History tells us in many cases you do not realize it until it is staring you in the face (Friday, September 01, 2006)
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News roundup by Jim GalasynIraq Front NewsFriday, September 01, 2006Baghdad blasts kill 67Fri, 01 Sep 2006 15:04:02 GMTShopkeepers and homeowners in Baghdad cleared rubble and looked for bodies on Friday, a day after a series of explosions killed nearly 70 people and devastated homes and a bazaar just before nightfall.More bodies found after Baghdad attacksFri, 01 Sep 2006 00:00:00 GMTRescue crews pulled bodies from the rubble of bombed buildings today, the day after a barrage of co-ordinated attacks across eastern Baghdad neighbourhoods killed at least 64 people and wounded more than 280 within half an hour, police said.Video: Baghdad market blasts kill dozensAug. 30, 2006http://today.reuters.com/tv/videoStory.aspx?storyId=7f2f1ea42d4b711421cbb206d416c85a64497aa6&isSummitStory=FalseAug. 30 - Bombs at Baghdad's markets kill over 40, wound 56 despite security drive.More than 40 people were killed in bomb attacks in Iraq, including 24 at a busy market in Baghdad where insurgents seem intent on defying a major U.S.-backed security clampdown now in its fourth week.Video: Iraq explosions kills 501 Sep 2006http://today.reuters.com/tv/videoStory.aspx?storyId=e0b744b6cbee634977a865dd6071fb03bb88a0aa&isSummitStory=FalseSept. 1 - Shopkeepers and homeowners cleared rubble and searched for bodies in Baghdad this morning, after a series of explosions that killed 50.The explosions came as families gathered to start the Muslim weekend and as President Bush rallied for Americans to maintain their military presence in Iraq.There's speculation over the cause of the blasts and officials will not say who is responsible.Video: Bloody Week for Iraqis1 Sep 2006http://www.cnn.com/video/partners/clickability/index.html?url=/video/world/2006/09/01/holmes.iraq.wrap.apvideoGunmen kill policeman in NumaniyahFri, 01 Sep 2006 00:00:00 GMTGunmen shot and killed a policeman in Numaniyah, a town near Kut, after breaking into his house last night.Former Iraqi intelligence officier killedFri, 01 Sep 2006 00:00:00 GMTA senior Iraqi intelligence officer during Saddam Hussein's rule was found dead with gunshot wounds and hands bound near his home north of Baghdad a day after he was kidnapped, police said, the second former senior Saddam officer to be killedU.S. Marines patrol Iraqi city at nightFri, 01 Sep 2006 07:33:35 GMThttp://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/iraq/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060901/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iraq_owning_the_nightTheir first silhouettes appear at dusk, moving briskly under dim moonlight or the rare streetlamp. Sometimes the crunch of their boots on trash-strewn streets will stir families dozing on lawns in the cool of evening.AWOL soldier surrenders after 19 monthsFri, 01 Sep 2006 04:35:08 GMThttp://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/iraq/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060901/ap_on_re_us/awol_soldierA year and a half after going AWOL before his second deployment to Iraq, a soldier surrendered at Fort Hood on Thursday with a dozen war protesters by his side.Security developments in Iraq, Sept 101 Sep 2006Sept 1 (Reuters) - Following are security and other developments in Iraq reported on Friday, as of 1545 GMT:(Asterisk * denotes a new or updated item)
KIRKUK - A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol exploded in central Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, seriously wounding three policemen, local police said.
NEAR DUJAIL - A senior Iraqi intelligence officer during Saddam Hussein's rule was found dead with gunshot wounds and hands bound near his home north of Baghdad a day after he was kidnapped, police said, the second former senior Saddam officer to be killed in as many days.
BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb killed three Iraqi policemen in Baghdad's southern Doura district on Friday, police said.
NUMANIYA - Gunmen killed a policeman after storming his house Thursday night in the village of Numaniya, 120 km (72 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
*KERBALA - Police found the bodies of three men blindfolded and handcuffed in the southern Shi'ite city of Kerbala, 110 km (68 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.
