “Build to Rent fund, which is on track to have work started on 10,000 newly built homes specifically for private rent,” according to Lewis. Lewis announced an array of other planned measures designed to address the over-heated rental market in Britain. Among the proposed policies is a newly published, government-backed 'How to Rent' guide, which breaks down the complex realm of tenancy rights for those who wish to rent privately in the UK. But whether such policy prescriptions can adequately address the starkly inflated rental prices in Britain’s capital remains to be seen. Broadly accepted poverty indicators suggest that a household’s net income should be two-and-a-half times the figure allocated to housing costs. Yet according to HomeLet’s research, most tenants across Greater London channel over half their earnings into rent alone.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Israel warns of long Gaza war as Palestinian fighters cross border

US Secretary of State John Kerry (C), speaks with Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah (R) and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu before they make statements to reporters during their meeting regarding a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel in Gaza, in Paris, July 26, 2014. (photo by REUTERS/Charles Dharapak) Israeli officials: United States chose Qatar over us The sense of security which Israelis felt until two weeks ago came tumbling down with a crash. Summary⎙ Print The Israeli leadership estimates that the cease-fire initiative of US Secretary of State John Kerry responds well to the interests of Qatar, Turkey, Hamas and its own interests with Qatar — but hardly addresses Israel's security needs. Author Ben Caspit Posted July 29, 2014 Translator(s)Simon Pompan Residents of Israel's southern communities who have been reporting for years that they were hearing digging noises at night are now living in an inconceivable, nightmarish reality. To date, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have unearthed 31 tunnels, but there is concern that the number runs much higher. Worse, even once all the tunnels are ostensibly exposed, there will always be that lingering possibility that one or two still remain. That alone is enough to spell catastrophe for the Israeli home front. Before noon on July 28, five Hamas terrorists burst out of one of these tunnels, not far from kibbutz Ein Hashlosha. Their element of surprise was impeccable. This tunnel had already been tracked down by the IDF and had been taken care of from the Gaza side. As a result, it was “checked off” from the list of effective tunnels. In IDF jargon, the tunnel was “cleared.” But it was anything but “cleared.” The five terrorists emerged from the tunnel with total surprise, killing five IDF soldiers and seizing, according to Hamas, the rifle of one of the Israeli fatalities. Then they fled. Only one terrorist was killed while his four comrades returned via this so-called “cleared” tunnel. But there's more to this story. In northern Israel, too, along the Lebanese border, residents have been reporting for years that they could hear digging noises at night. In the north, the terrain is much less amenable to digging than in loess [sediment of sand and silt] — the common soil in the south of Israel. But if the North Koreans were able to dig tunnels through granite, so can Hezbollah's Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. It's all a matter of function and time. Why do they hear those digging noises especially at night? It's because the relative quiet at night augments your auditory sense. Incidentally, an interesting fact that was gleaned from the Israeli defense establishment is that women, more than men, report hearing digging noises at night. It turns out that women have a heightened auditory sensitivity in the wee hours of the night. Women are attuned to hearing their children sleeping in an adjacent room, whereas men tend to dive right into a deep slumber. Until two or three weeks ago, the women who were complaining about the digging noises were thought to exaggerate or “imagine” things. By now it has become clear that they did not. Even 22 days after the start of Operation Protective Edge, where dozens of Israeli soldiers have already been killed in this ongoing stagnation in Gaza, Israel still faces a threat to which a solution has yet to be found. The most difficult problem of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu these days is that he has already maxed out on the limited international credit he had, having wasted the precious time in which a decisive outcome in Gaza could have been reached. Furthermore, other Israeli prime ministers in similar situations always had Washington by their side. This was the case during the Second Lebanon War, Operation Cast Lead (2008) and also Operation Defensive Shield (2002). In all those pivotal events, there was an American president who backed Israel, bought it time, defended it at the UN Security Council and in other forums so that the IDF could complete its mission. This time around, however, that's not the case. Perhaps even the opposite is true. The cease-fire proposal made by US Secretary of State John Kerry was unanimously rejected by the Israeli cabinet on July 25. The rejection left the secretary and his entourage totally dumbstruck. From that point on, a diplomatic crisis — perhaps an unprecedented one — unfolded between Israel and the United Sates. It came to a crescendo with a double climax on the evening of July 27. A senior American official held a conference call with Israeli journalists during which he expressed displeasure, disappointment and perhaps even anger at the offensive and baseless statements made against John Kerry and his endeavors. "These were highly offensive allegations," he said. And at exactly the same time, President Barack Obama called Netanyahu and demanded that he reach a cease-fire immediately. A very high-ranking Israeli official — a member of the security cabinet — recapped for Al-Monitor the chain of events in this agonizing affair. What emerges from this recap is the frigid shoulder that the American administration has been giving Israel at its most difficult moments. On the other hand, we can't blame it. For the past five years, Netanyahu has been systematically sabotaging his relations with Obama, showing, among other things, his unwavering support for his Republican presidential rival Mitt Romney. The Israeli premier was actively involved in the campaign to oust Obama during the American presidential campaign. He endorsed business mogul Sheldon Adelson who put down $100 million to this end. Netanyahu also appointed Ron Dermer, a staunch Republican, as his ambassador to Washington. Dermer continues to attend functions held by Adelson ahead of the next attempt to remove Democrats from power. Given this state of affairs, Netanyahu made his own bed and now he's lying in it. “The diplomatic efforts began with the Egyptian initiative,” the senior Cabinet source recounted the chain of events. “Israel accepted it in full. What it meant was an unconditional cease-fire, after which everything was to be put on the table. The Egyptians made it clear that the Rafah crossing would remain closed to Hamas, which they consider to be an enemy. However, they would have no issue with opening the crossing if it were manned by Palestinian Authority officials. “Toeing the line with Israel," the source reported, "the Palestinian Authority also accepted this initiative, as did Jordan. The Egyptians also got the go-ahead from the Arab League. The entire moderate Arab world went along with the Egyptian initiative, except for Hamas and its patrons from Qatar. The Turks, who also represent the Muslim Brotherhood party, sided with the Qatari proposal. What we saw was a power struggle within the Arab world; the moderate Arab world pitted against those countries that still serve the Muslim Brotherhood. It was clear to us that the Americans would go along with us. It's the right thing to do. It makes sense and it's called for.” Well, Israel was in for a surprise. The first surprise was reported exclusively in my article here about two weeks ago, July 18, titled "Israeli Cabinet members blame US for failed cease-fire." "What happened," the cabinet source recounted, "is that John Kerry did back the Egyptian initiative but also added that if it did not work out, there were other options. In other words, he let Hamas understand that there was something to talk about and that the Americans would allow Qatar and Turkey to run the show. Kerry's statement is what unleashed all the problems." "According to our view," the Israeli source said, "there's no room for protection money. We have no intention of paying for a cease-fire. If they want quiet, they have to stop shooting. The lever Qatar has over Hamas should have been used, but not in the way Kerry chose to do it. What should have happened was for the Qataris to convey a message to Khaled Meshaal, Hamas' political bureau chief, that his conduct was unacceptable. No one was going to accept dictates from him in lieu of stopping the rockets on civilian communities. The Americans didn't do that." Off the record, Israelis list the many vested American interests in Qatar. In addition to the big American naval base there, there are also mega-arms deals in the pipeline. "The American concept is misguided," an Israeli source has said. "The Americans behave as if they are Qatar's envoys, instead of it being the other way around. If the Americans had told the Qataris that they were calling off the arms deals unless Qatar set Hamas straight immediately, this whole thing would have long been over. But the Americans did the exact opposite." “What the Americans did,” the Israeli source continued, "is to take the Egyptian initiative and add all the demands featured in the Qatari initiative. What they were trying in fact to create is a mechanism that would fund Hamas government the day after a cease-fire was brokered. They were doing this despite knowing full well that transferring or laundering money for Hamas is considered a criminal offense in the United States. We're still shocked by this conduct,” the source said. “How could the Americans,” the source added, "have turned overnight into collaborators at the command of Qatar, Turkey and Hamas? In the initial drafts that were published, they barely mentioned the issue of the tunnels. They talked about ‘security’ in vague terms, ignoring the Israeli need to eliminate [the threat of] the deadly tunnels.” “I went over Kerry's proposal,” the senior source said, “and I was shocked. It had a whole list of things that had to be discussed. The word ‘security’ was inserted toward the end by way of a generality. The strangest and most upsetting thing was the reference to an oversight mechanism with the participation of Qatar and Turkey. Yes, the only elements missing from this equation were Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Al Jazeera.” On July 25, as the Israeli cabinet was deliberating and looking ashen-faced at Kerry's initiative, the secretary of state picked up the phone to talk with Netanyahu. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni was in the room with Bibi (Netanyahu). According to sources, Netanyahu handed the phone over to her. “Listen,” said the Israeli justice minister, who is considered the staunchest supporter of peace in the Israeli government. “I'm looking at your proposal and right now I regret that I'm not Khaled Meshaal. He gets everything he wants. He gets a generous payment for a cease-fire, which strengthens the extremists and weakens the moderates. There is no response here to our security demands and to our right for self-defense.” It was agreed that the parties would continue to talk. A few hours later, as noted, the cabinet unanimously rejected Kerry's proposal. To save the face of the beleaguered Kerry, a briefing was held on July 27. Since I attended that briefing, I think that the objective was not accomplished. Kerry is a well-intentioned man, Israeli officials are saying, but for the time being the results leave a lot to be desired. The facts speak for themselves. Truth be told, Netanyahu isn't the most popular figure in Washington. Yet in these times, Israeli cabinet ministers are saying, we expect Obama and Kerry to draw a clear distinction between the bad guys and the good guys; between peace-seekers and death-seekers; between zealots and moderates; between democracy and Islamic theocracy. Unfortunately, we have been proven dead wrong. Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/07/netanyahu-abbas-kerry-protective-edge-gaza.html#ixzz38zUlW7T6 =============== Israel warns of long Gaza war as Palestinian fighters cross border Mon, Jul 28 19:59 PM EDT image 1 of 20 By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Crispian Balmer GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A grim-faced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Monday of a protracted war in Gaza, dashing any hopes of a swift end to the three-week conflict as Palestinian fighters launched an audacious cross-border raid. The Israeli army said five of its soldiers died in two separate incidents, including four in a mortar strike. Local media also reported casualties in the infiltration, but there was no immediate confirmation of this. Inside Gaza itself, eight children and two adults were killed by a blast in a park as an unofficial truce sought by the United Nations for the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival collapsed. Residents blamed the explosion on an airstrike, but Israel said a misfiring militant rocket caused the carnage. "It has been a difficult, painful day," Netanyahu said in a televised address to the nation. "We need to be prepared for a protracted campaign. We will continue to act with force and discretion until our mission is accomplished," he said, adding that Israeli troops would not leave Gaza until they had destroyed Hamas's tunnel network. Some 1,060 Gazans, most of them civilians, have died in the conflagration. Israel has lost 48 soldiers and another three civilians have been killed by Palestinian shelling. As night fell over Gaza, army flares illuminated the sky and the sound of intense shelling could be heard. The military warned thousands of Palestinians to flee their homes in areas around Gaza City - usually the prelude to major army strikes. The explosion of violence, after a day of relative calm, appeared to wreck international hopes of turning a brief lull in fighting into a longer-term ceasefire. Gaza's dominant Hamas Islamists said they had accepted a U.N. call for a pause in hostilities on Monday to coincide with Eid, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Israel initially balked, having abandoned its own offer to extend a 12-hour truce from Saturday when Palestinian rockets kept flying. However, calm gradually descended through the night with just the occasional exchange of fire heard until a series of blasts shook Gaza in the afternoon. TOY GUNS Pools of blood lay on the ground in the Beach refugee camp garden in northern Gaza after it was hit by a huge explosion. "We came out of the mosque when I saw the children playing with their toy guns. Seconds later a missile landed," said Munther Al-Derbi, a resident of the camp. "May God punish ... Netanyahu," he said. At roughly the same time, another blast shook the grounds of Gaza's main Shifa hospital, without causing any casualties. Israel, which has previously accused Hamas fighters of hiding in the hospital, again blamed an errant militant missile. Foreign pressure has been building on Netanyahu to muzzle his forces, with both U.S. President Barack Obama and the U.N. Security Council urging an immediate ceasefire that would allow relief to reach Gaza's 1.8 million Palestinians, followed by negotiations on a more durable cessation of hostilities. Israel wants guarantees Hamas will be stripped of its tunnels and rocket stocks. It worries the Palestinian Islamists will parlay the truce talks mediated by their friends in Qatar and Turkey into an easing of an Israeli-Egypt blockade on Gaza. In his television address, Netanyahu said any solution to the crisis would need to see Hamas stripped of its weapons. "The process of preventing the armament of the terror organization and demilitarization of the Gaza Strip must be part of any solution. And the international community must demand this forcefully," he said. Hamas said its forces had infiltrated Israel to retaliate for the killing of the children in the Beach camp. "His threats do not frighten either Hamas or the Palestinian people, and the (Israeli) occupation will pay the price for its massacres against children and civilians," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters. Speaking in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deplored what he described as a lack of resolve among all parties in the conflict. "It's a matter of their political will. They have to show their humanity as leaders, both Israeli and Palestinian," he told reporters. "Why these leaders are making their people to be killed by others? It's not responsible, (it's) morally wrong." SHELLING Some residents in Gaza reported they had received a recorded telephone message on Monday which said in Arabic: "Listen Hamas, if you are still alive, you should know that if you continue, we will respond, we will respond violently." In another attempt at psychological warfare, Israel dropped leaflets over Gaza listing dozens of names of gunmen from Hamas and its ally, Islamic Jihad, that the military says it has killed since the start of the offensive. An opinion poll broadcast by Channel 10 TV showed overwhelming Israeli public support for continuing the Gaza offensive until Hamas is "disarmed". Deputy Islamic Jihad chief Zeyad Al-Nakhala said mediation had made progress and the group was working with neighboring Egypt to craft a deal. "We are days away from the end of the battle, the clouds will clear and you (Palestinians) will see victory," he told Islamic Jihad's radio station Al-Quds. "We will not accept anything less than ending the blockade." U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited the region last week to try to stem the bloodshed, his contacts with Hamas - which Washington formally shuns - facilitated by Egypt, Turkey, Qatar and Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Tension between Netanyahu's government and Washington has flared over U.S. mediation efforts, adding yet another chapter to the prickly relations between the Israeli leader and Obama. Repeated U.S.-led negotiations over 20 years have failed to broker a permanent peace deal. The most recent round collapsed in April, with Palestinians livid over Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank and Israelis furious that Abbas had signed a unity pact with old foe Hamas. Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Atteya said Israel had not respected a ceasefire agreement brokered by Cairo that ended the last Gaza war in 2012 and it was time the blockade of the coastal enclave - also enforced by next-door Egypt - was lifted. Israel has signaled it wants a de-facto halt to fighting rather than an agreement that would preserve Hamas's arsenals and shore up its status by improving Gaza's crippled economy. The main U.N. agency in Gaza, UNRWA, said more than 167,000 displaced Palestinians had taken shelter in its schools and buildings, following repeated calls by Israel for civilians to evacuate whole neighborhoods ahead of military operations. (Additional reporting by Amena Bakr in Doha; Writing by Maayan Lubell and Dan Williams; Editing by Crispian Balmer, Paul Taylor and Peter Graff) ============================= U.S. officials defend Kerry from Israeli criticism Mon, Jul 28 18:17 PM EDT image By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Obama administration officials rallied to the defense of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday after withering criticism in Israel of Kerry's failed attempt to secure a ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians. The critiques of Kerry centered around ideas that U.S. officials say were sent to Israeli officials, based on an Egyptian draft ceasefire proposal, that would provide for an immediate end to hostilities and talks 48 hours later between Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian officials in Cairo. The confidential draft was leaked to the Israeli news media, which interpreted the proposal as akin to a U.S. effort to get Israel to halt a military campaign aimed at destroying Hamas tunnels in Gaza that militants have used to launch attacks against Israeli soldiers. "John Kerry: The Betrayal," was the headline of an opinion piece in the Times of Israel about Kerry's attempt to secure a ceasefire. "Astoundingly, the secretary's intervention in the Hamas war empowers the Gaza terrorist government bent on destroying Israel," it said. "I must tell you: we’ve been dismayed by some press reports in Israel mischaracterizing his efforts last week to achieve a ceasefire," Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, told a conference of national Jewish leaders. "The reality is that John Kerry on behalf of the United States has been working every step of the way with Israel." The Israeli government has been suspicious of Kerry's motives, particularly after he was caught on a Fox News open mic earlier this month sarcastically describing Israel's offensive in Gaza as a "hell of a pinpoint operation." State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki rejected the criticism, saying Kerry's reason for engaging in the ceasefire effort is to end the rocket attacks against Israel from Hamas. She said she would not assign motivations behind the leaks, but added that "those who want to support a ceasefire should focus on efforts to put it in place and not on efforts to criticize or attack one of the very people who are playing a prominent role in getting it done." At the White House, Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said the proposal that was criticized was not a U.S. proposal, but a draft to elicit comment from the Israelis based on an original Egyptian initiative. "Virtually every element that unidentified sources complained about was in the initial Egyptian proposal and agreed to by Israel 10 days before," he said. The criticism from Israel has strained U.S. relations with the Jewish state at a crucial time as the death toll from Israeli-Palestinian violence in Gaza has climbed past 1,000, most of them civilians in Gaza. The United States is Israel's strongest military and financial backer, and successive U.S. presidents who have sought to mediate in the Middle East are always careful to avoid criticism of Israeli leaders. But in the current fighting, Washington has tried to straddle a line between reassuring Israel it has a right to defend itself while also trying to persuade the Israelis to adjust military tactics that are leading to the high death toll. Statements from the White House and the State Department reflect growing concern from U.S. officials about the scale of civilian casualties in Gaza, a death toll that White House national security adviser Susan Rice told MSNBC is of "grave and deepening concern." U.S. President Barack Obama held the latest in a series of phone conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday. The White House statement from that conversation said that ultimately any lasting solution to the conflict must end "the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza." (Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by David Storey, G Crosse and Howard Goller)

