Friday, May 22, 2015

Ramadi, Fallujah and Operation Enduring Disaster  

I remember my trips to Ramadi, Fallujah and throughout Iraq since 2002, and continue to be dismayed by those "experts" who have created this disaster.

So long at we continue to have those who have devised disastrous policies, we will continue to get disastrous results. The main problem is the problems of this nature have to be address by multidimensional strategies that are developed using critical thinking - both of what have been missing in Washington, DC. Those who believe in the efficacy of military force have framed the strategies despite acknowledgement that "there is no military solution to the problem".

History will show that this never needed to happen but that small minded men (mostly) were the ones directly responsible.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Two U.S. Marines and one sailor were killed Thursday while conducting combat operations in Fallajah yesterday (Thursday), bring to 18 the number of US troops killed in April. At least 356 Iraqis died in April due to the conflict.

Also on Thursday, the Iraq war formally ended for British forces as they handed control of Basra to U.S. commanders and prepared to ship out most of its remaining 4,000 troops. A U.S. flag was raised over the base outside the southern city. From Basra to Baquba, basic services, electricity, sewage treatment and clean water are in short supply, while corrupt officials and political elites survives only with the protection of US firepower. Gordon Brown claimed yesterday that the wreckage of blood-drenched Iraq was a "success story". General, Petreaus still has no exit strategy for the U.S. Turkish jet hit Iraq's mountainous region on Wednesday and Thursday. The new raids came a day after a powerful bomb blast, blamed on the PKK, killed nine soldiers in Diyarbakır province in Southeast Turkey and the separatists shot dead a soldier near the town of Şemdinli, close to the border with Iraq.

On Friday, two brothers were killed in a pre-dawn military raid in Tikrit. Security was tightened in Tikrit after hundreds of angry mourners — some firing weapons into the air — took to the streets to protest the killings. The demonstrators shouted "Down with America!"

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Just a quick note on the names of some of the local groups in Iraq who are involved in the fighting:

The Army of Abu Bakr al Sadiq, The Brigade of the 20th Revolution, Al Qaeda in Iraq, The Iraqi Islamic Army, The Army of Mujahudeen, Ansar al Sunna, Kurdistan Brigades, Mahdi Army, Hizbollah paramiltaries, the Badr Brigade, The Islamic Front for Resistance, The Army of Rashadeen, The Army of the Brothers of Mohammed.

Each group has different goals and tactics. Many are concentrated on fighting the foreign occuption. A few are both involved in fighting and in politics. Some work together.

The result is a very muddy picture of the fighting - one that can only be partially cleared after all occupation militaries, foreign contractors and clandestine groups from outside leave the country.

It's been more than 6 years and despite Washington's protestations of "success" many things in Iraq are still very worrisome and large-scale violence could erupt at any time. Recent escalations in attacks, throughout many parts of the country, are one indication that more and more people are frustrated with the current situation.

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Sitting with the team back at the home in Suli, listening to "Dust in the Wind" and reflecting on this country and its wars.

While our team was in Halabja today, meeting with survivors of the 1988 massacre in that area, there were more than 118 casualties throughout Iraq.

Two car bombs tore through crowded areas of Sadr City in Baghdad on, killing at least 45 people and wounding more than 60 others. Bloodstained pavement and twisted heaps of metal from the cars greeted witnesses. Saadi Rashid, 35, said he had just bought some new clothes for his children at a nearby store when the blast went off, sending shrapnel piercing through his shoulder and his leg. "I saw my blood covering the clothes that I had planned to take to my kids," he said. Also in Baghdad, a roadside bomb struck a minibus, killing five and wounding three more.

Elsewhere in Iraq, U.S. troops opened fire in Riyadh near Kirkuk after they said they were ambushed. Two civilians were killed and one injured when the Americans opened fire. The military says that they were attacked by several people with grenades and guns. In the al-Karama district of Mosul, police found the body of a beheaded girl. In the eastern Mosul neighbourhood of al-Mathna, 'unknown gunmen' fatally shot a police officer in his house.

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Christians in the Kirkuk area have been urged not to flee after 4 killings in recent days. "The main objective of these crimes is to create chaos and promote strife and divisions among the people of Kirkuk. I call on Christians not to be jarred by these crimes and to stay in Kirkuk. We are sons of this city," sail Luis Sacko, the city's Chaldean archbishop.

Iraq's Christians are currently believed to number around 750,000 and many have already joined the nearly 5 million Iraqi refugees scattered within, and outside, of Iraq since the 2003 invasion and occupation.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Two homes of Christians living in Kirkuk were stormed by gunmen today. In one, a woman was killed and another injured.

In other news: In the other one man was shot dead and his brother and father were wounded. In Mosul, three people were killed in drive-by shootings. A policeman was killed by a roadside bomb in the al-Dora section of Baghdad.

About Kirkuk: Kirkuk, 155 miles north of Baghdad, is the capital of Tamim province, which is also know as Kirkuk province. Kirkuk sits atop one of Iraq's key oil producing fields. The Kirkuk fields contain about 13 percent of Iraq's proven reserves. U.S. officials believe the province could contain 4 percent of the world's oil reserves. The city lies just outside the largely autonomous Kurdistan region, which is predominantly Kurdish. Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen make up Kirkuk's three main ethnic groups. The city is also home to Chaldean Catholic Christians and other minorities. Thousands of Arab families moved to Kirkuk in the 1970s and 1980s under former President Saddam Hussein's "Arabisation" policy, which involved the expulsion of thousands of Kurds and Turkmen. Kurds consider Kirkuk their ancient capital and want it to become part of Kurdistan. Kurdish moves to integrate Kirkuk with Kurdistan have caused concerns in neighboring Turkey, which fears Iraq's Kurds will turn Kirkuk into the capital of a new state, possibly fuelling separatism among its own sizable Kurdish population. US, Turkish, Iraqi central government, and KRG officials appear to be working feaverishly in the background to come up with some sort of "deal" over the city. Iraq and Syria plan to help repair the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline. The 1000- mile pipeline, which extends from Iraq's northern oil fields at Kirkuk to Banias where Syria has a refinery, has been closed since the US-led invasion of 2003.