*BAGHDAD - The civilian death toll from violence in Iraq fell by 28 percent in August, partial statistics from three government ministries said. Some 769 Iraqi civilians were killed in August compared to 1,065 civilians killed in July, figures compiled by the Health, Defense and Interior Ministries showed.
*MAHMUDIYA - Mortar shells slammed into a residential area in the town of Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, killing one child. A separate mortar attack in Mahmudiya injured three civilians. (Editing by Gareth Jones)U.S. force in Iraq at 140,000Aug 31, 2006WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has expanded its force in Iraq to 140,000 troops, the most since January and 13,000 more than five weeks ago, the Pentagon said on Thursday, amid relentless violence in Baghdad and elsewhere.This follows July's decision by commanders to augment the U.S. military presence in Baghdad to try to curb escalating sectarian violence that has heightened concern about all-out civil war in Iraq.As American troops continue to fight a tenacious insurgency nearly 3 1/2 years into the war, U.S. military deaths in Iraq reached at least 62 in August -- increasing from 43 in July and ending three straight monthly declines.August's total still was about average for a war in which about 64 U.S. troops have died per month. There have been 2,635 U.S. military deaths since war began in March 2003, and another 19,773 troops have been wounded in action, the Pentagon said.Recent moves including the Pentagon's July 27 decision to delay for up to four months the scheduled departure from Iraq of about 4,000 soldiers from an Alaska-based brigade have indicated significant U.S. troop cuts are unlikely in the near future.The Pentagon said the U.S. force, which stood at 127,000 on July 25, now numbers 140,000.A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the U.S. force likely will remain at about the current level in the coming months, but could shrink a bit by the end of the year depending on conditions in Iraq.The arrival of fresh troops as part of the routine rotation of U.S. forces also has contributed to the current increase because some of those they are replacing have not yet left, officials said.This summer's expansion of the U.S. force came in response to a surge of violence particularly in the capital -- much of it between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims.U.S. military officers in Baghdad have said violence including murders declined in August from July's high levels but that there are still about 56 attacks per day in the capital.President George W. Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Army Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, all have expressed a desire to reduce the U.S. presence in Iraq if Iraqi security and political conditions permit.Casey on Wednesday said he foresaw Iraqi government security forces assuming control of security in their own country within 12 to 18 months with "very little" support from U.S.-led forces. But Casey said it was not clear when Iraqi troops would be able to go it alone and the United States could start withdrawing troops.As recently as June, when the U.S. force stood at 125,000 with 14 combat brigades, Casey offered a plan to reduce by two brigades -- roughly 3,500 each -- this fall, with perhaps two more gone by December. His plan envisioned the U.S. force shrinking to five or six combat brigades by December 2007.Currently all or parts of 18 combat brigades are in Iraq, according to the Pentagon.The U.S. force in Iraq peaked last October and December at around 160,000 troops to help protect two Iraqi elections.Upscale of Iraqi violence due to stepped up military offensive: USFri, 01 Sep 2006 15:14:07 GMTA recent uptick in violence in Iraq is due to an offensive operation by security forces moving in the face of insurgents bent on increasing anarchy, the US military said.Pentagon Moves Toward Monitoring MediaFri, 01 Sep 2006 01:28:57 GMThttp://topix.net/r/0VbzvuDGWNRuDkXS1vjkys0QxwgQluCZEJkEOo1BtlbGt3S=2FyWsI5drnJjgwCAT8bjfIdsRfgImXJ63qfBXuV8spzj=2B02hzlI1H=2F=2BUOxHzbfG8WDAQxtyzoH1saVzauLem3rGr=2BGquAx8bcUSaF=2FKlQ=3D=3DThe U.S. command in Baghdad is seeking bidders for a two-year, $20 million public relations contract that calls for monitoring the tone of Iraq news stories filed by U.S. and foreign media.Bush spin on Iraq war won't hurt Democrats: expertsFri, 01 Sep 2006 12:58:11 GMThttp://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/iraq/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060901/pl_afp/uspoliticsbushiraqAttempts by the administration of US President George W. Bush to justify the continuing war in Iraq by comparing it to the 20th century war against Nazism as November elections draw near could actually benefit divided Democrats, experts said.Bush escalates