Government said to suppress evidence in Blackwater

"Islamic State-led militants are well entrenched, well-equipped, and make heavy and effective use of snipers and suicide bombings" [1] Government said to suppress evidence in Blackwater . Associated Press WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawyers for Blackwater security guards accused the government on Monday of suppressing evidence favorable to defendants who are on trial in the killings of 14 Iraqis in Nisoor Square in Baghdad. The attorneys say the suppressed evidence consists of photographs of eight spent shell casings that would fit an AK-47 — the weapon of choice used by insurgents as well as Iraqi authorities. A court filing by the defense attorneys says the photographs were taken by a U.S. Army captain and that they never saw the light of day until federal prosecutors turned them over last Wednesday. The photos could become an important part of the case. They could bolster the accounts of the security guards, who say they were being fired upon by insurgents and that the guards were simply returning fire. "The government has suppressed, for seven years, evidence in its possession that is plainly exculpatory on the central disputed issue" in the case, the defense lawyers said in a court filing. "Had they possessed these photos, defendants would have made them a central focus during opening statements as evidence of incoming fire. Defendants also would have used this evidence to cross-examine at least four witnesses who have already testified" and who are not subject to being recalled because they have returned to Iraq. The defense attorneys are asking that they be allowed to explain to the jurors in the case why they are just hearing now about the new evidence.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