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Back in Suli from a 4-day trip to about a dozen villages along Iraq's border with Turkey and Iran (more to follow on this trip).

Today's news from Iraq: U.S. troops once again are violating the security agreement and conducting raids on Iraqi homes - and in one case killing and local chief and his wife. U.S. forces on Sunday conducted a raid in Kut, without informing the central government or even the local police chief. This "crime" (according the Prime Minister Maliki) was conducted in the middle of the night and in which the U.S. military said it targeted the financier of Shiite militia factions believed to be backed by the Iranians. Two persons dead, six arrested. On Saturday, US and Iraqi forces raided homes in Fallujah.

One US soldier was killed and two injured in an attack in Kirkuk on Saturday. Seven pilgrims on their way to Samarra were wounded when gunmen opened fire at their mini-bus near Balad. In Mosul, two Iraqi soldiers were killed when gunmen attacked their checkpoint and an off-duty police man was killed in another incident.

At least 60 people were killed and 125 were wounded in twin suicide attacks at the mosque in Baghdad's Kadhimiya neighbourhood on Friday. There were killings in Sinjar, Jalawla and Mosul as well.

In other news, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a surprise visit to Baghdad on Saturday. She said Iraq is "on the right track".

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I will likely not be able to add to the blog for the next several days. We will be visiting villages along with border region of Turkey and Iraq to gather evidence of military incursions of those countries and bombings of these villages. Among the villages that we will visit include: Kani SPi, Shaqlaw, Barzan, Zharwa, Kak Haiji, Choman, Sheladze, Kani Mase, Yekmala, and Merkegia. According to reports, not only have villages been bombed with cluster bombs, but approaches to them have been bombed as well, their lands seeded with mines, and Turkish military bases have been built on the Iraqi side all in an attempt to keep Kurdish villages from returning to their lands inside Iraq - all clear violations of international human rights.

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The U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) submitted a report Wednesday on the disputed territories in northern Iraq. The report didn't offer any solutions to the dispute between Baghdad and KRG officials, but rather called for local measures to address each of the areas. The KRG president, Masoud Barzani, met with U.S. president Obama last week in which they discussed security, Turkey and the role of the Iraqi national government.

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Five people were killed and at least 15 injuured by a suicided bomber inside a mosque in Dhuluiya, 45 miles north of Baghdad, yesterday. In Mosul, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol in a crowded market wounded eight people, including a policeman. A suicide car bomber attacked a security checkpoint run by Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Zummar, near Mosul. Also in Zummar, a Kurdish Peshmerga leader escaped death when a bomb in a parked car exploded near his convoy. In Kirkuk, gunmen in a car kidnapped a judge while he was heading to his office. A bomb on Tuesday killed a policeman and wounded three others when it struck their patrol in the Amiriya district of western Baghdad.

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Asking around, the Iraqis apparently aren't much impressed with the new Ambassador, Hill. They do say that he should be better than Bremer - but that's not saying much.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Halliburton is at it again: The company's CEO, David Lesar, is "looking forward" to oil drilling in Iraq. "We're having discussions with any large number of (international oil companies) about their ongoing discussions with the Iraqi government about starting operations there," Lesar said in an earnings call yesterday. Oil for blood anyone?

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It is very interesting being with this international group and being an American in the minority this time. Of the permanent team, 2 are from the US, 1 from Canada and 1 from Taiwan.

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The Sunday election of Iyad al-Samarrai as the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament could create some challenges for Iraq. Iraq has been without a president of the Legislature the prior speaker stepped down in December. With Iraq struggling to form provincial governments in the wake of the January elections and political turmoil simmering the challenge for the new speaker is to overcome ethinic-political divides while moving the country forward in such areas as rebuilding and oil/gas leases. Resolving the jurisdictional fight over oil-rich Kirkuk and the various disputed territories near Kurdistan will also be high on the agenda. A constitutional committee on Kirkuk that was supposed to help resolve this dispute has failed to meet a March 31 deadline, causing political tensions in the region to accelerate. With the Kurdish provinces preparing for provincial elections in May (at this point) there are worries that inattention or lack of resolution in Baghdad could turn this into widespread conflict.

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The Kurdish people comprise 40 million across Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria (More than half live in in Turkey) and have been repressed by various governments for centuries. Three of Iraq's governorates (states) - Dahuk, Irbil, and Sulaymaniyah - make up Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurds have a unique language and culture and, as a regional CULTURAL group, many different religions as well. Most Iraqi Kurds that we have met claim to be Kurds first with their other local identity (Iraqi, Christian, Muslim, etc.) second....creating both obvious challenges and less obvious opportunities.

We're meeting with all types of Iraqi Kurds to better understand the situation in this part of the country and also to document international human rights violations - particularly the shelling of entire villages by the Turkish and Iranian government with apparently full complicity by the U.S.

NOTE: Spellings. There can be multiple spellings for a city or area in Arabic (ie. Dohuk, Dahuk, Duhok). Additionally, Kurdish names for these places may be entirely different (i.e. Irbil, Erbil = Hawler) so you will see me use various spellings.

Here is a good link for more general information about Iraqi Kurdistan: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/kurdistan-iraq.htm

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