war-on-terror rhetoricFri, 01 Sep 2006 08:00:00 GMTThe Christian Science Monitor - As the nation fights wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and seeks to keep the American homeland safe, another sort of conflict is heating up: a war of rhetoric.Bush links Iraq effort, U.S. safetyFri, 01 Sep 2006 07:54:09 GMThttp://topix.net/r/0VbzvuDGWNRuDkXS1vjkys0QxwgQluCZEJkEOo1BtlbGt3S=2FyWsI5drnJjgwCAT8bEPYHYHeoMvvQ2lDQceX=2B9EVEgyqSG1=2FjgYqR8Yu1bOsaLx2pZDZjb1zhV=2Bp2neFLbFsXD=2FhP08zqHfJhvEBxAA=3D=3D'If we give up the fight in the streets of Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities,' he told military veterans at an American Legion convention.The true Iraq appeasersAugust 31, 2006http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/08/31/the_true_iraq_appeasers/IN HIS MOST recent justification of his Pentagon stewardship, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reached back to the 1930s, comparing the Bush administration's critics to those who, like US Ambassador to Britain Joseph P. Kennedy, favored appeasing Adolf Hitler. Rumsfeld avoided a more recent comparison: the appeasement of Saddam Hussein by the Reagan and first Bush administrations. The reasons for selectivity are obvious, since so many of Hussein's appeasers in the 1980s were principals in the 2003 Iraq war, including Rumsfeld.In 1983, President Reagan initiated a strategic opening to Iraq, then in the third year of a war of attrition with neighboring Iran. Although Iraq had started the war with a blitzkrieg attack in 1980, the tide had turned by 1982 in favor of much larger Iran, and the Reagan administration was afraid Iraq might actually lose. Reagan chose Rumsfeld as his emissary to Hussein, whom he visited in December 1983 and March 1984. Inconveniently, Iraq had begun to use chemical weapons against Iran in November 1983, the first sustained use of poison gas since a 1925 treaty banning that.Rumsfeld never mentioned this blatant violation of international law to Hussein, instead focusing on shared hostility toward Iran and an oil pipeline through Jordan. Rumsfeld apparently did mention it to Tariq Aziz, Iraq's foreign minister, but by not raising the issue with the paramount leader he signaled that good relations were more important to the United States than the use of poison gas.This message was reinforced by US conduct after the Rumsfeld missions. The Reagan administration offered Hussein financial credits that eventually made Iraq the third-largest recipient of US assistance. It normalized diplomatic relations and, most significantly, began providing Iraq with battlefield intelligence. Iraq used this information to target Iranian troops with chemical weapons. And when Iraq turned its chemical weapons on the Kurds in 1988, killing 5,000 in the town of Halabja, the Reagan administration sought to obscure responsibility by falsely suggesting Iran was also responsible.On Aug. 25, 1988 -- five days after the Iran-Iraq War ended -- Iraq attacked 48 Kurdish villages more than 100 miles from Iran. Within days, the US Senate passed legislation, sponsored by Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island, to end US financial support for Hussein and to impose trade sanctions. To enhance the prospects that Reagan would sign his legislation, Pell sent me to Eastern Turkey to interview Kurdish survivors who had fled across the border. As it turned out, the Reagan administration agreed that Iraq had gassed the Kurds, but strongly opposed sanctions, or even cutting off financial assistance. Colin Powell, then the national security adviser, coordinated the Reagan administration's opposition.The Pell bill died at the end of the congressional session in 1988, in spite of heroic efforts by Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts to force it through by holding up a raft of administration nominations.The next year, President George H.W. Bush's administration actually doubled US financial credits for Iraq. A week before Hussein invaded Kuwait, the administration vociferously opposed legislation that would have conditioned US assistance to Iraq on a commitment not to use chemical weapons and to stop the genocide against the Kurds. At the time, Dick Cheney, now vice president, was secretary of defense and a statutory member of the National Security Council that reviewed Iraq policy. By all accounts, he supported the administration's appeasement policy.In 2003, Cheney, Powell, and Rumsfeld all cited Hussein's use of chemical weapons 15 years before as a rationale for war. But at the time Hussein was actually doing the gassing -- including of his own people -- they considered his use of chemical weapons a second-tier issue.The Reagan and first Bush administrations believed that Hussein could be a strategic partner to the United States, a counterweight to Iran, a force for moderation in