More than 50 killed in Benghazi, Tripoli clashes

Libyan armed faction takes over U.S. Embassy annex in Tripoli Sun, Aug 31 16:54 PM EDT image 1 of 4 By Mark Hosenball and Matt Spetalnick WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Members of a Libyan militia have taken over an abandoned annex of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli but have not broken into the main compound where the United States evacuated all of its staff last month, U.S. officials said on Sunday. A YouTube video showed the breach of the diplomatic facility by what was believed to be a militia group mostly from the northwestern city of Misrata. Dozens of men, some armed, were seen gleefully crowded onto the patio of a swimming pool, with some diving in from the balcony of a nearby building. Libya has been rocked by the worst factional violence since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi, and a Misrata-led alliance, part of it which is Islamist-leaning, now controls the capital. A takeover of the embassy compound could deliver another symbolic blow to Washington over its policy toward Libya, which Western governments fear is teetering toward becoming a failed state just three years after a NATO-backed war ended Gaddafi’s rule. The United States withdrew all embassy personnel from Tripoli on July 26, driving diplomats across the border into Tunisia under armed guard, amid escalating clashes between rival factions. The annex, apparently consisting of diplomatic residences, is located about a mile (2 km) from the main embassy compound. All sensitive materials were destroyed or removed from U.S. diplomatic sites in the capital before the evacuation. Security in Libya is an especially contentious subject for the United States because of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, in which militants killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Republican lawmakers have kept up steady criticism of President Barack Obama over his administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack, and they have also cited Libya’s latest unrest as another example of what they see as the Democratic president’s failed policy in the volatile region. “Libya now is collapsed into a failed state," U.S. Senator John McCain told CBS's "Face the Nation" program. "That is what happens when you lead from behind." U.S. Ambassador to Libya Deborah Jones, in a message on Twitter, said the YouTube recording, apparently posted by an amateur videographer, appeared to show “a residential annex of the U.S. mission but cannot say definitively.” Jones, now based in Malta, said, however, that the embassy compound “is now being safeguarded and has not been ransacked.” The U.S. government believes the main embassy compound is still intact and has not been seized, a U.S. official in Washington told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity. The official said that while the pool area of the residential annex was full of intruders, there was no indication of any similar scene at the embassy itself. The Misrata-led groups refuse to recognize Libya’s central government and elected parliament, which have moved to the remote eastern city of Tobruk. The Misrata forces have set up an alternative parliament which is assembling a rival government headed by Omar al-Hasi, an Islamist. Hasi called on Saturday for diplomatic missions to return to Tripoli, saying foreigners would be protected. The North African oil producer appears at risk of splitting or even sliding into civil war as political divisions and fighting among former rebels who helped topple Gaddafi have created uncertainty and chaos. (Additional reporting by Ulf Lessing in Cairo and Andrea Shalal in Washington; Writing by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Cynthia Osterman) ======== Libya’s capital on the brink of environmental disaster A picture taken on July 28, 2014 shows flames and smoke billowing from an oil depot where a huge blaze started following clashes around Tripoli airport, in southern Tripoli (AFP) Text size A A A By Al Arabiya News | Staff Writer Tuesday, 29 July 2014 Rising temperatures from a flaming oil depot may ignite nearby reserves containing 90 million liters of fuel which will lead to a “catastrophe” affecting a radius of three to five kilometers, Libyan officials warned on Tuesday according to Al Arabiya News Channel. The Buraiqa fuel depot continues to burn out of control after it was set ablaze on Monday, Reuters reported. A missile hit the depot during fighting between rival militias, which enters its third week, igniting more than one million liters of benzene. Combat has claimed more than 100 lives and wounded 400 others. Firefighters were forced to withdraw from attempts to extinguish the fire due to fighting over control of a nearby airport. In a statement, the Libyan government appealed to the international community to aid in extinguishing the fire, which reached another oil depot nearby. The Buraiqa depot houses all fuel and gas reserves consumed by the city’s population. As a result of the turmoil, fuel and gas shortages, in addition to frequent electricity cuts, have affected life in in Tripoli. Water pumping stations stopped operating and in consequence many do not have access to running water. Libya’s oil ministry called upon the people of Tripoli to take caution of the fire and to evacuate the area surrounding the depots. Fears of spillover Libya has called for international help to stop the country from becoming a failed state. The Italian government and national energy giant ENI will send seven fire-fighting planes in response to the Libyan government’s call for aid in extinguishing the fire, Libyan authorities said Tuesday. Italy will also send teams to help firefighters try to tackle the blaze. Western partners fear chaos spilling across borders with arms smugglers and militants already profiting from the turmoil. In neighboring Egypt, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has repeatedly warned about militants capitalizing on Libya's chaos to set up bases along their mutual frontier, according to Reuters. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the "free-wheeling militia violence" had been a real risk for American diplomats on the ground, and called for an end to the violence. U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens was killed by militants along with three others in Benghazi in September 2012. [With AFP] Last Update: Tuesday, 29 July 2014 KSA 14:57 - GMT 11:57 ============= More than 50 killed in Benghazi, Tripoli clashes Sun, Jul 27 07:12 AM EDT image By Ahmed Elumami and Feras Bosalum BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - At least 36 people were killed in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi, many of them civilians, in clashes between Libyan Special Forces and Islamist militants on Saturday night and Sunday morning, medical and security sources said. Another 23 people, all Egyptian workers, were killed in the capital Tripoli when a rocket hit their home on Saturday during clashes between rival militias battling over the city's main airport, the Egyptian state news agency reported. In the last two weeks, Libya has descended into its deadliest violence since the 2011 war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi, prompting the United States, the United Nations and Turkey to pull diplomats out of the North African country. With the central government unable to impose order, two rival militias are exchanging rocket and artillery fire in Tripoli, while army units are trying to push out Islamist militants who have set up camps on the outskirts of Benghazi. The United States evacuated its embassy in Libya on Saturday, driving diplomats across the border into Tunisia under heavy military protection after escalating clashes broke out near the embassy compound in Tripoli. Early on Sunday, sporadic shelling continued in Tripoli though far less than in the previous days. There were no immediate reports of any casualties. But clashes were far heavier in Benghazi overnight, where regular army and air force units have joined with a renegade ex-army general who has launched a self-declared campaign to oust Islamist militants from the city. A source from the Special forces fighting Islamist militants in Benghazi told Reuters clashes involved warplanes hitting militant positions belonging to Ansar al Sharia and another group in the city. A medical source said 36 people were killed, many of them civilians, and another 65 wounded during clashes on that lasted into the night. Dozens of families have been evacuated from the area between the two sides to escape the fighting. Libya's western allies worry the OPEC country is becoming polarized between the two main factions of competing militia brigades and their political allies, whose battle is shaping the country's transition. Special envoys for Libya from the Arab League, the United States and European countries expressed their concerns about the situation in Libya, saying it had reached a "critical stage" and called for an immediate ceasefire. "The UN should play a leading role in reaching a ceasefire in conjunction with the Libyan government and other internal partners, with the full support of the international envoys," a statement issued after a meeting in Brussels said. A new Libyan parliament was elected in June and western governments hope warring parties may be able to reach a political agreement when the lawmakers meet in August for the first session. But three years after Gaddafi's demise, Libya's transition to democracy has been delayed by political infighting and militia violence. Armed groups have also targeted the oil industry to pressure the state. (Reporting by Ahmed Elumami and Feras Bosalum in Benghazi; Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Patrick Markey and Angus MacSwan) ========= Seven killed in clashes between army and militants in Libya's Benghazi Mon, Jul 21 17:04 PM EDT By Ayman al-Warfalli and Feras Bosalum BENGHAZI Libya (Reuters) - Islamist militants attacked an army base in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Monday, triggering fierce clashes involving helicopters and jets that killed at least seven people and wounded 40 others after days of escalating violence. Benghazi's clashes followed a week of fighting between rival militias for control of Tripoli International Airport in the capital that has prompted the North Africa country to appeal for international help to stop Libya becoming a failed state. Tripoli was calmer on Monday, but in Benghazi, militants linked to Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia attacked an army camp and were repelled by troops and forces loyal to renegade retired general Khalifa Haftar, who has been carrying out a self-declared war on Islamist fighters, security sources said. "Ansar al-Sharia tried to take over one special forces camp, but the special forces and Hafter's forces fought back, using helicopters and military aircraft in their attack," one source said, asking not to be identified for security reasons. Since the 2011 civil war that toppled autocrat Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's fragile government and new army have been unable to assert authority over rival brigades of former rebels fighting for political and economic influence. Ansar al-Sharia is listed by Washington as a foreign terrorist organization, and has entrenched itself in Benghazi, where it has often been blamed for assassinations and attacks on soldiers. Haftar, a former Gaddafi army officer who fled to the United States after breaking ranks with the Libyan leader, has launched a campaign on the Islamists in Benghazi, bringing to his side elements of the regular army and air force. Tripoli's central government says he is acting without the authorization of the state. While his campaign is popular with many in the east, his forces appear to be in a stalemate over Benghazi for now. In the capital, the clash over Tripoli airport in the last week has killed at least 47 people, the health ministry said, in some of the worst violence in the city since the 2011 civil war. The clashes have stopped most international flights, damaged more than a dozen planes parked at the airport and prompted the United Nations to pull its staff out of the country due to security concerns. The airport battle mirrors a broader standoff between rival factions competing for power in Libya, each claiming the mantle of rebel savior, each heavily armed and each demanding their share of the post-Gaddafi spoils. The airport area is under the control of former fighters from the western town of Zintan who have held it since the fall of Tripoli in 2011. Rival Islamist-leaning militias allied with powerful brigades from the city of Misrata have fought with the Zintanis to dislodge them from the airport. The Zintanis are loosely allied with more nationalist political forces while Misrata and various allied militias are tied to the Islamist Justice and Construction Party, a political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. OIL PRODUCTION CREEPING BACK Three years since Gaddafi's death, the violence and militia rivalries have all but stopped the OPEC country's transition to full democracy as the government struggles to stamp its authority on a country where the state holds little sway.
Many of the former rebel brigades are on the government payroll as quasi-official security forces in a failed bid to bring them under control, but many are more faithful to political factions, tribes or even local commanders in a complex web of loyalties.
Libya's oil resources have often been targeted by different armed groups since 2011 to pressure the government for financial or political gain. Last year a string of protests slashed oil output to less than half the usual 1.4 million barrels per day. In a rare success, a negotiated deal in April mostly ended a year-long blockade by a former rebel commander over four key oil ports, allowing the country to start slowly rebuilding production, shipping crude and earning vital oil revenue. Libya state oil company National Oil Corp (NOC) on Monday reached a deal with security guards to end a protest at eastern Brega oil port, which is expected to allow the terminal to reopen on Tuesday, a company spokesman said. Reopening Brega would allow the state-run Sirte Oil Company to start producing again and further boost Libya's output after the end to other port and oilfield protests. Late last week, NOC said production was around 555,000 barrels per day. (Reporting by Feras Bosalum and Ayman Al-Warfalli in Benghazi; Writing by Patrick Markey; Editing by Louise Ireland and David Evans) =====

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Iraq's top cleric sends subtle message to Maliki: step aside

مؤسسة الفرقان | الإصدار الرائع | على منهاج النبوة‬‎ Islamic State video wages psychological war on Iraqi soldiers Tue, Jul 29 09:22 AM EDT image By Michael Georgy BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Islamic State, the al Qaeda spin-off that seized wide swathes of Iraq almost unopposed last month, has released a video warning Iraqi soldiers who may still have some fight in them that they risk being rounded up en masse and executed. Iraq's army unraveled when the Sunni insurgents staged a lightning advance through northern towns and cities, building on territory their comrades captured earlier in the west of the country, a major OPEC oil producer. Thousands of soldiers fled, prompting Iraq's top cleric to call on compatriots to take up arms against the radical faction that has declared a mediaeval-style caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria and aims to march on the capital Baghdad. The 30-minute video clip, circulated during the holiday that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, sheds light on what tactics the Islamic State is likely to employ as it presses ahead with its campaign. After sweeping through a town with quick-hit raids, the militants are filmed standing over dozens of terrified, handcuffed Iraqi soldiers. One fighter mocks a soldier for wearing civilian clothes over his uniform out of fear of being identified and killed. He pleads for mercy, to no avail. Then dozens of soldiers are led to a sandy desert pit. They are executed one by one - bullets from AK-47 assault rifles pumped into their heads. Not satisfied that all are dead, an Islamic State fighter makes one last round, opening fire again, one by one. Others are led to the edge of a river. Each one is shot in the head with a pistol and then shoved in, the executioner standing in a large pool of blood. #USA allows #Iraq 5000 more AGM-114 Hellfire. Already 780+ delivered in 2014 including 466+ in July. Iraq remains low on launch platforms PROMISES OF PARADISE The mission begins with an Islamic State commander firing up militants with promises that paradise in heaven awaits them if they take the city of Samarra, which is 100 km (62 miles) north of Baghdad and would be their next target in a southward push. He tells them that God "made us proud when he permitted us to go to jihad". It was not clear where or when the video was filmed. The footage features night-vision sequences, then shows fighters moving into a city in flat-bed trucks, and U.S-made Humvees seized during their surge through the north last month. The Islamic State convoys filmed include small tanks and heavy machine guns transported on trailers. Some fighters are on foot, darting towards government buildings on sandy roads. As the Islamic State gains ground small units in trucks pull up beside vehicles during daytime and open fire on passengers who lose control of their vehicles. Several militants walk up to a van and empty their AK-47s through the windows, to make sure the job is done. Then the camera focuses on Iraqi security forces in watchtowers. One by one they are picked off by Islamic State snipers, who seem to avoid heavy clashes and rely instead on quick, small operations combined with psychological warfare. An insurgent can be heard weeping in joy as he declares that Samarra now belongs to the group. Residents and security sources say Baghdad Shi'ite Muslim-led government remains in control of Samarra so this footage may have come from another city or town seized by the Islamic State. Nevertheless, it illustrates the thinking of the Islamic State, which aims to redraw the Middle East map although it appears to have paused its territorial thrust for now in favour of consolidating recent gains north of Samarra. On Tuesday, Islamic State militants blew up a strategic bridge connecting Samarra to the town of Tikrit to the north, severing the main route and a tunnel beneath it that was used by Iraqi military forces, a senior local police official said. Iraqi government troops have tried but failed to recapture Tikrit from the insurgents. Islamic State's sudden rise has worsened Sunni-Shi'ite sectarian tensions in Iraq, raising fears that the country will relapse into the dark days of civil war that peaked in 2006-2007. Shi'ite militias now rival the government army in their ability to confront the Sunni insurgents. After the soldiers are executed, the Islamic State video shows fighters blowing up Shi'ite shrines or bulldozing mosques, as well as residents of the town welcoming fighters. (Editing by Mark Heinrich) ========== A nation in peril - Iraq's struggle to hold together Sun, Jul 27 08:43 AM EDT image 1 of 5 By Dominic Evans BAGHDAD (Reuters) -
Salman Khaled has already lived through Baghdad's sectarian disintegration; with Iraq now splintering into Shi'ite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish regions, he says this time the survival of the country is at stake. "Things are really tense and it could get worse," said the 23-year-old Sunni Muslim student. "If the politicians continue as they are doing now, we are on the path to separation." When Khaled's father was shot dead by Shi'ite gunmen at the height of Baghdad's religious bloodshed seven years ago, his family took shelter in a Sunni neighborhood of the capital. They made their flight as violence forced apart communities that once mingled in the city. Today the family lives in the Adhamiya district, close to the Abu Hanifa mosque where one of Sunni Islam's most influential theologians is buried. At his home on an unpaved street, Khaled says he still feels secure in Adhamiya but he rarely goes to the rest of Baghdad where blast walls and security checkpoints hint at the fate of a fractured Iraq.
Iraq's latest - and gravest - crisis erupted when mostly Sunni fighters swept through the north last month. Now the jihadist black flag flies over of most of the country's Sunni Arab territory. Kurdish forces, exploiting the chance to take another step towards independence, seized the city of Kirkuk and nearby oilfields, leaving the Shi'ite-led government controlling only the capital region and the mainly Shi'ite south. The government is trying to reverse this de facto, three-way split of the country, but its reliance on Shi'ite militia and volunteers rather than the ineffectual national army has deepened sectarian mistrust without pushing the rebels back.
Across Baghdad a Sunni living in the Shi'ite area of Maalef, cut off from the rest of the city by a checkpoint where non-residents are turned back, said life there had become unbearable for those who do not belong to the majority Shi'ite community. "The Sunnis all want separation now," said the 37-year-old electrician, who asked not to be named for his security. "Facts on the ground tell you this will be the final result. On both sides now you have extremists who don't want to get along".
DIVIDED INTO THREE STATES Kurdish politician Hoshiyar Zebari, who still staunchly advocates Iraqi unity, described the new geography. "The country is divided literally into three states: the Kurdish state; the black state (under Sunni insurgents) and Baghdad," he said. Iraq’s political elite and world powers have concentrated on the formation of a new government as the best way to save the country, but such a push may come too late.
"It's probably the most serious crisis that Iraq has faced since its inception as a country," said Ali Allawi, a minister in two governments after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. "It's the first time that the territorial integrity of the state as a whole is in question." Sunni and Shi'ite Arabs have little to unite them, Allawi said, while for most Kurds, non-Arabs who were persecuted under Saddam, the idea of an Iraqi nation is even more fanciful.
This could further destabilize an already tumultuous region. Neighboring Syria also faces disintegration, with most of its eastern areas under Islamist rebels for more than a year. Iraq's heritage stretches back to early civilization on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, but the modern state is a colonial fusion of the Ottoman provinces of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul that followed the empire's disintegration after World War One.
"Iraq is a failed state," said Masrour Barzani head of the Kurdish region's National Security Council. "It is a fabricated state. It has never been a state by choice by the people or the components of this country. They were forced to live together". Barzani blamed Baghdad for failing to keep Iraq united, and defended Kurdish aspirations for independence. "I don't think any rational person in the world would expect the Kurds to live and accept being partners in a country with a terrorist organization," he said, referring to Islamic State militants.
BATTLE LINES ENTRENCHED The long delay in forming a government after parliamentary elections in April and the eclipse of army units last month by better disciplined and motivated Shi'ite militias have revealed the fragility of national institutions. In Samarra, 110 km (70 miles) from Baghdad and one of the most northerly cities under government control, a Reuters photographer saw Shi'ite militiamen on patrol rather than army troops. "We are better than the army because we are fighting for our beliefs," said lawmaker Hakim Zamili, who supervised deployment of the Mahdi Army's "Peace Brigades" militia around Samarra. The government's inability throughout the first half of 2014 to recapture the Sunni city of Falluja, just 50 km (30 miles) west of Baghdad, from the Islamic State underlines how ill equipped it is to reverse far greater militant gains since then which have displaced more than a million people. If it is to have any chance of turning the tide, the government must lure minority Sunnis away from the radicals now threatening to encircle Baghdad. The Islamic State, a relatively small vanguard, has exploited Sunni disgruntlement with Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to assert itself in the predominantly Sunni regions. Eight years ago when the U.S. army faced a similar challenge from the Islamic State in Iraq - an al Qaeda group from which the Islamic State emerged - it persuaded Sunni tribal leaders to switch sides, offering millions of dollars as incentive. This time, that's not an option. Maliki, who distrusted the Sunni paramilitary forces, halted their payments years ago, leaving them embittered and unlikely to fight a second time for the central government. "Unless Maliki makes some very significant concessions to the Sunni Arabs it will be very difficult to peel them away from the Islamic State," said Robert Ford, a former senior U.S. diplomat and resident scholar at the Washington Institute. Ford, who served in Baghdad between 2004 and 2006, said the Islamic State's absolutist dogma would lead it eventually into confrontation with its Sunni allies. However, for the time being Sunni factions were united in their opposition to Maliki. Critics accuse Maliki of marginalizing Sunni and Kurdish factions during his eight years in power. Even some fellow Shi'ite politicians oppose granting him a third term although his State of Law emerged as the largest parliamentary list in the April election. WARRING STATELETS OR CONFEDERATION? A U.S. military official who served in Iraq predicted four "warring statelets" could emerge, based around Shi'ite power south of Samarra, Kurdish control in the northeast, and separate Sunni power centers on the Tigris and Euphrates. Many parts of central Iraq are mixed Sunni and Shi'ite regions, and any such partition would probably leave a million Sunnis in those areas stranded under Shi'ite control. "Iraq doesn’t fall apart easily. There is no such thing as soft partition, because these borders are not clearly defined," said Emma Sky, a British political adviser to the commander of the U.S.-led international forces in Iraq between 2007 and 2010. Maliki has urged Iraqis to resist moves towards separation, which he said would mark the disintegration of the nation, but many of his critics say he himself is a divisive force.
Partition of any type requires a horrible level of killing and ethnic cleansing. "This crisis is not about ancient hatreds, it is a massive failure of leadership. And it has been obviously a failure of Western, U.S. policies," Sky said by phone from northern Iraq. "With leadership they can pull this situation round."
Sunni politicians have offered few solutions to the crisis, partly because their own influence is so limited in Sunni regions compared with the Islamic State and tribal fighters'.
The mainly Sunni Arab provinces in the west and north may be eyeing the same autonomy enjoyed by the three Kurdish provinces of the northeast, but even to start negotiations towards such a deal, which Baghdad would almost certainly block, requires "a new political mix" in the capital, Haddad said. It would also need the defeat of the Islamic State. "We've been hearing about Iraq breaking up and Iraq unraveling since 2003," he said. "But I never thought that Arab Iraq was breaking up. Today I think the prospects for a united Iraq, even if it's just Arab Iraq, are fading quickly." "One possibility is that these territories remain outside government control for a long period of time. That would lead to a sort of de facto partition," said Fanar Haddad, an academic and author on Iraq.
(Additional reporting by Maggie Fick, Isra' al-Rubei'i and Ned Parker in Baghdad and Isabel Coles in Arbil; Editing by Ned Parker and David Stamp) ======= Iraq's top cleric sends subtle message to Maliki: step aside Fri, Jul 25 16:16 PM EDT image By Raheem Salman and Isra' al-Rubei'i BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq's most influential Shi'ite cleric urged political leaders on Friday to refrain from clinging to their posts - an apparent reference to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who has defied demands that he step aside. Speaking through an aide who delivered a sermon after Friday prayers in the holy city of Kerbala, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said leaders should show flexibility so that political deadlocks could be broken and Iraq could confront an insurgency. Maliki has come under mounting pressure since Sunni militants led by the hardline Islamic State swept across northern Iraq last month and seized vast swathes of territory, posing the biggest challenge to Maliki's Shi'ite-led government since U.S. forces withdrew in 2011. Critics say Maliki is a divisive figure whose alienation of Sunnis has fueled sectarian hatred and played into the hands of the insurgents, who have reached to within 70 km (45 miles) of the capital Baghdad. Sistani said it is time for politicians to think of Iraq's interests, not their own. "The sensitivity of this phase necessitates that all the parties concerned should have a spirit of national responsibility that requires the practice of the principle of sacrifice and self-denial and not to cling to positions and posts." Maliki, a Shi'ite, has ruled since an election in April in a caretaker capacity, dismissing demands from the Sunnis and Kurds that he step aside for a less polarizing figure. Even some Shi'ites oppose his bid for a third term. Despite pressure from the United States, the United Nations, Iran and Iraq's own Shi'ite clergy, politicians have been unable to quickly come up with an inclusive government to hold the fragmenting country together. Iraq's parliament took a step toward forming a new government on Thursday, when lawmakers elected senior Kurdish lawmaker Fouad Masoum as president. The next step, choosing a prime minister, may prove far more difficult as Maliki has shown no sign he will give up his post. Sistani's call for flexibility could hasten his departure. He is seen as a voice of reason in the deeply divided country, and has almost mythological stature to millions of followers, members of Iraq's Shi'ite majority. The 83-year-old cleric who hardly ever appears in public last month seized his most active role in politics in decades by calling on Iraqis to take up arms against the Sunni insurgency. The insurgents, who hold territory in Iraq and Syria and have declared a 'caliphate', aim to redraw the map of the Middle East and have put Iraq's survival as a unified state in jeopardy. The army virtually collapsed in the face of their lightning advance. Shi'ite militias and Kurdish peshmerga fighters have become a critical line of defense against Islamic State as the militants set their sights on the capital. U.S. military and Iraqi security officials estimate the Islamic State has at least 3,000 fighters in Iraq, rising towards 20,000 when new recruits since last month's advance are included. ISLAMIC STATE RULES Aside from military campaigns, Islamic State has also been purging the plains of northern Iraq of religious and ethnic minorities that have co-existed there for hundreds of years. Insurgents have also been stamping out any influences they deem non-Islamic in Mosul, a once diverse city of two million that fell to the militants on June 10. Eyewitnesses said Islamic State gunmen destroyed the tombs of two prophets on Friday. The destruction of the Jirjees and Sheet shrines came a day after militants blew up the Nabi Younes shrine, one of the city's most well-known and thought to be the burial site of a prophet referred to in the Koran as Younes and in the Bible as Jonah. Also on Friday, the group warned women in Mosul to wear full-face veils or risk severe punishment. "The conditions imposed on her clothes and grooming were only to end the pretext of debauchery resulting from grooming and overdressing," Islamic State said in a statement. "This is not a restriction on her freedom but to prevent her from falling into humiliation and vulgarity or to be a theater for the eyes of those who are looking." A cleric in Mosul told Reuters that Islamic State gunmen had shown up at his mosque and ordered him to read their warning on loudspeakers when worshippers gather. "Anyone who is not committed to this duty and is motivated by glamour will be subject to accountability and severe punishment to protect society from harm and to maintain the necessities of religion and protect it from debauchery," Islamic State said. (Additional reporting by Maggie Fick; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Susan Fenton) ========== Ya akhi be realistic , Saddam also had kurds , shias , turkmans in his government , but did they have any real power ? I'm not saying makliki is saddam , but he is certainly following his foot steps . How is abo ghraib any different from saddam's time ? How is the economy any different ? The political structure seems different , but the action of those who hold real power is no different than the one in saddam's time . The constitution is a joke and used only to antagonize the rest of minorities (sunna and kurds ) in iraq , but other than that it does not exist . There is ZERO accountability in Iraq with Hamoodi and his circle practically taking ownership of everything in Iraq while people live you know how . Every mulla and marjaiya Gets their few boxes of dollars every months and they go around telling people that Kurds harboring terrorists and stealing iraq's oil and sunnis are spreading terrorism and they are behind their the shias misery and people actually believe it . يا أخي والله خبصتونة بداعش ، هو جان اكو بداعش خلال 8 سنوات السابقة With peshmergas from the North and the iraqi army from the south along with sunni tribes in the middle , the so called Daash would not last more than few days . You see here , a true leadership quality plays a big rule , so what is our esteemed maliki is doing to make that happen ? 1-He is chasing kurdish tanker oils 2-imprisoning more sunnis 3-Killing prisoners 4-cutting kurdistan's budget 5-cutting salaries of government employees in sunni and kurdish areas 6-Using iranian planes to bomb sunnis cities and with every single bomb Daash and the insurgency gets stronger and they get more volunteers . 7-refusing to allow cargo planes to land in kurdistan ....and the list goes on . 8-In the mean time he has a perfect and valid excuse to keep shia region in the dark ages and point finger at sunna , kurds , KSA , Qatar , Jorden .........and the theft goes on . Ok , lets say we defeated daash tomorrow , then what ? Were we in a good place before daash ? are we going to be in a better place when daash is defeated ? didn't we defeat them in the past and drove them out and look where we are now . ============= UAE and Qatar compete as Saudi Arabia looks on The Gulf states have become the most stable and influential force in the Arab world, with the decline of the Egyptian role, the spread of turmoil and chaos in Syria and Iraq and Algeria's retreat on itself after the "black decade" of the 1990s. Because of political stability and increasing oil revenues, the Gulf states have accumulated financial wealth that has strengthened their political, economic and media influence in the region. Summary⎙ Print The United Arab Emirates and Qatar are pursuing opposing foreign policies in the Middle East that are fueling tension between the two Gulf states, as Saudi Arabia keeps its distance. Author Abdulmajeed al-BuluwiPosted July 28, 2014 Translator(s)Tyler Huffman In light of the protection offered by the United States, the Gulf states have not been overly interested in a unified security policy — with the exception of Saudi Arabia. This contributed to Gulf states rushing to use their financial surpluses to produce foreign policies independent of their "sisters" in the Gulf. Doha has emerged to play regional roles in support of movements for change in the Arab world, particularly concerning political Islamic movements. Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi has emerged as a key player in the Middle East, but in the opposing role of confrontation with movements of political Islam. Financial surpluses and political stability — along with the reassurance of US support — were not only reasons for this variation in foreign policy among Gulf states, but they also sparked competition among them for influence in the Arab world. This is especially true since Washington, the guarantor of security in the Gulf, has many options in dealing with the phenomenon of political Islam. These options range from the war on terror — as is the case in the United States' dealings with al-Qaeda where Abu Dhabi has been a strong partner to building bridges of understanding — to the Turkish Justice and Development Party. In the case of the latter, Doha has been a strategic partner for the United States. Gulf-Gulf competition has become one of the main policy features in the Middle East. This competition is mainly between Abu Dhabi and Doha, which stand at opposite ends of the foreign policy spectrum. While Doha supports the Syrian revolution, Abu Dhabi expresses its reservations regarding support that it thinks strengthens the Islamists. And while Doha supports the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, Abu Dhabi stands in the opposing camp. The announcement of the establishment of the Muslim Council of Elders (MCE) in Abu Dhabi on July 19 is linked to this competition between the two capitals. Doha is home to the headquarters of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, headed by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, while Abu Dhabi is now home to the headquarters of the MCE, headed by Abdullah Bin Bayyah and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb. Qaradawi had been a member of the Al-Azhar governing body, but he resigned from this position after the July 3 coup against President Mohammed Morsi, in protest of Al-Azhar's positions cooperating with the coup. Meanwhile, Bin Bayyah had been a member in the International Union of Muslim Scholars, but he resigned in September 2013. In his resignation speech, Bin Bayyah hinted that a reason for his departure involved his disagreement with the union's positions. It is no secret that positions on the Arab uprisings and their fluctuations had an impact on these mutual resignations. Given that religion is a key factor in struggles for influence in the region, religion has become an arena for the "soft conflict" that is going on between the two capitals. While Qatar has stood in support of Salafist and Muslim Brotherhood religious currents, Abu Dhabi choose to support the traditional Sunni Islam current, historically represented by Al-Azhar. This latter current calls for religious scholars to not directly engage in politics. In the context of this Emirati support, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed announced on April 28, 2013, at a meeting with the grand imam of Al-Azhar, his commitment to supporting Al-Azhar, so that it could once again play its role of spreading a rhetoric of moderation and countering extremism and fanaticism. In recent decades, Al-Azhar's role has declined with the rise of Salafist currents. It is likely that the United Arab Emirate's support to the institution of Al-Azhar and the current it represents will place Abu Dhabi in a soft confrontation with the Saudi Salafist religious establishment. The latter has benefited from the absence of Al-Azhar's role and its weakness, and spread its influence even inside Egypt. Early features of this soft confrontation have appeared in the lack of a scholar from the Saudi Salafist religious establishment in the MCE. The announcement of the establishment of the MCE was met with sharp criticism from two sides. First, it was criticized by those affiliated with the Salafist establishment, because the MCE was removed from them and marginalized them. Second, it was criticized by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, who viewed it as the "religious wing" of the military coup plot against Morsi. While the International Union of Muslim Scholars has enthusiastically supported the Arab revolutions and democratic procedures — including elections — the MCE seems more cautious toward them. The MCE warned against an adherence to democratic procedures in an environment that is not yet mature, saying this could lead to civil wars. This soft conflict between Doha and Abu Dhabi over the religious space in the Middle East is fueled by the decline in the central role played by Saudi Arabia in leading this space. This decline was due to several factors, including the communications revolution that redistributed religious power in the Islamic world, allowing for the emergence of multiple centers of influence. Furthermore, the conditions of the war on terror played a role in the decline of influence of the Saudi religious establishment and diminished its impact. The impact of these two factors was reinforced by the declining opportunities to reform this religious establishment to be more competitive. Doha and Abu Dhabi have come to represent two opposing poles in the Middle East, and their struggle for influence has moved from the field of politics to the field of religion, with Riyadh standing between them. Saudi Arabia is at times with Doha, while at other times with Abu Dhabi. Doha shares Saudi Arabia's affiliation with Salafism and the Wahhabi sect as well as its positions on Syria and Iraq, while Abu Dhabi shares Riyadh's position on Egypt and political Islam groups. The competition between Doha and Abu Dhabi continues to underpin the current rift in the Gulf, with Saudi Arabia keeping a distance. Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/07/saudi-caught-between-uae-qatar-feud.html#ixzz3912JWjax =========================