the region, and possibly help in the Arab-Israel peace process. That was, of course, an illusion. A ruthless dictator who launched an attack on his neighbor, Iran, who used chemical weapons, and who committed genocide against his own Kurds was never likely to be a reliable American ally. Hussein, having watched the United States gloss over his crimes in the Iran war and at home, concluded he could get away with invading Kuwait.It was a costly error for him, for his country, and eventually for the United States, which now has the largest part of its military bogged down in the Iraqi quagmire. Meanwhile the architects of the earlier appeasement policy now maintain the illusion that they have a path to victory, if only their critics would shut up.Peter W. Galbraith, a former US ambassador to Croatia, is author of ``The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End."UK's Blair defies critics over departure dateAugust 31, 2006LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair urged an end to speculation about when he will leave office and asked to be allowed to get on with his job in an interview published on Friday.The Times newspaper said Blair had defied critics in his Labour Party by refusing to name a date for stepping down.Dashing expectations, he insisted he had no intention of saying more about his future either before or during the Labour Party annual conference that opens on September 24, The Times said.Blair has faced constant rumors about when he will step down after he pledged before winning a third successive general election last year that he would not seek a fourth term.With his popularity plunging, calls have grown within the Labour Party for Blair to set a date for handing over power to his expected successor, finance minister Gordon Brown."I have done what no other prime minister has done before me. I've said I'm not going to go on and on and on, and said I'll leave ample time for my successor. Now at some point I think people have to accept that as a reasonable proposition and let me get on with the job," Blair said."I think if it is speculation that people are worried about, there is a simple answer -- stop speculating," said Blair, who has just returned from a Caribbean holiday.Blair, in office for nine years, said members of parliament who "carried on and on" about his leadership really wanted the party to change direction away from Blair's free-market "New Labour" policies, The Times said.Despite Blair's refusal to give a timetable, the Guardian newspaper quoted sources as saying that Blair's "current thinking" was that he would stand down in the summer of 2007.Under pressure to set out a transition timetable, Blair promised in May to give his successor ample time to settle in before the next election, expected in 2009.But the Sunday Telegraph reported in August that Blair planned to stay on for at least another year, longer than many Labour politicians wanted. It said this could cause friction with Brown, who is impatient to take over.A poll in the Guardian last week said Britain's opposition Conservatives, under leader David Cameron, had opened a nine-point lead over Labour -- enough to give them a slim parliamentary majority if repeated at a general election.Blair's popularity has plunged after a series of government scandals over sex, sleaze and mismanagement. He has also faced sharp criticism recently -- some of it from Labour politicians -- for failing initially to call for an immediate ceasefire in the war between Israel and Lebanese Hizbollah guerrillas.Colonel Sees No Civil War In Iraq, Pentagon Report Suggests Otherwise9/1/2006There's more insistence that despite the ongoing violence, Iraq is not slipping into a civil war. Colonel Thomas Vail says based on the number of troops available in Baghdad, he's confident that won't happen.The commander of the Army's Fourth Brigade Combat Team says as the Iraqis realize they're being protected, and as essential services improve, things will turn against the insurgents.Vail also contends those insurgents may be getting desperate. He says the rash of violence may be a reaction to the threat the military is posing.But while Vail expects Iraq to someday be a "peaceful and prosperous nation," he's also realistic. Vail warns that "success in Baghdad will not happen overnight."Meanwhile, the Pentagon says sectarian violence in Iraq is getting worse and feeding the risk of civil war.In its latest report to Congress, the Defense Department says security problems are more complex now than at any time since Saddam Hussein toppled from power.It says death squads targeting mainly Iraqi civilians are a growing problem. And the report says the death squads and terrorists are locked in what it calls "mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife."Judge: No gag order in Iraq slaying caseFri, 01 Sep 2006 17:14:36 