Friday, July 25, 2014

'StanChart at risk of "doing an HSBC"


Standard Chartered is doing a passable impression of HSBC circa 2010. The UK-based emerging markets bank has told investors that it does not accept “media rumours” concerning the future of Chairman John Peace and Chief Executive Peter Sands. The parallels with HSBC’s succession planning four years ago – a crisis that culminated in the dual departures of chairman and CEO amid a boardroom power struggle – are worrying.

But the move makes the board look rattled, and adds to the pressure on everyone involved. Such stress can soon become unbearable for a leadership team. In 2010, HSBC dismissed reports that CEO Mike Geoghegan had threatened to resign as “nonsense” – only for him to leave soon after.

When HSBC got sucked into a public debate on its governance, the bank at least had a realistic alternative chairman/CEO team in Douglas Flint and Stuart Gulliver. Normally simultaneous change of both roles would be highly destabilising. The promotion of respected internal candidates actually calmed investor nerves.

It’s easy to see why StanChart felt the need to respond to a Financial Times report that Peace was preparing to find a replacement for Sands, which would be a share price-sensitive event. Moreover, a big regulated bank cannot cope for long with perceptions of boardroom division, hence StanChart’s comment that the board is fully behind the present chairman and CEO.

StanChart is less favourably placed. Non-executive Naguib Kheraj’s experience at Barclays and JPMorgan would make him a capable replacement chairman, but it is unclear whether he is ready to return to global banking’s frontline. The departure of former Finance Director Richard Meddings leaves no obvious candidate to replace Sands either.

New setback raises pressure on StanChart top team

Standard Chartered is doing a passable impression of HSBC circa 2010. The UK-based emerging markets bank has told investors that it does not accept “media rumours” concerning the future of Chairman John Peace and Chief Executive Peter Sands. The parallels with HSBC’s succession planning four years ago – a crisis that culminated in the dual departures of chairman and CEO amid a boardroom power struggle – are worrying.

The status quo cannot endure. The next half-year results will be a critical moment. Peace needs to get on the phone to his investors in private and persuade them that he and Sands are agreed on a long-term leadership plan, whoever is to run the company. His own future depends on it.

Moreover, there is division between the board and the outside world. Some big investors have legitimate concerns about StanChart’s direction, given last month’s warning on 2014 earnings and a 20 percent share price fall in a year. They are unhappy with Sands for performance and with Peace over boardroom management. Endorsing the status quo in such a situation looks out of step.

Standard Chartered’s board said on July 23 that it was united in support of Chief Executive Peter Sands and Chairman John Peace, and said it rejected “media rumours” about their succession.

The emerging markets-focused bank said it wanted to make it absolutely clear it supported Sands and Peace in delivering the strategy. It said it had “robust and considered” succession plans for all its senior leaders, and discussed succession with shareholders on a regular basis.

The board said it would ensure orderly succession took place at the appropriate times, and only in a responsible manner consistent with full market transparency. It added that no succession planning was taking place as a result of recent investor pressure.

The Financial Times reported on July 23 that StanChart was working on a succession plan that could see Sands replaced as CEO.

StanChart shares fell 0.3 percent to 1,218 pence on the morning of July 24.