GMThttp://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/iraq/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060901/ap_on_re_us/iraq_rape_slayingA federal judge rejected a gag order that could have kept lawyers and even President Bush from publicly discussing the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the slaying of her relatives.Iraqi Casualties Increase by 1,000 a MonthSeptember 1, 2006WASHINGTON -- In a dismal assessment, the Pentagon reported to Congress today that the number of attacks and civilian deaths in Iraq have risen sharply in recent months — with casualties increasing by 1,000 a month — as sectarian violence has engulfed larger areas of the country.The quarterly report, based on new government figures, shows that the number of attacks in Iraq over the last four months increased 15% and the number of Iraqi casualties grew by 51%. In the last three months, the report says, the number of deaths and injuries increased by 1,000 people a month over the previous quarter — to more than 3,000 each month.Over a longer time horizon, the spike is even more grim. The number of weekly attacks has increased from just over 400 in the spring of 2004 to nearly 800 during recent weeks. And the number of daily casualties has increased from just under 30 a day in 2004 to more than 110 a day in recent weeks."Extremists seeking to stoke ethno-sectarian strife have increasingly focused their efforts on civilians, inciting a cycle of retribution killings and driving civilian casualties to new highs," the report says.The report says that Iraq is not in a civil war, but acknowledged that Iraqi civilians are increasingly worried about such a conflict. It reports that Iraqis are optimistic about the future, but cautions that the positive outlook is eroding. Stopping the ethnic and sectarian violence is the "most pressing immediate goal" of the American military and Iraqi government, it says.The report comes amid a new effort by President Bush and his administration to shore up sagging public support for the Iraq war in advance of the fall elections, but may do little to help the president's case. Administration officials have tried to portray Iraq as the front line in the war on terrorism and have described the effort as part of a larger struggle against Islamic extremists. However, by putting hard numbers to the perception that Iraq is increasingly chaotic, the new Pentagon report stands to further undermine support for the administration's strategy in Iraq.The violence in Iraq, according to the report, cannot be attributed to a unified or organized insurgency. Instead, violence is the result of a complex interplay between international terrorists, local insurgents, sectarian death squads, organized militias and criminal groups. The armed militias and other sectarian groups are contesting integrated neighborhoods in a bid to expand their area of influence, the report says."This is a pretty sober report," said Peter Rodman, the assistant secretary of Defense for international security. "The last quarter has been rough. The level of violence is up. And the sectarian quality of the violence is particularly acute and disturbing."In arguing that Iraq is not yet in a full-scale civil war, Defense officials pointed out that Iraqi security forces remain loyal to the central government and that no rival government has emerged."History tells us in many cases you do not realize it until it is staring you in the face, but there are important things that have not happened," said Rear Adm. William Sullivan, the vice director for strategic plans and policy on the Pentagon's joint staff. "The sectarian violence is worrisome We are not blind to the possibility that this could continue down the wrong path."Sullivan said he believed that despite the rise in killings, the U.S. was still making progress."The violence has increased, but it is primarily Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence," he said.Although military officials in Iraq repeatedly have emphasized that the majority of recent violence is concentrated in Baghdad, the new report also says that violence has increased in Diyala, Mosul and Kirkuk. The sectarian violence that has enveloped Baghdad, the report says, is now spreading to those cities."Any spread of sectarian violence is cause for concern," Sullivan said.The report says part of the reason for the increased violence is that the attacks on civilians have driven people to "endorse extremist actions on their behalf" — lending their support to the insurgent and militia groups in order to provide security for their neighborhoods. That dynamic is undermining the government's reconciliation efforts and ability to provide security.According to the report, Muqtada Sadr's Al Mahdi army militia has achieved a "measure of tolerance" from Iraq's new government. But the report says that violence between the Al Madhi army and the Iraqi army is frequent, and says the militia receives support from Iran.One key indicator of full-scale violence identified in previous Pentagon reports is the number of forced displacements of people and households. Although the U.S. military has been skeptical about reports of large numbers of displaced people in the past, the report quotes a U.N. estimate that 137,862 people have been pushed out of their homes since the Samarra mosque bombing in February.The mosque bombing is widely seen as setting off the current cycle of sectarian violence. Sunnis allied with Abu Musab Zarqawi, the terrorist leader slain in June in a U.S. attack, were blamed for destroying the mosque, a holy site for Shiites in a largely Sunni city. ...Iraqis burn books to protest 'culture-killing' curfewFri, 01 Sep 2006 15:47:01 GMThttp://us.rd.yahoo.com/dailynews/rss/iraq/*http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060901/wl_mideast_afp/iraqliteraturecultureunrestSeveral of Iraq's leading booksellers and writers have burnt a pyre of books to denounce a curfew which they said has turned the centre of Baghdad's intellectual life into 'a street of ghosts'.Anger boils in Iraq's "town of martyrs"Sep 1, 2006http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/articlenews.aspx?type=worldNews&storyid=2006-09-01T020116Z_01_IBO029275_RTRUKOC_0_UK-IRAQ-TOWN.xml&src=rssHALABJA, Iraq (Reuters) - Broken glass crunched under Adnan's feet as he walked through Halabja's vandalised memorial. He stopped and pointed to an inscription on the wall."There is my father's name. I remember the day they gassed us as if it were yesterday. We ran but my father and sister didn't make it," said the 27-year-old Kurdish Peshmerga militiaman.Near Iraq's border with Iran, Halabja became synonymous with atrocities against civilians after Saddam Hussein's forces killed 5,000 people here in a gas attack in 1988. Iraqi Kurds call Halabja the "town of martyrs" and hold the massacre in their collective memory as a Kurdish Auschwitz.Today, the victims' memorial also bears witness to more recent violence and simmering discontent in this dusty town.In March, on the 18th anniversary of the gas attack, hundreds of locals attacked the memorial and set it on fire as anger at perceived neglect and corruption by Kurdish authorities boiled over."It is sad to see what happened to the museum," said Adnan, who camps with his unit on cots in what used to be an exhibition room. In another room, decapitated statues of women and children, representing victims of the gas attack, lie scattered.Local officials blamed Islamists and outsiders, a veiled reference to Iran. But youths in Halabja said the protests were spurred by local anger at the Kurdish government.They said Kurdish leaders had exploited Halabja for their political ends, and that donations and investment from outside had not translated into better schools, roads or services.Adnan, who was 9 when Halabja was gassed and survived by fleeing to the mountains with his uncle and mother, does not understand the reasons."We are all from Halabja. Why did they do this?" he said. Makuan Raouf has an answer."The government has done nothing for Halabja. The only thing they built here was the memorial," the 29-year-old barber said."Politicians only come to Halabja for the anniversary. They built the memorial on the outskirts to avoid seeing our faces and asking us about our problems."Nearly two decades after the gas attack, Saddam faces genocide charges over the military campaign that razed hundreds of Kurdish villages -- his trial resumes on September 11 -- and Kurds have an autonomous government in peaceful Kurdistan.Nearby Sulaimaniya and other cities are enjoying a construction boom and foreign firms are considering investing in oil and communications here.But the prosperity is not reaching the villages, which bore the brunt of Saddam's Anfal -- or Spoils of War -- campaign.Kurdish leaders say 100,000 people were killed during the seven-month onslaught. The populations of entire villages disappeared, rural areas were declared "out of bounds to all persons and animals" and troops were allowed to fire at will.Although the Halabja gas attack took place in the same period as Anfal, Saddam will be tried separately for it. Like most villages in Kurdistan, Halabja's streets are unpaved, its schools are old and residents complain of electricity shortages and unemployment.The road to Halabja runs along a fertile valley with massive rocky mountains. At the town's entrance, sunflowers sprout next to a large billboard that shows women and children lying dead after the gas attack. "Welcome to Halabja. We, the trees and the water are the Kurdish people," it reads.Kocher Mohammed, 23, said he wants his town to be known as more than just a symbol of Saddam's persecution