Sluggish Latin American results show risks for U.S. companies

Fri, Jul 25 01:13 AM EDT By Lewis Krauskopf (Reuters) - U.S. companies are reporting sluggish financial results in Latin America, showing the risks they face in relying on Brazil and other emerging markets in the region for growth. Companies ranging from Ford Motor Co to 3M Co and Caterpillar Inc reported second quarter earnings that highlighted weakness in their Latin or South American operations. While Venezuela's weak currency valuation previously weighed on U.S. corporate finances, the latest results indicate broader struggles. Several companies reported tepid performance in Brazil, the biggest economy in Latin America, where some economists fear the country is on the verge of a recession. "The place where we see a little bit more of a challenge is Latin America," 3M Chief Executive Officer Inge Thulin told analysts on the company's quarterly conference call on Thursday. The diversified manufacturer, whose products include office supplies and industrial adhesives, cut its full-year revenue forecast for the region, the worst-performing in the quarter, hurt by a sales decline in Brazil. U.S. companies that have looked to emerging Latin American economies for growth have seen those expectations dented in recent months by Brazil's political and economic turmoil, Venezuela's currency woes and Argentina's renewed battle with major creditors. "This is kind of the up-and-down of emerging markets," said J. Bryant Evans, who manages an international equity income portfolio at Cozad Asset Management in Champaign, Illinois. 'NOT HAPPENING' A poll of more than 60 economists from earlier this month found that Latin American economies will probably grow at a slower pace than previously thought this year. Economies in Brazil, Argentina and Chile are expected to be weaker this year than in 2013, while Mexico is far from achieving the fast growth promised by sweeping economic reforms, the poll found. U.S. corporate prospects in Latin America have also been dampened by competition, lack of expected growth among the middle class and fluctuations in commodity prices, said Rafael Amiel, director for Latin America economics at research firm IHS. "For multinational companies, the growth they were expecting in many Latin American markets is not happening," Amiel said. South America was the only region in the world where Ford posted a quarterly loss -- $295 million, compared with a $151 million profit a year earlier. South American countries "remain largely closed markets that have trade barriers up across many sectors of their economies, so they are actually pretty uncompetitive on a global basis, and that includes the automotive industry," Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks told Reuters. "Now that that capital is flowing out, those economies are suffering." The importance of the Brazilian market to U.S. companies has been rising over the past few years. Though South America has held steady at about 1.6 percent of sales at S&P 500 companies over the past three years, Brazil's portion of sales within the region more than doubled between the start of 2010 and 2014, according to Thomson Reuters data. Earlier this week, the Brazilian government lowered its economic growth forecast for 2014 to 1.8 percent from 2.5 percent. Economists think the growth could be even more tepid -- 0.97 percent, according to a weekly survey. MEXICAN CRACKS Caterpillar, which reported a 16 percent decline in second quarter Latin American sales, lowered its overall sales outlook in part because of worries over Brazil, Chief Financial Officer Brad Halverson told Reuters in an interview. "We are concerned about Brazil," Halverson said. "They raised interest rates last year. The economy is slowing. Consumer confidence is plunging along with business confidence." Whirlpool Corp reported a lower operating profit in Latin America and downgraded its forecast for appliance market sales in the region for 2014. Still, company executives said weakness in Brazil was more of a short-term concern and expressed optimism about the economy. "We continue to believe that the macroeconomic indicators in Brazil point to long-term healthy demand growth," Mike Rodman, president of Whirlpool International, told analysts. Some cracks also emerged in Mexico, the region's second-largest economy. For example, a new tax in Mexico has put pressure on U.S. food companies such as PepsiCo Inc Pep. n, which blamed the tax for sales declines in its food business. While companies such as 3M reported solid results from the country, the Mexican economy grew by only 0.3 percent in the first quarter. John Gerspach, the chief financial officer of Citigroup C. n, which has about $11.7 billion of credit card loans in Latin America, told analysts last week that "as the Mexico economy continues to struggle to really regain the momentum that everyone thought that it would have, consumer spending has not been robust." (Additional reporting by James B. Kelleher in Chicago, Bernie Woodall in Detroit, Dan Wilchins in New York and Silvio Cascione in Brasilia. Editing by John Pickering)