against Kurds."Our parents keep telling us what happened in Halabja during the war but we want to move on. The only way to make a living here is smuggling gasoline from Iran."Mayor Fouad Saleh Ridha blamed the lack of reconstruction programmes in Halabja on violence in the rest of Iraq and the financial constraints of the regional government."The Kurdish government cannot rebuild all the places at the same time but we need more attention in Halabja," he said.For Meth Ali, 21, the neglect seems deliberate."The world knows of Iraq because of Halabja but the donations have gone into the pockets of the politicians. They all live in Europe and don't even come here."Shiites warn against revenge after Baghdad bloodbathFri, 01 Sep 2006 15:11:15 GMTMuslim preachers have warned worshippers against carrying out reprisals that could push Iraq into civil war, after bombs and mortar shells killed 67 civilians in Shiite areas of Baghdad.Violence uproots Shiites and Sunnis, threatening to divide the capital for generationsSeptember 01, 2006BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) Four years ago this was a city where people mixed freely where, in most parts of town, no one cared if a neighborhood was majority Sunni or Shiite. Loyalty to Saddam Hussein was more important than religious identity.But now a battle for Baghdad is well under way between the two major Muslim sects. Death squads are slaughtering people daily and an estimated 160,000 Iraqis have fled their homes mostly here in the capital.Out of that violence, a new but not better city is emerging. Many Iraqis fear that the result will be a Sunni west and a Shiite east, with the broad Tigris River snaking through the middle as the sectarian boundary.The process ultimately could leave a legacy of bitterness and poison Iraqi society for generations. Each sect has legitimate claims to territory on both sides of the river that they won't emotionally abandon. And no national Iraqi government can truly function if sectarian ``no go'' zones are scattered all over the capital.Baghdad, Iraq's largest city with a population of more than 6 million, is still a long way from that stark sectarian divide. There are many religiously mixed neighborhoods, and Shiite and Sunni enclaves remain on both sides of the river.The mixed character of some neighborhoods, such as Jihad and Amariyah, is partly due to Saddam Hussein's policy of rewarding government officials and Baath Party figures.Spacious villas or plots of land in newly developed neighborhoods went to Iraqis based not on religion but on loyalty to the regime. Rich Shiite businessmen were as welcome as anyone, even in neighborhoods populated by officers from Saddam's Sunni-dominated military.But that peaceful coexistence began to change after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 that toppled Saddam.Sunnis, suddenly powerless, saw the Shiite politicians and clerics who cooperated with the Americans as their enemy and legitimate targets in the sectarian struggle.The rifts widened dramatically this year. After a Feb. 22 blast destroyed an important Shiite shrine in Samarra, Shiite hard-liners stopped listening to their clerics' appeals for restraint.Although reliable census data is unavailable, the city has developed historically with Sunnis in greater numbers west of the Tigris and Shiites, Kurds and Christians more numerous in the east. That general pattern has been sharpened and made more stark as tensions have risen and people have fled to neighborhoods where others of their ``kind'' live.As the city reshapes itself, flashpoints are emerging. The core fight today is a struggle for control of the corridors into the city from the north and south.In the north, Shiites control an arc of neighborhoods Sadr City, Kazimiyah and Shula. In the south, Sunni militants are trying to consolidate power in another arc, comprised of Sadiyah and Dora.The anchor of Shiite power is Sadr City in northeastern Baghdad. It's an almost exclusively Shiite community of 2.5 million people that is the stronghold of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, head of an important militia called the Mahdi army.For the time being, Sadr City is a Shiite militia safe haven. Al-Sadr is a key supporter of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and the prime minister angrily criticized the Americans for using excessive force in a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid on Sadr City in early August.From Sadr City, Mahdi militiamen fan out across eastern Baghdad and use major traffic arteries such as Palestine Street to reach religiously mixed areas to the south and east. That gives them a degree of control along the eastern and northern routes into the city and they're trying to strengthen that control.Leon Franca Aziz, 61, a Christian, used to live in one of those mixed