عودة التهجير الطائفي إلى بغداد

ودة التهجير الطائفي إلى بغداد | english | کوردی نقاش | أحمد هادي | بغداد | 24.07.2014 مرة أخرى يقف عمار العامري مدمع العينين وهو يشرف على بعض العمال الذين استأجرهم لحمل أثاث منزله إلى سيارة حمل كبيرة بعد تهديدات تلقاها من قبل إحدى المليشيات الناشطة في مناطق شرقي العاصمة. يحمل العامري ذو الأربعين ربيعاً الذي ينحدر من مدينة بعقوبة بديالى ذكريات أليمة عن عام تهجيره الأول عام 2006 حين بقي يدور في حلقة مفرغة لعله يجد طائفة تحتظنه وتقبل به وزوجته التي تنتمي لطائفة أخرى. يقول عمار لـ"نقاش" أنه انتقل عام 1996 لبغداد بعد زواجه من زينب ابنة منطقة الصدر لكنه لم يكن بحسبانه حينها إن زواجه وأسمي أولاده سيكونان سبباً في بقائه متشرداً. عمار تم نهجيره عام 2006 من مدينة الصدر فعاد حينها إلى ديالى لكن عودته هذه لم تكن موفقة بعد مداهمة عناصر من القاعدة منزله وتخييره بين الذبح أو مغادرة المدينة بعدما عرفوا أن ولديه يحملان أسماء كرار وسجاد وإن زوجته من طائفة أخرى فعاد ليسكن في مدينة الشعب. وبعد مرور ثمان سنوات على تلك المعاناة طرق عناصر مليشيا معروفة وقال له احدهم دون مقدمات "شفعت لك زوجتك وإلا كنا قتلناك دون تحذير وعليك ان تغادر المكان". بحث العامري كثيراً عن منطقة يستطيع الخلاص فيها من نار الملسحين والمليشيات على حد سواء ويقول"لم أجد سوى المنطقة الخضراء حيث ساعدني القاضي الذي أعمل كحارس شخصي له منذ أكثر من عقد على السكن فيها مؤقتاً" يختتم العامري حديثه. حامد الجبوري شخص آخر تم تهجيره من منطقة أبو دشير جنوبي العاصمة في السادس من تموز الجاري بعدما قضى اأكثر من ست سنوات في تلك المنطقة. لم نستطع الحديث مع الجبوري الذي غادر العاصمة متوجهاً إلى مدينة الموصل مسقط رأسه وأهله إلا إن زوجته عبير التي فضلت البقاء في بغداد بين أبناء طائفتها خوفاً من بطش داعش روت لنا ماجرى. جهشت عبير بالبكاء وهي تتحدث لـ"نقاش" عن ما حدث لزوجها على أيدي إحدى المليشيات حين اختطفوه من أمام المطعم الذي كان يعمل فيه وبعد توسلات ووساطات من شخصيات مؤثرة من المنطقة والأقارب رموه على باب البيت وهو فاقد الوعي من شدة التعذيب. تزوج الجبوري الذي تجاوز عقده الثلاثين بعام عبير بعد تخرجه من جامعة بغداد التي ارتادها وتعرف خلالها عليها ليسكن العاصمة انصياعاً لرغبة زوجته ويستقر فيها تقول عبير " لم يشكل انتماء حامد المذهبي أي مشكلة لدينا في المنطقة على مدى ست سنوات مضت، حتى إن علاقاته كانت جيدة مع أبناء المنطقة جميعهم رغم اختلافهم مذهبيا معه". ويبدو إن تأثيرات سيطرة داعش بعد العاشر من حزيران الماضي على العديد من المدن العراقية وعودة الشحن الطائفي من قبل الأطراف السياسية كان له تاثيرات سلبية كبيرة على النسيج الاجتماعي والسلم الأهلي لاسيما في المناطق المختلطة مذهبياً. داعش هجّرت آلاف العوائل الموصلية من التركمان الشيعة بمنطقة تلعفر والشبك القاطنين في قرى بازوايا وعلي رش والقبة وغيرها في مناطق سهل نينوى للأسباب ذاتها الأمر الذي أثار ردة فعل عنيفة ضد العائلات السنية في بغداد. غادر الجبوري العاصمة لكنه لم يستطيع أخذ عبير وطفليه محمد وحسين معه لأن أهله حذروه من القدوم للمدينة لمعرفة أهالي المنطقة التي يعيشون فيها في الموصل بأن زوجته تنتمي لغير مذهبهم، وبالتالي الخشية من استباحة داعش لدمها ودم أطفالها. محمد مهدي الشاب العشريني الذي يحمل في ذهنه توجهات مدنية بعيدة عن الأحزاب والطوائف والأديان تعرض هو الآخر للتهجير. اشترطت زوجة محمد السكن قرب أهلها بمنطقة السيدية ذات الغالبية السنية جنوبي بغداد للموافقة على الزواج به وقبل بشرطها حتى تغير واقع الحال بعد ثلاث سنوات وقبل أيام وجد رسالة في ظرف صغير مع رصاصة تطالبه بمغادرة المنطقة دون رجعة. محمد حمل أثاث منزله فور تلقيه التهديدات لينتقل إلى بيت والديه بمنطقة القاهرة شرقي العاصمة التي تقطنها الغالبية الشيعية ويقول "لم أنسَ تلك الأيام الجميلة التي قضيها في تلك المنطقة ومحبة الأصدقاء لي". عمار والجبوري والكثيرون غيرهم غادروا بغداد بانتظار عودة الأمن إليها وربما لن يعودوا مجدداً. == People walk through the rubble of the tomb of the Prophet Jonah (Yunus) in Mosul after it was destroyed in a bomb attack by militants of the Islamic State, July 24, 2014. (photo by REUTERS) Islamic State destroys sacred shrine in Mosul The Islamic State (IS) bombed and destroyed the tomb of the Prophet Jonah east of Mosul on July 24. Summary⎙ Print The shrine of Prophet Jonah was held as sacred by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Author Ali Mamouri Posted July 25, 2014 Translator(s)Cynthia Milan Previously, IS had carried out numerous bombings, destroying important cultural sites such as the shrine of the Prophet Daniel west of Mosul, the shrine of one of the grandchildren of the second Caliph Omar Bin al-Khattab, as well as mosques, various shrines and numerous other churches. These sites are not only for Shiite Muslims or non-Muslims. Most of them are sacred places for Sunni Muslims as well, and some are even only affiliated with them, in addition to a significant number of statues of famous figures and other cultural sites that also were destroyed. Sources inside the city confirmed this information to Al-Monitor. Activists on social media networks uploaded pictures and several videos showing the magnitude of the destruction of cultural sites around the city. Sources told Al-Monitor that a state of sorrow and regret reigns in the city and that they have seen plenty of people crying while witnessing the destruction of Jonah’s tomb. Jonah is considered sacred by all Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. What these groups are doing is based on an endemic Salafist principle common to most Salafist movements, whether they are jihadists or not. This principle underlines the need to purify the earth of polytheism and disbelief. These groups consider religious shrines or any other sites related to a certain person to be a kind of sanctification, which is, according to them, a true sign of polytheism. The destruction of these sites is part of the process of returning to the authentic Islam and eliminating all alien elements, according to the Salafist understanding. This contradicts the traditional understanding of Islam by all Muslim confessions, which means that Islam does not contradict other sanctities, but rather understands them and considers them sacred, especially when the people of these sacred places are prophets of the Quran, such as the prophets Jonah and Daniel and many others from both the New and Old Testaments. 1 The tomb of the Prophet Jonah before its destruction. (Twitter/@IraqPics) Therefore, international Muslim figures, such as the mufti of Egypt, condemned the destruction of sacred places by IS. The mufti also called for an urgent intervention from the authorities in Iraq and international organizations such as UNESCO to protect these sacred places. The destruction of sacred places also happened during the establishment of Saudi Arabia, which was described as the first political entity for Salafists in the Islamic world. Hundreds of shrines of the prophet’s companions and family have been destroyed, in addition to other important historical sites related to different eras of Islamic history, from the establishment of the first and second Saudi states until this day. These actions also occurred in Afghanistan, Syria and certain areas in Iraq that fell under the control of Salafist groups. IS threatened to continue the process of destroying sacred places of other confessions and religions, as well as others related to Sunnis. These threats raised the concerns of most Iraqis, especially the Shiites and the religious minorities, in addition to Sunnis who share the same respect and sanctification for these shrines and religious places. It's mandatory for the international organizations concerned about human rights and preserving religious freedom and heritage, specifically UNESCO, to work harder and on a larger scale to put an end to this destruction. This is essential since a large number of these places are sanctified and respected by Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The concerns about the destruction of sacred places are not limited to them being historic and cultural sites; they include forgiveness and coexistence between different religions and confessions in Iraq. Such destruction harms the long history of coexistence among Iraqi religions. It targets the symbols and main sites which attracted and gathered all confessions and paved the path for communication and understanding, and thus, their coexistence. It also heightens intolerance and religious hatred and hostility between different confessions. This usually does not quickly fade away, and could create social divisions and demographic subdivisions on a large scale across Iraq. This could eliminate any sort of communication between the various elements of society and create severe conflicts between them. Iraq is heading toward total destruction of its historic and human heritage, which will turn it into a barren desert isolated from its time-honored cultural and religious history. This is taking place in light of chaotic circumstances involving terrorism that is on the offensive, Iraqi government ignorance, global silence and an international letdown — specifically from the United States, which completely abandoned its responsibilities toward the situation in Iraq.
Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/07/iraq-is-destruction-shrines-abrahamic-religions.html##ixzz38bmhuSac ===== Join the discussion… − ⚑ Avatar Armando Logic • a day ago I don't know what reaction should one show towards these filth? there are no words, these barbarians did the same thing in Afghanistan with the Buddha statues, the same in Syria and now in Iraq, on another note when Islam spread through out this region they did a lot of the same things, they left many Christian and Jewish sites intact as they considered them "the people of the book" but they showed no mercy to the other religions, they destroyed all the other religious sites, in Kurdistan and Iran it was Zoroastrian and Ezidi sites, many other small religions and sects in Syria Iraq etc. going back many millenia disappeared, even historical sites 4 △ ▽ • Reply • Share › Avatar The Technical Analyst • 21 hours ago These such shrines have been the centers of Polytheism, Witchcraft and voodoo practioners all across Iran and where ever Shias live. These Shias have been adept in cheating innocent people threatening them with useless witchcraft and good for nothing voodoos and managed to rob innocent people of money - even to this day. And the Islamic State in its aim to completely purge itself of 'Shias' across Syria and Levant seems to have chosen to have destroyed the real 'Shia Barracks'. Shia or no Shia - such useless, witchcraft and voodoo practicing centers have no place in Modern World - let alone in Islam. Period. △ ▽ • Reply • Share › Avatar Terence Darby > The Technical Analyst • 15 hours ago Says the 'analyst' with a picture of a sacred site as his/her avatar 7 △ ▽ • Reply • Share › Avatar The Technical Analyst > Terence Darby • 8 hours ago Thank you very much for helping me set a mistake of mine right. And by the way your criticism of my reply also goes to show how much 'Shias' have infiltrated 'Muslims' - that United Arab Emirate fellows have been condoning and following the Shia religion for their own benefits. No wonder than Dubai lost itself after being indebted to bankruptcy and came under the control of Abu Dhabi - changing the name of its tallest building as 'Burj Khalifa'. Allah never allow such people who relinquish Islam in favor of Grave Worship - no matter what. United Arab Emirate is famous for many things anti-Islamic and condoning Shiism and Grave Worship is one of that is sure to be opposed. Thank you very much for pointing out my blunder - I am changing the picture to an Islamic Architecture bereft of any 'graves' or 'shrines' into it right away. △ ▽ • Reply • Share › Avatar Faux-News > The Technical Analyst • 3 hours ago lol again. The UAE follows the maliki madhab and all their official fatwa boards are maliki. You have no clue at all. 1 △ ▽ • Reply • Share › Avatar Faux-News > The Technical Analyst • 9 hours ago This actually is a typical example of wahhabi misinformation. When they cant justify their destruction from Islam and traditional scholarship and history, they invent these totally ignorant and false stories about how these sites are places of voodoo, magic, criminals, prostitution and other excuses and use it as blanket excuse to destroy these relics, as though if someone in his own house practiced voodoo would these people take a bulldozer and destroy his own house. In any case this is much needed article. Because of Saudi Salafi funding causing their Salafi Islam to be loud, there has come a misunderstanding among many non-muslim that what these Wahhabists do are actually something that Islam teaches and something that was practiced by pious Sunni Muslims and orthodoxy for 1400 years of Islamic history and that those who say otherwise are some unorthodox sufi group, when in reality its the total opposite. Because of this misunderstanding many non-muslims are showing reluctance to condemn and take action against this massive scale historical and religious genocide being perpetrated against Islam by these cult criminals under garb of Islam. 3 △ ▽ • Reply • Share › Avatar The Technical Analyst > Faux-News • 8 hours ago Fool the world has changed and every 'Duplicate Muslim' who condoned 'Grave Worship' in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Lebanon, Syria, UAE, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Central Asia and Qatar are standing 'naked' with their anti-Islamic private part displayed to a world that 'spits on them'. Why is that so? Because Shia Grave Worship brought in its way Allah's curse and Shias are being punished with disgrace and loss of face in all these nations. Allah gives Satan and his follower a reprieve and when the appointed time comes - these anti-Islamic Criminals would find what they deserved for their subversion and trickery. △ ▽ • Reply • Share › Avatar Faux-News > The Technical Analyst • 7 hours ago Yea showing more that you have nothing to do with Islam and that you are some badly mutated product of a modern day changing world and you have to come up with more weird arguments that are not even factually true let alone rationally sound. Either way go on, you are proving exactly the point for us what type of twisted mentality you have. Just reminded that last time you made this drivel you said you were shafi and your mother was following shafi madhab. Well here are the fatwa of pillars of shafi scholarship permitting what you call as "grave worship". Imam Ghazzali (d.505) in al-wasit: وَلَو أوصى بعمارة قُبُور أَنْبِيَائهمْ نفذناه لِأَن كل قبر يزار فعمارته إحْيَاء زيارته وَيجوز ذَلِك فِي قُبُور مَشَايِخ الْإِسْلَام أَيْضا Imam Nawawi in Rawdah-Talibeen: يجوز للمسلم والذمي الوصية لعمارة المسجد الاقصى وغيره من المساجد، ولعمارة قبور الأنبياء، والعلماء، والصالحين، لما فيها من إحياء الزيارة، والتبرك بها Ibn Hajr al Haythami in his Tuhfa : Imam Ramli in his Nihaya: وشمل عدم المعصية القربة كعمارة المساجد ولو من كافر وقبور الأنبياء والعلماء والصالحين لما في ذلك من إحياء الزيارة والتبرك بها ، ولعل المراد به كما قاله صاحب الذخائر ، وأشعر به كلام الإحياء في أوائل كتاب الحج ، وكلامه في الوسيط في زكاة النقد يشير إليه أن تبنى على قبورهم القباب والقناطر كما يفعل في المشاهد إذا كان الدفن في مواضع مملوكة لهم أو لمن دفنهم فيها لا بناء القبور نفسها للنهي عنه ، ولا فعله في المقابر المسبلة فإن فيه تضييقا على المسلمين خلافا لما استوجهه الزركشي من كون المراد بعمارتها رد التراب فيها وملازمتها خوفا من الوحش والقراءة عندها ، وإعلام الزائرين بها لئلا تندرس . Hafiz al-Munawi (d. 1031) in Fayd al-Qadir: أما من اتخذ مسجدا بجوار صالح أو صلى في مقبرته وقصد به الاستظهار بروحه أو وصول أثر من آثار عبادته إليه لا التعظيم له والتوجه نحوه فلا حرج عليه ألا ترى أن مدفن إسماعيل في المسجد الحرام عند الحطيم؟ and tons more too long to quote here. ========= Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi's Blog Reflections on Methods by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi • Jul 22, 2014 at 3:41 pm Over the course of the past year or so, I have intensely tracked the jihadist group the Islamic State (formerly ISIS). I did this on both Twitter and in my analytical articles, such that I attracted the attention of primary sources in my role of what the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization would term a 'disseminator'. To gain the confidence of these circles, I feigned sympathy for their views and adopted a 'jihadi persona' in communications with them. While this indeed garnered some valuable information (eg it helped me first identify Moroccan ex-Gitmo detainee Muhammad Mizouz and his presence in Syria), it was also unethical, pure and simple. Not only that, but the jihadi persona and a desire to seem humourous on Twitter led to other unethical actions, such as a silly tweet in December 2013 calling for JM Berger's account to be reported, even as I quickly deleted it. Though I did not think much of it at the time and believed I had resolved the issue, it was nonetheless wrong and the tweet would not have necessarily appeared as an immature joke to those who saw it, which is why I deleted it, but it should be admitted. Accordingly, I apologize unequivocally for these mistakes. They can only come across as weird to those who do not know me, and I regret not listening earlier to those who counselled me against these approaches and the adoption of multiple personas in which I got caught up. I would like to stress nonetheless that this did not affect the quality of the final product of my work. I only analyse this subject out of personal concern for my family's country's future (Iraq). A full analysis of the insurgent dynamics- and thus have I aimed for a full analysis of all insurgent groups in Iraq for thoroughness- is essential in that regard. I stress that my personal views are solely reflected on this site in 'ارائي الخصوصية' and anything I have written not put up on this site is disowned, as made clear in 'Reflections on my writings'. Update In light of the Business Insider article, I should like to respond as follows: Much of the article is focused on the allegation that my actual analysis has been tainted and compromised by being 'played' by IS fighters. On this, I would note the following: - It is interesting to note that the authors don't cite something from the body of my articles to show this. - Contact with IS fighters and their supporters was not an integral part of my work. I made occasional reference to such contact but their testimony did not largely inform my overall anlaysis of the group: in fact my primary interest in contact with IS fighters was to illustrate their ultimately global ambitions (one may criticise me for accepting too readily the idea of a fight against the UK as a distant dream, of course) I could not have cared less what they like for breakfast or how they enjoy their spare time, unlike some who have been too eager to put a spin on IS fighters as simply ordinary guys like others- an image I have never accepted or endorsed. In any case, here I disputed their narrative of a pre-planned 'Sahwa' against them in Syria, pointing largely to IS' own expansionism, dictated by its own self-perception as a state, as the cause of this infighting, such that it largely overrode the reconciliatory tendencies of e.g. Ahrar ash-Sham. It is certainly true that I underestimated the timescale of wider infighting, but that was not because of testimony IS fighters or supporters relayed to me, but rather conservatism in my analysis (cf. in 2012 I certainly underestimated the timescale, if at all, of an unravelling in the security situation in Iraq), with heavy focus on localization, a dynamic I saw as distinguishing Syria from Iraq in terms of grand 'Sahwa' narratives. Even so, I stand by my assertion from 2013 that an international troop presence in the long-run is needed to roll back IS and bring some kind of stability, and draw attention to the Libyan experience if anyone thinks militias will simply go away and form a new strong state post-regime overthrow. A key error of mine was my presumption in autumn 2013 that Jabhat al-Nusra and IS would steer clear of wider infighting, primarily because I accepted the idea of IS and Nusra as part of al-Qaeda and therefore 'brothers' in ideology and organization who would not come to blows. As it happens, that presumption was wrong precisely because IS was de facto independent by this point, something that was not in fact widely recognized at the time. I shifted my view on that matter in January 2014, citing testimony on both sides while also accepting that one had to be careful of IS spin of "always independent" since the founding of ISI in 2006. Further, despite IS spin on jizya as a benign institution, I made it abundantly clear that it should be seen as no such thing here (i.e. it is the equivalent of a Mafia extortion racket), and that it was a sign of Baghdadi's projection of himself as a caliph, which turned out to be correct. I also stress that when IS' announcement of the caliphate came out, I emphasized that this phenomenon should be seen in terms of the wider idealization of past Caliphates but such idealization is ultimately as detached from reality as glorifying the Roman Empire and its conquests, something I affirmed on Twitter. - I again stress that contact with IS circles and the wider jihadi community also offered insights: for example it is in fact the case that Suqur al-Izz, as I noted, is an al-Qa'ida front project, despite its official claims to be independent, as illustrated by its recent joining of Jabhat al-Nusra as part of the new emirate project. Similarly I was the first to identify Moroccan ex-Gitmo detainee Muhammad al-'Alami as having fought and died in Syria. This was so before the video release from Harakat Sham al-Islam. - The article completely omits the extensive body of my work going beyond IS: that contacts with other factions turned up far more extensively in my work on Iraq and Syria than IS. Here for example on Druze militias; here on the Alawite Muqawama Suriya; here and here on Christian militias; here on the factions of Albukamal (at the time none of them including IS). In none of these cases did I let contacts 'play' me, with the possible exception of being too willing to accept brotherology claims with IS: for instance despite Qamishli Sootoro's official claim to be neutral, it is apparent they are aligned with the regime. It is of course true that I accept the pro-Assad Druze activists' claims that the community is generally aligned with the regime, but there is little ground to dispute that. I have also analyzed the non-IS insurgent groups in Iraq and have not been 'played' by any of them. - Taking articles from 2010-11 as indicative of a 'confused' outlook is misleading, especially as I disowned my 2010 writings as part of 'Reflection on my writings' in 2013. Further Update In light of controversies over my background, I affirm the following: As to now, I do not disclose a personal religious stance (whatever experiments I made with other identities), but my real background is as follows: my father's side of the family was Shi'a and my mother's side Sunni (given the latter is ultimately from Mosul, not really surprising). I do not deny my struggles with identity here (going back to my mid teens) and people are right to draw this to attention as transparency is needed at the personal level. I emphasize that none of this affected the final product of my analytical work (i.e. I did not use any claimed identities to give a certain point more credibility or to fabricate a point). Regardless, I should not have claimed different identities, which is wrong and disturbing in any circumstance. In this context, I should also stress that my family's history has played almost no role in the actual analysis, but at this stage, it is important to affirm one aspect of it that motivated me to want to look into what is now IS. The Islamic State of Iraq- ISI, a predecessor of IS- took one of my uncles hostage in Baghdad in 2007 for 3 weeks, eventually being released for a ransom of $40,000. Unless I am suffering from a curious case of Stockholm syndrome, then the logical conclusion is that I am an opponent of IS and aimed to gather intel on the group. I oppose IS, simple as that. So, once again, I apologize to everyone for my mistake of trying to extract info under my real name from IS sources by feigning sympathy for their views, and all other issues regarding multiple personae. Further Update (II) Business Insider has also put out some past tweets attempting to show I uncriticially echo IS positions. Those tweets were actually mocking IS spirations to global domination, which as I wrote previously are indeed delusional. The third tweet meanwhile is taken out of context from the thread. However, I readily admit that these were irresponsible tweets to an audience of more than 9000 followers, not all of whom will have understood what I was trying to get at. The General Military Council is arguably the main new name in the Iraqi insurgency to have emerged in 2014. Though there is an official claim to separation from the Naqshbandi Army (JRTN), the distancing, as I have outlined before, needs to be treated with the same caution as the Kurdish PYD's official distancing of the YPG militias, and the Syriac Union Party's distancing of the Syriac Military Council as "independent." I translate below a sample of their daily operations, this one from 22nd July. "The revolutionaries of the military council in Salah ad-Din undertook to strike a gathering of the Maliki army and militias aiding him in the al-Ishaqi region with a shower of 120mm mortar rounds leading to a direct and exact hit with the killing of 13 soldiers and wounding of a great number of them." "The revolutionaries of the military council in Salah ad-Din undertook an ambush set between two regions (Al-Oweinat-Al-Awja)* on a Maliki army military convoy and militias aiding him...leading to the destruction of 9 Hummer vehicles and killing of those inside it." "The revolutionaries in south Baghdad undertook an IED operation on a Hummer vehicle in the Mada'in area, leading to the destruction and killing of all inside it." "Anbar: al-Khalidiya: the revolutionaries in Ramadi hit a Maliki army point near the al-Sadiqiya bridge with three 120mm mortar rounds, leading to an exact and direct hit." *- Note that in al-Awja today, the Islamic State also claimed operations against the security forces. ========= Bound by Bridge, 2 Baghdad Enclaves Drift Far Apart By ALISSA J. RUBINJULY 26, 2014 Continue reading the main story Slide Show Slide Show|12 Photos Two Baghdad Neighborhoods, a World Apart Two Baghdad Neighborhoods, a World Apart CreditBryan Denton for The New York Times Continue reading the main story Share This Page email facebook twitter save more Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story BAGHDAD — Al Imams Bridge spans the Tigris River between two of the oldest communities in Baghdad — one Sunni, the other Shiite — and on Ramadan evenings it can seem as if the mosques near either bank are calling to each other as their muezzins sing prayers. But the two neighborhoods, the Sunni Adhamiya and the Shiite Kadhimiya, once inextricably joined in the imagination of Baghdad residents, are drifting further and further apart. To walk through each as they break the daily fast during Ramadan is to glimpse the diverging realities of Baghdad: a vibrant and expanding Shiite way of life, and a subdued and dwindling Sunni one. “Now we have two Ramadans,” said Yassin Daoud, 35, a Sunni boat operator who works at an amusement park in Adhamiya on the banks of the river. He made his living taking pleasure cruisers to Al Imams Bridge and back, but no one has asked for a ride yet this year. The two neighborhoods are each anchored by a renowned mosque and shrine nearly as old as Islam itself: Abu Hanifa on the Sunni side, which began to be built in the late 700s, and Imam Kadhim on the Shiite side. Both areas still share some of the character of old Baghdad: the crafts shops, leather workmen and cobblers, halal butchers and gold workers. Continue reading the main story Two Communities in Baghdad Tigris IMAM KADHIM MOSQUE Baghdad AL IMAMS BRIDGE Kadhimiya ABU HANIFA MOSQUE IRAQ Adhamiya Area of detail Baghdad Tigris 5 miles Although the ebb and flow between the two was once as natural as the Tigris’s tides, the past 11 years have taken a deep toll, eroding both the routes that people walked from one community to the other and the trust they once had. Ali al-Nashmi, a professor of history at Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, who grew up in Adhamiya, dates the period of sectarian division to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by the American-led coalition in 2003, with the most recent chapter coming after the fall of Mosul to Sunni militants in June. “The Shia people used to walk through Adhamiya to Imam Kadhim,” said Mr. Nashmi, thinking back to his youth. “But then the sectarian troubles started after 2003 and they were attacked in Adhamiya and they stopped coming that way.” As the Shiites vanished from Adhamiya’s streets, many young Sunnis there, and elsewhere, angered by the sudden loss of Sunni hegemony with Hussein’s exit, joined the insurgency and either were killed or imprisoned or fled. And there were fewer and smaller families to take Mr. Daoud’s boat or lay out their evening meals on the carefully tended grass of the amusement park where his small craft were tethered on the banks of the Tigris. Now almost every table is empty at the Adhamiya park, where hundreds of families every year for more than three decades had spread out their iftar dinners to break the Ramadan fast. Not a single child is on the swan ride; the Ferris wheel seats are empty; the bumper cars clatter round, but no children are in them. Mustapha al-Qaisi, a Sunni taxi driver, brought his family with trepidation to the park, and only because it was a tradition they could not quite bear to give up. “The difference between now and 2006 was that before, we were targeted by militias, but now we are targeted by militias backed by the government,” he said. Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story “I am afraid all the time now that I will be targeted because of my identity,” he said, meaning that a militia checkpoint would recognize that his tribal name was Sunni and abduct or even kill him. If he has a problem with his taxi or an altercation with a customer, he no longer dares to go to the police station to complain, because with his Sunni name, he is fearful the police might detain him. When he saw a foreigner at the park, the first thing he thought was that they might be with a refugee agency. “Are you with the International Organization for Migration?” he asked. “Is it possible to help us get out of Iraq?” Across the river lies a different world. In Kadhimiya, where nearly everyone is Shiite, Ramadan feels like a monthlong street party. Even during the hours of fasting in the heat of the day, when temperatures often reach 115 degrees, people are hard at work preparing for the meal that breaks the fast. They stir vast vats of rice in communal kitchens, shred lamb into small pieces to mix with it, chop tomatoes and cucumbers for salad and slice wheelbarrows of watermelon. At dusk on Kadhimiya’s outskirts, the main entrance is closed for safety because the neighborhood has been attacked so many times. (Just last Tuesday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-packed car near the gate, killing 33 people and wounding more than 60.) Accordingly, the road follows a back route. It winds through urban palm groves and crosses an irrigation canal where boys are swimming, whooping as they plunge into the water and splash each other. When visitors reach the long pedestrian street that leads to the shrine, paces quicken with eagerness to get through the line of friskers who check for bombs and weapons and stroll on to the long esplanade ahead. This shimmering, glimmering main street leads to the Imam Kadhim shrine, its gates outlined in gaudy, jubilant green and white neon. “It’s very good this year,” said Shahad Hamed Harbi al Khafaji, 70, smiling broadly and showing a mostly toothless mouth as he sat on the edge of one of the many long carpets that serve as picnic mats for the iftar meal. “There are very many people; it’s very beautiful here. We are just asking the American people to come and kill ISIS, take them away from us,” he said, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Sunni militant group that has taken over large areas of northern and western Iraq. Now Shiite militias help protect the road from his family’s village in Diyala Province to the highway, and the family came to the shrine to celebrate Ramadan. “We all feel safe to come,” he said, nodding at his five daughters and their children. A few yards away, the Sadr Foundation, founded by the family of the Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr, offered an iftar meal, and some 150 men were digging in. Nearby were families bringing their own simple picnics of homemade yogurt that they ladled into glasses to eat with a basket of dates. Groups of children ran back and forth, tugging at their mothers to buy the balloons and tufts of cotton candy that hawkers sell. Those same mothers threw on the special black abbayas used for prayers in Shiite shrines, handed their cellphones to their eldest sons, and slipped away for a few minutes at the Imam Kadhim shrine. Ruminating on all this, Mr. Nashmi sees a deepening divide that will not easily be halted, much less reversed. “It will get worse: the Sunnis will leave Baghdad and the Shias will leave the north, the Christians are almost gone and we will face really a separated country,” he said. “We cannot find any solution now, and I am very sad.” He continued: “The world lost Iraq, but we must fight, you and me and all the friends, to do something, something mysterious and very far off. We must teach history in the primary school and show our kids Iraq’s great civilization.” A version of this article appears in print on July 27, 2014, on page A5 of the New York edition with the headline: Bound by Bridge, 2 Baghdad Enclaves Drift Far Apart. Order Reprints|Today's Paper|Subscribe =