eastern neighborhoods until he found a warning spray-painted on the wall around his house: ``Crusaders must leave or their heads will be our sons' soccer balls.'' He packed up and moved to Syria last April.Sparsely populated areas just outside Sadr City also are good locations for firing mortars and rockets at the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, to the southwest along the west bank of the Tigris.To the west of Sadr City lies a second major Shiite stronghold Kazimiyah a neighborhood that grew up around the shrine of an 8th century Shiite saint. Next over to the west lies Shula, a haven for Shiites driven from their homes elsewhere.But wedged between Sadr City and Kazimiyah is a cluster of Sunni districts, chief among them Azamiyah, where Saddam hid when Baghdad fell to U.S. forces in April 2003. Azamiyah thus prevents Shiite extremists from moving freely between Sadr City and the two other Shiite strongholds to the west.That makes Azamiyah a target for Shiite militiamen. Mindful of that, Sunnis in Azamiyah have formed armed neighborhood militias to guard against outsiders even those who in theory are there to protect them.When Iraqi government police entered the area last April to set up checkpoints, many Azamiyah residents were convinced that Shiite death squads would not be far behind. The Sunni groups battled government forces for two days.Meanwhile, across the city on Baghdad's southern rim, lies another key flashpoint where Sunnis are pressing to consolidate power over the mixed, but mostly Sunni, neighborhoods of Dora and Sadiyah.The arc they form along a bend in the Tigris River is another key point of control. It's a route that Shiite pilgrims travel between Baghdad and a religious shrine to the south. But it also connects Baghdad to a belt of Sunni villages where al-Qaida and other Sunni religious extremists operate an area known as the ``Triangle of Death'' for its frequent attacks.In this area, Dora is the prize. A once-fashionable neighborhood of spacious villas and leafy streets, it was home, before Saddam's fall, to Sunnis, Shiites and Christians who lived together peacefully. Now, Sunni extremists have been violently pressuring Shiites and Christians to leave.Shiite physician Ahmed Mulktar, his wife and their four children left their two-story house in Dora in July for a cramped apartment in eastern Baghdad after he was kidnapped and told there was ``no room for Shiites'' in Dora.``I didn't have any other choice but to leave my house and move to another, safer area,'' Mulktar said.Sunni control of Dora also threatens Karradah, a mostly Shiite district across the Tigris that is controlled by the country's biggest Shiite party. In late July, about 30 people were killed in Karradah in a coordinated attack of car bombs and a rocket barrage fired across the river from Dora.Since then, U.S. officials have claimed some success in reducing the city's sectarian violence with a major influx of troops. But restoring public confidence will take much longer, and in the meantime the city continues to segregate along religious lines.Abu Saleh, a retired Agriculture Ministry official, moved from Shula, in the Shiite area, to Sadiyah in July after he and his wife were verbally harassed as ``defiled Sunnis.''``Moving to another place was a must,'' he said. ``But it was hard to leave everything behind.''Associated Press writer Omar Sinan contributed to this report.Pelosi: 'Iraq War Is Weakening Our Ability to Fight the War on Terrorism'8/31/2006WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 /U.S. Newswire/ -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today on President Bush's speech in Salt Lake City to the American Legion:"Today, once again, President Bush demonstrated that he is in denial about his historic blunder in Iraq. We must win the war on terror, but the war in Iraq is the wrong war. Today, just as it has since the war began, Iraq is weakening our ability to fight the war on terrorism."The strain that the Iraq war has put on our military has crippled our ability to prosecute the war on terrorism and has dangerously limited our ability to respond to real challenges to our national security around the world."Mr. Bush's failed war in Iraq come at a huge cost, first and foremost in human lives, and at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars. It has also had a tremendous cost to reputation, damaging our ability to engage other countries in diplomacy to make the world safer."Democrats are proposing a new direction with policies that are tough and smart that will make our country safer, our military stronger, and the world more stable."Democrats Target Rumsfeld -- Lawmakers to Seek a Vote of No Confidence in Defense SecretarySeptember 1, 2006Under assault from Republicans on issues of nati
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